Tired of her dreary and boring life as queen, Ashe decides to take a day off. Wanting some fun, she heads out into the streets of Rabanastre, but only in disguise so she doesn't give herself away. But an all too familiar face sees past this, and the two are stuck with one another for the rest of the day, only for feelings to arise that they never knew existed.
Hey there all, this is a story about my favorite FF XII couple, Vaan x Ashe. This is a really sweet story, and I hope that you all enjoy reading it. Thanks for reading this part, now on with the show...
A Look at the Other Life
For a strange reason, she thought that there were eyes following her wherever it was she went. Maybe it was paranoia, or maybe she was just overreacting. Whatever it was, she really didn't like it. It made her uneasy, and made her want to run away.
Only running would reveal herself. After all the trouble she had gone through to get as far as she was, she wasn't about to give it all up. Besides, it hadn't even been that long yet. She wasn't ever going to back down this soon. That would be weak, and incredibly weak at that.
No, Queen Ashelia never backed down from a challenge, especially one she had gotten herself into.
At that very moment, she was walking through the streets of her city, Rabanastre. She was amongst the people, all those who she ruled over. It really was all hers, and she was walking through the very middle of it. But unlike usual, she wasn't followed by an entourage or royal guard, she was alone. She was walking amongst them like she was them, not anyone but a mere person.
Still, that didn't mean she didn't feel particularly weird at that moment.
For the occasion, she'd dressed like anyone else in the street. From her resistance days, she adorned her infamous red skirt. With it, was a top that had sleeves to her elbows, the neck dropping to ring around her shoulders. And over that, was a vest that cut off and buckled under her chest. Fashionable, yet normal. And on her feet were sandals, delicately fastened around her ankles.
But, she wasn't naive. She knew that walking straight out into the street was not a smart plan. Not only would no one allow it, but everyone would recognize her at that. Her people knew what she looked like. She liked to make public appearances, and with that, people knew what she looked like. They could spot her out easily in a crowd, and that was a problem.
It was a must to do something to make it so that no one could recognize her. And so, what she did was tie her hair back, tucking it into a scarf that she wrapped securely around the entire length of her scalp. It covered her forehead, and hid her hair. With it, she wore large earrings emerging from beneath her scarf. She took expert time and effort into carefully crafting it so that she looked, well, normal. If someone were to look at her from far away, they wouldn't even spot her out of the crowd. She blended in nicely.
Of course Vanira, her lady-in-waiting had mentioned that she looked like a gypsy when she presented her with the outfit. She simply smiled at this, telling her that was her goal. It was only with Vanira that she had even gotten out of the palace. She'd told her that she wanted to go, and of course he had been negative about the suggestion. Then, after some prodding, he let her go. Only, she had her promise on a few conditions.
For one, she couldn't tell anyone who she was. The other thing, was to arm herself and that was in effect with the small fire arm attached to her upper thigh. On the inside, she'd tucked in a small knife. And of course, she had to make sure no one found out about her little "adventure."
The plan was actually very sneaky. To the public, she had taken a "leave of absence." And this was no more than a vacation, where she completely left the city. That was the explanation for her not being there. Only, for her leave of absence, she was going to stay in the palace, and just relax for a few days. At least, that's what Vanira told the court. That's why the servants would tend to her in the morning, and in the evening, but not see her for the rest of the day. And how did she even get out? Well, for one, she climbed out her window. It was actually safe, and once Vanira distracted the guards it was easy to get away.
But even so, why did she go to all the trouble? Well, behind the brave and all-powerful queen, was still the young woman that had never really gotten those few years of fun that a teenager was supposed to have. Through all of her twenty-one years, she never got to experience fun, or to have what others did. She just wanted a little freedom, something that everyone else had, but she didn't. She just wanted to be like everyone else, normal.
To be honest about the entire thing, she felt quite giddy. The fact that she was getting away with this, and that it was working, made her feel like a girl again. She almost felt as if she had gotten away with stealing a cookie, as innocent as that was. She had never actually done anything out of line. To do so now was foreign, and it came with all of the strange feelings.
Rabanastre was a beautiful city. And even from affair, no one could really see that beauty. You could only see it, experience it, if you walked its streets. Only those who lived in the city could see how wonderful it was. It was an envy of others, and for her, the ruler of it, not to see it would be a waste. What was one day away from her normal duties going to do?
Ashe was snapped right out of her thoughts when she practically tripped over a moogle. She was walking in the bazaar, and her eyes and attention had been elsewhere. She almost jumped out of the way, looking around for what she had nearly stepped on. Her eyes wide, she looked down and held onto the scarf around her head. "Oh, I'm terribly sorry!" she exclaimed, leaning down and putting a hand to her chest.
The moogle, obviously female since it was not only wearing pink, but a dress, merely waved it off. Flowers adorned her head, and long sleeves covered her hands. "It's fine, really, kupo," she said. "Happens all the time."
She a little startled, Ashe nodded. But then she jumped again as she heard a small cry. The moogle looked up, and sighed. She shook her head. "Those three are at it again, kupo," she said, sounding a mix of annoyed, and concerned. "Why can't they let that poor boy alone?"
As she looked up, Ashe followed her gaze to see what she was talking about. There, a little whiles away, were a few humes. The cry had come from the shorter of the four, looking to be a boy of about maybe eleven. He was being hopelessly restrained, as not only did he try to get free, but he was reaching out to grasp a messenger bag that was being dangled above him.
Holding the bag was a young man, maybe a few years younger than she was. His hair was black, longer and hanging loosely around his face. He had a wicked grin, but a strong build. All of the older ones were wearing something to the sort of a loose shirt, with longer pants and boots. It looked a little but uniformly. But his shirt was ripped down the front, strung together with a cord. He looked definitely like the leader.
With him, was a scrawny, and smaller young man. He had an ill look to him, sharing the same smile as his comrade. He didn't appear nearly as strong, but he did look like he was smarter. The last one was large, a big, bulky young man. Though tall and strong, he didn't seem like he was the brains of the operation.
Ashe raised an eyebrow; leader, interpreter, and muscle. A combination of the three was never good. She didn't have much experience, but she did know that it was bad.
Then, the queen looked down to the moogle, brow wrinkled with confusion. "Again?" she echoed, curiously.
"Of course," was the reply. "They do that often, kupo. And to Kytes too. The boy is only doing his job, and they always have to interrupt him."
Looking between the scene, and the person she was speaking to, Ashe continued to question. "Job?" she asked. "A boy like him?"
The moogle appeared surprised. "You aren't from around here, are you, kupo?" she asked, then chuckled to herself, covering her mouth with her sleeve. "He has a job alright. Kytes works for Migelo, delivering things here and there. For it, he gets room and board, kupo."
It was then that Ashe realized something. She looked up to the boy, and recalled what a friend once told her. Many children had been orphaned in the war. And even with the war gone, that didn't mean the orphans disappeared.
The moogle with her looked up to her, and blinked. "Are you alright, kupo?"
Inhaling, Ashe looked up with a fire in her eyes. "I will be," she promised with confidence.
Not knowing what had gotten into her, but all that she knew was that she was walking. And the next thing she knew, she was grabbing the bag from the leader's grasp, fiercely taking it away.
It took a moment for the few cackling boys to realize what had happened. With a rather disturbed snarl, she looked at the one that held the boy. "Let him go!" she demanded.
Almost as if someone had slapped each of them, they just stared at her. Kytes had stopped squirming, and looked nervously between the leader, and her. It was then, that the group's leader snapped out of it first. A smirk was brought on, and he looked at her as though he was impressed. "Well, look what we have here," he said, crossing his arms over his chest. "We've got a straggler who doesn't know her place."
There was a knowing chuckle from the two behind him. In this time, Kytes had managed to get free, taking advantage of his captor's loosened grip. He dashed over to her, and stood near her leg. He looked up to her, weary as he looked between her, and the others. "I appreciate it, lady," he said, tone low. "But you really shouldn't mess with Bayna and his gang."
Bayna, being the leader, she was sure. With confidence, she looked up from the boy, and back to the matter at hand. "He doesn't scare me," she stated, more to Bayna, than to Kytes.
At this, the gang leader raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really?" he asked, sarcasm dripping off his lips. He stepped up to her and then reached out to hold her chin in hands. "Do you get tipped extra for the authority?"
It was at this, that her eyes widened. The scrawnier of the two henchmen chuckled, elbowing the other to do so as well. Mouth dropped, Ashe was at loss for words. Was he insinuating that she was...?
His grip on her chin was released, and she only saw her hand raised in front of her. Bayna was facing the other way, wide eyed as he blinked out into space. A bright red hand-print was growing on his cheek, but the only thing she did was stare at him with a fury in her gaze.
"Even if I was a prostitute," she snarled, voice hitched up high as she scolded him. "That would be much higher up politically than you!"
The two in the background simply gaped at her, jaws hanging wide open. After a moment of silence, Bayna finally regained his composure. After the shock, he only then comprehended what had just happened. After touching his cheek, he turned to look at her. An anger to the same magnitude as her own was in his eyes as he moved to lash out to her. "Why you—!"
Ashe drew back, wincing for impact. But the blow never came. The only thing she knew, was that a strong arm hugged her, pulling her into a warm embrace. Connecting her hip to his own, the form in question then held her close, before extending his other arm out. He put his hand on Bayna's chest, and almost stepped between them as he pushed the other young man back.
"Whoa, whoa," the warm, yet familiar voice said. He sounded friendly, but then again, threatening at the same time. "What are you trying to pull this time, Bayna?"
Kytes, still standing next to her, smiled brightly. "Vaan!"
It had happened so fast, that Ashe didn't have time to react. Once she was pulled back to the present, her head whipped around to look at the face that the voice came from. She knew that voice, she'd know it anywhere.
There, standing right next to her was none other than the blond-haired young man that she had ventured with two years ago. Vaan hadn't changed entirely too much, his short hair loosely hanging in his face around his eyes, the rest in a wave in the back. But he had grown, and as he had, so did his features. They were more structured, more refined. There was a hard look in his deep brown eyes, as well as a knowing in them. Not only that, he was a good few inches taller than she was. It had been the opposite the last time she saw him.
She couldn't see all that he was wearing, but for what she saw, he was clearly wearing a vest that was buckled down the front, but left open some skin. The thing was chromed like usual, but it was longer, and covered all of his upper body. Slacks were more simple, though he still wore boots with a little armor. He wore only one belt, with pockets and a holster for a fire arm. And what had stayed, were the armlets he wore around his wrists, gloves gone.
Ashe felt her breath catch in her throat as she saw him standing there. She never even dreamed of running into him ever again. But there he was, standing right there with his arm around her. She didn't know what to do, or even say. It was when she finally spoke, that she made a squeak, eyes wide with her shock. "Vaan?" she whispered, voice almost unheard.
His all-knowing eyes landed on her, and he grinned at her for a second before turning back to the problem at hand. She could have sworn she saw him wink.
Bayna, on the other hand, looked even more angry than before. He huffed at the sight of the blond young man, looking him up and down with disgust. "Pull?" he echoed. "Was I doing something wrong?" He didn't sound serious.
Vaan only showed a mocking smile as he looked at the ringleader. Then, confidently he answered him, "Trying to hurt my girl? Now, that isn't a smart move, is it?"
Ashe felt her eyebrows raise. What did he say?
Bayna didn't look impressed, making a sound of disbelief. "Your girl?" he replied, not sounding in the least impressed. "Since when? I've never seen her around before."
Vaan only shrugged, pouting and brow rising. "If you have, tell me," he stated with a knowing smile. "Amalia here's from out of town." He turned his head to look at her. "Just arrived this morning, didn't you?"
He was lying through his teeth, and he knew it. But she thought it better to play along. Maybe they could get out of this safely. She was almost certain the two were rivals, but she couldn't prove it. Who knew what would happen should this hooligan figure out Vaan was lying?
Quickly, she retaliated to back him up. Putting on a big smile, she then turned in his embrace, and almost jumped to hug him, wrapping her arms around his neck. She gushed at him with delight. "There you are darling!" she exclaimed, smiling widely. She kept her voice normal, knowing Bayna would be suspicious. "I was just looking for you."
After a hug, she let go long enough to peck his cheek with a kiss. Through the entire thing, she didn't feel him move, deeply hoping that he would think of something to do. But Vaan was a better actor than she took him for. He smiled delightfully at her, before leaning down to nuzzle her cheek. His other arm had joined the first, clasped around her waste. Then, he planted a kiss of his own onto her hairline. Once she knew he was cooperating with her, she moved things along. So, to make it definite, she put her head in the crook of his shoulder and turned to look at Bayna with a menacing glare. Even as she stood there, she still couldn't believe that she had actually done that.
Bayna was still doubtful, seen with his crossed arms. Then, he rolled his eyes. "Yeah, whatever, like I care," he growled. He showed his words well, looking straight at both of them without even flinching. "Tell her to stop messing in our business."
Vaan then closed his eyes, and shook his head. Ashe turned to look at him, then to Bayna as they spoke. "I'd hardly call it that," he replied. "Whatever it is that you do."
Bayna's eyes narrowed, and he stepped forward. Vaan was quicker, and met him before he could do anything. "Watch it, Bayna," he warned, putting an arm out again to stop him.
The tone in his voice was startling. Ashe didn't think he had ever held it before, not around her anyway. It was a menacing, and commanding tone, one used by a higher officer. The look in his eyes was self-assuring, though smug at the same time.
"You certainly don't want any trouble." It wasn't a suggestion.
Even through it all, he hadn't let go of her. He simply shifted her in the opposite direction, placing him in between her, and Bayna. It was almost as if he was protecting her.
Ashe wearily looked between the two, waiting for one of the to back down. Both had a strong look in their gazes, but Vaan had the only one with confidence in it. It was almost as if he was holding something over Bayna's head, and was silently reminding him about it. Whatever it was, the silent duel was over in enough time for Bayna to step down.
He took a step back, and motioned for the two others to follow him. They didn't look sure, but did so anyway. Slowly, the three walked away, moping as they disappeared behind the crowd.
Almost as soon as they were gone, Ashe smiled brightly, before turning to face Vaan. Hugging him once more, she almost knocked him over this time. "Whoa!" he exclaimed, wobbling to stay up. Tightly, her arms wrapped around his neck and held on. "Hold up there, you're gonna choke me."
Ashe squeezed him once more, before she let go and took a step away from him. "It is you!" she exclaimed, a large smile on her face. "I am so glad to see a familiar face."
Vaan looked surprised, but then chuckled as he slowly released her, scratching the back of his head. "You didn't know it was me?" he asked, brow wrinkled.
Ashe chuckled, and shook her head. "Of course I did, silly," she said, waving it off. "I just didn't think I'd see you again."
His brow wrinkled and he looked as if he wanted to speak, but there was an interruption. "Uh..." came a voice. They both looked over to Kytes, still standing there. He had witnessed the entire thing. Only, he had a very confused look on his face. "You do know her, Vaan?" Apparently he had been thinking the entire thing was a set up.
The older boy blinked, and then laughed. "Hey there, Kytes," he said, rubbing the boy's head. "Yeah. Amalia here's an old friend of mine."
Ashe blinked, brow wrinkling. He was still using her alias. Why? Then, she put on a happy face and looked between the two with a friendly curiosity. "You two know each other?" she asked, looking between Vaan and the boy.
Vaan turned to her and smiled. "Yep, for a while actually. Back when I used to run errands for Migelo," he replied, then he turned to the younger boy. "Kytes, this is Amalia. I met her on that trip I took a while ago."
"Oh," Kytes stated, looking a little less confused. "So, you are from out of town?"
Ashe stopped at this, but Vaan replied for her. "Of course. Didn't ya here me when I told Bayna off?" he asked, leaning over and resting his weight on his thighs. "Now, enough talk. You've gotta go deliver that for Migelo."
It was then that the boy remembered. His eyes widened, and he gasped. "Oh, man, I'm late!" he exclaimed, not waiting to turn and run in a direction. He waved over his shoulder as he disappeared. "Thanks for the help, Amalia!"
With a little shock, Ashe raised her hand and waved it limply. It was then that she heard the sound of laughter. She looked over, to her old friend, seeing him facing the other way and shaking his head. Arms crossed, he turned to look at her. There was a sort of joy in his eyes. "Well," he started, coming up to her. Then, standing right in front of her, he leaned down to look her in the eye. "If it isn't Ashe."
Looking a little guilty, she licked her lips and looked to the side, fidgeting where she stood. "I guess I'm... busted?" she offered, looking up to him with an apologetic look.
He gave her a look of knowing and just nodded. "Yeah, you're busted," he replied, smile almost devious. Then he nodded to the side. "Come this way."