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Ignis had never imagined he would step foot in Altissia again. The city brought back too many painful memories, and conjured too many ghosts of the past. Nearly a year since the warring Astrals had brought the very foundations to their knees. Yet to him it still seemed only yesterday. So much had changed, but the long nights merely strengthened his resolve to return things to the way they existed in his dreams. To keep his promise and bring Noctis home.

The sea air served as a stark reminder to the promises he’d made back then. Fitting, in a way, that Ravus should ask to meet him here, now. Altissia was where they had both lost much, and in the process gained something as well - an unlikely alliance against the encroaching dark. With Lucis and Tenebrae reunited, Ignis held hope that Dawn would eventually rise again, and for that he was very much in Ravus’ debt.  

Which was perhaps why, despite the endless work still to be done back on the continent, he had agreed to answer the summons out to sea. A handful of Glaives had accompanied him, but he’d put Prompto and Gladio in charge of the next few expeditions in his stead. If all went smoothly, yet another of the Royal Tombs would be uncovered by the time he returned. If it didn’t… well . That was a worry for after his trip.

Lights at the harbor helped to guide their ship safely into port. Guards - Tenebraen, judging from the gold and violet inlay on their uniforms - took their bags, and escorted them through the construction zones to the only building that seemed to have been yet fully restored: the Leville hotel.

“Commander Nox Fleuret will greet you inside,” said the captain leading the group. “His quarters are in the suite on the fourth floor.”

“‘Commander’?” Ignis repeated, unable to mask a smirk. “Still clinging to his titles, I see. Some things never change.”

The woman shrugged, and handed over his personal bag even as she gestured to the front doors. “Afraid the elevator is still out of operation. The Commander said you wouldn’t mind.”

Ah, well. At least Ravus knew how to keep him on his toes. Ignis accepted his things and dismissed the Glaives in his company to their own tasks for the night. He expected no trouble here, for despite the gloomy darkness overhead that had persisted since leaving Caem, Altissia was already proving to be an oasis of its own. Power hummed through this part of the city, and the Leville seemed as brightly lit as it had that last time Ignis had visited. The only demons, then, would be the ones of memory.

Ravus’ door was open when he reached the fourth floor landing. A polite knock, out of decorum, before Ignis drew it shut behind himself. The front room - once a lounge for elite guests to the Accordan city - had been converted into a makeshift office and apparent command center. There were tactical maps, blueprints rolled out across desks crammed together, and a mass of weapons stored along the walls. Not unlike their operations base in Lestallum, Ignis thought, if somehow a little higher class. The Nox Fleuret flair was persistent, indeed.

“Ah. Scientia.” Speak of the devil. Ignis frowned as Ravus entered from a side room, dressed in a subdued grey suit over an ivory-white eyelet. His left arm, though still armored, seemed less imposing carrying twin glasses of red wine. “So you got my letter, after all.”

“Yes. It was impossible to miss, smelling of sylleblossoms and sealed in gold wax.”

Sharp eyes, one brown, one violet, flashed with amusement as Ravus handed Ignis a drink. “Would you have had me seal it with glue? This is a time of war, Scientia, not of destitution .”

“There’s such a thing now as text messages, Ravus.”

“I believe you’d have to give me your number, first.”

A moment of pause between them. Ignis’ mouth twitched at the corners, while Ravus struggled to keep his eyebrows drawn together in his usual scowl. Neither could last long. Laughter bubbled up from both of them at once, and in the process the tension drained visibly from the entire room.

“It’s good to see you again,” Ignis smiled, shoulders relaxing. He held up his glass, pleased with the clink of Ravus’ against it a moment later. “Although I must admit, I’m curious as to why you’ve asked me here in person. I should think a letter - or even an email - would have sufficed.”

“Typical,” came the response, though the tone was more humor than venom. “Surely you know what tonight signifies, Scientia?”

“I have a feeling you’re going to tell me anyway.”

“Of course I am. We’re celebrating an anniversary, of sorts,” Ravus answered matter-of-factly. “One year since this city bore witness to the greatest battle waged in over a millenia. And on that day, though much was lost, I finally became part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to thank you in person for all that you’ve given me.”

Ignis couldn’t mask the surprise he felt in that moment. Whatever he’d been expecting stepping into Ravus’ office, it certainly wasn’t such candor. For the proud son of the Nox Fleuret line to bow his head, even in a simple thank you, spoke volumes about how much some things had changed after all.

“Come with me to the balcony. I’ve something to show you.”

Aside from the obvious tactical benefits of using the Leville suite as the operation’s command base, it also held a stunning view of the city itself. Lights were strung intermittently through the streets, and rubble still waited to be cleared in the farthest neighborhoods, but the sight was breathtaking nonetheless. Ignis followed his host past a small table (set, he noticed, with a fresh bottle of wine chilling on ice) to the railing, where the salt on the night air brought the scene to completion.

“Even after everything that’s happened, Altissia has not quite lost its charm.”

Beside him, Ravus swirled his wine before taking a slow sip. “It will always be the gem of Accordo. One day, when the light returns, this city will shine once again. I promise you that.”

“Ravus.”

“And once we’ve restored Altissia, I plan to return to Tenebrae and rebuild my family’s land, as well.” Though his eyes were cast out at the city before them, Ignis felt Ravus’ words were secret, private, just for him. “It’s what my sister would want.”

Ah. A pang of guilt in Ignis’ chest, cold despite the tropical sea air. The subject of Lunafreya was one he’d not intended to bring up on this trip. After all, while losing Noct to the Crystal had haunted his own nightmares these past long months, he was certain that time would return his prince - his king - to him again. But Ravus wouldn’t be so lucky; his sister’s death was a finality he could never erase.

“...Luna would be proud of you,” Ignis tested after a moment had passed in silence. “She would be proud to see the man you’ve become.”

“Thank you, Ignis.” Another sip of wine, and another, until Ravus had drained his glass entirely. “Would that I had met you sooner, perhaps I might have found the same passion to protect the ones I loved before it was too late.”

He smiled then, and turned to face him before Ignis could manage a reply. “More wine? We are celebrating, after all.”

The cork popped. They traded the railing for the chairs set to either side of the table, and laughed and chatted together as if the world weren’t going to ruin and they were just two friends, catching up after a long holiday. The bottle disappeared quickly, glass after glass going down smooth as words flowed even smoother, until the stiff-lipped ‘commander’ was hardly recognizable with a broad smile plastered to his face.

“A toast!” he announced, switching from his empty glass to the bottle itself. “To your Noctis, and my Lunafreya! I’ll start. Er , ‘Roses are red, violets are blue….’”

“Never lose sight of who’s important to you,” Ignis finished gracefully. Across from him, Ravus’ face seemed to soften, and he nodded his head in clear appreciation.

“Indeed. Very well said.”

“Even inebriated I suppose we both have a certain respect for poetry. Cheers.” The rim of his glass tapped the side of the wine bottle. He half expected Ravus to tip the thing up right there, drain the last of its contents and garble something about calling room service for more. Yet he was amused when the bottle was set back in the center of the table and Ravus pushed himself to his feet instead.

“I’ll have you know, sir , that I’m not nearly as inebriated as you might think.”

Smiling, Ignis decided to play along. “Is that so?”

“No. Er, yes.” He brushed several strands of platinum hair from his face, and in that brief moment revealed a side of himself that few others had ever witnessed. A vulnerable side. “What I mean is, all of us could stand to ‘loosen up’ now and again, especially in pleasant company. Don’t you agree?”

Ignoring the fact that Ravus was slurring his ‘s’s and ‘p’s (which was difficult given how ridiculous that entire speech had sounded) Ignis did actually agree with the sentiment. So as much in solidarity as in the interest of keeping things interesting, he swallowed back the last of his wine and rose to his feet as well. “Pleasant company? Careful, Commander. That sounds suspiciously like a compliment.”

“It was.” A slow shrug. “I find you pleasant.”

“...And I you.”

“Good.”

“Yes, good.”

“Indeed.”

Ravus stood there for a long moment, poised with his metal left hand still grasping the back of his chair for balance. Looking, Ignis thought, like he couldn’t decide whether to exit stage right or stay and polish off that bottle of wine after all. As it was, he took a wobbling step forward, eyes fixed and mouth open as if he were about to utter something profound.

Instead, he said: “...I think...I’d like to go to bed now.”

The more sober of the two, Ignis took it upon himself to see Ravus back into his room. Like the rest of his living quarters, his bed was in one of the partitioned sections of the hotel suite; but not, surprisingly, the most elaborate one. He’d chosen a simple room for himself, small and sparsely decorated, a far cry from the palace chambers of Tenebrae in which he’d been raised.

But the choice signified a change within Ravus that Ignis was finally, truly beginning to see. The ambitious, arrogant man of the past still lingered there, of course, and no doubt always would. But his pride had been tempered by the war - by losing his arm, and losing his sister - to reveal a sense of humility underneath. Self-reflection borne of great pain. Ignis thought perhaps he could understand that better than anyone.

“Here we are,” he announced as he helped Ravus down onto his bed, little more than an extra mattress atop a soldier’s cot. “I’ll get you a glass of water.”

“Ignis.”

He felt something tug at him. Ravus’ right hand, warm and trembling, clasped at his wrist, just as his eyes begged him not to go. “Do you know why I asked you to come here?”

Inside his chest, his heart pounded. “To...get drunk and reminisce?”

Ravus’ expression didn’t change, but he slowly released Ignis’ wrist from his hold, dropping his hand uselessly into his lap instead. “Because you’re the only one who understands me,” he said, and the same sadness that tightened his voice began to brim in his eyes, as well. “You’re the only one who was there .”

Luna. He meant Luna. The image of her smile fading into light amidst a torrent of rain and sea. Her body, sinking beneath the waves swathed in a shroud of pure white.

And, Ignis thought as tears stung at the back of his own eyes in turn, that Ravus meant Noctis as well. The last time he’d seen his prince’s face before he’d disappeared into the shadowy heart of the Crystal. The last time he might have ever seen him.

Memories flooded back, aided by the wine and the warmth of Ravus’ hands finding his. One year; one year since they had both lost everything, and in all that time neither had properly allowed themselves to grieve. The pain, the fear, the not knowing - all of it burst forth in that moment, shared between them in the way only the two of them could understand.

Ignis cried until his eyes ached, until he was kneeling into the mattress and holding Ravus as if nothing else were real enough to ground him. His fingers dug so sharply into the fabric of his shirt that he was sure his nails would leave marks, but if Ravus minded he said nothing. Merely bowed his head beneath Ignis’ chin and stayed there, trembling and sobbing and holding onto him just as tight.

Exhaustion eventually overcame them both. Ignis didn’t remember his head hitting the pillow, only the spin of the room and the heavy weight still folded protectively in his arms. He didn’t remember falling asleep, but when he next opened his eyes it was to the sight of weak daylight straining beyond the windows of the room.

From somewhere in the vicinity of his chest, a large body stirred.

Mm… Mfmmh.”

Green eyes flew open wide. Shock - then panic - surged through his veins, sending a rush of adrenaline right through the haze of his hangover. Oh, gods. This was Ravus’ room. This was Ravus’ bed , and for a dizzy few seconds he couldn’t for the life of him recall how he had ended up lying in it. There’d been wine, and talking, and something about needing each other so desperately that they….

No, no that wasn’t right. Ignis centered himself as best he could, and ran through the mental checklist: clothes, still on. Mouth, tasting of stale wine and nothing else. His body, too, showed signs of fatigue from travel, but otherwise felt...good. Very good, actually. Refreshed in a way he couldn’t quite put into words - at least not until after he’d had several cups of coffee to chase off the last of the wine.

The only obstacle was the body laying on top of him.

Ahem. Ravus?” he tried, tapping first lightly, then more firmly on the Commander’s good shoulder. “Wake up. Ravus!”   

A grunt, followed by a pair of mismatched eyes blinking blearily up at him in the dim light. “...Scientia?”

“Ah, um. Yes. Good morning.”

More blinking, the gears slowly turning into place. “Scientia, why are you in my bed?”

“I’m...not sure.”

“We didn’t…?”

“No. Goodness, no.”

Ravus frowned, pushing himself up onto his elbows for a better vantage point. “You didn’t let me finish. I was going to ask if you and I...had intercourse?”

“... No,” Ignis repeated, louder, and wished Ravus had at least had the foresight to move his thigh before asking.  

“Oh. Good.” A clearing of throats. The Commander quickly brushed his fingers back through his hair in an attempt to tame the waves sticking out at odd angles. Buttoned up his shirt that had come loose in the night, and scanned around the dim room until, finally, he found the nerve to meet Ignis’ gaze again. “Of course, if we had, I would not regret it.”

Ravus. Coffee. Now.

Nearly an hour later found them both fully showered, dressed, and standing in the makeshift kitchen over steaming mugs. While the events of the night before continued to bleed together in Ignis’ mind like confusing patterns of emotions and drink, the sense that something had changed in his perception of Ravus remained constant. Even over coffee, Ignis noticed he seemed brighter, laughed easier than before. It was, for lack of a better word, nice.

Yet the trip that had brought him across the seas was already coming to an end. He was needed back in Lestallum, just as Commander Nox Fleuret was needed here in Altissia. Life went on, duty called. The peace he felt like this - standing in his socks and smiling over the rim of his mug as Ravus struggled to open another sugar packet - couldn’t continue forever, he knew that. But he hoped this wouldn’t be the last time he and Ravus would have the chance to share it together.

“Thank you,” he said quietly in the narrow kitchen. “For inviting me.”  

Again, Ravus shrugged. As if by force of habit, he offered his good hand out into the space between them. “The pleasure was all mine. Thank you for accepting.”

Ignis shook his head at the gesture. “I believe we’re past the subtleties by now, Commander. Here.” In a swift move, he’d snatched up and deposited both of their mugs on the counter beside them. In another, he’d pulled Ravus by the arm down to meet him in a hug. Firm, lasting. He could still feel the warmth of the embrace even after he pulled back to smile at Ravus instead.

“But next time, there’s no need to wait a year to ask me to come.”