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Chapter Text

Nyx’s car was something of a piece of shit.

It’s charm started and ended with the fact that the body was classic, a 70something dodge charger, built for speed demons from another age. It could have been worth something, had the previous owners taken any sort of care, if it wasn’t a hodge podge mix of original parts and new additions, flaking rust and leaking oil. The seats were old, leather turned hard and cracked, but the interior still smelled of it, of leather and smoke; it smelled like Nyx. The stereo had been replaced, Nirvana currently pouring from the speakers, noise competing with the air rushing through the open windows.

Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be...

Ignis knew the engine residing under the hood wasn’t the original. He also knew Nyx would tell anyone that asked otherwise.

If he looked in the side mirror Ignis could see dark clouds in the distance behind them, a threat or a promise of rain. Objects are closer than they appear. It was humid, stifling, and with any luck a storm would break the current stretch of heat. But Ignis wouldn’t count on it. He turned to Nyx.

“You’re low on gas.”

Nyx waved him off with the hand resting on the top of the steering wheel. From this angle Ignis could see the tattoo on his forearm, the portrait of his sister flanked with a cascade of flowers. Orchids. Mourning flowers, flowers to say I'll love you always. Even in the paltry comparison that was a portrait to a true face, Ignis could see the similarities, the eyes, the nose, all the same as Nyx's. 

"I'll stop on the way back," Nyx said, glancing in his direction. "Don't worry about it."

They were so close Ignis could feel it on his skin, like an itch. Maybe just an effect of the weather, the electricity in the air making him imagine things, making his hair stand on end. It would be so easy for Nyx to move the hand resting on the gear shift, let it fall on to Ignis's leg, or brush his arm. But he wouldn't, not now, not yet, not while he was driving. He wouldn't risk breaching all the invisible walls between them.

"I can pay you for it."

"I said don't worry about it," biting tone, bitter at the implications. "I wouldn't offer you a ride if I was going to hit you up for gas money."

Nyx's irritation showed in the way his foot was heavy on the gas at the next stoplight, a sloppy shift making the car jerk enough to send the keyring hanging out of the ignition swinging, send the beaded charm hanging from the rearview mirror swinging. But that was Ignis, always bringing up the practical, practical to a fault. So practical he could kick himself.

Yet here they were. Nyx didn't usually seem to mind his practicality, not enough to make him stop the act of good samaritan. Ignis would find him in the alley at the end of his shift, Nyx smoking a cigarette hovering near the back door of his own shop and pretending not to have been waiting, making small talk, saying his shift just ended too what a coincidence, offering a ride home. Nyx knew Ignis took the bus. Nyx kept showing up at closing and Ignis was just as much at fault because he kept saying yes. 

It wasn't every day, but it was often enough. 3pm, lunch crowd gone, doors locked and lights out. Now that the heat had set in Ignis had taken to propping the kitchen doors open in some sad attempt to cool things down. The smell of smoke would herald him, some kind of warning before Ignis left the cafe.

Cafe. Made the place sound like something fancy instead of a cramped space nearly the width of a bowling lane and half as long, specializing in house-made donuts and greasy breakfasts, squashed between a tattoo parlor and a currency exchange. It could have been worse. Hours for breakfast and lunch, early mornings but no late nights, a steady stream of local regulars that tipped well and didn't mind if the place was packed to discomfort and the service was slow. And Ignis was cooking again. Could have been worse. Didn't matter if it wasn't haute French cuisine or molecular gastronomic feats, all of the culinary magic he could do with hardly a second thought. No, he had a kitchen in which to use his talents, there was something to be said for the food that kept the regular and average full and happy. Ignis would not complain.

He had not established the cafe, despite the fact that somewhere along the line everyone had started acting like it was his. Perhaps the spike in business once he'd taken over the kitchen had something to do with it. And their neighbors seemed to approve of his cooking, judging by the increased frequency of call-in lunch orders and runs for donuts and coffee. 

He met Crowe first, running into her in the alley while he was leaving for the day, juggling his bag and a box of leftover donuts, not long after he'd first started working there. Her eyes lit up when he'd offered her the box, doomed to be pawned of on someone else at his apartment complex otherwise, and the next day he spotted her at the register, picking up an order for everyone at the tattoo parlor. Maybe it was the food that kept the coming back, maybe it was the discount that Ignis was inclined to give. 

He knew Nyx's work before he ever knew Nyx. The tables were often mixed with clientele from next door, those killing time and getting food before an appointment, or else hungry afterwards and riding high from the pain and pleasure of a new piece of work embedded on their skin. Libertus was old school, mostly classic tattoos and a good mix of color and smooth line work, or unparalleled realism on his occasional portraits or more elaborate designs. Crowe's work was like painting, bright and chaotic, patterns and shapes and more birds that Ignis had ever seen. And then there was Nyx. 

Fine and detailed lines, stippling and crosshatching, always black and grey, looking like it could be a print or an etching from another time, whether it was portraits or swords or mythical beasts. Something beautiful but deadly. Distinct enough that if Ignis caught a glimpse of someone showing off their new tattoo he always knew when it was Nyx.

On days when it was slow and he wasn't trapped behind a grill, Ignis would walk orders over, discount and free donuts included. He liked to look behind the front desk and watch the artists at work, listen to the buzzing tattoo machines, see the art on the walls, hard rock playing from the speakers. One time- one time it was Nyx behind the counter when he came to drop off the food. And it was Nyx they always sent to pick up orders after that. Nyx hanging around the back door in their shared alley. Nyx talking about tattoos as if Ignis had ever expressed any interest in getting one, as if Nyx knew he'd be the one to do it. Nyx offering rides. 

"We're here."

Nyx killed the engine as they pulled up to Ignis's apartment, he must have been dreaming not to have noticed. He waited just a second too long to grab his bag, just a moment to late when he reached for the door handle.

"Hey." There, a brush of his arm, that same open space of forearm he'd been staring at earlier, skin bare where he'd rolled up his sleeves. Hardly anything, just the pads of Nyx's finger tips touching him and feeling like they were charged with static electricity, hardly any contact and yet enough to trap Ignis in the car. He might as well have been in a cage. 

There was something in Nyx's face when Ignis looked to him, deep set in the seriousness of his eyes, desperate, pleading, raw enough to make Ignis want to bolt just as much as it set him on fire. And then a grin broke over his face, expression gone, even if there always something there under the surface. Something melancholy and dangerous. Not today, he wouldn't bring it up today.

"You should come by the shop soon. When you've got some free time to stick around, I mean." Ignis shifted his arm, Nyx shifted with him, bound by touch. "I can do something for you on the cheap. I owe you, with all the free food you give us Libertus couldn't even complain. Doesn't even hurt, I promise."

Pleading, wanting, pleading. 

Nyx wouldn't stop and one day, Nyx would wear him down. Ignis couldn't keep saying no forever, couldn't always keep up the act, couldn't always fight him off and stay away, far, far, away, distant as Nyx would allow him to be. Ignis couldn't keep looking him in the eye.

He heard thunder.

Today was not that day.

"I don't want a tattoo, Nyx," Ignis said, quiet. Fingers slipped off his arm. He made his escape. 

The slamming car door set his ears ringing and they kept ringing all the way back up to his apartment, long after he was once again alone.

Chapter Text

The rain never came and the heat never broke.

The night brought nothing but rolling thunder and the occasional splatter of heavy raindrops, the world just teetering on the edge of the storm until the wind carried it away again, leaving a hazy morning of murky sunshine, air so thick if felt like drowning.

All week, storms skirting around the edges of the city leaving nothing but oppressive temperatures and humidity in their wake.

All week Ignis didn’t see Nyx.

It made him foul, head pounding from dehydration, long hours spent in a boiling kitchen. Or else lack of sleep and too much caffeine to compensate. Ignis had no air conditioning in his apartment, just an old box fan aimed at his bed, windows pried open in an attempt to call a breeze. He'd spent the last few nights limp in bed and staring at the popcorn ceiling, sweating into the sheets. Nirvana looping in his head. 

Something had to break. 

Prompto, the new busboy, carrying too many dishes and going to fast dropped a stack of plates in the back and Ignis watched as they all shattered, shards of white ceramic littering the floor like a mosaic. Ignis had slammed his spatula on the counter and asked, "Do you plan on ruining anything else today?"

He regret it immediately, even as Prompto's eyes, already wide grew wider, his distress still clear as he was making an effort not to seem upset. It was a mistake and mistakes happen. He wasn't the only one to have ever broken dishes and wouldn't be the last, why it should cause such a surge of irritation in Ignis he didn't know. He apologize, immediately, profusely, bent down to help clean up the mess just as much to help as to hide his face. For someone who had once been known as an endless fount of patience he felt erratic, so outside of himself. Prompto was sent home early- with pay for the rest of the day, along side another apology. But the damage was done and Ignis could only hope that he would come back to work tomorrow.

It was how Ignis had wound up staying late that night. Prompto was usually the one to help with end of day cleaning, but it felt like a just punishment that Ignis should have to do it himself, waving off the rest of the remaining employees as they finished their own duties. The kitchen (his kitchen), felt grimy, covered in grease, everything sticky, and one thing to clean turned into another, as if constant use wasn't about to muck it all up again and no on really cared if the hidden spaces between and under the counters and the grill weren't spotless. He cared. Suddenly it seemed important to douse the place in bleach to keep himself from setting it all on fire. 

Back door open. Cleaning became less of something therapeutic when you managed to make yourself more upset in the process, when anything with the audacity to be dirty became a personal affront. He could smell a cigarette. 

"You can't smoke in here," Ignis said before getting up from where he was crouched by the freezer, cleaning and cleaning useless spaces, just in time to see Nyx flick his butt back out into the alley, standing at the edge of the doorway. Ignis had taken his glasses off, sweat causing them to slip down the bridge of his nose, hair plastered to his wet forehead, t-shirt sticking to his back. 

Nyx looked at him with something that was so close to longing it made him uneasy. He wished Nyx wouldn't do that, wouldn't be so open, so obvious, make everything known, every thought and feeling. But not everyone could be like Ignis, not everyone could have their masters in repression. 

"Shouldn't you be long gone?" Nyx asked, eyes flickering up at down like he was appraising him. Maybe he was.  

"I'm cleaning," Ignis said like that explained everything. 

"Looks pretty clean to me." Nyx was watching him, what a mess he must have seemed, the empt room. Not pity, he couldn't handle it if Nyx started looking at him with pity. "It's cooler next door," he said, "and you look like you could use a break. You can keep me company while I close up."

Ignis checked his watch. He hadn't realized it had gotten so late. Maybe pity wouldn't have been so out of line, he was certainly starting to feel pathetic himself. He should have said no and just went home, should have known his exhaustion and pounding head would make him do something stupid.

Instead he said, "Very well."

Nyx's mouth pulled up in a smile, "Good. There's something I want to show you."

They walked into the shop as Libertus and Crowe were cleaning up, no more clients at a subdued end of day. Crowe shot him a wave, a smirk on her face that might have been a little too knowing, Libertus raised his eyebrows, said nothing to them, but whispered something in Crowe's ear that made her punch his arm. Nyx paid their curiosity no mind. They were leaving soon enough anyway. 

Nyx's work space carried the organized chaos of an overactive mind, drawings and supplies littering the area. He rifled through his things, humming something. "Come here," he said over his shoulder, anticipation on the edge of his voice, and Ignis crossed his arms and walked over. 

Nyx produced a drawing, held it out for him to take, something on a bit of scrap paper. A Galahadian dagger judging by the curved edges of the blade, covered in spiraling designs, a beaded charm hanging from the end of the hilt. Beautifully drawn, of course, with so much attention to detail, and Ignis had the feeling that perhaps Nyx had spent more time on this than he wanted Ignis to believe, nonchalance to make it seem like a throwaway gesture. 

"I was thinking right... here." Nyx let his fingers brush the inside of Ignis's bicep and it felt more intimate than it should have for just a touch of the arm. It was something about the placement, those spaces in between, tucked in and kept close. Close as Nyx was standing, pale blue eyes bright in the overhead lights of the shop. "No one would even know it's there. No one but you."

And Nyx. No one but him and Nyx. 

"Why a dagger?"

Nyx shrugged, again with that pretense that this was all something inconsequential, like he hadn't thought every detail through. "I thought it fit you."

"But what does it mean?" Nyx didn't answer right away, curled his bottom lip in as if to give himself time to think.

"It's a gift."

Ignis should have known better, should have known coming over here would get him into trouble when his head was a mess, should have known Nyx was going to wear him down. He knew well enough to know that this wasn't just a pretty design; Nyx wasn't like that. This was a talisman. There was a reason. It was the first gift anyone had given him in a very long time. 

"You said it won't hurt?" Always a pushover in the end, and worth it to see the way Nyx's face changed.

"Not at all." 

Nyx was methodical, the preparation, the laying out of tools and supplies as Ignis watched. They were alone now, door locked and open sign off. He made a copy of the dagger on transfer paper, pressed it onto Ignis’s skin in fluorescent purple, brought him to the full length mirror to look it over.

A gift.

He was professional. Every touch practical, never pushing boundaries the way he usually liked to. Careful when he rolled Ignis’s sleeve up over his shoulder, careful when he sat Ignis down on his bench.

Gloves on.

Nyx had him lay back with his arm out, got himself ink and paper towels, a spray bottle of something that wasn’t labeled. He pulled his stool up close, close enough that Ignis could smell him, smoke and soap and that sour tinge of sweat. from the relentless heat. Close enough that Ignis was acutely aware of his own stench. Close. Cut and ruined with a distance of professionalism.

(Oh no, but that wouldn’t stop Ignis, barriers breaking down now, now like a downward spiral out of his exhausted head too worn down to stop it when his traitorous mind started to picture Nyx climbing on top of him on the bench and-)

“You ready?”

Absolutely not.

“Yes.”

It wasn’t quite pain, but something like a scratch of the uncomfortable, the buzz of the gun in an irritable vibration that ran deep under his skin.

It was hard to get a good look at Nyx’s hands and what they were doing, imprinting black lines as they went. Would he regret it, this impulsive, stupid decision, mark on himself forever? No way to tell, too far to turn back now. So he watched Nyx’s face as he worked. Downturned as it was, Ignis likes seeing him from this angle, eyes cast down, concentrating, not the direct look he usually had while playfully berating, teasing, joking. Or else looking like he wanted more.

It took over an hour to complete. Nyx gave him a break halfway through to stretch his shoulder and get blood back in his hand. Even unfinished Nyx’s talent was clear, the thin lines broken with stippling and shades of black and grey. A dagger, but a delicate one, one with a personality all it’s own. Again, when Nyx was done, just as the skin on his arm was starting to burn with a prickling discomfort, he brought Ignis over to the mirror again. Ignis, looking at the level of depth and detail, stared at the dagger for a long time and said, "It's beautiful." And it was the truth. 

They left the shop together, his arm covered in plastic and still store, and strict instructions on how to care for his new piece of art and tender skin. Nyx had given Ignis one of his business cards, not before scrawling his personal number on the back in a sharp lines, his writing pressed hard enough to leave indentations. "If you have any questions," Nyx said, "or if you need anything. Anytime. I'll pick up." Anything meant anything. 

Ignis knew he meant it. 

 

 

 

 

The dagger took weeks to heal, as Nyx had told him it would. Ignis dutifully kept the skin clean, kept it covered in ointment and didn't scratch, just like Nyx told him to. 

Nyx's newfound excuse, how's it looking? brought him poking his head back into the kitchen more and more. He was mindful to come by at the end of the day, when they were getting ready to close and with the customers gone. That didn't mean the others didn't notice. Prompto regarded Nyx with a kind of curious respect, tried, poorly, to hid the fact that he was staring at Nyx's ink when he'd been wearing an old t-shirt with the arms ripped off. The kind of thing that Ignis would have thought would make someone look like a jackass, instead Prompto wasn't the only one starting. 

And when Nyx left Prompto, never one for subtlety, had looked at him and asked, "Does that guy have, like, a thing for you?"

Ignis didn't respond. 

No rain.

The heat dropped, picked back up again with a vengeance. And Ignis's skin healed clean. 

Something had to break and something had to change. But Ignis did not make impulsive decisions. 

In the passengers seat of Nyx's car Ignis sat, legs together and hands to himself, barely hearing the noise of the radio, and Nyx was content to let him stare out the window in silence. If he sensed a change he said nothing. 

When they pulled up to the front of his building, Ignis turned to him and said, "Would you like to come upstairs?"

Nyx waited just a moment too long, swallowed and Ignis heard the click in his throat before he said "Yes." And said nothing else as he parked the car, as Ignis unlocked the door to the building and led him upstairs. Said nothing until Ignis led him inside his apartment.

"Nice place," Nyx said, hands shoved in his pockets, not moving three feet from the door, looking at everything but Ignis.

Nice. The floors were wood, but varnished an ugly shade of yellow-brown, dented and marked from years of tenants on tenants moving furniture and scuffing it with their shoes. Everything was painted white, paint covered with paint until everything was caked with it, thick and flaking, coating the windows and making them near impossible to open and even harder to close. Tiny bedroom, tiny bathroom, a near microscopic kitchen that he never used. He was on the corner, the extra light was a plus. The layout was not, all awkward spaces and cramped rooms from builders who believed that corners should not be right angles but beveled edges. Nice.

He hadn't been looking for nice, he'd been looking for cheap and available for immediate occupation. He'd needed to make an escape, to fool himself into thinking moving somewhere else would solve his problems, the temptation that a new life might erase his past, take his memories with it. The lure of anonymity was strong. Ignis would have choked on the word nice before it came out of his mouth.  

"You've spent the last how many months attempting to pursue me, and now you're here and you're getting cold feet." It was supposed to be a joke, he had meant it as one but somehow the words took on a life of their own as soon as they left his mouth. Something mean. Something bitter. But Nyx was looking at him now, at least. Hands still in his pockets like he was afraid of touching something, keeping himself contained. 

"Maybe I was just afraid of pushing my luck," he said. 

"You wouldn't be pushing anything."

Nyx crossed the space between them with large steps, tugging Ignis forward by the waist when he was close enough to grab him, eyes slipping closed right before the collision of their kiss. Nyx kissed like Ignis knew he would, somehow; a little rough, a little eager, too sincere for his own good. That pinched spaced between his brows when Nyx pushed his tongue forward said too much so Ignis let his eyes close too, even as he parted his lips further. He let Nyx pull him close, felt himself chasing Nyx's mouth when he broke the kiss, only for a moment before Ignis could catch him again. The hands at his waist slipped under his shirt, that skin on skin contact making him shiver and reminding him that he'd spent far too much time alone. 

Nyx wanted him undressed, clear from they way he was tugging at his clothes while Ignis led him through the open door to his bed. 

Shirt off, the button of his pants undone. Nyx made him hard, effortlessly, and even when his shirt came off too it felt like Nyx had him at a disadvantage, all those tattoos giving him another layer, one Ignis could breech and he couldn't remove. Crowe's work on his stomach to his hips, a splash of color like magic, a horned beast on his back. A Galahadian dagger high on his ribs, just tucked under his arm.

He let Ignis push him on his back, let him strip off his pants and climb on top of him. Nyx tugged at the zipper on his pants and soon those were gone too, Nyx quick to drag his boxer briefs down after them, pull Ignis back on top of him and wrap a hand around his cock. 

No hesitancy, just built up desire. Ignis held the sides of his face and kissed him again.

Nyx knew what he wanted when Ignis took his hand and dragged it around the curve of his ass, hid a shudder when fingers pressed forward, found the furrowed skin there and started to tease. There was lube within arms reach, Ignis did not make impulsive decisions, and quick enough a slick finger was there again, dragging along his hole, pushing its way inside.

He pressed his face into Nyx's chest, as if hiding there would hide how desperate he was or muffle his moans, fists now gripping the blanket under them while he tried not to rock his hips. Nyx was panting underneath him, and another finger slipped in. 

The hand at his side fell away, Nyx reached down to free his own cock from the confines of his boxes, hard, flushed, dying for attention. Ignis wanted it in his mouth until a third finger thrust inside of him and he settled for replacing Nyx's hand with his own. It was thick, hot on his skin, and it didn't take much coaxing before precome was dripping from the tip. 

Enough teasing. Enough playing. He pulled away from Nyx just long enough to grab a condom, and Nyx let him roll it on. 

Knees on either side of his hips, Ignis reached behind himself to hold Nyx's cock steady while he let himself sink down slow.

A hand clutching his hip, one high on his thigh, Nyx whispering Gods while he brought himself down lower, rolled his hips, let himself fully take Nyx in and get used to the stretch of him before placing his hands in the center of Nyx's chest. Slow at first, Ignis started to ride him.

"You're even better than I imagined," Nyx was lost in it, flushed and sweating, holding fast, not even trying to keep his voice steady.

How many fantasies of him were in Nyx's head, how many false versions? Maybe it was better to let Nyx think what he wanted, better to not know the truth. Ignis rolled his head back, moaning, when Nyx started thrusting up into him, hungry for more. Because yes, Nyx's cock felt amazing.

Felt better than he'd imagined. 

Faster now, he wanted to come, bed creaking every time his hips came down, keeping a beat of their movements. He'd left all the windows open that morning, was some peeping tom watching them now? Let them watch. Ignis could not bring himself to care, not about anything beyond what Nyx was making him feel. 

There was hardly a warning before he was coming, covering Nyx with his mess while he kept bouncing on his cock, drawing it out, dragging Nyx down with him. It didn't take much and Ignis felt it when he came, saw it on his face when his cock started pulsing. Both of them sticky, hot. It was all over too quick. Ignis lifted his hips until Nyx slid out of him, and Ignis rolled onto the bed, trying to catch his breath. 

Nyx curled next to him, catching Ignis off guard with the way he tucked himself close, not caring about the come Ignis had splatter on his chest, resting his head in just under Ignis's jaw. Their closeness was making him overheat, and knew he couldn't be alone based on Nyx's feverish skin, the sweat beading on his forehead. But Ignis couldn't bring himself to push him away. 

Eventually, reluctantly, "Let me turn the fan on," he said. Whose voice was that, in the back of his throat? Why did he sound so-

"Wait," Nyx said, wrapped an arm across his stomach to keep him in place, "just wait, just for a little bit."

Who was Ignis to say no. 

Nyx's fingers wandered and they found Ignis's tattoo, traced the lines he'd drawn there himself. "It's to protect you," he said, quiet. 

"You think I'm in danger?" Again, a joke falling flat. Why must he always sound so serious.

"Maybe from yourself." Perhaps he had a point. Nyx's hand moved back over his chest. "I think I know where your next tattoo should go."

"Next? Who said anything about getting another?"

"Right here," Nyx said, and tapped the space just over Ignis's heart.

"You really think you can claim that spot?" Ignis asked him. Nyx leaned forward to press a kiss to his chest where he could surely feel the rapid beating under the skin. Proof that he was alive, not so unfeeling as he pretended to be. 

"Yeah," Nyx said, "I think I can."

 

Chapter Text

Thunder woke him before his alarm had the chance, loud enough to make the building shake with its deep rumble, finally close enough to let the sky open up over them. Nyx was wrapped tight next to him, just like he'd been when Ignis had fallen asleep, clinging, like they weren't both covered in sweat, stagnant air around them. Needy. Nyx was always so needy after.

(like Ignis wasn't so desperately needy himself, begging for Nyx to fuck him twice, three times in a night, like he didn't always pull Nyx close every time he came like he wasn't always trying to hid his face against Nyx's chest, seeking out affection, aggressively trying to pretend he wasn't, like he wasn't lonely and missing having people to get close to)

That neediness had reminded him of... someone else, as different as the ways were that it manifested. It was a regular thing now, a ride home followed by an invitation upstairs, Nyx asleep in his bed. That night Nyx had fucked him deep and slow from behind while the both laid on their sides.

"You're so far away," Nyx said afterwards, clutching onto Ignis, as was his way. Needy and clinging. Ignis was always predicable in the end, always finding someone that would hang on to him, in one way or another. "What were you thinking about?"

Death.

Not the kind of thing that made for pleasant post-coital conversation, not the kind of thing Nyx could possibly want to hear right now, and not the kind of thing Ignis wanted to talk about ever.

Family.

But not the kind related by blood.

So Ignis let the question drop silent, fell asleep with Nyx still hanging on tight.

Ignis shut off his alarm, a preemptive attempt to keep from waking Nyx, even as the sky thundered again. Nyx sighed as Ignis got up, a sigh of deep sleep dredged in dreams. He could keep sleeping, so long as the sky was still dark, Ignis deliberately gentle as he removed himself from the bed, creeping quiet towards the bathroom.

Nyx, like always and forever, had other ideas.

Ignis saw him from the corner of his eye, a shadow of a movement in the dark bedroom, washed out by the bright light where Ignis stood in front of the sink. A morning routine, brushing teeth, putting on your daily mask, keeping yourself looking presentable, not a crack in sight, not a hint of the past. Nyx stood in the doorway. He hadn't bothered to put on clothes and his nakedness felt obscene, like Ignis should avert his gaze, seeing something he shouldn't.

(Nevermind that it wasn't anything he hadn't seen before)

Nyx, face scrunched against the harsh light, moved behind him, buried his face against the top of Ignis's back to hide from it and that was even worse than obscene; it was tender. 

"Don't go." Ignis could hardly make out the works with the way Nyx was mumbling.

"Donuts don't make themselves." 

Nyx had no interest in letting him be.

"You're going to make me late," Ignis said, and watched in the mirror as a squinting blue eye looked back over his shoulder.

"I can give you a ride. Save some time, sounds like you're going to get rained on otherwise."

"Don't bother." He hadn't meant the words to come out as a snap, like they did. 

He felt Nyx draw back, "It's no big deal."

"Don't bother," that was the stubbornness talking now, the stubbornness of someone that always had to be the martyr. 

Seconds of silence hung between them before Nyx left the bathroom. Ignis heard him, the shuffle of feet, soft sounds of fabric as he got dressed. 

Nyx did not slam the door on the way out. The sentiment was there all the same.

 

 

 

It was a few days before he saw Nyx again, and when he came back there was something else between them, a different charge in the air in the car on the ride home. Ignis didn't ask. As a rule he didn't ask, not just with Nyx but with his coworkers at the cafe too, no small talk, no questions of their lives outside the hours they shared together. The reason was twofold, he respected people's privacy as much as he respected his own, and there was no reason to pry and ask if people didn't say it without prompting. And not asking meant the question was never turned back around him.

Nyx barly spoke, not until they were upstairs, the door shut behind them, and the sounds of his voice almost caught Ignis off guard.

"I can take you to dinner some time," he said.

"You don't have to do that."

"No, that's right. You only want me around when you need a good fucking." That acerbic bite of his words might as well have been a slap, except that Ignis didn't flinch. He turned around then, saw Nyx standing there like the first time he'd been inside, hands shoved in his pockets, uncomfortable. An outsider, again. He laughed before he spoke, something sardonic.

"I kept thinking I could crack you. I thought maybe I could figure you out, or if I kept coming here you'd give me something, but you won't. You won't talk to me. Sometimes I feel like you don't even want me around, but you kept inviting me up here, and I thought..." Those eyes were searching him, serious and sad again. What must he see? Ignis, with his flat face, everything always under the surface. He'd spent too much time hiding things, keeping himself in control and now, when he should have shown some emotion when he should have been able to to let Nyx see it, what he was thinking played on his face, he couldn't. He just stood there. Exactly the thing that Nyx thought he was. 

"Maybe it's my fault," Nyx said, and Ignis would pretend he wouldn't hear the quiver in it, "for expecting this to be something it's not. "A pause for breath, "I can't keep doing this to myself."

He walked out. For the second time, no slamming door. Ignis flipped the lock behind him, would have gone to his window to look at Nyx leave the building, would have watched him get in his car and drive off, but he didn't. His windows didn't have a view of the parking lot. So he closed his eyes, put his forehead against the door, and imagined it happening instead.   

 

 

 

"You look like shit."

Aranea did not mince words. But honest truths were usually reserved for customers, the regular faces that took a perverse enjoyment in beratement from Aranea while she waited on their table. As a rule, Ignis was not included, meaning he was looking worse than he'd thought.

No Nyx. No Nyx after work, no smell of smoke, no one else in his bed. 

(And whose fault was that)

"Are you even listening to me?" Aranea said, crossing her arms, and Ignis ran a hand over his face.

"I heard you I just... haven't been sleeping."

"Yeah, well I meant what I said. You look like shit. And I'm not the only one that's notice. Go home."

Ignis looked back at her, confused. He wasn't sure she had the authority to make that decision for him. He wasn't sure anyone had the authority to send him home, at least not anyone else currently on the clock.

"I don't think-"

"Go home. I will kick you out myself if I have to." She sighed, "It's been slow as shit for the last hour, and the rain's not letting up any time soon. The rest of us can handle it for today." Reluctantly, Ignis agreed.

He did not walk past the tattoo parlor on his way out. He did not look inside to see who was still at work.

The bus was late and by the time he got on board he was wet enough to be uncomfortable, even with the rain not much more than a drizzle. He took a seat by the window to stare outside, the world shifting from that bleached yellow it had been, to the muted blue-grey of the clouds. It was tempting to rest his head on the glass as the bus rumbled forward, but that kind of melodrama only worked in bad indie films. It wasn't quite so sadly romantic in real life, when the wheels hit a pothole and your head bounced on the window. Not so romantic when everything still felt sticky from the humidity, still too hot but now wet as well. The bus smelled like body odor, Ignis himself knowing he smelled like greasy fried food, seeped into his clothes and hair from the kitchen, adding to the general stench of human

It was easy to feel isolated on public transportation, all those people you didn't know, going places you couldn't guess. Then again maybe it was just Ignis's own melancholy and lack of sleep coloring things to be a reflection of what he wanted. 

It had been almost a year since he'd moved here.

The problem with building your life around someone else, the problem with making them your home is...

He missed the faces from his past. The ones he'd never see again.

He'd had a life. A good one, even if he was overworked and taking on too much. The problem with building your life around someone else is that if they leave you, by choice or by circumstance, your life is lost. If they leave you, you lose your home. Ignis was lost. His head was floating somewhere far away from where his body was anchored and he didn't know what to do. There's only so much pretending or denial before life, the life that should have been yours from the start, caught up with you. 

He missed his past, but he missed Nyx too.

He missed Nyx showing up uninvited, he missed Nyx assuming he knew what Ignis was thinking, he missed Nyx getting in the way, giving him rides in his pieces of shit car. He missed Nyx pretending everything was alright.

If you lose your home, the only thing to do is rebuild. 

 

 

 

 

In the small parking lot, surrounded by a chain link fence, Nyx's car was easy to spot. The dormant beast, sleeping. It was black like the asphalt under his feet was black, the faded and cracked kind. There were weeds growing here, limp from the heat but still green. Resilient, weeds were always the most resilient while everything else up and died.

The rained had cleared out two days prior, leaving some semblance of normal temperatures in its wake. The sun was still hot though, warmth radiating from the hood of the car when Ignis leaned on it. It was funny how the charger felt like a part of Nyx, something inseparable that Ignis had come to associate him with. It felt permanent, eternal. But all things fade. The engine would rust, the tires would rot until it could no longer drive, and how long after that until it became nothing? How many hundreds of years? It seemed immortal, but only so far. Permanent the way ink on skin was permanent.

Somewhere a cicada started buzzing. Ignis thought cicadas had the right of it; crawl to the top of the tallest tree where everyone could hear you and just start screaming. 

The scuff of boots on pavement caught his attention. 

Nyx approached him like a stray dog, half expecting to get hit. Ignis supposed he deserved it.

"What'd I leave a shirt at your place, or something?" he said, keeping a solid five feet of distance between them. Ignis had never been good at this end of things, he'd always been the thinker. 

"I missed you," Ignis said, because there was nothing left to do but to say it, "I'm sorry." 

Nyx was looking at him with new eyes now, still not unguarded, but something cautiously optimistic there.

"I'm sorry," he said, "I spent so long acting like this was all just temporary, like I was living someone else's life. I didn't want to think there was anything to tie me down here, I didn't want to admit that-" his voice cracked, he stopped. Suddenly tears, foolish, unbidden, were dangerously close, but he was saved from having to finish the thought as Nyx stepped forward and arms wrapped around him, pulled him close. Nyx hid his face along the side of Ignis's neck, where he could feel every exhale when Nyx spoke quiet.

"That's all I wanted. I just wanted to know." 

It was so easy to respond in kind, to wrap his arms around Nyx's shoulders, pinch his eyes closed and breath in deep for the scent of smoke and leather. Still the same. Those foolish tears were still threaten, and he bit them back long enough to say, "You had me cracked, you just didn't know it." He held tighter. He wouldn't let go.

"I missed you."

He'd found something good to hold on to and he wouldn't let go.