In Our Allotted Time
Author Notes: As usual, I hereby disclaim any ownership of Final Fantasy XII or anything affiliated with it. This is a strictly non-profit making story. On a less serious note, if you can tell me which famous 18th century English woman of high society has an honorary mention in this chapter, then a winner is you.
Dedicated to Maudiebeans for her (blank) birthday. Hope you have a good one.
Part 1 – At Arms Length
1.1 - Reunion
It all turned out to be true, every single word.
At first, the notion had been inconceivable. After all, it was his brother who'd first mentioned the name Amalia to him. He knew the name immediately of course, a precaution agreed on in bygone days to protect the princess, but it had been impossible to tell if Gabranth (as his brother now styled himself) knew that. He remembered being unable to contain his shock, nor his own panicked thoughts, wondering if they'd tortured her true name out of her, or worse, already taken off her head.
Those worries hadn't been reduced when, upon his return to Rabanastre, Vossler had confirmed his brother's word, that Amalia had been captured by the Imperials. In fact, it had only made things worse. Before, he'd been able to pass the idea off as a lie designed to torment him. But Vossler would have no cause to play a part in such an elaborate deception. And there was no-one in Ivalice better qualified to know just how effective the Empire's torturers were.
Yet at the back of Basch's mind, ever the thought that it was all just a faerie story plagued him.
They had told him different tales. They'd told him in his cage that she'd killed herself, crooning it to him in the darkness like a horrid lullaby. For two years, he believed them and despaired, believing that she'd chosen to die by her own hand rather than fall into those of the Imperials. He felt responsible for the suicide, that his inability to defend king and country had driven her insane. That feeling of responsibility had kept him alive when he could've chosen to simply end his pain and die, and had also driven him across the Inner Naldoan, right onto the bridge of the Dreadnought Leviathan.
…Right before where she stood.
It took all of Basch's restraint to stay where he was, not to rush forward to see if this apparition before him was real or a falsity. She was like he remembered her, when they'd last seen each other on the balcony of the palace with all of Rabanastre's main army marshalled below. Yet at the same time, she seemed different, changed by the loss that she'd suffered and the life of a vagabond she'd no doubt been forced to lead. There was steel in her eyes that hadn't been there before. And surely a ghost wouldn't appear in contrast to a memory.
Though once again he was in bonds, he wanted to smile simply because she was alive. Within, his happiness consumed him, a pure joy manifested from the fact that not everyone from the old days was gone, that there was still someone left other than Vossler. That Dalmasca wasn't dead after all. And feeling like that, despite his handcuffs, or perhaps in spite of them, how could he not smile?
Hearing the footsteps of him and his fellow prisoners, she raised her head gracefully and in slow motion, as if she'd been daydreaming. Ignoring the others out of hand, her eyes rested solely on him. The blank confounded look he'd seen on several faces since his 'return to life' was in attendance, though her fury soon replaced it. But Basch couldn't help but whimsically wonder if he'd imagined the trace of doubt he thought he'd seen in her eyes.
As the moment seemed to lengthen, Basch's eyes absentmindedly wandered up and down the girl who would be queen. He swiftly took in her appearance, as if checking for inconsistencies that would betray an impostor. His gaze wandered respectfully quickly past her chest, down beyond her semi-exposed abdomen but stopped in shock at her upper legs.
Just what in the name of Galtea was she wearing?
Her bright pink skirt (if you could call it that) caught and held his attention. It was shockingly short, far too short for royalty. Worse, the skirt was cut at the sides all the way to the belt, allowing Basch to catch a glimpse of thigh that almost made him blush. He sincerely hoped that she crossed her legs whenever she sat down.
Realizing he'd been staring for all of two seconds, Basch took his eyes away again, berating himself for something that a man of his station ought not to have been doing. Her eyes had never left his face and now Ashe was walking towards him. In less than five strides, she was almost in his face.
She slapped him hard enough to leave a mark.
"After all you've done. How dare you? You're supposed to be dead." For a moment, he wondered if she expected him to apologise for the oversight and return to his grave. In answer he simply bowed his head.
"So are you, your Majesty," were the words he didn't dare say.
1.2 – Loyalty
Even with all the best will in the world, she looked like someone had not just rained on her parade but urinated on it from on high before setting off a series of bombs beneath it. The others might've mistaken her for being sullen. Basch knew otherwise. No doubt she was distressed by her uncle's apparent lack of drive to stand at Dalmasca's side. He'd been there when Ondore had said that they must wait for an opportunity to strike and Ashe's disappointment had been clear as day. After she wandered away, he'd attempted to follow but she'd told him in no uncertain terms to leave her be.
Though Basch had known the young princess only briefly in the past, he knew patience wasn't one of her strong suites. Neither did she take rejection gracefully, proving that neither trait had changed by attempting to steal the Strahl, even though she clearly had no notion of how to pilot such a vessel. Now a passenger, Ashe would only have thoughts to occupy her mind. He supposed her thoughts would be as strangers to her about now.
Those thoughts seemed to consume her from the inside out. Ashe had turned reticent since asking to be 'kidnapped', avoiding conversation with everyone with equal displeasure and snapping whenever someone tried to talk to her. She seemed to smoke and smoulder with resentment, no doubt despising the fact that everyone else seemed to pull on her strings to make her dance; Ghis, Ondore and before them all the rest. Then there was the matter of him being alive of course.
So it surprised him when Ashe took her eyes away from the upholstery of Penelo's chair and leaned across to Basch's.
"A word. Now.
Not seeming to care about an answer, Ashe got out of her chair and headed into the main corridor. Obediently yet dreading the coming conversation, Basch followed her without complaint.
They stopped at the far end, as far as possible from earshot of the others. She raised her gaze to consider him. It seemed to Basch that the earlier rage had mostly abandoned her, leaving behind a cold hatred in her eyes and a slight confusion. Though she'd never admit it, she wore her heart on her sleeve.
"Your actions confound me," she told him straight forwardly. "Trusted though you may be by Vossler, he isn't above making mistakes. I simply cannot convince myself that he is right to place his trust in you. Though your blade served me well on the Leviathan, though I thank you for it, the shame of placing my trust in the hand that smote my father is too difficult to ignore. I cannot bare this shame. So tell me, why are you doing this? Why did you kill my father?"
Basch waited, letting the question hang long enough for Ashe to recover herself. "I committed no such crime, Majesty. You have my word."
"Your word?" she said with distaste. "What value is there to be found in the word of a traitor?"
"As much value as in that of a loyal servant," Basch answered, bowing slightly as he did.
She didn't like that answer. "Loyal servants don't slay their masters out of hand. Loyal servants don't betray their masters to others in the guise of doing what is in their best interests. Loyal servants would sooner die than bring shame or harm upon their master."
Basch bowed again. "Majesty, I promise that I did not slay your father. I did all I was able to protect Dalmasca. You must trust me."
Ashe regarded him wryly. "Trust is earned, fon Ronsenburg, not given. Don't expect me to take your word as it is." Before he knew it, she was gone, returning back to the bridge.
"Very well, Majesty," he quietly said after her. "Then I shall earn your favour again, even if I must go unto world's ending to do so."
1.3 - Shopping
After their long flight across the Naldoan Sea, it was commonly agreed by all that they should stop in Rabanastre, to replenish their supplies and to rest. When the hatch of the Strahl had dropped, they'd gone their separate ways, agreeing to meet up at the town fountain later on. They'd separated at the Southern Plaza, Ashe heading alone to Southgate, stating that she'd intended to visit the Resistance HQ in Lowtown when Basch asked. When he'd offered to guard her, she'd ignored him and left without a word.
Before they'd docked, Basch had elected himself the Strahl's supply captain, confiscating money from everyone in the party but Ashe (who had none anyway) for supplies. So, with nothing but time on his hands, he headed into the East End.
He went into several different shops, buying everything on the supply list in just over an hour and two trips. Food, water, medicine for general ills, a new sword for him, a sword he estimated would be good for Ashe's cruder style of swordplay, ammunition for the sky pirates and some curious 'phoenix downs'. The street vendor had claimed to an enthralled audience that the wonder drug could bring people back to life. Basch scoffed but still bought half a dozen anyway. Fate just loved to be tempted and teased.
With nothing left to buy, he was about to head back to the Strahl once more to drop off the provisions when a shop to his left caught his eye. In the window was a headless and armless mannequin garbed in an eye-catching red dress. The sign above the door read: Madame Cavendish's – Making princesses out of paupers. Basch almost passed it by until casually reading the sign. Ashe, an effective pauper, disinherited from throne and nation, sprang to mind. Then her inappropriate skirt sprang up right after her. Something just had to be done about that, he thought.
Against his greater inclination, for such shops confounded him, Basch pushed the door open and stepped inside.
1.4 - Pitch
"What was it you wished to discuss with me then?" Ashe asked, leaning against the outer wall of Vaan and Penelo's home. There were few people in the street, it already being past midnight in the city above. That was good, Basch reckoned. He didn't want anyone to overhear this conversation, which was the reason he'd decided to hold it outside in the first place.
Basch shifted on the balls of his feet in a display of uncharacteristic nervousness, like a boy half his age about to ask his best friend out on a date. Dismissing the analogy, Basch tried to find his voice, already knowing that the topic of discussion would be uncomfortable, if not for her then certainly for him.
"If you would accommodate me, Majesty, I wished to discuss… your apparel." He said the last two words hastily, hoping she wouldn't understand.
She didn't. "I beg your pardon?"
Basch sighed. "Your apparel, Lady Ashe."
Basch noted that the previous discomfort, the way she held her arms crossed before her and the way she kept her eyes averted suddenly changed. Her brow furrowed, her hands dropped to her sides and she stared at him blankly, confused. "My apparel?" she echoed hollowly.
"Yes, your Majesty." Basch already felt like this conversation was rapidly going downhill.
It was the question Basch had dreaded. He swallowed in resignation and tried to answer all the same. "I feel that it is not fitting for royalty to wear a skirt… of such length," he gestured blindly at the pink strip of clothing.
"Why?" Her expression and tone echoed that of a confused, inquisitive six year old.
"You… I… It is…it is uncouth…" he fumbled, desperate to avoid using the words 'thighs' or 'posterior'.
"Uncouth? My legs are covered," she gestured to her bizarre greaves.
"If I may, I bought you a new skirt from the town." Like a cheap street magician, he brought out said package from behind his back where he'd hidden it since the start of the conversation. She took the parcel numbly, her gaze alternating between it and him.
Eventually, she ripped away the tissue paper and brought out a knee length, white skirt. To Basch's eye, it seemed to match her white overcoat quite well. But Ashe held it at arms length between thumb and forefinger as though it smelled of dung. After an awkward minute, where she just stared at it like she'd never seen a (proper) skirt before, Ashe turned her attention back to him.
"You overstep your bounds, Captain fon Ronsenburg." She thrust the skirt back into his hands. "I'm quite content with what I'm wearing at present."
"If you like it so much then you wear it."
Then she stormed back into the house, leaving Basch in the street to think about the million different, better ways he could've made his pitch.
Fortunately, everyone had been in the warm kitchen or in their rooms when he'd re-entered, leaving his way across the small living room clear. His shared bedroom was empty too, which was also good. That would make things less awkward. All the same, once he was inside, he kept looking over his shoulder nervously, noises outside sounding closer to the door than they were. As such, it took a few moments to gather his daring before he made his move. Ignoring the sounds and taking a deep breath, Basch began to lift up his mattress, the skirt in hand ready to be hidden.
Unfortunately, at that moment, the noises outside turned out to be much closer than Basch thought after all. The door opened.
"Yeah Penelo, I'm getting it now," called Vaan from the doorway, looking out into the lounge. Then he turned around and froze.
Basch could only imagine what this had to look like to the Rabanastran boy. With the mattress raised at an angle, a highly questionable item in his hand and Galtea only knew what his expression looked like; all this combined must have screamed guilt. Vaan closed the door slowly.
"Uh hi, Basch."
"Good evening Vaan," Basch said cordially, trying to make it seem like this was normal behaviour, while hiding the skirt behind his back. "I was just… flipping my mattress."
"With the sheets still on?"
Basch looked down, already knowing that Vaan was right. He was sharper than Basch had initially taken him to be. "Oh… yes, you're right." He dropped the mattress back again.
"What's that in you hand?" he pointed.
"I know not what you mean," Basch said, casually slipping his other hand behind his back.
It didn't deter Vaan. "Let me see," Vaan took a step forward, quickly reaching around and grabbing the material. Basch was so surprised that he accidentally let go of it. The look on the boy's face would've been priceless as he unfolded the fabric if the situation had been different. "Is this… a skirt?"
At that moment, Basch wholeheartedly wished he was back in Nalbina. "It-"
"-Does Ashe know?"
"I'm sorry?" Now Basch was the one confused.
The previous look of confusion had gone. Instead, he looked at Basch as though he was the one being coy. "That you like to cross-dress?"
The cage had never looked so attractive. "No, I-"
"Don't worry. Your secret's safe with me." Vaan tapped his nose, handed back the skirt and darted out of the door. When the door closed, Basch heard a sound that sounded suspiciously like a snort.
Why did he get the feeling that everyone would hear this tale in no time at all?
1.5 – Awkwardness
"I think we're skirting round the issue here, don't you?"
Irritated at yet another joke made at his expense, the most recent of many made over the last day, Basch walked out of the kitchen where Balthier had made the pun. He left behind a giggling Penelo, a laughing Vaan and even a mildly amused Fran who'd given a rare smile of mirth at Balthier's witticism. Basch, however, was not amused. Thinking to rest, he made his way into the living room and was just at the door to his shared room when he changed his mind.
His eyes fell on the door which hid the room that Ashe and Penelo shared. The princess had been the only one who hadn't joined everyone else for dinner, claiming she wasn't hungry. As it happened, she hadn't left her room since Basch had made his pitch. Only Penelo had seen her and only then because they shared a bedroom. He wondered if Ashe had calmed down enough to listen to an apology.
By the time he decided that she wasn't, his body had already betrayed him and he was knocking on the door.
"Your Majesty? Are you there?"
On the other side of the door, he heard the telltale noises of movement. "Where else am I likely to be?"
Basch reflected that it had been a stupid question. "Might I speak with you?"
"Majesty, I wish to apologise."
There was a pause and then more movement. The sound of covers being thrown off met Basch's ears, followed by the sound of footsteps. Then he heard the latch being lifted and the door hinges creak. Ashe threw the door wide open.
She rested one arm on her hip, whilst keeping her other had firmly on the door as though it were a shield. "I am listening."
Basch kept his eyes downcast as he spoke. "I wish to apologize for intruding on personal matters that were not my business. It is not my place to tell you how to dress and I recognise that I overstepped my bounds. I humbly beg your forgiveness."
Ashe tilted her head to the left slightly, a gesture reminiscent of bygone days which she'd always used when she was thinking. After a silent minute she nodded. "See that it doesn't happen again."
"It won't, Majesty."
They both stood awkwardly at the door, the tension in the room no lesser than it had been before. But now the reason was different. Basch shifted uncomfortably, now not knowing what else there was to say. For her part, Ashe wouldn't meet his eyes either and seemed to take a profound interest in her feet.
Eventually Basch cleared his throat. "If your Majesty would excuse me, I shall retire for the night. We depart on the morrow."
Ashe nodded. "Very well then. Good night."
"Good night, your Majesty." Basch walked away, hardly daring to believe that making his apology had gone as smoothly as it did.
Basch turned around, meeting his liege's eyes. "Aye, Majesty?"
"Never mind," she said after a brief hesitation. With that she ducked back into her room and closed the door.
Basch stared at the door for a time, wondering what it was that his sovereign had been about to say. He couldn't even fathom a guess. He was still staring at the door when Penelo entered the living room.
"You know if you don't want to ask Ashe, I have some beauty products you can use, if you want to go out on the town."
1.6 - Reminiscence
As they emerged on the deserted coast of the Ogir-Yensa, Vaan ran off ahead to touch the shimmering lake of moving sand. Basch felt a similar curiosity, having to confess that he too was astounded by it and wondered how this sand had achieved the texture of water. Before he could muse on it further, Penelo came to his side and asked him how far it was to their destination: King Raithwall's Tomb.
After Penelo was satisfied with his explanation, they decided to split into pairs to make their way across the sands. Balthier and Fran elected to act as the rearguard by virtue of the fact that they both carried weapons with range. Likewise, Vaan and Penelo immediately joined themselves together, leaving Basch to travel with his liege by default. In any case, Vossler had left her in his care. There was no way that Basch would relinquish that duty to anybody else.
Together they formed the vanguard, being the most experienced in swordplay. The others followed behind, warily watching for foes that were nowhere to be found.
As they walked, Ashe picked up a habit of attempting to say something but cutting herself off each time before she could mutter a syllable. To avoid a scene, Basch pretended not to notice until finally she seemed to pluck up the courage to speak what was on her mind.
"Captain fon Ronsenburg, did you kill my father?"
The question came out of the blue but Basch noted the subtle rewording that he'd been hoping for. Though she'd only dropped the word 'why' from her question, it made all the difference in the world. She still seemed disbelieving, but there was now clear room for doubt. That was all he needed, all he'd been hoping for.
"Nay, Majesty, I did not."
"Then I would have you tell me what occurred that night in Nalbina, as you saw it."
"Very well, your Majesty." And so Basch launched into his tale from where it had begun: just after the failed counterattack by the Order against Archadia. He detailed how he and the survivors had stormed the fortress, defeating the Archadian's on the walls and cutting their way through. She listened astutely as he described how Vaan's brother Reks had helped him forge his path and then stayed behind on the stairs long enough for Basch to reach the king.
"When I reached the High Hall, your father was just about to affix his seal to the terms of surrender. At first, it seemed as though there was no-one else there, save Vayne Solidor and your father's honour guard. But we were ambushed just as his late Majesty signed the treaty. Those with me were slain to a man but I was held down out of the way. It was then that my brother entered the hall and murdered your father, and Reks also to act as a witness to the deed. I was then taken away to the dungeons, accused of treason and put to death in the eyes of the proletariat."
Throughout the story, Ashe hadn't said a word, even when he described things that just seemed highly improbable. As he'd mentioned his twin brother, he was surprised that she hadn't interrupted and told him that she thought his tale was absurd. But she didn't. Even now however, she didn't pass comment.
"Majesty, do you believe my words?"
"Your brother is the Judge whom Vaan and the others saw?"
She tilted her head to the side and paused. They kept on walking, the sound of their footsteps on the metal grill beneath their feet the only sound she made.
"Yes," she said abruptly. "Yes, I do believe you. Though I'm not sure I trust you yet."
1.7 - Shame
Somehow, Vossler managed to find them several hours along the path through the refineries. How he'd managed to catch them up, clad as he was in the full armour of the Order, Basch couldn't guess. Ashe had been immediately pleased to see him and when they'd talked, she managed to work a smile. Though it was a tired smile and somewhat strained, Basch was envious that his colleague could do what he could not. All the same, he was happy enough that she now believed him at least.
It showed prominently in her actions. As they made their way across the Ogir-Yensa Sandsea, the two of them would often be side by side, Ashe pushing forward at a relentless pace, seemingly reassured that Basch was nary more than a step behind her. Not long after Vossler had joined their party, the Urutan-Yensa made their presence known. On one occasion while fighting them, she'd even saved Basch's life, pushing him out of the way of an incoming arrow and luckily managing to deflect it on her shield. He'd then both thanked her and apologised for several hours.
When they finally stopped for rest, Basch noted that the dispossessed princess eyed him with respect and certainty. Knowing that made him feel better, as though her acceptance of him was like a poultice drawing out bad blood. For the first five minutes of rest, they sat and talked with Vossler and Basch felt content in a way he hadn't in years. Even the skirt argument was far from his mind.
Then Ashe stood up and everything changed.
It all started out quite innocently. Ashe had simply stood to get her pack, abandoned in a pile along with everyone else's baggage. Though she'd said nothing about to him, a fairly loud and undignified rumble of her stomach clued Basch in to her intent. His eyes followed her across the metal floor.
But it wasn't just his eyes that followed her.
Vossler's eyes were also quite stuck on the young princess. Basch nodded to his companion, taking it as nothing more than a show of protectiveness, much like his own. But when their young ward bent over in a most unladylike fashion to dig deep in her pack, Basch caught a flash of something white… and lacy.
Immediately he averted his eyes as his face turned a startling shade of red too fast to blame on sunburn or the like. Covering his face with a hand in both shame and embarrassment, Basch waited for his counterpart's reprimand. When he didn't receive it, he looked up again.
To his horror, Vossler's eyes hadn't moved and were quite firmly staring... there.
"Vossler!" Basch cried, indignant but quiet enough not to attract anyone else's attention. The others didn't even look up from their own conversation.
With the look of someone who had briefly forgotten their usual sensibilities, Vossler took his eyes away. Though Vossler kept his emotions in better check than he had managed, he still couldn't meet Basch's eyes.
"Have you no shame, Vossler? She is our charge!"
To his surprise, Vossler didn't take the reprimand well. He crossed his arms and huffed in an undignified manner. "I apologise," he said bitterly. "But do not pretend you didn't do the same."
"Nay, I do not deny it. But I had the decency to look away."
"Pfft," Vossler said, now making a throwaway gesture with his right hand. "Pretend not that you looked and didn't feel an ounce or measure of appreciation."
"I beg your pardon?!"
"Is all well?" interrupted Ashe, casting her shadow between the two knights. In her hands, she held a strip of dried meat, a significant portion already chewed off.
"Everything is fine, Majesty," Vossler said, avoiding Basch's eye and holding the princess's. "We were just having a difference of opinion."
"I see," Ashe said, bemusement marring her pretty features, but she didn't press the issue. "How far is it now to the Tomb?"
Basch launched into a description of the long way they yet had to go, every now and again casting a disapproving glance at Vossler, who gave back as good as he got. Basch resolved to have words sometime in the future but not just with him.
That pink 'belt' had to go.
1.8 - Words
The next opportunity to have words didn't come until they were halfway across the Nam-Yensa Sandsea. As freezing night spilt over the landscape, it was commonly agreed that it would be too dangerous to continue. Urutan ambushes, pockets of quicksand and not to forget the sub zero temperature meant it would be suicide to try.
They set up camp in the one of the crystal glades where fiends never dared to tread. Of course, that wasn't to say the crystal would prevent a large, unruly group of Urutan-Yensa poking their noses in and cutting their throats in the dead of night. So when they arranged the tents, Basch and Vossler oversaw their arrangement with experienced eyes, placing them so they wouldn't impede the line of sight too badly. Though they didn't speak on the matter of wandering eyes again, their discomfort translated itself into their body language and the harsh orders they gave the others.
In the end, the tents were arranged in a crescent, with the fire in its crook and the crystal behind. With the camp made, a watch decided on and a fire blazing, they all sat around the campfire save for Vossler who agreed to sit first watch by the crystal. Over the last three days of crossing the Ogir-Yensa and then the Nam-Yensa, Basch had hardly said two words to Ashe outside of battle. Usually when they set up camp, if neither one of them was on watch, they were too exhausted for talk.
On Basch's part, that hadn't been the only reason for his reticence. As he had shadowed Ashe, so too did Vossler. There never seemed a moment where Vossler's shadow didn't fall over his or hers. Though there was still a trace of anger towards his counterpart's conduct, Basch wasn't petty enough to assume that was the only reason Vossler kept close watch. Basch knew him to be as loyal a son of Dalmasca as he himself was.
So while he was on the other side of the camp, Basch saw the opportunity and used it to his advantage.
Ashe didn't sit far removed from their travelling companions in snobbery as he would've expected her to at age seventeen. Two years of rough living appeared to have broken down those sensibilities and now she spoke with Fran quite amicably. As he stood, her eyes met his and she ended her conversation with a quick comment he couldn't catch. The Viera nodded and returned her attention to her partner in crime, who was talking with Vaan and Penelo about… Basch wasn't sure what they were whispering about. But every now and then they glanced at him, Penelo and Vaan often laughing when they did, so he could venture a guess.
He didn't get an opportunity to find out for certain though. Before he could speak, Ashe beat him to the draw.
"Captain, might I have a private word?"
Put on the backburner, Basch simply nodded and followed her to the outskirts of their camp, away from fire and crystal both. They stopped a safe distance away, far enough not to be heard but close enough for aid to come should it be needed. She lifted her eyes and took a step towards him. It was with discomfort that Basch noticed how close they now stood, face to face. It wasn't usual. Perhaps she was going to slap him again.
"Are you going to tell me what the matter is?" she asked.
"Pardon?" Basch didn't have to feign bemusement.
"Don't play me for a fool, Captain fon Ronsenburg. It is clear that your relationship with Vossler grows more strained by the day. And I'm not the only one to notice. What did you think Fran and I were discussing? So I ask you to tell me what the matter is. Your rivalry could imperil us all at an inopportune moment. What is wrong?"
"I-" He didn't know what to say. Just a minute ago, he'd been about to talk with her on the subject. Now that she approached him on the issue, he was, for one of the first times in his life, caught off guard.
She seemed to understand, softening her expression and her tone. "I would ask you to confide in me. If you cannot resolve your issues with Vossler, than allow me to do so in your stead."
Basch nodded his head but didn't say anything. This was going to be difficult to explain diplomatically.
"It bothers me to see you and Vossler disagree as you do," Ashe continued. "Is it about your crossed words at the refinery?"
"You heard?" he choked, trying to pass it off plausibly as a cough.
"So it is that," she said smirking. It took a moment to realise that the wily princess had caught him out. "Surely I wouldn't be asking if I already knew of the matter."
"Just so. It is a somewhat… embarrassing affair, Majesty."
"I shan't leave you alone until this matter is resolved." There was still a trace of a smirk on her lips.
"Very well," Basch sighed. "Very well, I shall tell you."
With a superior range of hearing, Fran heard every word of the private conversation. She didn't mean to eavesdrop but she took no pains to ignore them either. Her come-uppance soon arrived though in the form of a yell, Ashe's voice raised so high she had to clamp her hands down over her tall ears.
"HE DID WHAT!?"
1.9 – Remembrance
The mood had changed drastically in little more than a day. From a meaningless rivalry into a full-blown treachery, Basch's relationship with Vossler had descended to new lows. He supposed it no longer mattered. Vossler was dead now, choosing to go down with the Shiva to make up for his betrayal. He could almost forgive the deceased knight, knowing that though he made a deal with the devil, he did so with Dalmasca's best interests at heart.
He might've been able to forgive Vossler if the betrayal had stopped there. What Basch couldn't find it in him to forgive was the manner in which he betrayed Ashelia.
The disgraced knight had gone too far. Not only had he drawn a sword on Basch, but he'd drawn on Ashelia too. At one stage during their fight on the deck of the Shiva, Vossler had taken a swing at his (former) charge that would've cleaved her top half from her bottom if she hadn't parried in time. Whether the motion was accidental or on purpose, he had almost succeeded in carrying out regicide, the highest of all treasons. Then, when the battle was done, Basch had left him there to die, arbitrating justice merely by walking away.
In a way, Basch supposed it was ironic how the loyal became a kingslayer and the kingslayer became loyal. What a strange twist of fate.
But of course, if anyone had been more profoundly touched by the episode than him it was Ashelia. For a time afterward, when the Dawn Shard had been recovered, she'd succumbed to a shocked silence. But it hadn't lasted long. Indeed, Basch truly admired her ability to pick up her life and carry on when the world conspired to destroy her. She was an incredible woman.
The sound of the person at the door jarred Basch out of his thoughts. Wondering who would be knocking, he got up from his bed and made for the door. Perhaps it was Vaan, wondering if it was safe to come in. The teenager had taken to doing that whenever they had to share a room, even though it was his and Penelo's home they were staying in once more.
He opened the door to find Ashelia on the other side.
"Might I come in?" she asked.
Somewhat surprised, Basch stepped back to allow the princess access. Thanking him, she stepped inside, making her way to the far side of the room and standing awkwardly. Closing the door, he gestured towards the bed as an invitation to sit down. She did so, leaving Basch to respectfully keep his distance by the door.
"I just wanted to tell you…" her voice trailed off and she stared into her lap for a moment. Basch waited, giving her time to find her own words. She looked up again. "I just wanted to thank you."
"Thank me, Majesty?"
"Yes," she said, standing up again. She met his eyes fleetingly before turning her gaze back to the wall. "For standing by my side."
"It is my duty, Majesty, to stand by you to the last."
"You are the only person in Ivalice I can trust to do so." She looked at him again and Basch could see the gratitude in her expression. "You are all I have left. And I want to thank you for ne'er failing in your duty. It means everything to me."
"You… do me great honour, Majesty."
"You deserve it." She stood again, seemingly saying all she had needed to say. Basch held the door open for her and she stepped past, smiling at him as she went. When she was on the other side again she turned around. "And Basch?"
He blinked in surprise. Not in years had she called him by his first name without his title attached. "Yes, Majesty?"
"I want you to call me Ashe, like the others."
The request took him aback. Never before had he ever called the deposed queen by her first name. It was something he'd never even thought to do, being at ease with sticking to the use of honorific as society demanded.
"Very well, Maj- Ashe."
"Hmm we'll have to work on that."