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Talking In Your Sleep - basched
basched
basched
Talking In Your Sleep
Another oneshot done for my favourite FF12 couple, so I'm posting it here and in the community Dalmascan Restoration. Enjoy.


Talking In Your Sleep


 

Night was settling in.

The bright colours of the sky had dwindled down to smatterings of dark reds and orange and just above the horizon of Tchita a dimming hazed aura of the sun sunk slowly down. The winds picked up in intensity and speed, making the air bite with a discomforting chill.

Fiends were few now, as Marlboros and Ceourls alike took shelter from the increasing cold and so too did the six who had trekked for days across this terrain. They had unanimously decided to set up camp beneath one of the old ruins in the Fields of Eternity, which overlooked the vast and beauteous Highlands.

It was a perfect location to keep an eye out for those few fiends out on the hunt, and it wasn’t too closed in to become trapped, so whoever kept watch tonight could easily spot intruders.

Fortunately, Fran had spotted a couple of stray Ceourls, foolish for leaving whatever shelter from the cold they had left. It took a couple of shots and a few minutes later, the meat was roasting on the spit over the fire. Coeurl wasn’t the best as their meat had very little taste than usual predators, but the Viera came out on top once again by adding a few mysterious spices and herbs and making the meat a lot more enjoyable than it would have been.

Vaan did a good job at keeping the fire burning after they finished eating, for now all colour and light from the sky had vanished. It was a lot colder, but the heat from the blazing flames radiated a pleasant warmth onto the huddled Humes and the flickering orange hues cast over them and the walls of the round ruins. It was a quiet evening, all were too tired and full from eating to engage in conversation, so with the exception of Fran, they gazed into the fire, lost in their thoughts of what lay ahead for them in Archades.

It was only when Penelo let out a wide and loud yawn, nearly falling backwards between the pillars of the ruins, that the silence was broken.

“I think it’s time to get some sleep.” said Vaan, yawning himself. He stretched his body, and then shuffled along the ground to where Penelo was now settling beneath a blanket. The two of them snuggled together and their arms wrapped around each other to keep warmer. As they got comfortable (as much as they could) Penelo rested her head on Vaan’s shoulder and they began to drift off to sleep.

“Excuse me?” Ashe cleared her throat with a very obvious and deliberate cough. “Is anyone going to volunteer to keep watch tonight? Vaan? Penelo?”

Vaan and Penelo quietly laughed into their blanket as if Ashe had said something terribly amusing and continued to journey off into slumber with no further response.

“Would you not want to do first watch, Balthier?” asked Ashe as she, Fran and Basch watched Balthier settle beneath his own blanket. The sky pirate looked through slowly closing eyes, an all knowing smile upon his face.

“Who are we kidding, your royal-ness?” he murmured. “We all know the good Captain will insist upon doing the first watch and he always wakes Fran to do the last, so the two sleeping love birds have the right idea. Why even bother volunteering? Good night all…sleep well.”

When Balthier’s head drooped down to his chest, the remaining three of the party knew that they were not going to get anything more from him.

“He is right.” said Ashe sternly as she had noted that Basch had indeed prepped himself for several hours of being the lookout for his comrades. The tall knight had lightly draped his own coverings over his shoulders and was pouring some more water into a billycan ready to boil. “The past month, you two have done all the night watches. Well not any more. I’d like to be first this time.”

“Highness.” Basch shook his head. “You require sleep far more than I and it will not be…”

“Do you find me incapable of staying awake to protect my companions?” Ashe snapped a little too loudly. Penelo let out a moan and wriggled at the disturbance.

“No, highness.” Basch placed the billycan over the fire, moving backwards suddenly as a spark cracked from the flames and jumped out towards him. “I would prefer….”

“I know what you would prefer, but I will not have you argue with me. Get some sleep, now! You too, Fran. Both of you need a good night’s rest, so I will wake Balthier when it’s time for the next watch.”

Fran welcomed some sleep. She bowed gracefully to the princess in gratitude and rested her back against one of the pillars. It took the Viera a little while to get comfortable, her long legs never seemed to stop fidgeting and under her breath she uttered her dislike for the tiny rocks and stones that she felt through her bedroll. Eventually she too slept as Balthier did, sitting up with her back against the wall and with her head propped over her chest.

“We can do the first watch together, if you wish, Highness.” said Basch, once the soft purrs from Fran sounded gently. Ashe didn’t answer at first for she was fascinated by the lulling sounds the sleeping Viera was making. It was a beautiful purr, but that was interrupted when Vaan’s long droning snores started up as well.

“No!” Ashe turned her head and the red fire light flared across her skin. Basch recoiled slightly, his foot kicking the holder that held the billycan over the fire. The hot water spilled over the floor and Basch uttered thanks when it seeped away from the sleeping teens and through the opening to the grass outside.

“You have too much burden, princess.” said Basch retrieving the can and filling it up with water once again. He then set up the holder and with a stick, hooked the can over the fire. He got two mugs from his pack and a bag of tea which he had purchased from the bazaar in Rabanastre. “The journey ahead requires a clear mind and a rested body. You need not do the entire watch…..”

“My mind is clear, Captain.” the princess scowled and shook her head when he offered to make her tea. “As for my body I have been well rested ever since we’ve been in Tchita. It is you who should rest, your lack of sleep has certainly taken its toll on you, and so I’m ordering you to get some sleep!”

His mouth opened to object once more, he looked quite stunned for his routine of making tea and preparing himself for the watch was interrupted, something he wasn’t used to. But Ashe had her arms folded and he could see the fire burning in her eyes. She was determined and her decision was not going to be wavered. She was absolutely adamant that she was having first watch; she was so stubborn that her piercing eyes didn’t look away from him and her posture remained unchanged, so it left him with no choice by to comply.

Basch heard in the distance, the sound of an approaching storm, so he pulled his blanket and Viking coat over him just to be safe. He adjusted his bedroll and just like the others, remained seated with his back against the cold stone wall. He looked quite anxious about something, but when the princess’ expression still didn’t change, Basch closed his eyes.

However, half an hour later, Ashe knew that he was still awake.

After a cup of Basch’s tea (shame to have wasted it.) She scouted round the perimeter of the ruins a couple of times, scanning the Highlands for fiends before checking on her companions. With Vaan’s snoring, Fran’s purring, Penelo’s fidgeting and Balthier’s soft rhythmic breathing, she knew them to be deep in sleep, dreaming of something she hoped was pleasant.

However, Basch’s eyes may have been closed, but Ashe could tell he was watching her, keeping an eye on her every move. Every so often she would see him peek through half closed lids and he would forget to fake the pattern of snores he had done to deceive her.

“The fool.” she thought as she stoked up the fire for the fourth time that night. “He will wear himself out if he doesn’t take heed. He will become ill with out proper rest…he’s not invincible, even though he tries to be.”

Ashe thought to tell him she knew he was faking it, but the rumble above preceded an almighty boom and rain began to fall like the waters at Ridorana. The winds were whipping the downpour in through the arches, heightening the risk of putting out the fire. It was too cold now and so Ashe set out to save the dwindling flames. As she attempted to keep the party’s only source of heat still burning, from the corner of her eye she saw Basch moving. His eyes were open and he was preparing to get up and help and that she would not allow. She didn’t need his assistance.

“What are you doing up?” she snapped when Basch leaned forward for a stretch.

“You need my help. The fire will go out soon if its not….”

“I am doing fine! Go to sleep!”

“Majesty, I can assist.”

“I don‘t need your help, thank you! I can handle this fire on my own!” Ashe was furious that she had to keep telling him, because it wasn’t easy to deal with Basch and the prospect of losing the fire.

She spun round and paused for what seemed like to her, an eternity. He was on his feet now, his blanket tied round his waist and his Viking coat hanging from his head, but he quickly placed it over Fran, knowing that the Viera needed it more than he. The wind whipped at his exposed long wild hair and the rain spattered against his skin, but all Ashe could do was watch in a strange mesmerizing stare at the droplets slipping down over his stoic grimy face.

He’s not going to win.” The princess thought, completely forgetting that Basch being soaked had almost made her give into him. Those blue orbs staring through the dripping wet locks hanging across his face was like a dangerous bewitching spell.

“Basch.” Ashe wiped her own face free of the rain and she continued to fight to keep the fire alive. The collected wood was running low and some of it was still damp, even though she had covered the pile when the storm started. “You would disobey me?”

“I only ask for you to permit me to assist, princess.” Basch’s deep voice crooned.

“And I am telling you I do not need it, nor require it!”

Ashe knew he was going to go against her wishes. To him it wasn’t disobeying, because he couldn’t leave her with a responsibility he knew to be his. The protection of her and others was second nature to him, it was his duty, and it always had been and would be for the rest of his life, which Ashe thought wouldn’t be long in his condition. He had always been the first to strike against attacking fiends; he made sure that he took the clawing swipes, gouging bites and other blows from their attackers. Ashe hadn’t really taken any heed of his actions before, but seeing him like this, she imagined that soon all the potions and remedies in Ivalice wouldn’t be able to help his degrading health.

So she decided to help him.

It took but a single wave of her hand and Basch Fon Ronsenberg fell back down onto his behind with a thud and his eyes closed shut as the sleep spell sent him off into the land of nod.

“I will not have you argue with me, Captain.” she said to the sleeping knight, a soft smile curling at the corner of her mouth. “Sleep well, Basch.”

Ashe, now satisfied that he was getting what he needed, tended back to the fire. It was a constant struggle by normal means, for the rain did not let off in its ferocity. Eventually she gave up with the practical method and instead strengthened the campfire by casting a couple of Firaga spells. Casting such spells sapped a lot of magic from her body, it drained her, and so Ashe took one more scout around the site before crouching down beneath one of the arches. Now she had to wait out the night, fighting against her own fatigue and the prospect of sudden attacks. The spatter of rain the wind blew in her face certainly helped to keep her eyes open and the fear of fiends pouncing from the darkness was eased as her hand held a tight grip on the hilt of her sword.

Yet something happened that the young princess did not expect.

From amidst the snoring grunts, soothing purrs and gentle whines there was a bellowing groan. The sound was followed by a strange deep wail that she thought only Saurians made. Ashe turned to the two youngest members of the party, thinking one of the teens was having nightmares or Vaan had come up with a new “snore” to his already increasing list of snores. But they slept so serenely in each others arms, unperturbed by the rain and comforted by their hold. Penelo was dribbling slightly on Vaan’s shoulder, but they were happy in their slumber.

The moan came again, followed by a long snort, which was followed by a strange “thud” sound. Ashe tore her gaze away from Vaan and Penelo and immediately saw the source of the strange sounds.

Basch had slumped over and was now lying on the ground like a curled up child. The sleep spell was a strong sedative and the rain wasn’t making a bit of difference to him, so the princess went over to him and knelt by his side. His body was twitching, very much in the same vein as an innocent babe in its crib; it was so endearing that Ashe couldn’t help but smile. What would he do next? Suck his thumb?

She felt herself shake as a soft laugh at such a mental image, escaped her lips.

“It’s not funny, Basch!”

Ashelia nearly keeled over, she choked and had to catch her breath when she heard that deep voice speak so suddenly. With utter shock, Ashe looked down at the wriggling man before her, thinking he had woken up, but he couldn’t have done, Basch was deep under the effects of her spell. She watched in devout fascination as his hand unconsciously swiped and slapped at his face as if there was something crawling across his skin, before relaxing and turning round on to his back.

When she had finished making sure everything was secure, Ashe decided to watch completely over Basch, ready for if and when he did something else. Sure enough after a few minutes of silence (except the crackling of the fire and the sound of the rain) she heard him murmuring. He was speaking to himself?

“No….no you can’t. It’s not funny!”

But it was funny.

Ashe had completely forgotten about the rain and the cold now, it was of no importance whatsoever. Sitting at his feet and observing the twitching of his nose or the silly faces he pulled, Ashe was pleasantly excited to see the stoic man like this. She was finally going get an insight to this man…to the knight who had protected her for all of her life. As she pulled her blanket tighter around her shoulders, she contemplated as to what was going through his mind. What was he dreaming about? Restoration of Dalmasca? The horrible endless days that he had endured in Nalbina?

“The pants are too tight!!”

Ashe cupped her hand over her mouth to hold back the shrieks of laughter that erupted. The shrieks were muffled, thankfully not waking any of the others. She had to hold her breath until she was certain her laughs had died down, but hearing Basch utter those words couldn’t halt the many images soaring through her mind. The pants were too tight? Whose? His?!

She wished that she had a mem-stone to record such wise words, but then to do such a thing would be cruel and it was what Balthier or Vaan would do rather than she. Ashe decided to wait for him to say something further and, of course, take note of the details for some leverage later.

“The birds are having tea!!”

Ashe had to hide her head under the blanket. Her face flushed as her laughter tried to erupt boisterously, but her body cramped up from the pain of restraining such an involuntarily reaction at Basch’s words. She couldn’t believe what she had heard.

“Birds and pants… oh my….what is he dreaming?!”

Ashe peeked through the gap in her blanket and saw that Basch had rolled over onto his front. There was a surprising joint “snort” from him and Vaan, the men breathing harshly in through their noses at the same time. Vaan’s snores halted for a moment, a long lingering pause before it started up again.

But it wasn’t Vaan who was talking. Ashe waited again, hoping more strange and funny comments would come from Basch’s lips. It was a while before he did, the enchanted knight only uttering non coherent mumblings that Ashe could barely hear.

“Precious…”

The word was spoken with a softness and warmth, a feeling of such compassion that the princess found herself creeping closer to him. Sitting by his side, Ashe took some of the thick woollen blanket off her shoulders and she gently laid it over Basch.

“What’s precious?” she asked herself.

She never expected Basch to reply.

“She is.”

There was cracking of thunder, it roared and echoed so loudly across the vast Tchita plains that Ashe heard the howls of the fiends and soon after the refined grumblings of a Viera. Ashe scrambled away from Basch when she noticed that she had forgotten the fire. It was dwindling down to mere embers and the storm rain could easily put it out, so Ashe went to get some more wood from the little stock pile. Fran however ignited it with a firaga spell. The fire erupted back into life again, casting a warm glow around and over the companions.

The Viera looked out at the eternal fields and sat watching the storm with intense red eyes.

“It should stop by sunrise.” she said softly. “But after the storm the plains and it inhabitants will be refreshed. Predators and prey alike will increase in numbers.”

“I’m surprised the storm didn’t wake the others up.” said Ashe, her eyes flicking back to Basch sound asleep. He was jerking again, but ever so slightly; his fingers stroking against the cushioned material of his bedroll. Fran noticed this.

“Balthier sleeps deep when his belly is full and he has done so through many a thunderstorm also. As for the youngest of you children….they must have been tired, I have not seen them sleep so soundly in a good few weeks.”

“And what of you, Fran?” Ashe unable to hide her smile at being referred to as a child. Thinking about it, Fran called everyone in the party children from time to time…even Basch. Ashe tried to figure out what Vaan had enquired to a couple of months ago…how old was she?

“Viera require less sleep than Humes. I am indeed invigorated from the few hours I have received, but I would surmise that the Captain does not sleep naturally.”

“Sorry?” Ashe was torn from her calculations of Fran’s years, her neck panging as it wrenched from turning.

“You too cast a sleep spell on him?”

Ashe didn’t want to admit to it, but there was no denying. Fran’s eyes bore into her, willing her to tell the truth, or was it some kind of Viera magic? Ashe bobbed her head, her fingers squeezing lightly at the muscles in her neck.

“Do not worry princess. It is the only way I get him to sleep as well.” said Fran. “He does not like to for the nightmares of Nalbina are still too fresh. The boy does all he can to keep from reliving those memories.”

“I’d hate to think what he suffered.” Ashe shyly picked up the small billycan and her water pouch, her hands shaking as the numbness in her fingertips finally registered. As she kept her fingers busy making some more tea, Ashe’s eyes lingered onto Basch.

“Have you asked him how he feels?” asked Fran.

“I would not like to pry.”

“You could ask him.”

Ashe scoffed at Fran’s words, placing the billycan over the fire and holding her hands out to be warmed by its heat. How could she possibly talk to him when he is in this current state? Turning her head round, ignoring the irritating drips falling from the strands of her hair, Ashe saw Basch, strangely hugging himself. His arms were wrapped around each other, as if he was holding something close to his chest.

“He has already said something, I gather.” said Fran.

“I‘m sorry?”

Fran smiled a smile so crafty Ashe thought she was channelling Balthier.

“Basch talks in his sleep and he does so every night when I take my watch. Would you tell me what he said?”

Ashe could hardly believe it. All these months, every night of their journey he had been staying awake, trying desperately not to dream those nightmares of his two years in captivity. Yet surely he must sleep somehow and why did he permit Fran to hear him like this? Was she the only one he trusted to witness all his angst? Ashe felt a little hurt that he wouldn’t confide in her, but he was a proud man. He had his honour and if there were things he didn’t want to share….

“Damn you Basch! You can’t keep everything bottled up inside! What is the matter with you? You’re Hume…you’re not some immortal Esper of the gods!”

Ashe decided to mention what Basch had said. She told Fran about the “tightness of the pants” and the birds having tea, but Fran merely raised a quizzical eyebrow in response, Ashe sensing that such silly things were what the Viera had heard before and deemed unimportant. There was something specific Fran wanted to hear.

“Precious.” Ashe whispered, mostly to herself. “Just before you woke up, he said precious. He also responded when I asked what was precious to him.”

“His response was?”

“She is.”

“He talks of many things.” Fran smiled once again and she crept closer to the fire to warm her feet. They wiggled to feel warmth within the confines of her stiletto shoes. Both the women rubbed their hands by the flames, their concerned gazes never faltering from Basch‘s shuddering form. He was still clinging tightly to himself, but his face looked anything but serene. The frown and anguish looked disturbing.

“There are the usual phrases he says every night.” Fran spoke over the torrent sounds of rain, her voice much lighter in tone and feeling. “He often talks about challenging Balthier to duels, an alpha male thing I presume. Seeing their actual behaviour, those two argue for the leadership of our group and they constantly show off their male macho-ism to see who should be “the main man.” It is something of importance to both of them. Basch and Balthier deem it necessary to compete, whether it is for their own male egos or to win more favour from you? I don‘t know.”

“They do appear like squabbling little boys sometimes.” Ashe chuckled at some of the “discussions” Balthier and Basch had had over the weeks.

“That are males, I fear.”

Did Fran just make a joke? Ashe thought she had, for the delicate smile on Fran’s dark lips faded instantly. She also changed the subject.

“Sometimes I hear Basch speak of the two youngest members of our group.”

“Penelo and Vaan?” asked Ashe surprisingly looking to the couple oblivious to the world around them, except each other. Fran nodded.

“Indeed…he feels very much like a father to them. He even said he cannot help but feel that way. He is so proud of them, for their strength and achievements, he longs to tell them this but something holds him back…fear?” Fran poured the newly boiled water into two mugs as she continued. “He talks a lot of Dalmasca, of Vossler and your father; his brother, Nalbina, his troubled thoughts are many. Yet there are occasions he mentions obscure things about flowers, sand slugs stealing his gil and quite bizarrely having cake and sandwiches with Baknamy raiders.”

“Really?!” Ashelia gasped and tried not to laugh, instead only coughing when she attempted to catch her breath back. Baknamys were vicious beasts; impossible to reason with, for battle was all they understood. Having tea and cakes with them sounded so preposterous, as did sand slugs stealing gil. The large sand loving slug creatures couldn’t do that anyway! “Oh Basch….”

“I worry for him, princess.” Fran’s long claw like fingers touched at Ashe’s forearm, squeezing it gently. “Ever since his escape from prison I have not known him to have had a restful and natural slumber. I have attempted to ease his pain from the magics I know, I have even talked to him whilst he’s been under the Sleep enchantment.”

“Whilst he’s…?”

“Unusual, yes…the conversations last a long while, some of it not making sense, but he and I are not close. He does not know me. Perhaps if you talk to him, Ashelia…hearing you, even in unconsciousness, could make his burdens easier to bear.”

“He actually holds conversations with you whilst he’s asleep?”

“Quite intelligent ones. Most of the time.”

Ashe rubbed all her fingers across her face, swiping the rain from her brow, nose and chin before riding the droplets off with a couple of flicks of her wrists. Such a concept on having a conversation with a sleeping person was about as possible as Sand weevils stealing money and them going for a drink afterwards. Besides, what could she possibly say to him? How could she ask Basch to just reveal all to her? Would he remember if he did when he woke?

“The moogle has just peed against my leg!”

There was a muffled giggle that only Fran heard.

As she suppressed her own amusement at Basch’s outburst, she turned to look out at the Highlands and saw the dense rain lessening as the storm eased. She didn’t have to be facing the princess to know how she reacted at the humorous “moogle” comment. Fran heard Ashe’s breath stop briefly, before a succession of exhalations that she could only conclude to be laughter. Fran knew that she would be hiding the wide blushing grin behind her trembling fingers, the thought of the ridiculous scenario of a moogle peeing against Basch’s leg so vibrant and clear in her mind, but Ashe did need the encouragement to go ahead with the talk. Fran knew she was reluctant to delve into Basch’s private thoughts, through fear and deep respect, but it was necessary. For the knight’s sanity, for his life.

“He needs it.” Fran said picking up the mug of tea and handing it to Ashe. “Talk to him. I shall patrol around for a while, give you some privacy.”

“Fran…I…”

“You will be fine. Take your time, there are still some hours left before the sun rises.”

The Viera took up her own tea and rose to her feet. She took a couple of sips before placing it against the wall and picking up her bow and quiver. Wrapping her cloak around her, Fran watched as the princess shuffled closer to the sleeping man, before stepping out into the storm.

“Where do I begin?” Ashe asked softly, the smile creeping to her lips once again as Basch turned and wriggled, almost as if he was already expecting her to begin this conversation. She adjusted the blanket and Viking coat over him and then moved his pack beneath his head to use as a pillow. He made a few salivating sounds, his tongue licking his dry lips before emitting a satisfied moan. His motions, turns and jerks made his damp hair slop over his face and instinctively Ashe reached forward and pushed the blonde strands out of the way. Her fingertips grazed his forehead. “I really don’t know what to say, Basch. There is so much I want to ask, to express…but at this moment I’m trying to get the picture of Nono urinating on you out of my mind.”

“Don’t touch me!”

Ashe jerked backwards as his flailing fist angrily lashed out towards her. He then began to scream, Basch sounded so angry and afraid that the deep tones Ashe had always heard with softness was terrifying. She could only tremble as Basch began to curl up once more, covering his head with his arms. Fran, she needed to come back and the others surely must have heard him! Could they not hear his anguish? Ashe tried to get close again, but he was shaking, he was so scared.

“I’m sorry!” Ashe feeling more than a little scared herself. “I won‘t hurt you Basch!”

“Not you…never you……”

“I won’t, Basch.” Ashe whispered sadly. Her head drooped and she brought her knees up to her chest, resting her chin on them and linking her arms round her legs. “I won’t touch you….”

For several minutes, the princess watched him quiver and lurch in fear; before long she couldn’t tolerate it so she decided to wake up Balthier. She was just about to get up when Basch whined…or was it a sob? Ashe paused and noticed a single tear trickling down from his closed eye-lid and slowly a tentative hand reached out for her.

“Precious….so strong. So beautiful.”

“Basch?”

“Is this why you refuse to sleep? Are your memories so terrible and frightening you would willingly put your health at further risk? Basch you are more than a fool.”

“Vaan! Dammit boy, how many times must I tell you?! Custard should always have the lumps and there should always be a nice thick layer of skin on the top before you serve! Penelo can manage it with perfection…why cannot you?!”

Ashe was more than confused. The Knight’s troubled ramblings were swapping from fear and anguish to the downright funny and bizarre.

The night they had gotten hold of some Dalmascan custard had been one of the most uplifting nights of their journey. Vaan had prepared it to absolute perfection, something which everyone had praised. Yet Basch had made a point in saying that it wasn’t thick enough, nor did it have lumps or skin on the top, which he said was the best way to serve it. Ashe had never asked him why he liked his custard in such an inedible manner. She never even questioned that whilst the others couldn’t stomach Penelo’s cooking, he lavished it. Though quite obviously, any food would be satisfactory for him after having starved in prison.

“We don’t have any more.” said Ashe, not knowing quite why she had said that, or why he had. Thankfully he was calmer, yet there was a different feeling of fear on his face. “You ate all that we had left, remember?”

“You would not let me go hungry…..princess….”

His hand reached out for her again and this time she did take hold of it. In that instant, he squeezed her fingers so hard that her skin turned white. Ashe bit hard on her tongue to keep herself from crying out, but eventually the strength in Basch eased and he simply clung to her as he continued to sleep. Now he held onto her so gently it was as if he was scared to be holding her in the first place.

“Why have you been so cordial to me? Why do you continue accept my living, my innocence when I have failed you…I‘ve failed Dalmasca.”

Instinctively, her other hand rested on his and she smiled even though he couldn’t see it. She laid herself down next to him, scrutinizing every aspect and every single movement his face made. Ashe clenched their hands together and without even knowing, pulled them to her chest.

“You have done me no wrong, Basch. I will not hear you speak of failure either. I accept you because you are innocent and truthfully…I am pleased you lived. When I saw that you were alive, I was angry and hated you, but I was also relieved. You have been a constant in all the years of my life; always watching over me and keeping me safe. You are a knight of Dalmasca and you have served me above and beyond your call, despite the ills done to you. How could I show anything but kindness for what you have done for me, my family and country? Basch Fon Ronsenberg…you deserve so much in repayment for your loyalty and your never wavering honour. So I give you my eternal gratitude and always my friendship.”

“No….” Basch snorted, tugging desperately to get out of her grasp. “I cannot…I will not.”

His words hurt her. Ashe released his hand and took to looking out at the storm once again. His rejection of her friendship actually hurt more than she realised as she gazed out to the Highlands, for she thought such a sentiment would help and please him. But of course, she should have known. He was a knight, his sense of honour far too great and pure to allow something like “friendship” from those above his station, especially the future Queen of Dalmasca. He could never allow them to be friends.

Off in the distance Fran’s unmistakable outline could be seen in the rain, the Viera was standing out in the open with her face tilted up to the sky, as if she was taking a shower. Ashe momentarily looked round to check the others; Balthier had slumped over and was now on his side facing the wall with his feet tucked behind his bottom; Vaan and Penelo were still inseparable and so tightly bound in the blanket that they looked like one person and not two.

All were sleeping serenely, completely ignorant of the “sleep talking” going on nearby. It was a conversation that Ashelia no longer wanted to continue with him, it was pointless especially if he wouldn’t remember when he woke up.

“You don’t mean it, highness. I know you do not want…could not be friends with me.”

Hearing him, Ashe looked down. Basch had gone onto his front and his arms were splayed out above his head, palms facing downwards to the stony ground. The words he uttered were muffled because his mouth was mashed against the leather of his pack.

“How do you know what I want?” she replied, a little offended. “Is it wrong for you and I to be friends?”

“There’s a squeak on my bed! My sword doesn’t sing in tune any more!”

“I beg your pardon?!”

She really couldn’t believe it. He was back to talking gibberish again, which would have been sweet and funny but it didn’t evoke the same reaction in the princess now. She felt so ridiculous at being open with him; Ashe couldn’t believe that she was even continuing with this. Basch was asleep, having nightmares of course, but he couldn’t hear her. Why did Fran even think that speaking with him would benefit Basch? It was a stupid notion.

“Friends…I don’t have any, any more. I have no name, no title…I am dead.”

Ashe didn’t respond, but Basch continued anyway.

“I ask for forgiveness, princess.” he moaned. “Please.”

“I’ve already told you.” Ashe cursed herself for replying to his babble. “You haven’t done anything to be forgiven for! You did not kill my father, you did not betray Dalmasca and….”

“I need forgiveness! Please, Ashelia…for my thoughts are impure! I cannot stop them from running rampant in my mind; I cannot stop feeling things that should not be…please…help me.”

“Basch?” Ashe didn’t want to be, but she was dragged back into the conversation, intrigued by his words. He was thinking bad intentions? Surely not. “Basch…you are talking nonsense!”

“My thoughts are impure! I cannot purge them!”

“Stop this, you fool!” Ashe slapped a hand across one of his shoulders. “No more talking now, sleep!”

“Princess…help me, please….help me to not give into wild thoughts in my mind!”

“What are you talking about?” She was becoming incensed, wishing that he would just shut up, wishing that she wouldn’t respond to him. It would be easier if she kept her mouth shut, give him nothing to respond to, but because it was Basch, her curiosity was getting the better of her.

“Precious…so precious…..”

“Who is she, Basch? Tell me.”

“My life, my reason for existence. I chide myself for thinking it. I cannot win. I’m torn for my duty to you and…my love.”

“L…love?”

Her stomached lurched. Ashe scrambled back away from the sleeping man, stopped by her back impacting hard with the stone of the arch. The water that slicked the stone now soaked through Ashe’s clothes and to her skin, yet she didn’t care. Right now she could be drenched from head to foot in cold freezing water and she wouldn’t care at all. Basch had said he loved her!

No. That can’t be right. He’s sleeping, in a dream state and such a declaration must be taken as seriously as the Sand slugs or the singing sword. He doesn’t mean it.

If it was just a random blathering, then why was her heart beating and pounding so hard against her chest? If Basch’s words were nothing, why was her blood pumping with an excited rush in her veins? No, it’s not true. It can’t be true.

Basch, in love with her? Love? He must surely mean that he loved her as he did Vaan and Penelo, as a father or at the very least an uncle or protective brother? He was certainly old enough to be her father, so there wasn’t any other kind of love could he be expressing. Why would he feel bad for that if it was?

A pleading groan, aching and sad droned from his mouth.

“Help me, princess….please. I see you and I hurt, I ache so much for you.”

Oh…he loves me…he LOVES me? What do I say to that? What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to feel about this? Basch! Hells in Zertinan, how DARE you put this upon me now at this time! I have enough pressure upon me and now I get this! Basch, you’re more than a fool! You’re a stupid idiot!”

“No…you’re just dreaming.” Ashe muttered, not entirely sure if she was telling Basch or trying to convince herself. “I’ve fallen asleep myself and I’ve imaged this. You don’t really love me, you can‘t.”

“I’ve tried not to…” his voice was breaking and strained. “ I’ve tried so hard not to look at you in such a dishonourable way, but they are so strong, my feelings can’t change…I love you. Forgive me, please highness, I do love you.”

Say something else!

Ashe wished for him to say something silly, anything apart from a declaration of love. She couldn’t handle it; it all seemed so preposterous that Basch could possibly feel this way about her. He was older than her, by seventeen years! She was not even in her twenties yet and he said he loved her? Ashe shook her head, repeating in her mind that it simply wasn’t true.

So why was her heart still screaming under the strain of this news? The humidity of Tchita must have increased exponentially because sweat was now slicking her trembling palms and dripping down her brow. It was too hot, Ashe couldn’t concentrate as a pain throbbed in her head and her eyes became heavy from fatigue. She needed some sleep herself, but Fran wasn’t back yet.

“Majesty….princess…help me…please.”

“I…I can’t help you!” Ashe snapped, grasping chunks of her blonde hair and pulling at the silvery strands. “What do you expect? You tell me you love me and I can’t believe it because you’re talking nonsense in your sleep! I can’t believe it because it’s not right! I will not believe it!”

Again, Ashe was attempting to ignore the wild uncontrollable emotions which were swelling up inside of her. She was trying to convince herself that it wasn’t real, but always she heard in the back of her mind, doubt whispering.

Was it really such a terrible thought that this man could love her? Even if the notion of his love was possible, there wouldn’t be anything that any of them could do about it. When the sun rises and when Basch awakes, he will stay quiet and suffer with his emotions as he suffered with his physical scars, he will not say anything; but Ashe would know.

Every time he would talk to her, defend her or even look in her eyes, she would know his discomfort as well as her own. The tension that had been between them since the Leviathan would be even more uncomfortable, it would be unbearable.

“I’m so tired…the bed still squeaks and there’s a hole in my shoe….my feet are wet.”

“Don’t talk any more, Basch.” Ashe’s voice pleaded as her eyes saw on the leather of his shoes, a hole just on the toe. She could see his flesh through the hole, water seeped in and Ashe realised that if he was telling the truth about that, then it could be true about his love. “Oh Basch…I’m sorry. I don’t think of you…like that. I don‘t love you in the same way.”

As soon as she spoke that, Basch’s face changed. She saw all his hope disappear, the colour drained from his skin and his body curled up, tighter than ever before, tight into a quivering shaking ball. Regret instantly grated in her chest; she never wanted to do this to him or be the one to make him suffer even more. So she did the only thing she could, not realising the consequences of an act for “a friend.”

Just out the corner of her eye, Ashe saw Fran still patrolling the perimeter of their camp. Satisfied that she was going to be keeping watch now, the princess stepped over Basch and sat down behind him. She shifted her bedroll closer to his and draped the blanket over his feet before lying down, pressing herself against his back. One of her hands snaked round his waist whilst the other stroked softly at his damp hair.

“For all you have done for me, Basch, my only regret is that when you’re awake, you won’t allow me to be this close. You will not allow me to give you some small comfort for your sufferings. So for now, what is left of this night just let me do this…for you.”

“Ashelia…my queen….”

She squeezed him gently and his whole body relaxed and shifted to fit more comfortably in her embrace.

“Ssshhh…it’s all right.”

“I do love you.”

“You don’t need to say it any more. I understand.”

“But…they’re mooning me!”

Ashe found her self sniggering against his back and as she did so, her lips smacked ever so lightly against the wet red leather of his armour. She tasted the powerful flavour of the material and of him. With the natural rainwater there was a much stronger and potent tang of his sweat on her tongue and she rolled it over lips, relishing the strange rush that coursed through her body because of it.

“Fran! Tell those two to pull their trousers up! Mooning is not funny any more, the locals are all scared off!”

Totally oblivious.

As the princess slowly drifted off to sleep, Basch’s ramblings turned to murmurs. There was no agitated twitching or writhing from him, the agony and anguish gone from his features; now as he slept in his future Queen’s arms, he uttered no more of his feelings for her, only stupid phrases that was typical of sleep talkers.

“The Chocobo is turning green! It’s going green!” , “There is no such thing as a Wedgie spell?”, “Has Balthier taken all the soft comfy toilet tissue again? Damn him!”

He was totally oblivious to what the young woman spooned against him, was doing. Or feeling. He had no way of knowing and neither did she.

 

0000000000

 

Vaan looked at the bowl of steaming…something…and his stomach heaved at the gloopy flaky slop inside of it. Pushing the bowl away with his foot he tried to ignore the disapproving glare he knew Penelo was giving him. He turned his head away from her, watching as Fran and Balthier were checking their weapons, then he focused his curiosity onto Basch and the princess. As they were checking the supplies in their packs, Vaan noticed that Basch was pretty much acting normal. Ashe however was trying to keep her distance and unlike the past few weeks, she was not at all comfortable in his presence.

“You don’t like the breakfast I cooked?” asked Penelo, her hand jolting hard on Vaan’s shoulder to get his attention. Vaan feigned pain from her strike, grinning sheepishly before shrugging his shoulders in an “oh well.” kind of way.

“Pen…”

“Well, you may not like my cooking, but Basch does!” she tried to sound offended, but all she could do was smirk back at her friend. “He asks for seconds all the time! Don’t you, Basch?!”

At the sound of his name being called, the knight spun round and when Penelo jabbed a finger to Vaan’s untouched bowl, he bowed in appreciation before picking it up. Vaan could only watch in mild distaste as Basch wolfed the entire slosh down, wiping his beard free of the pieces that had escaped his mouth with his forearm.

“He really does.” Vaan said with astonishment. “I guess having little or no food in Nalbina would…”

“Actually, Vaan.” Basch smiled gently when he returned the bowl to Penelo. “Her cooking reminds me of my mother’s. It reminds me of home, of happier times…”

“Aww! Basch!” Penelo leapt to her feet and rather suddenly flung her arms around his middle and squeezed him, before planting a smooching kiss on his cheek. “That’s so sweet of you!”

Basch blushed with such affection from the young teen and when she wouldn’t let go, he gently pried her fingers off his waist and eased her away from him, keeping his hands held with hers for a few seconds.

“I truly mean it. Thank you.”

“Have we all finished now?! I think we all ought to get moving!”

The lightened atmosphere was brought to an abrupt halt by princess’ sharp and decisive order. Vaan watched as she hurried to pack up the rest of all their belongings and wondered why she was in such a distasteful mood.

Morning had risen with a refreshing gentle light, the storm from last night had finished several hours ago and now a smoking mist drifted through the air, breaking the beams of sun into fractured rays. The dew upon the long grass gave off a beautiful invigorating scent and with a deep intake of breath, Vaan felt so alive.

Unfortunately, so did everything else.

“Can we please get moving?! The Ceourls are already gathering in numbers!” snapped Ashe, throwing a wet soddened pack directly at Balthier. “We mustn’t dawdle any longer.”

“My, we are a little testy this morning, aren’t we?” Balthier slipped on the pack and frowned as the sodden material soaked through his waistcoat. “Did we not sleep well last night, princess?”

“Watch your tone with her majesty, Balthier” Basch said, stepping between the two of them.

“I didn’t mean to encroach on your “precious” sovereign, my good man.” Balthier smirked fiendishly as he saw the blush flush against Basch’s face. He held up his hands in defence and backed away chucking under his breath.

Vaan pulled the last of his Gelma sticks from his side pocket and began to suck on the sweet as he observed Basch and the princess. Vaan expected Ashe to chide her protector, as she had done to everyone since she woke up this morning. He nearly chocked on the fruit stick when Basch edged closer to her, only for Ashe to turn away from him, her beautiful face a mix of sadness and regret. She was on edge already, but something new was troubling her.

“She still doesn’t know, does she?”

Vaan saw the Gelma stick vanish from his fingers and spinning round, he saw Penelo sucking on the other end, twirling at one of her plats with her free hand. He was going to complain that she had taken it, but when they get to Archades, he was sure he would be able to procure some more.

“Doesn’t know?” He shrugged. “Sure she does, you heard what went on last night! Basch said the words and she heard him!”

“Of course Ashe heard him, Vaan!” she said, linking arms with him and whispering closely to his ear. “We all did, but that’s not going to worry us! She simply doesn’t know! Do you think we should tell her?”

“About the Wedgie spell?”

“Vaan! There is no such thing as a spell that gives people wedgies!”

“I know! But when Basch said it last night, I thought it would be cool! It would be though, if it existed, right?”

Penelo chuckled in agreement, but she shook her head immediately afterwards. She tutted in frustration. Ashelia had moved away from Basch as he tried to help her on with her back pack. The two teens gawped with fascination as after another failed attempt to help Ashe with her pack, Basch asked the princess what was wrong, only to be told to “go away”. When he tried to apologise, it only made it worse.

“I’m FINE, Basch! I’m quite capable of carrying my belongings! Now give me room to breathe, you’re suffocating me!”

Vaan felt an elbow impact with his ribs.

“She doesn’t know!” Penelo hissed again, picking up her Gungir spear from the wall and holding it close to her chest. She winced as the Gelma stick that had been in her mouth was ripped away, the hard sticky surface catching her teeth.

“Pen….” Vaan couldn’t get out what he wanted to say as he nearly swallowed the slowly vanishing sweet.

Penelo propped her spear over her shoulder and gave Vaan his sword, they were ready to go, if no one else was. Balthier was counting his ammunition and Fran was clearing the last remnants of the campfire, but it was the princess and her knight who were holding things up with their nervous circling and awkward hesitations.

“Just like Basch, she hasn‘t a clue!” Penelo sighed and once again hugged at her spear, leaning on it as Basch attempted to apologise to Ashe once more. “She didn‘t hear herself.”

“Denial, right?”

“Oh sure. Poor Ashe, if only she would allow herself to open up. She’s lost so much; she fights so hard against everything, including herself. Why does she fight against him?”

“She doesn’t want to show it, Pen.” Vaan snapped off the last bit of the Gelma and gave it to Penelo, smiling gently. “She’s scared. Scared of what would happen if she opened up, scared of how weak she would appear. Hasn’t she got enough to worry about, regaining Dalmasca and stopping Vayne, without having her feelings for Basch complicating things?”

“Complicating things?” Penelo clipped the spear to the side of her pack before slipping both her hands around Vaan’s bare arm. “How could the expression and receiving of love complicate things? How could the support and love of someone like Basch, complicate things?”

“It’s already complicated, Pen.” Vaan huffed, leading his friend out of the ruins and into the bright sunlight. “She’s going to be queen, he’s supposed to be a traitor and dead…they’re both so proud. They wouldn’t put their personal lives above the good of Dalmasca.”

“Not on their own.”

“Yeah? What’s on your mind, Pen?”

“A plan.”

Vaan turned round to face Penelo and he saw the scheming glint in her dazzling eyes.

“A plan?”

“A good one.”

“Need some help?”

“You offering?”

The teens grinned mischievously and instinctively their hands toyed together, pulling each other closer until their heads touched.

 

00000000000

She had no idea what they had been talking about, but Ashe was caught entranced as they stood head to head, their fingers entwined, playing and stroking, their lips so close they could kiss.

Penelo and Vaan were drawing such strength from each other through their bonding, it uplifted them, giving them a passion and zeal that Ashe envied. The orphans had lost just as much as she, Dalmasca was their home, but still they found time to laugh, joke and find comfort with each other.

They weren’t going to be Queen though. They were not burdened with the responsibilities she had weighing on her shoulders.

But what she would give to have someone to hold her like Vaan now did with Penelo.

“Majesty….we’re ready to depart now.”

His hand lightly brushed against the bare flesh of her shoulder, causing her to shudder and jerk away from the touch. Spinning round, Basch’s chest met her face. He was far too close to her (again!) and she was going to shove him away, but the smell of his leather armour and the sweat on his white shirt caught in her nostrils.

“Oh Basch…I’m sorry. I don’t think of you…like that. I don‘t love you in the same way.”

“Majesty?”

“Would it be so wrong to have feelings for him? Would it be so wrong to let him hold you, to touch you?” “Are you ready to move on?”

 

Move on.

She hesitated, her fingers playing nervously with the strap of her backpack. The recollection of Basch’s words he had spoken in his sleep was affecting her more than she could imagine. She had lost so much; her father and family, Rasler and now along with what was left of her sovereignty, she would lose herself. Would it really be so wrong?

“You are having doubts, princess?” asked Basch. “Of what awaits us in Archades?”

“I doubt a lot, Basch.” Ashe stepped away from him, hoping that he wouldn’t attempt to support her with another friendly hand on her shoulder. “But I…”

The giggling laughs from Penelo and Vaan lilted in her ears and it pained her to know they were so happy. That should have been her and Rasler, that could be…

Is it really so wrong?

Does she not deserve happiness?

“If you will not accept my friendship, how could you ever allow me to love you? But could I? You would think less of me if I did?

“Princess?”

Ashe couldn’t believe she had just thought those things, for had she not made it clear to herself that she didn’t feel like this towards Basch. No, she was just sympathising with him; a life long acquaintance and loyal soldier needed her support to help with what he was going through. She didn’t love him like that at all.

“Do you wish us to wait for a moment, until you are ready to leave?”

Hearing his deep voice so close to her made Ashe look up from the buckles of armour and instantly she was caught in those intense blue eyes once again.

Her heart began to race, it was difficult to breathe.

“Your highness?”

Once again, the teen’s playful laughter sounded in the back round, but she could not tear her eyes away from his. It was at this moment that she knew.

Dalmasca will be restored, she will save her people and it would be because of him.

Basch would stay by her side, his eyes said it all.

“Am I crowding you again, Majesty?” Basch asked, dutifully stepping back.

“No.” Ashe smiled, the first for him in years and it surprised him greatly. “Not at all. We can get going now.”

“As you wish, princess.”

Her hand gripped hold of his arm and she felt his immediate tension and fear, so to help him feel more at ease, she smiled once again and removed her hand. Her smile increased when after the confused frowns he pulled, he finally returned the gesture.

Ashe had forgotten how wonderful his smile was. She had forgotten just how his smile could make her feel. It was so wonderful, that she wished he wouldn’t stop, that he could smile for her always.

“Princess?” The smile faded but hers didn’t and it confused Basch even more. He didn’t understand, one minute she had been yelling at him and now, she was standing there, smiling at him for no apparent reason. “Are you all right, princess?”

“Don’t call me that. Call me Ashe…please.”

“Of course, princess…..Ashelia…A….”

“Work on it, Basch.” She chuckled, patting his arm.

“I shall…..try.”

“Good.”

The princess let go of her protector and began to head off down the slopes towards Sochen, with a flutter of new hope inside. With doubt abandoned, Dalmasca awaited her return and who knew what would happen between now and then? There was no rush.

So it would be many nights before their journey would come to an end. Nights that Ashe would make sure that she and Basch could have plenty more conversations, not just when he was asleep.

 

 

 

 

 


 

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4 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: teh_feeny Date: August 20th, 2009 08:51 am (UTC) (Link)
YEY LJ!

And just a small thing! LJ Cuts, you can put all that text behind a link like thing, makes it much smaller and easier to scroll past.

If you highlight all the ext you want hidden, and look across the tool bar there's an icon with cry text and a little line. It should come up with "Live Journal Cut" and you get a wee prompt box on what you want to call it.

Though if you're like me it'll take ages to get used to it so practise with small blocks of text!

/nitpick
basched From: basched Date: August 23rd, 2009 10:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw thanks Feebs! I shall do so!

Ps. Love the super mokona!
dayofcaligula From: dayofcaligula Date: August 21st, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, try to use some cuts. It did take me 10 minutes to figure out how to successfully use it during my first days in LJ though, haha.

I'm in a good mood now and makes me wanna tra-la-la! I got so busy I missed my anime and games for almost two weeks. I realized it when I started having withdrawal syndroms and couldn't write anything logical at all... well, for my paper.

I'm glad you posted this here!
basched From: basched Date: August 23rd, 2009 11:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I've done the cut now! I shall problie do it to the others sometime.

I'm pleased your pleased.....I do try. Thanks again!
4 comments or Leave a comment