Title: Night Of No Committment
Author: smitha-r
Rating: PG
Fandom(s): FFXII
Pairing(s): Basch/Ashe, Balthier/Fran, Balthier/Ashe
Summary: Basch knows he must explain to Ashe how he feels about her. But he stumbles upon a startling scene and the unexpected company of another.
Notes: Unbetaed. Takes place immediately after the Phon Coast cutscene. Enjoy.

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Even at night, the Phon Coast was magnificently serene. The soothing sounds of the waves, white sand still warm from the sun, a crescent moon casting his surroundings into stark relief; Basch tried not to focus on these distractions as he quickly swung his sword in a tight arc. Speaking with the other hunters at the camp (with their tales of fiends haunting the Necrohal of Naubudis and the Sochen Cave Palace) had reminded him just how absolutely necessary it was that he remain in top condition. Dangers lay ahead of them and he had to be prepared for the trials that came his way. He had to be ready to protect Ashe at all costs...

Ashe. Basch relaxed his grip on his sword and slowed his movements down, thinking about her silver-gold hair waving in the tropical breeze or her bright eyes taking in the blue seas. He hadn't known he would feel this way about her; his loyalty to Dalmasca had extended into loyalty towards her, a burning desire follow her to the ends of the continent if that was what she asked of him. He looked down towards the beach, towards the small building that the six of them were staying in for the night. Looking at the window to Ashe's room revealed nothing since she had extinguished her lamp several minutes ago. She had seemed distracted all afternoon, deep in thought and barely speaking to anyone. Basch had not asked her what was on her mind but now he regretted his decision. At the time, he had been concerned with gathering information on the trek ahead. Maybe it wasn't too late to ask her. He had proven he was trust-worthy a hundred times over, starting from the moment she had slapped him for a wrong he had not committed. Yes, she would speak to him now with freedom and candour.

The sand was soft beneath his feet as Basch walked towards their lodgings, up the steps and through the door, towards the room where she would no doubt be staring at the ceiling in deep thought. But his footsteps stilled as he drew closer; Ashe's door was not entirely closed, and a thin sheath of moonlight fell onto the wooden slats of the floor. Basch thought he heard someone speaking, and wordlessly peered inside.

She was standing, her back towards him, bare skin glowing in the moonlight that spilled through her window. She was kissing someone, his face shrouded in shadows as his hands traced her pale skin from shoulder to hips. Ashe murmured something again, putting her arms around the man's neck and pulling him close.

Basch stood there watching, in shock. It was only after he noticed the gilded gun and holster lying on the ground by the man's feet did he stumble away from the scene he had witnessed.

Ashe and Balthier? But how can it be? Basch's mind raced as he backtracked his way out of the building, back to where he had been so practicing his sword strokes only minutes before. Leaning his forehead against a sturdy palm tree, he struggled with the one thought consuming him:why not me?

"The stars shine bright this eve, perchance you would look at them instead of your feet?"

Basch turned at the voice, surprised that he had not noticed her. "Fran, you catch me off-guard."

She continued to face the skies, her back resting against a palm tree. "What could be of such importance that a respected military captain does not take notice of someone standing a mere arm's length from him?"

Basch did not speak. What possible reply could he make? That he had found the object of his unrequieted affection in the arms of another man?

As the silence stretched between them, Fran turned away from the stars and looked towards him, and for the first time he saw lines of sadness drawn across her face. "It will hurt for some time, a long time even. But we are strong. We will sacrifice it all to keep them safe, to keep them at our side."

Basch looked at the Viera, understanding. He wondered if Balthier knew, but he knew better than to ask Fran such a question.

Her gaze went back to the stars, her silver hair and long ears waving in the ocean breeze. "Tonight is the Festival of Janram, celebrated by the Viera every four years. It is tradition on this night to retell the mythical story of Betil and Lomusidri, a pair of tragic lovers who were forever twain due to the greed of the gods..."

Basch settled against the tree and looked up at the same sky as Fran, letting her words wash over him as he tried to wash away the pain in his heart.

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