Author's Note: This fic was written in response to a challenge in my fanfic group. The challenge? Put someone in a situation they wouldn't normally be in.
I do not own any characters or settings. I do not make any money off my fanfics. Also I have no money, so please do not sue me.
Slowly I climbed the steps to the stage gracing the northern end of the pub in South Figaro. I should never have gotten into this mess. I usually have more sense than this, and I know Celes can have a wickedly twisted sense of humour when it suits her. I should never have made a bet without agreeing on the stakes first, first thing a gambler learns. And I certainly should have known better than to take up her offer of a drinking challenge. The woman spent years in Imperial army camps. I've seen her drink both Figaro brothers and her husband under the table, and still walk straight and talk sensibly. Though I can't say if she gets hangovers from those little parties. You'd have to ask Locke for that.
I reached the center of the stage and, steeling myself, turned to face the room. All of my comrades-in-arms were seated in front of me. Celes looked positively gleeful, sitting in the front row next to Locke. He had his arm around her shoulders and was wearing the most objectionably arrogant smirk I've ever seen him affect. Sabin and Edgar sprawled casually next to the lovebirds, just finishing off what looked like a full flagon of that throat-destroying mountain liquor they brew up in Narshe. Cyan abstained from the drinking, as usual, but even his grim countenance was lightened with a touch of amusement. The others were ranged behind them, laughing and chattering among themselves as they waited for me to make an idiot of myself.
I cleared my throat and tried to get a deep breath. Once again I marveled at the sheer stupidity that had gotten me here, but there was nothing to be done for it. I'd made the bet and would have to live with the consequences.
On the first note, my voice cracked. I felt myself flushing crimson with humiliation, but I kept going. The song is a little-known folk ballad from the mountain villages north of Jidoor, and I was hoping nobody here would recognize how badly I was mangling it. Damn Celes, damn her straight to hell and back an infinite number of times. Never take a bet from an Imperial General with mischief on her mind.
I wondered fleetingly how many of her recruits she'd similarly embarrassed, but dismissed the thought. Irrelevant. I finished my limping rendition of the song and jumped down from the stage as fast as I could.
Celes rose and curtsied to me with all the gravity she could muster, though her eyes still danced with laughter. "Very well done, Mr. Gambler." She signaled the serving girl and handed me a bottle of the Narshean spirits. "Now you can go get drunk, on me. I promise I won't even try to make any more bets with you."
"You'd better not!" I laughed all the same, though, and settled down next to her and Locke. "So, Locke, do tell me how I can repay your lovely bride in kind?"
Well, that's it. C&C appreciated as always.