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The World is an Arm's Reach Away

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Gunshot fills their heads. It ricochets against the stone fins angling up from the ground in deafening echos. The warriors wince. The cover the waves of stone provides them is a strategic boon. The acoustics... less so. The hounds circling in on Ignis and Prompto, however, appear completely unperturbed. Their drooling, snapping maws press in closer, until the men are back to back pressed deep under the sheet of stone.

Prompto puts a bullet in the head of one, then two, and Ignis buries the long blade of his spear into the heart of another. The creatures drop like wetted mops, matted dirty hair sopping up the bloodshed before it can begin to pool over the ground. They make two more corpses, but still they remain outnumbered—three havocfangs for each of their two.

The spear bursts into crystal shards and returns to its masters hand in a blink, ready to taste battle again. Prompto rubs at his ear with his free hand, brushing arms with Ignis while he groans about the accentuated reverb.

One of the hounds leaps, seeming to take advantage of Prompto's distraction—Ignis twirls to strike it down without thinking. He serves death with all the fluid grace of a coeurl… but with the precision of a inebriated behemoth. The arc of the lance is poetry in motion, and sonnets could be written glorifying the speed with which Ignis has come to his partners aide; yet the execution is anything but artistic.

The spear finds its mark, at the very least, piercing the fiend in midair and knocking it off course. Pinned to the soil by the polearm through its hip, it cries in shrill, agonized octaves. The price for his haste is accuracy. Instead of the quick end Ignis usually doles with steel through the heart, the blade of his lance rips through soft tissue, shredding vital internal organs and dooming the creature to a slow, painful death.

The unfortunate situation churns unpleasantly in his stomach. Killing is messy work, and he would prefer to leave the mess to the others, taking solace instead in knowing how to give his victims as quick and clean an end as possible. Nevertheless, it is one less enemy concentrated on having him and Prompto for dinner, and another thousand gil in their pockets. Had the hunt billing not promised their reward paying ‘per head’, Ignis might have concluded this risk unworthy of their time and skill.

Another concussive gunshot rattles around between his ears, jolting Ignis out of his thoughts. The battle rages on around him, but he has Prompto to cover for his momentary lapse in composure.

“Come back to me Igster, we're not done yet,” Prompto says, pressing closer. His is a grounding presence. But it's the waver in his voice that spurs Ignis back into the right headspace for their task. Calling his lance back into his hands, he moves purposefully, taking very careful aim at the smallest of the remaining four.

When finally the last of their marks falls, and while Prompto is taking aim to put Ignis’s blundered kill out of its misery, Ignis banishes his lance and moves eagerly out into the sunlight. He lets the heat ease the tension in his neck and shoulders, and doesn't even wince when Prompto pulls the trigger. Without the oppressive stone ceiling, the shock of the shot isn't nearly so jarring.

A weight from behind forces him to take a step forward to stay on balance, and he very nearly calls his daggers to his hands to fend off an attack. But there is no attack, he feels a bit silly for the mistake. Pale arms snake around his waist, gently melding him against the body behind his. In a very Prompto move, the other man presses his forehead into the join of Ignis's shoulder and neck. His gell stiffened tips tickle Ignis's ear when he sighs.

“Well, that sucked.”

“The situation may have gotten a bit out of hand, but I'd say we managed quite well.” Ignis twines his fingers into the hands clasped around his stomach and squeezes. Prompto grunts, which Ignis takes to mean he's agreeing. They stay like that for a long moment, the sun caressing Prompto's back and Prompto hugging Ignis's. It's a good moment, a quiet appreciation for another successful hunt in the proverbial bag, and Ignis would happily stand like that with him until sunset. But there is work to be done yet.

With a happy hum he lets go of Prompto's hands, disengaging with as much gentleness as Prompto had used to wrap him up. “We’d best rally his Highness and Gladio while there is still daylight. They certainly flushed a good number of the pack out of the caves, but their silence is worrisome.”

“Yeah, I figured Gladio would be out here gloating up a storm by now, haha.” Prompto lets his arms fall back to his sides, but walks with his shoulder casually bumping against Ignis's arm. His closeness means their hands brush often, fingers catching as they walk.

Never one for ambiguity, Ignis easily catches Prompto's hand in his. Twining their fingers feels so natural now, Ignis wonders how he ever got so far in life without a hand to hold his.

That answer is easy; he never knew he needed one.