A What If. What if Celes stayed in the air ship while Locke went to Rachelle and tried to resurrect her? What would have happened after, and what would the knight and the thief say to each other when they meet again?

Especial thanks to Yabou, a Sess/Kag (Inuyasha) writer for providing the cool title. FFVI not mine.


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Embracing Ice

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Celes Chere, former general of the Imperial Forces, did not once delude herself she would be the one he would chose. Looking at him as he held the stone, the fiery red glow making everything around them looked like it was bathed in blood, she bowed her head and told herself she would not cry.

He was never hers, so tears were not appropriate.

Always, he belonged to Rachelle.

But she could not stop her hands fisting to her sides, so that the blunt nails actually bit into skin and drew blood, the crimson liquid turning blackish from the red luminosity emitted by the Phoenix shard.

And hours later, as she stood at the deck of the ship, the strong winds whipping about her flaxen hair, her eyes still dry, but the palms of her two hands now coated in sticky liquid, Celes vowed never again to wish for the warm rush of emotion that she felt whenever she thought of him.

She'd be like before; proud, strong, and on her own.

Her surprise was great to see him emerged from the shadows, as he took steady steps towards the flying vessel.

Alone.

Her heart started beating wildly so that she needed to remind herself a knight was always calm.

"You weren't outside," he said to her as form of greeting. Just as her eyes focused clearly, he tugged the band out of his shoulder length hair, letting it blow free with that same wind that caressed her face.

Automatically, she reached for her sword, treating him like he was an enemy; one that was capable of hurting her, and hurting her deeply, and disregarding the nagging voice telling her he'd already done than that.

"Outside where?" she asked as she looked down at him, fingering the hilt of her blade, her blood not yet fully clotted now glazing the forged metal.

He gave her a look underneath hooded eyes but did not answer. Instead, he stepped closer and took hold of the rope ladder and hoisted himself up. When he was near the edge of the railing, he paused as if waiting for her to come and help.

The Rune Knight stayed exactly where she was.

And the thief noticed and did not smile as his feet came in contact with the wooden deck.

Locke stood, straight and tall, his hair blew back, leaving his profile stark against the sky. With her back against the blustery weather, her own face was sometimes hidden by the golden strands, so that only glimpses of it were discernable from time to time. She was grateful for that.

Celes was afraid the burning in her eyes were tears about to fall, and she did not want him to see them when it did. Rune Knights do not cry.

He came closer, the distance between them becoming smaller and smaller until he was standing face to face. "Outside her room," Locke clarified, his voice deep and warm was free of the usual lightness it was laced with. "I thought you'd be there, waiting for me."

Rune Knights have great pride. Celes shrugged, and faced the wind this time, so that he was looking at the back of her head. "What would I be doing there? I wasn't needed." There was nothing – no one – to wait for.

He gave a burst of laughter, but one devoid of mirth. "Of course."

Quiet descended upon them, and side by side they stood, the solitude sometimes broken by the whistling wind.

Eventually Locke spoke again. "It didn't work. She died after a few minutes."

What to say? The young woman searched her heart and knew she grieved for his loss. But along with the sadness that his endeavour failed was a quickening hope. It didn't work.

Then reality came, and made her face the truth. So what if the shard failed? It did not mean anything. Always he belonged to Rachelle. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "I knew how long you've waited for that chance. Maybe there is another stone?"

His gray eyes darkened. "No. No more stones." He looked back at the direction where Rachelle's body was being prepared for burial. "Besides, she asked for peace. And-and she told me to find another."

"Stone?"

The look he gave her was filled with ire. "Are you trying to be funny, Celes?"

She thought it was best not to answer, and once again let silence reign between them. The wind settled, only a slight breeze kissing their cold skin. Locke took a deep breath and broke the surrounding gloom. "I'm afraid she knew her request came too late."

The wise Cid always said to her, while she was growing up and learning the art of war, best to hold one's counsel if one didn't know all the facts. 'The devil you don't know,' he'd say, 'was always better than the devil you do. A soldier need not know all the details. That way, you do not feel and do not hurt.'

But she could not curb her tongue. "Too late? I don't understand."

The rogue jammed his fists in his pockets. "I think she died knowing I honored my promise. I brought the shard, made her live, and would have stayed if she didn't die."

Long past tired of her own company and fed up with her self pity, her reply came with just a hint of irritation. "Those were not bad thoughts to think when one die, Locke."

But he shook his head and looked at her calm profile from the corner of his eyes. "Not if it was all done out of honor, Celes. Then they become just another reason to want death."

How odd, she thought as she listened to his softly spoken words, that even when there was no howling wind to freeze her blood, she felt so cold all of a sudden. Wasn't hope meant to make you feel warm and alive? This was the first time she realized one could dread the idea of hope, that one could feel lost as one clung to it.

Celes kept very still when she felt him move and stand closer to her. "You're freezing," he said to her, warm breath inches away from her cheeks.

She kept her eyes trained on the distant clouds before her, and she reminded herself fiercely when the stinging in her eyes threatened to be too much for her control that Rune Knights do not cry.

"I'm used to it," she told him, in an expressionless tone of voice. It was the truth. The very core of her magic was ice. She felt him nod his assent, and pretended ignorance as he entwined one of his hands with her own, their fingers inter lacing. He did not comment about the sticky texture, but only squeezed her hands a little.

"You're cold too," she noted, now that she could feel the icy texture of his skin.

"I think," said Locke, voice so low she had to train her ear to the sound to understand what he was saying, "I'll seek forgiveness from her… for simply honoring a vow. Even if she couldn't hear it anymore."

The devil you don't know…

you don't feel, and do not hurt.

Her eyes took note of the gathering dark, and that once again the wind was back, whistling and howling as if it was alive.

Closing her eyes, she embraced hope.

She embraced ice.

"I'll be waiting outside."

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-end-

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Heh, review please? And maybe I'll be tempted to write Locke's POV of this particular story. Hugs to all!