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Clean Slates

Title: Clean Slates
Author: iceprincessd
Rating: G
Prompt: Quote (#9 “It’s funny the way people love the dead. Once you’re dead, you’re made for life.” - Jimi Hendrix)
Characters/Pairing: Basch, Balthier/Ashe
Warnings: post-game
Summary: Word of the prodigal Bunansa’s second return slowly filtered through Archades.
Author's Note: And this makes ten. Basch claim complete.

Word of the prodigal Bunansa’s second return slowly filtered through Archades. When it finally reached Gabranth’s ears, he gave no outward sign that he had been disturbed by the news or that it was even worth looking into. If he had removed his helmet though, people would have stepped back from the murderous glint in his eye.

Late that night, long after the midnight bells had tolled, Basch crept towards the Aerodrome where the Strahl had been reported to be docked.

“He’s waiting for you,” Fran said casually as she opened the cargo bay doors. “And you’re early.” The Viera had her customary saunter as they walked inside the ship, but Basch noticed she limped and favored a leg.

“Expecting me in the dead of night then?”

Fran raised an elegantly shaped eyebrow as the corner of her mouth quirked upwards. “Something like that.” She gestured towards the closed cabin door. “Don’t rush to conclusions so quickly. I’d hate to lose my pilot.”

“Defending him?”

Fran shrugged. “Only doing what I know he’d do for me if our roles were reversed. Good night. It was good to see you again.” With that, she turned to her own cabin and quietly closed the door behind her.

Basch turned the handle on Balthier’s door and pushed it open. A year and a half hadn’t changed much; the cabin was still sparsely furnished for functionality’s sake though everything inside was geared towards Balthier’s love of creature comforts.

“What, no armor?” Balthier asked, his body partially hidden in shadow from where he lay on his bed.

“Civilian clothes are better for stealth,” Basch replied, crossing his arms in front of him. “So, you are alive.”

Balthier stacked his hands behind his head. “Not exactly. Ffamran is alive. Balthier is still very much dead at the moment.” He took one of his hands from behind his head and waved it dismissively. “Though not for very much longer. Ffamran is such a stuffy sounding name; I’ve wondered just what my mother was thinking when she gave it to me. I’ve always disliked it.”

“It’s funny the way people love the dead,” Basch growled, recalling letters from Dalmasca. Ashe may not have ever told him outright what her feelings had been for the sky pirate, but he had long since learned to interpret everything that she didn’t say to truly understand her. She might have been completely busy with trying to regain her throne, but she had quietly mourned the man that she believed dead.

“Yes, but once you’re dead, you’re made for life.” There was a flash of white in the gloom, Balthier’s trademark grin in place. “Bahamut acted as a clean slate for me; all the warrants for my arrest have now been declared defunct. When I make my grand re-entrance into the land of the living, the retraction of said warrants will be legally binding. No one will have anything on me any longer.”

Basch clenched his fists. “That’s what you’re waiting for? Some documents saying you’re wanted for crimes to expire?”

“Well, there is a lot of red tape to go though. You lawmaking types can’t make anything simple.”

He cleared the room in several quick strides. “Ashe has thought you dead for over a year. Have you no common decency to let her know that you are indeed alive? Does she matter at all to you?” Basch’s hands grabbed Balthier by the shoulders, dragging the younger man up out of the shadows and into the light.

“Can you see why I haven’t said anything to her now?” Balthier asked, his eyes narrowing. The entire right side of his face was marred with scars that ran from his hairline down to his jaw. Some were fading to white while others were still a livid red. One bisected his eyebrow and stopped just at his cheek, going down over the eye itself. “Explosion at the very end,” he explained. “It took nearly a year full of potions and spells to regain sight in that eye and months afterward for Fran to finally walk without pain. Whatever you may think of me, I wasn’t about to leave her just so I could ride off into the sunset with my lady.”

“You could have given her a sign that you were alive.”

“She has her ring back, does she not?”

Basch exhaled and stepped away. “And the something more valuable?”

Balthier adjusted the cuffs of his sleeves. “Do you think that her advisors would allow someone with a record to court their queen? When my name is cleared for good, I’ll go to her.” He looked down and for a brief moment Basch thought he saw doubt cloud his face. “If she’ll still have me, that is.”

“If you think her shallow enough that she’ll shun you for a few marks on your face, then obviously you know nothing of her.”

Balthier rolled his eyes. “I’m not worried about that. The fact that I haven’t seen her for over a year bothers me.”

Basch looked at him again. He might be aloof to a fault, but it was clear that he cared for Ashe. “She hasn’t written about any suitors lately, if that is what you’re concerned about.”

Balthier visibly relaxed. “Well, then that’s a weight off my shoulders. I would hate to tell the competition to back off.” He looked at Basch. “And what do you say of this? You are her protector, after all.”

“Her Majesty released me from those bonds. I serve the Empire.”

“You may say the words, but we both know where your loyalties lie; oaths or no.”

Basch sighed. “You are a good man, Balthier, present disappearance notwithstanding.” He leaned forward, his expression serious. “Though if you give her more cause for grief, I will do worse than kill you.”

Balthier swallowed. “That would be an abuse of power, Your Honor.”

Basch shrugged. “It’s what, as you say, us lawmaking types live for.” He turned to leave the room. “Dalmasca is a several hour flight from here. I suggest you work on a very eloquent apology for your absence.”

“Duly noted.”

“And a word of caution: Ashe tends to strike out when she’s angry. She has a strong right hook.”

Balthier’s laugh echoed down the hall after Basch. “Thanks for the warning,” he faintly heard as he exited the Strahl. He briefly thought about writing a note to inform Ashe of her pirate’s return, but thought better of it. He decided to let her find out on her own.

Besides, he had a pardon to persuade Larsa to grant.

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