Locke discovered very quickly that he was not any good at a quiet life.
He'd meant it when he suggested it. After all, when you were dying, weren't you supposed to do all the things you'd never had a chance to do? Locke had never had the chance to be a regular (mostly) and law-abiding citizen of anywhere, and it sounded like a good idea to try it out at least.
He definitely was not cut out for it.
Meanwhile, Jean had taken to watching him sideways every moment of the day, as though expecting him to suddenly keel over and start twitching on the deck. It exasperated Locke enough that he actually did it, once, but Jean had nearly pitched him overboard when he realized that Locke was not, in fact, about to die.
"I'm not dead yet," Locke said, in utmost seriousness. "Don't cry about it until I am."
Jean's mouth thinned, and he crossed his arms stubbornly. "I wouldn't cry about it anyway. I'll haul your skinny ass back from Hell and kill you again."
Jean still, apparently, had not found it in himself to forgive Locke for sneaking the antidote only into a drink other than his own. Himself, Locke found it amusing that the only really selfless deed he'd ever successfully managed nearly got him killed by his best friend.
There was poison, without a doubt, coursing through Locke's veins. He'd weaken soon enough, and deteriorate who knew how quickly, and when it got worse than he wanted to deal with there was enough water to solve the potential problem of a long life. Locke had no fear for his imminent demise. Jean seemed to find this nearly as upsetting as the fact of that demise itself.
"Don't you care?" He yelled. "Don't you want to know how long you've got or do something? You bastard, the Locke I know wouldn't just sit and do nothing waiting-"
"The Locke you know," drawled said Locke, "Is very ill and unwilling to discuss anything serious. Bring me my kitten." For a second, Locke sincerely thought that Jean would hit him. Fortunately, the bigger man seemed to decide that striking an invalid was beneath his dignity, and stormed off.
Jean was right, of course. He wanted to do something, it was just that his idea of something was not quite the same as his friend's. Locke had discovered that he did not, as he had thought, want to go out in a few last month of peace and leisurely sea travel with a stubborn kitten and a surly axeman. He wanted to die as befitted a legend; in a sizable and more importantly memorable blaze of glory.
Jean, however, would not like that idea much at all. Locke doing anything in a blaze of glory seemed to go against his moral principles, somehow.
"I get worried when you're thinking too much."
Locke tilted his head back. His neck had started to ache, but he could still ignore it, and it was probably just sleeping funny. If he started attributing every little twinge to poison and encroaching death he'd go mad in no time. "That's strange. I've been thinking my whole life and you never worried before."
"You weren't dying before."
"Are you still harping on that? I don't feel like I'm dying. It was probably a bluff."
"If you believed that you wouldn't have tricked me into taking the antidote."
"I did not trick you. I slipped it in your drink. You drank it. That's not trickery. It's subtlety. There's a difference and I've done both so I know it."
"You motherfucker," Jean said, vehemently and with the utmost sincerity, and Locke couldn't help saying, "Never knew her, actually, but I did like yours," which earned him a wallop on the back of the head.
"Careful," Locke drawled, rubbing his skull. "Don't want to hit me too hard. My brain's probably rotting away already." Jean flushed a bright and alarming color of red.
"Don't joke about this, Locke! You're dying. Dying. Doesn't that mean fucking anything to you? Even if it doesn't it means a great deal to me. You think I want to sit here and watch you die slowly knowing if you hadn't been so godsdamn selfless – what am I supposed to do if you're dead? Did you think about that?"
Locke half closed his eyes. "Become a lawful citizen. I'm sure you can pass for one if you try very hard."
"I'm going to break your nose," Jean said savagely, and left. Locke closed his eyes the rest of the way.
If he had the chance to do it all again, would he really do anything differently? The answer to that seemed obvious. No. Except maybe the stupid things, but no one ever got a chance to fix those. It occurred to him that the Crooked Thirteenth must be finding this all terribly funny.
"Dear Thirteenth," he said, to the sky, as he'd seen some people pray – Locke'd never been much good at it – "You have my deepest apologies for falling down on the job. I will do my best to lie, cheat, pilfer, or steal in the next week." He raised his voice. "Did you hear that, Jean?"
Regal the kitten scrambled up onto Locke's lap and curled up, purring. Locke petted him absently, watching the horizon. It was only a few moments before Jean came back.
"You came back," Locke said, neutrally.
Jean scowled. He did little other than scowl, lately. "I did. You were quiet. You're never quiet unless you're up to something."
"You have that backwards, my friend. I am always quiet, unless I am up to something. Hence why I talk so much."
"Shove it, Locke. What are you planning?"
"My eulogy. Why do you ask?" Locke grinned. "I'll let you know if the cat gives me any ideas."
This was, apparently, finally too much for Jean, who moved surprisingly fast for a man of his size. He seized Locke, hauled him to his feet, and hit him across the face with a closed fist. The only reason the erstwhile Thorn of Camorr didn't go flying was that Jean caught him before he hit the deck, and just as quickly dropped him. Initially, Locke seemed more stunned than afraid. Then Jean seized the front of his shirt and dragged him up, faces only inches apart.
"If you say one more smartass word about dying I am going to beat you until you wish you were dead. It's bad enough that you had to fucking decide for both of us that my life's worth more and that may be a touching sentiment, but you remember what you said when you were bleeding all over the place?"
"No," said Locke, perhaps a touch faintly, but Jean bulled right through him.
"Leave me, you said. I'm as good as dead, you said. I don't know where you get these fits of nobleness from but if you ask me you can cut them the fuck out. And I said it then, that is a hell of a thing for you to say to me, and this is worse, that was a hell of a thing for you to do to me, and I don't care anymore, we're going to find a damn cure if we have to go to the Bondsmagi because I am not going to watch you idie/i is that clear, Locke motherfucking Lamora?"
Locke found himself, for one of very few times, utterly speechless. Staring at Jean, he managed to swallow. "…Jean?"
Jean dropped him again, standing, shoulders square as a brick. "No excuses."
"…it matters that much?"
"Does it matter that much? Fuck you, Locke. It matters. We're brothers, remember? Gentlemen Bastards."
Locke knew his smile was faint. "Wouldn't matter if I were there. You'd be a Gentleman Bastard all the same." He felt suddenly tired. "I thought we were living a quiet life."
"I'm not living one by myself." Jean paused. "Here. Get off the deck, you'll make me feel guilty even if I've wanted to hit you for weeks."
"Glad you took care of that desire," Locke said, and attempted another smile. This one was a little easier. "All right. No arguments. I was getting bored anyway. We'll look for this cure of yours. Just another life and death adventure. I can manage one of those."
Jean always surprised him. Locke's ribs ached with the force of the hug he was enfolded in. "I meant it," said Jean's muffled voice. "If you go do something stupid like die, I'm bringing you back. And I can do that. You watch me."
"I believe you, too. Gods. That's a scary thought." He tried to make his voice light, even if his eyes stung.
They were no longer drifting, and much as he hated to admit it, knowing that they were going somewhere, no matter where; the feeling of the wind in his face, lifted Locke's spirits more than he would have expected.
Three days out on the journey, Locke began coughing up blood.
Staring at the spots on the handkerchief, swaying slightly with the motion of the boat, Locke knew that he would never tell Jean that he'd finally started dying.
It was too good to see him smile again.