Author's note: My gods it has been far too long since I've worked on this fic. I apologise for those who have been following it. I have been so bad...but now I've done it. I've done some more of this story and I hope it won't be too long before I update again. This is not beta'd so there will be mistakes. It's not what I consider my best work...I might be a little rusty, but please be kind in any crit you decide to leave. Also a word of warning, this chapter is a lot more explicit...from the get go. Enjoy.
He knew what she tasted like; he craved and needed her, more than he needed air in his lungs. Drops of sweat trickled slowly over the swell of her breasts and the glistening trails running over her flushed skin made Basch bow his head down for his Queen. He rested against her chest ever so lightly, feeling the rapid beating of her heart before kissing at each breast, softly in worship. He carried his revering embrace between them and up across her neck, making sure the hairs of his beard caressed her skin, making her jolt and gasp. Basch kissed her, only briefly before bowing back down her chest to gently trace the tip of his tongue along her curves .Her body tensed against him and those delectable moans he heard turned to breathless pants as he took one fully to his mouth.
Ashe arched up into him, a lilting whine of want emanated from her throat as the wet and warm motions of his mouth and tongue rippled pleasure over her body. The judders of her underneath increased to uncontrollable jerks as Basch slipped hungrier kisses down towards her belly. She moaned his name, she begged for him to keep going down, her hands pushing eagerly on his head, but he felt another jolt from her, one that made him stop.
He rose up off his Queen to rest upon his knees and looked down at her sheened nakedness lying on the red mound of pillows. Ashe's sweat drenched hair sprayed out behind her, the silver strands like silk glistening with dew as she smiled back up at him.
"Basch!" her voice took on a low seductive tone as she held her arms above her head and thrust out her chest. She wiggled her body, intentionally making her breasts wobble. She laughed, playfully, lifted her legs and ran a big toe teasingly across the hairs on his chest. Basch smiled, gently parted her legs and traced his fingers up the insides, circular strokes, barest of touches, all the way to her inner thighs. Ashe's eyes fluttered shut, she bit hard on her lip when Basch's fingers grazed between her lips and all of a sudden she pulled him back down on top of her and enveloped her legs around his waist.
Ashe pleaded for him; she bit at his ear and curled her fingers in his hair, begging for him to be inside of her. He kissed her with everything he had; Basch swallowed her mews before complying to her wish with a single effortless thrust. She cried as he began to move with deep but gentle grinds against her.
The friction of their bodies soon increased and the the shocks of ecstatic pleasure wouldn't relinquish, their grasping hands and crushing mouths shuddered and slipped along with the cushions beneath but seconds before Basch could find that release, there was another jolt that broke the two of them apart.
"Did you feel it?" Ashe cried, running her hand over her belly as Basch slipped off her. Their panting breaths were only choked as excitement of a different kind overcame them.
"How could I not." He murmured, reaching down and pressing his hand over the growing stomach. "One of our sons kicked."
"No. One of our daughters kicked!" She breathed, wagging at finger at him and then covering his hand. Basch sunk down and slouched gently over her legs, grinning like he'd found treasure. He kissed at the swell of Ashe's pregnant belly and clamped both of his hands on either side. Immediately there were other bumps from inside as the other two joined in.
"We have disturbed them." He said, kissing his mouth over Ashe's belly button and whispering soft "shushes" to the babies. "Perhaps we should stop. I should let you and the boys rest."
"Oh no!" Ashe laughed, pulling against his hair. "You don't start something and not finish! Husband, you will continue with your duties!"
"Yes, my queen."
Ashe could only giggle at the puff of his growling breath on her skin and when that same tickle of his beard caressed between her legs, Ashe closed her eyes and relished in his kiss.
Though he didn't like her kicking him…
"Ashe…stop it. Please."
The kicking in Basch's side really wasn't making sense to him. Ashe couldn't possibly be doing it, because the positioning was all wrong. He was still groggy but when another kick impacted with his side, Basch jerked upwards.
Of course, he should have realised. He wasn't with Ashe. He was on the other side of the fire, too far away from her, sleeping on the first night of the Bonding ceremony. He rubbed his eyes and gazed up at the few remaining crystal lights still bobbing through the air, and when he felt the kick again, he turned round.
"Cease doing that!" he snapped, groggily.
There was a definite feel to this foot kicking him. It was more claw shaped.
"Fran." Basch groaned, before letting out a yawn and a stretch. He felt some of his bones crack and then he heard a very disturbing hiss. He looked at Fran whose ears now curled down to cover her eyes.
"Stop stretching your Hume limbs like that! Stop it now! Or cover yourself!"
Basch was now fully awake when he fathomed what it was that was upsetting the Viera so much. Being naked was bad enough for the creature, but seeing his Rhosyn slathered form tensing and expanding as he stretched was far too much for her. His hand grabbed a thin sheet and placed it over his groin and he sat up slowly.
"I'm sorry, Fran."
"You were behaving strangely in your sleep. I did not like it. I hope that it will not happen again?"
"I cannot be held responsible for my subconscious, Fran nor can I guarantee that I will not do such things in the future. I do however worry how you will handle the second phase of this ceremony."
The only response he got from the Viera was a hissing sound, one that Fran made all too often when she was upset or loathing something.
Basch rubbed his eyes again and gazed over to where Ashe was fast asleep amongst the cushions. He was lost as he stared, captivated at the little movements she made as she breathed and at the glow of the fire on her bare skin peeking out from under the sheets.
"You did not say much after she told you." Fran said sitting down next to Basch, but not too close. That man thing of his was enough to keep her at a good distance. "Is the prospect of becoming a father frightening to you?"
Basch allowed a brief glimpse towards the Viera who was also watching Ashe, with an innocent and naïve look upon her face.
"Aye, it is. I know naught about being a parent… to be one to three? It is daunting indeed but knowing that Dalmasca has already blessed them and us…having the support from the people and from friends like you…it will be glorious. I look forward to it. I long to meet my children…but I fear so much for them. What the future will hold."
"New life is nothing to fear." Fran said matter of factly. "It is to be celebrated."
"And their lives shall be."
"Yet you said you are afraid."
Basch smiled softly and nodded his head. For a moment, it looked as if he was going to get up and go over to Ashe. Fran saw his fists clench and his face creased with frustration before he slicked his fingers through the long tresses of his soaked blonde hair.
"You've been outside the Wood. You've seen what Ivalice is like? It is cruel and harsh…despite the peace we have achieved. People are beaten, murdered and abused everyday… there are evils in this world that I would not wish my children to experience, so I will do my utmost to prevent them from having to. Yet it grieves me to know that I would not be able to shelter them from everything."
Fran understood all too well. No one should suffer but such experiences are sometimes unavoidable. The marks and scars on Basch's body were evident enough of what he had been subjected to. Fran knew that Basch and Ashe would do all in their power to make sure their children would not fall victim to such things. Yet she sensed that was not all he feared.
Basch saw the way her head tilted to one side and the prick of her ears in curiosity and he smiled.
"Perhaps I should read Penelo's books. They might give me tips on how to be a father when it comes to sleepless nights, feeding, bathing and changing."
"Changing?" Fran made a curious nipping sound through her front teeth and her ears angled slightly into each other, another trademark sign of her confusion. "How could you change your offspring? Do you swop them for others if they're not satisfactory?"
Basch let out a startled grunt of surprise and shook his head, amazed that Fran was taking things so literally.
"No! Never! I meant changing their..." Those ears curled inwards and there was another hissing sound. Basch really was amazed that she didn't know. "Hume new-borns cannot control their bodily functions so they…it has to be contained. So they wear these…"
Fran's reaction was instant and thankfully Basch didn't have to explain the exact function of a nappy. He had seen her ears stand erect before, they had done so a lot today as she was faced with many Hume traditions and sights of Hume anatomy. Though it was nothing compared to the stiffness they had now.
"You allow them to purposely defecate into their attire?" Fran shot to her feet. "That is atrocious!"
Basch had to actually "shush" Fran, his hands waved in a gesture for her to lower her voice when he saw Ashe stir in her sleep. His Queen groaned, a delectable sound, and she turned over, the sheet slipping from her body to reveal her wet back and bottom. .
"It is disgusting! Vile and unthinkable!" Fran's voice had lowered to stuttering whispers.
"You would have a new born go anywhere and everywhere?"
Fran's red eyes scrunched shut and her head wiggled from side to side. Then when it appeared she had gotten over this new shock, one eye peaked open and she looked to Basch.
"They cannot control their bodily functions? How is that possible? Do all babies do such things?"
"The Viera emerge from the roots of the wood with knowledge of all their bodily functions. We know how we work. This is not true of Humes then?"
Basch shook his head.
"We have to teach them."
"Teach them?" Fran had enough, it was far too much. She got up from the cushions and Basch could see her clawed hands twitching just as much as her ears, then he heard her muttering something in a language he couldn't quite understand. To his surprise the Viera walked over to where Vaan had fallen asleep and kicked him just as she had done to Basch. "Wake up! Vaan! Wake up, Basch needs some water!"
"No! I don't need any water, it's quite alright, let him sleep."
"He should not be sleeping!" Fran snapped, nudging Vaan again. The teen only groaned and turned over, smooching his face against a cushion. "Vaan! Vaan!"
"Penny, I'll do it tomorrow…..promise….." Vaan snorted in drowsed sleep. "Just snuggle with me…"
"Fran…" Basch edged up to his knees. "There is no need to disturb him…or Larsa. They are young and…."
Such a shrill screech definitely woke the boy. He jerked up into a sitting position, his blonde hair a tangled flop over his face and his mouth hanging open with drool dribbling from the side. He made a noise that could have been words, but it was too garbled. After a few moments of disorientation, Vaan swiped his hair back and looked groggily around the room before scowling up at Fran.
"It is fortunate that during the night we're the only ones to watch over the couple." Fran nudged the teen again with her foot. "You would surely be chided for slackness in such a responsibility. Basch is thirsty…I need to go and inform Larsa to bring him a drink."
Vaan looked hazily at Basch through half open eyes and instead of asking "really?" it came out like a little Moogle squeak. Basch shook his head and wouldn't have minded if Vaan did go back to sleep, but Fran was already walking away to the steps, holding up the long length of her white dress.
"Stay awake! I will not be long."
The Viera was up the stairs and gone before Vaan could even say—or attempt to say—a word. He looked around and up at his surroundings again before peering at Basch with one eye closed. He was using what energy he currently had to keep the other eye open.
"Are you really thirsty?"
Basch shook his head.
"So why did Fran wake me up?"
Basch was about to say that really Vaan should have been awake when he noticed more movement from Ashe. He saw her turn and the smile on her face. She was awake. He smiled back and Basch again felt the urgent need to go over and hold her.
"Highness…did Fran disturb you?"
Ashe shook her head and yawned. She then rose up from her lying position and the sheet fell from her completely. There was a tut and "oh bloody hell" from Vaan, which made her laugh and in turn made Basch smile.
"Are you doubting yourself again, Basch?" Ashe's voice softy spoke, as she covered herself back up with the sheet.
"I might have been." He said, bowing his head and mumbling slightly behind his long hair. He heard her gentle laughter and peered through the sweat drenched locks. "But it is perfectly justified."
"You worry too much. You will be a great father." Ashe edged closer, pausing momentarily as she looked to Vaan. Her friend shrugged his shoulders and she moved back. "I have worries too. About what kind of a parent I will be but we'll get through this together."
"Aye." Basch lifted his head and scratched lightly at his beard. "We shall. Though I'm not sure how Fran will take it. She has just stormed off to get some water. She does not approve of the fact that babies cannot control their bodily functions."
"Oh!" Ashe had to cover her mouth with her hand to hide her smirk, but it really didn't do anything to convince Basch. "Fran's going to be shocked with a lot of things during my pregnancy. I wonder how she'll…"
The sudden jerk of Ashelia's body made Basch jump. The slight hold of her hand over her mouth clamped down hard as her cheeks suddenly bulged outwards. Her other arm snaked round her stomach and she turned away.
"Ashe!" Basch called out and jumped to his feet. He then cursed himself as he forgot—again—that he couldn't go anywhere near her. "Vaan! Help her!"
Vaan was startled just as much as Basch was. Even though his eyes had been closing again, and he was about to doze back off, Basch's deep booming voice shocked him out of fatigue. He fell backwards onto the cushions behind him and gazed in horror as Ashe scrambled away from the fire. He quickly sprang to his feet and ran to the Queen's side. He landed on his knees and skidded on the sheets until he was able to wrap his arm around her shoulder.
"Ashe…you all ri-AWW!"
Vaan's bawling of disgust as his friend and sovereign retched, echoed throughout the room and his skin went just as pale as Ashe's. He had turned away.
"Help her!" Basch snapped as the teen edged away.
"How?" Vaan gripped his own stomach.
"Hold her; keep her hair out of her face! Comfort her!"
"She's being sick!"
"Basch!" The desperation in her voice made the want inside Basch increase. He needed to be there, not Vaan. It should be him to support her and tell her it's okay. Yes she was only being sick, but such an unpleasant act could be helped with some helpful words and a loving touch.
Vaan just patted Ashe on the back and pulled back her hair. His scrunched up face, as she continued, screwed up even more. Ashe's coughs and splutters weren't making the experience for him any better.
"You all right, Ashe?" he managed to stutter. The queen shook her head. "Fran's gone to get some water for you. Get that gross sick taste out of your mouth, yeah?
Basch saw her hand grab Vaan's forearm. Her head flopped onto Vaan's shoulder and it pained him. Basch thought himself a fool for being so petty, but more than anything he wished he could be there holding his Queen. He wished that he was Balthier…or anyone who was able to be close and touch her.
He sank back down to his knees and watched Vaan comfort Ashe through the flames of the fire. He didn't notice Fran returning with the water, nor did he notice the arrival of Penelo. The two women huddled round Ashe, tending to her and helping her…
He didn't think he would be able to last the next month. He closed his eyes and hoped for a speedy next few weeks. He longed for that that night when they would be bound together…and the dreams wouldn't be just dreams.
She had been in amongst the bustle when the ceremony started. Whilst the interior of the Bonding room was calm and peaceful, the rest of the palace had erupted into chaos. The kitchens, the guards and ministers…everyone was running around like headless…well confused Headless.
She stood in the small hall way just outside, mainly to stay with her friends whilst they waited to be summoned. But the second time the Emperor and Penelo came out of the room; she didn't know what to make of their expressions. They were red faced about something.
"Is everything okay?" asked Filo as Larsa slumped down onto the little couch that sat against the wall. The Arcadian's eyes were wide with shock and his hands were shaking a bit and when Penelo shyly hid away near the door, Filo took hold of Larsa's hand and gently squeezed it.
"I was not expecting that!" Larsa said. "Well I was…but hearing about it and seeing it are very different things!"
"What did you see?" asked Filo, all innocently.
"What didn't we see?" Penelo said, beaming a grin almost as wide as her face. Filo gasped and felt her cheeks burn as she caught on to her friend's meaning.
"They were naked?" She couldn't help but giggle when Larsa nodded. "Oh! Gosh!"
She then wrapped her arms around her head and tried not to think on what Captain Basch Fon Ronsenberg would look like…naked. The more she tried not to…the more she couldn't help but.
It was only when Marlene and Balthier came storming through the door that she was startled out of her revelry. The two didn't stop to talk or let them know what was going on. Nia and Balthier walked along the corridor and opened the far door—the noise of chaos outside momentarily breaking through the silence—and hurriedly slammed it behind them.
"Do I need to ask?" Filo nervously bit at her nails. Penelo shook her head, but the twitch of her eye told Filo that she would explain later.
She felt a flutter of excitement in her stomach and fear at the same time. For the couple this was a beautiful moment, this was for their future, but such a ceremony was bound to make others—those in Ashe's service and her friends—a little discomforted. To see someone they all revered and loved, being like them? It was difficult to see your idols and leaders be just normal Hume beings. Normal.
Filo thought it was all strange…the customs of this ceremony was bizarre and nothing like a normal Kilitas church wedding, which was what most people in Dalmasca preferred. She wanted to know more about the Landis customs but then didn't want to know more. Her thoughts were like little dream hares hopping all around the prairie that was her mind. She couldn't make a decision.
"Hey! Hey! Look who I found!" There was a little cough from somewhere and an exasperated sigh. "Okay, look who Kytes found!"
Filo and all her crazy dream hares stopped and turned as the door to the palace opened. In the doorway was Tomaj and Filo thought he had wings. That was until he stepped aside and allowed Llyud to shuffle in. The Aegyl looked terrible…his wings were drooped, his skin even paler than usual and his red hair was sticking up in all directions.
His eyes looked bloodshot and his trousers were covered in dirt, but there was a tiny little smile upon his face as he swayed from side to side.
His hand lazily rose up to wave at Penelo and the others. Filo waved back enthusiastically, but when his bloodshot eyes watched the blurred flap of her hand, his wings suddenly jolted and cracked at the door frame. There was a startled cry and thump behind Llyud who then turned to see what had happened. His wings nearly whacked Penelo and Tomaj but luckily for them they stepped back in time.
"Sorry, Kytes." Llyud bent down and helped the little eleven year old up to his feet. The boy shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
"S'alright! You're okay now, yeah?" Kytes patted Llyud's wing. The Aegyl nodded and then turned to confront the others. Seeing Larsa swinging his legs on the sofa, the still hungover—or possibly still inebriated—Llyud stiffened and adopted a more regal stance.
Larsa couldn't help but smile.
"The bachelor party last night was a most curious experience," said Llyud, slowly walking to the ornate sofa opposite Larsa. "Consumption of vast amounts of alcohol...tales of heroic past deeds, more drinking, male bonding and the naked dancer woman…. It was most peculiar."
"But did you enjoy it?" asked Penelo as she sat down next to Larsa. Llyud had to think about it for a moment. His eye brow rose in contemplation and then lowered into a frown when he obviously couldn't recall anything.
"I think I did." Llyud frowned even more as he tried again to recall what happened. "I am not entirely sure."
"Where were you?" asked Filo, as she and Larsa swung their legs together.
"I found him passed out in the arches near the bazaar," said Kytes, proudly. "Captain Basch said he would be there and when Tomaj and I went down to the bazaar to get supplies…sure enough, there he was, fast asleep with that little Moogle who works for Balthier snuggled in one of his wings!"
"Nono?" Penelo and Filo chorused.
"That's the one." Tomaj bobbed his head. "Bless the little critter…he got up, wobbled away and then disappeared in a flash of Moogling!"
His hands mimicked an explosion and propped himself up against the wall. Kytes did the same and looked towards the thick wooden doors of the Bonding room.
"So! How's things been?" asked Kytes. "Have you and Lord Larsa-!"
"I said to just call me Larsa, Kytes."
"Have you seen anything yet?"
Filo made a little "eep" and slapped both her hands over her face. She heard the curious flap of Llyud's wings and the shuffling movements of Tomaj and Kytes, but still refused to look between her fingers. She knew she was being silly…but she couldn't help it.
"So it's true then?" Kytes said, his voice sounding higher. Tomaj and Kytes then snorted with laughter, childish silly laughter. Llyud looked as if he was about to fall asleep again.
"It's not a disgusting thing!" said Penelo shaking her head in disapproval whilst trying not to grin herself. "It's a perfectly natural and beautiful ceremony! It's not something to be smirked at!"
"We're not smirking, Pen." said Tomaj smirking.
"Well stop snickering and making funny faces!"
"Hey…you're the one getting all hot and bothered!"
Filo finally peeked through her fingers and saw that her friend was blushing just as much as she was.
"Yes…" Penelo cleared her throat and pushed back a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "Well, it…"
Thankfully the awkward conversation was interrupted as the door squeaked open and Vaan poked his head through the crack. He looked round at the others and nodded in acknowledgement. Filo could see that her friend was fidgeting even as he leant against the handles. He was shaking with nerves.
"Hey guys. Erm…Larsa, Pen…Basch is feeling hungry…don't suppose you could get him something? Oh and something for Ashe too. Her Royal Pregnant Highness might be feeling peckish too!"
Penelo and Larsa jumped to their feet and immediately set off in the direction of the kitchens. Two sets of doors slammed, leaving Filo and her friends a little stunned.
"Okay." Tomaj sighed heavily. "So what do we do now?"
The hours went by. Filo and the others watched as Larsa and Penelo rushed back and forth bringing the Queen and her knight food and drink. They saw Marlene and Balthier return as well; the sky pirate was muttering something to the red haired delegate and Filo couldn't help but notice his closeness and the way his hand kept touching at the white sleeve of her dress, caressing and stroking. Marlene was smiling smugly, not caring about his touching and instead she waved at Filo before disappearing into the other room.
The Arcadian delegates, Al-Cid and some Rozzarians, Ashe's own palace staff and the Nu Mou, all came in and out of the corridor, some protesting at the children's unnecessary presence, but most prying for information and making demands. Talven and Reion came out a couple of times too—the two were quite appalled and embarrassed by whatever was going on inside—and they had wanted Filo and the others to go away, though it was thanks to Larsa that they were able to stay. There were some heated arguments, curtsey of Talven's temper and insecurities, and when Fran came out to loudly exclaim for them to "Be silent!" it was settled. The young friends of the Queen were allowed to stay. The maids also took out the valuable vases and other ornaments just to make sure Llyud wouldn't break them.
Kytes and Tomaj were beginning to get a bit restless as early evening settled in. They were not as patient as Filo was with waiting.
"It is wonderful that they're getting married," said Filo eventually, at last stopping Kytes from making an annoying clicking sound with his tongue. "I'm so happy for them."
"Bit iffy them being all naked and stuff…isn't it?" Kytes said as he pushed away from the wall, clearly tired from standing up. He stomped heavily over to the sofa and slumped down with a thump. Tomaj joined him as well and all three of them sat opposite Llyud and starred at him. The aegyl had fallen asleep a long time ago and hadn't made sound other than his snores.
"I wouldn't say iffy my little friend. If you think about it, a lot of the Landisian customs makes perfect sense," said Tomaj. "Did you know that when a Landisian dies, the closest family member stays with the body a whole week and THEN afterwards, for two whole mandatory weeks, there's a celebration of the deceased. Two weeks of positive remembrance includes, drinking, eating, more drinking, more eating and basically having a huge party. Landisians don't do things by halves. When a new child is born into the clan, there's celebration as well—I think it's like a baby shower but lasts about the same time. Though, how the Landisians ever get anything done between all these continuous parties, I don't know!"
"Two weeks of celebrating the dead and two month naked bonding ceremonies?" Kytes sighed nervously. "Wow. I mean this…what Basch and Ashe are going through…two whole months! Right now, they're not allowed to touch and the second….?"
"They'll be bound together." said Tomaj, nudging Filo in the arm and winking. His hands began to gesture, slowly as he explained. "Two sashes are tied around their wrists and for that whole month they cannot be separated. Everything they do has to be done together."
"Where did you learn all this?" asked Filo.
"Basch told me at the bachelor party. He was very drunk."
"Yes oh! In normal situations, the second half of the ceremony is also the must time for them to conceive. It is encouraged for the couple to continuously…." Tomaj looked at both the young teens either side of him and saw their wide expressions. 'They might be a little too young to know about this'. Filo had hidden her face again and Kytes continued to express complete ignorance as to what was being implied.
"Couple." Tomaj gestured with his hands to make the picture clearer. Kytes' mouth dropped open and he sprung to his feet. "But Basch and Ashe don't have to worry as the Queen is already pregnant."
"OH!" Kytes' face went beet red and he actually coughed and choked a little. "Vaan and Penelo…the others…they have to…have to watch?"
Llyud was startled awake at Kytes' exclamation, the coughing and high pitch of the boy's voice made his wings shoot out to the side rather suddenly. It was a good thing those maids had taken away the ornaments. There would be shattered pieces on the ground by now.
The Aegyl grinned through half closed eyes, stretched his entire body—the feathers of his wings rustled as they too seem to stretch—he yawned and then shifted about until he fell asleep.
Kytes nervously shifted on his feet, wringing his hands before edging back to the door. The poor boy didn't know what to think or do. He wanted to smile and laugh again, but those adult things… the reality of what his treasured sovereign had to do…in front of Vaan and the others. It was freaking him out. Filo didn't blame him.
"I'm...I'm hungry!" he blurted out. "I'm gonna find Deeg and the others!"
Within an instant the eleven year old had ran out and away, as if a Slime or some other hideous fiend was after him. Tomaj followed him immediately afterwards, calling out his name. The door slammed—Filo wondered why they had to be shut so damned hard all the time—and she was left alone with Llyud, feeling a little stunned.
This day was getting weirder and weirder.
As the snores from Llyud gently grunted from across the corridor, Filo stayed and waited for news of her friends.
Filo went back regularly to wait with Penelo and Larsa. Pala came along too, and very soon into the month, the blind maid adopted a routine that involved sitting and waiting and helping with carrying food. Filo decided to keep a log instead. She found a note book and kept a meticulous record of what was going on, especially as tempers and the tension within the room were rising.
Ashe's pregnancy was getting her moods all in a twist. She shouted a lot, and Filo found it interesting as to what it was that got her so riled up. Even Basch himself raised his voice more than often, and that too was surprising…yet it wasn't. Filo could only imagine how frustrated the couple were and how on edge being apart from each other would be. It would be fascinating to look back on later.
Pala proved excellent company. Filo began to like her very much. Her bangle could sometimes let the maid know what was going behind those closed doors that was not evident by the raised voices, or silence. Sometimes in the long boring 'nothing's happening' moments, she and Filo would press up against the door to listen and if they were lucky, the bangle leaked little pieces of information when it could.
Other times it was Larsa and Penelo keeping them up to date. Very rarely would the other members of the party acknowledge the waiting group of youngsters, but it didn't deter them one bit.
All the coming and goings, all the insight they'd gained just simply wouldn't dispel their curiosity. So instead of returning home at the end of the day like Filo normally did, she waited until the boys had gone and stood by the door with her ear pressed to the door.
It was midnight when the binding needed to be performed and it was vast approaching. Pala, Larsa and Penelo were watching her, knowing what was going through her scheming mind, for Filo was never subtle about her intentions.
"Fi. Tell us what you're thinking." Larsa said as he came up behind her and pressed his ear to the door. Basch was talking, about what he couldn't make out, but it seemed important.
"I want to see." She said. "I want to see the binding ceremony. I've never been to a wedding before, let alone a Landis one. Do you think we could sneak in and stay hidden at the top…and watch, just for a bit? I don't mean the sex stuff…just the binding ritual."
"We're not allowed in during that bit." said Penelo indicating to herself and Larsa. "You certainly aren't! I don't know how that Landisian woman will react."
"We won't be seen!" Filo's voice whined as she begged. "Honest! We can stay hidden, they won't know! Please, Penny! Please!"
Filo looked to her best friend with the most endearing and pleading expression she could muster and when Pala joined in—the maid's white eyes eerily looking directly at the eldest teen—Penelo sighed. It seemed she wanted to see the binding ceremony as well. Filo knew she would.
"Very well, but we have to be silent!"
"You just want to see Basch naked…don't you?" Larsa nudged Filo in the back. Her face went bright red.
"Yes!" Filo gasped. "NO! I mean….gosh! I just…oh flipping hecks!"
Larsa laughed and then patted Filo gently on the back. That didn't exactly make Filo feel any better for the Dream Hares in her mind were going absolutely bonkers. So she had a crush on Captain Fon Ronsenberg? No matter how hard she tried to justify such a simple reaction, or make an excuse to the Emperor, the bunnies weren't leaving her alone. Filo still blushed a fiery red.
"I'm sorry for my tease, Filo. I do it a lot…especially to Basch." The young Emperor dug his hand into the pocket of his waist coat and pulled out a watch. "It's almost time. If we're going in, it has to be now."
"You're just like Vaan when you behave like that, Larsa." scolded Penelo, wagging a finger at him but smirking anyway. "Behave!"
Not many people could get away with telling the Emperor of Archadia to behave like that.
Penelo carefully opened the door. Filo took Pala's hand and felt the maid squeeze it affectionately.
"You don't need t' fret Fi," Pala grinned. "I'm certain the Captain's appearance won't disappoint ya!"
"But you're blind…how…"
"The bangle tells me things Fi." Pala's grin took on a dirtier look. "Very big things!"
The Dream hares that were inside Filo's innocent little mind, had now gone utterly insane.
Hurry up and stop talking!
Ashe had no idea what the woman was saying. The words in the Landis tongue were just gibberish to her ears, but she knew that they were supposed to be meaningful and special. The woman was reciting a lot and had been for the past few hours, but all Ashe could think of was that soon, after everything she had endured, she would finally be bound to Basch. She would be able to touch him and kiss him and the elation she was feeling was only inciting her irritation even more.
Remember your blood pressure. Keep calm.
Ashe managed to break her gaze away from Basch to Healer Maya behind her. The old woman had been beyond patient this past month and helped Ashe a lot when it concerned her pregnancy. Ashe was nine weeks along now and the changes happening to the Queen were intense but manageable…but only barely. As she was expecting three and not just one baby, Maya had informed her that she needed to be extra vigilant about her health. Penelo had brought her special foods and plenty of fruits and Ashe was slowly getting hacked off with the herbs.
Too much stress could complicate things, but the raging hormones and her desire to have Basch in her arms was making her stressed. The bloody woman droning on in Basch's complicated language wasn't helping either.
Being close to Basch, seeing Marlene touch his body all through those days and weeks, and with the added intoxication of the Rhosyn was stressing Ashe out more than she would have liked. She knelt in front of the fire and saw how Basch was looking at her. Ashe had to bite her tongue from yelling at the woman still rambling on in foreign babbles, because he appeared to be just as frustrated by how long this was going on.
It was an immense relief when the older woman began talking normally in the common tongue.
"Despite a few mishaps, that were mainly the fault of others rather than yourselves," All eyes turned to Vaan and Balthier briefly. Balthier winked back at her which seemed to foul her mood even more. "I find you worthy of binding. Your family agree also and consent to the continuation. So Marquis Ondore…Captain Garner, step forward."
Poor Garner. It had been a whole month and still the knight was not able to look in her direction. Ashe watched as he took up position next to Basch, focusing intently on one of the many floating illuminating crystals bobbing around the room. She understood why he could not look at her in the state she was in and remembered how Basch used to be just like that.
Her uncle took up position next to her and took hold of her hand. Ondore had been a little fazed—though he didn't show it as bad as Garner—about his niece's nakedness, and that of her betrothed, but he came to accept this and the ceremony and did his part proudly, as her father would have done. Ashe wished that her father could have been here, but wishes about changing what has past was just plain folly. Her father was dead and there was no one else who she would rather give blessing to her.
The old man gave her a hug, caring not about the oily residue of the Rhosyn marking his green Bhujerban robes. In those wise and older eyes, Ondore seemed to know what Ashe was thinking and hugged her again, muttering some of the Bhujerban and Kilita's prayers he favoured.
When the hug broke, Ashe looked past Ondore to Basch, seeing him and Garner conversing between themselves, like she had so many times before. Yet this time Basch was very nervous and that didn't happen very often. Garner's hand on his shoulder was giving him reassurance, but it wasn't enough to stop him from shaking like a fraught teen. It was a sight to see, endearing and she had to admit a little sexy.
Damn the bloody Rhosyn! Will that woman ever shut up and get on with the ceremony and let me touch him already?
"It is time." The Landisian woman announced suddenly.
Ashe sighed loudly, relieving frustration and everyone heard. The old woman gave the Queen a raised eyebrow glare and it made Ashe bow her head with embarrassment, though the smirk on Basch's face, that amused upward curl of his mouth made Ashe smile in return.
The woman shook her head in dismay and handed Ondore and Garner each a thin strip of black silk as she did so. She then beckoned forth Arlene and Balthier who then proceeded to wash the remnants of the oil from the couple's bodies, dousing them with warm water and soap. As the lather spilled down over her skin, Ashe felt the heightened effects begin to wear off and the smell of roses wafted up her nostrils.
Her eyes fluttered closed for a moment to breathe in the floral scent but it was only after the wash that the fog which had been hazing her mind lifted. She could think more clearly.
I'll prove it to them…to Talven and Reion, I'll show them all!
Ashe opened her eyes and smiled proudly at every single person in the room. She even held out her arms and welcomed Balthier's strokes with the cloth as he washed off the soap. There was a sudden hushed silence in the room, as all were puzzled by just how assured she was. It remained silent for a while except for the crackling of the fire and the faint buzz of the crystals that got too close to the flames.
The Official took great heed of her new wave of calm and appeared impressed. From up in the far seats, Ashe saw concern on the look of her councilman. Talven was worried…and the Kilitas priest, Reion…he was just as shocked as when this had first started. No doubt the Asian man was muttering about blasphemy or reciting his own prayers about forgiveness.
Ashe also saw some movement just by the entrance and her lips pursed tightly together so she didn't show her sudden amusement. Filo really wasn't very stealthy.
Balthier was very reluctant to help the Queen back on with her red robes, but he did so after he had dried her body as best he could and he sighed heavily when he tied up the red sash around her waist. He leaned into her back just a little bit closer than she would have liked and whispered into her ear.
"I will miss this." He joked. Ashe scowled at him, but as he was so used to it, he smirked and stepped away. "It's an experience I'll never forget, Highness and nor will I ever stop thinking that it could have been me in your Knight's place. It's such a shame."
"You keep thinking that, Balthier." Ashe gently patted him on the arm. "But it would never have been you."
"Don't I know. It pains me, my Majesty…it pains me deep to know that." The grin spread wider on his face and then he stepped away.
"Quiet!" The Landisian sounded very frustrated by all this talking, probably because most Landis ceremonies she officiated at were more ordered and had people taking part who followed the rules and protocol. "Now, Basch…Ashelia…kneel before each other."
Both now dressed back in their robes, the two of them walked to the side of the fire to where a neatly arranged pile of cushions and throws and been assembled. They knelt down on one cushion facing one another, they were close but not actually touching, Ashe felt the graze of Basch's sleeve on her arm and it made goose pimples creep over her skin. The calm and patience she had asserted over her was fading when she looked into his eyes for being this close and not touching was still agony. For him.
Oh by the gods…he's so scared.
Ashe saw the glassy tearful glaze in his eyes and his broad, normally sturdy, shoulders shaking. He was scared, almost to the brink of tears. He was holding them back but barely. She saw his hand lift from his side and then drop, but his restraint, the effort he had to hold back those tears remained determined as ever as she noticed the clench of his jaw. However, for Ashe, the tears fell despite her efforts. She had never seen Basch this close to breaking, not even when he collapsed to his knees that night nine weeks ago.
"Marquis Ondore…tie Ashelia to him."
Ondore bowed to the woman and took up Ashelia's hand. He then took Basch's and joined them together.
Feeling his hand touch hers, the hotness of his skin and the rough callous of his fingertips stroking over her knuckles, made her gasp. Ashe's breath caught in her throat and choked her as every part of her realised that he was actually touching her….that it was real. It was just like the first time, just as potent as the kiss he had startled her with back at Giza and it was more powerful than any Rhosyn oil. Excitement fluttered in her abdomen and there was an uncontrollable spasm before a warmth seeped down her legs. Her skin flushed with a pleasant burn and her breaths panted out in quick successive gasps.
She nearly toppled over and would have fallen to the ground if Basch's grip hadn't kept her steady. How he managed it when he was trembling so much as well, Ashe didn't know, yet every brush of his fingers, every slight movement of his hand in hers, the strength in his squeeze, excited her, even if he was as nervous as a boy on a first date. He made her heart race and when her uncle wound the black sash around their wrists, the excitement began to hum once again down below.
Ondore said something, Ashe didn't hear what exactly, in fact she didn't notice anything except Basch. Even when Garner tied a second sash around their wrists, she was oblivious. Her attention was focused on him, the soft smile behind that beard, the wet strands of his hair clinging to his face, those eyes…those tearful but happy eyes, so blue like the waters of Ridona, that she felt she was drowning in him.
Someone was coughing. Ashe didn't care. She responded to the squeeze of his hand with one of her own and smiled. The person coughed again, a little bit louder this time, still none of them looked away.
"Ahem!" The tap on her shoulder made her finally break her stare with Basch and she slowly tilted her head towards her Uncle, who was highly amused at something.
"The part of ceremony has now officially started, my dear."
"It has?" Ashe was drawn back to her betrothed when she noticed the red satin slipped off his shoulder and down his arm, revealing some of his chest.
"Yes, Ashelia. I think it might be okay to allow yourselves to…"
Ondore didn't need to say anything more for Ashe grabbed hold of Basch's other hand, the one that wasn't tied to her own, and placed it against her belly. She then rested her fingers ever so lightly over his hand and leaned slowly forward against his chest.
Ahse could feel his heart beating so hard and fast against her cheek. She could feel the rush of his blood in his veins and hear the longing in his breaths. They remained knelt, with their free hands touching at Ashe's stomach, for what must have been hours. Basch planted a few kisses to her forehead, but nothing more.
"Won't their knees hurt from being like that for so long?" whispered Penelo to Maya. The old woman shrugged her shoulders.
"I would imagine so, dear."
It was surprising, for it was not at all how Ashe or the others had expected. In her impatience, with the urges screaming within her over the weeks gone by, buried beneath the pressure from everyone else around her; Ashe herself thought she would throw herself and ravage him. She thought with the way he was barely able to hold himself back that Basch would too. But it wasn't like that at all.
He broke his hand away from her belly and cupped her face. He stroked her cheek with light traces of his thumb before toying it slowly across her bottom lip and then, only after she nipped him playfully with her teeth, did Basch pull his thumb away and kiss her, slowly and tenderly. Ashe instantly fell into him and the kiss, clinging her fist tightly into the material of his robe and moaning into his mouth. The tenderness, the gentle caresses of his tongue toying with hers, tasting him caused ripples of excitement and pleasure all over her; again she felt the flutter below, building and surging to the point where she thought she would burst…all from a kiss.
By the gods how is this possible?
His hand was on her back, following the curve of her spine to linger briefly on her bottom before breaking the kiss. Ashe gasped lightly for breath and looked up to Basch with dazed yet adoring eyes. The kiss was finished, but the flutter was still going, so she dragged up their bound hands and turned it so she could press her lips to his knuckles.
"I can't believe this is happening." She whispered to his hand. "I had longed for something like this but I never thought it could actually happen. I'm a queen, responsible for my people and my country and not entitled to be as happy as I'm feeling right now. That night you came to me, I never felt happier in my life…then I was scared, so scared…terrified. Even after your pardon…of finding out about our children…I was still scared…but now…Basch. This is real…this is really us…together…"
He silenced her with his mouth. He pushed himself hard against her, strengthening the kiss and slowly tipping her back onto the cushions behind her. Careful so not to squash Ashe, he moved their bound hands to the side and lay close, pulling apart the folds of her robe. Ashe saw his longing and tempted stare at her chest and the lick of his lips, so she reached up towards him and gently eased him down.
She felt him on each of her breasts, kissing them delicately, exciting and hardening her nipples. Again and always, the wonderful sensation of his beard teased tingles across her skin made her toes curl and her body arch up. Then all she could do was try to control the elation and the throbbing inside as Basch took his mouth further down. She clenched her teeth and grabbed tightly into the cushions below her as his puffs of breath and wet lips traced over her skin.
Her toes curled closed when Basch kissed over her hips and the tops of her legs, her breathing become rapid, quick and shallow and then when Basch found her centre, Ashe let out a ecstatic gasp that echoed throughout the whole room.
"Oh flippin' hecks!"
The loud hissing sound of disgust and a clawed foot kicking to Basch's side kind of spoilt the moment.