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Level of Perception

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"Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous in the end." - Robin Sharma

His heart was beating as the pounding continued on his door. His grip tightened around either of his daggers, and his footfalls were silent against the carpeted floors. He had heard the alarms going off in the city. It meant that someone had broken past the Wall. It meant that a vampire was in the streets of Insomnia. He was expecting the call to be deployed for the hunt; he was not expecting a visitor at his door.

He had fought actual vampires less times than he could count on one hand, but he’d be damned if a vampire would terrorize his own complex. Nevermind that, his city. He was going to protect this city, its people, its king, and its prince.

Taking a deep breath, Ignis curled his fingers around the doorknob and pulled the door open.

There was no imminent attack, which was just as well. By the barest thread of his willpower, he managed to hang onto his daggers when he felt his fingers go numb. Curious, that. He could feel the wave of desensitizing non-feeling rush over his entire body, locking him in place and freezing out his thoughts. “Noct…?”

The prince made a strangled noise, and then Ignis did drop his blades to sink down next to him.

Noctis was cowering in the doorway, dark hair falling to frame his face, and yet the starkest contrast of color was the bright, bright red streaked across the gray t-shirt he was wearing. Blood. Still fresh. Blood still rushing from a wound hidden beneath a hand clapped to his neck. Blood smeared across his face.

Ignis felt faint. He pushed it away and set to action.

“Noctis.” He took his chin in his hand and tilted his face up. Dilated pupils, frantic breathing. He gently turned his face to see to the wound on his neck. “Noct. Talk to me.” Noctis’s hand was warm and wet and slick, and Ignis held onto it even as he took in the puncture marks.

It had been building in his mind, in the few seconds since he’d opened the door. The alarms had been going off, and here was Noctis, covered in blood. He had been bitten, at the very least. But a further idea had begun to take root in his mind, and he was starting to doubt that he might be wrong. He wanted to be wrong. By the Six, let him be wrong.

The noise that Noctis made did nothing to disprove his theory.

“Okay.” He pressed Noctis’s hand back to his neck, and leaned back to pull his own shirt up and over his head. He bunched it up against the bite mark, and tried to coax Noct to hold it there instead. “Just a moment longer, Noct.” He slipped his arms around him and hefted him up into his arms. He was grateful that his neighbors were not overtly concerned with the proceedings in the hallway. Perhaps the alarms were keeping them in their beds. “Let’s get you inside.”

He wondered if that counted as explicit permission. He figured it must have, when he carried the prince into his apartment and there was no adverse reaction. Maybe there was no reason to have one, but Ignis still had that bad feeling. There was… a lot of blood. And no real reason for it to be smeared across Noctis’s mouth unless he had been… fed.

If he had been fed, and been fed upon, then…

Ignis was suddenly struck with the urge to encircle his fingers around Noctis’s wrist, to feel at the pulse fluttering there. It was still there– too fast but there. And he aware that just because it was did not mean anything. Transformations took time, and Noct would have only just been… attacked. He would retain a pulse, anyway.

He didn’t want to think about it, let alone believe it, but there truly was little chance that the prince of Lucis hadn’t been subjected to a ritualistic turning. He was, likely, going to become a vampire.

And he was sheltering him in his home.

For the moment, he couldn’t find it in himself to care. Noctis was still bleeding, and breathing hard, and likely in a considerable amount of pain. Ignis could imagine. Or, actually, he didn’t have to. He had been bitten once before. He carried the prince straight into his bed and laid him down gently. “Hang in there, Noct, you’re doing fine.” It was into the bathroom next, wrenching open the cabinets. A bowl for water, clean cloths, antiseptic, and the surgical suture kit.

“Highness. Noct.” Water splashed over the side of the bowl onto the nightstand as he set it down. He couldn’t let his emotions get the better of him. He couldn’t let his hands shake. Focus. “Stay with me. I’ll take care of you.”

Noctis made a noise, but Ignis still wasn’t sure if he was hearing him. He couldn’t hesitate any longer to see, either.

It felt like it took too long to get the bleeding to stop. A glance at the clock signaled that it hadn’t taken much time at all, but the cloths were stained and so were his sheets. Noctis was pale. Ignis brushed a hand against his jaw, and rubbed away some of the blood around his mouth. He mumbled something in his half awake state; eyes open and staring into the middle distance. He was likely in shock. The blood loss hadn’t helped, either, he was certain. He needed to get this wound stitched up.

“I have a general anaesthetic, but I’m afraid this is still going to hurt.” Foregoing the rest of the blood on his face, he gently brushed a piece of hair from his eyes instead. “Try to relax. It’ll be over soon.”

He’d used the suture kit once before, on himself. He had practised enough to be confident enough at it, but that didn’t allay the nerves. He took a deep breath and reached for the kit.

 

 

Perhaps Noctis wasn’t aware enough of what was happening to react to the pain, or maybe he just didn’t feel it. Either way, the reaction wasn’t as severe as Ignis had expected and for that, he was grateful. The few whimpers he had gotten had been bad enough.

“Sleep now, Highness,” he murmured, having made quick work of removing Noctis’s ruined clothing and scrubbing the blood from his skin. “You can rest now. I’m here if you need me.”

Noctis mumbled in reply, but it was lost in either exhaustion or shock or… whatever he was experiencing that Ignis couldn’t know. His eyes had slipped closed, though, so maybe he could still listen. He hoped he could, and that he would be able to get some rest.

So he tucked the blankets up around him securely and gathered up the mess he’d strewn across the bedroom, taking things one by one back into the bathroom. Then he washed the blood off his hands and arms and turned off the lights in the house. Yes, hopefully Noct would sleep soundly.

His daggers were still on the floor in the hallway. He painstakingly bent down to collect them, and take them with him back to the bedroom where he would keep vigil and hope he didn’t need to use them in the near future. He realized, belatedly, just then, that he had never even locked the door.

If the vampire they were looking for had been the one to attack the prince, it had likely already fled after acquiring the blood of its target. If the vampire they were looking for was, likely unbeknownst to them, the prince himself, then… Ignis had already made his decision.

He turned the lock on the door.

He shouldn’t keep it a secret, that Noctis had shown up at his door, covered in blood and a victim of a vampire attack. It would affect the whole of Lucis. But… not yet. He couldn’t, yet. The consequences were too large, and Noctis… Noctis hadn’t asked for this. He had come to him, though; duty to the crown be damned, Ignis would tend Noctis until he knew more, and he would keep the secret even if it wasn’t in their best interests to keep it until then.

Ignis leaned forward, forehead falling against the cool interior of the door. His fingertips pressed lightly against the wood. He could still feel the sensation of Noctis’s blood on his hands. He could still see the gleam of fangs and glowing eyes in his nightmares.

He took another deep breath and closed his eyes.