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Pull The Thread, Unravel The Web

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Noctis Lucis Caelum, Crown Prince of Lucis

 

Noctis closed his locker with a sigh. Prompto still hadn't shown up to school. They didn't share any morning classes, so he wasn't surprised about missing him then, but it was the end of the school day now. Pulling out his phone, now able to connect after the school turned off the spoofer, he pulled up Promptos' number.

 

N : Prom? You OK?

P : I'm fine, sorry for missing school.

N : It's cool I got your work, where are you?

P : The hospital closest to my place.

N : ?!?

 

“Noctis? Is everything alright?” Ignis startled him by asking. He must have walked up while Noctis was distracted with worry. Prompto had landed in the hospital before because of people objecting to the Prince of Lucis being friends with a 'obvious Nif'. He was still grateful Prompto hadn't pulled away after that. Noctis gave him a wild look and pulled Ignis towards the car.

 

“Prompto's in the hospital!”

“What? Why?”

 

They both scrambled into the car but paused when Noctis phone beeped. Ignis fired off a text to Gladio as Noctis read out the first reply.

 

P : I'm Fine! It's not for me...

N : Who is it for then?..one of your parents?

P : No. remember that week a few months ago when you got pulled out of school for that round of meetings?

N : you mean when you where hung over for three days after?

P : Yea it's someone I met then.....I'm gonna be a dad.

 

Noctis stared at his phone, shocked. With a sound like a balloon dying, Noctis thumped his head on the seat in front of him. Ignis had pulled out of the parking lot and started towards the hospital closest to Promptos' house. He handed the phone to Ignis at a stop light.

 

“Well that's..” Ignis was speechless as he handed the phone back. He shook his head and continued driving.

“I know! I didn't expect that. He's the responsible one between the two of us.”

“Did he mention anything about whomever he is with? And why did he get drunk, he's sixteen.”

“Hmm, I think he said he said something about helping a cute girl piss off her family? And it was probably one of those stupid teenager things he can't do while we hang out. He did swear off tequila forever.”

 

He slid out of the car as soon as it stopped in the hospital parking lot, Gladio pulling in on his motorcycle beside them. He usually followed them home on it, something about checking for tails. Pulling on a hoodie he quickly pulled up the hat and put on some sunglasses. One disguise, check.

 

N : We're here what room are you in?

P : 301 Long term care.

N : brt

 

Noctis was concerned now, why is a pregnant girl in long term care? Following Ignis to the front desk he actually had to pull rank, the receptionist had some thing against Ignis' accent. So what if Iggy was from Tenebrae? Gladio glaring had the receptionist scrambling to be more professional and made sure that she wouldn't alert the press. Before they knocked on the door he turned to Ignis.

 

“How hard would it be for you to dig in to the hospital records? Not the patient records, just the ones from the hospital?”

“Not too difficult at all, but why would you want me too?”

“Iggy, she was all smiles until you spoke, and you can be kind of intimidating. She still tried to throw you out, just because your aren't completely Lucian. What if she's doing that to other non-natives?”

A dark look crossed Ignis' face. “I'll look into it.”

 

Knocking on the door got them a soft “Come in”. Quietly, since they didn't know who else was in the room, Ignis opened the door. He followed with Gladio on his heels. Inside Prompto was siting beside the bed of a girl about their age. He gave them a shaky smile and waved them over. She had classic Lucian features with dark hair down to her shoulders and lake blue eyes. And a baby bump, she was at least five months along if it was from Promptos' bender. She looked farther along than that though.

 

“Hey guys, this is Cascade. Cas these are my friends, Noctis, Ignis and Gladio.”

Prompto introduced them and pointed to each of them in turn.

They greeted each other and then her eyes went wide and she turned to Prompto.

“Did you just introduce me to the Prince of Lucis while I'm in a hospital gown?”

“Not on purpose! It's just habit to tell them where I am when they ask. Just pretend they're professional impersonators or something.”

She gave him a look like he had a second head, before turning back to the others.

“It's nice to meet you, Your Highness, and the rest of you as well. Please excuse me for not bowing but I'm not allowed out of bed at the moment.”

Noctis hurried to reassure her.

“No, No it's fine I wouldn't want a pregnant person to bow anyway. Actually maybe you should just pretend I'm a professional impersonator. Call me Noctis.”

 

That got him a laugh. She seemed more at ease as they all sat down. Suddenly her face went green and Prompto shoved the wast basket in front of her and held her hair out of her face. Ignis offered her a glass of water from the pitcher on the night stand, careful not to mess with the medicine drip.

 

“Is severe morning sickness why you are in the hospital Miss... I'm sorry I don't think you told me your last name.”

She finished rinsing her mouth and gave a bitterly calm grin.

“I don't have one Mr. Scientia, my parents disowned me when they learned about the baby. This is after leaving me locked in this hospital for a year without visiting, of course.”

 

Noctis was shocked, that was a thing that really happened? Looking around the hospital room, it did look more lived in than he would expect, with the walls covered in pictures. Some of them where pretty familiar. Was this the instamoogle friend Prompto had mentioned? Wait he recognized that stuffed cactuar, Prom had won it at a festival last month and mailed it to someone. Gladio sat up an offended look on his face.

 

“Your parents haven't visited you in the hospital? For over a year?” She nodded peaceably, seemingly unbothered.

“No need to waste any more time on a disobedient daughter that's going to die anyway. Much better to focus their attention on the good son. As long as the bills are paid I won't call a reporter about it. Think of the scandal.”

Her tranquility was suddenly much more ominous. Prompto apparently liked his women mean.

“Die anyway?” Ignis inquired quietly. She tipped her head to him.

“I was diagnosed with Nagas' Creep three years ago. My parents checked me in to the long term care ward when I lost feeling in my toes. They disowned me three days ago when I told them about the baby and that I'm keeping it. I hit stage four this morning and can no longer move my feet. The doctors gave me an estimated lifespan of one year. If I get rid of the baby. That's why I called Prompto this morning. Stage three can last years, I thought I'd have more time.”

 

She looked down at her hands, laced over her bump. She was still tranquil, but it seemed sad now instead of defiant. Prompto set his hand on her shoulder in support and she looked back up, eyes hard.

 

“I want to have it, but if Prompto can't take care of it, I'm selfish enough to want more time. He says he wants it, so as his friends, will you help us find a way he can? We have to make the decision today.”

“Please guys?” Promptos' voice was level.

 

The three of them stared at her for a minute, then looked at Prompto who looked as determined as he had ever seen him. He also had a mostly hidden look of longing. He knew Prompto wasn't close to his parents and didn't have any siblings. When was the last time Prompto had asked for something? Had he ever asked for something? Decided, he sat forward with a clap of his hands.

 

“I'll help. What needs to be done?”

Ignis and Gladio were quick to chime their agreement. Gladio still looked like he wanted to punch Cascades' parents.

“I'm going to need a job that will let me finish my schooling and has good insurance for dependents. The only thing we came up with was the Crownsguard. I'll need a new place, I wont get any help from my parents.”

The last part was said with a sad and bitter huff.

“Why won't your parents help?” Gladio said confusedly.

“Heh, my parents haven't been home for eight months, big guy. They were home for two days and gone for five months before that. They pay for most of the utilities and the house. I work part time to feed and clothe myself. They never send enough to cover it, they never have.” Prompto scrubbed a hand over his face refusing to meet their eyes. After a beat Ignis determinedly continued the conversation.

“You have to be eighteen to join the Guard, and you're too well known to fake it.” He pulled out his tablet as he spoke.

“Damn, that as all we could think of. Being a hunter doesn't have insurance at all, unless you join up with one of the guilds. Even then they don't take amateurs.”

“We'll find something Prom, If nothing else I'll ask my dad to hire you as a cleaner or something.” Gladio promised.

Prompto grinned back, thankful.

“My brother, Silence, wants to help but he's kind of henpecked and younger than we are. But he would probably baby sit.” Cascade put in.

“What about the Kingsglaive?” Noctis said, suddenly remembering one of his Dad's rants about the councilors. Ignis obviously knew what he meant, as he started typing furiously.

“Aren't they part of the Guard?” Gladio asked.

“No, not really. Dad was complaining that the Council wouldn't let him raise the minimum age, since it was set according to the old laws from when we had a standing army. When dad became King, he changed the Crownsguard age to eighteen from eleven.”

“Eleven?” Cascade squawked.

“Some of my ancestors were assholes. The Marshal, Cor Leonis, was only twelve when he joined up. It's one of the reasons dad raised the age limit. The Kingsglaive was technically re-formed and they used the old template for it, without checking thoroughly enough, so the age limit was still eleven. The council hasn't let him raise it. So officially the age limit is the same as the Crownsguard, but legally it's still eleven.”

“That's nuts.” Prompto said flatly. “But convenient. What do I need to do to sign up?”

Ignis hummed and looked up from his tablet.

“Congratulations, you are now an emancipated minor. Now you don't need parental permission to join the Glaive. The next round of training starts tomorrow, so you need to be at the west entrance of the Citadel tomorrow morning at six. I assumed you would want to join as quickly as possible?”

Prompto blinked, incredulous.

“Uh..yeah thanks Iggy. Did you just hack the citizenship records? And do I need to take anything with me?”

“It's not hacking if you already have access.” Ignis smirked. “And no you shouldn't need anything. The cadet uniforms might be too big, perhaps. I back dated your admission a bit, but they wont have any in your specific size.”

“I can sew a hem, so I'll just take a sewing kit. Will I be able to list Cascade as a dependent?”

“Oh, that's a good idea. Let my former parents wonder.”

“Not unless you marry her or adopt her as a sister.”

“Prompto, will you marry me?” Cascade asked mischievously.

Prompto let out a wheeze of laughter and nodded. There was obviously an inside joke the rest of them where missing.

“Do you want a ceremony or should I just slip something in?” Ignis asked, amused.

Cascade just waved a hand at Ignis, so he went ahead and started typing.

Noctis, suddenly struck with a sense of mischief, stood up and said,

“Everyone deserves a wedding, luckily as Prince of Lucis I can perform one. Especially since Specs is going to hack it into existence anyway. We are gathered here to day to witness the joining of Prompto Argentum and Cascade-”

“Scientia,” Ignis put in, then turned to Cascade. “Welcome to the family, cousin.”

He went back to typing. Cascade stared at him in shock. Noctis however, knew Ignis was serious so continued.

“We are gathered hear to day to witness the joining of Prompto Argentum and Cascade Scientia in holy matrimony. Does anyone object? “

“Am I interrupting something?” A voice came from the door.

A doctor had walked in, but pulled back abruptly when Gladio quickly moved in between him and the rest of them.

“Gladio that's Cascades' doctor, please let him in. Hey Doc, want to be a wedding witness?” Prompto had moved to Gladios' side and put a hand on his arm.

“A wedding? Have you two made a choice then?” He came in nervously, then noticed Noctis.

“Your Highness! I didn't know you were in the building.” He looked even more nervous, so Noctis figured he should calm him down.

“I made sure not to be recognized, Doctor. I'm not here in an official capacity, just to visit a friend. And officiate a wedding.” He added as an afterthought.

The doctor looked politely blank. Cascade broke in.

“I'm keeping it doctor. Prompto is going to take custody when it's born.”

“You're sure?” At her nod he continued. “Very well. You should know it's twins then, does that change your answer?”

Prompto sucked in air so quickly he began coughing and collapsed into the chair, but sat up after a moment.

“No, Doctor it doesn't change my answer. I'm going to do my best.”

“He'll hardly be alone in this Doctor Low, while her parents might be behaving horridly, my uncle and I will be glad to have my cousins stay with us if needed.”

The doctor looked at Cascade, who just smiled serenely, and sighed.

“If you use a wheelchair you can use the rooftop garden.”

 

The five of them, and a few of the other long term patients and hospital staff they picked up along the way, gathered in front of a fountain. Prompto was kneeling in front of Cascades' wheelchair. Noctis had a copy of the cosmology and recited the Melting of the Glacians' Heart. Despite Ifrit turning on humanity it was still considered very romantic, and he was weak to the small child that let him borrow the book. He started the wedding part again.

 

“We are gathered here today to witness the joining of Prompto Argentum and Cascade Scientia in holy matrimony. Should anyone object speak now or forever hold your peace.” After a moment of silence he continued. “Recite your vows.”

“Cascade, we met at a rave and had a wild week that made me think a storm had somehow become a person. We continued talking over text and pictures. We became friends. Then this morning you told me you were in the hospital, and would be for the rest of your life. You had snuck out of the hospital in an act of defiance that is going to lead to the best thing in my life. We won't have long together, and I'm not in romantic love with you. But you are my friend and so I promise that I will raise our children to the best of my ability, and that they will know you and just how much you loved them."

Cascades' smile was still serene no matter the tears shining in her eyes.

“Prompto, I introduced myself to you at that rave because there's something about you that brightens up the room, like sunshine. That week we spent together was one of the best I've ever had. You befriended me despite me never telling you the circumstances of my life, and you never blamed me for hiding my pregnancy. You even helped me let go of the bitterness I felt at my family. You are giving me the best thing I could ever ask for, a legacy. I'm not in love with you either, but our children will live on, and you will raise them to be themselves, and they will know me. Thank you.”

Now Prompto had tears in his eyes, despite the beaming grin. Noctis continued before anyone actually started crying.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

 

Everyone applauded when Prompto leaned forward to press a kiss against her cheek. Noctis wondered what it said about him that he preferred this wedding to the fancy ones he always had to go to. At least no one was going to suggest coating the wedding outfits in gold, he wasn't even sure you could do that with hospital gowns. As the party broke up and he followed Ignis back to the room he sent a text to his dad.

 

N: I officiated a wedding today. Great after school activity. 10/10 would repeat.

D: What? There wasn't any thing on your schedule was there?

N: No, it was impromptu. If any one asks why Prompto got married to the Lizburns daughter smile and avoid the question. They shouldn't know and I don't think anyone had a camera.

Noctis waved at Gladio and ducked into the bathroom connected to the room when his phone went off.

“Hey Dad.”

“Hello Noctis.” Dad sounded amused. “How did your friend marry a comatose girl?”

“Is that the story they're giving at Court?” Noctis kept his voice mild.

“I take it she's not in a coma then?” Dad sighed.

“She just hit stage four of Nagas' Creep. She's been in the long term care ward for over a year, and they've never once visited. Then three days ago she told them she was pregnant and keeping it, so they disowned her. She had to black mail them with the press to make them continue paying her medical bills.”

“....Do you want to come to dinner tonight? It will give me a reason to cancel on the Lizburns.” Dad sounded hopeful, but resigned.

“Sure.” Noctis said with a wet laugh. “I'll bring some take out and we can hide in the Crystal room so your secretary can't interrupt again.”

 

Cascade Argentum nee' Scientia (Lizburn)

 

After Prompto and Ignis (her surprise new cousin) helped her back on to the bed, Prompto settled into the left chair and Ignis settled on the right. Ignis leaned forward to speak with them both. Noctis and Gladio had gotten diverted somewhere.

 

“Prompto, you are going to be confined to the Citadel for the next month. Basic training takes three months, and I will try to make sure that you aren't on a mission when the time comes, but you are going to be very busy soon.”

“I know Iggy, we figured that would happen.” Prompto replied with a sad smile. He nodded.

“You are probably wondering why I adopted you?”

Cascade raised a sardonic eyebrow. “You think?”

Ignis quirked his mouth. “Your parents sound like mine did, but I had an uncle to take me in, you didn't.”

“...Thank you, cousin.” He bowed his head to her and turned to Prompto.

“You still need to pack up your house, you can store your things at my apartment until you find a place.”

Prompto nodded and turned to her, Ignis stepped away to give them privacy then stepped back looking unsure.

“May I visit?”

“Of course, all of you can, I'd be happy for the company.”

He smiled and left them to their goodbyes. They stared at each other for a moment wondering how they got here. She smirked wickedly.

“Get me Nyx Ulric's autograph, and Crowe Altius'.”

“Err, if I can get up the courage to talk to people that pretty....”

 

They share a short semi-hysterical laugh. Everything had happened so fast. She had thought marriage was one of the things forever beyond her. The wedding was absurd, she loved it. After they quit laughing she reached for his hand, he grasped hers so she wouldn't have to fumble.

 

“Are you scared, Prompto? You volunteered to go to war, just to keep them.” She asked in a murmur.

“No. Not of going to war anyway.” He answered just as softly. “I fear not being there for them, like my parents or being a bad parent like yours. But then I think about not having them, now that I know they're possible, and it's like something trying to rip my heart out. If I have to walk into hell just to keep them I will, if I falter during training or a mission, I'll just have to remember why I'm doing it.”

 

He had steel-bright determination in his eyes, and she remembered his passing talk of losing weight just to make a friend, of helping a dog when he didn't really know how to take care of himself, and she knew he wouldn't give up. Ever. It put her final fears to rest. She would have these children and she would be remembered.

 

“Go on then, show them what you're made of.”

 

With one last press of a kiss to her forehead, and a round of hugs she wished she could feel, they were gone. It was a bit of a relief, funnily enough. She wasn't used to so much social interaction, not anymore. From social butterfly to recluse. Having an anxiety attack when you get back from a wild week, that you snuck out to have before you lost feeling completely, sucked. Although apparently marrying Prompto got her adopted by the other three, since at least one of them came every day, especially during the lockdown month. And when they couldn't they texted her all day and Gladio even introduced her to his sister, who occasionally came without one of the others.

 

“You'll have to make sure they don't go overboard, Miss Iris, your brother seems like he'd be bit of a pushover.”

“He really is!” Iris said with glee.

“Hey.” Gladio protested, but didn't argue.

 

Ignis came most often, keeping her updated on Prompto during his month of lockdown. The first time he came made her cry. Why was Prompto so sweet? She was trying not to fall in love with him. Her heart was already breaking enough.

 

“While we where packing up his things, he asked me to give you this.” Ignis said, pulling out a video camera. “He said that with you wanting to leave a legacy, you might want to record some videos for the children. This will take higher quality videos than a cell phone would.”

 

She touched the camera with a trembling hand. One of her main regrets was that she would never be able to sing her children to sleep, or read them a story. With this she could. She could explain her reasoning, tell them she loved them even before she knew she would never know them. She burst into tears, bitterly regretting that she couldn't feel it. Ignis panicked a bit before she told him why she was crying. His panicked face made her laugh and stop crying. Wow, pregnancy hormones were weird. Luckily the next few visits where less emotionally volatile.

 

“I will admit to underestimating him, I had no doubt he would pass, but I never thought he would do so well. He'd learned a few self defense moves from Gladio, but ranged fighting seems to be his forté. They won't start on magic until the first month of basic training is over of course, but he has already beat the firearm scores of the entire Guard and Glaive. He was put up for sniper training and accepted for the pay hike.”

“I knew he had good aim after...wait that might have been illegal never mind. How much do Glaives make anyway? It's got to be pretty high, I know Crownsguard get hazard pay if they hit combat, and the Kingsglaive was made for it.”

Ignis blinked, “I'm not sure actually, let me check,” and pulled his tablet out of the Armiger. After typing for a few minutes he frowned.

“That can't be right, I will need to look at the physical records.”

 

This lead to a very strange text conversation with Noctis, who she wasn't sure if she got along with or not. Considering her main hobby was watching political debates like it was a chocobo race and his tendency to ignore politics despite being over-educated on them, they had a lot of debates on them. He possibly blamed her for him taking an interest in the refugee situation, because of the receptionist. Or maybe he just wanted to be more responsible now that his best friend was having to.

 

UN : How exactly did you find a conspiracy form your hospital bed?

C : Who is this?

UN : Noctis, sorry. Don't spread my number around please?

She fiddled with her phone for a minute, glaring at her fingers until they worked. Talk to text was so much easier.

C : I wont. What conspiracy did I find?

N : The Glaive was getting paid like a quarter of what they should have been. And there is some assholes on the council that'd been blocking petitions.

C : ...I just wanted to know how much my husband was going to make?!

N : yeah we aren't mentioning that, just an anonymous source. No need to have people think Prom is making it on favors.

C : have fun cleaning the castle?

N : thanks

 

She got along best with Gladio though. They had similar interests in historical politics and books. He was kind enough to read to her on days when she couldn't force her self to move. It made her wistful, what would her life have been like if her parents cared about anything besides their reputation? Would her little brother read to her, despite preferring comic books?

 

“Why are you doing this? Is it just for Prompto?” She broke in once, while he was reading a passage out of one of her favorite books. He gave a considering look, which she appreciated, she liked honesty.

“A little bit. But we care about you too. We just met you, but you are going to leave a major impact on our lives. Prompto's our brother, we aren't going anywhere. I can't do much to help him, but I can be here for you, to learn about you enough to have something to tell your children when they're old enough to ask.”

She blinked wetly with a trembling smile. “What are you going to tell them?”

“That their mother was a storm in human form, and at the end of her life she was the hush after the storm, when the only thing you can do is look at the path of destruction. The ringing, ominous stillness before you find out how your life has changed. Your children are going to be forces of nature, and whatever you said inspired Noctis to take up all his duties as Crown Prince. You might be frail in body, but you've caused more change in a few short weeks than anyone I've ever known.”

 

She was speechless. She knew she had asked a few questions that Noctis had been frustrated to not have answers for, but the Crown duties thing was new. Was Gladio trying to make her cry? Because she was crying.

 “Don't let anyone take advantage or your poet's heart Gladio, find someone who loves you. You're too sweet to be real.”

 

Ha, she made him blush. The most bittersweet visit was about three weeks into knowing them, when Noctis came by with a different guard than Gladio. He brought her brother. It was sweet to be able to see her brother, but bitter to know that he was only able to visit because her parents had been arrested for treason. Noctis explained after her brother cried himself to sleep. Oh how she wished she could feel his hug.

 

“Your parents were part of a ring of high ranking nobles who were bribing strategically placed people in order to suppress refugees. Including the receptionist here. Iggy was already digging into her background on my behalf and managed to trace a series of phone calls that led to the crime ring.”

“Who's going to take care of my brother? I can't put that on Prompto, too. Will they let him visit?”

“Silence can come visit whenever he wants now. Lord Scientia agreed to foster him, but I wanted to be the one to tell you.”

“Thank you. Thank him for me as well please. How did you get a warrant?”

“I asked Dad for one.”

She stared at him for a second, then had to fight off giggles so she wouldn't wake Silence.

“You asked the King for a warrant randomly, and he just gave you one?”

“Well I had to explain why I needed it, but yes. I think he's still a bit weirded out by me stepping up to my responsibility's.”

“Why did you do that any way?”

Noctis finally sat down and checked that Silence was still asleep.

“Some of this is a secret.”

“I promise to take your secrets to my grave.” She said with a Cheshire grin. Noctis quickly looked covered his mouth sorry for his laugh. She just waved off his apology, she had said it on purpose.

“Morbid much? But that's part of it, too. It isn't known outside of a few but the Wall and the Glaives magic, well Lucis Caelum magic in general, damages the Royal powering it. I've known my whole life that the Wall was killing my father in front of me and I didn't react well when he started wearing a knee brace and using a cane. I even moved out of the Citadel. But seeing you accept death so gracefully made me ashamed. I had dinner with my father for the first time in months the night I met you, and it was painful to see how grateful he was for me to just speak to him. And I was sitting there wondering how I could spend more time with him when I thought of what Prompto, my best friend who is practically my brother, was doing. Stepping up and taking responsibility, even going to war, just to have a chance at a family. So I stepped up, I will do as much as I can for my dad, maybe he'll last longer if I do.”

After moment he said “Sorry for spilling that all over you.” He looked a bit embarrassed, so she flopped her hand at him until he took it.

“I asked, Your Highness. If I wasn't willing to listen, I wouldn't have. But you know there is nothing wrong with remaining a child for a little longer, right?”

“I know. But I'm stubborn, and public school isn't really worth it without Prompto there. They actually had the gall to ask if I had finally had 'that dirty Nif' arrested. I don't think they believed me when I told them he joined the Glaive, and I didn't mention you.”

“I wouldn't have cared but it might have made trouble for Prompto. It's sweet that you want to look out for him. You know, I've heard grand babies make most good parents happy.”

Oh look, the Prince turned into a tomato. Wasn't it meant to be a pumpkin?

 

Cor Leonis, Marshal of the Crownsguard

 

Fuck this month, they're two weeks into it and it's already gone weird. Noctis moved back into the Citadel and took up the rest of his duties beyond Public Relations and then somehow Ignis found evidence of illegal wage garnishing in the Kingsglaive. The Crownsguard had to run an independent investigation because Ignis got it semi-illegally, and because of the political nature of it Cor was the one running it. Which means he has to talk to Titus about the mostly feral coeurls he calls Glaives. Or else they'll probably lie during the interviews he has to do. At least he can get two things done at once.

 

“What am I looking for, Cor?” Noctis asked beside him as they watched the Glaive cadets do their stretches.

 

Cor glanced at him, watching how he took everything in, still wondering what had lit a fire under him. He was acting very out of character by throwing himself into Court life, and throwing himself into training was even stranger. Regis seemed cautiously grateful, but gave Noctis strange looks when it was just them. It seemed to be a mix of pride and wistfulness.

 

“Since this is your first time inspecting the troops just watch everything so you can review it with your father later. You need to look for how well they work together and how dedicated to this they are. Talent helps, but hard work goes farther.”

 

Noctis nodded and greeted Titus when he walked up to them. They where in an observation booth with one way glass overlooking the training ground. As they settled in, Cor handed Titus the file he had with him.

 

“What's this?”

“I need you to talk to your Glaives so they'll talk to me.”

“That doesn't tell me what it is,” Titus sighed.

“It's evidence of treason, Captain. Someone has been illegally stealing money from the Kingsglaive and making sure that it didn't come to the Kings attention. Which is also treason.” Noctis' voice was as level as a sword and Cor was close enough to feel a shiver of magic.

“How do you know that?” Cor asked with a frown.

“Iggy brought it to me, I took it to dad.” Cor nodded and Titus eyed them both and set to reading the file.

 

Cor watched the cadets get assigned teams for the obstacle course that had been set up and listened to Titus bitch under his breath. It was always hilarious when he denied how attached to the Glaives he was and would then turn around and get pissed on their behalf.

 

“Is that Argentum?” Cor noticed suddenly. Titus looked up.

“That's his name if you mean the scrawny blond kid. How do you know him?”

“Cor did the background check when we became friends.” Noctis said cheerfully.

“He's not old enough for the Glaive.”

“What?” Titus said flatly.

“He's not old enough for the Guard, no. The Glaive runs on the old laws legally.” Noctis glanced at Cor and continued. “Dad knows he's here.”

“How old is the kid then? And what old laws?” Titus asked.

“Sixteen. And the Kingsglaive was reformed after the Pious shut it down and they never changed the age limit when they brought it back. Technically they only have to be eleven to join up, practically you should probably reject anyone under sixteen.”

“That's not the point, Noctis. Why did he suddenly join up? He knows that the Glaive is the main fighting force, right?”

“What ever the reason is, it's effective. He's already pulling to the head of the class.”

“Prompto's really good at giving himself a goal and getting there. He has a very good reason, this time. He knows exactly what he signed up for, Cor.”

“But why? And is it the same reason you've suddenly moved back in?”

Noctis turned to face them more fully, but kept an eye on the cadets. Prompto had already gone and so far his team was in the lead.

“Don't spread this around, either of you.” Cor was surprised, Noctis was serious. They both agreed and Noctis continued.

“His wife is pregnant. He needs the insurance and the child care options.” Without explaining anything else he turned back to the training room.

 

Cor and Titus gave each other an incredulous look, but Noctis was obviously not going to answer any more questions. Titus went back to the file with a shake of his head, and Cor settled in to asses the cadets. Noctis was doing it officially but until he learned what he was meant to watch for someone had to shadow him. Later that night, after he was done reporting his findings to Regis, he brought it up.

 

“Did you really give Argentum permission to join the Glaive?” Regis looked like he didn't know weather to be proud or exasperated.

“Noctis told me about it after Ignis had already added him to the lists. Legally I can't stop him, and I agreed with the reasoning behind it so..”

“Is he even old enough to get married without parental permission?”

“As an emancipated minor, yes. It surprised me too, I'm not sure where Noctis' new interest in politics came from, though. And I do wonder what they're teaching in school these days. He asked me the other day if outside of Insomnia they really used a different currency! He didn't know what a gil was!”

“Who didn't?” Clarus said as he came in the office with an armful of files.

“Noctis!” Regis exclaimed.

“What, why? Didn't he pass economics?”

“Yes, but get this, Gladio and Ignis didn't know what it was either.”

“What?”

“I know. Do we have anyone trustworthy to review educational standards? Dendra is obviously not doing her job.”

“Maybe we should start there, then. My investigation has some hints about something else, so lets start at the top of our problems. I'll open a quiet investigation on Dendra in the morning and see what skeletons are hiding in her closet.”

“No, open a quiet investigation on all the councilors. Then work your way down the Government staff.”

 

They both turned to Clarus when he said that. He had an expression on his face they hadn't seen since that road trip from hell and Regis was cornered by MTs. Clarus pulled out a couple stacks of paper and handed them one each. It seemed to be a lease agreement. A blatantly illegal lease agreement.

 

“What the fuck?” Regis asked bluntly.

“They're all like that. If they're obviously non-natives the price is jacked up, and the living conditions are horrible. The lease Cor's holding is for a condemned building, for fucks' sake” Clarus ranted with his head on the table. He was only understandable because he was almost shouting. Regis tossed the papers on his desk and put his head in his hands. Cor kept reading through the lease, getting more and more pissed as he went.

 

“How the hell did we miss this?” Regis sounded like he was going to cry.

Cor sighed, “Mors probably. He was a good man but not a good king. This has probably been going on since the wall started shrinking and Insomnia started taking in refugees.”

“That doesn't make it better Cor, it's still my family's responsibility. I've been sending people out to die and not even making sure they get paid for it.”

“Then give it to Noctis.”

“What?” Both Regis and Clarus looked at him like he was speaking in tongues.

“Both of you are going to be busy and if you start canceling too many council sessions they might think something is up. But they will definitely underestimate Noctis, Ignis and Gladio, even if I'm assisting. It wouldn't even be weird for you to assign me as his shadow while he learns his duties, they might even thank you for giving me a reason to miss the meetings.”

“And it's a punishment for going behind my back to help Argentum join the Glaive. Still attached to the little boy you brought home?”

“Shut up, Regis. We obviously did a shit job of picking foster parents if he has to go to war to support his family at sixteen.”

Regis smiled sadly. “I know we did, Cor. You should tell him. Noctis will probably drag him into his retinue unofficially until he's eighteen when he can join it officially. So you'll be working in close proximity to him. Take the chance get to know him now.”

 

Cor looked away, still regretting letting that little piece of sunshine go. It would never have worked, he was out of Insomnia more than he was in it those next few years, but it didn't stop him from thinking, what if.

 

“To be the sensible one, someone should tell him about the clone thing. If someone finds the tattoo while he's in the field and he doesn't have an explanation.....”

“Alright Clarus. I'll tell Titus in the morning and tell Argentum after he gets done with basic training.”

 

Ignis Scientia, Adviser to the Prince

 

Ignis was having the time of his life, and he was never going to tell anyone. The investigations they were doing were something he could see himself doing in another life, if they were different people. He was a little guilty about having so much fun finding all the ways Insomnia had failed the people it was sworn to protect. And they had failed massively. The investigation into the wage garnishment had gotten tangled in one of Ignis' private investigations, and the receptionist at the hospital was just one knot in the thread.

 

Following that line of questioning and arresting the Lizburns for treason, among other things, was extremely satisfying. Even if they hadn't found the ringleader yet. He might be projecting, but the whole situation brought up memories of cold empty hallways and impossible expectations. Cascade was as graceful and dignified a person he had ever met, and Silence was a sweet child. He did not regret asking his uncle to step in. Even if it had earned him an embarrassing lecture about appropriate notification of new family members. He was torn between wanting to watch two forces of nature meet and running away to Accordo. He should probably tell Prompto that his uncle had decided that Prompto had married into the family. Perhaps after lockdown ended.

 

He, Noctis, Gladio and the Marshal where sitting in Noctis' new office, formerly belonging to King Mors, sorting out which investigations needed to be done first. He himself had claimed the secretary's desk. Noctis was going over his new duties and peppering Cor for answers to the strangest questions. Why did he want to learn the national languages when everyone used the trade tongue? Noctis had never had an interest in languages before. He was pulling up Councilor Dendra's bank records and listening to Noctis and Gladio bicker over a budget proposal from one of the agriculturists when he thought of something.

 

Turning to the rest of them, he raised his voice just enough.“Marshal, are we able to recruit more people to help us? If we run these investigations one at a time, someone is going to notice what we are doing. We need to do them simultaneously enough so that if someone jumps and warns someone else we would know. I'm good, but I can't hack all their computers at once.”

“Specs has a point, Cor. Not to mention we can't be sure what resources the people we're gonna be pissing off are hiding. The four of us can't always be on guard, and since the people we're investigating already have access to the Citadel...”

“How are we going to keep it quiet though? The more people who know about it means more chances for a leak, even by accident.” Gladio pointed out.

 

They all three turned to Cor who seemed to be deep in thought. He pulled out his phone and sent a few texts before glaring at his phone and putting it down.

 

“First, Ignis, Gladio just use my name. Second, you're right about the timing. However, the only way I know of to keep the secret is a magical geas. Only the person who grants the magic to the Guard or Glaive can lay the geas, so Noctis will have to recruit people. Do any of you know of a way for him to, without the press causing a fuss?”

“Don't you know one?” Noctis frowned.

“Yes, but this is technically on the job training.” Cor smirked.

“Rude.”

 

They all thought about it for a moment before Gladio sat forward on the armchair he was in.

 

“Prompto. Or, well the cadet class. The Crownsguard class is a week behind them, too. They haven't been given His Majesty's magic yet, have they?”

“They haven't yet, no, that happens at the end of the lockdown period, so they can have familiar surroundings as their body adapts to the magic. It causes less mishaps if they can stay calm. Now, does anyone have a publicly acceptable reason for Noctis to do it? The ceremony is public, remember, so the press will ask.”

Noctis winced, but replied before anyone else could.

“It's a security measure. If Dad dies everyone loses their magic and we have a half hour window to get the Ring to me to hold the Wall. Obviously, we need to have at least some people to protect the civilians if he dies because of an attack.”

Cor nodded shortly, obviously uncomfortable thinking of the death of two of his closest friends. If the King died, the Shield died.

“The press will ask: why now?”

Ignis had anticipated this question.

“Prompto again. Noctis and the King had intended to do this when His Highness turned seventeen, but with his best friend joining up, the King gave Noctis permission to start now. Prompto is known to the press after that time he ended up in the hospital because of Insomnia First, so they will recognize him.”

“Has anyone prepared Argentum for that?” Cor asked dryly.

 

The three of them looked at each other sheepishly. No they hadn't, everything had happened so quickly, like dominoes falling.

 

“I didn't think so. I'll speak with him, the three of you can't interact with the cadets before lockdown is over, and I assume you don't want rumors of favoritism following Argentum."

“Thanks Cor,” Noctis said with an amused huff. Ignis was distracted by his phone beeping.

 

C: I was wrong about you. You aren't a criminal mastermind. You're an apprentice criminal mastermind.

I : I take it you met my uncle. Why did you think I'm a criminal mastermind?

C : Yes. I like him. And Ignis, ten minutes after I met you you hacked into three government databases. And don't tell me it wasn't illegal, you aren't Hand of the King yet.

I : Well the King didn't object after the fact, so it is retroactively legal.

C : That's cheating. :)

 

“Do I seem like a criminal mastermind to you?” Ignis asked the room.

“Yes.” Cor, Noctis and Gladio chorused firmly.

 

Prompto Argentum, Kingsglaive cadet

 

Promptos' head was swimming, but he was holding his composure as tight as he could. His hands were sweaty and his heart was racing. He had never thought he would be here, or get this far. When he had got the call from Cascade he had been confused, but willing to ditch school for the day. Finding out one of his friends was terminally ill had been a blow, but then she told him about the baby and the world had dropped away. Hospitals are terrible places to have a panic attack, they're like the opposite of calming. Thankfully Cas hadn't held it against him.

 

He was so grateful for his friends, he had no idea what he would have done if they decided not to help. Besides cry. The Kingsglaive had been a surprise, he'd had vague plans for the Crownsguard, to try to stay close to Noctis when high school was over. He had been pretty bad at the self defense moves Gladio had taught him, but one of the trainers had pulled him, and some of the other cadets on the smaller size, aside and shown them a different style. It used momentum and the attackers own strength against them. He couldn't wait to try it on Gladio, who he knew he would ask for a spar.

 

The most surprising part had been being good at something, though. He had nearly fallen over when the Sergeant had bluntly informed him that he had beat the entire Guard and Glaive in firearms. He had never been the best at something before.

The second most surprising part was how fun it was. The obstacle courses where like parkour on speed and he was good at working with others. He wasn't dumb enough to think it would always be fun, especially when missions started, but the training was. Even his camera skills were appreciated, apparently sometimes you don't want to remove the files you're after so the enemy doesn't know what you know. He should probably tell someone that you get better pictures on a phone than the crap cameras they use.

 

The hardest part had actually been the separation from his friends, and his worry about Cascade, of course. He had seemingly made a good impression on the cadets that hadn't washed out, though. He was cautiously hopeful about making some new friends, but he still remembered how that asshole from Insomnia First had befriended him just to lure him to his death. If they had dumped his beaten body anywhere besides the Niflheim refugee sector, he didn't think he'd be alive. He might need therapy, or he might be appropriately paranoid, he'll find out.

 

He wasn't sure about the sniper training, but he would go through with it. He didn't ever want his kids to go through what he had. Always wondering if you would have enough money to feed yourself, and never knowing when it would finally stop coming. He didn't want to admit to anyone that the only reason he had gone to that rave was a combination of loneliness and giving up on his parents. He hoped he could make a better life the twins. The sabotage training at least looked fun, and he was looking forward to using magic. Was he going to end up as Noctis' personal assassin?

 

At least he finally had an answer about why the Argentums took him in if they didn't want him, and about where the bar-code came from. They had been ordered to, to watch him for threats. He was a clone of some imperial scientist. He had been born to be a weapon, an MT. Every time he fought one in the future he was going to know that that could have been him. He looked up at Marshal Leonis who had called him into a conference room and told him a story about rescuing a bar-coded baby from a imperial base. He didn't need to point out the obvious.

 

“Thank you.”

The Marshal looked surprised. He could understand why, if he was expecting a freak out.

“You seem unusually accepting of this,” He said with a frown.

Prompto smiled slightly.

“If you had told me this a month ago, I would be panicking. But now, it doesn't matter. I'm going to be a father in a few short months, it doesn't matter where I'm from, just where I'm going. And that is towards a better future for my children.”

The Marshal quirked his lips in an almost there smile, but just as quickly frowned. “Children? How many do you have?”

“My wife is pregnant with twins, Marshal.”

“Ah. Congratulations. Do you have any questions?”

“Who am I a clone of? And what do I tell anyone who sees the tattoo? Should I tell Noctis - I mean His Highness?”

 

Prompto was worried about that, he didn't think he could pass it off as more teenage stupidity. Not that anyone in the cadet program knew about Cas. The Marshal handed him a packet of papers. Looking through them, he paled when he saw the Kings' signature.

“Keep these on you at all times, in your Armiger when you learn to use it. Captain Drautos knows about it, he won,t hold it against you and he offered to listen if you need to talk. You can tell the boys, they won.t hold it against you either, but the official story if anyone questions your adoption is that your birth mother was a defector who died in childbirth.”

“That's a terrible story and will explain why I don't want to talk about it. That's kind of the Captain, but why?”

“He was a POW for a bit when he was around your age. The rest is classified, don't mention the POW bit either.”

“Yes sir. So who am I a clone of?” Prompto persisted, surprised by his own daring.

“Why do you want to know? To confront him?” He asked blandly.

“So I know who to kill if I see him, of course.”

“What?!” The Marshals eyes widened a bit and he sounded like he barely refrained from yelling.

“Well he's obviously got an interest in biology if he's making clones, what if he finds out about me and then my kids?” Prompto pointed out.

The Marshal pinched his nose and muttered something he didn't catch and looked back up at him. “Versteal Besithia is a high priority target anyway, Argentum. He's the head of Imperial Research. Don't get caught up on it, okay? Just focus on your kids.”

Prompto shrugged, “The best revenge is living well.”

The Marshal rolled his eyes. “Moving on. Noctis is going to be the one to give your class magic instead of the King. You'll be read into why during the third month of training when you start training missions. You are known to be friends with the Prince and that's the excuse we are using for why Noctis is doing it. Are you prepared to answer questions when they identify you?”

“Oh shit, um what do I say?” Prompto yanked his panicky thoughts back in line.

“Beyond the basics? Just say no comment if you don't want to answer the question. You were given a pamphlet on what not to talk about right?”

“Yes sir.”

 

That advice was very handy, the press practically fell over itself to get a scoop on Noctis, since his press appearances were rare. Noct seemed strangely at ease, or at least good at faking it. Was it connected to the mystery assignment the Marshal had mentioned? A reporter did single him out after the ceremony was over, unfortunately. He didn't want to talk to the paparazzi when it felt like his blood had been replaced with soda fizz. Especially the jerk who broke into his hospital room to try to get an interview.

 

“Prompto Argentum! Long time no see!” Really asshole?

“That would be because of the restraining order, Mr Hahn.” He said flatly. Hahn's' face fell for second before that creepy plastic smile was back.

“That ran out last week, Mr Argentum. Lets let bygones be bygones. Tell me, why did you drop out of school to join the Kingsglaive?”

“I didn't, the Kingsglaive has a very comprehensive continued education program.” Prompto was going to do his best impression of the Captains 'you dumb-ass' face. It was already making the sleaze uncomfortable.

“Right. But why did you join up so young? Did the Prince ask you to?”

“My wife is pregnant. The Kingsglaive has the best childcare options in the world.” The faces Hahn was making at his very noncommittal answers where hilarious.

“Wife? Who did you marry at such a young age?” Hahn's grin was shark like, but it faltered as Prompto stared at him silently, unable to do anything over the roaring in his ears. Before Prompto could do anything stupid Luche Lazarus appeared beside him.

“Sir, the press is gathering in the courtyard for Prince Noctis' speech, move along.” Prompto watched him leave with a slow blink, the fizz in his blood subsiding the further away he got.

“Please tell me you aren't one of the ones that goes murderous with magic, we're supposed to be able to filter those out by now.”

Prompto jerked around to stare at Lazarus incredulously. “That was a risk?”

“Not anymore, it shouldn't be.” Prompto fell in to step with Lazarus when he gestured for him to follow.

Lazarus asked about it after they had gotten to the non public areas, “What was that about anyway?”

“I wasn't able to renew my restraining order under lockdown.” Prompto stated flatly.

“...Right you're the kid Insomnia First attacked. But you looked fine for the first part, I only came over when you looked like you where going to go for his throat.”

“I think my magic was reacting to my emotions? It feels fizzy, and when I got mad it practically roared.”

“Well it's a good thing you're being shipped out for saboteur training tonight then. The compartmentalization techniques will help with control.”

Prompto lurched to a stop then hurried to catch up.

“Sir? How long until I ship out? I thought we got two days leave before assignment.”

“They're tossing you in with the Crownsguard class for saboteur training so we can slot you in for sniper training quicker. Your ride leaves in an hour.”

“Shit, that's not enough time.”

“Time for what?”

“To visit my wife, I told her when lockdown ends so she's expecting me.”

“You're married? Never mind, lockdown is over, you can call her in your free time so long as you don't reveal your position. Get going.”

“Yes sir!”

 

Holy crap, Cas was going to kill him.