"Why won't you teach me?" Vaan asked.
Balthier almost stumbled over that one. Their usual argument was familiar and well rehearsed - "Balthier, would you –" "No, Vaan." - but this wasn’t entirely unlike Vaan fumbling with his lines and expecting Balthier to carry on. This was a change Balthier wasn't entirely sure he approved of.
He put his hand on the door and looked at Vaan, who looked back with what appeared to be genuine curiosity. "Because you’re more than irritating enough without my having to worry about you stealing the Strahl."
"I wouldn’t steal her," Vaan said, actually having the nerve to sound disapproving, as though Balthier should know better than to assume a thief would steal something he appeared to want with every fibre of his being.
Balthier smiled, not pleasantly, and opened the door. "Then you’re not much of a sky pirate, are you?"
"Why not?" Vaan demanded after the subject came up again, firelight flickering across his skin and the knife he was poking into the grass. He'd managed to keep his voice down most of the night, but at this point his patience appeared to have snapped. Something cracked in the underbrush outside their camp, and light glittered off red eyes as the something whipped its head around. Balthier reached for his gun.
"Because you're annoying, careless, and more relevantly, noisy."
Vaan tried to use the fact that he managed to dispatch the beasts without waking the others (With the exception of Fran and Basch, who couldn't sleep through anything.) as proof that he wasn't that noisy.
Balthier managed, with far greater success, to prove that as Vaan woke the others with that argument, the point went to him.
"Why won't you teach me?" Vaan asked, dropping down at Balthier's table, holding a dusty bottle.
"You grow tiresome on the subject, Vaan," was Balthier's reply. Wine had the distressing tendency to make him honest - one of the many reasons he wasn't drinking at the Cloudbourne with the others.
Vaan swung the bottle slightly, something sloshing inside, and offered Balthier a quicksilver smile. "That's not an answer."
"Oh it is. You are tiresome, aggravating, and persistent. I imagine that you would only be more so were I to actually agree."
Vaan squawked and grumbled, which Balthier managed to tune out to familiar background noise with worrying ease. His attention was called back when Vaan tapped his ankle with his foot and said "You really are drunk aren't you?"
"I was," Balthier said, eying the last of the bottle. "I fear I grow more sober by the second."
Vaan held up the bottle he'd been holding, then put it on the table between them.
After a long pause, Balthier said "If that is Madhu, then you are evidently trying to bribe me. Or you're trying to drink the evidence before the Princess realises what you've been wasting our hard-earned gil on."
Vaan's smile was lopsided and mischievous. "Does it matter which?"
"Only if the Princess decides to place the blame on me," Balthier said, and opened the bottle.
"Why do you want me to teach you?" Balthier asked finally, sitting by Vaan’s bed. Vaan wasn’t fully conscious, bandaged up and dazed from the sheer amount of magic they’d had to use to close his wounds. Still, a sky pirate took advantage of every opportunity that presented itself.
Especially when it came to distracting themselves from remembering idiot thieves thought that taking what could have been - would have been - a killing blow for someone else actually meant something aside from insanity.
Vaan's smile was a shadow of its usual self, barely curling up at the corners. "You're the only sky pirate I know apart from Fran, but I don't think she'd teach me."
"How very sensible of her," Balthier said dryly. "Although if it's a lack of alternatives that bothers you, Vaan, I'm sure you could find someone else to apprentice yourself to in Balfonheim."
Vaan shook his head firmly, trying to drag himself up on the pillows. Balthier winced and reached out to press him back, but was stopped when Vaan grabbed his hand. "I don't want someone from Balfonheim to teach me. They wouldn't be you."
Balthier looked at Vaan helplessly, and said "I believe that was the idea."
Vaan glared at him, groggy mutiny written all over his face. "I want you to teach me."
Balthier looked down at their hands, Vaan clutching his, at the bandaged wrapped around Vaan's torso, at the fever-bright glare Vaan was giving him. He sighed, and leaned back in his chair. "If I were to teach you, the first lesson you would learn is that you do not try to be heroic in front of me. Am I clear?"
The mutinous look turned into a slow, lazy smile as Vaan finally relaxed against the pillows. "Sure. As clear as ever."
Balthier eyed him, but Vaan had been half-way to sleep before the conversation started and seemed convinced that now would be a good point to end the conversation by giving in the rest of the way.
When Penelo came in a few hours later to take up the duty of watching Vaan, Balthier was asleep with his feet propped on the bed. He hadn't taken back his hand.