CoN 20th Anniversary: 1997-2017
FFVI: Linger

Posted: 2nd September 2013 21:40

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Black Mage
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A look into the life of a Treasure Hunter in the year that follows the falling of the Floating Continent.

It could be assumed as a Locke and Terra pairing and holds a warning for alcoholism. I hope it's liked!

Linger

Thunder boomed outside the window, rattling the cracked glass in its ill-fitting frame. Locke sat bolt upright in the bed, his heart racing as he turned his gaze towards the window, wondering when he had thought to close it. His head throbbed as another roll of thunder shook the stormy sky and he plunged back into the bed, hiding his face in the dirty pillow. The filthy sheets were musty with a thousand odors he didn't care to try and identify. Underneath it all however, he found one he could cling to…

He lifted his pounding head again as rain began to splatter against the cracked glass, an almost ever present sound in the broken town. Zozo, even after Kefka ruined the world, remained a den of thieves and murderers; but, here, atop an all too familiar tower, he had found a haven of peace. Lightning flashed high in the sky, illuminating the countless books and bottles that littered the room, reminding him of why his head hurt. An open book tumbled off the mattress and onto the floor as he shifted, its pages crinkling angrily as it landed face down.

Sitting upright, he scrambled at the small bedside table, fumbling about and knocking a number of small things to the floor as he desperately sought for a match. He found the tiny box after a moment and quickly struck one of the last remaining matches, lighting the stubby candle he kept at the bedside. Frowning, he set the box back on the bed stand, wondering if he'd be able to find more of the little sticks soon. It struck him as oddly funny that in this ruined world, little things like a box of matches were very hard to come by. It felt as though industry had vanished entirely in the passing months.

Absently tossing the sheets aside, he slung his legs over the edge of the grubby mattress, rubbing briefly at his aching temples. Watery eyes traced over the dimly lit room, falling on the seemingly endless stacks of books and papers that he had been pouring through in the past month he had come to live here. He had hoped when he had decided to hide himself away here that the old books that he had seen in this room, what now felt like a lifetime ago, would still remain.

He had been incredibly lucky.

But then, it did not take much thought to figure that after Terra had burst through the tower window so long ago, glowing like an angel and shrieking like a banshee, that the people of this dumpy town would still be afraid of coming up here. The rumors of a frightening old man bearing a staff of lightning and a glimmering demon of white still fluttered about on the wind swept streets, keeping the superstitious folk at bay. Pushing himself up from the bed, he stumbled towards the window, his head swimming as he tripped over a stack of old books, sending them tumbling to the grime blackened carpet.

A chill hovered around the window as he fell against the frame, the wood creaking in distress beneath his weight. For a moment, he hoped it would break and send him falling to his death a dozen floors below. It would at least bring an end to this ache, this loneliness. It felt like years since he had woken up on a beach somewhere near Maranda when the Floating Continent had come down. He had been found among a few boards he was certain were from the deck of the BlackJack, no doubt then turned to driftwood. He had been scooped up by a search and rescue party a few days after the fall of the world and taken into the town, fed and clothed despite the fires still burning around the city. He'd left there as soon as he could, a desire in him to see the damage Kefka had done with his own eyes. After seeing the world from the sky, the damage was twice as devastating. For three months after the event, the world had been torn apart by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that erased most of the population even before Kefka had turned his Light of Judgment on the earth.

Locke shivered and leaned his head against the glass, a cold sweat breaking out across his skin. Wrapping his arms about himself, he pushed lightly against the window frame, a begging prayer in his mind that it would break beneath his weight. To his dismay, the window held, and he would live another day.

With a slightly rasping sigh he turned away from the window, the wan light of the candle his only beacon in the vast darkness of the chamber. He had forgotten how big the room was, but with the candle as his only source of light, it felt much smaller. Another bolt of lightning split the sky as he stumbled through the darkness, his stomach flopping over as he kicked over another bottle; the few remaining drops of whiskey falling unnoticed to the floor. He had buried himself in the bottle not long after the fall of the world; but he had kept up his travels, searching for anything that might rekindle the lost light in his heart. There was no doubt in him that his friends were dead; or that any survivors would never find each other again.

Oh Goddess…they were all gone!

Tears streamed almost endlessly down his dirty face as he stumbled into another stack of books and into a familiar old chair. He sank into the worn fabric and closed his eyes. Breathing deeply her caught the smell of electricity burned air, beneath the dust and the smell of alcohol. He shivered at the thought that not long ago a god of lightning had sat here in the broken down seat as though it were a throne, the smell of storms having forever ingrained itself into the fabric. A wan smile curled his chapped lips as he ran his hands over the worn arms of the chair. When he closed his eyes he could almost see the wizened old man standing before them, his staff raised high as he let flow a warm wave of magic to quell a fit of violence from the then confused and terrified Terra.

Oh no…Terra…

Leaning forward he plunged his face into his hands, fresh tears cutting streaks through the grime on his cheeks as he shook with the thought of her. She may as well have just been freed of the Empire and here she was, most likely dead or huddled up terrified in some corner, lost and alone. Even then, through the fear, the thought that she was far more of a warrior than they had expected cut through his muddled brain. She might have survived and come through strong, but the chances were so small. They all must have fallen more than a thousand feet into the ocean. By all rights they should have died once they had hit the water, and most likely, many of them had. But if he had survived, maybe she had been lucky as well.

Locke shook his head, running a chill and shaking hand through his hair. There was no use thinking about it. Those days were gone. They had failed. Now, however, he had a new purpose. In one of his wanderings he had heard rumor of a great bird of legend one able to reverse death. He had thought nothing of it at first but he had come across a pair of elderly scholars discussing the topic and was surprised to learn that there were indeed records of this famed bird; the Phoenix. The men had told him that there was little doubt that the bird was an esper and had, at some point, taken on a magicite form. The knowledge had sent his mind reeling. He had immediately dragged himself to the nearest library, but had come up empty –handed. His hands remained empty for months before he had finally recalled, in a moment of drunken thought, the books he had seen adorning the dilapidated shelves in the high tower in Zozo. It had struck him that it might be possible that Ramuh had retreated there for that purpose. It was a relative long-shot, of course, but had that point anything had been worth trying.

To his immense relief, his hunch had paid off. The books were old and dusty, much of the print having faded over the passage of time and the weather let in by the dilapidated roof, but many were intact. He had poured over them endlessly, often forgoing food in his studies. His clinging to the bottle however had increased upon finding that the same facts about the Phoenix were repeated again and again in book after book. But finally, after far too many nights hunched over tomes and as drunk as a sailor, he had found it, a hint as to the magicite's location. Unfortunately, however, the lower half of that page had worn away with time, leaving him guessing as to the exact location.

Scratching at his scalp, Locke pushed himself up from the chair and wandered towards the bed, absently kicking aside another empty bottle. He threw himself down onto the empty bed, feeling sorry for himself as he once again went through the information on that long sought page once more. It was so vague and he could barely focus through the haze of long ignored hunger, but as he pressed his nose into the dirty sheets, he caught that scent that comforted him in his every moment of drunken misery. It was warm and fresh, like a bush of heady scented flowers in late spring, caught in an everlasting ray of sunlight. He knew that smell all too well.

Terra…

That smell always seemed to hover around her when she took on her angelic aspect. He could see her just behind his eyelids her shapely frame obscured by a hovering fog of white light, the barest hint of pink garnishing the edges. Her crimson eyes as gentle as a summer breeze and her voice so smooth and musical, the soft magical chiming underneath it reminding him of a choir of children all voicing a single note of perfection.

But she was lost now…

He shivered and gripped at the sheets, his heart begging that scent to strengthen; begging for her to appear and ease his ache. He missed her. He missed them all; and for more than a few months now he was certain that his misery over their loss would kill him. But now, he had a second chance. If he could find the Phoenix, he could go and bring Rachel back. He could try and start again; start over with his lost beloved. Maybe this time he could get it right. This time he would stay and protect her as he had failed to protect everyone else in his life. He had promised them, and had failed to keep that promise; but this time he would die to keep it.

He rolled onto his back and gazed up through the darkness towards the shrouded ceiling high above. He would have to leave this place and venture out into the world once more; face the ruin and continue with the hell that life had become. If he stayed here, in this haven of memories and lost friends, he would surely die, alone and buried in a bottle. His heart quivered in his chest at the thought of trudging down those countless stairs for the last time before setting out on his new journey. If he left Zozo, he would be unable to run back to the safety of this hideaway when things got harder or his journey proved to be a failure. He wasn't certain that leaving was something he could do anymore. His very existence felt attached to this room, to the scorch marks left on the wall when Terra had tried to flee the tower upon their arrival, to the scar on his arm where she had bit him when he had picked her up to return her to the bed.

Tears pricked at his eyes again as he gripped at the sheets beneath him. He needed to leave, but he couldn't. He had lost too much of himself in the past months to continue on now. A shadow of his former self, there was no way he could survive out there again; he didn't stand the slightest of chances.

Lightning flashed outside again and something in the window caught his eye. Raising his head, he caught a glimpse of a familiar figure in the glass, a mere image most likely dredged up from the depths of his broken mind. He could see her there, her emerald hair hanging loose as she stood in the open air, the purple sash about her waist far brighter than it should have been in the darkness. The image of Terra held her hands out to him, beckoning him to her as a warm smile curled her full lips.

Locke would have run to her, but somewhere in his mind he knew it was only an image dredged up by his lonely mind and he stayed on the sheets. One hand desperately sought for a bottle he might have left on the bed in the night, but he found none. He screamed sharply, his fingers knotting up in the greasy strands of his hair as he rolled around on the bed, the pain of his loss a physical agony. His piercing cry broke through his veil of pain and weakness and when he looked back to the window, she was gone. Sitting up he looked around the dimly lit room once more, the light from the stubby candle flickered, threatening to go out as the wick neared the molten base wax in the base of the old bottle. He blinked at it, almost surprised that it had burned so low.

He hung a shaking hand over the sputtering flame, watching the flickers dance along his palm. His palm turned red as he lowered it closer to the flame, allowing it to linger above the light as his skin began to burn. He watched quietly as the skin began to blister, the pain seeming distant before he finally pulled it away. Roughened fingers graced over the damage, and he winced as the pressure sent needles of pain through his hand.

Pain…He had grown used to it in the passing months of alcoholism and his fear, the thought that he could not survive the pain of seeing the ruined world any longer seemed suddenly distant. After all that he had already been through, he could imagine nothing that could ever outweigh the agony of losing his friends and his whole world.

A beam of moonlight came through the window as the storm broke apart for the moment, revealing the full white disc hiding behind them. A small, tired smile curled his lips as he sat in the moonbeam, lost for a moment in his own head. The beam illuminated the scorch marks Terra had left in the wall and for a moment he could feel his heart beat again, not the fearful flutter it had grown used to, but a strong and steady beat. Terra's glow had been much like the full moon and in that moment he would have given anything to see it again. His mind told him that he would never see that glow again, but his heart held the hope. He knew, however, that if ever he were to see anything he longed for ever again, he could afford to linger here no longer. He had found what little information existed and now it was time to make use of it.

He would leave the bottles behind and take up his pack once more. Part of him wanted to stay in this bed and dream of an angel of light he'd never see again. It wanted to lay here forever and replay scenes from memory of laughing faces, the clashing of swords and a splay of gold and emerald as Celes and Terra danced together in a moment of frivolity. He could stay and imagine Sabin's booming laugh and Edgar's friendly jokes. Setzer would begin a tale and Cyan would comment leaving Strago to laugh and Relm and Gau to listen intently. Behind it all Locke could watch and smile, just as he had then; and then they would reach for him and pull him into the fun and he would feel warm and welcome.

But to stay would mean that he hadn't given a last try. It would mean that he had given up; gone out not with a bang, but with a whimper. Doing so would be against everything he had ever been and he wondered if in this last attempt he could find himself again; come back from the abyss he had fallen into. He had to try.

He knew he could not linger...



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