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Tales from the Citadel - A Day in the Life

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March Blues

 

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.

Oh dear.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.”

 

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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.

“Either one!”

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.

 

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“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.

Chapter Text

Man Seems to Be (a rickety poor sort of thing)

 

Noctis opened one eye, and just as quickly shut it again as he shifted under the sheets, curling around the closest body and groaning. He felt awful. The sheets were sticking to his skin, and he just felt strange. The person he was clinging to also moaned, and he forced himself to open his eyes to see the rather flushed nape of Prompto’s neck. Aw hell.

“Prom? You alive?” he asked, bringing a shaky hand up to the man’s forehead. Prom shifted away from his hand instantly, and Noctis sighed and put his arm down, digging his face into his pillow. “Did we get Pelna’s plague? I think we got Pelna’s plague.” A grumble from behind him got him turning, only to see an equally sick-looking Iggy, his normally sharp eyes glassy with fatigue.

“It appears we did, Noct,” Ignis said quietly, the older man’s voice lacking its usual clarity, and Noctis sighed once more.

“I wonder how Gladio is doing? He didn’t go with us to Pelna’s birthday party yesterday.” Prompto rolled over onto his back, and snorted.

“He’s probably just fine, unlike us. Man, I feel like shit. Wake me up in a few days,” Prompto groused, flipping back onto his side with a grunt. Noctis needed to go to the bathroom, but he couldn’t even summon the energy to get up. Fuck it. He let his eyes close, and was out between one second and the next.

 

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Nyx was on fire. Sadly, that wasn’t an euphemism, and for probably the first time he could remember, he shoved Cor, who was in his usual position with his head curled on his chest, off of him; the older man grumbled and immediately tried to wiggle right back to his former position, but Nyx rolled out of the way, sighing at the sensation of the cool sheets at the edge of the bed.

“Wha-what’s going on?” Cor yawned out behind him, and Nyx cringed when Cor’s warm hand contacted his sticky back. “Hey, why are you so warm?” He tried to dodge the hand that appeared out of nowhere, but finally let Cor touch his face, albeit with a bit of a pout. Cor winced as soon as his palm rested on Nyx’s forehead. “Ah, looks like you picked something up somewhere. Didn’t you say someone was sick at Khara’s party?” Nyx glared half-heartedly at the other man before sighing.

“Yeah, him. He didn’t want to cancel it, but he was pretty obviously under the weather. Ugh,” Nyx grumbled, and Cor’s expression was so sympathetic that he didn’t want to see it. “You might want to clear out, in the off-chance I didn’t already infect you. I have a feeling I’m only going to get worse.” Nyx watched at the older man got out of bed without a word, disappearing out the door. Huh. He rolled back towards the middle of the bed, grabbing both pillows and stuffing them under his head, letting his eyes fall closed.

Just when he was getting up to a good doze, the bed dipped next to him, and he cracked open a tired eye to see Cor sitting there, holding a plate with buttered toast and some sort of drink. Nyx squinted at it for a moment before looking back up at Cor, cracking a little smile at the overly-stoic expression on the man’s features.

“Is that ginger ale?” he said, a bit amused, and Cor shrugged and pushed the plate towards him. If he had more energy, he’d find the fact that Cor clearly wasn’t used to doing this far more amusing, but hell, he’d take what he would get. “Well, I like ginger ale. Thank you.” He allowed Cor to help him sit up to eat, and contentedly munched on the toast next to his utterly silent boyfriend. After a few minutes, he looked over at the other man, who seemed a bit flushed himself. Was he trying to pretend he wasn’t sick? “Have you eaten anything?” Cor didn’t respond, and he reached out and ran his hand down the line of Cor’s jaw, feeling where he needed to shave. “Are you sick too? You seem a bit out of sorts.” After another long pause, Cor’s mouth twisted.

“I don’t think I’m sick, but I feel...a bit off. It’s hard to explain, it’s like it doesn’t really belong to me,” Cor said, his voice a bit remote, and Nyx frowned for a moment, thinking about his phrasing for a moment. Doesn’t belong to- oh.

“You know, Prompto was at the party as well, Cor- if you understand where I’m going with this,” he said slowly, and he could see the light of understanding come into the older man’s eyes.

“Well, shit,” Cor muttered, and Nyx set down the empty plate next to him on the bed and settled back into the pillows, still clutching his glass of soda and watching as Cor got to his feet and went over to his phone. He blearily enjoyed the view of his favorite person’s underwear-clad backside, but his energy was fading quickly as the food settled in his stomach.

“Ignis? Is Prompto available? Ah, all of you?” Nyx listened in half-heartedly as Cor spoke on the phone, his eyes getting heavier as the seconds passed; by the time the herald was off the phone, he was barely clinging to consciousness, the empty glass held in loose fingers as Cor came back over and sat on the bed, plucking the glass from his hand. “Three of them are sick, I’m guessing Gladiolus wasn’t at the party?” Nyx shook his head, already mostly asleep, and Cor sighed. “Get some rest, I’ll let Crowe know you won’t be in today.”

“Mmm.”

 

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“Oh hell, this is a mess.” Gladio looked at the sad lot of them as they sat around the kitchen table, wan and flushed all at the same time; Ignis had powered through enough to whip up some eggs and toast for the lot of them, but it was clear it had taken all the strength he had. Gladio sighed as Iggy’s head nearly fell off its perch on his propped up arm, and he crossed his arms. “Okay, really now. You guys need to go back to bed. Or if you want to freshen up first, take a shower then go back to bed,” Gladio grumbled, sighing once more when he got no reaction in the slightest.

Prompto looked up from his phone, his eyes bloodshot and glassy, and Gladio had finally had enough. He walked over, plucked the blond out of his chair, and carried him back into the bedroom; the fact he got little more than a squeak out of Prom told him how bad he felt. After dumping Prom back onto the bed, he repeated the process with Noct, who had dozed off at the table and didn’t stir once. Iggy, however, tried to get to his feet on his own, but wasn’t having much success; Gladio smiled and wrapped his arm around the other man’s waist, keeping him steady as they slowly made their way back into the bedroom.

“The marshal called right before you came,” Iggy said groggily as he laid back down on the bed next to the lightly-snoring Noct, and Gladio raised an eyebrow. “Nyx is sick as well, Cor...seemed to know that Prompto wasn’t quite right, which is why he called,” Iggy yawned the last few words, and Gladio reached out and ran his fingers through the light brown hair, grimacing at the heat he could feel coming off the man’s skin.

“Get some sleep. Hopefully you guys will feel better when you get up.” Gladio grabbed a book and settled in to wait in the armchair in the corner of the room, determined to keep an eye on them.

They didn’t feel better when they got up.

By the next morning, it was clear to Gladio (and the rest of them) that they were going to need more than rest; their eyes were swollen and nearly glued shut, they were sweating like mad while simultaneously feeling cold, and they could barely rouse themselves enough to go to the bathroom. Prompto seemed to be doing better than the other two, which was at least something. A few phone calls informed him that they were hardly the exception; the infirmary had close to fifty cases, and they had burned through their entire stock of antibiotics in a matter of hours. Close to a third of the Glaive was down for the count, and they were having to requisition more medications from local hospitals.

“So this is a legitimate mess,” Gladio said to his father, who crossed his arms and scowled.

“All the doctors have figured out is that it’s bacterial, and that’s after going through everything Glaive Khara’s done for the last three days or so. They are saying he could have picked it up anywhere, but that it was probably introduced by someone who travelled out of the city recently. They are pretty sure a standard course of antibiotics will take care of it, but everyone is going to feel pretty miserable for a few days,” his father said, and he nodded.

“Are we quarantining or anything? I think we are pretty late for that if we are,” he asked, and received a shake of the head in response.

“No, it appears to only be contagious in close quarters, and that party was a ton of people in a small conference room. You are probably at risk, because I know you’ve been helping out your friends, but just do me a favor and avoid the king for now. The prince is already sick, the last thing I want is for his majesty to join him,” his father sighed, and Gladio nodded. “Cor has decided to take a few days off just in case because he’s been exposed to Ulric, although he appears fine. How has Prompto been?” Gladio thought about it for a few moments, then realized that his father seemed to be onto something there.

“You know, he’s doing much better than the other two. Could be coincidence, or he could be more...sturdy towards such things. Besides the whole craziness over his chronic sleep deprivation, as we now know it was, I don’t remember him really getting sick before,” he replied, receiving a nod from his father. The two of them stood there in silence for a long while before the older man sighed and shook his head.

“We need to keep an eye on them, things like that would have flown under the radar before, but they are starting to get noticed now. The last thing we need is for someone to...hell, kidnap one of them or something.” Gladio shot his father a sharp look, and the man frowned. “This isn’t a surprise, son, you’ve heard some of the reports and media bullshit. While logic states that Prompto is the easier target due to Cor’s teleporting thing, a syringe with a sedative would drop Cor just as fast. I hate to say this, but they both really need someone shadowing them outside if they want to go somewhere alone. I’ve not brought it up yet, though, because I know exactly what Cor will say to that, and I have a feeling that Argentum’s response would be similar,” his father finished, and Gladio looked at him with wide eyes while he tried to process the man’s words.

“Has the threats grown that credible?” he asked, and his father’s mouth twisted.

“Perhaps not yet, but there’s been rumors about Niff agents sniffing around. It’s been close to a year since everything went down, and we are getting signs that they are starting to recover. Their armies are still a fraction of what they once were, of course, but if their Magitek labs are trying to figure out something new-” Gladio scratched at his jaw and scowled.

“Are you thinking they may want to try and...er, use them for something?” he asked, and his dad grimaced.

“From what we know of Besithia and their whole operation in general, it wouldn’t surprise me one damn bit.”

“Fuck.”

By that evening, Prompto was doing so well that he had taken over primary care of Noct and Iggy, as they all agreed that Gladio really didn’t need to join them in getting sick. After he dropped off some dinner, they told him to scram, and he dithered a bit before finally just heading back to his family home. He was still worried about his dad’s words from earlier, even though there was nothing he could do about them for now. Just another thing. Fucking Niffs.

 

----------

 

By day three, Cor thought he could finally relax a little bit. Maybe. Nyx no longer looked like someone had poured something caustic in his eyes, and had progressed from a fever and chills to just straight up fatigue. He still looked like he had been wrung out by a behemoth, but that was better than just the day prior, where Cor had been afraid to leave him alone more than a few minutes at a time, even though Nyx had told him to calm it down more than once. He wasn’t being clingy, he was just concerned, and when Nyx told him that was going back to his own quarters if he didn’t knock it off, he may have taken it a bit poorly.

Cor sighed. Okay. He may have gotten a little out of hand. He was too old to be falling asleep on the couch, and he had no idea how he had been sent to the couch in his own quarters, but that was a thing that happened-

“Cor, stop moping and get in here,” Nyx called from the bedroom, and Cor got to his feet and wandered in to find the sick Glaive...working on paperwork. His thoughts must have shown on his face, because Nyx gave him a rather decent glare as he approached the bed. “You are a complete...fuck, I don’t even know. The princess may have had a point with the moogle comparison-”

“Alright, alright, I know I may have gotten...overly concerned. But-” Cor sat down on the bed next to the younger man, who huffed a laugh and wrapped a far steadier than before hand around the back of his neck.

“Cor, I may feel like shit, but you were acting like I was on my last legs. While I appreciate the thought, I was more than capable of going to the restroom on my own, I didn’t need you picking me up -”

“You weren’t steady on your feet-”

“The last thing you need is to screw up your back, old man-”

“My back was fine, I’m not that old-”

“This from the man who tried to hide the fact that you had strained a muscle after you tried to spar with five Guards at the same time the other day-”

“I just wanted to make sure you were okay, alright? I’m not- I wanted you to know I was here for you,” Cor finally choked out, more than a little desperation in his voice, and Nyx deflated like a balloon next to him, his hand falling off his neck to the bed.

“Now what in the hell am I supposed to say to that?” Nyx said, sounding a bit strangled, and Cor hunched over and stared at the bedspread, his heart racing. What had he done wrong? He really wasn’t used to this- Nyx sighed, but there was a fond tone to it that calmed him somewhat. Nyx’s hands cradled his face and urged him upwards. “Cor, Cor, babe , look at me. Thank you. Really. You just surprised me, that’s all. While I could have skipped the bathroom debacle, I do really appreciate it. I promise.” Cor finally forced himself to meet the younger man’s eyes, and found himself struck by the sincerity he could see at their slightly bleary depths. Oh.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be so...smothering. You know I’m not used to all this, and I...may have panicked a little,” he muttered, and Nyx grinned, leaning in and wrapping his arms around his shoulders, pulling his head down to the Glaive’s neck.

“You are ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. And since your immune system appears armor-plated, I’ll probably be the one not-dying again when we have this conversation next. Just try not to panic too much? Unless the situation warrants it, of course,” Nyx said quietly, and Cor rolled his eyes and sighed into the man’s neck.

“I probably should go back to work tomorrow,” Cor said, and sighed happily when Nyx’s hands threaded into his hair.

“Yeah, you probably should. From what it sounds like from Pelna’s progression, I’ll be good enough to go back to work in two days. We survived,” Nyx commented, and Cor looked up with an unimpressed expression just as the younger man kissed him on the side of the head. “I survived this, we survived each other-”

Hey, ” he replied, leaning over to return the gesture only to hear paper crinkling under his hand, and found himself being lightly shoved away.

“Oops, move, I need to clean up my paperwork.” Cor watched stupidly as Nyx quickly gathered the various papers and stacked them on the nightstand, then allowed himself to be manhandled into laying down. “I’m invoking sick person privilege, stay here with me for awhile, I’m tired,” Nyx groused, and Cor bit back a laugh as they shifted around into their usual positions, the two dozing off in a matter of minutes.

 

----------

 

“Iggy, sit down. We’ve got this,” Prompto stated bluntly, but Ignis remained standing, staring plaintively at the kitchen. “And by we, I mean me, because we all know Noct’s cooking skills extend to heating up microwave meals and boiling water for instant noodles. Iggy, you're not bouncing back as fast because you keep forcing yourself to do stuff. Relax. Take a nap, I’ll wake you up when food is ready.” Ignis frowned, but he did truly feel miserable, and Prompto was right. He could handle making a decent meal, unlike Noct; perhaps he should go rest-

“Iggy, bedtime. Come on,” Noct said as Ignis found himself shepherded back into the bedroom by the still wan, but far more hale prince, a warm hand resting on the small of his back. “I know you feel like you need to do certain things, but we can handle it. Gladio will be over in a little while, maybe you can cuddle with him instead,” Noct smiled as Ignis was coaxed back into bed, and he felt more than a little ashamed that he was giving up so easily. Maybe he could just supervise-

“Nope, you need to rest, Iggy. I’ll stay in here with you while the other two figure out something for us to eat.” Ignis blinked in confusion as Gladio pushed him back down to the mattress, Noctis nowhere in sight. What the- “You fell asleep the instant Noct convinced you to lie down, I got here about ten minutes after. You didn’t even notice,” Gladio said, his smile soft and his eyes twinkling with humor, and Ignis groaned and threw his hands over his face, realizing that at some point his glasses had been removed. Well, at least for something.

“I'm going to get you sick, Gladio, this is not the best idea,” he said, but couldn't bring himself to move away as the larger man settled in behind him, wrapping large arms around his torso and pressing his nose against the back of his neck.

“I'm pretty sure I would have gotten sick by this point if I was going to, Iggy. Stop worrying for once and just relax. I have it on good authority that I’m pretty awesome to cuddle with,” Gladio said, his breath tickling Ignis’s neck, and he grumbled on principle before wiggling back against Gladio’s chest to get comfortable. Ignis pinched the shield’s arm just as he started to laugh, and received a kiss to the back of his head in apology as his eyes began to drift closed. Gladio did have a point about the cuddling.

A knocking sound roused Ignis, and he cracked open his eyes to see Prompto hovering in the doorway holding what looked like a tray, the blond grinning as he came over and sat down on the edge of the bed, setting the excellent-smelling tray in his lap.

“Well, you look comfortable,” Prompto stated with clear amusement, and Ignis groaned and turned his face into the pillow. “How are you feeling? Are you up to some vegetable soup?” He felt his eyebrows creeping up involuntarily, and he shifted his head so he could look at Prompto again.

“Did you just say vegetable?” he asked, and watched with growing humor as Prompto’s sunny grin turned more than a little mischievous as the arms still wrapped around his stomach began to move as Gladio began to chuckle.

“I may have told Noct that we were having veggie soup because it was good for us since we were coming off this crazy plague, and that for once he could shut up and just eat it,” Prompto explained, and Ignis shifted onto his back, Gladio’s arms moving to adjust.

“And how, may I ask, did that go over?” he asked, and Prompto laughed, moving the tray to the nightstand as he swung his legs onto the bed.

“He...had to be convinced. It worked out.” Gladio let go of Ignis’s waist and sat up, motioning for the tray; Prompto passed it over and then helped Ignis sit up. “I brought a bowl for each of you, there’s still more if either of you are still hungry,” Prompto stated, and Ignis nodded, picking up a spoon and taking a bite from the bowl closer to him. The flavors exploded across his tongue, and he actually had to take a moment before he could articulate a proper response. Prompto had cooked for them in the past, but this...was easily the best thing he had ever made for them.

“This is excellent, Prompto! I’m quite impressed,” he said, taking another bite; Prompto clapped his hands together and grinned even wider, his cheeks reddening as he blushed.

“Thank you! It’s nothing compared to your amazing dishes, but it’s something-”

“Don’t even start, Prom. I was hoping we had trained that out of you,” Gladio rumbled, and Prompto’s smile turned sheepish as he ran a hand through his hair. Ignis decided to just give the blond a look, which never failed to work on the younger man.  

“Alright, alright. I’m glad you guys like it.”

“Speaking of vegetables, where is the prince?” Gladio said, and Ignis barely resisted laughing around a mouthful of soup. Prompto waved at the other room.

“He dozed off on the sofa after I got him to eat, I’ll go see if he wants to join us in here,” Prompto said, sliding off the bed and heading out of the bedroom without further ado; Ignis turned his head and met Gladio’s eyes before returning to his soup.

“This truly is excellent, I do believe he’s been holding out on us,” Ignis said sotto voce, and Gladio hummed in agreement as they listened to Prompto try to lure Noct to his feet. “I was hoping he was getting better about that, though. I suppose more time and reassurance will be what it will take.” Gladio sighed, taking a bite of his own soup.

“He is getting better, but we’ll just have to keep reminding him. That’s not the kind of thing that will just be fixed overnight,” the shield said, picking up his bowl of soup and downing the rest directly right as Prompto dragged in a near-comatose Noct into the room, ending their conversation.

“Whaddya wake me up?” Noct yawned, but straightened up as he noticed that both Ignis and Gladio were awake. “Oh hey guys, how are you feeling, Iggy?” Ignis took a moment to evaluate his condition, noting his lingering fatigue and aches before shrugging.

“While I still feel somewhat poorly, I am definitely on the mend. Do you wish to join us, Noct? I’m just about finished eating,” he said, and Noct nodded and climbed into bed next to him, watching in silence as he finished the last few bites of his soup. “What did you think of Prompto’s superb soup, Noct?” Ignis gave a tired smirk as Noct squirmed next to him, Gladio snorting on the other side as he took Ignis’s bowl and got out of bed, taking the tray back to the kitchen.

“It was...good,” Noct finally got out, and Ignis began to chuckle, Prompto and Gladio, who had clearly just dumped the lot in the sink before returning, joining in as well as the prince humphed and laid down next to him.

“High marks, Prompto, you should be proud,” Ignis extolled, and Prompto nodded enthusiastically as he waited for Gladio to get comfortable again, then flopping down almost on top of the large man.

“Yeah, that’s a sign of true quality there. Thanks, Noct,” Prompto reached across Ignis to lightly pull at a lock of messy black hair, gaining a half-assed swat in response.

“Sleep time, not hair pulling time,” Noct grumbled, and Ignis shifted as Noct wrapped his arms around his waist, spooning him as Ignis rested his forehead against Gladio’s upper arm, one of Prompto’s hands resting on the back of his head.

“This is gonna suck in the summer,” Prompto mumbled, his face smashed into Gladio’s chest, and Ignis shushed him even as sleep came to him once more. They would make it work.

Chapter Text

 

“-and Corin told me that if I got another complaint, he would let me go! How dare he, I’m the best receptionist this damn place has ever had.” Ulla rolled her eyes at the sound of Alba whining to anyone who would listen about her woes from a few tables away. The woman had always been a pain, but ever since she married her newest husband, her casual meanness had taken a seriously nasty streak. Ulla wanted no part of it. “He said that Lord Amicitia himself had complained, and I don’t understand why. There was no reason for those dirty outlanders to even be in the hospital, sullying the air with their filth-” Ulla smacked her dinner tray onto the table loud enough to cut the woman off, and got to her feet, picking up the tray and storming by her without a word. “What the hell is your problem, Ulla?” She dumped her trash in the bin and stowed the tray before spinning to glare at Alba.

“Alba, not everyone here is a xenophobic anti-immigrant piece of shit like you, maybe if you shoved a little kindness up your ass, it might actually soak in someday,” she snarled, glaring at the shocked woman before turning on her heel and marching out of the cafeteria.

Bitch.

Ulla headed straight to the marshal’s room, nodding to the two people on the door before taking a deep breath, dredging up a smile, and entering. She had been informed that someone would be staying overnight with him, and she figured it was probably the man’s secret girlfriend or something. His reaction at that crazy interview he and the voice had done a few months back had pretty much told everyone that he had a partner of some sort, they just didn’t know who-

Then she paused at the threshold of the tiny interior corridor to see the captain of the Kingsglaive holding the unconscious marshal’s hand against his face as he appeared to doze, and her jaw dropped. She had expected a lot of different people, but to realize that the two heads of the Lucian military appeared to be in a relationship? It suddenly made a lot more sense why they had kept it under wraps. The lot of them had been getting enough shit from people like Alba in the media these days, and if one of those assholes realized that the two were together-

Ulla intentionally let her heels scuff the floor a bit, jarring the Galahdian awake as she approached the marshal’s bed, taking note of his vitals and making sure he was warm and comfortable. The captain was quite the looker, with his pretty eyes, unusual haircut, square jaw, and full lips, and she couldn’t help but give the certainly older marshal a serious brownie point for snagging such a guy. The marshal was an excellent specimen of forty-six, as his chart announced, but the captain? She’d guess thirty-five or younger. Good for him. They should all be so lucky-

“How is he doing?” the captain asked, and she finished the last few updates to his chart before stowing it away and turning towards the man.

“Everything is looking as it should, he’s improving rapidly. If only we were all so robust,” she said, a smirk on her face, and the man’s eyes crinkled charmingly at the edges as he huffed out a laugh. Yes, the marshal had definitely done well for himself.

“I’ve thought the same thing myself several times already today.”

Ulla left a minute later, nodded to the two guards before heading back to the nurse’s station. She really hoped the others kept their mouths shut.

She returned for the afternoon shift the next day, only to see several of the nurses and one of the doctors huddling around the station giggling. Aw, really?

“What’s going on?” she asked one of the nurses, who grinned and shook his head.

“You checked on the marshal last night, correct?”

“Yes…” Marcus nodded and leaned in a little closer.

“You saw who was with him, right?” the man said, and she smacked her palm against her forehead.

“Please tell me you guys are keeping it to yourself, they don’t deserve us airing their private lives in public-” Doctor Theda waved her concerns away.

“No no, we won’t say anything, but you should see the two together, it’s positively inspiring,” Theda stated, and Ulla blinked at her in confusion. “Oh, just come on.” The whole group of them headed into the security room, Theda accessing the camera in the marshal’s room. “Just watch.”

The marshal was thankfully awake, although clearly drained, and Ulla watched in growing amazement as the two men looked at each other like they were each other’s sun and moon, or something equally heartfelt and romantic and certainly nothing like she had ever had. Damn. She grinned as the captain leaned in, pressing his forehead against the marshal’s as they spoke about something with their mouths only an inch or so apart for several minutes before the captain stood back up, those lovely eyes of his twinkling as he continued to just look at the marshal. Ulla wanted to say something sarcastic like she was getting heartburn from the display, but she couldn’t deny that she found it unbearably sweet instead. The marshal raised his uninjured arm a moment later and ran it down the captain’s with an endearingly fond expression before wrapping his fingers around the man’s hand and pulling him closer, and after a solid minute of watching the two make out, Ulla reached over and shut off the monitor, eliciting a chorus of complaints.

“Okay, we’ve had our fun, they are possibly the most nauseatingly cute couple I’ve ever seen in my life, and this is totally not our business. So everyone, take a moment to mentally congratulate them, then forget about it. And for fucks sake, do not let people know? The last thing we need is the fucking assholes like Alba being the ones to leak this, because they’ll send it straight to their hateful little papers and websites. Got me?” Ulla said, and the others all nodded in unison. Good. “Let’s get to work.”

Ulla was the one who brought in the wheelchair for the marshal when he was being discharged, the sight of the two men leaning against the wall, Captain Ulric’s arms around Marshal Leonis’s waist with the marshal’s face nestled at the curve of the captain’s neck as the captain quietly supported him was utterly disarming. She forced down the soppy look she knew she had on her face and backed up slightly, letting her elbow bump the wall before proceeding forward again. The marshal had moved slightly, now standing upright with one of the captain’s arms around his waist, making the embrace more helpful in appearance than cozy; she gave the two men a friendly smile before rolling the chair up to them.

“Ready to go?” Ulla said, and the two men looked at each other before Captain Ulric coaxed him towards the chair, his hand on the taller man’s back. The marshal glowered at the chair, but after a look from the captain, sighed and carefully lowered himself into it. As she wheeled him out to the front, Alba walked right by them, the woman frowning at the lot of them before storming on by. Captain Ulric rolled his eyes, and Ulla huffed out her agreement as she rolled Marshal Leonis out the door. As soon as she locked the wheels, the marshal got to his feet, and she grinned at the two of them. “You two take care of each other, alright?” she said quietly, and enjoyed every bit of the adorable mottled flush that overtook the marshal’s stern features while the captain hid his own grin behind his hand. Definitely a keeper.

Chapter Text

Cor and Prompto both slumped as the last note emerged from Prompto’s throat, and Nyx made sure the older man’s katana was well out of the way before drawing them both into his arms, doing his level best to ignore the fact that his arms were shaking from adrenaline. Shit. Cor had looked downright manic, clearly seeing the lot of them as a threat of sorts as they tried to convince them both to leave, although he had responded the most positively to...him. He’d take it at this point. Nyx called over the others, and after ruffling Prompto’s hair, surrendered him to the worried embrace of Gladio, who plucked him up and clutched him to his chest. Cor had almost eight inches and at least fifty pounds on the much smaller voice of the dawn, however, and while Nyx could get him off the ground, he would be hardpressed to haul him all the way back to the car. Maybe Gladio could hand Prompto to Ignis? Just as he was about to ask, Libertus appeared by his side with a nudge of his shoulder.

“You just had to have the big fit boyfriend, didn’t you? We can handle this, we need to get both of them out here before they wake up again, who knows how long Prompto’s song magic will last,” Libertus stated, and his friend had an excellent point. He didn’t even know if Cor was going to have snapped out of it when he awoke, but it would only help to get some distance between this place and him. Prompto seemed a bit more...together, but only just; when Noctis and the others explained what had happened with Prompto when they stayed in the area last time, he had almost wrung their necks for a moment. That might have been something he would have liked to have known before they parked only a mile or so away from it- Nyx sighed. Nothing to be done about it now, and unlike Prompto, Cor can go wherever the hell he wants in a blink of an eye. All they can do is get them out of there and hope that his hopeless boyfriend didn’t immediately poof himself back over here when he woke up.

After a bit of readjusting, they managed to haul Cor’s dead weight upright, Nyx carrying his torso and Libertus carrying his feet as they worked their way back up the stairs, Highwind and Luna at their backs as they moved as fast as they were able. What was this place to call to them so strongly? It had been beautiful once, he could see that, with skillfully wrought stonework and an elegant design, but it looked like it was just a ruin-

“Prompto said last time that it was both a stronghold and a temple, dedicated to the Dawn Mother as a major place of worship. There’s definitely more underground, but with them acting like this around it, we really need to figure out what it truly is before they go in, I’m-” Noctis paused, his eyes wide and bright for a moment before the younger man shook his head. “I’m afraid if they go in without us knowing what the hell is going on, they’ll never come out.” Nyx’s heart stuttered in his chest for a moment, and he was forced to pause and adjust his grip on Cor before they could continue. Libertus shot him a knowing look, but thankfully kept his mouth shut.

Fuck no. Galahd first, maybe some miserable bit of paper or parchment had the answer to whatever the hell had just happened, because he was not going to let either one of them anywhere near this place again without some serious research first, temple of the Dawn Mother or not. Not when it turned Cor into a bundle of manic paranoia who was freaked out enough to start drawing his sword on his damn friends and prince. No way in hell.

It took them a good twenty minutes, but they finally managed to get him to the car; luckily, both Cor and Prompto were still sound asleep, and Gladio put Prompto in the back seat of their car, resting the blond’s head in his lap while Noctis took shotgun. Libertus helped Nyx get Cor into the back seat, sliding him to the middle before Nyx climbed in after, drawing the unconscious man into his arms and crushing his face into the side of his neck, letting his eyes close. He felt Libertus pat his shoulder, the door shutting a moment later. Luna took the other seat next to Cor, and Aranea took the front passenger seat, same as before.

“There’s a haven an hour or two to the northwest, I suggest we head there for now. That will hopefully be far enough to disrupt whatever is calling them,” Ignis stated, and that sounded good to him, as long as they were nowhere near that damn tower. Libertus started up the car, and both vehicles peeled out of the area a lot faster than was proper, not that he gave a shit. Cor didn’t even budge in the slightest for a good ten minutes, which was more reassuring than it should have been, and even then he only shifted a slight amount to get more comfortable. Nyx kept his arms firmly around him either way, though; he wanted to make sure that Cor knew he was there just in case he felt some impulse to leave again.

Cor was out to drive him into an early grave. He had decided this after the shooting, and barely two weeks later, there they were again. Damnit. This was not going to happen again. He wouldn’t allow it.

“Deep breaths, Nyx. It’s going to be okay. I’ll drag his ass away from there myself if need be,” Libertus stated firmly, and Nyx sighed.

“Thanks, Libs. I appreciate it.”

Chapter Text

“So Leonis, you’ve been up to all sorts of shit lately,” Dave Auburnbrie commented with his usual dour expression, and Cor leaned against the wall of the little home and rolled his eyes.

“It’s been more than just lately,” he replied, and Dave snorted as he threw himself onto an old armchair.

“So I’ve also noticed. So the whole time you and I were working together, you were some sort of divine messenger? That might actually explain a few things.” Cor sighed.

“I was, not that it changed anything. I generally avoided using any of my abilities when I was working with anyone else.”

“I thought it was a fucking fever dream,” Dave commented, and Cor frowned.

“What are you-”

“When we were investigating the reports of Niffs seizing large beasts from the Cleigne region, I was two seconds from biting it at the teeth of the biggest behemoth I had ever seen, and I knew you were a solid hundred feet away, too far away to help; then suddenly poof, you were there fighting the bastard back, and I was so frazzled I chalked it up to a battlefield adrenaline rush and forgot about it. Until I read that fucking book. I wasn’t seeing things, was I?” Dave asked, and Cor looked at the ground for a moment before shaking his head. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Hell of an ability, though, it would definitely make things handy around here if it was something you could teach people, but I’m figuring that’s a no-go.”

“It is,” Cor said, and Dave nodded, clearly expecting the answer. The two of them didn’t speak again for a long moment, until Dave finally lifted his head with a little smirk.

“So, that book.” Cor sighed gustily, and Dave grinned. “Heard that phrase a few times, have you?”

“You have no idea.”

“So, it is true?” Dave asked, and Cor’s mouth twisted.

“Is what true?”

“The special abilities shit, you know, the teleporting, the magical conflict resolution, the enhanced healing-”

“All true.”

“The fact that you are supposedly some sort of sex god?” Dave finished slyly, and Cor reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose with a grimace. “So how much of that shit, and I’m not talking those rituals, is true?” Cor didn’t even bother lying.

“Most of it,” he said quietly, and Dave whistled.

“And this from a guy who seemed to not be interested in anything, from the way I remember you acting when we were checking out that brothel for a wayward Crownsguard of yours,” the hunter said, then shook his head. “You really weren’t, were you?” Cor raised an eyebrow at the question, but he finally sighed and shrugged.

“I didn’t find out about any of that until I got to read the book myself. I had some personal issues that made me decide over fifteen years ago not to bother with relationships, not that I had really bothered to begin with, so I was rather...shocked when I read it. Nyx could tell you that I didn’t handle it well-” Cor was cut off by Dave, who smiled.

“Nyx, huh? He looks familiar…”

“He’s the new captain of the Kingsglaive, took over after Drautos was arrested. You’ve probably seen him in the news or in a picture at at some point.” Dave nodded, and the two fell silent once more, the hunter clearly chewing over what he was going to say.

“For a few minutes, when I saw the pictures and the footage, I was worried that you were fucking the kid; it just didn’t seem like you. Then I looked closer and you looked so concerned, so...aw hell, how do I put it- paternal, that I thought you had gone and adopted yourself a teenager at some point,” Dave commented, and Cor bristled at the first comment, but sighed at the second.

“I almost did, when he was a kid. But I was always away from Insomnia, and I figured I’d be a shit father, so-” Dave got to his feet with a grunt, walking up to him in a few easy steps.

“You? A shit father? You would have parented the shit of that kid, you would have been the dad all the other kids wish they had,” Dave commented bluntly, and Cor could feel his cheeks getting warm. Why does everyone say that? He- “Look, Cor, you idiot. You’ve obviously become a father figure to him anyway, just from what I’ve seen and read; you probably haven’t even noticed that just in the twenty minutes you’ve been here, you’ve been constantly checking where he was, if he was okay- he tripped over a board and you had to force yourself not to move.” Cor knew he was blushing now, and the hunter barked out a laugh and patted his cheek.

“He’s important, I keep an eye on the prince as well-”

“Leonis, shut up while you’re behind. Suck it up and accept it, because from the sound of it, I’m far from the first to say anything,” Dave turned and leaned against the wall as well next to Cor, his smile mischievous. “If I’m going to stand around here and gossip properly, I suppose I should address the other thing. Did you see the Lestallum Times this morning?” The non sequitur caused the already flustered Cor some confusion, but he shook his head.

“The prince checked it out to make sure there wasn’t anything scandalous in it, said everything was quite tame. I did hear something about a gossip column, but-”

“Hm. It was, but it reminded me of something I knew I was going to ask you when I saw you next. The media seems to be utterly oblivious due to your austere monk reputation, even after that ridiculous interview, but I’ve gotta ask.” Cor was sorely tempted to just leave, but he forced himself to turn and face Dave, crossing his arms.

“What now?” he grumbled, and the hunter huffed out a laugh and thwacked him on the shoulder, his eyes kind.

“So how long have you and Captain Nyx been together, hm? He’s a bit younger than I would have guessed for you, but he’s got those eyes that tell you that he’s seen some serious shit. Suppose that’s not shocking considering he’s both a Glaive and Galahdian-” Dave smirked as he pinched his nose once more, and again, he didn’t bother lying.

“Is it really that obvious? We don’t want to broadcast anything due to concerns over two heads of the Lucian military being...together, and also the sudden wave of xenophobia sweeping Insomnia. Hell, a receptionist tried to get him physically removed from the hospital when he was coming to visit me just because he was one of those foreign glaives,” he muttered, and Dave’s expression turned sympathetic.

“How many bullets did you collect there? Didn’t look good, to be honest, but here you are as crabby as ever.” Cor flexed his shoulder on impulse at the question, noting with relief that he was pretty much back to normal.

“Four, three had to be surgically removed.” Dave winced sympathetically, then smiled.

“Well, how long?”

“Little over seven months.” He couldn’t quite hide the little smile that emerged, and Dave patted him on the shoulder one more time and stepped away.

“Well, good for you, Leonis. You aren’t worried this isn’t a weird thing because of who you are? I know it’s the Galahdians who still worship her the most-” Cor shook his head firmly, and Dave nodded. “Good. I’m assuming that since you two made it past a month that you’ve lucked out and found someone who can deal with your weird shit-”

“Oh, fuck you, Auburnbrie,” he finally snapped, but he couldn’t help but laugh. “Yes, you’re right. I have no idea why he puts up with me sometimes, but he does. I’m hoping that doesn’t change for a very long time,” he said, and Dave nodded once more, a kind smile on his face as he walked to the door and opened it to let Cor out.

“Don’t be a stranger, Leonis. Let me know how things are going with both of them next time you roll on through.”

“Stay out of trouble, Dave,” Cor said, and was about to step out when the hunter tapped him on the arm. “Yeah?” The man looked out the door, then leaned forward to speak in his ear.

“Tell those four to tone it down in public, will you?” Dave said, and Cor’s eyes flew open in shock. “I’ve always had a knack for guessing these things, but I can’t be the only one. At some point the wrong person is going to notice, and I have a feeling there’s going to be some serious backlash. I assume the king is already aware?” Dave said quietly, and Cor actually took a moment to scrape together the wherewithal to answer.

“Yes, he thinks it’s sweet...I mean, how in the hell-”

“Just...remember what I said. It’s not obvious, but little things here and there add up.” Dave lightly pushed Cor out the door, and he went willingly, still stunned by Dave’s insight. He didn’t think the boys were that obvious at all, but maybe he wasn’t the best judge- “Safe travels, Cor, whatever you all are really up to.”

What the hell.