Author's Note: A little something I wrote a while back, one of many, many volumes of Final Fantasy XII fanfiction. BalFran, Fran's point of view. Tell me what you think. -Tersa


As the girl left, I heard metal strike the wall of the Strahl.

I entered silently, gathering all I could before making any move toward him.

Balthier sunk into the chair at the parts table, fingers in a chaotic splay through his hair, not caring about the grease that covered his hands and clothes. His arms shielded his eyes from me, but the grimace would be difficult for anyone to miss, coupled with the weak curve of his back, angry points of his shoulders, and a half broken and half mended mess in front of him. When Balthier needed time to think, he went to this part bench, repairing what he could, playing with parts to keep his hands occupied and mind alert until an answer came to him.

"We need a new converter."

I had not heard that voice in years. It wavered. Even the most painful statements, were said with certainty.

I let my hands drift down his shoulders, smoothing their way to his chest. My touch did little, even his pectorals were strained with his will to prevent falling apart, and his fingers tightened, pushing his hair into further disarray.

"I look in the mirror and see him more with each passing day." He said. "I thought I had found peace!" The façade staggered, "Why did she have to go dredging? Insatiable little wretch!"

I rubbed his shoulder. "Balthier."

"Yes Fran."

"Do you blame yourself for Cidolfus?"

"It was my fault. I encouraged him." Quivering tension leapt back into him, and next I knew, he had stood and I was against the wall, his face in my neck.

The gesture would be the prelude to something erotic another day, but today, the force and suavity had left Balthier Bunasca, and in its place, uncertainty sprung. He did not bring himself to look at me, running away instead into comfort he knew on the most basic level. The warmth of another's skin, to force away the isolation, and another he never blatantly admitted to needing, it had so hurt him in the past— losing support from someone that he trusted not to let him fall.

"How she knows, I don't care. But why I was arrogant and stupid enough to think she never would unearth something like this, something she had no business touching,"

I slipped my hand through his, lacing us together. "Do you blame yourself."

Balthier loosened his hand from mine, and his arms slid around me.

I returned his embrace with one arm, smoothing his rumpled honey brown hair with the hand of the other. "You could not have known, Balthier."

"Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Absolute power was in his grasp. I should have had the sense to stop him!"

I shook my head, closing my eyes, listening to the quick beat of his heart. "You were just a boy."

"I should have been a damned man by that age!" He snapped. "Instead I was a spoilt, rich dandy with no cares but mechanics, books, and my other useless toys!"

"It was barely eight years ago. You were fourteen. You cannot blame yourself for the past, you can never repair it."

"I should have repaired it then!"

I shook my head again, pressing my cheek to his. "Oh, Balthier." I pulled him closer, always careful not to tear his clothes with the added pressure combined with my long claws. "I met you at sixteen, eloquent, witty, speaking far beyond your age but there are some things that it takes a lifetime to see. I have lived for so long, watching your people." I touched his cheek, pulling back to look at him. I had to smile, those uncertain eyes melted my heart so. "You cannot help someone that refuses to be saved. Your father refused until the very end. It was not your fault, my love."

His eyebrows raised, but he said nothing. I released him, noting his swallow and his muscles tensing under my hands just barely, quavering in place like strings pulled taught. His mind was still a fuzzy jumble, but he had gotten a hold of himself, and his pride stung. He detested the fact he still became upset about Draklor and his father, avoiding Archades unless absolutely necessary, and even then, instinctively turning away from streets with heavy connections to events with Draklor or his father. There was a playhouse in particular he avoided with all costs.

There was only once I saw him in front of that building, a young seventeen, still growing into a body to match his wits. We had just become partners then, but he had not realized I saw him until after he came out of the trance he was in. I remember the ache I felt from him that day clearly, as it is the same ache that troubles me when our travels lead us to Golomore. It is a deep chasm, and that day he had fallen into it totally. His eyes were dulled, to the casual observer, he was admiring the building. In the masses of people and ornately carved stones, he saw ghosts.

He apologized, rubbing his hair into place, and I went against my first thought to stay back and silent, stepping and pulling him into a soft kiss.

I have learned much about myself in Balthier's care, the power of a lover's contact being proven over and over again. In weakness and in madness, his hands, lips, his frame with mine have cured me, if purely by distraction. In grips of Berserk, Fear, Confusion, his voice always cuts through, and he has always kept me from hurting myself or others, even if he has to get hurt himself to do so. I'd awaken, and there he would be, smiling and covered in scratches and sometimes deeper wounds.

'You know I don't mind a bit of rough pleasure, Fran, but I don't really think this is the place. They're liable to try to join in.'

I had never known a kiss before him, not like this. Soft, warm, slick, so many thoughts to process at once. Gently, his hands find my hips, to my waist, traversing each earthy curve as though it was a treasure beyond kings.

"Wonderful woman," He says, and only then do I realize I had closed my eyes, distracted by observing the changes in my body his touch provoked; the kiss must have lasted longer than I intended. He smiles. "Are you sure you're not a god, being this perfect?"

I shake my head, unsure of how to respond to the dizzy feeling that has caught me. It has been so long since this last happened, years? Is this what the Wood feels as we worship her? I wondered as Balthier's hand skimmed my back, fixated by the feel of it, with a lazy, reverent smile. This certainly seems like worship. He walked his fingers up my spine and felt a smile tug at me in response to the delicate touch. Or it should be.

"I'm acting like a cad." He said in the same soft tones, "that was meant to be a comfort, and I went and turned it into something else. But distraction can be welcoming." His lips found my neck, brushing the thin skin over the stream of life there and releasing a feeling that escapes my comprehension. I tried to place my finger on it, a shiver, a chill, analyzing it and trying to put it under a familiar label, but it was like nothing I had experienced in the Wood. All that described it was the way my tongue darted out to moisten my lips, and responding to fire elsewhere. Balthier smiled, coy. "Can't it?"

What is it about this hume?

Our lips met and fell away, met again after gracing other flesh. My hair was taken down, my hands seeming to act of their own accord, though I knew what was truly at work. The Dark Pulse of the Wood, woven into the pieces of my body as much as my kin's blood and character, had never escaped me, always beginning softly before turning to a deafening roar that made it all I could do to hear our intermingled voices— mine a low, purring mixture of need and his, once he finally lost his want of appearing civilized, a feral song of lust to match my own, softening to sighs and whimpers in what could only be described as "lovemaking" to shrilling calls and half conscious snarls of in, crude as the label seems, "mating." Both were pleasurable, thrilling, delicious, but lovemaking served higher realms than the Dark Pulse's home, where instinct directed our every movement.

Sweat was dampening my skin when I noticed the smeared, dark colors on my handpads, instantly recognizing them from years of mistakes. "I have hurt you."

The drunken smile he wore did not fade. "So you have."

"You seem unconcerned."

The smile's devilish tint darkened. "That is probably because I am unconcerned, Fran." He drew me close, kissing just below the bones that framed my chest. "Scratches are a small price to pay for the pleasure and privilege of you."

I did not look away from the blood on my hands. "Oh?"

He took the stained hand in his, bringing it to his lips for another kiss. "I'm honored to be in love with someone that has lifetimes to choose her partner," He said, eyes lingering upon me, "as undeserving as I believe myself to be."

I shook my head. "You are not undeserving."

He touched my chin, tilting my face to his for a soft kiss.

He nestled in to fall asleep after, his arms around me. I dozed at first, but despite trying to keep my awareness, fell deep into dreams.