Final Editing Finished on: November 24, 2005. (Locke's birthday!) The entire fic has been edited, so ignore all the author's comments about me changing certain things. I just neglected to delete the author's notes because they give me a good idea of when I posted the chapter and whatnot. Anyway, I hope you enjoy.
"Forever Rachel" from the Final Fantasy VI Original Soundtrack is one of my favorite pieces of all time by Uematsu. To me, it has more meaning than Aeris' Theme or anything else…The feelings, the emotion, the angst... The past of Locke and Rachel has never actually been fully explained, so I thought I would fill in some blanks and unanswered questions with my own imagination. (Not to mention my love for Locke! He is by far my favorite Final Fantasy character) I've had this idea for a fic for quite some time now, but it was only recently when my muse helped me out by getting my ideas out on paper.
This is the revamped version of this fic, even though I only had the first chapter up. As I continued writing it, I realized that I wanted to incorporate some things from the game in it, so making the story part "real time" (during the game) and part "flash back" (three years before the game starts) it flows a lot better. Therefore, the original chapter 1 is now chapter 2, and the new chapter 1 is in 'real time.' Although the rating is PG-13, it might eventually have to be changed to R. I hope you enjoy, and please comment. Thank you!
1. The Spark That Relit the Fire
Ahh…good old Narshe! Locke thought sarcastically as he entered the cold mines to make his way to Arvis' house. Growing up on the warmer western continent of the World of Balance made his skin unaccustomed to freezing temperatures, causing him to be rather uncomfortable. If it were up to him, he would've just taken the front entrance to the man's house, but Banon figured it was stealthier to go through the mines and through the back entrance. No use arguing with Banon…It's not worth it…
He shivered as the frigid air hit his face and whipped his hair around. Dammit, I should've worn something a little warmer…He looked down at his jeans, white shirt and blue vest and realized that it definitely was not weather appropriate. Although it was spring and the rest of the world was warm, Narshe was in the mountains, resulting in the artic weather no matter what time of the year it was.
The slip of paper that he held tightly in his hand contained the exact directions of how to get to Arvis' house, and he consulted them as he approached a bridge. By old habit, he stopped and inspected it first, making sure that there wasn't a chance that it would collapse on him. Even though the bridge looked solid and was in good condition, he sharply inhaled as he cautiously made his way across. Bridges made him nervous, he couldn't help it. Ever since…
Upon reaching the correct house, Locke shoved the piece of paper in his pants pocket and looked around to make sure he wasn't being followed. Everything looked clear, so he decided it would be okay to go in. He didn't bother to knock, so he instead tried the doorknob, finding that it was unlocked. He walked right in and saw an elderly man standing in the living room portion of the small home. The man impatiently huffed as he approached Locke.
"Took you long enough!" He exclaimed as Locke raised his eyebrows and fixed his blue bandana that crowned his head.
"Yeah, sorry," Locke apologized as he lowered his hands back to his side. "I'm not used to walking on a solid sheet of ice."
"Locke Cole, correct?" The man asked as he crossed his arms. Locke nodded his head and a smile crept on the older man's face. "How goes the robbing and plundering trade?"
Locke's jaw dropped at the insult and couldn't help but clench his fists in anger. "I prefer the term treasure hunting!"
The older man laughed at Locke's reaction and couldn't help but mock him. "Ha! Semantic nonsense!" He replied as Locke waved a finger at him. He didn't appreciate traveling several miles on the swift current of the Lete River on a tiny raft to only be ridiculed, but there wasn't anything he could do about it but play nonchalant. Banon entrusted him with this mission, therefore he didn't want to protest.
"There's a huge difference," he pointed out as he closely inspected the man and took a step closer. "Anyway, you were the one who sent for me?"
"Yeah, there's a girl I'd like you to meet."
Locke let out a chuckle as he crossed his arms in amusement. "Hold it, Banon didn't tell me this was a dating service assignment."
"And if it were, we would be having a big problem right now knowing that bachelorette number 1 is being hunted down by the Imperial army at this second in time," Arvis said with a smile. Locke's face wiped clear of all amusement as his eyes went wide.
"Wait a minute here," he exclaimed, running right up to Arvis. He was starting to put the threads of what Arvis was saying together with the rumors that he had heard from many people, and hoped that the ends didn't come together at the same place. "This better not have anything to do with that Magitek-riding, Imperial…witch…that everyone's been talking about lately!"
"Imperial troops are pursuing her as we speak," he nodded as he took a few steps away from Locke and headed toward the window. He moved the heavy curtain aside as he looked out to scan the town. Although it was very early in the morning, people were already moving around and working with the steam engines that ran the town. Narshe was a town that never slept. The older man let out a heavy sigh as he continued, slightly mumbling over the catastrophic situation that was taking place. "This town is no match for the Empire. Our independence can only be assured if we join forces with the Returners, an underground resistance movement."
"That's exactly the reason why I joined the Returners in the first place," Locke started as he sighed. "I have a problem with the Empire and all its 'goodness' that it's supposed to inspire. They're a bunch of bastards as far as I'm concerned. Which begs the question, what makes this girl any different than the rest of them?"
"That girl wasn't responsible for her actions," Arvis said simply as he let the curtain fall back over the window and faced Locke again.
"What do you mean, 'she wasn't responsible?'" Locke scoffed and leaned against the wall of the living room. "I heard she fried 50 of the Empire's best Magitek soldiers in under three minutes."
"Yes, that has been proving correct. However, what most people don't know is that she was wearing a slave crown at the same time, so she was completely brainwashed," he clarified as he walked over to the table where he placed it. He picked it up and showed it to Locke, who dared not touch it. Instead he slightly bent over so he was able to get a good look at it.
"I've heard that these things existed, but I've never actually seen one." He sighed at the appearance of it; it was only a simple metal band that was meant to be worn around the head. Locke wasn't sure how it was able to control someone's brain, but he wasn't about try it out. "So this is what the Empire has been up to, eh?"
"They're growing out of control," Arvis admitted as he placed the crown back on the table. "Before long, Gestahl is going to turn the world into chaos."
"I hear his second hand man is starting to taste the same power and climb higher on the pedestal, too," Locke stated as he pointed with his finger for emphasis. "What's going to happen to this world when Gestahl and Kefka completely band together and crave more power?"
"That's why you have to find this girl before they do," he said. "She's incredibly powerful and that's why the Empire wants her back. I don't know what is so special about her, but I think we should find out."
"And if she tries to kill us in the process?" Locke couldn't help but be skeptical of the situation. Memories of certain actions acted out by the Empire not long ago still gave Locke nightmares at night, resulting in the lack of trust toward them.
"I don't think she'll have any recollection of what she did while she was under the orders of the Empire. I do believe the Slave Crown assisted in that." Arvis bowed his head as he spoke. "She could be a great help to us if we talk to her. We must get her to understand our dilemma!"
"All right." He couldn't let another girl be ruined by the Empire's yearn for power, so he decided with a sigh and a nod of his head that it was a wise idea. "I think we'd better help her."
Arvis took a step toward the window again, then turned around and faced Locke. "Agreed. Make your way first to Figaro, and talk to the king."
"Ah, I haven't seen Edgar in a while," Locke said with a chuckle and hint of sarcasm as he thought of his friend. "Just so we're clear here, I'm not responsible if he makes a pass at her."
"He's a king, Locke," Arvis protested as Locke nodded his head.
"He's Edgar. It's not illogical to think that he'll become more interested in her than we want him to be," he said with a smile as he started toward the back door. Arvis followed him, and when he opened it, he stood partially outside. "Okay, I'm off. Hopefully I'll find her."
"Look, the smaller ones are her footprints in the snow," Arvis pointed out as Locke looked at the ground. There were two sets of footprints; one set belonged to Locke and the second set belonged to the girl that he was going to find. He followed them from the bridge to the entrance of a cave across town with his eyes. "Let's hope they direct you to her."
"You and me both, man," Locke responded with a shrug.
"I hope to hear from you soon," the older man said as he put a hand on Locke's shoulder. "Be careful."
"I will be," he replied as he felt a gust of cold air touch his face, causing him to shiver. He looked back at Arvis and, with a smile, said, "Let's just hope I don't freeze to death first."
He followed the footsteps that were starting to fill up with the falling snow and walked into the cave. Of course, once he stepped inside the cave, the tell tale footprints weren't there any longer, so he just made his way through the cave in hopes that he'd run into her.
He tried to stay alert, but he couldn't help his mind from wandering. The Empire is now controlling the minds of innocent people against their will…He kicked the snow off of his boots and shook his head to rid it of the melted snow. Will it ever stop? It all started with that attack on Kohlingen not long ago…Not only the Empire's greed, but my hatred for them as well…
After a few minutes, he entered another cavern and saw something suspicious at a slightly higher altitude. What's that? He thought as he advanced toward it. He furrowed his forehead as he walked up the slight hill and gasped when he realized what it was.
It was a small hole in the floor by the wall; as if the weak ground broke away when someone stepped on it. When he reached it, he got on his knees to look down it, and just as he feared, there was an unconscious person down there—a girl. No doubt the girl I'm supposed to be looking for. It might've been a good idea to ask Arvis what she looked like, but I'm sure that's her…Locke quickly looked around for soldiers, and when he realized that no one was around him, he figured they were on their way to find another route to where she fell.
Okay, if I try to do what the soldiers did and look for another way down there, I'm sure they'll get to her first and I can't risk that…It looked as though it was a long fall and bones would break with the contact, but he took his chances and jumped anyway.
Luckily, there was only a slight pain in the arches of his feet when he landed, so it wasn't anything he couldn't deal with. He went down on his knees and looked at her, shocked at her beautiful appearance. She had emerald green hair, rosy red lips, and flawless creamy skin. He gently moved a few strands of hair out of her face but jumped when he heard a voice.
"Now we gotcha!" Locke stood up and moved to a clearing in the cavern to see a guard standing near the exit, which was about twenty or so yards away. Nah, one guard'll be easy to…He trailed off when he saw several more soldiers and their trained attack dogs come up behind the first guard.
"Wonderful," he said sarcastically as he sighed and looked at them all. "There's a whole bunch of 'em." He shook his head and figured that there wasn't anything he could do but try to fend them off by himself, so he grabbed his dagger out slowly. He needed to get the girl to Figaro and the only way out was through those guards.
Just as he was about to move forward and take his shot at the guards, he heard a tiny voice behind him say the word, "kupo." He wasn't sure what it was, so he whipped around with his dagger still in his hand, figuring he was surrounded. Instead of it being a monster, it was a tiny white creature with tiny red wings, black eyes, and a red pompom was attached to its head.
"Wow," Locke exhaled as he realized what it was. It was a moogle. Although he had heard about them, he had never actually seen one, so he was in awe at its cuddly appearance. Then, several more moogles came out of the cave and stood behind the first one that emerged. Rumor said that moogles were very strong creatures, so Locke didn't put his guard down, afraid that the Imperial army branched out and started to train moogles to attack. Yeah, cute and cuddly until they kick your ass…
Instead of the moogles charging toward Locke in a full blown attack, they all peacefully walked toward the girl and looked at her. Locke wanted to watch them for they were curious little creatures, but he figured that they weren't there for any harm and they were just observing what was going on. He figured it would've been okay to leave the girl in the moogles' protection while he went and fought, so he started to go after the guards. He didn't get further than two steps before the leader of the moogles moved in front of him, blocking his path. The little moogle looked up at Locke and nodded at him, leaving the man bewildered.
"Moogles! Are you saying you want to help me?"
"Kupo!" The moogles all nodded and jumped in the air in unison, causing Locke to laugh in relief. One of the moogles motioned to Locke to start moving toward the guards and he nodded in agreement. The guards were already advancing toward them, so waiting any longer would give the Imperial troops an open invitation to take the girl.
"Yep, let's split up into three groups," he said quickly and he pointed as he spoke them. "Okay, you four go to the right of the cave, you three go down the center with me, and you four can go to the left. Just make sure the guards don't reach the girl, all right?"
The moogles nodded in comprehension and the three groups split up and started to make their way through the cavern. One at a time, they were able to destroy the guards, soldiers, their guard dogs and make their way closer to the man in charge. It wasn't an easy task, but Locke was amazed at the grace and strength that the moogles had. They were very small, but no fiend stood a chance against those little guys.
When Locke's group reached the commander of the troop, he sneered at them and gave them a nasty grin. "Well, you defeated my troops, but don't think you're going to have an easy time defeating me," he said as he turned his head and spit. Locke scoffed in disgust and positioned himself in a fighter's stance.
"Let's finish this," he said, watching the little moogles get into fighting stances of their own.
"Take your best shot," the commander replied arrogantly as he pulled out his sword. The moogles' speed was far greater than the commander's so they were able to each get in a hit before the commander knew what was coming. He stumbled a few steps backward and Locke couldn't help but let out a laugh.
"You're not making this any fun!" Locke jeered as he taunted the commander by motioning with his fingers to come closer to him. The commander growled and took a swing at him, missing by a mile. Locke only feigned a yawn as the commander regained his stature. To throw the armored man off more, Locke rushed at him and stole a potion.
"Why, you little thief!"
"I was hoping you would call me that," Locke retorted with an icy smile. If there was anything that fired up Locke more, it was being called a thief. With one swift movement, he jabbed the man with his dagger, knocking him on the ground. "That's what you get, you bastard," he said to the fallen man, keeping his smile on his face as he sheathed his dagger away.
He looked back over at the moogles who were looking at him innocently, and he couldn't help but gently smile at them. They started to walk back over to where the girl was lying and after looking at her for a second, the moogles left the cave.
"Thanks, Moogles! We're in your debt!" Locke called after them as he waved. If it weren't for them, he knew he might've been killed, and then who knows what would've happened to the girl. He knelt down and gently stroked her cheek, feeling how cold she was. She was still alive, but lying on the frozen dirt floor was sucking all the heat from her body.
He carefully picked her up in his arms and as quickly as he could, walked to the exit of the cave. As gently as he could, he placed her back on the ground and walked over to a hidden switch on the wall. "I think this switch'll…" He mumbled as he pulled it down. At the pull of the switch, part of the cave opened up, causing him to jump.
He quickly looked around to make sure that no one heard him, and let out the breath he was holding when he didn't hear a stampede of footsteps. He was about to pick up the girl again and bring her to safety when he heard her slightly groan. She slowly lifted up her head and painfully eased herself into a sitting position, blinking a few times to adjust herself to the light in the cave. "Eh? You're back with us now!"
The girl looked confused as she scanned her surroundings. When her eyes saw Locke, she slowly tilted her head so she could look at him in the eyes. He started to walk closer to her and she placed her hand on her head. "Oooh, my head hurts…"
"You fell a long way," he told her as he knelt down and gently smiled. "You're lucky that you were only knocked unconscious and not killed. It's a good thing I got to you before the Imperial troops did."
"I guess you could call it that." He helped her to her feet and she wobbled as she tried to find her center of gravity. "However, as much as I would like to, I can't take all the credit. Save your thanks for the moogles!"
Her feet gave way under her and she fell back down to her knees. She quietly groaned as she brought her hand to her forehead once again and gave Locke a puzzled look. "Uhh…I can't remember anything…past or present." She shook her head and continued to concentrate, the confused look remaining on her face.
Oh no…Locke thought as his pulse started to race. His eyes widened as he looked at the girl and with a shaky voice asked, "You have amnesia?"
Once again, she rose to her feet, looking slightly more balanced this time. She nodded at him and he looked away from her in fear. Nothing could frighten him more than the thought of amnesia, for amnesia was the one thing that ruined his life. He wasn't the one who had acquired it, but more often then not, he wished that he were the one who did so he could forget those memories. He could feel the tears well up in his eyes as she looked at him in confusion of why he reacted in such a manner. She blinked at him and quietly said, "A man said my memory would come back."
"Give it time," he replied as optimistically as possible. He blinked the potential tears away and smiled at the girl. He knew that getting upset by the past would only make her more terrified than she already was. "You're safe with me! I give you my word!"
"What do you mean?" She asked him innocently as she slightly faltered. Locke quickly ran to her aid and caught her before she fell back onto the ground. The fall from the weak ground didn't harm her, but she felt as if the world were spinning around her. He smiled at her as she looked up at him in a dizzy haze.
"I won't leave you until your memory returns!" She smiled at him and he confidently nodded his head. I'm not going to run away from something like this again! I will stay by her side until she can remember everything! I can't fail someone else…
"Why?" She asked out of curiosity. To her surprise, a look of determination washed over his face and he gritted his teeth. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry or anything, it's just that we don't know each other or anything—"
"Locke Cole," he replied simply as he grabbed her hand and shook it. "What's your name?"
"Terra Branford," she said slowly as he nodded.
"There you go, we're acquainted now." He helped her stand again and made sure that she was going to be okay walking on her own, and she seemed as though she was going to be fine. "Now come on, let's get out of here before some more soldiers show up looking to throw a party. I need to introduce you to someone."
"Wow, I'm just meeting a whole new group of people today," she responded as Locke started to walk out of the cave. She followed him and stopped when he fiddled with something against the outer wall of the cave, causing the gap to heal itself and form into solid rock again.
He saw her eyeing what he just did and he winked at her. "By the way, this secret entrance might be useful someday. Don't forget about it!"
She nodded at him and they left the town of Narshe, leaving Locke deep in his thoughts the entire way to Figaro Castle. His memories, his past, everything that he tried to forget was creeping up on him again so all he could do was think about it and remember. Remember her…