Unlocking His Heart

Trevor Dowling

Author's Note: Final Fantasy VI is my favorite RPG of all-time, and I just couldn't resist trying my hand at a fanfic after reading several great ones that get inside the characters' heads during certain scenes from the game, revealing what thoughts and emotions they believe to be taking place at that time. One scene I noticed that was hardly ever written about was the opera scene, which from what I can tell is one of the most popular scenes from the game. Maybe itās taboo to write about that scene, for fear of ruining a truly remarkable scene, but I decided to take a crack at it anyway. Hopefully I didnāt ruin it for anyone.

I have to admit that the Locke/Celes relationship was my favorite part of the game. It seemed to me that the opera scene was when Locke truly began to realize his feelings for Celes, whether he would admit them or not. So I tried to get into his head and show what I believed him to be thinking around this time. I also tried to stay true to the dialogue in the game, since any added dialogue would just seem to take away from the actual scene as it is presented in the game. So with that said, I hope you enjoy the story and please let me know what you think. Thanks.

There was a calm and tranquil air about the concert hall as the music permeated the room, the notes wafting through the air and soothingly seeping into his ears, but feeling as if it were being absorbed by his entire body. It made him feel free and for once at peace with himself. But he wasnāt really sure if it was the music that was making him feel lighter than air, temporarily lifting that weight he had carried in his heart for so long, or if it was something else; something he couldnāt quite put his finger on.

But perhaps he didnāt need to think about it so much. The answer was right there, already occupying his thoughts. Her. It seemed he couldnāt get her out of his head, and yet he didnāt know why.

He tried to shake her from his mind and concentrate on the opera that had just begun. But the more he tried, the more she seemed to stay with him. A smile kept tugging at the corner of his mouth when he thought about the words she had used, absolutely refusing to go along with his idea. Iām a GENERAL, not some opera floozy! She hadnāt liked the idea, but she went along with it because it was the only way. The world depended on them, and her pride wasnāt going to stop them from achieving their goal.

Locke had to admit that it was a pretty clever idea, switching Maria with Celes so that Setzer would kidnap the wrong person and lead the rest of the group straight to his airship. It was almost too perfect. Was that why he was feeling so good? Because of his great plan? No, that wasnāt it. It was something else. Something about Celes. Itās not that, is it? He asked himself. He shook the thought away as almost ridiculous. That belongs to someone else.

He tried to ignore his train of thought and instead focused on the stage, where the Narrator had just entered. "The West and East were waging war·" the Narrator began, using the inflections in his voice for the most dramatic effect. "Draco, the Westās great hero, thinks of his love, Maria" Maria, thatās Celesā part, Locke thought to himself, not incredibly sure why he felt the need to remind himself of the obvious. The narrator continued, "Is she safe? Is she waiting?"

The Narrator was replaced by a war-ravaged battlefield and an actor wearing battle armor. Truly the knight in shining armor. He had been wounded in battle and was thinking of Maria. His tenor voice was loud, yet soothing at the same time. "Oh Maria. Oh Maria. Please hear my voice!" he sang, and Locke found himself identifying with this character, relating to him so quickly without understanding why. Why? Is it the feeling he is portraying? Does he remind me of myself? "How I long to be with you!" Draco continued in song. The words struck a chord deep in Lockeās heart. Is that it? Surely not.

But he couldnāt quite convince himself. All he could think about was her, when she was chained to that wall, that look in her eyes that revealed her entire life without saying a single word, that showed him her inner pain and turmoil, a life absent of love. Those eyes that lit up and came to life when he promised to protect her, ensuring her that everything would be fine, as if it were the first time anybody had ever said that to her. Those eyes that tore him apart inside when he realized that it probably was the only time anybody had ever said that to her.

His good mood started to change, not drastically but ever so slightly, to almost regret. Regret for what? For her? For putting her in this situation? The more he thought about it, the more he became aware that he was a little regretful for having made her do this. Maybe he should go check on her, make sure everything is okay. Why? Youāll just make her nervous. Besides, youāre probably the last person in the world she wants to see right now. No, I should just stay here and watch the opera and hope everything goes smoothly. Yes, thatās the best thing right now. Then why are you standing? Locke looked around for a second and realized that he was indeed standing. Almost as if he were no longer in control of his body, he turned to the Impressario and said, "Iām going to the dressing room."

The Impressario looked at Locke, slight concern in his eyes. "Is everything okay?"

Locke didnāt really hear him. It was as if he was in a different world. A world all his own. He felt himself turn and head for the exit, giving no response or sign that he had acknowledged the Impressarioās question. Why am I doing this? What am I going to say? I donāt even know why Iām going? His feet were on automatic, leading him slowly down the stairs and towards Celesā dressing room. His heart started to race and pounded so heavily that it was the only sound he could hear, the thumping threatening to burst right through his ribcage. I should turn back now. I donāt care what the others say or how embarassing it might be. Yeah, Iāll just head back, take my seat, and watch the opera. Celes will do just fine.

So why are you still headed towards the dressing room? No matter how hard he tried, he could not turn himself around. His feet were propelling him towards that door, towards Celes. And the only thing he could ask himself was Why?

He finally reached the door. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door.

"Who is it?" her lovely voice inquired from the other side.

Turn. Run. Do it now. "Itās Locke." He cringed as he said his own name, knowing there was no turning back now.

"Come in, Locke."

Without really realizing it, Locke had opened the door and stepped in, only to stop dead in his tracks. He was so filled with astonishment at the sight he beheld that he had to remind himself to breathe. Celes was standing by the makeup counter, radiant in a stunning white opera dress, lined with lovely marine blue trimming. Her hair was fixed in a long ponytail in the back, a navy blue ribbon holding it in place and streaming down with the rest of her soft, golden hair.

Locke approached her and looked into her piercing blue eyes, almost an icy blue, only to find himself averting his own eyes and dropping his head, his hand running through his dusty-blonde hair in a nervous gesture. He could feel himself blushing. She looked so beautiful, he couldnāt help himself. She had transformed from an attractive but war-hardened general into the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his entire life. The transition was amazing, and yet he had to admit to himself, that perhaps it was not as shocking a change as he thought. Perhaps he had always seen her beauty through that ice-cold exterior she always hid behind, her warrior instincts afraid to show any sign of weakness. Which begged the question: Are you sure thatās not it? Are you sure thatās not why youāre here? The truth was, Locke wasnāt sure anymore. He so wanted to tell her how breathtaking she looked, but all that seemed to come out of his mouth was "Aye yai yai! Izzat· you?"

Oh, my God! Did I just say that? That has to be the dumbest thing in the world to have said. Stupid, stupid, stupid·

But Locke became aware that either Celes didnāt seem to think it was that stupid or her mind was elsewhere. Probably elsewhere. Sheās got a lot to think about and she has to go out on stage in a few minutes. Thatās a lot of pressure. Instead, Celes lowered her head for a minute and then turned and took a step to the side, so her back was to Locke.

"Locke." Her voice was a mixture of sadness and hopefulness at the same time. Locke wasnāt sure where she was going with this, but he hoped she wouldnāt ask him why he was here. He didnāt even know, and he wasnāt sure he could come up with a good answer on the spot. But she didn't ask him that. Instead she asked him a question he should hadn't been expecting, though he probably should have. "Why did you help me escape back there?"

All Locke could do was keep his head bowed. Why did I help her back in South Figaro? Me, Locke Cole, a member of the Returners, helping one of the Empireās cruelest and most effective generals. Why? I donāt really know why. He shook his head at that thought. Yes, you do know why. Because she needed help. Because of a promise you made to yourself. Because she reminded you of someone. Because·

He finally found his voice, though he noticed that it was laced with sadness and an underlying guilt. "I· once abandoned someone when she needed me·" Rachel. Rachel, the one true love of my life, dead because of me. Because I wasnāt there to save her. That was why I helped Celes. I failed Rachel, but I promised myself I would never fail someone in need of help ever again. Celes needed my help. But is that it? Is that the only reason?

Celes turned around to look at Locke, and he could see a mixture of curiosity and sadness in her features. No, maybe not sadness. More like sympathy. Locke couldnāt bear to look at her. What was she trying to get at here? Why does she keep asking me why I helped her? Itās almost inconceivable that someone as amazing as she is could have feelings for someone like me -- a rogue, a dreamer, a drifter, and most of all, a failure. It just wasnāt possible. Was it? It was all becoming so confusing, his mind racing with stray thoughts and unclear emotions. All of it a seemingly random flow, both real and unreal, his past colliding with his present, the unpredictable future hanging like a dark cloud overhead, a blur of colors and images, figures he had known and yet never known. And yet within that string of chaos was one recurring idea, one wisp of clarity, taunting him from just out of reach. It was something he couldnāt quite see, something he couldnāt quite make out. Or was it? Maybe it was clear as day, but he just didnāt want to admit it. Maybe Iām falling in love with her.

But what about Rachel? Rachel is the one you love. Your one and only. But there was no denying it. It was almost like an excuse, almost as if it were something he had to convince himself to believe. Maybe sheās not your one and only. Locke walked to the doorway, his back to Celes, his head still hung a little.

Celes stared at Lockeās back. Locke could feel her gaze, could feel it melting his heart. "Somewhere inside," she began, the sympathy and sadness clear in her sweet voice, "you were saving· her, werenāt you·?"

Locke squeezed his eyes shut for a few seconds, could feel that his eyes had watered up slightly, and then turned his head ever so slightly in her direction, catching her out of the corner of his eye. Face it, Locke. Rachelās gone. Maybe somewhere out there youāll find the greatest treasure in the world. The treasure that will bring Rachel back to life. But when that happens, will you know why you are doing it? Would you be doing it out of love or obligation? As a way of easing your guilt and pain? That was a thought he didnāt want to think about right now. He wanted to think about something else, maybe even nothing at all. The pain and guilt, topped by his new and unfocused feelings for Celes, added a greater weight to his heart. His emotions were building up inside, almost to the point where he could no longer control them. He wanted this conversation to end, yet he wanted it to last forever. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but for the first time in his life, words failed him. He didnāt know how to respond to her question, not sure if he could ever truly answer the question, even to himself. To change the subject, all he could think of to say was, "That ribbon suits you."

Celes obviously picked up on the hurt tone in his voice and didnāt press the matter. Locke was grateful. Grateful that she could sense his pain without making a big production of it. Instead, she picked herself up and jolted some enthusiasm into her voice. "On with the show!" She walked over to the make-up counter, the script lying open in the center, and glanced down at the pages. "This is a big scene in which Maria senses that somethingās happened to Draco!"

Locke put on a false smile to hide his inner turmoil. She was about to go on. He should say something. "Youād better check the script one last time." What was that? Yeah, sure itās good advice, but maybe you should be telling her to Ībreak a legā or something more meaningful and sincere. But when he turned around to tell her, she had already left to go onstage.

He could feel the tension inside of him as he walked towards the curtain to watch Celes perform, hoping that everything would go off without a hitch. Hoping that Celes would give a great performance. Hoping that in time everything would fall into place and he would truly understand what his future was meant to be, and knowing that no matter what happens, he would always be right there at Celesā side, protecting her and fulfilling his promise ö not out of obligation, but out of love.

-- END --

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