It's really not fair of them to spring this on her like this.
There's a good reason she doesn't talk about personal things with them. They'll just do something like this, and she doesn't understand the point. Sure, parties can be fun and a good time can be had by all, but she doesn't want to be in the middle of this, can't stand the fact that they're all clustered around laughing and talking, and Locke is going to pay for this later because he's the only one who could possibly have told them that it's her birthday, and she told him she wasn't going to let him do anything for her birthday.
She catches sight of his pale blonde hair across the room and her eyes narrow. He's been doing a good job of avoiding her so far, but he can't hold out forever. She starts to make her way through the crowd at the pub--and that's a whole other thing, since when does she go to pubs? Once or twice after they saved the world, they'd all gather in South Figaro or Kohlingen and get a few drinks, sure.
But she's still uncomfortable in public places. It's not like everybody is greeting her with open arms now that Kefka's dead. Oh, sure, she helped kill him and stopped the Light of Judgment and she hasn't killed anybody since that night, that one awful night, in Maranda. She's still a butcher and an instrument of tyranny to everyone but the Returners, and frankly, she's not sure that they don't think of her that way too.
"Celes, don't kill him." Sabin saunters up to her and drapes his arm over her shoulder.
"And why not?" She looks up at him, scowling.
"Well..." Sabin shrugs. "It's not really his fault."
"I never told any of you--except him--when my birthday was."
"Well, yeah, but there are other ways." Sabin grins. "He didn't know either, so there's no point in ripping his limbs off."
"There's always a point to that," she mutters, and watches Sabin's eyes widen, and she's forced to laugh. "I'm kidding. Mostly. So how did you find out, then?"
Sabin shuffles his feet a little and looks embarrassed, and laughs faintly. "Um. The records in Vector, the ones that Edgar's been going through?" When she hisses and spins toward the corner where she last saw the King of Figaro charming four girls at once, Sabin's hand descends on her shoulder and holds her back. "Aren't you enjoying yourself even a little?" he asks, looking a little like a puppy hoping for a treat.
She wants to say no, but can't bring herself to throw their kindness back in their faces. After all, they were the only ones that gave her a chance to prove that she could be better than Kefka, more than just Gestahl's Butcher. She earned that name, but it still stings to hear it.
"Yes, I'm enjoying myself," she says finally.
"Then smile, and go dance with Locke." He nudges her in the direction the bar, and she goes.
He turns to face her, smiling but wary when she approaches, unsure of her temper. She smiles a little and orders a glass of white wine. It's sweet and fizzy and tastes like sunlight might if you could drink it. Locke touches her hand and she smiles up at him.
"You're not mad?" he asks.
"Sabin assures me it's not your fault." She leans her head on his shoulder and smiles a little. "So I guess I'm not."
"I didn't know about it." He pauses and considers his ale. "Then again, if I had, I might've helped them out with it anyway. You're gorgeous when you're angry."
She's not sure how to answer that, so she drinks more of her wine, and he laughs. Then the next thing she knows, he's on his knees in front of her, and he's holding out a platinum ring with a square-cut sapphire flanked by diamonds, and the entire pub has gone silent, and he's smiling up at her but he looks really nervous, and...
"Celes, will you marry me?"
And what the hell is this, where did this come from, they were going along perfectly fine and then he springs this, and they haven't even talked about this, and it's totally unexpected, but...
She smiles and promises herself that those tears burning behind her eyes aren't going to fall, because Imperial generals do not cry.
And the ring is heavy on her finger, but it feels so right, and then Locke is kissing her and the world is spinning around her, but she's the happiest she's ever been.
She could get to like birthday surprises, if they all turn out this way.