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Promises to Keep Chapter 4

Part 13: Fallen Knights

The monster drew so close I could feel his presence in the rooms ahead.  Col. Todesritter, the Death Knight…that name alone gives me the willies.  I should have never asked Duane what that name meant.  This was certainly a situation of grand proportions.  Count all of the things that I have gone through, from Rachel's death, my work and love relationship with Terra which ended with the best friendship I've ever had, my anomie as a detective, fighting and defeating Kefka with scars to show it, but falling in love with and marrying Celes…the greatest triumph in my life, starting a family, shipping to England, D-Day, Thamasa, and now in Narshe, taking down an insidious man and his world agenda, and you've got quite a life story.  The amazing thing is that I've survived it all, with scars, bullet wounds, broken hearts, tears, but also with inner peace, undaunted courage, darling children, faithful friends, and the most beautiful wife in the world to show for it.  This has been the ebb and flow of my life, the humble treasure hunter Locke Alexander Cole, and now…this coming battle…will be the pinnacle of what will be the end of my time in this ungodly war.

“Shhhh…I hear movement!” Dietrich warns us as we approach another hallway.

“With all of this equipment…it's rather hard to be on the stealthy side!” Duane hisses at the lieutenant, which is somewhat understandable given the explosives he has to carry.  I think the only other guy who has to lug more is Sabin, but he was built for that.

“It wasn't a problem for me all of these years Sgt. Robillard.” The captain snaps back.  “You'll have to either learn or deal with it.”

Of all that's been going on, I'm surprised we haven't been truly discovered yet.  And furthermore, I'm surprised the security on us was so lax.  The lunkheads must really be hell-bent on launching these bombers.  I shuddered at the thought of what destruction they could bring and how my family could be potential victims.  It reminded me of when Gestahl and Kefka howled in revelry over their bomb they said was capable of destroying nearly half of Figaro.  I was glad that never became a reality otherwise things would definitely not be the way they are now.

“I'm still curious as to how we're gonna go about this sir…I mean I'm all for some action, but I don't wanna go in guns blazing.” Sabin says to the captain rather concerned.  Usually Sabin would love to run into a confrontation, but maybe the severity of this finally got to him.

“Well funny you should mention that corporal…because you and MSG Bixby with that Bren machine gun of his are going to be the covering fire in all of this, so to be honest, guns blazing will be an inevitable result of going in the hangars.”

“Blimey!  The yank has that big MG and all I've got is this Bren?  With only this I haven't got a snowball's chance in hell!” The MSG protests.

“Here master sergeant…take my .30 caliber.  I think you'll like it.”

“Well…thanks mate, I don't know what to say.” He seems awfully appreciative of Sabin's kind gesture, even though he's of lower rank.

“Think nothing of it.  Locke…take the Bren and use it to cover Duane.  Sling that Springfield over your shoulder.  You won't need it then.”

“Whatever you say pal.” I respond grabbing the Bren, which weighed a ton compared to my Springfield.

“Right…and Sgt. Robillard and I, along with cover from Cpl. Cole and Sgt. Gabianni, will plant the explosives on those bleedin' bombers before they get a chance to take off.”

“You think any of them bombers and fighters that are comin' over can take 'em out captain?” Gau asks Banon.

“No I'm sorry young lad.  Despite how good our RAF and American boys are, they're no match when it comes to catching up to those jet planes.  Nothing will be able to catch them…unless we concentrate a whole bloody lot of AA fire on them, and that won't be able to happen before it's too late.  It's up to us to clip their wings before they can even get off the ground.  It's totally bollocks…but it's the only way.”

“It's FUBAR sir…FUBAR.” Gau adds.

Capt. Banon and MSG Bixby laugh.  “Oh young man…you are certainly a catch!  You blokes are too amusing…I'm glad I'm working with such great men.  When we get out of this I want buy you all a round of ales…what do you say yanks?”

“I'm all for it!” I open myself up to the invite without hesitation.  These Brits…they certainly know how to reward themselves the right way after a hard day's work.

“Herr Gabianni…do you have enough ammunition for that Panzerschreck you equipped?” Erika asks.

“I'm sound as a pound little lady.” He assures her as he stows another rocket or two in his rucksack, while sliding one into the launcher itself.

“Well good…because if one tries to get away, we need you to try and knock it down before it takes off.  I remember you bragging about how good you are with grenadier weaponry.”

“No need to worry about me sweetheart, I'll paste those bombers like a bulls-eye on a dartboard!”

“I admire your confidence sergeant, but just remember…you gotta be ready when the game's on the line.  You're gonna need all the luck you can get!” The captain lectures Setzer.

“Like I said…don't worry about me sir.  I'll be fine…I can take care of myself.”

“I'm sure.”

“Well I say we better get a move on…otherwise we're in for a heap of trouble.” Edgar breaks up the conversations, reminding us we have business to attend to.

Things were relatively quiet during our little trek to the hangars.  I still ponder how exactly we're going to sabotage the airplanes and still remain under the radar.  I had a feelin' in my bones that a firefight would ensue.  Oberst Todesritter had to be stopped, and just destroying the planes wouldn't be enough to satisfy the squad.  We had to do more, even if it meant tearing this base piece by piece to get the insane SS colonel in the process.

“Where are the hangars Dietrich?  You're the only one who really knows.” Erika asks her brother.

“Well…I know to reach the hangars usually one would have to walk there on an outside path.  However, I remember the oberst talking about some underground path he takes.  It was built in case Allied bombers attacked us, and we needed to reach the planes without getting killed.”

“Splendid!  Then we can just take the hidden pathway there.” MSG Bixby cuts in.

“Sorry mein freund.  It is an incredibly secured place, with guards everywhere and a hidden elevator to reach the hangars.  We'll need to find a way to sneak in there.  Perhaps that actual bombing run that Herr Cole over here talked about may be beneficial to us ja?”

“Yeah sure…” I respond.  “Maybe we could tell the guards that there is a threat of bombers, so we need to use the hidden passage?”

“A decent plan buddy, but one thing…” Sabin says, “How on Earth are we going to even get by them unnoticed?  I mean our last attempt ended rather abruptly and painfully to boot.”

“Very good you should ask that corporal.  I know they would let me in being an actual Wehrmacht officer, but perhaps some disguises are in order?  I know that these guards are of a different SS battalion than the ones over at the V-2 facility, so maybe they do not know of you.  I know that from time to time engineers have to reach the storage facility to take fuel back to the planes.  If you all can pass yourselves off as the engineers, then maybe we have a chance.”

“It sounds risky, but anything sounds like will work.  We're on a wing and a prayer people…so we can't screw this plan up, no matter how nerve-racking it may become.” Capt. Arrowny tells the group.  So strange that we've been calling him by his first name the whole time...but I guess we never knew the truth that whole time either.  I wonder why we still trusted him, even though he kinda lied to us about his identity.  But then I remembered how much he looked out for us on the battlefield, and despite his grim and sometimes antagonistic tone, he knew what was good for us and knew what to do in stressful situations.  He was cold and emotionless for the most part, but inside I think he really did care for all of us, especially Gau for obvious reasons.

Once again, I get caught up in my own personal thoughts.  “Wait the hell up guys!” I angrily say when I notice the rest of the squad down the other end of the hallway.

“No time to waste Locke…so stop your daydreaming of Celes or whatever the hell you think and get moving!  I just heard a request for another fuel deposit to the hangar.  If we hurry…we can get the drop on the engineers and take their clothes.” Duane retorts.

“I guess it's kinda good that fuel dump was never destroyed huh?” Sabin suggests.

We were on the lower level of the V-2 base, so the fuel dumps were rather close, which was good for us.  We also had Lt. Krohn and the other five men sent to destroy it to lead the way.

“Shhhhh!  I hear someone coming!” Edgar whispers.

We all ducked down or hit in whatever nook or cranny we could find.  There were several shadows rapidly approaching.  There were the engineers, just like Lt. Krohn said, walking to the fuel storage room.  The timing was impeccable.  I could hear them conversing and laughing, totally oblivious to what was in store for them a little later.  When they all passed, we slink and creep our way to the fuel storages.  We hid in the alcoves and nooks of the walls while they entered.

“Ok people…we fan out and get them all, one by one.  Sounds good?”

We all nod our heads.

“Then it's go time!”

Separating ourselves, we traversed among the boxes, barrels, and giant canisters.  All I could hear around me were muffled yelling and some rustling sounds.  I certainly wouldn't be trouble for those British commandos, Capt. Arrowny, and Sabin to take down one or two of them.  I saw one right in front of me as I lean my back into one of the barrels.  I turn my head as the engineer, with a greased up grey uniform, reaches for his pocket and pulls a cigarette out.  Is this man insane?  If he lit that, then this whole room would come up in smoke.  I had to act now.  Creeping up behind him, I took my right hand, ready to clasp over his mouth, but before I could strike, someone called out to him.

“Hans!  Was tun Sie mit dieser Zigarette?  Sind Sie geisteskrank?” It looks like he was gettin' the wrath from one of his co-workers, still oblivious to his missing comrades.

“Tut mir leid Cristoph!”

I poke my head around the other way and see the angry engineer turn around and walk towards the end of the room.  Without hesitation I grabbed Hans while he snuffed out the cigarette completely, slamming into the side of the room.

“Sorry pal…but we've got some business to attend to so I need to borrow your outfit.” I whispered to the man while knocking him out in the process.  I heard some sudden jerky movements from the man down the other side of the room.  I guess he finally figured out something was wrong.

“Hans?  Fritz?  Adelbert?  Joachim?  Kartsten?  Otto?  Wo sind Sie Kerle?” He scrambles around the room, trying to find everyone.  I guess I was lucky he happens to run into me.  I seem to be a Nazi magnet or something, because they always run into me or I do something to piss 'em off.  “Eindringling!” He screams as he pulls out his Luger.

“Oh crap!” I yell trying to arm my Bren but it's stuck on my sleeve.  Suddenly Erika gives him a gut punch from the side while Edgar slams him to the ground.  My heroes…

“You do have a knack for trouble Locke…I will tell you that.”

“Just shut up and take the guy's uniform!  I'm impressed though…you two do work well as a team.”

“Well that's just because Erika's such a kindred spirit.” Edgar gloats as he glides his hand along Erika's face.

“Ahem!  We have to get going now…so put on the uniforms!” Lt. Krohn butts in.

“How on Earth will I pass off as one of them though?” Erika asks.

“Never fear milady,” Edgar says while smearing some grease on her face delicately, also grabbing some goggles of the knocked out engineers had on.  “Tie your hair up and conceal your face…and voila!  You're golden!  You are beautiful nonetheless, greasy face or not.”

“Thank you.  I like your style of thinking Herr Figaro.”

“Call me Edgar…please.”

“Ok…Edgar.”  She reaches over and gives him a nice kiss on the lips.  Edgar smiles with some clumps of grease in his face, only to see the pissed off Dietrich gritting his teeth at him.  Edgar starts chuckling nervously, obviously a little afraid of the overprotective brother.  “Don't mind Dietrich Edgar…he is a little overprotective, but he is a good man.”

With just a simple change of wardrobe, we were ready to try this out for a second time.  I felt a wee bit skeptical of the whole bit, especially with a broad in the troop which unfortunately means a harder time of trying to get her through.  Hiding the engineers, we put our weapons in some of the empty boxes and barrels we could rustle up, emptying a few of them too, and loaded them onto the dollies.  Traversing our way over to the underground tunnel, with Dietrich leading the way, we ran into the German checkpoint.  The guards didn't seem too suspicious at first.  Maybe they didn't get word of our identities.

“Halt! Warum nehmen Sie dem Bunkersir auf diese Weise?” The guard sternly asks.

“Es gibt ein Gerücht eines amerikanischen Bombardierungdurchlaufes, sicher so zu sein autorisierte ich die Ingenieure, auf diese Weise durchzulaufen.”

“Sehr gut...bewegen Sie entlang.”

Again…I hadn't a clue as to what they were saying.  However, I think they bought it.  With a wave of the hand, the SS guard let us through, eyeballing with every move.  Erika went through along with Edgar and Dietrich, so I was amazed she was able to get by that quickly.  When the coast was clear, we were able to talk again.

“What exactly did you tell them lieutenant?” Capt. Banon asks.

“The same thing everyone fears, that an American bombing run is rumored to happen.  It scares everyone every time it is mentioned.”

“It is…inevitable, lieutenant.” Capt. Arrowny explains to Dietrich.

“Ja I know, but if I can make it an excuse for just this moment, then so be it.”

While wheeling the boxes and barrels along, I could only hope that all of my contents were safe inside.  That record inside is some really special cargo, so when I come home it'll be a little souvenir for Celes to enjoy.  I don't want it ruined by anything!

“Ok now kameraden.  The elevator to the hangar should be right around the corner.” Dietrich continues to lead the way, decked out in full uniform as our escort in a sense.  I notice he starts breathing heavily.

“Something wrong Lt. Krohn?” I ask rather concerned.

“Never…never did I think that I would have to…fight my own people, my own comrades.  I feel so…torn…so disgraceful.”  You had to pity him sometimes.  Maybe he was like one of those “soldiers without politics,” never understanding why his or her country does the things it does.

“It is ok Dietrich.  These men are not your comrades.  They are corrupt and evil, who only profit from the deaths of millions including fellow Germans.  I said it before that stopping this madman will be doing the Fatherland an honorable favor.”

“I guess you are right Erika.  Never did I think that I'd have to rely on the help of Americans and British to save Germany.  It is certainly an insane world.”

“You don't even know the half of it lieutenant.” I comment.  “A lot of crazy things happen in this world, some good, some bad…but know that what happens now is definitely for the good of things.”

We boarded the elevator and awaited the trip to the surface level.  I could only imagine how slick we would have to be to pull this idea off.  I'm talkin' like greasy slick, oil slick.  I also thought to myself…how in the hell are we gonna get out too?  I pray they have a cargo plane we can hijack.

The doors open to a vast warehouse of metal works, planes, lights, and all that industrial crap.  On the top of the entrance to the hangar, a huge white banner with big black lettering read: “Die neuen Waffen des Reichs.  Die neue Ära des Reichs.”

“The new planes…the new era of the Reich.” I overhear Duane whisper.  “These people are insane…”

“Take it easy Duane,” Sabin whispers back. “It'll be over soon…and this Ragnarök will never happen, we'll make sure of that.”

I look down the hangar bays and see our foe, Oberst Todesritter, cackling a rather insane laughter with some SS guards and officers.  They bore the same all-black uniforms he did, as if they were his hell-spawn.  My hands shook again, thinking too much of the inevitable confrontation ahead.  We wheeled the barrels and boxes over to a small depot.  Under cover of the tarp, we unloaded our gear and primed the TNT.  We couldn't carry a lot of weapons in the boxes, so we grabbed what we could from nearby munitions, an extra couple of MP40s, some Kar43 rifles, and another MG34.

“Ok…what Sgt. Robillard needs to do is pretend he's refueling the bombers, but actually laying the explosives on the bombers' hulls.  Cole, McGavin, and Gabianni will provide assistance and cover if things go haywire, that and to hide the sergeant's actions.  I'll probably follow close behind” The captain instructs.

“Right.  The master sergeant and I will lay a line of fire from the concrete over there if they start firing, and also we'll try to hijack one of them cargo planes the Jerries keep stashed away.  You just need to cover us while we sneak over there.” Capt. Banon adds.

“Yes, Erika, Dietrich, and I can also provide some cover from the sandbags to the left over there.” Edgar points to a clump of sandbags strewn about but still in some good order to lay down a base of fire.

“Ok squad…this is our moment of triumph, so we have to do everything perfectly.  Sergeant Robillard, get ready to move when I give you the signal.”

“Yes sir.” Duane along with Gau, Setzer, and I conceal what weapons we can as we wheel the fake fuel over to the bombers the second the captain waves us.  Under each bomber stood two guards, who just turned around to take a glance at us, and then lazily turned again.  It's as if they had nothing to worry about.  I guess Narshe was a pretty well concealed place, but little did they know that I helped reveal them to the approaching bombers.

“Ok Duane, do your magic, and do it quick!” I warn.

“Yeah yeah…I know.  I'm workin' on it.” Duane sticks the first batch of explosives on the fuel port of the first bomber's hull.  We were still in the clear as he then tied the wire string to each end.  We then traversed from the fuel depot to the second bomber.  Meanwhile, I could overhear the SS colonel giving a speech in German.  He's probably spouting something about revenge or victory to Germany or some bullshit that would get shot down the minute these planes blew.  The man still scared me mostly on the fact that he's capable of sleeping at night knowing what he wanted to unleash upon the world.  Carefully, we did our act again, only pretending to fuel up the bomber while Duane tied some more wire from the first set to the second.  The guards still pay little or no attention, probably enthralled by the colonel's ramblings.  We made our way to the third one, still able to pull everything off.  This was almost too easy, but I shouldn't say such things, knowing it'll get jinxed.  When we reached the fourth one, we were ready to plant another batch of TNT, but then the dolly lost balance and the barrel fell over.  One of the guards rushes over to help.  I nearly panic.

“Sie müssen mit diesem Treibstoff achtgeben!  Hier...lassen Sie mich Ihnen helfen.”  He then notices our weapons and the TNT in Duane's hand.  All we could do is stare back…god damn…we got busted again.  “Wartezeit...was das Bumsen?  Oh schiesse!  Endringling…halt!”

Setzer promptly shoots him, instantly alerting the rest of the soldiers and officers in the hangar.  I see the SS colonel turn around to notice us, his eyes flaring.

“You!  It's all you again!  Do you not know when to quit Allied dogs?  Kill them all men!”

“Let 'em have it guys!” The captain yells from the depot, immediately opening fire with his Thompson.

The place immediately erupts in a blaze of smoke, dust, bullets and sparks.  By that time, the two British soldiers were able to make their way under our protective fire to the adjacent hangar.  We still had to cripple those bombers though, so the rest of the gang and I had to hook up the last bits of TNT on the Ho-IX bombers.  Dietrich was still reluctant to fire upon his own people.

“Dietrich!  Help…we need cover!” His sister screams.

“I cannot…I…I can't…”

“Please help!” She shrieks when a bullet whizzes by her, cutting her in the arm.  Immediately her brother changed his feelings.

“You shot at my sister!  How dare you!” He yells as he picks up a rifle and fires it at the nearest SS column.

“TRAITOR!  You are a traitor to the Fatherland Leutnant!  You will die with these Allied pigs!”  Col. Todesritter screams pointing his Luger straight at him.

“Get down!” The captain yells tackling the young German as the pistol rounds zip by him.  I couldn't stand there and stare at them anymore, since I was in a stickier spot than the captain.  Already I was getting shot at from the left side, where the untouched bombers lied, and from the front, where the brunt of the SS is attacking.  I used my rifle to the best of my ability, but it wasn't enough.  I ran over under Setzer's and Gau's protective fire and grabbed the STG44 from the downed German from before.  I immediately opened a magazine into the columns, but my God…the kickback sent me flying backwards like I was just sucker-punched.  

“Good Lord!  This is the new and first ever assault rifle?  This thing was incredible…and funny how the Germans came up with it first.” I thought to myself as I picked myself back up and found cover.  I finally managed to control my firing, and this new gun was better than anything else I've used.  This could beat Terra's Thompson outta the water.

“For the love of God Duane, hurry up!” Setzer complains

“Shut the fuck up and just cover me!” Duane hisses back as he straps TNT on the fourth plane, priming it just to blow it sky high.  What a shame…such wondrous technology that we could learn from, and we have to destroy it.

“Hey Locke…how about stopping these personal thoughts and helping me with some god damn cover fire?” Duane snaps at me while he and I hide behind a metal supply box.  “We got one more plane to go…and that's it.”

“Gott verdammnt!  Get at least one of those off the ground!  We must make them pay!” The colonel screams to the men, but no one is really willing to try a suicide rush to the last Ho-IX bomber.  

We finally ran like hell over to the last bomber, where Duane was able to plant the last charge.

“That's it…now let's amscray back to the captain lickety split!” I say, firing another couple rounds back to the SS guards while Gau, Setzer, and Duane run right by me.  A bullet scrapes my left shoulder, but I ignore the pain as I run straight back to the captain and the rest.

“The charges are set Duane?” The captain asks.

“Yes sir!”

“Then blow those birds so they'll never fly!”

“Here we go…get down!” Duane presses down on the plunger, and instantly…KABOOM!  A fiery inferno engulfs the bombers.  We were about ready to cheer until I saw something awfully wrong.  Only three of the five blew.

“Oh shit!  Only three blew!” I yell.

“What?” Duane asks.

“I said only three blew…the wire must've snapped or something.”

“Jesus Christ…” Duane peeks his head over, only to see a glimpse of the cut wires on the fourth and fifth bombers, both still intact.  “FUCK!  They didn't blow!”

“Shit…we gotta go back, rewire them, and blow them again.”

With a heavy sigh, I roll around the sandbags and run side to side with Duane and Sabin, firing into the crowd of garrisoned guards.  Under the protection of Edgar, the captain, and the rest of the group, we hauled ass back to the fourth bomber, jumping around and dodging all of the burning debris and metal.  If there's one thing I hated, it's having to finish a job you think you did right.  I didn't wanna bother Duane right now, because if I did he'd probably shoot me along with the Germans.  Duane managed to rewire the charge, but suddenly an onslaught of guards comes in to stop us from the doorway near the fourth bomber.  It looks they're more intent with beating the crap out of us instead of just shooting us.

“Keep firing Locke…I'll handle 'em.” Sabin says as he grabs the first approaching SS soldier and throws him into the wall.  Suddenly Sabin's face lights up as he continues to defend us from the attackers…like he sees someone familiar.  “It's him…that mechanic from before!” He says aloud as I turn for a second and see a massive behemoth of an engineer stare him down right in the eyes.  That must've been the same guy who clocked him in the back with a pipe wrench.

“Go for it Sabin!” I yell, somewhat egging him on to exact his vengeance on his German nemesis.

“Damn right I will!” He replies as he backhands the last guard, sending him flying.  

He cracks his knuckles and smiles, knowing he has his toughest opponent right in front of him.  Ignoring the bullets flying everywhere, he runs right to the German and tackles him right to the ground.  All I could hear was a bunch of grunts, and sounds of fists landing and the two bodies hitting the ground.  I turn around to see, to my horror, the colonel and some men charge our position.  We try to hold them off, but they're too fast for us as the slam us into the ground.  Punching and kicking, Duane and I are able to only fight off a few.  While Duane has his hands full, I suddenly feel a thrust into my chest as I'm slammed to the ground again.  I look up and see Col. Todesritter stare me in the eye.

“I like you very much Herr Cole…it is a pity I'll have to kill you.” He pulls out his Luger and aims it straight at my forehead.

“COLE!” The captain screams, tackling the colonel while the pistol shot lands right next to my hand.

The captain and Col. Todesritter get up and look each other in the eyes.

“So…the brave captain runs in to save the life of the lowly corporal…certainly honorable.  I only wished I had men like you and Herr Cole under my command.”

“I'll take that as a compliment.  Now let's say we finish this huh?” The captain challenges.

“Why certainly…”

The two officers charge each other and send their fists a flyin'.  It looked almost like a kung fu fight or something, because the both of them looked so graceful fighting, swinging their fists and blocking every time.  It was an epic battle, a strong-willed but troubled and rueful American captain, who turned from evil to try and redeem himself, versus a German colonel, sadistic, ideologically perverted, and hell-bent on destroying the world.

“Thank you sir…” I whisper.  He not only saved my life, but he's buying Duane and me some time to finally cripple the other bombers.

“Ok Locke…I got it all set!  Let's get to the fifth one now!”

“Oh crap…look!”

The fifth bomber was already moving.  Seems as if a Luftwaffe pilot managed to sneak in there and start it up under our noses.  Faster and faster is started to wheel away to the runway.

“SETZER!  Use the Panzerschreck!”  I scream down the hangar to him.

Setzer grabs his Panzerschreck and tries to get a good shot from his position, but he can't.

“Come on Setzer, aim long and aim true.” I whisper to myself again.  We had to get all the bombers.  Lord knows where this one would go, Paris, London, Moscow, or…Figaro or Vector.  It was all on Setzer's shoulders now.  Duane and I run back to a secure spot and try to offer as much protective fire as we can.  Setzer fires the first rocket accompanied by a terrible screech.  It spirals towards the target, but to our disappointment it flies overhead and hits a light post.

“Damn it!  I need to reload.” Setzer yells while grabbing another rocket, hiding under a piece of sheet metal.

An SS guard suddenly came outta right field screaming trying to stab Erika with his bayonet.  Erika could only watch immobile in terror at what would be her awful fate.

“ERIKA!” Edgar yells as he grabs the guard's rifle at the barrel with all his might, slicing part of his hand on the bayonet.  The guard was about two inches close of impaling Erika, as Edgar's blood streaks the blade edge.  Edgar then takes his left hand and creams the guard with a hook.  “No one hurts my lady like that ever!”

“Edgar, thank you.”

“You're welcome my la…” Edgar turns to her but freezes suddenly as an SS guard behind him stabs him in the lower back with his bayonet, making him fall to the floor as the guard pulls his rifle back.

“Sterben sie Amerikaner!” The man sadistically hisses.

“NO!  EDGAR!!” Erika screams as she takes her MP40 and blasts the German behind Edgar.  “Edgar…Edgar…are you all right?” She asks as a tear or two falls to her cheek as she crawls to him.

“I'll…I'll be fine…don't cry milady.  He didn't hit anywhere vital…I'll make it.  Dying would ruin all of our plans…and it'd be rude of me to ruin those.” He chuckles while some blood emerges from his mouth, then blacking out.  Gau runs over to check on him.

“I'll make sure he'll be fine…I promise you ma'am.” Gau tries to console Erika.

“Thank you young man.” She says tearfully, but then forces herself to return to the fray.

Meanwhile, Setzer aims again at the bomber, already nearing its launch.  With another rocket, he tries to clip the bird's wings, but again he misses…this time too short.  He only has one rocket left, and that jet isn't hesitating to take off.

“Come on Setzer…this is your moment…make it happen!” I yell.

Sabin and the captain are still preoccupied with their respective German opponents.  Duane starts firing at a cluster of men to cover Setzer, but then a tracer round cuts into his left side, right above his hip.  He screams as he falls backwards, right on the explosives plunger.  Suddenly…BOOM!  The fourth plane blows into fragments.

“Oh fuck…” I say aloud amidst the confusion both the SS and I share.  “CAPTAIN?  SABIN?” I scream trying to find them.  I managed to spot them still going at it.  The mechanic had Sabin in a headlock.  I felt it necessary to try and help them.  Setzer could still deal with that last jet.  I ran over to Sabin, still struggling to fight the massive German engineer.

“Hatte genügend haltbaren Kerl?” The German taunts, tightening his grip on Sabin.

“Buddy…I haven't even…begun…to fight!” Sabin yells as he breaks free and sends wave after wave of punches on the stunned mechanic.  It looked rather similar to his bum rush technique he used on all those goons in Albrook.  With one final uppercut he was able to send the mechanic flying into the wall…out cold the minute he landed.  “Son of a bitch…” Sabin says while shaking his right hand.

“Looks like you didn't need help after all!” I yell to him.

“Come on Locke…does Sabin Figaro ever need help fighting someone?”

“True that.  SETZER!  Get that bomber…it's taking off!” I yell again, watching the Ho-IX gain speed along the runway.  “This is your moment Setzer!”

“God help us all Locke…” He replies, aiming one last time as the bomber gains acceleration.  Faster and faster it glides…while Setzer gets his sights on it.  “NOW!”  He screams, launching the last rocket, ahead of it for a strange reason.  Suddenly the rocket slams right into the nose of the bomber, causing it to spin suddenly and careen over to the side of the hangar.  The pilot jumps out of the cockpit before it explodes into a million pieces.  We did it!  We got 'em all!

“God damn Setzer…that was a million dollar shot!  You did it…you saved the world!”

“What'd I tell you?  Nothing gets by Setzer Gabianni!  Medal of Honor, here I…” Suddenly a spray of red emerges from his shoulder and stomach as two bullets tear right into him.  He crumples to the floor, dropping the Panzerschreck right next to him.

“SETZER!” I yell, running to his aid.  “Oh my God…Setzer…”

“NO!” The colonel yells.  “You have ruined everything!”  He starts to run to me but the captain pulls him back.  I then see Todesritter pull out his SS knife, and to my terrified eyes stab the captain right in the stomach.  “Americans…you are the bane of my existence.  I will kill you all before I die!”  He draws the knife back as the captain falls to the floor.  Duane runs after him, but is clotheslined and knocked out.  He then charges me, tackling me to the ground.  “Herr Cole, I will say again…it will be a shame to kill you, but for my last act to the Fatherland, I will do so!” He struggles to press the dagger into me, while I'm trying to push him away with all my might.  My gun is useless right now, so I must muster the strength to fight him.

“Die…die you filthy American…die like the dog you are!” He says gritting his teeth at me.  I struggle for dear life, but then I feel a strange object in my hip pocket.  Oh my God…it was my Luger!  I had it all along.

“I will…I will not die…by your hands you evil man!” I scream back throwing him off me.  I get up quickly and draw my Luger out, aiming it straight at his head.

Col. Todesritter just laughs.  “Go ahead…shoot me.  You will all die anyway!  YOU WILL ALL DIE!”  He lunges right at me, and then…BLAM!  I fired the only round I had right into his head, ending his accursed life.  I then fell to my knees…hovering over the body of the dead SS colonel.  I freeze…not knowing how to react, or what to do.  I stare at the grip of my Luger, ignoring the bullets and the explosions.  I saw the engraving Celes and I put on it...LOCKE & CELES COLE…ALWAYS.

“Celes…Celes…forgive me.” I never wanted to kill with the weapon that kept us together mentally and spiritually, but I had to in order to save my own life.  The one round I kept in there, the one round Celes said I could use whenever it called for it, was the one to end this evil man's life.

“Locke!  This place is falling apart!  We gotta get outta here, the Brits found a plane for us!” Sabin shakes me, trying to get me up.  “Gau, get the captain.  I'll get Setzer, and Dietrich and Erika have Edgar!”

“Guys…what's going on?” Duane wakes up from his “peaceful” slumber, compliments of the late Oberst Todesritter.  “Oh my God…what happened to Setzer and the captain?”

“They're ok for now…” I respond.  “Banon and Bixby found us a cargo plane, so we need to high tail it outta here!”

Suddenly the ground rocks continuously.  I get knocked off my feet but get myself back up to see what's going on outside.  The sky is littered with B-24 Liberators, pounding the ground and buildings with their payloads.  A German cargo plane suddenly appears on the runway strip, while Capt. Banon comes out of the door.

“Come on lads!  We need to get a move on lest we be bombed ourselves!”

“Come on sir,” I say trying to pick up the captain, “we gotta move.  We'll treat you as soon as we get off the ground.”

“Corporal…leave me…”

“Sorry sir, no can do.”

Dragging the captain with the help of Gau, we reach the outside of the hangar, near the stolen plane.  To our right, we instantly faced a barrage of fire from a squad of storm troopers.  Despite the fact the ground was still being bombed, they were still intent on killing us all.

“Leave me…I'll deal with them.”

“I can't leave you sir.  You'll never make it.” I plead to him.

“Cole, the Reaper's finally caught up to me.  I need to make my last stand.  Go…”

“But sir…” Gau protests to the captain.

“Take care of my daughter specialist.  You're a good man.  Make sure my Relm stays safe, and help her raise a good child.  And Cole, I've always liked you...since the day we started training I admired you.  Go back to your Celes…you deserve to live a full life.  Go back to her Cole.”

“No…we won't leave you here!” I yell again.

The captain pulls his Colt .45 on me.  “I SAID GO!”  We let him go with heavy hearts and run to the plane.  Gau and I offer cover fire while Duane hobbles on, then Sabin and Setzer, then Erika, Dietrich, and Edgar.  He limps over to the MG42 nest right next to it.

“Baram…I'm tired of running…I won't run away anymore!” He grabs the machine gun and blasts away, decimating the squad.

“SIR!” I scream as the door closes and Sabin yanks me inside.  The plane starts accelerating as we take off the runway.  We stare out the windows, watching in horror as Capt. Arrowny still fights off the Germans despite them swarming on him, but then he disappears from our sights.  He was just a speck from up here now.  That…was the end, the end of our great captain.  Silently, we slump onto our seats, grieving over our loss despite our victory.

“Your captain was a great man lads…he did an honorable thing.” Capt. Banon tries to console us.

Gau pulls the letter out of his pocket, staring at it, thinking of what Capt. Arrowny wanted him to do.  He then starts to weep over his death.

“There there Gau…” Sabin pulls his arm over the grieving medic.

“I never knew him that well,” Edgar, awakened from his previous state, says, “but he helped us all in the end.”

“The legendary Shadow was our captain…I'll never get over that fact.” Duane comments.

“Your captain…he was an honorable man.  He would've made Herr General Rommel proud.” Dietrich says.  “I'm glad I joined you men, you have given me a reason to be proud to be a soldier again.”

“You're a good officer Dietrich.  We could've used a lieutenant like you in our ranks.” I reply.

Setzer grunts and groans suddenly, minutes after we've become airborne, and the Narshe base is nothing more than rubble.  It looks like he's finally up.

“Setzer!  Setzer wake up buddy!” Edgar tries to snap him back into consciousness.  Edgar himself is banged up, still in unimaginable pain from the bayonet wound.

“What…what happened?” He asks, bloodied and dazed.

“We did it Setzer, we saved the world.” Edgar tells him.

“Well I'll be damned…looks like luck smiled upon us.”

“You're a hero Setzer…you saved the day.  You saved millions of people.” Duane says.

“Maybe then I'll get to see Daryl now…”

“What do you mean Setzer?” I ask trying sling him up along the side of the plane, but notice to my terror he's suffered a terrible wound, the same one Elder had.  The dark red blood stained my entire hand.  My lips trembled, knowing what was the inevitable for the gambler.

“I'm not gonna make it back home guys…sorry to…sorry to disappoint you like this.”

“No…no…Setzer, you're gonna make it.” I try to tell him, naïve perhaps that his wounds were indeed fatal.

“Don't worry about me guys…I lived a good life.  I did one last good deed, and I can only hope…that God lets me see Daryl up there.” He points to the sky.  “Do you think so?”

“He will Setzer…he will.” I answer.

“Then maybe my tortured soul can finally rest…I'll tell Daryl all about you guys.  I died…a hero…she'll be proud of me…” He smiles…then closes his eyes, all of his movement stopping.  I felt the grip of his hand on mine loosen and then fall to the floor of the airplane.

“Setzer?  Setzer?” Edgar shakes him, but gets no response.  “SETZER!” Edgar starts to sob while Erika places her hand on his shoulder.

“He was a good man Edgar.  God will reward him.  It was his act of redemption.”

Edgar grips her hand and sits back on the side of the plane again, holding Erika in his arms.  He shudders in pain for a second, still suffering stinging in his back.

I knelt down to the fallen comrade.  “Go with God Setzer.  You've found your peace.” I place my hand on his cheek for a second.  I then cross his arms, keeping the smile on his face.  With the sign of the cross, I say goodbye to the brave soul.  “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.  Amen.”  Poor Setzer, at least he died pleased with himself, knowing he'll be going to a better place.

The plane is silent again with grief and tears.  We've lost two great men, two brave knights, both with troubled lives and a quest for redemption…and they both found it.  There was the playboy and gambler Setzer Gabianni, who drank his troubles away and lived by the flip of a coin.  Happiness was something that only came in short supply for him, and he hid his pain through hedonism.  His miracle shot saved many innocent people who might have died at the hands of that horrible weapon Col. Todesritter built.  It was a tragedy that he had to suffer so much, and die so painfully, but I guess his pain ended when he realized what he did was the greatest thing he ever accomplished.  Our other loss was the tortured Captain Clyde Arrowny, once the legendary robber turned mercenary Shadow.  He was a man who killed his emotions and lived life as lonely as a ghost.  He lost his best friend and his only love, and he took it out on himself.  I felt pity for him, but his bravery and professionalism kept us alive all this time.  He was truly looking out for us, because even if he died, he wanted us to live, especially his son-in-law Gau.  I believe he died happy that his daughter was grown up, knowing a good man like Gau would take care of her, and that she would have a baby soon.  My head sank into a great depression as I pulled my Luger out, staring at the engraving once more.  I still thought of Celes, and that I was able to survive that awful mess.  I daydream of returning to her in Mobliz, sharing our love the way we did before since we married.  I look up at the sky, and breathe a big sigh.  The mission was a success, the world was saved, but we lost two great men, Setzer and the captain.  They were our brave fallen knights in a world where such people seldom existed.

A few hours later, the plane arrives in France, in a joint RAF and US Army Air Corps base.  It struggled to get to the ground, mostly because it was riddled with holes from our little melee with the SS back in Narshe.  The door opens, and immediately we're greeted with cheers and applause from British and American servicemen.  The applause did little to nothing in its attempt to make me feel better.

“Great job boys!  You're gonna get medals for all this!  Come…the general wants to see you all!” An Army colonel walks right up to us, shaking our hand.  He had no idea what we went through.

“Thank you sir.” I reply, hiding my true emotions.  At that moment I wanted to punch his lights out.  I couldn't stand the brass anymore, especially their insensitivity to what we experienced.

Edgar limps along with Erika supporting him.  Dietrich follows close behind.

“HEY!” A G.I. shouts, “What's the damn kraut doing here?” A couple men advance on Dietrich, only to be shoved aside by Sabin.

“Watch yourself shithead!  This man helped us so how dare you attack him!”

Our squad limped over to the makeshift barracks, where the CO's tent was lying just ahead.  I turn around as I see some of the soldiers take Setzer out of the plane on a stretcher.  The loud cheers fell silent at the sight of our fallen brother.

“Present arms!” A sergeant yells aloud.  Both the British and American troops render salutes out of respect for the hero.  The stretcher is carried through the crowd into one of the medical tents.

We walk into the large CO tent, where a Brigadier General is waiting for us all.  He was a rather portly man, with a fine Cuban stogie in his mouth, already lit and smoking.  At his right stands a British colonel, smiling at our accomplishment.

“Bloody good show lads!  You certainly gave Jerry Bastard the one-two punch eh?” He cackles.

“Yes sir…yes we did.” MSG Bixby replies while saluting him.  There was a very depressed tone in his voice when he spoke.  I think he had the same feeling we all shared.

“Yes…good work boys!  Those V-2 rockets will never hurt anyone ever again thanks to Corporal Cole and his covert transmission.  We got that sucker about seven hours ago, loaded our B-24s and we pounded the hell outta those Germans!” The general finally speaks.

“Thank you sir.” I say, hiding back any temptation to really speak my mind.

“Well my oh my…you boys need some rest.  It looks like you've just been through hell.”

“You…” Edgar points his finger at the general angrily, “Have no God damn idea what we went through!  We just lost two brave men, two dear friends, all for a suicide mission!  You should have bombed this place a long time ago!”

“Instead…” Sabin adds boldly, “You decide to send a squad of guinea pigs along with an unknowing Kreisau contact to a place where death was certain had it not been for a miracle from God!”

“How dare you!  Should I remind you of who you're addressing?  You're sass-mouthing a fucking general!” The general slams his fists on the desk in anger.

“And you colonel, I assume you knew all about this too, that sending two of Her Majesty's finest men to an early grave was all part of the plan too right?” Capt. Banon asks with a fire in his eyes.

“That Capt. Arrowny was right…this mission was, how you yanks call it, FUBAR.” MSG Bixby adds.

“Watch your tone lads…or do you want me to bash your bloody mouth in?” The colonel advances on them threateningly.

“And where pray tell…is the fine captain?  Maybe he can explain your brash behavior!” The general demands.

“He's…he's dead sir.  He died fightin' like a real soldier.  He helped us all escape while them bombers were all in the sky, and the SS were shootin' at us all around.” Gau answers sternly.

Suddenly the general's face turns from anger into a somber frown.  “I see…I guess I can understand why you're so upset now.”

“Ja.” Dietrich cuts in.  “I guess you can understand now.”

“Who the devil are you?  No Jerry officer talks to us like that!” The British colonel barks back.

“My name is Lt. Dietrich Krohn of the Wehrmacht.  I defected to join my sister, the same woman you see before you next to Lt. Figaro, fighting the dishonorable Oberst Todesritter.  Frankly gentlemen, you really had no idea what you sent them to!  There were far greater and much more fearsome weapons created besides those awful V-2s.  The fate of the world was at stake…and they saved it.  Though I no longer have an army to go back to, I still have my officer's honor and honesty intact, which I hope is credible in your eyes.  These brave men, and woman, went through more than hell to stop an evil madman, and you just smile there smugly having no idea what really went on over in Narshe.  If you will let me, I can explain what has happened.”

“I don't trust him…he could be lying.” The British officer protests.

“If I were to lie to you Herr Colonel, then why would I lie in front of my friends and my sister?”

“You really don't expect us to…”

“Shut up colonel.” The general cuts in.  “Tell us everything you know lieutenant.”

After about an hour of storytelling and with a few documents the young German had in his possession, he was able to reveal the secret plot of Col. Todesritter to the two COs.  The general's face turned once again from irritation and glumness to admiration.

“Perhaps I was wrong about you guys.  You did save the world, and perhaps we were in error for not doing more to inform you, and to prevent the losses of Capt. Arrowny and Sgt. Gabianni.  To make it up to you all, we have allowed everyone here to return home.  The war…is over for you all personally.  You can return to your families or whatever you have, in England and in America, and for Miss and Mr. Krohn, back to Germany when the war is over.”

“Do you really mean it sir?” Gau asks enthusiastically.

“Yes young medic I do.  Though I regretfully cannot share the pain you soldiers have felt, I feel sympathetic to your plight.  You lost some good men, and I can tell on your faces that you're tired of this war.  We all are, but if you did save the world like the young German said you did, then you definitely deserve to go home.”

Edgar notices Erika breathing a heavy sigh.  “Erika milady…what's wrong?”

“My brother and I, we cannot return to the Fatherland.  It is in shambles already and everyday we will face the risk of death from either the Allied bombers, or our own countrymen.”

“It is true…I am as good as dead to my fellow soldiers.  To them, I am nothing more than a traitor.”

“Well, perhaps there is a way around this.  Young Erika and Dietrich can have sanctuary among our bases in France.  We can promise you safety there.” The general suggests to the two young Germans.

“I would greatly appreciate it Herr General.”

“I don't know about it.  I don't know where I belong anymore, even if I am with my brother.  Please…allow my brother and me some time to think.”

“Sure thing, all of you can go outside and rest.  You certainly need it.  We'll ready the planes to leave tomorrow.  You are all dismissed.”

We walk outside, where we still receive praises from the troops, but they just pass by as we walk into some tents they made for us with new beds and sheets.  I lay down on the nearest bed while everyone else, in excruciating pain along with me.

“Erika,” Edgar says to the young woman, “there's something I want to say.”

“Go ahead Edgar.”

“Well, what the general was talking about earlier, I don't exactly like too much.”

“What do you mean?”

“Erika, when I met you, you were the perfect woman I was searching for.  You had passion and courage unlike any other woman I've ever met.  A lot of the men you see before you…Duane, Sabin, and Locke…they have wives very similar to you.  I think I've found someone that could blow their wives outta the water.  I felt it necessary in my heart to protect you all that time, even when I nearly faced death from the bayonet, when I sliced my hand on one, while the other stabbed me in the back.  The pain didn't hinder me though, because I knew that you were there for me.  I love you Erika, and I want you to come to America with me.”

“Edgar…I don't know what to say.”

“You don't have to say anything if you don't want to.  I understand your home is here in Europe.  I understand that you have your brother to be with you.  You don't have to come with me.”

“No Edgar, I want to say something.  I do want to come with you.  Though it is hard for me to say, I think I love you too Herr Figaro.  When I saw you fight those guards, saving my life time after time, I saw my late husband's fighting spirit in you.  I never realized how much you loved me until I saw you nearly die from that guard who stabbed you.  I will go with you to America…”

The two look at each other and then passionately kiss.  Despite the fact that his sister was in love, Dietrich did not complain this time.

“Though it pains me to see my sister leaving Germany, I understand that she has her own life.  Herr Figaro, if she goes with you, please take good care of her.  She is my sister, and I love her very much.  I am glad she wants to be with someone as brave and honorable as you.  I approve of your proposal Herr Figaro…congratulations.”

“I'll be glad to return to England again.  There's a lot of work needed to be done, and I want to help rebuild instead of destroy.  You agree with me sir?” MSG Bixby asks, resting on his gun.

“Right master sergeant, you're most right.  I want to go back home and finally rest and rebuild our country.  My home town of Liverpool was demolished.  I hope I can be a real hero and rebuild it for my friends and family. ”

Duane walks slowly over to me.  “I can't believe it Locke…we're goin' home!  We're gonna see our wives again!  I'll see my darling Katarin again!”

“I know Duane…someone up there certainly likes us.”

“My Terra…she'll be so happy to see me return.  I want to see how strong she's become, how big my children have become, and I want to see Terra's mother too.”

“Now I'm gonna see my wife have our baby!  My sweet little Relm will be so excited to see me again.  It's a shame though the captain can't.  He woulda been a good grandpa.”

“Well Gau, you still have that letter to give to Relm.  It'll explain everything.  But yes, we're all going home.  I'll finally see my Celes again.”

A few hours pass, and most of us have already hit the hay.  We were bandaged up good from Gau and the other medics.  However, that didn't mean that we felt like we were being pricked with a thousand needles every passing minute.  I collect my thoughts on what just happened and what was gonna happen when we return.  I really truly couldn't believe it.  We've survived this hell of a war, and now…finally…after a year of this god awful fighting, that we're rewarded with returning home to the gentle Mobliz weather, and the glistening faces of our wives and children.  Gau would be blessed with his first child, and Edgar would be blessed with a significant other.  My heart races like a jackrabbit from the anxiety.  However, I felt at ease that it was all over for me, Duane, Sabin, Gau, Edgar, and the rest.  I lay in my bed reaching for a flashlight, pulling a timeless photo out of my pocket.  I shone it on the picture, and immediately I saw that radiant smile of my beautiful wife.  My hand begins to tremble, overcome with the emotions rushing through me.  I stare deeper and deeper at Celes's picture, almost feeling as if she's here with me right now.  A tear rolls down my cheek, but not out of grief, but out of happiness.

“Celes…I love you…I'm coming home…I'm finally coming home.  Thank you God…thank you.” I stutter out of my mouth before I shut my eyes, a few more tears roll down my cheeks, and I dreamt again of coming home to hold my wife in my arms, knowing that my pain's gonna finally end.

Part 14: Surprise Return

I slept peacefully for most of the flight home, only to be rudely awakened by the thumping of the airplane hitting the ground.  Everything was still a little hazy, but I was just groggy.  Hell, I haven't slept like a baby since I was last home.  MSG Bixby and Capt. Banon were already dropped off in England.  I hope they'll do well back in their home.  I smiled, despite my rude awakening, because I remembered I had everything Celes gave to me, both the Luger and the runic charm, and I had that record that I'm gonna give her.  Thank God I was able to keep it intact with me during that entire melee with Todesritter.

“Wake up sunshine we're back in the states!” Sabin jerks my arm.

I yawn and stretch my entire body.  “Well…that was fast.”

“Are you kidding me?  You were comatose for most of the flight.  That son of a bitch lasted about fourteen hours.” Duane says to me.

“Really?  Well I figured it would take that long huh?”


“Ah Locke!  Glad to see you're up and at 'em.” Edgar appears out of nowhere.

“Hey…Edgar!  What's happening?”

“Well, for starters, I'm goin' right back into the governor's office and throwing a big hero's party.  More importantly, I have to select an ideal date.”

“A date for what?”

“Why, a date for my lovely fiancée Erika to become Mrs. Erika Krohn Figaro.”  He turns to Erika, who just smiles back at him.

“It is true Herr Cole.  I've always wanted to live in America, ever since I was a little girl.  Who knew I would get that wish from this charming man over here.”

“Oh Erika, you flatter me too much.” He jokes while reaching over to give her a kiss.

“Well congratulations to the both of ya.  I however, have my wife that I must see more than anything right now.”

“Lucky for you Locke, our wives don't even know we're comin' home.  We can give them a surprise treat by just showing up.” Duane suggests.

“Good idea Duane, but we gotta think of something, that or take advantage of something they're doing to surprise them.” Sabin replies.

“Not for me guys…I think just having Celes see me again without her knowing is all the surprise she'll need.”

“Oh come on Locke, I know I'm gonna do something for Katarin.  Join the fun!”

“Maybe guys, maybe.”

I stare out the window, to see the bustling city of Figaro under the radiant warmth of the sun.  I saw the arms factory in the distance, hoping Celes was still hard at work there.  Maybe the fellas were right that maybe giving them a surprise treat like coming home to them suddenly would be good for us and them.  I however, have the stealth and other crap necessary for all that, but my creativity is going, going, gone.

The plane door opens as one by one, we step outside.  It felt like a blast of fresh air overcoming me, as I walked down the steps, down to terra firma, terra domus, my home land.  I placed my first step on the blacktop runway, and immediately a rush of calm flows inside.  I'm home…finally home.

“Well guys, I say if we're to give our wives the greatest present they've had in a while, so let's get us a cab to Mobliz ASAP!” I say to Duane and Sabin.

“Right on Locke!”

“Well bro…I guess this is the time we part ways for now.  I was glad to have fought with you all that time.  I'm also glad we came out of it alive and happy.  You finally found what you were looking for…congrats.”  Sabin reaches over to shake his brother's hand.

“The feeling's mutual Sabin.  We've certainly been through a lot.  I hate to sound so anti-climactic, but I believe you have your wife to return to no?”

“You're right.  I guess this is goodbye for now.”

“Hey!  Why not come to my party?  My brother, Locke, and Duane are more than welcome.”

“You're too kind Edgar…too kind.” Duane says.

“Well guys, I gotta head over to my little town and see my Relm.  I wanna see how big the baby's gettin' inside.  Take care y'all.”  Gau whistles for a taxi and hops in one right away, almost ecstatically, but it's understandable.  He waves to us outside the window as we wave back.  Another cab pulls over to us.

“Where you soldier boys headin'?” The gruff driver asks as we pack our stuff in the trunk and get in.

“Home please…to Mobliz.” I reply.

In a split second we zoom off, down to our homes.  Edgar and Erika fade away in the background as we wave goodbye to him.  The goodbye won't be for too long.  We still have that killer shindig to attend to!

“Right here will do sir.” Sabin asks the driver to stop right outside the town gate.

“Sure thing pal.” The driver stops right outside the gate, and we all step out.  My God it felt so nostalgic to see my home town again.  My mind races with the thoughts of seeing Celes, my family, and my friends again.

“Home sweet home eh guys?” Duane asks.

“You betcha Duane.” I answer.

“Now…on a more important topic, who should we pay a visit to first?” Duane asks again.

“Let's see Terra first, she's the closest one from here.” I suggest.

“A wise idea young Cole…I was itchin' to see my darling wife anyway.”

Though it was rather unorthodox of us to try, we slinked around, from house to house, until we reached the Figaro house.  No one seemed to be inside, but Terra's Jeep was there.

“Terra got a Jeep?  Hot damn I've always wanted one of those!” Sabin says aloud.

We silently approached the house, but then hit the side of the wall the minute we heard Terra humming from the backyard.

“That must be her…I'll take a look.” I say, creeping over only to see Terra, as beautiful as ever, hanging up linen on the clothesline.  I turn back to Sabin.  “Ok big softie, she's just hanging laundry up, so go over there and make her day, which'll be as successful as teaching a dog to read Shakespeare!”

“Shut up Locke…just watch me.” Sabin retorts as he creeps up to see Terra on the other side of the linen.  Duane and I peer our heads over to watch him slink his way over to the other side.  Sabin picks up a clothespin from the ground and while Terra reaches for another one in the basket, she turns around to see the other end of the blanket up already.  She jerks her head back in surprise, still not noticing the loving brute of a husband right in front of her.  She then slowly looks downward, seeing Sabin's uniform shoes.  She smiles for a second and then places her hand on the sheet.  Sabin follows suit, and they trail their hand up, down, and all around for about thirty seconds.  Then slowly, both his hand and her hand reach the end of the linen, and they grasp each other's hand tightly.  They pull the linen carefully, and immediately they see each other.

“Hiya doll face.  I'm home.” Sabin says nervously.

“You son of a bitch…you big lug you…you're home.” Terra smiles chokingly, a tear strolls down her silken cheek.

The two drop the linen and embrace each other.  Duane and I smile watching as he picks Terra up from the ground, kissing her passionately in the first time in practically a year.

“SABIN!  You're home…you're really home!”

“A big brute like me is too stubborn to die.  I wasn't gonna disappoint ya.  My God you're beautiful, and I see…you've gotten stronger.” Sabin seems to notices Terra's bear hug around his chest.

“Stronger everyday, all for you honey.  Kids, mama, I've got a surprise for you!” Terra screams.  Suddenly the two sons come barging out of the back door.



The kids run over to him at full speed, tackling him down when he knelt down to catch them.

“Whoa…how are my two boys?  My God look at you…so big and strong like your dad!” He picks them both up, each son on each shoulder.

“Yeah dad.  We wanna be a strong as you, a fightin' man, we're real close aren't we?” Vincent asks.

“You sure are Vince.”

“You must be the Sabin my Terra has talked so much about.  My goodness you're large.” Madonna, with little Madonna in tow, approaches Sabin.

“And you must be the lovely Madonna Branford…a pleasure to meet you.  I must praise you on being responsible for raising this green-haired beauty right here.” Sabin replies pointing to Terra.  “And I also see that you are carrying my little baby girl.  How are you sweetie?”

“Hi daddy…” The little Madonna says, grinning at the sight of her father again.  Madonna hands him his daughter and he holds her up to the sky as she giggles back.

“You were right Terra.  He certainly is a perfect husband.” She tells her daughter, flattering Sabin.

“Look at you, my little angel with your green hair…you look just like your pretty mother every passing day.” Terra smiles at Sabin's compliment, but for a second it looks like she focuses one something completely different, her smile turning into a nervous look.

“Honey, was it just you that came back?” Terra asks concerned.

“Oh yeah, I nearly forgot!  Hey fellas, come on out!”

Duane and I get up and walk over to Terra, her face lighting up even more.  “Duane!  Locke!  You're both back!  This is incredible!”  She rushes over to give us both a hug.

“I know…I can hardly believe it myself.” I reply.

“Oh my God…this is surreal.  Does Celes or Katarin know about this?”

“Nope, but I was actually on my way to pay my Katarin a little visit.”

“Well she's probably going over more paperwork, if you wanna surprise her, I have an idea.” Terra says while plucking a rather lovely daffodil from her garden.  “Listen up…” She calls Duane, Sabin and I to a huddle.

At Katarin's house, Terra and I look through the window to see Katarin stressed out over the paper pushing.  “Duane, your house has a back door right?” I ask.

“Yeah…and from what you suggested, your plan might work if I can do it right.”

We all creep to the backyard, where Hope and Tyler are playing together.  Duane tries to walk over without them noticing, but steps on a twig, alerting them.  They stare at him, faces turning from normal to ecstatic.

“Dad…” Hope was about to scream until Duane signals her to be quiet.  They run over to him and hug him with all their might.

“Oh my goodness gracious, just look at you two!  You're both getting huge…I feel so old.”

“You're not old daddy…don't be silly.”  Hope tells him giggling.

“Hey kids…I'm home, but I wanna do something special for mommy.  Do you mind helping me?”

“Sure dad.” Tyler responds.

“Ok then…I need you to get me inside while my friends distract mommy ok?  Locke, ring the doorbell and leave the flower.”

“Sure thing buddy.”  While Duane and his kids get near the door, I plant the daffodil on the doorstep and ring the doorbell.  It worked.  Katarin, wondering who could be ringing at this time of day, gets up and walks to the door.

“Ok go now Duane!” Terra rushes him inside, while the rest of us get inside quietly and hide in another room along with Duane and the kids.

“Ok Hope, I need you and Tyler to tell mommy to close her eyes and tell her you've got a secret for her.”

“Ok daddy.” She prances out into the office room and approaches Katarin, who has the daffodil in her hand.

“Sweetie, can you tell me who was at the door, and why this flower was on the doorstep?”

“Sorry mommy…it's a secret.”

“Really…and what can I do to get this 'secret?'”

“Close your eyes and turn around mommy, I'll get it.” She walks back to the room with all of us inside.  “Ok daddy…she still doesn't know.”

“That's my girl.”  With Tyler and Hope holding each hand, they walk him into the room.  

The sound of his shoes on the hardwood floor startles her for a second as her eyes are still shut and her hands over them, while facing the window.  While we all peek out of the doorway as Duane walks over and puts his hands on hers.  Her lips start to tremble and her breathing gets a little jumpy.

“You can open your eyes now.”  Her eyes open to her husband Duane, smiling right at her.  “Peek-a-boo Katarin...I see you.”

Her lips still trembling, she smiles from ear to ear in pure amazement and joy.

“Duane…Duane…oh Duane…you're back.” She whimpers while the two hold each other.  “Thank God…you're back.” She starts to tear a little bit, but out of happiness like Terra.

“Don't feel embarrassed Kat, I felt the same way when I saw Sabin.” Terra walks in.

“Terra?  You knew about this?” She pulls herself off Duane just an inch or two.

“Well honeybunch, we wanted to surprise you, so we cooked up a little scheme.  Even our little wonders had a part in it.”

“Oh really…is this true kids?” She asks jokingly.

“No…I didn't do anything.” Tyler responds while chuckling.

“Ok…I'll believe you” Katarin answers back with a wink.  “Duane…I'm overjoyed that you're home.  I'm also glad Sabin and Locke are back.  I waited everyday for you to come home, and now here we are, you and me, together again.  I love you so much Duane…I knew you'd come back.”

“I love you too much to break your heart Katarin.” The two then close in for a nice kiss or two.  My hands shield the two children's eyes, since this ain't exactly appropriate for the little tykes.  “Look at that,” he points to Katarin's belly, “looks like we have another miracle on the way huh?  I can feel it kicking right now…”

She just nods her head, breaking out another big smile.

“Well, that's two down, and one more to go eh Locke?” Sabin says from the side.

“Yes indeed…” I sigh heavily.

“I'm sorry to dash your hopes for an immediate reunion Locke, but Celes is still at work, but she'll be back in an hour.” Terra says, making me drop my smile instantly.

“Awww crap!” I said aloud, ignoring the kids still around.  Boy did I feel like an ass.

“Don't worry tiger, I think you can wait for her to come back, and when she does, you march over there and make this the best day for her in years you got that?”

“Oh…yes ma'am, understood ma'am!” I mock her with a salute, clicking my heels together.  Everyone starts laughing.

“Very funny Locke…but how about a cup of coffee to perk ya up?  Anyone?” She asks.

“I'll take one, straight black, and I think my pals Locke and Duane would want light cream and sugar.” Sabin responds.

“I'll go help Terra make some coffee…” Katarin dashes off, trying to contain her excitement.

“She's certainly a basket of fireworks huh Duane?” I ask.

“She has a good reason to be.  I bet she's chattering away with Terra right now about all this.” Duane comments while overhearing Terra and Katarin talking excitedly.

“Coffee's ready guys, have a seat.” Terra leads us into the living room, where it felt like I was in heaven sitting down on a comfortable chair for once.  I could feel a gentle draft running through the house, it felt so… therapeutic.

“Hello?” I hear another woman's voice come in through the back door.  “You mind if we join you all Terra?”

“Oh not at all mama.  Come right in!”

I turn around to see Terra's mother Madonna, with the kids following her.

“Hi Katarin.  I see you've already been reunited with Duane.”

“Oh yes…and quite the lovely way he came in too.” She says, holding the daffodil in her hand, placing it in a small vase.

“Well gentlemen, this must be very exciting for all of you to be home again huh?” Madonna asks.

“Are you kidding me Mrs. Branford?  It's the best thing since sliced bread.” I reply.

“Well one day you must tell me all about it.”

“I think you should tell us all one day, because we've got some catching up to do.” Terra adds.

“I don't know if you'd like what we'd have to tell you.  It's not exactly the most glorious of stories.  And I don't think the kids will like hearing it either.” Duane tells the ladies, bearing a heavy sigh.

“It's ok honey, I understand.” Katarin comes over and places her hand on Duane's.  He looks up and smiles right at her.

“No Duane, I think it is necessary to tell them.  If we didn't, we'd just be lying to them and holding back all of our experiences.”

“Locke's right Duane, my Terra needs to know what happened to me, you, Locke, Edgar, Gau, and the rest.”

“I hope you're ready for all this, because it's not the prettiest of stories.  We lost some good men in our mission before we left that godforsaken place.” I say, ready to open up the story.

“I'm all ears tiger.  Kids…go play outside with Tyler and Hope ok?”

“But we wanna hear the story mama!” Vincent protests.

“Listen to your mother kids…what we have to say is grown-up talk.  When you're older we'll tell you, otherwise you won't like hearing it.” Sabin helps Terra coax the kids.

“That means you too Tyler and Hope…ok?” Duane tells his kids.

Some of the kids saunter outside in a disappointed mood, while the others just scoff and walk out.  I couldn't blame them for being curious, but the story we had in mind would give them nightmares, or just make them cry their eyes out.  My mouth opens wide, inhaling the pure, clean air of our little town, and I begin the story of our mission to Narshe.  Terra, Madonna, and Katarin sit there at full attention, not quite sure what they were ready to hear.

90 minutes later:

“Oh my God…I'm…I'm so sorry Duane.  I didn't know all that.  You must've gone through hell.” Katarin tries to comfort her grief-stricken husband, who holds his mug shaking like a terrified mouse.

“It's ok honey…I'm fine.”  Duane tries to assure his wife.  Katarin puts her soft warm hands on Duane's tired weary ones.

“You're more than fine darling…you're a hero of the nation.  You're a hero of Mobliz.  You helped save the world from untold destruction.  You're the greatest husband a gal like me could ask for.”

“I can't believe it.  You mean to tell me that your captain was the great Shadow all that time?  And he was working with me that whole time years ago.” Terra says rather shocked.

“Hard to believe, but it's true doll face.” Sabin takes a hit of the java.  “He was one hell of an officer.  He gave his life to protect us all, and fought that evil SS colonel too with his own bare hands.  It was Capt. Arrowny, or Shadow should I say, that kept us alive throughout the whole war.” Sabin explains.

“And this Oberst Todesritter guy…he actually had the same stuff Kefka had those years ago?  God, now I know what Karina was talking about when she mentioned giving 'secrets' to the Nazis.  I'm glad I put her in her place before she gave even more to this guy.  He seemed like an evil version of Kefka tenfold.”

“He was…” I respond softly, looking down at the ground upset.  Like Terra with Karina, I was the one who put Todesritter in his place.

“You mean to tell us he was the girl Relm's father too?” Katarin asks.

“Yes indeed.  The poor guy never got to see her afraid he'd cause her harm.  He was happy to see a man like Gau marry her though.  He gave Gau a letter explaining everything…I just hope that man has found his redemption, and some satisfaction knowing his daughter's all right and going to have a baby.”

“He was the man I always thought he would be Sabin…a hero with a troubled mind.  He did the right thing giving up his life for your own.” Terra puts her hand on Sabin's shoulder, while he places his hand on her hand right back.

“That poor Mr. Gabianni too…it's a tragedy he had to die.” Madonna adds.

“He took down that last bomber that coulda blown Figaro or Vector to smithereens.  He was mortally wounded in the end, but I remember what he said before he died.  He said that it was his final good deed, and that he'd be reunited with his love Daryl in the end.” I reply.  “In my own mind, I think he's been rewarded greatly.”

“You poor men, I'm so sorry.  It looks like bad times have a knack for finding us huh?” Madonna says, taking a sip from her coffee.

“Yeah…sad but true Mrs. Branford.  The whole experience was certainly nothing to treat lightly.  I'm just so glad I'm home and that my Celes is fine and will be overjoyed to see me back again.” I look up at the clock, to see that it's already past three.  “Oh hell…she's already home!  I gotta tear ass over there!”

“Yeah…good luck Captain Creative.  Give her a nice surprise, Locke Cole style.” Sabin jibes.

“God damn it Sabin…shut up.” I respond harshly, but with a quick wink, he realizes I'm joking too.  

Without any more hesitation, I grab my stuff, including my duffel bag of personal things, and in that duffel bag laid some valuables and that record I stole from the Nazis.  Since their base was inoperable, there was no sense in having such objects over there, going to waste.  Before I open Katarin's door, I looked through the screen to see Celes on the front porch, looking off into the distance as if she was staring at the whole world, probably waiting for me.  Meanwhile, the little ones were running around the house, frolicking like all little tykes do.  I couldn't just walk up to her while she's outside, it'd kill the magic.  I waited and waited and waited for Celes to walk in, staring at the blonde beauty, captivated by her face, something I prayed I'd see again for a year, and will finally get to.  Terra places her hand on my shoulder, snapping me out of my funk.

“Come on lover boy, go see her again.”

The minute she said that, like it was a friggin' charm, Celes turns around and walks right back into the house.

“Kids, come on inside with mommy.  How about I make you little ones some sandwiches ok?”

The kids cheer as they pile into the house.  I was able to see my Catherine, Lawrence, Adrian, and even little Mairin, who can walk, but not that well.  She stumbles a little bit, but Celes is there to pick her right up.  My Celes, still the fantastic mother she was from the get go.  The door shuts, leaving me the perfect opportunity to get over there.

I take the first step outside, beginning my slow march towards reunion.  Each step I took was hard for me, as a million thoughts raced through my mind.  “What am I gonna say?  What am I gonna do?  How will she react?  What will I say to the kids?” The constant questions made me falter in my steps, but I continue.  Then, I recollect my thoughts on all my experiences with my wife.  I remembered meeting her for the first time at Setzer's bar, how she sang so angelically, and how we walked home together that first night.  I remembered when we made love that first night too.  I remembered when we saw each other again in the refinery, when our true feelings poured out.  We worked together as a team to rescue Hope and the Maduin statuette, and when I thought she died, I was devastated.  I remembered the week after, when she miraculously came into my life again.  The wedding was a godsend, and I remembered the events of that day perfectly, when we exchanged our vows and became husband and wife.  I remembered our honeymoon to the Caribbean, and how beautiful and graceful she was that whole week.  What am I saying?  She's beautiful twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  I remembered when she gave birth to all four of our little miracles, and though I remembered her threatening to kill me for putting her through that, she still loved me.  I remembered all the times we went treasure hunting, and all the times we had fun even out in our own yard.  I remembered how she used to sing for me sometimes when we were alone together on a peaceful Mobliz day, evening, or night.  I remembered how we always worked as a team, from gardening to building, and how our times were almost bliss.  I then remembered what we said before I left, when we held each other closely the night before I left.

“I love you Celes Chere Cole…and you'll always know that.”

“I love you Locke Cole, more than anything else in this world, and you will come back to me right?”

“I will Celes…I will.  I promise you I will return.”

By the time I finished my thoughts, I was already at the doorstep of our house.  I could feel the wood creak underneath my feet.  It felt like old times, when I first built it with my bare hands for Celes and the kids.

“Ok Locke…it's now…or never.” I whisper to myself.  My hand reached the knocker, shaking like an earthquake.  I took the knocker and hit it against the door once.  I felt so terrified I couldn't do this normally.  What's wrong with you Locke?  Why are you so afraid to see your wife and family again?  The door doesn't budge, and I question what's wrong, but still I knock again.  I wait and wait, hoping to see my darling Celes's face again.  Suddenly, the door creaks, and slowly opens.  Celes then steps to the opening and in an instant her jaw drops, lips trembling.  All right Locke it's time for something clever to say.

“Um…hi…honey.  I'm…I'm home.” So much for the poetry and romance approach, but still it worked.

“Locke…” she whispers.  She starts breathing rather heavily, her face turning a bright red, but not of anger.  Her hands begin to shake as they cover her mouth.  She tries to get a word out, but nothing can come out.  I notice a tear or two emerging from her eyes.  I take my hand and glide it along her cheek, wiping up her tears.

“Celes…please don't cry.  It doesn't suit you.” I say, while I feel a tear coming from my eye too.  She takes her delicate hand and wipes my tear off.

“It doesn't suit you either.” She jokes, laughing lightly.

“My angel…my Snowflake.” I say while gliding my hand across her face.  We both laugh for a second, and then stare each other in the eyes deeply.



We reach for each other and kiss like we've never kissed before.  I'm talking like Fourth of July fireworks passion and flame going on here.  Again and again we lock lips, each passing one a step closer to paradise again.  My hand glides through her hair, embracing the soft delicate touch of her skin.  The other hand still caresses her face.  Her hands caress the back of my head and neck, while still we continue to kiss.  We pull away for a second, just to get some air.

“That…” I whisper, almost out of breath, “Was the greatest thing that's happened to me in a while!”

Celes still sounds a little choked up.  “Well here's round two honeybunch.” She pulls me right back into another kiss.  It felt like heaven, like the whole world was spinning just around us.  We spent about another minute kissing and kissing until we finally pulled away, but still hold each other in a hug, our heads over each other's shoulders.  I could feel Celes's soft and beautiful hair across my face.

“Did you think about me every day Locke?”

“I thought about you every passing minute Celes.”

“I thought about you every passing second Locke.”

“God I love you Celes…”

“Locke…Locke…everyday I prayed you'd come home Locke.  Everyday I thought about you and worked for you.  I wished and hoped for your return, and now here we are, back in each other's arms again.  God listened to my prayers.”

“As he did mine, my Snowflake.  I prayed every night that I'd be one step close to coming home.  He answered both of our prayers.  I dreamt of you every night, being with you again.”

“Oh Locke…I see your mushy romantics haven't faded since you've been away.”

“There's good reason they haven't Snowflake.” I say staring into her angelic face.  I saw a little blonde head poke itself around the door, and immediately I saw two little blue eyes light up.

“DADDY!” Catherine screams.

“Catherine?  My gosh Catherine is that you?  For a minute there I thought I was seeing double.  You're just as gorgeous as your mother!” Celes chuckles a little bit, still choked up over all this.

She runs up to me to give me a hug.  “I missed you daddy.”

“I missed you too sweetie…” My heart felt flooded with joy.

“Just a second honey…just a sec…” Celes hurries back into the house excited.  “Kids!  I have a surprise for you!”  In only a few seconds I see my sons run full speed to the door and Celes come back with little Mairin.

“Dad!  You're back!” Lawrence cheers.

“Daddy…you're home!” Adrian follows suit.

The both of them run up to me and nearly knock me off the ground.

“My boys, I'm so glad to see you!  My my, you're both getting so handsome.  It's felt like ages since you were just babies.”

Celes squats down holding Mairin.  “Look who came back sweetie.  It's daddy.”

“Dad-deeeee.” She says slowly, bringing another tear to my eye as I held her little hand with mine.  Just that one word was enough to get me all choked up again.  I was right when I said she does look like me, a cute, innocent, and angelic daughter version of me.  Catherine comes to give me another hug.

“We were scared daddy.  We were scared you went away for a long time.”

“Don't worry princess.  Don't worry about a thing kids…daddy will never leave you again, never again.  I promise.”  I look up at my wonderful wife.  “And I'll never leave you again…so help me God.”

She kneels down to me, while the kids just watch us stare at each other again, smiling.  “We have a lot to catch up on Locke don't we?”

“We most certainly do Celes.” I rise to my feet.  The kids enter the house first, then Celes.  I turn around and look up to the sky, where I hoped the captain, or Shadow, and Setzer would be.  “Thank you sir, thank you Setzer, and thank you God.”

“Honey?  Something catch your attention?” Celes asks me.

I turn around to respond. “Nothing much angel face…I'm just admiring the peace and quiet here.” A put my arm around her side, while she does the same, and we walk back into my house, back to simplicity and tranquility, once again.

Part 15: Celebrations, New Beginnings, and Closed Chapters

Two months later:

“AHHHH!  Gau I will murder you for this when this is all done!  What did you do to me?” Relm screams in pain, grabbing poor Gau by the neck while begin wheeled into the maternity ward in Figaro Hospital.  Celes and I, like good friends, accompany the young couple to the ward.

“I'm sorry honey!” Gau says, struggling for air.  “You can kill me all ya like when this is all over with sweetie.”

“Don't you sweetie me Gau!  You have no idea how much this hurts!”

“Please don't yell Mrs. McGavin, you're disturbing the other patients.” An orderly tries to hush her.

“You try carrying this kid in your stomach for nine months missy!” She hisses back.

“Honey please…” Gau once again tries to plead with his wife.

“Remember when you threatened me like this Snowflake?” I said to Celes from a distance.

“Don't remind me Locke…” She chuckles.

They rush her into the delivery room, while Gau, Celes, and I wait outside.  Oh boy…I knew this was going to be about as entertaining as jumping out of a four-story building, but then again, I've gone through this four times with Celes, so I already knew how it felt.  About four hours later, we heard the sharp cry of a wee one, newly born.

“It's a boy!” The doctor yells out loud.

“Oh my God!  It's a boy…it's a boy!  I'm a daddy now!” Gau jumps up and down like a wild animal.

“Settle down young one, you still have yet to see your child.” I try and calm the newly crowned dad down.

“Congratulations Gau.  I'm proud of you.” Celes joins in with a rather fitting compliment.

Later that night, the three of us walk to Relm's room, and see her lying peacefully on the bed, with her baby right in her arms.

“Hi mommy…how are you doing?” Gau asks.

“Much better honey.  I'm sorry about threatening to kill you…I was just in so much pain.”

“Believe me Relm, I felt the same way towards this man right here when I gave birth to my children…it'll all pass.”

“This must be the little one.  Howdy little guy!  It's your daddy talkin'.”

“I was wondering sweetie.  What did you want to name our son anyway?  I couldn't really think of a name.”

“How about…Clyde?” He suggests.

“Clyde…Clyde McGavin.  I don't know why but the name has a nice ring to it.  What made you think of the name Clyde honey?”

“Well…when I was over in Narshe.  The captain gave me a letter, before he died…it relates to the name.  You should read it honey.  It was addressed to you.”

“Celes…I think it's time we leave.  This is going to get very…personal.”

“I think I know what you're talking about.  Let's go.  Congratulations again you two.”

We shut the door behind us, knowing what heartbreak and new revelations would emerge from that letter.

“I don't think she'll take it well will she?” Celes asks me.

“The feeling is mutual honey.  Let's go home.  Edgar's throwing a party for the squad in on Saturday.  I suggest we get ourselves back home and let Edgar know we're coming.”

We walked out of the hospital, covering ourselves from the snow falling.  It was a rather peaceful night, but I knew what Relm was about to learn would may or may not give her peace of mind.  Relm attended the funerals of Setzer and Capt. Arrowny, but I truly think she had no idea that it was indeed her father being laid to rest and not just another soldier.  Now she'll learn the truth, and how she'll deal with it is entirely up to her.

One week later:

It was around 12:30 in the afternoon.  The air was cold and silent in the Figaro cemetery, where all of the war dead from Figaro were laid to rest.  It was here that Duane, Sabin, Edgar, his newly proclaimed wife Erika, Gau, Relm, that old coot Strago, Terra, Madonna, Katarin, Celes, and I came to pay our respects, and to give them something they deserved a long time ago.  We were in our uniforms, which was the formal way for fellow soldiers to pay their respects.  We all walk over to the gravestones, placed next to Major Cyan Garamonde's, each person with something to say.

The stones read:



“Hello sir.  Certainly a cold day isn't it?”  I ask.  Although it's just a gravestone, I thought deeply that his spirit was still with us.  “I wanted to say thank you again from the bottom of my heart.  You too Setzer…” I glance over to his grave while Edgar rests his hand on it.

“Hello Setzer.  It's Edgar.  I hope you're having plenty of fun with Daryl up there.  As you can see, I'm happily married to Erika right here.  We heard there might be a little Figaro on the way.  I wanted to thank you again…for saving all of us, for saving many innocent people.  Major Garamonde would be very proud of you.”

“Danke schoen Herr Gabianni.  You are still a hero to us, and to my brother Dietrich.  If you wanted to know, he's still helping the Allies win the war.  It's almost over and soon peace will come again.”

“Sir, you were one of the greatest men I've ever served with.” Sabin says to the buried captain.  “Your tact and professionalism kept us all alive to see our families again.  Thank you dearly.”

“Shadow…you were a fine man working with me.  You were a good man all along, and I knew that when you fought Kefka and Gestahl.  I hope your wife is up there with you.” Terra adds.

“Hello…Clyde.  This is Strago.  Though I've had my grudge against you for quite some time, I want you to know…it's lifted.  You did an honorable thing saving these soldiers' lives.  You died a hero, and I know you would be proud to see your daughter all grown up and happily married.  I hope you're with my daughter Alyssa up there.  She always did love you even when I didn't care for you, but I forgive you now.”

“Thank you grandpa.  Hi…dad.  It's your little Relm.  I'm all grown up now and I know you'd be proud of me daddy.” She starts to choke up, while Gau puts his arm around her shoulder.  “Daddy…I read your letter.  I'm not mad at you, not at all.  I know you felt guilty of abandoning me, but I want you to know that you're forgiven.  I know mommy would've been proud of you too.” She starts to swell up in grief while Gau holds her to comfort her.

“I want to thank you sir, for helping me to survive the war and be a good husband to her.  We had a baby, just like I said.  I know you woulda liked to see him, but I can assure you he's handsome and healthy.  We named him Clyde, after you sir.  I'll tell him his grandpa was a great man when he grows up.”

“You finished my job of taking out those bombers for me Setzer, and I'm grateful.  Maria didn't know what she was missin' when she left you.  Your actions probably saved our homes.” Duane says.

“Thank you dearly Mr. Gabianni.  If you're a hero to my husband, then you're a hero to me.  We'll always remember your actions.” Katarin adds to Duane's sentence.

“Sir, I know you liked me from the start.  When you told me to board that plane, to go back home to see my wife and kids, I knew you cared for us all along.  Your wish was fulfilled, we all got to go back home, back to our families, and for me, back to my Celes.” I take my arm and hold Celes close to me.

“So you must be the captain Locke wrote to me so much about.  I'm very grateful to you sir.  I was amazed you were the great Shadow all along as well as his captain.  You did have a heart of gold.  You brought my Locke back to me.  You are almost a saint to me, and I thank you again.”

We all back away after saying our praises and turn around.  I step forward to give them what they deserved all along, the Congressional Medal of Honor.  “Sir, Setzer, we have something for you, a token of gratitude from all of us and the nation as a whole.  I hope you receive this in heaven.” I open the cases, revealing the luminous medals, attached to silken ribbon of white and blue.  Edgar walks forward to help.  He takes Setzer's medal and I take the captain's.  We hang the medal from the top of the stone cross on each stone, the gold and brass on the medal shining despite the clouds.  We back away, and then, Sabin, Duane, Edgar, Erika, Gau and I render our salute, as all soldiers do, to honor the fallen.  I notice Madonna, Katarin, Relm, Celes, Strago, and even Terra do the same thing.  I smiled that even though they weren't exactly soldiers, they knew how to respect fallen ones.

“You ladies would've made fine soldiers over there.” I compliment them.  I always knew deep down inside that our wives had the same fighting spirit we did.

“Well thank you tiger.  We had our fair share of combat here though, and out of it all, I found my mama.  But thank you anyway…” Terra replies while walking right next to Madonna and Sabin.

“I would've relished the chance to fight with you honey, just like old times fighting Kefka.” Celes says to me, wrapping her arm around mine.

“I'm awfully impressed you could be as good a sniper as me with a Springfield Snowflake.”

“Well I guess your talents sink into me as well honey.”

“C'mon.  Let's go home ladies and gents.  We have a big celebration tonight for all of us.  Remember, it's at the Golden Chocobo Hotel in the Grand Ballroom.  Wear your nicest.” Edgar says as we all walk to our respective cars.

“I don't think we can make it Edgar.  You see, my Relm and I have our baby now, and it'd be mighty neglectful of us to leave him alone to go to a party.” Gau says feeling guilty.

“I understand.  Hopefully things can work themselves out.”

I take a look around and see row upon row of graves.  I sigh heavily, knowing I was one of the fortunate ones to survive that catastrophe of a war.  However, I had no time to stress on what might have happened to me.  It was a time for celebration, and Celes and I had to get all dolled up for it.  I got in the car and drove away, satisfied that I gave Setzer and Capt. Arrowny the medals and tribute they rightly deserved.

It was around 8:00 PM when we drove into Figaro to the hotel Edgar's shindig was being held in.  The city lights created a beautiful ambience that you'd only see in paintings.  I kept my uniform on, out of both laziness to get a tux and the fact I felt comfortable in it.  Celes looks as gorgeous as ever in her all white ensemble.  Surprisingly, she wore the same white dress she wore the first night we met.  Maybe it was a little token of amour that she wanted to give to me, to help me reminisce of the good times.

“You all set darling?” I ask.

“Ready when you are.”

We stepped outside the car while the valet got inside and drove it around the corner.  It was lightly snowing, but getting inside wasn't an issue.

“Ah hello there sir and madam!  Are you here for Gov. Edgar's Party?” The receptionist asks.

“Yes we are.  Our names are Locke and Celes Cole.” I reply.

“Let me see…Sabin and Terra Figaro…Katarin and Duane Robillard…ah here we are!  Locke and Celes Cole, right this way!”

The receptionist leads us up into the gala, to the grand ballroom on the second floor, where I must say that Edgar has put on quite the festival.  Hired jazz musicians, fancy crystal, streamers, balloons, confetti, fancy food and hors d'oeuvres, enough champagne to fill up a small-sized pool, and a big banner right above the stage that read: WELCOME HOME, MEN OF THE 2nd RANGERS BATTALION AND 82nd AIRBORNE!  I know it was a little late for the celebration, but Edgar was so caught up in his governor duties and his wedding with Erika, he felt it necessary to at least have a party despite the fact we've been home for two months already.  Escorting my lovely wife, I managed to find Terra and the rest sitting down at two of the tables next to the dance floor.  With wild green hair like hers, she stands out rather well.  I listen in as she tells a story, in a rather hyper way I might add.

“And then the next thing I see is this flash of sparks, and the cretin's gun goes flying off into space!  That's when I knew I had to snap into action!”

“Are you talking about my marksman skills again Terra?” Celes asks.

“Hey hey!  If it isn't Romeo and Juliet!  Glad you could finally make it Locke, what did it take Celes another two hours to put her party face on?”

“Ha ha ha…” Celes laughs sarcastically.  “Very funny Terra…false.”

“Go easy on her Cel, she's just wired from her story.” Sabin explains.  “She just loves telling the story of you ladies stopping Karina.”

“Yeah, she hasn't shut up about it for the two months we've been here!” Duane jibes.

“Don't be fresh Duane!” Katarin lightly slaps him on the arm.

“Where's our wonderful host?” I ask.  I'm rather curious as to where our honorable governor is.

“Oh he's probably mingling with the bluebloods or something.  He has so many yes-men and snobs up his butt he has a hard time moving around!” Sabin jests, laughing heartily at himself.

Sabin…that's your brother!” Terra gets flustered at the insult, but laughs along with it.

Meanwhile, Celes and I grab some chairs and join the conversation.

“Hey, where are our two lovebirds Gau and Relm?” I ask.

“Well Mr. Cole that is a good question.  I think they're still tending to their baby.” Madonna answers.

“Well if they don't it's certainly understandable.  You gotta admire Relm for still having the energy to do anything after giving birth to little Clyde.”

“They have enough joy in their lives with that little one.  This party would be an overload for the both of them, but I have a feeling Gau could be quite the party animal.” Sabin jokes.

“Speaking of little ones,” Duane cuts in, “Katarin has only two months away before another little miracle comes into the world.”

Katarin smiles.  “We gave it some thought, and if it was a boy, he'd be Roland.  If it was a girl, she would be Rebecca.”  Well kiss my grits.  Looks like Duane liked those names suggested from when we were in Narshe after all.

“Hey!  We're sorry we're so late!” Much to my surprise, Gau and Relm immediately appeared at our table.

“GAU!  RELM!  How on Earth did you get here?  What about Clyde?” I ask.

“Funny ya should mention that Locke.  Relm's grandpa Strago offered to look after the baby while we come here for a little bit.”

“He's right Mr. Cole.” Relm adds.  “Grandpa took care of me when I was little, so he said it'd be no problem to watch Clyde while we were here.  Besides, I wouldn't wanna ruin Gau's moment of celebration.”

“Oh sweetie pie, you're not ruinin' anything.”

“Well grab a chair and drink up friends!  We've just started.” Sabin welcomes the young couple.

“My goodness gracious looky looky at who just walked in Locke!” Duane points to the entrance, and with much surprise I saw our British companions from Narshe, Capt. Banon and MSG Bixby showed up.

“Well hello and how are you lads?” Capt. Banon greets us, decked out in a fine British uniform.

“Capt. Banon and Master Sergeant Bixby, what a pleasant surprise for you to show up!” Sabin says, getting up to shake their hands.

“Well your dear brother Edgar mailed us ages ago about this, but he said he was so wrapped up in work he couldn't do it sooner, the captain and I certainly understand.  We've been so busy helping to rebuild England that we've lost track of time too.”

“Ah this must be the courageous Terra you've talked about Cpl. Figaro.  Quite the stunning lady she is.” Capt. Banon kisses her hand like a gentleman, causing Terra to blush.

“Please captain, I feel so embarrassed.”

“And you must be Celes Cole.  You're more beautiful than the picture your husband Locke always showed off.” The master sergeant says to Celes.

“Oh well…I don't know what to say.” Celes also gets embarrassed.  “My Locke can certainly do that.” She wraps her arm around mine.  I blush a little bit, but laugh along with the conversation.

“Katarin Robillard I presume?  My word, these American women grow prettier and prettier each time I see them.  You yanks are most lucky indeed.”

“Please gentlemen, you flatter us too much.” Katarin replies.

“Nonsense!  These lads you're married to deserve such lovely women.  They fought very bravely when we were all together.  Thank the Lord that awful chapter is closed.”

“Yes indeed…” I comment.

“How late are we exactly lads?” The captain asks.

“You're not late at all captain.  Celes and I showed up just a half an hour ago.  To us, the party's just begun.”

The second after I said that, the Chancellor of Figaro walked up to the stage where the band was playing.  “Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you all to the Golden Chocobo on this lovely winter's night.  It is my pleasure, to introduce, home from the war in Europe, the Governor and Governess of Figaro, Edgar Roni Figaro and Erika Krohn Figaro!”

The entire room rises in applause and whistles as Edgar, as lavish as ever in uniform, with his lovely wife Erika walk up to the stage.  Greeting the chancellor, he passes the microphone over to them.  Meanwhile the piano player along with some of the other musicians, play “The Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart.  Rather odd given the type of music, but the song does have Edgar's name in it.

“Hello ladies and gentlemen and hello Figaro!” Another orchestra of cheers greets him.

“YEAH EDGAR!” Sabin yells from left field.  A rather embarrassed Terra elbows him in the side.

“What?” He asks surprised from the blow.

“You know exactly what!” Terra hisses. “And what are you laughing about Locke?”


“It is our great pleasure to welcome you all to this celebration.  When I was a little girl in Germany, I always dreamed of being in grand parties like this.  I never knew that dream would become a reality.  We certainly have a wonderful reason to all be here.”

“My wife is one hundred percent correct.  It feels so great to be back home, especially with such as wonderful woman like my wife.  I also have great personal news.  I have heard that my wife is expecting, and there might be a little Figaro in our lives!”

Another round of applause erupts around the ballroom.  This guy certainly knows how to work a crowd, and no wonder he's elected to be governor.

“We have good news.  The Allies have been gaining ground day after day, pushing Hitler back to Berlin, and hopefully the war will be over soon!”

“We're also here to welcome some dear friends from my time in Europe.  I'd like to welcome, all the way from the United Kingdom, Captain Banon and Master Sergeant Bixby of the Special Air Service.”

I look over to my right as the two Brits rise and wave to everyone.  They seemed rather embarrassed.  Maybe they don't exactly have things like this in England?

“I would also love to introduce my dear friends who have been with me since we were in France.  I introduce to you, Sergeant Duane Robillard and his wife Katarin Robillard, the co-mayors of Mobliz!” The both of them rise to receive the cheers.  “Next to them are the wonderful Corporal Locke Cole and his wife, and you've heard her angelic voice before, Celes Chere Cole!” We rise up and grin widely from the praise we're getting.  “And last but not least, my dear little brother, Corporal Sabin Figaro and his gorgeous wife, the revered “Guardian of Mobliz,” Terra Branford Figaro!”  Now Terra and Sabin get and wave to the crowds, the applause growing more and more now that all of us are up.  “I would also like to extend our welcome to a young couple I've just spotted now in the audience.  I'd like to mention my appreciation for the actions, especially of helping to save my own life when I was wounded in battle, of Specialist Gau McGavin and his wife Relm Arrowny McGavin.” Still standing, the two just chuckle from the additional applause.

The clapping dies down as Erika talks into the microphone.

“Unfortunately with war, there are always losses and those we miss.  Many of my brethren have lost their lives fighting in this war.  My dear brother Dietrich, who saw the good in his heart as a calling of his conscience, is continuing to aid the Allies from France and Germany.  I miss him very much but am grateful for his actions.” Though a few people were talking out of surprise, many still held reverence for the Wehrmacht lieutenant.  His assistance in our mission was highly credited back home publicly, helping Erika live a more comfortable life here in the states.

“Indeed he is still thanked for his actions my lovely Erika.  Like my lovely wife, I too have lost some dear friends.  Let's have a moment of silence for the fallen.” We all fell silent for about ten seconds.  “Among those who died in Europe, I want to especially acknowledge the loss of Major Cyan Garamonde, a great friend and partner of mine for many years.  I was devastated to lose him, but I'll always remember the selfless service he provided for Figaro.  I want to acknowledge Sergeant Setzer Gabianni, whose actions helped save the world from certain disaster.  Though he was a lonely and troubled man, his final deeds saved us and himself.  He finally found peace and purpose in his life.  Most of all, I want to acknowledge a man who I never really knew, but through my experience in Europe, I got to know greatly.  This man kept my friends and me alive through many battles, and in the end, he gave his life to allow us to escape and live to see another day.  This man I speak of is Captain Clyde Arrowny, daughter of Relm Arrowny, and once the legendary mercenary and criminal Shadow.”

The audience gasps in surprise and shock at the fact Edgar would make a toast to a person they thought was only a notorious criminal and heartless mercenary.  Our table however, including our British friends, remained silent.  We knew who the captain really was, and although he was once a criminal and mercenary, we knew he was a great man at heart.  Terra and I especially knew the kind of man he was.  I glance over to Terra while she, keeping a straight face, just nods right back amidst the gasps and hushed commentary by everyone else except our table.  Relm looked down at the ground, still feeling a little grief.  Gau places his hand on hers to comfort her.

“Let's raise our glasses, and offer a toast.  Yes this night is for us, but this night is more to remember our fallen comrades.  They will not be forgotten!

“HERE HERE!” The entire room echoes.  We raise our champagne glasses and clack them together.  After our toast, Edgar walks up to the microphone again.

“Now, how about we get this party started ok?” He signals the band to start up immediately with some light swing music.  The once somber mood drops to a light and sound show of horns, percussion, and bass.

I rise up out of my chair to ask Celes to dance, but before I could another hand reaches towards her.

“May I have this first dance with the lovely lady Celes?” MSG Bixby asks.  You son of a bitch…

“Why certainly!  Don't get angry Locke…” She winks to me as she is escorted to the dance floor by the Brit.  Before I could sulk, a hand reaches and grabs mine.

“Hey tiger!  Don't be so upset, everyone's switching up.  Let's say you and me cut a rug just like old times eh?” Terra asks.  Instantly I lose my dour face and smile to Terra's suggestion.  All around me I saw Sabin with Erika, Gau with Katarin, Edgar with Relm, even Capt. Banon with Madonna.

“You got it sweet thing!” She yanks me out onto the dance floor.  I haven't danced in a while, but I caught up on it real quick.  She was right, it did feel like old times dancing with her, her pretty green hair bobbing up and down with every dip and twirl.  If I wasn't married to Celes, I'd sweep her off her feet this second and take her away from Sabin, beating or no beating.

“Still the swingin' dancer I remembered from those years ago you sexy thing you!” Terra laughs as we get more into the dance.

“Flattery will get you nowhere oh green-haired one!” I tease right back.  The songs ends on a grand note, and suddenly I get a tap on my shoulder.

“LOCKE COLE!  What are you doing dancing with this…this woman?  Are you being unfaithful?” Celes sternly asks, but her sarcasm is easily detectable.

“Ummm…but…honey I was just…she asked me to…but…” I try and play along.

“No buts!  You come with me this instant you cad!” She yanks my arm to another part of the dance floor.

“Ooooooo…Locke's in trouble!” Duane jokes around.

“Don't listen to your friends Locke!  Now to make it up to me, you have to dance with me!” She demands.

“I think it'd be wise to do as she says young corporal.  That woman's a fiery one!” Bixby, who was just dancing with her before, advises jokingly.  The band starts to play softer and slower, while a woman comes up to sing Nat King Cole's “I Love You for Sentimental Reasons.”

Celes and I hold each other close while dancing back and forth.

“A fiery one eh?  Has my Snowflake started to melt?” I ask.

“Oh Locke…you know it takes more than a little fire to melt this snowflake!” She taps me on the nose, giggling and then makes a cutesy chomp gesture.  “I could eat you up right here you're so handsome!”

“I wish it was you up there singing.  You'd run circles around that other dame.”

“But then who would you dance with honeybunch?”

“Touché Celes.  Maybe Terra or Katarin?” I ask.

“Very funny…where would I be without you to lift my spirits Locke?”

“I don't know honey.  I don't where I'd be without you Celes.”

“It's so good to see everyone here.  Everyone seems so happy.” She comments.  We both observe and see Gau with Relm, Sabin with Terra, Duane with Katarin, Madonna still with Banon if that isn't funny enough, Edgar and Erika, and even Bixby found another young dame to dance with.

“Maybe the happiness come just seems to…emanate from us huh?”

“You're so lame Locke…it's adorable.”

The next song quickly turns into another Nat Cole song, “Mona Lisa,” where a beautiful violin and harp adds to the song.  I look at Celes's hand, and observe her wedding ring and then my own.

“Locke…your ring…you kept it on that whole time you went away?”

“You bet I did angel.  I also wore this every day.” I pull out the runic charm necklace, causing Celes to widen her eyes.

“You kept did wear it…”

“And it kept me safe from harm like you said it would.  Thank you Celes.”

When the song ended, we reach for another long and heartfelt kiss.

“A little early in the game for romantics eh big boy?” Sabin jests, causing Celes to snicker.

“Shut up Sabin…right now.” I bark at the idiotic behemoth.

“Oh let them have their fun Locke.  Besides…it's not too early in the game for me Mr. Treasure Hunter.”

She plants another nice one on my cheek, making me blush.  The band picks up their pace again with another fast tempo jazz hit.  Romance turns into full swingin' again as Celes and I rock back and forth, twisting and dipping.

“Hey Locke, trade ya!” Duane yells, twirling Katarin over to me, while I do the same with Celes towards Duane.

“Get ready honey!” I say to Celes, sending her to Duane.

“Whoa cowboy!” Katarin yells when I catch her.  Katarin is quite the good dancer herself.  She seems to go with every bob and weave I do.  “You're pretty good Locke!”

“Thanks.  I used to love doing this with Celes and Terra back in the day.  Hold on!” I yell while grabbing her hands as we twist our bodies around.  I then lift her up and she does a split when I ease her down on the floor, and then pull her up again.  This dance was a kick.  Another voice yells to me.

“Hey Locke…switch time again!” This time it was Sabin, but instead of sending the ladies over to each other, Katarin and Terra throw us in their respective directions.  Kinda puts a little twist on the tradition.

“Hey tiger!  Looks like round two for you and me again!” She says while we swing.  I grab her hands and slide her underneath my legs, and then slide her back up.  “That was fun!”

“Just like you said Terra, it's just like old times!”

She wasn't bullshittin'.  This was the most fun I've had in years, and after going through pure hell in Europe, this was certainly a good way to get all the bad feelings out.  I felt so carefree and happy again, dancing away, forgetting my stress and hardships I suffered in Europe.

“Heads up Locke, and duck!” Sabin comes from behind and leapfrogs over me grabbing Terra in a spin.  Meanwhile, Celes runs right up to me.  Catching her, I lift her up as she kicks her legs up in the air, and we start dancing together again.

“Wow Locke.  I didn't expect that one!” She giggles.

“You did fine Snowflake, you and I make a helluva team!” I look over my shoulder and see Gau doin' the Lindy Hop, and Duane, Sabin, Katarin, and Terra doin' the Charleston.  I only laughed as I did my swing with Celes.  When we were all together, dancing was definitely our forte, and we didn't care how stupid we looked sometimes.

“Good show lads good show!” Capt. Banon yells in praise.  “I haven't danced this much since I was in my prime ages ago.”

“I'm winded myself.  Trying to teach this lovely gentleman how Americans dance is like teaching rocket science.” Madonna comments.

“Oh come now.  I wasn't that bad was I?”

“I was just kidding captain…but yeah you are.”

We all laugh along with Madonna.

“I guess I'm of a different breed.  But I admit I'm not the best dancer.” Banon says.

“It's a party captain, so you don't need to be a Fred Astaire to have a blast!” Terra cuts in.

“For the first time in my life, I'm actually winded.  I need to sit down.” Sabin says, walking with Terra back to the table.

“I believe I'll retire from this for a short while.” Banon adds.

“Well then, may I have a dance with the lovely Madonna?” Bixby, wasting no time, seizes his opportunity.

“Why most certainly!” Madonna takes his hand this time.

“I think I'll stay guys, I have a little more pep in me.” I hold Celes close to me as another slow song starts up.  “Dontcha wish it could be like this forever, just you and me dancing the night away?”

“You and your fantasies Locke…”

The band then starts to play a waltz.  While no one else, especially Edgar, Sabin, or Duane, saw this as a problem.  I did.

“Something wrong honey?” Celes asks me, noticing the concerned look on my face.

“Ummm…I don't know how to waltz Snowflake.” I reply ashamed of myself.  A man with a penchant to dance should at least know how to waltz, but no…not me.

“Oh don't feel ashamed!  Here, follow my lead and I'll teach you.” Celes takes my hands and places them in the proper position.  “Now just watch where my feet go, and then move to that.”

I try to the best of my ability to do it, but stumble from time to time.

“Ow!  Watch it Locke!” She says when I accidentally stepped on her foot.

“Sorry angel…”

Meanwhile Duane and Sabin were chuckling at my mistakes, but thank God Terra and Katarin were there to poke them every time they laughed.  The jerks…

“You're doing great honey, just be careful.” Celes assures me as I carefully pay attention to our footwork, trying harder this time not her step on her feet.

Nervously, I go with Celes's flow for about another five minutes, and then, like it was a godsend, the waltz ended.

“Thank God that's over…I feel so embarrassed.”

Celes pulls my head into her lips and I embrace it like.  “How do you feel now?”

“Like I can waltz for ten hours!”

She laughs at my response.  “Come on Locke…let's sit down and talk for a little bit.”

We walked down over to our table, where the rest of the crew is.  I guess the frantic dancing got to them too.

“How long is this supposed to last anyway?” Relm asks.

“I think about another three to four hours…” Sabin responds.

“Well I hate to break your hearts y'all, but the missus and I gotta head back to our place.  We gotta tend to Clyde, but it was great partyin' with y'all again!”

“Take care Gau and Relm, have a safe trip back.” I say waving goodbye to the young couple.  It was nice of them to at least show up for a little bit, even if they just wanted to humor Edgar.

“They're lucky…they don't have to stay for another three hours.” Celes jibes, causing me to chuckle a little bit.  Terra, with her sense of civility, just shakes her head at the two of us.  “I'm already getting tired from all that dancing in just an hour and a half.” She yawns.

“God you look so cute when you do that…” I say.  I seem so obsessed, but every day with her is a great day to admire her, so I have good reason.

“You think I look cute no matter what dontcha?”

“You bet…” I wink right back at her.  “Say ladies, how was your experience without us anyway?  I know all about your escapade with Kefka's sister, but how else did life treat ya?”

“Well to be honest to ya sweetie, the job I had wasn't really that great, but I did it for a good cause, and made a wad of cash doing it!”

“That's my girl…always thinkin' with her head!”

“As for me, I simply had to do Duane's paper pushing.  It certainly stunk, but I think I can be a better mayor than Duane himself.”

“Oh is that a challenge darling?” Duane says mockingly.  Katarin just laughs with him as he wraps his arm around her side and hugs her.

“I showed Sabin my 'Rosie the Riveter' picture, and I truly think he wanted to frame it.” Terra says.

“Well I had good reason doll face!  You looked like a million bucks in that picture, which reminds me, if my wife is getting that strong, I gotta step it up otherwise she'll crush me!” The table laughs all around as Terra gets Sabin in a headlock.

“Say uncle Sabin…say it!” She yells as part of the fun.

“AHHHH!  Uncle!  Uncle!  Oh man…you're too strong for me doll face!” Sabin replies as Terra releases him.  Suddenly he gets her in a light headlock.  “Who's the master now huh Terra?” He asks mockingly.

“I still am…I still am!” She breaks herself free, partly because Sabin's grip was so light, but it was all in good humor as she laughs right back, punching her husband in the arm.

“How are my guests of honor enjoying themselves?” Edgar and Erika come up to the table, finally breaking free from the other people flooding the both of them.

“Fan-friggin-tastic bro!  It's a killer shindig!” Sabin answers.

“So Erika, how do you like the states?” Katarin asks.

“I love it…there's so much life here then there was in Germany.  Sure the people are a little less proper here, but Edgar here certainly reminds me that there are Americans with class.”

“Please honey…once again you flatter me too much.”

“I'm glad you're all having so much fun.  I swear…if I get bothered by any more press networks or anything…I'll just snap.  This party's what I needed to unwind, Edgar Figaro style.  After this, I guess I'll just have a little R & R with my own missus.”

“I've always wanted to go traveling in America, so Edgar is taking me on a little, how you say, cross country trip.  I've had so much stress from the media so much my work with the Kreisau is looking a little less stressful now that I look at it.”

“I know what you mean young missy.  Taking charge of rebuilding Liverpool is harder work than I imagined, whilst being in the SAS seemed a little easier, and this time, your subordinates actually talk back!  Try and understand that!”

“Yeah I certainly do know what you mean too.  Being a professional treasure hunter myself, this lovely lady right here distracted me from all my work.  I guess I can forgive her though…” I jokingly jab at Celes.

“Oh jeez I'm so sorry master treasure hunter…I beg for your forgiveness…” She imitates worshipping me, causing the table to laugh all around again.

“This is all too much…excuse I gotta go get some air.  Any more laughing and I'll suffocate!” I say, getting up and walking towards the balcony.

I step outside and take a deep breath, contemplating everything that has happened.  For some reason, I still felt a heavy sadness inside of me that I still grieved over the loss of Shadow and Setzer.  Sometimes I just needed to be alone to gather my thoughts.  My hands shook, mostly because of the cold, but also from the awful experience of that war.

“You mind if I join you?  You look completely stressed all of a sudden Locke.” Terra comments noticing my hands shaking and my face looking worn out all of a sudden.

“Sure, sure.  I just don't know Terra…I really don't know what to make of all this.  It's great that the other guys and I made it back home, but I still feel so distraught.  I'm still upset over losing Setzer and Shadow.”

“Locke, you're my best friend, and you always will be.  Sabin is my soul mate and Celes is yours, but sometimes we as friends should just talk about things we can't discuss with our spouses.  We've been through our share of troubles Locke…you with Rachel and everything leading up to it, and I found my mother only several months ago, after twenty years.  God certainly gave us rewarding lives for all of our suffering.  You have Celes, who I know you love always and her feelings are mutual, and I have Sabin and my mama.  Celes never was physically hurt the way you were, and Sabin never really was hurt the way I was.  We have our battle scars Locke, and we have to remember that they're relics of all the bad times we've conquered.”

“You're definitely right Terra.  I just wonder…I really wonder…was it their time to go?  Did Setzer and Shadow really have to die then and there?  It woulda been nice if they could come home as heroes, and Shadow or Clyde could've seen his grandchild.  It's a tragedy I tell ya.”

“Tiger…you and I both know the kind of man Shadow really was.  We knew he had a dark hidden past despite his cold nature.  Might I remind you, he also volunteered to stay in Narshe while you all flew away.  If I were in his shoes, I might have done the same thing.”

“You always seem to be that voice of reason Terra, that voice of comfort…”

“Well…like you, I've had my share of heartbreak, depression, stress, and pain.  The good Lord just decides we've gone through enough, so now here we are, and though we were once together tiger, we've found our matches.”

“Sometimes I regret ever leaving you Terra…”

“Hey…if you didn't, would you have ever met Sabin, Gau, Relm, or especially Celes?”

“Touché Terra…touché.  Guess you gotta weigh the good with the bad.  I certainly learned a lot from this war.  I learned about how much I actually had, how lucky I was to be fighting with great and noble men, and how fortunate God smiled upon me to survive this.  You seriously woulda made a helluva soldier Terra.  I mean you can fight as well as anyone here.”

“Well thanks tiger…I think I'd be a good sergeant.  If I had that opportunity to fight with you and the fellas, and even if Celes and Katarin joined up, I'd take it in a heartbeat, and I'd fight wherever you guys went.”

“You've never backed down from anything Terra…kinda like me at times.”

“Brrrrr.  It's starting to get a little cold tiger, let's say we get inside ok?  We had a nice talk didn't we?”

“You're right Terra, as always.  I do feel a little better thank you.  You are the best friend I ever had, both of us going through all those hard times, and I'll never deny how good of friends we are.”

Terra walks up and gives me a little peck on the lips.  “The feeling's mutual tiger.  Let's go inside…we'll stay for another hour or two and then leave…how does that sound?”

“Sounds like a plan to me Terra.”

We walk back into the ballroom, out of the light snow and cold but gentle breeze.  The gang's still there, talking and laughing amongst themselves.

“Is everything ok Locke?” My wife asks me.

“Yes…in fact everything's more than fine.  I feel much better now.  Terra just came in and talked with me.  We had a nice conversation, just about the party and such.”

“She certainly is the conversationalist person she is.” Madonna says.

“I see, well I'm glad you feel a little better.  Say, you wanna go for another swing big guy?”

“Do I?  Of course I do!” I jump to my feet, yanking Celes out of the chair, and get back right into the dance floor.  I needed another burst of fun and excitement to take my mind off things again, and with my wife it's double the blessing.

We danced for another 45 minutes to an hour, and then we were both winded.  There weren't any slow songs, so we had to jive and cut a rug for that whole time…and it was practically exhausting, more than all that running around I did in the Army.  Celes and I went back over to the table and decided just to have some little chatter with the rest of the group.  The minutes just seem to fly by as we trade our stories, jokes, and personal thoughts back and forth to each other.  By the time it was all over, I look at my watch, and notice it's now 12 midnight.

“Oh good Lord!  Look at the time!” I say aloud.

“Jeez…he is right.  We gotta be headin' soon Edgar, it's about an hour drive back to Mobliz, so by the time we get there it'll be real late, especially for the sitters!” Duane adds.

“I understand ladies and gents.  Sabin, Duane, Locke, I'm grateful you came, and I hope you enjoyed yourselves.  I'm gonna wrap this thing up in about another hour.  Erika and I are getting pretty tired too.”

“Yes quite, I'm rather tired myself.  I think the master sergeant and I retire in our respective rooms in the hotel.  What do you say Bixby?” Banon asks.

“I'm one for it.  I had a smashing time, and I particularly enjoyed dancing with the lovely Mrs. Branford, Madonna Branford right?”

“Yes…and thank you very much.  You make me feel so flattered.” She blushes from the compliment.  “You danced very well…much better than Capt. Banon.”

“I beg your pardon madam?” Banon asks only to arouse the laughter of the table.  “I see, I see, I guess the master sergeant has outclassed me this time…but just wait until next time ladies and gents.  Now we must bit you adieu and good night.  I was grand seeing you all again, and men, thank you for everything.”

“Take care men…maybe we'll visit you chaps in England!” Sabin yells.

“Maybe lads…maybe…good night!” MSG Bixby yells back.

“Well I think it's time we hit the hay too.  Edgar, Erika, it's been a blast.  Thank you again.” I say.

“No Locke…thank you and Celes for coming, it was our pleasure throwing this party for you all.”

“One last toast gentlemen…” Duane cuts in, holding his glace of champagne.  “To Capt. Arrowny and Setzer, our personal heroes who are now with God.  May they be in our hearts forever, and may they rest in peace.”

“HERE HERE!” We clack our drinks again and sip as part of our tribute to them.

Sabin sighs for a second.  “Well then…how about we get ourselves goin'?  Edgar, it's been great, so you have yourself a good night with Erika ok?”

“I think that can be arranged Sabin…” Erika replies, wrapping her arms around Edgar, whose face lights up.

“Well in that case, Erika and I have…some…urgent business…to attend to!  You know…governor stuff!”

“Right…” Terra says, noticing the Figaro couple staring at each other deeply.

“I'll see you all later!”

“BYE EDGAR AND ERIKA!” We yell in almost complete unison.

With that, Edgar sweeps Erika off her feet and walks off out the door in quite the hurry.  I had a pretty good idea what they were gonna be up to.  With that, we all get up and walk out.  I must admit it was a helluva night of drinking, dancing, and a little romancing on the side.  The Figaro skylights were still on, making the city look light a bright, snow white, urban paradise.

“It's so pretty isn't it Locke?  Now you know why I love the snow so much…”

“You definitely have a point Snowflake.”

We got in the car after the valet brought it to us and sped off, back to home, to Mobliz.  The sad part was that it took so long to get from Figaro to Mobliz.  Celes nodded off to sleep while I drove.  I glanced at her and smiled at how peaceful she looked.  Terra was right that Celes is indeed my soul mate, a perfect godsend to me.  Thank God I had Terra as a best friend.

“I love you more than you'll ever know Celes…” I whisper as we pull into the town gate, driving slowly and surely to our humble abode.  Katarin and Duane drove off to their house, while Terra, Sabin, and Madonna parked right into their driveway.

Celes wakes up…yawning quite deeply.  “Uhhhnnn…how long did I sleep honey?”

“You slept for about 45 minutes …you slept like a baby.”

I stepped out of the car and walked over to the other side, just to pick Celes up.

“Awww Locke, you don't have to.”

“I insist angel…you taught me how to waltz…so this is a little payback.”

“Isn't that the sweetest thing ya ever did see Sabin honey pie?” Terra jests in a fake Southern drawl.  Sabin and Madonna just chuckle from it all holding Terra by the hand as they walk onto their porch.  “Good night you two.  Sabin, mama and I are just gonna hit the sac, and besides,” she says glancing to Sabin while Madonna walks in, “I still have my own 'personal' reward to give to my soldier boy!”

“What are we waiting for then?” Sabin picks up Terra just like Edgar did with Erika and rushes right into the house, Terra giggling all the way to the front door.

“Good night Figaros…” I said.  “Now Snowflake, let's say you and I get some shuteye huh?”

“I'm all for it honeybunch…”

After the babysitter went home, it was just Celes and I still up.  Our little darling children were sound asleep, and the house was quiet.  We washed ourselves up and got ready for bed.  My uniform and other belongings still remained in the open closet, even the record I kept for Celes and for some reason I couldn't help but stare at my uniform while Celes was in the bathroom.  

“You know Snowflake…this year…was one of the most memorable.  I'm so glad it's over with and I'm back with you and the kids.  I just still feel so terrible about Setzer and Capt. Arrowny…I felt I could've done something to save them.”

“Honey…you can't change the past, otherwise everything would be much different.  I know you feel bad, but you can't beat yourself over their deaths.  They did what they did for the welfare of everyone, including you and me.”

“Hmmmm…you're probably right Snowflake.  Thank God I've got you honeybunch.  To be perfectly honest, you were the biggest reason for me to fight.  It wasn't the nation or for Europe.  I know it sounds selfish, but to see your face again and to be with my friends again, back home and to simplicity, it just makes all that selfish guilt null and void.”

“Locke…you and I are two peas in a pod.  We love, we cry, we fight for our loved ones, we laugh, we yell, we drink, we do everything as one Locke.  You came into my life like you were a messenger from God, and you always tell me that I'm the same.  Don't feel bad that you fought for me and the kids.  I think there were many a soldier who fought for their wives and their kids.”

“You always have the right thing to say Celes…you are indeed celestial like I said you were those years ago.”

“Locke…you're the greatest thing to ever happen to this little singer.” She walks out of the bathroom, wearing a silken white cloth.  She looked so beautiful…so pure.  “How about I sing you a song honeybunch?”

“I'd love that very much Snowflake…I've always loved your singing.” I open my ears wide for another aria from my wonderfully voiced wife.

“Nous nous aimions bien tendrement.  Comme s'aiment tous les amants.  Et puis un jour, tu m'as quittée.  Depuis je suis desesperee.” Oh my God…it was that French song from Narshe.

“Celes…you found my record…”

“You bet I did Locke…thank you so much, I love the song.”  She continues to sing, “Je te vois partout dans le ciel.  Je te vois partout sur la terra.  Tu es ma joie et mon soleil, ma nuit, mes jours, mes aubes claires.”

Her voice was so captivating.  My own Celes, singing the song that made me think of her all the time when I heard it, was incredible.  She could beat the pants off that Edith Piaf woman.

“Tu es partout car tu es par mon cœur.  Tu es partout car tu es mon bonheur.  Toutes les choses qui sont autour de moi.  Même la vie ne représente que toi.  Des fois je rêve que je suis dans tes bras.  Et qu'a l'oreille tu me parles tout bas.” She crawls closer and closer to me on out soft, warm bed.  “Tu dis les choses qui font fermer mes yeux.” My head in curtained by her soft delicate blonde hair.  She faces me with her eyes closed as I reach up to her face and kiss her.

“I love you so much Celes…you are my world…” I whisper into her ear.

“Et moi…je trouve ça merveilleux…” She draws her angelic face closer to mine.  “I love you Locke…you are my world…” She turns off the light as we reach for the most passionate kiss this night had to offer.  I won't go into detail of what's gonna happen now, but let's just say I'm gonna receive the greatest reward in the world, something no medal could ever outdo.


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