Disclaimer: I don't own FFXII, nor its characters or concepts.

In Memory of Guilt

The first time we spoke in private, he told me he was sorry. He didn't say anything else, nor did he answer when I asked what he had meant. I know now that he meant for the war, for everything that happened, for Rasler, and for Nabudis. As for then, I'm not sure what I thought. Here he was, joining in on my quest, offering protection and guidance, and he was apologizing?

He must have seen the confusion on my face, for while he still didn't provide an answer to my pondering, he took my hand in his, and there we stood silent, looking out the window of the Strahl, watching as the tower on distant shore became less distant. I never told him, but that hand calmed my nerves more than any words that had been given to me since I ceased to truly be a princess.

The next time we spoke alone was after we had found our way to the tower. It had been a long day filled with endless stairs and encounters with monsters, and we had found a relatively safe platform on which to rest for the night. I, restless, offered to take the first watch, and it was he who joined me while the others quickly fell into slumber. We talked about things of little importance; first it was about the weather in Dalmasca, and then about food in Balfonheim. After a short while, we simply fell into silence, our eyes on the places around us. It was then that things took a turn that I could only meet with mild confusion.

He leaned over toward me and placed his hand over mine as he had in the Strahl, but this time it was followed by a gentle tug, enough to pull me off balance. He caught me with his lips. It was a short kiss, tentative rather than passionate. He didn't stop me when I pulled away and stared at him for a long moment. When the silence passed, he whispered something and though I no longer know the exact words, I know he offered more. And through the haze of confusion, for a moment all I could think was that it had been so long...

I can only assume that it was out of some sense of guilt or pity that he suggested such a thing. Indeed, it must have been. We had only met a short while prior, and I had given him no other reason to dote on me so. Perhaps he thought he would better get through to me about the stone if we had a more personal connection. Perhaps he felt that what I now know about Nabudis eventually took Rasler away from me, and he hoped to make up a debt. Perhaps I think too much and he simply found me attractive. I doubt the last.

In the end, I can only imagine. I told him no. I scoffed and questioned-- weren't we supposed to be keeping watch? Hadn't he best save his energy for the next day's climb? I put up a wonderful performance of being put off by the concept. I showed no hint of the doubts in my mind or the wavering I felt in presenting a response. How I wish now that I could have persuaded myself to say yes, to give him that little bit of satisfaction-- pay him back for what I hadn't known then that he would do. How I wish I would have given him something in return for doing what I should have done, but was too hesitant.

But no, that's wrong. It's not just a matter of favors owed. I fool myself to think that. No, I was torn, caught between loyalty to a love lost and a wish to move on, between a past tying me back and an offer to cut those binds. I was unwilling to accept that I enjoyed the feeling of another's lips on mine. I was torn until I slashed my past through at the top of the tower, but by then it was too late.

I've been told that I shouldn't blame myself for his death. Yes, I've been told, by Penelo, who seems to be the first to notice anything emotionally wrong with me; by Fran, who probably noticed sooner, but waited to speak; by Basch, who couldn't see it on my face, but knew anyway; by Balthier, who said it through the cloud of his own losses; and by Vaan, who finally decided he needed to put in his two cents. I wonder if I was truly that obvious, or if how I've been feeling is only to be expected. In any case, it was long, long ride back to Balfonheim.

And despite all of their words, I don't believe them. If I had sorted out my thoughts sooner, would things have been different? If I had said yes that night, would it somehow have saved him? I have long since given up trying to place blame on myself for the death of my long-gone husband, but Reddas--Reddas is my guilt to bear.

Now, alone inside while the streets outside are filled with candles and remembrances, it is the first time in a long while that I have allowed myself to cry. I cry for the loss of one who I know was a good man, and the realization that maybe, just maybe, I loved him.