Prompt: events (#4 anniversary)
Characters/Pairing: Basch, slight Balthier/Ashe, Ashe + Basch
Summary: If only the price of victory wasn’t so high.
He celebrated small milestones in his new life quietly. The first week as Gabranth was spent memorizing the Imperial palace’s layout, complete with hidden tunnels and secret panels connecting rooms together. That first week and well into the next month, Basch would push the panel in his room to find Larsa curled up in Drace’s bed, one of her spare gauntlets cradled protectively against his chest. He never heard the boy cry, but he would often see the tracks where tears dried over his cheeks.
The second month as Gabranth was celebrated by successfully maneuvering through the crowded city streets without having to stop and consult the detailed map he had mentally created. He rewarded himself by buying a pint of cool pale ale at the tavern. He even remembered to use the special entrance that only higher-ups on the social ladder knew of. The last time he had entered by the common way, people stared and whispered behind his back.
The fifth month as Gabranth was noted when his informants and others that worked under him stopped looking at the other before following whatever order he had just given. Later on, one of them confessed that they were glad he was feeling more like himself; they had worried that he had fallen ill. Jokingly, they said that Gabranth must have been sick if he had acted as if he had forgotten trivial things that he had done every day for the past twenty years. Basch did not comment.
The first year as Gabranth was spent in Dalmasca. Larsa was visiting Ashe on the anniversary of the peace treaty signing. It was strange, staring at familiar places through as still unfamiliar guise. It wasn’t until Ashe greeted him as Judge Magister that he really understood what had troubled him all day though. The formal tone she used and the way she treated him like the stranger he was supposed to be cut something deep in his soul.
Late that night, tired of staring at the ceiling of the lavish guest room he had been put up in, Basch wandered aimlessly until he found himself standing inside the garrison, his feet automatically taking him to the training grounds he had spent so much of his time in for years.
“I thought I might find you here.”
Basch turned his head to see Ashe standing in the shadows. “I couldn’t sleep,” he confessed.
“Neither could I.” Her eyes went past the walls to where Bahamut lay. “A whole year.”
She didn’t need to say anything else. He understood what she meant. A whole year of peace, of meetings, of triumphs large and small. It also meant a year of quietly mourning those that were not with them any longer. In Ashe’s case, that meant a certain sky pirate. There had been a search, but no bodies had ever been found.
And like her, there wasn’t a body to visit for him either. His brother’s ashes had been scattered over Landis, where Basch was certain he would have wanted to be laid to rest. Larsa had insisted that all but a handful be taken there, the remainder blown into the Archadian winds where Noah had made his second life.
Ashe looked up at him and he was reminded of the little girl in pigtails who had run after her brothers, then later on as the young woman who he had taught to use a sword. “We have lost much,” he finally told her, looking around at what had once been his home that was now forever labeled as a destination to briefly visit. “Yet that is the price we must pay for our victories.”
She came up to him then, surprising him when she wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her head against his chest. “There are times I wish the price hadn’t been so high.”
He stroked his hand from the crown of her head to her back, just like he had done so many times when she had been a child and she had come to him with a skinned knee or a nightmare. “As do I.” His arms tightened around her and he rested the cheek against her hair. “As do I.”