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Title: Untitled
Rating: G
Characters: Balthier/Ashe
Words: 1,022
Warnings: Fluff?
Summary: "I'm not the one turning thirty next week."

Hands scrabbled for purchase as boot covered toes found tiny ledges to hang on to. Why the architecture in this area of Rabanastre had to be so ornate - and therefore not particularly well suited for scaling - and why sleeping quarters had to be placed so infuriatingly high off the ground was beyond the climber’s realm of comprehension.

They were in the middle of hoisting themselves up over the balcony when the click of a door sounded. A click of another sort was heard soon after - the sound of a hammer being disengaged from a firearm, rendering the weapon harmless. The climber froze and looked up. Caught.

“Well, if this isn’t quite the role reversal,” Balthier drawled, holding out a hand. Ashe took it and let him pull her up the final foot of her destination.

“It wouldn’t have been necessary if you had merely come when I sent word for you earlier,” she huffed, trying to catch her breath.

“I could have, but then I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of seeing you here, now would I?” Balthier looked down, eying the distance between the balcony and the ground. “Though I would have thought you’d use the normal way of coming in. There is a door.”

She shrugged. “Maybe I wanted to surprise you.”

“And perhaps you wanted to risk falling and breaking your neck.”

She brushed past him as she went inside his rooms. “Nothing that drastic.” She had been queen for almost eleven years. Eleven peaceful, nearly strife-free years, if you didn’t count the small disputes that flared up every now and again but were just as quickly resolved. It wasn’t that she wanted something to happen, but she caught herself longing for something adventurous.

He didn’t answer as he went inside after her, closing the glass door behind him. Placing his pistol on the side table closest to his bed, he watched as she sank into one of the chairs nearby. “So what have I done to deserve your company tonight?”

She looked him over, from his mussed, damp hair all the way to his bare feet. It was late; he had probably been preparing for bed. The top three buttons of his shirt were undone, the tail hanging partially out of his waistband and the sleeves rolled up over his forearms. “Since when have you had to do something in order to spend time with me?” She stood up and handed him an envelope. “I wanted to give you your birthday present.”

“My birthday was four months ago. Unlimited access to the royal aerodrome?” His eyes squinted slightly as he stared at the parchment, just as he always did when he read something without the aid of the reading glasses he normally kept on him at all times.

“You were away four months ago. And it’s not for the aerodrome; it’s to the workshop. You mentioned a while back that you wanted some pricey modifications for the Strahl?”

He bridged the space between them and lowered his mouth to hers, his hands framing her face. “Thank you,” he told her, his fingers sliding down her arms and playing with the ties on her sleeves. “Though you didn’t have to go through so much trouble; you in a bow would have done nicely as well.” The look he gave her nearly curled her toes in her shoes.

She ran her lips over his chin, nipping his skin when she reached his jaw. “Perhaps that can still be arranged.”

He grinned. “And perhaps I can return the favor. I’m not the one that’s going to be turning thirty next week.”

She laughed. “No, you passed that age two years ago, if memory serves me correctly.”

“I’m also not the one the people are throwing a weeklong celebration for. I didn’t even get a single parade.”

She fought the urge to roll her eyes, but lost. “Consider yourself lucky then. You don’t have to deal with dress fittings, catering consultations, invitations and whatever else my chancellor throws at me on a daily basis on top of my usual duties.” She sat back down and wagged a finger in his direction. “Don’t dare laugh or I’ll proclaim your birthday, no the entire month, to be an official festival in your honor. Then I’ll leave you to the mercy of the harpy that disguises herself as my events coordinator to plan each and every fun-filled day by yourself.”

He rubbed his chin. “Hm. Balthier Day has a nice ring to it.” He sat in the chair opposite of her, stretching his legs out in front of him until his foot hit hers. “Look on the bright side, you only turn thirty once. The next big milestone won’t be for another decade, giving you plenty of time to recover from this one.”

“Or dread the next.” She sighed and rubbed her forehead with her hand. Balthier noticed the dark rings under her eyes and the bone-tired way she held herself that had nothing to do with her recent climb.

“You need a break,” he said suddenly.

“That’s why I’m here,” she told him.

“I thought it was because you missed being in charming company.”

“That too.” She sat up straight in her chair and leaned towards him, her palms on her knees. “Let’s go away.”

“Away?” He arched an eyebrow.

“I don’t want to be here next week. Trade discussions and everything even remotely resembling official business have been shut down until the celebrations are over.”

“And Dalmasca can run itself in the interim?”

“Yes!” She stood up and took hold of his hands, pulling him to his feet. “Don’t tell me you’ve lost your sense of adventure in your old age.” Her eyes sparkled with challenge.

“I merely want to avoid having a bounty slapped on my head for kidnapping royalty.”

She smiled. “I’ll pardon you.” Grabbing two fistfuls of his shirt, she stood on tiptoe and kissed him again. “As you said, I only turn thirty once. What do you say?”

His hands flexed on her hips and he smirked against her mouth. “Where would you like to go?”

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February 2019


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