Title: Lies and Attraction

Characters/Pairings: Balthier/Ashe (sort of), Fran briefly, others mentioned

Rating: PG

Wordcount: 931

Other: Inspired by a conversation I had with sarasacat about this pairing.

Ashe is a princess, whether or not she is recognized as such these days; she can't believe she just told someone to kidnap her. This is far more reckless and action than anything she would have attempted in the sanctuary of the Dalmascan palace. On the other hand, it is the only option she currently sees that pleases her in the slightest. Sitting quietly at her uncle's estate does not suit her.

As arrangements are made and they take off, she keeps an outward dace of resolution, but her mind is full of doubts. Is this Balthier worthy of her trust? She does not know. He seems so, and yet she has been fooled before. She suspects that fooling people is part of his job. She takes a deep breath and reminds herself that the circumstances are in her favor.

She's dealing with a sky pirate, and she has royal treasure to bargain with. He should be easy enough to handle.

--

Balthier is a sky pirate; getting himself entangled in a quest to restore the rightful throne of Dalmasca is something he had never bargained for. Thus far, all he's really gotten out of it is a ring and several dozen headaches. He watches Ashe out of the corner of his eye, wondering if he should have backed out of all this from the start.

But somehow, every time he looks at her struggling to keep a hold on what she once was instead of abandoning it, he can't help but think it's worth the hassle. She has reminded him that there are people who solve their problems by methods other than running. He isn't certain if that makes her weaker than himself or stronger.

The headaches he can deal with, and the ring he will probably give back someday.

--

Vaan is happily leading the group along a trail, followed by hurried footsteps and calls to slow down and be more careful. Ashe is trailing at the back of the group, still unaccustomed to such constant walking, though she makes a great effort to hide it.

She isn't paying enough attention, and her foot snags. She has barely enough time to let out a surprised yelp before finding herself caught up in Balthier's arms, a blush spreading on her face.

She spends a few seconds longer than she should enjoying the warmth of the embrace before fully righting herself. Having regained her composure, she issues a quiet "thank you" and continues on her way.

--

Basch is watching the woods and so is Balthier. Like so many nights, the two of them have chosen to take the first watch and let the others get some rest.

Some nights the two engage in conversation, passing the time by telling old stories. Some nights they just sit and watch the surroundings. This is a quiet night.

Balthier would be willing to bet that they are both thinking about Ashe. He would also be willing to bet that they aren't thinking about her in the same way.

--

Penelo is helping Basch set up a fire for the night, leaving Ashe to sit alone in their tent. She sees Balthier pass by the open flap and bids him to come in.

She's been waiting for this opportunity, a chance to talk to him in relative privacy. Now that he's here, she pours her heart out. She tells him that he's been weighing on her mind, and that he fascinates her. She confesses that she isn't sure, but she thinks that maybe she's fallen in love with him.

He tells her it would never work, that she would always be a princess and he would always be a sky pirate, and once this ordeal was over they would likely never find themselves in the same place at the same time. He tells her his feelings for her aren't the same. He tells her that he's sorry.

She wants to scream. She wants to wail and pound her anger into the nearest pillow like the child she never truly had a chance to be. Instead, she looks back at him with a glare that draws on her position, that conveys her anger in the form of an unspoken command.

"I see," are the words from her lips, though her face says, "How dare you?"

As he turns to leave, she wonders if the pillow-pounding would have been more mature.

--

Fran knows. She hasn't heard the conversation, but she knows what must have passed. She has seen the exchanges that have passed between the two before, and now she sees the look on Balthier's face, caught between something he wants and something he knows is best.

She can only guess, and perhaps hope, at which one he has chosen. She sighs quietly.

Fran has never made any claim to Balthier's attention. Any attempt to comfort him now would be nothing short of manipulative.

So she watches from a distance, and she leaves him alone.

--

Al-Cid bends to place a kiss on Ashe's hand and Balthier hates him for it. He hates him because he has freedoms that Balthier has given up.

He gave them up when he told Ashe that his feelings did not match hers. What he had said about their lifestyles had been true; the part about his feelings had been a lie.

Balthier stands back and watches with crossed arms as the prince flirts with the princess, only letting his frustration show by the generally disgruntled look on his face.

If a pirate can't stand by his lies, where does that leave him?