Author's Note: Okay, so this is silly. I'm writing this with the intention that it fit into Ever At Your Service, but not really. It's like a side piece… so if you're reading this it goes along with Ever, but it's not technically a part of it.

To Safety

Ashe has always appreciated how Rabanastrans all seem to be in bed before midnight – or they all at least retreat to places off the main street – the street which carries her straight to Basch's loft on the outer edge of town. She walks there with purpose, sticking to the shadows and moving amongst them. She has done this before – tried to remain unseen – but she has enjoyed it before.

This time she finds no pleasure in shifting through Rabanastre like a ghost, because for once she feels like one.

She finds his building and carefully steps into the stairwell – there is no atrium, as Basch cannot afford such luxuries – and beings to climb and climb until her legs ache and she reaches the top, where his door sits, its hinges rusted and its locks unreliable.

Basch seems to care less and less for his safety and for himself as the weeks go on – it has been this way since her sixteenth birthday and has escalated since her wedding. There are times when her imagination gets away from her – most often when she is forced into her husband's arms – when she fears for him, and fears that she will lose the man she most loves to despair and unhappiness.

He did not say that he loves her – he never has, but she knows he cannot, and hopes that if he could, he would.

It is a thought that often comforts her, and as she knocks on the door, she hopes he still loves her enough to let her stay with him tonight, at least for a little while.

The door opens with a squeak, and she is gifted with the sigh of a shirtless, sleepy and disheveled looking Basch who wears only the long, loose shorts he often runs in.

"Ashe?" He is instantly awake, looking at her with concern as he comes to his senses. "What is wrong?"

"I…" She'd told herself she would be fine, that she could tell him because she can tell him anything, but as she looks at him there the words will not come. "Nothing is wrong. I am sorry to have woken you."

She turns to leave, but Basch grabs her wrist more firmly than he'd intended. She looks down at his large hand wrapped around her joint – sees the ring he'd given her on her finger – and chokes back her tears.

"You would not have come here if nothing was wrong," he says.

"Of course I wouldn't have," she whispers. "I know seeing me is not easy for you."

Was it only a month ago that she'd been married – a month ago that she'd told him she loved him, wishing he would give her at least the satisfaction of a similar declaration before she married another? Had it been so short a time?

It had certainly felt longer, at least to her.

"Ashe…" He releases her and steps back gesturing her inside. "Please, come in."

Ashe has come to his door before, but never has she gone inside the place he calls home. She is glad it is night and there is no light, for what she can see depresses her all the more.

He has one room, save for the door at the side that she knows must lead to a bathroom. There is no clutter, no mess – she would expect nothing else of a knight with such order and pride – but the furniture has seen better days – better centuries, possibly. It disheartens her and makes her tears come faster as she wraps her arms around her waist and bows her head.

Did they pay their men so poorly? Was her father so unfair?

Why had she never asked of his life – insisted she see his home when he'd spent so many hours standing idly in hers simply for her comfort?

I am not only a terrible wife, she thinks, digging her nails into the flesh of her sides to feel something more than the crushing weight of her circumstances, I am a terrible friend.

What have I done? What have I done to him? Disappointed him and broken his heart and offered not even financial compensation to give him a good home to come back to at the end of the day… a safe, warm place to be alone, if he must be alone.

I do not deserve any good that comes to me… do not deserve to be happy. I deserve this pain, this discomfort.

Basch does not speak when she begins to cry. He cannot. He has seen her cry many times – far too many for his liking, but the sight of her standing in his home, disguised as she always is when she wishes to wander undetected, is heartbreaking. What has hurt her so, that she would come to him like this in such distress?

Is it not her husband who should comfort her – not her husband who should hold her?

It falls to him, and he does not mind. She is no burden. He steps toward her slowly, coming up behind her, and raises his hands to her arms, gently running his palms over her biceps to let her know he is there. He expects her to turn, to face him and let her troubles spill forth for him to catch and correct, but they do not, and it is then that he knows these are not simple issues she has come to him with, but problems she is not prepared to face herself.

She needs him, and though he wishes she did not, for it means she is in pain, it comforts him to know that he is still of some use to her.

He wraps his arms around her, crossing his arms about her shoulders and chest and holds her tight. When she presses her back into his chest he closes his eyes and rests his chin atop her head.

"Tell me what troubles you, princess," he says quietly, not wanting to break what little peace they may have created, "and I will do what I can to fix it."

"That's just it," she whispers, "just the problem. This is the first time I've had something you cannot fix – not that you should have had to fix my each and every problem before…"

"Nonsense," he whispers. "You are never a burden. What has troubled you, or is it the pressure?"

"It is… marriage. The coming war – and do not pretend it is not coming. I know that it is."

"I would not lie to you," he says, though he knows he would if it would keep her content for even a moment more. "Is Rasler not good to you? You seemed quite happy with him a few days ago."

"Seemed happy, yes," she whispers, giving him even more of her weight only to feel him wrap his arms around her tighter. "But…"

"What is it? You can tell me anything."

She remains silent, and it dawns on him that perhaps she cannot. Perhaps it is the things that happen behind closed doors that plague her, and then anger and fear rise in him – he is too ashamed to admit his jealousy, for he knows he should not covet her so even if she were not another man's wife. He does not deserve her in any way, but he cherishes these moments, even knowing that they will haunt him for weeks to come.

When he bows his head and turns his face into her shoulder, she whimpers – a sound of weakness he has not heard from her in a while – then whispers his name.

"Basch." She rests her hands on his arms, and when she runs her hands over them she marvels at the feeling of the fine hairs there tickling her palms.

"I do not wish to pry…"

She smiles despite herself. He has always said that when he has a question he feels he needs permission to ask.

"But you may, as always."

"Has he made you do anything you do not wish to do? Has he…"

"Hurt me?"

"Yes."

"Yes."

Basch lets one arm fall around her and holds her to him around her waist. "Will he not notice you are gone at this hour?"

"We do not share quarters. He takes what he wants and then leaves me to the quiet."

A month. She has been enduring this for a month. How could he not have known? How could he have not seen any unhappiness in her? Not been told?

Did she not trust him?

"I told the guard I would be meeting you early in the morning to go running. They will simply assume I have come to meet you before any of my family has seen. We needn't worry."

"You are good at hiding things."

"I have become that way, yes."

"What can I do?"

"There is nothing to be done," she tells him, turning to face him. Basch releases her, not wishing to make her uncomfortable and wondering how she can stand to be so near him after being treated in such a manner.

But he supposes that through the years, he must have earned some unbreakable trust – the gods must have granted him at least that from her.

"I should not have sought you out tonight. I should not have bothered you."

"You are no bother. I have been telling you for years."

"You did not want to know. You cannot tell me that the thought will not bother you."

He remains silent. Already it is, and he imagines her crying as Rasler leaves her bedroom – a room he knows so well – he sated and her unhappy.

"There is nothing you can do. Nothing to be done."

She rests her head against his chest, and he takes the opportunity to breathe deep and try to center himself – to try to internalize that she is there for the moment, in front of him and within reach, and therefore safe.

He weighs his words – weighs what he wants to say, and choses carefully. "Say but the words and I can remove you from the situation… one way or another."

"I would not have you do so." Her voice is so quiet – weary to his ears. "Perhaps I expect too much. Perhaps my ideas of marriage were unrealistic."

"If you are uncomfortable then it is he who is wrong. Does he know?"

"I do not see how he cannot."

Basch cannot ask. He cannot bear to know what he has done to her or made her do to satisfy his needs. Royals are so often selfish, and though Rasler cares for her – though he is proper, polite and kind – he is nothing more than a spoiled prince at heart.

He cannot ask, for he fears what she will say.

"I should leave."

"Stay," he says. "I can see that you have not slept well in many nights."

She hesitates and looks up at him apprehensively, so he adds: "I will sleep on the floor if you wish. I only know that you feel safe in my presence. Perhaps you could sleep. Dream of better days."

"Dream of a prince from Landis, perhaps?"

He closes his eyes. He cannot think of it – that conversation, her words.

I love you, Basch. I do.

"Or dream not at all."

"Are you sure you do not mind?"

"Of course not," he says. He brushes her hair back from her shoulder. "Anything for you, my princess."

His princess. She closes her eyes at the words and nods in agreement, unable to say anything more. She lets him guide her to his bed, lets him seat her there and lets him help her remove her shoes. She lets him take her hat – one she stole from Vossler long ago – and lets him take her jacket away, and when he draws back the covers and lets her crawl beneath them, she grasps his hand before he can walk away.

"You needn't sleep elsewhere."

"You would have me stay?"

She says nothing and only pulls at him a bit. He does not argue, but he does not trust himself to lay at her side and not imagine…

He shakes off the thought. She needs him as her friend, not as a knight who would look at her with less than honorable thoughts. He slides under the blankets slowly and draws them up around her, making sure she is covered and warm before seeing to himself.

"Are you comfortable?"

"Yes." Though her face is in shadow, he can see that her eyes are closed and she is not far from sleep – not far from comfort.

Ashe slides close to him and wraps her arms around his waist as she turns her face into his shoulder. She regrets burdening him with what she's told him – regrets bringing him any sort of discomfort, when it is so clear he finds so much in daily life without her help, but she could not lie to him, and not telling him is as good as lying between them.

But she does not regret this – does not regret this feeling of contentment as she begins to slip away from this place, because in his arms she is closer to every fantasy she's ever held dear than she could be anywhere else in Ivalice.

He watches her, listens to her deep, slow breaths as she drifts away, and he wishes he could drift with her – dream of Landis and a reality that could never exist, but he cannot.

He cannot force the images she has unknowingly given him from his mind.

Author's Note: I have to stop here… I have to, I have to, because I am so tempted to deviate from the game and have them run off and have some adventure and live completely different lives. I want to. I want to. I want to.

I can't.

Can I?