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Fire Heart

Chapter Text

Do you remember? Do you remember the stories I told you of the Infernian and his heart?

Tell me again.

Nine year old Ignis Scientia and seven year old Noctis Lucis Caelum sat cuddled under a blanket on the roof of the Citadel, a book of astronomy open on their laps. Noctis’ eyes were wide as he stared up at the sky, following Ignis’ finger.

“That one there is the Infernian. See him? He strides across the heavens with his great sword,” Ignis said carefully.

Noctis squinted. “Hard to see.”

Ignis nodded, staring up at the faint constellation. “That’s because the Infernian is looking for his heart. The gods turned against him, and his heart was cut from his body and destroyed. He was trapped beneath Ravatogh, dead but never really dying. He was named the Betrayer, even though it was the other gods that turned against him.”

Noctis frowned, dropping his eyes to look at the book in their laps. Many of the words were too big for him to understand, but he had heard the story of Ifrit the Infernian before.

“That’s not what everyone else says,” Noctis said.

Ignis looked down, shoulders hunched. He opened his mouth, closed it. He didn’t know what to say.

Noctis gave him that blinding smile that only he could, and Ignis felt warmth spread through him at the sight. He always felt warm at Noct’s smile.

“I like your version better,” Noctis said firmly. “Point him out again?”

Ignis pressed his shoulder into Noct’s and lifted his hand again, pointing out the faint stars of the Infernian.

FFXV

Ignis never told anyone that fire talked to him. Fire had been his first and oldest friend, a warm companion, a teacher, a disciplinarian. He could touch fire without being burned, use fire magic before being bound to the king and Crystal.

He never told anyone. The fire told him to keep it a secret.

He didn’t remember much of his parents. He knew they had loved him, and nurtured his love of learning. They had died when he was young, in a fire set by the Empire.

He had begged the fire to stop. He tried to control it, but the inferno raged around him.

He had been found in the rubble, completely unburned and crying. His uncle had taken him in, swearing him to silence about what had happened.

The fire told him to keep it a secret, so he did.

He met the prince, Noctis, and felt the same warmth spread through him that he did when he touched fire.

He was home.

FFXV

Ignis held the dagger in a firm grip, darting out of the way as Cor Leonis swung his blade.

“Better,” Cor said. “This time don’t dodge with your whole body. Use the daggers to knock my blade just far enough away that you don’t get hit.”

Ignis nodded, brushing sweat off his forehead. They reset their stance and started the dance again. Ignis fell into an almost trance like state. He swore he could hear Cor’s heart pounding in his breast, but he knew that was impossible.

Cor lunged, katana slashing out towards Ignis. Ignis raised the daggers, parrying the blade. Cor immediately riposted, swinging in closer.

Ignis did a backflip, landing near the edge of the mat. Cor grinned, swinging his blade and running at Ignis.

Ignis stood there, letting him come. He heard dual heartbeats, his and Cor’s, and he didn’t understand. He somehow knew what Cor was going to do before he did it, and Ignis threw his hand up, slipping sideways just enough to let Cor fly by.

Cor spun, and Ignis held a flaming dagger to Cor’s throat.

They froze. Ignis dropped the dagger with a curse, leaping back with wide eyes.

“Forgive me, Marshal,” Ignis said.

Cor rubbed his throat, staring down at the young man. “I didn’t realize you had already started pulling magic from the prince.”

Ignis opened his mouth. How could he tell Cor that he wasn’t pulling magic from the prince, or the king? It was inherently his.

“No matter. We’ll start working with magic then. I’ll bring one of the Glaives in to help train you in magic. I’m not very good at it.”

Ignis breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Marshal.”

Cor patted Ignis on the shoulder and walked out of the training hall. Ignis sank to his knees and pulled the dagger close. Flames erupted along the blade.

“That was a little close, don’t you think?” Ignis muttered.

The Glaives can’t teach you to wield fire. Not the way you need to. I can.

“I know, but people will get suspicious if I show too much aptitude for magic of any kind. That is the purview of royalty.”

Once, all men could wield magic, not just those the Draconian blessed.

“I know,” Ignis whispered again. The flames ran along his wrist, cradling his skin like an old friend. Ignis sighed, watching the flames lick along his skin. It didn’t hurt. It never did. It was a soft warmth, like skin on skin.

The door opened, and the flames went out.

FFXV

Whenever Ignis was alone, he felt cold. Even when he was surrounded by people at events, he felt different from them. He couldn’t name it, but he felt like he was missing something.

You aren’t alone. I am with you, always.

“I know,” Ignis whispered, eyes roving over the crowd. It was Noctis’ sixteenth birthday, and the annual birthday ball was in full swing.

Ignis sipped his drink, watching as Noctis danced with Gladio’s little sister. Iris looked absolutely delighted, while Noctis looked somewhat resigned. At least he knew and generally like Iris; Ignis knew Noct hated dancing with the girls he didn’t know.

Ignis set his drink down and leaned against the wall. He could feel a headache coming on, and he pinched the bridge of his nose.

Leave. I can teach you more of what you must learn.

“I can’t leave,” Ignis hissed. “I have to wait for the prince.”

“Who are you talking to, Iggy?”

Ignis gasped, spinning to face Gladio. The larger teen arched his eyebrow. Ignis looked pale and slightly sweaty.

“You feeling okay? You look like you’re about to pass out,” Gladio said.

Ignis took a deep breath. He could feel the familiar warmth of the fire’s voice at the back of his mind.

“A headache is all. I haven’t been sleeping much,” Ignis said. It was the truth. His nights were spent communing with the flame, his days learning everything he needed to be the best advisor possible to Noctis.

Every hour was spent telling himself he couldn’t love Noctis. It wasn’t proper.

“You need to take care of yourself, Iggy,” Gladio said. “I’d hate to kick your ass in training again.”

Ignis rolled his eyes. “Keep dreaming, Gladiolus.”

Gladio grinned, and they turned to watch the dancers. Noctis finally managed to break free, and he made a beeline for Ignis and Gladio.

Ignis told himself the warmth that spread through him as Noct laid his hand on Ignis’ shoulder meant nothing.

He was only warm with the fire, and Noctis.

FFXV

Mortals have forgotten the truth. Ifrit gave them fire, impressed as he was with their strength and love in their short lives. The Draconian didn’t care for them, doesn’t care for them. He has only ever cared for power.

“What happened to Ifrit?” Ignis whispered, sitting cross legged in the middle of his room, a bowl full of fire before him.

He was adored by the people. He had given them the means to beat back the dark, and he was praised above the other gods. Shiva’s heart of ice was melted by the Infernian, and together they walked the land, and the people loved them for it.

Leviathan didn’t care either way about humans, as long as the Tide Mother had her oceans, she was as happy as she could be. Titan and Ramuh were distant, but let the people love Ifrit and Shiva. The Draconian simmered and raged.

Mortals began to tell stories, that Shiva and Ifrit were the parents of mankind, that they were made in their image. Offerings were made to them, and many times when people fell in love they begged the Glacian and the Infernian for their blessings, for they said that the Infernian also gave them the flame of desire that turned to love.

The two gods were glad to give their blessings to the mortals.

Ignis cradled the fire in his hands. His heart pounded. He half didn’t want to know how this story ending.

He somehow knew how it ended.

The Draconian grew jealous of the love the people showed Ifrit, as he had once grown jealous of Etro. He held that he was the most powerful of the Astrals, the Ifrit had stolen his power and the adoration that was his due. He believed that Ifrit had stolen Shiva from him as well, even though the Glacian had never been in a relationship with the Draconian. He wanted what Ifrit had, and would do anything to take it.

Mortals began to dream. They dreamed of raging infernos and Ifrit dragging their loved ones to a dark realm where no light survived. They began to whisper. The Infernian was no benevolent god, they said, but a dark god who would destroy them all. They turned against him, and the Draconian laughed.

The mortals who had once so loved Ifrit turned on him, destroying the shrines they had built to honor him. They turned to the Draconian, begging for his help. Of course, the Draconian was more than happy to help them destroy the Infernian.

They fought, fire and aether coursing across the heavens. The battle lasted for centuries, or so it seemed. The Draconian convinced Shiva to turn against Ifrit, and in his sorrow, Ifrit was thrown down to Ravatogh.

Ignis moaned, stomach turning. He had nightmares of that mountain, of falling, of being trapped in a dark tomb for eternity, of a bone crushing, soul killing loneliness.

The fire’s voice was soft, knowing Ignis’ pain.

The Draconian tore Ifrit asunder, trapping him in the bowels of the mountain. He tore Ifrit’s heart from his body and destroyed it, scattering the remnants to the wind. Ifrit became known as the Betrayer, even though it was not he who did the betraying. The gods stepped back after their great war, leaving the mortals to their own devices.

For a time.

The Astral war had unforeseen consequences. Daemons appeared, and people attributed them to Ifrit. The Draconian blessed a man, a king, with a great Crystal. The king was chosen. He was to rid the world of the Starscourge, brought upon mankind by the Infernian.

Until the Draconian grew bored with his Chosen King, and refused him death.

“Don’t tell me this,” Ignis whispered. “Please.”

I am sorry. You know what is coming.

“Bahamut can’t have him. Not him. Anyone but him,” Ignis sobbed.

The fire was silent, crawling up Ignis’ arm to cradle his face.

What would you give to change his fate?

Ignis looked into the flame, his green eyes blazing.

“Anything.”

The fire engulfed his body, and it sang with joy.

FFXV

The first time Ignis and Noctis kissed, Ignis finally knew what it felt like to be on fire. He had never felt such heat and desire race through his veins, even when he was fully engulfed by his friend the fire.

Ignis had cried with the perfection of it, of Noctis. He only ever felt whole with Noctis, when Noctis touched him, smiled at him. And now he knew what it felt like to be kissed by him, and he would never be whole without it again.

They kept their relationship quiet. Ignis knew it was improper, but he didn’t—couldn’t—care. Noctis had been his home from the moment they had met, and now Ignis couldn’t imagine a world without him.

“I’m going to have to get married one day,” Noctis said, staring at their entwined hands.

Ignis’ hand spasmed in his. “I know.”

Noctis swallowed and looked at him. “Will you stay with me, even then?”

Ignis tilted Noctis’ head back and looked into those blue eyes. “Noctis, I will never leave you. Nothing could tear me away from you.”

“Promise?” Noctis whispered, eyes swimming with tears.

“I swear it,” Ignis said, sealing his promise with a kiss.

Ignis felt the warmth of Noct’s kiss surround him, and he surrendered himself to the flame of desire.

FFXV

Noctis turned twenty, and the world changed again. Word of the treaty came down, and Ignis mourned. Noctis was to be married to Lunafreya to bring peace to the realm.

Ignis fell to his knees before the fire, heart wrenching cries escaping his throat.

You knew this day would come.

“It doesn’t make it any easier,” Ignis gasped, reaching for the flame. The fire leapt and danced along his body. “It feels like a piece of me has been torn away, and it hasn’t even happened yet.”

You know the marriage to Lunafreya will not be what takes him from you.

“Shut up!”

You have been privy to the council meetings. You know that the Starscourge is rising again. The gods are being killed. Shiva is already dead. The Accursed one walks, and he raised Ifrit from beneath Ravatogh.

Ignis froze, eyes wide. “What do you mean? Ifrit is back?”

The fire was silent for a moment. Not as he was. He has been corrupted by millennia alone, and by the Starscourge that was used to reanimate him. Remember, the Draconian tore his body apart. He was stitched back together with darkness and hate. He no longer has a heart. The Draconian destroyed that long ago.

Ignis wiped his eyes. “How do you know?”

He calls to me, begging me to return. It is hard not to answer his call.

“Don’t leave me, please,” Ignis whispered, cradling the fire in his hands. It caressed his cheek.

I cannot leave you, Ignis. You and I are one and the same.

Ignis didn’t reply. He didn’t know how to reply. There was nothing he could say.

FFXV

Whenever Ignis trained, he realized he could hear the heartbeat of the others he was training against, his opponents. He didn’t understand, but he found that he could usually anticipate their actions.

Mortals burn with an internal fire. It runs through their veins, and it calls to you. Listen to what it says, not just in battle, but all the time.

Ignis would stand in the Citadel, eyes closed, and listen to the people going about their day. It was unnerving, and he didn’t like it.

He could recognize Noctis’ heartbeat anywhere, and he cried the day he realized he could hear Regis’ heart failing.

He excelled in his training, eventually taking Cor Leonis down.

He trained until he collapsed from exhaustion. He had to be perfect. He had to protect Noctis.

FFXV

“Ignis!” Regis called. Ignis stopped, turning to face the king. They were leaving Insomnia the next day.

“Your majesty,” Ignis said, bowing slightly.

Regis sent his retainers on, leaving them standing alone in the sun drenched hall.

Regis put his hand on Ignis’ shoulder. “Sit with me for a moment?”

“Of course,” Ignis said, and they walked to a nearby couch and sat.

“I am sorry I wasn’t able to see Noct today,” Regis said, staring out the window.

Ignis hummed, not sure what the king wanted to hear.

“You leave tomorrow morning. Are you prepared?”

“As much as we can be, your majesty,” Ignis said.

“Good. Ignis, you have always watched over Noct. I ask that you continue to do so. Be there for him. What comes will not be easy on him, or you.”

“Yes, majesty,” Ignis said quietly.

Regis tilted Ignis’ head so he could look Ignis in the eye. “I leave him to you, Ignis. Burn any who would harm him.”

Ignis’ eyes widened. Regis leaned over and pressed a kiss against Ignis’ forehead.

“Walk tall, Ignis, and Godspeed.”

Regis stood up, leaving Ignis staring after him in shock.

Regis knew. There was no other explanation for what he had said.

Ignis sat there until his phone rang. It was Gladio, asking where he was.

He stood up, and went through the rest of the day in a daze.

FFXV

The next day they stood before the king and said their farewells.

Ignis stood behind and to the side of Noctis. His eyes flicked to Drautos and he frowned. Drautos’ heart beat with excitement. He was looking forward to the delegation from the Empire.

Ignis glanced at Regis, wondering if he should say something. Regis looked utterly resigned.

He sends his son away for safety. He knows what is coming.

Ignis sucked in a startled breath when Regis looked right at him as Noct got in the car. Regis bowed his head to Ignis.

Ignis stared in shock for a moment, then bowed lower in return. He lifted his head, nodding to the king.

He got in the car, eyes flicking to the prince.

“Ready to head out?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

“Just think, Noct,” Prompto said, looking back at the prince, “when you come back, you’ll be married!”

“Hmmm,” Noct replied.

Ignis clenched the wheel of the Regalia as he drove away from the Citadel. He glanced in the rearview mirror, watching the Citadel shrink.

He dropped one hand into his lap, and felt the fire burst to life in his palm.

Be ready.

Ignis listened to others talk, and with every passing mile his heart sank.

FFXV

The city had fallen. The king was dead.

They stood on the overlook, staring at the smoking city in the distance. Massive ships flew overhead, heading straight for the city.

So, it begins.

“Shut up,” Ignis hissed. He couldn’t deal with the fire’s muttering.

“Noct,” he started, watching his prince after he got off the phone with Cor.

“Cor’s at Hammerhead. Let’s go,” Noctis said shortly.

Ignis sighed, resting his hand on Noct’s lower back and leading him slowly back to the car.

Ignis felt cold, and even touching Noctis couldn’t warm him.

He could only remember Regis telling him to burn any who would harm Noctis, and he knew that the king had expected to die.

Ignis drove back to Hammerhead in silence, fearing he would never be warm again.

FFXV

Their mission changed. They started gathering the Royal Arms, and Noctis would do good deed missions for anyone they came across in need.

Gladio raged at the delay. Prompto supported the prince. Ignis tried to get warm.

Noctis hadn’t touched Ignis since the fall; hadn’t kissed him, held his hand, smiled at him.

Ignis stared at the man before them. Ardyn Izunia. He made the hair on the back of his neck rise.

Do not trust him. He is Accursed.

Ignis frowned. He couldn’t ask the fire with everyone talking. What did Accursed even mean?

Ardyn’s eyes met his, and Ignis felt the fire rise in him, a raging hatred that he had no explanation for.

Ardyn stepped forward, pushing past Noctis and staring intently at Ignis. He grabbed Ignis by the chin and tilted his head back, staring into his eyes.

“Your eyes burn with such fire,” Ardyn whispered, “such hatred. And we’ve only just met.”

Ignis growled. Ardyn’s lips twisted in a sardonic smile.

“I have only seen a shade of that fire once before,” Ardyn whispered in Ignis’ ear. “Do they know what you are?”

Noctis shoved Ardyn back. “Don’t touch him again,” Noctis snarled. “I’ll follow you. Get in your car and let’s go.”

Noctis spun and walked to the Regalia, Prompto scrambling after him. Gladio waited for Ignis, watching Ardyn with open hostility.

Ignis couldn’t tear his eyes away from Ardyn. What had he meant by that?

“Iggy, let’s go,” Gladio said, gently taking Ignis’ arm and steering him away.

Ardyn smiled at Ignis’ back, sweeping his hat off his head in a mocking bow.

FFXV

The closer they got to Titan, the worst Ignis felt. It wasn’t the headaches, like Noctis. It was Ardyn’s words chasing each other through his mind.

Do they know what you are?

He was a man. Just a man.

They stopped for the night, and Ignis walked to the back of the gas station. He slid down the wall, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“What did he mean?” Ignis whispered.

The fire was silent.

“Talking to yourself?” Ignis leapt to his feet, flaming daggers in hand as he stared at Ardyn.

Ardyn smiled, leaning against the tree.

“You don’t know, do you? How utterly delightful,” Ardyn said with a laugh. “Tell me, Ignis Scientia, how often does fire leap to your hands before anything else? How often do you want to burn everything simply because you can?”

Ignis sent his daggers away. He turned on his heel and walked away.

Ardyn’s voice trailed after him. “You can’t run from this, my boy! It’ll catch up to you eventually.”

Ignis walked around the corner and ran straight into Noctis.

“Noct!”

“Ignis. Is that creep bothering you?”

“Ah, nothing I can’t handle,” Ignis said. He felt wired, felt like molten fire was raging beneath his veins.

Noctis snorted, and took Ignis’ hand. Ignis felt like he was going to combust.

“Noct!” he whispered, voice cracking with emotion.

Noctis turned to look at him. “Come with me.” He led Ignis to the car. “Gladio and Prompto are going to stay and watch over the Chancellor. There’s a nearby haven. We’re going there.”

Ignis sat in the passenger seat as Noctis drove the short distance up the road. True to his word, the soft glow of the haven was just off the road. They walked there, Noctis never letting go of Ignis’ hand.

Noct tossed their sleeping bags onto the haven, then pushed Ignis back.

Noctis cuddled against him, staring up at the stars. “Look, the Infernian is rising,” Noctis said, pointing at the horizon where the faint constellation was indeed climbing into the sky.

Ignis felt his stomach tighten at the words, and he didn’t know why.

“It’s still my favorite constellation, you know?” Noctis said, head resting on Ignis’ chest. “And the story you told me about him. I think about it a lot.”

Ignis opened his mouth, but Noctis silenced him with a kiss.

Fire twisted through their veins, and they surrendered to desire, combusting together.

FFXV

They faced Titan. They stood before him and fought him.

It was hot, but the heat didn’t bother Ignis. He fretted while he and Prompto were separated from Noctis and Gladio, only relaxing when the four of them were finally together.

When he was with Noctis again.

Noctis tried to reason with the Archean, but he kept lashing out at them. The Empire flew in, and started to restrain him.

Titan looked straight at Ignis and said something in the language of the Astrals.

Ignis swore he almost understood it.

They threw Blizzard spells, the ice burning Ignis’ hand through his glove.

Titan submitted, bowing to Noctis. The Archean and the meteorite disappeared.

They stumbled away. The Regalia was gone.

Ignis tried not to think about the Landforger. He tried not to think of those strange words the Archean had said to him.

The fire remained silent, burning inside him just a little hotter.

FFXV

They met Gentiana at Wiz’s Chocobo Post, and she sent them to gain the blessing of the Fulgurian.

Ignis trailed behind the others as they set off on foot, the Regalia still in the hands of the Empire. He turned, eyes widening as Gentiana neared him.

She smiled, her eyes closed.

She pressed her hand against his chest, right over his heart.

He opened his mouth, but she disappeared.

“Iggy! Let’s go!” Prompto yelled.

The rain kept pouring down, flattening their hair. Ignis stared at the spot the High Messenger of the Gods had stood, and he turned and ran after his friends.

FFXV

Ramuh agreed far more readily to the covenant with Noctis than Titan. Ignis couldn’t shake the way Ramuh had stared past Noctis and looked at him.

The storm abated the moment the covenant was forged, and when they came out of the caves, Cindy called them. She gave them the location of the Regalia.

They called their chocobos and mounted up. They rode hard, their feathered mounts breathing hard beneath them.

“What is that?” Prompto asked, pointing up.

“A base,” Ignis said, shielding his eyes.

“We’re going to take it down, right?” Gladio asked.

“Hell yeah,” Noctis said.

“We will need a plan,” Ignis said, “there’s a nearby haven. Let’s stop there and make a plan of attack.”

“That’s our Iggy,” Noctis said, smiling at him. “I was starting to think you weren’t there anymore.”

Ignis frowned at him as they reached the haven. “What does that mean, Noctis?”

“You’ve been different, lately,” Noct said, swinging off his chocobo and dropping to the haven. Ignis joined him, staring at Noctis.

“What do you mean?” Ignis asked softly, his heart pounding.

Noctis tilted his head, looking up at Ignis. “I’m not sure. Ever since we left the city, you’ve been…different. I can’t put my finger on it.”

Ignis swallowed. “I’m still me. I’m just Ignis.”

Noctis smiled at him and pulled him down for a heartfelt kiss. “You’ve always been more than ‘just Ignis’ to me.”

Ignis felt like he was burning, fire surging through his body. He cupped Noctis’ face, returning the kiss gently.

“Hey! You two wanna help set up camp, or just keep sucking face?” Gladio asked.

Noctis laughed, kissing Ignis one more time. He went to help Gladio, leaving Ignis standing alone, invisible fire burning in his palms.

FFXV

They infiltrated the base, silently taking down every Magitek trooper that stood in their way.

Ignis fell behind the others, watching Noctis’ back.

He didn’t like fighting the Magitek troopers. They didn’t have a heartbeat. They didn’t feel right.

He found himself alone, and surrounded. They leveled their guns at him, and he considered calling for help.

Use me. Use the fire.

Ignis summoned his daggers, flames dancing down their blades. He lunged, slicing through one, then another. He fell into a trance, listening to the song in his chest.

Gladio ran around the corner, staring in shock as the last Magitek trooper fell to the ground, sparking.

“Shit, Ignis. You okay?”

Ignis stared at the carnage around him. “Fine,” he whispered, sending his daggers away.

Gladio stepped over the ash covered parts on the ground. He swallowed. “Remind me never to piss you off.”

Ignis smiled wanly. “Let’s go.”

Gladio followed him, wondering at the heat rolling off Ignis’ body.

FFXV

They went back to Lestallum, only to be faced with the fragility of their lives. Jared was dead, killed before his own grandson. Iris held Gladio and sobbed, and Gladio held both her and Talcott in his arms.

Ignis watched as Noctis knelt before Talcott, promising revenge.

Ignis went to speak to Holly.

“The damn Nifs didn’t kill many, but they dragged that poor old man into the square and executed him in front of everyone. They were asking for the prince,” she said.

Ignis nodded, eyes hooded. “And his body?” he asked quietly.

“We managed to get him away from them. He’s in this apartment,” she gave him a slip of paper with an address on it.

“We thank you,” Ignis said. They said their farewells, and he went to retrieve Jared’s body. He had been cleaned and wrapped in a black cloth. Fifteen others were stacked next to him.

That night, Lestallum built a pyre for the dead, and Ignis lit it, commending their souls to the beyond.

FFXV

They travelled with Iris, heading for Cape Caem. It was cramped in the car, but they managed, reaching Caem after a number of days to be hit with a startling blow.

Gladio was leaving. He had some things to figure out.

Noctis let him go. Prompto tried to remain cheerful, but they all felt Gladio’s absence.

Ignis burned with an unexpected fury.

Gladio had left them, had left Noctis.

They went to the Vesperpool, the Regalia much roomier without the Shield.

Ignis was less than thrilled to see Ardyn Izunia waiting for them. Ardyn watched him with a strange intensity, a different intensity than he watched Noctis with.

It was unnerving. Ignis didn’t like the man.

They met Aranea officially, and she led them into the dungeon. She fought well, and Ignis found that he actually enjoyed her company.

They got the mythril they needed, killing what seemed to be a small dragon. The return journey was quiet. They were exhausted and filthy. Aranea took them back to Lestallum, where they met up with Gladio.

Gladio had new scars, and a new sword, and his heart beat with renewed vigor.

They returned to Caem, and then they went to Altissia.

FFXV

Altissia was a disaster.

Ignis hadn’t wanted to be separated from his prince, but they’d had no choice. Leviathan was summoned, and the fire within him churned.

He lost Gladio and Prompto in the chaos of the city. He had to get to Noctis.

He gained an unexpected, if untrusted, ally in Ravus Nox Fleuret.

He saw strange visions; Noctis pinned to the throne, fighting Ardyn. He knew it was the future, it was Noctis’ destiny.

He and Ravus continued to fight.

It went marginally well until they reached the altar.

Lunafreya was dead. Ravus tried to kill Noctis, and Ignis fought back, raging against him.

Ignis lost track of everything but Noctis. He fought to protect him, the fire raging.

Gladio walked up to him, staring at Ravus.

It’s not him! The fire cried, twisting through Ignis’ body.

Gladio’s form twisted in Ardyn’s, and Ignis found himself forced to watch as Ardyn threatened to kill Noctis.

He listened in horror as Ardyn revealed his true identity, the fire whispering through his mind.

Accursed one, once Chosen, then denied.

Ardyn Lucis Caelum, the true founder king.

Ignis’ eyes moved towards Noctis, his body still being held down.

The Ring of the Lucii rested near his hand.

Ignis knew it was foolish. Ignis knew he had no chance, no choice.

He slammed the ring onto his finger.

FFXV

Ignis was in a strange place, and he was terrified. He looked up into the eyes of the Draconian.

“You think to undo all that I have done?” The Draconian bellowed at him.

Ignis stepped back. “I don’t know what you mean!”

The Draconian roared, and Ignis screamed his defiance back.

Ignis felt the ring, heavy on his finger.

“Kings of old, please,” Ignis whispered, “help me save Noctis.”

The ring burned.

Bahamut lifted his hand and threw his power at Ignis. Ignis clutched his face, screaming in agony.

Fire pushed from Ignis’ body, striking back at the Draconian.

It wasn’t enough.

Ignis thought he heard the voice of Regis, and then nothing.

FFXV

Ardyn watched with interest as purple fire raced up Ignis’ body. It was Bahamut’s fire. Ardyn had seen it before. He had been subjected to his fire before.

“Well, dead before you get the chance to discover the truth. Pity.”

Ignis stopped screaming and stared at Ardyn through flame filled eyes.

“You will not harm Noctis.”

“Interesting,” Ardyn said.

They fought, and Ardyn could see that at least one of the old kings had defended the boy from Bahamut’s rage.

He had no chance against Ardyn, not like this.

He now knew what it felt like to be caught in a conflagration. The fire couldn’t protect him.

He thought he heard it scream. He thought he heard Bahamut laugh. A searing pain tore through him and he screamed. He felt as if a part of him was missing.

Ardyn walked away.

Ignis fell next to Noctis, the Ring of the Lucii rolling between them.

“Forgive me.”

The fire was gone.

FFXV

Ignis felt frozen inside. Noctis had been unconscious for days, and the fire was gone. He couldn’t feel it inside him anymore.

He couldn’t see, and he hurt in ways he never had before.

He could feel scars over his body; his left eye, spiraling up from the finger that had housed the ring, over his heart. He couldn’t see, and it scared him.

He felt alone, trapped in a sea of darkness, and he was terrified.

Noctis woke, and Ignis nearly begged him to stop this journey, to leave humanity to its fate.

Noctis refused, and Ignis fought back tears. He would stay with him no matter what.

If Noctis let him.

What use did the Chosen King have for a blind man who couldn’t access his magic?

None.

FFXV

They rode the train to Cartanica, hitting the breaking point hours before reaching the station.

Ignis listened to them fight, listened to Gladio berate Noctis unfairly, listened to Prompto sniffle quietly next to him.

He missed the fire. It had been his constant companion, and somehow Bahamut had done something to him, had torn it away from him.

He didn’t understand what had happened when he put the ring on. What had Bahamut meant? Had he really heard Regis’ voice?

He was terrified that Noctis was going to leave him behind on the surface, but Noctis took his hand and squeezed, leading him to the elevator.

They went down into the mines.

Prompto remained next to Ignis, and Ignis realized how much he had come to rely on the fire and his ability to hear heartbeats.

Being without the fire was worse than being blind.

There were fights, and Ignis was worse than useless. He stumbled and fell and blundered straight into packs of creatures, only to have to have one of the others pull him out.

Gladio continued to yell at Noctis, and Ignis wanted to strike him. Couldn’t he see Noct was hurting?

They decided to camp at the lone haven in the mines, and it was a tense, unpleasant night. No one slept.

The next morning, a light rain misted from the sky. Ignis retreated deeper into his jacket, colder than he’d ever been in his life.

He thought he felt the fire twist briefly when Noctis touched him, but it was so quick and fleeting Ignis knew he was just imagining things.

They reached the tomb, and the fight was on.

Ignis huddled to the side, where Gladio had half thrown him to get him out of the way. He raged and screamed internally.

He just wanted to help! He wanted—needed—to protect Noctis.

He dropped his head, blocking out all the sounds raging around him, the smell permeating the swamp, the pain that shot through him every beat of his heart.

“Please,” he whispered, “I have never asked for much, but please, come back. I cannot protect him without you.”

He felt it, deep within him, twisting and flaring like a flame about to gutter out.

He clutched at it, half sobbing. “Please!”

I am here! Use me!

Ignis let out a scream, and he felt the fire surge through him. Sound rushed back to him; not only the sounds of the fight and the swamp, but his companions’ frantic heartbeats. He could almost see them—bright spots in a sea of darkness.

He could feel the thing they were fighting, and he thrust his hand out to it. He heard a terrible shriek as the thing was torn apart by fire, and Ignis staggered sideways.

“Iggy, you did it!” Prompto yelled, helping Ignis stand.

Ignis leaned against Prompto, breathing hard. Noctis squeezed Ignis’ hand and retrieved the katana.

Ignis told them off for bickering, and asked to remain with them until the end.

They returned to the surface in silence.

The fire beat in Ignis’ chest.

I’m here. I’m here. I’m here.

FFXV

Ignis sat alone in the sleeping compartment, cradling a flame to his chest.

“I thought you were gone.”

I nearly was. The Draconian tried to tear me away from you.

“Why? What have I done to deserve the rage of the Draconian?”

Nothing, dear one. The Draconian is a jealous god, and he does not share power well. He tried to destroy us, but I am a part of you. I simply had to find my way back to you.

Ignis was silent. “I am afraid of what is to come. I fear losing Noctis will destroy me.”

The fire didn’t reply; it simply curled around his hand.

I will not leave you again. Even the Draconian cannot part us.

The compartment door opened, and Ignis snuffed the flame.

Noctis sat beside him in silence. Ignis reached for him timidly, and Noctis took his hand.

They held each other as the train rolled down the tracks, and Noctis wondered at the changes that were taking place with Ignis.

FFXV

Prompto was gone, Tenebrae was in flames, and they continued towards Gralea.

Ardyn teased and taunted them, trying to drive them to despair.

They escaped the train in the Regalia, driving straight into utter chaos.

The Regalia was destroyed, finally beaten but having served her master well.

They continued on, until Ardyn separated them.

Ignis and Gladio had to follow his voice through the maze of Zegnautus Keep, Ignis’ hand fisted in the back of Gladio’s shirt.

He could feel the daemons in the city; a strange fire burned within them.

“We’re never going to find Noctis,” Gladio cursed, kicking out at the wall.

Ignis took a deep breath. Noctis.

Noctis.

“This way,” Ignis said after a moment, using his cane to feel his way.

“Hey wait!” Gladio called, hurrying after him. “Where are you going?”

“I can hear him, Noct’s voice,” Ignis said firmly.

Gladio stared at Ignis’ back, practically jogging to keep up with him.

Ignis couldn’t hear his voice, but he could hear Noctis’ heartbeat, the fire burning in the king’s chest that was unique to him.

Ignis would be able to find Noctis anywhere.

FFXV

The four of them were together again, and it felt right.

The closer they got to the Crystal, the worst Ignis felt. He didn’t know why. He remembered the few times he had been near the Crystal in the Citadel. He had gotten ill the first time, and every time after that he had suffered a migraine that lasted days.

It was far worse now.

I cannot shield you from the Crystal’s power. It is the Draconian’s, and far too powerful.

Ignis nodded. He understood. His feet dragged, his eyes hurt. He concentrated on the heartbeats of those around him.

Noctis’ beat with determination, a fire burning inside his heart for what was to come. Gladio’s beat with resignation. He would do whatever it took to protect Noctis. Prompto’s beat with renewed vigor for his friends. They hadn’t turned away from him upon learning the truth.

Ardyn’s voice cut through Ignis’ mind. He felt something familiar, something newly tainted, coming closer.

“Ravus?” Noctis asked.

“What happened to him?” Prompto said in horror.

“He’s turning into a daemon,” Gladio muttered.

“Oh. That poor man,” Ignis whispered. They hadn’t gotten along terribly well, but no one deserved Ravus’ fate.

They fought, and Ignis realized again that he could almost see.

My gift. You can see the fire that lights mortals’ souls.

“Thank you,” Ignis whispered as Noctis delivered the fatal blow to Ravus.

“His body is still turning!” Prompto said in horror.

Ignis knelt carefully next to Ravus’ corpse and held his hand out over him.

“May you find peace in the flame, and live in eternal joy in the beyond,” Ignis whispered. His hand flared with white hot flames and Ravus’ body went up in fire.

Ignis stepped back, basking in the heat.

“What was that?” Noctis asked, staring at Ignis.

“A prayer for him. As Gladio said, a sad end for him,” Ignis said.

Noctis frowned, eyes drawn back to the fire. Ignis felt different, and he couldn’t pin it down.

The daemons appeared, and Ignis sent Noctis ahead.

“You have to get to the Crystal. It could be the only way to bring back the dawn,” Ignis said.

“Go, Noct!” Prompto yelled, shooting a daemon. “We’ll meet you there!”

“Yeah,” Gladio grunted, swinging his Greatsword. “Do what you gotta do.”

Noctis stared at Ignis, convinced that Ignis could almost see him.

“Go!” Ignis yelled, fire encasing his daggers.

Noctis ran, straight into the arms of the Draconian.

FFXV

Noctis was gone, and the sun slowly disappeared behind a shroud.

They didn’t spend time together. Noctis had been the glue that held the three of them together and without him, they couldn’t be around each other.

It was too painful.

Gladio became a well-known hunter, training with glaives that had appeared out of nowhere. Prompto stayed in Leide, helping Cindy keep Hammerhead as the last safe outpost in the desert.

Ignis lived alone at Galdin Quay. He told others that he fished, and he did, but mostly, he trained.

The fire taught him many secrets. He learned to see with the fire that dwelled in peoples’ breast. He learned to fight the daemons, and the corrupted fire within them.

He waited for Noctis to return, his only companion the fire.

And darkness.

FFXV

Ten years after Noctis disappeared into the Crystal, he came back.

Ignis knew the moment it happened. He felt the fire in his own chest burn hotter, and he nearly sobbed in relief, and terror.

He knew what was coming.

Noctis came to Hammerhead, and the moment he laid his hand on Ignis’ shoulder, Ignis was home.

Yet he mourned.

Noctis had come to Ignis that night, stepping up to him and kissing him hard. They fell into bed, desperation leading their actions.

They wore their formal Glaive uniforms as they left for the city. They didn’t tell Noctis how they hadn’t been together during the ten years.

They walked slowly to Insomnia, stopping at the overlook where they had once watched the city fall.

Noctis told them he went to his death.

Ignis sat there, tears rolling from his ruined eyes.

Chosen King. The Draconian has convinced him death is the only way. Sacrifice, yet another pawn in the Draconian’s game.

Ignis clenched his fist. It wasn’t fair. Noctis deserved to live.

Noctis deserved the world.

Ignis would burn Eos to ashes if the Draconian won.

FFXV

They walked through the city, their home. Daemons stalked the streets, windows were broken, entire buildings destroyed in the aftermath of the fall.

They felled a massive behemoth, stopping before the Citadel gates.

“This is it,” Gladio said quietly, looking up at the darkened palace.

“We’re home,” Prompto said.

“Finally,” Ignis whispered.

“It’s nearly finished,” Noctis said, and he opened the gate.

FFXV

Ardyn waited for them on the steps of Citadel, watching them with a smirk. He bowed in a mocking welcome.

“Ifrit, the Infernian,” Ardyn said.

Ignis’ head snapped up, nostrils flaring. The fire moaned in his mind.

“He doesn’t share the Glacian’s fondness for mankind, but you can expect a warm welcome,” Ardyn said.

Remember, he is not the Infernian of old. The moment the Draconian tore out his heart he was rendered incomplete. The Accursed raised him with the Starscourge. He is a daemon.

Ifrit appeared in a shimmer of heat, sitting upon a flaming throne.

“Uh, he looks pissed,” Prompto whispered.

Ignis could see him, a corrupted heat, an empty heart.

Ardyn smirked, staring at Ifrit. “Burn them.”

Ifrit looked at the four men below him, his eyes drawn to Ignis.

They stared at each other.

Ifrit stood up.

“Get ready,” Noctis said. “He’s going to bring the heat.”

Ignis stepped forward, gently shouldering Gladio out of the way.

“Iggy?” Gladio asked.

Ignis ignored them, focused only on the raging inferno of Ifrit.

Ardyn watched, a frown marring his face.

Ifrit knelt before Ignis, bringing his face down to his level.

No one moved. No one could tear their eyes away from Ignis and Ifrit.

“No,” Ardyn whispered.

“Ignis?” Noctis asked.

Ifrit held his hand out to Ignis.

Ignis lifted his hand, resting it lightly on Ifrit’s fingers.

The moment they touched, they were engulfed by a pillar of fire.

Noctis screamed. Gladio grabbed him around the waist, dragging him back. Prompto clung to Gladio’s jacket, covering his mouth as the inferno raged.

Ardyn stumbled back, shielding his face from the heat.

The fire abruptly disappeared.

Ignis and Ifrit were gone, a ring of ash left on the ground.

FFXV

Ignis and Ifrit drifted through the stars, the past flashing before them.

Do you understand, Ignis?

“You are the Infernian’s flame,” Ignis whispered to the fire.

Yes.

Ignis stared at the stars, heart slamming beneath his breast.

Let me tell you a story, Ignis. One I should’ve told you long ago.

The stars spun around them, and Ignis saw the beginning.

Etro was the first of us, our mother. I do not know from whence she came. She has always been there. I was the youngest of her children, and delighted in learning at her knee. She used some of my fire, my soul, to ignite her creation, her mortals.

She gave them freewill, as she had given it to us. She created the mortals from the leftover dust she had used to make my siblings and I.

Let me speak of my brothers and sisters.

Ramuh, the eldest, spent his days and nights among the storms, listening to the song of the thunder. Titan, the next eldest, turned his attention to the rocks and earth, building towering mountains and deep valleys. Leviathan, the eldest female, was only concerned with the tides and the waves, and she kept her focus on the waters of Eos. Shiva, the most beautiful of us, kept the high and cold places, rejoicing in her blizzards. Bahamut, the Draconian, born of strength, was by far the strongest of us.

I was born last, of Etro’s desire for warmth. Bahamut hated me from the moment Etro breathed life into me. I took her attention away from him.

Ages past, and the Draconian simmered. Not long after I took my first breath, Etro created mankind, as I have said.

Etro was fond of them, her creations, and created a fantastical afterlife for them. When they died and stepped through her gate, they were greeted with heaven. The other gods did not care about the mortals. They were beneath our notice.

At first, I did not care about the mortals. They were short lived, fickle creatures. And they were afraid of the dark. They did not venture out at night, they did not rejoice under the stars, for they feared the darkness.

One night, a brave woman stepped out of her cave and stared up at the stars. She wished for a way to see in the dark. I appeared to her, and taught her the secret of fire.

Mankind could conquer the darkness, conquer their fear of the night thanks to her. She told them of me, and of Etro.

The Draconian had never agreed with Etro about giving the mortals freewill. He thought we should bend them to our will, make them our slaves. Etro would not take back her gift of freewill, and I would not take back my gift of fire.

One night, Etro disappeared. I do not know what happened to her, but I believe the Draconian had something to do with it. Her gateway still stood, but many got lost when they died, unable to find their way home.

I began to spend time with the mortals, because I missed Etro. I missed my mother, and I felt closer to her with her creations.

Over eons, Etro was forgotten. Shiva watched me, and grew curious. I showed her the joy of mortals, their intense emotions, everything so bright because they lived for so short a time.

She grew to love them, and I grew to love her.

The Draconian sat Etro’s heavenly throne. I ignored him.

I have told you of how the Draconian grew jealous of the love and adoration mortals showed me, and how he hated the relationship between Shiva and myself.

You remember the story?

“Yes,” Ignis whispered, his voice echoing around them. He could almost see his voice as color, nebulous ribbons dancing between the stars.

He wished Noctis could see this.

Tell me.

“The Draconian turned humanity against you. They saw you as a dark god, an evil god, who dragged their loved ones to hell. The Draconian fought you, eventually throwing you beneath Ravatogh and tearing out your heart.”

Ignis had tears running down his face. Ifrit brushed the tears away, flicking the drops of water to spin between the stars.

For Eons I lay beneath Ravatogh, incomplete and mourning. One day, I noticed a crack in my prison, and I sent the fire seeking. It found you, just conceived. It could see that you were strong, and I sent the fire away to join you. I chose you, or maybe, you chose me.

Ignis looked up at Ifrit, somehow being able to see here in this holy space.

The Accursed one came to my tomb, granted entry because of his connection to the Draconian’s Crystal. It had been a gift to the Caelum line, but it was, in actuality, a curse.

It bound the line of kings to Bahamut’s service. He gave them magic in return for their lives, and their souls. This I learned after the fire went to you. This I learned when Ardyn Lucis Caelum reanimated my corpse with the Starscourge and bent my heartless body to his will.

Ignis stared through the heavens.

“Noctis is bound to him. The Draconian.”

Ifrit nodded. Noctis has spent ten years in the Draconian’s embrace, listening to his lies. He believes he must die to bring back the dawn, to save mankind from this hell on Eos that the Draconian has orchestrated.

Ignis’ eye locked on Ifrit’s. “He doesn’t have to die?”

Ifrit shook his head slowly.

It comes a cost. There is always a price.

“What must I do? I will do anything to save Noctis.”

Accept the mantle that has been yours since birth. Take your place among the Astrals, and tear the Draconian’s lies apart.

Ignis stared at his hands as planets were born and died around them.

He could save Noctis.

Noctis could live.

“Whatever I have to do,” Ignis whispered. “I will live with the price.”

Ifrit leaned forward, and he was suddenly the same size as Ignis, or maybe Ignis was the same as him. Ifrit cradled Ignis’ face, looking into his one open eye.

He traced his fingers over Ignis’ scars. These were formed by the Draconian. It was your king Regis that saved you from death. If you succeed, the scars may fade.

“I do not care about the scars, as long as Noctis lives. I cannot imagine a world without him.”

Ifrit smiled, and Ignis was amazed at the change in his face. He could see why people had loved him. Ifrit leaned close and slotted his lips against Ignis. Ignis felt as if he were combusting, power and fire surging through his veins.

Ifrit faded, smoke among the stars.

“May you find peace in the flame, and live in eternal joy in the beyond,” Ignis whispered.

He was alone amongst the stars.

The fire burned in his chest.

He vanished.

FFXV

“Ignis!” Noctis yelled, looking around wildly.

“Iggy!” Prompto and Gladio called.

“Where is he?” Noctis snarled at Ardyn.

Ardyn shrugs. “How am I to know the minds of the gods?”

“I’ll kill you!” Noctis yelled, summoning his sword.

Ardyn smiled nastily. “I do believe that’s the point of all this.”

He summoned his own blade.

“Look!” Prompto yelled, pointing to the sky.

A fireball streaked from the heavens.

They all turned their eyes skyward, watching the fire descend from the sky.

It slammed into Ardyn, sending him flying back into the Citadel proper.

“Oh my,” Ardyn gasped, staring up into Ignis’ face. “Hello, Infernian.”

The others ran into the building, staring in shock.

Ignis held Ardyn down, a jeweled sword at his throat. Wings of fire arched from his back, and a crown of flames twisted about his head.

“Ig…Ignis?” Noctis whispered, staring in awe. He had never seen anything as beautiful as Ignis in the full glory of fire.

Ardyn looked up at Ignis. Fire moved beneath the scars on his face, and Ardyn felt the tip of the sword pierce his throat.

“You have accepted your fate then,” Ardyn said quietly.

“To save Noctis,” Ignis replied, wings flaring behind him.

“At the expense of yourself,” Ardyn whispered. “I may not be a god, but I know what it is like to watch those you love age and die while you remain the same.”

Ignis’ heart twisted, and the fire in his soul remained silent.

He knew there would be a price.

He did not know it would be so horrible.

He closed his eyes briefly, then opened them, staring into Ardyn’s hazel eyes. Ardyn stared back, aware of the other three standing just on the other side of Ignis’ flaming wings.

“You were subjected to the Draconian as well,” Ignis said flatly, staring into Ardyn’s eyes.

“Yes.”

“Do you want to be free of him?” Ignis asked, knees squeezing Ardyn’s arms to his side.

Ardyn looked up at Ignis and laughed. “Oh, you are going to enrage him. Yes, Infernian, I wish to be free. Tell me, are you going to bend me to your will? Make me dance to your tune like Bahamut has made countless kings?”

“No,” Ignis said, standing up and dragging Ardyn to his feet. “I’m going to destroy the Draconian, and you’re going to help.”

Noctis stared at Ignis, eyes wide. “Ignis…Ignis what happened to you?”

Ignis looked at him, and Noctis was shocked to see green looking back at him from his one open eye.

“To the Crystal,” Ignis said, fisting his hand in Ardyn’s jacket and half dragging him across the lobby.

“What the serious fuck is going on?” Gladio hissed.

“I don’t know,” Noctis whispered.

They followed Ignis in silence, Noctis’ heart pounding in trepidation.

FFXV

Ignis dragged Ardyn before the throne, and the Crystal. He could feel the power of the Draconian reaching out for him, and the fire rose in him in response.

“You wish to be free of all this?”

“I wish to rest, to be free,” Ardyn said.

Ignis nodded again, and grabbed Ardyn by the throat. He stood on the throne and slammed Ardyn into the Crystal. Ardyn let out a groan as the Crystal dug into his back, the force of the blow knocking the wind out of him.

Ignis took the jeweled sword, the one that Ifrit had once carried, a gift from Etro, and slammed it into Ardyn’s chest, spearing him to the Crystal.

Ardyn grunted, staring at the sword driven through him deep into the Crystal. Ignis still held the hilt of blade, driving in deeper.

Black blood welled from Ardyn’s mouth and eyes. Ignis pushed the sword as deep as he could.

He could almost hear the Draconian screaming.

Noctis stared in horror at the sight before him. He had known, somehow, that his own fate had been to be pinned to the throne.

He never expected to see Ardyn stuck above it.

Ignis turned to look at Noctis, eye blazing with fire. “Pull whatever weapons you wish to keep from the armory.”

Gladio summoned his Greatsword, Prompto his guns. Noctis pulled his favorite weapons, eyes locked on Ignis’ form.

He didn’t know what had happened to Ignis, why he had wings of fire, how he had driven a sword through Ardyn into the Crystal, but he wanted answers.

He wanted Ignis.

Ignis took Ardyn’s face in his hands, ignoring the black ichor running over his hands.

“The Draconian took you into his service, then turned away from you when he grew bored with you. He cursed you.” Ignis swallowed. “I free you, Ardyn Lucis Caelum, to the beyond. May you find joy in the flame, and live in eternal joy in the beyond.”

Ignis leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss against Ardyn’s forehead, and then both Ardyn and the Crystal were engulfed by white flame.

Ardyn screamed, the white flame burning the scourge from his body.

Noctis covered his mouth, stumbling back against Gladio.

Ardyn’s screams tapered off as the fire ate at his body.

Noctis let out a strangled yell as the felt the power of the Crystal shatter.

Bahamut screamed, appearing in the throne room in a flash of light.

“What have you done?” the Draconian screeched, bladed wings shattering marble pillars.

Ignis turned, the Crystal still burning. He wrenched his sword from the Crystal. His eye blazed, his own wings flared out behind him. He radiated heat.

“I have freed him. I have freed all the Caelums from your grasp, Draconian,” Ignis spat.

“You cannot save him!” The Draconian bellowed, swords of light appearing before him.

“You cannot have him!” Ignis screamed, raising the sword. It flared with fire.

The Draconian lunged forward, reaching for Noctis. Gladio threw himself in front of Noctis, desperate to save Noctis.

Fire washed across the throne room, shoving the Draconian back. Bahamut roared, his swords disappearing.

Ignis stood before Noctis, wings spread protectively in front of the king.

“They’re speaking the language of the gods,” Prompto whispered. “Ignis is speaking the language of the gods.”

Noctis started. He hadn’t realized, as he had always been able to understand that language.

“You poured too much of your power into the Crystal, Bahamut,” Ignis continued, pointing the sword at the Draconian. “For thousands of years, you tied yourself too closely to it. Did you actually plan to let Noctis bring the dawn back, or were you going to deny him death as you did Ardyn?”

Noctis stared at Bahamut. He remembered his time in the Crystal, and the sweet words Bahamut had whispered in his ear; promises of the dawn, of seeing those he loved again.

“It can’t be true,” Noctis whispered, staring around Ignis at the Draconian. Bahamut looked at him, his eyes angry.

“What?” Gladio asked. “What did they say?”

“You are nothing,” Bahamut spat at Noctis. “A mortal toy that I can bend to my will. My slave.”

Noctis reeled back like he’d been struck.

“We trusted you!” Noctis yelled. “For two thousand years, the Caelums have prayed to you and for what?” Noctis wrenched the Ring of the Lucii from his finger and flung it at Bahamut.

“Noctis,” Ignis said quietly. Noctis looked at him in his fiery glory, blinking back tears.

“What?”

“He cannot hurt you again,” Ignis said.

Bahamut lunged forward, and Ignis flew up to meet him. There was a flash of light, of heat, and Bahamut was flung back.

“The Crystal is dead. You will fade, Draconian, into nothing. Your power will disappear, and within a generation your name will be reviled by the very playthings you thought to control. You are done,” Ignis said.

Bahamut roared, and Ignis raised his hand.

“The Caelums are henceforth under my protection,” Ignis said, eyes blazing. “And if any harm befalls Noctis or his heirs at the hand of you or any under your thrall, I will hunt you through the heavens until you scream for mercy. I will destroy everything you hold dear, Draconian. Now. You are not welcome in the Citadel. Get out.”

Bahamut roared, and Ignis shot a geyser of flame at him. The Draconian disappeared in a shower of flame and light.

Ignis stood there, panting. He lowered his arm, the sword dragging the marble floor.

“Ignis?” Noctis whispered, taking a step closer to him. Ignis sheathed the sword and turned to face Noctis.

“Noctis,” Ignis whispered, voice cracking.

“You’re the Infernian?” Noctis said, eyes wide.

Ignis closed his eye and nodded.

“Yes.”

FFXV

There was a moment of silence that seemed to echo into eternity.

“What?” Gladio said incredulously.

“Since when?” Prompto asked, staring in fascination.

Noctis was silent.

Ignis rolled his neck, uncomfortable under their scrutiny. “Fire has always spoken me. I did not realize what it meant until I stood before Ifrit on the steps of the Citadel.”

“What did you do to Ardyn?” Noctis asked, rubbing his chest. It was the same location that Ardyn had been speared.

Ignis looked at the dead Crystal. “The Crystal needed Caelum blood to break the hold of darkness. I gave the Crystal what it needed when I burned the scourge from his body.”

“He couldn’t die, I thought,” Noctis said.

“The Draconian barred him from the afterlife. As the Infernian, I sent him through. His death shattered the Draconian’s hold, and destroyed the Crystal. After all, Ardyn was the first Chosen King,”

Ignis turned, walking up next to the throne. Ardyn’s hat rested on the scarred marble floor. Ignis picked it up, turning it between his hands. With a thought, he incinerated it, ash blowing away in a light breeze.

“So…it’s over?” Prompto asked.

Ignis nodded. “It’s over.”

Noctis looked at the throne, then at Ignis. Ignis was the Infernian?

Noctis’ brain refused to process. Ignis couldn’t be the Infernian. He was Ignis. He was the man he loved.

Not a god.

“Oh…oh look,” Gladio said, pointing out the massive hole in the side of the throne room.

The sun was rising.

FFXV

Ignis watched the sun rise, and felt his heart break.

He could feel it, inside him. He was different.

He was immortal.

He stared at his hands, his left eye still sealed shut. The fire was silent, but he could feel it.

It was his.

The other three were talking, watching the sun climb slowly into the sky.

Ignis could only think of what Ardyn had said to him.

He was going to have to watch Noctis die.

Noctis would age, and Ignis would remain the same.

“We should head back to Hammerhead. Cor and the others will be waiting,” Prompto said. Gladio nodded. He clapped Noctis on the back, then pulled him into a tight hug.

“I’m glad you’re not dead.”

Noctis was startled into a laugh, hugging Gladio back.

“Me too.”

“Noctis,” Ignis whispered. They turned to face him.

“I have to go,” Ignis said.

Noctis’ face went white. “No. Ignis, I need you.”

“Noct, please,” Ignis whispered, stepping back as the king stepped forward.

“Why?” Noctis spat. “Why are you leaving?”

“I…I cannot stay.”

“Why?” Noctis snarled, grabbing Ignis’ jacket. He could feel heat roiling off Ignis’ body, those flaming wings held back tightly.

“I cannot bear to watch you die,” Ignis said.

Silence.

“But…I thought he gets to live?” Prompto cried, panic making his voice rise.

Ignis nodded. “He does. Of course he does.”

“Then what the hell are you on about?” Gladio asked.

Ignis looked away. “I am immortal, Gladio. Do you know what that means?”

“You don’t die. I’m not an idiot. I’ve read plenty of fantasy.”

Ignis looked at him. “It also means I do not age.”

Another echoing silence.

“Oh,” Gladio whispered.

“The three of you will age, and I will eternally look as I do now,” Ignis whispered.

“I don’t care,” Noctis yelled.

“You will,” Ignis said.

“I won’t!”

“Guys!” Gladio said, stepping forward and pushing them gently apart. “Let’s go back to Hammerhead. We’re going to need your help to explain what the hell happened, Ignis, so you can’t leave yet. You can discuss it when everyone calms down, okay?”

“Gladio’s right,” Prompto said, looking between the other three. “We need to go back, first, and then we’ll decide what to do. Together.”

Noctis looked at his feet. He certainly didn’t feel like a king. He felt uprooted and adrift. He had walked into the Citadel expecting to die. He would walk out alive.

But Ignis wanted to leave.

“Fine. Let’s go back to Hammerhead.” Noctis spun on his heel and stalked the length of the throne room, not looking at the others.

Prompto scurried after him, Gladio a step behind him.

Ignis stood before the dead Crystal, the empty throne. His shoulders slumped, wings dragging the floor as he walked down the steps.

The fire beat in his chest, surging through his veins.

You knew there would be a price.

Ignis closed his eye.

He didn’t respond.

FFXV

Cor Leonis picked them up outside the city, truck rumbling. His eyebrows skyrocketed as he saw Ignis with flaming wings and a fire crown. He nearly went to his knees when he saw Noctis, his king.

He fell into a bow before Noctis, taking his hand in both of his.

“Your majesty,” his voice cracked. He knew what Noctis had been walking into.

“Rise, Marshal,” Noctis whispered. Cor stood up, staring down at Noctis. Noctis’ eyes were red rimmed with tears, but he managed a smile when Cor embraced him in a fierce hug.

“How?” Cor whispered.

“Ignis,” Prompto said, gesturing to the other man. Cor looked at him.

“So. Regis was right about you, then.”

“What?” Noctis breathed. “Dad knew that Ignis is…is…”

“The Infernian,” Cor said, bowing briefly to Ignis. Ignis’ eye widened, remembering Regis’ words the day before they left. “Yes. Or, at least he suspected that Ignis was the Infernian reborn. He also knew there was no better protector or friend for you.”

“How did he know?” Ignis asked. “I didn’t know until today.”

“He saw you talking to his fireplace when you were seven. You spoke the language of the gods.”

Ignis blinked. “Oh. I never realized I did that.”

Cor nodded at him. “Clarus and I were the only two he told. He wasn’t sure you knew, but he wanted you to have as normal a life as possible.”

Ignis bowed his head, hair falling across his face. “And I thank him for it.”

Cor nodded.

“Everyone in the truck,” Cor said. Ignis climbed in the bed of the truck, unsure of what to do with his wings. At least they didn’t seem to be setting anything on fire. Gladio got in the back with him, and Noctis and Prompto rode in the cab with Cor.

Gladio watched Ignis with interest. “It does explain a lot, you know.”

“I would rather not talk about it right now. I’m still coming to terms with it.”

Gladio nodded. “But you’re going to leave.”

Ignis sighed. “I must. I cannot bear to have him come to hate me because I will not age.”

“What will you do?”

Ignis looked at the landscape whipping by. “I will travel the corners of Eos, spreading word of the Dawn King.”

Gladio sighed, and they finished the trip in silence.

FFXV

There was much rejoicing when the truck pulled in and Noctis stepped out, the sunlight striking his hair.

Iris squealed and hugged him, then her brother. She stared with wide eyes at Ignis, fascinated.

“Long story,” Gladio whispered.

Prompto and Gladio explained as best they could, with occasional input from Ignis and Noctis. The explanation took most of the day. They ate lunch, watching hunters rejoice in the sun.

“What happened to Ifrit then?” Iris asked, head cocked to the side.

“Ifrit has gone beyond, to Etro’s garden,” Ignis said.

“Say who what now?” Cid grunted.

“The first goddess,” Ignis said, “mother of the other Astrals.”

“How do you know that? Is Ifrit in your head?” Gladio asked, stepping back. Ignis sighed and shook his head.

“No. I assure you, I am only me. Ifrit has moved beyond.”

“Ifrit has passed Etro’s gate, finally?” A soft voice said. They all turned. Gentiana stood there, eyes open, looking straight at Ignis.

Ignis nodded. “Yes, my lady. He has moved to just beyond the gate. I believe he is waiting for you.”

The shell of Gentiana disappeared, leaving the beautiful Shiva in her wake. She took Ignis’ hands.

“I thank you, Infernian,” she whispered, pressing kisses into his palm.

Ignis looked at her, his heart pounding. “I could use your help, Lady Shiva.”

She smiled at him. “You are the new age of us, Ignis Infernian. With the death of the Crystal comes the death of the old ways. You have freed us all from our brother’s foul influence, freed us to the earth and the skies and seas. I have been dead many years, a shell of myself thanks to the Empire. I go to my beloved. You do not need me.”

She kissed his lips gently, and turned and walked away. She disappeared in a wave of snow, and Ignis knew he would never see the Glacian again.

FFXV

“So…your majesty,” Talcott said, “what now?”

Noctis shrugged. “I don’t have a clue. I expected to be dead.”

“It is a gift that you are alive,” Iris said fiercely. “You brought back the dawn, and you got to live to see it.”

“I didn’t do anything,” Noctis said. “Ignis did it all. As always.”

Ignis rocked back, a flash of pain crossing his face before a mask of impassivity fell across him.

“And as always,” Ignis said quietly, “I did it for you.”

Ignis turned and walked away, staring out over the desert landscape. It would take decades for the land to recover from the long night.

They were already treating him differently. They bowed to him, stared at him in awe. No one touched him, or offered him any comfort. He was beyond them already.

Iris glared at Noctis, who was pointedly not looking at Ignis. “Talk to him,” she hissed, herding the others away.

Noctis sighed, shoulders slumping. The sun was starting to set, casting Ignis in a golden light, wings brighter than the darkening sky.

“Why do you have to leave?” Noctis asked, standing next to him.

Ignis looked to the west. “I cannot bear to watch the love in your eyes turn to bitterness as the decades pass…and I remain the same.”

“I wouldn’t, Ignis, I would still love you.”

Ignis looked down at him. “And when you’re seventy and I still look thirty-two, could you say the same? Could you look at me without feeling the bitterness of age?”

Noctis was silent for a moment. “I don’t know.”

Ignis nodded. “Thank you for being honest.”

They watched the sun crawl across the sky.

“I can’t do this without you, Ignis,” Noctis whispered, his voice breaking. Ignis turned to him, cupping Noctis’ face in his hands.

“Noctis, you are the strongest person I know. You will be a magnificent king. The Dawn King. Lucis needs you.”

“I need you, Ignis,” Noctis half sobbed. Ignis let out a soft moan and pressed his lips against Noctis’.

Noctis gasped, warmth spreading through him. He looked up into Ignis’ eye as the Infernian pulled back. Ignis put a hand over Noctis’ heart, feeling the steady pound.

“Please, don’t leave me alone,” Noctis whispered.

“Noctis, I must leave,” Ignis whispered, “but you are not alone. I am in the fire that warms you, in the sun that touches your cheek. I am the flame that burns in your heart, and whenever you feel alone, look to the fire and I will be there.”

Noctis clung to him, and Ignis wrapped his arms and wings around Noctis. They cried together.

“I love you, Ignis. I always have, I always will.”

“I love you, Noctis. Live. For me.”

Noctis sniffed. Ignis kissed his tears away and stepped back. He looked up. The others stood behind Noctis, watching them. Gladio and Prompto were crying, and even Cor’s eyes were suspiciously misty.

He stepped back from the king. “Remember, look to the fire,” Ignis whispered.

Noctis didn’t try to stop his tears.

The sun hit the horizon, and for a brief moment, Ignis was silhouetted by the light, all shadow and flame. They had to shield their eyes from sudden brilliance that was the Infernian.

Noctis sobbed Ignis’ name, hitting his knees.

The sun set, and the Infernian was nowhere to be seen.

Ignis was gone.

Chapter Text

Days turned into weeks, and slowly, people began to trust that the sun would rise again.

They began to rebuild. People came out of hiding, greeting the sun with joy every morning.

Noctis missed Ignis. It was a constant ache, a burn deep inside him, a wound that wouldn’t heal.

He kept a fire burning in his room at all times. No one said anything about it. No one said anything about the nights they would hear the king speaking to the fire, begging Ignis to come back.

He didn’t, but sometimes Noctis thought the fire burned brighter when he spoke to it.

FFXV

Noctis stood in what had become a meeting room. It had been one of the first rooms they had cleared in the Citadel. He leaned over the table, staring at the Citadel plans before him. He didn’t quite understand why many were so insistent on rebuilding the Citadel.

He would rather not rebuild it. This place had too many memories. Not just of his father, but of Ignis. He sighed. He had sent everyone home, annoyed at their bickering.

The door opened, and Noctis glanced up. Cor stood before him, a small oak box in his large hands.

“What’s that?” Noctis asked.

Cor stepped closer and set the box on the table. He took a deep breath and opened it.

Noctis stared, his heart pounding in his chest.

Nestled in the box’s velvet lining was the half crown of Lucis, the very one that had graced his father’s head.

Noctis’ eyes whipped to Cor’s face, his eyes burning all of the sudden.

“How?” Noctis whispered.

Cor stood at attention, eyes locked behind Noctis. “Your majesty, after I left you at Keycatrich Trench that day, I…I went back to the city.”

“Cor,” Noctis said, touching his arm. He could feel the tension in the older man’s muscles.

Cor’s eyes dropped. “I got Regis and Clarus out.” Noctis’ eyes widened. He couldn’t imagine what that had been like for Cor. And to do it alone…

“Where are they?” Noctis asked. He had often wondered what happened to his father’s body. He never asked. He had been afraid of the answer.

“Behind Hammerhead,” Cor said, “I know it’s not a fitting place for a king but—”

Noctis lifted his hand, cutting him off. “Dad would love it. Does Gladio know?”

“Yes. I took him and Iris there during the long night. I apologize for not telling you sooner.”

Noctis waved his hand, staring at the crown. “I haven’t exactly been all here since the dawn, have I?”

Cor looked at Noctis. “It’s understandable, your majesty.”

Noctis dropped his eyes. They avoided mentioning Ignis around him.

“So…what’s with the crown?”

“Your coronation, Noctis.”

Noctis blinked, looking from the crown to Cor and back again. “Why? I thought I was already king or whatever.”

“You are, of course, your majesty, but even a coronation would give the people something to look forward to, and it would let allow Lucis to lead the way in the restoration of Eos. You’ve heard the damage reports, your majesty. Relatively speaking, Lucis came off fairly light in the night. You have the chance to be a guiding light for the rest of the world. Lucis can be a guiding light as we rebuild.”

Noctis sighed. “Politics.”

Cor smiled wryly. “I’m afraid that being king means a lot of politics.”

Noctis smiled, sitting down. “I wouldn’t know how to act. Igni—”

He went silent, staring at his hands. He bit his lip, tears finally rolling down his cheeks into his beard. Cor knelt next to Noctis, taking his hands.

“Your majesty, Noctis. You will be a fine king, a magnificent king. I know it feels like you’re alone without him, but we are all here for you. None of us can replace him, but you aren’t alone.”

Noctis squeezed Cor’s hands. “Thank you, Cor.”

They sat like that for a moment, and then Noctis lifted the crown from its box. He ran his fingers over it.

“I have no idea how to plan a coronation,” he said quietly.

“That’s what we’re here for, Noctis,” Cor said, getting to his feet.

Noctis set the crown back in the box.

“Then I leave it in your capable hands, Marshal. I trust you. And maybe…maybe we could plan a memorial or something at Dad and Clarus’ grave?”

Cor fisted his hand over his heart and bowed. He shut the lid of the oak box and gently lifted it.

“A good plan. I shall keep you informed, your majesty.”

Noctis nodded, watching as Cor left the room.

His shoulders slumped and he shoved the plans off the table.

He didn’t look at the fire burning in the fireplace.

FFXV

The next day, Noctis was helping workers clear debris in the square when Cor came charging up to him.

“Your majesty,” Cor said, saluting him quickly.

“I wish you’d just call me Noctis. You changed my diapers, Cor.”

Cor smiled slightly. “Of course, your majesty.”

Noctis rolled his eyes. “What’s the rush?”

“I need you, Gladio, and Iris to come with me.”

Noctis lifted his eyes, pulling his work gloves off and wiping sweat off his brow.

“What’s happened?”

“Cindy called. She said there’s something we need to see.”

Noctis looked at him, then nodded. He turned to the man next to him. “You got this, Dave?”

“Of course, majesty. We’ll get all this moved. Thanks for the help.”

Noctis waved to the rest of the crew and followed Cor to his truck. Gladio, Iris, and Prompto were already waiting.

They drove in a comfortable silence.

FFXV

They reached Hammerhead, and Cor nearly drove off the road in shock.

Rising behind the garage was a memorial wall, a tomb.

“Whoa,” Prompto said.

“That’s…that’s where Dad and King Regis are,” Iris said quietly, eyes wide.

Cor parked and they all got out of the truck. Cid walked slowly to them, leaning heavily on his cane. Noctis was surprised to recognize it as the same cane Ignis had used after Altissia.

“What the hell happened, Cid?” Cor asked.

“Got me,” Cid growled. “Woke up and there it was.”

“It showed up overnight?” Prompto asked, lifting his camera and snapping a picture.

Noctis walked forward, eyes locked on the tomb. It was similar to the Royal Tombs he had visited in the past, but different. It was open, the sun falling onto it and lighting the stone walls. There was no sarcophagus, just a wall. He turned, looking at the washed white stone. It arched and curved, welcoming in a way the other tombs hadn’t been. There was a bench before the back of the tomb, sitting in front of the royal sigil.

Noctis walked to it, and noticed his father’s and Clarus’ names above the bench. He turned, looking at the walls.

Names filled it. He saw Lunafreya’s name, and Ravus’, and Nyx Ulric’s. There were names that were familiar in passing, and others he knew were unfamiliar.

“A memorial wall,” Gladio said quietly, touching his father’s name.

“‘To those who have died in the dark, may you rest in eternal joy in the dawn,’” Iris read, tears rolling down her face.

Noctis noted a name high on the wall, where it would mostly go unnoticed.

Ardyn Lucis Caelum.

Noctis tilted his head. He wasn’t sure how he felt about Ardyn’s name being on the same wall as his father’s.

“He was a victim of Bahamut, too,” Gladio said softly, seeing where Noctis was looking. Noctis nodded. Most probably wouldn’t notice the name, and most likely wouldn’t connect it to Ardyn Izunia.

“Look here,” Cor said, pointing to an empty section of wall.

Noctis touched it, and words spread beneath his fingers.

“‘This space remains empty, in honor of those nameless thousands that died in the long night. We do not know your name, but we remember.’”

He rested his forehead against the cool wall, eyes closed. He hadn’t lived the long night, but he had seen firsthand the destruction that darkness and daemons had wrought upon his land. How many bodies had they already found? How many bodies would they never be able to find?

The numbers were staggering. Insomnia had once housed well over a million people. They were still trying to figure out just how many people remained, but the population in the country of Lucis numbered in the thousands, at best.

The long night had been a disaster of the worst kind.

He took a deep breath and stepped back. The words still shimmered there, lit by an internal flame.

He looked down. A metal bowl sat on a single seat bench in front of the empty wall.

“Fill this with fire,” Noctis said. “As long as it burns, we shall always remember those who died.”

Cor stepped forward, lighting a match and dropping it in the bowl.

No one was surprised when it caught, a white fire dancing in the bowl.

Noctis watched it for a moment. “Thank you, Ignis,” he said quietly.

That was the only explanation, Noctis thought as they walked back to Hammerhead proper. Ignis had heard Cor talking to him about where Regis and Clarus lay, and he built the shrine to the fallen overnight.

Because he wasn’t just Ignis, was he? He was the Infernian, a god.

And Noctis was still alone.

FFXV

They ate at Takka’s, glad that it looked more like a diner than a hunter outpost now.

Cindy grinned at Noctis.

“I’m glad yer here, majesty. I got something for ya. We were going to save it for the coronation, but since yer here now, and she’s ready, I’ll give her to ya now.”

Noctis blinked. “What?”

“C’mon,” she said, dragging him out into the sun. “Wait here.” She stopped him near the garage. The others stood behind him, Cid lowered himself into his chair, clutching his cane.

Noctis heard the sound of an engine roaring to life in the garage and his eyebrows climbed higher.

His heart nearly stopped when Cindy drove the car out of the garage.

The Regalia.

Cindy grinned and got out. “Took us a good long while to do this. Aranea brought what was left of ‘er back after you vanished. Paw-paw and I have been working on it off and on for years. Just got her finished right after you came back.”

Noctis walked around the car, fingers tracing the warm metal. She even sported the very paint job that his father had given him when they’d left. Leviathan, he thought it was called.

“Thank you, Cindy,” Noctis said, pulling the mechanic into a hug. “And, Cid, thank you.”

“Don’t you dare hug me, boy,” Cid growled. Noctis grinned and hugged him anyway.

“I figure you’ll have a hell of a time getting out of the city, so since yer here, I’d give her to ya now,” Cindy said, tossing the keys to Noctis.

Noctis caught them, twirling them in his hands. He looked at Gladio and Prompto.

“What do you say? Ride back to the city in the Regalia?”

“Oh, hell yeah,” Gladio said with a grin. Prompto nodded enthusiastically.

“You too, Iris,” Noctis said. Iris smiled blindingly at him.

“Just like the trip to Caem,” Prompto said, high fiving Iris.

“Just about,” Noctis said quietly, opening the door and getting in the driver’s seat. There was one person they were missing.

No one said his name. His absence was always there.

“Guess you’re driving back on your own, Cor,” Iris said.

“I’m going to stay here for a bit and catch up with Cid anyway. I’m sure I’ll survive,” Cor said.

Prompto got in the passenger seat, and Gladio and Iris climbed in the back seat. Noctis lowered the top, closing his eyes as the Regalia purred to life under his hands.

He smiled at Cindy and waved at the others as he pulled out onto the road.

“How ‘bout we go driving for a while, before heading back?” Noctis asked, glancing back in the rearview mirror.

Gladio nodded, stretching back in the seat. “Sounds good to me.”

“All right!” Prompto yelled. He snapped a picture of the four of them in the car, grinning widely.

Noctis drove until the sun started to go down, and then they headed back to the city.

FFXV

A month passed, and Cor and Iris put the final touches on the plans for the coronation. It would be held on the steps of the Citadel. Noctis would be crowned at dawn.

Noctis looked out the window, staring at the crowd. Prompto stood next to him, camera around his neck.

Noctis could barely make out the people standing in the square. The city was dark, it was a moonless night.

“So few,” Noctis murmured, watching the people.

“It’s just about everyone in Lucis, except those needed to keep the power running,” Gladio said quietly.

“I know,” Noctis said, “and that’s what’s so heartbreaking.”

He sighed, running his fingers through his hair.

“I’m not sure about this,” Noctis muttered, tugging at his tie.

“It’s symbolic,” Prompto said helpfully. Noctis rolled his eyes.

“That much I got. But why are they just standing out there in the dark?”

“Because they wait for The Dawn King,” Gladio said. He and Prompto were wearing their Kingsglaive uniforms. Gladio held the king’s mantle in his hands.

Noctis looked out the window. There was exactly an hour until dawn. He watched as one candle guttered to life, and then another, and another, until the people held tiny flames like a constellation in the dark.

“We waited for ten years,” Prompto said quietly, helping Gladio adjust the mantle over Noctis’ shoulders. “Standing out there, waiting for you to be officially crowned…that’s nothing.”

Noctis rested his hand on Prompto’s shoulder. “Thank you, Prompto, and you, Gladio. For standing by me.”

Gladio nodded. Prompto sniffed.

“You look so…so kingly!” Prompto cried, throwing his arms around Noctis’ shoulders. Gladio snorted, prying Prompto off Noctis.

“That’s kind of the point, blondie,” Gladio said gruffly, straightening out the mantle again.

“Shut up,” Prompto said.

Noctis laughed.

Gladio looked at Noctis, then pulled him into a hug. “I’m so proud of you,” Gladio whispered into Noctis’ hair. Noctis hugged him back slowly, closing his eyes.

“Thank you, Gladio,” he whispered.

There was a brisk knock on the door. “We’re nearly ready,” Monica said. Gladio let go of Noctis and stepped back. He and Prompto walked to the door, stopping to smile at Noctis.

“See you in a bit, majesty,” Prompto said with a smile.

They followed Monica, and Noctis went back to the window. He pulled back the curtain, staring at the tiny flames held by the people.

His people.

He looked at his face in the window. He looked tired. He ran his hand over his beard, frowning.

“A new dawn,” he muttered. He turned to the bathroom and draped a towel over the mantle. He covered his face in shaving cream and dragged the razor through his beard, watching his face in the mirror as skin was revealed.

He cleaned his face and stared at his reflection. He very nearly didn’t recognize himself.

“I wish you were here, Ignis,” Noctis whispered. He turned off the bathroom light and walked to the door.

The fire flickered behind him and went out.

FFXV

Noctis stepped through the crowd, eyes locked on the steps of the Citadel. He felt the fingers of his people brush his back and shoulders.

Everyone wanted to touch the king.

The crowd parted before him, their whispers sounding like a gentle breeze.

He stood at the bottom of the steps and looked up. Gladio and Prompto stood to one side, and they bowed to him as he put his foot on the first step.

Suddenly he felt like he was twenty years old again, standing on these steps and saying goodbye to his father.

“I walked tall,” he whispered.

He walked up the steps, eyes locked on Cor and Iris standing on the first landing. Cor wore his Kingsglaive uniform. Noctis had reinstated the Glaive, even though magic no longer existed. It had been shattered with Crystal. The guard and the Glaive had been merged, with Cor at their head.

Noctis’ eyes travelled to Iris. She wore a burgundy dress, and Noctis arched his eyebrow at her. She rolled her eyes, fighting a smile. She stood before him as the Lady Amicitia, and she held the oak box in her hands.

He stopped before Cor and sank to his knees.

Cor lifted his eyes, staring at the horizon. “People of Lucis. We stand in the dark, awaiting the light. For ten years, we survived. We were ships, lost in a sea of darkness without a point of reference. We waited, and we had hope.

“That hope kneels before us. He swears to uphold the crown of Lucis, to be our beacon in the night. He was not supposed to survive the dawn, but he is here before us to bring us into a new era.”

Cor turned to Iris. She opened the oak box. Cor lifted the half crown out, holding it high above Noctis’ head.

He waited, watching the horizon. The moment the golden disk of dawn breached the horizon, he lowered the crown to Noctis’ head and wove it into his hair.

“Rise, Noctis,” Cor said quietly.

Noctis lifted his head and rose to his feet. He looked into Cor’s eyes, and Cor and Iris sank into a deep bow.

Noctis turned, facing the crowd.

Gladio and Prompto bowed, and the rest of the people sank to their knees.

“I give you Noctis Lucis Caelum, The Dawn King,” Cor called.

“The Dawn King!” the crowd shouted back.

Noctis stood there, the sun washing a golden light over his face. He stepped down, walking back down the steps.

“I wish you were here, Ignis,” he whispered again, moving to greet the person nearest to him with a smile. Cor and Iris walked down behind him. The feast would be starting soon.

No one saw the tall man standing at the edge of the crowd, hidden by shadows. His one open eye never left the king’s body.

He fisted his hand over his heart and bowed.

“Your majesty,” Ignis whispered.

Noctis turned, eyes wide.

“Majesty?” Iris asked quietly.

“I thought I heard…”

Iris gently touched his arm. Noctis’ eyes desperately scanned the crowd.

“Majesty, the people are waiting to greet you,” she said, her voice low.

Noctis closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Of course.” He turned to greet the next person.

Ignis disappeared. Noctis kept a smile plastered on his face, heartsick that Ignis hadn’t shown up.

The sun rose higher into the sky.

FFXV

The next day, Noctis was back to helping with the rebuilding process. He threw himself into it, helping to rebuild his city, and the people’s lives.

They were taking a lunch break when Aranea came striding in.

“Sorry we missed the party,” she said, giving Noctis a mocking salute. He smiled at her.

“We saved you some of the food. Turns out the Citadel had some pretty good stores, so we all got to eat well.”

“Lovely,” Aranea said, grabbing a plate. She dropped onto the steps next to Noctis. “I need to speak to you, and those you trust, privately. Now.”

Noctis nodded and stood up. “Gladio, Prom, Cor. Can one of you go get Iris, Monica, and Dustin and meet us in the gold meeting room?”

“Sure thing,” Prompto said, bounding to his feet. He went to go find the others.

Noctis held his hand out to Aranea and helped her to her feet. She looked him over with a critical eye.

“You look like hell,” she said bluntly.

He burst out laughing. “Thanks. Things have been…difficult.”

“Yeah, I bet,” she said. He led them to the meeting room, glancing at the fire burning in the corner. He made sure the windows were closed, and no one lurked where they shouldn’t.

Soon, the others arrived, taking positions around the room.

“Alright, what’s up?” Noctis asked, watching Aranea pace the room.

She turned to face him. He could see lines around her eyes and the corners of her mouth. It was the first time he had really seen her since coming back. She had been doing surveys of the rest of Eos with her airship while the rebuilding started.

“Gralea is gone,” she said bluntly.

No one moved for a moment, that statement echoing around the chamber.

“What?” Gladio asked.

“Gone. Completely gone. Nothing but ash and smoke.”

“Ignis,” Cor murmured.

Aranea looked at him sharply. “Yeah, and what the fuck is that all about? A word on his change in status would’ve been nice!”

“Sorry about that,” Cor said. “We’ve been trying to get used to it ourselves.”

“What happened?” Iris asked. Aranea flashed a smile at her.

“So, me and my boys are flying over what’s left of Gralea, staring in shock because there is nothing left, when suddenly Ignis is behind us, all…fiery and shit.”

Prompto covered his mouth. Aranea watched Noctis’ face, noting how he had shut down at the mention of his former lover.

“Biggs shot him, by the way. Pure reflex. Did you know he bleeds molten fire?”

Noctis didn’t say anything. That was a new bit of information.

“So, anyway, there we are, staring at Ignis with his fire wings and fire crown. Admittedly, a very good look for him. Quite hot.”

Iris snorted, covering it with a cough. Aranea grinned.

“He stood behind us and stared out the window, looking over the ashy plains where Gralea used to be. He asked that I give you all a message. He said that there were no living souls left in Gralea when he razed it to the ground. He said that all knowledge of how to create daemons is gone, and no one will ever be able to recreate that knowledge,” Aranea said.

“Good,” Noctis whispered.

“He also asked me to give Prompto a specific message,” Aranea said, her eyes locking on the blond.

“Me?” Prompto asked, eyes widening. He glanced sideways at Noctis. “Why me?”

“He said that the facility that you were held at, the one I rescued you from, has also been destroyed. He wanted you to know that nothing viable had survived the destruction you and I wreaked on it, but he burned it to the ground. He hopes that you understand, and that you don’t let it define you.”

Prompto looked at the barcode on his wrist. He brushed over it with his thumb. “Got it. Thank you.”

All of the clones were gone. None of the MTs had survived.

He was the last.

Gladio put his hand on Prompto’s shoulder, squeezing gently.

“What happened next?” Monica asked.

“He said that new beauty should be allowed to grow from the ashes of ruin, and then Ignis was gone like he’d never been there, the smell of smoke the only thing left. We finished our survey and flew over the cloning facility. The ground is quite hot in both places, and will be for quite some time,” Aranea finished.

“Does anyone else know?” Noctis asked, standing and walking to the window. He looked out over Insomnia.

“We came straight here, and mine is the only airship left. It’ll be difficult for anyone to reach Gralea, and the facility was secret. So no, just those of us in this room and Biggs and Wedge.”

Noctis nodded. “Thank you, Aranea. I need to think on what to do.”

Aranea nodded. “Sure thing.”

Noctis took a deep breath. “What about Tenebrae and Accordo?”

“The fires in Tenebrae were finally extinguished,” Aranea said. They had burned for years.

“Ignis again?” Gladio asked.

Aranea nodded. “I’m assuming so. They told stories of the Infernian appearing to calm the fires, anyway. I’m assuming it wasn’t Ifrit.”

“And Accordo?”

“Weskham sends his regards and apologies for missing the coronation. Most of the people of Accordo are in Altissia, as most of the supplies are there. He said he’d send a census of his people when he gets the opportunity and has everyone tallied.”

Noctis looked at her. “Weskham is in charge of Altissia? What happened to…aw hell, what was her name?”

“First Secretary Claustra. She died a number of years ago,” Cor said. “Killed by daemons.”

Noctis blinked. “Oh.”

He rubbed his face, feeling stubble coming back already. Maybe he’d just let the beard grow back. He had missed so much those ten years in the Crystal.

“So Weskham is what, then? Do they still have the secretary position?”

“Actually they elected him president,” Dustin said, “a year ago, I believe.”

Noctis looked surprised. “Wow. I…am really behind the times.”

Prompto smiled wryly. “Happens when you sleep in a rock for ten years.”

Noctis rolled his eyes.

“And Tenebrae?”

“Lady Stella Nox Fleuret has stepped forward. She has gathered what remains of her people near the sea.”

“Lady who?” Noctis asked incredulously.

“She was Lady Lunafreya and Lord Ravus’ second cousin,” Monica said. “I believe she was away in Altissia when the Empire attacked Tenebrae when you were there.”

Noctis stared at the floor. He was struck again by how much he hadn’t known about Luna. “I didn’t know she had a cousin.”

“I believe the lady Stella was kept quiet, as an insurance policy. She did have minor powers of the Oracle line, and she was next in line for the throne of Tenebrae if neither Ravus nor Lunafreya had heirs of their bodies,” Dustin said.

“There is no Oracle anymore, right?” Aranea asked.

“No. No magic. No communing with the Astrals. Nothing,” Noctis said flatly. No one responded for a moment.

“What about the rest of Niflheim?” Gladio asked.

“There are pockets of survivors,” Aranea said, “but not many. The Empire wasn’t exactly known for goodwill missions to keep its people alive. The outlying areas of the Empire were hit hardest by the long night.”

“Did you speak to any of them?” Noctis asked.

“A few. We managed to find three pockets of civilization, if you can call it that. They’re in a bad way.”

Noctis hummed, staring out the window. “Let’s gather some supplies for them. Gods know we have enough lying around the Citadel. Give them food and medical supplies. Show them that Lucis doesn’t hold the civilians of Niflheim responsible for what their emperor did.”

“Of course, your majesty,” Monica said. “A good plan.”

“Altissia could use some medical supplies,” Aranea said.

Noctis nodded. “Take some to them and Tenebrae too. Send both the Lady Nox Fleuret and President Armaugh my regards. We need to find out if the people of Niflheim have a leader, but an emperor will not be tolerated.”

Monica was scribbling everything he was saying down. Noctis started pacing, thinking as he moved.

“I want to have contact with the leaders. After the rebuilding gets further along in our countries, we should hold a meeting. Aranea, I’m afraid I’ll be making frequent use of your airship. You and your men will be well compensated.”

Aranea nodded. “Hey, you bring money and trade back I’ll do whatever you want as long as you pay me.”

Noctis smiled at her. He turned to face Iris. He looked at her. Her hair was still short, no nonsense. Today she wore what she said was her Crownsguard uniform; black pants, combat boots, black shirt, and a burgundy vest. There was a scar across her nose, and her katanas were crossed over back.

“Iris, you’re good with people. I’d like to make you ambassador, if you’re agreeable. You’d be traveling a lot in these early months.”

Iris’ eyes widened. She smiled and bowed slightly. “I’d be honored, your majesty. Do I have to wear a dress?”

He barked out a laugh. “No. Something tells me no one makes Iris the Daemon Slayer wear a dress if she doesn’t want to.”

Gladio smiled at his sister and hugged her quickly.

“I’ll write up a formal letter to the other leaders,” Monica said, “and something generic for Niflheim. You will need to sign them, majesty.”

Noctis nodded.

“Thank you, all of you,” he said, turning to face them all. The energy in the room was different. There was a thread of excitement that hadn’t been there before. They had a plan.

They had hope.

FFXV

Months passed, and the rebuilding continued. Noctis noted that many of the women were pregnant, and knew that after a catastrophe the drive to repopulate was real.

His people were rebuilding.

He was in contact with the leaders of Tenebrae and Accordo. They were seeing much the same thing.

The people of Niflheim, what was left of them, were grateful for the assistance of Lucis. They appointed a woman as their leader, and they were open to discussions about their future with the other countries.

Rumors spread.

People talked about the Infernian, striding across the land and burning death and decay from the world. They said he talked of The Dawn King, and how Eos had been saved.

Noctis missed him every day. It wasn’t getting any easier.

He feared it never would.

FFXV

They finally wore Noctis down about rebuilding the throne room.

He stood there, staring up at the remains of the Crystal. It was dark and scorched from Ignis’ fire.

It was dead.

“What do we do with it?” Gladio asked.

“Take it down. Take it to the middle of the ocean and give it into Leviathan’s keeping,” Noctis said flatly. “I never want to see it again.”

He turned and walked out of the throne room. He wouldn’t take part in the rebuilding of that room.

He couldn’t.

The next time he was there, the Crystal was gone.

FFXV

One year. One year since the sun had risen and Ignis had ascended as the Infernian. Noctis hadn’t seen him once in that year. He tried to keep himself busy, but even the king of a country being rebuilt couldn’t keep moving all the time.

In the darkness of the night, Noctis felt Ignis’ absence more than ever.

FFXV

Prompto spent most of his time out in the country with Wiz, rebuilding the chocobo population. He also worked with Sania in other areas, trying to bring back other animals. Slowly, the majestic creatures of Eos were coming back from wherever they had hidden.

Some were extinct, and it saddened Prompto to know that they would never be seen again.

He used his camera to document the rebuilding process and the slow progress they made working with the animals. He talked to Noctis and Gladio often, and went back to Insomnia frequently.

He never saw Ignis, but sometimes he talked to the fire at a campsite.

It never talked back, but he swore it was listening.

FFXV

Cid passed away in his sleep. He was laid to rest with Regis and Clarus, beneath the memorial wall behind Hammerhead.

Cindy gave Noctis the cane Cid had used in his later years, the very cane Ignis had gotten from Altissia. It would remain in Noctis’ room at the Citadel for many, many years.

Weskham managed to come for the funeral, and asked that when he died that he be laid to rest with Regis, Clarus, and Cid. Noctis agreed.

Cindy stood alone well after everyone had left, sniffing and wiping her eyes.

“I’ll miss you, Paw-paw,” she said. “At least ya got to see the dawn again.”

She suddenly felt warmth behind her and spun. Ignis stood there, wings folded tight against his body.

Cindy stared at him. The scar on the side of his face was still stark against his skin, and he looked at her out of one green eye.

“If it helps,” Ignis said quietly, “he is happy in Etro’s garden. He is with Regis and Clarus and your parents. He exists in love.”

Cindy smiled, tears streaming down her face. “Thank you, Infernian.”

Ignis leaned down and kissed her forehead, and Cindy was flooded with a comforting warmth.

When she opened her eyes, he was gone, a pair of ashy footprints the only sign it had been real.

FFXV

Gladio stayed with Noctis, taking up full responsibilities of being the shield. He was impressed with Noctis, most of the time anyway.

The king had stepped up, being the beacon of light Cor had promised during the coronation.

Noctis spent much of his time out among the people, helping them when he could with Gladio at his back.

Iris flourished as ambassador. People adored her. She had been in the forefront during the long night, and her reputation as a daemon killer preceded her. Gladio was beyond proud of his sister. He wished their father could see them now.

He missed Prompto, but understood why his friend was doing what he was doing. It was important work, but he missed Prompto’s exuberance.

He watched Noctis fall deeper into himself, into depression, and cursed Ignis for leaving.

FFXV

Two years. Rebuilding was slow, but was happening. Niflheim had renamed themselves, wanting to leave the past behind them. They had named their country Sahar.

Much of Sahar remained uninhabited, and would remain that way for generations.

As Solheim once had, they turned to the Infernian, often asking for his blessing and worshiping him, for he appeared to them when they needed.

He kept his distance, but still walked the land. He made sure the Saharans knew that he did not belong to them, but to all of Eos.

The fields of Gralea finally cooled, and became overgrown with flowers.

It became a memorial to the countless millions that had once lived in the imperial capital, and had died there, or worse, became a daemon. The President of Sahar decreed that it would remain a protected area, and nothing would ever be built there.

More time passed.

FFXV

Noctis tried to be a good king, but he couldn’t stop thinking about Ignis. He missed him with every fiber of his being.

He begged the fire in his room, begging Ignis to come back.

There was never an answer, and Noctis was left alone.

And cold.

FFXV

Three years.

Noctis sat at his desk, head cradled in his hands. He missed Ignis. He kept messing up and wished Ignis was there.

Gladio and Iris sat across from him, looking angry.

“I don’t know what you want me to do,” Noctis growled out.

“Stop moping, for a start,” Gladio snapped.

Iris slammed her hand down on Noctis’ desk, causing the king to jump.

“Look, Noctis, we get that you miss Ignis, but you can’t wallow forever. The council of leaders needs to meet, and you have to lead it,” Iris said firmly.

“I wish he had never left,” Noctis said.

“Noctis, he gave up his mortality so you could live!” Iris snapped. “Would you rather be dead? Because that’s what would’ve happened! You’d be dead, and where would Ignis be then? Where would any of us be? So stop being an ungrateful little shit and live! He wanted you to live, damn it. He wanted you to get to experience life. So be the king he knows you are, and pull your head out of your ass and be that king!”

Iris stood up and stormed from the room.

Noctis blinked after her. Gladio covered his mouth, fighting a smile.

“Seems like the temper runs in the family,” Noctis said dryly.

Gladio just shrugged, still trying not to smile.

Noctis sighed, shoulders slumping. “She’s right, though, isn’t she? I haven’t been a good king. I’ve been too wrapped up in my own misery to lead the country. There’s so few of us, and I have been looking inward.”

Gladio watched, eyes roving over Noct’s face. He had allowed the beard to grow back, but kept it trimmed. Noctis’ beard was sprinkled with grey, and he had strands of silver in his black hair.

Being king was stressful, but Gladio was thankful Noctis wouldn’t have to go through what Regis had. The Ring of the Lucii and the Crystal would never drain the kings of life again.

“I guess I always need an Amicitia to get me to pull my head out of my ass,” Noctis said wryly.

Gladio laughed. “It is historically our jobs to make sure the king doesn’t blunder around in the dark.”

Noctis smiled. “And we Caelums have always appreciated it.”

He stood up and stood in front of the fire place. He stared into it. There wasn’t one burning at the moment, unlike the one he kept going continually in his room.

Could he move on?

He was grateful that he was alive, there was no doubt about that. He was supposed to be dead, and most likely still in thrall to Bahamut.

Ignis had freed him. Ignis had freed him at a massive cost to himself. Ignis had asked him to live.

Noctis had never imagined living in a world where Ignis wasn’t always next to him.

He took a deep breath. Maybe it was time. It was time to step up and be the king Lucis deserved, not a half shell of a man.

It would be difficult.

“I can’t do it alone,” Noctis said.

“We’re here for you, Noctis. We’re here to help.”

Noctis nodded and turned to face Gladio.

He smiled as best he could.

He could do this.

For Ignis.

But mostly…for himself.

FFXV

Gladio hadn’t expected to fall in love. He had met her in Altissia, on one of the trips there with the king. She was small and blonde and had a temper to rival his own.

Her name was Ishbel, and she was beautiful. She was the daughter of a fisherman, and had made the king of Lucis a beautiful rod and reel. Noctis had thanked her profusely; it was easily one of the best he had ever owned.

Gladio stumbled through introductions, feeling like a teen again.

Noctis just smiled and gave Gladio his blessing to court her. Iris squealed with delight, hugging her brother. Prompto laughed.

Ishbel came to Insomnia to visit Gladiolus, and she never left.

She and Prompto got on like a wildfire, both staunch animal lovers. Iris adored her, glad to have another woman her age to talk to. Noctis was glad that Gladio was happy.

Four years after the dawn came back, Gladio proposed.

She said yes.

FFXV

Gladio straightened his tie, staring at himself in the mirror.

“You look great, big guy, stop fretting,” Prompto said, grinning up at him.

“Do I? Really?”

“Yes,” Noctis and Prompto said together. Gladio sheepishly stopped fiddling with his tie.

“You’ll be fine, Gladio,” Noctis said. “I have to go out there. Five minutes.”

Gladio nodded, mouth dry. Noctis slipped out of the room.

Gladio stared at Prompto. “Am I doing the right thing?”

Prompto put his hands on Gladio’s shoulders. “Do you love her?”

“Yes,” Gladio croaked.

“Then you’re doing the right thing. Noct has given you his blessing, Iris is delighted. I’m happy for you, big guy.”

Gladio nodded and hugged Prompto tightly. “Thank you.”

Prompto laughed and hugged him back. “No problem. Let’s go get you hitched.”

Gladio swallowed again, watching as Prompto walked out. He turned to the mirror again. He had the first signs of grey sneaking into his hair, lines coming in around his eyes and lips.

He sighed, resting his scarred forehead against the mirror. “Damn it, Ignis, you should be standing out there with us.”

“I am sorry,” Ignis’ voice said from behind him. Gladio spun, eyes wide.

Ignis stood there, head tilted as he watched him. Gladio’s eyes roved Ignis’ body. He looked human; no sign of the wings or fire crown.

But he looked young. He hadn’t aged a day.

Gladio stared at him. “What…what are you doing here?”

“I wanted to offer my congratulations,” Ignis said softly. “Ishbel is a beautiful woman.”

“Why haven’t you appeared to Noctis?” Gladio asked, stepping forward and shaking Ignis by the shoulders. “You leaving destroyed him.”

Ignis stepped back, eyes sad. “You think I don’t know that? You think I haven’t wished to be by his side as he navigates kinghood? It is all I ever wanted, and I can’t be a part of his life.”

“Why not?”

“Look at me,” Ignis said, dropping the glamour that hid the wings from view. “I look at you and Prompto and Noctis and everyone, and I see age writing stories on your skin. I look in the mirror, and I am exactly the same. I saw the look in your eyes when you saw me standing here, Gladio.”

Gladio dropped his eyes. Ignis was right. Seeing him, ageless, had hurt a bit.

Ignis sighed, wings slumping. “I shouldn’t have come. Know that you and Ishbel have the blessing of the Infernian. Goodbye, Gladio.”

“Wait!” Gladio said, grabbing Ignis by the wrist. Ignis stilled, waiting.

“Why did you come, then?”

Ignis looked away. “Being a god is a lonely thing, Gladio.”

Gladio dropped his wrist, staring at Ignis. He took a deep breath. He didn’t understand quite what that meant.

“Thank you for coming,” Gladio said, “it was good to see you.”

Ignis nodded. “Farewell.”

Gladio blinked, and Ignis was gone.

He would never tell anyone that Ignis had visited him.

He often wondered if Ignis had been there at all.

FFXV

He stood before Noctis and waited for Ishbel. Prompto stood at his back, bouncing on his heels. Iris stood on the bride’s side, one of Ishbel’s friends.

Cor escorted her down the aisle. Her father had died in the Empire’s attack on Altissia all those years ago. Cor kissed her cheek and put her hand on Gladio’s arm.

Noctis led the ceremony. Gladio couldn’t remember what he said, stumbling through his vows as he looked in Ishbel’s eyes. Ishbel was sure and confident in hers, squeezing Gladio’s much larger hands. They exchanged rings.

“I present to you, Lord and Lady Amicitia,” Noctis said at the conclusion of the ceremony. Everyone cheered.

Gladio kissed his wife.

He was a married man.

FFXV

Noctis should’ve known that after Gladio got married, people would be looking at him. Gladio was the highest noble in the land after Noctis, and was technically next in line for the throne should Noctis never have an heir, which wasn’t looking real promising at the moment.

Prompto had howled with laughter upon hearing that Gladio was in line for the throne, until Gladio had put him in a head lock, only to let him go when Ishbel gave him a swift kick to the ass.

Noctis didn’t want to get married. Yes, he was doing better. He didn’t think about how much he missed Ignis every second of every day.

But he also knew he would never be able to give anyone else his heart. It belonged only to the Infernian, and would until his dying day.

People kept dropping hints, or introducing him to lovely women in the hopes that one of them would catch his eye.

He didn’t admit that he still looked for Ignis in a crowd.

He watched how happy Gladio and Ishbel were, and he had to admit he was a tiny bit jealous. He didn’t think he would ever have that.

He looked at the fire burning in his room. “I still miss you, Ignis.”

FFXV

“Majesty, people are pushing you to wed,” Cor said, sitting across from Noctis.

Noctis sighed. “Again?”

“Again. I know you aren’t interested, but it can’t be that terrible.”

“You never married,” Noctis said bluntly.

Cor smiled. “I, thankfully, am not the king and am not expected to marry. I am just the Marshal of the Guard and Glaive.”

Noctis snorted.

“Plus, I’ve had my fair share of lovers,” Cor said. “Look, I drew the short straw in coming to talk to you about this.”

“You guys drew straws?” Noctis asked, eyes wide.

“Yeah. I think Ishbel rigged it, personally.”

Noctis shook his head and stood up. He looked out the window. Cor stared at him, framed by the sun. He looked every inch the king, and reminded him so much of Regis it hurt.

“Do people want me to marry, or do they just want an heir?” Noctis asked quietly.

Cor was silent a moment. “Both, majesty. The people love you. You have led them wisely these past four and half years, and word is they want the Caelum line to continue.”

Noctis sighed, resting his hip against the wall. “The Caelums were supposed to end with me. I don’t know what Bahamut actually had planned, but I was supposed to be the last. Once I was in the Crystal, and realized what I would have to do to bring back the dawn, I never even considered an heir. Hell, the wedding to Luna was just a farce the entire time.”

“Would you have married her?”

“To bring peace, yeah. Kind of became a moot point. But at least Luna and I knew each other, even if we loved each other like siblings, and not romantically.”

Noctis sat back down and stared at his hands. “I’m going to have to do this, aren’t I?”

“I’m afraid it’s part of being king,” Cor said gently.

Noctis sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “I get to choose and court the woman of my choice. If I’m going to get married, I get to have the freedom to choose this time.”

Cor nodded. “Of course.”

Noctis sighed again. “I’ll start looking, I guess.”

Cor stood up with a groan. “Good luck, Noctis.”

Noctis nodded and watched Cor leave.

He dropped his head into his hands and cursed.

“I’m sorry, Ignis,” he whispered. How he wished he could marry Ignis, but it was never going to be able to happen, even before Ignis had been revealed to be the bloody Infernian.

He glanced at a list that Monica had given him of eligible women and shoved it into the trash.

He’d do this his own way.

FFXV

Months passed, and he was no closer to finding a wife and he was getting quite tired of people asking about it. He had lost track of the women introduced to him.

Gladio and Ishbel were sickeningly in love and he wanted to smash their faces in half the time. Prompto went back out to the chocobo ranch, working on spreading the population across all of Eos.

Noctis just wanted a friend. With Gladio married, Noctis had given him more time away from his side. Gladio was still his shield, but he also ran the Amicitia household, much as his father had.

Iris had just arrived back in Lucis from another trip to Sahar. Relations were going well between the former Empire and Lucis, which Noctis was thankful for and knew that Iris was a large part of it.

They discussed her trip briefly after a meeting, until Iris begged off due to exhaustion.

Noctis watched her go, a frown on his face.

He went to see Gladio.

FFXV

“What?” Gladio asked, staring at Noctis like he’d grown a second head, or sprouted a pair of icy wings.

“Is Iris romantically involved with anyone?” Noctis asked again, teeth gritted.

“Why?” Gladio asked suspiciously.

“Call me curious,” Noctis snapped, getting tired of Gladio’s thick headedness.

Gladio sat back at the tone, staring at Noctis.

“Oh, fuck me,” Gladio said, eyes widening.

“I think your wife would have something to say about that,” Noctis growled.

Gladio snorted. He looked at Noctis again.

“You’re serious.”

Noctis nodded, arms crossed. He looked uncomfortable.

“Why her?” Gladio asked bluntly.

“She’s my friend,” Noctis said.

“That’s it?”

“And she’s the only one I know that’s of childbearing age, happy?” Noctis snarled. “Aranea is out, Cindy wouldn’t make a good queen, Stella Nox Fleuret is already married with a kid, and plus, the treaty with the other countries says no foreign citizen can step in as ruler, president, whatever for any other country, so I need someone from Lucis.”

Noctis looked at his hands, and Gladio saw tears roll silently down the king’s cheeks.

“Do you think I am happy about this?” Noctis asked. “I know she could find someone who could give her their whole heart, which I will never be able to do, but she’s smart, and kind, and the people already adore her. I…I won’t ask without your blessing, Gladio. I don’t want this to drive a wedge between us.”

Gladio sat back, watching him.

“As far as I know, no, she doesn’t currently have a partner. Her job as ambassador makes it hard for her to have a steady relationship. She’s not a virgin,” Gladio said, face pink. He really didn’t want to be discussing his sister’s sex life with his king and friend.

Noctis still didn’t look up. “And are you okay with it? If she says yes?”

Gladio shrugged. “Iris is her own person. You’re both adults, and can make informed decisions. That being said, you hurt her, I’ll kick your ass.”

Noctis snorted. “I think you’d have to find my body first. Iris would kill me before you got to me.”

Gladio laughed. “This is true. If you think it’s for the best, go for it. Never before has the Amicitia line and Caelum line come together.”

Noctis looked up. “Then maybe it’s time for a step in a new direction,” Noctis said quietly.

He stood up. “Thank you, Gladio.”

“Good luck. Hope she doesn’t tear your head off.”

Noctis gave him a nasty look and left Amicitia manor.

Ishbel walked in as he left, sliding her arms around Gladio’s waist.

“Was that about what I think it was about?”

“Yup,” Gladio said, still slightly in shock. He folded his arms tightly around his wife.

“Your sister would make a wonderful queen,” Ishbel said.

Gladio nodded, running his fingers through Ishbel’s hair. “Yeah, I think she would.”

FFXV

Noctis found Iris in the cafeteria in the Citadel. He walked up to her as she finished her dinner.

“Noct,” she said with a smile. “Sorry about running off during our discussion about Sahar last night, but I was exhausted.”

He waved his hand. “Totally understand. Look, uh…will you take a walk with me? Now?”

He was uncomfortably aware the eyes of other people in the cafeteria on them.

Iris frowned and stood up, dumping her garbage. “Sure thing. Lead on.”

Noctis took her through the Citadel and to the royal wing. It was a lonely wing of the castle, rarely used except by Noctis. Iris followed quietly, wondering why Noctis seemed so tense.

Had she done something to displease him on the last trip?

Noctis led her to the roof, up to the gardens. He walked to the rail and leaned against it, staring out over the city. Iris stood next to him, curious but quiet.

Noctis groaned, burying his hands in his hair.

“Shit, I suck at this.”

Iris tilted her head. “Suck at what?”

Noctis sighed and looked at the rising moon.

“How was the last trip to the other countries?” Noctis asked.

Iris arched her eyebrow. “Weskham retired from the presidency. Altissia is coming along well in the rebuilding, although many of the other places in Accordo are still having troubles. Being able to fish saved a lot of them. Sahar continues the rebuilding process. A large city has popped up on the coast. Well, large by Saharan standards. Stella sends her regards from Tenebrae, and hopes to meet you one day.”

The leaders of the nations had been largely unable to meet. Each was so busy trying to rebuild their own country.

Noctis nodded. The trip had taken Iris a couple of months, traveling from place to place as his envoy.

“What about here? What’s been going on?” Iris asked.

“Gladio and Ishbel are sickeningly in love, Prompto is promoting chocobos, Cor is still kicking the ass of the young recruits, and everyone wants me to get married.”

Iris coughed, swinging around to stare at him. Noctis was gazing intently at her.

“Uh…why are you telling me?” Iris asked slowly.

“Because…um…uh…oh, fuck it. Because if you’re interested…gods, this sucks. Marry me?”

Iris stared at him, mouth hanging open.

“You want me to be your queen?” she asked quietly.

Noctis rubbed the back of his neck. “Well…you’re my friend, Iris. At least, I hope you are. All the treaties and relationships with the other countries, that’s mostly you. I just sign shit and put my name on it. You’re noble born, the people love you…and…you know…”

“I know?” Iris asked.

“About Ignis,” Noctis said quietly. “You know that I could never give you my whole heart. I…shit, this is hard. It’s been almost five years since I’ve seen Ignis, and I still love him. I always will. But…I’m watching you all move forward and I feel like I’m trapped in the past. I never expected to live, Iris. Hell, I walked into Insomnia nearly five years ago planning on dying so everyone else could live. I wasn’t supposed to be king. I was supposed to die and continue dancing to Bahamut’s twisted plans.

“Ignis changed that. Ignis…Ignis gave up his mortality so I could live the life he wanted…my father wanted…me to live. The past four years…I haven’t been living. I’ve been a terrible king, letting you and others do most of the work. I’ve been waiting for Ignis…praying that he would come back. It’s a fool’s dream. I know that. I think I’ve always known that.

“And it hurts. Gods, it hurts, but I can’t live in the past forever. I can’t wallow and wait for a man, a god, that will never come back. And maybe he’s right. Maybe if he had stayed, it wouldn’t have worked between us. Could I have watched him stay the same while I aged? I’d like to think I wouldn’t be hateful and bitter about it, but I don’t know. It’s not something I ever thought about before.

“But Ignis asked me to live. No, he told me to live. So…maybe this is my way to try to do that. To live the life my dad wanted me to have, be the king Ignis thought I could always be. I don’t want to be remembered for being The Dawn King, the bringer of the sun, because I wasn’t. That was Ignis. I want to be remembered for being a good king, a king that brought Eos together.”

He looked at Iris. “And I need help to do it. I could really use your help, Iris.”

She looked at him, eyes still comically wide. Noctis smiled wryly and turned back to watch the sun set over the city.

“Sorry I kind of just spewed all that emotional bullshit at you,” Noctis said after a few moments.

“It’s fine. Thank you for trusting me with it,” Iris said. She leaned against the rail next to him.

“If we do this…if we do this I don’t want to be a token wife. If I’m going to be yours you’re damn well going to be mine,” she said quietly. “If Ignis shows up…I’ll make an exception for him, but I don’t want to find out you’ve had a string of male lovers behind my back.”

Noctis laughed humorlessly. “Iris, Ignis was the only person I had ever been with. There’s no worries there. No, I wouldn’t do that to you. I respect you too much. And you would murder me and there wouldn’t be enough of my body left to bury.”

She laughed quietly. “This is true.”

They stood in silence, watching the sunlight reflect off the glass high rises in the city. Many still stood empty. A good portion of the city was still blockaded, too unstable for people to live in. It would be many, many years before the entire city was open.

“And I’m guessing there’s an heir involved in this, somewhere?” Iris asked after a moment. Noctis really hoped the orange light from the setting sun hid his blush. Iris laughed.

“You do know we have to have sex for that to work, right?”

Noctis coughed. “Yes, Iris, I may not have had sex with anyone of the female persuasion but I did sit through sex ed, thank you.”

Iris grinned at him. They faced each other, the sun sinking lower in the horizon.

“Do you think we can make a good marriage, Noctis?” Iris asked quietly.

Noctis looked at her, then held his hand out to her. She rested her hand in his, fingers grazing his wrist.

“I hope so,” Noctis said honestly. “It won’t be easy, at first. And I imagine I’ll be moody and horrid on some days, but I think we can try.”

She looked up at him.

“Then yes, Noctis Lucis Caelum, I’ll marry you.”

Noctis smiled and kissed the back of her hand.

“This means I can tell all the women people keep throwing at me to bugger off, right?”

“Oh my gods, Noctis, I knew you were just using me,” Iris said with a laugh.

Noctis grinned at her. “Well, the enemy you know and all that…”

“Noctis Lucis Caelum!” she yelled, hitting his chest.

He burst out laughing and took off.

She started after him, laughing.

There were worst ways to start the promise of a marriage.

FFXV

Lucis learned that the king was engaged to Iris the Daemon Slayer and the people rejoiced. Iris was well loved, not just for being known as the daemon slayer, but because she was a genuinely nice person.

While they both wanted a small ceremony, they both knew that it would be damn near impossible. They would be wed on the same steps that Noctis had been crowned after the dawn.

They decided on a date. It would be the five year anniversary of the sun rising.

Plans were made, clothes were stitched together, and the Citadel was scrubbed from top to bottom.

Noctis found his mother’s crown and held it close. He set it in the same oak box that had once held his crown and set it aside.

It would grace Iris’ head soon enough.

They spent long nights talking, rekindling a friendship that had waxed and waned over the years. Noctis found her extremely intelligent and witty and relaxed slightly.

It would not be a terrible thing to marry Iris.

Even if it was strange to think that he would be getting married at all.

His twenty year old self would be kicking him for thinking about marrying anyone but Ignis. His thirty five year old self just shrugged. Sometimes, a king had to make sacrifices. He had been willing to sacrifice his life. Marrying Iris was a small thing.

He managed not to wonder what Ignis would think about everything.

Barely.

FFXV

Iris stood naked before her mirror, staring at her body. She had scars, but they didn’t bother her. Like Gladio, she wore them with honor. It was strange to think that she would be queen in a week.

“Your fifteen year old self is dying of happiness right now,” she told her reflection. She shook her head and pulled on her robe.

She believed that they could make a good marriage. If she hadn’t, she would’ve told him no. She cared for Noctis, truly. She understood the need for this marriage, as she had once understood the need for the marriage to Lunafreya. It was part of being highborn.

When the long night fell, she never thought about getting married. She’d had lovers, yes, both male and female, but the focus had been on surviving.

“And now you’re marrying your childhood crush,” she said, sipping her wine.

She looked at a picture on the mantle. It was of her, Gladio, and their father. She smiled sadly at it.

“I hope you’re proud of me, Daddy,” she whispered.

She drank her wine, and thought about her future husband.

FFXV

Noctis stared at his face in the mirror. He was clean shaven again, Prompto telling him to ditch the beard for the wedding. He adjusted his jacket and the red sash that crossed his chest and frowned.

He rested his head against the mirror.

In less than an hour he would be a married man. He would have a queen.

“I’m considering running away right now,” he muttered. He heard a rustling behind him and turned.

His heart nearly stopped.

Ignis stood there, looking distinctly uncomfortable.

Noctis stood straight, staring at the other man. Noctis opened his mouth, then closed it. He couldn’t think of anything to say.

“I know what you’re going to say,” Ignis whispered, “my hair is different.”

It was. Gone was the pompadour. His hair hung loosely from Ignis’ head, covering his ears and forehead, with a soft curl at the ends. It was a good look.

Noctis thought anything on Ignis was a good look.

Noctis let out a strangled sound.

“I knew I shouldn’t have come,” Ignis whispered, staring at Noctis. Noctis reached out, his hand coming to rest on Ignis’ chest.

“You’re really here?”

Ignis swallowed. “I…I wanted to offer you my congratulations.”

Noctis looked at him, really looked at him. The hair was the only difference. Ignis’ hair had no gray in it, he had no lines around his eyes or lips, no sign of age weathering him away. Noctis felt a moment of jealously, then quickly squashed it.

He looked up into Ignis’ green eye and realized that Ignis had most likely been right. Of course he was. Ignis was always right.

“Thank you,” Noctis whispered. It was a shock to see him after so long.

Ignis sighed, looking down. “Noctis…I’m sorry.”

“I know,” Noctis said quietly.

Ignis took a shuddering breath. “It is so selfish of me to be here,” he whispered hoarsely, “but I just wanted to see you face to face again.”

Noctis heard the raw loneliness in Ignis’ voice and wondered what he had been doing for the past five years. Ignis ran his fingers over Noctis’ clean shaven face.

“Iris is so very lucky,” Ignis said quietly, “as are you.”

Noctis sniffed. “I miss you.”

“And I miss you,” Ignis whispered.

“You’re not staying, are you?”

Ignis shook his head. “We both know I cannot. I was afraid me showing up would…”

“Set me back?” Noctis asked dryly.

Ignis nodded.

There was a knock at the door.

“Five minutes, your majesty,” Dustin’s voice came through the door.

“Thank you,” Noctis yelled.

He turned back to Ignis. Ignis stood before him, looking nearly human but not quite.

“Let me see,” Noctis said.

“See what?” Ignis asked.

“You. In all your fiery glory.”

Ignis stared at him for a moment, and dropped the glamour he held to him like a second skin.

Noctis watched as Ignis’ flaming wings shimmered into existence, flaring behind him. A fiery crown twisted about his head, almost looking like horns spiraling above him. What little humanity had been in his face before was gone. He was preternaturally perfect, sharp angles and pure beauty. The scar from Bahamut across his eye was the only thing marring his beauty.

Noctis looked at him. “It suits you,” he said quietly.

Ignis ducked his head, pulling his wings close to his body. Noctis gently cupped Ignis’ cheek, forcing him to look him in the eye.

“I never thanked you, for what you did five years ago. You could’ve let me die, let me go to my destiny, but you didn’t. You gave up your life for me, and I’ve wasted that life these past five years. No more. I’m going to live, Ignis. Because of you. Thank you.”

Noctis stood on his toes and kissed Ignis gently. Ignis bit back a sob, cradling Noctis’ head.

Ignis tasted of smoke and stars.

Noctis stepped back, eyes wet with tears.

“I love you, Ignis. Nothing will change that.”

“And I love you. You have the Infernian’s blessing, Noctis. Always.”

Noctis smiled sadly at him.

“Goodbye, Ignis,” Noctis whispered. He stopped at the door, hand resting on the doorknob. “Maybe…Maybe it would be best if you don’t come back.”

He turned and walked out the door, shutting it behind him with a snap.

Ignis stared at the door, molten tears rolling down his cheeks.

FFXV

Noctis stood next to Cor, watching as Gladio escorted his sister up the stairs to them. Iris wore a beautiful dress, strapless and showing her scars proudly. It was off white and simple. Gladio smiled at his wife, standing next to Prompto as he stood in front of Cor Leonis and Noctis.

“Who gives this woman to the king?” Cor asked.

“I give myself, thanks,” Iris said. Laughter rang out across the gathered audience. Gladio rolled his eyes and kissed Iris on the cheek. He put her hand on Noctis’ arm.

“You hurt her, I’ll kill you,” Gladio said to his king.

Noctis rolled his eyes. “She’d get me first, Gladio.”

Iris shoved her brother away, laughing.

She and Noctis faced each other. She noted the tear tracks on his face. He gave her a watery smile.

“Ignis?” she mouthed.

He nodded. She squeezed his hands as Cor led them through their vows.

Noctis slipped the ring onto Iris’ finger. “I thee wed,” he whispered.

Iris took Noctis’ ring from Ishbel and slipped it on his finger. “I thee wed.”

Cor wrapped a silver chain around their joined hands. “This is a symbol of your bond, unbreakable before these witnesses and the Astrals. Nothing shall break it, nothing shall destroy it. Like the will of The Dawn King, it stands firm.”

Noctis flushed at the words. Iris squeezed his hands.

“I ask for the blessing of the Astrals upon this marriage. May it remain strong in the face of adversity, and may they find comfort in one another in the quiet nights.”

The silver chain erupted into a white fire, gasps and shouts rushing through the crowd.

The fire went out, and the chain was still there.

“Blessed by the Infernian, and forged in fire, I present His Royal Majesty, Noctis Lucis Caelum, and Her Royal Majesty, Iris Amicitia Caelum,” Cor called.

Cheers rang out, flags were waved, and people sang.

Noctis nodded to Prompto, and Prompto carried over the oak box.

“Kneel, wife,” Noctis said quietly.

Iris looked at the oak box and knelt slowly, gathering her dress around her. Noctis lifted the small crown out of the box and held it above her head.

“My mother wore this,” Noctis said softly. “May you be as wise a queen as she was.”

He looked down at her. “You kneel my wife, you rise my queen and equal.”

Noctis lowered the crown to her forehead, and then helped her to her feet.

She stared at him, her husband, her king.

Noctis looked at her, and lowered his head to kiss her.

They bumped noses, ignoring Gladio’s snort. “Maybe you guys should’ve practiced,” Gladio said.

Iris flipped her brother off and yanked Noctis’ head down to her, kissing him with surprising gentleness.

She thought he tasted vaguely of fire.

FFXV

The party lasted well into the night. Most people loved any excuse to party, especially after ten years of nothing but survival.

Iris and Noct had danced, then both went their separate ways to talk to the people. Gladio stood next to Noctis.

“You know, I think they like her more than they do you,” he said jokingly.

Noctis sipped his drink, eyes on his wife. “Of course they do,” he said easily. Gladio started.

“I didn’t mean it,” Gladio said.

Noctis smiled up at him. “I know, but you’re right. She was in the forefront during those ten years. I was stuck in a rock. Of course they like her. She fought for them, saved some of them. I am just a figurehead, Gladio. I know that.”

Noctis finished his wine and set it on a table. He went to Iris and led her back to the dance floor.

“Remember your sixteenth birthday?” she asked, laughing.

He rolled his eyes. “You were all of eleven and a better dancer than I was. You were handy in keeping all the other simpering girls away.”

Iris grinned. “So, you used me even then.”

Noctis laughed, twirling her around the dance floor. “Ask me no questions, I shall tell no lies.”

She punched him lightly. “You’re awful. Why did I agree to this again?”

“My suave proposal.”

Iris snorted. “Sure. Keep telling yourself that.”

They danced a bit longer, then they excused themselves from the party.

As soon as they were out of sight of the crowd, Iris took her shoes off. They walked in silence to their chambers.

Iris went to go take off her dress, leaving Noctis in the main room. He wandered to what would now be their bedroom, and stared at the fire.

He had a fire burning in the living quarters, and in his bedroom. He’d had this fire burning for five years, a reminder, a prayer, that Ignis would return to him.

He stood before the fire, watching it twist and dance.

He turned and looked at Iris, standing in the doorway and watching him silently.

Noctis turned and snuffed out the fire.

FFXV

They sat on the bed, staring at each other. Noctis was admittedly nervous. He’d never had sex with anyone but Ignis, and now here he was, a married man, and he was supposed to take his wife to bed and he didn’t have a clue.

Iris tilted her head, looking at him. “You look scared.”

“I am, a bit,” Noctis admitted. “I don’t want to mess this up.”

“Noct, I’m not going to run away screaming because of bad sex. That’s the point of sex, isn’t it? We’ll learn each other’s likes and dislikes, and eventually the sex will be grand. Believe me, the first few times with Cor were ugly.”

Noctis choked, staring at his wife. “C-Cor Leonis? How the hell am I supposed to live up to him?”

Iris laughed, leaning forward and resting her hand on his knee. “I seduced him when I was eighteen. I trusted him not to take advantage of me. Things weren’t always…the long night brought out the best and worst in people. Let’s just say that some of the hunters were…attacked by those who thought the fear people held was an aphrodisiac. There were many rapes, and worse, and I attached myself to Cor and Aranea because I wanted to be control of my body.”

Noctis’ eyes were wide.

Iris smiled at him. “Every person I’ve ever been with has been at my behest. And now, you’re not going to take advantage of me. I’m here because I want to be. We’ll work through all this together.”

“No one really talks to me about those ten years,” Noctis said, putting his hand over hers.

“I will tell you whatever you want to know. I won’t give you a play by play of my time with my lovers, because that is mine, but whatever else, I will tell you.”

“Thank you,” Noctis said.

They fell into silence again. Noctis traced circles on her hand, noting a scar on the back of her wrist.

“At least the archaic practice of nobles watching the first night of marriage went out of style a few hundred years ago,” Noctis said suddenly.

Iris burst out laughing. “Oh, thank the gods for that. You realize Gladdy would’ve been one of those nobles forced to watch and that’s just wrong on so many levels.”

Noctis made a face. “Nope. Nope nope nope. He’d probably be giving me advice the entire time.”

Iris shuddered. “Oh, please let’s not talk about him right now.”

“Deal,” Noctis said firmly.

Noctis watched her. “So…how exactly do you want to do this?”

Iris arched her eyebrow. “Well, typically it works when you put your penis in my vagina.”

Noctis turned bright red, choking back a laugh. “Is that how that works? I had no idea.”

She shoved him back, straddling his waist. “Or, you can just sit back and think of Tenebrae. Make me do all the work here.”

Noctis smiled and pulled her down into a laughing kiss.

They fumbled through it, laughing and teasing each other.

Noctis didn’t think of Tenebrae—or Ignis—that night.

FFXV

Iris turned out to be a brilliant queen. She easily handled the stress that came with it, and helped alleviate some of Noctis’ headaches as well.

Noctis did get moody and withdrawn, and there were days that he missing Ignis felt like he had a hole in his chest. But Iris was usually able to tease him back into a better mood. She understood his pain, but didn’t let him wallow in it.

Their relationship deepened, a close and wonderful friendship blossoming between them. Noctis trusted her as he trusted no one else.

Noctis never told her that he loved her. He couldn’t, not yet.

Iris understood.

They had all the time in the world, and she thanked Ignis for that time every day.

FFXV

A little over a year after the royal wedding, Gladio came to them, shocked.

He paced before them. Iris and Noctis traded glances. Iris rolled her eyes at her brother’s antics.

“I don’t know what to do!” Gladio said.

“Well, it might help if you tell us what’s bothering you, instead of wearing a hole in my Saharan rug by pacing,” Iris said.

“Oh, right,” Gladio said, stopping his manic pacing. He ran his fingers through his hair. “Ishbel is pregnant.”

Iris smiled and hugged her brother. Noctis grinned, hitting his shoulder.

“That’s wonderful news, Gladio,” Noctis said.

Gladio, still hugging Iris, looked shell shocked. “I’m scared.”

Iris looked at him. “You’ll be a wonderful father, Gladdy. You and Ishbel will be great parents.”

Noctis rested his hand on Gladio’s shoulder. “We’re here for you, both of you. You need us, just let us know.”

Gladio smiled and pulled his brother in law in for a tight hug.

FFXV

The pregnancy was difficult for Ishbel. She was thrilled to be pregnant, to give Gladio a child, but it was hard on her. She spent most of her days as the pregnancy progressed in bed, doing everything in her power not to go stir crazy. Gladio hovered, driving her nuts.

Prompto moved in with them, always there to lend a hand, especially if Gladio was off at a function with the king. Noctis didn’t require his presence, but Gladio still showed up to most of the events. He knew Ishbel was well cared for with Prompto.

They found out they were having a boy, and Gladio wasn’t ashamed to admit he cried. He went to the memorial wall when he found out, telling his father that the Amicitia line would continue. He hoped his father would be proud of him, and Iris.

Together, they decided to name him Yarrow to continue the Amicitia tradition. Gladio and Prompto built a beautiful nursery, and Ishbel painted the walls with pastoral scenes.

They all eagerly awaited the birth of the next Amicitia.

FFXV

They were all eating together, a small, intimate get together of old friends and family at the Amicitia estates. Everyone but Ishbel was drinking wine, and they were just about finished when Ishbel cried out, doubling over.

“It hurts,” she whispered, blue eyes wide with pain. Gladio scooped her into his arms and he and Prompto rushed her to the nearby Regis Caelum Memorial Hospital. Noctis and Iris would meet them there.

Ishbel was rushed into surgery, the doctors surrounding her. Gladio forced his way into the next room, refusing to be away from her. Prompto stood next to him, nervously bouncing on his toes.

Gladio knew both she and the baby would be fine. She was nearly eight and a half months along. She had just gone into labor early.

He kept telling himself that was all it was.

He heard the doctors talking, and the frantic beeping of the heart monitors. He clung to Prompto’s hand, glad his friend was there for him. He watched with a sinking feeling as more doctors rushed in. He could see blood, Ishbel’s blood, dripping off the table onto the floor.

“The child isn’t going to make it,” one of the doctors said, “focus on the mother.”

Gladio let out a horrified cry, lurching to his feet. He saw his son, set to the side. He was blue and not moving. He was surrounded by doctors, but he could see that they weren’t focused solely on him.

He pushed his way forward and stood above his son, his Yarrow. “Hold him,” one of the nurses said. “Say goodbye.”

Gladio lifted Yarrow into his arms, tears rolling down his face. The doctors herded him back to Prompto, all efforts focused on Ishbel.

Gladio stared at his son, so tiny and blue against his massive arms. He took gasping breaths, tiny fists not moving. Gladio collapsed in the chair and Prompto hugged him from behind, trying not to cry.

Gladio’s world narrowed down to the boy in his arms. The child had been his and Ishbel’s hopes and dreams.

He could still hear them working on his wife, and he held his dying son to his chest and sobbed.

He felt a wash of heat over him and he opened his eyes. Ignis knelt before him, his hand on his knee. Ignis’ hair fell over his forehead, and the scar seemed a little fainter than it had been.

Prompto gasped, staring down at Ignis in shock.

Sound fell away as Gladio stared at the man who had been his best friend.

“May I hold him?” Ignis asked.

Part of Gladio didn’t want to give up his son, his last moments to hold him while the boy lived, but Ignis was a god, and there was something in his expression that Gladio couldn’t refuse.

Gladio nodded slowly, extending his arms to Ignis. Ignis took the boy in his arms and stood up, staring down at him.

The door slammed open, and Noctis and Iris rushed in.

“Ignis!” Noctis said, staring in shock. Iris put her hand comfortingly on her husband’s arm.

Ignis ignored them all, and right there in the hospital he dropped his glamour. His wings unfurled, curling around him.

He lowered his head and breathed over the child from head to toe. He cradled Yarrow in one arm, and with his other he dragged his nail lightly over the boy’s skin, starting at his head and running down his body.

No one moved. The steady hum of the heart monitor was the only sound. It didn’t beat.

Ishbel was gone.

The doctors froze, staring at the god in their midst.

The Infernian stood before them, trying to pull the boy back from the brink.

“Ah, there you are,” Ignis said. His nail pierced Yarrow’s chest, and warmth spread through the infant.

The baby let out an indignant scream. Pink chased away the blue of his skin as he screwed up his face and yelled his displeasure to the world.

Noctis watched Ignis. Ignis looked beautiful and other worldly, standing before them in his full glory with Gladio’s son in his arms. Ignis knelt before Gladio, wings flaring behind him.

“Gladiolus, your son,” Ignis said, pushing him back into Gladio’s arms.

Gladio took him, tears streaming from whiskey amber eyes. Ignis stood and pressed his lips against Gladio’s forehead.

“What did you do?” Iris said, eyes darting between Gladio and Ignis.

Ignis turned to her, bowing slightly. “Mortals bear a flame inside them, the will to live. I only found his and reignited it.”

Noctis found it strange to hear Ignis say ‘mortals’. It meant he wasn’t one, not anymore. It was a stark reminder.

“And Ishbel?” Gladio asked hoarsely.

Ignis turned his head, looking at the covered hospital bed. “She has already passed into Etro’s garden. I cannot call her back from there.”

Gladio hugged his son tightly to his chest, a broken sob escaping him.

“I am sorry,” Ignis said quietly.

Iris stepped forward, squashing down her own sorrow. She took Ignis’ hand.

“Thank you for saving Yarrow,” she said. “Thank you for coming when you did.”

Ignis bowed to her. Noctis watched him, his own heart twisting. He missed Ignis so much.

“I am sorry I was not fast enough to save the lady Ishbel as well,” Ignis said, hand twitching in Iris’.

“She will be greatly missed and mourned,” Noctis said quietly.

Ignis nodded, wings tight against his body. He watched as the doctors took Yarrow and checked him over, knowing the boy would be completely healthy.

“Thank you,” Iris said again. She stood on her toes and kissed Ignis’ cheek.

Ignis managed a smile, his eye meeting Noctis’. They stared at each other for a moment, and then Ignis turned. They blinked, and the Infernian was gone.

Prompto kept his hands on Gladio’s shoulder as the man wept, mourning his wife.

He would be thankful to Ignis for saving his son forever, but he would miss Ishbel for the rest of his life.

FFXV

A small, private funeral was held. The Lady Ishbel Amicitia was laid to rest in the Amicitia family crypt. Gladio didn’t speak, he simply held his perfectly healthy son and watched as his wife’s body was interred in the tomb.

Gladio thought it should’ve rained that day. It seemed unfair to put Ishbel in the ground on a beautiful spring day.

FFXV

Noctis sent Gladio to the Caelum summer house with Prompto. He knew that Gladio needed time with his son, and needed time to mourn Ishbel. Iris would join them at the end of the week, and he would go later. They didn’t want to be overbearing.

Prompto helped Gladio with whatever he needed, taking Yarrow when Gladio was overcome with grief.

Cor stepped in as Noctis’ shield while Gladio grieved. No one complained about the change.

Time passed, and Gladio took refuge with his son. Yarrow had his mother’s eyes, and the boy smiled easily.

Yarrow loved his father, smiling big whenever he saw Gladio’s tattooed arms. He adored Prompto, and Gladio was fairly certain his son could ride a chocobo before he could walk.

Months passed, time bleeding away. Gladio watched his son grow, and let his love for Yarrow start to heal his heart.

He kept a small fire burning in the manor at all times; a thanks to a god and friend.

FFXV

Noctis and Iris had been married for nearly four years. Noctis was nearing forty, and she was nearly thirty five. People obsessively watched Iris’ waistline, waiting for her to get pregnant.

Yarrow was three, running around the Citadel on chubby little legs and screaming gleefully. Gladio or Prompto was usually chasing him, much to Yarrow’s amusement. Women would approach Gladio, interested in being the next Lady Amicitia. He always declined them.

Prompto jokingly said he was the Lady Amicitia now. He cried when Yarrow started calling him Papa.

Time moved on.

No one heard from Ignis.

FFXV

“I’m pregnant,” Iris said, watching her husband carefully.

Noctis stared at her, blue eyes comically wide. He had more grey in his hair now, silver peppering his beard, laugh lines around his eyes.

“P-Pregnant?” Noctis asked.

Iris nodded.

Noctis stood up and wrapped his arms around her. He half laughed and half cried. She held him tightly.

“Oh, Iris,” Noctis whispered, kissing her hard.

They sat on the couch, arms around each other.

“I’m scared,” Iris said quietly. “After what happened to Ishbel…”

Noctis’ arms tightened around her. He didn’t know what to say. He was terrified too. He was afraid to be a father, something he had never imagined when he was young. He was terrified to lose Iris; he had come to depend on her, to enjoy her company, and yes, to love her.

It was a different love than he felt for Ignis. Iris was the cool water to Ignis’ white hot passion. Iris was the joy of coming home, of relaxing, of quiet nights spent reading.

“I do love you, you know?” Noctis said suddenly.

She looked at him, smiling softly.

“I know. I love you too, idiot,” she said.

Noctis smiled, resting his hand over her stomach.

FFXV

Iris sat alone in their room. Noctis was handling petitions today. She was three months pregnant, and it had been an easy pregnancy. Gladio had held her tightly and cried when he found out. Prompto gave Noctis a high five. She held Yarrow in her lap and told him how he would be the shield to the prince or princess she carried.

She sat cross legged in front of the fireplace, looking around before she lit the fire. She stared at it, sighing.

“I’m not sure you’re going to actually listen to me, given that I’m married to the man you love, but…I could really talk to you right now, Ignis.”

She looked into the fire, sighing when there was no answer. She turned, stifling a scream when Ignis appeared behind her.

“Forgive me,” Ignis said, helping her into a chair.

“You…I’m surprised you came,” she said, hands over her belly.

“I don’t appear to everyone who talks to the fire. Your family I’ll make an exception for,” Ignis said, handing her a glass of juice.

He sat across from her, crossing his legs.

“I’m afraid,” Iris said. “I saw what happened to Ishbel, and I don’t…I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to leave Noct alone.”

Ignis tilted his head, eye roving over her body. The scar over his left eye was even more faded, but his eye was still closed.

“I cannot see the future, but I can sense the life inside you. It burns brightly, strong. I believe you will be fine, my queen.”

Iris smiled sadly at him. “Just call me Iris. I’m not your queen. You’re a god, I’m just a human.”

Ignis looked at her, slightly uncomfortable.

“Will you…will you watch over this child? Even after Noct and I are gone?”

Ignis knelt before her and took her hand. “I swore an oath to protect Noctis and his heirs for eternity. I will be glad to start with you and this child.”

Iris smiled, tears rolling down her face.

Ignis brushed them away. “I will always watch over the Caelums.”

“Thank you,” Iris said.

“Will you do me a favor?” Ignis asked.

Iris nodded.

“Don’t tell Noctis I was here,” Ignis said.

She nodded again. “I shouldn’t have called on you, but…”

“You were scared, and no one can ease your fears. The Lady Ishbel is happy in Etro’s garden, with her father and family. She is proud of her son, and of Gladio.”

“Do you see them? The dead?”

“I can visit the garden, but I cannot stay,” Ignis said quietly. “Your father is very proud of you.”

Iris burst into tears, and Ignis held her. She fell asleep, surrounded by the warmth of a gentle fire.

When she woke hours later, she was alone.

FFXV

Iris went into labor right on time, having an easy delivery for a first time mother. Noctis paced outside the delivery room, the very room his mother had given birth to him in forty years earlier.

They had been married for five years, and Noctis didn’t regret a moment of it. He missed Ignis, but he thought it was getting easier.

Prompto sat in the waiting room, four year old Yarrow on his lap. Gladio watched Noctis pace, smiling wryly. He ruffled his son’s dark blond hair, grinning at Yarrow’s squeal. He missed Ishbel, but Yarrow was the light of his life.

“Pacing isn’t going to make this happen any faster,” Prompto said. “Sometimes you just have to wait for the egg to hatch.”

Noctis stared at him, then burst out laughing. “Oh my gods, she’s not a chocobo, Prom.”

Prompto grinned at him, laughing when Yarrow reached up to him. “Bo-bo!” he yelled. He could say chocobo when he wanted to. Most of the time he didn’t.

“Yes, we’ll ride chocobos later,” Prompto said to the boy. Yarrow grinned, clapping happily.

They all fell silent when a cry started in the next room. Noctis stood frozen to the spot as the door opened. Monica smiled at him.

“You can come in, Majesty,” she said with a smile. Noctis walked forward, eyes immediately going to Iris propped up on the bed. She looked tired but healthy, a small bundle in her arms.

He lowered himself on the edge of the bed, eyes locked on the baby.

“Your daughter, Noct,” Iris said with a smile, passing the infant to Noctis. He took her from Iris with trembling arms, staring down into his daughter’s face.

It was instant love. Even though she looked a little bit like an angry raisin, he loved her completely and fully and would do anything to protect her.

He understood his own father’s actions in sending him away from the city with startling clarity at that moment.

He stared down at her, tears rolling down his face.

“Hello, Calida, I’m your daddy,” he whispered, kissing her forehead.

Iris rested her head on Noctis’ shoulder, looking into their daughter’s face.

Calida Aurora Caelum CXV, Princess of Lucis, slept peacefully against her father’s chest, his heartbeat steady and strong under her head.

FFXV

The royal nursery was quiet, the only sounds Calida’s near silent breathing. A baby monitor sat next to the crib, the same crib that Noctis and his father had slept in as babies.

In the next room, Noctis and Iris slept.

The room was suddenly warmer, and Ignis appeared, standing before the crib. He took a tentative step forward, and then another.

He stared down at the sleeping princess, and felt an awe and sadness rise in his chest.

She was of Noctis, and she was beautiful. He ran his finger gently over her head, feeling the dark downy hair.

He didn’t hear the door open.

“Her name is Calida,” Noctis said. Ignis started, spinning to face Noctis. Noctis stared at him, walking forward to check on his daughter.

“A beautiful name,” Ignis said softly.

“Calida Aurora, warm dawn,” Noctis said, smiling down at her. He turned to face Ignis, his face serious.

“What are you doing here, Ignis?” Noctis said softly, not wanting to disturb his child. Seeing Ignis was a shock. The last time he had seen Ignis was when he had saved Yarrow. It twisted something inside Noctis. Seeing Ignis hurt, and it didn’t make him happy to see him on the day his daughter was born.

“I…simply wanted to see her,” Ignis said quietly, his voice breaking.

“Why?”

“She is your daughter, and precious because of it,” Ignis said.

Noctis was silent, staring at the sharp angles of Ignis’ face, the flaming wings curled tightly against his back. The only light in the room came from those wings.

“She is the most precious thing to me,” Noctis said firmly.

Ignis dropped his eyes. “I am sorry, Noctis. I only wished to see her.”

“You have seen her. Now leave. Please.”

Ignis reeled back like Noctis had struck him. He stared at Noctis, the man he loved above everything. Silver shot through Noctis’ midnight hair, peppered his beard. Laugh lines sat in the corners of his eyes, staring at Ignis with a resigned sadness.

“It is not easy seeing you,” Noctis said quietly, voice thick with tears. “I thank you for watching over me, and Iris, and now Calida, but please, do it from afar.”

He met Ignis’ eye. The scars were more faded, but still present on his face. Noctis watched as a tear of molten fire rolled down Ignis’ cheek. It fell from his chin, hitting the carpet and burning a hole in it.

Neither man moved.

“I love you, Ignis. If you love me, please, don’t come back,” Noctis said, tears streaming from his own eyes. “It’s too hard, seeing you, always wondering if you’re going to appear. Just…leave.”

Ignis stared at him, then fisted his hand over his heart and bowed, wings spread behind him.

“As you wish, your majesty. Know…know that I love you, and I always will. Should you or any Caelum need me…I will hear your call.”

Ignis spun on his heel and disappeared in a wash of fire.

Noctis stared at the spot where he had stood, suddenly feeling cold. His knees buckled and he found himself looking at the burned circle from Ignis’ molten tear.

He covered his mouth, biting back a cry. His shoulders shook with repressed sobs.

He heard gentle footsteps and looked up. Iris knelt next to him, pulling her robe around her.

“Noct?” she whispered.

“I told him never to come back,” Noctis sobbed.

“Oh, Noctis,” Iris whispered, wrapping her arms around him. She pulled her husband against her, rocking back and forth as he cried.

She stared at the burned hole in the carpet as she held him.

“What happened?”

“He…he…he said he wanted to see Calida, and…oh…oh…it hurt seeing him so much, Iris! I told him…I told him never to come back and he’s gone and I’ll never see him again!”

Iris kissed Noctis’ temple, stroking his hair. She could not help with this pain. She could only hold him, offer him her love and comfort, and wait for him to come back.

FFXV

In the night sky, the constellation of the Infernian grew dimmer.

FFXV

A month passed. Calida grew, and Noctis continued to adore his daughter.

He felt like he had right after Ignis had left over ten years ago; raw and alone. He took refuge in his wife and daughter.

He felt terrible about what he had said to Ignis.

“You could apologize, you know,” Iris said one day, breastfeeding Calida.

Noctis sighed, shoulders slumping. “He’s not going to come back.”

“No, but we know he hears you when you talk to fire. Sit down and apologize. He’s Ignis. I’m sure he’ll understand, Noct.”

Noctis looked at her, smiling at Calida. His smile slipped off his face.

“Noctis, it’s driving you to distraction,” Iris said gently. “Just sit down in front of a fire, tell him you’re sorry for the things you said, and then you can move on.”

Noctis sat there for a moment, eyes locked on the distance. Finally he smiled and turned to face her.

“You’re always right, aren’t you?”

She smiled. “Of course I am. Now, shoo.”

He kissed her quickly, dropping another kiss on Calida’s head, and walked quickly down the hall to his study.

He pulled a silver bowl out of his desk and sat down. He filled it with paper and fabric and struck a match. He stared at the dancing fire.

“Ignis…I know you can hear me. I’m…I’m so sorry for the way I sent you away last month. Seeing you again…the same as you were ten years ago…ah, fuck,” Noctis said, wiping his eyes.

“I’m living my life, Ignis. I have a wife, a daughter. I’m happy, thanks to the chance you gave me.” He took a deep breath. “I can’t go through my life always looking back for you. I…I miss you still, and I always will. So…I ask again that you stay away, but I hope you understand. I love you, Ignis. I know you’ll keep me and my family safe.”

The fire flared brighter for a moment, and then went out.

Noctis stared at it, a soft smile on his lips.

He felt at peace.

FFXV

“Papa Cor! Catch me!” Calida yelled, her dark brown hair flying behind.

Cor moved closer the end of the dock, water around his chest. He lifted his arms and smiled as the girl launched herself off the end of the dock.

He caught the four year old girl, laughing. Yarrow paddled around them, laughing happily as Cor swung them both around.

Noctis watched them from the other dock. “You guys are scaring the fish away,” he said dryly.

“Fishing is boring,” Yarrow said with all the dignity of his eight years.

Noctis snorted, casting his line. “You’re as bad as your dad.”

“I heard that,” Gladio said, looking up from his book, reading glasses perched on his nose. Prompto sat next to him, baking in the sun. Iris was sitting on the edge of the dock next to Noctis, watching her daughter and nephew swim with Cor.

They spent a few weeks each summer at one of Noct’s summer houses. He had had this one built on Galdin Quay. It was by far the favorite of his family.

Cor helped Calida swim, keeping a hand under her stomach as she dog paddled in tight circles. Calida pulled herself out of the water and ran on her short legs to the other dock, grabbing her father’s legs.

Noctis laughed, setting his pole down and lifting his daughter into his arms.

“I wanna fish too!” Calida yelled.

“Do you?”

Gladio groaned. Prompto laughed, snapping a picture.

“Well, it just so happens I got you your own rod and reel,” Noctis said, reaching for the box next to Iris. Iris rolled her eyes with a smile as Noctis opened it to reveal a kid’s fishing set, rod and reel replete with chocobos and moogles.

Calida squealed with delight and gave Noctis a sloppy kiss. He sat on the dock and had Calida stand between his thighs. He taught her to cast the line, smiling as she nearly dropped the rod in excitement when the bobber disappeared.

Prompto took a picture of Calida holding up her small fish proudly, a toothy grin on her face. Her blue eyes shone with pride and happiness that she had caught a fish. Noctis knelt next to her, grinning just as broadly as his daughter.

Noctis would frame that picture and set it on his desk.

Prompto gave him a thumbs up and leaned against Gladio.

Noctis smiled, kissing his daughter’s head. Calida sat in her father’s lap, cuddled against him. Cor carried an exhausted Yarrow from the water, dropping the wet boy across Gladio and Prompto. Yarrow laughed joyously as Cor sat next to them with a groan.

Noctis smiled at Cor, glad he could still make the journey with them. Calida and Yarrow adored their Papa Cor, Cor having fallen into the role of grandfather to both children. Cor was seventy now, and happier than he had been in his life.

They were at peace.

FFXV

Calida was eight when she saw a picture of Noctis and the others from their trip. She easily recognized Uncle Prompto and Uncle Gladio, and the Regalia, but she didn’t know who the other man was.

He stood next her dad, half looking at him through his glasses. His hand rested on Noctis’ shoulder and a soft smile was on his face. She felt sad looking at him, and she didn’t know why.

She pulled the picture out of the book she had been looking at. It had marked a page. She turned it in her hands. There was only a date written on the back, some twenty eight years earlier.

Calida pocketed the picture and went to find her mother.

“Mommy?” she asked, peeking into Iris’ office.

“Come on in, baby,” Iris said, smiling. Calida walked in, a pensive frown on her face. Gladio told Iris often that Calida looked like her.

“I thought you were in the library with Dustin,” Iris said.

“I was. I found something,” Calida said. Iris went still, wondering if this would be the moment. Calida pulled out the photo, smoothing it out before handing it to Iris. Iris took it quietly, looking how young they all were.

“Who’s the other man?” Calida asked.

Iris gently touched Ignis’ face in the photo. “Take this to your father. It is better that he tell you,” she said with a smile.

Calida nodded and took the picture back. Iris kissed her daughter on the head and watched as she ran off.

Calida found Noctis in his office, just down the hall from Iris’. She pushed opened the door and covered a laugh. Noctis was sprawled on the couch, snoring softly. Giggling, she ran across the office and jumped on his stomach.

Noctis woke with startled yelp, laughing when he realized it was only his daughter.

“Caught Daddy slacking off, did you?” He asked, pulling her into his lap. She smiled up at him.

“What’ll you give me for my silence?”

He gave her a mock outraged look. “Young lady, I’ll have you know that blackmailing the crown is a punishable offense.”

She blew a raspberry at him. “No one would believe you. Everyone loves me.”

Noctis laughed, sitting back and holding her close. “That they do. What brings you to my office in my most busy hour?”

“Busy? You were napping,” she said earnestly.

“Exactly. Most important time of the day.”

“Daddy,” Calida said, rolling her eyes. He smiled. She definitely got that from her mother.

She pulled out the picture and handed it to him. “I found this in a book.”

“Defacing royal property again?”

“It was a bookmark, Daddy, not a page.”

“I’m kidding. I tore apart so many books when I was younger than you,” he said, turning the picture over to look at it.

His breath caught in his throat. It was the four of them, standing before the Regalia. Prompto knelt before them, Gladio laughing at his back. He stood next to Ignis, arms crossed with a wry smile on his face. Ignis was next to him, head tilted towards Noctis.

It wasn’t that they tried to keep Ignis a secret from the children, it was simply easier for them to move through their lives without thinking of him. They knew stories of the Infernian, but they addressed him as the Infernian, not Ignis.

Calida looked up at her father, surprised at the sudden sad expression on his face.

“Daddy? Who’s that other man? Did he die?”

Noctis swallowed. “His name is Ignis, and no, he didn’t die.”

“Ignis,” she said, rolling the name over her tongue. “I like his name.”

Noctis smiled, rubbing his thumb over Ignis’ face.

“What happened to him?” Calida whispered. “Who was he?”

“He was my advisor, and best friend, and the man I loved,” Noctis said quietly. Perhaps it was time to tell Calida the truth. Eight was so young, but when he was eight he had been recovering from the Marilith attack. He could start to explain it.

“Tell you what, Cali, I’ll tell you about him, but let’s go to Duscae. We need to see the stars for this story,” Noctis said.

Calida gave an excited clap. She loved looking at the stars more than she loved fishing with her dad.

Noctis kissed her hair. “Go pack a small bag. We’ll camp. I’ll go tell your mother.”

She hugged him tightly and went to stand up. She stopped, looking at the picture.

“Daddy?”

“Yeah, baby?”

“Can I keep the picture?”

Noctis took one last look at Ignis’ face and handed it to her. She smiled at him, and he always saw Iris in her bright smile. She darted out the door, running to her room to pack.

Noctis leaned back on the couch. Most of Prompto’s pictures of Ignis were packed away; they had been almost immediately after the dawn first came back. He wondered what book she had found that one in, and stood up. He headed for the library.

He walked through the bookshelves, finally finding Calida’s favorite spot to sit and read. It was under one of the massive bay windows. She had a comfortable chair and a blanket with a cactuar on it tucked into the corner. He picked up the book that had been left on the small desk and smiled sadly.

It was his and Ignis’ astronomy book. He opened it slowly, staring at the pages that he had drawn on as a child.

He opened it to the entry on the constellation of the Infernian. Tucked between the pages was a carefully written story. He recognized Ignis’ handwriting from when he was young. He scanned the story.

It was the tale of the Infernian that Ignis had told him when they had been children. He smiled, tucking it back into the book.

He closed the book and tucked it under his arm. He went to find Iris to tell her they were going camping.

FFXV

Yarrow and Calida sat in the back of the Regalia, chattering with each other. Gladio sat in the passenger seat, watching as Noctis drove. Noctis hadn’t been thrilled to be accompanied by his shield, but he couldn’t really leave the city without him. Gladio promised not to get in the way, but Noctis figured that maybe it was best for Yarrow to hear the story too.

He was already training to be Calida’s shield.

They reached a campsite in Duscae and Gladio got out, stretching. “Yarrow, help me set up the tent.”

Yarrow gave a put upon sigh and followed his father. Calida scampered after them, carrying the packet of tent stakes. Gladio smiled at her and together the three of them set up the tent.

“Are we having Cup Noodles for dinner?” Yarrow asked hopefully.

Noctis burst out laughing. “Sure, kid, we can have Cup Noodles.”

He set about boiling water for the Cup Noodles, watching Calida and Yarrow chase each other around the camp. Gladio sat in one of the chairs, watching the kids with a smile. It was moments like these that he missed Ishbel. He wished she had been around to watch Yarrow grow.

“Thanks for coming, Gladio,” Noctis said, handing him a Cup Noodles. Gladio took it with a smile.

“Just like old times, eh?” Gladio asked.

“Well, except for the fact that we’re old and we have kids?”

“We’re not old, we’re well aged. Like fine wine.”

Noctis snorted. “C’mon, kids. Dinner.”

Yarrow and Calida ran to him, and Noctis sat them both in chairs and handed them their dinner. “Careful, it’s hot.”

The four of them sat around the fire, slurping their Cup Noodles. Noctis looked at the fire, wondering if Ignis was watching them.

Once the sun had completely set and the stars came out, they took the kids and moved away from the fire. Noctis held Calida’s hand, and they drew to a stop when they were completely surrounded by darkness.

“Little different than when were young,” Gladio said.

“Yeah, don’t have to worry about an Iron Giant boiling out of the ground,” Noctis said.

“A daemon would be so cool though!” Yarrow said.

“No it wouldn’t,” Calida said immediately, voice high. She clung to her father’s hand. “Because that would mean the Starscourge was back, and that’s really bad, Yar!”

Noctis started, staring at his daughter with wide eyes.

“Hell,” Gladio said.

Noctis knelt in front of Calida. “How do you know about the Starscourge, sweetheart?”

Calida sniffed and wiped her eyes. “School.”

Noctis sat down on the grass, pulling Calida close. “The Starscourge will never come back. The Infernian will make sure of it.”

“How do you know?” Calida whispered.

Noctis took a deep breath. “Because I know the Infernian.”

Calida and Yarrow’s eyes were huge as they stared at him.

“You know a god?” Yarrow asked in awe. His uncle was suddenly so much cooler.

Noctis tilted his head and looked up at the sky. Gladio followed his gaze. It took a moment for them to find the Infernian in the stars.

“It’s gotten dimmer in the past couple of years,” Gladio said quietly.

Noctis’ heart twisted.

“You see those stars there? They’re really faint,” Noctis said. Both children followed his arm to find the constellation.

“I think I see it,” Yarrow said. “See, Cali, near the mountain?”

Calida nodded.

“That’s the Infernian,” Noctis said. “His constellation, at least. He strides across the heavens looking for his heart. The gods turned against him, and Ifrit was torn asunder, his heart destroyed by his jealous brother.”

Yarrow climbed into his father’s lap, eyes glued to the stars. Gladio started slightly. At twelve, Yarrow firmly believed he was too old to sit in his father’s lap. Gladio smiled and rested his nose near his son’s dark blond hair.

“Thousands of years passed, and what was left of Ifrit found a crack in his prison, and he sent his fire, his very essence, seeking. It found a just conceived child, and joined with him. The baby was born. His name was Ignis.”

Calida gasped and fished the picture out of her pocket. Gladio leaned close with Yarrow to look.

“This Ignis?” Calida asked in a hushed whisper.

Noctis smiled. “That Ignis.”

Yarrow snorted. “Doesn’t look like a god.”

Gladio flicked Yarrow’s ear. “That man who doesn’t look like a god saved your life.”

Yarrow blinked, craning his head to look at his dad. “What?”

Gladio smiled sadly. “You nearly died with your mother. Ignis saved you right after you were born.”

Yarrow stared at him with wide eyes, then looked at the picture. Calida took Yarrow’s hand and squeezed, her small fingers around his. Yarrow knew that his mother had died giving birth to him, but Gladio had never told him how close he had been to death.

Noctis smiled wistfully, astronomy book open beside him. “Let me tell you about Ignis, the Infernian.”

FFXV

Calida laid next to her father in the tent, Yarrow and Gladio on her other side. She waited until Noctis’ breath was slow and even, and Gladio’s rumbling snores filled the tent. She sat up and shook Yarrow.

He blinked, looking up at her. “C’mon,” she whispered, easing the zipper open on the tent. Yarrow covered a yawn and stumbled out after her.

“What’re we doing?” Yarrow asked, watching as his cousin and princess stoked the campfire.

“I want to talk to Ignis,” she said. Yarrow gaped at her.

“Can we do that?” he hissed. “He’s a god!”

“Daddy said Ignis listens to people who talk to the fire. I want to meet him,” she said stubbornly.

Yarrow looked to the heavens and sighed. He sat next to her and they stared at the fire.

“Um…hi, Ignis,” Calida said. Yarrow snorted, stifling his yelp when Calida smacked him. “It’s not like I’ve done this before!”

“Sorry, sorry,” Yarrow said, grinning.

Calida huffed and turned back to the fire. “Daddy told me about you, and um…I wanted to meet you.”

Yarrow leaned forward. “And I’d like to thank you,” he said softly, “for saving me.”

There was no response from the fire. Yarrow sighed. “You think Uncle Noct was pulling our legs?”

Calida opened her mouth to reply, feeling desolate, when they both heard something behind them. Slowly, both children turned towards the camp stove.

A man stood there, running his fingers over the old stove.

“You’d think Noctis could at least buy the newest in camp stoves,” he said dryly.

“Cactuar spines, he’s real,” Yarrow said, eyes bugging out of his head.

Calida stared. The man looked like the one in the photo, mostly. He didn’t wear glasses, and his hair was longer. He had a faint scar over his left eye, and Calida knew it was from Bahamut.

She scrambled to her feet, eyes glued on the man who appeared in their midst. Yarrow stood up next to her, swallowing hard.

Calida dropped into a quick curtsey. “Infernian,” she whispered.

She felt a warm hand gently grasp her chin and tilt her head back. “You do not have to bow to me, child.”

She flushed. His hands were so gentle. “But, you’re a god…”

“And you are both the children of people I love,” Ignis said simply. His eyes travelled over Yarrow. “It is good to see that you’ve grown into a fine young man.”

Yarrow stood up straight and managed a smile. “My father said you saved me. Thank you.”

Ignis nodded. He turned back to the camp stove and started going through the supplies. “Of course they have Cup Noodles,” he muttered. Calida bit back a laugh. He didn’t seem very godly.

Ignis glanced towards the horizon. The sun would be up soon. “Would you two like to help me make breakfast?”

“Really?” Calida asked excitedly. She loved her father, but he never really could cook.

Ignis nodded and slowly directed the children. Together they diced vegetables and scrambled eggs, fried sausage and cooked biscuits. Calida and Yarrow felt completely at ease with Ignis, chatting happily with him.

For his part, Ignis was intensely aware of Noctis sleeping just inside the tent. He wasn’t sure what the king would think of him appearing to Calida, but the princess had called to him, and he wanted to meet her.

When Calida smiled up at him, he saw Noctis in her smile, and it nearly brought him to his knees. Yarrow was so much like his father that it hurt, although he could see Prompto’s influence in the fact that the boy carried a camera around with him everywhere.

They finished breakfast and Ignis covered it all and touched each plate. He smiled at the children watching him. “It will stay warm this way.”

“You don’t look like a god,” Yarrow said.

Ignis smiled wryly and dropped his glamour. Yarrow’s mouth fell open as the fiery wings unfurled from Ignis’ back, flaming horns twisting from his head.

“Oh,” Yarrow said.

Calida looked at him in awe. She held her hand out, feeling the warmth spreading from his wings.

“Will we see you again?” she asked quietly.

Ignis knelt in front of her. “I don’t just appear to anyone who talks to fire,” he said gently. “I will gladly watch over you both, but I’m not going to show up and get you out of trouble, and don’t get into trouble thinking I’ll show up and get you out of it.”

Yarrow bit back a grin. “Would we do that?”

Calida giggled at the exasperated look on Ignis’ face.

She shifted. “Why is your constellation getting dimmer? Daddy said that Ifrit was looking for his heart, so wouldn’t it have gotten brighter after you became the Infernian?”

Ignis looked up. “My heart and I are still separated,” he said softly. Yarrow blinked at that.

Calida didn’t understand what that meant, but she knew that Ignis the Infernian seemed sad.

Calida threw her arms around Ignis’ neck and hugged him tightly. “Thank you for coming,” she whispered.

He hugged her back, reveling in the close human contact. He sat back slightly, looking between the children.

“Walk tall,” Ignis whispered.

He stood up and flared his wings out. He didn’t actually fly often, but he figured the children would enjoy it. He snapped his wings down and took to the sky.

Calida and Yarrow ran after him, waving and laughing until they couldn’t up.

They looked at each other, eyes sparkling and cheeks flushed with exertion.

“That was so cool,” Yarrow said as they walked back.

They sat in front of the fire, and fell asleep leaning against each other.

FFXV

Noctis waited until he was sure Ignis wasn’t coming back and got out of the tent. He looked at the children, asleep in front of the fire.

He laughed at the food covered on the table. Ignis had made breakfast.

He had woken as soon as Calida and Yarrow had slipped from the tent. He and Gladio had stared at each other, listening as the children talked to Ignis.

Noctis had figured they would attempt to contact Ignis after he told the story. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it.

He was glad that Ignis had gotten to meet both children, but he hoped the kids didn’t make a habit of this.

He looked up at the sky. The Infernian constellation was gone, the sun starting to lighten the night sky.

“Thanks, Ignis,” he murmured, turning back to the food. Gladio climbed out and took one look at the table and laughed.

“He probably didn’t want us eating Cup Noodles for breakfast,” Gladio said with a grin. Noctis couldn’t help but laugh.

“Let’s be honest, we would’ve,” he said.

Gladio looked at the children, then back at Noct.

“You okay with him showing up?”

Noctis sat down across from Gladio. “Yeah. I am. They deserve to know the truth, and him if he’ll allow it. I don’t think he’ll spend much time with them, but if they know he’s got their back…well…yeah, I’m okay with it.”

Gladio nodded.

When the kids woke, they looked at each other, unsure if they should mention that they met Ignis.

Noctis smiled. “What did you guys think of Ignis?”

“He was sad,” Yarrow said after a moment, moving to the table.

Calida nodded. “And lonely.”

Noctis and Gladio looked at each other, eyes wide.

“He was nice though,” Yarrow said, pulling the cover off his plate and smiling at the food.

They sat together at the small camp table and Noctis took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of breakfast. It tasted so good he nearly cried.

“Gods, I’ve missed his cooking,” Gladio said, eating slowly and savouring each bite.

Noctis nodded.

They ate in a comfortable silence, listening to Duscae wake up around them.

FFXV

Cor coughed, covering his mouth and curling over in his bed. He was old, far older than he ever thought he’d be. He’d outlived Regis, thought he would outlive Noctis.

He was beloved as grandfather to two wonderful children. He had given Yarrow his first blade, and for Calida’s tenth birthday only months earlier he had given her a set of finely made daggers.

He was at Galdin Quay. It was easier to breath in the sea air. He coughed again. He was glad he was here alone. He didn’t want the kids to see him die.

He took a deep breath that ended in a hacking cough again. Congestive heart failure. Definitely not the way he had thought he would go out.

He closed his eyes. He had been feeling bad for a few weeks, and had come to the Quay to try to recover.

He felt the bed dipped and opened his eyes, staring in shock at Ignis sitting next to him. He swallowed, coughing again. Ignis reached out and rested his hand on Cor’s chest, warmth spreading through him.

Cor stared at him. It was the first time he had seen Ignis in just over thirty years. He hadn’t changed except for his hair. The scar over his left eye was faded, and both eyes were open.

“You’re still disgustingly pretty,” Cor said gruffly. Ignis smiled, easing another coughing fit.

Cor sat back and stared at him. “The scar is faded,” he said.

Ignis nodded. “Bahamut has faded to nearly nothing. He is nearly gone, and when he dies, the scars will be gone.”

“Good. He was an asshole.”

“One word for it,” Ignis murmured.

“Why are you here?” Cor asked.

Ignis tilted his head. “I am here to take you home.”

Cor coughed again. “Didn’t realize that was part of your job description.”

“It isn’t. Mostly, mortals find their way to Etro’s garden without help. But you were my friend, and I would take you there.”

Cor closed his eyes. “I’m going to miss Cali and Yarrow.”

Ignis leaned close. “I will tell you a secret. You will not miss them, because where you go you exist in love. You will wait, and one day, many many years from now they will join you, and love only grows.”

Cor opened his eyes, staring at Ignis’ face. “What about you?”

Ignis smiled slightly. “I am content.”

Cor thought the Infernian was lying, but didn’t say anything.

“I think I’m ready then,” Cor said.

Ignis smiled and took Cor’s weathered and wrinkled hand in his. “Then open your eyes and come with me.”

Cor opened his eyes and found everything to be so much clearer. Ignis pulled him to his feet.

“Am I dead?”

Ignis gestured to the bed. Cor turned, surprised to see his own wrinkled body lying there. He looked at himself, running his hands over his body.

He looked young again.

Ignis held his hand out. “Come. Let me show you the way.”

Cor looked at him, and slowly put his hand in Ignis’. He watched in awe as Ignis spread his wings, and the house at Galdin Quay disappeared around them. Cor stared in amazement as galaxies were born and died before him. They flew through the heavens, a trail of fire across the sky.

Heartbeats or eons later, they came to a stop before an ornate gate. Cor stared at it; the image of the gate shifted and changed, showing moments of his life. He felt the undeniable pull to open the gate and step through.

Ignis let go of his hand, stepping back with a smile. “You must take the final step on your own.”

Cor looked back at him and smiled. “Thank, Ignis.”

Ignis nodded.

Cor turned back to the gate and pushed it open. He let out a glad cry, staring at those waiting for him.

Regis stood in the middle, young and hale. Aulea stood at his side, smiling widely. There was Cid and Weskham, who had died some years earlier, and Clarus with his wife. Standing next to Clarus was Ishbel Amicitia, who looked past Cor at Ignis with a soft smile.

Cor didn’t look back. He threw himself through the gate and into Regis’ arms. His king wrapped his arms around him, holding him close.

“My lion,” Regis whispered.

Clarus looked at Ignis, standing there as the gate slowly started to close. He bowed his head in thanks, and Ignis lifted his hand in farewell.

The gate shut and went dormant again. Ignis sighed and turned away.

FFXV

Cor Leonis was laid to rest with King Regis behind Hammerhead. They held a small, private funeral for him, and they all watched as his name was etched into the marble by an unseen hand, hot with flame.

“Watch over Papa Cor, please, Ignis,” Calida whispered, wiping tears from her face.

She thought she felt a comforting hand on her head, and she smiled.

FFXV

After Cor’s death, Calida had asked her father who Ardyn Lucis Caelum was. She had seen his name on the memorial wall.

Noctis sat her down and told her everything. He told her of the Chosen Kings, and of Ardyn’s fate, and what was supposed to be his own.

Calida listened in silent awe. Her father was alive because of Ignis.

Her father was alive because of the love of a god.

FFXV

Calida was twelve when the Nox Fleuret family came to visit. Stella Nox Fleuret and her eighteen year old son met them at the harbor. Sixteen year old Yarrow stood behind Calida, sworn into her service for a year.

Noctis helped Stella off the boat, always struck by her similarity to Lunafreya. “Good to see you, as always.”

Stella smiled. “Now that I am no longer in charge, I actually get to travel. My son, Arne,” she said, gesturing at him.

Noctis was reminded a bit of Ravus when the boy saluted him. His hair was darker and pulled back in a low knot at the back of his head. He had Lunafreya’s eyes.

“Wonderful to finally meet you, Arne,” he said. “My wife, Iris, and daughter, Calida. The big hulking guy is Gladio, and his son Yarrow.”

“The pleasure is mine, majesty,” Arne said. Stella smiled.

Calida watched Arne with wide eyes. She felt heat bloom in her chest and her cheeks flushed as she dropped her eyes.

Yarrow snickered and nudged her, only to receive a quick kick to the shins from the princess for his trouble.

“Behave, both of you,” Gladio said wryly.

They stood still, Calida’s cheeks still burning.

FFXV

When Calida was sixteen, Arne asked permission to formally court the princess of Lucis. Noctis and Iris watched as their daughter and Arne fell in love.

“Looks like the Caelums and Nox Fleuret lines are going to get to marry anyway,” Iris said wryly. Noctis laughed. His hair was more salt than pepper now, and his beard was entirely grey. Iris still wore her hair short, and she had hardly any grey in hers, which Noctis thought was incredibly unfair.

“He won’t be able to be king,” Noctis said.

“I don’t think he cares,” Iris said. “He looks at her like Ignis looked at you.”

Noctis started, staring at his wife. She smirked at him. “Ignis always looked at you like that. Like you were the stars and the moon and sun.”

He pulled Iris close, and she fit perfectly under his arm. “As long as Calida is happy, I don’t care who she marries.”

“You threatened Arne by saying you were going to summon the Infernian and set him on fire if he hurt Calida,” Iris said dryly.

“And Calida hit me for that,” Noctis said wistfully. “It’s a good threat though.”

Iris laughed. “I think Ignis would swoop in and kick anyone’s ass who hurt her. That Arne isn’t walking around on fire is a good sign for his character.”

Noctis grinned.

They were happy.

FFXV

Calida and Arne stood on the roof, standing before a small fire. Arne shifted nervously. King Noctis had threatened him with the Infernian when he had formally asked to court Calida. He never expected that Calida would want to introduce him to the god of fire.

“Ignis, I know I haven’t seen you for eight years, but I know you’re there. I want to introduce you to Arne Nox Fleuret, prince of Tenebrae.”

“Technically I’m not a prince,” Arne said quickly. “Mum abdicated the throne and it’s a democracy now.”

Calida waved her hand. “The people still address you as prince so shut up and take it.”

There was a rustling behind them and a soft laugh. “You are so your father’s daughter, Calida.”

She turned, smiling widely at Ignis. Arne’s mouth dropped open. The Infernian stood before them in his full glory, wings tight against his back.

“Ignis, Arne, Arne, Ignis,” she said.

Arne stepped forward, holding his hand out tentatively. Ignis grasped his hand in a strong grip, and Arne was shocked at the warmth radiating from the god’s hand.

“I’m sure you’ve heard this before,” Ignis said quietly, “but you look like Ravus.”

Arne nodded. “I wish I had met him,” he said.

Ignis smiled. “Ravus and I didn’t get along particularly well, especially when he tried to kill Noctis.”

Calida’s eyes widened. “Dad never talked about that.”

“He was unconscious,” Ignis said dryly. He turned his attention back to Arne, grasping the young man’s chin and looking at him. “You are strong, and good. However, Noctis’ threat stands. You hurt Calida, I’ll fry you.”

“Uh…yes sir!” Arne said.

Ignis smiled and kissed Calida on the forehead. “You both have the blessing of the Infernian. Be happy.”

“And walk tall, right?” Calida said with a smile.

“And always walk tall,” Ignis said. He disappeared in a swirl of flame, leaving Arne and Calida standing alone on the roof.

Calida turned to Arne and kissed him gently on the mouth.

FFXV

Prompto sighed, stretching. He looked out over the horizon, his chocobos curled up behind him.

He turned, smiling slightly when he saw Ignis standing there. Gods, he looked so young.

“Hey, Iggy,” Prompto said with a smile.

“Prompto. It is good to see you,” Ignis said, lowering himself onto the haven next to Prompto.

“And you.”

They sat in an easy silence, watching the clouds.

“I’m glad you saved Noctis,” Prompto said. “I never got the chance to tell you before, and I know this is coming almost forty years too late, but thanks.”

“Noctis deserved the chance to live. I’m glad he has managed to find happiness.”

“What about you? What have you been doing?” Prompto asked nervously.

Ignis smiled. “I am searching for Etro. She was cast out by Bahamut, and I would like to find her.”

“Sounds…fun?”

Ignis chuckled quietly. “It is something. May I ask something?”

“Sure thing.”

“Why did you never marry and have children?”

Prompto glanced at him. “Being a clone and all, I didn’t really think I needed to have kids. I think Verstael’s line should end with me. Plus, I got Yarrow and Cali, and I’m happy with Gladio. Nah. I didn’t need to marry. If I had ever found the right person—”

“Or Cindy had said yes?” Ignis asked dryly.

Prompto laughed. “Or if Cindy had said yes, I probably would’ve. But I’m happy.”

“I’m glad,” Ignis said.

Prompto grinned at him. “What’re you doing here?”

Ignis looked up at the sky. “I saw you sitting here with your chocobos and…I was lonely. I was hoping you wouldn’t turn me away.”

Prompto put his hand on Ignis’ shoulder. “Wanna go for a chocobo ride?”

Ignis smiled at him, his old friend. Prompto’s hair was a mix between silver and gold, and he had thankfully long ago gotten rid of the facial hair.

“I would like that.”

Prompto stood up and started saddling the birds. Ignis stroked the beak of the bigger one, smiling slightly as it pushed into his hand.

The man and god mounted the birds, and spent an easy afternoon riding.

They parted ways at sundown. Prompto went home, and he and Gladio talked about the old times.

FFXV

Yarrow turned his back to his father, dropping his shirt. “I think you’ll appreciate this, Dad.”

Gladio’s eyes traveled over his son’s back. Like him, Yarrow had gotten a full back plate with sleeves.

It was a phoenix, flaming feathers permanently painted into his son’s flesh, its head just over his heart.

It was a fitting tribute to the god who had once saved Yarrow. That was why he had gotten it done.

“It’s beautiful,” Gladio said honestly. He hoped his son’s tattoos were never marred by horrid scars. He hoped that nothing ever attacked him or Calida the way things had when he and Noct were young.

At least Calida would never have to bear the weight of the Crystal or the Ring of the Lucii.

Gladio knew even Noctis’ brief time wearing the ring and his time in the Crystal had taken a toll on him.

Gladio smiled at his son, his own hair streaked with silver.

“Wanna spar?” Yarrow asked his father.

Gladio grinned and pulled out two of the practice blades. Shirtless, the two lunged at each other, laughing.

FFXV

Arne and Calida were officially betrothed for one year.

They wed when Calida turned twenty. Arne would be declared princess consort, and when Calida took the throne, he would be queen consort. He would take her name, keeping the Caelum name for their heirs.

Noctis led his daughter up the aisle. Her dark brown hair was twisted up in a beautiful braid, and she wore an ivory dress with flames embroidered with pearls on it. She wanted to honor Ignis as the Caelum’s patron god.

Noctis stopped them before Arne. Arne dropped to one knee before the king and the princess.

“Rise, Arne Nox Fleuret,” Noctis said, “and cherish that which is most precious to me.”

Arne rose to his feet, and Noctis put his daughter’s hand in Arne’s. He stepped past them and turned to face them.

He led them through their vows, Iris at his side. Yarrow stood behind Calida, smiling at his cousin. Gladio and Prompto stood to the side, watching.

Finally, Noctis pulled out a tarnished silver chain and wrapped it around Calida and Arne’s joined hands.

“I ask for the blessing of the Infernian upon this marriage, as he blessed mine. May the two of you always have a warm fire at night and be each other’s harbors in a storm.”

The chain burst into white flames, and when it went out, the chain was a shining silver.

“Thank you, Ignis,” Calida whispered.

She pulled her husband down for a hard kiss, surrounded by applause.

“I present Calida Aurora Caelum and Arne Nox Fleuret Caelum,” Noctis said over the applause.

Yarrow let out a whoop and hugged them both.

Calida laughed, her husband on one side, and her best friend and shield on the other.

Noctis pulled Iris close, smiling.

Iris and Noctis danced a slow dance, her head on his shoulder.

No one noticed the green eyed man in the corner of the ballroom, watching the festivities with a sad smile.

FFXV

Noctis was sixty five when he became a grandfather. He waited with Arne while Iris and Stella were with Calida.

Like Iris, Calida’s pregnancy and birth were surprisingly easy. Three hours after going into labor, Calida welcomed her son into the world.

Noctis followed Arne into the room, standing back and letting him greet his wife and son. Iris hugged him, tears in her eyes.

Calida looked up, smiling at her father. “Come meet him, Daddy.”

Noctis stepped forward, and Arne passed the infant into Noctis’ arms. Noctis held him, smiling down at him.

“His name is Ignis,” Calida said softly. Noctis’ eyes whipped to her face. “Ignis Leon Caelum.”

Noctis dropped his eyes back to the baby in his arms.

“Hello, Ignis,” Noctis whispered, voice thick with tears.

The fire in the fireplace crackled merrily, and Noctis cried.

FFXV

“I’m stepping down,” Noctis said. Calida looked up in shock.

“What? Are you okay? Should I call a doctor?”

Noctis laughed quietly, holding his hand up. “Calm down, Cali. I’m almost seventy. My body is not what it used it be. My time in the Crystal and wearing the ring took a toll on me. I have no doubt you’ll be a fine queen for Lucis. The best they’ve ever had.”

Calida stood up and hugged her father tightly.

“I am afraid to be queen,” she said quietly.

Noctis stepped back and looked into her face. Her dark brown hair hung loose around her shoulders, blue eyes wide. “I was scared too, when I realized I would actually have to be king. I’m not dying yet, kiddo. I’ll still be around if you need me, but your mother and I want to go to the Galdin house, relax, spend some time together.”

“Okay,” Calida said. She glanced at the three year old Ignis, napping solidly on her couch. “He definitely has your love of napping,” she said.

Noctis grinned. “Smart kid.”

Calida laughed and kissed her father’s weathered cheek. “Okay. I guess I’m ready then.”

“You’ll do wonderfully,” Noctis said truthfully.

Calida smiled. She would miss her father, but perhaps it was time. No one deserved peace more than Noctis Lucis Caelum.

FFXV

The next month, Noctis held a ceremony turning over the crown to his daughter. Arne stood to the side, Ignis in his arms. The little boy watched with wonder, blue eyes wide and brown hair carefully combed.

Calida knelt before Noctis, head bowed.

“You kneel before me my daughter,” Noctis said softly, weaving the half crown into her hair slowly, arthritic fingers making it difficult. “You rise my queen.”

He helped her to her feet and gave her a half bow. He turned her to face the crowd gathered below them.

“I present Queen Calida Aurora Caelum CXV, Queen of Peace,” Noctis called.

“Queen of Peace!” the crowd shouted back.

Calida embraced her father. She was queen, and Noctis was retired.

It was the first time in two thousand years that the crown hadn’t passed on because of the death of the previous monarch.

It was a good feeling.

FFXV

Five year old Ignis sat at the camp, an old astronomy book open on his lap. They were at their annual trip to Grandpa Noct’s house on the beach. Calida had recently told him about the Infernian, the god of fire that looked after the Caelums.

She pointed out the barely visible constellation in the heavens, and Grandpa Noct told him a story about the man who became a god.

He closed the book decisively and stood up, carrying the heavy book carefully. He looked back. The adults sat around the fire, talking quietly. He was supposed to be asleep but he had no interest in sleeping.

He wanted to find the Infernian. To see the constellation better, he needed to go where it was darker.

Iggy set off quietly over the beach, heading for the rocks. He could climb them, and maybe being high up would let him see better.

He walked for a long time, always trying to get higher.

With a start, he realized he couldn’t see the camp anymore, or the big house.

He whimpered, clinging the book to his chest.

“Momma?” he whispered. He sniffed, eyes burning with tears. “Daddy? Grandpa? Grandma?” he called. He burst into tears.

He was lost.

Iggy sat down and wailed, rubbing his eyes. It was dark and scary and he was alone.

He heard something and scrambled to his feet. “Momma?”

“Are you lost?” a kind, deep voice said.

“Yeah,” the little boy whispered. He looked up as a man walked out of the darkness, kind green eyes smiling down at him. Iggy could see a faint scar over the man’s left eye.

The man knelt, smiling at the book. “What are you doing out here?”

“I jus’ wanted to see the Infernian,” Iggy said.

The man tilted his head back, a sad look on his face. “It’s almost impossible to see now. So very dim.”

“It’s Momma’s favorite,” he said.

“I know. I’ve met your mother. What’s your name?” the man asked kindly.

“Ignis. But everyone calls me Iggy.”

The man smiled and pulled Iggy into his arms. “Do you want to know a secret?”

The boy nodded, eyes wide. The man was so warm. The man leaned close. “My name is Ignis too.”

The boy gasped. “Really?”

“Really,” Ignis said, smiling at Noctis’ grandson. “Now, how about I walk you back to your mother. They’re all quite worried about you.”

Ignis stood up, the boy in his arms. He walked easily down the rocky hills, heading back to camp.

“Iggy!” Calida yelled. They had split up to look for her wayward son. “Iggy!”

“Calida,” a deep voice said. She spun, and nearly sobbed with relief. Walking out of the dark was Ignis, her son in his arms.

“Oh, Ignis,” she said, taking the boy from the god and cuddling him close. “What were you doing out there?”

“I just wanted to see the stars better,” Iggy said quietly, face streaked with tears and snot. “I wanted to see the Infernian.”

She glanced up at the Infernian, smiling wryly.

Iggy tugged on her hair. “Momma, that nice man said his name is Ignis too!”

Calida smiled. “I know. I named you after him.”

Iggy beamed, staring proudly at Ignis.

“Baby, you said you wanted to see the Infernian, right?”

“Uh huh,” Iggy said, watching his mother with wide eyes. Calida smiled and gestured towards Ignis.

“You met him. My friend Ignis is the Infernian.”

Iggy’s eyes widened and looked back at the man. He let out a shocked cry when flaming wings appeared, spreading behind Ignis. Ignis smiled and sketched a bow to them both.

“Don’t scare your parents like that again, little flame,” Ignis said, stepping close so Iggy could get a better look at his wings.

“Okay,” Iggy said in awe. Ignis smiled and kissed his forehead, and Calida’s cheek. He snapped his wings out and took to the sky.

“Now, wasn’t that better than some constellation?” Calida asked her son, carrying him back to the camp.

“Yeah,” Iggy said, still in awe at what he’d seen.

Noctis watched his daughter and grandson walk out of the darkness and smiled.

“The Infernian found him?”

Calida nodded and put Iggy in his sleeping bag. “He wanted to see the constellation better, and the god showed up instead.”

“Ignis did say he would always watch over us,” Iris said quietly.

“And he always will,” Noctis said.

FFXV

Noctis was dying. He had lived longer than he ever imagined, but he could tell his time was growing short. He was only seventy six, but he felt so much older.

His hair was white, as was his beard. He was thankful he had hair, considering Gladio and Prompto had both gone bald.

He sat on the dock at Galdin, looking at his wrinkled feet in the water. He heard footsteps and looked behind him, smiling at Iris.

Iris’ hair was silver and short, laugh lines prominent around her eyes and lips.

She lowered herself next to him, putting her own feet in the water. Noctis laced their fingers together, staring at the canyons in his skin, thinking about the rivers of time that had carved them.

Iris rested her head on his shoulder.

They watched the sunset in a silence born of years of being together. They didn’t need to say anything.

It felt like they had nothing left to say.

FFXV

Ignis stood before the house at Galdin Quay, staring up at it.

The sun was setting on The Dawn King.

He stepped into the house and paused, listening.

“I knew you’d come,” a young boy said. Ignis Leon Caelum, eleven years old, smiled at god he was named after.

“I would not miss this,” Ignis said quietly, looking at the boy. Iggy smiled at him. Ignis saw that the boy had the Caelum eyes, and light brown hair.

“Mum’s this way,” Iggy said, leading him down the hall.

Calida looked up when her son entered, Ignis at his back. She wiped her tears away and stood up. Arne and Yarrow sat to the side, watching quietly.

“Ignis. It is good to see you.”

“And you,” Ignis said.

The door opened, and Iris walked in. She smiled sadly at Ignis.

“Are you here to bring him home?”

Ignis bowed to her. “I am.”

“This way. Gladio and Prompto are with him.”

Ignis held his arm out to Iris, and she placed her age spotted hand on the crook of his elbow. They walked slowly down the hall, and they were followed by the younger generation.

Iris pushed the door open to her and Noctis’ room. Ignis’ eyes moved around the room.

Gladio and Prompto sat next to each other, looking up as Ignis entered. Both were bald, and had shrunk slightly with age. Ignis stepped forward.

“Look how disgustingly young you are,” Gladio said with a laugh. Ignis smiled softly at him, trailing his fingers over Gladio and Prompto’s head.

“Oh,” Prompto said. “So warm.”

Ignis dropped a kiss on Prompto’s wrinkly forehead. Prompto smiled up at him.

Ignis turned his attention to Noctis, small and silent on the bed. His eyes were closed, and his breath rattled in his chest.

Ignis sat carefully on the edge of the bed and brushed back Noctis’ hair.

Noctis opened rheumy eyes, smiling up at Ignis.

“Look, an angel.”

Ignis smiled slightly. “Hello, Noctis. It has been a while.”

“Your hair’s different,” Noctis said. Ignis smiled wryly.

Noctis coughed, and Ignis gently wiped away the spittle that appeared on his lips. He put his hand on Noctis’ chest, soothing the ache.

“So…it’s time then?” Noctis asked.

“Yes,” Ignis whispered. “Say goodbye.”

Iris leaned over, tears in her amber eyes. She kissed her husband on the lips then on the head. “Try not to give Ignis too much trouble, you hear?”

Noctis gave a wheezing laugh, reaching for her hand. He squeezed as best he could.

“I’ll see you again.”

“You better,” Iris said, smoothing his hair back.

“We had a good marriage, Iris,” Noctis whispered.

“We did. I love you.”

“And I love you. Thank you.”

Iris kissed him again and stepped back, letting Calida and Iggy say goodbye. Iggy kissed his grandfather on the cheek.

“I’ll miss you, Grandpa,” he whispered. Noctis smiled at him.

“Try not to burn the Citadel down, kid. And walk tall.”

Iggy smiled and went to his father, burying his face in Arne’s neck.

Calida sat on the bed, taking her father’s hand. “You were the best father and friend I could ask for. I love you.”

Noctis squeezed her hand. “You were the best thing that happened to me. Love you, Cali.” He started coughing again.

Ignis did his best to calm the coughing. Calida kissed her father and moved back. Yarrow said goodbye, kissing his uncle on the head.

Gladio and Prompto leaned forward. Gladio took Noctis’ hand. “It’s been an honor, Noct. Thank you, for everything.”

“I’ll miss you, buddy,” Prompto said, gently hugging his oldest and best friend.

“I’ll see you around,” Noctis said with a smile.

He fell back into the bed, staring at the ceiling.

“I’ve…had a good life,” Noctis said, eyes finding Ignis’. “And I thank you for it.”

He coughed, aware of everyone watching him.

“Cali, Yarrow, Arne…Iggy…I leave it all to you,” Noctis whispered. “Walk tall.”

Calida sniffed and Yarrow hugged her tightly.

Noctis looked at Ignis. “Does it hurt, dying?”

Ignis shook his head. “Faster and easier than falling asleep.”

Noctis took another rattling breath. “Good.”

Ignis gently took Noctis’ hands in his own. “Are you ready?”

Noctis looked at everyone as best he could. His eyesight wasn’t the greatest anymore, but he could clearly see his wife and daughter, smiling at him through their tears.

“Yeah, I’m ready,” Noctis whispered.

“Then let me show you the stars,” Ignis whispered. He stood up, and seemed to half pull Noctis with him.

Noctis’ body fell back to the bed, no heartbeat in his chest.

Standing before Ignis was her father, younger than she had ever seen.

“You’re so handsome it’s gross,” Prompto said with a laugh, tears in his eyes.

Noctis looked at his body, ran his fingers over his face. He laughed, feeling lighter and freer than he had in his entire life.

He looked at his body, still and silent on the bed. He looked at himself.

“I have led a wonderful life,” he said, eyes moving from person to person in the room. He had died surrounded by those who loved him, and who he loved in return.

He turned to face Ignis. “I’m ready,” he said firmly.

Ignis held his hand out, almost tentatively. Noctis looked at the Infernian’s fingers, and with a smile stepped close to him.

He glanced at Iris, and she nodded, smiling.

Noctis pulled Ignis down and kissed him hard. Ignis’ wings flared out behind him, wrapping around Noctis and cradling him close.

“Show me the stars,” Noctis said.

Ignis turned and they walked slowly out of the room, drifting through the closed door like it wasn’t there.

Iris sniffed and covered Noctis’ body. She smiled and wiped her eyes.

“He’s at peace.”

Gladio pulled his sister in for a tight hug. Noctis was gone, but his love would live on, in Iris, and Calida, and little Ignis, and every Caelum that was born after.

Iggy opened the window, staring up at the stars.

“You guys have to see this!” he said, his voice loud in the silence of the room. He hurried out onto the balcony, followed by the others.

Calida looked up and covered her mouth. She wiped her tears away and reached for her son’s hands.

“Do you remember?” she whispered. “Do you remember the stories I told you of the Infernian and his heart?”

“Tell me again.”

FFXV

In the heavens, the Infernian flared bright, a new star shining in the middle of the constellation.

The Infernian was finally reunited with his heart.

~FIN~