Title: Humming

Fandom: Final Fantasy XII

Characters/Pairing: Balthier/Penelo, a little bit of Fran

Rating: PG

Wordcount: 805

Prompt: Done for hetchallenge on IJ. Balthier/Penelo, 73. Music in the night.

Balthier awoke to a strange noise. It whirred along in the distance, shifting in tone, after a moment began to form a discernable melody, and gradually became louder accompanied by rhythmic footsteps. Penelo was humming.

He rolled over, hoping he would simply fall back asleep, but no such luck. It wasn't the humming that had woken him, and in fact he suspected she had been doing so for quite some time without his noticing. No, it was his internal clock, set to wake him up in time for his part of the watch, which had apparently done its job a bit too early. Sighing, he decided he should just get up and leave his tent; Penelo and Fran would be far better company than his blanket. Penelo turned to look at him when she heard motion from the tent, and her face was a bit startled though the humming didn't cease.

"Just me, don't worry," he told her, raising a hand in greeting. "Not time for your shift to be over yet, either, just me waking up earlier than I need to." His tone probably held an edge of annoyance, but he assumed that if she picked it up she would realize it was directed at his alertness as opposed to anything related to her. "Where is Fran?" he questioned, noting that Penelo seemed to be keeping guard by herself. He was certain she should be out here.

"She left a minute ago to collect more firewood," Penelo replied, looking off in the direction Fran had presumably gone. Balthier nodded and took a seat next to the fire which, when he looked at it, would obviously be in need of a bit more wood soon enough. A moment passed in silence, save for the fire's crackling, before Balthier decided to stir up a conversation.

"That song you were humming, what was it?" It had been a nice enough tune, and one he didn't think he had heard before.

"A lullaby," Penelo explained, looking back at him from where she stood, "one my mother used to sing to me." He wouldn't have needed the look on her face to distinguish a wistful hint in her voice. Not sure what to say to her, he merely nodded. He sometimes forgot she was an orphan. Another long moment passed, and this time it was Penelo who broke the silence.

"What was your mother like?" she asked. Apparently, her mind had wandered further along that topic until it found a point of curiosity.

"I never knew her," he replied simply. She had died when he was young, along with two older brothers he may have had, though he didn't bother to elaborate. Generally he wouldn't even have said that much about his family, lest more questions were to follow, but he decided that as long as the matter of his father didn't come into the picture he didn't mind. Luckily Penelo seemed to pick up that he would rather the discussion end there.

"I'm sorry," was all she said, and a moment later went back to humming, but now it was a different tune. Balthier raised an eyebrow and a hint of a smile quirked the edge of his mouth.

"And what might that one be?" he inquired, amused by the odd sort of guessing game that seemed to be forming. Penelo turned and smiled back at him, stopping long enough to give him an answer before returning to the song.

"Vaan's favorite." Balthier returned the comment with an ironic smile.

"I shouldn't have asked," he muttered half jokingly. He picked up a nearby stick to poke at the fire, which was quickly running low on fuel. Penelo made her way back to where he sat and eyed the fire concernedly.

"Fran should be back soon," she commented hopefully, taking a seat next to Balthier on the ground. She sighed and leaned against his shoulder, prompting a questioning look from the pirate. She shifted her eyes to meet his. "You don't mind, do you? I've been standing a lot, out here." Having paused briefly in order to yawn, she added, "I'm sleepy."

Balthier contemplated making a point of keeping her awake, but decided against it. Though it wasn't his shift, he was awake and there able to keep watch, and Fran was sure to not be too far off. Besides, it was nearly the end of her watch, anyway. And so he remained silent and focused on tending the fire. It wasn't long before Penelo had slipped from her place on his shoulder to sprawl across his lap, fast asleep. With a vague smile, he laid one arm across her, some sort of replacement for a blanket, and softly whispered:

"Sleep well, hmm?"

When Fran returned, she merely quirked an eyebrow and added wood to the fire, saying nothing.