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Title: Grievance
Rating: PG
Words: 1,613
Pairing: Balthier/Ashe
Summary: Balthier has a special talent for expressing his displeasure at certain climates

Ashe closed her eyes and inhaled the sweet scent of the desert as it mingled with the Nebra River. The weather was cooperating with them today, cool breezes making the dry heat she was so accustomed to bearable to everyone in their party.

She sighed. Well, almost everyone. Ever since they had gone on the lengthy quest to gather ingredients for a healing potion, Balthier had proven that his desert specialty was the uncanny knack to groan and complain about almost everything in sight. If it wasn’t the heat, then it was the fiends. And if he wasn’t complaining about the fiends, then he was complaining about their marching order or the sun or who knew what else. After the first hour, Ashe had tuned him out and taken the lead.

Now that the afternoon was starting to give way to evening, the rest of her companions had decided to entertain themselves in various ways. Fran was deep in conversation with several of the village elders; apparently she had known one when he had been in his prime, which made Ashe wonder exactly how old Fran was. Yet unlike Vaan, she merely speculated the Viera’s age amongst herself.

Several splashes and whooping laughs had her turning her head. Vaan and Penelo had engaged two of the village’s children in a swimming match that had dissolved into a huge splash fight near the pier where the ferry leading to the northern bank of the river was docked. She smiled, watching as Penelo jumped behind Vaan and dunked his head under, making him sputter as he came up and the children shriek in glee at his expression. Nearby, Basch was floating on his back, content to stare up at the blue sky overhead and slowly stroke his arms at his sides. Every so often he would flip to his side and swim further away from the chaos, but the current would eventually make him drift back where he started from. Ashe couldn’t help the sigh of appreciation at the sight of bare skin and the way that his hair clung wetly to his neck.

She wasn’t the only one either; at last count, four women ranging in age from twenty to sixty had been enjoying the view as well. The oldest had wiggled her eyebrows scandalously and commented that had she been thirty years younger, the things she could have done to him. Ashe’s eyes had widened and she quickly made her way towards the shade to hide her burning face. The other three women hadn’t noticed, they were still too busy either giggling or adding in their own ideas.

“Coming in out of the sun?” someone asked, making Ashe jump. Balthier was sitting quietly on the bank, his trousers rolled up his calves and his bare feet in the water. Somewhere along the way, he had lost his vest and his shirt was currently in his hands. “I don’t blame you, too damned hot.”

“I take it that the Estersand doesn’t agree with you.”

He snorted. “I daresay that’s an understatement. I’ve got sand in places where no sand was ever meant to be.” He dunked his shirt into the water and scrubbed at the collar. “Sweat stains ruining good fabric, not like we’ll get a chance to stop and buy replacements any time soon…”

Ashe kicked off her shoes and sat next to him. “Oh, can’t you stop for more than a moment and actually enjoy your surroundings?”

Balthier’s eyebrow rose. “Forgive me, your Highness, if my misfortunes are ruining your day. I’d take my complaints and go elsewhere, but I do believe that I was here first.” He set his shirt on a nearby rock and leaned back on his hands. “I forget how much you love it here.” The last was said quietly and without sarcasm.

The biting retort of how she never commented about how nauseous air turbulence made her when on his precious airship died on her lips. “I do,” she said, her tone echoing his. She drew her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms around her legs. “Have you ever been away from your home for so long that you miss it so badly that it physically hurts?”

He looked at her for a moment before turning his head back towards the river. Ashe felt that after spending so much time in the sky pirate’s presence that she had become well versed in reading his expressions. At the moment, it looked as if he was about to say something important but then thought better of it at the last minute. “No.” Under the blasé tone, Ashe clearly heard his lie. He leaned further back so that he was reclining on his elbows, his feet still in the water. “With the Strahl, anywhere can be my home. I grow bored of one place, I fly to another. It’s as simple as that.”

“It sounds incredibly lonely, not having anywhere that grounds you.”

He shrugged. “I have Fran; it’s never lonely.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

Balthier looked at her. “I know.” Then as soon as Ashe felt as if she was making progress with him, he withdrew into himself and put his charming mask back in place. “At least the desert agrees with you, Princess. You’ve earned a few new sun freckles.” He sat up and reached out, the back of his index finger brushing across the high portion of her cheek and over the bridge of her nose.

She blushed. “I’ve always hated them,” she quietly confessed.

“Why? They’re better than burning, which is all that I’ve done since starting this blasted trip. I still don’t see why regular potions and cure spells weren’t good enough for that wretched woman’s ailing patient. No, we have to go out and risk life and limb for a few ingredients without so much as a thank you from either.”

Ashe rolled her eyes and got up, leaving Balthier in mid-rant. Heading back to the home one of the villagers had let them use while they waited for the traveler to recover, she rummaged through her bag until she found the small metal tin that she was looking for. Walking back to where she left Balthier, she was grateful to hear that he had run out of steam and was back to silently staring at the water.

“Thought you’d gotten tired of my complaints again,” he quipped.

“Oh no, please continue. I love hearing about how miserable you are,” she teased back. Kneeling beside him, she unscrewed the lid of the tin and dipped two fingers into the greenish gel the tin contained.

“What is that?”

She shrugged. “A little of this, a little of that. It’s meant to soothe the skin after burns, but it was originally meant as a balm for sun damage.” She didn’t tell him that it was mostly made out of mashed up bits of cactite, thinking that he wouldn’t be too terribly keen on using it if he knew.

Then again, maybe he would, seeing that he had been a victim to a particularly vicious needle attack a day ago. To his credit, the desert surely hadn’t been the kindest to him, which somewhat justified his many complaints.

Balthier sat up. The tops of his shoulders had been hot and itchy for the past three days. It seemed that even though he wore a shirt that covered up the majority of his skin, the sun’s rays still penetrated the light material enough to cause damage. He’d seen Vaan sigh in relief after applying the same gel to burns caused by fire spells in Bhujerba, so he trusted Ashe’s claim that it would relieve his sunburn.

“It might be cold,” she warned, her fingers following the same path on his face that he had taken on hers. Her eyes softened in sympathy at the reddened skin on his nose. Her fingers rasped over stubble that must have been too painful to shave on his chin.

“It feels a bit better,” he murmured, watching as she dipped her fingers into the tin again.

She smiled. “I told you it would.” Without thinking, she swept her fingers over his shoulders, noting how the skin there had already started to peel. “You’re going to get your own sun freckles here before long.”

“Pity they won’t look as lovely as yours.” That’s when she paused and realized just how close she had gotten to him. Her palm tingled where she had placed it on his chest to balance herself, his skin underneath her hand pleasantly warm. She’d never seen him shirtless before, and the sight of muscles she logically knew were under the fabric but hadn’t ever seen made her heart beat just a little faster. Her breath caught as she felt his hand trace over her cheek again, this time lingering and cupping her jaw.

Ashe never truly appreciated how dark his eyes were before.

It was when she felt Balthier’s breath against her lips that she came back to herself. Sitting back on her heels, she pushed herself away before she did something foolish, like allow him to kiss her. “Just reapply this as often as needed,” she told him, placing the tin in his hands and ignoring the brush of his fingers on hers at the transfer. Standing up, she decided that listening to salacious comments made by little old ladies towards certain knights out of earshot was a far safer way to spend the evening.

“Ashe?” She turned at the sound of Balthier’s voice.


He grinned up at her. “Perhaps I was too quick to judge. The desert may be nice after all.”


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 9th, 2008 04:40 pm (UTC)
Freckles! Sweet and sexy. I loved their earnest confessions, and the growing sexual awareness of each other.

But what I'd give to be one of those women watching Basch in the water; the way you wrote it...*fans self* My imagination's too strong :P
Jul. 9th, 2008 10:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

Hee, so Basch looks at the shoreline and wonders just what every female is looking at with binoculars and why they brought out the lawn chairs.
Jul. 9th, 2008 05:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is great! XD I love the way that everyone in the fandom paints Balthier as being just MISERABLE in the desert ... it's seems to be so very him. And I'm impressed that you managed to make rubbing the gel on his sunburn seem sexy. LOL I mean, we all know how miserable that those bitches can be. I know I'm always cranky when I have one. ;) But nice work! I love it.

And now. Um, can we discuss the Basch-issue? Because yum. OMFG I want to be one of the people standing there and drooling. YES PLZ. SKINNY DIP, CAPTAIN!

Ahem. ;)
Jul. 9th, 2008 11:16 pm (UTC)
Poor Balthier, he just doesn't do well in hot weather. Plus, cranky!balthier is so fun to write.

TALK ABOUT THE BASCH ISSUE! and to hell with just standing there, I'd be IN THE RIVER. and then I could say that I was a proud owner of a Dalmascan restraining order for trying to pull the good Captain's pants off, damn wet material being so hard to get off...

There is a sad lack of skinny dipping in his life, along with happytimes. This must be fixed. *nods*
Jul. 10th, 2008 12:09 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah, my ass DEFINITELY would've been in the water. There would have been NOOOO stopping me, are you kidding? BASCH IS IN THE WATER. WET. HALF-NAKED.
Jul. 9th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
Hurray!!!!! Very very sexy, with appreciation for the hotness of both Basch AND Balthier! Cranky Balthier is so much fun to write :)
Jul. 9th, 2008 11:28 pm (UTC)
cranky!Balthier is so SO much fun to write :)
Apr. 30th, 2011 06:29 pm (UTC)
Yes please. Half-naked Basch and Balthier FTW. Hehe.
Wonderful interactions between Ashe and Balthier. It is incredibly tender the way you write them
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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