"Come on, Cid, would you hurry up?"
"One moment!" he yelled back.
Lucca opened the door of her house, stepping outside. Back up in Cid's room, the other was quickly gathering stuff he would need to take with him. Which was harder than it sounded. Like the living room, its floor still covered in books, his room had turned into a mess during renovations.
Having this pass through her mind brought other memories to Lucca, like the surprise of Marle and Crono when they realized Lucca and Cid weren't 'sharing a room' per se, coming after an awkward remark by Crono. She almost smiled at this, remembering how uncomfortable the atmosphere had been through most of the rest of that night. And how embarrassed Cid looked. He didn't speak the rest of the night, in fact.
To Lucca, the concept just didn't seem right. Her relationship with Cid had eventually molded itself into a partnership of minds. They worked well together, knew each other, and trusted each other; but anything beyond that just didn't fit. It would seem forced, and worst of all, wrong.
There was that kiss, just before she had destroyed Nikades, but Lucca had been so uncomfortable with it in the first place; she had just been using Cid to release a massive amount of emotional stress that had been building over those weeks during their struggle. And she hated herself for doing it. There had been an apology to Cid about it after they had reunited not too long ago and he had forgiven her. A much more honest forgiveness than he would give himself. He seemed to understand her stance, and regarded her in much the same way she did him. They were great friends, partners in science, but nothing else. And that was why they worked so well together.
There was a thud from above, breaking Lucca from her thoughts. Upstairs, she heard Cid grunt in pain. Then came a strained, "Oops."
"You okay up there, Cid?" she began to head towards the staircase, intent on checking up on him, but stopped when she heard something heading down the stairs.
Cid jumped down the last few steps, landing loudly, then grabbed the two sides of the entryway and pulled himself towards the front door, giving himself a boost as he caught up with Lucca, "Yeah, just tripped over something."
She laughed at this, a short giggle, and they headed outside.
"Boy, you're slow," Lucca joked, shutting the door behind them, "It'll be late by the time we get there if we don't hurry."
It was Saturday now, the day they would be heading to the castle to see what Marshall had in store for Cid that was so important. And they had been hoping to get there early, before lunch if possible.
"I'm not too slow," Cid argued, "You're just too fast."
"Are you trying to turn that around on me?" Lucca smirked as she began to walk, "Because you've just complimented me instead."
"Whatever," Cid mumbled, keeping in step beside her, "Besides, we'll be there by noon. I've done this before."
"Yeah," Lucca shrugged, unimpressed, "But you ran all the way."
Cid rolled his eyes, "Technicalities, you shouldn't worry about the small stuff."
"So you're expecting me to run in this hot weather?" Lucca walked in front of him and began pacing backwards, looking at him inquiringly.
"It's only about 70 degrees," Cid estimated, "What hot weather?"
Lucca shrugged a second time, "Okay."
Before Cid knew what was happening, he found himself several feet behind Lucca as she sprinted ahead of him. He had no choice but to run as well and try to catch up. Soon he caught up and together they ran across the bridge and reached the other side. Cid had been right, this was a good way to make time.
"You two look tired," Marle commented calmly, as the two entered the throne room, "What'd you do, run the whole way here?"
Cid and Lucca stopped panting briefly, giving a look at each other, they chose not to comment. Marle shook her head as she sat back down in her chair, "You're just in time for lunch if you're hungry. It's a little past noon, I believe."
Cid smiled and mumbled to Lucca, "Told you."
"Shut up," Lucca berated him, then turned to address Marle, "Sure, I guess I could do with a meal before business. Where's Crono, by the way?"
"He'll be here, he's outside wandering around right now," Marle responded, wondering what the two were arguing about.
Lucca grew a confused look, "He's been doing that a lot recently, hasn't he?"
"Yeah," Marle nodded, "I guess he's got a lot on his mind."
"Do you think he's worrying if anything else is going to cause a threat to us?," Cid broke in, "I remember him talking about repeated problems once or twice. How 'one thing came after another' and all that."
"Could be," Marle shrugged, smiling again, "Well, I'm going to prepare for dinner. If you want, you can go ahead to the dining hall and get a seat."
"Okay," Cid gave a half nod.
Marle sat up and left, disappearing up the stairway to her room. Cid and Lucca waited until she had left, then turned to get themselves a seat. Cid spoke first, however, "Where's the dining hall, by the way?"
Lucca smiled, then grabbed his arm, "C'mon, I'll show you. I can't believe you spent three days holed up in here without eating."
"I spent a lot of that time away from the castle, remember?" Cid corrected her, "I think I spent the very last day here... Uh, not counting when I was out cold."
"It's amazing what you went through while I was gone," Lucca added, then wished she hadn't taken the conversation down that road.
They exited the throne room and took a left, heading down the corridor that led to the stairs. The guards shut the doors behind them, making no noise, almost as if they weren't there at all.
"Well," Cid almost seemed to read her mind as he sidetracked back into safe territory, "It was only amazing in hindsight. Like I'm sure this will seem like an amazing dinner years from now."
"Yeah," Lucca didn't dare add anything else, with her luck she'd take it right back into the danger zone.
"Doesn't it seem like Marle's acting a little strange?" Cid however braved the stormy sea with wild abandon.
Lucca cocked her head, surprised by the accusation, "How so?"
"Surely you've noticed her smiles," Cid pressed, "They didn't look too right to me, almost like she was forcing them."
"Cid, she's a queen. I'm sure she gets all sorts of people whining to her about all sorts of stuff," Lucca argued, "Sometimes you HAVE to force a smile as they go along...Maybe it was just a habit."
Cid shrugged, but didn't drop the topic. He slowed in his walk, "Then what's going on that she has to hide her discomfort behind a smile?"
"What do you mean?" Lucca slowed down so he could keep up, now curious of his thoughts, "I said she probably smiled like that out of habit, not out of hiding something."
"And if it's both?"
"You're being paranoid, Cid," Lucca said, smiling a bit.
"Maybe, but follow along with me on this," Cid continued, "What would put her in a mood like this?"
"Do you think he can be trusted?"
"He seems calm now."
"Yeah, but he's been through so much, it's hard to understand someone like that."
Lucca forced the thoughts out of her head, knowing that Cid didn't want to hear that as a reason. She quickly tried to think of something else, but nothing manifested itself in her mind. Cid took her silence for a lack of ideas and continued, "Do you think she's worried about Crono?"
Lucca sighed, thinking about Cid's choice. It could very well fit. She was stuck in the castle as the leader of a kingdom, Crono didn't have those ties. He could leave the castle and wander about, she couldn't. Maybe he was becoming more reclusive than Marle was letting on.
"You think so, too, don't you?" Cid said, interrupting her thoughts.
Lucca seemed to not hear him for a moment, then shook her head, "No, no; you're just being paranoid, Cid. I'm sure everything's all right. We're all friends, if there was something wrong they'd tell us."
"Maybe..." Cid said, not satisfied.
"Cid, just because she didn't smile the way you wanted her to doesn't mean she's hiding something from us," Lucca berated him, "C'mon, really. What makes you so sure of this?"
Cid smiled himself briefly, then his face grew back to neutral, "I picked up a few odds and ends from Marshall. It's her eyes. They aren't smiling along with her mouth. There IS something wrong."
"Now you're just being kooky. You're not Marshall. Maybe you're just seeing things that you want to see."
Cid averted his eyes a bit, thinking over what she said, "No, I guess I'm not. But I don't want to see that, and I still do." he finally answered.
Lucca sighed, "Then I hope you're wrong, Cid."
"Me, too," Cid agreed, "But we really can't take the risk that nothing IS wrong."
They reached the bottom of the stairs and entered the dining hall. They would ask Marle later, in private. And possibly Crono, too, if he returned soon. They both took their seats at the currently empty table, choosing two that were close to Marle's, which was labeled for Nadia. Around the far corner erupted the sounds of the kitchen. Soon Marle walked down the stairway and entered the room.
Cid instinctively stood up as she entered, but Lucca remained sitting. She pulled on his shirt from his seat, "C'mon Cid, she's a friend."
Cid shook his head, smiling, "Sorry," he slowly sat back down, the smile still on his face, "Force of habit."
Lucca kicked him from under the table.
"It's alright," Marle replied, unknowing of the other side of his comment, "So many people have done that to me, it's almost as if they think I'm a queen," she shook her head with another smile, "I'll never consider myself a queen, though. It just doesn't seem like me."
"Is this all who's eating?" Lucca asked, changing the subject, "Where is everyone?"
Marle shook her head, "Well, the only other two that eat at this time are the chancellor and Crono. The chancellor is working on the reconstruction of Truce right now, so he's probably eating in town. Crono's still out."
The chef yelled something out of the kitchen to Marle that the other two didn't catch. She nodded to him and leaned back in her seat, "Well, lunch's ready; let's eat!"
"So I take it you don't know when Crono's coming back, then, right?" Cid asked after hearing Marle's side.
They were now outside, walking around the castle's perimeter side by side as they talked. It was a little past noon, as the sun still held itself high and bright. The castle, still in repair, looked battered but definitely better than when Cid had last seen it. The second floor was complete and most of the third as well. Some small construction had begun on the fourth. Afterwards, they would rebuild the parapets and then everything would be good as new.
"Not really, he's really been out of it recently," Marle responded, causing Cid to dart his head away from the view, "Something seems to be bothering him."
They had finally managed to pry Marle's fears out of her over the lonely lunch, and it was much what Cid had expected.
"I don't think that he can accept that it's over," Cid answered, "He might be out searching all the odds and ends to see what's next."
"Sort of like 'looking for trouble'?" Lucca asked.
"Yeah," Cid wiped some sweat from his forehead, realizing how hot it was outside today, "Didn't I already say that inside?"
"Yeah," Lucca nodded.
"Will it pass?" Marle queried of Crono's obsession.
Cid shrugged, "Who knows? If he finds something, though, we'll at least have something to pull him out of this."
Lucca turned to Marle, "Did he give any hint to where he was going? Anything he said? Any direction he left on that might lead somewhere he frequents?"
Marle shook her head after each question, increasing the speed after each one. When Lucca finished, she added, "No, nothing. He just goes out and wanders off."
"I don't know what to say then," Cid bowed his head, "But I hope he recovers from this soon."
"Yeah, me too," Lucca consoled Marle.
They stopped at the corner of the castle and Marle strolled off course to sit down by the water. Lucca and Cid gave a glance to each other and followed her, taking a seated position as well. Marle merely sat and looked at the water for several moments. After some time had passed in silence, Cid grew restless and began scanning the ground around him for a rock or pebble to throw into it. He found a small, thumb-sized chunk of gravel fallen from the castle and hefted it in his hand, before slowing rearing it back to toss.
Marle reached out and calmly grabbed his hand, stopping his throw. She shook her head before turning back to the water, "No, don't disturb it. I just want to look into it."
She released his hand and he casually tossed the rock over his shoulder. He leaned back onto his hands and looked up, quickly looking back down and squinting his eyes in pain after he realized that the sun was blinding. He rubbed his temple in annoyance, trying to find another topic to carry the conversation.
Lucca beat him to it, "Does Crono know how his trips are affecting you?"
"They're not affecting me," Marle said, in full denial.
"C'mon, Marle," Lucca pressed daringly, "This hasn't bothered you any less than it has us. Does he know?"
"I don't know that either," Marle responded, "I just don't know anything right now."
With that she got up and started to walk back towards the castle, "Let's go somewhere where it's cooler. The heat's starting to get to me."
"Sure," Lucca stood up as well, Cid following, "Where to?"
"To the top of the castle," Marle said, "The roof's still not all there, so it's a lovely view."
A few minutes later they had climbed their way into an unfinished room, part of the outer wall and most of the roof still incomplete. Cid lidded his eyes as the sunlight surprise attacked him, the second time today. Cid shook his head, trying to clear the dots in his eyes, and nearly lost his glasses in the process.
Marle took a seat on the floor near the opening in the wall, looking to the landscape to the east with a dull expression on her face.
"So how's life other than these details?" Lucca spoke quickly, as she sat down next to her friend.
Marle pursed her lips, "Things have been good. Everything's being rebuilt well enough and people are happy."
"I'm just sort of confused, I guess. Maybe it's all just the shock wearing off from all these events. I shouldn't be living in the past like that. Sometimes I just want to take Crono and shake him for being this way."
"I know what you mean," Lucca agreed, "He's been known to get quite focused on things. I remember back when we were kids some fifty years ago or so, his mind would wander and he'd just go off into a trance. For the most part, he'd outgrown that."
"And now his hobby is to wander off," Marle finished, "It makes the castle seem even more empty than it already is. And it's pretty empty already."
"Maybe we could have Bekkler make another clone doll of him," Cid pitched, "You could drag it around with you all over the castle, pretend it was Crono. Plus it wouldn't talk back."
The two girls snubbed his humor however. Cid shrugged and looked outside once more.
"At the least, maybe I could see the will?" the boy finally asked.
"Oh, oh yeah," Marle pulled herself to her feet, "I almost forgot that."
She stepped past Cid and to the stairs, giving a small glance behind her, "Follow me."
Cid. Hopefully you will have found this part, as it is something dear to me. I was forced to hide it with my magic so the spectres wouldn't find it, the magic should have worn off since you're reading this. I have a little errand for you, the one person who came closest to understanding me. During my struggle on Dead Mountain (correct me if I'm wrong on the name, Cid), I was arrested of my sword. It is something of a family heirloom, and I'm not the same without it. I followed its flight path as best I could and I think it's somewhere on the lower northern slope. I need you to get it and bring it back, I would like it to be my tombstone...and if there's nothing left of me to make a tomb, you can keep it. It might do you some good to have a sword for once.
Cid reread the letter, memorizing the details as best he could. After he had put most of it to memory, he released the sheet at an angle, letting aerodynamics carry it back to Marle, who snatched it from the air.
Marle leaned back in her chair, tucking the letter away once more. They were gathered in the throne room now, though without any guards. It was oddly quiet, and peaceful.
"If you ask me, that sounds like a pretty weird request," Cid finally said.
"It's definitely something new," Lucca spoke halteringly, adding a nod.
"When do I start?" he said suddenly, rubbing his shoulder, "Err, how do I start?"
"Should I go with you?" Lucca prompted.
"No," he shook his head, "He gave the job to me, so it must be important that I do it."
Marle nodded, "Fine. Go back down to the kitchen when you're ready and take anything and everything you need. You'll need enough food for about two weeks, I think."
"And you don't want me cleaning out the pantry, right?" he asked impishly.
"Just what you need," Marle stated flatly.
"But I'm a growing boy," Cid pressed.
"Then grow after your trip," Marle pressed back.
"Cid..." Lucca added warningly, the glare appearing in her eyes.
"Oh fine," he shrugged, "I'll start tomorrow then. Early."
"You'll have to dress warmly, too," Lucca reminded him.
"Really?" he asked, a hint of sarcasm in his tone.
"Well, unless you want to dance around in the snow in your summer clothes."
"I'll find something," he retorted, "Somewhere. If Marshall thinks I can find a sword in miles of snow, then surely I can find a decent set of clothes for the job."
"You don't think you'll find it?" Marle asked, Cid's sentence seeming to hold doubt in her ears.
"I don't know if I'll find it," Cid corrected her, "If I said I don't think I will and I do, then I'd look like an idiot. A lucky idiot, but still an idiot. And if I said I'd find it, but end up freezing in the arctic, then I'd look like an idiot, too. A frozen idiot, but still an idiot. That's why I'm not guessing."
"You just don't like being wrong," Lucca added her part.
There was silence afterwards as the topic died and Cid seemed to grow restless again. Finally, Marle spoke up, "I guess you'll both be staying here overnight then, right?"
They both nodded.
"Okay, I guess I can show you where you'll be staying then," Marle continued, then added, "Don't complain if it's not up to standards, we seem to be doing a little remodeling here and there."
"Seems so," Cid remarked.
"We'll take whatever's open," Lucca answered her, "as long as it's not the roof that's open, I mean."
"Good, then follow me."