Disclaimer: I own neither Final Fantasy XII nor its characters.
A/N: I know, I know...I should be working on my chapter stories. I have no excuse, but I just couldn't seem to leave this idea alone. So here it is. A simple one-shot that could feasibly take place anywhere during the game. Hopefully it will pass the time for those of you still waiting on the next chapters of my chapter stories. ;) Enjoy!
He watched. The blur of fire and dust rising into his vision, but that was not what caught his gaze. It was the creature stirring the embers with the soft kicks and stomps of her feet. He knew that he had seen many beautiful dancers in his time, but as the loose wisps of blonde hair clung to her rosy cheeks, he was certain none had danced with the grace she possessed.
Basch gave an uncomfortable cough and shifted his gaze to the ground at his feet. He shouldn't be watching her with such reckless abandon. He was twice her age. Even if her learned experiences and wisdoms put her well beyond the age of a seventeen year old, he would not be caught ogling her like a fool.
A sharp laugh sounded from his right and the steel-blue eyed man turned his head to see the knowing smirk of Balthier. Basch's eyes narrowed as the sky-pirate gave another short laugh, leaning in towards his fellow companion.
"I'd pay a bit more attention if I were you, captain," he cautioned.
Basch just answered with a grunt. It was useless trying to explain anything to the brown-eyed man who had been sitting watching the girl with rapt attention. It was hard for Basch to attempt explaining to himself why he was so against watching her dance. Perhaps it was the way she moved, how it hinted at knowledge she should not possess so young. But then again, he had learned that particular lesson when he was only fifteen so perhaps… His eyes widened as he realized he again was watching her and quickly opted to inspecting the buckles on his boots. After all, one could never be too careful with one's footwear.
Giggling and a snicker sounded from his left and Basch fought the urge to growl. Instead he gave a sigh and turned to look at Vaan and the princess with a look of exasperation. Vaan was the only one looking back as Ashe's attention was still fixed on Penelo.
"She's a wonderful dancer," she said softly and smiled.
Vaan gave a nod of his head in agreement and spoke in a low warning tone, "But she doesn't dance for just anyone so she hates it when you don't pay attention."
Vaan gave a laugh as a puzzled look crossed Basch's features. The boy turned his gaze back to his childhood companion and Basch was once again left wondering why if felt as though he was the brunt of some unknown farce. But the princess was correct, Penelo was a wonderful dancer. Though, the soldiered man could think of at least ten other adjectives better suited to her. Enchanting, captivating, fascinating… And it was then that he realized he was staring once again. He dropped his head in a rush, hoping that he wasn't caught this time.
"Oh that does it!" an exasperated growl sounded from someone, but Basch couldn't place the voice.
It was then that he found himself staring at a pair of rather small bare feet. The snickers, giggles, chuckles, and a sniff (Fran was far to dignified to actually laugh) sounded and Basch watched as one foot began to tap impatiently on the ground in front of him. His shoulders sagged and he was certainly feeling every day of his thirty-six years as he glanced upwards.
Penelo stood before him with her hands settled firmly on her hips and her mouth in a set pout. Yes, the loyal Dalmascan knight had indeed been caught ogling someone half his age and now he was never going to hear the end of it. He gave a sigh as he pushed himself up to stand and then dusted himself off. He was about to offer a heartfelt apology for his actions, but Penelo beat him to the punch.
"Is there a reason you aren't paying attention?" she growled, making a point to jab her finger into his chest after every spoken word.
Basch's train of thought came to a screeching halt. His mouth gaped open and he couldn't speak even if the gods themselves willed it to be. Any apology he would have offered her would never have worked, because he swore she just asked him why he wasn't paying attention to her. Perhaps age truly had started getting the better of him and his hearing was no longer what it used to be?
"Well?" the twin-plaited blonde asked in a huff.
Basch tried to answer. He closed his mouth and opened it again, but no sound came out. It seemed either age truly was robbing him of his senses or this petite wonder in front of him had actually managed to addle his mind. He cocked his head and looked at her curiously. This of course sent Vaan into a laughing fit.
Penelo shot Vaan an irritated glance then growled at the apparent lack of explanation from Basch as she grabbed the collar of his jacket and with a jerk, pulled him down to her level. The tall blonde willingly succumbed to her rough handling, slowly realizing that his nose was now mere inches from hers. It was cute how it turned up just slightly at the end. By the gods, did he just think her nose cute? He blinked as he watched her scowl turn into a look of concern.
"Basch, are you feeling okay?" she asked with the motherly concern Vaan despised.
Did he feel okay? He wasn't sure anymore. The sounds of Vaan's laughter, Ashe's giggling, Balthier's chuckles, and did Fran just snicker? None of them were helping his situation. In fact all they were accomplishing was reaffirming the fact that Basch was indeed making an ass of himself. It certainly wasn't helping that he couldn't stop looking into her pale blue eyes. They had tiny flecks of brown in them near the pupils and he really, really, really shouldn't be staring that intently at her.
A cool hand touched his forehead and then trailed down to his cheek. "You look really flushed. Come on, let's get you to bed. Maybe some rest will make you feel better."
His head gave a dumb nod and he found himself trailing behind her like a little lost wolf pup. Yes, he would never live this down. Between Balthier and Vaan (who were laughing the hardest now) he was quite certain he would be reminded of this for days, weeks even.
All for lack of paying attention, the fates were cruel indeed. Well, she certainly had his attention now. Especially when her smooth hand gently clasped his own as she pulled him onwards to the tent. His eyes glanced down at their clasped hands and gave a slight smile. The smile dropped from his face as he realized his gaze was now fixed on the movement of her hips as they swayed while she walked. He gave a forlorn sigh and looked back over his shoulder in hopes that someone would help him regain some manner of decorum. But they were too busy laughing, and was Fran laughing now too?
She pulled him into the tent and dropped his hand as she set about straightening his bedroll and fluffing his make-shift pillow. He wondered how it was he had never noticed the grace she possessed even going about the mundane. The way her muscles accented the curves of her body as she stretched to flatten out a rolled corner of his blanket. At least now he didn't have an audience to laugh as he stared.
"You know, there's nothing wrong with you watching me dance, right?" Penelo asked with a smirk as she turned back to him.
His mouth dropped open for a second time this night. He had a feeling that tomorrow was not going to be kind to him, or at least Vaan and Balthier would make it thus. She patted her hand on his bedroll and he found that obeying her came naturally.
He settled himself down and removed his boots, his armor, and finally his jacket. Basch felt exposed for some reason. He chanced to catch Penelo's eyes and found she was studying him intently. He also noticed a faint coloring to her cheeks, though it was rather hard to make out in the dimly lit tent.
It shocked him when her slender white thumb traced the path of the scar from his brow to his ear, but his eyes closed of their own accord. Then he felt her hands on his chest as they gently pushed him down onto his back and once again he couldn't think straight. Somewhere in his mind a small voice was reasoning that this was not something he should allow, but found he was getting rather good at ignoring that annoying little voice.
Basch could hear the sound of his heart racing in his ears. Yes, this sound was much more preferable. His eyes opened to find her face looking down at him in amusement. A perfect eyebrow cocked and her tempting pink lips set in a smirk. Perhaps Balthier added something to his drink? That would explain some of his behavior.
Her hand brushed along his chest and settled over his heart. He knew she could feel the way it pulsed, the quickness that betrayed his silent exterior. And now she was grinning.
"At least now I know you're just like every other guy," she said in jest as she tapped a finger lightly to his nose.
"I don't dance for just anyone," she chided. "So next time, you might want to pay attention."
He remembered Vaan stating as much. Wait, did that mean she was dancing for him?
"Sweet dreams, Basch," she whispered as she leaned in and placed a chaste kiss to his lips.
His mind barely registered her actions before she was up and gone. She just kissed him. His fingers touched his lips hesitantly. Was he dreaming? No, she definitely just kissed him. And in the knowledge that he was very much alone, Basch fon Ronsenberg allowed his face to break into the goofiest grin that any man of any age had ever possessed.
Yes, he could die a happy man now. First she had implied she was dancing for him and then she kissed him. Ah, to be kissed by such a young…very young…half his age young…
He suppressed a groan as he slapped his arm over his eyes and tried to banish all thoughts of her from his mind. Oh yes, he was definitely headed straight to the hells now.