It's been a year, and all she gets is a cold band of well-worn metal. She is, at first, relieved, and allows herself a smile.

And then she's livid.

She was expecting something more. More than a note (addressed to Vaan, no less), and more than a silver band. She wants flesh, words, eyes, touch, tangible confirmation of the hope she has been cultivating (though progressively withering) for the past year. She needs an encounter; she wants to feel the soft flesh of her palm strike the offending, insufferable cheek, to hear the cuff resound, and then she will feel some semblance of comfort.

Time passes. Summer fades into autumn, and gardens wither; the rose with it. Autumn bleeds into winter, and as the leaves fall, Penelo visits her. She has always enjoyed the youth's vibrant presence.

"Isn't it funny?" The dancer remarks one day as the two of them lounge about, watching the leaves fall. "Everything that goes up eventually has to come down." She gives the Queen a cheeky grin, and Ashe isn't sure if leaves are the topic of conversation anymore.

The words stay with Ashe through winter. Spring arrives, and she comes to the conclusion that all she needs to do is wait. She has practiced patience often enough to partake in its art. She waits, because she knows clouds don't exist forever; eventually, they dissipate, as the rose wilts.

Dalmasca ages. She still hears about him, and his travels; but news of him and his adventures grows less and less with time. She wonders if he's slowing down.

She's in her room one night, looking over propositions of some nature or the other (she rubs her tired eyes, bleary from exertion), and distinctly hears someone come in. And it's the moment she's been waiting for; her palm tingles in anticipation, her heart flutters. She turns, and bites down a cry of disappointment when the tall stature of Fran enters the room.

She gets over her despair, and greets the Viera she hasn't seen in who knows how long, sincerely grateful the older woman is still alive. Before Ashe can even ask, Fran tells her exactly what she needs to hear: "Each chapter in life ultimately reaches its conclusion; and a new one begins to take its place. I have been called back to the ground. Patience, for just a bit longer."

Ashe heeds the sage words, and waits. Seasons pass, blent together, and spring comes again. Things begin to grow; the wet season is approaching.

"Everything that goes up eventually has to come down."

"Patience, for just a bit longer."

She's lost the once-stolen wedding band; after its return, she never bothered adorning it again.

On a whim, she decides to "lose" her other wedding band, still ornamenting her hand. She makes her way to the terrace of her room, admiring the blue of the sky, not yet pasted with pearly clouds bearing next season's rain. She looks to the sky, and smiles.

Gently prying the other ring off her hand, she tosses it over the balcony, watching it shimmer on its way down, twinkling out of sight.

She looks to the sky, and watches for clouds.

AN: And that's all folks. I wanted to add more to this...but my heart's just not it in. I've been dabbling in other fandoms, and looking back on this - well, it's a decent start, but I'd like to mature from this, not be tied to it forever. So, anyway, yeah. I'll still be writing for FF12, but just not in this story. Thank you all for reading and enjoying!