Chapter 30

Locke stared out the window of his cabin. The evening clouds flew past faster than he thought they had any right to, not when he was in a ship as big as this one.

He sighed and flopped back onto the bed in the back corner of the room. It was cramped, small and, Figaroan crest carved on the end aside, plain.

It was more than he deserved.

This ship, so new it didn’t even have a name, was, Locke supposed, the future. It was as fast as the good ol’ Blackjack and three times the size. Not as fast as the Falcon, though - Setzer’d have had a fit over that.

The thought almost brought a grin to Locke’s face.

But not quite.

It was a future that he had helped make possible. He’d done his bit, fought the good fight. Twice now, in fact. Of course, this time he hadn’t known it was the good fight when he’d been fighting it. Oh, no, he’d just been out to make a quick fortune and maybe even make himself worth something again. Nabbing the relic weapon had just been part of the deal. Who’d have thought it was gonna save the world.

All he’d wanted was to hold his own, pick up enough treasure for him and Celes to settle down for good, away from the work, away from the castle, away from everything.

Yeah, right.

He’d been a fool to think he could keep Ghaleon at a stalemate. The guy’d played him like a harp, or whatever that thing he used was called.

Like he’d played -

No, Locke wasn’t going to think about that. No way. If he did... well, he just wasn’t going to.

“Why am I here, anyway?” he wondered aloud. He didn’t have any role to play now. It wasn’t like he knew how the relic weapon worked or anything like that, and he sure as hell was no scholar.

Locke’s hand tightened around the crystal hanging on a chain from his neck. So tightly, he felt the sharp prick of his skin breaking. He pulled his hand away and looked at it. It wasn’t much of a cut, but it sure hurt.

He sighed again and used the edge of his shirt to wipe off the crystal.

Once, it had been the legendary Phoenix magicite, a shard supposedly able to give life. That hadn’t worked out too well. Now it was just a pretty stone.

He kept it as a reminder of what he’d done - and hadn’t done - back then. The good and the bad.

Right then and there, he felt like taking the thing and throwing it off the deck. Except, he thought with a shrug, this ship didn’t have a deck. Probably a good thing, anyway.

If he’d tried it, and there’d been a deck to throw from, nobody would have stopped him. They all knew he’d lied about working for Ghaleon, knew he’d kept it from them. Edgar wouldn’t have any trouble figuring out why he’d done it, either.

But even with all that, they still trusted him.

There were no guards outside his door, no one watching to make sure he didn’t make off with any valuables, nothing. He was treated like what he’d been. A friend.

Which was crazy. He wasn’t worth half, a quarter, hell, not a hundredth what his friends were. Every last one of them was better than he could ever hope to be. What’d he ever done, anyway?

All he was was some crummy thief. He’d never let anyone else say it, but he wasn’t gonna lie to himself. Maybe, a long time ago, he really had been a treasure hunter. But that was a long time ago. The world had changed, and he had changed, and there weren’t any more treasure hunters, and if there were, he wasn’t one.

He’d been nothing but a thief when he’d saved Celes. Skulking around was his business. So it had worked out right, then - it didn’t change what he was. And it didn’t change the fact that she was a hell of a lot more than he could ever have been, even then.

No wonder she’d found somebody better.

Locke shook his head. “No, dammit! He’s no better than I am!”

He might not be much, but Ghaleon sure as hell was even less. That arrogant smile he copped whenever somebody who could do something about it wasn’t looking summed the jerk up real well.

He was a thief, too, but he was a lot worse than that.

Who the hell knew what he really wanted.

And I helped him get it, Locke thought. I helped him get it, and ‘cause I helped him, I let everybody else get taken in by him, too. Ghaleon’d been sitting pretty in Figaro Castle - a word from Locke, and Edgar would have had a reason to get rid of him.

A word from Locke and Ghaleon never would’ve got the chance to make Celes -

He looked down at the crystal. He’d failed Celes just as bad as he’d failed Rachel.

Locke closed his eyes and tried to sleep. If he had nightmares, he didn’t ever remember them, so sleep was better than laying here feeling sorry for himself.

No matter how hard he tried, though, he kept tossing and turning. It had to be the ship, he told himself. It sure wasn’t as smooth a ride as the Falcon or the Blackjack.

But he was almost asleep when the knock came.

Damn!

Locke struggled to his feet, and stalked to the door.

He threw it open.

And there stood Celes.

His hand dropped from the doorknob. The angry words he’d been ready to shout died in his throat.

Celes didn’t meet his eyes. Even so, Locke could see that she’d been crying.

“What’s wrong,” he asked gently. He wanted to take her in his arms and make whatever it was - it didn’t matter, not really - not wrong any more. A year ago, he would have done just that. But now... now he was afraid that would just make things worse.

For one crazy moment, Locke wondered how the opera he and Celes had been forced to act in was supposed to end. Had they lived happily ever after? Did the bad guy win?

And suddenly, it didn’t matter.

Because Celes threw herself into his arms.

He kissed the top of her head.

She looked up at him.

And then, nothing else mattered.