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One Last Fling

Fandom: Final Fantasy XII
Title: One Last Fling
Author/Artist: iceprincessd
Theme(s): #30 aesthesiogen
Pairing/Characters: Balthier/Ashe
Rating: G
Disclaimer/claimer: Balthier and Ashe do not belong to me. Property of Square Enix. A reference later on probably needs me to say that I don’t have any rights to Han Solo either. Damn.
Summary: “I think I might enjoy being on the right side of the law for once.”
Note: And that makes 30. Balthier/Ashe claim complete.

The week after the return of her ring, Ashe jumped at shadows. Any noise she heard, she was certain that it was him coming back to her. At first, she had been furious with him. He’d been alive for an entire year without saying anything. After the initial anger had worn off, she thought about it rationally. Yes, he might have flirted with her on the course of their travels, but then again, that was just part of his personality. He had also flirted with Penelo – who had blushed and giggled – and with Fran – who had either ignored him completely or simply rolled her eyes – so she really couldn’t say that she was certain he had ever been interested in her at all in the first place.

She couldn’t say the same for how she felt about him. True, he had at first seemed cold-hearted, but eventually she realized that he had her best interests at heart. He kept to himself, preferring Fran’s company over the rest of their group, but he was also one of the first to toss out a potion or administer first aid to anyone that needed it. Not to mention that he was pleasant to look at. He wasn’t what she would consider her own personal type, but he was incredibly handsome.

She didn’t know how or when it had happened, but she soon realized that she was falling in love with him. And now she couldn’t stop thinking about the sky pirate. The smooth rumble of a passenger airship on the way to the aerodrome had her eyes flicking skyward, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Strahl. From what Penelo had told her, while in Rabanastre to return her possession, Balthier and Fran had reclaimed theirs. Vaan had been put out, especially since he had finally gotten the pilot seat adjusted to his tastes.

Wandering the marketplaces amongst her people proved no easier on her either. A vendor selling clothing carried a shirt almost identical in style as his, making her remember the way the material had stretched over his shoulders. Another stall sold cologne that had the exact same spicy notes that had assaulted her senses while they had traveled together.

Ashe bought both.

Two weeks after the return of her ring, she stopped hoping that he’d materialize out of thin air. To do what, she didn’t know. She didn’t need a rescuer, and she definitely didn’t have a need for a lover. She was so busy that she often fell asleep before her head even hit the pillow each night. She didn’t have time for a private life and she guessed that Balthier wouldn’t have liked the idea of playing second fiddle to her responsibilities.

Three months after the return of her ring, Ashe tried not to think of him. Obviously, she really hadn’t meant anything to him and he had moved eon. Now she had to try to do the same.

She should have known better than to leave her balcony doors open during the wet season, but it was rare to get a cool breeze. She was woken up from a sound sleep when she felt the bed dip behind her. She didn’t even have time to alert her guards before a hand closed over her mouth. The cool press of rings against her lips and the feel of a bracelet at her neck was familiar.

“Really, your security seems to be rather lax,” Balthier drawled, his voice low.

Ashe turned and sat up, the sheets pooling to her waist.

“Lovely gown,” he commented, touching the cuffs to one of the sleeves she had rolled up her arm. “It seems familiar somehow.”

She blushed; somewhat embarrassed that he had caught her sleeping in one of the shirts that had reminded her of him. “Why are you here?” she asked. “Aside from making comments on my sleepwear, that is.”

He shrugged, making himself comfortable next to her. “Does the idea that I merely wanted to see you sound so strange?”

“You could have come to visit any number of times during the past three months. And in broad daylight as well.”

He stacked his hands behind his head and stared at her. “Now what’s the fun in that? And for your information, Fran and I have been quite busy lately.”

“Doing illegal activities, no less.” She sighed and settled down beside him. The warmth he was radiating sank into her skin and she fought to move any closer than she already was. “And if so, I don’t want to hear about them.”

“But I think you might want to. See, my business involves you.”

“How so?”

“One last fling before settling down.” He turned to his side and leaned on an elbow.

“Oh?” She tried to keep her voice casual as she sat up, mirroring his position. “You found someone that you’d choose over piracy?”

“Well, maybe not all of it. Just the sneaking around and being wanted by a number of headhunters parts. I think I might like being on the straight and narrow for once.”

She couldn’t contain her snort of disbelief. “It won’t last.”

“And what makes you say that?”

“You’re going to miss the thrill of it all. One of these days, you’ll probably resent this woman you’re giving all of that away for.” She tried, she really did, but she couldn’t keep the bitterness out of her voice. It was odd, how she could feel so jealous of some woman she didn’t even know that had succeeded in winning Balthier’s heart.

He reached out and wound a strand of her hair around his finger. “I don’t think I will.” He let the strand go, watching as it curled back in place near her ear. “She’s worth it.”

“So, is she pretty?”

“Very. If I was poetic, I’d say she was beautiful beyond compare.”

“Then it’s a good thing you’re not poetic.”

He smirked. “I’ve always been better with actions than words.” He wiggled his eyebrows for emphasis; his voice taking on a flirtatious lilt like it had so often done in the past.

She sat up and crossed her arms. “And the reason you’re here is because you wanted that last adventure?” She tilted her chin. “Breaking into a woman’s bedroom is a little boring, Balthier.”

“Not when said bedroom belongs to a queen.”

Ashe’s eyes narrowed. “I will not be made into a conquest or a trophy.”

He leaned back. “I’d never do such a thing.” The teasing tone was completely gone and he looked back at her honestly.

She hated it, but she could feel tears burning at the backs of her eyes. “Then why? Why are you here?”

He leaned forward again. “Like I said earlier, I wanted to see you.” For the first time since she had known him, Ashe felt as if he was struggling for words. “And I may be fluent in Archadian law, but Dalmascan regulations are slightly foreign to me.”

“Again, something you could have asked three months ago.”

He grimaced. “I would have, but you see, I had someone on my case. Fran and I had been hired to smuggle some goods out by a certain shady businessman, and along the route we were boarded by Imperials, so naturally we had to jettison anything illegal…” he stopped himself before he rambled. “Needless to say, we owed a lot of money to this person. So much that he was threatening to have me flash frozen and put up on a wall as a decoration.”

“And by the look of things, you managed to pay him off.”

“Yes. It took a very long time, but I succeeded in erasing every single debt to my name.”

She frowned. “But why did you feel the need to do that before coming to see me?”

Balthier leaned closer to her so that his nose brushed her cheek. She couldn’t help the shiver the move produced. “So I could inquire as to the proper way of going about courting royalty. I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t anything else standing in my way.”

She froze, his words sinking into her brain. She tilted her head back and looked at him. He wasn’t cocky or sure of himself now, but genuinely looked as if he were afraid of what she might tell him. “And what makes you think that any royalty would have anything to do with your proposal?”

He swallowed. “I had hoped…” He paused and seemed to regain his confidence when he realized that she was beaming at him. “Well, if she wasn’t, then I’d have to do my best to persuade her otherwise. I can be rather charming, you know.”

She laughed, then impulsively tilted her head towards him and pressed her lips against his. Balthier’s hand came up to frame her face, his fingers sliding though her hair until he was cupping the back of her head. “I’d never let you give up being who you are,” she whispered, brushing her lips over his cheek.

“As I said earlier, you’re worth it.” His hand moved to her waist and he tugged her closer to him. “Though I might have to raid certain treasuries every now and again, just to get the urge out of my system.”

She rolled her eyes, but smiled against his lips when he rolled her under him and kissed her like she had always wanted him to.

Three months and one day after the return of her ring, Ashe realized that waking to the sight of sleep-tousled hair on the pillow next to her and the feel of Balthier’s hand at her hip was far better than anything she could have imagined.

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