Author's Note: I had intended on some nice fluff for Christmas, but it seems my words ran away from me a little bit and turned into something, well, I'm not really sure what this is. Anyway, although I'm not entirely happy with it, I'm posting it because I don't know what else to do with it. Hopefully I'll be able to work myself out of this terrible writer's block and finish my Harry Potter Duet and maybe a Basch/Penello or Basch/Ashe before the break is over. Let me know which pairing you'd like to see? Of course, I'll have to throw in something with Balthier before I can consider the break successful. :D Happy reading. Merry Christmas.

Healing Grace

Basch gripped his brother's hand tightly in his own, squeezing to offer assurance, and somehow, absurdly hoping that if he held on tightly enough, that just maybe Noah would stay with him. Basch had witnessed death too many times to count. He could easily recognize when a man was on the brink of passing into the next life. At first Noah's face had been covered in tiny droplets of sweat, his breaths coming in uneven hitches. Now, Noah was clammy to the touch and his breathing all too shallow. Basch could barely make out the rise and fall of his chest. Noah certainly would not last long. It pained the blonde captain to know that there would be no redemption for the younger fon Ronsenburg twin. Perhaps Noah's revelation, although too late in the coming, would be enough to win his soul admittance to heaven… if there were such a thing… If Basch even made it there… Surely his failures had earned him an express ticket to the hells as well?

The captain shook his head slightly, hoping in vain to clear some of these wretched thoughts. He spoke earnestly with his younger brother, mentally berating himself that he could do no more to ease his twin's passing.

Perhaps he was too quick in granting his brother's final request. A life in Archades was certainly nothing Basch had ever esteemed for himself. His greatest wish involved only Dalmasca. Archadea, although his mother's homeland, was no place Basch had ever longed to visit, much less live. Still, as his gaze lingered over his brother's dying form and travelled briefly to the young boy beside him, Basch knew his agreement was for the best. He could serve both Archadea and Dalmasca from the position as Judge Magister, as well as his fallen brother. He could serve his queen by crafting a stable and dependable ally for her. He could protect Larsa. Gods knew the boy needed a gentle guiding hand, especially after the loss of the entirety of his family. Soon an entire kingdom would be thrust upon the quietly sniffing adolescent at his side. Basch vowed to shoulder what portion of the burden he could bear.

The decision, although difficult to make and even more complex to fulfill, was made. Basch would travel to Archades, taking with him the name Gabranth and the title of Judge Magister. He only hoped this knowledge would somehow put his tormented brother's soul at ease.

It seemed to do just that. Basch watched in silent despair as his brother's eyes closed in a relieved smile. They fluttered open again, though only briefly. With no more need to fret over his charge, the will to fight had simply slipped from him, and with a heartfelt apology, Noah fon Ronsenburg was no more.

Basch laid his brother's limp hand back on the bench and brushed his thumb reverently over Noah's eyes. He allowed himself only a moment's reprieve before thoughts of the future overwhelmed him.

He stood, leather sandals creaking slightly in protest, and released the breath he had not realized he had been holding. Larsa looked at him expectantly, as if he could offer some revelation, some consolation that might carry away all the pain. Basch had no words to give. As much as he wished to ease the young boy's grief, words failed him. He could only place a hand on Larsa's shoulder and pray that he understood the gesture's deeper meaning. Perhaps the boy already knew that no words could stem the grief that comes from losing a brother.

"I must prepare," he spoke roughly. His voice no longer felt like his own. Although Gabranth had been his twin, Basch would need time to groom himself to fit his brother's appearance.

"Of course," Lady Ashe whispered as she slowly approached her now former knight. I will inform the marquis that we need at least an hour to prepare. Is that enough time, Basch?"

There will never be enough time, Basch felt the urge to express his true feelings. No amount of time could prepare me to don the helmet of Judge Magister. No amount of time could prepare me to forsake what I have fought so desperately to restore. Instead he simply nodded, no longer trusting his own voice. The group needed him to be strong. The war might be over, but the now tight-knit group still looked to Captain Basch fon Ronsenburg for strength. It would not due to have his voice betray just how weak and helpless that beacon of strength now felt.

"You'll need to cut your hair," Ashe spoke the obvious to him in a soothing voice, "and don his armor, of course."

Again, Basch only nodded, swallowing the protests he now longed to give. The lump in his throat persisted.

Basch knew this entire process would be much easier if he did not allow himself to think about anything at all. He reached down to remove his brother's breastplate, allowing his hands to function on some sort of autopilot. However, he was stopped before his fingers ever reached the chilled metal.

Blue eyes met his own as Basch finally willed himself to look up at the girl who captured his hand with both of her own. He had not even noticed her approach.

"You don't need to do this Basch. Fran and I will take good care of your brother. There's no need for you to see," Penello spoke as she gently lowered his hands. From the slight break in her voice, it was clear she was on the verge of sobbing. Still, she held herself together for the sake of the group. Penello was not one to cry, even in the worst of situations. Somehow, Basch found her lack of tears almost soothing. Perhaps Penello was more suited to be the group's pillar of assurance.

Another soft hand brushed his arm before finding purchase in the crook of his elbow. "Come, Basch, I'll trim your hair." Lady Ashe steered him away from his brother's corpse. "Larsa, you should come with us as well. There's… no need for you to remember Gabranth this way." She placed her other hand on the young boy's shoulder, guiding him as well.

Basch supposed that his tear ducts no longer knew how to produce tears. He felt like sobbing, like leaking all of the sorrows of the world from his soul. He no longer knew how. He could glean only little comfort from the company of friends, for they too would be as good as lost to him in only a few short hours.


The trio of Emperor, Queen, and Knight slowed to a halt before the door to the Strahl's bedroom and vanity.

Penello approached tentatively, as Basch turned his gaze back toward the healer of the group. "We'll be right here, you know, waiting for you, and for Larsa as well. It's not as if the entire world will just forget about Captain Basch. We know the truth. We won't forget."

Although the girl's impromptu speech would have left much to be desired in the hearts of lesser men, Basch understood the sentiment and thanked the girl – nay, young woman, by ruffling her hair with a calloused hand. Words still failed him. Basch could only hope that Penello would understand his sentiments as well.

Penello's grin and stifled cries of "Stop! Stop!" were enough to force the corners of Basch's chapped lips into some semblance of a smile as well.

"One could do much worse than to be remembered by sky pirates, a rat-slayer, a dancer and royals alike," he mused.

"Do try to think about something positive though, please, Captain Basch?" Penello spoke with sincerity after recovering her dignity. "This isn't an ending after all. We'll all have… different lives after this, but we'll still be in those lives together, in our hearts if nothing else, when we can't all be in the same place."

Larsa nodded, his spirits lifted by his new friend's words. Basch could see the boy was smitten by the dancer from Rabanaster's LowTown. Hells, the entire group was smitten with her on some level or another. It was hard not to be. Penello had a gift. Even more important that the healing spells her hands wove on the body were the healing spells her words and gentle demeanor graced on the heart.

It would be alright. The war was over. Dalmasca was restored. The girl with blonde hair, loving blue eyes, and a healer's touch was safe and continued to impart her gifts on those fortunate enough to be her friends. Yes, somehow, it would all be alright.