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Bedside Manners

Written 10/31/07.

Title: Bedside Manners
Rating: PG
Character/Pairing: Balthier + Ashe, blink and you miss it one-sided Penelo -> Basch
Words: 1,943
Summary: “Balthier makes for a poor patient when he’s hurt badly.”
Note: Written in the wee hours of the morning as an “Oh *squee*, there’s only one more day till NaNo!” warm-up to see if I could meet the 1,667 daily word count goal I’m going to be setting for myself in a reasonable amount of time. Grumpy!Balthier is a reflection on myself, seeing that when I’m not feeling 100%, I’m not the most pleasant person to be around with either.

“Will you sit still? You’re not making this any easier!” Ashe frowned as the bloody arm she was trying to tend to skirted out of her reach again.

“I’ll sit still when you go away! Where the hell did you learn first aid, Sadism 101? Where’s Fran?” Normally one with a high threshold of pain, Balthier’s limit had been reached under the tender mercies of Ashe. It seemed the princess was trying her very best to wring every ounce of pain she possibly could out of cleaning his injury. “Damned vipers…”

Ashe huffed and fought the urge to throw the cloth she held into his face. “Fran is tending to Basch, who is hurt much worse than you are and not putting up as much of a fuss.” They had encountered several Zaghnals on the Ozmone Plain and of course the creatures had to hunt in packs. Basch, with his better armor, had tried to put himself between them and Penelo, who had wound up taking several nasty hits before the knight could protect her. The girl was currently worrying her bottom lip and frantically mopping up blood from the gashes that cut across Basch’s chest while ignoring her own injuries, which Vaan was applying their meager supply of potions to. Fran had gently tugged Basch’s vest off and was quietly correcting any mispronunciations Penelo might have slipped as she chanted the more advanced healing spells she was still learning, adding her own to speed up the process.

“He’s not putting up a fuss because he’s unconscious.” Balthier hissed and grit his teeth. He wouldn’t have gotten hurt at all if he hadn’t wasted the last of his ammunition on a renegade black chocobo a mile back, forcing him to resort to hand to hand combat instead. The viper had appeared out of nowhere and would have attacked Ashe, but he had pushed her away and pulled out the dagger he always kept close at hand. His blade had gone through the viper’s skull, just like he thought it would, but the angle of attack was all wrong and his forearm wound up getting sliced by the snake’s fangs as it jerked back in agony. The cut was neat, but deep, almost scoring bone. By the ugly purple striations that marked his arm and the way that the scenery seemed to double and turn at a dizzying speed, he surmised that he had been poisoned as well.

The warm tingle that went up and down his arm proved that Ashe had at least stopped using more painful tactics of healing and had gotten down to spell casting, which he had to admit she was wonderfully, blessedly good at. He was still glaring at nearly three princesses and fought the urge to puke on at least one of their shoes, but the pain in his arm had lessened. Thank goodness for small favors, he thought, his vision going gray at the edges. Before everything went black, his thoughts were on how unfortunate it was that he had ruined one of his favorite shirts.

He very dimly heard Ashe call out his name as he pitched headfirst into her lap.

The next thing he was aware of was blistering hot sun beating down on his face. His eyes felt gritty and heavy, like someone had scooped sand into them before attaching weights to his eyelashes so that he couldn’t blink to clear out the irritating mess. There was a thick metallic taste in the back of his mouth that he wanted desperately to rid himself of.

But his head was pillowed on something soft, so that was nice, at least.

“He was very argumentative,” he heard Ashe say to someone from very close by. A cool hand swept over his forehead, but was gone much too soon. “I’ve never heard him speak like he did.”

From his right, he heard the distinctive tisk that only Fran could make. “Then he must have been in much pain. Balthier makes for a poor patient when he’s hurt badly.” Someone tipped a water skin to his lips, but he couldn’t make the muscles in his throat move to swallow, so the water just trickled out the side of his mouth. “It’s when he starts to curse that I worry most for his health.”

“I didn’t know he had been poisoned. He wouldn’t sit still long enough for me to clear the blood away to check for signs.” Yes, so that was mostly my fault, Balthier agreed silently. And I guess this is the price I have to pay for it.

Fran sighed. “Luckily, we cured it in time. He’ll be unable to move for some time still, but everything looks to be fine now otherwise.”

Deciding that he should put in his own two gil’s worth into the conversation, Balthier managed for an eloquent “Huh.” After much struggling, he even managed to pry one eye open to stare up at his caregivers.

The first thing he noticed was that from his vantage point, he could see all the way up Ashe’s blouse from where it split in the middle. There were faint pink marks where the built-in underwire of her bodice cut into the skin of her ribcage. Perhaps this wasn’t so bad after all.

“You’re awake,” Ashe said, oblivious to his view for now. The metal buckle of her belt hit the side of his head and the tops of her greaves dug into the top of his shoulder, but those were minor inconveniences he was willing to sit through.

“Ungh.” From the corner of his eye, he could see Fran look at him in concern for a split second before biting the inside of her cheek in a move that was nearly invisible save to those who knew her expressions as well as he did. Much experience living alongside her told him she was holding back from laughing at him. He refrained from saying anything else, lest he set her off into a fit of giggling – he’d only heard her do it once before and that had been enough for him – and glared at her with his one good eye instead.

“At least he won’t be able to talk back for a while, though I fear we’ll hear it when he finally does regain control of his muscles.” With that, Fran stood up and walked out of his line of sight.

He closed his eye and groaned. His arm felt as if there were pins and needles running up and down it, like it had fallen asleep and was now trying to wake up. He concentrated and tried to lift it up to inspect the damage, but all he could do was weakly flop his hand at his side, barely lifting his fingers off the ground.

Ashe seemed to understand what he wanted, her fingers going around his wrist. “See? Everything healed up nicely,” she told him. He opened his eyes – at least his other eye was cooperating now – and saw that there was only an angry red slash across his forearm that would eventually either go away or fade into a scar later on.

His sleeve was a loss though. Even rolled up past his elbow, he could see the dried blood stain the white linen a dark reddish brown, making the material stiff and uncomfortable against his skin. He’d have to live with it until they reached a town or at least a wandering merchant, because no amount of rinsing in a nearby stream was going to do the garment any good. Maybe he’d sacrifice style for comfort and cut the sleeve off where the bloodstains started.

Then again, perhaps not. Without the aid of a needle, the dangling threads that would no doubt unravel from such an adjustment would quickly drive him insane.

He found that he could squeeze Ashe’s fingers, which he took to be a good sign towards regaining motor control. “M’sry,” he muttered, looking up at her face.

“For?” She tilted her head and stared down at him. He did the best he could to roll his eyes at her. “Oh yes, for being such a grouch earlier. Honestly Balthier, I’ve seen children behave better than you.” Her tone was teasing, which was rare to hear.

I’m glad you’re finding such humor in my predicament, he told her with his eyes and a quirk of his eyebrow.

“But I am,” she answered, reading his expression perfectly. “Next time, stay still when I tell you to.” She seemed to realize that she was still holding onto his hand and untangled her fingers with his. He closed his eyes again, feeling her absently run her fingers through his hair.

“Thank you,” she said quietly.


Her fingers stilled, the tips of her nails touching the outer shell of his ear. “For pushing me out of the way earlier. I’m sorry that you had to get hurt in the process.”

He managed to move his head slightly and quirk his lips upwards, as if to tell her It was nothing. His eyelids grew heavy again and he fought to stay awake.

“You should sleep,” she told him. “Perhaps when you wake up, you’ll be better.”

It was easier following her orders than Balthier realized. He was drifting off when he heard her whisper “At least you didn’t kick me.”

Indeed, when he woke up later on, he found out that he had regained control of his body. He sat up gingerly, careful not to wake Ashe, who was dozing under the cover of the tree she had been leaning against. He flexed his arm, noting that his forearm was as whole as it had been before the attack. Walking towards the campfire the others had built, he nudged Fran with an elbow.

“Give you an earful, will I?” he asked her, giving her a sideways glance.

She merely lifted a shoulder in an elegant shrug. “You have to admit, you’re not at your most charming when you’re in pain.”

He sighed dramatically. “Even leading men have weak spots. We wouldn’t be the dashing figures we are otherwise.” He turned to look at Basch, who was reclining nearby. “Everything all right?”

The older man turned his head and nodded. “Yes, thanks to our friends.” He still looked a little pale, but otherwise healthy.

“Penelo is learning healing magicks quickly,” Fran said. Balthier noticed Penelo’s cheeks turned a bright pink at the praise and her eyes quickly darted from Basch back to the campfire.

“I'm sorry about your shirt,” Ashe said quietly, surprising Balthier as she sat next to him.

“I thought you were still asleep.” He made room for her and nodded. “Sorry about being difficult.”

“I woke up. Apology accepted.”

“Same here.” Balthier tilted his head and looked at Ashe critically. Something he heard before falling asleep seemed to tickle his curiosity. “Tell me, Princess. When you are injured, do you ever have a tendency to kick anyone?”

Ashe sat up straight and Basch couldn’t hold back a chuckle. “Not only kick, but as a child, she had a habit of biting.” He held up his right hand and pointed to the fleshy part of his palm near his thumb. “I have a scar here from a time I tried to get a splinter from her finger. And then there was the time when she was nine that the doctor nearly had to resort to sitting…”

If it was possible, the cold stare Ashe sent Basch’s way would have extinguished the campfire. Basch trailed off, a mischievous smirk on his face.

Balthier snorted. “And here you were yelling at me to keep still.”

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