This was far too familiar, Locke thought with a shiver.
The others were already gone, climbing back down the towers of Zozo. Locke was alone, and his shock over seeing Terra this way had already worn off. He could see past the pinkish fur, the yellow fangs and claws. He could see her as she was, at that moment - another young woman that he had promised, and failed, to protect. Yes, everything else was different - Rachel had been pale and still and dark-haired and surrounded by a bed of roses, while Terra made strange and bestial growls as she stossed and turned on plain white bedsheets. But the important things were the same.
"I don't want to leave her like this," he said, very softly, not expecting any sort of answer. "We can't just leave her alone."
The new presence in his mind - Ramuh, he had called himself, the Esper who had called Terra here - flared into life, although not in words. He answered in a strong sense of denial, and a powerful urging for him to go, now....
Locke shook his head. I can't just leave her here unprotected, he thought to the new presence in his mind. What would we do if something happened to her? With you gone, who would protect her?
The words came, then, although they flashed like lightning - sharp, fragile, leaving behind only afterimages. The people of this town believe me to be a powerful human. They would not incur my wrath. And even if some foolish soul should enter here, the magic I have left behind will ensure that none but you and yours will be able to approach her.
Locke nodded slowly. He really had no choice but to trust Ramuh. That wasn't making it any easier. She'll be safe here? Until we return?
She will, he asserted. I promised myself I would keep her safe, and for the sake of those I left behind I will keep that promise.
The answer barely answered any of Locke's questions. Who was it that he'd left behind? How could Ramuh be so sure that they would find answers in the Empire? What if they came back empty-handed, or - an even worse thought - what would she do if they didn't come back at all?
There was so much more that Locke wanted to ask, but the words were growing dimmer, their light fading. He truly had no choice, he reminded himself. All right, Locke thought. Thank you for what you've done. I'll take care of the rest.
There were no more words, only a fading sense of relief as the Esper's presence dimmed to a faint crackle in the back of his head, waiting.
He was committed to this now, he thought, looking down at Terra as she slept fitfully on the bed, tossing and turning, her yellow fangs bared as her lips twitched. Ramuh had said that the fear was tearing her apart, the fear of not knowing what - or who - she was. That was something that Locke couldn't imagine ever having to go through.
He took off his jacket and gently laid it over her body, laying the arms down over her shoulders. It was still slightly damp, but he could feel the waves of heat that came from her body in this form; the coolness of it might actually do her good, perhaps. He'd given it to her before, when they'd been trying to escape from Narshe. At first she had said she didn't need it, that she was warm enough without it, but Locke had insisted she wear it to protect her shoulders and arms from the harsh sun and blowing sands as they made their way across the desert. She'd needed it more than he had, he'd said.
She'd taken it, then, and he'd seen her wearing it until they'd reached Banon's hideout. He'd seen her curl up in it at night, looking a bit lost in it, but somehow more at ease, as if it was protecting her from something more than just the sun, a sort of armor against her own worries and fears. It was only when he'd left for South Figaro that she'd given it back to him - for luck, she'd said.
She tossed again, her breathing quick and frantic... but as he watched it started to slow, and he saw her reach out, wrap one arm around the jacket and pull it closer to her face, holding it like a child would hold a favorite blanket. "There you go," he said quietly. "You need that more than I do right now."
She didn't respond to his voice, not outwardly. But much of the tension went out of her body as she turned onto her side. She wasn't smiling, but she looked more at peace than before.
"Wait for me, Terra," he said, as he turned to go. "I'll be back. I promise."
She didn't answer, of course. But he liked to believe that her sleep would be a bit more peaceful, now. He had to hope, when he came back, that he'd be able to help her. He would do whatever it took, but he would protect her, even from her own fears.
The others were waiting for him as he jumped back down the side of the tower, picking his steps carefully in the rain. He was drenched in short order - his jacket was good for weather like this, and he was wearing nothing but a leather vest that did very little to stave off the rain, and a cotton under-tunic that was soaked in almost no time at all. He would be glad, he thought as he shivered, to be out of this horrible rain.
Edgar, Celes and Cyan were waiting for him below the towers. "Are you okay, Locke?" Edgar asked him as he approached, and if he suspected exactly why his friend had shed his favorite jacket before climbing in the rain, he kept it to himself. Cyan, too, greeted Locke's appearance with little more than a raised eyebrow.
"I'm fine," he answered. It was mostly the truth. "Just something I had to do." He could see Celes giving him a strange look, out of the corner of his eye, and pointedly looked away.
Edgar nodded. "Sabin and Gau have left for Narshe. I told them that you'd want to come along to the Empire, so we waited for you."
"Yeah. Thanks." He nodded. "Come on, let's get out of here."
He'd come back to her, he reassured himself as they trudged through the outskirts of the towers. He'd promised her that, after all, and he was going to keep that promise. He had broken promises before, and he wasn't going to make the same mistake twice.