Title: Patterns In the Sky

Warnings: None, unless fluff is going to rot your teeth

Disclaimer: I don't own it. Sad.

Notes: Just a little oneshot I wrote a while ago, can be fit in at any point in the game, really. Enjoy!

It would be easier, Ashe told herself, if Balthier really was as heartless as she'd originally thought him to be. A man who would demand that a widow give up her husband's wedding ring wasn't supposed to have any ounce of kindness, and he certainly wasn't supposed to be capable of loving.

And yet... all she had to do was look at him to know he was in love with the sky.

He was, at that moment, pointing out the constellations to Penelo. The girl's eyes were wide with wonder as she attempted to trace the patterns of warriors, monsters, and ancient royals in the stars. Likely, orphaned as she was, she'd not had anyone to show her the night's treasures, nor teach her the legends that went with them.

Not for the first time, Ashe wondered what life Balthier had flown from that he would know such things. More and more often, she would catch a glimpse of this- this soberly intelligent man who was vastly different from the dandy he played at being.

It made her feel inexplicably guilty, as if she was pulling him in a direction he would not have willingly gone, peeling back layers of defenses he'd surely erected for a reason. Except it had been his choice, hadn't it, to cast in his lot with hers.

A gambling man should have had better judgment, she thought, half-bitterly. He could have kept to his skies, his thieving, his apolitical bliss. He hadn't had to help her.

He turned- too abruptly for her to look way- and caught her scrutinizing gaze. She expected a sly grin and a teasing remark, but for once- for the first time- Balthier's affected attitude never surfaced. He bid a quick goodnight to Penelo, stood, and made ready to retire.

As he brushed past her, Ashe heard him murmur, "Rest well, princess."

That was all, and then she was alone with her unasked questions. She looked down the way he had gone and sighed. "And you, as well," she whispered. "Thank you."