teaser: many things in this hume world have disappointed her
author's notes: okay, guys. Here's an angst little twoshot that features two of my favorite characters from FFXII. Fran and Balthier. I especially like Fran, because to me she always came off as more of an third-party than anything else. All her views seemed so far beyond anything everyone else in the ground though. And I've always been curious about her relationship with Balthier. My personal feelings are I just can't see them in a romantic relationship. It's all to Han and Chewie for me. XP
Oh, and just FYI, De Patre Vostro is latin for "About Your Father". It makes sense in the next part.
/De Patre Vostro/
"But will you tell me?" he asks.
"It is a very long story," is all she offers and wonders if it can be as simple as that. If she can merely say such a thing and walk away from the question.
But, no, she knows too well that this day was long coming. And she has prepared herself for this day since she first saw him. Perhaps that is the thing about parenthood. One is never quite as prepared as one likes to think.
"Fran, don't I deserve to know?"
Yes, Fran thinks, he does.
She first sees him in a dive at Balfonheim. She has lived for many years in this hume world, and she has come to recognize that look of starvation in his eyes. This child has not eaten in many days.
Of course, that does not make him very much different from the countless other children that flock to the pirate city to escape one persecution or another. She has come to understand that the humes are not happy unless they are solidifying their class ranks.
Except, perhaps, in Balfonheim.
She will ignore him, she thinks. Humes have long stopped interesting her. In fact, very little of this world holds much interest for her now. And once, she had held such high hope for this world divorced so far from her own.
But she notices something about the hume boy that is unique. Something about his eyes. He is far too young to be that old. To humes, he is not quite a man, but close to being so. To her, he still an infant and too far from his mother's protective bosom.
In his eyes, though, she sees something that she has only seen in humes before. That cunningness. That cleverness. Even as he starves, he observes, and he learns, and if not today, than tomorrow, he will go to bed with a full stomach.
Children are the most amazing of all creatures, she finds. Of all the many things she has seen, it is the hume child's ability to survive that keeps her from regretting her decision to leave.
And so she stands and walks over to him, and ignores her own nagging voice at this foolishness in the back of her head. She has done so little things impulsively since that day when she turned her back on her people. In this hume world, they are allowed to make rash decisions, and she is now more a denizen of this world than anything else.
The boy looks up at her, eying her a little wearily, and she smiles at him.
"In Balfonheim," she tells the little hume boy, "thieves can have their hands cut off. Shall I buy you something to eat?"
"I don't need—" he tells her before stopping himself, his voice lined with the arrogance that comes to someone who only has their pride left, and nothing else. "Well, as long as you're buying."
She looks him over. He is not very tall, even for short humes, and if they stand he will probably not reach her shoulder. But, she thinks, he will grow into height. She can tell by the length of his arms, which are too skinny for him.
And if he didn't look so very unhappy, he would probably be very handsome. His voice is a strange one, as well, and something she has only heard in Archades, and even then only in certain parts of Archades.
Carefully, she sits, watching him watching her. His face is a bit grimy, she notices, from mud and blood, which means he knows how to fight, and his dark blonde hair is tussled around his head.
"You're a Viera, then?" he asks, not accusingly, as some humes do. More with a curiosity that amuses her. "I've never actually met one in person before. Read all about them, of course, but..."
"I have never meet a hume boy playing so vainly at pirate," she answers, and realizes that her word come off as too cruel. Sometimes these hume word games go beyond her, but she offers him another smile that eases the sting. "You are very far from home, I think."
"No," he says, his eyelids lowering, hiding his soul from her. "I'm not. This is my home."
She never understands humes ability to deny their heritage. She has left home, and thinks that she will never go back, never can go back, but she has never thought that it was not where she had come from, what had shaped her.
But it is hardly her place to lecture little hume runaway boys so instead she says, "Might I ask your name, pirate?"
The pause is only two moments long. He has been waiting for this for a very long time. For someone to ask him this. To solidify this illusion inside himself. She sees this, all within his eyes.
She does not need her sharp, long ears to catch his lie, but this she understands, at least. Once, she had a different name, as well. Or, rather, she had two names. Her true name, whispered to her by powers far more ancient than the most ancient hume king.
But she has not heard her true name spoken to her in thirty years, and she has found that she cannot remember how to say it herself. So she has contented herself to call herself what the humes translate her name into in their rustic tongue.
For near fifty years she has called herself Fran and the boy who is called Balthier will call her that for all of his days.
When he is done feeding himself—she must commend him on his restraint, for though she offers to buy him as much as he wishes, he only eats one meal—she offers him lodging at the inn. Fran tells herself that she does this because she has sensed a storm on the horizon and she does not like the idea of hume child Balthier shivering in the cold rain.
He leaves after the meal, and she will not be terribly surprised if he does not return. Nor, she thinks, will she look for him. Viera decency and hume decency are very much alike, and offering him her room is all she has to do.
But he returns not long after leaving, this time carrying a small rucksack over his shoulder.
"My—I was told once," the boy begins as Fran leads him to the inn. She does not say anything at the slight pause at the beginning of his words. "I was told that Viera didn't care very much for humes. I've never understood that, of course. Why leave your Wood if you want nothing to do with humes? But there are a couple around here and they do seem to avoid contact."
She cannot tell him, of course, what it is like to leave the love of the Wood, to deny its soft Word. Just as she cannot say what it is like watch the world age and wither while a Viera remains as she has always been.
This is not something hume minds can comprehend, she knows. So she cannot tell him.
"I am a strange Viera," she tells him instead.
Balthier sets himself a cot on the floor. Fran would have offered him the bed to sleep, but he seems more than content with the floor, and she has cannot sleep comfortably on the hard ground.
"Hume boy," she begins, and then says, "Balthier. Where are you going?"
"Oh, I don't know," Balthier answers on a shrug. "I was thinking, perhaps, Rabanastre. Or, better yet, Rozarria. That should be far enough away."
"So you are running," she guesses and watches his face close. "Humes seem to enjoy doing that. Running from things."
The hume boy's chin shoots out and Fran wants to chuckle at his stubbornness, but she suspects she will injure his ego.
"Aren't you running too? From the Wood?"
"No. I left the Wood, but I am not running from it." He will not understand that, she knows, but perhaps in time, when he is much older, he will.
They grow silent as they prepare for bed. She notices that Balthier carries a gun with him, but she sees hands that have wielded a sword. Fran is curious to what caused that change him.
"I shall take you to Rozarria if you wish," she tells him and earns a strange, slightly distrustful look from Balthier. "I have been there before. It is noisy and crowded. Hume boys will find it easy to be lost there."
"Why? Why would you help me?"
She wonders herself, why the offer seems only natural to make. She thinks perhaps, it might have something to do with Mjrn. She is very much older than Balthier, in hume years, but to a Viera Mjrn is very young.
"Shall we think it is fate?" she asks. "I often go to Rozarria, and you think it is far enough for you to escape..."
"Do you have ship then?" Fran's silence answers him. "How to you get to Rozarria and back without an airship?"
She smiles. "I enjoy walking. The sights are very beautiful."
"No," Balthier says, "that won't do at all."
The next morning, Balthier is gone from his cot in her room. Fran is tempted to look for him, but hume boys do as they please and she thinks that he will find her if he wishes to go to Rozarria with her.
Balthier finds her midmorning as she buys the latest bow. His hair clean, as is his face, and Fran was right. He is very handsome.
"Fran? You're a pirate, right?"
No, she is not a pirate. She is a Viera, who will sometimes work for the pirates in Balfonheim if they request her aid. But she has never thought of herself as a pirate.
"Well, anyway, every pirate needs a ship." Balthier's smile curls across his face, and Fran once again thinks he is far too old for one so young. "What would you say if I told you I know where we can get a ship?"
She thinks this has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with him, and she wonders why he is even including her. Has he been waiting for someone to take up his cause? Or has he finally now come to this decision?
"I would say that it is something to think about."
It takes them near a week to reach Archades. There are many times that Fran considers returning to Balfonheim and leaving Balthier to his own devices. And it, really, has nothing to do with him. It is just not her way to become involved in hume affairs, least of all these types of affairs.
But then he'll say something that proves to her how young he is despite how old he is, or he will shoot some fiend, or he will trip on a rock and try to play it off with a suave air, and she relents and stays just a bit longer.
She stays long enough for them to reach Archades. Balthier gets them in with relative ease and they camp out in an inn for two days while Balthier solidifies his plan.
Fran likes Archades, though she never admits it to Balthier. Humes always hid their true nature behind masks, and of all the masks, Fran finds Archades' mask the most intriguing in all its ornateness. She doesn't pretend to understand Balthier's thoughts and instead explores the city.
If she hears rumors of the Bunansa son missing, she does not connect it to Balthier. Of course, she could, but there would be little point in it. Balthier will tell her if he wishes, and if he does not, then it hardly matters.
On the third day, Balthier escorts her into the private area of Archades' aerodome. She notices the airship right away. Archades has always made impressive models. It does not surprise her to see it. Nor does it surprise her that Balthier seems to know the precise time to slip into the private quarters, when all the guards have been called off to an emergency in Draklor laboratories.
Balthier is a natural behind the controls, and they are in the air long before anyone misses the ship. Fran takes a place at the navigation panel, wondering why it seems permanent.
"It's called the Strahl," he tells her. "I think this should get us to Rozarria easy enough, don't you Fran?"
Fran looks at him, watches him eye the sky, and wonders what his father did to him that caused so much hate in so young a hume. They are often fickle in their emotions, but Fran thinks that this one will stick for a very long time.
And, somehow, she thinks so will she.
They do not separate in Rozarria. Balthier says something about every pirate needing a partner. Fran merely laughs and tells him that she has nothing better to do than follow a hume boy around Ivalice.
Balthier is determined to carve a name for himself, and Fran supposes there's nothing wrong with that. Humes only have a very short time to live, and they cope with such a small life span by convincing themselves that they will be remembered when they die. Only Viera understand that a single life is very inconsequential in the grand scheme of time.
Three years after Fran picks up the hume boy Balthier they are in Rabanastre. The city, for the most part, is in a state of celebration. Their princess has been apparently married off recently. Fran does not see what is so grand about an arranged marriage, but she has given up trying to understand hume thinking.
On the night of their third day in Rabanastre, Fran hears Balthier leave his room on the Strahl. She gives him three hours to return and when he does not, she goes to seek him out.
She finds him in the bar called the Sandsea. It is not hard to pick him out in the crowd. He is the only one that is dressed like an Archades man in the Dalmascan bar.
Quietly, she sits beside him. Balthier does not acknowledge her, and instead calls for another shot of whatever alcohol he thinks will drown his woes. Fran has never acquired the taste for liquor ad she merely watches him.
Finally, he says, "I'm nineteen today."
Fran wonders if this is what love is. If this is what the hume talk about when they speak of love, this sudden tightening in her breast, like he is transferring his pain to her and she is gladly taking it from him so he will not have to feel it.
Eventually, Balthier consumes too much alcohol for his blood to handle and she helps him back to the Strahl. Balthier is quite stupid when he is intoxicated, tripping on his own feet. He has always, since she has picked him up in Balfonheim, done everything in his power to try to appear casual and dashing and capable.
To see him like this is an experience. And she wonders if this is love.
After she gets him into the small dinning area on the Strahl, he collapses onto the table and watches her from sleepy eyes.
"My name isn't Balthier," he tells her, slurring his words. "It's Ffarman."
This does not surprise her, and she doesn't pretend at it. Balthier laughs and rubs his hand over his face.
"My father is—"
"Doctor Cid Bunansa." Fran finishes.
Her reply seems to sober him somewhat and he stares at her hard, as if he is trying to pick apart her soul. Fran has never viewed him as a threat in that regard, but now she must rethink the label. Balthier has never seemed to care very much what goes beneath the surface of people.
Now she is not so sure. She wonders if Balthier has been studying her, if he knows more about her than she cares to tell him.
"Yes. When we took the Strahl in Archades, there was much talk about Ffarman Bunansa who had run away from home. You seemed to match."
And so Balthier tells her, about his mother who died young, about his father who systemically lost his mind to the lust of nethecite, about his time as Judge in Archades, about finally leaving to preserve what good memories of his father he could still remember. Everything until the day when he meet her in a dive in Balfonheim.
"See, Fran, if it weren't for you, who knows where I'd be?" Balthier gives her a sloppy smile. "Certainly not the leading man I am today. I was so determined, you know. I had this idea of what a sky pirate was, ever since I was a little boy, and when I left, I thought I'd best try it out, since I failed so greatly at Judgehood."
She wants to tell him that he makes a fine sky pirate, and she is happy to be his partner, and that Balthier is probably much more interesting than Ffarman Bunansa ever was. A boy could not become a good man, so perverted by a father's twisted shadow.
Balthier looks at her. "Are we going to kiss, Fran?" he asks. "Because, sometimes, that's what partners do. Kiss. I'm sure we'd be good at it. Do you want to try?"
Fran chuckles. Where is this fabled tongue she knows he has? Sometimes, if they dock in a port long enough, Balthier goes out with pretty young ladies, and Fran doesn't hold it against him because she understand that humes need to feel that connection to one another, whereas Viera need only to be surrounded by trees to feel that they are apart of all things.
"I think you should sleep now, Balthier," she says.
"Okay," he replies, and does.
Carefully, she pushes his hair out of his eyes and looks into his very handsome face. She wonders what would have happened if she had kissed him. She wonders what would have happened if she told Balthier she thought maybe she was in love with him.
Instead, she covers him with a small blanket, and leaves him passed out on the table.
The day after, while he sleeps off all his alcohol, Fran decides that she isn't in love with Balthier. Or, at least, not in the way she was thinking, in the ways of what she heard humes talk.
She cannot, she supposes. No matter how Balthier ages, she will always feel as if she is too old for him, too old for him to understand, and she cannot forget that where his body will wither and fade, hers will not.
Sometimes, she thinks she will tell him that if he had been ten years older, she would have loved him greatly. But instead, she keeps it to herself because it would make Balthier feel awkward and he will not be sure how to act and that bothers him so, and besides he isn't in love with her. What good will it do?
But she cannot help but think that there is more than one way to love a man, and perhaps she loves Balthier in one of the many other ways.
For the first time, she wishes she had spent more time studying hume emotions.
When they leave Rabanastre, she requests that they camp in the Ozmone Plain. Balthier doesn't understand what she wants, but he does as she asks.
She tells him about Mjrn and Jote and the Wood and the dullness of her ears, and how she left to prove a point—that Viera may go as they please, that the world outside the Wood is as much as theirs as it is the humes—and everything about her that he doesn't know.
"And they... they just shunned you!?" Balthier demands, pacing back and forth in the Strahl's cockpit, like her words give him too much restlessly energy. "Deny your existence and your past and your blood?"
"Viera who leave the Wood are Viera no longer," she tells him. "I have not gone back in fifty years. I do not think I can."
He stops and looks at her, and then shakes his head. "Why tell me? I'm just that whelp that you picked up in Balfonheim out of some kindness in you. Why share this with me?"
"Because I know about your father," she answers, and it is as simple as that. "It does not seem right for you to have no secrets while I have kept mine."
Balthier laughs then and takes her hand in a move that surprises her. He sits down beside her in his pilot's chair and grins.
"Oh, Fran," he says, laughing again. His fingers tighten over hers. "What a pair we are. I think you were right, that night when you offered your room and I was worried you were going to murder me in my sleep and take my meager belongings. It was fate."
She smiles back at him, and thinks that yes, she doesn't love him. But she loves him. It was almost as if she was there at his birth, and she has taken up the mantle of motherhood without truly realizing it, and she feels young and old and ridiculous all at once.
"The gods favor us, Balthier," she tells him. "But I wonder how long that will last? Their blessing will only remain for so long."
Balthier takes the fall of Rabanastre hard, especially when he learns of the nethicite's important roll in Nabradia and Dalmasca's defeat. They do not go back when Rabanastre comes under the control of the Empire, as if Balthier is afraid his father will find him there.
Fran does not have the heart to tell him that she doubts very much his father spares Balthier much thought. And if Doctor Cidolfus Bunansa does think on his wayward son, it wasn't Balthier that his mind saw.
News reaches them that the princess of Dalmasca has taken her life. Balthier takes that hard, too. She remembers very little of the princess, only that she got married shortly before Balthier's nineteenth birthday and the entire city was very happy at the arranged marriage.
"I met her once, when she was only about seven or eight." Balthier blinks and looks over at Fran. "Well, not met, you see. That prince of Nabradia had monopolized her attention the entire time, and I was just the son of a somewhat wealthy, somewhat noble, crackpot with a dead wife."
The city will not celebrate now, Fran thinks, and perhaps they will regret ever doing so. Such is the way of humes.
For two long years they avoid Rabanastre, and Fran is slightly saddened by this. She has always been fond of that city. While not as ornate as Archades, the masks the humes wear in that city seem to be the lightest she has ever seen. She supposes it has to do with the sun.
But her mind does not often linger on Dalmasca and its many woes. There is too much to do. They have quite a bounty on their head, and Balthier has made enemies of that Baganaa and his gang, and there are always things to steal.
Then, one night, Balthier says, "Rumor has it there's a great treasure in Rabanastre. What do you say we take advantage of a good old fashioned Dalmascan feat and liberate some treasure beneath those snooty noses?"
Why are you still trying to hurt your father? she wants to ask. At first she resists, but Balthier talks about fame and remembrance, and she is reminded he is just a hume with a hume lifespan and she relents three days later.
"Amalia," the hume girl says.
Fran does not need her Viera ears to hear the lie. But she says nothing. She has grown used to being surrounded by young hume children who feel the need to hide their identities.
She always has come to believe that in time, all things will reveal themselves. Secrets rarely stay so.
On the way to the Raithwall Tomb, Fran takes Balthier a few feet away from the camp. Not enough to obstruct their view to the camp they are charged with guarding, but enough so wakeful soldiers and princesses cannot hear their words.
"Fran, I know you're worried," Balthier says.
She looks toward the camp. It was one thing to escort the boy and, later, the girl out of the sewers, and to help the boy then get out of the prison. It was acceptable of them to free the unjustly imprisoned knight. And it was their duty to go rescue the girl taken by the Baganaa. Even rescuing the hume girl Ashe was acceptable, because it was out of their power.
This? Yes, she is worried.
"What have we to gain, Balthier?"
"Fran, Raithwall's Tomb is just a treasure trove waiting to be picked clean. Imagine if we get our hands on it." The reasoning is hollow to Fran's ears. They have never been want for treasure.
"Balthier," she says.
"Look, Fran, let's make a deal," Balthier tells her as he smiles at in his must charming way, "if we don't find anything of great value from this little adventure, we'll hightail it out of here. Leave them all stranded in the desert. Vaan can play the leading man."
He laughs at his own joke.
Fran walks back to camp. She knows Balthier will not understand what she understands. She knows what he is not telling her. That this has nothing to do with treasure or fame. In time, he will see that, and she wonders what they will do then.
She wonders if their inclusion in this ragtag group is a testament to her ability to be drawn to outcast and misfit humes, or if it a testament to Balthier's strange affinity to those who run from their pasts.
Either way, she is now a part of this group. She would have wanted to leave them after they escaped the Empire's clutches on the Leviathan but Balthier seems to think a small, gold band is compensation enough for their loyalty to this cause.
These people they find themselves banded together with are not all unpleasant. Out of all of them, she prefers Basch the most, but Penelo is sweet and amiable, and there is enough of Balthier in Vaan to amuse her, if at times she wishes he was far from her.
At first, she thinks that is way Balthier stays with them. Because he seems a little bit of himself in Vaan, and knows just how badly he needed someone to show him how to be the man he was trying to be when he was Vaan's age.
Then, she thinks, he is staying because he is tired of running, and perhaps he can sense that they will bring him to his father, and he will finally be able to stop running, to look into the eyes of his demons and know no fear.
And then she knows that is not it at all.
"You told her of your father?" she asks the next night they have watch duty together.
Balthier looks at her over his shoulder, the fire illuminating his face, his eyes carefully guarded. "Well, yes. It just seemed to make sense, letting her know. Her path is not so different from his. She could end up like him, if she's not careful."
No. That is not it all, and she wonders why he bothers denying it. She, of all people, knows best when he is lying, but she says nothing of it to him, because she prefers this equilibrium and—perhaps—if she does not give him cause to examine it, it will never grow beyond then what he thinks it is.
It is likely that that makes her selfish, but that is a common emotion for humes, and she has lived in their world for a very long time.
And, she tells herself, she has lived much longer than him, and she knows how these things always end, and she would spare him from it, if she could.
But Balthier is an incredibly stubborn boy. Somehow, she thinks this will be a pipe dream.
"I know, Ashe. I know what this is. I'm not asking for anything more, alright? What harm could come of this if we're both willing and it will end when it needs to end?"
Fran listens a little more to half-promises in the dark of the night, and wonders at this hume love. She thinks that perhaps it is their gift alone, for she has never felt this.
Eventually, the voices die and she hears footfalls go farther and farther away from camp. She does not follow them, but she remains awake to take up their post while they are gone. She will say nothing of this to Balthier, and they will both pretend that she does not know.
She wonders what this Ashelia B'nargin Dalmasca has that seems to inspire such loyalty, what attracts men to her. Fran has seen Basch's eyes follow her, with barely hidden longing and Vaan follows her with puppy like eagerness.
Ashe is pretty she supposes, but there is more to her than that. Tragedy has made her fatally beautiful, and she shines with her own inner resilience and it is like she is a fervor and people catch her and they can do naught but follow her where she wills.
With more consideration, Fran concedes that she is not surprised that Balthier seeks Ashe. She would have been more concerned had his eyes fallen to Penelo. But his romance, failed as it is destined to be, is not altogether unsurprising. She just wishes it had not happened,so things would not have to change.
But six years is a very long time for a hume to remain the same. Things could not stay as they were, Fran knows. She could have remained the same, but Balthier could not. She thinks now that she has been preparing herself for it, for the sudden change of their world.
What will come of this, she cannot guess. She is a Viera, not a shaman, and the future has always remained from her grasp. She has only found joy in this.
Once Ashe is queen and has not the time for lowly sky pirates, she thinks maybe things will go back to the way they were. Balthier fancies himself a ladies man, and one for him was always easy to replace with another. Perhaps Ashe will be no different.
But it is different. Because he loves her.
When did this hume boy become a man? She has been with him for so very long, how could she have not seen that he grew up? She wants to tell him that no good will come of this, and he must tell his heart to change its mind, but she cannot and she falls silent.
This is the way humes live, she knows. They care very little for logic, and hers would fall on deaf ears and she is not nearly strong enough for that.
"I killed him," Balthier whispers.
Fran has nothing to do for there is nothing to say. Humes are strange and they often overweight their words.
"I killed him, Fran." Balthier looks down at his hands, as if he can see blood. But that is ridiculous since his father did not bleed.
He killed his father. Fran would have done if for him, but she had seen the look in his eyes, and had relented in her instantaneous urge to protect him from it. Ashe had seen it too, and she too had allowed Balthier to do what he must.
"Is this what she felt? When she killed Vosler?" he asks himself quietly, his eyes sliding over to where the hume girl lies.
"Balthier, is this wise?"
Her silence answers her better than her words and Balthier takes in a deep sigh. He knows, of course, that Fran had knows about him and Ashe. They do not keep secrets.
"I can't... help myself, Fran." A small, half-smile curves his lips and he meets her eyes. "She's going to be the death of me, isn't she?"
Yes, Fran thinks, she will.
notes: what can I say? I am a die-hard Balthier/Ashe shipper, too. But that came after I decided Balthier and Fran had a Han/Chewie relationship. In fact, I paired Ashe off with Basch in the beginning, but Balthier and Ashe kept having subtext.