Spoilers: Not for the game; see below.
Notes: Clearly, January is for porn.
This was intended to be a birthday gift for renay. Hopefully late is better than never! A follow-up to Reconcilable Differences; it does refer to the events of that story, particularly the resolution, but nothing that isn't clear from context here.
Balthier awakened in the queen's bed, alone.
Although Ashe typically cleared her morning schedule for his visits, her time was not always her own to rearrange, and in such a case, she would always provide him with advance notice. So her absence was neither unexpected nor entirely unfamiliar. Still, it was not the state of affairs Balthier preferred, and so rather than luxuriating in the large, soft bed, rich with pillows and silken sheets, he threw off the heavy white comforter and sat up, his bare feet landing on the smooth floorboards.
He bathed, dressed, and emerged into Ashe's parlor, planning to relax there while he waited for her return, and then stopped short upon seeing another man in the room, seated at the small table by the window, a mug in his hand. He turned his head toward Balthier with a polite smile. "Ah, good morning. I had not realized you were in Rabanastre today."
Balthier stepped forward, spread his arms. "And yet, here I am." It should not, of course, be a surprise to find the queen's betrothed in her quarters, eating eggs and drinking coffee. But normally Al-Cid absented himself during Balthier's visits to the palace. In the months since Ashe had presented them with her terms, they had never discussed the particulars of their situation: their unspoken agreement that they would share the favors of Her Majesty Queen Ashe while each pretending, as much as was practical, that the other man did not exist. "Scheduled the trip before she knew that the Bhujerban delegation was arriving today. I'd have altered my own plans, but Fran has an errand to attend, so it was easier to keep the appointment."
Al-Cid pulled out the other chair from the table, his hand lightly resting against its back. "In that case, will you join me for a bit of breakfast? I can ring the maid for another tray."
"Thank you, but no; I'll content myself with some tea, for now, if there is any?" Balthier took the offered seat before pouring himself a cup from the china teapot that rested at the center of the table. Steam rose from the surface, and he inhaled the warm air, then took a sip, grateful for something to do with his hands and a prop to hide behind. He took a quick glance at Al-Cid, who had turned his attention to a stack of reports on the table. Was the prince feeling as awkward as he?
A few moments passed in near-silence, only the rustling of papers breaking the stillness -- Al-Cid reading, Balthier contemplating the view of the desert as he drank his tea. It looked so peaceful from up here, no sign of the sandstorms or monsters he knew all too well. At a soft noise, he turned, and saw Al-Cid's eyes, peering over his glasses and the sheaf of notes, straight at him. "Yes?"
Al-Cid set down the reports and folded his hands across them. "Just thinking back to the day we met, on Bur-Omisace. It seemed to me, then, that you took an instant dislike to me, an impression which did not fade upon later meetings. I always wondered if perhaps you saw me as a rival. Did you crave Her Majesty's affections, even then?"
Balthier set down the cup and tipped his head to the side. "I need not answer to you."
"True enough." Al-Cid lifted his shoulder in a shrug. "You are not a subject of Dalmasca's crown, nor of Rozarria's, and I would not exert authority over you even if I held it. Still, it seems likely that we will find ourselves in each other's company from time to time. Best if we can reach some sort of understanding, yes?"
"Perhaps." Balthier took another swig of his tea; it had cooled, and he made a face at the cup before placing it back on the table. "But, as I am sure you realize, I have reason to distrust princes and kings, and agents who work within corrupt systems."
Al-Cid raised an eyebrow. "And yet you tarry with a queen? An odd choice, in that case." He looked back at the reports, shaking his head, and muttering under his breath. "Whatever does she see in you?"
Clearly the question was meant to be theoretical, but Balthier decided to rise to the bait. He tipped his chair back on two legs and propped his feet on the table, crossing them at the ankles. "I've oft wondered the same thing."
Sharply, Al-Cid raised his chin to look back at Balthier. "In regards to me, or to yourself?"
"Both." Balthier laced his fingers behind his head and added a spot of insouciance to his tone. "But mostly you. I suppose the argument for your political suitability as consort is easily made, but for reasons that pass my understanding, she's also quite fond of you." He shook his head with an exaggerated sigh.
"As she is of you." Al-Cid rose from his seat and pulled off his sunglasses. His expression was calm, as usual -- did nothing ever rattle the man? "Of course, I am in no position to demand faithfulness from any woman, not even my betrothed. But, unfair as it is, that is a rather easier position for me to take than for her. Hence, I do wonder why she might take so much trouble to keep you in her life."
Balthier swung his feet off the table and stood, letting the chair fall to the floor with a clatter. "I suppose I could tell you. But 'twould be easier, I think, to show you." Before he could lose his nerve, he lifted a hand to Al-Cid's cheek -- it was smooth, and uncommonly warm -- stepped in close, and kissed him, lightly on the mouth.
This, he felt sure would get a reaction, but he could not predict what: a jerk backward, a kiss in return, a punch in the nose. Instead Al-Cid merely stepped back a fraction, the only sign of surprise or emotion a small smile on his lips. "Are you this forward with the queen?"
"Perhaps that is the attraction, then. I must confess, I'm a bit drawn to it myself." Al-Cid's smile grew wider. "As long as I am making confessions, I may as well tell you that I've not been kissed by a man before."
Balthier raised an eyebrow. "You use that line on all the boys."
"No, no. I'm quite serious." Al-Cid lowered his eyes; Balthier would almost have thought he was being coy. "The opportunity simply never presented itself."
A likely story, but Balthier chose not to question it. "And how was it, then?"
A thoughtful expression crossed Al-Cid's face. "Different. But not as different as I might have expected. Perhaps I need another taste to be certain." He stepped forward again, lifting his hands to Balthier's shoulders, curling his fingers around them. Then he leaned in and gave Balthier another kiss, taking the lead this time, lingering, lips slightly parted. The light scent of his cologne filled the space between them; it was floral, with a hint of spice. "Yes," he murmured, his breath warm on Balthier's cheek, "it has definite possibilities."
Annoyance warred with attraction as Balthier studied Al-Cid: his light, smug smile, the warmth in his hooded eyes. So, this is what it felt like to be worked over by a notorious flirt. He found himself in unexpected sympathy with many of the women he had known over the years. And yet it was rare, feeling as though he had the upper hand in a battle with Al-Cid. Perhaps he should press this advantage. Yes, two could play at this game. "Well, if I'm to introduce you to a new world, I'd best do a thorough job of it." He covered Al-Cid's elbows with his hands and pressed in for another kiss, harder this time.
It was not just a kiss, nor even a simple embrace: it was a battle for dominance. Balthier felt Al-Cid pushing back, his tongue thrusting into Balthier's mouth. He responded in kind as he ran his hands up the smooth silk of Al-Cid's shirt. Al-Cid's hands came around his waist and up his back, as warm as the rest of him -- Balthier had never been so close to anyone who radiated so much heat; it was like making love to a furnace. A warm hand landed on Balthier's chest and undid the first button on his shirt, then the second. "Now who is being forward?" he murmured, dragging his mouth across Al-Cid's freshly-shaved cheek.
"If this is not how things are properly done, show me." Al-Cid pressed his lips into Balthier's temple, then found his mouth again. Balthier took a step forward, walking them away from the table, of half a mind to find the couch and see what might transpire there, when a soft sound from the doorway gave him pause.
He broke the kiss and looked over Al-Cid's shoulder; Al-Cid turned as well, facing the source of the sound, stepping out of Balthier's arms. "Ah-- Ahem."
Ashe, arms crossed and head tipped, leaned against the doorframe and said nothing. Her expression was calm, impassive, only the barest gleam of amusement in her eyes and the quirk of her mouth.
Spots of color appeared on Al-Cid's cheeks, and Balthier felt the blood rush to his own. "How long have you-- have you--"
"Long enough." She stepped closer. "The meeting adjourned early, so I thought I'd come keep you company. But it seems that you have been amusing yourself quite well on your own. Please, don't let me interrupt."
Al-Cid glanced at Balthier, then swept into a bow. "We can continue, if you wish. But would my lady prefer to be a spectator, or a participant?"
Ashe tapped her chin with a graceful finger. "Two options, two temptations, each appealing in its own way." She closed the door, then walked across the room to settle on the couch behind them, falling back against the cushions with her hands in her lap. A small smile played across her lips, and Balthier thought he saw the tip of her tongue dart out to lick them in anticipation. "Perhaps you can return to what you were doing while I consider my choice."
"As you will, Your Majesty." Balthier echoed Al-Cid's bow, then held out a hand to him. "Now, where were we?"
Al-Cid moved in, past the hand, and laced his fingers in Balthier's hair. "Somewhere about here, if I recall." He leaned in close and pressed his mouth against Balthier's. Balthier kissed him back, taking Al-Cid's full lower lip between his teeth and nibbling at it, lightly. He felt Al-Cid's breath catch, his fingers tighten against the crown of Balthier's head, but even more he felt Ashe's eyes on him, on them both. No longer was he caught in an awkward moment, stolen and unexpected -- now he was on stage, he and Al-Cid performing their roles for Ashe's benefit as well as their own.
The realization put his feet on firmer ground, and with it he closed his eyes and let himself enjoy the moment: the heat of Al-Cid's kiss, the firm muscles beneath smooth skin, the gentle curve of his upper arm and the unexpected softness of his hair. Balthier thought about Ashe, imagined her arousal and answered it with his own, pressing his chest up against Al-Cid's, tightening arms around him in a true embrace. Al-Cid responded, his hands sliding down Balthier's back to curve around his buttocks; Balthier let out a breath in surprise, broke the kiss for just a moment.
"Would you move this encounter further, then?" he asked, just loud enough for Ashe to hear.
Al-Cid chuckled, tossed his head just enough to clear the hair from his eyes. "Only acclimating myself to new terrain. Do you object?"
"I should think not." Ashe's soft reply cut off Balthier's planned response, and he turned his head, raising his eyebrows at her. She was still seated, her arm tossed over the back of the sofa in a nominally casual pose, but from the parting of her lips, the gleam in her eyes, her shallow breathing, Balthier could tell that she was anything but casual.
"Directing the players now, Majesty?" He widened his eyes at her. "Your wish is, as always, my command."
Ashe let out a soft snort, then rose to her feet. "As if I could ever command you, in anything. Either of you." She took a few steps in their direction. "But yes. Pleasurable as it has been to be in the audience, I find that I prefer to be a more active player in this production."
Balthier looked to Al-Cid, who shrugged with a smile. "Far be it from me to deny my lady's pleasure."
"I agree." Balthier loosed himself from Al-Cid's arms, and crooked a hand in Ashe's direction. "Join us."
Ashe took Balthier's outstretched fingers in her own, and a palpable jolt raced up his arm and down his spine. She slipped into the space between them, an arm around each waist, and she kissed them: first Balthier, her mouth warm and hungry on his, and then she turned her head to Al-Cid and bestowed a kiss upon him.
Normally, Balthier would have busied himself to avoid glimpsing any manifestation of the affection between Ashe and her consort, but today he watched, closely, as Ashe's eyes fluttered closed and Al-Cid bent her backwards, just a hair. He was not jealous, he realized, to his surprise -- knowing how Al-Cid tasted, what the fullness of his lips felt like, made Balthier more appreciative of what Ashe must be experiencing.
Bringing his arms around her, he found the buttons of her blouse and undid them at a leisurely pace, letting his fingers brush against her silken skin as he set them free, one by one, followed by the clasps of her undergarment. Her breasts sprung free, and Balthier captured them, one in each hand, letting their fullness settle in his palms, the pads of his fingers grazing her nipples. He felt her intake of breath, her back pressing into his half-exposed chest, and he pulled her to him, lifting his hips to nestle his stiff cock against her round buttocks. One of her hands came around him, cupping him from behind, and he dropped his face to her neck, kissing the hollow of her shoulder. Al-Cid bent to nibble at her neck from the other side, and she moaned, her head lolling backwards, lost in the grips of ecstasy.
A shift of her hips, and Ashe's skirt fell to the floor, revealing her to be naked beneath. "Ahh, yes, Majesty," Balthier murmured in her ear. "Is it time for the next act in our little play?" He looked up, over the top of Ashe's head, and caught Al-Cid's eyes. Al-Cid raised his eyebrows, then smiled, a slow, feral grin spreading across his face.
"Yes," Ashe breathed, lifting her head straight up. She turned to Balthier and kissed him, open wide, her tongue plunging deep into his mouth. Then he felt her shift again as she raised a leg, Al-Cid's arm coming around her waist to lift her into place. Breaking away from Balthier's kiss, her head fell back again, shuddering as Al-Cid entered her.
Balthier felt them both moan, a rumble through Ashe's back, felt the softness and warmth of her buttocks pressing against his groin as she rocked into Al-Cid and Al-Cid thrust back, felt his cock straining against the fabric of his trousers. His left hand still encircled Ashe's breast as his hand skimmed her torso, downward to her cleft to find her hard nub, the pearl in its oyster. Her sharp gasp pierced the air and lit a fire in his gut; he leaned in, even more tightly against her, and brought his mouth to her ear once again. "Shall I?"
"Yes, oh yes," she groaned. Balthier looked up and into Al-Cid's eyes; he looked back, gaze loosing focus, and then he leaned forward and gave Balthier a kiss, swift and wet and hard.
It was all the answer Balthier needed. He dropped his face into Ashe's neck and fastened his mouth there, licking and sucking and nipping as he stroked her. She writhed against him, against them both, and then she was crying out, incoherent sounds of pleasure ringing in Balthier's ears. Al-Cid let out one more groan, shuddering with one final thrust, and all the tension in Balthier's body released, a shivering up and down his spine as he let out a long, slow breath. Then he cupped Ashe's mound with one hand and her breast with the other, holding her up until she stopped shaking.
She lifted her chin, kissed Al-Cid once more, then came around to Balthier, her lips soft and swollen against his. He closed his eyes and tightened his arms about her: an embrace, a kiss, a battle ended with victory thrice declared. When she had finished, he turned to Al-Cid and placed another light kiss on his mouth as well.
"So," he said, looking up at Al-Cid, eyebrow raised, "does that answer your question?"
Al-Cid chuckled. "Quite effectively." He looked down at Ashe, still nestled between them, tenderness creeping into his eyes. "What are your thoughts, my lady?"
"Mmm." Ashe let her leg slide back down Al-Cid and shifted back into a standing position, turning to wrap an arm around each of them. "I only wonder why it took us so long."
Balthier lifted his free shoulder in a shrug. "Perhaps it won't be so long until the next time." He raised an eyebrow at Al-Cid, whose mouth quirked into a wry smile as he nodded. Yes, it seemed likely that he wouldn't mind the prince's presence quite so much in the future.
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