All In The Name Of Water
Penelo is thirsty. And this wouldn't be such an issue if she weren't clad in a full leather chastity belt in the middle of the desert, but she is. It's an epic quest for hydration, and hopefully she'll find a drink before Vaan does. [Evolves around Penelo. But Vaan is in charge of the audio commentary.
o-o-o-for olive embers-o-o-o
Because I was going to write her a very poignant drama to help her get through some things, but then I realized about half way through that I'd rather make her laugh than make her cry. Thus, comedy ensued.
Evolves around Penelo. But Vaan is in charge of the audio commentary.
It wasn't hot so much as it was dry.
You could practically hear the orphans of Rabanstre trying to suck the water out of the air. It's recommended that you have up to eight glasses of water a day, but when your only options are the Lowtown Waterway or the Nebra River that cuts through the arid desert like a sharp blue vein intent on impaling anyone who dares drink from her shores, sucking water out of the air becomes a nigh plausible option.
"Or we could get drunk," Vaan pointed out helpfully. "Don't forget that. We can always get drunk."
Penelo wiped the sweat off her brow. For even if it was not humid, she still perspired in torrents, and Vaan was always suggesting that perhaps she'd benefit from wearing less clothes—to which she points out not everyone is comfortable going half nude like some people—'Yeah, I know,' he'd agree, 'I wonder how Fran does that.' She would then proceed to glare something lethal and Vaan would just beam obnoxiously in the wake of the ocular fire, for he had a tendency to be very proud of his own jokes, no matter how lackluster they may be.
Penelo turned and dead panned in the face of her belligerent partner.
"You are aware alcohol costs more than water, aren't you Vaan?"
The adolescent replied with a characteristic smirk.
"Who says we'd have to pay for it?"
Penelo, intent on finding herself other means of external hydration, trudged onward in her epic quest for the ever elusive, tasteless beverage.
Vaan tagged along; for getting drunk was no fun alone, and really, Tomaj was the only one who ever made the consequential hangover worth it. ('Oh, gods, Vaan. I can not repress this dire urge that is welling up inside of me to inexplicably break out into song!') So he proceeded with one of his more productive pastimes: agitating Penelo.
"I think water is over rated," he threw out blatantly, partly because the statement directly contradicted his partner and partly because he believed it to be true.
"Gods Vaan, it's a wonder you're alive at all."
"What?" he feigned. "Look at this six pack. Look at it. You think that happens to unhealthy people? Tomaj doesn't have one. Kytes doesn't have one, either."
"Kytes is ten."
"Yeah, but he still doesn't have one."
She was drenched now, weeping sweat from her pores like a widow on her late husband's anniversary. Vaan found himself actually beginning to grow concerned for her well being, a feat he'd never admit out loud, and concluded he'd have to follow Penelo around until she found what she was looking for.
"Ya know, some people drink their pee," Vaan began, venturing for a laugh but coming up blank. "Especially prisoners," he tacked on in an attempt to resuscitate a joke that died from asphyxiation a long time ago—like, say, when he opened his mouth.
"Basch never drank his pee," Penelo grumbled indignantly, not even giving Vaan so much as a disgusted face in response. He was currently holding a conversation with the back of her head.
"How do you know?" he countered. "Did you ever ask him?" Silence. "Well, did you?"
Penelo was beginning to waver, and Vaan subconsciously increased his proximity. He wasn't about to let her fall. He'd never let her fall.
Well, physically anyway. Emotionally he shoved her over on an almost daily basis and then continued to dance on her incommissioned body for quite some time. But she let him, so it was alright.
"Think if we spit our saliva will boil before it hits the ground?"
Vaan noted his tongue had gone to sandpaper some time ago, but he was used to the phenomenon by now. He had grown to expect it, if not actually like it. He felt like he was drowning in Archades due to the abundant amount of saliva the climate allowed him to exude, and he wondered how Balthier used to find the time to swallow so much while he resided within the city's confines.
He wondered how Balthier found the time to do a lot of things, actually.
"Ya know, it's not this hot in Archades," the incorrigible sky pirate pointed out. "They actually wear clothes in Archades."
"I like my clothes," Penelo shot out in defense, assuming Vaan's last remark was supposed to be some wayward attempt at criticizing her choice of dress. It wasn't, for Vaan does not possess that much foresight, but he found the latter amusing nonetheless.
"I didn't say they were ugly," he replied. "I just think maybe you should wear...less...is all."
"And I'm supposed to presume you have no ulterior motives in trying to persuade me to wear less clothing."
"It's just...leather? In a desert?"
"Balthier does it."
"And Balthier is from Archades! They all have an affinity with covering themselves up. The man wears sleeves, for gods' sake!"
"...I was referring more to his tight leather pants," Penelo objected, wavering from dehydration. "But, yeah, whatever, Vaan."
Vaan wordlessly took hold of her arm and lead her to the nearest bench he could find. Neither of them commented on the feat, and they found they just operated better that way.
"All I'm saying is it's alright to strip a little, Penelo. Look at me and Ashe. We're from Rabanstre, and we don't wear anything! And then there's you, binding yourself in this full body chastity belt—"
"I'm not going to expose my skin simply because it's the cultural norm."
Vaan collapsed next to her, trying to appear nonchalant about Penelo's shallow breathing but failing miserably. It showed in his posture and it showed in his face, but just not his words.
"You would think the merchants would be paying us to drink their water, seeing as though we saved the world and all."
The small refuge the shadow from the corresponding edifice offered was of little comfort to the duo, for even in the shade temperatures rivaled that of one hundred degrees.
"...Vaan," Penelo began. "You've stolen from every bangaa this side of the Mhuthru Bazaar."
"Yes, but I saved their lives."
"I'm sure they are much more apt to contribute the saving of their lives to the newfound Queen of Dalmasca, not some wayward orphan intent on being a sky pirate."
Vaan huffed in agitation.
"Well that's not...that's not fair!"
"...Maybe you shouldn't have stolen from them."
"Oh please. Don't go all pious on me. You want to be a sky pirate just as much as I do."
"Navigator," Penelo corrected heatedly. "I am the navigator. You're the...pirate."
Penelo's hands were beginning to shake. Vaan decided he did not like this.
"I'll prove it to you!" he breathed out in a rush of bravado.
"That I can get you some water!"
"Like, what? Now?"
"Yup. Right now. Watch. See that bangaa over there?"
Penelo nodded mutely.
"Well, I am going to march right up to his tent and demand some water for the girl who helped in saving the world—and he's going to give it to me." Vaan paused. "For free," he added, as an afterthought. "Since I have no money."
"Good luck with that."
Failure was never really an option for Vaan (as it never was for Balthier, which Vaan spent the better part of their journey taking notes from, and everything seems to go around full circle) and with Penelo's health at stake—not to mention his ego—Vaan had not a single doubt in his mind he would in someway or another manage to charm, if not downright beg, the nondescript bangaa into giving him a little water because, after all, he was Vaan, and doesn't he know who Vaan is?
He approached the tent accordingly.
"Hey there," Vaan began, turning up the charm and turning down the scoundrel.
He tried to lean casually on the side of the wooden table, slipped, and then thought perhaps it better if he not try and touch things.
In the wake of the deafening silence that followed, Vaan attempted a roguish smirk (again, compliments of Balthier) as the merchant in question slowly registered the orphan's face in his mind.
So far, the bangaa was not amused.
"I know you," he hissed, fingering his wares protectively. "You're that little orphan punk who stole from me last year."
"What?" Vaan feigned once again, waving a hand in front of his face as if to dismiss the accusation. "Nah, it couldn't have been me. It was probably that no good Tomaj. Ya know, that little miscreant who hangs out at the Sandsea? He's always up to no good and—"
"No, it was you." The merchant was adamant. "I remember your...voice."
Had he been in fairer spirits and among the company of others he knew would side with him, he'd have made a face at that last comment. But as things were, he was on his own, for Penelo was about two and half steps away from face planting the cobblestone.
"I know, it's something, isn't it?"
Ah. Perhaps he should not have said that.
"Yes," the bangaa agreed. "It's nasally. And nasally voices stick with me, especially when their nasally owner steals my goods."
Vaan coughed, stalling for time, and then continued. "Ya know, Tomaj has quite the nasally voice too—"
"I know not of this Tomaj you speak of."
Vaan swallowed before continuing. This was not going well.
"...really? Because he's pretty notorious at the Tavern. Always up to something, that Tomaj. Yup. He's a real trouble maker. Did I ever tell you about the time—"
"If you do not stop loitering about my tent I will report you to The Queen."
Vaan had to try and not laugh at this.
"Um, I don't know where you've been the past six months, but I happen to know the Queen. In fact, I helped fight alongside the Queen in order to save the world. Me and the Queen? We're tight, man. Real tight."
"...Which is probably the only reason you have not been thrown in prison."
"Now why would they throw me in prison?" Vaan posed innocently. "I haven't done anything!"
The bangaa's face looked comparable to a placid lake. Like the one surrounding the Nabudis Fortress. Like the one he pushed Penelo in. "And you expect me to believe that?"
"Well, um." A pause. "Yeah?"
Perhaps the smooth talk was best left to Balthier. Vaan did not seem to have inherited his good negotiation skills.
"Look, I just need some water, alright? My friend—Penelo, you've heard of her, she helped save the world too—she's really thirsty, see? And if she doesn't have something to drink—"
"You mean the girl on the ground over there?"
Vaan paused, adrenaline shooting through his veins, and swiftly turned around to see his partner sprawled out across the pavement, limbs stuck out at obscure angles and face becoming well acquainted with the cobblestone.
And he could think of nothing more chivalrous to say than, "Oh crap."
Vaan was unaware of how to go about carrying her. His initial reaction was to shake her, which he did (because, as we all know, that is the best thing you can do after someone has suffered a heat stroke is to rattle them from side to side in hopes of magically restoring their consciousness) but after that he was quite deplete of ideas.
When the shaking method proved to be to no avail, Vaan searched his persons for a restorative item of some sort, and was dismayed to discover he was completely out of rations, with Migelo's Sundries being miles and miles away.
He knew some offensive magick, but Penelo was the only one who was ever any good with the white spells. And she seemed rather unable to perform the feat now.
The bangaa behind him cleared his throat.
"Look, punk, I don't got any water, otherwise I'd give it to you. All I got me is some Mudhu wine imported from Bhujerba, and I doubt that's gonna do her any good. If you're as tight with the Queen as you say you are, why not just up and knock on her front door? I'm sure she's got something for...dehydration."
Vaan turned this idea over in his mind for a moment.
"Yeah. That sounds about right," he concluded.
Now intent on getting Penelo to the palace, he had forgotten his previous plight of picking her up. He absent mindedly threw her over his shoulder, since that way seemed most practical at the moment, and thought nothing of it until passing the bangaa one last time.
"Hey, about the wine," he asked, locking eyes with his former victim. "Ya got any for me?"
The bangaa snarled something incoherent and Vaan decided he'd best be on his way.
Since the Imperial Guards had all but withdrawn since the defeat of Vayne, the palace wasn't guarded nearly as much as it used to be. Ashe was always trying to make herself be seen as a ruler of the people (which was funny, for Vaan never pegged her much as a people person), which meant she had decided to cut back on security so as to seem more approachable. Of course, it would have been pure ludicrous to get rid of all the palace guards, and Ashe was not one for stupidity, so two well armored door men remained at the front of the palace, eyeing Vaan questionably.
Before he could open his mouth and predictably insert his foot, an all too familiar voice resonated from behind him.
"Vaan, what in the blazes?"
Vaan turned, which proved to be more difficult than anticipated due to Penelo being lobbed over his shoulder, and was surprised to see Tomaj standing before him, hints of worry etched into his tan face as he took in the spectacle beforehand.
"Ah! Tomaj!" Vaan called. "I was just blaming something on you!"
"What happened to Penelo?" the notorious street ear demanded. "I didn't hear anything about this. Is she alright?"
"Fainted," Vaan offered simplistically. "But I'm going to fix it. So don't worry."
Tomaj did not seem convinced.
"Fix it? You probably caused it."
"I did not," Vaan huffed. "It's just that she insists on walking around the city all bundled up like she's ready to hike up Mt Bur-Omisace or something. Would it kill her to show a little more skin?"
"...Yes, I'm sure that conversation went well."
"You're not helping," Vaan grumbled. "And I really do need to get her water. Like, now."
"Well you could start by taking her off your shoulder," Tomaj directed. "You do not carry a woman like a sack of potatoes."
"Woman?" Vaan repeated, like the word was foreign to him. "She's not a woman. She's Penelo."
There was a pause.
"...Yes, of course."
Tomaj, never one for beating around the bush (or the sand dune, or the palace, or the dungeons, or what have you) walked straight up to nondescript guard number one and bluntly explained, though not without his patented dramatic flair, the situation the three orphans currently found themselves in. While his counterpart was refining his articulation skills, Vaan busied himself trying to shift Penelo from one shoulder to the other. It was not going well.
"Vaan!" Tomaj called from the palace gates, which were now slowly being cranked open. "You're in!"
Vaan envied the ease with which Tomaj executed conversations. Such things did not come naturally to him.
He breathed his mandatory thank you's and hurried past the entourage that was slowly beginning to amass at the palace gates. Once in the rather sprawling courtyard, Vaan found he was unsure of where, exactly, he was supposed to go. Ashe was in here...somewhere.
It was then he spotted a fountain.
It was a decorative fountain, with some golden fish swimming amidst the algae and trickling rivulets, and Vaan had all intentions of gently placing Penelo down at the foot of the stone masterpiece and hand feeding her if necessary. But of course, nothing ever goes according to plan. Especially Vaan's.
When he leaned over to place Penelo on the ground, he found her slipping off his shoulder, and in a last ditch effort to try and break her fall, he ended up directing her body straight into the pool of water.
He attempted an oath he had picked up from Basch (for even the most noble of men still swear while on the battlefield) and dove in after her, even though the water only came up to his knees, and tried unsuccessfully to fish her out before she drowned.
"Well I never..."
Vaan looked up to see Lady Ashe standing directly before him, in some loose fitting sheath of a dress probably the equivalent to his lazy Saturday clothes (which consisted of a pair of sweat pants and nothing more) and shaking her head in a repetitive motion that would be liable to give most people a headache. But Ashe was practiced in the art of head shaking, for she performed the feat so often while venturing around Ivalice with Vaan, and he supposed now was no different from then. Except for Penelo being knocked out and all.
"Give me her arms," Ashe demanded. "Quickly, before she drowns."
Vaan fumbled around in the too small fountain. He thought he stepped on a fish but figured it would be best if he not share that observation.
"Drowns?" Vaan all but squawked. "You can't drown in a fountain!"
"Vaan," Ashe sighed. "You would find a way to drown in a puddle." Eventually she grabbed purchase on Penelo's limbs and hauled her out of the water.
"...she...she needs something to drink..." he blabbered, pants now thoroughly soaked. "And I thought—"
"You thought sticking her in my fountain would somehow serve in the stead of a glass of water?"
"...I didn't mean to do that," Vaan grumbled.
He caught wind of a wayward maid glaring vehemently at him, probably from his utter lack of respect, so he quickly added, "...Your Highness."
"Tch," Ashe exhaled. "Don't 'your highness' me. You. Of all people."
It was nice to see she hadn't changed in the months after Bahamut. Because, well, then she might actually be cordial.
"Didn't Balthier teach you anything worthwhile?"
Vaan paused. "What?"
Ashe sighed as she propped Penelo up against the concrete and motioned for the aforementioned maid to fetch a much needed glass of refreshment.
"Gods know you followed him around enough," The Queen continued. "And I saw how you carried her in here. One would think you could have picked up a thing or two on how to treat a lady."
"...Oh, like stealing their wedding rings?"
Ashe was not amused. Pity, because Penelo probably would have found that last comment a riot. If she were awake. Which she wasn't. So that just flat out sucked.
Penelo, now a dripping, soaking mess, began to regain some color in her cheeks as Ashe gently—motherly, almost—poured the anxiously received glass of water through the orphan's chapped, parted lips and down her scratchy throat. Vaan was surprised with the amount of patience The Queen exuded, for trying to coax a dehydrated person to drink—no matter how hell bent they were on the activity beforehand—was a very time consuming endeavor. Vaan feared, had it been up to him, he would have simply handed the cup to Penelo and expected her to feed herself. ...Well, maybe not.
Penelo's eyes fluttered open, and Ashe took one look at her before announcing to the slowly accumulating crowd of maid servants that they were to cancel all of her meetings for the day, telling all corresponding parties a personal matter had come up and she would not be able to attend.
One of the male guards went to scoop the girl up but Ashe stopped him.
"Please," she said. "I can do that."
She then lifted Penelo up in her arms like she was nothing more than a skin bag of organs and bones. Ashe then turned and stared very pointedly at Vaan.
"This is how you carry a lady."
Vaan stood there dumbfounded. "Oh."
"I'm taking her to my quarters. Vaan, feel free to tag along."
Had he not been in the presence of ten other heavily armored men determined not only to protect The Queen's person but also her character, he would have muttered something about being treated like a kid again and followed the notion up with a very mature display of tongue.
But alas, he had no choice but to follow and surrender the care of his partner to much more capable hands.
Vaan could not repress the urge to jump on one of Ashe's luxurious beds.
It just looked so...bouncy. And it was the kind of thing Penelo would be all for, had she not been in some sort of comatose slumber due to an astounding lack of foresight on Vaan's behalf.
Well, he had tried, hadn't he? It wasn't his fault his best friend had a fetish with leather.
Tomaj, too, would have backed him up on his bed jumping acrobatics, regardless of where they found themselves. But the tavern boy had been showcasing some strange warning signs of maturity these past couple months, and Vaan wasn't sure if he approved. Perhaps Tomaj would go so far as to reprimand Vaan for even thinking about mounting The Queen's mattress for childish pleasures.
Balthier would mount the mattress, of this Vaan was certain. But for totally different reasons.
Vaan had been directed to an overly stuffed parlor chair, which had been brought up to Ashe's chambers to accommodate her new guests. Penelo had received the honor of getting to sleep in The Queen's personal bed, now victim to the mercy of an exceedingly abundant comforter and a sea of highly decorative pillows. Vaan had the fight the urge to poke at the bedspread and make sure she was still in there. But that was stupid. For where else would she go?
And as for Ashe, she had been rampaging all morning, which was very amusing, as far as Vaan was concerned. Disturbing? Yes. But that just made it all the more amusing.
"You mean to tell me," Ashe was monologuing from outside of the room. The double mahogany doors didn't do much as far as sound barring was concerned. "That this city has no means of public water for those who are not well off enough to afford it?"
"...Well, ma'am, there's always the Waterway..."
"I've been in that Waterway, nay, fought in that Waterway, and you could not pay be enough to drink from its confines!"
Well, she made a good point there. Maybe she was onto something.
"Why was this not brought to my attention sooner?"
Vaan's interest piqued. Just think of the face Penelo would make if he could later tell her she was responsible for some new type of social reform among Rabanstre! He diligently arose from the chair and walked over to the doors, pressing his ear against the wood and desperately wishing he was Tomaj, because he was good at this sort of thing.
But he should have known better, for he was not Tomaj, and therefore was not good at this sort of thing.
The doors came hurtling open, and Vaan was sent spiraling into the granite fireplace at speeds rivaling that of a bullet shot from one of Balthier's guns. He should have known better than to hide in the threshold of a rampaging female who, at any moment, is liable to stomp off to her room in a fit of some unrequited emotion.
Not to say Ashe stomped so much as stalked. But Vaan really wasn't paying attention to such details; he was more concerned with the well being of his head.
Seeing what she had done, Ashe heaved a sigh, and gently closed the doors behind her. She walked over to where Vaan lay, sprawled out on the floor, clutching a mass of dislocated blond hair and muttering profanities he didn't quite know the meaning of.
Offering her hand in aid, she gently asked, "Is you head alright?"
Vaan ignored her lent arm (for he could fend for himself now, he has saved the world) and nodded in affirmation.
"Good," Ashe responded brusquely. She then drew that same poised hand back and released two vile slaps across his face in quick succession.
"You insolent fool," she reprimanded, eyes that of steely pebbles unearthed from the base of a volcano. "You are supposed to take care of her!"
Out of habit, Vaan drew his weapon. It was but a measly street dagger, more for show than function, and he didn't really intend to hurt Ashe, but it was a reaction he had picked up after fending for so many months against various fiends. Whether Ashe was a fiend or not was debatable, but she seemed to be taking this water thing seriously, and Vaan supposed that counted for something.
"Oh please," the former princess drawled, decidedly unimpressed and not alarmed in the least. "Basch will hunt you down and eat you for supper if you so much as lay a finger on me. Now put your toy away, child."
The admonishment was enough to make Vaan's blood boil, but he resigned his weapon regardless. He did not want to be eaten for supper. Especially by a man who may or may not have drank his own pee.
Ashe then sauntered over to the bed where Penelo lied, blissfully unaware of what was going on and the trauma Vaan had been forced to endure for her well being and desperate need of refreshment. He prayed fervently to Ultima that his acquaintance with the fireplace left some kind of mark so he could obtain bragging rights, otherwise this would all be for naught. Except Penelo may start wearing less clothing. Which, if that be the case, did admittedly make the entire fiasco worth it.
"I should write to Larsa about this," Ashe said, circling the bed and tidying the sheets in a supremely maternal manner.
Vaan felt the color drain for his face. "What?!"
"He'll probably have you thrown in prison," she continued without missing a beat. "He does seem to favor Penelo a great deal, no?"
"But...what...that's not..." Vaan stuttered, the paradigm of intelligence. "That's not fair!"
"Oh, isn't it now?"
Ashe was smirking somewhat, and Vaan didn't know if he should be relieved or all the more worried.
"Hey, I tried to help her, alright?"
"And how did that go, pray tell?"
"I told her she needs to start wearing less clothing—ya know, like you!"
Perhaps he wished Tomaj was there for more than just his street ear and penchant to jump on mattresses. He always did have a way of delivering the most convincing soliloquies.
Ashe opted to say nothing, which was probably best, for if she had, by chance, decided to open her mouth, Vaan doubted there'd be anything left of him for Penelo to return to.
"It's hot in the desert, okay?" he finally said, bereft of ideas. "And someone needs to tell her to stop wearing leather!"
"Balthier had no qualms with it."
"That's because Balthier happens to be cold blooded," Vaan spat, growing more irate with the overused Balthier Defense. "And Penelo...she's not."
He left it at that. He wasn't about to spill his guts for Ashe, of all people, lest she slit his abdomen in two with one of her bastard swords.
With another sigh, Ashe ventured to her walk in closet, its size rivaling that of Vaan's first bedroom, and emerged with a fuchsia gown that looked as though it had been through the war. Literally. It looked as though Ashe had dragged it to Nabudis and had fought alongside Rasler in the thing.
"I fashioned my first melee skirt out of this," she explained, the epitome of nonchalance.
"You mean that giant belt you fought in?"
Ashe bit her tongue, inhaled through her nose, and then continued.
"Do you want me to help you out or not?"
Vaan stood there, flabbergasted. "Me?"
"Take hold of the edge over there," she instructed, ignoring Vaan's characteristic confusion.
Vaan did as he was told and spread the brightly colored ball gown out across the floor. He could see where Ashe had extracted the fabric needed to construct her 'melee skirt' and tried to stifle a smirk at how odd it looked to see a ball gown with a huge chunk missing from the middle.
"Now," Ashe began. "We are going to fashion some pants."
"I'm sorry, what?"
One of The Queen's fingers migrated to her temple and began to rub persistently.
"Pants, Vaan. Penelo needs to wear something, I govern a nation, not a nudist colony."
"Well, yeah, but..."
He watched as Ashe scampered around on the floor, much like a well dressed chipmunk, pencil and ruler in hand (which seemed to have magically materialized from the vast expanse of the closet) as she began to place the measurements for a set of what seemed to be coiffed platoons from the angle Vaan was staring at.
"Boy, this sure is a big dress," he muttered, at a loss of what else to do with himself. He could barely handle the duties of manhood let alone lend a hand in the ones of a woman.
"It was," Ashe confirmed. "It required six maiden hands to carry the train."
"You sound like you hated it," the boy keenly noted.
"Aye," she replied. "Why do you think I cut it up?"
Vaan decided he'd best resume his seat on the parlor chair, but it was so relentlessly uncomfortable he opted instead to plop himself down on the floor next to Ashe. She really wasn't a queen to him, anyways. Just Ashelia. Who had a habit of cutting up her old ballroom gowns she did not favor.
"Kind of like a big f-you to society?" Vaan ventured, watching her fuss over length and width and whatever else was required when measuring the dimensions of an outfit.
"No. It was simply most practical at the time."
Vaan huffed. He was hoping for some rebellious dialogue he could repeat to Penelo when all was said and done.
"Um, make sure it fits, okay?"
Ashe looked up from her work, the steely glint in her eyes had once again returned.
"What?" he posed. "You have a tendency to...cut things too small."
"It shrank in the wash," she dead panned, without the slightest hint of emotion.
Vaan snickered. "So that's your excuse?"
He was playing with fire, but then again, he enjoyed playing with fire, and he knew Ashe would never do anything to him that would negatively impact Penelo. She was like his get out of Dalmascan jail free card. He really should have kept her better hydrated.
Some time passed, and Vaan watched transfixed as Ashe labored away at constructing a set of platoons for his partner. Imagine; Penelo would be wearing an outfit handcrafted by The Queen herself. He wondered if Ashe would have the gumption to tell her?
"I'm assuming Penelo has the same waist size as me," Ashe blithely pressed on, now negotiating around the fabric with a piece of string and needle. Her hands were flying over the stitching, and even though it was a repetitive motion that ate up the better part of the evening, Vaan remained intrigued by the magic that could be wrought about by a woman with a needle.
"Yeah huh," he agreed, not really knowing, but assuming they couldn't be too far apart. "I didn't know you could sew."
Ashe looked up from her handiwork. "I'm Queen," she stated bluntly. "Of course I can sew."
She watched as Vaan leaned closer to get a better look.
"What? Do you wish to learn?"
"Huh?" Vaan snapped out of his trance. "What? Oh, no, of course not. Sewing would be an insult to my masculinity!"
Ashe sighed, pressing on. "Oh please, Vaan. Your hair already does that for you."
He would have disemboweled her if she hadn't been in the middle of designing a new wardrobe for Penelo. He didn't want to get blood on the fabric.
Hours passed. The sun began to set. Ashe really had given up the better part of her day to help Penelo out. The pants slowly began to take shape, looking more and more becoming with each passing minute. Vaan was secretly—or not so secretly—anxious to see how Penelo would look in them. Ashe had kept them low cut and had tied the sides together with some left over rope she seemed to have pulled out of hammerspace. The once was princess may have been one for personal cleanliness, but her room was not evident of such.
"What about the top?" Vaan pestered. He was not trying to be greedy, he just wanted to make sure Penelo was being taken care of.
"Hold on," Ashe hissed, working dutifully over some totally unnecessary, elaborate embroidery encircling the cuffs. "I'm decorating."
Ashe was proving to be rather amusing when she was in her element.
"Pifft. Girls," Vaan exhaled, not wanting such observations to become obvious.
"I am not a girl," Ashe grumbled, sewing some aesthetic beadwork into the side. "I am a Queen."
"I thought you told me not to call you that."
"I do not favor the term Highness, but Queen will suit just fine, thank you."
Vaan could be heard grumbling something about mind games and the female species.
"Mind games?" Ashe repeated, for her hearing was something to be envied. "Child, that is most definitely something you should have picked up from Balthier."
What was with all this Balthier innuendo? Vaan made a mental note to consort with Fran concerning this matter, lest she knew something he didn't.
'Yes. Balthier. Ashe. Hate each other, much they do.'
He doubts he'll get anywhere.
"I am not a child," Vaan proceeded to pout as Ashe emerged from the closet once again with naught but a measly strip of fabric. Vaan's eyes bulged respectively in their sockets as she began to fashion the belt into something resembling that of a very risqué blouse.
"She won't overheat in this," Ashe explained, laying out her handiwork and admiring it accordingly. "What do you think, Vaan?"
Vaan tried to sound out a word or two, but they kept getting lodged halfway up his throat and nothing came out.
"No need to say anything," Ashe dismissed. "Your loins speak for you."
In the end, Ashe never did tell Penelo she was the one who had sewn the outfit. She simply laid it out for her and, once the girl in question awoke, demanded that she change her garb into something more suitable for the climate.
"That's an order," she added.
Penelo may have argued had the declaration come from Vaan, but he knew as well as she did that the street orphan could never resist anything pretty.
Vaan found it odd Ashe took no credit for the feat, but figured that was how she wanted it, and didn't think it was his place to go and inform the recipient of the deed.
Now refreshed and hydrated, Penelo was off squealing and dancing and bubbling just as energetically as ever about her new wardrobe and her new 'swishy-swishy pants.'
"They look like parachutes," Vaan had grumbled. "You could go sky diving in those things."
He, of course, would never let on that Ashe did a damn decent job sewing the entire ordeal, and remained as detached from the situation as he could, even though he was clandestinely enjoying the new wardrobe more so than he would ever admit, out loud or otherwise.
Ashe had made her departure shortly after Penelo had awaken, leaving the two to their disappearance whenever they deemed necessary. Of course, Penelo just had to go and show Filo, and Vaan had a thing or two to say to Tomaj concerning how to properly carry a sack of potatoes.
Vaan wondered why Ashe hid her benevolency behind the scenes. It was so, well, strange. But then again, he was no stranger to the fact that she made for one eccentric Queen and was known for continuously writing her own operating manual.
He likes to think that perhaps Dalmasca isn't doomed to the same unmentionable fate as he had predicted while still gallivanting beside Ashe and wading through guts, gore, and an abundance of visceral fluid.
She was weird. But then again, so was Balthier. Maybe they did go well together.
"Potatoes," Tomaj instructed, situated at the backroom of the tavern. He demonstrated the example by tossing them nonchalantly over his shoulder. "Woman," he continued, moving said potatoes from his shoulder to his arms. "Repeat after me."
He then tossed the bag at Vaan.
Vaan predictably dropped it and stared blankly at the heap lying at his feet.
"Can't we just call it a day and eat them?" he questioned.
Tomaj made a strange noise in the back of his throat that seemed to allude to an oncoming stroke.
"You are officially hopeless," he determined, and with a flair of his usual theatrics, he bustled out the door to go and drink and gossip and drink some more.
Vaan absent mindedly scratched his head, and then thought perhaps it best if he did attempt the aforementioned feat at least once.
He bent over to pick up the bag of potatoes.
They were somewhat heavier than Penelo, but it made for a plausible substitute.
He had just finished situating them so they fit nicely in his cradled arms, and right when he thought that perhaps he could someday get used to the idea, the burlap sack split a seam and the bulk of potatoes plummeted to the floor.
Vaan muttered something profane and kicked what was left of the vegetables.
Ah, it didn't matter.
Balthier never carried anyone and look at the partner he managed to get.
That was the next step, though.
Getting Penelo to wear a metal thong.
SQUEE! I hope you enjoyed it olive embers!
Aside from knowing I was attempting a comedy, I had no idea where I was going with this. Forgive sporadic and eccentric story lines, for my imagination runs without my consent, I swear.
And, for those of you who have read my other Penelo one shot 'Penny,' well, I figured I'd play off the Ashe/Penelo relationship I established there. Even though the clothing continuity got shot straight to hell in a hand basket. XD
And how did it happen, olive, that we both ended up writing about Penelo's clothes?
(Oh, and I know Penelo's pants look red in the official Revenant Wings artwork, but you can't tell me they're not pink in the game. XD)
And three cheers for subtle (or not so subtle) BalAshe!
...so I guess this could sort of be a Christmas story, if you look at it as though Ashe were giving a gift to Penelo while Vaan sits there and screws everything up. XD
It was fun writing as Vaan. :)