"You -- I thought you said we were just going out for a drink," and Noctis blinks, blinks, and stares again, frozen on the stoop of the building, trying to make sense of things.
Things being: Ignis Scientia, almost but not quite leaning back next to one of the wing-mirrors of his car: arms crossed over his chest, glasses perched high up on the bridge of his nose, legs crossed almost primly at the ankles.
This would have been a perfectly normal image if not for the suit, or the oddly relaxed version of it, that he was wearing: black shirt with the sleeves folded carefully, gray trousers -- and a royal-blue waistcoat.
He makes himself stumble down to the curb and now that he's a little closer, he can see the touches of red and steel-gray in the fabric of the waistcoat, and he can also see that there's no jacket lying discarded in the car. He can't stop himself from almost poking at the dark-purple pocket square, folded loosely into a three-pointed shape. "Are you sure we're just hitting the bars, or -- wait, do you actually have a date or something? But isn't your date gonna be pissed if you ditched them just to make sure I'm okay?"
That gets him a blade-sharp laugh. "Very self-centered, I would have said, but you are off the hook because it has no basis in reality. We are going out, and we are drinking, but as it happens I am not going to have a date while we do so."
Noctis can't resist looking closer, at the sharper-than-usual (and that's really saying something, when it's Ignis) clarity in his eyes.
"Sorry I'm late, I -- Iggy what the fuck?" And that's Prompto, clattering up from the corner and already peering through the viewfinder on his camera. "Are you ditching us for a date? I don't want you to miss out on that date -- "
"That's what I said," Noctis says, smirking at the movement of Ignis's hand, almost as if to come up to his forehead before it's pulled back down.
"Damn, Iggy, you make really good pics," Prompto says next, bobbing and weaving around him.
"Thank you," and is Ignis drawling? No, Noctis thinks, not when the next thing he says is, "Now can we get a move on? You surely don't want Gladio starting before we arrive."
"Uh, no," Prompto says, and Noctis is watching him scramble into the back seat of Ignis's ride.
He takes shotgun as usual, and goggles some more -- but silently, this time -- when it hits him that Ignis is driving bare-handed.
He sees Gladio on his bike idling at the curb at the back entrance of a bar called Maiya, and his presence is all it seems to take for that particular part of the street to empty of gawkers, and that is nothing if not a relief.
"This place new?” Prompto asks once he's out of the car.
"No." Short answer from Ignis. "It is just a well-kept secret."
Noctis feels his eyebrow twitch upward. "Secret why?"
But it's Gladio who answers: "Shut it, you'll find out soon enough. And do I need to tell you how sorry your asses are gonna be if you blab about this place?"
"I don't understand, why're we keeping other secrets now?" Prompto asks.
Ignis is already disappearing through Maiya's back door, however, and Noctis can only try to hide his semi-instinct to flinch when Gladio eyes him again.
The bar has two floors, but Ignis is nowhere to be seen at any of the tables dotting the ground level, so there's nothing for it but to head up the stairs, where the lights are spaced further apart, leaving several shadowed corners for booths and huge couches.
"Wild," Prompto breathes: and then he's stopping dead in the middle of a large wooden-floored section, almost neatly in the center of the entire space, back-lit by the golden glow around the bar and its collection of bottles in mirrored shelves.
"Highness," and Noctis feels his shoulders go rigid: but the woman who appears at his side, in a black top that hugs her torso tight and a slinky red skirt that stops dead an inch above her sparkly flat shoes, only looks mildly respectful.
(Okay, the wide blue streak in her dark hair, which is braided around the top of her head, might have helped him feel a little at ease, too.)
"Welcome to Maiya." She looks up at him, a little. "Please go on through to sit with Ignis. Would you like something to eat?"
"The fried fish thing for me, thanks, Kirri," Gladio is saying as he brushes past.
"And a few bottles of the usual, got it," Kirri says.
"Selfie? Please?" Prompto asks, next.
Kirri only leans in and grins, and even in the muted light Noctis can see the deep dimple in her cheek, and the faint lines radiating from the corner of her eye.
Something about the place makes him take a deep clean breath, and Noctis throws himself into the loveseat next to Ignis's armchair -- scooting over when Prompto piles in next to him.
"Good one," Gladio says, but he's looking at Ignis's waistcoat and not the drink in his hand.
"Special occasion," is Ignis's reply.
"Which is what exactly?" Prompto says, and Noctis silently blesses him for asking so he doesn't have to. He's got nothing but questions, tonight, and all directed at Ignis. "All this skulking around and -- we've never been here before, they clearly know you, and what is that wooden floor doing here?"
"If you must be so blunt," Ignis says, but he doesn't sound too put out. "This is something I do on occasion. You keep asking me what I do when I'm not up to my ears in work. You're about to find out. And that's the special occasion, truly: you are here. Please try not to make a mess of this place as I really would like to be welcomed back."
"They wouldn't really turn you away?" Prompto asks, after a short open-mouthed silence.
Noctis has the terrible wish to replay the last few moments, play them back in super slow motion, afraid he might miss something important.
Ignis's mouth only pinches, a little, at the corner.
So Noctis tries to mind his manners, he really does, because he doesn't dare say it to Ignis but he can show him how important he is.
(It's nice when Prompto watches his hands and tries to copy what he's doing.)
(The fried fish thing? It's really, really good.)
When Ignis pushes his plate away and steps out of the booth, Gladio actually sighs and takes the now-empty seat.
Noctis follows his keen gaze to the bar: and Ignis is leaning in towards one of the bartenders, gesturing at a specific bottle on the shelves and nodding.
So it's not a surprise when that woman brings them a tray of a dozen shot glasses, each filled with just a splash of gold-tinted liquid, and Gladio grins when she's gone, and says, "Good for tasting. The last one's Iggy's favorite. But it's the last one for a reason. Take your time."
Prompto blinks, and asks, "And you?"
As if on cue, Kirri appears with her own tray: a shot glass -- full to the brim with a dark purple liquid -- and an unlabeled bottle, and she clicks the little glass against the bottle, and slams it back while Gladio snorts out a laugh.
Between swallows from the bottle, he says, "Don't go easy on him."
"Every time the same thing," is her answer. Now she's wearing black glitter lipstick and it makes her smile look like -- well, like the edge of a knife, Noctis thinks.
"Suspense. Killing me," Prompto moans quietly.
"Apologies, just a few more minutes," is Kirri's answer, before she slips away.
"Noct," Prompto says.
The two of them are halfway through the tray of shots, and Noctis is feeling much warmer, much less tense, and he likes leaning against Prompto, and he doesn't flinch when Prompto speaks right next to his ear. "Yeah."
"Corner opposite the bar, look."
Two men in casual clothes, grinning at each other, and now the shorter one is pulling his companion to the center of the wood-floored space, and is nodding at one of the other people near the bar. They must be the DJ, because the music suddenly begins, a dazzling flourishing rhythm of sticks and drums and horns and a teasing syncopated beat that gives way to two vocal lines: a wail of a melody and the rough patter of a rap, the voices dueling and then --
The men are dancing, and they sweep and shimmy around each other, hips in constant motion, arms and hands tracing out complicated figures on each other -- and when the taller one suddenly seizes his partner at hip and shoulder and dips him hard, there's a smattering of encouraging applause and --
The space in the center of this upper floor is a dance floor, but Noctis has only ever been to places of flailing and bump'n'grind. This is different, now, as the song changes but not the rhythm or the blare: pairs in intricate freestyling motion, swaying breathlessly in perfect sync. Somehow nobody gets in anybody's way, and every pair is dancing separately from everyone else, and everyone is dancing like they are all doing all these steps all together, all at the same time.
It knocks the breath out of him.
Prompto isn't even reaching for his camera, so mesmerized is he by the blur and the whirl, on the full dance floor.
Dimly Noctis grows aware of Gladio leaning forward.
Spotlight sweeping the rhythm of dancing forms, and it stops next to the bar.
The same bar on top of which Kirri is sitting, but not for long, because she jumps off and her skirt billows dramatically around her knees when she lands, and she steps into the spotlight.
Quickly followed by Ignis.
Who stops beside her, towers over her, but he seems to lean towards her in an easy way, and she just has a hint of an imperious air about her, when she holds out her hand. Now Ignis is closing with her, one hand at her waist, the other folded around her offered hand.
In perfect time, they strike the floor with inner heels, then outer. Knees bent, twist briefly from side to side, and they're off: and if Noctis thought all the other dancers were all kinds of intertwining movements of arms and bodes, he quickly revises his opinion when Ignis leads Kirri through a dizzying whirl of figures --
They seem to shift their weight on almost every step, and the movements exaggerate the flight of her skirts, while Ignis sways as if to further emphasize the way his hips are moving.
Beside Noctis, Prompto whoops when Ignis and Kirri suddenly step into a clear space, only for him to spin her into a complicated spiraling twirl.
Another set of spins -- including one in which Ignis nearly bends over double so as to pass beneath Kirri's arms -- and they separate and then close again, and their feet are in constant motion, their hips tracing intricate figures as they step into each other's spaces.
Kirri is grinning widely, and she still gives Noctis the impression of a weapon: she's like a blade, sharp and dangerous, and completely pliant when she dances, moving to the rhythm of Ignis's hands and Ignis's feet, as they whirl and clatter with and around all the other pairs.
Gradually the floor clears.
That leaves Ignis with Kirri -- who sweeps him a full courtly bow before letting go of his hands, before taking half a step away.
As Noctis watches, Ignis allows himself a small smile, then flashes the DJ a thumbs up.
No more vocals in the song that comes up: just the pure whoop and hum and cry of the percussion and the horns, and still the dancers are poised, waiting --
And Noctis doesn't know what it is that finally drives Kirri and Ignis to move, but when they do, they're a sudden flurry of frantic elegance: side-step, weight shift, sway of the hip, shake of the shoulder, and two pairs of hands creating twisting intricate patterns in the dust motes stirred in the spotlight.
The same spotlight that seems to make the red lines in Ignis's waistcoat burn, so it's easy to follow the way his body moves. Sure-footed, he seems to take the music and make it visible, when he's moving -- and he doesn't seem to stop, doesn't seem to want to, as he turns to Kirri and grabs her hands and they travel across the floor with her spinning and spinning and he's guiding her, and he brings her to a sudden stop.
When Kirri laughs, Ignis looks like he huffs in a pleased breath, and only pulls a handkerchief from his back pocket to dab at his face.
Three songs later, Ignis finally deigns to sit down -- on Gladio's leg.
Noctis has no idea what to say to him, what to say other than "Holy Six, what was that amazing thing you did?" He just barely clamps his teeth shut on it, too.
"Did you save that last shot for me?" Ignis asks, suddenly.
It's Prompto who laughs first: "You totally killed it, and you probably should drink way more than that."
"Still driving," is the answer. "I have already had my -- well, my drug. On the dance floor."
But Ignis takes the offered glass anyway, and throws back the swallow of liquor with a smile.
And Noctis laughs, and shakes his head, and he doesn't understand, but -- he watches the bright light in Ignis's eyes, and thinks maybe everything can be all right, just this once.