Note: I do not own Final Fantasy 12 or its characters! ...Well, I own the game, which I bought for about 20-something US dollars, but I didn't come up with the game itself. XD If I did, I'd be one happy girl.

How long had he been traveling in her company, honestly? Thinking back on the day he met her, he couldn't recall most of the days before then. If she noticed his frequent staring, she didn't do anything about it. His companion was silently writing things down and shifting through inventory and repair documents, her fingers indicating something to herself every so often.

How long had it been since he'd started wanting to take those graceful, slender hands in his own? How long had it been since he started wanting to sit by her as she did her paperwork, watch her feathered quill float across the pages on her desk? How long had it been since he started wanting to be close enough to hear her whisper things to him and hear her rare, soft laughter? How long had it been since he started wanting to embrace her and tell her everything would be alright, because she need only stay in his arms?

"Too long," Balthier said to himself, resting his face in his hands. Fran merely raised an eyebrow and looked over at him. He was evidently deep in thought, and during these times she knew it best to leave him be without sending any small, biting comments his way. She continued her work, now aware of her surroundings outside of everything she was supposed to be doing. She turned her eyes quickly enough to take in a complete snapshot of his face. He was intensely focused on something outside the medium of work, eyes clouded over and shoulders hunched as if in defeat. There was a war in his mind and she didn't know how to help him conquer it, whatever it was. This seemed to be happening more often of late.

He was still focused on the matters at hand, not caring one bit that his eyelids were drooping, when he felt the softest touch to his shoulder. Such a tender placement of fingers perched between his arm and his collarbone made him jump and turn somewhat swiftly. He looked up to find his partner, looking down at him with the same tired face he probably had. But behind the calculating prowess of her eyes, he saw worry. He'd let his thoughts slip too far into his features. Darn it.

"You should take some rest," she said, leaning her face towards his so she could see him clearly. "You are tired from the week, and it takes much to tire you."

He rubbed his face with his hands and blinked a couple of times, trying desperately to ignore the fact that this close proximity between them was causing him to become more awake than he wished. "True, but I have things to finish. We are already behind schedule."

"Last I checked, we do not run by a schedule," she said with an ever-so-slight smile. He grinned as only a pirate could, and picked up his quill again.

"That is why I must finish this so that I won't have to make up one to keep track of all this work."

He wanted to continue the protest, but before he knew it he was being pulled up from his seat by way of his arm, and his colleague was leading him to his comfortable bed. "You grow more careless of late," she said, wrapping an arm around his back and supporting him as best she could. "You are ill, and you do not know it."

"I am? Surely that cannot be right," he said as they reached the door to his room. "The leading man is never ill."

"Even the leading man must rest his tired feet from a day of play-acting," she said back to him, leaning him against the frame of the door so she could turn the knob. She'd gotten used to his word play.

"Ah, ever-learning I see," he said in a playful manner. "Good night, my dear." She nodded in response before walking down the hall. He entered his room and softly closing the door behind him, feeling his forehead. A fever was really festering in his system. He could barely remove his vest and drag himself to bed before collapsing into a hazy sleep.

When he awoke the next morning, he was still in the same hazy state. He tried to get up, but his body now prohibited him from doing the simplest of tasks. The sky pirate, not accustomed to having loss of control in many things, cursed under his breath. He closed his eyes and sighed in exasperation; his mood wasn't going to be the best today. The sound of footsteps interrupted his brooding. Not the usual clacking of heels, but the sound of bare feet treading across the floor of the Strahl. Was someone else aboard the ship? No, that was impossible. They'd been in the air all day and night for the past 4 days. And Nono didn't sound that heavy when he trod through the ship since he was nothing but a moogle. He heard the door open and commanded his eyes to open with it. He saw Fran, but couldn't quite comprehend how he was seeing her.

It was her alright; her long ears and gorgeous, creamy hair were unmistakable. But she looked a bit…different than she normally did. She'd lost her heels, leaving her long feet on the ground. This caused her to walk a little stiffly, but she still possessed an incredible amount of poise. She wasn't dressed in her black outfit either. She had on a casual Hume long-sleeve shirt and loose pants. They looked like Rabanastre clothes. When had she gotten them? Her hair was still done up, but oddly messy. The whole ensemble was indeed surprising, but he couldn't say for a moment that he wasn't pleased. Even in all her disheveled appearance, she was still beautiful to him.

"You awaken at last," she said, putting down a small bowl she had in her hands. She placed a cloth in the bowl and rung it out, the scent of forest reaching Balthier's nostrils. She sensed his question, and proceeded to dab the cloth around his face. "This is a mixture of herbs my sisters taught me to make. These will help ease the suffering under any illness, and brings sleep to the weary mind of the ailing." Balthier was glad, despite his sore body, that the fever could be used as an excuse for his reddening face.

"Ah. These must be very precious," Balthier said, raising his voice so he could hear above his throbbing head. "You must be concerned for the leading man then?"

He saw the smile tugging at her lips at his supposed jesting. "The leading man cannot stay away from the stage for long." She gently placed the cloth on his forehead, and got up. Balthier smiled at how artfully she dodged a response to his equally dodgy question.

"Right you are, Fran. Right you are." He tried sitting up, but his body still would not budge.

"I will be making us meals for the day," she said in a casual manner, trying not to feel strange as she said this. She knew that whenever a Hume male fell ill, the duty to take care of him usually went to the female he cared about or was living with.

"I didn't know you could cook, Fran," Balthier said with a sly smile, closing his eyes and having fun imagining her face at this statement.

"I have always known how. I cared for my sisters in such a way when I lived among them."

"I see," he said. He didn't have to open his eyes to hear the covered-up longing when she spoke of the Wood. This was around the time of year she had left to walk among the Humes, never to return to her home. And as stoic as his Viera partner was, even she could not run from her own feelings. "Well then, since you insist on feeding me and Nono, I'll have what we usually have."

"It will be different from what you have," she said matter-of-factly, resisting the urge to smile when she saw the sky pirate open his eyes when his idea was rejected. "Since you are ill, I will make you something to help your body heal." Before he could protest (not that he could anyway) she was out the door. For a moment, he thought about what he wouldn't give just to see his partner at work in the kitchen.

"Such a rare sight, and I am to miss out on it?" he said aloud to himself. "What a shame."

30 minutes later, Fran came back with a plate of food and a mug of some heavenly-smelling coffee. "Funny," Balthier said, finally able to sit up, "I know that's the same coffee I make, but it doesn't usually smell like that."

Fran placed the cup on his nightstand and handed him the plate. "It is the same coffee, but I have added a few extra ingredients to enhance its flavor."

Balthier looked at the plate in his hands. In place of the usual breakfast full of meat, he found that there was a perfect balance of everything. There were also more berries and leafy greens than he expected. He raised an eyebrow at the Viera standing over him. "So you plan on forcing me to eat properly, even just this once?"

"I take what satisfaction I can receive," she said, this time with a small but teasing smile. "It will help your body balance out." She got up again, but didn't look like she'd be coming back.

Perhaps it was the sickness talking, or maybe it was from some other source of longing Balthier had pushed into a corner in his mind, but he almost dropped the plate as he spoke in the most casual manner he could manage. "What? Not going to join me?"

She barely turned her head as she brought her pace to a halt. "Do you want me to join you?"

Balthier smirked as he picked up his fork. "You know what I mean, Fran."

So Fran and Balthier ate breakfast in his room. They did not speak much, as they were too busy eating, but Balthier felt as if he'd just had a satisfying conversation when they were finished. His partner could speak without a word passing through her lips. And she had been right about the meal; his body already felt more balanced than it had in months. He also drank all the coffee, which made him feel like he was downing a forest in a cup. He smelled herbs and leaves and deep, sweet, sun-kissed coffee beans. Maybe he could pinch some of the herbs to try and replicate this coffee later. As he placed his plate on the nightstand, a sudden thought came into his head.

"Fran, I noticed this morning you chose to wear Hume clothing. How did you come by them?"

Fran looked up from her own coffee with calculating eyes. Balthier kept his usual smooth composure, but he grew somewhat nervous at her piercing stare.

She stayed silent for a moment. "I bought them when we were last in Rabanastre with Vaan and Penelo, helping to save Dalmasca."

He smiled at the mentioning of those two, and briefly wondered how she'd been able to buy the clothes without him noticing. "Has it really been that long ago? It's been 2 years since we last saw them. Quite a large span of time to wait to wear Hume clothes."

"I never found an occasion to wear them. I suppose that I bought them to see what it might feel like to be a Hume."

"Now that's an odd thing for a Viera to feel," he said, putting his cup down in a decided manner.

"It was being in the company of so many Humes at that time that made me begin to wonder what it felt like to live out their lives," she said, staring straight ahead of her. Anyone else would've thought her indifferent by the sound of her statement. But after being with Fran for so long, Balthier knew how to pick up the emotions clothed by her words. Just as she could do the same with him. Being pushed into close living with so many Humes at once had been trying for the both of them, but it had also taught them many things they hadn't known, or just plain forgotten.

It'd also caused painful memories to rear their ugly heads.

Balthier swung his feet over the edge of his bed and sat there, still wearing the same clothes he'd collapsed in; minus his precious vest of course.

"...Do you miss the Wood, Fran?" he said at length. This time, although he sounded like he usually did, he let worry slowly slip into his words.

Fran remained the same, and blinked for a moment. "...I am not allowed to. I gave it up by my choice, therefore I do not have the right to miss it."

"Fran. You know as well as I do that what the world thinks of us doesn't matter aboard this ship."

She continued staring forward, but he saw her eyes suddenly dive into extreme sadness and want. Against his aching body and better judgment, he got up and strolled over to where she was sitting. He noticed her grip around her coffee mug had visibly tightened. His heart thundered from both the illness and his next action, and he bent down to place one arm around her shoulders and another around her head, leaning her against his shoulder. He was awkwardly placed, but didn't move an inch. She didn't move either, though her grip on her coffee mug loosened considerably. She heard his beating heart against her long ears, and listened intently to the sound that was the reason he walked and flew and thought; the reason he was holding her now. She gently wrapped a hand around the one he had on her shoulder, and leaned her head freely against him as she closed her eyes.

Balthier had thought about this moment so many times, rehearsed how it would play out in his head. And yet, now it seemed quite alien to him. They'd always kept each other at a respectful distance, playfully flirting because he had always been that way and she was now the person who spent the most time around him. He'd always found her an attractive woman, but if someone would've told him years ago that he'd actually fall in love with his Viera partner, he wouldn't have believed them. There had been too many places to see, too little time to see such places, too much work to do, and too many things to run from. Now, it seemed like he had all the time in the world as he semi-held this almost uncatchable woman in his arms. He gently stroked her hair, laughing in his mind at how she still looked very much like a Viera in those Hume clothes.

To this day, they still cannot say just how long they stayed in that moment.

Every since the time I first played FF12, I have loved Balthier and Fran! I mean, I like all the characters, but I especially love those two. Who can't resist a little Balthier and Fran shipping when it comes to this game? Anyhow, I hope you've liked this piece of writing. Granted, I can be a little long-winded with my stories, but feedback is really appreciated when it comes to things like this. I'll probably edit this later. (By the way, the game Revenant Wings wasn't taken into account for this. This is centered around the first game.)

Thank you for reading~!