|Laylah (laylah) wrote in het_challenge,|
@ 2007-10-14 11:03:00
|Entry tags:||a: laylah, f: final fantasy 12|
"Squire" (Final Fantasy XII, Basch/Ashe)
Fandom: Final Fantasy XII
Warnings: Het pairing; queer sex. End-game spoilers.
Summary: "I feel ridiculous," Ashe says. "Like a child playing at pirates." Her voice is muffled, the complaint in it more wry than sincere.
"I feel ridiculous," Ashe says. "Like a child playing at pirates." Her voice is muffled, the complaint in it more wry than sincere.
Basch busies himself studying the frescoes on the walls of the room she's been given. "Is that so bad?" he asks. He is himself dressed as a mercenary, in plain clothes, even the sword at his hip unremarkable, compared to the blade he's grown accustomed to. "I remember a time when your appetite for such games was endless."
Ashe steps out from behind the dressing screen. "My nursemaids," she says, "were willing to indulge the pretense no matter how poor my disguise." The clothes they've found for her fit well; she moves easily in the boots, and the plainness of the leather jerkin disguises the curves beneath. She pushes up the sleeves of her linen shirt impatiently. "I'll not pass for a Dalmascan boy like this."
"No," Basch says, with a smile of his own; Dalmascan dress disguises very little. "Not a Dalmascan boy, but a Landiser one."
"In that case I shall worry about my accent," Ashe says, examining her reflection in the glass. "And about how soft I've grown."
"Who in Rozarria would know a Landiser accent if he heard one?" Basch asks. "Especially now." That pain is old, dulled at last; too many years and too many allegiances have claimed him since. "Of course," he says, as Ashe looks about to offer him sympathy, "if you'd prefer, we could stay here for another 'informal' banquet with your royal cousins...."
Ashe pulls a face, and looks instantly but half her age. "Spare me," she says. "I would rather face a saurian alone, and you know it." She reaches for the jar of pomade Basch left on her dressing table, and slicks it through her hair without hesitation: she knows the motion from watching him, perhaps, or watching Vossler, in the years of the resistance. It sharpens the lines of her face to sweep her hair back from it; she looks more severe, and more guarded.
The effect is striking: she looks very much the prince Dalmasca could have had. Basch looks away.
"That bad, is it?" Ashe asks. She sounds amused, at least.
"On the contrary," Basch promises. "You look quite handsome."
Ashe laughs, and the sound is so honest, so unforced, it startles him. "Archadia tries to make a courtier of you," she says. When Basch looks back at her she is smiling, teasing; he has not seen her looking so pleased in years.
"His Excellency despairs of me learning the lesson adequately," he replies. "I shall have to tell him that you found my performance acceptable." He bows to her formally, which is both easier and more strange when not in plate.
"I have indeed," Ashe says, and bows in return, awkward as a boy. "Now don't do it again. We don't want to give away our disguise." She reaches for her short sword, the smile still tugging at her lips.
She could never seem anything but noble, Basch thinks but does not say. There is a pride in her bearing, a refusal to compromise, that common folk have ground out of them if it ever develops at all. But the prospect of adventuring has her in good spirits, and him as well, so he holds his tongue.
They make their way down from Ashe's apartments to the ground floor of the Margrace palace, and through a maze of hallways to a plain, unpainted wooden door near a set of servants' stairs. Last night, after Ashe mentioned wanting to escape their obligations for a while, Basch made some quiet inquiries among the servants himself. Likely they assumed he was looking for a discreet opportunity to go whoring; he tried to give them no cause to think otherwise. He unlocks the door now with the key that he paid to borrow, and he and Ashe slip out of the palace to a few hours of freedom.
The Ambervale is a city as grand, in its own way, as Archades; but where the latter stretches toward the heavens, the former reaches for the horizon, straddling the river and spreading out across the fertile delta that made it first prosper. It's far too large a city to explore in so little time as they have. "Where would you like to go?" Basch asks, and stops himself before he can add, majesty. It's easier if he looks at her; she does not look, now, like a princess.
"To market, first," Ashe says, "and then perhaps to an inn." She smiles. "Does it sound strange to say I miss the way we ate when we were traveling?"
"Not at all. This way," Basch says, and starts down the alley toward the bright sunlight and the main street beyond. The streets widen as they circle around the palace and move toward the center of the city, widen and grow more crowded. Most of the people they pass are men; apart from the occasional female bangaa, every woman they pass has at least one man accompanying her, and most are still careful not to meet strangers' eyes.
"I can see why you suggested this costume," Ashe says stiffly, her voice low. When Basch looks over, her jaw is clenched.
"It seemed the easiest way," he says. "I thought you would find the role of a Rozarrian lady unappealing."
She looks over at him, and her expression softens for a moment. "Always thinking of my comfort," she says. "I am fortunate."
"Any of your knights would be pleased to do the same," Basch protests. He feels himself flushing, to his own chagrin; this is still Ashe, the same young woman she was yesterday, for all that she looks now like a handsome boy. The boy is only an illusion, and should not be able to fluster him so.
"I doubt," Ashe says wryly, "that most of them would have thought to dress me as a boy."
Vossler would not have, she means, and likely she is right. But he must have taught her something of disguise, because she watches the men around her, watches him, and her stride changes, her stance, until she moves so unlike herself that the charade is almost flawless. Every time he catches sight of her out of the corner of his eye, Basch has to control the urge to startle, to stare. This is Ashe, stopping by the merchants' stalls in the bazaar, haggling low-voiced over some bit of worked silver, some amber stoppered flask; it is only Ashe, and not some shade out of his past, not a boy like those he still remembers romancing before Landis fell. If this was how Vossler felt, in the resistance years, small wonder he was strung taut with frustration by the time Basch finally found him again.
They wander through the marketplace until the sun is setting, glistening along the surface of the river. It is Ashe who chooses an inn for dinner, a place by the riverside that has the feel of travelers' establishments everywhere -- it could be Balfonheim or Rabanastre or even old Ronsenburg inside, save for the difference in the spices for the stew. But that is still good and filling, savory, and the background hum of conversation is at least half in Rozarrian -- more of the language than Basch has heard since he arrived; politeness has demanded that everyone in the palace use Common, anywhere they expected him to overhear.
"Something the matter?" Basch asks, when Ashe stops, coughing, halfway through the meal.
"The gentlemen behind us," Ashe says in quiet but blunt High Archadian -- in the masculine constructions, which startles Basch for a moment; has she always spoken it thus? He doesn't know, and the distraction almost makes him lose the thread of what she says: "They're laying odds whether I am your squire or your cousin, and whether in either case you're buggering me."
Basch flushes hot. His own Rozarrian is lamentably poor -- and where did Ashe learn that sort of language in Archadian? He tries to clear his head, to reply to her in the declensions appropriate to a masculine equal. "I would prefer not to compromise our disguise, or I should gladly fight for your honor --" Ashe scoffs, like Noah in that moment and she'd never forgive him for the comparison -- "but if they make you uncomfortable...."
Ashe shakes her head. "I'll not be chased home so easily." She raises her voice, and calls in Rozarrian for more wine. The barmaid looks to Basch, before she brings the jug -- fates, the first assumption is likely widespread, though he prays not the second -- and he nods.
Rozarria's wine is sweet and honey-golden, easy on the tongue; it brings a flush to Ashe's cheeks, and Basch knows from the heat in his face that it does the same to him. The food keeps him from growing too muddle-headed, but he feels warm and loose-limbed all the same. And he's...he's watching Ashe, distracted still by the boy she could almost be, lean and proud and strong.
"You look at me the way Vossler used to," she says abruptly, and Basch startles, looks down. The bottle of wine is empty, and their glasses nearly so. "Would you have watched me like that had I been Dalmasca's prince? Would you then have been the one who would not leave my side?"
"Ashe," he protests. "If you imply -- Vossler's devotion to you was not --"
"Not only," she says, "and I do not mean to slight him by saying it. But it was that along with all else. If I had been a boy --"
"That would have changed many things," Basch says. He must be more intoxicated than he thought, to interrupt her. Her eyes are steady, gray as the storms in Giza. "That, perhaps, among them," he admits. He imagines what it would have been like to teach Prince Ashe to ride, to fight with the Dalmascan shortsword and without it. Inappropriate as it is, he cannot help picturing the young prince dressed like a Landiser, like Ashe is dressed now. His senses are confused by the wine, and Archades has left him too much in solitude, without country or kin of his own for a second time.
Ashe smiles wryly. "I recognize that look. The wine makes you melancholy again, doesn't it? Come. We should go get some air, and clear our heads before we have to go back."
They rise from the table, and push through the evening's crowd to the door. Outside, the sun has set entirely, and the air is crisp, but less cold than Basch expected -- Archadia seems never thoroughly warm, and in Dalmasca the heat fled with the sun, so that he has never truly grown used to temperate nights.
Ashe leads the way, sure-footed and striding, not muddled by the drink, as they make their way down a set of stone steps to a path beside the river. Where they first come down there are houseboats floating on the water, hung with lanterns that reflect in soft gold and rose on the water's surface. In this at least there is no nostalgia, only the beauty of the new experience. Ashe does not linger to admire them, though, walking up the path toward one of the Ambervale's great bridges, and Basch follows. The human sounds of the city fade, down here, distant calls muted by the lap of the river against the retaining wall. They walk as far as the shadow of the bridge, and there Ashe stops.
The kiss comes like an attack, lunge and grapple and then their mouths pressed hard together. It is a boy's kiss, hard and demanding, forcing entry that Basch can scarcely bring himself to protest. How has he missed this? Has he been as blind to Ashe as Vossler always was to him?
"I want to," Ashe says, low-voiced, hoarse, "this way, if it is what would draw you -- as your squire, your boy."
Basch shudders, reeling as if he's been hit with sapping magicks. His hands close on Ashe's shoulders, too tight, but he can't seem to let go. "Ashe," he says. His tongue feels heavy, too clumsy for the words he should say, the protests, the refusals -- and Ashe kisses him again before he can form the words in any language he knows, kisses him with one hand snarled in his hair and the other fumbling at the waistband of his trousers, kisses him roughly and takes hold of his cock with a hand still callused from sword-practice, stroking until he groans at the assault on his senses.
"It is not so easy as that," Basch says, when he can free himself long enough -- though he cannot seem to pull away from that swordsman's grip -- "it is not -- it does not go smoothly, thus. I would not harm you."
Ashe snorts, leans up to nip at his lower lip. He tries to think of how strange it is to kiss someone with no stubble, tries to think of what that means, but it helps less than he might hope. There have been boys that young, though no time in recent years.
"Use this," Ashe says, pressing something into his hand -- the tiny flask from the marketplace -- and Basch knows he has not the will to keep resisting.
The oil smells of the sweet talenwood native to Rozarria's plains, too fine and too luxurious for this -- for the tight heat around Basch's fingers, the hissing shudder of Ashe's breath as they prepare, the grime caked into the under-surface of the bridge that comes away in streaks under Ashe's hands, the need for haste both in the circumstances and low in Basch's gut -- but nothing about this suits anything else, not the place nor the timing nor the fact that they do it at all, as Ashe's face and costume and this act do not suit the truth Basch knows -- and yet it does not stop him, and for all the awkwardness of circumstance, against this wall, hurried, in a place where they cannot hope for privacy -- despite that it is good, breathtaking, tight heat around his cock and growing tighter as Ashe braces one arm against the wall and reaches down with the other to stroke, and -- and this is not anything he'd have expected, perhaps not what either of them wants, and yet -- and yet Ashe trembles against him, surrounding him, and perhaps -- for this moment -- it is almost, and almost is enough.