Title: Ever At Your Service
Summary: Basch has cared for Ashe since he was assigned to be her guard when she was still a child. Through the years they change, grow closer, and are torn apart, but she finds he is ever at her service.
An unknown soldier is escorted through the halls of a magnificent palace. The native guards are skeptical, but the king is sure after meeting this man -- he is the one for the job, yes, they will start him here. His lightness of spirit makes him a perfect companion for Dalmasca's treasure, the king thinks, and his loyalty to his newly adopted homeland makes him the perfect protector.
"I warn you," the escorting knight says, "if any harm should befall her, we shall make your death look like an accident."
The young soldier, barely twenty-two years of age, nods in understanding. He has taken this post with reluctance -- truly he wants to be a knight, as he has always been skilled in combat and strategy -- but this is what the king offered him, and while it is not a position of authority or immediate importance, it seems to be a good place to start.
The escort, a young Sir Azelas, gestures him into an open room, and the soldier is immediately struck with how tidy the room is. A five year old of any station would have toys strewn across every surface and artwork hung on the walls. Instead he finds books and neat drawings carefully stacked on the table, the colors and pencils neatly lined up in their respective cases.
The girl sits by the window on the ledge, writing on a piece of paper supported by a book. Her sandy hair is long and her skin tanned from the intense summer sun. She wears a flowing white dress, the laces of which flow down to her knees. They sway ever so slightly as she breathes and moves with juvenile energy.
"Ashelia?"Azelas says. The girl looks up and the solider is struck by her unearthly and mature beauty. Her eyes are intelligent but impish, as though she is plotting some benevolent mischief. Perhaps it is a plan that she writes.
She smiles once she realizes who it is and sets her book down with the utmost care before approaching Azelas. He is young and handsome -- of course the princess favors him. He is vibrant and strong -- only twenty himself, though he has been a part of the armed forces and her life since he was seventeen and she three. Azelas, who wears no armor for this task, crouches down and picks up the young princess, giving her a brief hug.
"Having fun today?"
"No," she says. She is a self-possessed child. "I'm bored. I'm not allowed out into the city."
"Well, perhaps that will change."
Her eyes brighten. "Are you to be my guard again?"
Azelas shakes his head, and the solider thinks he detects a bit of sadness and regret in the man's eyes. "I can't. I told you," he explains, "I have to start training with the other men now. I'm to be a knight."
The girl folds her arms and Azelas does not flinch with the movement. His hold is strong. "But I have brought you your new guard. Your father picked him out specifically for you."
"My father finds dull people. It was mother who found you."
Instantly, the girl's face changes to one of guarded sadness. The solider knows that her mother died a year ago, and tough the girl is young, it is clear that she understands her mother is not returning.
"And I will always be here for you," Azelas assures her. It is clear the two were close. "You will still see me. I simply can't be here all the time now. And I want you to keep drawing me pictures. I do enjoy them."
"Then I'll draw you another one today."
Azelas grins and gives her a squeeze and she hugs him tight about the neck and shoulders. The solider begins to feel doubt -- how could he ever replace this guard who cares for her so? What if he and the child don't get along? What will he do if she holds him in contempt for being someone other than Azelas?
"This gentleman is going to be your new companion."
Companion, the soldier thinks. Am I no more than a glorified babysitter?
Azelas is moving upward from this position. I will too, he assures himself.
The girl looks him over, and then wiggles a bit. Azelas obliges and sets her down on the floor. She stands before the solider, her arms crossed and her head high, regarding him as though considering whether or not to give her approval -- as if she has the option.
"My name is Ashe. What is yours?"
He'll take that as approval. Carefully, he crouches down, feeling his light leather armor shift against his body. He places himself at her eye level and settles his hand at the hilt of his short sword, feeling that she, like any five year old girl, would like to feel like a princess with a knight at her service.
"I am Basch, my lady, and I am ever at your service."
Years later, Basch thinks back upon that day. He hangs his head, realizing how wrong he was. He could never move on from being her protector, for knowing her is to be devoted to her and only her. Even after becoming a knight and captain, she was ever present on his mind. She was Dalmasca and Dalmasca was her, and when he drew his sword or strung his bow in defense of the kingdom, it was her that he was protecting.
No, Basch did not get to rise above his station as Ashe's protector, and the only thing keeping him alive in the dungeons was the hope that she still lived at that she could have some use for a broken knight...
Title: Ever At Your Service [Part II]
Fandom: Final Fantasy XII
Characters: Basch, Ashe
Summary: Basch thinks about all the moments he shared with Ashe years ago when she was still a child.
“Ashe has not taken well to my presence,” Basch reminds himself as he approaches the young princess’ door early one morning. It has been three months since he took Vossler’s post, and still the princess remains hostile. He has been charged with taking her through the town today, as she has begun to get restless in the palace. It is not a task he looks forward to, but he hopes that somehow it will give him a chance to let the princess find some trust in him. “I must be careful.”
The maids bring the girl out of her room just as Basch reaches it, giving him little chance to gather himself for the day’s task. He is dressed in his light armor today, which is still too heavy to be humane in the Dalmascan heat, with his sword at his side and a dagger in his boot. They weigh on him like his troubles and worries.
Despite the lack of love between them, Basch smiles as he sees the little girl straighten her sundress and brush her hair from her eyes. She is undeniably adorable as she clutches the stuffed bear her father gave her before he departed on his latest diplomatic mission. It has not left her side since he left, so Basch has no expectations of it staying behind today.
“Good morning, my lady,” he says with a slight bow, “I am told you wish to venture into Rabanastre today.”
She gives him a narrow look and nods, slipping into her sandals. A young maid gives Basch a knowing smile and flirty wave and he sincerely hopes it wasn’t her at the bar last night – maybe just a woman who looks like her? As she walks away he takes short note of her walk and kicks himself for getting so drunk.
“I have outgrown much of my clothing,” Ashe – she has recently adopted the nickname and demands to be called by it – states matter-of-factly. “Father says you are to accompany me to get new things.”
Basch nods in agreement. “Yes ma’am. I have been told to bar no expense for your happiness.”
Her distaste gave way to confusion. “What does that mean?”
Ashe did not ask that question often, so Basch seized the moment to try and show her that he wasn’t just a hired sword. He knelt before her and offered her a friendly smile. “It means I am supposed to get you what you want and have the bill sent to the palace.”
“So...” he can see the wheels turning in the girl’s mind, “maybe we can go to the toy store too?”
Basch chuckles a bit and stands, offering her his hand. “If that is what you wish, my lady.”
Ashe regards him for a moment before slipping her delicate hand into his gloved claw, and together they set out into the day.
They arrive back at the palace early in the evening. Basch walks carefully, his knees soft and bent as he crosses the atrium. Ashe sleeps peacefully in his arms, her breaths coming long and slow as he carries her towards the staircase and her room. He wants desperately not to wake her, as she has had a long but good day out in the city. He smiles and adjusts her in his arms as he thinks of how she hugged him when he took her to the fountain to feed the birds breadcrumbs – something Vossler would never do.
He nods to the stationary guard in the princess’ hallway and the man rushes to open the door. Basch carefully steps through the doorway with the child, mindful of her head and stubbing his toe in the process. He cringes and bites back a curse, stopping for a moment to let the pain fade into a dull throbbing. Carefully, he moves over to her bed and lays her on it, drawing up her spare blanket to cover her. He unlaces her shoes and pulls them from her tiny feet and tucks the blanket around them, just how she likes it.
“Percival?” she whispers, waking. Basch curses himself – he was so careful. He leans over her and smiles kindly.
“Go back to sleep, sweetheart.” He hopes she won’t berate him for the endearment. Instead, she frowns up at him, becoming more and more alert.
“Where’s Percival? My bear?”
Basch cringes deeply. “Oh, no.”
She’s lost him, or rather he has. It was his job to take care of her and he’s violated one of the cardinal rules of child watching – do not lose the favorite toy.
“Have we misplaced him?” he recovers. Her lower lip starts to quiver and it breaks Basch’s heart in an instant, not because she wants her bear back – because he knows she wants it back because she misses her father. In that moment, his sole wish is to take every bit of pain from her.
In his Nalbina cell Basch smiles, remembering Ashe as she was that evening, so innocent, only wanting the part of her father she could hold onto. He closes her eyes, recalling how her trust in him struck his heart as she asked him to find Percival and how she’d had no doubt he could…
Ashe’s little hand rises up to the side of Basch’s face and he soaks in the sweetness of the gesture. “Can you find him, Basch? P-please?”
Basch takes her hand from his cheek and kisses her tiny knuckle. “I will do my best. You have my word.”
“I-I can’t sleep with… without him…”
“I will go get him. Do you remember when you last had him?”
She shakes her head, her hair falling into her eyes. Basch makes a mental note that it needs to be cut soon and nods a bit to her, resigning to a long evening of searching the city.
“I shall find your bear, my lady,” he says to her in a valiant voice to mask his exhaustion, “and I shall return him safely to you. In the meantime, please try to get some sleep.”
He pulls the covers up over her and offers her a reassuring smile, only to be met with a fearful and apprehensive gaze. She may trust him, now, to play with her and show her a good day, but the safe return of Percival? Her doubt spoke volumes for their relationship.
He has no choice but to leave her in the care of the palace guards and scour the city for Percival. As he reaches the door he looks back to see Ashe sitting up in her bed, watching him, clutching the covers close for comfort. He smiles at her again and leaves her, stepping out into the hall and closing the door.
Basch must find the damn bear.
He smiles a bit in his cage, remembering how he found the bear sitting patiently by the fountain at the center of the city. Finding the bear, he knew, would show Ashe just how devoted he was, and maybe, just maybe she would trust him.
Looking back on it now, though, he knew it was all for nothing. Had he known then, would he have simply disappeared that night? Would he have ever signed up to be the princess’ guard? Would he have ever left Landis to start with?
He would have gone to Rabanastre. He knows this. How could he ever surrender his right to have known her? How could he decide not to have met her? Was it worth it to have known and guarded her, to have loved her as he did…?
Basch walks back through the palace, his shoulders slumped and his eyes half closed from exhaustion, the bear dangling from his hand. He waves away the palace guard, muttering only “I have her stuffed bear,” and walks up the stairs – has the staircase always been so long? – to her room. He taps once, twice, and then enters, glancing at the bed to see Ashe sitting there, looking at the door, waiting for him.
He has never seen such a wide, brilliant smile on anyone’s face, much less such a beautiful, innocent and kind girl. The effect is nearly blinding even in the middle of the night.
“Sir Percivial, I believe, is glad to be home.”
Basch walks to her bed as she crawls to the edge of it and they meet in the middle. She takes the bear from him and hugs him tightly. He can feel the warmth of her little body through his light armor and he hugs her back. It makes the aggravation, annoyance and grief worth it.
It was worth it, Basch thinks from his cage, and hopes that somehow the sentiment stretches from his heart all the way to hers, wherever she may be.
It was worth it.
Author's Note: I am new to DreamWidth -- as in I signed up within this past hour. I've been writing this fanfic (I just finished chapter 10) for a couple weeks now. A few people have liked it but I fear it's not being seen, so I thought I would come over here and give DW a try! If anyone likes it, let me know, because there's plenty more to this!