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The Long Engagement

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"When we're married," Noctis says, heaving himself onto the railing on one side of the throne, "where are we gonna live?"

Ignis is seated on the rail on the other side, his light-up sneakers flashing as they kick against the bars. At seven, he's only just started to wear glasses, and the large frames slip over his nose and pinch his ears. He adjusts them carefully.

"When my cousin Emile got married, he had to move out," he says. Noctis gasps.

"Like, out of the house?"

"That's what Aunt Su says. Emile and Richard have their own apartment now."

Noctis stares into the middle distance, his blue eyes cold. "I don't wanna move away from Dad."

"Maybe we can switch off," Ignis says. "One week with my parents, one week with yours."

Noct smiles at him uncertainly. "That's okay, I guess. Race you down?"

Ignis eyes the long, curving railing that ends before a stretch of solid marble. "Sure," he says. "Why not?"

They scream and whoop as they take off down the stairs, their high voices echoing in the empty throne room. When an on-duty Crownsguard soldier rushes in, sword drawn, she finds the prince and his betrothed lying on the floor in a heap, kicking their feet on the marble and laughing fit to burst.

 

---

 

"When we're married," Ignis says, "we won't be able to sneak out like this anymore."

"Says who?" Noct takes a bite of his cotton candy and passes it over. Ignis picks out a tuft with his fingers, and Gladio steals about half the stick. They're all what Noctis likes to call incognito today, but Ignis suspects they aren't fooling anyone. Noctis is wearing a grubby white shirt covered in fish silhouettes, Gladio looks like a thirteen year-old rugby player going through a grunge phase, and Ignis... Well, he tried.

"Iggy has a point," Gladio says. "You've been spotted by paparazzi twice, now."

"Wait, really?" Noct grabs Ignis by the arm and uses him as leverage to bounce on his toes. "Where? Come on, Iggy, we should, I don't know, kiss or something."

"Excuse me?" Ignis scowls. "My first kiss won't be for—"

"Or you can push me! We can make it look like a fight!"

"Yeah, that won't backfire," Gladio says. "Come on, there's a haunted house over there with my name on it."

Ignis' frown deepens at the thought of having to jump and squeak his way through a hallway full of plastic skeletons. Noct lets go of his arm and takes his hand, which is a little sticky from the cotton candy, and squeezes it tight.

Later, when they're in the winding mirror room of the haunted house, and Ignis feels the breath of wind that signals yet another round of undignified gasping as clowns or spiders or ghosts pop down from the ceiling, Noctis taps him on the shoulder. When Ignis looks down, Noct kisses him clumsily, and holds up a hand to cover Ignis' glasses as paper ghosts whirl through the air.

In every mirror on every wall of the haunted house, Ignis kisses him back.

 

---

 

"When we're married," Noct whispers to Ignis out of the corner of his mouth, "I'm having this portrait burned."

Ignis smiles woodenly. They're fifteen and sixteen and a half, respectively, which means they only have a few months before the window to reject the betrothal and run off into the woods to become bark-eating hermits expires. Noct considers it as the artist on the other side of the massive easel makes notes on a piece of paper. He loves Ignis, he really does, but when he's been sitting on a hard cushion for hours, listening to the artist and his assistant whisper about what they'll have to do to hide Noct's braces in the official engagement portrait, sneaking off to a little shack in the middle of nowhere is more than appealing.

"Not much longer," Ignis says. "We can go to the planetarium when this is over, perhaps."

"You have like, five million meetings, Specs." As Consort to the Stone, a title given to those betrothed to crown princes and princesses, Ignis doesn't technically need a job. But he's been top of his class since he started lessons at four, and he's already on the fast track to be a fully-fledged member of the Council before Noct is supposed to be crowned. The last time that happened was almost five hundred years ago, and Noct smiles at the thought, wondering if maybe Ignis will be remembered long after Noct's own name disappears in the endless stream of Lucis Caelums.

He wouldn't mind that.

"I can move my two-thirty to Wednesday," Ignis whispers. "We can sneak in blankets and pretend we're camping on the roof."

Noct smiles at him, flashing a mouth full of braces, and the artist snaps his fingers.

"Teeth hidden!" he squeaks. Noct bites down a glare, and Ignis bumps his shoulder, just once, before staring straight ahead, the perfect model for a royal portrait. Noct follows his lead, watches the second hand of the clock drag its way towards freedom, and dreams of the stars.

 

---

 

"When we're married," Noct texts, hiding his phone behind a propped-up geography textbook, "Prompto's gonna sob his eyes out. Just a warning."

At his right, Prompto is sprawled out on his desk with a copy of Insomnia Daily shoved in the pages of his textbook. He'd shown Noct the cover picture, which is of Noctis and Ignis in their official engagement uniforms, smiling faintly at the camera while article headers declare them to be "Insomnia's It Couple" and tease stories like, "Regal and Reserved: How Prince Noctis and Gem of a Consort Ignis Scientia Stay Sane, Stable, and Successful." There are even some promotional photos taken at Noct's volunteer job, where he spends a few hours a week as the rescue shelter's resident cat cuddler.

Prompto tried to make a few truly terrible puns about it, but Noct can tell he's still adjusting to it all. The first time he saw Noct's new engagement ring, Noct was pretty sure Prompto swallowed a full-on scream.

"Mr. Caelum," says the teacher, tapping her fingers on her desk at the front of the room. Noct hurriedly shoves his phone under his desk. "Our school has a firm rule against wearing jewelry or headgear. If you can remove your rings, please."

Noct looks down at his engagement ring, which is plain black with gold edges, and over at Prompto, whose mouth is dropping open. "It's one ring, ma'am," he says. "And I can't."

The teacher sighs. "I doubt you are physically incapable of removing a piece of flashy jewelry, Mr. Caelum. Now, if you please."

Noct glances around the room. The other students are staring at him, some in confusion, others with the same dawning horror blooming on Prompto's face. Then he stands up.

"It's an engagement ring," he says. A few of the other students start whispering, and he forces himself not to listen. "According to custom, if I hide it, I'm breaking the engagement off. I've been waiting over twelve years to get married, but hey. If it's against school policy, I guess our whole country having to go through an overhaul to find another royal consort who won't take advantage of their station isn't that big of a deal." He reaches for his ring.

"Oh my gods," whispers a girl.

"Did he say twelve years?" hisses someone else. "How does that even happen?"

"Sh-shut up," Prompto says. His face is beet red, and his legs are shaking under his desk. "You don't. You don't even know them."

"You've made your point, Mr. Caelum," the teacher says, in a dazed voice. "You may keep it on."

Noct sits slowly, watching her the whole time. When the teacher looks away, desperately rattling off facts about the Disc of Cauthess, Prompto leans over the aisle.

"Is that really true?" he whispers. "About taking it off?"

Noct shrugs. "I dunno," he says. "Probably is somewhere." Prompto grins and shakes his head, and they go back to ignoring the lecture.

That night, Noct comes back to the apartment to find Ignis in the kitchen. His slender hands move so swiftly over the cutting board that it's almost unreal, knife flashing against the light. His engagement ring hangs on a fine gold chain around his neck, and it thumps on his chest when Ignis sets down the knife and turns to Noctis.

"Evening," he says, stopping to give Noct a peck on the cheek. "How was school?"

"Oh, you know," Noct says, and twists the chain around his finger, keeping Ignis close. "The usual."

 

---

 

"When we're married..." Ignis says.

They stand in the wide hallway beside the throne room, framed by marble pillars and black velvet drapes. They're wearing their undershirts and sweatpants, waiting for the tailors to call them into their respective rooms to be changed. Ignis' hair is out of its usual gelled coif, and Noct looks pale and small, a bag of ceremonial jewelry in his hands.

He smiles. Ignis smiles back.

Then the doors open, and they turn together to find the tailors waiting for them, their wedding suits hanging on beautiful gold wire frames.

"Guess this is it," Noct says.

"I suppose so," says Ignis. He tilts his head towards his own dressing room. "Shall we?"

"Yeah," Noct says, and the smile that spreads across his face is so bright and true that it's a wonder it doesn't light up the room.

"Yeah, Specs. See you soon."