Vaan – How about some of this?

-red spiral quickening-

xxx


Ashe carries her sword and shield, setting quickly to find food.

What she notices, before she's near the shore, is the heavy mist pushing in from opposite directions.

She wants to use her magick but can't since there's nothing to lock unto. Instead, she searches, sees that even the piranhas are moving away, clustering together for safety.

Her eyes stare straight ahead; hand reaching up to cover above them, as if this action will ward off the glare over the horizon.

She sees the streaks of white cutting through the sky. This illuminates, spreads the coast under an ashen flare, and she hears Vaan behind her.

As she turns, he's there by the entrance, watching too the phenomenal charge in the air. His body stiffens, and he rushes to find a sword.

"Ashe!" Vaan is now running towards her, "Watch out!"

He's pointing to the saturated mist, parting just enough to reveal a charging primordial dragon: its one of the ancient ones, which belongs here, imprisoned on Phon Coast.

X

The mist is suffocating; it's too thick, and the enemies are many. Smaller predators, they've encountered before - huddle close with silver eyes and sleek fur.

Vaan sees they're up against silver lobos and a dozen bagolys. But it's the Archaeosaur that he's worried about.

He looks over at her, gives a signal to chain – and she's nodding.

But it's a little too late as a large Archaeosaur lifts its jaw to slam against her shield. She's able to block it, leaving her wide open for the next attack.

She stumbles, and her body is being forcibly pushed into the sand.

Vaan's speed is swift, so he swipes with the tip of his sword, doing little damage; the ancient tyrant ignores it, swapping its sizable tail to push the hume back.

Instead, it goes after the female, its forward eyes easily tracking the movements of its prey.

When it's upon her, she's thrusting the sword straight into its heart. And receives a dangerous blow, getting pins and needles of sonic fangs in her body, and she's damaged on the red.

Vaan's anger is fierce, because it's impulsive and he is already kick-starting the energy from within. When finally the fury comes, oh yes, he's expecting it to be this powerful. Where it's coming from, seeping power out from his skin -- it feels tingly and hot. There's a whorl of wind, and he expects it's from her, because she's of wind and fire, and everything that's real.

But he's gritting his teeth – the tornado is spinning, tops over the sand and brings it all together. It's reaching to the sky, cocooning every foe he focuses on.

"You're mine!" Swerving his body sideways, he brings his hands together, parallel, so that when he's sending the wind up, it's impressive. Before the rushing tempest is low, she is there – ready to take his place.

The world is black for a moment and she's calling for the stars, and they're falling fast – threatening with a thousand tiny sparks, emitting celestial bright rainfall.

Ashe is murmuring that she must be strong, and it's easy, because she's destroying their foe just like that.

He takes up the chain, after her, repeating the process; it's the only time he can do this – he can control the wind, and she's everything like the wind.

Vaan selfishly wishes…..

He knows she's better free, and that's why he can't help it.

And when it's all done, they're breathing hard. He's standing with cuts and bruises, and his power levels are down.

When he gives her a lop-sided grin, showing white teeth.

She is smiling back at the gesture.

Vaan can see, clearly that she's worse than him, really, but she doesn't tell him this, because he knows. He's been with her through this journey too long. He understands that nothing is worse than complaining about woes when there's so much to do.

"Hungry?" He says this with a cheer; he walks on ahead, trembling a little from his quickening. And he hopes she doesn't see that he's hurting too, that the pain is unbearable even as he walks.

She nods, is famished, hears her empty stomach and is slightly embaressed. Her arms and hands are scraped terribly, and there's blood there, but she's confident that their magicks will rise soon.

And when it does, she will heal him before herself.

X

Ashe relaxes, feels the healing fire through her veins.

She makes this noise, releasing a soft sigh, almost in the throes of rapture.

He can't help but part his mouth.

Because she's about to cure him, and the anticipation is killing him.

X

Ashe finds the time to wash herself, hating the mud and the grime; for it gets beneath her shoes, and steals inside the clothing, sticking to her skin.

When they're sitting by the makeshift fire inside the cave, she's casting a look over. She's immediately pleased that he's here, wonders if this was by chance, a strange fate.

They talk about what just happened, and they're cautious more than ever. He thinks Balthier and Fran will find the way to get to them, confident on the skills of his sky pirate friends.

"They're like veteran sky pirates," he tells her, thinking more on the Viera's long life, as he's figured out her age finally, "and they can easily sneak into places no one else can."

She is inwardly smiling at his naivety; his enthusiasm; and is surprised further by his addition to mention Basch's determination and his friend Penelo's tenacity.

X

He discards that awfully small vest he's been donning for days, folds it away so he's topless, and somewhat distracts her. Perhaps it's their close proximity, but because of this, she notices the necklace he wears: its turquoise stone and tarnished silver capturing light.

She resumes to eating, bites into her food, finds it chewy; but her appetite is strong, and says after swallowing, "Where did you get that?" she points, "it looks familiar."

Her brows furrow, hopes it didn't sound like she is implying that he stole it somewhere. So she wipes away a little of the grease that's on the cooked fish with a delicate gesture and smiles.

He isn't offended that she's asking and is glad to offer, glad that she's talking to him more. He reaches for the necklace and takes it out, handing it to her.

"Would you like to take a closer look? I'm not sure if it's been in my family," Vaan shrugs, "I've had it a long time."

It's his turn to draw his brows together, as he can't really remember where he's gotten this. He assumes it is from his family, even though the only memory is of his brother long since gone.

"Oh no," she tries to say, "It's alright, I was just wondering, because I recall having one in my family's treasure room."

She is immediately pursing her lips. That isn't what she means to say, because she isn't angry at him for stealing what's not his before, not anymore.

Vaan feels a dull pain when she refuses, because he did want her to hold it, for some unknown reason. He is replacing it back around his neck, stealing a piece of plump meat afterward. When he chews, he doesn't see what she sees: that he is eating with haste, as if hunger is something he's used to.

Everything is quiet again. He sits back, watching the fire burn slow across the stick of munificent meat, the grease adding fuel as it drops. Vaan wants to say something more, something that isn't about family and what's gone.

She is near finished with her meal, and though, it isn't as tasty as tavern meal, it's as suitable as anything they've caught in the past. It nourishes her. Ashe is ready to tell him her plans. She's been thinking about it ever since, and just when her mouth parts. He is getting up, moving about in the small enclosure; his hands are nervous, a fist hitting on a palm.

"Listen, Ashe, I've got an idea, about how we're going to get out of here."

"Oh?" she decides to listen, because she thinks that he'll burst if he doesn't say his say.

"How about we dig ourselves out?"

She blinks, almost laughs at the idea. "Vaan, with what?"

He stops, kneels down, facing her, "We have enough powers don't we? I mean, you do. More than me, but I can help dig up the bulk, and how far is it from this strand to the next?"

She covers her mouth with her hand, because she is grinning at the idea. "I had a similar plan, yet; my offer isn't as daring as yours," she openly laughs, "nor as pain-stakingly physically tasking."

He likes to make her laugh, smiles at this, shows off straight white teeth, and he looks too appealing. "Oh yea," he adds with a snort, placing a hand over the back of his windswept hair, "oh by the way, your palace is really cool, but I think it'd be cooler if it weren't filled with all those Archadian soldiers. They're pretty dumb too, most of them."

He says this accompanied with laughter in his eyes, too blue for her to look away. And she's reaching for her cask of water. It cools her thirst, even in the early evening heat.

She licks her lips, unaware of the action it provokes, of how her companion is staring again. Ashe isn't aware of this, her voice soft, "you're thinking of the palace again?"

Unconsciously, he reaches a finger to rub the tip of his nose, "There's a guard in every section and I was able to get in there by yelling out, "Hey idiots! Over here!""

She muffled a laughter behind her hand, because he's animated, and purposely making a funny expression.

"And they listened?"

"Of course," he laughs, "I easily got away;" he's eager to tell her about the crests there, about the eagle, the lion embedded, too, but remarks on something else: "I was the one yelling out on the streets of Bhujerba – I'm Captain Basch!" And he says this with his hand up in the air, as if to confirm it.

"From Dalmasca," she adds, grinning, "no doubt."

He chuckles, leaning forward, "Just give me the word, and I'll be your town crier."

"The plan worked, and I'm glad." Her voice imparts this with partial melancholy, because she remembers too much on this journey.

He doesn't know that she's seeing Vossler's death in her mind; the fall of Leviathan; of the Espers they've fought and captured; or of Rasler's ghost following them.

He suddenly wishes he could sweep her up, to wipe away the sadness cloaking her eyes.

X

They realize that they're going to have to try their plans tomorrow, both agreeing to sleep an extra night.

She's positive the mist will lift, since she's going to use Belias.

Even as the sky is turning dark, blanketing the strand, she's glad that there isn't any rain this time.

Even as she thinks that, she is narrowing her eye, notices that the wind is picking up speed.

X

He's silent, watching her, and he feels a little uncomfortable. Taking a deep breath, he says without thought, "Wanna go check out the stars?"

Ashe doesn't want this, finding more unpredictability in Vaan's character. For a moments this quiets her; she slides her hand over to cover the remaining ring on her finger.

Vaan notices this, gets up and walks by the entrance. He only manages to turn when he's about to leave, "If you want to join me, I'll be over at the top of the cliff. I don't think there's anything to worry about."

He leaves and she knows what he means.

She's not going to go out there, because she's going to encourage him, and this isn't good.

But as the minutes tick by, she bolts up, and is already running towards the cliff.

There's no rain this time, but the wind is angry, bites into her eyes so she's straining against it. Her hand automatically blocks what she can, and she's screaming over the wind.

"Vaan!" she calls twice, three times.

The lapels of her jacket are making a flag behind her, her hair whipping about.

Her eyes are squinting against the climate, and she spots him, there.

The semicircle of the crag faces the water, as serene as he, with his hands planted on both sides. He's got his legs parted, a knee up with chin over one.

He is already turning to her, concern in his face, "Ashe," he mouths, and pats the seat beside him.

As easy as that.

She is setting her lips in a straight line, because she sees that there's no wind where he's at.

X

She's next to him, feels the incredible warmth, and in the last twenty-four hours they've fallen into an easy conversation again.

He's making her laugh, and that's always good.

Maybe it's the atmosphere, the company.

Maybe because she's healed, and he's happy, looking good.

And she can't explain it.

Worse is, she's preoccupied, so she doesn't hear it until its close: the sound of a thousand banners riding on the wind.

X

The mist!

Even as the mist is sweeping in, large wings span high in the cover of darkness, and Vaan's ready for what the mist brings, his hearing sharp.

He's already standing and ready to draw power from inside, "Come on, Ashe, it's another one!" Vaan yells, his fist closing over a weapon he's been keeping nearby.

She's on her feet, clumsy at first, shocked.

But they're being pulled up by the strength of the wind and the night, of the hellish creature that's bringing with it the ocean in its wake.

They're caught up in the tidal storm, swept underneath, until Ashe's head is above water, sputtering.

Her eyes searching for Vaan's, and he's not coming out, and there's panic in her heart.

She's screaming his name, in the tide, and just as quick as the storm came, the water reverses, drawing back into the ocean.

And she's being pulled; her mind is trying to be calm as she's being swept up.

She doesn't realize until a strong hand, his arm keeps her against a solid frame.

Lying on the ground, wet with salt water, her head is cushioned by the moist grass. He's on top of her, his breath close, ragged.

He's saved her somehow, and for the moment they've forgotten how the mist has brought unspeakable things.

She can't explain it.

Ashe is stunned, staring up at blue eyes, the intensity making her swallow.

X

She reaches up, determination staining her face, the light of fire in her eyes and her palm is against his face, cupping.

Her lips closing in and he's ready, because of the want, the need. She opens her mouth a little, pressed against his. And her body is arching up, for something and he's reaching for her.

"Vaan." She murmurs, breathless against his mouth.

"This is for you," and she says it as if she is granting him a privilege. Her breath catches, and she's starting to feel the tears in her eyes. He's been there for her, always, reaching.

But he's already there, holding her close, and it feels so good. He can't understand it, as he's been watching her for so long, following her every move and taking the reproofs.

She feels cool, wiped clean from the ocean's sting, and Vaan's shaking, moving his lips across her cheeks.

He breathes against wet moonlit hair, darker and lighter than his, "I told you, that I'm sticking with you."

Yes. She knows, because he'll find answers if he's with her, and somehow this pleases them both.

His hands are reaching over, touching her the way he wants to, and he doesn't know how to hold her – really.

He can hear his own choked voice, as he slides lips against the corners of hers; he feels silent tears falling along the silk of her beautiful skin.

She's always been so strong, so inaccessible. Like one of those statues, of goddesses he's seen, covered in silken white-gold. And he – the thief, feels shame for the first time, for wanting.

He knows that she's not making a sound, but he says it anyway, finding no other words. And all those clever things he wants to say, to give her laughter, just freezes up inside.

"Shhhh," Vaan says, consoling, and he doesn't understand why his heart is bursting, wanting to pound through, "It's alright, Ashe, I'm here."

X

Rasler.

She is pushing against Vaan's chest, again. Ashe sees ghosts, of her past, and she is called back to her duty.

"Vaan, no," she shakes her head, too distraught, lowers her voice to damn herself. When she is arms length away, with his arms empty, Ashe is looking like the very first time he met her.

She's already on her feet, her eyes grey and light, the shot of blue piercing.

"We should go. We can't waste time like this," Her tone is cool, aloof, as if he's stolen something from her again, or worse.

"Ashe…" he tries to say, but is cut off by her glare.

"No," she repeats, poised, "we've wasted enough time, already," then adds before showing her back to him, "Pray this does not happen ever again, it must not…"

X

He is helpless, standing there, looking like an idiot. Where moments ago, she's warm; she's like the wind and the fire, and he was going to kiss her - completely. But…..gods: he doesn't believe in that nonsense, because they're deaf to his sorrows – where his tears go unanswered two years before.

He wants to kiss her, but he can't. He's stuck, frozen there, comatose really; as he wants to feel the anger, that same blinding rage he felt when he saw Basch. But he can't.

He feels all the street language of Rabanastre bubbling up, forcing him to say terrible things.

She just walks away like that, she's a princess, he knows. And he can't help it if he wants to stare hard, boring holes into her back, as if this singes her.

Please turn around!

Vaan doesn't realize yet, until he hits the muddy ground, his knees buckling. And as his hand reaches up to rake his eyes, to find a tear there; this pisses him off even more.

He takes a deep breath, shuddering, and his clothes are still wet, caked with mud.

With a steady hand, he pushes against brown sand, and he pulls himself up.

Suddenly, he's running, fast on his feet, as he tries to catch up.

xx...