?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Ivalice's Classified Section

Written a few days ago for andromeda3116 because she is made of win and awesome for pointing me in the direction of this pairing.

Title: Ivalice’s classified section
Rating: G
Characters: Balthier/Ashe
Words: 5,291

“That was the last of them,” Penelo said sadly, tucking the last empty potions vial back into her sack. She slumped wearily against a nearby wall and sighed.

Ashe ran a hand through her hair, wincing when her fingers hit a snarl. “Well, at least we’re in Balfonheim. We’ll be able to purchase more shortly.”

“With what money?” Balthier asked cynically. “We seem to have quite a shortage of funds at the moment.”

“How much do we have anyway?” Vaan wondered, pulling his money bag out from his belt loop. He opened the leather pouch and pulled out two pieces. “This is all I have.”

“Ten here,” Penelo added.

“I used the last of mine to purchase remedies in Arcades,” Basch said. He held out a few fragments of bone and what looked to be bat fangs. “I do have these though; we might be able to sell them for a reasonable price.”

“If we pool everything together, that only leaves us with thirty pieces of gil and whatever we can get for those at market,” Ashe told them, putting the money together in her bag. “What about you two?”

Fran shook her head. “I gave my money to Balthier.”

Balthier held his hands out. “Don’t look at me, Princess. There are docking fees to pay and replacement parts that do not come cheaply.”

“Don’t you have emergency funds or anything on the Strahl?”

“Those were my emergency funds. This little adventure of ours has scraped the last of my wallet clean.” He folded his arms across his chest. “I’m sorry to say this, but we’re destitute.”

“There’s no sense lingering over that fact,” Basch told them, stepping away from the wall he had been leaning against. “The question now is what do we do to solve this problem?”

“He’s right,” Ashe agreed. “What we have isn’t even enough to purchase a single potion with, let alone anything else.” She glanced at the rest of her party and noted how sorely they were in need of upgraded equipment. While what they had might be suitable for weaker enemies, the further along they went, the stronger the fiends became. Penelo in particular was in dire need of better protection; fiends all but sensed that she was the most vulnerable in the group and almost always oriented on her first in their attacks. Basch had also seen this pattern and tried his best to act as a decoy, luring the monsters towards him while Penelo worked her magicks at a safe distance. In doing so, Basch would require a better shield soon; the one he currently had was deeply gouged and battered.

Shields were not cheap.

Balthier, though he hadn’t complained, was in need of more gunpowder. He had recently switched from shooting enemies at a distance to attacking up close with a dagger he must have always carried with him that Ashe just never noticed before. While his proficiency with the blade was deadly, he looked as if he would have been more comfortable with a firearm of some sort. Her hand brushed the hilt of her sword. She had tried to become more familiar with other weapons along their journey, but nothing quite felt the same as the feel of her sword in her hand. He must feel the same with his gun.

“We could always go out and try to kill something,” Vaan suggested. “Bandercoeurl pelts sell well.”

“And just where are we going to find them?” Penelo asked, frowning. “The last time we tried going into the Cerobi Steppe, we almost got ourselves killed. The fiends are too strong for us there.”

“We could fly somewhere else.”

“I’d rather not do throw away the gil that I just spent to dock the Strahl here,” Balthier put in. “Even if she were ready for flight, which she isn’t I might add, we wouldn’t have enough gil to pay for docking anywhere else.” He cracked his knuckles and spread his arms wide. “Fortunately, luck is on our side. This is Balfonheim, place of opportunity. There are merchants aplenty looking for help; I’m sure someone will take us in.”

“We can stay aboard the Strahl,” Fran stated. “There is two months’ supply of rations in storage, so we will not have to worry about the price of inns.”

Basch stared out at the water along the quay. “The ships have come in for the day,” he noted. “Perhaps one of them will have a need for an extra crew member.”

“I’ll go with you!” Vaan said excitedly. “It’s not an airship, but I’m sure there’s bound to be pirates on it, right?”

Basch raised his scarred eyebrow. “I’m sure you’re right, but I was thinking of more honest work. Not all pirates are decent like Balthier and Fran.” He looked out to the water again. “It’s a fishing vessel.”

Vaan looked slightly dejected. “Oh.” Then he brightened up again. “I’ll go with you anyway. A ship’s a ship, after all.”

“Are you going to be all right?” Basch asked Ashe, concerned.

“We’ll be fine,” she assured him. He gave her a funny look as if to say that wasn’t what he meant, but thought better of saying anything. Instead, he and Vaan went off down towards the docks, the younger boy taking the lead.

“I’m going to check out the weapons shop,” Penelo said. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll give their employees discounts.”

Balthier adjusted the cuffs of his sleeves. “Well, now that we have that settled, shall we be off?” He gave Fran a conspiratorial look that she returned with a quirk of a finely arched eyebrow and indifferent shrug.

“We will need funds,” she said simply before walking away, leaving Ashe alone with Balthier.

“What did she mean by that?”

He shrugged. “Just reciting the first rule of business. One must spend money in order to earn money.” He looked pointedly at the bag in her hands.

Her fingers automatically tightened on the material. “But it is all we have!” What if they needed it for something? What if they could come to an agreement with someone?

As if reading her mind, he harrumphed. “Thirty pieces of gil won’t buy anything we need in this city, you said so yourself. If you haven’t noticed,” he leaned closer to her and pitched his voice low so that they wouldn’t be overheard. “This place is filled with pirates. I wouldn’t trust anyone further than I could throw them.”

“But you’re a pirate,” she argued.

“True, I am. Our dear captain was correct though; not many here are like Fran and I. We just happen to be the rare, honorable types.” He held out his hand. “Do you trust me, Ashe?”

She chewed on her bottom lip, looking from Balthier to the bag, then back to Balthier. The coins inside the wallet made a pathetic jingling noise as she placed it in his palm. “I hope that I have not misplaced my trust,” she said stiffly, handing over the bone fragments and bat fang as well.

He lifted his hand to his forehead as if he were tipping an imaginary hat to her. “Don’t worry; moments like these were created for one purpose.”

“And what would that be?”

He grinned down at her. “Why, for the leading man to shine, what else?” After securing the money bag inside his vest, he stuck his hands into his pockets and whistled a jaunty tune. He gave her a wink as he walked away, a jump in his step that she’d never seen before. It put her off balance and made her wonder what exactly he was planning on doing, especially when she watched him disappear into the Whitecap.

“I just hope you know what you’re doing,” she whispered, turning on her heel and heading back to the marketplace to find her own employment.

Wandering the crowded streets alone was a new experience. Even with the anonymity of the Resistance there had always been two or more people with her at all times or else Vossler had accompanied her wherever she went. Old habits had her looking over her shoulder, checking every now and again if there might be someone in the crowd that recognized her. No one stared back.

She came to a stop in front of the combined weapons and armor shop, looking in to see that Penelo, a canvas apron tied about her waist and a notepad in her hand, was already helping customers decide what they would like to buy. Ashe smiled at the “Are you sure you want to buy that? The extra protection the other suit can give you is priceless, don’t you think?” Ashe was certain that the other suit was probably twice the amount the customer had expected to pay as well. Crossing her fingers, she hoped the girl was working on commission.

Odo’s Techniks was Ashe’s first choice. The open feel of the market made her uneasy; here there was an actual building. “I already have an apprentice,” Odo told her when she inquired about any job openings. He jerked a thumb towards a young man of about twenty or twenty-two: tall and stick thin with a messy mop of brown hair hanging into his eyes. The man noticed her at the counter and his pale face quickly went red as he tried to concentrate on his job.

“Surely you need another helping hand,” she protested, watching as the man tried to balance a stack of books in his hands that was wobbling precariously. She winced as he lost control of the top three books, sending everything crashing to the floor. As he tried to catch the books, he managed to bump into a nearby bookcase. Ashe held her breath and couldn’t do anything to stop the case from bumping into another case before sending that bookcase crashing against the wall like a set of dominoes, books scattering everywhere.

Odo blinked at the sudden chaos. “When can you start?”

Later that evening over dinner in the space opposite the tiny galley kitchen on the Strahl, everyone had something to say.

“I’m getting paid twenty gil a day. I know it isn’t much, but I do get a thirty percent cut into whatever piece I sell.” Penelo chewed on an apple thoughtfully. “I’ve been pushing more expensive items for the extra gil.” She sat up straighter before jumping up off the bench bolted to the wall. “That reminds me!” She ran out of the living area and was heard shuffling some things down by the holding bay.

“What are you doing?” Vaan asked, curious.

Penelo came back slightly breathless; the tops of her cheeks faintly pink. “I got this for you,” she said to Basch, her voice suddenly sounding shy.

Basch slipped his forearm through the finely tooled leather straps of the Kaiser shield and held it in front of him. Ashe noted that it covered more of his body than his old one had. The piece looked to be expensive; she wondered how many items Penelo had to sell in order to afford it and still have a little gil left over to add into their new savings.

“You have my thanks,” he told her, giving her a rarely seen smile. Even Ashe had to admit he looked like a different man when he smiled; his face was much more open and approachable. You need to do that more often, she silently told him.

Penelo dug the toe of her shoe against the metal floor of the ship. “I’ve wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done,” she added in a rush, her cheeks growing pinker by the second. Ashe hid her smile behind her cup as she looked on. Basch had no idea that the girl had a sort of crush on him. Then again, Basch hadn’t known that she herself had once developed a crush on him either. She had been ten at the time and her undying affection for him had lasted until she had turned thirteen. At twenty-seven, he had been all her girlish daydreams and fancies personified. She remembered being horribly upset when word came drifting down of him courting a merchant’s daughter. She suddenly wondered what had become of the woman, but thought better of asking him in case the question unknowingly opened up old wounds that were best left alone.

“It looks like Penelo has a gift for commerce,” Ashe said.

Penelo ducked her head modestly. “I just paid attention to everything Migelo said to his customers,” she looked at Vaan. “Unlike some people I know.”

Vaan stuck his tongue out at her. “Hey, I got a job today too!” he argued in his defense.

“Yes,” Basch put in. “We managed to find someone looking for hands. The captain will pay us each seven hundred gil a day for our labor. It will be interesting, working aboard a ship; I’ve never done such work before.”

“We sorted fish for more than an hour,” Vaan said dejectedly.

Basch’s lips quirked upwards in a ghost of a smile. “Apparently the promise of money isn’t enough to offset the lack of adventure.”

“We didn’t even get to go on the deck,” Vaan complained, playing with the rind of cheese in front of him.

“What of you?” Basch asked.

Ashe thought about her afternoon. She had helped Odo and Tobias – his apprentice’s name; she later learned – right all the bookcases and then spent the remainder of the time meticulously shelving each book. Tobias had spent the entire afternoon apologizing for making such a mess and doing a fair impersonation of a tomato. The way that he had tried not to stare at her legs was a clear indication that the latter was all her fault. She glanced down at her skirt. Perhaps she should have picked something longer to wear instead.

As they were closing, Tobias had gone to the back room, stammering something about checking on the surplus inventory. Moments later, a muted crash and cry of “oh dear” was heard. Odo had winced and pinched the bridge of his nose with his forefinger and thumb.

“It was…interesting,” she replied. “I’ve been promised a five hundred gil wage per day.” She figured Odo had offered the amount as hazard pay, even though he swore that Tobias wasn’t usually as accident prone.

“Has anyone seen Fran or Balthier?” Penelo asked. The two pirates had yet to show up and it was already dark outside the aerodrome.

Ashe shook her head. “Not since this afternoon. I don’t know where Fran went, but Balthier had gone straight to the Whitecap.”

“The Whitecap? Why would he go there?” Ashe merely shrugged at Vaan’s question, not knowing what Balthier was thinking.

“I’m sure he has a plan.”

Much later that evening, Ashe stood near the loading bay doors and looked out. Fran had come in an hour ago, though she hadn’t said anything past exchanging a few pleasantries with Ashe before going to her bunk and quietly closing the door behind her. Tiny, trilling snores echoed from a small alcove outside the engine room. Curiosity got the better of her and she found Nono and the other moogles fast asleep, each curled up on an individual hammock that stretched from one wall to another, each hammock stacked on top of one another to form a sort of suspended bunk. Nono’s green one swayed as he kicked out in his sleep, his foot hitting another moogle’s puff ball below him. Ashe had tiptoed past, not wanting to disturb them.

More quiet snores echoed from the Strahl’s cockpit. Vaan had fallen asleep sitting up in one of the leather passenger seats. His head had fallen back off the headrest, his neck at an awkward angle and his breath gurgling in the back of his throat. Ashe was certain he would feel the effects of sleeping in such a position in the morning. Penelo had been more sensible, choosing to curl up on the floor between the narrow aisle the seats made. She had dragged her pack along as well, using it as a pillow. Ashe bent down and pulled the blanket higher on her shoulders. She might have gone for comfort, but the metal floor was still bound to get cold.

If her eyes hadn’t been adjusted to the dim glow the ship’s auxiliary lighting gave off, she would have completely missed Basch. The man had situated himself in the corner closest to the door. Like Vaan, he had chosen to sleep sitting up, his still-sheathed sword leaning against his shoulder should he need it, his arms creating a loose circle around the weapon. His head was tilted back, the wall’s corner supporting his neck. He looked peaceful for once, the furrowed eyebrows and fitful expression that usually came over him in sleep gone. She was glad; he deserved a respite from wrestling with whatever fiends decided to visit his dreams on a near nightly basis.

His hair had fallen into his eyes. She let him be, even though her fingers itched to brush the offending strands away. Knowing what a light sleeper he was, she was certain that he would wake.

Leaving the cockpit, she contemplated the padded bench they had eaten their meal on. It was narrow, but by no means the most uncomfortable place had she ever slept at. Though I’ve slept in far better ones too, she added, thinking back on feathered mattresses and silky sheets. Experiencing such luxuries seemed a lifetime ago. She curled up and dragged her blanket over her. The leather she was on was soft to the touch and radiated much of her body warmth at least.

Her eyes were starting to drift closed when she heard the faint pneumatic hiss of the loading bay doors opening. Her hand tightened on the dagger she had borrowed from Penelo – she had decided to leave her own gear in the ship while she worked, yet she refused to go about unarmed.

“Oh, it’s you,” she whispered, watching as Balthier stumbled into the kitchen. He swayed and grasped the countertop to prevent himself from falling. Ashe was off the bench and at his side faster than it had taken her to realize she had moved in the first place. Serious injuries of all sorts flashed through her mind, especially with the way that he hadn’t said anything to her yet. “Are you –” Concern quickly vanished when he turned his head to the side to face her, his breath hot against her cheek.

“You’re drunk,” she hissed, eyes narrowing.

“Only momentarily,” he slurred, using the counter as a brace as he journeyed the short distance to the cold storage box, his gait the careful, measured steps of a drunkard.

Pale white light bathed Ashe’s angry face as she watched him mix something from a blue flask with a liberal pinch of violet powder he took from another jar. He wrinkled his nose and drank the concoction down, grimacing the entire time.

“Well?” Ashe asked, her voice tight. “Are you better?”

Balthier closed the door, leaving them in the dark save for the low yellowish glow of the lighting that lined the walls and floor. “Nothing to be done about my present condition,” he said, leaning against the counter. “Save let it take its course. That was for tomorrow morning.”

“And the money I gave you?” Silence answered her. She was disappointed, not only in Balthier, but in herself for trusting him. That in turn made her angry, which was the only reasonable explanation she had to give for reaching out and slapping him.

Her palm never came in contact with his face though. Balthier loosely held her wrist in his hand, catching her even in his inebriated state. “Don’t,” he warned, his voice low. “It’s part of my plan.”

She wrenched her arm out of his grasp. “I do not like your plan,” she told him.

“And I don’t remember asking for your favor,” he drawled, stepping around her to lie down on the bench. He stacked his hands behind his head and propped one of his knees up. “I merely asked you to trust me.”

“And look where that has left me. What if we hadn’t found jobs? What if that was all the money we had to rely on?”

“But you did and it isn’t.” He yawned, not bothering to cover his mouth. “It’s late. I need to sleep, as do you.”

She jammed her fists against her hips. “And where am I supposed to sleep? That had been my place before you got there.”

He cracked open an eyelid. “Where else? Take my cabin.”

She stiffened. “I am not taking your bed.”

“Don’t be foolish,” he muttered. “I wouldn’t be much of a gentleman if I didn’t offer. Unless you prefer the floor.”

“Very well.” She turned on her heel and was leaving when she heard him call back to her. “What?”

Metallic clinks rang out in the darkness. “I didn’t lose all of it,” he said quietly. “I just wanted you to know that.”

She didn’t answer him as she left, but she felt the resentment slip down a fraction of a notch at the feel of a soft mattress under her and the slide of finely woven sheets over her skin.

Angry as she was, she had to admit that Balthier liked his creature comforts. She buried her head against the pillow and let the lingering scents of sandalwood and spices lull her to sleep.

The next day held a certain pattern: Ashe would speak to Tobias and then have to help clean a mess. Odo had finally asked Tobias to spend the remainder of the day in the back rooms copying technicks onto sellable scrolls.

“He’s a good lad, that one is,” Odo told her as she swept up glass from a broken lantern. “He’s just more comfortable with books instead of people.”

The plus side was that her pocket was five hundred gil heavier. Penelo had come back with a new cloak for herself and a shirt of fine mail for Vaan. She added another hundred to their steadily growing cache of money.

Basch handed over his and Vaan’s daily wages, his face ashen. “What’s wrong?” Penelo asked.

“He’s looked like that all day,” Vaan said. “We got to go to sea! It was fun, even though the ship went up and down and up and down and…” He smirked evilly as Basch’s face went from paper white to an odd green.

Basch ran down the corridor and hurled himself into the Strahl’s privy.

Ashe didn’t bother to stay up that night. She said her goodnights and then went straight to Balthier’s room. He did offer, and she only assumed that he meant for the offer to stand until they had earned enough money to leave. The day’s events finally took their toll on her and she was asleep within seconds.

It seemed as if she was only asleep for moments when she felt the mattress dip behind her. Her eyes flew open and she gripped the dagger she slept with in her hands. “Just me,” Balthier murmured. Ashe noted that at least his voice wasn’t as slurred as it had been the other night.

“Yes?” She tried to turn but he was sitting on the blankets, his weight pinning them, and consequently her, in place.

“Just dropping something off.” He yawned and bent to place something in the top drawer of the dresser nearby. He sat there for a while, his head nodding. Ashe was dozing off again when she felt his weight shift on the bed and his head hit the pillow next to hers. Before she could protest, she heard his deep and even breath near her ear.

“You reek of smoke,” she muttered, scooting over so she was nearly touching the nearby wall. What should have smelled distasteful to her wound up being oddly comforting, especially as the tobacco smoke mingled in with the spicy notes of the aftershave Balthier habitually used. “Just keep your hands to yourself,” she added, pulling the blanket over her shoulder.

He was gone by the time she woke up the next morning. Fran was sitting on the dining bench, tying something to Basch’s wrists.

“These should keep the sickness at bay,” she was saying. She gave him a rueful smile. “I relied on them until I was used to having the sky beneath my feet; I’m sure they’ll work for water as well.”

“Anything to avoid a repeat of yesterday,” he replied, flexing his wrists. “If he had laughed but once more, I might have boxed the boy’s ears properly.”

She laughed quietly. “Patience.”

He sighed. “A man only has so much.” He gave a slight grin. “He means well, but he can be a little too boisterous at times.” Basch nodded his head at Ashe for a greeting before leaving the ship and catching up to Vaan.

“You are angry with Balthier,” Fran said.

Ashe chewed her lip. “I just wish he would tell me what he’s doing.” She looked up at the Viera. “What are the two of you doing every day?”

“Watching and waiting. Everything will turn out as it should.”

“Thirty gil must stretch out further in drink than I had expected.”

“Three hundred gil, actually. We sold the items at market.” Fran brushed a few strands of hair out of her face. “There should be plenty for another day or two, if he uses it wisely.”

“Do you trust him, Fran?”

There was no hesitation. “With my life, as he trusts me with his.”

“I wish I could trust him, I really do.”

“Certain situations require you to leap blindly.”

Ashe rose from the bench and made her way towards the exit. “Sometimes I’m afraid of heights.”

She woke up in the middle of the night, her hand tightly holding Balthier’s sleeve and her head against his shoulder. She tried to move away, but his hand came up and held hers where it was.

“Go back to sleep,” he sleepily murmured, his eyes still closed. She stared at his face in the dark for a long while before finally following his advice.

She was in the middle of restocking Revive scrolls when she turned and bumped into someone. She was in mid-apology when she saw that she had bumped into Balthier.

“Nice apron,” he commented, his eyes going over the plain canvas smock. The hem of it went past her knees. She had finally taken to wearing it after Tobias had nearly dumped a crate onto a potential customer.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, raising her eyebrows. “Shouldn’t you be at the Whitecap?”

“Ah, but I don’t need to any longer.” He handed her his wallet, which clinked heavily against her palm. “Three hundred and thirty pieces of gil, exactly what you had given me to start out.”

“But how?”

He gestured towards the exit. “I’ll be more than happy to inform you on our way to purchase new sundries and armor.” He glanced at Odo. “She can take a break, can’t she?” Odo only shrugged and went back to trying to talk a customer into buying several technicks.

“As I was saying,” Balthier continued as they made their way past the weapons shop in favor of restocking their supplies. “What is the first thing you think of when you see a young man, carefree and guileless, enter an establishment solely patronized by pirates?”

“That he’s going to be eaten alive.”

He grinned. “Exactly.” He pulled out another pouch and carefully counted out money as Ashe took the sack of goods from the vendor. “And when you give said young man alcohol until he can’t even pronounce his own name?”

Something clicked. “Then people think that he’s an easy target to con money out of.”

“You catch on quickly, Princess.” He took the sack from her and easily shouldered it. “Are we lacking any new magicks?” He didn’t wait for her answer, but led her to the elderly woman who was more than happy to sell him several scrolls of powerful black magic skills. He cheerfully handed her the money.

“So that’s how you lost the money,” she said, walking beside him back to the aerodrome where they stashed their new goods inside the Strahl. “But I still don’t understand how you gained it all back and then earned enough to buy all of this.”

“I was getting to that,” he said. “Between acting the part of a naïve Arcadian gent slumming it and getting myself blind drunk that first night, I watched.”

“Watched?”

He nodded. “Everyone, particularly the people that were playing a card game that happens to be quite popular here. It’s one that I’m quite familiar with, though the people I played against thought the exact opposite. Fran sat back and encouraged them to think so, liberally pouring them drinks the entire time every night.”

“You’ve done this before.”

“We have.” He helped her sort out supplies so that everyone carried an equal amount of each item. “I lost in a spectacular fashion the second night, arrogantly betting everything I had, even though it was clear to everyone at the table that I had been dealt a poor hand. I lost, but the people I had chosen to play had taken a liking to me and let me stay at their table, where I was able to see just who cheated and what physical tell everyone there had when they were bluffing.”

“Tell?”

“Everyone has them. You tend to very subtly look away from the person you lie to. That’s when I first realized your name wasn’t Amalia.” He smirked as her cheeks faintly turned pink. “So, now knowing my opponents better, I played along for another evening with the money that I had wisely hidden away earlier. And I lost, just as they thought I would.”

Ashe tucked away the last of the potions into her own pack. “And then today?”

Balthier leaned against the wall. “I decided that it was time to wrap things up. The looks on everyone’s faces when I won the large amount of money was priceless. Personally, I would have done it sooner, but figured that we should build up at least another days’ worth of money with everyone else’s jobs.” He pulled something out from underneath his vest. “Fiends tend to neutralize your abilities,” he told her, holding out a bangle that had a dainty rose pattern worked within the metal. “It was part of the pot; the man who gave it up said it was supposed to dispel Silence spells.”

“Thank you,” she said quietly, fastening it onto her wrist. “Balthier, I’ve been a fool.”

He snorted. “You? When?”

She looked down at the floor. “I should have trusted you instead of doubting your intentions. I apologize.”

Three slow strides were all it took for him to stand in front of her. He gently took her chin in his hand and tilted her face upwards until she was looking at him. “Apology accepted.” His fingers brushed along her jaw line, touching the ends of her hair. She stared at him for the longest time, thinking that he was going to lean down and kiss her. She found herself leaning towards him, almost hoping that he would. Instead, he backed away and went towards the doors.

“Shall we upgrade everyone’s gear? I still have some gil left over.”

Ashe’s daily pay felt heavy in her apron pocket and she knew exactly how she wanted to spend it. They walked towards the weapons shop, where she hoped they carried gunpowder and ammunition.

Latest Month

October 2015
S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Paulina Bozek