fdisclaimer: disclaims

teaser: many things in this hume world have disappointed her

author's notes: jeez, sorry about thef real late update guys. I'm so sorry! School, with the end of the semster being next week, just go so hetic and crazy. I hate like four term papers due at once! Ahh! But anyway, I took a quick break from all my homework to finish posting this. Because I love you guys. No seriously.


-Part II-

After they survive the Bahamut Balthier does not speak on Ashe for near a year. Fran does not question such small miracles.

She suspects that this will not last long, but she will take these moments of peace where she can, fand pray for more of them. She wonders if it is Balthier's vanity that keeps him from the queen. He survived, but there are scars on him now. One jagged one across his cheek, and his chest is a crisscrossed map of ropy, disfigured lines and burn marks.

Fran herself will always walk with a limp, but she hides that the way Balthier does what he can to hide his scars. Viera have grace no matter their state, and very few people would guess at the odd angel she had awaken to find her leg in.

Balthier makes grumbles about the Strahl, but Fran does not actually miss the ship. Not in the way Balthier misses it. To Balthier, the Strahl is home. The Wood has always been Fran's home. To her the Strahl is a capable ship filled with memories.

Their stay in Balfonheim is the longest Balthier has ever allowed. They spend their time healing quietly and listening to news. Larsa becomes emperor, and Judge Magistrate Gabranth is not dead, which comes as a surprise to Fran since she was quite sure Basch's brother had acquired wounds most fatal.

Ashe is named queen of Dalmasca, and Fran remembers what is was like to watch the people in Rabanastre celebrate.

It does not surprise her when Balthier says, only a few days before the coronation of one Ashelia B'nargin Dalmasca, "Fran, what do you say we go and collect our ship?"

She laughs and answers, "Will Vaan be made to part with it?"

The smile Balthier gives her is quite cocky, and he seems his old self again, after spending so much time brooding about a number of things, most of them she is sure has to do with the flaxen haired Dalmascan flower.

--

The night after they retake the Strahl, Fran hears Balthier slip from his room. This time, she gives him no time frame before she follows. She knows where he is going, and it is not her place to fetch him.

How do humes do this? she wonders, handle so much change in so short a time? She can remember when Balthier did not reach her shoulders, when he was dirty and hungry and afraid. Viera remain as they are for a very long time, but humes always seem to be changing, always seem to be undergoing some metamorphosis.

Perhaps this is why Viera do not leave the Wood. It is not easy for a creature of longevity to handle the going ons of those who die faster than one can blink.

If she could, she would go back to when Balthier was but a boy. But such is not the way of the world, and she would not, could not, change Balthier or make him any less or any more than what he is.

When Balthier returns in the morning, she says nothing to him. It is understood that she knows, because secrets are something they no longer keep. Balthier will talk of Ashe if he wishes to speak of her, and Fran will not broach the subject otherwise.

Sometimes it seems to her that Balthier is more Viera than hume, but others times it seems impossible that she ever entertained the notion. Balthier can never be anything more than a hume, just as she can never be anymore than a Viera.

Besides it is not as if Balthier will be made to listen to reason. And Fran is not his mother, no matter how she plays the part. He is a man grown, and if he fancies himself in love with a queen, better he learn the folly on his own.

But Fran wishes... and then stops herself. Wishes are for fools, and she is no fool.

--

They never seem to stray far from Rabanastre, or at least they never seem to go very long without stopping by.

When they leave, Balthier is often in a huff, and he flies the Strahl away from Rabanastre's sprawling architecture as if he seeks to prove a point, that he can leave and not come back. Fran does not pretend to understand hume mating rituals, but she finds the game very silly, and very immature.

When they return, Balthier is as giddy as a schoolboy. He tries not to show it, especially not to Vaan when they meet up with him and Penelo every now and again, but Fran knows that when they leave Rabanastre he forgets how to breathe, and when he returns he remembers.

"Fran, do you think I'm a bloody fool?" Balthier asks one night, after he returns to the Strahl after what Fran only assumes is a failed attempt at wooing. "Chasing after her like a dog with a bone?"

Yes, of course she does, but how can she say that? What does she know of this hume love? She cannot guess what drives mortals to chase after pretty faces and pretty lips. And it is not fair of her to say that to him, when she foresaw this and did nothing.

So instead she repeats a phrase she once heard a wise man say, "We are all fools in love."

Balthier stares at her for a very long time, and Fran wonders if perhaps the words have no meaning in this conversation, but then suddenly Balthier throws his head back and laughs. Not in malice, or cruelly, at her but rather as if he has been seeking humor and has finally found it.

"You always seem to know exactly what to do that's bound to get me into more trouble." He smiles at her. "Thank you, Fran."

She can not even guess to what he means, and nods simply to him. Balthier retires for the night, and their habit of returning to Rabanastre every few months remains as it is. Fran often wonders what she said to Balthier that made him laugh so.

--

As is hume nature, she always finds gossip wherever she goes. Normally, she pays it no mind, but now and again she will listen. Any news of Archades, she turns her ears to—she has learned from Balthier that she was right, and that Gabranth's wounds were indeed fatal, and it is his brother who bares his name. And if she hears of Dalmasca as well.

The whispers of Dalmasca and its queen seem to be the most popular these days. Rumor grows of a fraction of discontents, who cry for revolution and a death to the monarchy. The government they speak of instilling reminds Fran of the Viera's system, with an elected leader who must answer to the needs of the people, or be disposed.

Fran does not think Ashe is so terrible a ruler, but she is female after a long line of male rulers, and often in the aftermath of war, malcontents seek to stir up trouble. It is nothing new to hume nature.

But then she hears of a different rumor entirely, while they linger in a weapons shop in Archades. Balthier has taken back up his gun, though he used a sword for a while, and Fran suspected it had something to do with being able to fight at Ashe's side.

She listens as a woman, who pays no attention to her wandering child, whisper of the queen of Dalmasca, growing heavy with each passing day.

"Rumor has it that philanderer from Rozarria has been making time with the queen, and she's gotten herself with child out of wedlock." The woman kicks up her nose, every bit an Archadian aristocrat. "They're all very loose down there, you know? But if Queen Ashelia wishes to quell that unrest she had best stop her dallying and focus on the state."

Fran looks to Balthier and finds him staring at the woman, his face hard and unforgiving, his hands balled into fists at his side. She steps toward him.

"Excuse, madam," she murmurs to the gossip. "I do believe your son has gotten into the swords."

She quickly takes Balthier from the shop and takes him back to the Strahl. He walks stiffly ahead of her, his shoulders tensed and his eyes revealing nothing. She has never seen him so angry, and she wonders at the rumor.

But she says nothing about it. Instead, she waits for Balthier to speak. But he does not. He offers her nothing, and she realizes that they are keeping secrets from one another again and she wishes she had the strength to tell him to stop this foolishness.

"Balthier," she begins, wondering how to best breech this subject, for it cannot go ignored.

"Fran, I don't want to talk about it." His voice is as stiff as his body, as if he can block out the truth. "It's not anything."

"What do you mean?" she asks, being unforgiving for the first time with him. "That it is not Al-Cid who has gotten Ashe with child? Or that there is none to begin with?"

"No, I..." he trails off and strides ahead to the Strahl. Fran gives him no quarter. "She told me right before we left, and I—well what was I supposed to do? This sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen to us, and those rumors about Magrace have been circling for years now."

She stares at him, wondering at the sudden chill on her skin. She knows now that if he goes back to Rabanastre she will see even less of him, and eventually she will lose him to something of which she can never compete with, but somehow this hurts more. For she has always believed that he was a good man, and this cries false everything she thought of him.

Quietly, Balthier says, "What would you have me do, Fran? I'm a pirate, and she's a bloody queen."

This is yet another lesson for her on the way of humes. They may grow up, but they do not always grow up.

The only sound between them is the click of her heels as she walks away from him.

--

Vaan makes an unexpected stop in Archades, talking of a lead on treasure, and Balthier takes him up on his offer to go hunting with him. Fran knows that she has hurt him terribly then, because Balthier is always finding a way to avoid going with Vaan.

That is fine. She is quite hurt and angry with him, and she spends their four days apart kicking around the Strahl's engine room. She is sure she is the reason why it takes Nono two days longer than normal to repair the engines.

When he returns they do not speak of Ashe, and they do not often speak to each other. They have gone back to how they were years and years ago, he a mistrustful boy and she a Viera far removed from hume life.

They stay away from Rabanastre for the longest time since Ashe has been crowned queen. Fran says nothing of this, and instead turns her ear toward the gossip that runs rampant through all of Ivalice.

Al-Cid no longer comes to Rabanastre and Rozarria has been made the villain. Fran wonders what Magrace's true purpose was in visiting Ashe, but she will not ask Balthier.

The desertion of the queen's alleged lover does little stem the tide of the angry cries of the Resistance, as they now call themselves. Fran finds it ironic that they would take up the same name to dispose Ashe that she had used to free them from the Empire.

The battle cry of this Resistance is that they are oppressed by the noble class, that they are distorted and ignored so glutton lords can gorge themselves on feasts. That the people on the streets starve, but the queen turns a blind eye. That the world sees Dalmasca as a crock because they are led by a harlot and charlatan.

As the queen grows heavier and heavier with her babe, so do the cries of the Resistance movement. Fran has never see such a thing in all her long life. She fears for Ashe, though she says nothing of it to Balthier. They do no talk often now.

Finally, after nearly seven months away, Balthier turns the Strahl toward Rabanastre. Fran does not know if it is within her to forgive him for being weak, but she knows that weakness is an inherent part of human nature. If it were not so, she would have never found interest enough to leave the Wood.

But as much as weakness is a part of the hume makeup, so is strength.

--

"She told me about the baby the night before we were heading off," Balthier tells her quietly as they entrench the Strahl for that night. They can reach Rabanastre in a day if they so wished, but Balthier is procrastinating and she has not the will to call him on it.

She says nothing, for she has nothing to say. She wonders at the point of this, and suspects it is more for Balthier's sake than her own.

"Fran, I never thought about children, not with her anyway. I mean, it would just cause problems for us both." He shakes his head, as if he does not wish to relive them, these old arguments. "And she told me about the baby, and gods... I was happy. How could I not be? Life, making life, it's the ultimate high and thinking about a teaching my own daughter how to pilot and how to dig for treasure..."

He falls silent again and they go for many long moments in silence.

"But then I realized that Ashe's baby wouldn't ever be able to be my baby. I wouldn't ever be able to claim her, and Ashe knew it, and when she looked at me I knew—knew—that she didn't expect to ever see me again. She thought I would abandon her, walk away, because to love a woman like her... it's a trial, and honest to the gods thought that after I found out about the child I'd wash my hands of her. Then I thought: why not leave and never return? She already thought the worst of me. I could leave and pretend I didn't want the things a man like me cannot have."

She sees now, or she sees better. Humes take such a long time to grow into adulthood, and they do so by fumbling around and ruining a number of good things before they realize what they want.

That's why Balthier is telling her, so she might understand him as a hume. She accepts this, and accepts his actions, but she still does not forgive him for betraying her image of him. She is a woman herself, and if she had been Ashe, she likely would have thought it was better to assume the worst of him than to be devastated by expecting the best.

"But we can't—won't—leave it like this. I'll be damned if I do." Balthier glares off into the horizon, and then carefully looks at her. "I've disappointed you, Fran. I'm sorry."

Yes, he has, but this is not so surprising. Many things in this hume world have disappointed her.

Balthier leaves the Strahl and does not come back for near a week. This is the first time they have been apart for so long since she first met him in Balfonheim.

Fran stays up in her bed, telling herself is not listening for his return, even though she really is.

Maybe it is she who was unfair, Fran thinks to herself. She expected much of Balthier, much more than she expected of any other hume. Perhaps she has painted Balthier without realizing it, and perhaps he had always been destined to flatter short of her admiration.

If so, then she is to fault, not Balthier, for Balthier can be nothing more than what he is.

But by the time Balthier returns, he seems much happier, and talks on parenting and children and they seemed to have restored their relationship somewhat and Fran thinks it is best the past is not dug up, and that sleeping dogs should lie.

--

"Fran," Balthier says quietly in the darkness of her room, and Fran allows herself a moment of surprise that she did not hear him come in. "Fran, are you awake?"

"Yes. Now."

There is a long pause and she hears Balthier take in a deep breath, and wonders what he needs to steady himself to say. She sits up, pushing aside her blanket, her eyes adjusting to the darkness.

She has not seen Balthier look so messy since that day in Balfonheim when he had been little more than a knock-kneed grimy boy.

"Balthier speak. Has something gone amiss?"

"No. No. Fran." He sits on her bed and puts a hand over his face, his chest rumbling with laughter. "All saints above, Fran. I'm a sodding father."

The silence between them is deafening. Not because Fran is upset, but rather, she cannot wrap her mind around the image any easier than he can. Perhaps, in her mind, she has never been able to picture Balthier as anymore than the boy he was.

"Can you believe it?" He gives another weak laugh and she wants to wrap her arms around his shoulders to comfort him, but cannot seem to. "A son, Fran. I have son. I'm not going to be a good father. Bloody hell, I'll probably never see him. I know what Ashe said, but that doesn't change how the world works."

No. Very little does.

"Tomorrow night, Fran, we'll have to sneak you into the palace. I need you to see him." The smile that covers Balthier's face is very wide and very true, and she has never seen this smile before, and she feels sad and joyous and foolish. "He's really small, Fran. Like you could probably crush him in your palms. But he's... all the gold in the entire world, Fran."

Now she has the strength and she reaches out and closes her arms around his shoulder and he bursts out laughing. Fran wonders at her own laughter, and the two sit there chuckling like loons into the night.

--

He dozes for some time in her bed while Fran stays up and thinks. At dawn, she rouses him.

"Balthier?"

"Come to claim your revenge on me for waking you up?" Balthier asks. He is a terrible morning person.

"What is your son's name?"

"Holton. It's some ancient Dalmascan name. Holton Cidolfus Dalmasca." Balthier rubs his eyes. "Ashe seems sure that one will make the connection. The Archadian middle name is a sign of good faith."

"Holton is a good name."

--

She never does get to see Holton because just after his birth, the Resistance makes its move. The tension has been thick in Rabanastre for some time, and Fran has observed people quietly choosing their sides.

When Holton Cidolfus Dalmasca is born, the Resistance has all the fuel it needs. Would the people want a bastard child to rule them, to so taint their noble country? The queen would make the child the heir, and insult them all.

Humes are so fickle, Fran finds, when no more than seven years ago they praised Ashe as their savior.

The first skirmish happens one month after Ashe has her son. The Loyalists win that battle, and take the Estersand and quickly make it their base camp. The Resistance falls to the Westersand.

Balthier stays no nights in the palace, and he comes home every evening looking as if he has always lost an argument. Fran understands his worry, for she is too. If Holton is Balthier's, than the babe is hers as well.

"She won't leave," is all Balthier offers. "Says that it'll show weakness to the people if she goes into hiding. Shows damn forethought and brains, is what it shows."

Eventually, the order goes up that all non-Rabanastre residents are to leave for their own safety. Balthier storms out and returns, red in the face. Fran says nothing as they pack the Strahl and take to the skies.

They do not stray far from Rabanastre, no farther than Nalbina. They meet with Vaan and Penelo there and Fran has to all but bash their skulls in to keep them from doing a fool hearty thing like running to Ashe's aid. Vaan's made something of a name for himself, and his coming to Ashe's side would only incite greater anger from the Resistance.

Balthier spends most of his time brooding in the cockpit, and not even Vaan can get him to turn away from his dark thoughts. Vaan views himself something like Balthier's apprentice, and on Balthier's good days he shares the thoughts.

This is not one of Balthier's good days.

Then it happens.

--

The Resistance declares war. The noble and ministers of the court abandon the city. Ashe and the Dalmascan army remain in the palace to defend their country's beliefs.

"She's going to get herself killed!" Balthier roars and Fran, who has been with him for so long, has never seen him so angry. "What is going through that thick head of hers?"

Tomorrow morning, they both decide, they will go to Rabanastre and bring both Ashe and Holton away, kicking and screaming if they must. Ashe may not be able to forgive herself for leaving, but at least she will be alive to try.

Fran sleeps fretfully, and dreams of streets covered in blood and woman clutching children to their breast as war swallows them whole. Civil wars, she finds, are the least pleasant of all wars.

She finds the note pinned on the pilot's seat and she is surprised. And she cannot help but wonder when she stopped knowing Balthier so well. There had been a time, she knew, when they thought almost the same thoughts.

When had he grown so distant from her? And how has she failed to notice?

The note says, Fran, I'm sorry.

--

She understands that Balthier thinks to protect her. That by leaving without her, she will not follow and will not be caught up in this civil war. Balthier has stopped knowing her so well, too, because she follows him all the same.

The skies near Rabanastre have been restricted and it takes her until mid afternoon to reach the Loyalist base camp in the Estersand. By then, she knows, the damage is already done and she does not know where to begin to look for Balthier.

She entires the small, makeshift camp and sees all the dirty races of the Rabanastre people. Sides do not matter now, she knows. Only surviving. No one wants to die here.

Smoke rises off Rabanastre, like a poison from the inside, and for a long while Fran can only watch it burn. She considers going into the city, but thinks it is likely that Balthier is already out of it, with Ashe and Holton in toe.

She cannot find them among the refugees in the camp, but that does not mean Balthier would still be in the city. She has faith that he would get out. Balthier has no more of a death wish than she does.

It is best, she decides, that she waits for him here. For a very long time now, she has let him go as he pleases, and he has always come back. Why should this time be any different? So she will wait.

That is when she sees Basch.

--

Without his armor, and with his hair cut so close to his head, she cannot mistake for Basch or Gabranth but something in between the two. The Dalmascans do not see him as their traitorous captain—for even now that is how they view him—just as the Archadians would not see him as their loyal Judge Gabranth.

He offers her a nod when she approaches, and Fran remembers why she preferred him best. Of all the men she has met, it is Basch that always seemed to be made of sterner stuff, to be a breed beyond hume male. In his quiet, measured way she thinks he sees more of the world than she ever did.

"We were not allowed to interfere," Basch says to her as she sits beside him in the sand. "Larsa—well, the senate—deemed that this was Dalmascan matter alone. We lack the right to offer any support, to either side."

Then what are you doing here? she wants to ask, but then remembers. Without his armor, he is not Judge Gabranth, and Basch fon Ronsenburg is a Dalmascan son.

"You and Balthier came to add Ashe?" Fran nods and Basch looks to where Rabanastre burns. "Ashe's son, we never thought he was a Magrace. But we—they—could never figure out another name."

"You did not offer your knowledge?" she asks, for surely he must know.

Basch shook his head. "It hardly seemed to matter, who the boy's father was. Besides, Ashe asked me not to tell. So I didn't."

She understands how it can be a simple as that.

"Balthier is in the city?" Basch surmises and does not ask why she is not with him. Perhaps he knows. Fran would not be surprised. "I've heard the the palace has been barricaded off. I don't know by who, though."

"Balthier will come here," Fran says simply. "And he will bring Ashe and Holton. He will not fail in this."

Wisely, Basch says nothing. But his doubt does not need words, not for her.

"He will return," Fran tells him, willing her faith to him. "He always has."

--

And he does return to her, as he always has before. One last time.

For a moment, Fran does not recognize him. He is covered in blood, and his eyes are wild, and he clutches a precious bundle to his chest as if he is afraid someone will snatch it away from him. He arm looks broken, but it is resiliently clutching his gun.

Basch approaches him before Fran and then she feels as if her heart has stopped and follows the knight.

"Balthier," Basch says quietly, like a he is talking to an animal backed up into a corner. "Balthier."

But Balthier ignores Basch, his eyes latching onto Fran's and his arms shaking, as if the weight in them is too great.

"Fran," he says and she hurries over to him. She has never heard that tone of voice before. "Fran, here. Take him. Please."

Instinctively, her arms encircle the bundle Balthier thrusts into her arms. It is warm and heavy and when she looks down she sees the face of a sleeping baby, barely visible through all the cloth it is wrapped in.

And she knows. "Balthier."

"Ashe?" Basch presses, carefully taking Balthier by his arms to steady him. Blood runs freely down Basch's hands and the whites of Balthier's shirts are dyed with a red that makes Fran's stomach churn. "What happened to Ashe?"

Balthier says nothing. It is more than enough.

"I'm sorry, Basch," is all Balthier offers and his arms keep shaking. He turns to look at Fran, and he smiles, blood running down his lip. "Fran. Fran, I know I've asked a lot of you over the years, and I know you've put up with a lot, but I need you to do this one last thing for me."

Her fingers close over the tiny, precious weight of Balthier's son. She cannot speak over the tears the rise in her throat, so she cannot say no you must not go back.

"I can't leave her there," Balthier says and reaches out to run one finger down Holton's head. "Basch, tell Vaan that he needs to pull more to the left when he fires. He'll understand what you mean."

"Balthier," Fran starts, and it is the only thing she can say.

He does not hear her as he turns away. He walks stiffly, as stiffly as he did that day in Archades when everything between them fundamentally changed, and Fran knows that she has already lost him.

She moves to go after him. If he must die, let them die together, but she stops because Holton opens his mouth and screams unhappily, and by the time she looks up for Balthier, he is gone, and she will never see him again.

For a very long time, Fran stands in the blistering Dalmascans sand, holding Balthier's son, and watching Ashe's city burn, and then Basch touches her shoulder and murmurs that the Loyalists have surrendered, and she knows that she must go.

Basch helps her pilot the Strahl, while she tends to Holton, who has become happy with nothing.

"Where would you like to go?" Basch asks, his voice thick with his own mourning.

Fran closes her eyes, her face numb. It feels surreal. After the fight for Dalmasca, it seems so improbable that it could be lost with so little resistance. Why is there no grand fight? No great enemy or evil god?

How can it fall so simply, as if this is the only path it could have taken?

She remembers Balthier's face, in the dust and dirt and sand of Dalmasca. That look in his eyes. Fran will never forget. He was dead long before he gave her the baby to care for. He was dead the moment Ashe fell, and he lived only to protect his son.

"I wish to go home," Fran says.

--

No hume baby have ever been in Eryut Village before. Mjrn is curious and spends all of her time with Holton, which allows Fran some rest, though she cannot trust Mjrn with the baby for very long.

"I am sorry, Jote," Fran says when her older sister approaches her. She can read her sister very easily, and she is surprised to find she has missed it greatly. "But I knew no where else to go. The hume child... those that killed his parents will seek him if they find he lives. I need a few days."

"You shall have them," Jote says, surprising all. "Fran, I—I am very sorry. For what you have lost."

"Four days. That is all I ask."

The unspoken words hang between them. This is why Viera do not leave the Wood.

Viera are not creatures meant to mourn.

--

It only takes two. She suspects she has Basch to thank for that.

"But why must you go?" Mjrn asks. "Should he not stay here, for his own safety? Hume babies are so tiny. He will surely die out there, in the hume world."

Mjrn has never seen a babe before. Neither has Fran. But she knows humes well now, and knows they are capable of things far beyond Viera comprehension.

"No. His world is the hume world. That is where he must grow." She could no more divorce this boy from his heritage than she would her own. "And the law states that no one but Viera may live in the village. Neither of us are Viera."

"Jote will not be our leader forever, Fran." Mjrn eyes sparkling with determination, as if she could shape the world with her will alone, and it reminds Fran of Balthier and makes her chest ache. "One day, I will be leader, and I will change the law, no matter what, and you will come back, and you will bring the hume babe too."

Fran gives her sister a smile. She has no doubt Mjrn will do as she says, but she suspects that Holton will be a baby no longer when it happens.

--

Penelo and Vaan stay with Fran for some time after Balthier and Ashe die. Fran is grateful for the help with caring for Holton, which is no easy task.

Viera are poorly made for motherhood, she thinks now. She knows not the first thing of caring for the child, and she does not take to it the way Penelo so naturally does. She cannot understand the baby's limitations and abilities, and she is so afraid of breaking him.

But Balthier asked her to care for him, and she will do her best.

--

Basch sends word sometime after Vaan and Penelo join her on the Strahl that they will be honoring the dead in Archades, and by his request Balthier's name has been added to the list of the fallen.

He will not be named as the father of Ashe's child, nor will it be mentioned his connection to Ashe. He will be honored for his death, and for fighting for Dalmascan sovereignty.

It is not fair to not go, not when she is caretaker of Holton, and so she bundles him up and takes the Strahl to Archades for the funeral rites.

She finds Holton's name on the list of the dead on the large tombstone that has been erected to honor all those who lost their lives to a blood feud. He is there Holton Cidolfus Dalmasca and she runs her fingers along his name, right below Balthier's and for a moment all she can do is stare at it and relive each memory she has of him.

This is Basch's gift, she knows. His gift to Ashe. Her son's life. With Holton dead to all but a few, no one will hunt him as they would no doubt do if they had a thought that he was alive. And so Basch gives Ashe's son his life.

Fran will gave Balthier's son his future.

She stays only in Archades for an hour. It is hard to look upon the streets and know this where is Ffarman Bunansa grew up, and this where he lost faith in his father, and this is where her Balthier was dreamed of.

When she leaves Archades, Fran is not sure if she will ever able to return. Hume hearts may forget, but Viera remember long after time has weathered away all remnants of the memory.

--

When Penelo finally leaves them, after Fran has convinced the girl she is more than capable of caring for a small hume child, Fran slips into Holton's room, which was once Balthier's. It seemed only appropriate to her that he reside there.

Vaan made Holton's crib, so it is rustic and rudimentary at its best. But where it is crude, it is strong, because it was made with love and devotion.

Balthier had been right. Vaan had understood Balthier's words to him. He took them to heart, but would not explain them.

She hovers at the edge of Holton's crib and watches his tiny, hume boy face in the half-light. She breathes quietly and then reaches a hand out to touch his cheek. He doesn't crack beneath her fingers and it is almost as if she has released a breath she has long been holding in.

And all she wants to do is pick the hume baby up and hold him and rock him, because he will not break in her arms, and this is the last piece of Balthier that is left in the world. This is his last gift to her.

Of course. She had forgotten. Humes are the strongest creatures she knows of. And, maybe, maybe she can raise Balthier's son.

--

Holton is silent for a good long while, but she is content when she sees no regret in his eyes. She wonders if this why she had unconsciously acted as Balthier's biographer. She wonders if there was some way for her to know that this would come to pass.

"Thank you," he says at last, running a hand through his hair. "I needed to hear that. From you."

Yes, he did. And it was not fair of Fran to keep it from him for so long. It was just that she often didn't think of him as Balthier and Ashe's son anymore, but rather her own. And she refuses to feel any guilt for that.

"If you wish to know more about your mother, you should ask Basch. He knew her best."

"Maybe I will."

Fran observes Holton. If his hair was not so blonde and his face not so serious, she would often mistake him for Balthier. She has always been thankful for Ashe's hair and that serious countenance.

When Holton leaves her to track down Vaan for one reason or another, she stays in the kitchen in the Strahl.

In her village, there was an old legend that says that a Viera can only give her heart once and can never again love a thing, and that was why Viera cannot leave the Wood. Because it is easy to love things, but it is not so easy to survive the loving of them when you love for so long a time.

But she has given her heart many times. First to the hume world, and all its uniqueness, and then to grimy boy she met once in Balfonheim, and then to the sky pirate he became, and then to Balthier's son because he was Balthier's son, and then to Holton Cidolfus Bunansa because he was Holton.

A smile curves Fran's lips.

Perhaps she is more hume than Viera now. If that is the case, she has one more reason to be thankful to Balthier, and she owes so much to him already. What a surprise, thinking that in the beginning she was the one helping him but he ended up saving her.

Did he know? Balthier had such shocking moments of clarity that she wonders if he had known that he'd give her a good purpose, which is a rare thing for a Viera who has no Wood to speak to. Maybe, maybe not. It does not matter. That is not the point.

Fran thinks that perhaps she will return to Archades, and Balthier would be pleased.


notes: bet the title makes sense now, doesn't it? And yes, I killed off Balthier and Ashe. I had to. The story called for it. I go where the muse dedicates. Plus, it kind of seemed, to me, to be full circle with Fran. She took care of Balthier, and now she's going to take care of Balthier's son. Or she did, considering.

reviews

Anubuko: ah thank you! Fran's such a difficult character to pin, since she keeps nearly all her thoughts to the vest, but I think that's part of her charm. I mean, who knows what Fran really thinks? Even Balthier might not. And sorry about the lateness of the second part. Oh, and the angst.

Zaz9-zaa0: the origins of Balthier and Fran interest me. I can't exactly picture it like a Han and Chewie background. Mostly, I think Fran let Balthier along and then decided to keep an eye on him. As for the Balthier/Ashe stuff, I have a number of oneshots about them on livejournal, but unfortunately (or fortunately) they're all smut and therefore NC-17. Goes against 's standards. XP