The Melting of Snow

By Cait

The brilliant blue sky seemed to fade into darkness as the sun sank below the horizon. Soon after the sun took its silent leave, stars began to dot the sky, lighting up the midnight-blue nebula. The light of the moon shone down upon the Imperial capital, Vector. Atop a darkened darkened balcony, the figure of a young woman could be made out against the shadows of the night.

Footsteps from behind her startled the woman, and made her turn her head towards the door that led to the balcony. “Who’s there?” She demanded as another figured, caressed in darkness, appeared within the doorway.

“Celes, what are you doing out here at this hour? You should be sleeping… We’ve got a long day ahead of us, tomorrow.” The man stepped out from the doorway. His skin was barely visible because it was a deep shade of brown. Although he had a little of it, his blonde hair was sprawled in every which direction over his head. The General was no longer donned in his green suit of armor. The suit had long since been hung up, and he resided in a pair of silk, black trousers, and a white shirt that was made of the same material.

As he approached the young Celes, he placed a large hand upon her shoulder, crushing some strands of her brilliant blonde hair beneath it. “I’m fine, Leo… Really I am. I just came out here to think.” Celes turned to face him, a smile forming onto her soft lips. The smile seemed to sparkle as brightly as the stars above. She gently snaked a hand around his muscular form, embracing him.

Leo leaned against her, bringing himself down to press his lips to hers. She didn’t seem to go against the kiss, but she gave no response towards it. It saddened him and feeling as if he were unwelcome, he pulled himself away. “Thinking about what?”

“About… Well… The Returners.” Her voice grew low as if she were afraid that some one was around to hear them. The two were, however, alone on the balcony. The guards that usually watched over the location had either turned in for the evening or were watching over other posts, elsewhere.

“What about them, Celes?”

“You know exactly what, Leo!” Her face went stern while her whispering voice grew harsh.

Leo simply hated that look. He grimaced once it formed and shuttered at the words that slid passed her lips. “Forget about them. Everything will work out and they will be pushed out of this entire thing. Just don’t worry about it.” Silently, he prayed to himself that that would make the look go away. He knew that it wouldn’t. Celes wasn’t one to merely forget about the people that she cared for, when she did find someone that she really did care for.

“I can’t just forget about them. They cared about me. They saved me from those horrible soldiers that Kefka told to kill me and then made sure I was all right.”

“And you all ready helped them by letting them escape with all the Espers. I’d say that was enough pay back. They’d be dead right now if it weren’t for you.” Leo, despite his harsh words, kept his tone as soft and as gentle as a man’s tone would allow. He really cared for Celes and wasn’t about to let her drag herself into even more trouble with the Empire. She almost brought on her own death once and he didn’t want her to go through such pains again. Also, he would feel guilty, himself, knowing that he might have been able to prevent any harm that might come to her.

Celes merely sighed while her eyes moved slowly to the ground. He was right, she knew but she couldn’t admit that to herself. “But… what if… What if he’s lying? What if this is all a trap that everyone is walking into?”

“Ssh…” He whispered, removing a hand from her hip and placing a finger upon her lips to silence her. “Don’t speak of such things. The Emperor is a honest man and would do nothing to harm the Returners. This war is soon coming to an end, now that Kefka’s doings have been revealed to all of us. He will be kept away forever and no one will have to deal with his torturing ever again.”

Celes only nodded. She didn’t speak any words to show that she agreed with him and the two stood in silence for a moment. Finally, she murmured, “But….” She fell silent again while shaking her head. This brought Leo’s intent eyes upon her and she almost felt like cowering against them. His eyes were so large, so intent, so concentrated on her. “I…” She managed to stammer yet another word out and then was silent yet again. Leo kept his stare upon her, waiting for the words that she was apparently struggling to gather. “Locke… He did so much for me. I betrayed him or at least he thinks so. I wish there was something I could do for him that would make him know that I’m on his side.

“This Locke fellow…” He spoke while stepping away. His hands slid off of her and his eyes finally left her, she was able to finally relax a bit. He moved to the edge of the balcony and leaned his elbows upon the railing. His eyes were turned upward to the sky and he noticed that the sky was slowly becoming engulfed in dark clouds. The stars were slowly disappearing and he sighed. Pain began to tug at his heart, jealously corrupting his mind as he continued to speak, “You have feelings for him, don’t you?”

The question caught Celes off guard and she froze where she stood. “N-No! Of course not!” She denied it as soon as the shock wore off. She knew what he said was true: she did have feelings for Locke Cole but she could never bring herself to admit that to Leo, the first man to ever show her that she could show compassion and that she could love another. “He saved me, and I am grateful for him doing so.” Slowly, she began to collect herself and her words flowed much more smoothly.

“Celes, don’t lie to me.” Leo’s gaze met hers again, his eyes still soft and gentle. “I know you’re lying to me.” He pushed himself off of the edge of the balcony and moved back towards her. He laced his arms around her and she rested her head gently against his chest. For a moment, he soothed her. His fingers moved up and down her back, absently, as he contemplated what to say next.

“I suppose I do. He’s always been kind to me and he’s protected me.” She heaved out a long sigh.

“Apparently he’s been kind to Terra and he’s protected her as well.” Jealously was now driving him but he still kept his words gentle. He didn’t want to lash out at her, make her feel more hurt than what she all ready was. Just as long as he could drive her away from any thought of Locke returning the feelings that she apparently had for him.

“And it’s because he failed to save Rachel’s life. He failed to keep her safe, like he promised. So, he’s making sure that he’s able to protect both Terra and I from danger.”

“Exactly, dear. His heart is still yearning over Rachel.” Leo had no idea who Locke’s lover was but he had seen his opening. “It’s not like he’s any good for you anyway…” He cringed as the words slid by his lips as he regretted them almost immediately.

Celes large blue eyes widened a bit. She pushed herself away from him, her eyes watching him. “What do you mean, ‘not any good for me?’ He’s almost perfect for me.”

“A thief that grew up on the streets of Zozo is nothing good for a respected general?”

“Oh, stop it Leo!” Her voice was louder, her anger boiling. “Respected? I’m no longer respected by the people here. I’m a lowly traitor. No one respects me, not even the Returners.”

“Celes…” Leo attempted to speak however Celes interrupted as she continued.

“Locke and I have so much in common with one another, despite the fact that we’re incredibly different. He’s been rejected by society simply because he’s a thief and I have been as well because I betrayed my country. We’re both untrusted by those we reside with for those same reason.

“I’d only make you look bad and you’re a wonderful person here. The people respect you and view you as a good leader. With you on the Emperor’s side, surely something good will come out of this war. Leo, if we continue this relationship, it could ruin just about everything. It could ruin you and your plans for a peaceful world. I really don’t want that.”

During the course of the conversation, he found himself back at the railing. His fingers clutched the bar tightly, his knuckles turning pale due to the tightness of his grip. His head was down, away from her eyes so his wouldn’t meet hers. “You haven’t learned a thing from all of this, have you?”

“What do you mean?”

“In this… this war you can’t let your emotions get in the way of anything. They’ll get anyone into trouble, and they all ready have gotten you in far to deep. You were lucky and had a chance to get out but if you didn’t, you’d be dead right now. Even if you do love this Locke-fellow, things won’t be good between you and him. They won’t be accepted here and they won’t be accepted between him and the Returners. Give up on him. It’s only going to make things worse.

“I’m not telling you this for me, I’m doing it for your own good. I don’t want you to see you getting yourself hurt anymore.”

“No, Leo. You want me to stay away from him.” She took a step backwards, towards the unguarded door. “You want me, to be with me, and you don’t care what I think. You’re jealous of him…” She turned upon her head, taking two more steps to reach the door. She was halfway inside when she turned her head to speak to him again, “Who ever thought all-mighty General Leo would be jealous of a Returner.”

He heard her step away, the clicking of her boot heels against the metal floor slowly dispersing until it was silent. For a few more moments, he stood in silence, wishing he could shed some tears over what had just happened. He couldn’t, however, force himself to cry. Nor did he want to but he felt as if he had to.

“Sometimes the truth hurts, doesn’t it?”

Leo stiffened at the sound of the voice behind him. “Yes, it does, Emperor.” Softer footsteps slowly approached him and he turned to the side to see Emperor Gestahl now standing at the railing.

“It looks like our snow is melting.” Leo nodded at the Emperor’s words, only because he agreed with them.

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