Warnings/spoilers: For end of game
Terra finds her standing alone at cliff's edge, watching waves crash and recede on the rocks below. It's empty out there, the kind of glassy distance that soaks up light and gives back only salt and the muted thunder of surf, and if Terra tries, she can squint her eyes against the sun and imagine she's looking elsewhere.
The knight on the cliffside turns, her cloak rippling, and light glances off battered armor, catches in tangled hair. She holds out a hand, draws Terra closer. Celes.
"Listen," Celes says. "If I learned anything from the Empire back then, it's that you don't have to – We don't have to just –"
Terra shakes her head once sharply, feels the seawind tugging at her ponytail, the fringes of her sleeves. They're both right up close to the edge now, close enough to look over and see scraggly tree roots poking out into open air, and the ground beneath her feet doesn't feel quite as stable as she knows it should be. She isn't looking back, not now, but somewhere behind them there's a tower that shouldn't be real and is, cutting down into the bones of this world and slicing at the sky, and Celes has never been one for denying the truth.
"Yes, she says, “we do."
Celes brushes a finger along the bandana looped through her belt, absently, tracing patterns in the fabric. It's salt-stained, faded, worn ragged by weather and bloodstained from too many battles. Terra has never seen her without it.
She knows what it means, too, that talisman. Old promises. Proof that not everything has to die. But sometimes – She remembers the beat of fiery wings and the rush of furnace-hot wind, and older still, the weight of a pendant around her neck, and knows that sometimes things do.
Not yet, she thinks, and winter hums through her, carrying everything winter brings. A gust of wind, a hint of rain. There's an emotion trapped in the hollows of her bones and behind her ribcage that she doesn't know the name of, or if she does, whether or not it's the right one.
She has heard stories of love, after all, worn bright with ribbons, burning clean as lantern-flame. Terra has never felt anything like that. Does not know that she can. The fire that burns in her is a different sort, and every time she thinks of the others – of her friends – there's a thread drawn tight inside her chest, pulling her taut as a bent bow. It isn't love, she knows. It isn't kinship, it isn't anything like tenderness. But she would rend this world to pieces to keep them safe, and that frightens her more than she can say.
And Celes –
Celes steadies her, holds her loosely with one arm around her shoulders, palm pressed against the curve of her spine. The sun is setting, turning sea and sky to fire, darkness waiting. They watch the waves together.