AN: I had written I Am a Rose, and while writing it, I saw that I couldn't fit in more interaction between Balthier and Ashe without bogging down the original point of that one-shot (which was more in the end – it covered a long period of time). So, this takes place DURING I Am a Rose, after Balthier's and Ashe's original conversation about Al-Cid. It takes place before Phon Coast. I had to add this because it fits nicely, gives them more interaction, and was bugging me. My creative juices are really stirring today. So, yeah, this goes hand-in-hand with I Am a Rose.

Oh, and I do not own FF12.

What's in a (Nick)Name?

He'd called her a rose, and then promptly walked away. Later, she had asked him why. And he looked at her with that unbearable grin of his and walked away. Again. Ashe realized how he had managed to infuriate his bounty hunters so. All he ever did was slip out of one's grasp.

The party had managed to claw their way out of the Golmore Jungle and made their way to the cooler and gentler Ozmone Plain. They used the change of setting to rest up and refresh themselves, and Ashe took the opportunity to ponder the sky pirate's word. She had taken a big step in relating to him the discomfort of Al-Cid's affections for her. She realized, in retrospect, that while she had never actually taken the time to really know Balthier, he was the only one she could have told her anxiety to – after all, Vaan and Penelo were children, and could not possibly understand the apprehension of courtship, and Fran was, well, Fran. Basch maybe would have understood her uneasiness, but his knightly station would have prevented him of relying counsel in regards to the princess' courtship – she scoffed at the thought – to Al-Cid.

Balthier, however, shared her dislike for Al-Cid. Perhaps dislike was too strong a word, for Ashe had only just met the man. Yet there was something about his forwardness the put Ashe off. She walked the lush earth of the plains, and thought idly, I shall have to inquire as to why Balthier has such distaste for Al-Cid. Of course, she figured, he would evade her question, just as he had when she asked him about the rose. He enjoyed being shrouded by mystery, it seemed, for he never offered any information about himself to his comrades.

"Your thoughts are pensive today, Princess," a familiar drawl came from behind her. She started at his sudden appearance, cursing herself for being so unaware, and also cursing him for his ability to always show up when she was off her guard.

"I've many thoughts to dwell on today, pir – Balthier," she corrected, remembering his jest of her never using his name. "Many thoughts, and none of which are pleasant."

He frowned at this. "Now, that will not do. Our princess must be happy. For a happy princess makes a happy party," he grinned, though she was pleased to say it was sincere. She shook her head.

"So much death," she whispered, mostly to herself. Indeed, the past several days had not been pleasant at all, with the murder of the Grand Kiltias and all those refugees… Ashe shuddered, and then felt slightly guilty for pitying her own "problems" of courtship. How dare she, when so many had lost so much?

Balthier noticed her discomfort, and drew closer to her, gently placing a hand on her bare shoulder. The warmth felt nice and she turned her head to gaze at him solemnly. "Do not dwell on that, Princess," his voice soft. She nodded, and content that he had quelled those particular thoughts, continued to say, "And forget Al-Cid Margrace."

She looked away, wondering if she was really that transparent. A whole flood of thoughts clouded her brain, and she knew that she had to ask. "Balthier?" he turned his head to her, giving her his full attention. "Why am I a rose?"

His lips curled gently upward, and instead of answering her, he raised his head to the sky. "Balthier." She continued, sharper than before, intent on receiving her answer, but he continued to smile and stare up at the sky.

"We should head back to the others, Princess." He turned to walk away, letting his hand slide agonizingly slow down her shoulder, sending off a delightful sensation. She turned to him and huffed, before calling out after him the only thing she could think of.

"If I am a rose, then you are a cloud!" He stopped and half-turned back, his head cocked at an angle, and he looked at her curiously. She breathed, collecting her thoughts, before she continued. "You are a cloud. All fluff and no substance. You shift your shape at every angle. You are never constant – just a vapor floating along in the sky." He turned to her fully at that point, and smiled widely.

"Oh, really? A cloud, hmm? Well, I congratulate you, Princess. That nickname is quite appropriate." He paused, considering his next words carefully with a smirk on his face. "Then again, most nicknames are. Now, let's be off, shall we, rose?"

She cursed that damn pirate under her breath as she stomped after him back to camp.

AN: So, I had a whole bunch of little ideas for these one-shots directly after posting my original story, and because I like I Am a Rose as a stand alone so much, I decided I was not going to add on to the story, but rather post my little drabbles as accompanying pieces, that can or cannot stand alone. So, in this "story" (which is really a collection of one-shots that happen to accompany IAAM) I'm going more in-depth than I originally went with my first story. So, you can expect more drabbles to be posted in this story.

Reviews are enjoyed and appreciated!