Author's Note: This actually has something to do with a sentence I wrote in chapter three of From Want to Need. It was just an errant thought at the time, but then I thought it was kind of cute, and so it warranted this. xD Oh, Vossler. You're too much fun.
And I picture pre-game to Ashe to be pretty wily, stubborn and manipulative. I think back then she was free with her sense of humor. She had all her brothers and her father and was untainted by war and loss. Hence… !
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy XII, nor any of its respective characters, settings, etc.
"Duty and Honor"
"You must do it," she says, arms firmly crossed, chin pointed stiffly upward. "It is your duty."
"My lady, you ask too much of me," replies Vossler. There is a distinct redness on his cheeks, one he fights to mask. It spreads to his ears, and is endearing, if she were to speak freely and honestly – just as a princess must not.
"But it is your duty," she pressures, her steel eyes hardening.
"Please, Vossler." Her voice softens as her eyes do not. "I would not ask you, but you are the only one I can. You will keep this secret and feel no shame for it."
"That remains to be seen."
"And I remain to be kissed," she shoots back without missing a beat. Finally, her chin dips lower, her eyes gentler. "And we are not so far apart in age."
"We are!" Vossler glances warily about the barracks, but they are alone. He feels he could not shoulder the humility if someone caught them. "I cannot, Princess. I am sorry."
For a moment, Ashe worries her lip, for she has only one alternative. She realizes it is also her greatest weapon, so rights herself and says plainly, "Then I shall have to ask Basch."
Vossler's cheeks brighten again – she has enticed alarm within him. Inside, she dances merrily, if a bit wickedly. As a girl, she loved to taunt Vossler and Basch, but as she nears her marriage and her ascent into womanhood, she has found there are more effective ways to get under their armor – methods that evoke reactions far more interesting than those earned by hiding their steeds and swords.
"You must not," he says, though his voice is steadier than his hands. "He is your army's captain."
"A captain is bound by duty," Ashe tells him, "as are you. If you cannot fulfill my request, I will ask your superior. He will perform where you could not."
There is no jealousy in Vossler's eyes, though she does not expect there to be. Vossler was never prone to pettiness, but he frets so, though he never voices his worries. His hands ball into fists at his side, and it pains Ashe to make him torn between honor and duty, but she can ask no one else.
"Then it must be you," she says evenly, and steps toward him. Her arms fall to her sides and she regards him kindly, as a friend in need. "It is not so grave, what I ask."
He turns away from her, to the swords and shields that hang from the wood, and says quietly, "But it is." His aggravation floats back to her, stings her, incenses her.
Men are so difficult, she thinks, then corrects herself: Military men are so difficult. It is in times like these Ashe wishes she knew a brigand – perhaps a pirate, she thinks with a flutter of her teenage heart. Surely he would not protest as her lieutenant does; a pirate's duty is but to himself.
"It need only be chaste," she assures him. "And brief. I am sorry to ask, it is only…" She sighs, for her title is a curse as much as a gift. "I have never kissed a man before, and this wedding… Well, they will have me do it before the entire city! And ambassadors, and my father, and Rasler's mother! I must not look the fool!"
Vossler says nothing, merely fingers the hilt of a broadsword, shoulders heavy and drooping.
Ashe continues, "And father's face, could you picture it? I would not have him be ashamed because I did not take… preventative measures. So it falls to me, and to you, and I should think I will only need to try once, for my maids tell me it is simple."
"If it is so simple," he tests, his voice straining, balancing on the edge of will, "then why must you practice?"
Ashe grinds her teeth together; her patience, what little of it she possesses, is stretched taut. "You would have me swing a sword without first demonstrating how? I could behead myself!"
"Kissing and swordcraft are two entirely different realms."
Her jaw tenses as she grows exasperated. "Not so. In both, inexperience is blatantly obvious, and in both the consequences of such could be dire."
"You romanticize," he tells her, condescension in his tone. Ashe squares her shoulders defensively. "No one will be the wiser if it is your first."
"I would rather be safe in the knowledge gained from practice! I will argue it no longer!"
He turns back to her, eyebrows knit, gaze a mess of frustration. "You are too young and presume much. There is nothing for you with me."
Her thin thread of patience snaps. "Enough!" Ashe hisses and steps forward; the hay beneath her feet dances. She wraps her arms about his neck and stretches on her toes. He is so very tall, she thinks; she wonders if all men are, if Rasler is. Her lips are surprisingly gentle for the lack of warning, and she does not think of how cold his are, only of how warm his breath is when he yells "Princess!" and pushes her away.
She steps back, placing her fingers pensively to her lips. He practically glows now, so red is he from his ears to his neck. She smiles as Vossler blushes – it is a look he wears charmingly.
"Well?" she asks after he collects what little of his wits he is able. "Was it good?"
"Highness!" he yells, and looks around erratically, as if someone might have borne witness to what sin transpired between them.
"Was it?" she prods, then adds playfully, "If kisses are judged by the blush of the receiver, then I have no need to be concerned."
He looks as if he is about to say her name, tone halfway between reprimand and embarrassment, but swallows the word as it ghosts over his tongue. It falls heavy and foul down his throat. Instead, he says, "It was… It was fine. Lord Rasler will be satisfied."
Ashe blinks. "Meaning?"
Vossler dims, no longer the color of a tomato. His voice drops lower, as if he is once again addressing her as his charge, not as a young woman. "I merely mean to say that, with your inexperience, Lord Rasler could hope for nothing more."
Her gaze turns hard again, and Vossler stiffens; he has said something wrong and senses it only now. He has never been very good with women, especially women of court.
"Well," she says indignantly, and speaks to him as lieutenant – coldly. "You too seemed oblivious to what you were doing, so perhaps in inexperience, we are equals." She then picks up her skirts in the most haughty, royal way she can imagine and strides past him. He can feel her anger crackle in the air she leaves behind her.
At the door, she turns and looks him squarely in the eyes. "My inexperience discontents you, you have made as much clear. Then, Vossler, lie in the bed you have made: we will continue these lessons until my lips please you. Good day." With that, she throws open the door and walks out.
Vossler is left in her wake, glowing hotly in the arid barracks, the heat of her lips still on his – morose in the knowledge that he will only come to know it better in the months before the wedding.