Ignis was standing in the kitchen in Noctis’s quarters calmly working on dinner when he heard soft footsteps enter the room, pausing a few feet behind him. When no immediate whine over the presence of vegetables occurred, Ignis continued stirring his stew and waited for Prompto to speak.
“Iggy, I’m a horrible person, but when is your birthday again? I could swear it was around this time-” Prompto asked, his tone sheepish, and Ignis turned away from the pot he was stirring to look over at the blond, giving him a wry smile.
“I’m afraid it was on the seventh, I thought it best to not mention it with the execution impending. Don’t worry about it, Prompto, I’ve never been one to celebrate it anyway,” Ignis replied, and Prompto’s eyes grew so wide and sad that he sighed. “Truly, it’s alright. I’m of a similar mind as the marshal, actually, a simple congratulations is appreciated and more than enough.” Prompto frowned and bit at his bottom lip for a moment.
“Are you sure? I didn’t even get you anything-” Prompto began, but Ignis smiled and shook his head.
“I’m quite certain, Prompto. I appreciate you asking.” He reached out and cupped Prompto’s jaw with his hand, letting his thumb stroke the younger man’s freckled cheek. “Gladio’s isn’t too far away, if you want to plan something,” he commented, but the perturbed look never quite left Prompto’s face, even as he nodded and left the room a few moments later.
Pelna looked around the training hall as he took a moment to cool off, allowing the newbie he was training to do the same. Things had been oddly tense since the execution, which he thought was strange; after all, Drautos was dead, and considering he had been rotting in the holding cells below for months, it was hardly like he had been walking among them up to the day before or something, but there they were.
The Guards and the Glaives were keeping to their own, with even him and Libertus generally only sparring with fellow Glaives. It stunk. The only ones who seemed to be bridging the divide were the marshal and Nyx, of course, and how the whole damn Citadel didn’t realize that the two had been happily shacking up for months was beyond him, and Crowe and Elshett were still speaking and sparring together. That was...about it. He noticed a familiar flash of sunny yellow hair as his eyes traced the room, and couldn’t help a little smile from pulling at the corners of his mouth.
Prompto sat on a bench against the wall on the far side of the hall, clearly observing everyone as they sparred and fought; Pelna knew he wasn’t imagining the increasingly disgruntled expression on the normally happy features, however, and he was quite certain that the kid was seeing the same thing that he had just been thinking about.
“Sir, shall we continue?” the newbie asked behind him, and Prompto looked up at just the right time for Pelna to meet his gaze and smile before turning back to the Glaive, his smile immediately vanishing when he realized that the kid hadn’t really returned it. Damn.
“Sure, if you’re ready.”
By the time Pelna and the newbie were done for the afternoon, Prompto had long cleared out, and he forced himself to nod to a few of the Crownsguards still in the room as he left. Nope, he didn’t like it at all.
Eos looked down at her voice with more amusement than was probably warranted, but he was very good at looking like a lost chocobo chick, and the fact he had come to visit just to mope at her was actually rather refreshing. Quite the change from the usual over the millennia, that’s for certain.
“Dear heart, what worries you so?” she asked as she sat down next to the oh-so human blond lump in her meadow, wrapping her arm around his small shoulders and drawing him in. “You and your loves are in good health, the herald and his heart are also doing well, the traitor has been dispatched-” Prompto sighed in her arms, and she suddenly had an idea. “The atmosphere at your home hasn’t quite recovered, has it?” He shook his head, and she brought her other hand up to stroke at his hair.
“Everyone is trying to pretend the last few weeks never happened, but it’s really awkward. I even forgot about Iggy’s birthday-” Prompto started picking at the grass at his feet, and Eos fought back a contented sigh as she enjoyed having one of her favorite humans there with her. She had spent countless centuries all but locked away in her havens, almost entirely alone, and to have such wonderful mortals coming around, with all of their struggles and worries, their hopes and loves? She wouldn’t change it for all of the time in the world.
“I have an idea for you. Let me see if Cor is able to join us,” she said, and Prompto’s jaw dropped open. “Is that so surprising?”
“You’ve never had us both here at the same time, so yeah, a little,” her voice said hesitantly, and she blinked.
“You know, you are right. I should rectify that,” she smiled, and closed her eyes, reaching out gently to her herald; Cor was clearly confused, but asked her to wait for a moment while he...locked the door of his office? Ah, it was probably better that he didn’t alarm his underlings if they stumbled across him while he was with her. A few moments later, and Cor materialized into view, looking around in confusion before setting his gaze on both her and Prompto.
“My lady, Prompto, is everything alright?” Cor asked as he walked towards them, and Eos put up her arms and beckoned him closer, smiling when Cor lowered himself to the ground in front of them. Prompto managed to dredge up a smile for the herald, but it was thin at best and she watched with warm amusement as the older of the two looked like he wanted to glare at her for bothering his...well, let’s be honest, his son. It was incredibly sweet.
“Peace, Cor, he came to me looking as he does now. He has a concern, and I thought it would be pleasant to bring you here to think of ideas to help,” she said, and Cor’s brows furrowed as he settled into a more comfortable position. “Now, Prompto has told me that your palace has not been the same since the traitor’s demise, is this so?” Cor blinked, shooting Prompto a look of surprise.
“It...has been a little unsettled of late. Most of the Crownsguard or Kingsglaive keep to their little groups, and mainly vent by sparring and training. While the latter is pretty standard, I’ve already received several irritated reports from the infirmary that the percentage of people showing up with stupid injuries has increased a substantial amount. I was thinking of addressing this, but I suspect that one of you has an idea?” Cor asked, and Eos smiled.
“I admit to being rather out of touch of the modern world, but do any of you play games? Or some other form of entertainment? Something that perhaps you might be able to bring your isolated groups of people together with? There used to be a game popular in a small province in Solheim known as Tlachtli, they used their hips to strike heavy balls at each other-” Prompto jumped in her arms, and she looked down at him in bemusement.
“Dodgeball!” Her voice announced happily, and Cor’s eyebrows shot up.
“I’m not all that positive that the Citadel would survive us playing that, Prompto-” Cor trailed off when Prompto shook his head rapidly, the grin already growing on his face.
“Are you kidding, it’s perfect! We would do it in the training hall, so if people get a little energetic, at least they aren’t trashing other parts of the place, and maybe we could have a giant movie night or something afterwards, you know the royal family can watch new movies for free right in the Citadel,” Prompto said with excitement, and Eos could see the moment when her stubborn herald gave way to the energetic young man, his furrowed brows softening, and she was forced to hide her smile behind a sleeve.
“It’s not without precedent, but it’s been some time since a large interservice gathering has been done. As the war dragged on after the formation of the Kingsglaive, the mood no longer lent itself to such an affair, but this might be a possibility? I can ask Monica and Nyx to speak with you?” Cor just sounded a bit overwhelmed at the whole concept, but Eos and Prompto shared a conspiratorial smirk before Prompto leaned forward and patted Cor rather exaggeratedly on the arm, the malaise from when he first arrived completely gone.
“It’s okay, Cor, I’ve got this.”
Eos didn’t bother hiding her laugh the second time.
“Dodgeball and a movie, huh? I assume the movie is for the survivors, because I can probably guess how any dodgeball game with this bunch will go,” Nyx commented, but it was clear that Prompto would not be dissuaded.
“Why is everyone assuming that it’s going to be mass slaughter or something? Sure, there will be some bruises, but it’s not going to be that bad,” the kid insisted, and Nyx looked at him skeptically.
“What did Monica say?” he tried, hoping that maybe she had tried to dissuade Prompto, but the grin and the nod put paid to that. He better make sure that the infirmary was prepared for this-
“She thought it was a great idea! We both agreed it would be a perfect way for everyone to vent and get their minds off of things,” Prompto stated, clearly in the groove, and Nyx found himself wondering with more than a little confusion when he had become the sane and sensible one of the lot of them. Probably around the time he had accepted the captain position. Shit.
“Okay, okay, I give up. How were you thinking of doing this? I assume volunteers, but a collection of teams?” he asked, and the divine voice of the dawn bobbed his head like a chocobo getting a treat in response. Ah hell, he’d never be able to refuse the kid anything. Ever. Cor folded worse than he did when Prompto turned those giant blue amethyst eyes on him, so he was no help. Well, he knew when he started dating Cor what he was getting into, even if he was a little young to have a twenty-one year old stepson.
“Alright, so let’s figure out details then. When do you want to do this?”
The posters for the whole event (the kid was having way too much fun with this) and signup board for the teams went up the next day, and Nyx watched in increasing amusement as over half the Crownsguard and close to three-quarters of the Kingsglaive wrote themselves in, and when he found his name added onto Crowe and Libertus’s team (they hadn’t bothered asking) he finally decided to just go with the flow.
He did make sure to talk with the infirmary, though.
Gladio was grinning like a loon as he calmly wrote in everyone’s name on the signup board, even Ignis’s, who was trying to grab the pen out of his hand.
“Gladio, I have no interest in breaking my nose, would you please not put my name on it-” Gladio laughed and lifted his arm as Ignis reached out again to grab the pen, only to be halted in his tracks by Prom and Noct, who were both giving Iggy the most ridiculous puppy-eyed expression. He was doomed.
“You don’t want play dodgeball with us?” Noct commented, his eyes as big and guileless as he could remember the prince pulling off in a long time, and Gladio could see the vein in Iggy’s forehead begin to pulse. Oh boy.
“Are you sure, Iggy? I mean, I suppose you can be a judge…” Prompto said sadly, and Gladio barely kept from laughing in Iggy’s face as the younger half of their little group both laid it insanely thick on the advisor, who looked two seconds from either killing the lot of them or just crying in submission. He just wished he had popcorn handy. After close to a minute of Iggy’s face twitching under the onslaught, the man deflated like a leaky balloon, his shoulders sagging the slightest amount as Noct and Prom grinned.
“Very well. If I end up dead from this nonsense, I’m haunting the both of you, do you understand?” Ignis grumbled, and Prom threw his arms around the advisor, giving him a tight squeeze. Gladio capped the pen and tucked it away, putting a hand on Iggy’s shoulder.
“You’ll be fine, Iggy. I know how fast you move, you’ll probably have us all beat,” he said, and Ignis raised an eyebrow, but didn’t deny it. “I’ve got some things to take care of, I’ll see you three later,” Gladio said to the group, and Noct and Prom gave him near-matching evil grins as they waved. It was definitely a good thing that the two of them were on their side, that’s for sure. They wouldn’t have stood a chance otherwise.
A short walk later found him outside of his father’s office, and he knocked on the door. After he heard his father respond, he headed inside; his dad appeared to be working on paperwork, and didn’t look up until he had sat down in the rather comfy chair in front of his desk.
“Good afternoon, son. How goes Prompto’s mad bonding idea?” his father asked, and Gladio grinned.
“Did you want to sign up? I think they may be able to fit in another team or two-” The look he got in reply could have peeled paint, and he laughed. “I signed the lot of us up, even Ignis. He also just got a reminder of how evil Noct and Prom can be, which is always good.” His dad gave him another dubious expression before rolling his eyes and looking back at his paperwork. Gladio crossed his arms and waited for his old man to speak.
“The king volunteered the two of us to be judges at this fiasco, so I expect a good showing out of you. Has the infirmary already been alerted?” his dad said, and Gladio laughed.
“Why am I not surprised? Yeah, Ulric, who is equally convinced that this is a massacre waiting to happen, by the way, had already let them know. Prompto has already gotten the projector, movie, chairs and cushions all ready in the banquet room, so the survivors will be able to enjoy relaxing afterwards,” he commented drily, and snorted at the expression on his father’s face.
“Cor managed to wriggle out of it, but Elshett seems to be taking a little too much pleasure in planning this with Argentum. She’s probably hoping that enough of them get a little brain damage to make the ridiculous tension here in the Citadel go away. I’ll admit, I hope it works too. I think that’s why the king authorized the whole ridiculous idea,” his father stated, and Gladio grinned.
“I think it’ll go just fine.”
Noctis barely avoided getting knocked unconscious as the second ball came flying at his face, but luckily, he hadn’t spent nearly ten years getting combat training for nothing, and managed to send it right back at the Glaive’s shoulder, sending her to the ground. Clarus blew his whistle, and he spun around and gave Prom a high-five, followed by Gladio and Iggy; Gladio had a rather spectacular shiner, but Iggy didn’t have a mark on him. Prom had gotten a ball to the face, but besides a little dried blood, he seemed fine. Figures. They were going on to the final round, they just needed to wait and see who their opponents would be. It was between Nyx and Crowe’s team and Monica and Cor’s team, and while neither Nyx nor Cor had been very keen on joining in, neither had been given the choice. Noctis was pretty sure they were all going to die.
As expected, the whole event had been a complete bloodbath. By the time the second round of semifinals were over, there was at least two concussions, three broken noses, a broken ankle, a broken arm, at least four or five broken fingers, and more than a few busted teeth. He was also pretty sure that the walls would need repairs as well. That wasn’t counting the endless bruises, contusions, strains and other maladies as they staggered around looking like they had all just crawled off the battlefield.
Laughing like maniacs.
Noctis had to give it to Prompto, as silly as the whole idea had sounded, it was working perfectly; there was something to be said about beating the shit out of each other in the name of fun, and while he could see his dad wince with every crunch, everyone was socializing with each other more than they had in months. While the first match had been a little awkward at first, as soon as Crownsguard Thrax got a ball to the stomach from Glaive Avilius, the crowd went crazy, and it was like a great weight lifted from the room on the spot. Things had only gotten better from there.
“Well, who do you think it’s going to be?” Noctis asked Iggy, and the older man crossed his arms and pursed his lips.
“I suppose the old adage of age before beauty could apply here, but the marshal isn’t the fastest mover, and I fear that Khara might get the upper hand as fast as he is on his feet. But Monica is tricky and Crowe isn’t as used to close quarters combat...so I am uncertain. I suppose we shall find out shortly,” Ignis stated, and next to him, Gladio snorted.
“Your analysis is weaker than usual, Iggy, but I agree. Cor isn’t the quickest, but he’s got a ton of experience on his side, Nyx is very fast, but he can get sloppy. Crowe is mostly used to long-range fighting, and while she’s also fast on her feet, her aim has been okay at best so far. Pelna is very fast, I agree, and Libertus is the muscle, but the slowest on his feet. Monica and Dustin are both more subtle and a little harder to pin down. Livia is just mean, but everyone dismisses her and she gets in her shots that way,” Gladio commented, and Noctis and Prom both started laughing.
“I admit, I didn’t expect detailed analysis of a dodgeball match, you two, but-” Prom laughed, and Noctis nodded in agreement, watching as the two teams in question took to the court. “Kick their asses!” Prom yelled, and Noctis burst out laughing.
“Which team?” he asked, and Prom grinned, waving a hand to indicate the two groups.
There had been some pretty brutal matches that day, but the last one was beyond the pale. Libertus was knocked out cold by Livia only a minute or so into the match, then she in turn was struck off her feet by Pelna; Pelna managed to get Dustin as well, a solid bow to the arm, but Monica managed to sneak in and he went crashing to the ground before he had even recovered from his own throw. Down to the most mediocrely kept secret in the Citadel and their deputies, Noctis and the rest of them watched in amazement as the dodgeballs flew everywhere for a solid five minutes without contact, and a quick glance up to his father and Clarus showed them completely engrossed as well.
Then Cor’s foot slipped just the tiniest amount, and it was over. Crowe managed to get him directly in the stomach, sending him to the floor as Monica took a shot at her and Nyx at Monica; Crowe and Monica both hit the ground simultaneously, leaving Nyx the only one standing. The Glaive blinked at the carnage around him, confusion quickly transforming into glee.
“Well shit, I didn’t expect that,” Nyx cackled, and the room went wild; Noctis watched as Nyx walked over and helped Cor to his feet, giving him a solid hug (yeah, really well kept secret, guys) before he turned and helped Crowe to her feet as well. Libertus had luckily come to only about ten seconds after being knocked out, and cheered from the sidelines as the others all picked themselves up and staggered off to the side to get checked out by the medics.
“Prom,” Noctis nudged the amused blond as they watched Cor get checked out by Doc Domitia, the man clearly trying not to squirm as she basically stripped him of his shirt in front of the whole room without so much as a by-your-leave. “Prom.”
“Yeah?” Prompto responded absently, and Noct leaned in.
“We’re gonna die,” he hissed in Prom’s ear, and his favorite chocobohead blinked at him before grinning.
“Don’t wimp out now, Noct, we’ve got this!”
Noctis had his doubts.
“They actually won,” Regis stated with more than a little surprise, and Clarus rolled his eyes. The movie playing on the massive screen on the opposite side of the room was a recent blockbuster comedy, and for once in his life, he had already seen it. Clarus didn’t mind.
“I don’t know if you noticed, but the only one actually seriously trying to hit Prompto was Altius. The rest of them seemed to be aiming a little too wide every time he was open. If that kid had a power-hungry bone in his body, he’d be running this place already, and you know it,” Clarus responded, and watched with amusement as Regis tried to stifle a laugh, failing miserably.
“I think I actually saw Ulric pull a few throws at the last second, so yes, I agree. Well, we are very fortunate for modern medicine, considering I think my son would be down a few brain cells otherwise right now.” Clarus and Regis both looked over at Noctis, who was relaxing with his...friends on a motley collection of beanbag chairs, Prompto in the giant chocobo chair that he had gotten for his birthday, and Clarus huffed out a laugh.
“That chair is ridiculous. I’m quite sure that Argentum is the only adult I know that could pull that off,” he commented to Regis, and got a nod from the king in response.
“On a different note, I don’t think Cor and Ulric are even trying to be discreet anymore,” Regis said, and Clarus followed his gaze to see the two men sitting next to each other on beanbag cushions as well, relatively close to Prompto’s chocobo chair; Cor had already dozed off, his head resting comfortably on Nyx’s shoulder. Regis had a point.
“Well, do we call Prompto’s idea a success?” Clarus asked, and Regis smiled, looked out at the crowd, and nodded.
“While the infirmary may disagree, I would certainly consider it as such. Young Prompto seems to have quite the talent of gauging the mood and doing something about it. I wonder…” Regis trailed off, and Clarus tilted his head in askance, waiting for the king to speak, but after a moment, the monarch shook his head. “Never mind. Something I need to think about.”
“Hmmm.” Clarus looked out over the crowd, noting that while the events of the day certainly hadn’t fixed everything, the mixed groups sitting together enjoying the movie were at least an excellent start. He looked over at Prompto just in time to see his son reach out and run his hand through the younger man’s sunny locks, and smiled.
Well, if he ended up with a whole slew of son-in-laws, at least Gladio had picked the best. Clarus met Regis’s eyes, the two of them exchanging an understanding look before turning back to the movie with a smile.