Author's Note: A discussion of the Penelo/Balthier pairing in one of the forums stirred up a Penelo muse and this is what came out of it.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters or ideas in FFXII. I just borrow them to play with.

Ruminations on a Handkerchief

Penelo stared at the simple white scrap of cloth in her hand, waving slowly back and forth in the space between her face and the ceiling. Here she was in the bedroom lent to her by the kindness of the young Archadian prince named Larsa, surrounded by lavish furniture and things that probably cost more money than she had ever seen in her entire life, fascinated by a simple square of white cloth. It was ironic, to say the least.

Still, she couldn't help but think it was the most significant thing in the room, given that it had somehow been both a blessing and a curse. She had never seen the man before. She had no idea where he came from, who he was, or what he had been doing there with Vaan when he had gotten himself arrested. She wouldn't even have known what his name was if those dirty lizards (She refused to think of them by their rightful race name as it made her shudder to think that those cruel creatures had even the mildest of associations with Migelo) hadn't kept talking about how much they wanted to kill him. All she really knew was that he had somehow happened upon the trouble Vaan had caused and had been nice enough to hand her a handkerchief to wipe her tears on when she had failed to keep them all from getting dragged away. Well, that, and apparently he had a price on his head.

She sighed quietly, continuing to stare up at the folds of white floating gently back and forth as she moved her hand. She wondered what he had done to make himself so infamous. He didn't seem the type to do anything too terribly wrong. She wondered briefly at the fact that she could make such a judgment, having known the man for a total of about two seconds, but he had struck her as nice. After everything she had gone through, she suspected that it would be far more fitting to throw the damned lizards into a dungeon than it would to do so to him. She wondered if she would ever see him again. After all, the last she had seen of any of that small group of people (only one of whom she actually knew and she desperately hoped that he at least was alright) was them being led away by guards. She hoped they were all okay. He'd said he would bring Vaan back, so that meant she would see them both again, wouldn't she? She wanted to see him again and get to know a little more about this mystery of a man known as Balthier. At the very least, he had been as kind to her as one can be to a stranger while surrounded by angry guards, and she thought that was something. Far from something that really should turn into the fascination that it had for her, but there had to be some consolation that made it worth it for her to have been tied up with those lizards. Maybe he would reward her for her troubles with a kiss. The thought inspired a small giggle from the girl. Like that would ever happen.

There was always something wrong with nice men. They were usually taken. Or too much older than her. Or too much younger than her. Or gay. Or in the particular case of Larsa, princes. Or any combination of the above. Or they were Vaan, and she didn't quite think he counted. She wondered how many of those problems she was dealing with in this case. "Older" and "wanted criminal" both seemed to be on the list. Nice men really shouldn't be wanted criminals. Again, Vaan didn't count.

She loosened her grip on the cloth, leaving it to waft down and settle over her face. She imagined it smelled like him, not that she would know. It smelled good, in any case. Rolling over, she curled up and began to doze off, the cloth slipping from her face to lay beside her on the pillow, her mind idly drifting to imagined thoughts of the feeling of an ornately embroidered vest and warm arms wrapped around her carrying that same lovely scent.

It would never happen, but a girl could dream, couldn't she?