Without hesitation, Basch vaulted the balustrade.
Nalbina’s shadow was hard to shake: old terrors rose as Basch fell. But even as he fell he could not help but think, as all living things did, of his survival, reinforced as it was through a habit of his daily continuance. Calm, Basch, calm, (he whispered to himself, always in that old tongue only he and his brother had known,) you live, even falling, you live.
Scarcely a single storey’s fall at that. Barely a gentle hillside slope, compared to how he had dared the depths of Nalbina’s hungry gut with nothing but a pair of pirates as his own uncertain cushions.
That fall had not ended so badly, either.
Basch barely had the time to breathe before he hit, grinning. His knees, ankles, hips flexed to absorb his insanity, knuckles of his left hand grazing across groaning floorboards. The nearby commode lurched as though wanting to topple. Basch shouldered it back against the wall, too hard, for it recoiled on unsteady legs.
Fran sailed down the void of the stairwell as she followed Basch’s example, her hair streaming. She landed fist to the floor between wide knees, the floorboards buckling visibly: the commode decided it had enough of stability. Basch supposed some Bunansa heirloom dinner set housed within, or, knowing Cid’s origins now, more likely some looted Vangorite porcelain. Whatever it was, the doors had not been latched, and opened as the commode toppled forwards.
The crash was rather magnificent. It went on for an embarrassingly long time.
Hunched with pain, Fran kept her hands curled over her ears, those proud black tips flattened against her skull, eyes wide and wounded, a pose of aching vulnerability. Basch so very nearly fell for it too, his hand outstretched over fallen furniture, but then he remembered.
Basch skittered to avoid Fran’s lunge. The pirate howled a curse that would have made a soldier blush, if Basch had still been a soldier, her attempt to tag him falling short as she did, directly over the backside of the commode. Another imprecation as to Basch’s ancestry flew through the air like an arrow.
Basch shouldn’t have laughed, but it was hard enough not to grin over his shoulder as Fran tried to rise from that evidence of shattered domesticity, one clawed finger flipping him an insult to follow her vowels. Basch kept smirking; he knew this house well enough, he had no need to look to his fore as he ran. The atrium was directly ahead, he could duck through before Fran could reach him, and lock the door behind him –
Basch collided with a wall that should not have been there.
‘Sorry,’ Basch said, and blinked crawling stars from his eyes.
Balthier clung to his consciousness for long enough to look profoundly insulted at the collision. A book slid from his left hand, heavy enough to hurt as it bounced off Basch’s bare foot; Balthier’s glasses slid from his right. Those, at least, Balthier had custom-made not to shatter on the bounce.
In increments, Balthier folded. Basch caught him before his knees could touch the ground.
Their collision left Balthier bloodied around the mouth, his lower lip already swelling as though he’d taken a blow. Basch’s arm hurt, cut by Balthier's teeth on the shoulder, as numb as though he had truly run full into a wall. Balthier must have been bending, picking up either book or glasses from the floor, unseeing of Basch’s approach.
Basch wondered what could have possibly drawn Balthier out from his sanctum, only to remember the sound of that magnificent crash.
‘Another battleworthy scar,’ Fran noted, sidling close. Basch stepped promptly, turning Balthier between them.
‘Surely you two can think of nicer things to leave me as remembrance by now. I’m starting to dread every time I hear Balfonheim is expecting a long wet spell.’
‘I suggest, then, that you stop listening to the weather reports.’ Fran looked beautifully innocent of intent, slinking closer yet.
‘Come, lady, parley til we get Balthier to a bench, at least. Have some pity for the civilian casualties of war!’
Sighing, Fran bent and took Balthier’s ankles. They carried the pirate back into his cave, the secondary study he furnished with half-drunk tea cups, quarter-read books and bowls of rice left uneaten for long enough they near sprouted grass. Fran picked up one book from the couch, frowning at the title. Basch was left clutching Balthier most awkward against his chest, freeing the chaise of said debris with a sweep of his heel.
Having few opportunities to regard a Balthier fully at rest, Basch took some care in arranging Balthier on that aged leather. The pirate’s lanky form fit near-perfectly into existing indentations. Basch brushed Balthier’s hair away from his eyes, his fingers lingering.
‘He didn’t come up to take a bed last night?’
Fran shook her head. ‘Nor the four nights before. You know how he is in this city.’
‘I do,’ Basch could well hope so, after all these years, ‘but you know him better.’
A frustrated, near-dismissive wave of her hand, and Fran looked away. ‘He will not allow himself to enjoy anything in this city, or he might find himself enjoying this city.’
‘Ah,’ Basch said. Six years of Senatorial debate under his belt, and he could have kicked himself for his current eloquence.
‘It grows tiresome, for him as well as I. As with most of our self-imposed obsessions.’
She did not speak without affection. Fran bent over Balthier’s recumbence, one knuckle brushing, so lightly, the blood still fresh on his lip. Bright red slicked across Balthier’s slackened smile. Basch could not help his smirk. Balthier suited lipstick not at all.
Hips and shoulders moving in a liquid countermotion, Fran spun, stretched stretched out her bloodied finger, hypnotic with grace. Still with his fingers in Balthier’s hair, Basch angled to meet her, head and hips both. Balthier’s blood was a sharp wine across Basch’s own lip, so thinly spread and lightly touched, yet at Fran’s touch and that obvious wet, Basch’s skin tightened from crown to balls.
Through the veil of her hair, Fran’s eyes seemed so wide, her lips soft in that so-suggestive smile.
‘You—pirate! So much for parley!’ Basch missed his chance to grab, Fran dancing away too fast, too tauntingly—
‘No parley for Magisters!’