1. Beginnings

Balthier thought it had probably all started when Reddas made that off-hand apprentice remark at Draklor.

Evidently Vaan must have been listening, because when Balthier returned to the others he'd found the desert rat staring expectantly at him as if waiting for him to give orders. It was disconcerting to say the least, but the sky pirate didn't think anything of it at first. Vaan was quite prone to 'stupid' moments, and he himself was the leading man after all, so it was only natural that he would look up to him.

He started to take a little more notice when Vaan began shadowing him wherever he went, most noticeably when he and Fran were doing maintenance on the Strahl. He wasn't sure if the boy was trying to be subtle, but nevertheless Fran would always twitch her ears in warning whenever she heard him. Balthier would turn at that cue to catch Vaan, without fail, watching in wonder as the viera and hume wielded wrenches and screwdrivers as skilfully as they did bows and guns.

"I think he is trying to prove something to you," commented Fran one morning as they made their way to the airship storage, Vaan conspicuously following them for the fifth time.

Balthier snorted inelegantly. "Whatever it is, I daresay I'm mystified."

The viera didn't look convinced in the least, but made no further mention of the matter.

Although he couldn't say he completely disliked the rapt attention paid to him by the blonde boy, Balthier eventually took Vaan aside for a little chat. It was partly for Vaan's own good, too, since the pirate was starting to sense that if he continued skulking around while they worked, Fran would soon cave in and give him a good roundhouse kick to the face.

"Look," Balthier began in a consoling voice. "I understand that perhaps Reddas planted some Occuria-knows-what ideas in that head of yours, but I don't need an apprentice."

Vaan pouted childishly. "Yes, you do. And I'd be perfect for the job."

He won't take 'no' for an answer, will he? The brunette folded his arms. "Enlighten me why."

"Well... uh..."

Five minutes of umming and ahhing later, Balthier concluded that Vaan had no valid reason, even though the boy himself steadfastly refused to acknowledge this simple fact. Well, he certainly couldn't deny that Vaan was stubborn. And sometimes, a stubborn sky pirate made a good sky pirate.

Sometimes.

Balthier decided to humor him. "If you give me an adequate reason, I might just change my mind about that apprenticeship," he said, and left Vaan deep in thought, blonde brows furrowed ever-so-slightly.

It was several more days before Vaan finally came up with an answer. He searched low and wide and at last found Balthier in the Sandsea tavern, sipping a coffee and reading the local papers. The boy pulled out the chair opposite him and sat down eagerly, managing to divert the sky pirate's attention away from the front page article for a moment.

"I've got it," he said breathlessly.

Balthier merely sipped his beverage. "I figured as much."

"You know how you keep talking about being the leading man?" said Vaan, looking triumphant. "Well, every main character has to have a sidekick, so in your case that would have to be me."

For once, Balthier thought as he tried not to choke on his drink, it was Vaan's perspicacity that surprised him. Somehow the blonde had realized that he would get furthest by appealing to his potential master's vain side, and lo and behold, he was proving to be right. Balthier mentally tasted the notion as he fixed his eyes on Vaan. His... sidekick. It sounded good even in his own head.

"Well," he said decisively. Vaan's face was infinitely hopeful as he leaned closer in anticipation. "I've heard more ridiculous reasons."

"Does that mean I'm in?" asked the boy, the corner of his lips lifting.

Balthier shut his papers and stood, pushing his chair back. "The airship storage, tomorrow morning at precisely 7am," he announced, studiously ignoring Vaan's too-loud cheers and the other tavern-goers' curious gazes. "And I'd recommend you be on time lest I revoke your new status."

"I'll be there!" Vaan yelled as the pirate left the tavern, shaking his head at what he'd brought upon himself.