Title: Reminiscence

Author: Belle Auteur

Pairings: Ashe x Rasler, Ashe/Amalia x Vossler, Ashe/Amalia x Vayne, Ashe x Vaan, Ashe x Basch, Ashe x Balthier, Balthier x Fran (friendship)

Summary: Ashelia B'Nargin Dalmasca has always been one to have loved and lost. Before she and her friends invade the Sky Fortress Bahamut, she looks back on her moments of love...and her moments of sheer passion.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything pertaining to Final Fantasy XII, but wouldn't it be cool if I did?

Author's Note: This chapter is about Balthier, Ashe and Fran. I know that the discussion between them seems a bit out of place right now, but it will make sense later in the story. Keep reading and reviewing, people! Read and review!

Chapter 2: One By One

There's no peace,

When you close your eyes,

I'm all out of truth,

I'm out of alibis…

~ Cher, One by One

The morning had come far too quickly and Balthier found himself dreading what was going to happen in a few hours. He was in the hangar, absently running his hands over the metal of the Strahl, the only love in his life that would never break his heart. He'd had a hard time getting to sleep the night before, and the bags under his eyes proved it for him. He was hardly in top leading man form. Ever since Balthier told Vaan that the boy was going to inherit the Strahl if anything "untoward" were to happen to him, he questioned his mortality. Balthier had involved himself in the murder of his own father. Should he have even had the right to go on living his life after doing such a thing? Yes, such things were on the Leading Man's mind and though he didn't know it, he revealed all of his doubts when he slept. He tiredly ran his fingers through his hair and went into the ship to make sure everything was up to snuff. Even if he were to die, his ship would survive. It had to survive. If he lost his ship, he would pretty much empty all of his bullets into his own brains. Well…he doubted that he would actually do all of that, but he would be very heartbroken.

He had to admit that he admired Vaan, and trusted the boy with the Strahl more than he was willing to tell anyone. When Vaan first seen the Strahl, the look in his eyes was exactly the same as the look that Balthier had when he had first bought the ship with the funds that he had stolen from his accounts when he ran away from Archades. The light in the boy's eyes just proved to Balthier that maybe he could trust the kid after all. Balthier also had to admit that he liked how loyal Penelo was to Vaan. She was as loyal to Vaan as Fran was to him. However, it was clear to Balthier that Fran would never love him, not in the way that he wanted to be loved. He wanted the no-frills stuff, the uncomplicated thing. He just wanted sex.

In his mind, sex equated to love, and he felt that sex was the only love that he was able to give. He also felt that sex was the only type of love that he wanted to be given. Fran loved him like a brother, protected him when he needed it, and forgave his trespasses when he made them. She even let his persistent sarcasm and narcissistic attitude slide on the merit that he had father issues. He knew that Fran would never hurt him intentionally, but she did hurt every time he asked her to love him the way that he wanted to be loved and she refused him.

It had only happened three times. Balthier had counted and memorized it in that big brain of his. There were only three chances that he had to persuade Fran that they should've been together in that way all of the time. Each time had been different than the time before and each time they were together, Balthier was thrown off guard and surprised. He had to have been the only Hume that could say that he had sex with a Viera, and it was phenomenal every time. However, he didn't know what to expect whenever it happened, and the thrill of it was beyond words.

The first time that they were together; it was so wild and rushed and dangerous. They had barely known each other at the time. She had gone against her better judgment to travel with him to Rozzaria, and they had ended up arrested and detained in the same cell. Rozzarians believed in leaving alcohol in the jail cells. The second time that they were together, Balthier had been given the good fortune to initiate it. Fran wasn't as frantic as she had been the first time, and the entire thing bordered on romantic. The last time that they were together, they spent five hours taking each other as if the world was going to end that night. Of course, Balthier was volunteering to turn himself in to get executed that following morning, but it never happened. She saved him just in the nick of time. When it came to sex, Viera women were totally different than Hume women in every way, and Balthier swore that he would've moved to Eruyt Village and spent all of the rest of his days with Viera women if they weren't so damn mean.

Ashe, however, was a completely different story. He couldn't put words to their encounter, if he could call it that. He could barely remember that night and what happened between him and the Princess. All that he knew was that emotions were involved, as was copious amounts of alcohol. Balthier did love to drink, especially when he felt his emotions boiling to the surface. He was a leading man, and a leading man's performance was completely based on performing.

Nobody knew the real Balthier, except perhaps Fran. Not only did she know the real Balthier, she knew Ffamran. She knew who he really was underneath all of those layers that everyone seen as Balthier, the leading man. His relationship with Fran was one sided, however. She would not talk of her life before leaving her home, and he had no idea that she even had sisters before they went to Eruyt Village. Despite all of Fran's faults, Balthier would not be who he was without her.

As he was falling deeper into a trance over his beautiful ship, a soft hand touched his shoulder. He turned around reluctantly and found Ashe standing behind him, with concern in her eyes. He took a step back and she said, "So, what are you up to?"

He bristled and replied, "Just listening to what my girl wants if I'm going to expect no complications from her today. We've done a lot to her as of late and I don't want us to fall out of the sky and die in a fiery crash when we're on our way to the Bahamut. If we're going to die, I'd rather it be by Vayne's hands and the nethicite. Damned nethicite. If I wasn't careful, I'd think that it was the bane of my existence."

Ashe looked at him and thought about what he'd just said. She didn't tell him that he'd said the same thing about the nethicite the night when they'd had their encounter, if she could call it that. She couldn't remember a lot about that night, but she did remember those words. He had changed after his father's death, but Ashe figured that a man would change if he had helped to murder his father. She just worried that he would hate her for it. She'd had a part to play when it came to Doctor Cid's demise, but she knew that Venat had really done away with him. Venat didn't think him worthy of anything anymore. Balthier had finally bested his father, and almost lost Fran in the process. Luckily, Fran had come out of it alive and Balthier didn't have to plague himself with guilt about running away from Archades anymore. However, he was now plaguing himself with guilt about his father's death. Ashe was sorry that his choosing to help her made his life more complicated and possibly more miserable.

Balthier took a screwdriver out of one of the pouches that his belt held and tapped it against his temple. After a moment, he went under the ship and Ashe exclaimed, "Balthier, are you ever going to talk to me again? I mean, what happened in the Cerobi Steppe…it happened. It's alright to talk about it."

"There's nothing to talk about, Princess. We had drunk heavily that night and we took a walk. Do you remember what happened after that? I certainly don't. If you do, I would be glad if you could enlighten me about the night's events. And to answer your question, we are talking right now. So, I assume that I'm talking to you still."

Ashe couldn't see the expression on his face, but she could imagine that it was one of annoyance. Everyone was on edge, though. Vaan had even kissed Fran full on the lips and told her that she was the "hottest bunny-woman alive." After Fran had gotten over the shock of the kiss, she kneed Vaan in the crotch and managed to even get Basch to laugh. Penelo turned a funny shade of red, but she remained silent. Ashe figured that Penelo was probably jealous, but that was expected. However, she was worried about Balthier. To her, Balthier was no longer the sarcastic leading man that he had been. He had changed, but to what? What had she turned him into? What had that night made him into? What had that night made her into? Tears filled her eyes when she thought that he would never be the same man that he was before he met her, and she pushed them away hurriedly with the back of her hand. Balthier looked at her for a moment and turned back to the ship before she could catch him.

He wanted to go home, but he no longer had a home. Even the Strahl had become unfamiliar to him, to an extent. He had known that he should've left well enough alone, but he hadn't and he was probably paying for it.

Balthier and Ashe were still in silence when Fran walked into the hangar. When he saw his partner in crime, he took a deep breath and said, "She's almost ready, Fran. I don't think we've much longer until we reach the climax of this little journey."

Ashe excused herself from the conversation that Balthier chose to have over her and Fran looked at him with disappointment. Though he felt for her as much as he possibly could, he knew that it was not reciprocal. She adored him immensely, but she knew that his heart was still young, still unknowing of love. After a moment, he turned back to his ship and Fran replied, "You hurt her more than you think."

"Well, she can take care of herself. She's proved that more than once."

"Again, your eyes betray your heart."

Balthier wondered how she could see so clearly through him, even though his back was to her. He remained silent. He knew that Fran cared deeply for him, and he was grateful for her. She didn't like it, but his devotion to her was as good as her being an extension of his father, back when his father wasn't so mad. He was still young, and Fran was sure that he would find someone who he would care for more than he did her, but she knew that he was content with what was happening between them at that place in time. She knew that he would only die if she was by his side.