Locke sees something he didn't expect and it hurts more than he would have thought. (implied yaoi)
Author's Notes: Goes after "Searching" and "Revelations", in that order. This is dedicated to JC, HT, MO, AE, BE, SE, AM, GC, BR, JL, BL, DM, DW, MS, SD, LC, SM, MW, CK, KW, and all the others who have begged, pleaded, and threatened over this story and my (lack of) updates to it. ;)
Locke wandered, not thinking. It had been a bit hard at first, the not thinking thing, but the bottle of Jidooran red that he'd appropriated from a scandalized servant's tray had helped tremendously. It had also greatly contributed, he was sure, to the fact that he got spectacularly lost somewhere in the bowels of Figaro Castle. Luckily, it was ALSO responsible for him not particularly caring. He stared at the stairs in front of him debating up from down, and decided that up was probably wiser. The gods only knew where he'd end up if he headed down. Maybe into the engine room or some other mechanical mess. Wherever he was, it was fairly deserted, now, so maybe he was still in some unused wing somewhere. Or maybe it was just late. He wasn't really sure how long he'd been wandering. It could be the middle of the night, for all he knew.... He was just beginning to start to kinda recognize the hallways he was trudging through when something caught his eye through an open door. Two figures standing in the middle of a large empty room, the moonlight flooding through the high windows against one wall. They were standing close together, and Locke debated leaving them alone. Then one turned the right way, and Locke's sharp eyes noticed two familiar profiles in the moonlight.
He should have left. The minute he saw them, he should have left. Even drunk and a bit shellshocked as he was, the fact of the two of them alone in the darkened ballroom was more than enough for him to realize that this was a private party.
He'd known, of course. The rumors that Shadow was staying at Figaro Castle were pretty much all over the black market. At first Locke had thought that someone'd got it wrong. Shadow certainly didn't seem like the type to settle down just for the hell of it. But then he'd talked with Edgar when they were both visiting Doma, and he'd found out why.
He'd nearly choked on his beer. Not over the fact that they were both men, but just because it seemed ludicrous that they could put up with each other. Then, the next time he'd visited Figaro, he'd watched. And not seen a whole hell of a lot. The two of them certainly never did anything overt in public, and Locke guessed that that was mostly Shadow's choice, just because he was a secretive bastard. But every now and then, there was a look held just a touch longer than necessary, or the simple fact that they would gravitate to the same room whenever they weren't doing anything else. And then there was always the unmentioned but fairly obvious fact that they slept in the same room. He still couldn't figure out how they put up with each other. From what he could tell, Shadow had just learned the fine art of ignoring most of the Figaro exuberance.
Sabin's voice was a low rumble, too far away to hear. He was turned to Shadow, his hand on his arm, stopping him in the middle of the ballroom floor. Shadow looked like he was protesting, shaking his head. His voice was altogether too soft to hear, and Sabin's reply was a grin and a laugh that rang against the far flung stone walls.
Curious, Locke crept closer, moving along the side, behind the row of pillars lining the side of the room, where the dimmed lighting didn't quite reach.
Sabin's voice was questioning, still too far away to make out the words. But then Locke moved past the pillar that had momentarily blocked his view, and stopped.
He'd never seen them show any kind of physical affection before. He'd never seen them touch.
And they were face-to-face, Sabin with his arms around Shadow's shoulders, smiling down and standing so close that his bulk and height seemed to dwarf the assassin. Shadow, for his part, was standing with his own arms still at his sides, his head tilted up to look at Sabin with an unusually readable long-suffering expression on his face. Locke knew for a fact that Sabin had had not a little to drink that night.
"You're serious." Shadow's voice sounded resigned.
"Of course I'm serious." Sabin's sounded cheerful.
"Anyone could come by."
"Oh yeah, like there's anyone who doesn't know and like we'd give a flying fuck anyway." Locke watched in fascination as Sabin leaned down slightly to rest his cheek on the top of Shadow's head. Whatever change in weight happened between them was enough for Shadow to alter his stance, reaching up to grip Sabin's biceps for balance. A tiny change that he usually accomplished much more gracefully. Evidently he'd had more than a little to drink, too. It was almost funny to see the unflappable Shadow reduced to mere mortalhood by something as simple as alcohol.
Shadow was murmuring too low for Locke to hear, and Sabin replied in kind. Wanting to hear again, Locke moved closer, letting another pillar block his view.
When he moved past it and could see again, they were dancing.
He stood as if petrified to the spot, staring.
They were good.
In some far corner of his mind, past the large part that was paralyzed with alcohol and shock, there was a small part that wasn't surprised, really, that Shadow could dance. The waltz was, after all, all about rhythm and coordination, which Shadow could do in his sleep, even drunk. But he'd spent a good deal of the evening watching Sabin trample all over a determined succession of female feet. And here he was, arm around Shadow's waist, leading as easy as breathing, and the two of them swooped across the floor like two birds in flight, moving to no music but Sabin's humming and the soft click and slide of their boots across the marble. And somehow they made it not the dainty, arm's-length mince that Locke had spent the night praying no woman asked him to partake in. This was two bodies pulled close, chest to chest, belly to belly, moving as one, melded and matched. And though he'd never thought to picture it, the two of them that close, it looked right, that Sabin was just enough taller to be able to tuck Shadow's head under his chin, and that he'd be smiling softly as they moved. And though he never thought that Shadow would allow it, he saw how the assassin closed his eyes, his cheek against Sabin's shoulder, his arm about his waist, fingers spread against the ruby velvet, and on his face a look Locke had never seen before....
It was that look, the most open look he'd ever seen from Shadow, that made him realize what he was doing. He felt his face flush with heat even as the two of them slowed to a stop with the prince's chuckle, Sabin bringing his hands up to frame Shadow's face, leaning down....
Locke tore his eyes away, and fled silently.
Shadow's lips were nothing to sneer at, especially when drunk and willing to play in the middle of the Grand Ballroom.
"Mmmm." And when they tasted like the chocolate icing from the cake, too. Sabin smiled. "You're cute when you're drunk, you know that?"
Shadow snorted and pushed away, about to say something when movement caught his eye and his head snapped to the right, hand reaching for the dagger at his hip even before he'd finished the motion.
"What?" Sabin looked, too, stepping back, letting his hands fall to the ready at his sides. Months since either of them had needed to, and still it was instinct to drop into a defensive stance, to back off to give each other room to move.
Shadow's eyes caught the movement again just as it slipped out the open doors of the ballroom. The light from the hall flashed on denim blue in familiar ash brown hair before the figure was out in the hall and away. "Locke."
"Huh." Sabin eased his stance slowly, shrugging. "Think he was watching us?"
Shadow released the hilt of his dagger, turning to fix Sabin with a look. "I'm sure if he was, we won't hear the end of it."
Sabin grinned and waggled his eyebrows at him. Shadow rolled his eyes.
"Actually," Sabin said, face going thoughtfully back to the ballroom door. "I'd better go after him. Wanted to talk to him. He's seemed...down lately."
Shadow's mouth twisted wryly. It was no secret among their little group that Locke had been in love with Celes since the war. And equally no secret, seemingly to everyone but Locke, that Celes had been becoming more and more distant since she'd returned to New Vector to help rebuild from the Empire's ashes. Her failure to make an appearance at the party had not surprised anyone. Not even, he thought, Locke. And reading whatever had been in that letter had killed what little light had been left in their "treasure hunter".
He moved to follow Sabin out the door, almost bumping into him when the martial artist stopped suddenly, arms out a bit. "Whoa."
Sabin put a hand out to one of the columns. "Just...just a little more dizzy than I thought. Damn. Knew I shouldn't have had that last glass of champagne. Or maybe the flask of wine before it."
Good gods. "Sit."
Sabin didn't take much convincing, letting himself down to the marble floor, though he protested, "Locke...."
"I'll go find him. Just sit, lay down, fall asleep, whatever, just don't break your neck."
"Yessir." Accompanied by a nicely soused grin.
Shadow sighed, turning. Right.