Fandoms: FFVIII, FFXII
Characters: Seifer, Balthier
Warnings: very AU
Prompt: Seifer and Balthier with the title "Holding the High Ground"
Summary: The plan to draw the Galbadians into close quartered fighting around the citadel was going perfectly - right up until the point when the defenders started losing.
“Have they gone home yet?” Balthier asked absently, not looking up from reloading his gunblade. The sound of shells slotting into the chamber was loud in the deceptive quiet.
Over by the window, Seifer sneered. “Only if they’ve decided to camp here for the summer.” He levered himself away from the wall, heavy boots crunching over broken glass and fallen spears as he turned. “They’ve withdrawn to the outer bulwarks.”
“Outside of arrow range, I don’t doubt.”
“With sentry posts every forty feet,” Seifer affirmed. His lip curled in disgust. “They’re planning to wait us out.”
Balthier hummed, leather creaking as he shifted. “A fairly sensible course of action. After all, why waste their time dying when our lack of supplies will handle the situation with such alacrity?” He spun the full chamber and thumbed off the hammer, glancing over towards Seifer with a wry look. “Though I rather doubt they’d be so quick to go on the defensive if they knew how painfully undermanned we are at present.”
“I’m going to assume that wasn’t meant to make me feel better.” Seifer slumped against the wall in an uncharacteristic display of dignified exhaustion, gunblade hanging loosely in one hand. He flicked his eyes towards Balthier. “How many men do we have left?”
“Including us?” Balthier leaned back contemplatively, grimacing faintly at the pull on his outstretched leg. “Nineteen at last count. Though given the way most of them were bleeding all over the floors after that last battle, I’d expect that the number of fighting fit is considerably less.”
Seifer scowled. “Perfect. We might as well gift-wrap the place – it’d be about as tenable as our defenses. And you’re going to be no help,” he added, flinging a hand at the blood-soaked bandages wrapped tightly around Balthier’s right thigh. “I bet you can’t even walk on that for more than ten steps.”
“I’m fit enough,” Balthier replied simply, in his vice-Captain’s tone of voice. “I don’t need to be able to walk to shoot.”
“Well, that’s one good thing at least.” Seifer swiped a tired arm across his face, blood and dirt smearing across his once-white sleeve. “Pathetic,” he declared disgustedly. “To think that the Queen’s Knights are going to die like dogs before this rabble.”
“Absolutely terrible,” Balthier agreed solicitously. “We ought to be going out like wolves, at the very least.”
Seifer gave him a narrow look. “If you’re trying to make me wish I’d been assigned with Leonhart instead of you Bunansa, you’re doing a surprisingly good job.”
“You wound me, my Captain. And you know you’re only saying that because you’re missing the two hundred soldiers he left with.”
“Don’t remind me.” Seifer let himself slide down to the floor beside Balthier, head tilting up and back against the wall. “That bastard had better have a good excuse for this mess – we’d never have lost the city if he’d shown up when he was supposed to.”
“He may have been ambushed,” Balthier suggested, almost mildly. “And they’d never have taken the bait if he’d stayed close enough to save the day before afternoon tea.” Balthier’s expression turned pensive then and he shifted his attention towards the far wall with a frown. “We can’t hold them off for much longer,” he said seriously, unnaturally sober. “Especially if they attempt another sally.”
“You think I don’t know?” Seifer ran a frustrated hand through his hair, ignoring the matting. “It’ll mean fighting a losing war if they manage to take the citadel. We’d probably still have a chance if von Ronsenburg hadn’t been called away,” he added, almost clinically. “But there’s not much we can do from here without the cavalry.”
“Careful,” Balthier cautioned, expression far gentler than his tone suggested. “You’re going to start sounding like a defeatist.”
“Good thing you know better.” Seifer was silent for a moment, hands stirring absently over the grooves and workings of his gunblade. Balthier sat patiently beside him, calm and unquestioning.
“Alright,” Seifer declared finally. “Enough of this maudlin bullshit.”
He climbed brusquely to his feet, brushing dust off his coat with the back of one hand. “We’re going down swinging or not at all.” He flicked his gaze at Balthier. “Coming?”
“Naturally.” Balthier stood more slowly than Seifer, jaw tightening at the pressure on his broken leg. His back stayed straight though, and he met Seifer’s expectant gaze with a game look of his own. “We’re holding the high ground right now,” he pointed out. “It’d be a shame to waste it.”
Seifer nodded. “Good. At least we’ll be good as cannon fodder if nothing else.”
“Your concern warms my heart, Captain.”
“Captain Almasy!” The door shuddered open with a crash and they both turned as one to stare at the blond youth who stood, pale faced and gasping, in the doorway. “A message from Captain Leonhart!”
Seifer shot Balthier an wry look. “Typical heroic timing – making sure we sweat before making his dramatic appearance.”
“Probably a character defect,” Balthier supplied helpfully.
“And it’s almost as irritating as your overwhelming fondness for inappropriate sarcasm. May as well lead the way then,” he told the soldier, shouldering his gunblade and hearing a staggered shuffle of feet as Balthier fell in behind. “It sounds like it’s about time for some payback.”