Three Times Two
Pairing(s): Balthier/Fran, Ashe/Basch, Vaan/Penelo
Summary: Vayne's tyranny has ended and the remaining players are left to build the lives they have always wanted.
Notes: Unbetaed. Takes place after the end of the game, and I'm still not sure if some of the details jive with what happens in the sequel.
As she fades in and out of consciousness, Fran picks up disjointed sounds around her: the roar of engines, Balthier arguing with someone in a measured tone, glasses clinking amidst the sound of cheers. She cannot tell how long she's been knocked out, but when her senses return she is no longer on Bahumat. Nevertheless, she has recovered well, with no lasting injuries. The room she's inside is sparsely furnished, nothing but the barest of necessities, including the firm bed she's lying on. Outside the closed door she can hear raucous laughter, outside the window she sees famed wings of magicite rising out of the land, islands floating in the distant air. Bhujerba.
The door slowly cracks open just as Fran swings her legs over the bed, noting that her bow and arrows are resting on a table next to the window. It's Balthier, and in the moment he lays his eyes on her she sees a look of satisfaction cross his face.
"Ah, good to see you're finally up and about. Things were getting boring around here, to say the least." Balthier walks into the room and closes the door, glancing behind him before he does.
"You are being cautious." Fran notes, wondering what has transpired since she was struggling to fix the glossair rings of the Bahumat, feverishly working to prevent a catastrophe in Rabanastre.
"For good reason; we've been presumed dead and I'd like to keep it that way for now. Thought I'd take a page from the book of our fair Queen Ashe, since it worked out so well for her in the end." Balthier explains, pulling a small stool towards her bed and sitting down across from Fran.
"I take it that all is well now, that war has been averted." Fran replies, feeling satisfied that Ashe has regained her queenship.
"Indeed. Larsa is to be pronounced as Emperor of Archades, Rozarria has accepted the peace treaty, Ondore is no longer an Imperial lapdog, and the kingdom of Dalmasca has been restored. All in all, everyone has done rather well for themselves."
"Except for us, who have been presumed dead." Fran points out while slowly standing and stretching, her muscles tight from lying prone for so long. She sees Balthier's gaze rake over her as she does and stops herself from smirking at him.
"Well, yes. But trust me, it will work for our advantage. Besides, it's tradition for the leading man to go out with a bang."
Fran vaguely remembers her offhand comment about Balthier as a supporting role but pushes it aside for the moment. "I suppose being presumed dead will give us passage to avenues that were previously closed to us." she concedes, seeing the calculation in his eyes. "You have something in mind."
Balthier nods. "I'm working on it. Managed to strike a deal with the owner of the Cloudborne, who promised us room and board above his fine establishment. Also promised to keep his mouth shut until we get the information we need. Then it's off to retrieve the Ifrit."
Fran pauses. "The Ifrit is gone?"
"No worries, it's with Vaan and Penelo for the time being. We'll pick it up when we're ready for our next great adventure."
Fran shakes her head with a slight smile. "You simply cannot stay still, can you? Ever looking towards the horizon, searching for the next treasure the world has to offer."
Balthier chuckles, drawing closer to Fran. "Ironic that you should mention my apparent inability to stay still. I was about to suggest that we put aside the process of gathering information and instead take it easy... just the two of us. Together. In this room."
Fran tilts her head in a moment's thought, watching as he watches her with affection in his eyes. The smirk she had denied herself minutes earlier tugs at her lips as she pulls him onto the bed. "I was wondering when the leading man would get around to romancing his leading lady."
The skies above Rabanastre are a brilliant blue and warm breezes from the deserts blow through the streets. Yet the temperature in the castle somehow seems a little cooler to Ashe, who is lost amidst her duties and solitude. She is reviewing documentation from her uncle Halim when one of her royal guard comes to her door.
"Excuse me, your Majesty, but you have a guest awaiting you." The guard seems sorry to be interrupting her solitude, eyes downcast and apologetic.
Ashe frowns at his news. "I was not expecting any company this morn."
A familiar voice speaks from behind the guard, clear and amused. "That is because it was under royal decree to be kept a secret. You know I do love my secrets, after all."
Ashe stands quickly, happiness blooming within her as she clasps the young man's hand warmly. "Emperor Larsa, it has been too long."
"Indeed, which is why I insist you call me simply as Larsa; we are compatriots, are we not?"
"Of course, Larsa. But what are you doing here? My coronation is not for another month's time."
Larsa looks up at with pleasant politeness, every bit the ruler of Archades. "Ashe, as you well know there are many matters we must attend to before your coronation, now that we embark upon a new era of peace and cooperation. I thought it would be prudent to discuss these issues in person." Larsa pauses, a clever look in his eyes. "But before we speak upon political matters, I have brought a friend who misses you dearly."
Ashe looks up from Larsa's face, towards the doorway, and sees that standing behind her royal guard is a man dressed in the regalia of an Archadian Judge...
Basch approaches her and bows stiffly. "Your Majesty, I hope you are faring well." His formal tone puzzles her. Is this not the man who swore to protect her, who kept her safe even when she thought him to be a traitor?
But she is a queen and he is a judge and with the soon-to-be emperor of the Archadian empire standing next to them, she cannot question his tone or ask him why he looks so solemn. Instead, she merely nods. "I am, thank you."
Basch's voice is quiet. "Allow me to wish you congratulations on your engagement."
Ashe starts. "I beg your pardon?"
Larsa interrupts, curious and unable to contain himself. "You are to marry the prince Al-Cid of Rozarria, are you not? The entire empire has been a'whisper with the happy tidings."
Resisting the urge to burst into laughter (it's not fitting of a queen, even amongst such dear friends), Ashe shakes her head. "Your citizens are wrong, Larsa. Al-Cid has paid several visits to Dalmasca, but for the express purpose of furthering relations between us in a political sense only." She directs this final sentence at Basch, wondering if this is the reason for his formality.
"Then you must pardon my remarks, they were far too forward." Larsa replies as he glances at Basch's relieved expression, and Ashe can almost see the gears switching inside the boy's head. He is as shrewd as he is kind. Her suspicions on the true nature of Larsa's visit are realized as Larsa suddenly begins to walk away. "Please excuse me, there are some documents I must retrieve from my royal craft. I shall return momentarily."
Basch frowns. "Your Majesty, I can retrieve the documents for you, you need not do it yourself."
Larsa waves off Basch's comment and continues walking. "Nonsense, I'm sure the two of you have much to speak about." Larsa nods at Ashe's royal guard, who has been waiting outside the doorway. "This guard will be just fine in your absence, Judge Basch."
And she is suddenly left alone with Basch. The silence between them is deafening, and she is thinking of Lord Rasler and her duties as Queen of Dalmasca... but Basch looks at her with such intensity and her heart beats a strange staccato inside her throat.
"I missed you." Basch says softly.
Ashe swallows her heart with a smile and rests her hand on Basch's cheek. "I missed you too."
Vaan nearly knocks a Bangaa down as he barrels through the bazaar, triumphantly clutching the primary actuator he and Penelo have needed for months now. With this final piece, the ship they've been restoring over the past few months will be the envy of the skies, with speed and maneuverability never seen before.
He's running past shops and banners, countless happy citizens free to roam and live in the bright streets of Rabanastre once again. In only a short time, so much has changed. There's a newfound sense of joy here, the promise of peace and an end to the fighting. Vaan soaks in the feeling; it's as if Reks' death means something, finally. His brother fought for peace, and now peace has arrived. Vaan knows life is far from perfect, but now it's something to look forward to.
The aerodome is humming with activity and travellers, but Vaan bypasses them all and heads towards a lone hangar, where their ship awaits: the Densetsu. It's a tiny little thing with a million spikes and points, a sleek flyer and just right for the two of them. Penelo makes for an excellent co-pilot, she knows just how to compliment his flying skills and is a great support.
Vaan pushes the hangar doors open. "I got the part, Penelo!"
She rushes out from underneath the Densetsu, a brilliant grin on her face. Her long ponytails have started to come undone and there's grime and grease on her pants and shirt. She runs up to him and cradles the small part in her hands as if it were a dove, looking at it in awe.
"I can't believe it! Now we can really make our debut for Ashe's coronation." Penelo looks up at Vaan hopefully. "This is amazing!"
Vaan laughs at Penelo's enthusiasm, ecstatic himself at how much the two of them have been through, how far they've come. Everything is falling into place...
Without warning, he wraps his arms around Penelo's waist and lifts her off the ground, spinning and laughing and simply enjoying the moment. She's shrieking at him, yelling for him to put her down even as she bursts into giggles. When he finally lets her down, he finds that her arms are now around his neck, and she's looking back at him with all the sweetness and optimism in the world.
He kisses her gently, only once, then pulls away as he wonders if she'll smack him for it.
She doesn't, grants him a brilliant smile instead, and the whole world seems a lot brighter than it has ever been before.