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Vox Populi, Vox Dei

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Nothing in Noctis’ mind made sense, and his head practically spun. What he wanted and what he didn’t want; what he hated and loathed and wanted to save, wanted to love– had all become a blurred mess in his head. Scrambled thoughts. Scrambled grasps at hope, at possibility– at anything.

An ugly, ragged snarl tore from is throat, already raw from the mess of noises he’d been making while he writhed as he blindly clawed at the musculature of shoulders usually obscured by so many layers that their true form might be entirely left to the imagination.

Noctis knew now that he’d have to beg; he’d have to be a trembling mess before Ardyn would give him release– that there was no dignity in this for the king. Some king of light; some holy chosen for the will of the gods he had turned out to be– But wasn’t it a given that he had always loved the night more fondly than the sun and found his solace in the darkness? A bark of mirthless laughter came from him as hands gripped at that mess of iridescent violet; curls like coarse silk that had on their own become enough to make him lose his mind.

This was sacrilege; this was treason. It was lying with the devil himself; a murderer who had lived his entire life to take from Noctis– and take he did. If he hadn’t come to hate the damnable gods; the Lucii and their guiding force in the crystal, Bahamut, maybe he’d have wound up in different arms rather than falling into his; into the heart of corruption. He hated them– for what they’d done. For what they’d driven Ardyn to; for what they demanded of him.

“Please–” And he threw his head back, trying to stifle his whimpers and groans. “Please, please–”

The King of Kings; the King of Light reduced to a simpering, begging wreck beneath the weight of darkness himself. It was almost poetic, if only it didn’t mean that the darkness was like to swallow everything. There had to be another way, he’d told himself. Turned his back on the god who demanded his allegiance. Now found he cared less and less if the darkness never lifted; if they remained two strangely immortal beings locked together in hate and fascination and ugly obsession for eternity.

Fingers wound tighter into violet curls, and he leaned up, sinking teeth into the warm flesh of Ardyn’s throat with as much threat as there was some twisted kind of affection in it.
Parts of Ardyn found the prince’s descent into the darkness a beautiful spectacle to behold, but also lamentable. Had not a similar descent happened to his truly? Bittersweet to see the prophecy fail so fully and completely in the faces of the gods. It made him laugh, but it also left him tormented and plagued by the promise of years more of immortality with little end in sight.

But now the one cure to it all lay beneath him throughly debauched and begging to him oh so sweetly. Bruises lay upon otherwise unmarred flesh courtesy of how roughly this devil liked to treat his partners. He was primal and thoroughly possessive even to the enemy. Was the fallen prince truly such an enemy anymore? The lines blurred, but threats they remained to one another.

All of those troubles were pushed aside to tend to this lovely creature. He long ago pushed inhibition off a cliff. Sins racked upon sins: what was one more to add to the pyre? Ardyn embraced it just as he embraced the rough touches laid upon the prince’s body, the marks, and look of devastated pleasure.
A small gasp of breath at the teeth upon his throat followed by a brief, amused chuckle. His hand found its way up from encircling the prince preventing him reaching his plateau to weave between strands of Noct’s hair. Holding the fallen prince against his neck where he wanted him to be. Ardyn growled in pleasure as he moved to bring the fallen price tumbling down with him.

“You may, your Majesty.” All but snarling the last of the words out with a mix of disdain and lust, Ardyn’s breath ragged in Noct’s ear.

And how ugly, how twisted this had become– Noctis had never been his own, not from the day he was born. He had existed only for the purpose of being the executioner’s blade– the blade forged from birth to be where he was now, pressed against Ardyn’s throat with primal noises until he was seeing stars.

And how he had warred with and hated himself for this– He’d given everything only to find that there was no hope for him; that his crystal wouldn’t save him or his people without a hideous blood sacrifice.

What madness had brought him to fall at Ardyn’s feet was another matter altogether and now this; this coupling that defiled the once all-but-holy halls of the Citadel–
Now empty, a hollow shell of something that had once been so alive…

Ardyn’s ability to torment him had reached a fever pitch it seemed, and Noctis had learned to love it; to take it as pleasure instead.
He gasped and shuddered, limbs winding tighter around the Immortal’s frame as he was finally freed to tumble over the edge– and reached his climax with a keening cry that may have held some iteration of that man’s name; usually something he chose to withhold as though he wished not to give him the satisfaction.

The pleasure was enough; blinding as it had been in his youth– enough to drown out the misery. Enough to drown out the crushing reality of what he had become– and what he would become. There was only one path left for him now, as he walked alone in Ardyn’s shadow, unsure if his friends could or would forgive his change of heart.

There was a shocking tenderness in how he came apart, face buried against Ardyn’s throat, soft pants and groans as he rode out those waves and clung to the other as though he were with a lover. Oh if only, or if only Noctis could face the things that had taken root in his chest.

“Does it work for you too?” He asked, words slurred and voice husky. “Does it drown everything out? Even for– a moment.”

A new height in the pinnacle of his depravity or so Ardyn told himself. Taking from the prince that had come to represent the hatred and centuries of resentment for the Lucian royals. Yet here he was allowing himself to become afloat in this tide of pleasure and pain. Noctis’ cry pushed a wave of near-satisfaction down his spine or maybe it was how the boy trembled clinging to him, and Ardyn fell with him over that edge.

His grip on Noctis’ hip was certain to leave crescent shaped marks from nails pressed too deeply. His own cry joining in chorus after the prince. Nowhere as sweet, but every much as lost in this oh so fleeting moment. All of the hate, anguish, and spite living within his being held back by primal desires.

The harshness of breaths filled the room Ardyn’s hand in raven locks moved in a caressing motion. A brief glimpse at the man the immortal once was hidden behind the twisted pieces of himself. “Perhaps.” The measured tone of voice faltered in the aftermath. “Certain pleasures do allow the mind to wonder.” Something he rarely allowed himself to indulge in, and he had never allowed someone to grow close.

He was fully aware of his insanity, but unwilling to cease. He is a monster in human form. Ardyn isn’t even certain calling him a man is an accurate term as there is no singular word to define what he has become. Allowing someone to come in into his life as a lover? No. It would expose all the jagged parts of himself and open him up to an eventual loss.
He clung on to Noctis as he slowly regained faculty of his senses. He doubted either of them truly knew what they were to each other anymore. “Oh my dear, Noct.” The nickname would be endearing if it were not murmured from Ardyn’s lips. A clear mockery of Noctis’ time with his traveling companions when everything was so innocent in comparison.
“How far you have fallen.”

Noctis had at least enough lucidity to take some level of satisfaction in the fact that he had brought such sounds bubbling to the surface of Ardyn’s shattered psyche. Hauntingly beautiful in the way macabre and morbid things that Noctis had always loved far more than he should were–
He did not ask for or seek out gentleness. It had never been what he was looking for in his companions– not back when the Crown City was alive and well and prepared to feed a young prince’s need for privacy and for– certain vices being paid mind to, and not now. What he’s become is simply a more sharpened version of that boy; struggling. In so much pain that he couldn’t think straight.

Bleary blue eyes revealed themselves slowly, blinking up at Ardyn as he spoke. The low timbre sent chills down his spine, and he had to look away– something of embarrassment or even shame painting his features.

“How far you have fallen.”
The young king was quiet for a few moments, the strange afterglow dulling his senses though– probably for the better. His mind silently cataloged the bruises and scratches littering his pale skin, like porcelain against the bronzed godlike being still laying over him. Absently, fingers curled again and again through iridescent fuchsia as though the softness of Ardyn’s hair could somehow soothe away the ugly truth of what this was– what they had become.

“Lucky there was someone low enough to catch me, then.” He said with just as much barely veiled venom.

"Are you done, or do you want more?” Noctis asked lowly, fingertips slipping deeper into thick curls to dance circles against the nape of Ardyn’s neck.
Rumbling came from deep within Ardyn’s chest forming a predatory chuckle.

“Watching your descent was far too entertaining. Why let you fall further when it’s much more amusing to watch you falter?” It was beautiful and ironic within its own right. Even if it left him disappointed of many more centuries of living. Maybe the fallen prince would provide him with enough entertainment yet. So much for the gods placing trust in mere mortals.

“Hmm.” Ardyn leaned back into the touches to his neck; a bit of a weakness of his. He wasn’t going to give Noctis more of a reaction to reinforce that notion. The offer was there for him, still laying bare and prone upon overly intricate sheets preserved only by the immortal’s need for something not covered in dust and filth. The temptation was there.
Elegant fingers reached out to remove Noctis’ hand from his hair and captured the other. Only for them to be shoved in a position above the fallen king’s head. He held them in place securely with one hand tightly; a warning for Noctis to not move them.

“Are you certain it’s me that wants more?”

Lips and teeth delved to a pale neck to return the favor from earlier right along the places he knew Noctis would react to. Careful bites running down the expanse of the other man’s neck until Ardyn reached his collarbone. His free hand left teasing, ghosting touches along pale skin.

Noctis’ breath caught in his throat when Ardyn moved so suddenly– only to find himself pinned, and momentarily quite helpless. The teeth against his throat; not so much vicious as the monster could be, but with a calculated knowledge of his weak points. The realization was mortifying, but he masked it in his own mind; how amusing that Ardyn would memorize these things so quickly–

He groaned lowly, back arching as the heat of the immortal’s mouth trailed down, down– Without warning it all ceased. No hand to hold Noctis down. No lips or fingers upon bare flesh. Ardyn had removed himself from lingering over this fallen king in one fluid motion. A smirk of self satisfaction formed on his lips.

“It’s been a pleasure, your highness.” Left Noctis gulping for air and bemused as he blinked up at him.

It took his muddled mind a few moments to catch up, of course; quite typical behavior at this point, though it made him nearly roll his eyes. Noctis did not bother trying to cover himself; merely remained where he had been placed, hands resting lightly above his head.

“You enjoy this too much to walk away.” It was spoken with the deadly calm of someone who knew they were right.

The cat-and-mouse games seemed to have reached a strange fever pitch, and Noctis’ own mind was fractured; beginning to shatter as he turned his back on the light, feeling only vengeful spite towards the gods who had inflicted this fate on him; a fate that he refused to accept. Ardyn was suffering– he knew this– and Noctis knew a thing or two about that despite being terribly young in comparison.

“Don’t try to act like… this doesn’t make the mad clattering in your head stop, if just for a moment.” He knew it did; could speak from experience.
A part of him knew and understood that Ardyn wanted to die. He couldn’t begrudge him that. But first, oh first–
“Tell me that the gods can be killed. I’ll help you do it.” Even if it was Ardyn’s own hands that had taken the most from him, he wasn’t so short sighted that he couldn’t see clearly that it was the Astrals’ rejection that had driven him to it all.

Enjoy the game of cat and mouse the pair of them had engaged in? Whatever broken, gnarled relationship they indulged in? What else were they to do? Ardyn was loathed and hated by the world. Noctis had turned his back to the very gods. Ardyn found some gratification in it all, but he would not allow Noctis access to such precious information.
He loathed and despised the prince’s assumption. If only because the words dug too close to the truth of it. Myriads of daemons scratching at his consciousness held in place by mere willpower alone. Mad he may be, but he would never sacrifice that last inch of the man beneath to them.

Killing the Astrals such an amusing thought coming from the lips of the King of Light. It was enough to make him laugh, and he did.
“In a manner of speaking…” Yes, Noctis had fallen far if he was offering his aid to him.

Unashamed of his state of undress Ardyn faced Noctis with a smirk on his lips that could almost be interrupted as pleased. “Their forms can be slain as you have witnessed, yes? Dormant they will lie, but return they will. Oh how I have attempted.” His hand motioning in a dismissal gesture; voice filled with disappointment.
Shiva was the first to suffer by his hands. So supportive during his time as the King of Light, but yet even she turned her back on him. Unclean. Undeserving to ascend. Immortal Accursed.

Fingers hooked under Noctis’ chin barely touching, but just enough pressure to gain the man’s undivided attention. “However…” His index finger made a single stroking motion to the sensitive flesh beneath it. So prone and open. “I would relish in the beautiful irony of your attempts.” The closest Noctis had ever received to cooperation.
Noctis wondered now how much the gods could really do to him– if everything had relied on this crux; the power of the crystal absorbed into the ring that sat upon his finger now–

If they alone were not strong enough to defeat Ardyn in any permanence, then how much more powerful did that make him and what he’d become? Something at least as undying as Ardyn, from the looks of things. It had wreaked havoc on his body. He felt like a starved scarecrow next to his younger self and yet– the power he felt coursing through him; limitless.

Ardyn’s proclamation and the sound of his voice (the only one that he could now find any solace in at all) sank into him slowly as he lounged back upon pillows. From somewhere far below, there was the sound of a monstrous howl that nearly rattled the windows– something big eaten by something bigger, likely. He paid it little mind.
Noctis should’ve hated him. He had every right to hate him.

“You’re so resigned… It must’ve been so long. Unimaginable.” Noctis muttered. There was none of that sharp wit in it this time–
Only a strange softness as he gazed into Ardyn’s golden eyes, unflinching as he gripped his chin. In his heart, he held no illusions. He didn’t think of them as anything more than very, very, very tentative allies or just– men in the same awful boat, though Ardyn had been on the ride for much longer. Perhaps it was his downfall, that he had always been so tender-hearted.

“Lay with me. Rest.” Noctis continued lowly. “I was chosen to do what you couldn’t. I plan on it– just not the way they wanted me to.” His hand came up and gently brushed against Ardyn’s knuckles.

Sympathy?

The word was foreign in Ardyn’s mind. A piece that no longer seemed to fit within his view of the world. How long had it been since anyone had tried to do anything but cast him aside? The gods had not even raised a finger to aid him after all he had given up and sacrificed. Here he was being offered it, and unsure if he even wanted to take it.
Noctis was too vulnerable and so easily manipulated. Offering his sympathies and fragile allegiance to the devil himself.

Bahamut had been so wrong, oh so wrong. Ardyn loved it. He would delight in seeing the knees of the gods crack on the graves they themselves dug. The offer was too tempting, too sweet. If he could not have mutually assured destruction of the Lucian line this was so lovely of an alternative.

For the most fleeting of moments the jagged, gnarled pieces of the monster fell away to give a bare glimpse of the man that remained. So little of him that there was. It vanished quickly as Ardyn smirked in amusement. “Such lovely words, your highness. Spoken like a true king at last.”

“Even the gods will bow before our throne.” Our. It had many eons ago been a mantle of Ardyn Lucis Caelum.

He could entertain this fallen King of Kings if it meant getting some of what he desired. He had sold his soul once before; there was nothing left to lose.
Ardyn returned to the bed choosing now to lay on his back. Though he no longer hovered over Noctis, he pulled him by the shoulders to lay nestled into his side. Fingers keeping a strong grip, but the gesture was not really out of affection. Or maybe it was a mixture of affection and the need to see Noctis stay upon this path.

The gods and even Ardyn himself it seemed, had banked on Noctis’ rage outweighing his gentle and caring demeanor. Ardyn wanted him to hate him enough to go to any lengths to kill him. The gods simply wanted Ardyn not to interfere– at least from what he could tell.

Crystal stasis had left Noctis without the consciousness of time passed, but an understanding of many things that his mind seemed to have worked through without him. Luna had known what she was doing. She had made her choice, even if it pained him– even if Ardyn hadn’t done what he had done that day she would have died.
That was a heavy weight that he had to face; and had learned to carry alone through fitful sleep and his own inward loathing.

Noctis watched in silence as Ardyn moved, those quiet dulcet tones betraying little though– he was quite aware that something he had done or said had shaken him.
No matter how hard he tried, Noctis could not think of Ardyn as a monster.

A soft noise left him as Ardyn pulled him close– and he shifted to rest his cheek against the immortal’s chest, arm draped over him as he settled in– though the grip on his shoulder was a bit rough. He didn’t mind. This was an unholy union at best; though the foundations were laid. Eyes lingered on prone naked form, now somewhat familiar– well loved, one might say for all the marks they’d given each other.

Our throne, he'd said. And Noctis found he liked the idea if only because he’d never thought he’d be anything but alone when he ascended to it. Noctis had seen the world outside– there was little to save. Even if the dawn came, would it not blast everyone from existence? By now, there was no way that anyone could survive it; that there was anyone who hadn’t come into contact with the pathogen in the air. No; dawn was not the answer, he set that in stone in his heart.

“You’ve been alone in the darkness for so long…” It came out of his mouth almost unbidden; a thought he had had more than once before. “Not now,”

Damn his bleeding heart–

Bleeding heart indeed. Had Izunia not been so without one maybe Ardyn would not have been driven into such isolation. He too once commanded the love of the people. Love turned against him in the end. Oh how he could have fought, but the betrayal was so complete, so devastating that the fallen healer could not. Instead he allowed himself to be pushed away where the chattering in his mind fueled the vengeance in his heart.

The people had killed him or tried. Ardyn would sleep for a time before inevitably he was drawn back into his body made whole again.

Now the darkness did not scare him as it once did when he was mortal. Ardyn found comfort in it. “Darkness without dawn is not so terribly lonesome as you may think.”
Maybe the people outside could be saved. If only Ardyn had it in him to repeat his actions of the past. Draw the plague back into himself, but the man found he was no longer inclined to. The world could crumble and fall around him so long as he got what he desired. He cared not of their fate.

But which of the gods to fall first? Ifrit could be so easily lured to his side, but that god was an enemy of their enemies. No, best to keep him alive a while longer. Maybe Shiva or Bahamut; yes that would please him greatly. He hummed in something akin to contentment at the thought alone. The grip on the king of kings loosened to a more comfortable level.

For the first time in eons he wasn’t alone. A foreign concept to a man whom had gone so long without. “We will bring them to their knees before us.” A mockery they would make of them; making the gods kneel before immortal kings forged by their own hands.

A promise sealed with the gentle caress of his finger down Noctis’ cheek that ended as it barely brushed over the corner of his lips.

Noctis knew that this was a dangerous game. He didn’t expect anything that could be considered real affection or gentleness, but he certainly didn’t hate the attention– ah that was what it was, wasn’t it? He had always just been what he was meant to be; been valued for that. It hit him in that moment that he had never been able to choose anything for himself.

What he had seen and experienced were not for him to choose; but he could make what he wanted of it.

The prince had come to claim his throne, only to find that it would cost him his life– and the life of the man whose chest he now rested his cheek upon.
Noctis relaxed considerably when the grip on his shoulder became less predatory, and he was– loathe to admit how sleepy he was. Terribly human, at a time like this.
He lay pressed against the curve of Ardyn’s side as though he belonged there, and couldn’t help but wonder if there was some satisfaction; did he feel like he got to defile what had been holy to Bahamut– seemingly the chief Astral in power, though they were somehow incapable of–

At that, Noctis let out a bark of dry laughter, as though he’d only just managed to piece it together.

“They… they really can’t kill you. No matter how hard they try– And now I am the only thing that could become more powerful than… than that–” It was mind boggling. No, with a thrill in his chest he realized that the selfish gods who had tried to rule their fates were no longer the ones with the advantage.

Noctis’ eyes fell on the ugly, heavy ring on his finger and thought of the power it wielded with a bit of fear– but it would be more than enough, he supposed.

Even ten years laying dormant in the Astral plane it only now in the covenant of this most unholy of unions that the King of Kings was realizing his full potential. It brought Ardyn a strange sense of satisfaction and delight. Much akin to the first time he realized even the gods could not kill him as he was now.

No they had to appoint a savior with more power than they possessed built up over ages to even come close to destroying him with such finality. His whole existence would have to be erased to complete such a feat. “Clever Noct. They lack the means to end me. Why else would they need a King of Kings to do that which they could not?”

The gods had cast light upon the world, but made an even darker, longer shadow in their wake. Delicious irony that they would create the menace of the world and their downfall. Golden eyes shifted to the ring that held the power to destroy not only him, but now the gods themselves.

“And they will lack the conviction to end their King of Kings.” It was not the ideal Ardyn had dreamt about all these long years, but the end would be just as satisfying. His revenge reimagined through a different avenue he had never thought possible. “We will end their reign of the world.”

Let Insomnia be the resting place of gods that toyed with mortals. Their toils would begin as soon as they both rested. Their souls immortal, but still bound by mortal-like flesh.
His head inclined so his cheek rested on raven locks. A force of habit when another warmed his bed. His eyes closed knowing that tonight for the first time since he was mortal that his dreams would be of the most pleasant variety.

In any other setting, a kiss placed as it was now– over Ardyn’s breastbone– would be terribly soft and affectionate. For Noctis, it seemed almost predatory. If this was how things were to be, then Ardyn would become the sole pillar of–anything– that Noctis had left.

The implications were tremendous. There would be no going back, and it was likely that his friends would be now counted among enemies. Though… the thought of them seeing the light in this situation was promising. Noctis couldn’t escape the hate, the anger that was boiling inside of him– and it was no longer directed at Ardyn. He had been born and bred to kill the man that he was now curled around, as sleepy as he had been in his youth– bare skin to bare skin.

At every turn it was as though he were supposed to accept how evil Ardyn was, only to find that he was no different from himself. Did that not say enough on its own? The deposed royal shifted and pulled the covers up around them, burrowed in and remained in that place pressed against the Scourge’s warmth.
“I always did… prefer being up and about at night,” He said through a yawn.

If there was a way he’d find it, and if not– then perhaps Bahamut and the Lucii needed to choose more carefully. They had done everything they could to make him subservient and in the home stretch; failed.

Noctis raised his head again only for a moment, to steal a glimpse of the darkness whose bed he shared. Fingertips moved up to pass through the curls pooled on one shoulder, and the motion alone was enough to nearly soothe him to sleep entirely.

To lose himself in Ardyn; and to promise vengeance on the gods who thought they set the rules in this world– was all he cared to think about, and all he would as he began to pass into the realm of sleep.