Disclaimer: I do not own Square Enix's Final Fantasy XII, nor am I making any money off this fanfiction.


An Offer From a Pirate

Chapter Six

Bruised Feelings


"Count me in."

Vaan scoffed as he sat in the co-pilot's seat, well on his way away from Archades and all the problems it presented for his love life. An hour ago, he had thought that this devil may care attitude suited him well—who needed Penelo, huh, if she was just going to run straight into the emperor's arms the first time they had a fight? (Vaan very carefully did not think about how that fight had started, or that he may very well have pushed her into them.) Now, though, he was starting to wonder… Balthier had stolen something from Larsa. And they were on the run.

"I don't fancy that we'll run into his like again," Balthier remarked.

The younger man slid a glance his way. "You mean the courier?" The guy Balthier had basically drop-kicked into the next century?

"Courier, messenger of certain doom, mule for the empire, what have you, it's all the same to me."


Okay, so—so he was jealous of Larsa. Yeah. Who wouldn't be? The guy ran an empire. He had heaps of gold in those coffers somewhere. He had a country at his command. He could buy whatever the heck he wanted. Vaan had dreamed of one day owning his own airship; Larsa could buy hundreds. He could take care of Penelo, see to it that she never wanted for anything. Sure, Penelo was an independent sort and really preferred to earn things, but so what? Vaan couldn't compare to that guy.

Ugh! Things were so different when Larsa was twelve and his little green booties were all that the girls cooed over. Years later, Larsa was a giant! He had a really deep voice! He had no skin conditions! His hair was a perfect shade of black, it flipped at the ends and stayed that way without a strand out of place as though by magick, and his eyes were the exact shade of emeralds! He didn't have an ounce of fat on him, he was lean, but well muscled, he walked and spoke with grace…

Vaan pulled at his hair and groaned. Who stood a chance against that?

"Penelo, darling, have you considered leaving a life of pirating with a dirty scoundrel and joining me instead for a life full of glamour and power?" There Larsa stood, Penelo in his arms as he stroked her hair and murmured sultrily at her. In the back ground, piles of gold gleamed.

"Aggggh!" Vaan yelled.

Balthier rubbed at his ear with one finger. "Really, Vaan, was that absolutely necessary?"

"I hate him!" Vaan ranted. He had to get it off his chest. He'd been carrying these pent up feelings for ages. Ever since Penelo had first signed on as an ambassador. "Where does he think he gets off on, huh?"

"Probably the coffers, I hear they're quite nice…"

"You're not helping!" Vaan informed him shortly. "I mean, what makes him so great?" he continued a moment later. "Huh? Yeah, he looks nice, but so what! Beauty is only skin deep!"

"Yet still manages to go quite a long way. Most people don't bother to look past it. I'm guilty of it myself. If a woman has certain… assets… and she's eager to please you, why trouble yourself with what's 'within'?" Balthier pressed a button, guided the steering mechanism just a bit to the right. He reached up, flipped some switches overhead. Clouds drifted past, and they lowered to get a view of the land below.

"The point!" Vaan snarled, "is that—that—" Just what was he trying to say?

"The point is that he is very likely going to marry your girl soon, Vaan, and there is not a single thing you can do about it." Typical to his nature, Vaan's former mentor shrugged. "Now… as we have discussed this past the point of acceptable, and as my patience is rather beginning to thin, I suggest we steer the topic to something worthwhile."

But Vaan wasn't ready to give it up yet. "He's not that great," he insisted in a sullen mutter. "Stupid flippy hair…"

"Yes, yes, that's all well and good, but one mustn't forget his shining personality, Vaan. Decorum, grace, wealth… The Solidor boy flaunts these well, and it drew Penelo in." Balthier drew their ship back into the clouds.

"Fine," Vaan said. "Where's Fran, anyway?"

The other man raised his eyebrows. "You've only just noticed her absence?"

"Shut up, I've had a lot on my mind, okay?" Vaan threw himself back in his seat and crossed his arms.

Balthier chuckled, ever amused. Vaan wanted to punch him again. He didn't think it was a feeling that was ever going to go away. "Fran waits for us. We'll see her soon."

That night, they bunkered down over the Cerobi Steppe again. Balthier was tugging off his clothes and Vaan was trying not to notice as they prepared to share the only bed for the evening. The other one, Vaan knew, belonged to Fran, and the viera would be able to smell Vaan on it later and be… well, not happy. And considering Vaan had seen Fran kick some serious ass? He wasn't keen on getting his own handed to him, especially not after his lost duel with Larsa.

"Why can't we stay at an inn?" he grumbled. "Or even my place in Balfonheim?"

"Why waste the gil? Besides that, we're on a time limit. We need to rendezvous with Fran and then recover the talisman, of which the latter alone will take a considerable amount of effort and has an expiration date." Balthier loosened his cufflinks, then pulled his shirt over his head. "Some quick sleep, and then we'll be up first thing in the morning."

Vaan grumbled some more at this, but dutifully climbed into bed, toward where the wall was. "No funny stuff, okay?"

"What, might I ask, is humorous about your unending lust for me, Vaan?" Balthier asked with a completely serious expression.

It made the blond curl a lip at him. "Just keep your hands to yourself."

"Now that," Balthier said, pulling open his trousers, "is not something I can promise."

Vaan flushed, remembering their earlier encounter at the inn room in Archades. He had knowingly walked into that bargain, but still… he hadn't expected to enjoy it quite so much. And now here was Balthier, stripping out of his trousers and climbing into bed completely naked. This was going to prove for a long night indeed, if he had to fret both over how he liked the idea of that and how he was going to keep Balthier off him.

"Is there any particular reason you sleep naked?" Vaan asked. "Or are you just trying to make me uncomfortable?"

"Why do you sleep with clothes on?" Vaan heard him slip beneath the sheets.

"Because what if someone walks in on me?"

"And if you weren't terribly worried about that?"

"Well… I—I don't know…" Vaan flushed.

"You never slept naked beside your lady?" Balthier drawled. "That, I find hard to imagine."

"Leave Penelo out of this!" Thinking about being naked in bed with Penelo made him think about how Penelo was usually naked, as well, which led to him thinking about how Larsa was probably seeing her naked in bed now, and—Penelo, who was the modest type, and would never give it away easily, had spent many years in close proximity with Larsa, and if he took her anywhere near a perfect location to be seduced…

"Worried about her sexual life with the emperor? I would, too, if I were you."

Vaan growled, twisted onto his side, and pulled a pillow over his head. Once more, he wondered what had possessed him to go on a crazy stint with a man he absolutely abhorred.


The night, contrary to Vaan's worries, passed uneventfully, and he pondered his odd feelings of disappointment as he rose to find where Balthier had gotten off to. The man was absent from the bed, and his spot was cold, meaning he'd been gone for some time. He wasn't in the cockpit, and he wasn't anywhere else in the ship, either, so Vaan released the hatch to go outside.

He found the taller man lurking near a tree, peering off over the cliffside, the wind ruffling his hair. Vaan watched him for a moment, something odd twisting in his chest. An idea occurred to him, a dangerous one, a stupid one, something he never would have considered until… well, until he woke up that bizarre morning naked with a flirtatious Balthier right beside him. He took a slow, even breath, studying the man's profile. Then he moved.

You don't have to test him, Vaan tried to tell himself.

But he did.

Why did Balthier want him? He had legions of women… why Vaan? His answers weren't good enough, vague at best. Now came time for the moment of truth. It was something Vaan wasn't examining too closely, else he'd lose his nerve. Some deep, integral part of him had to know, it had to find out the truth.

He slipped around to the front of Balthier, placed his hands on the elder pirate's chest, gripped at his loose shirt, and leaned up and kissed him.

Later, he would contemplate how very smooth that movement was, how he hadn't hesitated at all, how he'd just dived in, how nothing had screamed that it was wrong at him. And later still, he would replay the moment again and again in his mind—that, despite what he had wanted to believe, Balthier didn't shove him off… instead, he bent his head into Vaan's kiss, and he returned it with equal fervor.

This, Vaan thought as what felt like a stone dropped through his chest, straight to the pit of his belly, wasn't a bright idea.

Balthier's fingers clenched in Vaan's hair, and he pulled the smaller man roughly up against him. His tongue, his teeth, they attacked Vaan, and like that moment back in the Archades inn, Vaan let them. He gave a soft moan, pliant in the other man's arms, fingers still wound tight in his shirt. The heat of Balthier's mouth, the scrape of stubble—

Oh, yeah.

He was in deep trouble.

"Nice morning, isn't it?" Balthier murmured against his mouth.

Vaan's plan had backfired. And judging by the gleam in Balthier's eyes, he wasn't like to forget that Vaan had made the first moves anytime soon.


It summed up everything he was feeling and then some.

Now what?