28 September 2008 @ 11:57 am
Quirks: Part V  
Title: Quirks - Part V
Author: [livejournal.com profile] aoife_hime
Fandom: Final Fantasy XII
Characters: Ashe, Balthier, and the rest of the gang
Rating: PG-13
Length: 2940 words
Summary: Everybody has their odd habits. Balthier's just happens to be a little stranger than most. This chronicles each party member's discovery of said 'quirk'.
Notes: See here for story notes. Also, this is the last installment! I'M DONE! Whoever would have thought that I would actually be able to write this last part before I graduated? Inspiration is a fickle mistress, friends. Very fickle indeed.


V. Ashe

Sometimes, Ashe had bad days. There were those in the Resistance who would claim that nearly every day was a bad day for the (temporarily) deposed princess; this, however, was not true. Those men never saw her truly bad days. Because on Ashe’s bad days (which, thankfully, were few and far between), she would go off by herself and work out her mood in the way came most naturally: beating the crap out of something. Often when she was in one of these moods, she’d come back from the royal stables, knuckles bloody from beating a large bag full of chocobo feed until it burst. Her nurses, frantic from not being able to locate her for the past few hours, would swarm on her like flies to old fruit, and proceed to fuss and click their tongues at her in a disproving manner all the while bandaging her hands and fixing her clothes. As Ashe grew older, she received more and more lectures about her behavior. But when her tutors told her once more that it was undignified for a princess to be caught fighting (even if it was only with a burlap sack), all Ashe would do was roll her eyes and wonder just how those old fogies thought she should work out her mood.

Out of curiosity, she had asked once, and one had suggested having a nervous fit followed by fainting. It took all of Ashe’s strength not to imagine him as a bag of chocobo meal.

Never, however, in her life had Ashe turned to drink when she was feeling distinctly upset with the workings of the world. Drink seemed too passive for her taste. Drink also took away what sense she had left, and on top of that, she knew from living with nobody but ex-soldiers for two years that the only stuff strong enough to alleviate her mood smelled like poison, tasted worse, and made her stomach crawl for a whole day after at the smell of anything richer than water.

On top of the taste issue, Ashe was certain that she would look like a complete fool if she were to get rip-roaring drunk. She had no hard proof of this, but the example a certain sky pirate was setting for her at the moment didn’t provide her with very much hope.

“Balthier, I think you’ve had enough to drink,” Ashe said firmly, grasping the metal tankard in front of Balthier with the intent of pulling it away from him and emptying it onto the already grimy and disgusting floorboards. The establishment in which the pirate had ensconced himself for the evening was beyond questionable: it was, simply, damn sleazy. In the ten minutes since she’d arrived, Ashe had already had five men attempt to pick her purse, and one, in failing to do so, had simply settled for grabbing her ass. She could see the red hand-shaped mark on the imbecile’s face from all the way on the other side of the room. Balthier had witnessed the exchange and laughed uproariously for a few moments before propositioning her himself. Ashe was unsure as to why her rejection of the offer hadn’t been accompanied by another slap to the face; she chocked it up to the fact that somehow she had come to recognize the pirate as a friend.

“No, Princess. No I haven’t.” He may have looked and been drunker than all get out, but Balthier’s grip on the dinked tankard was surprisingly firm. With a tug, he wrenched it from Ashe’s hands and brought it to his lips for another swallow. A very long swallow. When he slammed the tankard back down to the table, Ashe noted that the volume was considerably smaller than a few moments ago. Balthier obviously noticed this as well, for he promptly caught the eye of the busty bar maid and indicated he would like another one of the same, please. Ashe also caught the eye of the barmaid and nullified the pirate’s order with a fierce scowl and a shake of her head.

Turning back to the wayward member of the group, Ashe found herself on the receiving end of a very disapproving glare. Which she returned in kind, of course. “Give me the tankard, Balthier,” she tried again, her fingers slipping slightly as they grasped for a strong purchase on the sweating metal.

“Mine. You didn’t pay for this, did you? I did. S’mine,” Balthier shot back, his night of drinking having less effect on his ability to pronounce words as it did on his overall vocabulary. The pirate once more reclaimed his tankard with a mighty tug that slopped some of the remaining liquid onto his normally pristine cuffs and took another long draught. A growl rumbled in Ashe’s throat, low and dangerous. The second his fingers loosened on the tankard, Ashe threw a few coins onto the bar and bodily yanked the delinquent sky pirate off his stool, her fingers digging into his wrist in what was almost certainly a painful manner. He stumbled, colliding with her back before finding his (noticeably unsteady) feet. However, his temporary impairment of gross motor skills didn’t stop Ashe from marching Balthier out of bar and down the street.

“Hey, Ashe, you’re in hurry,” Balthier noted belatedly as he continued to trip over his own feet every third stride or so. “Are you thinking of taking me up on my offer, then?”

Ashe rolled her eyes, gritted her teeth, and prayed to whichever higher power was listening for patience. “No,” she responded in a tone that ordinarily brokered no dissent. In his current state, however, Balthier simply snorted in disbelief. Ashe deliberately dragged him faster, and the pirate’s legs tangled briefly with each other once again in a truly embarrassing fashion. “I’m just trying to get you back to the inn before you spend all of your money and completely make a fool of yourself all in one night.”

“So boooooooring!” Was that whining? Ashe decided after a moment that yes, she had just heard Balthier, the ever-suave and sophisticated, whine like a petulant five-year old. “Fran lets me have more fun… ” he continued, and had Ashe bothered to turn around she was almost certain she would have seen him pouting like a five-year old as well. As an afterthought, he added, “Where’s Fran?”

“Back at the inn, where you should be. I suspect she’s sleeping by now.” Ashe could feel the pull of exhaustion creeping in as she walked, her eyes beginning to itch for the sleep she was denying them. All because of one man… one charismatic, enigmatic, very drunk man. Who had yet to offer an explanation for his frankly uncharacteristic and thorough inebriation, as it were.

“But I don’t want to go to the inn. I want to go back-”

“We’re going back to the inn, Balthier!” Ashe nearly shouted in frustration. “We’re going to the inn, even if I have to…” She trailed off there, choosing not to voice the fact that she was desperate enough to walk back to the inn with Balthier slung over her shoulder if need be. He would undoubtedly take it the wrong way.

“Even if you have to what?” Balthier asked, a dangerously seductive note creeping into his tone. Unfortunately for Ashe, drunken Balthier was completely capable of turning even her silences into uncomfortable and uncalled for innuendos. She made the mistake of turning around to glance at the pirate she was still towing back to the inn and found herself on the receiving end of a glance that caused her heart to skip uncomfortably and her face to heat up. His hand, formerly limp and useless, suddenly gripped her wrist in much the same way she was already gripping his and the heat of contact shot up her arm like an arrow. A very warm arrow that made something in her spine tingle pleasantly.

Damn that man.

“Nothing,” she shot back hurriedly, turning to face forward again and dragging Balthier a hair faster than was truly necessary. “Just get moving before I demonstrate what two years in the Resistance did for my hand-to-hand combat skills.”

Balthier tripped once more from the sudden burst of speed and grumbled as his foot landed awkwardly on the ground. “Pushy, prissy princess...”

Ashe magnanimously decided to ignore the comment, instead choosing to grind her teeth and think of all the laws she could write when she became queen that would make the life of a man in Balthier’s line of work infinitely more difficult.

~#~#~#~

As it turned out, the hardest part of the evening was not locating Balthier. Nor had it been prying Balthier away from his drink, though that had certainly been a challenge. Dragging the pirate through the nearly deserted streets of the town they were staying in was actually quite easy, once he’d resigned himself to the fact that Ashe wasn’t going to stop dragging him by the wrist until they reached their destination. No, as it turned out, the hardest part of the evening was getting Balthier to go to bed.

“But I shouldn’t go to bed yet, Princess,” the pirate reasoned, his consonants slurring slightly at the edges from a combination of exhaustion and drunkenness. “If I go to bed now, I’ll have a bloody terrible hangover in the morning.” Balthier got up from where he was sitting on the edge of his bed (in his own room, of course – Balthier loved his privacy) and made to walk out the door but Ashe stood in his way, hands in fists resting on her hips. Her eyes narrowed dangerously and Balthier, even in his present state, had enough wits to return to his seat on his bed.

“That would be your own damn fault, pirate!” Ashe hissed, too tired and sick of dealing with Balthier’s antics to even try to censor her less charitable opinions. “You’re not going out again. I want to be on the road again before sunset tomorrow, not after!”

“And we will,” he assured her. His words, however, had quite the opposite effect and sent Ashe stomping across the room and back in her frustration.

Where was a bag of chocobo feed when a person really needed it?

Ashe took a seat at the rickety wooden table on the opposite side of the room, the glare she had trained on Balthier never remitting. With narrowed eyes, she watched the pirate take in his surroundings. His gaze stopped on his pack, which lay propped up against the wall next to Ashe’s chair. “If you won’t let me out of my room,” he began in what would have been a reasonable tone had not an edge of snark crept into it, “could you at least get me my water from my pack?” A few moments later, Balthier’s water skin sloshed as it collided with the sky pirate’s chest; Ashe had veritably thrown it at him without any warning. “Thank you, Your Highness,” he managed before downing the contents in two gulps. “Would you mind retrieving my last pomegranate while you’re over there as well?” Another glare was tossed his direction a few seconds before the hard fruit came flying at his head. In a surprising feat of agility, Balthier managed to catch the fruit before it made contact with his face. Ashe told herself that she was being no less petulant than Balthier had been earlier by wishing that the pirate’s reflexes hadn’t been quite so responsive.

Ashe was about to find a trinket of some sort in the sky pirate’s pack with which to amuse herself (she had long since resolved not to leave the room until she was certain Balthier was asleep and not likely to wander back out to the bars) when she realized something. Something that was simultaneously fascinating and disturbing.

Balthier wasn’t eating his pomegranate. Not yet, at any rate. Instead, Balthier was undressing. His vest was already in a sloppily folded pile next to him on the bed, and he was currently working on the cuffs and collar of his shirt. Ashe had no doubt it would soon follow the vest, and she was ashamed to find that she was equal parts shocked by this development and eager for it to proceed.

“What… What are you doing, Balthier?” she asked slowly, her eyes inexorably drawn to his fingers that were ineptly trying to manipulate the buttons with which they usually had no problem. “Why are you undressing?”

“Because I’m about to eat a pomegranate.” The way he said it made it seem like the most obvious thing in the world. Ashe quickly ran over the logic in her head and found the two actions didn’t seem at all connected.

“Elaborate, pirate,” she ordered. “And leave your clothes on whilst you do.”

Balthier looked up momentarily from the small buttons of his cuffs for the express purpose of rolling his eyes at Ashe. He quickly returned to his task, and Ashe felt her face flush all the way from her cheeks to the tips of her ears at his blatant disregard. The fact that his shirt was moments away from being removed had nothing to do with her blush at all.

“Honestly, Ashe, why would I wear clothes while eating a pomegranate? Do you know how messy they are? I’d stain my shirt irreparably. Aha!” he exclaimed, his alcohol-inhibited fingers finally managing to undo the last of the buttons. The shirt joined the vest in the pile a second later.

“You didn’t seem terribly worried about the state of your clothes before!” Ashe exclaimed, fighting both the urge to scrub herself clean at just the thought of the counters and floors of that bar and the urge to stare at the ridiculously self-assured half-naked man in front of her. “Balthier! Put your shirt back on!”

“I can’t very well walk into a bar without any attire, can I?” he reasoned, completely disregarding her demands as he began to work on his belt. Ashe had always scoffed at its complexity in the past, but at the moment she was quite thankful that it posed such a challenge in his drunken state. “But when I’m in my room, what does it matter whether I have clothes on or not?”

Damn him, she thought, her face turning a darker shade of red by the moment. The saddest thing about this whole shenanigan was that Balthier’s drunken reasoning actually was making some sense, though Ashe wasn’t sure if it was because he was actually speaking sense or if it was because she just wanted to see him without his shirt on more often. She pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration, feeling a familiar tired pressure building behind her eyes. What she should really do, she realized, was leave the room and figure out some way of locking the door from the outside. Perhaps she should even bring the pomegranate with her.

A series of light metallic clinks signaled the successful removal of Balthier’s belt. And suddenly not only was the sky pirate belt-less, but his pants too were half-way down his legs, the leather bunching at his knees to reveal a non-descript yet clean pair of cotton undershorts. Before he could progress any further, Ashe stood up and walked briskly out of the room, chair under her arm and face nearly as red as Basch’s vest. “Eat your stupid pomegranate and then get to bed!” she yelled over her shoulder at the bemused pirate before slamming the door. She quickly propped the chair under the door handle so that, had he been so inclined, Balthier would not have been able to leave his room without an incredibly concerted effort. Satisfied that her work there was done, Ashe made her way back to the room she was sharing with Penelo.

Sleep eluded her for quite a while, however, and when Ashe did finally manage to fall into a deep sleep, her dreams were plagued by fruit and half-naked men. She didn’t need a doctor to tell her why that was.

~#~#~#~

Ashe was late to join the rest of the party for breakfast, though not as late as Balthier, who was completely absent. The pirate was still locked in his room, undoubtedly sleeping off his night of drink. Upon Vaan’s request, Ashe gave everyone a brief version of her adventure the night before, glossing over the finer details that Balthier had basically undressed before her and hadn’t given a damn. She completely disregarded the fact that she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the incident all evening and had only recently stopped walking around looking like a ripe tomato with legs. Vaan had laughed uproariously at the thought of Ashe dragging Balthier all the way back to inn, though Ashe assured the boy there was nothing hilarious or even remotely fun about it.

As Ashe went back to eating her porridge, however, she missed the shrewd gleam in Fran’s eye. Nonchalantly, Fran pulled out a pomegranate from her pack, claiming that breakfast really wasn’t the same without one. Before the viera’s nails had even cracked the skin of the fruit, Ashe had excused herself from the table, her face bright red once more. Basch watched Ashe as she hurriedly made her way back up to her room before shooting Fran a knowing look. The viera returned it in kind. A second later, Basch fon Rosenburg was thundering back upstairs as well, Balthier’s name nearly a curse on his lips. Vaan and Penelo laughed a bit before turning back to their breakfasts.

Meanwhile, Fran set about to enjoying her pomegranate.
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[identity profile] phoenixblaze.livejournal.com on September 28th, 2008 10:50 pm (UTC)
Haha, that was awesome. I love how Balthier states it like it's simple logic to entirely undress before eating fruit.

Thanks for unlurking and sharing!
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[identity profile] aoife-hime.livejournal.com on September 28th, 2008 11:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you ^_^ Glad your enjoyed it!

I've actually been meaning to come out of lurking for a while, it's just been a matter of actually finding an idea to write!
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[identity profile] somethings-awry.livejournal.com on September 29th, 2008 12:14 am (UTC)
ROFL

=P
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[identity profile] aoife-hime.livejournal.com on September 29th, 2008 01:17 am (UTC)
^_^ Happy to make you laugh. Especially considering your impending week.
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[identity profile] somethings-awry.livejournal.com on September 29th, 2008 01:23 am (UTC)
oh gosh, did I tell you about the doom-ness? I have to upload pictures from geekkon btw, I totally wore Betsy's street style Demyx XP
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[identity profile] aoife-hime.livejournal.com on September 29th, 2008 01:35 am (UTC)
Other than you saying it shall be doom-tastic, I have no idea just how doom-y it shall be.

And yes, you do. When I first read this, I thought you said you'd already uploaded them, and then I went and looked for them. I was disappointed to find they weren't there :( And then I re-read what you wrote and felt silly.
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[identity profile] frasya.livejournal.com on September 29th, 2008 07:35 pm (UTC)
Haha, this is complete and utter win. Thanks for sharing!
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[identity profile] aoife-hime.livejournal.com on September 30th, 2008 02:50 am (UTC)
You're very welcome and I'm glad you enjoyed it! It was quite fun to write :)
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[identity profile] kookyz.livejournal.com on November 3rd, 2008 03:07 pm (UTC)
WIN XD

I can't believe I'm just seeing this now. :O
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[identity profile] aoife-hime.livejournal.com on November 3rd, 2008 05:59 pm (UTC)
But at least you saw it eventually :) I'm just glad you found it and enjoyed it.

(Also, WIN on the icon!)
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