Locke Lamora had always prided himself on his ability to read people, to figure them out. And yet he could not solve for the life of him the enigma of that man closest to him, Jean Tannen.
It had occurred to him, several times, that Jean was really probably the best of them, in some ways. Most moral, perhaps. And while moral fiber wasn't something Locke had much of, nor particularly strove for, he could, nonetheless, admire it in others. Like Jean. And while Locke had done his damnedest to erode the pesky thing away, it stuck around, and oddly, he mused sometimes, it was that that kept Jean a Gentlemen Bastard.
Jean was a skilled man, a fast learner, and could easily pass for a gentleman – well, if not a gentleman, then at least someone suitable for polite society. Locke had no real yearnings in that direction, but he was quite aware that if Jean liked, he could have melted into the ranks of respectable businessmen, made a name for himself. Such was Locke's hobby, lying on his back and watching the ceiling below the temple when he couldn't sleep. Himself, Calo, and Galdo he took for granted. And Bug…well, that one just had the soul of a wicked thief. Probably partly his own fault, but that was certainly acceptable. Locke half grinned, fondly.
Jean, on the other hand. A clever and (fairly) honest man – so what tied him to a band of conniving bastards working not just outside the law but outside the code of honor among thieves as well? Locke, to his own surprise, was unable to fathom it. He settled, finally, on the guess that it was likely that selfsame sense of propriety that would have made Jean Tannen in the outside world a successful man that obligated him to remain with the miscreants with whom he'd thrown in his lot. Or had it thrown in for him.
Locke grimaced. He didn't particularly like that idea. It stank of obligation and that moral fiber thing again. Ridiculous. Nonetheless, it was the most plausible explanation he'd come up with so far. It wasn't really as though there was much to commend them – though, Locke did concede himself, with a small and wry grin, they did manage to make a tidy profit. But none of them were really in this for the money, were they? He knew he wasn't. The money was just a means to an end. Maybe he'd started because of the money, but by now it was the love of the game that kept him going. The thrill of a different kind of hunt. And the ever-present risk of death from any number of forces that were dying to get their hands on the Thorn of motherfucking Camorr. But of course, that was him. And, he added with another slightly wry grin, to be entirely honest with himself, he'd always had a grubby, amoral, larcenic little soul. So that more or less explained it.
But back to Jean. He wondered, sometimes, if Jean took a mind to leave, what he would do.
Sabetha – he didn't quite wince – had done it. He didn't expect that Jean would do the same, but, hypothetically.
He was quite sure that Jean wouldn't talk about anything he shouldn't have. Moral fiber, again. And loyalty, plain and simple. So that wasn't a concern. The reason he wondered, really, was because he wasn't at all sure he could bring himself to let Jean go without a fight. And there'd be a fight. Which he would lose, undoubtedly, even if Calo and Galdo helped, and he couldn't exactly make them do that. It would be ugly, and Locke knew, logically, that if Jean wanted to leave, he'd be smart just to let him go. Doing otherwise would turn things sour, bring up bitterness, carve divides much like those that had emerged when Sabetha had abandoned them. –though perhaps, to be fair, 'abandoned' was a little strong. And they'd never really gotten on very well, the pair of them. Sabetha had just been far more willing to admit it and much less willing to fight through it from sheer stubbornness than Locke. Of course, not many people could beat Locke for sheer stubborn. But he was wandering again.
Jean. Locke hadn't really realized for a while how much he relied on Jean, perhaps even more than the others. But he did. Probably altogether too much – it wasn't wise for anyone in his profession to rely that exclusively on one person. Well, damn. Too late for that now. And because of that, if he was entirely truthful, he really couldn't afford to lose Jean.
Not that he would. He was sure of that much. That moral fiber again, or whatever the fuck it was, would likely keep Jean right where he was until the end of his life. Which might approach fairly rapidly, for all any of them knew.
Locke didn't anticipate a long life. The kind of life he led, sooner or later he'd be a little too slow to weasel out of something, and that would be it. He didn't really mind, much. Growing old held no appeal for him. He'd get bored. On the other hand…his brothers, that was another matter. He hadn't…exactly made provisions. And he certainly hadn't mentioned them to anyone. The fits of fatalism never lasted long, and sure as hell no one was going to know about them. But if he died, as long as the others had the sense to stay clear, he'd set aside enough money in various accounts for each of them, along with instructions to access them that would only be released on his death. Damned if he was going to let his brothers go down with him.
Sabetha still had hers. He'd never closed it, though he was at a loss himself to explain why.
More importantly, though, Locke had no intention of letting Jean do any kind of dying for him. And he would. Damned moral fiber. He wished, sometimes, that the man had at least a bit of a sense self-preservation. Jean was the kind of person who would lug a dead man away from under the Yellowjackets noses, purely because it wouldn't be 'decent' or something. Locke's mouth flickered in a slightly ironic smile. Jean wasn't going to do that for him.
Jean. He was probably the most decent, speaking of the word, of them. He could be anything, no doubt, if he hadn't thrown his lot in with a pack of – well, bastards. But he had, and looked to be staying a while.
Mouth twitching wryly, Locke found he couldn't quite bring himself to regret it. That probably made him a bad friend, not looking out for Jean's best interests. What would keep him alive the longest, at least. Maybe even made him a bit of a bad brother (perish the thought).
But it did, Locke allowed himself as he rolled over and closed his eyes again, brain at last winding down; make him a good Gentlemen Bastard.
"Leave me, Jean. I'll be dead…just a few minutes. They won't get anything from me. You can still get away. Please…leave me."
Jean's face turned bright red – a red that showed even by the light of the alchemical globes – and his eyebrows arched, and every line in his face drew so taut that Locke found the energy to be alarmed.
"That is a hell of a thing for you to say to me."
-p. 706, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch