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Undercover Emotions

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The gun felt heavy in his hand, the metal burning icy cold against his skin. He was no stranger to the weight of the weapon in his hand, and yet that only made his hand tremble more. Sweat trickled down his forehead and his finger hovered over the trigger, too nervous he would actually press too hard if he rest his digit on it.

His blue eyes darted between the man who was gagged and tied up, and the broad man in the suit whose amber eyes stared at him expectantly.

"Well?" His gruff voice almost made him jump, the nerves eating away at his skin.

The man in front of him glanced between the various men in the room, but his eyes stayed on his possible attacker the longest. The brown irises glistened with desperate tears, and he struggled against the gag in his mouth. His voice strained against the white cloth, as though he was screaming 'No' over and over.

This man did not want to die; he probably didn't deserve to.

Running his fingers through his blond locks, he adjusted his stance, keeping the struggling man at gunpoint. Prompto Argentum had joined the Insomnia police force in hopes of keeping the city safe, protecting innocent citizens who couldn't protect themselves. Just like this man.

He'd been just like him at one point, just like all of the innocent people in this city. Terrified, seeing his life flash before his very eyes. And yet somehow, instead of protecting this man like he should've, Prompto was the one about to kill him.

He wondered what the guy had done exactly to get himself into such a troubling position. Even as a cop, there was no way Prompto could save him now. In this world, all it took was one wrong move...

For a moment, he judged the guy for getting mixed up in such a shady dealing, but that was absolute gold coming from him. And Prompto assumed no matter what this guy did, he probably didn't deserve to die.

His heart echoed in his ear, his blood rushing to his head, and he was certain the man could sense his fear, as tears began to run down his cheeks, soaking the white cloth tied tight around his mouth.

Astrals above, the man probably thought Prompto was some sort of weakling, with the way his bright blue eyes threatened to cry right along with him. His contacts were starting to itch from how watery his damn eyes were. But he couldn't cry, not when everyone was watching him.

"Prom..." the gruff voice called out once more. Prompto loved that stupid voice, would've done anything it asked, which was why he was standing where he was currently. It was so wrong, the thoughts that ran through his head when he heard that gravelly voice, the way his own voice had fluttered and moaned so many times beneath him. When had it become like this? When had he fallen so far?

"Y-Yeah?" Prompto replied finally, his blue eyes finally meeting the tall man's ambers. His rusty eyes were so harsh right now, and Prompto knew what hid behind the mask he saw currently. He knew the kindness which was capable of living in the man's gaze. Not with so many others watching him though, not now. Too much was at stake.

"What the hell are you waiting for? Shoot 'em," he grunted. Was that a vocal tremble Prompto heard? Was he worried? Did he think Prompto was going to back out? Well based on his track record so far, Prompto supposed it wasn't too out of left field for him to assume the worst.

He folded his arms over his chest, and gave him a look that said, 'I'm waiting.' Prompto watched as his suit pulled tight across his muscular arms. Oh those arms… another reason he was standing where he was.

The list just seemed to grow longer and longer every day, Astrals be damned.

It wasn't fair really. He hadn't accepted the job expecting to actually...

No, he couldn't think like that. This kill, this shooting was part of his job, just like everything else was. And if he killed this man, eventually everything would work itself out.

Probably.

And if he failed, well, then Prompto killed an innocent man for absolutely no reason. And then it was possible he might die as well. Or at least be suspect.

Great.

With a snort, Prompto rolled his eyes with a laugh. "'Course I'm gonna shoot him! I was just… scaring him a little," he teased.

"Get on with it."

"R-Right..." he swallowed, bringing the gun up to the man's head. Taking a deep breath, he shut his eyes, and listened to the sound of his breath. He raised his shaking hands, aiming directly between the man's eyes.

No. He had to aim sloppily. It would be too suspicious if he acted like he actually could aim well. He wasn't supposed to know very much about guns, let alone be good at shooting them. Maybe he could miss and blame it on his 'inexperience.' No, that too would only get him in the same position as the man in front of him, maybe an even worse one.

"You're wasting time." Another voice hissed from behind the desk. This one was far less pleasant, one that shook Prompto to his core because he was convinced that man knew. He was intelligent, or well, all of them were, but this man was particularly observant, far more observant than Prompto liked.

Prompto’s eyes glanced towards the silver-haired woman next to the man. What would she do in this situation? She was stronger than he was, and if it were her standing where he was, she probably would’ve shot this man by now. Anything to keep their cover. And it wasn’t like the tied-up man was angel, he was probably as much of a criminal as the rest of them.

His gaze returning to his target. "M'not… wasting time..." Prompto whispered on a sigh. He definitely was. The longer he bode for time... the better a chance this man had. Not that he really had one to begin with. Dammit.

A sigh echoed through the room. "C'mon Prom, just do it."

He took a deep breath again, shutting his eyes once more. The images flashed through his head, all the things which had got him to this point, so many faces and moments lit up before his eyes, as though the second he pulled the trigger they'd all be gone, and he'd be the one bleeding out slowly on the ground.

Technically this was his choice to make, though he really only had one option.

Holding the gun with both hands in an attempt to steady himself, Prompto Argentum aimed at the man in front of him, and slammed his eyes shut before pulling the trigger.

Chapter Text

"Argentum!" Captain Cor Leonis' voice echoed through the entire precinct's office, and Prompto practically fell out of his chair, wincing at the sound pounding against his ear drums.

"Uh oh shortcake, looks like you're in trouble. Again." Aranea Highwind giggled devilishly into her palm.

"Wonder what y'all did this time," Cindy Aurum snorted. "You’re always making Cor angry, hun."

"You know, maybe this time he's not angry! Maybe he's calling me into the office to praise me for doing such a great job on my last case," he smirked, looking rather proud of himself.

"ARGENTUM! MY OFFICE. NOW." Cor's deep voice repeated, showing no signs of happiness or pride. Prompto winced again, and shrunk his head towards his shoulder, making him look like a turtle trying to hide in its very tiny shell.

"Oh. Yeah. That definitely sounds like praise!" Aranea snorted. "Good luck, kid." She winked as he walked by her desk and made his way slowly to the Captain's office.

Cor was a good Captain, if not a little standoffish, but Prompto liked to think the man had a soft spot for him… when he wasn't yelling at him for a whole variety of things. Prompto was the newest member of Cor's team, and needless to say, he was still working out some of the odds and ends that went along with officially being a detective. This also meant there had been quite a few screw ups on Prompto's personal record.

"Cap'n Cor!" Prompto greeted, shooting a few finger guns at the serious looking man. "What's happenin'?!" he chuckled.

Cor, however, didn't laugh once. "Sit down and shut the door."

"Eheh… yes, sir," Prompto sighed, his shoulder's slouching as he flopped down into a chair directly opposite of Cor.

The man sighed, keeping his arms folded. "What the hell is this?" he asked, dropping a folder further up his desk so it was directly in front of Prompto.

Adjusting his glasses, Prompto peered forward, leaning over. "A… case file, sir?" he questioned. He knew it was probably a case file that didn't look good for him, but he didn't wanna bring that up if the Captain was going to focus on something else.

"This is the 5th one this month that has come across my desk documenting accidents from Officer Prompto Argentum. This one says you ruined not one, but two police cars? Care to explain how that happened?" Cor asked.

"I think you're missing the big picture here, Captain," Prompto began to explain, adjusting the glasses on his face.

Cor's face stayed deadpan.

"It's not about the cars, it's about the result!" he smiled, opening the file to point to the bottom. "See? ‘Culprit apprehended’!" he smirked, trying to keep what little pride he had left.

"Yes. But you've cost hundreds of dollars in police property damage and this isn't the first time this month! On top of that, you've almost let three felons escape, blown you and Cindy's cover accidentally, and there was the time you left your gun out carelessly on your desk. You're a newbie cop, and this isn't boding well for your personal record."

"I get that… but I'm also getting the baddies!"

Cor rubbed his forehead as he leaned back in the chair. "Yes, but it would be nice if you could handle yourself with a bit more poise. You have potential, Argentum. But I can't keep telling the heads of the department my newbie cop is screwing things up again."

"So… tell them Aranea did it!" he laughed, and Cor stared at him blankly, his face creepily stoic. "Okay, okay it was just a joke..." he mumbled.

Cor leaned forward and folded his hands together. "You're a good cop, Argentum. There's a reason I picked you for my team."

"Eh? You picked me?" he said, pointing to himself, and Cor sighed, as though he'd revealed information he would definitely regret later.

"Anyway, I want to send you on a higher profile case." Prompto's eyes immediately lit up. Here he thought he was going to be in trouble, maybe even kicked off the team, but instead Cor wanted to give him a higher profile case? Oh, he was definitely on board with this!

"I believe you'd be a good fit for this case, if you can keep yourself under control. It would be a good chance to prove yourself. I am setting you up to work with Highwind on this case, as it really requires two people. I trust her to keep you in check, but there will be moments when you are alone. I hope you won't make any mistakes on this one. If you do, you will be suspended from the team."

"Eh?! What?! Suspended!?" Prompto exclaimed, as though those were the only words he had heard.

"You heard me," Cor said.

"But you said I was a good cop!" Prompto whined, leaning back in his seat.

"You are. But you're not worth the amount of money you're costing the department. On top of that," Cor said, leaning forward once more. "Blowing your cover on this one… I say you'd be suspended, but if you’re found out, you'll be lucky to leave with your life."

Prompto blinked. "What?" What could be so intense he would possibly not be able to leave with his life? The notion was admittedly terrifying, but Prompto would've been lying if he said he wasn't at least a little bit intrigued.

He'd become a cop to protect people, to protect the innocent and save lives. He knew what it was like to be weak, to feel tiny among people who didn't care for others and wanted nothing more than to knock people around. He never wanted to go back to that place again, and he never wanted anyone else to experience the horrors he had as a child, so he'd trained hard and worked to pass the police exam for years.

When Cor had picked him for his team, Prompto had been beyond honored, knowing the man was practically a living legend in the police world. The Captain had more arrests than anyone else in the Insomnia Police Department. Cor had apparently seen something in Prompto, still did, and Prompto really didn't want to let him down this time.

It wasn't like Prompto meant to screw up. Sometimes it just happened!

"I was going to wait and discuss this with you both after tomorrow's morning debriefing but now seems like as good a time as any." He stood up, swinging the door open to call Aranea in. "Highwind, you get in here too," he said, returning to his seat.

It took Aranea no time to walk from her desk to Cor's office, and she sighed, looking down at Prompto. "What did I do that could possibly be on par with him?"

"Hey!" Prompto muttered.

"Nothing. Please, take a seat. I have a case I need to discuss with you. If the two of you accept, you'll be partnered on this one," Cor explained, turning around in his chair to pull a large binder from the file cabinet behind him.

"You want me to work with this dingus?" Aranea asked, gently knocking Prompto upside the head as she walked by to sit next to him. She winked, grinning as she took her seat.

Prompto liked Aranea. She was a hard ass, but of all the veterans, she was the nicest to him, even if her compliments were sort of...strangely backhanded.

"Yes. And this mission will be long term," he explained. Prompto had never worked on a long term case before, and working with Aranea would surely be helpful, as she was one of the ones with the most experience in their precinct.

"Long term?" Aranea raised an eyebrow. "Been awhile," she chuckled, crossing one leg over the other. "How long we talkin'?"

Cor thumbed at the binder in front of him, and opened it up to a page in the middle. "I take it you both are well aware of the mafia problem we've faced over the past many decades. For a long time it was 'overlooked'," Cor scoffed. "Many older officers felt there was nothing to be done about getting rid of organized, high crime, but I have different plans.

"We've had informants in the field for years," he explained. "People who are working for both sides. We have a strict agreement. I don't arrest them, they report back any findings to me.

"I recently received a tip from one of them. It seems the younger males in the next generation have finally begun their training to become the next heads of the family. From what I hear, Regis Lucis Caelum has not been doing well," Cor explained, tapping on the picture in the binder in front of him.

"As both of you are probably aware, the Caelum family has been the head of organized crime for quite sometime now, and just below him are the Amicitias and the Scientias, the three main heads working together. From what I hear, Regis is soon to be on the outs, and his son, Noctis, is prepping to take over," Cor continued. "I believe, if we can get Noctis and the other younger members of the group, we can cut them off at the head…" he said.

Aranea nodded. "Makes sense. Get the main leader and they'll all go down eventually. So what ya’ want us to do?"

"Undercover mission," Cor said, placing two files on the desk in front of them. "My informant tells me Gladiolus Amicitia and Ignis Scientia are in need of two new assistants. Apparently Gladiolus goes through them like water, and Ignis dismissed his last one for being far too incompetent. Aranea, you'll be Ignis' assistant and Prompto you will be Gladiolus'. Apparently Gladiolus isn't allowed to request women anymore," Cor snorted.

"Wonder why," Aranea grumbled, rolling her eyes.

"So does this mean we're going to go work for the mafia?" Prompto asked, glancing between his two older coworkers.

"Indeed," Cor said. "The goal is to get close to both of them so they will eventually lead you to Noctis. Once you have Noctis' location, we can set up a break-in and we'll be sure to get him, and hopefully Gladiolus and Ignis as well. I don't want to get greedy though, so if we can only get Noctis, so be it.

"Prompto," Cor continued. "You're new to this sort of thing, but Aranea will be very helpful in debriefing. If the two of you can find a safe place, you can discuss the case, but don't unless you are absolutely certain the area is secure. Aranea will send all information back to me, let her handle communication.

"On top of this, you may have to do some...less than legal activities. I know you joined the police force to stop crime, not commit it, however, we consider this to be a... special circumstance."

"How fun," Aranea purred, her lips quirking into a smile. Prompto had a feeling she would enjoy this far more than he would.

Cor sighed, pushing the folders towards them. "Anyhow, take these folders and get yourself briefed on the case. We've set up apartments for you closer to the general whereabouts. So get packed and say goodbye to any personal friends and family members as you will not have contact with them for quite some time."

"Got it, won't take very long," Aranea said, picking up her folder as she stood up. "See ya' 'round, Cor." She waved her hand once as she exited his office, presumably heading to pack.

"Well?" Cor raised his eyebrow.

Prompto gripped the folder in his hand. Cor trusted him with such a high stakes mission? He was flattered, excited, terrified... the mix of emotions throbbed in his fingertips against the folder.

Jumping up, he clutched it to his chest, saluting. "I won't let you down, sir!" he said excitedly. "I am so ready for this!"

As nervous as he felt, he'd been waiting for a case like this since he joined the force! The whole reason he had become a cop was to keep the people safe, and what better way to do so than by stopping high-profile criminals who hurt people on the daily.

Cor opened his mouth, as if to argue that he wasn't so sure but he closed it. "Kid," he said, folding his hands over his lap. "Be careful, alright?"

"You got it," Prompto winked, giving him a thumbs up, heading out the office door.

Cor called after him before the door could shut. "And don't do anything stupid!"

~~

Gladiolus Amicitia looked around the cafe and immediately pulled out a cigarette. Ignis Scientia was never late to anything; not meetings, not appointments, and not even for spending time with his oldest and dearest friend. Admittedly 15 minutes wasn't all that late, but this was Ignis! So naturally, Gladio was a little stressed.

He lit the cigarette, holding it close to his lips as he pulled in a long drag, puffing the smoke out into the air. He rolled his fingers against the table, shaking his leg up and down.

He pulled out his pocket watch from his jacket. Where the hell was he?

He took another long drag on his cigarette, the possibilities of Ignis' whereabouts began to race through his mind. The problem was, there were so many potential scenarios of what could've happened to his best friend, and none of them were casual. All involved pain of some sort, injuries... death...

No. Gladio shook his head. Iggy wasn't that stupid. He wouldn't go and get himself killed before they were supposed to have lunch.

"Ah, Gladio, my apologies," Ignis' smooth tone cut through the cacophony of the streets and Gladio's own thoughts. His amber eyes immediately shot up to meet Ignis' jade hues. A smile pulled across his handsome features, and Gladio immediately rolled his eyes.

"Took ya' long enough," he growled, slamming his cigarette down on the ashtray to snuff it out.

"Were you concerned?" Ignis asked, pulling the chair out. He took a seat, leaning his elbows on the table as he smirked.

"Concerned my ass!" Gladio snorted. "You're never fuckin' late, so I was starting to get insulted." Ignis was safe, there was no need to let him know he'd been worried.

"Of course. Well, I did apologize," he chuckled, pressing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. He thumbed through the menu, completely ignoring Gladio's huffy behavior.

"Yeah, yeah. Where the hell were ya'?" Gladio asked, watching as Ignis scanned the menu. Gladio didn't know why he was looking so hard. Ignis had been the one to choose this particular cafe. It was on the other side of town, on the edge of their territory, dangerously close to Izunia's neck of the woods. (Far too close, in Gladio's opinion.) However, Ignis had insisted, since this cafe was one of the only ones in the city which carried the brand of coffee he preferred. Gladio usually let Ignis choose the restaurants though, he was far more picky about his food than Gladio would ever be.

Ignis paused, his finger tracing down the edge of the menu. He pursed his lips as he turned his gaze towards his best friend. "It seems things have gotten worse with my uncle. I had to stop by the hospital."

"Damn Iggy, I wish I'd known, I woulda gone with you."

"I... know you would've. I almost stopped by here first, but I thought it best to go and handle things on my own first. I wasn't sure what condition he would be in," Ignis sighed.

The waitress arrived at the table, taking their order, and, as cute as she was, Gladio was thankful when she left them in peace.

"What happened?" Gladio asked once she left. He was tempted to pull out another cigarette, but refrained from doing so; Ignis didn't enjoy smoking while he had his coffee.

"He collapsed in his office," Ignis muttered. "The doctors aren't sure what happened. He was sleeping when I went to sign paperwork."

"Hm. Overworking himself again," Gladio chuckled. "Just like someone else I know."

"Gladiolus please," Ignis sighed. "I am not overworking myself. Besides, I brought the paperwork for the potential assistant candidates I found."

"Really?" Gladio smirked, raising his eyebrow. "So you're not overworking yourself and yet you brought work to our casual meetup!" he teased.

Ignis grunted, thanking the waitress when she put their drinks down. He picked up the cup, blowing over the heated surface. "Getting an assistant will stop me from overworking myself. Meanwhile, your assistant will actually help you get work done," he smirked back.

"Har-har, Iggy," Gladio said. "So I assume you'll be taking over for your Uncle for his gala duties?"

"Yes. Which is why it is imperative I find a new assistant immediately," he nodded. "We don't have much time before the Winter Gala, and seeing as Regis is letting Noctis handle it almost entirely on his own… well, he’ll need all the help he can get," Ignis spewed out the information quickly, taking a sip of his coffee.

"Iggy, calm down. We'll get it figured out."

"If Noctis and I take over for Regis and my Uncle respectively, we can begin to start putting our plans in motion. We could begin with the Winter Gala-"

"Forget it. There's no way my father will go for that shit," Gladio said, waving his hand back and forth quickly. "Look Iggy, I know you're eager, but we gotta be patient, okay?"

Ignis sighed, leaning back in his chair. He slipped his hands under his frames, pushing his glasses up. "I know. But taking over for my uncle includes... many things," Ignis muttered, flicking his gaze to the side. "You are... aware of this, Gladio?"

"'Course I am," he snorted.

"Then you understand why I am so eager to push things in our direction," Ignis hissed softly.

"Yeah, but one thing at a time Iggy," Gladio muttered, his own voice hushed.

Sighing, Ignis leaned forward, taking a large gulp of his coffee. "You're right, you're right." His tone sounded resigned, and Gladio felt a pang of guilt. Ignis was always tightly-wound, but right now he seemed far more stressed than usual. "One thing at a time."

Leaning over, he pulled a few files from his briefcase. He placed them on the small table in front of Gladio before smoothing out his gray suit jacket. "Here we are. The candidates." He passed one of the folders to Gladio. "I went ahead and selected my two favorites for us. This man, Prom Argent, is for you and this woman Nea Biggs is for me."

"Now hold on a second!" Gladio snarled, yanking the folder from Ignis' hands. "How come you get the woman!?"

Ignis rolled his eyes. "We discussed this, Gladio. The last three women assistants you had quit after you ‘broke their hearts’. I assume you won't be sleeping with this man," he said.

Gladio flipped the folder open, showing a resume and a small picture of a small blond boy with flat hair and glasses. "So you're giving me this kid? Who the fuck is this nerd?"

Ignis couldn't help but laugh. "Oh come on Gladio, give the 'kid' a chance," Ignis teased. "He's quite qualified if you read over his resume."

"Hang on, lemme see your chick," he said, lunging forward to grab the folder in front of Ignis.

"Gladio-"

He flipped it open and stared at the picture of the gray haired woman for a moment. "What the hell, Ignis! She's a babe!" he said, turning the picture around to shove it in his face.

"Yes, she is a very fine looking lady," Ignis muttered, snatching the picture from Gladio's hand. "But more importantly she's qualified. Her sources checked out as well, and I hear she's quite efficient," Ignis said.

"Good for her," Gladio mumbled.

"So since you're done griping..."

He wasn't, but he let Ignis speak anyway.

"And you're obviously completely fine with the match up."

He wasn't, but apparently it was useless to argue.

"They start tomorrow, so please prepare tasks for Prom to do," Ignis said.

"Tomorrow?! Oh I'll prepare all right," he grumbled, opening the folder once more to look at the scrawny blond.

"I know you're not pleased, but based on his credentials I think he'll be good for you. And Ms. Biggs is going to be just what I need to keep my workload from being far too overwhelming."

Gladio sighed. Ignis was an intelligent man, and if he thought this was best, it most likely was. "Alright Iggy, I'll give the kid one chance."

"Good," Ignis smiled, sipping the last of his coffee. "It will go smoothly, I'm sure."

Gladio growled, folding his arms. "One chance. If he screws up, he's gone."

~~

The suitcase on his bed was open, but not even remotely organized. "Shit, shit, shit! Where did I put those pinstripe pants!?" Prompto whined, tossing everything out of his closet. Cor had made it very clear he wasn't allowed to come back to his apartment, under any circumstances. He had to be sure he had everything.

Actually looking at his suitcase now, Prompto wasn't sure it was going to be large enough. "I should've bought two," he sighed.

Thumbing through the file he'd been given, he stared at the picture of Gladiolus Amicitia, the man he would be working for. He certainly looked like someone involved in the mafia! He had a scar down his left eye, and his wild brown hair was slicked back tight against his forehead. From what he could see in the picture, his shoulders were broad, and Prompto couldn't tell if he hadn't shaved in this picture, or if he purposefully left the hair on his chin and jaw like that. "What a scary lookin' fella..." Prompto muttered.

Slapping his cheeks, he shook his head and closed the folder back up. He wasn't scared! Hell no, this was the case he'd been waiting for; the case he dreamed about during training at the academy!

He glanced at the telephone on his bedside table. Should he call his parents? He didn't talk to them often. They were constantly traveling for work, and if not for work, then for pleasure. They never seemed to worry about Prompto, or the fact his job could often put him in life threatening situations. No, they were simply proud of him, and did their own thing.

His best friends were Cindy and Aranea... and he'd already said a tearful goodbye to Cindy when he left the station. Well, tearful on his side of things. She'd pat his back and wished him luck, warning him she'd kill him if he died.

No phone calls were really necessary.

Digging through his closet he grabbed a few more outfits. Everything he owned was far too... straight-edge. He knew these men usually dressed classy, but it was a completely different look from his own casual wear. The last thing he wanted was for his clothes to give him away. He couldn't risk showing any hints he might be a cop.

He twisted his lips and flopped down on the bed, looking at the mess of clothes. Adjusting his glasses, he puffed out his cheeks. Aranea was probably all packed. Hell, she'd probably been packed from the second she got home. From the way she left the office, Prompto wondered if she'd packed with the snap of her finger.

She hadn't looked nervous at all back at the station when Cor had de-briefed them on what they would be doing. (Not that Prompto was nervous, oh no, of course not.) Then again, she'd gone undercover plenty of times before. Still, Prompto was sure none of them had been as important as something like this. Maybe he could ask her about past cases later.

Blowing out a long huff of air, Prompto began to organize the clothes he'd thrown into his suitcase. He wanted to at least try and get some sleep tonight. With the insane mix of emotions mashed-up around inside of him, he wasn't sure if he would actually be able to. Being tired for his first day seemed like a horrible idea. The more tired he was, the higher the chances were he might flub and reveal their true identities-

No. He had promised Cor… no more screw ups! No, this was his first real undercover case, and there was no way he was going to fuck it up.

Chapter Text

Glancing around the office, Ignis pressed his spectacles up the bridge of his nose. He'd done a nice job tidying up the place for now. He had no idea what this Nea dame would be like, but he sure as hell didn't want to make a poor impression on her.

He was in desperate need of an assistant, and if she was good, losing her would be extremely detrimental. With his uncle in the hospital, most of the Winter Gala duties had fallen upon him, on top of his normal work, and Ignis already felt overwhelmed. As much as he hated to admit it, he couldn't rely on Gladio as much as he wanted, and since this was to be Noctis' first year running the Gala, he didn't wish to leave any room for mistakes.

So, needless to say, he'd made sure to keep his office completely spotless. Nea was a young, classy looking woman, and the last thing Ignis wanted to do was greet her with a mess.

Hopefully, she would repay his preemptive cleaning by being on time.

There was a gentle rap on the door, and Ignis immediately stood up, smoothing out his suit with his hands. Admittedly, this was the first time he'd had an assistant, though his uncle had offered the option to him many times. Unlike Gladio, Ignis had never thought he needed one until now.

Opening the door, he wasn't surprised to find Nea Biggs standing on the other side. Her long gray hair framed her sharp face, her features highlighted by the angle of her bangs, though currently part of her face was covered by the black hat she had draped over her head. She had defined cheekbones and a pointed nose. Her black dress was high collared, but draped around her hips nicely. It was impossible to ignore how beautiful she was. Thank goodness Ignis had chosen to have her as his assistant instead of Gladio.

"Good morning, you must be Ms. Biggs?" Ignis said, bowing his head to her. "Do come in, I would hate to leave you out in the cold." He turned away from the door, allowing her to step inside.

"Well, well, well," she smirked, "I didn't expect Ignis Scientia to be such a gentleman."

"Really?" He blinked, stepping behind her to help her remove her coat and take her hat which she held out to him. "Is it because of the nature of my job?" he chuckled, hanging her coat off to the side.

"It's not everyday a girl gets asked to be an assistant to a mafia executive," she said, walking towards his desk as she took a seat in the chair directly across from it.

"So you are aware of what this job could entail?" Ignis asked, slipping into his own chair.

"I did my research," she grinned, leaning towards him.

"There's no need for you to worry at all," Ignis began. "I will ensure your safety, plus I will not be having you involved with anything... risky. Mostly I'll be needing you to help me with the Winter Gala event. Are you familiar with this at all? I'm not sure what your hiring agent told you."

"He gave me your name, and I looked you up. It took a little digging but I figured out who the Scientia family was and once I knew that, I could make my assumptions," she said. Crossing one leg over the other, she smirked at him once more. Her smile was incredibly alluring, and Ignis wondered how many men she'd captured with such a devilish grin. "But you know, I can handle myself pretty well," she said.

"Oh I'm certain you can. The man we speak to about hiring always gives me the best people. Usually."

"Usually?" An eyebrow raised, looking for more information.

"Well, let's just say it's for the best you are my assistant instead of Gladiolus'," he explained.

A soft laugh left her lips. "Alright then." There was no need to elaborate any further. She cleared her throat, her deep eyes darting around his office. "Anyway," she began. "I don't know anything about this Winter Gala, care to elaborate?"

Ignis narrowed his eyes for a moment. He trusted the people who found him the hires he needed usually, but that didn't mean he should jump into trusting this woman. "There's no need to. I'll have you ordering supplies, decorations, etc. Very straightforward work; a woman with as much secretarial experience as you will need no help."

"'Course not." Her voice was dripping with confidence, and relief washed over Ignis.

He sighed, sitting back in his chair, adjusting his glasses again. "Forgive me," he said. "It has been a rather stressful week, and I'm happy you seem to be as competent as your resume made you out to be."

Confusion crossed her eyes for a moment, but her features softened. "I'm your assistant," she said. "I'm here to help."

"Thank goodness. This is going to be a year of firsts and for my plan to work, I need everything to go smoothly," he explained, but didn't go into further detail. Standing, he crossed to the other side of the room where he'd set up a small desk and placed a large stack of folders on it. "Here. This will be your center of operations," he chuckled.

"Wow," she smirked, walking over to the small area. "I get my own desk."

"Indeed. Here you can focus on sorting through the various tasks. I've organized everything into folders and placed them in the order of how urgent each task is. If you have any questions you are always welcome to ask," he explained, pulling the chair out for a her.

She blinked, and took a seat, looking a little shocked, and Ignis wondered if perhaps he was coming on too strong.

"I apologize," he continued, "I hope this isn't too much. I didn't wish to overwhelm you on the first day."

"No," she shook her head quickly. "Admittedly, I didn't expect you to be so organized."

Ignis chuckled. "Again, you should be thankful you're my assistant and not Gladio's."

"I guess so," she smirked. "I should meet this Gladio sometime, though my opinion is pretty low right now."

"I promise Gladio is a wonderful person, just... we are very different people."

"I'm sure," she hummed skeptically. "I guess I should get to work then," she said, gesturing to the tall pile of folders.

"Ah yes," he nodded, moving back to his own space. "Don't hesitate if you have questions you would like to ask." He rubbed his hands together awkwardly. He felt his cheeks heat up a bit when he glanced over at her working, she really was a beautiful woman, but neither of them had time to focus on that. She was surprisingly efficient, and didn't ask too many questions; she was ideal, and Ignis wouldn't do anything to ruin that.

~~

Prompto pursed his lips standing outside of the office door of Gladiolus Amicitia. The building had been in a darker part of town, over by old warehouses near the harbor. Prompto could only assume they owned the warehouses and used them for shipping... well, whatever sort of supplies the mafia needed.

The doors in the building were marked only by numbers, smart, since he doubted they'd want any ties to the place if they were ever caught. But the number on the door matched the number he'd been given so presumably Gladiolus Amicitia would be on the other side of this door.

Prompto swallowed and rocked back and forth on his feet. The moment he knocked, he would be taking on the grand role of 'Prom', mafia assistant extraordinaire! Reaching his hand up, he tapped on the door, and his eyes widened when he saw the large shadow appear on the other side. He'd heard Gladiolus was a larger man, but he hadn't expected his shadow to loom so greatly.

And when he yanked the door open, Prompto's eyes widened even more, if it was even possible. The man in front of him was broad shouldered, muscular, and tall; the exact opposite of Prompto.

"Heh," he said, scoffing a bit. "You're even tinier in person!" he laughed heartily, and Prompto could only bring himself to laugh along with him, though he couldn't mask the hint of nerves which trembled in his voice. "Come in, come in," he said, waving his arm as he stepped back into the office.

"Uh, you're Gladiolus Amicitia, right?" Prompto asked, stepping in as he shut the door behind him. This was it; he was undercover.

"Yup! But look, only my father calls me Gladiolus. It's Gladio."

"Gladio," he nodded. "Okay." He was oddly chipper for a mafia exec... or well, a mafia exec-in-training. Maybe that was why. Prompto could assume he wasn't in charge of anything all that serious yet.

"And you're Prom Argent, my new assistant," Gladio said, folding his arms as he leaned against his desk. "Hm..." he mumbled, glancing around the room. Books were piled high on various surfaces, bookshelves lining the office. A coat rack leaned against one of the only bare walls, and papers were strewn about over Gladio's desk. "I guess we can move some of these books," he said, hoisting a stack off of a small desk in the corner. "You know, Iggy hired you, and I'm not really sure what I can even have ya' do yet," he snorted.

Panic coursed through Prompto's veins. If Gladio didn't have a use for him, maybe he'd toss Prompto immediately. If Prompto got fired right away, he'd be off the case and that would be the end of his police career.

Swallowing, Prompto glanced around the office, trying to think. He was no stranger to disorganization but Gladio certainly took things to brand new heights. "What if I... started organizing your office!" Prompto suggested cheerily. It was perfect! It would keep him busy, and if Gladio wasn't paying attention, he could snoop through various files and papers he found.

"Hm," Gladio hummed. "S'not a bad idea. Iggy would love ya' for it. He's constantly yellin' at me to clean this place up."

Prompto gave him a thumbs up. "Never fear, I'll clean up this mess!"

"Great," Gladio smiled, taking a seat back down at his desk. "Iggy's all worried ya' know. It's his and Noctis' first time bein' in charge of something as big as the Winter Gala and Iggy is takin' all the stress on himself." Gladio sighed, rubbing his forehead. The man looked genuinely worried, much to Prompto's surprise.

He supposed it was stupid to assume Gladio wasn't a regular human being, but Prompto had imagined him as a... monster. The picture he had seen had showed him as a large, looming man with a muscular build, scars littering his face and who knew where else... he wasn't exactly the portrait of 'friendly'.

"S'why he wanted to hire you and his dame Nea, I think. He really needs the support, and I hope we can give it to him. We're gonna be a team in this," he nodded. "Sorry," he shrugged. "You don't know these people... you're new so... shouldn't even be tellin' ya this stuff."

And yet, Gladio seemed so caring... worried about his friend... Plus, he was far more handsome than the picture had let on as well. Even with his intense eyes, Prompto found himself blushing looking at the man. Though, sitting behind his desk, Gladio looked a little stressed.

"Hey, uh, I'm your assistant, right?" Prompto chuckled, picking up a stack of books on the floor to carry them to a shelf. "I can do whatever you want me to, even if you wanna vent or whatever!"

"Heh," he smirked. "Thanks Prom. You're good, even if you are scrawny as shit," he teased.

"H-Hey!" Prompto snapped. Okay, he wasn't super muscular or tall like Gladio, but he could hold his own in a fight. Hell, he'd survived the training at the police academy! He couldn't just blurt out that information though. "I'm strong!"

"'Kay," Gladio snorted. "I'll take you on my next job and see how well you can handle it."

"R-Really?" Prompto asked, trying not to sound too eager. That had certainly been a lot easier than he had anticipated.

"Why the hell not?" Gladio shrugged, watching as Prompto began to re-adjust the books on the shelves. "You're my assistant, you're supposed to help me with shit, right?"

Prompto was starting to have the distinct feeling Gladio wasn't actually in charge of much. It was probably this 'Iggy' guy who held everything together. "True," he nodded, tilting the books upright. "You... read a lot?" he asked, pointing to the books.

"Try to. When I have free time," he shrugged. "I've read about half of these, probably."

"Half?!" Prompto exclaimed.

"Yeah," Gladio chuckled. "I guess a guy like me doesn't look like he'd read much. But I dunno, it's somethin' I've always liked."

"Hey man, no judgment from me," Prompto shrugged. Though it was odd, but only because so far, Gladio hadn't been anything like what Prompto had expected. He wasn't sure how this was going to go, but he oddly found himself looking at Gladio with softer eyes than expected.

~~

"Iggy! C'mon Iggy, I'm starvin'!" Gladio called, pounding on the door. It was later than Gladio had wanted to leave for the day, but Ignis had absolutely insisted upon needing more time. Gladio had rolled his eyes and agreed, if only to alleviate his friend of some of the stress.

Opening the door, Ignis looked more than perturbed. "You do realize there is a lady in my office now," he growled.

"And you realize you've kept my stomach waiting for an extra hour, right?" he said, and peered into Ignis' office. The woman sitting at the desk, Nea Biggs, was absolutely stunning, just as Gladio had suspected she would be. "Hello ma'am," he grinned and took her hand, pressing a kiss to the back of it. "I'm Gladiolus Amicitia, and please let me know if you need anything. Iggy here can be a little uptight, so if you-"

"Gladiolus," Ignis hissed. "Ms. Biggs is my assistant for a reason." He rolled his eyes. "And speaking of, you are free to go," he nodded, pulling her jacket from the coat hanger.

"Wow already putting her to work, Iggy, damn."

Pulling her hand from Gladio's, the woman stood up and took her jacket from Ignis, wrapping it around her shoulders. "Thanks Specs," she winked. "See ya' tomorrow."

"Goodnight, Ms. Biggs," Ignis bowed, watching her leave.

Slamming his hand onto Ignis' back, Gladio began to laugh once she was out of earshot. "Damn Iggy! Keeping all the goods to yourself. Please tell me you're at least gonna kiss that broad."

"Gladiolus!" he scoffed, grabbing his own hat and jacket. "She is my assistant and I want her to focus on her job, not me," he sighed.

"Your loss. Ya' know Iggy, stress relief is good for ya'," he chuckled, stepping out the door. He really was starving, and he'd promised Ignis he wouldn't go out to eat without him. According to him they had much to discuss.

"Gladio, Nea is very efficient. She does her job and that is all I need from her. The same should go for you and your assistant. That is their job."

"I dunno," Gladio shrugged. "This little blond you sent me is pretty cute," he smirked, pulling a cigarette from his pocket.

Ignis sighed. "I do hope you're making a gag."

"Not really," Gladio chuckled, lighting the cigarette as he puffed a long breath of smoke into the air. "He's real, uh, eager... it's pretty cute. Though he's a little too innocent," he snorted. "I'll just go for yours."

"No you will not. Please let Nea do her job," Ignis sighed, "and you really should let Prom do his as well."

"Iggy, calm down," Gladio said. "I'm just tryin' to have fun with ya'." He took another long drag on his cigarette. "Now pick somewhere to eat so I can actually get some grub, okay?"

Ignis sighed. "I apologize Gladio... there is much on my mind."

"Look," Gladio began, gently touching Ignis' shoulder. "I get it, okay? That's why I was tryin' to loosen ya' up. You've been on edge cause of your uncle and these new assistants... I get it. But it seems like they're gonna do a good job, and you've got everything under control. So stop making me lecture ya' and pick a restaurant. My treat."

"Gladio you don't-"

"I want to. You're driving me crazy, and you deserve a little somethin'."

"Alright, alright, let's go to Kenny's," Ignis said.

"Kenny's? Really?" Gladio blinked. "But that's my favorite place..."

"Yes, and I kept you waiting so it's only fair you eat what I know you love."

"Fine, fine," Gladio sighed, chuckling. "You know I'm not going to argue with Kenny's."

"Of course not," he said, buttoning up his jacket as he placed his hat atop his head. "Gladio, do you really... think you might have relations with your assistant?" he asked. "I never realized you were interested in men."

"Eh, never really cared one way or the other. I just kept getting surrounded by beautiful women," he chuckled. "But uh, that Prom kid is pretty adorable. I wasn't expecting to like him so much, ya' know," Gladio shrugged. "It's only day one Ig, I was mostly kidding, but we sure do get along better than I thought."

"That is certainly a good thing," he nods.

"But Iggy, are you really thinking you would never... with your assistant?" he asked. "Nea is... gorgeous." Ignis' face immediately turned bright red and Gladio elbowed him in the side gently. "Eh... eh! See! You do think she's somethin'!"

"Gladio," he scoffed, adjusting his glasses. "I'm not blind. I can see the woman is quite stunning yes, but that does not mean I wish to tarnish the working relationship we have just started to build. It is only the first day."

"Exactly!" Gladio teased. "You never know what might happen."

"It's... it's not proper..."

"Look Iggy, I just want you to have a nice time for once. I mean... don't you eventually... wanna do all that?" Gladio asked, snuffing out his cigarette against the pavement.

"Do all what?"

"Fall in love, have a family? I mean.. someone has got to continue the Scientia line, right?"

"You're not wrong. I just... have so many other things I need to focus on right now, Gladio," he explained. "You know our plan... what lengths we'll have to go to if we wish to succeed. Love... isn't really something I have time to think about."

"Alright, alright I get it. I just think a little somethin' somethin' could loosen you up. Might make the Winter Gala more bearable," he smirked.

"You're going to have let this one go, I won't change my stance on it. For now, I must focus on changing things and pushing forward without my uncle."

"I know, I know," he said, shrugging. "It was worth a shot. Now let's walk faster. I'm dyin'." Gladio knew Ignis would respond the way he did, by now his attitude was to be expected. Gladio couldn't blame him, not when they had so many things they needed to fix about the way their families were. At least for now, they only had to worry about focusing on delicious food.

~~

Aranea was pacing, an unusual activity for her. When she started cases she had no problem finishing them, completing the task as she was told to do, but now... something about this case felt... off.

Ignis Scientia, the man she was supposed to be keeping a close eye on was... strange to say the least. He was kind, considerate, organized... a little stressed, but overall, he'd spent the majority of their time together making certain she was comfortable.

However, it was only the first day.

She could tell he was a bit wary of her, as he certainly had withheld some information, but again, they'd spent very little time together.

And yet...

Aranea couldn't shake the feeling something wasn't quite right. There had to be more to Ignis than what he was showing. He was far too nice for the world she had been painted. Even Gladiolus had given off a friendly aura... and Aranea was beginning to wonder if they had somehow stumbled into the wrong mafia. Had Cor gotten something wrong? So far, Ignis had seemed very preoccupied with the Winter Gala, whatever that was...

She needed more information.

"Aranea!" Prompto's hushed voice echoed through the small room and she immediately stopped moving. "I'm surprised you called me so fast, is everything okay?"

She'd contacted Prompto immediately upon arriving home using the code system they'd set up between them. The two rings on the telephone meant they had to meet, and Aranea had thankfully found a secure location in a small mailroom of the apartment complex a few blocks down the street.

"Yeah... I mean... I guess?" she muttered, rubbing her forehead. "Everything is too okay with Ignis Scientia."

"Too okay?" Prompto asked, cocking his head to the side.

"He's… incredibly kind. Considerate of what I'm doing... It makes no sense."

"Well... they're just people, Aranea," Prompto shrugged.

She raised her eyebrow. "Just people? What the hell you tryin' to say, kid?"

"I mean... they probably do a lot of bad things but... even bad people have their nice days, right? Unless they were super villains... everyone has got someone they care about, and the mafia is all about family and what not... so... I dunno..." Prompto tried to explain, trailing off.

"You're not wrong," she muttered, rubbing her arm with a sigh.

"I-I mean, I get it! I was really thrown off by Gladio too! He was really... nice. Real worried about Ignis... and he reads. A lot. He's... so normal, despite how he looks and I... was really surprised."

"That's what I was worried about," Aranea muttered.

"Worried?" Prompto asked, once again questioning her.

"Look kid, I've done a lot of these undercover missions, and usually the baddies are a lot more obvious about their motives. Ignis and Gladio may seem like good guys, but we can't fall for any of their tricks, got it? Deep down inside they're mafia executives and that family you mentioned? They won't hesitate to protect each other, especially Noctis," she explained. "I don't want you putting your guard down just because they seem like nice people. The same goes for me too."

"I wasn't gonna..." Prompto mumbled, twisting his lips up. He folded his arms over his chest. "It... did throw me off though."

"It threw me too. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it..." she sighed.

Prompto couldn't help but laugh. "Admittedly, I'm a little happy you're confused too," he said. "I thought I was going crazy with how nice Gladio was. I tried to just act normal, but I think he saw I was a little nervous."

"S'fine," Aranea shrugged. "It was your first day, so being nervous is normal. Just try and stay calm from here on out." She paused, and bit down on her lip. "Did Gladio give you any information on the Winter Gala?"

"Not really, just that Ignis was stressed about it."

"He certainly is..." she muttered, tapping her chin. "Our first goal should be to find out what it entails. Ignis was having me order decorations, but that didn't give me much information. Find out all you can about this event. Once we have a lead we can report back here."

"You got it!" Prompto said, saluting her.

"We can't meet here every night, but after the first day I wanted it to be clear; we can't let these men fool us," she said, her eyes glancing up and down at Prompto.

"Right," he said softly, slowly lowering his hand.

He was still a rookie, so new at these sort of missions. Ignis had thrown her off, so she wasn't surprised Gladio had done the same to Prompto. She had to keep them both on track. "Promise me Prompto, you won't let anything deter you from our mission..."

"I won't!" he frowned, looking even more determined. Good. She wanted to light a fire under his tiny little ass. "Being a cop is the most important thing to me," he explained, his bright blue eyes burning. "I love my job, and I don't want to let you, or Cor, or anyone down ever again," he said. "Besides, if I do, I'm pretty sure this is going to be my last case," he chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Don't worry kid," she smirked, nudging him. "I won't be letting you or me get kicked off or hurt..."

"Yeah... I know."

Stepping back from him, she pointed her finger towards his nose. "Stay on your toes, and don't screw up. 'Til next time," she smirked, waving one more time as she unlocked the door to head back to her small apartment. She only could hope Prompto would listen to her.

Chapter Text

Tap-tap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap.

Prompto's fingers hit against the desk in the corner of Gladio's office. So far, it was Monday morning, only about a week since he had officially started being undercover, and Prompto was... bored.

Really, he'd expected being a part of the mafia would be more thrilling than this.

He glanced his eyes over to Gladio, who sat at his desk, thumbing through various papers. He was wrapped up in his own work, adjusting his glasses from time to time, and Prompto couldn't help but stare.

Gladio was an attractive man, and the more time Prompto spent cooped up in the office with him, the more he watched him. His firm muscles moved with every gesture, every hand motion, and his deep golden eyes were always so considerate.

Gladiolus Amicitia was the exact opposite of everything Prompto had expected.

So far, he'd had Prompto organize his shelves, which had taken up the majority of the first week. Prompto had hoped to find some sort of information, instead, he'd come to learn Gladio seemed to be a collector of romance novels.

Attempting to stifle a yawn, Prompto covered his mouth, and leaned back, stretching out his muscles.

"Oi, kid, ya' bored?" Gladio asked.

Prompto jerked forward, immediately sitting up straight. He adjusted his own glasses and shook his head so fast they almost flew right off. "No, sir!" he said quickly. He couldn't come across as bored. If he was bored, Gladio would maybe fire him, which would mean he was off the case, which would mean-

Oh gods, he was standing up. Gladio pushed away from the desk, stretching up as he walked towards Prompto. "I dunno why you always act so jumpy when I ask ya' a single question," he snorted, placing his hand on the desk in front of him. "I just thought maybe we could... have a little fun?"

Prompto swallowed, his cheeks immediately turning red. He couldn't help but stare into those perfectly golden eyes. "F-Fun?" he stammered, unsure of what Gladio meant exactly. He was known to have relations with his female assistants but... what about the male ones? Or maybe Prompto was his first?!

"Yeah," Gladio said, pulling his gun from his holster. "Let's go shoot a couple," he smirked.

"A COUPLE!?" he exclaimed, pushing away from the desk.

"Yeah?" Gladio shrugged casually. "What? You never shoot a couple of rounds before?"

"Oh... rounds... " Prompto breathed, his chest heaving up and down.

"Yeah what the hell did you think I meant? A couple? Like some lovebirds or somethin'?" he asked, tilting his head. "You're a real naive kid, ya' know that?" Gladio smirked, his lips pulling at the corners. Damn, he was too handsome.

"I, uh... I dunno what you meant at first," he admitted, shrugging his shoulders.

"C'mon Prom, I know I'm a part of the mafia, but I'm not all that bad," he sighed, rolling his shoulders back.

"So you've never killed anyone," Prompto asked, raising an eyebrow. Was Gladio cleaner than he thought?

A dark look crossed his golden eyes, and he placed the gun back in the holster. "Never said that," he grunted. "But we're going to a closed range, and I'll teach ya' everything I know. It'll be good for us to blow off some steam."

Prompto swallowed. As a cop, he was of course trained to use a gun. But Gladio probably thought he was some newbie... Should he... pretend like he was?

"Y-Yeah," he stammered.

"Don't be so nervous," Gladio chuckled, gently patting Prompto on his arm. "We've been hanging out in this office for too damn long. I know Iggy gets intense about planning shit, but we've got plenty of time. Plus you organized my office way damn faster than I thought you would. You deserve a gift."

Shooting guns really didn't sound like Prompto's idea of a gift, but if it meant getting closer to Gladio, he figured it best to accept.

"And hey," Gladio continued. "If you do a good job, maybe I can suggest you come with me on my next few pickups," he smirked.

"Pickups?" Prompto asked, perking up. That sounded promising, the closer Prompto got to Gladio, the more time he spent with him, which of course, meant a higher chance of him spending time with Noctis in the future.

"Yeah," Gladio nodded. "Now that, is probably exactly what you're thinkin'."

"Is... it?" Prompto swallowed.

"Yeah, people don't pay us on time for our services, I go and pick up the money they owe us. Just part of my job," Gladio smirked. "Apparently once I take over for my father, I don't get to do shit like that anymore, so I figured I best make the most of it now, huh," he chuckled.

"You... like doing stuff like that?" Prompto asked. Alright, so now they were talking more, perhaps Prompto had been mistaken, maybe Gladio was exactly the guy he had thought he was.

"I dunno if 'like' is the word I would use, but it's more interesting than paperwork," he sighed and moved back to his desk, taking a seat. "Look Prom," he began, his eyes looking tired all of a sudden. "I don't like hurting people, but when my family is on the line, there are certain things I'm more willing to do, ya' understand?"

Prompto blinked. "I... I do..." he admitted softly. It was oddly similar to how he felt being a cop. He didn't like hurting people, but when innocent people's safety was on the line... it all became a very different story. The only difference was, Gladio was willing to hurt innocent people to protect his shitty family, presumably.

"You gotta have people you wanna protect," Gladio said. "Which is why tomorrow, I'll teach ya' how to use a gun. It'll be fun, I promise."

Fun. Right. Definitely. Prompto swallowed, nodding his head with a smile.

"Good!" Gladio smirked, but quickly slammed his hand on the desk, making Prompto jump. "But don't tell Iggy! He'll get pissed if he thinks I'm slacking off."

"My lips are sealed," Prompto chuckled, trying not to act nervous. He couldn't be transparent tomorrow, no matter how much experience he had.

~~

"It's only been a week kid, this better be good," Aranea said, holding a cigarette up to her mouth as her and Prompto stood in the locked mailroom. "We can't keep meetin' like this, if anyone sees us-"

"I know, I know," Prompto said, waving his hands up and down, "but... I got a serious thing to tell you!" he hissed.

"Okay, spill it," she said, taking a long drag.

"Gladio wants to take me to a shooting range," Prompto began.

"And?"

"And he said if I do a good job, he might take me out when he does his 'pickups'," Prompto said. "Who knows what that could lead to! Noctis maybe!" His face lit up with excitement, proud of his own ability to do his job decently well.

"Mmm," Aranea hummed, puffing out smoke. "Not bad kid. Gladiolus must really like you. Ignis told me he usually takes to his assistants fast, but you're a boy, so I wasn't sure how well that would carry over. Seems he's just an open guy."

"Right..." Prompto blushed, trying not to think about how much he had been staring at Gladio lately. "A-Anyway," he continued, "he thinks I'm real green when it comes to guns. He said he wants to teach me the ropes but I-"

"You let him," Aranea said, cutting him off.

"Eh? Really? But I know how to use a gun-"

"Doesn't matter," she snapped, stomping the cigarette out on the floor. "I know it sucks, but your job is to befriend Gladio. You're moving a helluva lot faster than I am, and even if you look like an idiot, let him teach you."

Prompto twisted his lips. He knew Aranea was right, but something about the whole operation didn't quite sit well with him. Everything about Gladio was so uncertain, and made Prompto question what type of person the mafia man really was.

"I just don't wanna mess it up..."

"You won't," Aranea rolled her eyes, scoffing at Prompto's concern.

"Yeah, but what if he realizes I'm lying and I get caught, or I have to explain why I know how to use a gun?!" he exclaimed quickly.

"Then you explain," she sighed. "Come up with a story. You're good at that, like when you always tell Cor reasons why you messed up."

Prompto puffed out his cheeks. "Those usually aren't stories..."

"Alright, well tell him the truth and get us both killed then," she shrugged.

"I'm not gonna do that," he snorted.

"Exactly. So come up with some bullshit," she teased. "Prompto, you got this, okay? And when it goes well, we'll meet back up and check in with Cor, especially if he really is going to take you out on certain jobs," she explained. "You'd be more than an assistant and who knows where that would lead."

"To Noctis, hopefully."

"Just what we came here for," she smirked.

"Yeah," he nodded, rubbing his hands together. "I know I can do this."

"You can," Aranea said, gently placing her hand on his shoulder. "Shoot like you've never shot before. Literally."

~~

Admittedly, Aranea was a little jealous by how fast things had been moving for Prompto. So far, Ignis had only had her working on smaller jobs, mostly paperwork involved. She was able to listen in on his conversations, but Ignis seemed far less interested in getting to know her.

It had been over a week, and not much had happened. She knew these sort of undercover jobs were often a slow burn, but Ignis was not only boring, but he was also a little uptight.

"Did you order these?" he asked, handing her a list of party decorations she had already ordered the week prior.

"Yes," she said, handing him the receipts from the folder on her desk. "I showed you these already, but in case you're doubting me..."

He sighed, waving his hand in front of the folder. "No... No I'm not doubting you. I apologize."

She bit her lip, watching him flop down into his chair. He rubbed his forehead, and rolled his neck back, letting out a long huff of air.

"Mr. Scientia?" she asked slowly. "Are... you alright?" She hadn't actually talked to the man very much, so her voice was hesitant.

"Yes... fine, Ms. Biggs," he said.

Folding her arms, she popped her hip out. "Really? Because I didn't believe you for a damn second."

Ignis blinked and turned his gaze up towards her. His jade eyes were wide, filled with shock for how frankly she had spoken. "P-Pardon?"

Aranea could only keep her personality in check for so long, especially when the man was so clearly suffering. She snorted. "You're not a very good actor, Mr. Scientia," she said, quirking her lip up.

He couldn't help but chuckle. "I suppose you are right, Ms. Biggs," he sighed finally. "I am quite flustered about the state of this gala."

"Really? No..." she teased, raising her eyebrow. "I couldn't tell from all your long sighs, forehead rubs, and grumbles under your breath."

"I haven't been very subtle."

"Not at all," she chuckled. "What are you so worried about?"

"Goodness... Everything?" he admitted, pressing his glasses up on top of his head. "I feel like I'm handling it all alone. Even though I technically have your help, which... I greatly appreciate by the way."

Finally, he seemed more willing to open up. "'Course," she nodded.

"But minus you, Noctis and Gladio haven't been very helpful. Noctis is a wonderful person and he has interesting ideas on a very... general sense. I don't believe he can actually execute some of the things he wishes to do."

"Like... what?" she pushed, hoping this could be her chance to dig deeper.

"So many things, it's impossible to go into it all," Ignis sighed. "I want to help him and Gladio... they're so idealistic, and of course I want to be feeling positive but there are just so many factors," he babbled. "Half the time, I don't even think either of them think."

"I'm not sure I... understand what you mean."

"We... wish to make things better. Less violent, more... clean," he explained, and Aranea couldn't help the shock which crossed her face. "I know," he chuckled. "I'm sure that is an odd thing to hear from a man who has killed men before... for practically no reason. This is why we want to change..." he sighed.

Aranea bit her lip. Hearing he had killed men wasn't surprising, but knowing he wanted to make such a drastic change... seemed far too good to be true? Had he somehow realized who she was? Maybe he was trying to sway her off the course...

"Gladio wants to start enacting different programs now, but our business is based around a certain... style... so to speak," Ignis attempted to explain. "It's going to be a slow transition. Especially with Clarus... ah... Gladio's father, still around. Same with Regis, Noctis' father," he said. "And... not that I wish ill upon them, oh no... it's just... not going to happen as soon as we want it to. It's incredibly frustrating," he whispered. "Plus, I feel incredibly guilty, planning all this behind my Uncle's back while he's sick... dying no less."

Aranea swallowed. It was oddly genuine... the way Ignis spoke. It made her blush far more than she realized... Was Ignis really a good man?

"Hey," Aranea said, making her way around the desk to gently touch at his shoulder. "You're going to be okay," she said. "You're... trying to do the right thing. In the end, that's all that matters," she smiled. "And... maybe your Uncle might understand?"

"I don't believe he would," he chuckled softly. "But I suppose you're right... even if it takes a while, steps in the right direction are still moving us forward," he muttered.

"Of course they are," she said, cheering him on quietly.

Her heart throbbed in her chest, and she tried her best to keep her hand still. She didn't want him to feel the way her body trembled with confusion. What if... Cor was wrong? What if Ignis and Gladio weren't bad people... or maybe they were but they didn't want to be any longer? What was she supposed to do then? Arrest them for a shorter amount of time? Give them a chance to redeem themselves?

Things had always been so black and white, even in undercover missions she'd done before. The people had been deplorable... criminals were deplorable... when she locked someone up she never felt guilty. They had broken the law, and she was doing her job. It was simple. Or it had been.

"I apologize, Ms. Biggs, it seems I have gone off on quite the tangent. I didn't mean to completely dump all of this on you," he sighed.

"Hey, I was the one who called you out," she shrugged. "You gotta give yourself some credit. You're working hard. If you need to rant once and awhile. I won't mind," she winked.

"Thank you, Ms. Biggs," he nodded, a lovely smile pulling across his lips.

She couldn't help but smile back. "You can just... call me Nea."

"Ah...yes, and you should call me Ignis. There's no need for such formalities," he said.

She chuckled. "My thoughts exactly."

~~

Gladio held the cigarette up to his lips and took a long drag. This was exactly what he needed. A little break. Ignis had been breathing down his neck lately, which he knew was caused by stress, and Noctis’ inability to get anything done on his own, but Gladio could only take so much.

"Alright Prom, ya' ready?" he chuckled.

He loved his silly little assistant. At first, he'd been disappointed he wasn't a beautiful woman, but Prom was beautiful in his own way... or perhaps cute was more the word he would use.

The guy seemed on edge more often than not, and Gladio liked watching him get a little worked up. Plus, he'd seen the way the guy stared at him sometimes, and damn it was cute.

"This is... your idea of a closed shooting range?" Prom asked, his large blue eyes blinking at the space.

Cute. Definitely cute.

"Ya'," he shrugged. "We're in a field, miles away from civilization. What's the problem?"

"We're in an open field with targets you set up!" Prom flailed, but Gladio could only laugh.

The field was far away from the city, it had taken them almost two hours to get there, and Gladio had set everything up himself, but it looked good! Even if most of the targets were crooked scarecrows he'd stolen from the farm a couple miles down the road.

"Hey, I did a damn good job!" he exclaimed.

"I... guess..." Prom said, twisting his lips.

"I do this all the time, stop worrying!" Gladio snorted. "Besides I'm right here. I already told ya' I'd help ya'."

"Yeah..." he grumbled, looking nervous as he always did.

Stepping towards him, he handed the small revolver to Prom. He turned it around in his hand and gripped the small gun hard.

"Ya' don't gotta hold it so hard," Gladio laughed, flicking some of his cigarette ash on the ground. "We're not here to hurt anyone."

"I dunno... " Prom sighed dramatically. "I don't know if my heart can take shooting through those... amazingly built... scarecrows," he snorted, unable to keep his face serious.

"I know," Gladio chuckled. "They're a little too pathetic. S'why I saved 'em."

"Yeah, saved 'em just to kill 'em!" Prom teased, nudging his shoulder.

"Yeah, yeah," Gladio snorted and flicked his cigarette onto the ground. "Alright. Lemme show ya' how to do this." He rolled his shoulders back and gripped the gun in his hand. "Place both your hands around it like this," he said, cupping his hands around the handle. His left held the small butt, holding it in place, while his right gripped the side, his pointer finger hovering over the trigger. "Plant your feet, aim, and-" there was a loud shot as the bullet flew from the gun and smacked right in between the eyes of the scarecrow, "-fire," he smirked.

He hadn't been trying to impress Prom with his shooting skills, but if he did... well, he wouldn't be upset.

Prom blinked, looking at the gun in his own hands. "Wow."

"Yeah, I'm a pretty good shot," Gladio smirked, nodding his head towards Prom. "You try."

"O-Okay..." he murmured, his hands shaking as he raised the gun up, attempting to aim at the crooked scarecrow a few feet from him. He took a deep breath, or a few, as Gladio noticed the way his chest seem to rise and fall rapidly.

"Hey," he said, and walked over to him, standing behind him. He slid his hands over Prom's wrists, gripping them as he helped him raise his arms. "You can do this, okay?" he whispered, helping him keep his hands steady as he aimed.

"R-Right," he stammered.

Being this close to Prom, Gladio could hear his breaths. They were loud against his ear, and obviously the blond was more nervous than he let on.

Cute.

He wrapped his fingers around Prom's, helping him to press down on the trigger as the bullet fired and just barely missed the scarecrows neck.

"Not bad. Try and keep yourself steady."

Glancing back at Gladio, Prom's blue eyes met his own, and Gladio swallowed. Prom's cheeks were flushed, and he looked surprised by their close proximity. Maybe he hadn't expected Gladio to touch him.

"I, uh, yeah... I can do that! Totally!" he stammered, trying to regain what little composure he seemed to have.

Prom planted his feet and held the gun up, his hands shaking a little less than before. He fired it off, this time hitting the scarecrow in the shoulder.

"Nice shot!" Gladio laughed. "See? I knew you could do it!" He cheered, giving Prom a gentle pat on the back.

"Y-Yeah..." he laughed with him, his cute smile looking prouder with Gladio's praise.

He'd known this would be an amazing idea.

They shot a few more rounds, Prom seeming more confident the more they did. "I'm gonna have to take you out with me," he said.

Prom froze. "Take me out!?" he gasped, his blues looking at Gladio with confusion.

"Yeah?" Gladio said, confused by his intense reaction. "I just meant out on jobs..."

Did Prom think he meant a date?

The blond's face turned bright red and he locked the safety in place as he put the gun down. "R-Really?"

"Yeah!" Gladio had been watching the blond shoot, hitting the target with ease by his third round. "You're a freaking natural," he laughed. "Y'sure you've never shot before?"

"N-No!" Prom shook his head quickly. "I promise I haven't!"

"Okay, okay, I believe ya'," Gladio laughed, wrapping his arm around Prom's neck. "Look, you're worth way more than an assistant, and I feel like you're just as bored as me sitting around all day. So whaddya say? You wanna do some jobs with me? You might have to get your hands a little dirty," he grinned.

Prom's blue eyes darted down to the gun, but immediately turned to Gladio, a smile pulling across his face. Gods, he was so damn cute. "Yeah, let's do it!" he said, holding out his hand.

Gladio grasped it, shaking it up and down. Prom really was the best assistant Ignis had found him thus far.

~~

"I hear you took Prom shooting today," Ignis hummed, rocking his leg back and forth at the cafe table.

Gladio groaned, rolling his eyes. "Cut me some slack, Igs! I've been dying in that office. Day in and day out, just paperwork. Ya' know I need a little more action than that."

"Mm... I'm well aware," Ignis scoffed. "But why did you take your assistant."

"In case I needed, uh, assisting..."

"Right," Ignis chuckled. "I'm sure you didn't."

"No... I didn't. But hey, the kid's a good shot! I think he's gonna be more useful than we think. You did good Igs," he smirked, giving him a thumbs up.

"Why thank you, Gladio, I did try," he chuckled.

"Yeah, I like him!" Gladio said, scanning the menu for something to eat. Since he'd actually been out of the office all day, he was starving.

"Good. Hopefully you don't like him too much," he hummed, sipping on the coffee in front of him. He raised his eyebrow expectantly at Gladio.

"I dunno, Iggy," he smirked, peering over his menu. "He is pretty cute."

"And here I thought you only preferred the company of women," Ignis sighed.

"Yeah that was your first mistake," Gladio chuckled. "He is cute. Plus, he's hardworking. I want to take him out on some jobs. I think he could be really good at all this shit," he shrugged.

"Oh, Gladio..." Ignis sighed, pressing his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

"Are you telling me you haven't had any indecent thoughts about Ms. Biggs?" he hummed.

"As a matter of fact, I have not," Ignis huffed. "She is a very lovely woman and has been very supportive, but I don't look at her like that."

"Maybe you should give her more of a chance. Prom and I have been really hitting it off," Gladio shrugged.

"Please, be careful, Gladio," Ignis warned.

"Be careful of what? He's a cute guy who works hard," he said. "He's my assistant, he's gotta do shit for me, that's his job."

"You're not wrong, but there is still plenty you don't know about him."

"Yeah, but ya' screened these guys, right? You did as much research as you could, and you trust the guy who hired them for us. I don't see the problem. You worry way too much Iggy."

"And you don't worry enough," he sighed. "I do trust him... but with our job and what we're trying to do... we need to be wary. Do you understand?"

"Yeah, yeah," Gladio sighed. "I'm hungry, let's eat!"

Ignis sighed. As much as he trusted his sources, he knew he'd have to do more research on Prom and Nea before he let Gladio fall in too deep. Himself too... as much as he had claimed his innocence... Nea had... captured his attention.

Unlike Gladio however, Ignis wasn't one to give into his internal desires. Nor had he given work to Nea he didn't feel he could trust her with.

No, Ignis, as always, was going to play it safe. Even if it meant keeping the beautiful Nea at arms length.

Chapter Text

"You know, for someone who had no shootin' experience, you were pretty good," Gladio said and it made Prompto jump.

"J-Just a fluke I guess." He laughed nervously. "Or... maybe I just had a really good teacher." He winked in Gladio's direction, trying to play it as cool as possible.

Gladio smirked. "I guess you're my shooting protege!"

"Yup!" Prompto said, posing in front of him, looking proud.

"You're too cute," he snorted, shaking his head as he flipped through the files. His voice was so casual, so relaxed about the whole situation and Prompto's face immediately began to turn red.

"A-Ah... Cute?! I'm not cute, I'm badass!" Prompto retorted awkwardly.

Gladio burst out laughing, pushing his glasses up onto his forehead. "Ya' realize by saying that it only makes me think you're even cuter."

Prompto folded his arms over his chest and puffed out his cheeks. "Whatever," he grumbled.

"You're pretty badass too, I guess." Gladio added.

Flushing, Prompto glanced away. Why was Gladio always so damn handsome?! And why did Prompto feel his heart start to race when he complimented him?

It was so stupid, Gladio didn't even know the real him. Gladio knew Prom, the nervous, newbie assistant. He didn't know anything about Prompto... a cop, trying to take him down from the inside.

When Gladio was nice, occasionally Prompto would feel a pang of uncertainty. He had come into this expecting to hate the man. Hell, he'd even spent a long damn time brushing up on his acting skills, nervous his hatred would shine through. But now, Gladio could potentially figure him out just by being so damn nice to him.

The phone rang and Prompto jumped again. Lately, he thought he was going to die of a heart attack from how freaking on edge he was.

"Yeah... uh huh..." Gladio nodded, glancing Prompto's way. "Whaddya mean he won't pay up!?" An angry looked crossed Gladio's face, one that suited his scarred features.

Perhaps Prompto had judged Gladio too soon. Admittedly, he had been waiting for the real Gladio to slowly reveal himself. So far, Prompto had only seen the man's softer sides; a man who loved to read, enjoyed his silence, but didn't mind the occasional conversation. He liked the stars too, had mentioned it to Prompto a few times. Even when they went to the shooting range together, they'd been far away from civilization and only shot at scarecrows.

But he worked for the mafia, had grown up in the mafia... he couldn't always be as kind as he seemed. It felt so out of place.

"No. Hell no. I'll be going there right now! I gotta take these bastards off guard." Gladio snorted and slammed the phone down. "Y'ready, Prom?" he said, pulling Prompto from his thoughts.

"Eh?" he responded, glancing up as Gladio slammed a gun down on his desk.

"We're going. It's time for your first real job," he smirked.

Prompto couldn't help but swallow. Picking up the gun, he pushed away from his desk and nodded. "R-Right."

"There's no need to be scared. We just need to ask them for the money they owe us. We delivered their goods, so they gotta deliver the cash," Gladio explained. "Nothing scary. Guns are just precaution," he added, tucking his into his holster.

"'Course!" Prompto shrugged, trying to act casual as he followed Gladio out of the office.

He had to stop letting his guard down.

~~

"Nea, can you hand me the file labeled 'food'?" Ignis began.

"Of course," she said, biting back her frustration. Unlike Prompto, things were moving at a snail’s pace for Aranea. Ignis didn't trust her with anything, and she'd barely left the office.

Prompto was plenty capable, but Aranea had her worries. He'd been extremely jumpy the entire time being here, even when they met in private he seemed nervous. Additionally, he also mentioned not finding Gladio to be a terrible person. She could tell it was messing with his mind, since he was a rookie.

She glanced towards Ignis. He wasn't so terrible himself. In fact, he'd barely done anything harmful. So far, he'd been so worried about his Uncle and preparing this gala, which he seemed to be doing most of the work for.

Plus, he had told her of his plans, to make the mafia better, more clean. It was impossible to believe. Years of horrible behavior, underground smuggling... things like that didn't just go away. Once you were in the life of organized crime, it was very difficult to get out, but Ignis had spoken so genuinely about his feelings behind the plan, and how complicated it would be... maybe it was true. Maybe he really wanted to turn things around, maybe they all did.

Or maybe, Aranea just wanted it to be true.

There were two sides to every story, and while Aranea didn't think Ignis was a monster, she also didn't think there was anyway he was the perfect angel, or even the normal man he made himself out to be. There had to be more underneath. She just had to figure out how to get there.

"I don't know how I feel about this catering company," he sighed. "If I had the time I would cook all the food myself. I'm sure my recipes would taste far better than some of these dishes they're offering."

She reached forward and placed the folder in his hand, letting her fingers linger over his. She gently stroked his hand as she pulled hers away slowly. "I didn't realize you were such a food connoisseur," she purred, letting words roll off her tongue.

When she had to, she could play dirty. She only hoped Ignis was the type of man to fall for such a tactic.

"Ah yes. Admittedly, I would spend most of my time in the kitchen if given the opportunity to do so," he said. His gaze followed her hand momentarily, but he shook his head, glancing back at the file.

"Alright then," she chuckled, and leaned her hip against his desk. She folded her arms under her chest, pushing her breasts up. "I would love to try something of yours."

He glanced up at her, his eyes widening for a moment. He cleared his throat, pressing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Well," he began, "I would be happy to make something for you one of these days. Perhaps we could share lunch together."

She smiled, happy to see red dusting his cheeks. "I would love that," she grinned, letting her hand touch his shoulder lightly.

"Yes, as you know I am quite busy... but I... should take time do things I enjoy," he muttered.

"'Course you should," she smiled. "You're gonna work yourself to death. You need to do some... fun things once and awhile, Specs." She winked.

"Right," he choked out, as if he had finally realized just how close she was. "Gladiolus certainly does, which is why I'm left doing most of the work."

"You know," she began, sliding her hand up to Ignis' neck, "it's not fair you get saddled with so much. We gotta talk to Noctis and Gladio, whip them into shape." She giggled deeply, massaging at his bare skin.

"Mm..." he grunted, leaning into the touch. "You are correct, Ms... Nea, however, neither of them ever know what they're doing and in the end it creates more work for me."

"Well that's not very fair now is it," she said softly, moving to stand behind him. She let her hands glide over his shoulders, gently squeezing as she massaged at his back. "You need to learn to relax," she hummed.

"It's quite alright, Nea, you do not have to-"

"I want to," she whispered, leaning down towards his ear.

"I-"

"Specs, ya gotta relax more. You're holding so much tension here in your neck and shoulders, I can only imagine what... the rest of your body is like," she said with a soft laugh. "You need to take care of yourself, or let others-"

Reaching back, he grabbed her wrist and stopped her. She slowly stepped back, not wanting to push her boundary or make him feel uncomfortable.

"I... I apologize, Nea," he said, slowly lowering his hand. He turned his chair to look up at her, his face red.

"Nah, you don't gotta apologize, Specs," she said trying to brush it off. But the way his fingers had wrapped around her wrist so quickly had taken her off guard. Ignis was far stronger than he let on. She couldn't let her guard down.

"It's... " he sighed and covered his eyes for a moment. "You are a very lovely woman," he breathed. "And-"

"Ignis, you don't have to-"

"No! No, please, I... feel I should explain," he sighed. "If I had met you under any other circumstance, perhaps I would have asked you to dinner, or better yet, cooked my own meal for you. But I... I can't be held back by... distractions."

It was Aranea's turn to blush. She had wanted to get under his skin, and apparently she had, just not in the way she expected. He was such a gentleman about it all.

"You are quite lovely, and you are here in my office everyday. But I am not Gladio and I am not about to put you in an uncomfortable situation. Nor do I have time to focus on you in a way I would like to were we to be... together."

Aranea swallowed. Ignis liked her? She supposed it shouldn't be too shocking, given the circumstance. And yet...

"Right, yeah" she said. "I overstepped."

"No! Please do not look at it as such..." Ignis said, shaking his head. "You are a wonderful lady and I wouldn't wish for you to think you did anything wrong." He glanced down. "I think this is for the best. We must keep things... professional."

"Gotcha," she nodded, making her way back to her seat as she attempted to still her beating heart and process what just happened.

~~

The warehouse down by the docks was much smaller than Prompto expected. Gulls cried out across the sky and it smelled of moldy sea air, the smell making Prompto's nose wrinkle in disgust. The whole place was falling apart. Windows were rusted, some broken, and there were large stacks of damp boxes outside too.

"Is this where you sell stuff?" Prompto asked quietly as the two approached the main entrance.

Gladio turned to him and raised an eyebrow. "Hell no, Prom! We're classier than this. We sold some shipping product to this guy because he told us he could save us money on shipments, but all he's done is take our product and not pay us back. We've paid him plenty," he explained, his voice a low growl. "This is the second time I've been here, and it looks way worse for wear this time," he snorted.

"Huh..." he mumbled, glancing around at the musty crates next to him. "What do you guys ship exactly?"

"Weapons," Gladio said flatly. "S'not always illegal, but some of them aren't sanctioned in Insomnia. We gotta be discreet. A lot of the deals are done under the table, no tracking."

Prompto bit his lip. They were selling weapons... weapons which hurt innocent people, which created war. Gladio was most likely behind far more death and destruction than Prompto initially realized.

Gladio's face softened when he turned to look at Prompto. "I promise you. I'm not gonna let you get hurt. These guys... they're nothing, usually wusses." He paused to chuckle softly. "The second we walk in there, they'll panic and pay up. That's how it usually goes down, piece of cake," he smirked and gave Prompto's shoulder a gentle squeeze.

It was nice of Gladio to reassure him, but Prompto was far more concerned about the bigger picture, not necessarily this one job. "Right, yeah," he laughed nervously, his hand ghosting over the gun in his holster. "I'm ready."

"Good," Gladio smirked, and walked over towards the door. He knocked once. No answer. "Hm..." he mumbled, and knocked again. Still no answer. "Oi! Open up, this is Gladiolus from Armiger Trading!"

Turning back to look at Prompto, Gladio immediately grinned. "Guess we're kicking down the door."

"EH!?" Prompto gasped, trying not to be loud. "B-But what if they're just not home!"

"Oh, they're home," Gladio smirked and slammed his foot against the door. Shortly after he shoved his shoulder into it.

The wood looked as though it was already partially rotting from the damp, salty air around it, and Prompto had a feeling it wasn't going to hold for long. Another bash from Gladio and the wood cracked, the now very broken door swinging open.

As soon as Gladio stepped inside, a gunshot sounded out in the warehouse, and Gladio yanked Prompto inside pulling him behind a stack of boxes. "W-Woah!" Prompto called out, covering his mouth as he stumbled to kneel down next to him.

"Dammit," Gladio hissed. "Never can be easy..."

"I thought you said it was usually easy!" Prompto hissed, his eyes peering over the box momentarily.

"Stay down, idiot," Gladio said, pushing on Prompto's head. "I dunno, it varies!" he shrugged. "I didn't think they'd have the balls to actually fight us."

"We don't have your money!" A voice called out, from far in the back of the warehouse. It sounded scared. Was it just one guy?

"That's too bad!" Gladio called back. "I really wanted to have a nice conversation with ya', but it seems we're gonna do this the hard way!" There was no answer, and Gladio shrugged. "Stay here, Prom. I don't want you to get caught in this."

"Wait, but-"

Gladio rolled forward before Prompto could respond. More gun shots fired out, definitely multiple men. Prompto peered around the crate, noticing Gladio loading his pistol. Glancing down at his own gun, he took it out as well. He couldn't let Gladio die here, and he told himself it was because he still had so much of the undercover mission left. Hell, he hadn't even met Noctis yet.

Gladio stepped forward again, more gunshots firing in their direction, and this time Prompto moved closer too, sitting behind a box adjacent to Gladio's. Gladio leaned over the top, shooting the pistol towards the back of the warehouse. There was a masculine cry, as one of the bullets obviously connected.

"Got one," he smirked. "We gotta try and keep them alive so we can ask them where the money is."

Gladio stepped forward again, hiding behind a longer crate. Prompto glanced around, trying to take in his surroundings. He held his own gun close to his side, his hands trembling around it. He'd been in plenty of shootouts before as a cop, but something about this felt so different.

He turned up towards the rafters, noticing a man slinking towards Gladio's spot. He gasped, and aimed. "Gladio! Above you!" he called out, shooting at the man, only to miss. He ducked down and dove out of the way.

"Shit!" Gladio cried out, shooting his pistol towards the rafter. He hit the man, who fell backwards, rolling on the metal surface, gripping his shoulder. "Good call, Prom," he said, giving him a thumbs up.

Peering around the crate, Prompto saw two men running for the stairs. Thinking fast, he aimed for one of the men's leg, pulling the trigger. He immediately fell to the ground

Gladio smirked, giving Prompto an approving nod.

Moving forward, Prompto followed Gladio this time, watching as he slipped around another one of the boxes. Gladio shot up towards the rafters again, hitting the other man who had slipped by Prompto.

Gladio kept his gaze up there, his gun raised up, ready to take out any other men hiding up there. But Prompto's eyes widened when he saw a man charging directly for Gladio from the other side.

Gasping, he immediately raised up his gun, running towards Gladio. "Behind you!" he yelled, shooting the man in the shoulder and leg, watching as he fell to the ground. Blood seeped from the wound and Gladio peered over at the man.

"Holy shit, Prom," Gladio panted, glancing to the man writhing on the ground. "You saved my damn life. Glad ya' didn't listen to me," he winked. "This is the leader, but I don't know if there are more guys..."

Both of them immediately ducked down again, waiting for another noise, but none came. Scooting forward, Gladio wrapped his hand around the man's shirt, yanking him upwards. He whined, blood dripping from the wound Prompto had given him from his shoulder. "This is what happens when you fuck with us."

"T-There's... a box... in the backroom...with cash... just... take it," the man grunted.

Gladio released him, letting him fall to the floor, and he stepped over the body, walking towards the backroom. "C'mon Prom," he waved his arm.

Prompto kept his gun raised as he followed Gladio towards the back of the warehouse. There hadn't been too many men about, but he was wary of it being a trap.

"You really are a lucky shot," Gladio murmured, turning the door handle open. Just as the man had said, there was a locked box on the table, the key hanging on the wall. He turned the lock, pulling it from the box as his hands flipped through the wads of cash. "Hm... this probably isn't enough but I guess it'll do. Let's get the fuck out of here, Prom," he nodded, shutting the box once more and tucking it under his arm.

"I'm glad you're not walking away empty handed," Prompto said softly, looking at the bodies lying on the rafters when they walked by. He bit his lip. Who were these men? Had he harmed innocent people to ensure Gladio's safety? No... there was no way these men were kind people, not if they were dealing with shipments and weapons potentially...

And at least Gladio was alive. ...For the mission's sake.

"Yeah," he said, turning to look at Prompto. He placed his hand on his shoulder, squeezing. "Thanks... for savin' me. I'm glad I had you here with me."

His cheeks heated up... Gladio was so genuinely grateful.

"Yeah, well, I wasn't gonna let you die. My adrenaline made me an awesome shot!" he laughed.

"Sure did," Gladio smirked. "Anyway, tomorrow we gotta stop by Noctis' place and drop this stuff off. Guess you're getting all the adventures lately."

Noctis' house... just where Prompto was supposed to be going. Soon, he'd know the location... have all the information they needed...

And yet...

The more Prompto stared, the deeper he dug his hole.

~~

"Alright... don't be mad."

"Gladiolus, when you preface something with 'don't be mad' it's rather difficult for me not to instinctually get mad," Ignis said. "There's no way you won't tell me something utterly ridiculous after saying that." He pressed his glasses up as he sat at the cafe, spending their usual time together.

"Touchy," Gladio said, clicking his tongue. "I know you're stressed Igs but damn!"

Admittedly it wasn't just stress. After his awkward conversation with Nea, he was on edge. He really liked her, he'd especially liked her touch. The way her fingers had caressed his skin, her light touches against his hand...

But he couldn't be distracted... he couldn't. Oh, but what he wouldn't have gave to just kiss her one time-

"I apologize, Gladio," he muttered. "Please... tell me whatever it is you wish to burden my day with."

The last thing he needed was Gladio stressing him out even more.

Gladio snorted and folded his arms. "Well, I almost died today."

"WHAT!?" Ignis yelled, clearing his throat as he tried to regain composure. It was certainly not what he expected to hear.

"I went to go collect from that shipping company, and Prom and I stormed the place and immediately got shot at! No one wants to have a conversation these days," Gladio shrugged dramatically.

"Well, I'm glad you're okay," Ignis said, finally taking a breath. "Why would that make me mad? Surprised..."

"That's not what I was gonna say," Gladio replied. "Prom was the one who saved my life... he shot a guy coming for me and dammit Iggy... I'm fallin' for him... I really am. I know you said I'm not allowed to sleep with my assistants anymore, but it's... more than just that," Gladio admitted.

Ignis let his mouth fall open. Here he was trying so damn hard not to do anything with Nea, and Gladio was off falling in love with his assistant. Okay, he hadn't said love...

"Gladiolus... I swear to you... if you lose another assistant-"

"Look Iggy, I won't lose another assistant. It's different, okay?"

"I don't see how it's different, it hasn't even been very long," he said, rubbing his face.

"I know, I know! I can't... explain it, it just is." A soft looked crossed Gladio's eyes, and Ignis hated that his best friend wasn't lying.

"Gladio, I can't stop you from doing anything. Yes, I said you're not allowed but there's no actual rule..."

Gladio smirked. "Yeah I know, but I respect you too much to not tell ya'."

"I appreciate that," Ignis nodded his head. "Like I said, I really cannot stop you. Nor... do I wish to, if this will truly make you happy."

"Thanks," Gladio said, nodding his head. "And y'know Igs... you shouldn't hold yourself back. If you want to do something fun or different... do it. The gala can wait a few hours."

"...I don't know what you're talking about."

Gladio rolled his eyes. "You can deny it all you want, but I saw how you were looking at 'Ms. Biggs' when you said goodbye this afternoon."

"Gladiolus..." Ignis warned.

"I don't know why you act like you can't have that sort of happiness."

Ignis shrugged. "I don't have the proper amount of time I would like to dedicate to such a thing."

"What are you talking about? Go to dinner with her one night instead of me! Just take her out!"

"Gladio, we work together. I need to focus on her getting her tasks done not... wishing to kiss her..."

"Aha!" Gladio teased, pointing at Ignis. "So you do wanna!"

"The thought may have crossed my mind once or twice..."

"So just go for it!"

"Absolutely not." He paused. "Maybe... after the gala..."

"There we go," Gladio smiled. "Coming from you, I'm going to consider that a win."

"Very funny," Ignis snorted.

But maybe Gladio was right. Maybe he was being too uptight about it all...

~~

"Why the long face shortcake? You're excelling at the mission," Aranea scoffed. Prompto could sense a hint of displeasure. He knew Aranea hated feeling useless, and so far, Ignis hadn't given her much wiggle room to make any sort of progress.

"I dunno..."

"Is it cause you killed some people? S'not like you haven't done that before."

"I know... I just... I saved Gladio's life today."

"Good thing you did too, cause now you're gonna get to Noctis' house."

Prompto sighed. She wasn't wrong... but he hadn't saved Gladio's life to keep the mission going. No... it had been more because he didn't want to see him die. He didn't want to lose him.

She placed the telephone down on top of the small table, connecting it to the outlet against the wall. "This should be secure enough. No one else has access to this room..." she said glancing around. "You have to call Cor."

"I know."

"Look, kid, you did the right thing, so stop beating yourself up and call the old man," she snorted, folding her arms as she leaned against the desk.

Picking up the phone, he put his finger on the first number and twisted it around, dialing the private line Cor had given them. It rung a few times before Cor answered.

"Lionheart," Prompto said into the phone, using the code word they had dictated.

"Hello Prompto," Cor deep tone echoed from the other end of the line.

"Hey Cor, been awhile."

"Glad to hear you're still alive," he chuckled playfully.

"H-Hey! Course I'm still alive! Aranea is here too," he nodded.

"Good. I take it you have news. Good news, I hope." Typical Cor, always getting right down to business.

"Uh, yeah," Prompto began, twiddling with the cord around his finger. "Gladiolus wants to take me to Noctis' place tomorrow. He seems to trust me."

"Oh, he trusts him a lot," Aranea called out.

"Fantastic. What about Ignis?"

Prompto held the phone out to Aranea who took it from him. "Ignis is difficult to crack. Apparently he likes me, but is nervous to get too close to me as he doesn't want a distraction," she scoffed. "Men."

Prompto could hear Cor laugh from the other end of the phone. "Keep it up, both of you," he said. "I'm glad to hear things are progressing. It seems both of them like you and neither of them suspect you."

Prompto took the phone back and shook his head. "No, they don't suspect. Gladio took me to a shooting range and today we went to the docks to pick up a payment. It didn't end so well... I had to kill a man to make sure Gladio didn't die," he whined. "He was surprised I was a good shot, but didn’t question it."

"Good. It's alright Prompto. We fully expect you to have to do some things you normally wouldn't."

"Yeah... I know..." he muttered, stroking his finger over the table.

"Excellent work. You’re moving faster than expected. I'm proud of you," Cor said, and Prompto felt his cheeks heat up. It was so rare Cor said those words! Normally he was scolding him for ruining something or causing property damage... "And I'll be even prouder when you get the location. Promise me you'll pay attention to everything you see, try and get an address if you can. Observe all your surroundings."

"Yes sir!"

"This mission is of the utmost importance, you realize that, yes Prompto?"

"Yes sir!" he repeated.

"With this information, we can begin what I've been striving to do for years," Cor said. "Don't screw it up. I believe in you."

Prompto swallowed. Cor believed in him, and Aranea nodded in agreement. The only problem was, Prompto wasn't sure if he believed in himself.