Title: Truth

Characters: BalthierXPenelo

Summary: This is version two that was inspired by the same line "If I don't make you happy, then what good am I?" Still BalPen :)

Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy 12 or anything related to it in this fic. That's all Square-Enix. ;)

(Truth)

He followed after her, making a comment about helping the busy lady in the kitchen. -" You know, Vaan...Penelo really does do too much for you."- Then he'd winked at Penelo, causing her to roll her eyes to the sky. She briskly turned around, making her way to the kitchen to prepare lunch. It had been a horribly busy day.

First came the information gathering, then the travelling, then the horrid hunting that involved the 'hidden door' of someone's tomb. She sighed, hearing Balthier trail after her. Penelo made her way to the counter, pulling out an onion from the vegetable basket and a knife from the block to her right. She spoke as she realized he was trying to find a certain dried herb. After a moment, she heard a soft " Aha!"

"Balthier, really. I think I can manage food by myself."

"My dear, as your friend, I simply wish to lighten your burden. We are friends, are we not?" He said, giving her a dashing smile that so many other women had fallen prey to.

"...I guess...we are."

"And?" He seemed to drop his voice after that simple word.

She paused in her slicing of the onions and looked around confused. "And what?"

"You said 'I guess we are'. I feel suspicious of that phrase, my dear. Please quell my fear that you feel we are not."

She sighed. "You just never seemed like the 'friend' type. You're my friend as long as I can give you what you want. Right? As long as I have something you need, which at this point happens to be food, you'll be my friend. You told us all once that you never did anything for free. I did hear you right, didn't I?"

He looked to her, bewildered. "Am I to assume that you believe I'm here for food? My dear, you give me so little credit. I can fend for myself just fine while you are away. Granted you've a bit more practice at cooking than myself, but I seem to do fine on my own." He said, a little angry. "Am I -that- untrustworthy towards you? Do I give such a bad impression to everyone or just you?"

She sighed, placing her knife down once again. "I like you just fine, Balthier. But really. Can you blame me? I'm barely even on your radar as a -person-, much less a friend. And as far as I know, it's just me."

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him put down the small bottle of dried herbs. His hands clenched around the bottle and the edge of the counter. He turned his whole body towards her." Anything else? Or are you done verbally shaming me?" His arms were crossed; face seemingly in an eternal frown.

That beautiful face. Hm. He looks like he's really upset about this... I wonder why.

"I wasn't saying anything to upset you. I really didn't mean to. But you were the one who said you never did anything for free. I assumed that meant using your time as well." She walked across the small sized kitchen to stand in front of him. She folded her hands together in front of her body while looking up to him. He just looked down at her, frown still in place. She sighed once more for the night.

"Can I ask you something, Balthier? And will you be honest?" He nodded, a little confused. "Do I make you happy?" A look of panic and confusion struck his face. "I beg your pardon?" She giggled, rolling her eyes. A grin stretched across her lips. "I asked if I made you happy. Well...do I?" He seemed stunned for a moment." Why wouldn't you?" She immediately shook her head. "No. I didn't ask for another question. I want a straight answer." He stood, silent.

She gave a sad smile. "See? I don't do anything to make you happy. It's not that I don't like you, Balthier. I just don't see a reason to stick around where I can't do anything for anyone." She walked to her place by the onions, continuing to slice them.

"I'm afraid I don't quite understand your logic, Penelo." He came a step closer before stopping himself. He placed his hands on the island counter to his right.

She looked thoughtful for a moment before beginning to explain.

"See...it's like this. I prioritize my friendships by how much I can do for them. Whether it is a shoulder to lean on, or buying them simple gifts I know they've wanted. In essence, it's how happy I make them. For Ashe, she lost everything, just like me. We connected and she leaned on me for support. Vaan's easy. I'm his best friend. I know that makes him happy. Basch is simple too. I write him letters frequently to let him know how Vaan and I are. I know it makes him happy too. Fran loves that she can teach me things, though she's not verbal about her praise. I know it's there. It's how she looks at me when I've mastered something new that she taught me. But you...what could I possibly do for you or buy for you that you couldn't get on your own? Something that no one else can do better?" She paused, even stopping her chopping of some other vegetable.

His brow was drawn together, a frown marring his handsome face once again. Hazel eyes peered down at the mossy green countertop. He finally stood and faced her.

"So you want to know what you do. Where should I start?" He sighed, placing a hand under his chin. He looked comically thoughtful for a moment before taking a step closer to her, then another, and another until he was standing right beside her. He looked down at her, flashing his trademark sly grin. As soon as he opened his mouth, Penelo cut him off.

"If you give me some loaded crap about how you're happy just by me walking in a room, then I'll have no choice but to slap you. That's lame."

He quickly shut his mouth, then laughed. He turned to wrap an arm around her shoulders. When she looked up at him, he was smiling at her. "That's how you make me happy, my darling. You know me to a 'T'. Although, I wasn't going to say ' You lighten up every room by just setting foot in it.' No my dear. What I -was- going to say was that your smile is more than enough to satisfy me. But I'm assuming that wasn't what you wanted to hear either." He chuckled.

"So me catching you in a lie makes you happy? Really? 'Cause if that's the case, then I could've made you happy a lot more often. If only I'd spoken up."

He laughed more, tightening his hold on her shoulders. Penelo blushed at the closeness. He took his arm away from her shoulder to stand behind her. Balthier placed his hands on her shoulders, lowering his mouth to her ear. She could hear the grin in his voice.

"The fact that you know me so well just shows you've paid attention to me. And as I'm sure you know, attention makes me happy. But I'll have you know the intelligence is reciprocated to you, as well, my dear. I know your every flaw, every twitch, every imperfection that makes you -you-, and I'll have you know that I enjoy every moment I see of you. Every smile, every blush, every beautiful sigh is a siren's call to my soul. Your motherly traits extend to not only Vaan and the orphans, but to every person in your sight. You take care of everyone as though only they mattered, and my dear, you are the only person who has treated me in such a way," he confessed, leaning closer to her back. His hands slid down her bare arms, feeling the goose bumps rise across her soft skin. Deft fingers slowly took the knife from her hands, placing it further away on the counter. His fingertips ran down the back of her hand to lace their hands together. She shivered against him and he smiled. "The reaction I get from you, in any situation, always makes me happy. I have to admit, I especially love to see you like this." Balthier whispered against her ear, his lips moving swiftly against it as the words escaped him.

Her eyes slowly closed, her pink lips parted softly. To him, she was the epitome of sensuality at that moment. His fingers left hers, traced their way back up her arms, only they didn't stop at her shoulders as she'd thought they would. No. They travelled down her back, never leaving her body, and resting on her hips. His palms covered both of her hips, the heel of his hand digging in gently then stopping. He leaned his head against her shoulder, nose moving gently against the flesh of her neck. He took a slow breath.

"You see, my dear, everything you do makes me happy. Although this is by far the closest I've been to you, I have no qualms in telling you just how happy I am to be here right now." Now his lips were moving against the skin between her neck and shoulder. Her hands balled to fists. His lips began moving again. "Every other woman I've been with has been just that: a woman. One night stands never to be thought of again. But this. Never have I felt so pulled before. I feel as though instead of my charms capturing another woman, you've caught me. Much like being on the receiving end of my own charm. If I have even a fraction of this pull on other women, I pity them." At this he slowly backed away from her, taking a deep breath to calm himself. Penelo turned around to face him, her stormy eyes looking deeply into his own hazel. Since the space between the island counter and the wall counter was so small, they were practically toe-to-toe.

"What else?" She whispered hoarsely. His eyebrow quirked.

"What else to what? If I say much more, things will be awkward I'm sure. After all, Penelo, you are the one treasure this sky pirate can not obtain. I can't steal you away. Who would keep Vaan out of trouble?" He gave a small chuckle. "I want to hear it, Balthier. I -need- to hear it. It's important to me." He looked to his shoes then back up to her beautiful, raincloud eyes. "As I said, you are the one treasure in this world that I can't have. I'm drawn to you like no other, and I've found you parading through my dreams countless times. And after every dream, I am left with a hole in my chest that wasn't there before. No other woman has had this effect on me, and I know what it is. I'm not deluding myself into thinking it's nothing. I've seen it happen to others enough times to know the symptoms. But I'm sure you've someone waiting for you at home in Rabanastre. What was that lad's name again? Tomol? No..."

"Tomaj?"

"Yes, that's it! That poor boy must be missing you something fierce by now."

"You think...Tomaj...and me?" She started laughing. She brought her hands up to cover her mouth.

"I don't find it that funny, Penelo. The man watched after you like a bird of prey."

"Balthier, Tomaj isn't a problem. He's my distant cousin or something. Mom's mom's sister's great-grandson or something."

Balthier's brow drew close again, her words running through his mind.

"Just so you know, my dear, to see you walking in to a room -does- in fact make me happy. Then I become irritable that I can't act on what every other part of me wants to do. Coming here alone to help you tonight...this wasn't my plan. I was merely going to see if I could make you smile. When you're near, it's what I live for. While you're away, there's nothing I can do about it, so I wish you the best. It's all I can do."

"Balthier...say it. Please."

He shook his head." I don't believe it will do me much good. After all, you think so poorly of me." He closed his eyes, and lowered his chin to his chest. He let out a breath before raising his head to look at the ceiling. She watched silently as he gave a small, sad smile to the light fixture. Her heart jumped. Even Balthier wasn't -this- good of an actor. He meant it. Without looking down, he continued speaking.

"You see? I've doomed myself to this life. All the other women...I didn't really want them like this. I wanted a fun time and a release. To not worry about anything when I left in the morning. I believe the Gods have an awful sense of humor. The woman I want above all others...and...She thinks I'm not even her friend. The only woman I want to wake up next to. The only one I want to stay with, and...She has no idea what she does to me." He looked at her with a grin on his face, before looking over to the onion still sitting on the counter, sliced up.

"She does now," Penelo said softly, reaching her hand out to hold his face. His eyes darted to her, a question clearly in them.

"The Gods haven't doomed you, Balthier. You should know by now you have got to be the luckiest man alive." Penelo stirred a little as she felt his hand come to rest on her forearm, his thumb rubbing small circles on her tan flesh. She smiled.

"Vaan can take care of himself. He's a big boy. Tomaj isn't a love interest, and neither is anyone else...except one man. And he's so lucky...he just doesn't even know..." Penelo smiled, resting her body against his. His eyes looked down on her, still questioning her silently.

"I have never thought poorly of you Balthier. I say those things to myself to try to talk myself out of things. Like...a sort of cause and effect. I make myself believe that you don't like me. I don't get let down when you leave a room without even looking at me. Earlier, when you asked if we were friends, that was the first time you'd ever made any mention to me about being anything more than just ' Penelo'. It startled me, and then you seemed upset. I didn't know what to do. I panicked. I tried to straighten it out, and all I did was upset you further. That wasn't -my- intention either."

He couldn't hold back a grin." And what of my handkerchief? Was that nothing as well?"

She rolled her eyes." Oh, please. It was obvious you were a ladies' man. No one but you would act like a handkerchief meant the world. At least, in front of a girl." Penelo looked in to his eyes, and whispered softly. "But I'm still glad I got the chance to give it back to you."

He sighed softly, closing his eyes. A small smile covered his face as he leaned in to her touch.

She stood on her toes, tentatively craning her face up to his, softly letting her lips brush his. His smile grew wider still as his eyes slowly opened to reveal a sly, cunning expression that spread across his face.

"Penelo, my darling, you've doomed yourself now, I'm afraid." His lips moved across her's as his words sunk in. "You've shown an interest, and I've no intention of letting that attention go to waste."

She'd had enough of waiting. She closed the nearly non-existent space between them, lifting her hands to keep a firm hold on his shoulders. She felt his smile against her lips, and couldn't stop her own from appearing. He moved swiftly but gently against her mouth, hands exploring the stretch of her back, to her shoulders, then back to her hips again, seemingly in a wonderful cycle.

So many things flew through her mind at once that she felt dizzy, and had to grip harder just to maintain some sort of balance. His arms tightened around her, fingers clutching and almost digging in.

It's like...like he doesn't want me to go anywhere...not that I would...

She pulled her lips away from his, taking a deep breath. Penelo most certainly was blown away. Of course, as every other woman on the planet must have, she had always wondered what it would be like to kiss the infamous sky pirate. The sensual curve of his mouth that tipped just so when he grinned; the graceful movements of his body as he did even simple every-day tasks; and that voice! Oh, how she had loved to hear the man talk. Almost as much as he loved to hear himself talk.

When Penelo's eyes finally looked back up to his, she noticed a smug look had come to him now. She gently rolled her eyes and thumped his ear before turning back to the meal that was left unfinished.

"Arrogant...," she started, but all he heard afterwards was mumbles. He grinned, his hands never leaving her body. His fingertips trailed along her side then around her back and up to her neck. He stopped when she twitched and giggled. Her arm reached back to hit him, and she was happy upon hearing a 'thunk' and feeling her knuckles come in contact with his vest.

"I may be sure of myself, but I don't believe I'd call it 'arrogance'. I like to think of it as...self-confidence."

Penelo laughed heartily." Well, Balthier, you certainly have self-confidence in abundance. Sometimes I think you got three people's shares."

She felt his body coming closer to her back, his hands appearing in front of her, resting on the counter. Once his chest was flush against her, he dipped his head to rest his chin on her shoulder, watching her cut the vegetable over her shoulder. She grinned, feeling his breath flitter down her chest. Penelo reached up, patting his head.

"Are you gonna get the other ingredients for me or stand here and admire my masterful chopping skills?"

Vaan's head peeked in the kitchen door then.

"Hey! Is the chow...done?" He stood still. Why was Balthier so close to Penelo? Why was Penelo allowing it?

"What the...?" He started, confused. Balthier just turned to him and smiled. Penelo, for some reason, seemed unable to look at him. Were her ears red, or was he just seeing things?

Balthier's left hand was resting on her hips while his other waved around animatedly as he spoke.

"Vaan, lad! Just in time!" Balthier heard Penelo choke a little.

Vaan watched the couple, wary and on edge. "For...what?" His eyes narrowed.

Balthier's smile never left his face.

"You can be the first witness!"

A confused, "What?" fell from Vaan's lips at the same time as a "W-wh-what!?" sputtered from Penelo's. Balthier swiftly turned her around to face him. He planted his hands on either side of her face, holding it firmly, grinning all the while. The poor girl never saw it coming. He dipped his head quickly, capturing her lips with his own. He heard Vaan fall against the wall, losing himself in the shock. He heard the knife fall from Penelo's hand to the floor. Slowly but surely, her hands came to rest on his waist then moved slowly to his chest.

Balthier pulled back, breathing deeply. His eyes searched Penelo's brightly flushed face. As her eyes opened slowly, he watched Vaan gather himself and clear his throat. Balthier moved his eyes back to her. She was currently trying to talk and catch her breath at the same time.

"W-w....whoa. What...what was that for?"

Vaan looked disbelievingly. Penelo wasn't trying to kill Balthier. Something wasn't...right.

"You're gonna let him get away with that, Penelo? Seriously, Balthier! What is this about?"

Balthier looked to Penelo's lips longingly before answering their questions.

"I wanted Vaan to see this. What better way for people to figure out than for his big mouth to spread the word." Penelo smiled at his words, still catching her breath. Vaan seemed to gape before answering his remark.

"Hey! I'm not that bad! If you want me to keep it a secret, I will...Seriously."

Penelo looked back at Vaan with an incredulous look in her eyes.

"Vaan, you couldn't keep a secret even if you tried."

Balthier chuckled at that. It seemed they were teaming against the young man, and he almost felt bad...it's just that he was having so much fun for the first time in so long.

"Ya know...if this is what you guys are gonna do when fixing supper, I think I just want Penelo to fix it. Alone." With that Vaan turned around, making his way back down the hall to the cockpit. When Balthier turned his attention back to Penelo, her eyes were watching warily.

"Why'd you really do it?"

He smiled, throwing his arms around her, clutching her tightly. He placed his mouth next to her ear.

"I have bragging rights now, and I intend to implement them as much as possible."