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Knowing You, Knowing Me

Chapter Text

Zenos sits. And he waits. And he waits. And he sits.

“Warrior of Light.”

He watches as you turn back to him, doe eyes staring up at him oh so innocently.

It makes his stomach turn in ways he’s not quite ready to explore yet.

“Pray tell why we are doing this.” he asks, arms folded across his chest, highly resisting the urge to tap his foot impatiently. You tilt your head in a way that is more reminiscent of a young wolf rather than a toppler of nations, slayer of Eikons, and that is what makes Zenos grind his teeth in frustration.

“Because I want to.” you respond simply, voice not betraying anything you might be feeling. The way you respond with such surety, without missing a beat, is almost undone by the fact you are currently on your knees milking a small sheep. With no retort, he watches as you turn back to your task, giving the sheep an affectionate rub on it’s woolly mass.

He gives in, and does an exaggerated eye roll.

The day drags on, Zenos following along because due to unfortunate circumstances, he has nothing better to do until you will give him the fight you promised. For reasons beyond his understanding you refuse to give him the battle he desires, though he knows his current body is to blame. His voice, his face, his eyes, they are not his own. All that he has is his mind, and his blade.

He watches with muted interest as a herd of wild beasts attack the makeshift camp, his beast fighting them off with total ease. The time is used to instead study your form, making notes of your weak spots, your openings. It’s interesting to watch you, able to see a difference where an instructor had guided your movements opposed to your own flair from hard lessons learned. You two are not so different in that respect, he thinks. He was raised with only the finest of instructors, taught all forms of combat. But he had taken up the sword, and made it his own.

His lips quirk upward, feeling a deep satisfaction that you are still more alike than you are different. 

Any wounds you sport are taken care of by the band of savages you are deigning to help, for which he also cannot understand, aside from the fact you are the hero. These people should be beneath you, underfoot serving you, not the other way around. Why do you not crush them beneath your heel, leave them to fend for themselves? What drives you, one whose name is known throughout all of Eorzea, to heed the call of a simple tribe of nomads?

“Why do you do it?” he asks, as you settle down by the fire, flames dancing in your eyes as you stare at the meat from you earlier kills sizzling. “Do what?” you reply, to which he tuts wondering if you did not hear him. Was your mind always so distant around those you did not consider a threat?

“Why do you do…this.” he vaguely gestures around him. “You are the Warrior of Light. There are battles to be won. Blood to be shed. Have you no goal?” Why do you not fight?

Your eyes turn distant, looking away from him and instead to the stars, lips parted as a sigh passes through them. “Once. I had a goal.” you whisper, brushing a strand of hair from your face.

“I wanted to become strong. I wanted to see the world.” the words are whispered, bringing your knees to your chest, resting your arms on them and your head on top, staring back into the flames. “And then I wanted to surpass a great warrior…and I did. And then he left me all alone.”

Anyone else listening to your tale would have thought you merely wistful. But Zenos could only stare back into the flames at the utter devastation in your quiet voice. As if you had suffered a great loss that you were still recovering from, the emotion in your eyes could only be described as lost.

“He did, didn’t he?”

Chapter Text

“You did great today.”

Zenos can only frown, unsure why and what for that you are giving him praise. 

Granted, today’s task was not one of your smaller quests that you were wont to do. Zenos had followed you into the depths of Saint Mocianne’s Arboretum, looking worse for wear at the end of it. You both surfaced successful, but filthy, and even he could prioritize a good bath and fresh clothes over your fated battle.

He wouldn’t admit that he had a splendid time, fighting all manners of monsters side by side with you, feeling the sense of…of…

Unity? Rightness?

A feeling of sharing the battlefield with the one he sought to strike down, not to kill them, but to stand by their side. It’s a feeling wholly unfamiliar to him; fighting with someone. Sure, he has had soldiers by his side, but they were there more as a show of the might of Garlemald than to actually aid him in battle. That, and perhaps his honored father also wanted to keep his heir safe.

However, he could not deny that he enjoyed the feeling. The same rush, except…shared. To know that he will not let hide or hair of the Warrior of Light know harm (that's his job). To know that they have his back, something he is unaccustomed to feeling. Swinging his sword in tandem with their spells and strikes, holding the enemies attention as they ran circles around their quarry. He could see your smile, watching as he cut down enemies who would run at you, practically beaming like the sun.

He found he liked it. Wanted to repeat it.

Now, as a prince, when he wanted something he got it. He was waited on, hand and foot, for all of his life. No one could (or would) ever deny him anything, save for his sire.

But looking down at your windswept hair as you stare up at him with an expectant smile, he finds himself…nervous? Nay, he had nerves of Garlean steel. He did not get nervous. Unsure. Yes, he was simply unsure. 

Unfortunately this was a battlefield in which he had little experience. He learned quickly that anything he wanted from you would not be taken by way of force. He was still powerful in this body, but he lacked what his true form brought. Recognition. Intimidation.

He laughs. Even then, you would probably still deny him.

“Warrior.”

You incline your head, a small gesture that you were listening to him. He found himself noting more of the smaller things, as you had lived up to your reputation of being quiet and steadfast. Crossing his arms, he runs over his words before speaking them into existence.

“I do not need your thanks.”

It is barely noticeable, but the corners of your mouth pull downward, making him inwardly curse. The thought of dragging his hand down his face crosses his mind as you begin to turn away. “However,” he begins, trying his best to not sound as if he’s desperate to catch you.

“I would…not be opposed…to doing that again.” he finishes with less finality than he’d like, gazing at your surprised expression as you turn around to face him. “If you will not allow me the fight I desire, I will at least concede to do battle by your side. For now.”

Your small smile at his offer sparks some feeling within him, uncomfortable in nature, and yet also pleasing. “I was asked to explore the Fractal Continuum again; it is a place of Allagan origin. Would you like to go?” you ask, smile still in place.

Leaving the choice up to him is not something he expected. To you, he would be beneath you, just a random soldier waiting order. You let him choose, acknowledging he is free to come and go as he wishes. You have invited him not to something as grand as a ball, but merely to share his company. It is…strange.

“I do not have much choice, do I?” he drawls, moving to loom over you, an action that would have struck terror into the hearts of many men. But you do not cow before him, and he knows that his body is not to blame. It is your hardened will, that lets you stare back into his blue eyes.

“You have promised me my battle Warrior. And I will have it.”

Chapter Text

The Warrior of Light is asleep.

Fast asleep, though he can sense that not fully, or at least just lightly. Anyone else would be fooled; thinking you unaware of your surroundings, but he is no fool. You’re currently rested against a tree, weapon barely an ilm from your hand. Your legs are not crossed for comfort, but out before you so that you may spring up at a moment’s notice. A warrior’s bluff; looking relaxed and unaware to any who did not know what to look for.

The fact still remains though, that you are asleep. It’s a peculiar place to be in. You do not trust him enough to fully surrender yourself to slumber, but are not afraid to close both eyes around him.

He doesn’t know how to feel about that. Offended, perhaps.

Testing his theory, he simply moves from behind the tree he concealed himself with, and instantly your eyes fly open, landing on his. There’s a tenseness in your features, weapon already in hand before you relax.

“Are you so confident I will not kill you in your sleep?” he taunts, smirking with pale lips. It fades away when you smile instead, shifting a bit against the tree. “Why would you kill me?” you ask in return.

“For no reason but the sport of it.” He replies, seeing a shade of sorrow pass through your eyes. 

“If that were the case, would you not have killed me when we first met?” you whisper, standing to your feet. Zenos has nothing to say to that, knowing it to be true. “You said you wanted to fight. Why would you kill me before you get what you want?”

He has to give you credit, his beast is more perceptive than he thought. He did not truly think you a brute, but to see the intelligence flash through your eyes ignites something in him. Strengthens his respect for you.

“If you know what I desire, then why do you refuse me?” he demands, watching as you dust yourself off, grabbing your few belongings. “Do you not think me worthy?” he presses, hiding clenched fists with crossed arms.

The look you give him is almost one of appraisal, but there’s a faraway look in your eyes before you answer. “No.” 

His eyebrows raise at your honesty, but before he can say anything you beat him to it, “I must apologize. It’s not your fault.” turning from him, you gaze at him over your shoulder. “I’ve had my standards raised recently.” is your vague reply, a hint of sadness in your voice. With nothing else to say, you walk further into the woods, further from him.

Frowning, Zenos curses this body for the first time.

Chapter Text

“Your form leaves much to be desired.”

He can’t help but smile at the sheer indignation on your face, seeing the muscles in your hand tense as you hold your weapon tighter. “I don’t know where you were taught, but not all of us had such privileged upbringings.”

Zenos clicks his tongue, smirking all the while. While the truth of his origins still remained shrouded in mystery, the Warrior of Light could not deny that when it came to perfect form in combat, he was the one with more knowledge.

“Pray tell me then, what I am doing wrong.” You grumble, eyes upon him as he puts down his sword and moves closer to you. You’ve forgone your full armor today, instead training in lighter fare. Zenos had also bought himself more clothing, his purse growing from following you around on your adventures.

“First, you are putting far too much weight in the balls of your feet. You must balance yourself like so.” Reaching down, he moves to grab your legs, nudging to shift your weight into the proper position, thinking nothing of it. Your skin is soft and warm, despite being a hardened warrior like himself. “You must bathe with fine soaps Warrior. Your skin is quite soft for one who makes a living from battle.” he teases.

Looking up, he catches a glimpse of a distinct, red blush on your face, before you quickly turn away from him. “Can a warrior not enjoy some luxuries?” comes your murmured reply, to which Zenos raises his eyebrows slightly. Curious. 

“I did not say that, now did I?” he all but purrs, hands moving higher up your leg to shift you some more. Just as his hand brushes the back of your knee, you jump away from him, letting out a small shout. 

Your face is practically aflame, eyebrows furrowed. “C-Can you simply show me?” you ask, clutching your weapon tightly. “Well, I was,” “By example!” you interrupt, practically glaring daggers, face still red. He cannot help but laugh at your expense, moving to close the distance between you two.

“Come now Warrior. I only seek to help you improve. It is much easier to learn if you will let me adjust your posture, rather than attempt to mimic my own. Do I frighten you?” his hands are open, a sign of peace, and he finds himself genuinely curious to hear your answer.

“No…I’m not.” comes your shaky reply, watching as he comes nearer still. “Then please, allow me to help.” He doesn’t move, seeing the conflict in your eyes as you struggle to make your decision. “Very well.” you mutter, turning your face away from him again.

Being this near your person is not a detail that goes unnoticed; that night in Coerthas playing through his head as the catalyst to get to this point. Reaching out he is parts teasing and methodical in adjusting your posture, offering reasoning and words of guidance as he moves. Soon enough your embarrassment is forgotten as you absorb his wisdom, eyes rapt with the desire to learn.

“Do you understand now?” he asks, smiling at your nod. “Good. Now let me see you actually execute it.” Stepping back, he watches as you do as instructed, body flowing through the motion easily. 

“Like that?” you ask, eyes widening as the next words come from his mouth.

“Yes, Warrior. Just so."

Chapter Text

Zenos watches as the Warrior of Light all but drags him, leading him along to wherever it is they’re going. As far as he can tell you’re at the reaches of the Coerthas Western Highlands, where you’re thankfully far more bundled up this time around.

“We’re almost there!” You shout over the fierce, cold winds, looking back at him with unfiltered glee. He can’t help but smile in return, the action less foreign to him now. “Where are we off to, in such a hurry?” he finally asks, content with letting you keep your surprise, but your excitement has piqued his curiosity too much.

“It’s still a secret.” you grin, reaching for his hand eagerly. He’s used to your hand holding by now, or your general manhandling of his person. There’s a sense of rightness every time you do, but it has become his little secret.

“Okay, close your eyes.” you’re practically bouncing with how ecstatic you are, and though Zenos does not display it so clearly, it’s infectious. Closing his eyes, he allows you to lead him from the cold, feeling a change in weather and perhaps scenery as the sun begins to warm his face.

“Okay...open them.” 

Zenos does as told, squinting for a moment as his eyesight adjusts to the blinding sun. Before him lies some of the greenest grass he has ever laid eyes on. The rocks tower than some of the highest buildings in Garlemald, as well as the mountains. There are buildings however, though they are broken and dilapidated, they were obviously home to a civilization once upon a time. And is that...

“Is that a,” “A Primal, yes.” you finish for him, eyes glued to his face to see his reaction. Before him is something that he had heard of in passing, but deemed insignificant due to it’s current state.

Alexander, the living fortress.

“There is some manner of shielding around it...?” he inquires, legs carrying him forward without thinking. “Yes. Alexander is permanently trapped in a single moment in time, to save the land of Eorzea.” you explain, walking to catch up with him.

“Save Eorzea? Of it’s own volition?” he questions in disbelief. To his knowledge, (or rather from several speeches from van Baelsar) Primals were beings whose very presence selfishly drained the land of aether. “Yes. Alexander used it’s power over time to look at the many futures before it, and found only one where Eorzea would continue. However it was also the only one where it did not exist.”

Power over time...perhaps a useful ability, though he does not regret his decision in choosing Shinryu to be the one to resonate with. He finds himself wanting to get closer to see it for himself, but a thought occurs to him first. 

“Why did you bring me here?” he asks, stopping to turn and face you.

A light pink dusts your cheeks, as you gaze at the giant robot in the distance. “You had mentioned that you had admired the beauty of Primals...” you trail off, seeming to fidget over your words. 

“A strange sentiment, I know.” he replies, crossing his arms. His grandfather, van Baelsar, all viewed Primals as being to be destroyed, not out of protection, but of fear. He could never find anyone else to share his fascination with such power, and threw himself into studying how to harness it.

“It’s not that strange. I too, find them beautiful in a way.” you speak with a small smile, feeling more confident. “It is my job to destroy these beings, but...” you pause to look toward Alexander again in the distance. “Once...someone had told me that...I could see Primals as more than things just to be slain.”

He nearly gives himself whiplash with how quickly he turns to face you, surprise clear on his face. “After that I began to see them as beautiful, awful beings. Terrible monsters, but enchanting gods.” You whisper, eyelashes brushing your cheeks as you lose yourself to a memory. “Alexander is the only one who remains, for me to look at, and remember that beauty. I felt no one would ever understand me. But hearing how you talked about them...” you trail off, wringing your fingers together in a show of anxiety.

Zenos turns back to stare at Alexander as well, hiding a smile as he does so. “The Scions may not understand your fascination, but I do.” Your expression could almost be counted as startled, as if not expecting him to agree. “The Scions only have a single goal in mind where as the Primals are concerned. To them they are monsters that you must defeat. However, I do not doubt you have spoken to these beings, been close enough to reach out with your hands and grab hold if you so wished. Naturally, you would see them in a different light.”

You display a look of relief, as if worried he would think less of you. He has to chuckle at that, pleased that before his demise he had reached you in some way. That he had affected you, as much you affected him.

“I wonder who such a friend is, to have influenced you so greatly.” he teases, starting to move forward again. When he doesn’t hear your footsteps follow, he stop to turn around, seeing your eyes filled with pain.

“Warrior,” he begins but you shake your head, running to catch up with him. “Let’s get closer.” comes your hurried reply, feet carrying you down the hill. He catches you by the arm before you can run past him, eyes fierce as he looks into your own. “I said something insensitive didn’t I?” He’s still not good at this. This...feeling thing. Dealing with the emotions of others. But he is learning. He is learning how to deal with you, to learn about what makes his warrior tick. Learning what makes you feel alive.

“You couldn’t have known.” you softly whisper, trying to slide out of his grip, but he will not let you go. He studies your face for a moment, releasing a sigh. “Then I must apologize.” he releases your arm, missing how your hand reaches to the spot he held immediately, his touch lingering there on your skin.

“Thank you.” the words are spoken in a small voice, and it’s times like these that how vulnerable you can be really shine through. To see the Warrior he esteemed so greatly look so small and fragile, it was clearly a side of yourself you had never shown to others. You had yet to fully open up to him, but he doubted that anyone from the Scions had seen you look anything less than confident.

One would have thought he would merely laugh at you for showing such weakness; mock you for emotions you did not care for nor need. But had he not learned of emotions he thought he did not have in traveling alongside you? Did he not learn more about his beast, far more than any of your so called friends could ever say they had? 

He had never seen himself building trust with his beast, but found that it’s benefits were far more rewarding than remaining callous and distanced.

“Come. Let us make haste. I would have you start to recount the entire story of how this Primal entered such a state before night falls and we make camp.” You smile instantly, beginning to rattle off your tale in detail, the sound of your voice making him feel something akin to peace.

Chapter Text

Yesterday was just a miscalculation.

Naturally, you would turn him down. After all, to you he is dead. And to you, he is certainly not alive due to the Resonant, albeit in another body, but alive nonetheless. To you, he must be but another adventurer.

How...disappointing.’ He thinks idly as he drinks down whatever swill this establishment is serving him, if it could even be called that. His face contorts in anger even thinking about you. You seemed as if you wanted to laugh at his challenge, missing the haunted look in your eyes as he aimed his blade toward your heart. 

Another, eccentric adventurer, perhaps.

What other reason would he have to live again if not to thrust his sword through your chest, or to die by your hand? He very well could not demand you fight him again; after all that failed horribly. Anything underhanded such as holding a hostage to bring you to him was beneath him. No, he wanted you to fight him for fighting’s sake. To bite and scratch and maim with the claws and teeth you had been given.

For the joy of violence.

Maybe a change in approach was in order. While doing such mundane things as slaying simple woodland creatures and sabotaging beast men’s weapons was below him, it was the only way he could guarantee that in time, he would have his duel. He was a hunter, and while impatient, he had always been a quick study. The beast he chased had adapted, changed and so must he.

Stepping from the inn, he looks toward the reddening sky, remembering a lead he had heard in passing as to your whereabouts. You were last spotted in a land called La Noscea, and with his skills he would find you soon enough. 

If death itself could not hold him back from his beast, then nothing could.

Chapter Text

“You have a name, don’t you?”

Zenos looks up from his spot at the humble campfire, chewing on a piece of well seasoned fish. It’s certainly not the finest food he’s tasted but for you having caught it out of a nearby stream and cooked it over the same fire, he finds it palatable.

“I do.” is his reply, saying nothing much at all. Clearly you dislike his answer, pinching your face into one of frustration, much to his amusement. “If you want my name Warrior of Light, it is only fair you give me yours.”

You can’t hide the weighing of your options from your face, emotions clear as day. You’re far more expressive than he would’ve thought; but maybe that is due to you becoming more talkative as time has gone on.

“No one has asked for my name in quite some time.” comes your quiet answer, nibbling at your own piece of fish. 

“Naturally. Someone of such notoriety as yourself would seldom have to bother with introductions.” The irony is not lost on him that were he in his original body, he would not have to introduce himself either. Finished with his meal he tosses the bone away, now used to living in the wilds, camping with his quarry. “Tell me why you have asked for my name, after this much time has passed?”

You mull over your words a bit, chewing on your fish as you think. “Well, I figured that saying ‘hey you’ was less than polite.” You giggle, the sound pleasant to his ears.

“While I do appreciate your consideration,” he begins, moving to lean against a tree, “I am not in the habit of giving my names to others.” In truth having some sort of alias had yet to occur to him. Though it was not his intention to keep his identity a secret from you, it had worked out in his favor thus far.

Less a secret. More like...withholding information.

“I see.” you murmur, letting the conversation drop as you continue to eat. While Zenos has never been bothered by silence, he finds that he enjoys hearing your voice. Even if you do the majority of the speaking, he is content to comment where required, to let you know he is listening.

“Soryu.”

You perk up at that, confusion on your face. “My name, is Soryu.” he repeats, testing the name himself.

“That’s an...interesting name for an Elezen.” you say carefully, trying to hide your amusement. 

“Is it? I was told it was the name of a great dragon.” he grins, watching as brief recognition flashes through your eyes. “I’ve dealt with enough dragons for two lifetimes.” you grumble, staring at the flickering flame. Sighing you place your fish down, looking at his face once more. 

“My name is,” you are stopped by his upraised palm, quieting you. “I’ve grown to accustomed to calling you Warrior. Calling you by your title is my form of respect.” He watches calmly as you mull over his words, shrugging to yourself.

“That’s not so strange. A lot of people call me by my title.”

“Strike a deal with me then, Warrior.” his smile innocent enough. “The day you give me your name, is the day we have our duel.”

Chapter Text

Zenos hisses in pain as a laser nicks his arm a bit too close, sword falling out of his hand as blood begins to trickle down. Growling at how much weaker this body is, he is forced to kneel on the ground, pain coursing through his body.

“Soryu!” he hears you shout, legs carrying you to his side in an instant, brandishing your weapon to strike the poor soul who dare brought him harm. He watches as you deal with the enemy effortlessly, a clean, quick kill so it doesn’t suffer. As the monster collapses to the ground, he finds your concerned eyes upon him, making him shift uncomfortably in turn.

“Soryu. Are you allright?” you ask, coming to kneel beside him. As soon as you reach out, he jerks away, frowning intensely. Your expression grows even more concerned and he wishes that he could simply shove you away. “Do not pity me.” he growls, clutching his arm tighter as the blood doesn’t seem to stop it’s flowing.

“I’m not pitying you.” comes your gentle reply, slowly reaching out again. “I’m worried. I want to help.” you words are careful and measured, as if he will flee at any moment. He studies your expression, unfamiliar with having to be treated; after all he can’t even remember the last time he felt pain such as this. Memories drift through his mind, his younger self training to become better, stronger, the heir to an entire nation--

“Soryu!”

He’s drawn from his reverie with your shout, eyes dazed before they can focus upon you. He realizes you’ve changed gear, lightly clutching a white stone in your hand. “You’re losing blood,” before he can move away again, your hands glow and settle on his wound, face pinched with determination. Your eyes slide closed as you focus, and he feels his skin knit itself together bit by bit. This is the first time he’s ever been healed by magic; the sensation foreign and strange to him just as your nearness is. 

He’s never been this close to you he realizes, studying the features of your face. Your lips are open slightly, eyelashes brushing your cheeks. Your eyebrows are knit together in determination, hair lifted slightly with the force of your power. Looking at his wound, he watches as the blood flow ceases, though he does still feel a tad lightheaded.

When he moves to look at your face again he finds your eyes staring back, boring into him with worry. “I would have been fine.” he whispers, making no move to pull away from you. 

“Of course you would have. Fine, bleeding to death here in the middle of Azys La.” comes your grumbled reply, your hands clenching him a little tighter. “It was my fault. I was not watching your back.”

An apology. Certainly one he did not expect, nor want. It was his own miscalculation that had gotten him hit, and he told you as much. “Are you sure?” you persist, releasing his arm only as he makes a move to stand. 

“I am quite sure. Though I may rest easy tonight, knowing that you are able to heal. Now I will be able to take on far more enemies without worry.” he says with a mischievous smirk, which only broadens as you huff in anger.

“I should leave you to die. Perhaps I will finally know peace and you’ll stop begging me for your battle.” comes your haughty retort, gathering your staff from the ground, moving to stand beside him. 

“Then I will follow you, until you give me what I desire.” he returns easily, making a move to leave but stopping himself. “And Warrior,” he leans into your face, making your cheeks tint a lovely red.

“I do not beg.”

Chapter Text

Zenos eyes his current gear. He frowns at it’s quality, though he can’t say he expected much else from savages who knew nothing of crafting real armor. Even the armor he had seen you don on the days you bore the brunt of the attacks seemed to pale in comparison to pure, Garlean steel.

However, he can’t ignore the holes and tears in his clothes any longer. At this point, they’re doing more harm than good.

“Warrior.”

You look up from your spot on the ground, landing on his face immediately. “Do you know where I might have my gear tended to?” your eyes run up and down his form, noticing the frayed ends and dirt build up.

“I can do it.”

He arches a single brow at that, crossing his arms. “You, repair armor?” he can’t hide the disbelief from his voice. Were there not people who would gladly do that for you? Something so menial a task, he would think you wouldn’t bother when people should be groveling at your feet for the chance to say they repaired the gear of the Warrior of Light.

“Yeah. I can repair gear. I used to pay others,” his mind goes off again, unable to truly believe what you are saying. You paid others, who should feel honored to even be in your presence, who you could kill with nothing more but a look, to service you. Would it not be easier to threaten retribution to those who could provide the services you require? They were weaker, beneath someone of your caliber, and yet you still paid them coin.

“Hello?” your voice snaps him out of his thoughts, confusion written clear on your face. “You were saying?” he prompts, unwilling to admit he hadn’t heard a single thing you had said.

“I was saying that I could repair your gear for you.” you repeat, pouting. “Very well Warrior. I will allow you to repair my clothes.” At this point he is more curious about your skill as a tailor, rather than your blatant refusal to put others to work for you. Moving to pull off his shirt, he pauses mid-motion as he catches your flustered look. 

“Sh-Shouldn’t you leave to change first?” you stutter, turning your face away and shielding your vision with your hands. “I am unfortunately lacking in extra attire.” he drones, as if it were not obvious. Nudity was not something he was necessarily ashamed of, though he is mildly bemused at your concern for his modesty.

“O-oh.” you murmur, moving to run through your bag. “If you wait just a moment, I know somewhere nearby where I can get you some clothes. Just to temporarily change into.” Your eyes are still trained to his fingers gripping the bottom of his shirt, eyeing the sliver of pale skin underneath. Turning away, you quickly rush off before Zenos can say otherwise.

Upon your return, the garb you found him was of mediocre quality. While used to finer things, he was not so haughty to complain about something that was only temporary. Stepping away, he undressed, handing you his clothes with an outstretched arm. 

“Thank you.” you smile, bringing his gear into your arms. “You can wait here if you’d like. I’m going to clean them first. Then I’ll get right to fixing them.” “As you wish.” he drawls, moving to sit with his back to a tree at your makeshift camp, watching as you run off to the woods. It felt as if he had closed his eyes for only a moment before he hears you padding back, his clothes clean and somehow miraculously dried.

He doesn’t let on that he’s noticed your return, watching you from beneath his lashes as you sit down and pull a few tools from your bag. The needle you pull out glints in the remaining sunlight, gaining his interest as it seems to be of high quality. Crossing your legs, you get comfortable and set about your work.

Bugs begin to chirp as the moon soars high, still watching as you pause your work to start a fire so that you may still see. He’s bored, and right now the only thing keeping him from shutting his eyes entirely and drifting off is watching you work.

“All done.” Holding out his shirt, you seem to inspect your handiwork, and he stands to come get a closer look. From what he can tell it looks mostly the same, but also as if the tears and holes that existed prior had not existed at all. He doesn’t speak as he takes it from your hands, running his own across the material as he inspects it. There are no patches or visible seams, which speaks of quite a bit of skill as far as he knew.

“I did not think a warrior such as yourself knew anything about tailoring.” he comments, reaching to take the pants from your hand.

“I don’t tailor. Not yet at least.” you respond, handing him the rest of his belongings. “Hopefully, I will be in the future. There’s good coin in it.”

“A warrior such as yourself should have no need to do such work.” He gathers the gear in his arms, giving you a leveled look. “Why would you do something that you can make other’s do?”

“I too, want a livelihood. I might be known through all the land, but I was not born into wealth, not born to any houses. All of my armor and gear, I must buy with my own money. I suppose that was not the case for you?”

Clenching his fist in his clothes, he looks over them once more.

“No, I suppose not.”

Chapter Text

“You mean you’ve never had oden before?”

Zenos looks down (he’s still quite tall) at your incredulous expression, arching an eyebrow. “I said did not, haven’t I?”

Your expression remains unchanged, until you practically jump with barely restrained energy. “I can’t allow that!” you nearly shout, wincing as you garner the attention of strangers. 

“What I mean is...you have to try it. It’s delicious!” you grin, pushing him to make him move out of the bustling square, where people will not continue to stare at you. 

“Pray tell, what is it you are so adamant upon me eating then.”

“Oden! It’s a noodle soup. Have you never tried Doman cuisine?” The question takes him away for a moment, trying to recount if he did eat any of the local food while in that accursed land. He doesn’t think he has, the most vivid memory being drinking their alcohol, and also meeting that slip of a woman wrapped up in vengeance.

Well, most vivid after meeting you of course.

“No, I have not.” he answers, repressing a smile as he watches you fume with a different kind of indignation. 

“I know what we are doing for supper today then.” You grumble, reaching into your pockets for a whistle. “It’ll be too long a flight from here. We’ll have to take a boat since you can’t teleport...”

Blowing hard, he watches as your trusty whale companion manifests, already reaching out to climb atop it. “Sadly, not all of us are blessed with your gift dear Warrior.” you say nothing at his teasing, far used to it by now, grabbing hold of the reigns and taking to the sky.

The sky is black as ink when you arrive in the land of Doma, and he can’t say it’s not strange to return to a land he once ruled. It seems not nearly as gloomy, and that the country is finally getting itself back on it’s feet. Admittedly he cared little for the measly land, only acting at the behest of his sire, only going along with it at the thought of a new hunting ground.

And oh, what wonderful prey he found.

He follows silently past the buildings, eyes never staying in one place for too long on exposed, wooden beams and workers nailing down tiles. “Kozakura!” he hears you shout, running over to a small woman in a nearby stall, watching as she bows to you in greeting. 

“Good evening, Warrior of Light. Are you well?” she asks, eyes moving to him as he moves to stand behind you. She trembles beneath his stare and he can’t help but smirk that his presence is still felt. 

“I am well. Here’s this week’s donation.” He watches as you hand over a rather hefty purse, placing it gently in the young woman’s hands, who bows once more. “As usual, your generosity is much appreciated Warrior of Light.”

“It’s no problem.” You assure her, giving her a beautiful smile. “I actually came to have my friend try the oden; he told me had never tried it and I couldn’t allow that to continue.”

“Then please, do not let me keep you here, I’m sure you must be famished!” she slowly puts the purse away, before turning to face you again. “Please, eat your fill and rest from your journey.”

With a nod, you wave goodbye, turning away from the woman and her stall. He follows you to another, finding you both a table as you run to another stall, making conversation with a much taller woman there. He watches you converse and laugh, though he can tell some of it is out of courtesy. Your smile broadens as you make your way toward him, sitting across from him at the table.

“Our food should be here soon.” you sigh, placing your elbows on the table to sit your head on your hands. “That was quite the journey though. I’m starving.”

“Might I remind you it was your idea?” he taunts, leaning on his own hand, eyes never leaving your face. There’s a light blush on your face, unable to look at him suddenly. 

“Like I said, I couldn’t let such an injustice continue.” you murmur shyly, placing your hands in your lap. 

“I should feel honored then. I’m sure many people would love to be invited to dinner with their hero.” You seem to grow even redder at his words, leaving him to wonder what is embarrassing you so. “Is aught amiss?” he asks, reaching a hand to see if you are too warm. “Do not get ill on me Warrior. While I possess many skills, healing is not one of them.”

Before you can squeal at him to get away, his hand is on your forehead, focusing lightly on his task. Deciding you feel fine he retracts his hand, though you seem somewhat speechless. But it matters little as the food is brought to your table. A large bowl of some form of soup sits before him, various vegetables and some form of meat floating around inside it. Picking up the chopsticks, he goes about trying his meal, missing how you’re still slightly flushed in embarrassment.

The soup is good; the broth flavorful, the noodles a good texture. Certainly some of the best food he’s had in this land. You dig into your own bowl soon enough, manners covering barely restrained joy as you quietly slurp the noodles. When he reaches your eyes he finds them looking rather expectant, watching and waiting.

“Is something on your mind Warrior?” he prompts, chuckling at your caught expression.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to stare.” you smile demurely, stirring your noodle around. “I was actually just curious to your opinion? Do you like it?”

Taking another bite, he finds that he really can’t deny that the meal is more than flavorful. What the land might lack in suitable prey, it at least makes up for in food. “It’s delicious.”

And the grin you give him is worth every bit of his honesty.

Chapter Text

“Oh!”

Your little exclamation draws his attention, away from the blinding sunlight Ul’dah has to offer. It is hot, somehow hotter than Ala Mhigo and he doesn’t see how you are not burning up in your current plate armor.

“I just remembered; I need to check with my retainers in Limsa. Do you mind?” you ask, already fiddling with a map in your hands. Why you would bother asking, he doesn’t know. After all he has only one goal in mind and as loathe as he is to follow you around doing menial jobs that are beneath him, he’s too determined (and stubborn) to do otherwise.

“No.”

He could groan in aggravation at your small smile as you put your map away, neatly folded. “I’ll take care of the teleporting fee. Are you ready?” he can sense your energy spike a little, sensing a rise in the aether about you. 

“I cannot teleport.” It was not often he ever admitted his shortcomings and what few qualities he lacked, but even in this life he could not manipulate aether to use magic. 

The look on your face is one as if you had committed some faux pas, babbling some nonsense before you settle on what you mean to say. “I’m sorry. I forget that not everyone is predispositioned to have so much aether to teleport.” You tap a finger to your chin, deep in thought. “It’ll take longer, but there is another option.”

Raising an eyebrow, he watches you fiddle around in your bag for something. With a quiet “Ah ha!” you pull out, “A horn?” he scoffs, watching as you lick your lips.

“Not just any horn.” You raise the object to your mouth and give a hard blow, the sound somewhat low to his surprise. A moment passes and nothing happens, until another strange sound assaults his ears and a whale manifests before him.

He’s unsure what to think, as you give the beast an affectionate pat and climb onto it’s back, crossing your legs beneath you as you get comfortable. “You’re coming aren’t you? Get on.” While phrased like an order, it’s an invitation, one he finds himself too damned curious to turn down. He had heard of the savages transporting themselves on horses and using strange birds, but never of the sea creature you seemed to literally pull out of your pocket.

Reaching up, he climbs atop with ease, his tall frame making it a breeze. Folding his own legs beneath him, he observes the beast, that despite its size and nature seems tame and calm. “You can summon...whales?” he inquires, looking at the small rug he sat upon.

“Only this one.” you murmur, seeming to whisper some secret words to the whale beneath you, as it begins to move forward not long after. The ride is surprisingly smooth as the whale floats above the ground, courteously avoiding any people on the road.

“Have you never ridden on a mount before?” you ask, wind tussling your hair lightly, not bothering to pay any mind to the whale as if it already knows where you want it to go. 

“I have not.” it’s not an unpleasant experience and while walking never truly bothered him, he could not deny the convenience of having a beast of burden do the traveling for him. “Since you are so keen on denying me my wish,” he begins, looking out at the scenery as it floats by, “someday, you must tell me the tale of how you tamed such a beast.”

Chapter Text

The man’s ribs cracks easily enough, beneath the heel of his boot. He had not wanted to dirty his sword with the blood of someone so weak, annoyed that the man they had been sent after was but a greedy, simpering lord. Eyes narrowed he presses down a little harder, expression bored as if this man’s life did not hang in the balance. The man is practically gasping beneath him, he’s not dying as fast he wanted. Shifting his foot to his throat, he begins to press down once more. He’s not one to enjoy other’s suffering though his callousness might portray him as such. There is only one thing he enjoys after all.

“Soryu!”

Well, maybe two things.

He hears his name shouted over the quieting sounds of your finished battle, the figure named Yojimbo having vanished and left in it’s wake, a bumbling, pitiful lord. He had begged for his life, and as far he was concerned, he did not need it. He was in your way for whatever you were searching for when you brought him to this place.

“What are you doing?!” 

He sighs as he finally acknowledges you, not relenting in pressure on the poor man’s chest. “I was under the impression we were here to pilfer the castle for whatever it was you required.” He drones, crossing his arms across his chest.

“Yes! We are here to see if we could find it, and leave!” you hiss, putting away your weapon. 

“As I had thought. I was merely disposing of this lord here, since he seemed to be in some manner of trouble anyway, I thought it best to put him out of his misery.” Said lord shouts in pain as Zenos increases the pressure on his chest, expression unchanged as panic breaks out on your face.

“He will be brought before the law!” your voice sounds nearly desperate, as if you are struggling to reason with him. “Please, just let him go.” he raises an eyebrow at that, as this is the first time you’ve ever asked anything of him. However while this man is not worth your mercy, much less the dirt on the underside of his boot. He can at least free him from the bore that is captivity for the rest of his remaining life.

Why live if you could not fight?

Just before he can move a muscle to finally kill the sniveling man he has to block your attack, hand catching your fist in his own. The fury in your attack is enough to force him to readjust his stance, moving his foot off of the lord who quickly scrambles to get up and run, wheezing all the while. Zenos watches as he shuffles off with a displeased expression, eyes sliding back to your own to find them filled the most anger he has ever seen you express.

Immediately it ignites something in him, unable to keep himself from grinning as you throw your other fist at him, dodging the blows as he stays on the defensive. “How dare you!” you shout, landing a decent hit to the side of his face. He laughs as he can feel the first trickles of blood pool in his mouth,  rubbing his jaw as he stands straight once more.

This is the beast he had chased.

“I don’t want to see you right now.” you spit at him, body surrounded by purple aether before you fade from his sight. Frowning, he makes for the exit, making sure to grab the treasure you left behind before he leaves.

Wherever you had gone, it most likely was not far. You had complained earlier about the fee of teleporting to Kugane, and the boat ride here also was a night’s trip. He knew you wouldn’t leave him behind in this strange land, as you never had before.

That knowledge makes him feeling something wholly unfamiliar. It is obvious you are upset with him, though he struggles to see why. And even in your anger he could tell you had held back; though for his benefit or your own remained to be seen. That your only retribution was to strike him across the face, that you were most likely waiting for him because even in your anger you would not leave him behind...

It made his stomach turn uncomfortably.

Were his actions truly that strange? What good was court and law when a swift execution could accomplish the same things? In his rule those who could fail to do their jobs were simply killed; not worth trial or court. Even if the man had no heirs, surely they are organized enough to fix the resulting mess if that was your concern. You had proven many times your intelligence, so surely you too could understand his line of thinking.

Standing before the inn, he pays no mind to the host who bows as he passes, already making the way to where he know you will be.

Not bothering to knock, he slides the door open and steps inside, glancing at your back as you gaze out the window. Fireflies dance in the garden, the sound of water from a fountain providing noise to the otherwise quiet room. “I still do not want to see you.” you murmur, having not moved from your spot. 

“You are clearly upset with me.” he begins diplomatically. While diplomacy was not his job as prince, he naturally was educated in it for the time he would rule. In the weeks he had traveled with you he found that demands and goading you would not work. Only speaking to you as an equal would give him the answers he wanted. As easy as it would be to not care and let you stew in your anger, he couldn’t stop himself from wanting you to not be mad at him. “Instead of remaining standoffish, perhaps you could explain how I have wronged you.”

Your eyebrows furrow further at that statement, face furious as you turn to him. “I have every right,” you begin, voice raised but you stop yourself, taking a deep breath before you speak again. “Why did you want to kill that man?”

He moves to have a seat at the bench nearby, reaching for the kettle to pour himself some tea. “I did not want to kill him. That implies a desire, a wish. He was simply in the way of your goal.” taking a sip, he continues, “I had thought it best to simply remove him. I was under the impression that he had committed some crime; would it have not been better for him to die then? Why waste away in a cell where he may not fight to continue as he once had?”

Your expression falters at that, biting your lip apprehensively. He studies you over the rim of his cup, draining it quickly to pour himself another. 

“You’re so similar...” he hears you murmur to yourself, so faint that he can’t be sure he heard it at all. “Yes, perhaps to some, death may be the better choice over dishonor. It may be the only way out to those who see no other way. But he had to pay for his wrongdoings and be held accountable. I could not let you kill him for that.”

“Are there not laws for execution in this land?” he counters, leaning against the table as he toys with his cup. “I am in no position of power, but as we were the ones having done the work I saw no problem in solving matters myself.”

“So we should have slaughtered him?!”

Your lips are quivering, body shaking as you seem to struggle to hold yourself together. He’s suddenly on the defensive, in unfamiliar territory. “He could’ve become a good person. He could’ve remained a terrible man. Maybe he had children,” 

“Better off without him,”

“There might’ve still been people who needed him!” you shout, tears brimming in the corners of your eyes. The room is quiet for a moment as you furiously swipe at your face, eyes red with anger. “There might have still been people who needed him! People he had inspired, people who still wanted him there to finally see the justice they had been looking for. Is life not precious to you? Have you never lost someone dear? To watch them die before your eyes and you are helpless to stop it...” you sob, struggling to hold back your tears.

Your outburst is shocking, leaving him truly at a loss on how to proceed. There’s a nagging feeling that it is not just him you are talking about, that your loss is far greater than he could imagine, that it goes beyond just him. This moment of vulnerability; could anyone say they had seen it? Seen just how much that being the hero had whittled away at your mentality?

Had his own selfishness contributed?

“I need to leave.” you whisper, making a move to exit but his body is blocking the door before he can even think about it. “Move, Soryu.” there’s an underlying threat in your tone that you will move him yourself if necessary, and as amusing as that prospect is, there are more serious things to take care of.

“Do not run away.” he begins, watching as your brows furrow in confusion. “It was not my...intention to upset you.” He doesn’t release you, though the strength of his grip lessens. “Our ideologies are different, Warrior. This will not be our last clash of wills, of that I am certain.”

Reaching for your chin, he forces you to look at him, staring into your crystal depths, seeing the hurt and pain you so desperately tried to hide. “However I will endeavor to not do such inflammatory actions again; things that will upset you. You are more deserving of that.”

And it was true. He could not empathize with your feelings, let alone sympathize, but he could see your passion, feel your conviction in the sting of your fist connecting with his face. Though you had held back the strength you used to destroy gods, he could still taste the power of forcing him to bend to your will. He was not so blind your feelings, or his sudden need to respect them, to disregard you entirely.

It as much of an apology as you will receive from him without saying the words directly, and that knowledge is reflected in your eyes as they shine upon him. Tears finally roll down your cheeks, his free hand reaching up to wipe them, the instinct of a distant memory guiding his motions. “I accept your apology.” you murmur softly, and it is then he releases your chin from his hold. 

He says nothing more, allowing you to speak again. “I’m not trying to change you. Sometimes I feel I have no right to speak on who and who not to kill as the Scions send me to slay gods. Gods that people call on when they feel they have no one else to turn to, though they don’t realize their strain on the land. For the people I lost, life has become that much more important.” Your voice is soft and filled with the pain of someone who has been burned one time too many.

There is a light tension in the air as the two of you stand there, the noise of the crickets outside sounding loud in the silence between you. “I’m sorry too. For running away.” you mutter, face red as you turn from him. “And for punching you in the face.”

Zenos smirks at that, pointing a finger at the spot he knows will bruise come morning. “I will accept, on the grounds that you heal the pain you inflicted.” his voice is teasing, bringing a small smile out of you as your glowing hand reaches toward his face. The magic soothes his ache, just as your touch soothes his heart.

Chapter Text

It takes all of Zenos’ control to not let out the deepest, darkest laugh.

His lips must’ve twitched as you turn to him immediately, expression quietly asking if something is wrong. Silently he waves you away, following behind you into the establishment known as Seventh Heaven, passing by the few stragglers and strangers as they eat whatever food this place has to offer.

With a quick turn of a handle, you open the door toward the back of the room, ushering him inside, revealing a hidden room behind the store’s front; the base of operations of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn.

It’s a lot...homelier than he thought it would be. Though it was to be expected; his research showed that it acted independently of the three nations that governed Eorzea, and thus lacked a significant amount of funding. It’s members are few, dwarfed by the thousands of the Garlean military. In a way it was almost insulting to the might of his homeland, that a ragtag group of fighters could pose such a threat.

But it’s hardly the Scions at all. Unlike Garlemald, they have a not-so-secret weapon.

“Oh it’s good to see you!” He hears a small woman call, dressed in pink and running to greet the Warrior of Light. “I’m glad to see you well.” she smiles, eyes beaming.

“It’s good to see you too Tataru.” you greet, kneeling to give her a hug. The woman, Tataru’s, eyes slide to him, gaze curious with unanswered questions. 

“Who might this be?” She asks, releasing you from her hold to stare at him fully. From the looks of it she is not a fighter, lacking the calloused hands and hardened demeanor that come with most soldiers. He can sense that she has zero aptitude at the art of battle. She must be their bookkeeper.

“This is my friend Soryu. He’s been travelling with me for the past few weeks.”

He can’t help but smirk at you calling him “friend”; a label that he had offered you a lifetime ago. He doesn’t doubt that your need to be polite and considerate of other’s feelings are coming into play; not wanting to slight him by calling him an “acquaintance” or “companion”. How strange it is that even after he had dangled the notion of friendship before you only to take it away, he would earn the title regardless.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Tataru smiles with a dainty curtsy, to which Zenos returns a slight bow for the sake of appearances. “The other Scions are gathering in the Solar. I don’t believe they have started yet, as they are waiting on yours and Thancred’s arrival.” 

Nodding, you move toward another door at the back of the room, stopping to face him for a moment. “I don’t think things will take too long. Why don’t you get your something to eat, or explore the region?” you pull out a string of gil, holding it out to him. “Here’s some extra money for if you want to ride a chocobo porter or anything. I’ll see you soon.” The tone of your voice leaves no room to reject your offer, his hand closing around the coins as they jingle in his hand. If you were this generous to people you had only known for a month, he could only wonder how you managed to support yourself.

Turning your back to him you follow Tataru into the other room, the door shutting with a light click. While little entertained him before his meeting you, things were especially dull whenever you had other business to attend to. With naught else to do, he decided to take you up on looking around the region; it was strange enough that a purple gloom seemed to hang around it.

He only knew a few things about this place, Mor Dhona, in passing. From a young age, he threw himself into his studies, learning all kinds of things, especially learning of old battles.

Standing at the edge of a cliff, he can see the remains of one of Garlemald’s greatest successes and failures; the Agrius still tangled with the carcass of the great wyrm Midgardsormr. To call it a success sparked controversy back home; the Battle of Silvertear Skies still revered as one of the nation’s greatest failures. However, Zenos could see that it set the stage for the awful power that Garlean’s could create, able to take down the father of all dragons with naught but steel and sheer will.

It is a shame though, that such a great being fell. What untold power could be harnessed were it still alive today? The crystals in the region were a testament to huge amount of power Midgardsormr held as his aether dissipated across the land.

“Beautiful, huh?”

He doesn’t turn as you walk to stand beside him, also gazing out upon the Keeper of the Lake. “I suppose the view is passable.” he concedes, to which you smile. Before he can say anything more he senses an audience, turning around to see a group of eavesdroppers atop the hill.

“It would seem your friends are curious about who you’ve been spending time with lately.” Nothing amuses him more than the enemy they spat and cursed being right under their noses. For the person they detested with their very being but were too weak to stop be the one traveling with their precious weapon.

“Oh, hello!” you call, watching as they stepped closer to the two of you. “Soryu, these are the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, as you know. Though perhaps you’ve not met them personally.” 

“I’ve seen them in passing.” he purrs, unable to risk a little teasing. 

“Forgive our curiosity,” the woman, Y’shtola speaks. “Tataru had informed us that the Warrior of Light had been traveling with a companion recently. Usually they are wont to travel on their own.” The woman’s eyes, stare at him without fear, her tone suggestive.

“It is only due to their generosity and kindness that I have traveled Eorzea with them.” He begins, looking at the many characters before him. The Scions were a varied bunch, that much was for certain. “Until the day they no longer require my presence, I have been content to remain by their side.” He doesn’t acknowledge your questioning look, knowing that is the complete opposite of his goal.

“How noble of you. I’ve offered the Warrior of Light my company plenty of times, though they’ve always declined--ow!” Thancred’s jest is cut off by a well placed punch to his shoulder, to his embarrassment and everyone else’s amusement.

“Our meeting today has adjourned, and we will not hold you here any longer. We wish you both safe travels on your journeys, until we must meet with the Warrior again.” Y’Shtola gives a graceful bow, that same knowing look in her eye. It’s saying nothing and everything all at once, and Zenos cannot help but smirk.

“I do not doubt we will meet again.”

Chapter Text

“I-It’s g-gotta be around here s-somewhere...”

Zenos frowns, watching as you barely hold yourself together as you trudge through the snow. The climate of Coerthas is not unlike the cold winters of Garlemald; one he is entirely used to though the evidence shows you, on the other hand, are not.

“I-It’s a lot colder than usual...” your teeth are chattering, body shaking and Zenos can already see the first signs of hypothermia settling in. Things had started fine as you had began your hunt for the legendary beast Safat, but had taken a turn for the worse as an unexpected blizzard rolled in. While he was not the best dressed for the weather either, he at least knew how to keep himself warm.

“Warrior of Light.”

Turning to him, your skin is losing it’s color; he has to act fast. “We must find shelter. To continue as we are is folly.”

“B-But we have to find it! Safat is the o-only S rank I’ve not k-killed...” you stutter, trudging your feet through the quickly piling snow.

“The only thing anyone will be finding is you dead if we do not find shelter.” he grounds out, stomping over to you. Looking around he spies one of the many forts he had seen earlier. Whether it was occupied or not did not matter, he could not afford losing his battle to your untimely death to stubbornness.

“I’m sure we’re c-close,” your sentence is cut off as he picks you up, grunting as he supports your weight. “S-Soryu?”

“We are going to wait for this storm to pass.” he can even feel the cold affecting him now, hurrying his steps as he kicks the door to the fort open. Cursing at the lack of a fireplace, he quickly shuts the door behind him. It was a wonder the savages survived this long when they could not do simple tasks as fortifying against the elements. It is thankfully empty, whatever soldiers stationed here having already returned home.

Sitting you against the wall, he quickly moves to the back room, having glanced at some cabinets through the doorway on his way in. Flinging them open, he finds blankets and jerky; things that are actually helpful. He grabs them with little care, coming back to the room with your eyes closed, sending a shock through him.

“Warrior!” running to your side your eyes shoot open, concern flitting through them but you are still in a daze. 

“I’m sorry I just wanted to close my eyes...I’m really cold.” Your voice is barely above a whisper, causing him to curse in Garlean this time. 

“You will not die before you have fulfilled your promise. Stay awake.” he growls, quickly unfolding the blanket. “Wrap this around your core. We must warm that before your extremities.” 

Your hands reach out but you are still shaking far too much, fumbling with the blanket as you try to wrap it around yourself. Growling again, Zenos does the job for you, muscle memory taking over as he bundles you up.

“I would never think you so damn foolish,” he murmurs under his breath, reaching for the jerky once more. Turning back he sees your face broken up as if you want to cry.

“I’m sorry. It was really foolish of m-me.” you whisper, sniffling a little. Sighing he simply shoves the jerky out at you, waiting for you to take it.

“Do not apologize. Do not cry. Eat.” With a shaky hand you take the meat from him, biting and chewing small portions. Satisfied when you’ve eaten enough he releases a sigh, moving to make sure the door is shut tight. As he moves to grab a chair, he hears you ask, “Are we staying here tonight?”

“What choice do we have? Due to your own foolishness we will not make it back to what was it, Camp Dragonhead? Where we might have food, a bath, a hearth. We must remain here for the night.” he’s tired, and cold, angry that you would risk your own life when you have to live to eventually fight him.

“I-I’m sorry...” you whimper, and it sounds so sad that he finds himself wishing he perhaps had not sounded so harsh. “You’re right it was foolish of me. I put you in danger.”

That spikes his ire even more, that even as you lie there losing body heat faster than you can replace it, you still think of him before yourself. What would you have done had he not been by your side? Would he have had heard the news that the Warrior of Light perished in a blizzard, not in the heat of battle?

“Just...do not make this mistake again.” Propping the chair under the door handle, he comes to sit next you. You’re still shivering, still lacking your natural color; you still need more warmth.

Without asking he slides an arm around your waist to bring you closer, unwrapping the blanket to get it around the both of you. “W-What’re you,”

“You are still cold. Sharing body heat will provide an adequate amount of warmth. Worry not for your virtue; I am merely protecting my investment.” 

You say nothing to that, still shivering against his strong frame. After a moment he feels your weight lean into him, fully relaxing into his hold. “This is the first time someone’s taken care of me.” the words are somehow louder than the snowstorm raging outside, ringing deep within his conscience. He’s unsure what to say to that, to even think about that.

Fortunately nothing needs to be said as you drift off into slumber, leaving him alone with his thoughts. Your breathing evens out, body fully going slack against his own, signs that you are fully asleep. It would be so easy to snap your neck, to crush your windpipe beneath his hand. Every dark form of torture drifted through his mind and yet his body would not move to comply.

Wrapping the blanket tighter around you, he adjusts your head to comfortably rest on his shoulder. “You’ve made me soft.” he laments, allowing his own eyes to drift closed as the storm rages on.

When he wakes, it’s to the smell of warm broth, and his side is noticeably less warm than he had left it. “You’re awake. I never thought you to be such a heavy sleeper.” Blinking his eyes, he groans, not bothering to grace you with an answer. That is precisely why he seldom did rest, at least so deeply. In fact he can’t remember the last time he let himself sleep so unaware of his surroundings.

“Has the storm passed?” he asked, standing to his feet as he spies a bowl of steaming soup on the table before him. Sitting down he doesn’t hesitate to begin eating, the soup warming him instantly.

“It has. We can leave Coerthas now.” 

Arching an eyebrow at that, he eats another spoonful. “Leave? Did you not want to hunt that monster?”

You shake your head, lip poking out in an adorable pout. “I found out that some other hunter had gotten to it first earlier this morning.” you grumble, poking at your soup a bit. “It’s fine though. I don’t want to stay in the cold any longer.”

That, he could agree with. While acclimated to cold climates, it did not mean he necessarily enjoyed them. Mumbling some noise of general agreement, he continues to eat, far hungrier than he realized.

“Also...you have my thanks.” 

Looking up, there is an overwhelming amount of appreciation in your eyes that he’s almost startled by it. It’s by far the most...affectionate feeling you’ve seen fit to direct at him and he honestly doesn’t know how to feel about it. “I’ll make sure to never put us in danger like that again. I’ll be more careful from now on.” There is so much conviction in your voice that he has no choice but to believe you. The rest of his meal is finished in silence, the Warrior of Light shuffling around to put everything as they found it.

The cold air is still brisk against his face as they step outside, your trusty whale already summoned to greet you and take you from this miserable place. He watches you hop on with ease, already whispering where you want to go to the enchanted beast. 

Before he can move to pull himself up, your hand is before him in offering. He can only stare at it in question, sliding up the arm, the shoulder, to meet your smiling face. “Hop on.”

As he places his hand in yours, he finds it as warm as your smile.

Chapter Text

Admittedly bored, Zenos watches as the rain pours down outside, safe and dry in the cozy comfort of your quaint cottage. The sound of the rain hitting the roof is somehow not nearly as soothing as the noise you make behind him. The ting of metal as you work on your smithing skills or the swirling of liquid as you concoct a new potion.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go do something else? I’ll be at it for awhile.” your voice drifts to his ears, barely audible over your work yet somehow the clearest sound he can hear. 

“As I had told you when we returned, I have nothing to better to do at the moment.” it had somehow become his default answer whenever you questioned him, and he surprised to a degree you simply accepted it. Perhaps part of you accepted that his business was his own and respected his privacy, but the other part was you struggled to believe someone would want to be around you so much.

“I know...I just feel bad for having you stuck here while I work on these provisions for the Namazu...”

Turning to face you he sighs, moving to sit on the couch available in the room. Any retainers and suppliers had already been dismissed for the day, leaving just you and he in your home. “If that is so Warrior, entertain me.”

You look somewhat startled by his suggestion, your face a deep red giving away where your thoughts had wandered. “Let us converse, to fill the silence. Or did you have another suggestion in mind?” he purrs, watching as the metal bracelet you were crafting drops from your hand and falls apart on the floor. A curse is muttered underneath your breath as you struggle to salvage what is left of it.

“N-No of course not.” You stammer, reaching for supplies to start anew. “I have a game of sorts from when I was younger. Would you like to hear of it?” you ask, easily falling back into the groove of your work. 

“Yes.” he answers, fully reclining into the couch, relaxing as strange as it sounded. While yes he would lounge upon his thrones, he had never had the sense of peace that would come with it.

“We take turns asking each other questions. We are allowed decline a question we might feel is too personal or sensitive, but anything is fair game.”

Arching a brow at that, he wonders at your own game. Were you trying to corner him for information about himself or was it a genuine suggestion? Even so, he could still turn your game against you, and ask whatever he wished to know. “Interesting. The stakes are both low and high at once.” smirking, he gives you his full attention. “Very well. Let us play. You may have the first turn.”

Pausing in your work, you bite on your lip to think of your first question. “Do you enjoy my cooking?” you ask hesitantly, awaiting his answer.

A simple enough question, though he did expect you to start with heavier material. “Yes, Warrior. And to ease your worries, I am particularly fond of your Rolanberry Cheesecake.” His honesty seeps into his words, the smile on your face like an extra light in the room. “Thank you.”

Starting small seems like a good idea, now that he thinks on it. He has deeper questions to ask, but those can wait until later. “What is your favorite discipline, in terms of combat?”

The next hour so continues the same, the two of you going back and forth. What’s his favorite color? Red. What is something you like to collect? Orchestrion Rolls. So far he’s only turned down one question, able to twist lies and fabricate stories about his past that make his tongue feel like ash for reasons he can’t explain.

It is good and dark by the time he asks a question he had asked you once before, but gave him a pitiful answer. “And I want you to be serious, should you choose to answer Warrior.” Leaning forward, his lips part to speak, “Why are you a hero?” It was a question with a million sub-questions within. Why do you fight to save Eorzea? Slay gods, kill political figureheads? Topple empires, for countries you bear no allegiance to?

You’re quiet for a moment too long, placing your tools down. “You may decline,”

“No. I’ll answer it. Give me a moment.” Slowly, you put your things away, silent all the while. Dusting your hands off,  you seat yourself in a plump chair adjacent from his place on the couch, meeting his eyes calmly.

“It’s complicated, to some degree. Or maybe I should say, it’s from my own indecision.” You recline fully into the chair, leaning against the arm. “I never wanted to be the hero.”

The confusion on his face must be visible, for you let out a small giggle. “That’s weird to hear from me, isn’t it? But it’s true. When everything started, I just wanted to go out and see the world. I wanted to be just an adventurer. Unfortunately, I wasn’t just an adventurer. I was blessed by Hydaelyn, and I couldn’t escape that. My talents, my abilities got me noticed by the Scions, the Grand Companies. And that’s how I became a hero.

To a degree, it wasn’t all bad at the start. I got to fight Primals, travel to extraordinary locations, see things most people will never see in their lifetime. All I had to do was help people, which seemed easy enough. But soon the trials became harder. It went from rescuing a lost child to saving entire nations.”

Your voice is heavy with burden, thick with how tired you are. Your eyes droop as if it pains you to even think about the weight on your shoulders, your eyes staring at something far away.

“At first it was stopping a few Garleans to ending a thousand year long war. To liberating not one, but two nations. All because I was the only one who could. Not the only one who Hydaelyn has blessed with power, but the only one with enough power to fight gods, fight these strong warriors. Perhaps it wouldn’t all be so bad had I not lost so many people along the way.”

Holding your hand out, he spies a deep, reddish crystal, with some form of symbol inside it. “This is one of my many soul crystals. They are what help give me power for my many disciplines. However this one is special.” A small smile graces your lips, eyes lost in a distant memory. 

“I have helped so many people in various lines of work. But this is the only one where I was told I should help myself.

My master’s name was Fray. They were somewhat brutal, sometimes mean. But in their heart, they cared for me. They made me really begin to question who do I fight for? That I should fight for myself, care for myself more. But how could I turn my back on the people who cannot fight for themselves? Who suffer and perish under constant tyranny?” Closing your fist tight around them gem, a dark glow comes from your palm. “This is probably the only time I’ve really taken care of myself these past few months. Things are somewhat calm after liberating Ala Mhigo, but I fear that things will pick up again soon...”

Looking up at him, you give him your answer. “I’m a hero because I have nothing else to be.”

He digests what you said, your words shedding light on why you are the way you are. You both sought the same things; a challenge, a fight, but your circumstances led you down different paths. To people he was the villain; the man who was whispered about in fear and to scare children in their beds. And to those same people, you were the hero. Leading people to freedom and glory, your greatness sung from coast to coast, across continents even. And yet you had not wanted any of the glory, that fame. You had only wanted to go out and see what the world had to offer, but it had only saw what you offered in return.

He cared little for what anyone thought of him, that much was obvious. Though he hid it with a mask of indifference, he felt trapped when was younger, forced into a role where he had to learn how to rule, how to lead, how to deal with politics, hardly knowing anything outside of how to be the next heir to the throne. But he complied, for what else could he do? Strike out against his father? As if that would have changed anything, given how distant his father was since birth...

You were both trapped; trapped to be great because the people around you believed you could do naught else.

“If I may ask a follow up question...” his voice is hushed, eyes pinning you down intently. Slowly you nod, meeting his gaze directly.

“Has anyone ever offered you anything else besides being a hero?”

You bite your lip immediately, seeming to mull over if you want to answer or not. “Yes. There was someone once. He had asked...for me to accept him.”

“And if he not only wanted acceptance...if he wanted to free you from the chains that bind you as the Warrior of Light, would you have still said yes?” his voice is somehow quieter, breath caught in his throat as you give him your answer.

“Without hesitation.”

Chapter Text

Zenos seldom asks where you’re taking him anymore. There is form of childish excitement and wonder in seeing the world beyond home, living day by day, not shackled by royal duties. There’s no laws to be signed, trade papers to look over, advisors to pester him. No maidens or gentlemen trying to curry his favor or warm his bed, no soldiers to lead, no lands to rule.

There is only he, and the Warrior of Light.

So when you arrive in Mor Dhona once more, he thinks it for you to get the latest reports of whatever is happening with the Scions, only for you to ignore Seventh Heaven entirely, and enter another nearby building. He’s not curious enough yet to ask what your business here is, the building mostly empty, save for a single, blonde man flipping through blueprints at a table.

“Nero!”

Nero looks up, somewhat startled as he had not heard you come in. “You should know better than to sneak up on a soldier, Warrior of Light.” He grumbles, removing his glasses and stuffing them inside a coat pocket.

So this is where had ran off to. Nero tol Scaeva, former Tribunus of the XIVth Legion. He looks about the same as the last Zenos can remember seeing him, sans the flaming red armor as required for his station. His gunhammer is also missing, though like any warrior, he does not doubt it’s hidden somewhere close by.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t expect you to be here. I was actually looking for,”

“Garlond, I presume?” you can only sheepishly grin under his indignified stare, his arms crossing over his shoulders. “I will forgive you this once. I have been away after all, since the ordeal with Omega.” Crossing over to you, he stands tall with a smug grin. “Which I heard you dealt with quite well. Eorzea is once again in your debt.”

You give a nonchalant shrug. “It’s not much different than anything else.”

Your casual demeanor causes Nero to give a hearty chuckle. “Only the Warrior of Light could speak so casually of besting the weapon who brought down Shinryu. Though I should not be surprised, as you had also defeated the same dragon.” (Zenos resists letting out a rude snort). Holding out his hands, his face is expectant. “Give me whatever it was you came here to have fixed. Whatever it is, I’m more than capable of handling it, Garlond might make it worse.”

“Bad mouthing me when I’m running you favors I see.”

Turning to the entrance there stands notorious traitor number one: Cid nan Garlond. Known throughout the land as the prodigal son, gone without a trace from Garlemald’s borders. He looks less than pleased, and while for the most part ignored, Zenos is content to watch your interactions with them.

“I’ve heard you’ve been traveling with a companion, Warrior of Light. Might this be him?” Cid asks, closing the door behind him with his hands full with food.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” you blush, turning to him leaving Zenos to think you truly did forget he was there for a moment. “This is my friend, Soryu. He’s been traveling with me for the past few months.”

Cid raises an eyebrow at that as he strolls past, unlike Nero who doesn’t bat an eye. “Pleased to meet you.” Cid grunts as he sets the food down, the smell wafting over to the two of you. “My guess is you have something that needs to be fixed then?” he inquires, chewing on a piece of battered fish.

“Yes.” Reaching into your pocket you pull out a familiar object; an armor identification key. With a simple click of the button, the armor is summoned to take up the large space in the room. It is certainly of Garlean origin, not some copy as far as he can tell. There seems to be some design on the side that must have been added on. Clearly stolen and vandalized, and now a simple toy for the Warrior of Light to travel in.

Nero’s eyebrows raise at the machine’s sudden appearance. “How did you get your hands on this?” he immediately performs a checkup, hands poking and prodding at all the gears and wires. 

“We stole it.” Cid monotones, content to continue eating as Nero examines Maggie. “What do you think is the matter?”

“Lately when I’m riding, it seems to kind of lurch...it’s hard to explain. It’s not a smooth ride.” you fumble, poking your lips out in a pout.

“I’ve already located the problem at hand. Worry not Warrior, I’m sure we can fix this before the day is done.” Nero announces, a dazzling smile on his face. “The only problem is, as defectors we lack the proper tools for repair and you will have to procure us some. Upon hearing the means of which you acquired this lovely weapon, I presume that won’t be a problem?” His voice is teasing, ignoring the dramatic sigh from Cid behind him.

“Of course not.” you smirk, dropping the key in Nero’s hand as he hands a slip of paper listing what you’ll need. “Are you coming, Soryu?”

“I will remain. I doubt you need my assistance in dispatching of a few Garlean soldiers.” You raise an eyebrow at that, surely wondering why he’d miss out on beating something up, but merely shrug and head out the door.

Turning back to the defectors, he’s content to merely watch them for the time being. They bicker as one would imagine a married couple would; Scaeva sassing Garlond who seems entirely through with, but used to, his antics. However there is a sense of camaraderie between them, of an old rivalry settled into a mutual respect. 

“So...do you know who he is?” Scaeva has switched to Garlean, the language seeming so foreign now after not being surrounded by it for so long. It is not widely known that Garleans can speak a separate language from Eorzea, having been exiled into Ilsabard.

Apparently their heritage is not so much of a secret to the savages if they feel comfortable speaking their mother tongue before him. It must also help to have the Warrior’s trust; that if you two are companions, then there is nothing to fear.

“I don’t know. Aside from the Warrior of Light’s journeys in Ishgard and the like, they do not often travel with companions. Only with the Scions and anyone else on their mission.” Cid mumbles, handing Nero some other tool. “I’ve never seen him before.” 

“That must make him special then. I wonder if it’s more than just companionship. Did you see the way they looked at him?” Nero laughs under his breath, hand outstretched as Cid puts a wrench in it. Zenos narrows his eyes at that, tempted to ask just what he had missed, but unwilling to blow his cover.

That point might be moot however, as he finds Garlond staring right at him with a scrutinizing stare. “Soryu, right?” he calls, Zenos inclining his head as a sign he heard. “It’s not often we hear the Warrior of Light traveling with those not within the Scions of the Seventh Dawn. How did you two get acquainted?”

He chooses his words carefully, carefully winding another tale. “I had merely offered my assistance multiple times, and they have yet to turn me away.” That’s not too far from the truth, considering all of your errands you drag him along on.

The answer seems acceptable, though Scaeva is staring at him with wide eyes. “What is it Nero?” Cid asks, startling the other man. 

“My apologies. He just had a very familiar...cadence. It reminded me of someone. A former superior.” the taller man grumbles, going back to his work. Perhaps he needed to be a bit more careful around these two, the last thing he needed was to be discovered for who he truly was. He was not finished with...whatever it was he had been doing for these past few months.

You return not but a bell later, arms full of various magitek bits and bobbles. “This is everything right?” you ask, depositing it on a nearby table. 

“Outstanding work as usual.” Cid grins, giving you a friendly pat. “Why don’t you and your companion go out and eat? It’ll probably be another bell before we can get Maggie all patched up and ready again.”

“I understand. We’ll go walk around for a bit.” With a wave, you stroll out the door, taking a deep breath. “Sorry about not telling you where we were going earlier. I hope it wasn’t a problem...with Cid and Nero?”

Zenos arches an eyebrow as you make your way into Seventh Heaven. “A problem?”

“You know...” you vaguely gesture, leaning in to whisper, “they can be a bit...much.” He merely shrugs, holding the door open as you step inside. “They are themselves. Though it is interesting that they live as Garleans, in this land.”

“Is that a problem for you? That they’re Garlean?” you ask, missing his smirk as you turn to order your food.

“Why would it be?”

Chapter Text

The ride is smooth as usual as you enter the Churning Mists, the day unusually bright from what you told him. You had been called on an errand by the dragons, an errand which you intended to do alone but Zenos convinced you to bring him along. Not seeing the harm in it you saddled up, and headed out.

“What manner of errand have they requested?” he asks over the rushing winds, looking down upon the many dragons below. The land before him is fascinating to behold. It is so different from Garlemald in that is filled to the brim with magic.

“I don’t know. I had received a letter from a delivery moogle saying to come here. Hopefully nothing’s the matter.” you answer, instructing your whale to land at a nearby platform, the architecture still impressive even in it’s crumbled state. 

With an affectionate pat, the two of you dismount and the whale vanishes into the sky. Looking around, you tap your chin thoughtfully. “I wish they told me who needed me exactly.”

Before you can pull out your letter to look over it once more, a mighty roar shakes the platform, strong wing beats sending a flurry of wind past you and Zenos. A dark shadow falls over the two of you, his hand on his sword instantly, though it is stilled by your own as you break out into a smile.

“Hraesvelgr!”

With a mighty thud, the dragon lands, roaring once more before stepping forward. “Warrior of Light. T's valorous to seeth thee again.” His voice rumbles, though Zenos does not see the dragon’s mouth move. Peeking over at him, you give a small smile.

“Sorry, I forget not everyone gets to interact with dragons.” You release his arm, moving to stand before the great wyrm before you. “Soryu, meet Hraesvelgr. He is one of the first brood.”

While he can’t be incredibly surprised, he still is in a teeny bit of awe at how calmly you move before this beast. Obviously he is no stranger to the power of the first brood; having seen first hand how the power of Nidhogg’s eyes gave birth to Shinryu. But the way you talked of him spoke of a mutual respect, and given the longevity of dragons, had to be hard earned. He nods in acknowledgement, if only to be polite.

“Hraesvelgr, this is my friend Soryu. He’s been traveling with me recently.” The great dragon’s eyes settle on him with something almost akin to scrutiny, causing him to frown in return.

“Thou has't not been traveling alone?” Hraesvelgr asks, and Zenos has to scoff at the slight. He was somehow not important enough to make his acquaintance. 

“Not as of late.” you murmur shyly, causing the dragon to rumble with some indecipherable emotion. “But I had received a letter asking me to come to the Churning Mists. Do you know anything of it?” you ask, busying your hands with your shirt, as if you are resisting to touch the great beast.

“Aye. I needeth thee to kill a monster in the east. A beast named Agathos hath been terrorizing the hatchlings. The beast art endangering the young and we are need of thy help. We will ferry you to his lair, upon our back.” he speaks, moving to sit down as a wyvern lands with a noisy screech. The eyes of the dragon slide over to him, unblinking. “Thy companion shall remain.”

The dragon’s tone left no room for argument, letting Zenos know something was amiss. “Will you be all right here on your own?” looking down, your eyes gaze back at his own, your hand fisted lightly in his shirt. 

Considering the dragon before him he sighs, giving your hand a gentle pat. Though you were not aware of the dragon’s ulterior motives, he would not let it worry you. “Go. I will be here when you return.” 

Nodding, you run over to where the wyvern was waiting for you to ride upon it’s back, waving goodbye as you become a dot on the horizon.

Narrowing his eyes on Hraesvelgr, Zenos wonders how best to tread. “Why did you really call the warrior here, great wyrm?” he challenges, to which Hraesvelgr lets out a low growl.

“Thou art perceptive, mortal. T’was not I who solely sought audience with the Warrior of Light.” Hraesvelgr thrums, giving a flap of his wings. 

At that moment a small ball of light appears next to him, before taking the form of a small dragon. “Greetings, mortal.” this voice is somehow deeper, far more wizened than the one before him. 

“Thou hast already met mine own son.” The deeper voice continues, cogs working in Zenos’ head. If Hraesvelgr is the son of this small dragon, then that must make him--

“Midgardsormr, the father of dragons.”

With a small nod, Midgardsormr swoops to sit atop Hraesvelgr’s head. “Correct.” The dragonet seems to be studying him, even more so than his far larger son. The feeling of his worth being measured tickles at Zenos’ senses, unsure of what their goal is. He is also curious as to how the great wyrm is able to still exist; did he not perish in the battle over Silvertear, leaving his carcass there as a harrowing reminder? How great was his power to ignore his own death?

“What business does the father of dragons have with me then?” he questions, folding his arms across his chest. Never would he have thought that a loss of power meant others, be it man or dragon would question his motives so heavily.

“Watch thyself mortal, lest I bite thee head clean off.” Hraesvelgr growls lowly, sharp teeth glinting in the sunlight. Though Zenos is not afraid, he knows to keep his expression neutral. He’d rather not have to explain himself for getting into fights to you later.

“Just as thou art perceptive mortal, as are we.” Midgardsormr begins again, dark eyes holding an eternity inside them. “Thou art not who thee claimeth to be.”

With that statement, the dragons’ intentions are now clear. “You are protecting the Warrior of Light.” 

With a slow nod, Midgardsormr speaks again. “Many moons ago, I did bind the warri'r to me, to testeth their worth.  Many a timeth, has't they proved worthy of the blessing of Hydaelyn, and many a time has't I given them mine own aid. While I hath slumbered, I has't watched over them, and thee in turn.”

That knowledge is new to him, try as he might not to show it. “You are bound to the Warrior of Light?” he repeats, running the thought over in his mind. He had never doubted the might of your power, and though he had vague knowledge of the history of dragons, even he could tell that gaining their respect, let alone their aid was no easily done feat. And not only that, but you were bound to the father of all dragons, still so great in power to ignore they very laws of life itself.

Truly, he could not find better prey.

“So then, you are curious as to my intentions concerning the Warrior? Afraid I will turn on them and murder them in their sleep?” he can’t help but taunt, smirk playing on his lips.

“Were that true, thee wouldst already be dead.” Midgardsormr responds easily, something in his voice filled with such a dark threat that even he knew not to toy with the great wyrm any longer. “The Warrior hast already seen too much hardship. Thee has't madeth them joyous; which is why I've been content to slumber. But even I can see that their feelings, and thy own art changing.”

Unwilling to admit anything to himself, or the dragon, Zenos carefully deflects the accusation. “So, a warning then.” Despite the diminutive form Midgardsormr has chosen, the unwavering stare pulls a begrudging respect from him. The Warrior of Light was well liked and well cared for; by all manner of people and beast alike. While the thought of truly challenging Midgardsormr excites him, he knows that he could not in this body, and even in his own he would have to regain the form of a dragon himself.

“Seeth it as what thee shall. I will merely watch...listen...and wait.” is Midgardsormr’s cryptic answer, before smaller wing beats draw the conversation to a close. 

The wyvern lands carefully, thinking of it’s passenger who holds the hide of their kill. “Hraesvelgr! It’s all taken care of--oh hello Midgardsormr!” you greet happily, hopping off the wyvern’s back with a nod of thanks. 

“Hello, child of man.” the note of affection in the dragon’s voice is not lost on Zenos as he watches the interaction, finding it equal parts amusing and incredible. Whereas a truce of sorts seemed to be between you and the son, the father protected you as a parent would a child. A simple warrior, conversing with a legend that serves as a terrible reminder both Garleans and Eorzeans alike.

As if it were nothing.

He had nothing to prove to these powerful beings, or to anyone for that matter. Their concern for your well being was unnecessary, though not unfounded. For the wyrm to already discern who he was meant he had been watching from your side when you first laid eyes on him. But not even the great wyrm’s threats would keep him from what he wanted.

Catching your eyes, you smile warmly at him, affection shining through brighter than the sun.

No. Nothing at all.

Chapter Text

Glancing up from the book he was reading, Zenos watches as you nearly burst through the door of your own home. “Yes?”

You’re wearing armor he’s never seen before; a black mask over your face, sharp, spiked things upon your shoulders that could barely be called pauldrons. In fact the entire look could hardly be called armor at all for how little protection it offered, though to be honest, he had seen you much less.

He doesn’t flinch as the oversized axe you toted makes a large thud as you drop it to the ground, grinning widely as you hold up a pristine bottle of sake. “I’ve finally reached the end of my training as a Warrior. I want to celebrate.”

Arching an eyebrow he simply bookmarks the page he was on before closing the book gently. Only a few hours had passed since you ventured out, going on about how you needed to complete a warrior’s training and something of the sort. You claimed it would be dull and not to his liking, so he had no problem remaining in your home, left to his own devices.

“Congratulations, Warrior.” standing he watches as you move to your bedroom downstairs to change, the sound of metal hitting the ground in your hurry carrying up the stairs.

“I’m decent!” he hears you call, a sign that he may join you. Descending, he watches as you come out of your bedroom and into your second lounge area below. It’s fitted with a single table with chairs and a couch surrounding it. You’re pulling what seems to be cakes and other desserts from a nearby cupboard, placing them with care on the table.

“I thought we might also play a game.” your good mood radiates off you in waves, though he is far used to it by now. You are just genuinely happy, and he would not ask for naught else. “Our question game. But with higher stakes.”

Two glasses are pulled from a cabinet, your grin somewhat mischievous as you hand him his own. “For every question that is asked, we must drink.” He did not take you as one to participate in drinking games, never seeing the point in them himself as he had never felt the slowing effects of alcohol. He was willing to indulge your whims, however.

He was willing to indulge a lot where you were concerned.

“Your victory has put you in a bright mood.” he observes, allowing you to pour him the first glass. 

“It has. I’ve wanted this for a really long time.” You pour your own cup, grabbing a piece of cake as you seat yourself in a chair, Zenos choosing the couch. He reaches for a piece of cake as well, glad to see it is one you baked yourself. “Who shall have the honor then?” he asks, crossing one leg over the other.

“I’ll take the first turn.” You chirp. Getting comfortable, you take a bite of cake, staring at the ceiling as you think. “What is one thing you detest in other people?”

It continues on as it had before, going back and forth asking each other questions. With each cup your face grows redder; words more slurred. He can only chuckle as you become more and more inebriated, a fact that has not gone under your notice.

“And I thought could handle my liquor. You didn’t tell me you knew how to drink.” you growl, pouting as you slouch in your chair. “Look at you...it might as well be water!”

“It’s not my fault that you did not think to study your opponent before issuing a challenge Warrior. You are free to call it quits if you cannot continue.” he baits, watching as you snatch the bottle of sake off the table.

“I’m not done! I’m just a little tired is all, swingin’ a big axe around...” you pour yourself another glass, chugging it down in one gulp to slam on the table afterwards. “D-Do you think of me as a friend?” you manage to get out, gasping at the burn of the alcohol as it goes down.

It’s not an easy question to answer, as his terms of friendship are terribly skewed, for they do not exist at all. To what he knew of true friendship, one could objectively say the two of you were friends. You traveled together, fought together, enjoyed each other’s company. They were not things he said out loud but he could tell from your change in demeanor over time that you received his feelings all the same. He had never treated anyone with such patience, such understanding, such...care. In fact, he long thought himself incapable of such feelings. Feelings he told himself he had no need of so very long ago.

He doesn’t know when it happened, seeing you as a friend. When he extended the offer to you months ago, he expected a rival. For the two of you to sharpen each other like knives, trying to slit each other’s throat. He would have never guessed that he would spend months watching you smile, fighting by your side, aiding you in your adventures. What else could it be besides friendship?

Though it was obvious in his actions, you probably still needed, wanted to hear it from his own mouth as you had with many other things before.

“I do.” he answers, the truth of it rolling through his very being. Your eyes have closed, barely awake to hear his answer as you smile.

Before he can prepare to refill his glass to ask his own question, you slouch further in the chair, mumbling some incoherent nonsense. Clearly at your limit, he sets his glass down, carefully moving the table away. “I believe you’ve had enough for tonight.”

“I’m fine...” your words are muffled by the arm of the chair.

“Can you stand, or must I carry you to your bed?” he waits a moment, watching as you teeter on the brink of consciousness. He can see the exhaustion in your frame, limbs sprawled haphazardly. The hour had grown late, far past the time you usually allowed yourself to rest.

Saying nothing he reaches down, scooping you up with ease. “Are we going to bed?” you ask, voice muddled with sleep.

You are going to bed. You have had too much alcohol.” Nudging the door to your bedroom open, he maneuvers around to the side. Setting you down, he grunts as your fingers fist tightly in his shirt. “Warrior,”

Before he can say anything else he’s pulled onto the bed, hands reaching out to brace his fall before he crushes you beneath him. He meets your eyes that are now staring back at him, still hazy as if you’re only halfway awake.

“Soryu.” you whisper. Your hands have not let go of his shirt, if anything they have gripped even tighter. “I trust you.”

His eyes widen a fraction at that, too startled to fight back as you pull him even closer. The smell of sake is strong on your breath, but you move as if you are very aware of your motions. “I mean it. I trust you like I’ve never trusted anyone before.” your voice is hushed, raspy with too many emotions for him to pick out. The warmth of your body reaches his own, grunting as you try to pull him closer still.

“I see now why you do not drink often.” He grunts, still struggling to pry himself loose as you giggle. You are clearly not in your right mind, and need to sleep this off, as amusing as this was when he wasn’t practically straddling you on your bed.

“No one’s ever tried to get to know me like you do. Not the Scions. Not the Grand Companies. No one.” you continue, as if he had not spoken at all. “You’ve made me the happiest I’ve felt since...since...” your voice trails off before finding your words, “I just really wanted to thank you. For being my friend.” He’s rendered immobile as you reach up to press your lips against his cheek, finally releasing his shirt.

“Promise me.” Your breath ghosts over his ear, sending a shiver down his spine. “Promise me you won’t leave.” your voice is light, hand falling away as you finally surrender to sleep.

For a few minutes, he’s unable to will his body to move, mind still processing what just happened. With a sigh he carefully moves himself from atop you, moving to sit at the edge. You’re fully asleep, dead to the world, knowing he will keep you safe.

“I trust you.”

The words circle through his mind, obsessing over it. There’s a sudden weight on his shoulders, making him slouch forward.

“Promise me. Promise me you won’t leave.”

“Warrior of Light.” his voice is barely above a whisper. Reaching a hand out, he gently brushes hair from your face, blue eyes half lidded as you lean into his touch.

He finds himself caressing your face, your skin soft and smooth. The action is new to him, enjoying the feeling of being so near someone without fear. He can’t make himself stop as his hand reaches to hold your own, his heart loud in his own ears. Calloused just like his own, yet somehow still gentle as he brings it to his lips, whispering softly against your fingers.

“I’ve never left you.” 

Chapter Text

The Warrior of Light has gone off to run some form of errand and Zenos is willing to let them. He knows his battle will come, he’s not worried about the if any longer. It’s but a matter of when.

Being able to stroll around Eorzea at his leisure has become less foreign and more welcome instead. Things are still dull when you’re not dragging him along into dungeons and to fight whatever manner of beast you need to hunt, but things are noticeably less...boring. He has learned patience in waiting for your return, knowing things will be all the better when you do.

And it allows him to lure his current follower into less populated locales.

“Whoever you are, I think you’ve tailed me long enough.” he speaks aloud, hearing nothing save the chirping of crickets and a distant stream.

And then there is movement, quick and fast, Zenos dodging a perfectly thrown lance as if it were merely a stick. “I see a change of hosts has not dampened your fabled skill.” The voice is masculine, coming from somewhere in the trees. It does not take long for the mystery voice to reveal itself, an Elezen man landing before him.

His hair is silver, hanging down to his shoulders across azure platemail. It’s of stellar quality, shining brightly even in the moonlight. His blue eyes are trained on him in a leveled glare, dark and brooding in a near permanent scowl.

“Estinien, the Azure Dragoon I believe?” Zenos inquires, pulling the lance from the ground and tossing it back with little care. Estinien growls as he snatches it out the air, hoisting it on his back once more.

“Aye. Didn’t expect the Warrior of Light to go on about me, if you know my name.” He bristles. The man’s stance can hardly be called relaxed. It is somewhere between on edge and wary, distrust shining through every facet of his posture.

“To what do I owe the honor of a visit from the esteemed Azure Dragoon then?” Zenos purrs, chuckling as Estinien riles up further.

“Don’t bullshit me.” he growls. “You might have the Warrior of Light fooled, but I’m well aware who you are crown prince.” he hisses, to which Zenos narrows his eyes.

“If that is so, have you come to put an end to my charade?” he asks, not bothering to be stealthy about his hand palming the hilt of his blade. 

“Don’t even bother.” Estinien seethes, not even bothering to reach for his lance. “I didn’t come to fight, even if I threw my lance at you. And if you know who I am, you know it’s best you don’t fight me either.”

Zenos hums lightly at that. So far what stories you recounted about your friends had rang true; the dragoon who disappeared without a trace after his job was done. You had lamented missing his presence, his scathing glares and dry wit. If he knew his true identity, it could only mean he had been tailing him for a long time.

“You are a wise man.” Zenos smirks, crossing his arms instead. The compliment lacks any sincerity but Estinien doesn’t lose his stride.

“Just...” He mumbles something under his breath. “Look, I didn’t come here to get distracted. I came to ask what your intentions are.”

With the Warrior of Light is left unsaid. Not one to beat around the bush it seems, which he could appreciate to a degree. “My intentions are mine own.” he offers cryptically, watching as the dragoon’s brows furrow impossibly further. “I am merely waiting for the duel the Warrior has promised me; nothing more.”

“To which I call bullshit.” Estinien grumbles, teeth glinting in the night. “I didn’t expect a truthful answer out of you, bloody surprised I got one at all...” he trails off, his posture shifting the tiniest bit. “I only ask because you two have become...closer.”

A devilish grin lights Zenos’ face, unable to resist goading the obviously wound up man. “Feeling jealous then? From what I’ve heard you and I are quite similar. We have both assumed the form of dragons, enjoy the Warrior of Light’s company...have you come to tell me of your unrequited love?” 

Estinien scoffs, his own smirk plastered on his face. “Hardly. I am not wont to be jealous of someone else wooing their heart, when our relationship was only physical.” That catches Zenos off guard, unable to school his expression fast enough.

“Surprised, prince? Surely you did not think the Warrior of Light so green and naive? To not crave the pleasures of the flesh?” Estinien asks smugly, preening from having him on the back foot. 

Actually no, he had not. Your shy glances, your flushed face at his occasional nearness, he had expected you not to be acquainted with such carnal desires. It was not something he thought on heavily where you were concerned, but seeing the man across from him taunt him so openly, knowing that someone else had known your touch...

“I would expect a savage to do something as crude as gloating about his conquests.” It is Zenos’ turn to seethe, hand suddenly itching to feel his sword run through anything. As much as he would like to strike down the man before him for his insolence, he cannot. There would be no forgiveness for killing one of your dear friends, and it angers him more that this Estinien knows that. 

If only you could understand the beauty that execution had when it came to solving problems.

“’Tis not a matter of gloating. Merely statement of fact.” Estinien begins, moving to lean against a nearby tree. “The Warrior merely wanted someone they trusted for comfort; without worry of bringing danger to them. A fellow weapon who could not be used against them.” Estinien’s voice is gentler now, speaking of you.

“Call me soft, but I just don’t want to see them suffer anymore than they already have. It’s only taken this long for me to interfere because, Halone damn it all, for some fuckin’ reason you make them happy.

They’ve not known...peace since your death. Perhaps I am partially at fault; abandoning them in a time of need while I struggled to find a new purpose. When you died they were sadder. Lost. I cannot claim to understand whatever bond it is you two share. But since you’ve started traveling together, they’ve been happier. Smiling again. And that is the only reason I have let you keep your little secret.

Estinien’s eyes are now cold and distant, a sudden darkness in them he did not know the man capable of. “But by the Fury, if you do anything, anything, to hurt the Warrior of Light and you know damn well I don’t mean only physically...” his voice is murderous, and for a moment the pure killing intent rolling off the man before him is enough to make him reach for his sword again. “Man without equal or no, I will strike you down.”

Zenos narrows his eyes in return, hand still palming the hilt of his sword. As much as he would enjoy coming to blows with the man before him, or dismissing his threat, he knows it is not wise. At the first sign of trouble, he’s positive that the dragoon wouldn’t hesitate to expose him. To throw away the trust you had placed in him. “Worry not for the Warrior’s well being dragoon. I have taken care of them thus far. ” 

Energy clashes in the forest as the men try to make the other submit by sheer will alone, neither willing nor wanting to back down. “I will hold you to your word.” Estinien finally grunts, rolling his shoulders casually, turning to leave. “I leave the Warrior of Light in your hands. Don’t make me regret it.”

With a graceful leap, the Azure Dragoon takes off into the canopy, the trees shaking in his wake. Zenos remains there for a moment, staring at the spot where he had disappeared, before finally taking his leave.

Chapter Text

“What is it Warrior?”

Your expression is that of a child, caught doing something they weren’t supposed to.

“I didn’t say anything.” You mumble, turning away in your chair to look at how interesting your choice in wallpaper is. He flips the page of his book nonchalantly, not bothering to look up. He had merely felt your eyes on him as if you were struggling to ask him something, and had had enough of your incessant staring.

“Perhaps not verbally, but you have been staring at me for well over five minutes. Surely you desire something, and as you already know, it is highly unlikely I will turn you down.”

You sigh in relief, which does make him look up, a smile plastered on your face. “Was I that obvious?” you grin, relaxing in your chair.

“I have learned your tells.” he offers politely, hiding his own smile.

“You know me too well.” You shift to lean toward him, smile getting even bigger. “I was thinking, that you could use some new armor.”

He stares at you for a moment, giving you a blank stare. “You’ve spent five minutes waiting to insult me?” he asks, finally shutting his book.

“No, no, I said that wrong. I meant, that I wanted to craft you new armor.” you grin eagerly, not losing stride. “I’ve toyed around with some ideas for you to have some new armor that would change the look of your current one only a little. But only if you’re interested.”

He had certainly gotten used to wearing the cloth armor he had used these past months and while he was loathe to admit it, he came to prefer it. It felt freer. Lighter. Not unlike his mood as of late. “Are you sure you don’t just want to use me as a doll?” he questions, grinning deviously as you pout.

“I just wanted to do something nice for you.” Standing, you reach for his hand. “Is that a yes?”

There’s certainly no reason to say no. “So long as I do not have to retrieve the materials...”

“Of course not! I already bought everything, stay right here!” Snatching your hand away, you’re gone down the stairs in a flash, the sound of furniture being shoved drifting up the stairs. Giving a dramatic sigh he follows, watching as you pull out pins, pin cushions, tape measures and everything else you need. Cloth is carefully laid across the couch, and even from just looking at it he can see it is of very high quality; it must’ve cost you a small fortune.

“Come stand over here.” you order, to which he obeys. “I hope you don’t mind that I have to stand close for your measurements...” you smile demurely, unrolling the tape measure from your hand. 

“I’ve been measured before Warrior. Merely tell me how I must move.” His voice is low, watching as it sends shivers down your spine, even though you are so near his warmth. His eyes don’t leave you as you move to his back side, stretching the tape measure across his shoulders. Silently, you record his measurements, moving to reach for his arm next. He finds himself wishing he had at least taken off his jacket, to feel your hands on his skin.

When you circle to his front he finds your face tinted red, avoiding his eyes to stare straight at his chest. “Can you lift your arms please?” you mumble, your voice so much quieter than moments earlier. He obeys, unable to repress the smirk as your hands brush across his chest. “Embarrassed, Warrior?” he can’t help but ask, if only to look at your flustered expression.

“Far from it!” you grumble, cinching the tape measure unnecessarily tight around his chest before loosening it again. “I’m just a little warm, is all.” you lie, reaching to wrap the tape measure around his neck. It looks almost like a lover’s embrace for a moment, the illusion deepened as he steadies you by the waist. Your fingers are shaking, eyes darting from his lips to his eyes. He’s content to watch, waiting to see what his beast will do when he teases him like this.

True to your nature in battle, you do not flee or cower, but continue to face him, writing down your measurements. Your face is sporting a nice blush, but you are otherwise determined to see your task through. You surprise him with a knowing smirk as you jerk him into you by the waist, your smile innocent, but something much deeper swirling in your eyes as you make a show of making your touch linger as you remove the tape measure.

“Are you sure you just didn’t want to be closer to my person?” he asks, voice barely above a whisper, rumbling lowly in his chest. His blood burns hot at your nearness, looming over you like a predator, though from your expression you look anything but caught. From here he can smell the scent of the oils in your hair, a mix of lavender and honey that in any other situation, would be calming. Your eyes twinkle with mischief another emotion he can’t explain,.

“I don’t know what you mean.” you giggle, measuring the inseam of his pants with cool detachment, finishing with the length of his legs as well. Your movements are calculated, but intentional, making sure to linger along the inside of his thigh, to brush his calve just so. 

With one last brush of your hands against him you pull away, eyes half lidded, gaze inviting as you move to gather the cloth in your hands. “It will take me a few bells before I finish, since I want to do well. You’ll have to find something else to occupy yourself with while I work.”

“Then I will go outside to train.” You had installed a training dummy out in your yard, which enabled him to practice his form after running out of books to read. “How much will I owe you?”

“Nothing.” you reply, brushing past him again. 

“It does not take an expert to see the fabric you’ve chosen is not cheap.” He sighs, stopping you with a firm hand on your shoulder. “You must needs something in return.”

Your eyes dart to his hand quickly, before looking at him again. “Do you intended to go anywhere anytime soon?” Confused at your question, he answers anyway with a shake of his head. “Then continue as you have been. Your friendship has been enough.” You smile, shuffling your supplies into one arm. “I’m doing this because I care. I want this to be a gift.” Saying nothing more you retreat to your study, the door shutting with a loud click.

He stares at the door for a moment, releasing a long breath. While the Warrior had their tendencies to be demure and innocent, they were equally capable of teasing. His lips are suddenly dry, swiping his tongue across before biting down. You had won this time, but this was a battle he was equally capable of fighting. He’ll let you run away with your small victory, as he awaits to see what you craft for him.

He doesn’t think he’s ever received a gift for the sake of it, had anything done for him without someone wanting something in return. Politicians trying to line his pockets or soldiers trying to climb the ranks. Such were the woes of being a prince, where people only cared for what you could do for them.

But to be cared for, to receive something for nothing other than the sake of giving...

Someday, he hoped to return the favor.

Chapter Text

Your hand is clutched tightly in his as the two of you dash through the rain, holding on to one another so neither of you fall off the edge of the cliff. Warped crystal is slippery as you found out when you had nearly slid off the edge, Zenos’ preternatural reflexes pulling you back to his side in an instant.

“Have you angered any primals recently Warrior? Or perhaps this is their vengeance; seeing as you always have us caught in some form of inclement weather?” he growls over a crash of thunder, slashing at a mirrorknight with his sword arm.

“How was I to know I would pick the one day it rains in the desert?! Ramuh doesn’t even rule over this domain!” you snap back, pulling him toward a tunnel just ahead of you. “And I don’t think he’s mad at me...” you add as an afterthought, voice sounding terribly unsure.

It matters little as you both skid to a halt in one of the tunnels in the Burning Wall, the glow of the many crystals providing more than enough light. You’re both only lightly soaked, but there is thankfully a torch burning brightly nearby, the two of you crowding near it immediately. The rain shows no sign of letting up, and if anything only seems to come down harder as you stare at the entrances of the tunnel. “It seems we’ll be here awhile yet.” you muse softly, shedding your outer most coat.

Zenos follows suit, placing his on a nearby rock as he watches you fumble around in your pack. “Next time we will not ignore my advice to check the upcoming weather before a hunt.” he admonishes, not at all fazed by your innocent smile.

“We killed it didn’t we? And much faster too, with your help. You have a real talent for hunting.” Your compliment does make him preen a little, though he’s not sidetracked as you intended.

“And we would also be home much faster, had you not declined my advice,”

“To go check the weather, yes, I know.” you pout, folding your arms like a petulant child. “How did you become such a great hunter anyway? If you can find Lampalagua that fast, you could find any S rank quickly I bet. What’s your secret?”

After your struggle to find Safat, the Warrior let Zenos take over as the leader o the hunt. With the right information, luring the beast out was mere child’s play to him, but fascinating to you. Your question seems harmless enough on the surface, making him reach into his memories of when he was young. The memories of his ruthless tutor, of spending the majority of his time locked away in the royal family’s library, with only books and tomes for his companions.

“Soryu?”

Your face is muddled with concern and worry, a gentle hand on his arm, making him wonder how long he had been caught in his memories. “Forgive me, Warrior. I was merely...thinking on how to answer your question.” he hums, staring out into the raging storm. 

“I did not think it so personal a question. I apologize.” You whisper, gripping his sleeve a little tighter. Looking at you, he feels a part of himself he thought long buried bumble forth, wary and unsure. It wants to share with you. It wants to open itself to you, just as you had with him. No one had ever asked him much about himself, without some ulterior motive. But you, you wanted to know for the sake of knowing. To know more about him, the monster that he knew he was.

“Come, Warrior.” He moves to sit next to a wall, looking up at you expectantly. “Let us talk, to pass the time.”

You remain frozen there for a few seconds, but eventually move to sit next to him, closer than any normal (some would even say sane) person would dare sit, but still a respectable distance from his side. Resting an arm on one knee, he stares out at the storm again, collecting his thoughts.

“As you might have gathered, I came from a...privileged family. As a child, I could possibly want for nothing. Anything I desired was handed to me on a silver platter. T’was a life that I’m sure many a man would wish for.

I was the oldest child and thus, the one expected and trained to inherit all of the wealth. I had the best teachers, the best instructor for swordsmanship, cruel as he was. My honored father was busy with maintaining his wealth.”

He could feel his fist clench and relax, the memories swirling through his mind with startling force. “I hardly interacted with my siblings, due to my being primed to take over as head of the family one day. My main companions were books, spending hours upon hours locked within our personal library. Studying until I had read every word, memorized every tome. For the times I was not reading, I was trained in the art of combat, primarily swordsmanship due to my inability to use magic.”

He stares at his right hand, a wry smile as he does so. “I studied long into the late hours, trying to find anything to overcome this detriment. I had tried everything, even as far as self experimentation. The memory eludes me, of when I became so obsessed with the notion of gaining power, growing stronger, hunting opponents to see how swiftly I could defeat them. The people around me had ceased to be mortal, but merely machina on rails. Machines moving through the world without independent thought, until they became...” Until they became beasts in the hunt. 

“Were you lonely?” Your voice is small and careful, your crystal depths full of understanding and concern. They are not filled with pity, but a genuine care for his well being. “I don’t mean to assume. But growing up without your father being around, or your mother, it must have been very lonely.” How perceptive you were. He had not even mentioned his mother’s untimely death, though he could hardly remember it himself. He could not remember mourning her, or if he had even got the chance.

And was he lonely? With no one but himself to depend on? Never knowing what it was to care or be cared for? Being taught that things such as affection were not needed for the prince of Garlemald?

Maybe he was.

“Perhaps.” he admits, the confession strange to his own ears. “It is but part of the past now. Nothing can change that. Nothing could change what I had become.” he finishes, looking out at the storm once more.

Suddenly there is a weight on his shoulders, the feeling of arms encircling one of his. “It might be the past. But that doesn’t mean that the past doesn’t hurt.” your voice is still quiet, full of a sureness he wasn’t sure he’d heard before. “Our past shapes us into who we are. Our past can hold us back. But it can also help us understand ourselves,” you pause with a warm smile, “and it can help others understand us too.”

You lean your head on his shoulder, fingers snaking down to touch his own. “Have I ever told you that I trust you? More than I have ever trusted anyone before?” you ask, idly drawing patterns on his skin.

He stares at your fingers moving across his own, enchanted by the motion. “No.” he lies, wanting to hear you say it again.

“Well, I do. I trust you more than anyone. And...you’re a really dear friend to me.” your voice trembles, a note of anxiety slipping through. Hearing your confession again fills him with a sense of pride, a recurring sense of peace that only you have ever brought out.

There’s a warmth swimming inside him that he can’t yet describe, but it threatens to take him over. He feels if he does not hold it back, it will fly loose beyond his control. But it must find it’s release some how, the feeling suffocating, as if he is drowning.

Unbidden, his hand slowly moves to intertwine with your own, warmer than he’s ever felt it. You do not reject the action, instead tightening your grip as you stare into his sky blue eyes. “You would be my first friend.” he admits, watching a shadow of sorrow flashing through your eyes before it’s gone, replaced by happiness.

“We can while away the quiet hours, as friend and confidant...” he hears you murmur to yourself, his own words striking a chord within him. Your hands fit perfectly together and not, a wrongness of it settling in, in this body that is not his own. It’s a new feeling, being this close to someone outside of combat, outside of seeking pleasure. Your thumb draws random patterns on his skin as you two wait out the storm in companionable silence, clutching your hand tighter in his.

Chapter Text

Blue eyes snap open at the first whimper you release, flicking to your sleeping form nearby.

He had only closed his eyes so that he may lightly rest, as was the norm whenever he and the Warrior of Light camped out in the wilds. They had found a humble little cave in the Fringes to sleep in for the night, a small fire pit already left behind from previous adventurers. 

As your breathing had evened out, he was left to his thoughts, listening to the roaring waterfall not too far away outside. The night had gone on in a peaceful calm, until you began fidgeting in your sleep. Usually you slept soundly when you allowed yourself to fully surrender to your exhaustion, but something was troubling your dreams.

Standing, he moves to where you’re huddled in your blanket, a cold sweat upon you brow. He’s unsure what to do; of whether to wake you up or to wait it out. What thoughts were plaguing you, that you slept so fitfully? You had seem tired as of late, weighed down by a burden you had not shared with him. It was not his desire to know every single thing about your life, but clearly there was something important you had deigned insignificant enough to not share.

He thought maybe to let it run it’s course, to merely be by your side should you wake, but your expression grew pained and fearful. Curiosity weighed against better judgement. Concern took priority over respect.

With barely a conscious thought he could feel the Resonant activate, eyes glowing a stark red in the darkness of the cave. “What ails you, Warrior...” he murmurs below his breath, shutting his eyes as his mind fades to nothing as he enters your dreams.

Opening them again, he finds himself in what must be Coerthas, though he thankfully cannot feel the cold. It is eerily quiet, even the wind does not seem to howl through the trees, the snow does not crunch beneath his boots. But there are voices, quiet as he walks underneath the bridge to a nearby building, where the door is ajar.

“Moved on have you?” the voice is unfamiliar, masculine, gentle. 

“I...I haven’t moved onto anything Haurchefant.” He recognizes your voice instantly, feet carrying him a little quicker as he gently pushes the door open a little further. You’re seated at a large table, an Elezen man with ice blue hair sitting by your side, his hand clasping yours. His eyes are filled with adoration, love, a tenderness he had never seen in his life.

“But you have, my sweet. There is someone else in your heart, is there not?” the man asks, leaning incredibly close. 

Your eyes dart everywhere except the man before you, uncertainty plain on your face. “I...” you murmur, trying to pull away from his nearness.

“You have moved on my dear. You have forgotten about me...” he laments, expression turning solemn.

“That’s not true!” you nearly shout, tears brimming in your eyes. “I could never forget about you Haurchefant! I just thought,”

“Thought that you deserved to be happy?” he spat, teeth gleaming in the firelight. “Thought that you could move on, and find love again? You are a harbinger of chaos Warrior of Light. The Ascians work so hard to stop you, yet they do not see what a parasite you are to those you care for.” he seethes, leaning into your space once more.

“Everyone you have ever cared for, felt understood you has perished. The Scions are falling to a mysterious malady, where it is likely only you will remain. The prince you came to admire despite being a coldblooded killer, took his own life.” His face cannot be the face of a man anymore, twisting into that of a demon as his words increase in cruelty. “You had allowed Estinien to become overtaken by Nidhogg, nearly killing him. Who will be next, hero? Will Ser Aymeric die before he can see Ishgard into a new age? Will Lord Hien perish before Doma returns to its feet?”

“Please stop...” you sob, frozen in place as Haurchefant stands from his chair to circle you like a vulture on a fresh kill. 

“Peculiar choice of words, hero. I would not think them dissimilar from the words uttered as your friends slowly died around you. What wretched fate will befall the few you have left?” he hissed, the hostility in his voice chilling the room.

“How soon will it be, before your new friend meets his end?” he questions, rapping his fingers on the back of your chair. “After all, he seems to be everything you need. Everything I couldn’t be. He understands you! He’s an excellent combat partner, able to keep up with you! The Warrior of Light, Eikon Slayer, Liberator of Doma. He has let you get closer than anyone ever has before, the fool.” he spits, continuing his pacing.

“Ah, but who is the bigger fool? Him, for following you for a simple goal...or you? For caring for him?”

At that statement you lash out, easily stopped as you’re too overwhelmed by your emotions. Tears stream down your face like a river, arm shaking as you struggle to overwhelm the tall man before you. His expression is one of mock pity, voice deceptively gentle as he grins. “Would it not be better for you to simply send him on his way? To spare yourself the hurt of having to watch him die before you, as I did? Of watching as yet another person abandons you...” 

Your legs give out beneath you, crumpling to the floor in your grief. Sobs wrack your body, hands clasped over your face as you weep. “Come now, Warrior of Light.” Haurchefant coos, kneeling next to you, wrapping an arm around your delicate frame. Tilting your face to look at him, he looks genuinely concerned. “Take my advice. Let him go. You were meant to be alone.” A knife appears at your back in his free hand, poised to strike. “Do not cry. After all...a smile better suits a hero.” 

Before the knife can strike, Zenos knocks it away, through being a bystander in your nightmare. He had not interfered, unsure how his presence would affect your dream. But he couldn’t continue standing there, watching as your mind, watching you, torture yourself.

“S-Soryu...?” you breathe, eyes wide and afraid. The dreamscape warbles and fluctuates, threatening to fall apart as he had feared. Bricks fall around them, the fire in the hearth blazing out of control.

“Hear me Warrior.” he growls, bringing you into his arms. “I am not going anywhere.” he says with such finality even though the dream is breaking to pieces. “I am here now. And I will be here when you wake.” Catching your face in his hands, he stares long and hard. “I am not. Going. Anywhere.” he repeats, holding you tightly. Your mouth opens to speak, but the dream ends before the words can leave your mouth.

His mind is muddled as he slowly regains his thoughts, the Resonant giving a light hum. With great care he opens his eyes, finding himself flat on the ground by your side. Turning his head, there are silent tears flowing down your cheeks, but your expression is not nearly as pained as it was.

Reaching out, he repeats the motion from your dreams, wiping the tracks of your tears. "Your tears are too precious.” he whispers, caressing your face. “You are too precious.” With great care he brings you against him, holding you tight. “You too, are lonely. For when you become the strongest, no one ever tells you how lonely it is.” Shutting his eyes, he allows himself to sleep, listening to the beat of your heart.

When dawn breaks, he is the first to open his eyes, seeing as he didn’t really need rest in the first place. You are still curled against him, though now you have all but crawled on top of him. Your arm is slung across his chest, legs intertwined with his own. Though you too are an early riser, your dreams seemed to have exhausted you into sleeping a bit longer.

Brushing a hair from your face, he stares quietly, feeling a strong sense of contentment. There is no reason to interrupt the rest you so obviously need, forgoing sleep to meet the needs of the Scions, the nations and all who dwell in it. He could see how most would think it admirable, but most don’t see the pain like he does. In these moments, he wishes he could spirit you away, to see you as carefree as he had come to know you these past few months. Your joy and your laughter...he would protect it.

After all, he always took care of things that belonged to him.

Shifting so that the blanket covers both you, he doubts he’ll need to explain himself should you still find yourself in his arms. If he finds the notion pleasurable, there’s no reason you shouldn’t either. Closing his eyes, he listens to the beat of your heart once more, falling asleep, and falling past the point of no return.

Chapter Text

There is a familiar burning within him, whenever he looks at you.

Ever since that night where he had walked in your dream,  there had been a shift. A change

He had woken up before you again that day, though this time you woke up not too long after. You were a bit startled to find yourself so close to his person, face burning bright as you began spewing apologies for latching onto him. He said nothing, amused by your embarrassment, and only held you tighter as you tried to pull away to save what dignity you thought you had lost. Eventually you gave up your attempts at escape, sighing in relief as you let yourself be held for a while longer.

The change isn’t huge at first. It’s not even something he noticed outright.

At first it was just simple things, taking note of aspects he felt he hadn’t paid attention to before. Like the shimmering quality your eyes took when you stared into the firelight. The gentle glow of your skin under the sun. The scent of your hair whenever you had brushed past him, tickling his senses. The feeling of your hand in his own, rough with callouses, hardened with battle, just as it should be. The Warrior of Light had always been a pleasure to look at, he was not blind. It was merely a matter of that he took note of the things that did make you beautiful, the things that made his heart beat that much strongly in his chest.

But as the days went on, that burning inside him grew. It burned hotly, until he began noticing other things.

The shape of your legs when not covered by metal armor, thick with muscle from your training and adventures. Your lips always rested in a beautiful pout, begging to be nibbled and kissed. Your eyes would cast shy, wanting glances at him, ones that set that his blood aflame when he caught it. Though nothing compared to when you touched him, as if a spark would fly from your fingertips making his body feel like a livewire.

He was capable of controlling himself, of holding back these sudden wants and needs that ailed him. This...desire, that was quickly growing out of control. He had wanted you like he never wanted anything, anyone before and it was driving him insane.

He would train and train in the times you were gone on your missions, hoping that a simple distraction would be enough to put this desire to rest. Nothing could stop his mind from always drifting back to you, waiting for you to return, waiting for the time you would both rest for the night and you would crawl into his arms, your head pillowed on his chest. The restraint it took to not wake you, to not kiss you senseless and have you writhing in pleasure beneath him, it was enough to make any man mad.

It was not only his respect for you that made him repress his desires. It was the wrongness of it all. This body...it would not do.

He had felt a small amount of desire when he had first met you, though not to this degree. But he had not acted upon it, thinking only of the hunt, of the battle to come. He had been so elated at the prospect of a worthy opponent, that engaging in such carnal acts was the furthest thing from his mind.

When was the last he even truly thought about that battle he craved? When had he lost sight of his goal? He could already see his former self, mocking him at how weak he had become.

No, he had not become weak. Though it might seem so, nothing had changed. He still tracked his prey, found the swiftest ways to defeat them, able to learn and figure out what made you tick. Learning what it was to understand, to empathize, skills that would only strengthen his ability in the hunt. And then, when the day did come where you had your battle, where you two would fight, bloody and scarred, when he pinned you beneath him with his blade at your throat bidding you to beg for mercy...

His lips would be upon yours, your hands in his hair as he made you beg for mercy in another way entirely.

The thought made his blood sing, desire flood hotly in his veins. The Warrior was his beast, and always had been, from the moment he first laid eyes on them. In order to reach his original goal, he had to reach another one first.

He needed to get his body back.

Chapter Text

If there is one thing about this body he can appreciate, it’s that stealth is a lot easier.

As a hunter, he knew how to keep himself hidden. What good would he be if his prey knew where he was? However, his bulk and height meant he had to learn to work around it, but this form was lithe and lean, making little noise as he moved.

It’s not hard to sneak into a Garlean military base, at least when you know every salute, every password, every leader. The ease at which he infiltrates into the camp is almost shameful, were he not the prince that held all the secrets.

He had not told the Warrior of Light where he had disappeared to, choosing to go on his own mission as you went about your daily errands. He could sense a storm on the horizon, and he needed to gather information during the calm.

The thought of slipping you Garlemald’s secrets amuses him, if only to see the pure chaos that would ensue as Eorzea bears down upon his nation’s few weaknesses. Amusing yes, but not what he is here for. He had gone for too long without knowing where his body has gone, and needs to gather intel.

Slipping past the doorway of a tent, he quickly flipped through strategies, analyzing them with a quick and practiced eye. He came across a letter for an attempt at parley from the Eorzean alliance, interesting, and also futile. If there was one quality he did share with his father it was stubbornness, and nothing would dissuade him from the path of conquest.

There was nothing of use in the tent however. With silent grace he slinks out, cloaking himself with shadow as he prowls around the camp. Just as he moves to formulate a plan, a conversation drifts to him.

“I hear that Lord Zenos is to be arriving in the next two moons after he’s finished recovering.” he hears a soldier whisper. “I thought he’d perished, heard he had experimented on himself to attain some great power. But he survived. Lost to that hero the savages have, but survived all the same.”

“How can you be sure?” another voice chimes in, far more hushed that the first. “You could be killed for spreading rumors...”

“I’ve got a friend that works in the royal palace. Told me that doctors had been running in and out of the young lord’s room for the past few moons. Battle must’ve taken quite a bit out of him...”

So, the reason he could not return to his body was that someone had already occupied it. It was not improbable that it was an Ascian, considering how his family had such deep ties with them. But that meant his body was still well, and from the sound of it, being taken care of and not just lying about. He would let whatever Ascian that had hold of his body keep it for a while yet. In two moons, things would be as it should.

He could not say the same upon his return home, seeing a single lamp on when he entered. As soon as the door swung open, you were up the stairs in what he could assume was a single leap, eyes filled with fear and worry. 

“Y-You’re back.” your voice shakes, hand grabbing the doorway in a death grip. You’re barely dressed, only wearing a simple tunic and slops, eyes red and puffy.

“Is aught amiss?” he questions, slowly shutting the door behind him. Your mouth gapes like a fish for a moment, torn between disbelief, worry, and anger. You decide on anger.

“Is aught amiss?” you fume, teeth glinting in the low light. “You had disappeared without a word! I had no idea where you were!” you snarl, eyes blazing with fury. He has seen you angry many a time, and this is certainly not the first time it’s been turned on him.

“I had merely stepped away to take care of some business.” he says loftily, moving to shed his outer coat. “You do not always inform me of what your Scion missions entail. I fail to see the reason for your ire.”

That seems to only make you grow angrier, more frustrated as you stomp over to him. “But I do tell you that I am going! I don’t leave you in the dark, leaving you to wonder if I’ll return!” your chest is heaving with barely controlled fury, fists clenched at your sides.

“Be that as it may, I returned, did I not?” He moves to sit in the chair, lounging casually. 

“You don’t just...leave without telling anyone! I was worried about you! I was worried you had left and gotten yourself hurt, or if something happened to you. If you had said where you were going, I would have known where to start looking if you didn’t come home.” your voice is softer, but still furious. You look exhausted, clearly denying yourself sleep to wait for him. As much as he would like to calm you down and ease your fears, he could not have you knowing of his whereabouts.

“You do as you please Warrior, and I do the same. I will not let your insecurities keep me from doing as I desire.”

You recoil as if hit, tears brimming in your eyes immediately. “I...you take that back...”

“And why should I?” he challenges, moving to stand now. “How long will you let the ghosts of your past hold you back Warrior? When will you break free of the shades that haunt you?” Each question makes your lip tremble, your hands shake. You swallow thickly, avoiding his eyes.

“I was just worried about you. I’m sorry that you felt burdened by my insecurities as you had said.” you choke, already moving to head downstairs. “I’m sorry for disturbing you. Good night.” With that you vanish downstairs, the sound of your door slamming reaching his ears.

He gives a long sigh, knowing you have retreated to your room to cry. Perhaps his words were harsh, but he knew them to be true. You only held yourself back by holding onto these feelings, made yourself weaker. The strength you desired lay on the other side of fear, and only by freeing yourself from the chains you felt bound in would you become as savage as you could be.

Eventually he allows himself to move downstairs, quickly bathing so that he may sleep in the spare bedroom. He wouldn’t admit that he was a tad put out at not being able to hold you; those opportunities only came when you were out camping. It wouldn’t matter eventually he told himself as he laid his head down to rest. He would have his body back, and all would be well.

When he wakes later that morning, he finds that is not the case.

There’s no rushing of water from your morning bath, no popping of oil as you make the two of you breakfast to start the day. Dressing quickly he comes out of his room, finding everything as it should be, except that your door is still shut. Not bothering to knock he flings it open, finding your bed made and you absent. Pale lips purse together as the feeling of something wrong trickles down his spine.

There’s loud knocking on the door upstairs, impatient in it’s rhythm. Quickly grabbing his sword, he dashes up the stairs brows furrowing at who he sees.

Estinien stands there, helmet off, blue eyes absolutely livid. “By the Fury, Garlean if I find out you had anything to do with this,”

“Do with what, savage?” he snarls in turn, gripping his sword tighter.

“The Warrior of Light. They’ve been captured.”

Chapter Text

“They what?” Zenos growls, voice becoming the most chilled ice.

Estinien merely stares at him for a moment, frown relaxing a bit. “So you did have nothing to do with it.” he grumbles, barely dodging Zenos’ hand before he can slam him against the wall.

“Speak, dragoon.” Zenos demands, eyes glowing a bright red. “Or else I will save you the trouble.”

Estinien quickly leaps to the roof of your house, out of reach of the hostile man on the ground. “I had thought it strange when I saw the Warrior of Light ambling about, unarmed before sunrise. They looked devastated, and while concerned, I told myself I would not interfere with whatever lovers quarrel you two were having.

They had been wandering around in the Lochs; most likely heading toward the Royal Menagerie to be alone. Just as I was getting ready to leave them to it, a group of Garlean soldiers swooped in, tranquilized them, and took them away.”

Every word only fueled his anger, hardly hearing the man’s words from the blood rushing in his ears. So the reason he hadn’t seen you for breakfast was because you had ran off.

“Fool.” he spits, walking back inside your home to grab the rest of his gear. He hears the dragoon follow in behind him, paying him little mind. He can already guess you’re getting ready to be put under some knife, to be poked and prodded and dissected for the source of your power, the Echo. Something that he himself could understand as someone who desired strength, after all he had captured that mewling little piglet, bent on uncovering the secrets of the Echo. But not you.

Never you.

His gut twists at the thought of one of the many experiments they could already be putting you through. Granted they cannot do much, as the labs they had built in Ala Mhigo are now out of their reach, but there is still plenty that could be done. How did you even slip away? Surely he was not so fully asleep that he wouldn't have heard you leave...meaning you teleported, vanishing in a silence that would not have stirred him. He had become so acclimated to traveling on foot, the fact you could whisk yourself away had slipped his mind.

“So, you two did fight?” Estinien inquires, watching impatiently as he rushes about to get his things. “I’m surprised it took this long.”

“This was not our first quarrel, nor will it be the last.” Zenos hisses, storming out the door with Estinien in tow. Why he did not expect you to run and nurse your wounds, he did not know. You always had a habit of running to hide yourself away from your problems, keeping them to yourself, and now it had finally gotten you in trouble.

“Interesting how you came all this way to tell me of the Warrior’s plight, rather than save them yourself.” Zenos comments, running to the docks.

“I came so that you could fix your mistake.” Estinien scoffs, Zenos all but throwing some gil at the poor ferryman. “They had wheeled the Warrior of Light into an airship before I could reach them. I thought it would make sense that the prince would have an idea of where they were taken.” He explains, boarding the skiff easily. “And I know I’m not the one the Warrior of Light is hoping to see.”

He says nothing at that, merely continuing to look ahead. “You assume much about their feelings.”

“A fool I might be, but not a blind one.” Estinien snorts. Zenos can’t help but feel a bit put off by it, as if there is some secret he’s missing out on. “The Warrior wouldn’t wander like that unless you said something that seriously hurt them. It doesn’t take a scholar to know you’ve said something to upset them.”

Only giving a noncommittal grunt, Zenos hops off the boat before it can barely pull next to the dock in Kugane. Estinien does the same with much more grace, tipping the ferryman for his speed. Walking up to the Falcon Porter, Zenos quickly shoves some money at the poor employee’s face, expression promising retribution if they did not provide their swiftest bird.

“I do not require your aid.” Zenos is quick to climb atop the falcon provided for him, glaring down at the dragoon below.

“I didn’t intend to give it.” Estinien quips easily, crossing his arms. “As I said earlier, this is your mistake to fix. I’m sure you know that. You know as well as I do that they’re waiting on you. Don’t let them down.”

Zenos considers the man before him, weighing what he said. With one last look, he tugs on the reigns and takes to the sky toward Ala Mhigo.

It is dark when he finally arrives, the sun having set long ago, the moon shining high in the sky. The long trip over gave Zenos plenty of time to think, the dragoon’s words still floating through his head.

“And I know I’m not the one the Warrior of Light is hoping to see.”

Were you expecting him to save you? Surely you did not truly require saving; he doubted there were times you found yourself to be the damsel in distress. But if you had been without your armor, he could see how you were overwhelmed especially if the soldiers cheated and simply knocked you out. They obviously knew there was no other way to subdue their greatest threat, and had bid their time to strike when they were at their most vulnerable.

“A fool I might be, but not a blind one.”

The words give him a feeling of déjà vu. Hadn’t Scaeva said something along similar lines? That feeling that he was missing something about how you interacted with him, and him alone. Something he was missing, didn’t know how to look for, which honestly frustrated him beyond relief. There would be time to think on it later, he thought, coming upon the makeshift Garlean camp outside the borders of Ala Mhigo.

Soldiers moved through the base unaware, clueless to the blood that would soon be shed. He knew he could’ve easily sent out an order to lure you into a trap, to have you captured and brought to him when he had ruled. But what fun would that be? You would not grow stronger bound in a cage, he would not be able to hunt his most precious beast for their grand battle.

A dark smile pulls at his lips, one that would make any man beg for mercy at the sight. Even if his countrymen knew not of their folly, it still fell upon him to punish their mistakes, the thrill of battle surging through him. He could already feel the rush of blood, the adrenaline pumping through his veins, the call of the hunt moving him forward before he can think. 

Chapter Text

Unsheathing his sword is practically a motion without thought, a mere extension of his arm as the first soldier drops in a heap to the ground. The soldier’s cry of pain immediately alerts another nearby, running over to see his blood spattered face. “W-Who are you?!” The soldier shouts, preparing to sound a whistle, but he’s not quick enough, screeching as Zenos grabs his arm and twists it painfully. They are at the edge of the base, a good distance from the heart so that he may get intel he needs.

“Judging from your uniform, you just might have the information I desire. Answer quickly, and I will make your death a swift one.” He whispers, watching the soldier shake in his hold. “I know that the Warrior of Light is being held here. Where are they?”

“H-Hel--”

Their plea for assistance is cut off by a blood curdling shriek as Zenos forcefully breaks their arm, gaze emotionless as the soldier sobs in pain. “You have several limbs left. I’d hate to break them all before finally killing you.”

“T-to the north,” they gasp, crumpling to the ground in a heap. “They’re being h-held in a ten--” A sword through his throat silences the man immediately, blood coating his blade in a dark sheen.

“As you were.” Zenos drones, taking off in the direction given. It’s easy to fall back into the state of mind of the hunt. The world is filled with naught but beasts, mortals merely intelligent enough to fight for violence’s sake. Never had he thought he would actively turn this mindset on his countrymen, to kill them not for their failures, but to take back what was his.

As easy as it would be to simply stroll through the camp and kill any soldier foolish enough to swing their sword at him, attracting unnecessary attention is still low on his list. He certainly doesn’t know why you’ve been captured, and if you’d been tranquilized it is unlikely you would retain the motor functions required to escape. Soon enough the aforementioned tent comes into view, his ears picking up shouting as he gets closer.

“Sir, we cannot possibly give them more tranquilizer, any more and they will,”

“I do not care if will make them sick! Is that not what you are a medicus for?! This savage needs to be subdued before they can kill us all!”

Running to the tent, there’s more shouting, more grunting. After a moment he realizes that amidst the chaos in the tent, you are also shouting.

“Get away from me!” Your words are slurred, and there’s a large crash from inside. With a quick slice of his blade, a portion of the tent falls away, revealing the occupants within. There’s another crash as some machine is flung across the room, your muscles heaving with the effort. Your face is twisted in a fierce scowl, chest heaving from exertion as you stare at the multiple soldiers who seem at a loss of what to do.

“Do something!” one of them shouts, fumbling to load his gun with shaking hands. Before he can lift it to take aim, Zenos knocks it from his hands, a smirk on his face as he does so.

“You capture the Warrior of Light and still manage to somehow fail to restrain them properly.” he sighs, glancing at all the soldiers in the room. Even now his presence commands attention, the soldiers too shocked to do anything for several beats. “Is this the might of Garlemald? Still unable to properly capture their quarry after cheating?”

“S-Soryu?” you stammer, placing down whatever you had moved to throw next. Your pupils are blown, as if you are seeing and not seeing him. You have no form, merely relying on instinct and sheer strength to defend yourself. As much as he would like to show these men their folly, it was clear you needed medical attention more than anything.

“W-Who the hell are you?!” the same soldier from earlier shouts, stumbling back as he snatches another soldier’s gun. “How did some savage break into the camp?! Sound the alarms!”

Sirens go off not too long after the words leave his lips, prompting Zenos to let out a curse. “You should have stayed quiet.” he hisses, thrusting his sword through their heart before they can even react. The remaining men are dispatched easily, providing no challenge at all as they crumple to the ground.

“Y-You came...” He gives you no time to continue, sheathing his sword and moving to scoop you into his arms and dash out of what remains of the tent.

“You will not escape me so easily.” he drawls, already hearing shouting behind him. “You owe me my battle. Don’t forget that.” 

Too focused is he on your escape to notice your blush, to feel you curl further into his embrace. “I’m sorry.” you mumble into his chest, burrowing your face in his neck. “I didn’t mean,”

“I will accept your apology when we make it out of this mess.” he interrupts, stopping to shift you into one arm as soldiers block their path. “Granted it would be easier if you could wield a sword properly...” he grunts under his breath, freeing his blade as several more soldiers gather. A group such as this is certainly no problem, but he cannot watch both his blind spots and yours. Putting you down is not an option, fear of some soldier picking you up and running off while he is making him hesitate.

The decision is made for him however, when a fierce blue glow lands from the sky, a screeching sound as blue tendrils swirl about the landing spot. As the smoke clears, Estinien stands, pulling his lance from some unfortunate soldier’s body. “You need to get out of here!” he yells over the sound of men rushing him, hardly paying them any mind. “I will keep them at bay. The Warrior needs care.” Another thrust and a soldier is flung away over his shoulder. “Take them to Rhalgr’s Reach, it’s the closest. They should be able to take care of them there.”

Not willing to look a gift horse in the mouth, Zenos merely nods in understanding, taking off as the dragoon fends off the chaos behind him. The darkness covers the two of you like a cloak as he sneaks out of the compound, the sounds of sirens getting distant as he finally locates the falcon he had stashed away. Glancing down his heart stops for a moment, seeing you had fallen unconscious. Cursing, he checks your pulse, breathing a sigh of relief as he feels it beating as strong as it was before.

The falcon makes a noise of protest at the extra weight, but otherwise manages to take off toward the Ala Mhigan Quarter. It’s shaky, having to both hold tight to the falcon as well as you, but you make it back to the Lochs all the same, none the worse for wear. Upon his landing, Resistance soldiers are all but shoving a chocobo porter at him, getting him on the fastest bird to Rhalgr’s.

As the chocobo races onward, he allows himself to finally breathe, allows himself to finally look at you. There are no visible scars or damage, meaning they had yet to poke and prod at you. There is merely faint bruising, across your arms from where you most likely were grabbed, and dusting your knuckles where you had probably struck some unassuming soldier. Your face is relaxed, meaning you are not experiencing any pain from something such as poison.

“You have been more trouble than you are worth.” he chides, his voice lost to the wind rushing past him. Brushing your hair aside, he merely takes in your beauty, allowing himself reprieve. “I have never felt fear in my life, dear Warrior.” he whispers gently, cradling you impossibly closer. “Not until today.”

Chapter Text

“Sir, I must ask you to leave…it would be for just a moment…”

The healer trembles under his silent glare, clutching his tools in fear.

“Let the healer do his work.”

Estinien strolls in through the curtains that have been put up around your bed, nodding to the poor healer. “You’re scaring the man. The Warrior seems to be stable, and I doubt the poor lad could do much else to harm them.”

The dragoon is right of course, but he refuses to give him the satisfaction. His desire to be by your side had kept him awake since he landed in Rhalgr’s Reach, keeping a silent vigil as the healers worked to fix you.

“I have kept watch all night. Show me where I might eat.” he grunts, pushing past Estinien who only lets out a long suffering sigh and waves to the healer who thanks him quietly.

The irony is not lost on him as he looks out upon Rhalgr’s Reach, a land he once ruled. Things do look different when the tents aren’t all crushed and on fire, it’s inhabitants not strewn all over the ground. He faintly wonders if there’s some sort of meaning to returning to lands he once saw over. If there’s meaning to returning to the place where he first crushed you, only to bring you back in his arms.

“Why are you here dragoon?” he asks, watching a soldier strike a dummy with disinterest. “Did you come for some sort of reward for your heroics?”

Estinien lets out a rude snort, crossing his arms as he does so. “Not like you’d have anything I want. I came to make sure the Warrior of Light was seen to, and take my leave.”

“…You seem to care for the Warrior of Light more than others.” he notes, glancing at silver hair from the corner of his eye. 

“I’m not the only one who cares deeply for the Warrior. Just the one with the least responsibility.” Estinien mumbles. “I do not doubt that Ser Aymeric would be here himself, if he did not have to run Ishgard. The Warrior of Light is well cared for, prince. They have not only saved people’s lives, but have also saved people from themselves.”

Zenos stares at the man for a moment, before scoffing. “They put others before themselves far too much.”

“Maybe. But that’s what draws you to them isn’t it?” Estinien quips, already turning to leave. 

“I await the day you will not be able to hide behind the Warrior’s good graces and speak so freely with me, savage.” Nothing irked him more than the man’s incessant need to toy with him, knowing full well he could do naught about it if he wanted to remain in your good graces.

“I know not of what you speak, Garlean.” Estinien mocked, lazily waving over his shoulder as he walked away.

One day you wouldn’t be around to hear of him striking the dragoon down, if only to force him to share whatever secret he felt he was hiding. Letting it go for now, he walks back over to your impromptu sick room, catching the healer as he leaves.

“How are they?” he asks, frowning at how the healer immediately pales as they lay their eyes on him.

“They are still suffering from the effects of the tranquilizer. Less so due to the tranquilizer itself, but more so due to the sheer amount that had been pumped in their blood stream. It must have been enough to take down a mammoth to finally subdue them. All other side effects have been treated, and all that can be done now is for them to rest, letting their body do the remainder of the work.”

At least the man is competent, giving a clean and clear description of what exactly is going on with you. Giving a small nod he brushes past him and moves to stand by your bed and continue his watch.

Your corner is strictly off limits, aside from members of the Scions who rushed over as soon as they got wind of the news. As much as it annoyed him to have so many fluttering around you there was little he could do about it, the dragoon’s words ringing true on just how much you were cared for. It had taken them several bells for them to finally leave, the one named Y’Shtola ushering them all out with a knowing glance thrown his way.

Since then he had barely left your side, patiently waiting for you to open your eyes. Time passed by with little notice, entertaining himself with a book of yours that he had kept stashed away. Healers would swoop in, spare him a nervous glance before checking on you, and leave as soon as they could. It bothered him none; the sense of otherness he had always carried. All that mattered was you waking up.

He couldn’t help but be amused by how even in the most dire of situations, you still managed to tower over all with your might. He hadn’t missed the few soldiers you had knocked out cold laid upon the floor of the tent in your rage, unwilling to take their experimenting lying down. As if those words he had whispered to you so long ago had taken root, and never let go.

Hear me hero. Endure. Survive. Live.

For the only sole pleasure left to him in this ephemeral world, live.

Your power, the Echo, was it still untrained? Still untapped, waiting for you to truly master its abilities? 

When you died in battle, would your soul fail to return to this world, and then would he be the one alone?

The thought immediately makes him frown, eyes glancing at your resting face. Perhaps that is what drove him to come to your rescue. That is what caused him to kill his countrymen in cold blood, without an ounce of remorse. Wasn’t it?

You have grown weak.

No. He was without peer. Without equal. Just because he had these…feelings did not mean he had grown weak. Ensuring that you were alive to fulfill your promise, and all that that entailed was not a sign of weakness.

“Soryu?”

He’s torn from his thoughts immediately, your eyes barely open. “Medicus!” he shouts, the shuffling of feet coming along soon after. The healers are upon you swiftly, bringing you water and other medicines as they check on how you’re feeling. Kindly you wave them away, insisting you feel fine, though he can see the exhaustion in your eyes. 

“How do you feel?” he asks, voice neutral though he’s doing his best to hold back his anger.

“Tired. I don’t remember much.” you breathe, flopping back on your pillow. “I was walking around the Lochs, heading to the Royal Menagerie…and then felt this sharp needle in my leg. And then there were more until I finally went down. Then I was awake and all these Garlean soldiers were around me…it’s there when things started to blur.” You stare at the ceiling as you tell your story, silent for a moment.

“Go on. Yell at me.”

He raises an eyebrow at that, watching as you finally turn to look at him. “I know you’re mad at me.” You mumble, pouting.

“I’ve not said anything,”

“You don’t have to.” Reaching out with a shaky hand, you caress the side of his jaw, close to his ear. “When you’re angry at me, you clench your jaw. I can always see it right here. It’s really tense.”

Sure enough his jaw relaxes immediately, causing him to grumble about over observant heroes. His hand reaches up to hold your own, frowning at how frail you feel. “If you know that I am angry, then there is no need to yell.”

Quietly you move to twine your fingers with his, the rightness of it decreasing his anger, if only a little. “It doesn’t feel nice does it? Not knowing where I am?” you ask quietly, drawing small patterns with your thumb.

“If you are telling me you left and got captured as a way to teach me a ‘lesson’, then I will be especially cross.” He rumbles, causing you to look away sheepishly.

“No, I didn’t. I really did leave to clear my head.” You still won’t look back at him, finding one of the curtains far more interesting. “What you said, or rather how you said it, really hurt. But as I was walking, I realized you were right. I do need to let go.” You’re both silent for a moment, giving him a moment to mull over your words.

“Do not run off like that again.” Your hand still in his, he brings it to his lips, marveling at it’s softness. Immediately, you turn back to him, cheeks bright. “Even if we are angry with each other, we have talked with one another like civilized beings. I would think myself deserving of that much respect, to not wake up and have the dragoon of all people come tell me you have been captured.”

“Dragoon…Estinien…?” you gasp, his hand holding yours a little tighter.

“Captured and drugged by Garlean soldiers. And I must come to your rescue. Find that you were throwing contraptions around without a care, risking harm to yourself.” He growls, nearly crushing your hand in an iron grip.

“Was I supposed to wait there for you, unsure if you would come find me?!” You nearly shout before remembering where you are. “They were about to poke me with needles and probably experiment on me. I was dizzy, but I knew I could at least fend them off! I was going to save myself!”

“You had no business saving yourself in that state.” It’s a fight to keep from raising his voice, something he’s never had to do. He’s never felt so much at one time. “I would think that you,”

“That I what? Couldn’t take care of myself?!” you hiss under your breath, eyes challenging him so fiercely, teeth glinting in defiance. The image does nothing to help the torrent his emotions are, the urge to make you submit nearly overcoming him.

“Bold words from someone who could not even stand after expending all their strength. From someone who fell unconscious soon after, making me think you dead, thinking I had failed.” he whispers harshly, teeth bared as he stares into your eyes.

You’re stunned into silence for a moment, before your expression melts into understanding.

I thought I’d lost you.

“I apologize Soryu.” you sit up, eyes gentle, glistening. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I just needed my space, and went about it foolishly.” Leaning forward your lips press against his cheek, sweet and chaste. You remain close for a second, as if you were considering something, and move when you decide against it.

“But do you understand how I feel now? Coming home and you weren’t there and you were gone for so long and I didn’t know where you had gone?” you whisper softly, threading your fingers with his.

He can never stay mad at for you long, something he has learned over the past moons, and something he had come to accept as well. And while yes, there was a lesson to be learned from his side as well, he was still too prideful to admit it. “You did not scare me.” he grumbles, growing more irritated at your knowing smile as you allow him to continue holding your hand. 

“How can I make it up to you?” you ask sweetly, eyelashes fluttering and eyes twinkling. Just like that all of his ire is snuffed like a candle.

“Make me a Rolanberry Cheesecake.” he demands, voice soft against your skin making you giggle. Smirking against your fingers he allows himself to truly relax. In your current state you would not be adventuring for a few days at least, and would be directed to remain in bed for that time, meaning he got to keep you to himself a while longer.

Chapter Text

Holding your hand he could deal with.

Holding you at night he could accept.

But the Warrior is a determined individual.

Something he already knew, but he underestimated just how much when they really wanted something.

At first it was simple things. You had begun reaching for his hand more when it was just the two of you. You would stand incredibly close to his person, smile in a way that made his heart quicken.

He found he did not mind your sudden need to be near him. If anything he encouraged it, thinking little of your sudden desire for his attentions. You would reach for his hand shyly at first, before gaining more confidence. On the days you two sit in your home with naught else to do, you’ve taken to sitting near him on the couch, leaning on him as you two read in companionable silence. 

It is an entirely new feeling, but one he enjoys more than he’d like to admit. You curl up to him much like a couerl, smiling ever so sweetly. It’s all well and good until he can see your intentions are less than pure.

At night you press yourself close against him, breath tickling against his neck, chest pressing into his side. You tangle your legs with his under the guise of sleep, and while he cares little for your savage gods he suddenly finds himself praying to them for control. Your outfits have gotten more revealing, enticing and while he would be more than happy to take what you are so clearly offering him, he can’t right now.

You aren’t deterred by his iron will, or his attempts to get away. To leave would make him look suspicious or come off as rejection, a notion he finds himself doing his best to avoid. That’s why he asks you to spar with him, able to use combat to at least distract himself from your incessant attempts at seduction.

Or so he thought.

Sweat runs down his skin, sun beaming down as he dodges another one of your skilled thrusts, the edge of your lance nearly shearing him. Though you are not in the desert, you dress like you are, skin exposed for him to see.

“You are quick Warrior. But you could be quicker.” he goads, watching as you leap into the air with practiced grace. You don’t grace him with an answer, choosing to dive at him instead, growling as he dodges where you struck. Fishing your lance out the ground you bare your teeth, chest heaving with your effort. Your own skin was slick with sweat, exposed under the Dravanian sun admittedly making it hard to focus. The Hinterlands have become an ideal place to train, with Alexander watching over you and the land of the Sharlayans long abandoned.

“I’ll show you quick!” you shout, running at him as fast as your legs can carry you. You unleash a flurry of thrusts, all easily blocked by his sword. The sound of metal on metal makes his heart sing, his blood rushing with each parry of your attack. There is no mercy in your ambush, each thrust is to kill. You do not hold back, weaken your blows or worry for his safety. You fight to push yourself further, to push him further. He could not ask for much more.

“Your accuracy is to be admired, Warrior.” he grins, watching as your eyes go wide as he suddenly grabs your lance. “But you must be wary of fighting close range fighters.” You struggle to pull it from his grip as he won’t budge, frustration creeping into your features.

“I know that!” You growl, digging your feet into the ground in an effort to pull your lance free. With a quick tug you squeal as you lose your balance, barely dodging the sharp edge of his blade as you fall into him. 

“Do you?” he purrs, voice rumbling in his chest. “If I did not have interest in keeping you alive, you would be dead.” he makes his point by flipping his sword in his hand, sliding the dull edge along your skin. You shiver at the motion, tongue darting out to lick your lips. 

“I don’t need a weapon to beat you!” Releasing your lance, you give a swift punch, barely allotting any time for him to dodge and create space between the two of you. It never ceased to amuse him how competitive you were, that when he would gain the upper hand with technical skill alone, you would push and push yourself to learn, to grow stronger.

This was not something the Scions could give you, no matter how much they cared. Only he was strong enough, only he was your equal. A feeling of possessiveness flared hotly in his veins as you ran toward him, eyes focused on nothing but him.

Tossing your lance and his sword away he’s quick to catch your fist in his hand, the impact damaging to any normal man. It had been some time since he had deigned to fight without weapons, but he allowed it, seeing the calculated ferocity in your eyes as you swung at him. Your body swayed and moved, showing little openings for him to take advantage of. Your skin was slick with sweat, muscles working beneath your skin in a way that was mesmerizing. One could see the power each move you made, enchanting in it’s beauty.

He had become too distracted though, unable to catch your fist as you grab at the front of his shirt. You push him backward, sweeping a leg forcefully behind him and gravity has hold of him before he can balance himself. Crashing to the ground with a thud, you’re on top of him before he can do anything about it. Grinning, you lean down to his face, making him completely still. “I win.” you whisper in his ear, sending shivers down his spine.

He can’t be bothered to come up with a response, not when you are warm and sweaty and barely dressed on top of him. Your thighs press into his own, his hands itching to touch and knead and feel. Your eyes alight with victory is headier than any aphrodisiac, pinned here beneath you. With a low groan he slowly reigns in on his thoughts, not allowing them to go any further. He could control his urges thus far, you simply needed to get off of him...

“Soryu?” your breath whispers against his cheek, a husky quality to it as your thighs squeeze him a little tighter. “I think this is my first time beating you like this.” Trailing a finger down his chest, there is only silence for a few moments, too stunned from your forwardness and his curiosity at what you will do. “Do I get a prize?” All pretense flies out the window as your weight settles on him, smirking against his skin when you feel how hard he is.

A groan escapes his lips as you grind on top of him like a wanton, but he finds himself powerless to stop it because it feels too fucking good. How many times had he dreamt of you like this; willing and wanting and ripe for the taking?

“Soryu...” That’s not his name. But you purr it so deliciously all the same, his hips raising to match your motions as his hands glide up your thighs. “You...want this right?” you ask, voice husky with need, hands gliding up to steady yourself on his chest. 

Of course he wants this. Wants you. More than anything.

But not. Right. Now.

“I do,” he gets out, his voice an absolute wreck to his own ears as you grind atop him. “But can we not...wait,”

“There’s no one around.” you giggle, pressing your chest against his, growing brave enough to kiss at his jaw. The situation is spiraling out of control far more than he’d like, but how does one resist their enemy practically throwing themselves at them?

“You have not even given me your duel,” he tries again, hissing in ecstasy as you grind particularly hard against him. 

“I’m not going anywhere. I know what I promised.” Your hips are absolutely sinful, your arousal hot against his own and he is this close to accepting your offer no matter what he told himself.

Quickly he flips the two of you over, pinning you beneath him as he stares into your sultry eyes.

“A battle is only over when one of us is dead, Warrior.” He curses mentally at his own voice, lower and raspy and it does not help at all with how clearly you enjoy it. “Do not mistake this for rejection,” he begins, his gaze darting down to your lips with a groan. “But I...want to wait a little longer.”

Your face is immediately crestfallen, pulling at heartstrings he didn’t know he had. There’s no other way to word that he wants to wait to get back into his body. That he wants nothing more than to ravish you, to hear you call out his name, his real name. To be the one who gives you pleasure, to have you beneath him writhing in ecstasy.

And so he shows you. 

Grabbing your chin with one hand he steadies himself with his other arm. “You misunderstand.” he breathes, and then his lips are on yours. 

You respond immediately, sighing into his mouth and it is the most delicious sound he’s ever heard you make. You open up to him without protest, letting him dominate the kiss. Your tongue dances with his, his teeth nibbling on your bottom lip to get a moan out of you. Gentle hands link around his neck, pulling him closer, melding him into you. He’s like a man starved tasting you, lips moving across your own to keep getting more noises out of you, drowning in you until it’s hard to breathe. Pulling away, there is no hiding how badly you want him in your gaze, but the understanding he needed is there as well.

He’s bought himself a little more time.

He had always thought himself a genius, his prowess unmatched. His ability to strategize and formulate plans was without peer.

But for the first time in his life, he had felt trapped.

Chapter Text

Zenos can think of several politicians off the top of his head that would gossip and snicker behind his back.

The Crown Prince of Garlemald, covered in rags, camping in the elements, and held in place by a sleeping Warrior of Light.

He’s not worried about rain; he made sure to check the weather before the two of you set out. And even if the sky opened up, you were both sheltered beneath a great tree in a barren land, perhaps the only one. The Arms of Meed extended it’s branches above you, shielding you from twinkling sky above. War was on the horizon, as well as the beginning of the end.

Looking down at your peaceful face, he finds himself staring, as was his wont lately. But how could one look away? Their features so tantalizing, their power radiating off them even as they slept. In these quiet hours did he indulge in his greatest weakness.

You.

He had heard of others growing stronger when they had something to protect. And in turn he had thought it the folly of weak men who simply could not claim strength on their own. To seize power with their own hands, as he had with the Resonant.

Oh, how far he had fallen.

Never had he seen himself, sleeping under the stars with his enemy, his friend curled up against him, trusting in his protection. The more he thought on the word “friend”, the less it seemed to fit. He could not deny his attraction to you, that much was certain. He felt like a man starved, wanting to taste your lips once more, to have you mewling on top of him, fueled by your desire. He wanted the taste of your arousal on his tongue, to feel you wrapped him in every way possible. To pin you beneath him as he drives you both to the point of no return.

And yet...he is unsure.

Unsure, not afraid. He did not feel fear. He did not fear taking his own life after all. But soon the truth of his identity would come to light. Would you accept him once more? There would be tears, and the more he thought about it the more he dreaded the days to come.

You had seen him die with your own eyes, knew that his body was being controlled like a puppet. You seemed to make some peace with his death, despite him being by your side. And when he did get back in body, what would he do? He knew full well you would not defect from the Scions, from Eorzea. Not easily at least. Too kindhearted were you to walk the path of conquest. And he, would he abandon his throne, his nation that was rightfully his?

Grunting, he shifts you against him, mind bogged down with his thoughts. His hand draws patterns along your skin, a habit he had picked up from you, the action soothing on these nights where he had only himself for company. He couldn’t deny that he hadn’t the faintest inkling of how your reaction to the truth would be, knowing how deeply you cared about him it would be more than a shock. 

He had backed himself into this corner, and it pained him to admit it. Being unsure of the outcome, to have no plans was entirely unacceptable. While unsure of the outcome, he knew one thing to be true.

That you belonged to him, no matter what.

What was stopping him from reclaiming his body, his throne, his title as well as keeping the Warrior of Light? You were the only true variable in the equation, but it mattered little, for he always got what he wanted.

He could always have it all. Whether you liked it or not.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Not at all.

Mayhaps it was his own fault; his failure to strategize, to plan, finally coming back to rue it’s ugly head. He’s in so much pain, though he had not been cut, not been gutted.

Your tear streamed face is the last thing he remembers seeing as the world goes black, and he slumps to the ground.

Who else could he blame besides himself?

Never had he thought he would ever feel anything akin to regret, when the day had started as he had hoped...

He had tailed you in secret, able to sneak into the Resistance base with ease due to his uniform. You could sense he was nearby, for you would glance up, looking around, feeling his presence, but he would slip away just in time before you could glance at him. Your face was perfectly neutral as a large, bronze-skinned man rattled off orders, told you of strategy. It seemed like you paid little attention, probably because you needed little instruction.

If anything, the instruction was so that everyone else did not get killed when you went into the heat of battle.

His brows furrowed as you clutched your head in pain; the first he had seen it. Had you taken a blow that you didn’t have seen to? Naturally, you wave off the large man’s concern, who only gives you a firm pat on the back and tells you where you might find your friends. Nodding you rush off without another word, feet carrying you as fast as they can to push back the trickling Garlean forces.

The scene of battle is about what he had expected; your various comrades strewn upon the ground, two unconscious, one struggling to pick himself up. His body stands tall, even when his soul is not in it.

Soon enough you arrive on the scene, eyes glinting fiercely with the fires around you.

“Ah, Bringer of Light. It has been too long.” The voice is his, but the malice behind it is not. A portion of his helm is broken once more, revealing one of his crystal blue eyes. The Ascian puppeting his body turns toward you, wielding his sword as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

You stand across from him silently, a malice of your own radiating from your being. The force of your power thunders across the field, washing over his skin like electricity, making his blood sing in anticipation. 

“No words to mark our reunion?...So be it.” The Ascian shifts into a battle stance, gaze cold as he stares hard at your face. “Equilibrium must be restored...and only your death will redress the balance.” You do not grace him with an answer as you pull your staff from your back, calling your power to the forefront.

This was a form he had yet to see you use; a magic so deadly that it was a wonder his body could withstand it at all. He could feel the heat of your fire from here, the chill of the ice you summoned creep under his clothes. And yet he still stood, getting back up for every hit you dealt. His brow furrowed as he watched exhaustion seep into your bones, your energy begin to wane. Muscles in your arm trembled as you struggled to keep your staff upright, but never did you let your stony gaze fall.

“Ah...your Mother chose her champion well.” The Ascian purrs, after getting up once again. “Yet for all your strength, you will still fail.” With a swing of his sword you’re thrown back, but still remain on your feet, hissing in pain. 

“Get out of his body...” you growl, teeth bared in anger. You break out into a dash at him, blinded by your own rage until you crumple to the ground in pain. Your staff drops to the ground as you clutch your head tightly, not making any move to run from your slowly approaching opponent.

“Hm? Someone calls to you...” The Ascian murmurs, observing as you grasp your aching head. “Too late, alas.” With measured steps he approaches you, gripping the sword tighter in his hand. Standing before you, he considers you for a moment before he raises his blade in silence.

“Perhaps, you will meet your prince in the afterlife.” He drones, bringing down his blade upon you.

You flinch, readying for a blow, only to find that it has not come. Opening your eyes, you gasp as Zenos stands before you, blood draining down his left shoulder. “S-Soryu...?” you tremble, wide eyed as crimson pools along the ground. “You’re h-hurt...” Tears are already streaming from your eyes as you reach out to him.

“A savior? Or rather, a fool.” The Ascian growls, bringing his sword down again. Zenos only smirks as he barely manages to block with his good arm, causing the Ascian to roar in outrage.

“I believe it’s time I reclaim what is rightfully mine.” He grins, laughing as the Ascian knocks him to the ground. You try to fling yourself at his body once more, but are sent tumbling away by another blow of magic.

Turning back to him, the Ascian's gaze is full of anger, an emotion he returns tenfold. “Rightfully yours?” Even the puppeteer cannot hide his confusion at his wording, raising Zenos’ amusement. “The Warrior of Light’s life is forfeit.” he growls, standing over him. Zenos' eyes glance over to you where you still cry silently, frustration and fear etching your features as he continues to bleed.

Barking out a laugh, Zenos stares back into his own blue eyes with the most smug expression he can muster. The action seems to further incite the Ascian’s anger, causing him to stab his sword deep into his already bleeding wound. He still laughs past the pain, grabbing the sword to hold him in place. “Not anymore.” The Resonant activates, eyes glowing stark red in the dark. 

“Impossible...” the Ascian growls, but it is too late. 

“I must thank you for taking such good care of my body.” He chuckles darkly. “I appreciate it.” He can feel the Ascian resist the pull; trying to remain anchored to the shell he inhabited. But his will was stronger, his drive overcoming his own. “Your farce is over Ascian.” he whispers, before the world goes black for but a moment.

The sensation of transferring a soul is strange as it is interesting, and one he would not like to repeat again for some time if he could help it. Flexing his fingers, he hears the shift of armor, rolling his neck he can feel his hair brush against his skin. “Ah...” he sighs, reaching to pull off his helmet. “It has been far too long.” 

Satisfaction courses through him, feeling his body as though he had never left. He drops the helmet on the ground as tendrils of purple ooze from his former body, blue eyes that weren’t his own glaring back at him. “How did you live?!” The Ascian seethes, face twisted in anger and agony from his earlier wounds. 

“Now...I cannot give away all my secrets, can I Ascian?” Zenos purrs, picking up his blade Ame-no-Habakiri, he sighs at it's familiar weight. Grinning darkly, he raises it to strike.

“Soryu?”

Before he can bring it down on the offending Ascian, you call his name. No, that's not his name, not anymore. Facing you, tears still stream down your cheeks, your eyes red and puffy. You clutch your staff close to you, almost fearfully as your eyes dart from him, to the prone body on the ground.

It’s all the distraction the Ascian needs, choosing to silently fade away on the wind, Zenos frowning at his denied vengeance. 

“Y-You...” you look so visibly shaken, just as he had feared. Reaching out you immediately flinch, backing further away from him. 

“Yes Warrior, it is I.” He makes his voice gentle, soft as he takes another step toward you, for which you take another backward. 

“You...you were...are Zenos? This whole time...?” you sound broken, silent tears unending as you continue backing away. “I thought...you had died. I had watched you k-kill yourself!” You nearly scream, body shaking. “You died right in front of me...!”

Stopping his advance, he merely holds your gaze, cursing at your reaction. “So I had. I did not expect the side effects of the Resonant to be a...weakened version of immortality. I had awoken in that body, not too long after my death, and sought to find you.”

Your eyes dart to the motionless body on the ground a few yalms away, before jumping back to him. “You lied to me.”

Those words hit him harder than any blow you had thrown at him, the disappointment in those crystal depths tugging at his heart in all the wrong ways. “I did not mean to withhold,”

“You lied to me.” You growl, anger suffusing your voice as you summon strength leap away from him. Raising your staff, you bare your teeth at him, practically sobbing. “I had...I thought it was strange. You seemed so much like him, I thought it couldn’t be true but this whole time...!” Magic surrounds your staff, prompting him to be on guard.

“Warrior,”

“Shut up!” You scream, entirely too caught up in your grief. “I trusted you! I cared about you! Before you died! Before you lied to me! I lo--,” You stop yourself, shaking your head furiously as your magic glows brighter. “I don’t want to see you.” A spell is flung at him before he can react, though it does not hurt like he thought it would.

But his limbs feel heavier, his eyes beginning to droop. “What have you done...?” he grounds out, struggling to keep himself upright. He catches himself on his knee, staring at your pain stricken face as you back away from him. “Warrior!” He roars, watching as you hesitate, stopping for just one moment. “Do not run...” he rasps, collapsing onto the ground. His body won’t respond, try as he might to fight it. 

Don’t go.

Your retreating form is the last thing he sees before sleep claims him.

Chapter Text

It hurts.

He doesn’t know how he got back to his room in the capitol, but he’s here nonetheless, safe and otherwise unharmed.

But by the emperor, something still hurts.

It’s his head, he thinks, holding it as he sits up in his plush bed, in his room, in his empire.

The sound of a bumbling servant running out barely registers as he snatches the glass of water off the nightstand, draining it in one go. It doesn’t help the pain any, just wets his throat enough to function.

“You are awake I see.”

Blue meets gold as his honored father enters the room, dressed from head to toe in his regalia. Not that Zenos had ever seen him dressed in anything else.

“Greetings, father.” he groans, placing the glass back on the nightstand.

“I must say, the news that you had somehow fought the Warrior of Light, died, lived, and then purged an Ascian from your own body was a series of events I did not ever expect to hear. Though, to be fair, I cannot be shocked you somehow found a way to cheat death with your...experimentation.” The monotone of his voice bothers him, grates on his ears more than usual. He maintains a neutral expression though, too tired to do much else. Except...

“How did I get back to the capital?” he asks, looking at his hands.

“Soldiers had found you unconscious on the ground. The enemy forces were nowhere to be seen. They picked you up and returned you here.” Varis states, voice still neutral. “If you have been alive all this time, where have you been?”

“The Warrior of Light. Did the men see them?” he asks, ignoring the question.

Varis is silent for a moment before finally answering. “No.”

Disappointment rolls through him, as does the pain he had felt upon waking. “Very well.”

Varis regards him silently for a moment longer before finally moving to leave. “Rest as much as you need. Though I would advise against killing yourself again. I am loathe to train another heir.” are Varis’ parting words, strutting out the door with nary a look backwards.

Glass shatters on the door not too long after, crystals raining onto the floor. 

Zenos growls at himself, throwing the covers from his legs as he stands to be near the window.

“You lied to me.”

He was a fool to think you would not be hurt by such a great revelation. He did not outright lie, but did lie via omission of truth. For months he had gone on so long without telling you something that could’ve prevented things from turning out this way.

“You seemed so much like him, I thought it couldn’t be true but this whole time...!”

Perhaps you too were a fool, not trusting your instincts of what was right in front of you. For months you had gone on, letting him past your walls you had put up, showing him your most vulnerable self...

Because you were weak.

And you had run away, again, instead of facing the truth for the same reason.

That was your own fault. He had his body back, his empire back. He reached his goal, despite getting distracted with all of your nonsense.

Pulling on his coat, he glances at his armor on display on the far wall, polished and repaired. It bothers him to look at it, it’s appearance seeming strange and foreign after being without it for so long.

Releasing an undignified snort he strolls out, paying no mind to the glass beneath his feet. He wasn’t quite sure where he was headed, but it was better than wasting away in his room.

“For the people I lost, life has become that much important.”

You were soft and weak and he would carry on without you, as he had before the two of you met. Someone who could not even face him when returned into his former body, to give him the duel he was promised, was not someone he wanted to fight at all. 

Something within him whispers that he’s not making any sense, that he’s in denial, which makes him only growl in frustration. 

He did not need you. And he did not need your battle.

He didn’t need anything at all.

Chapter Text

The desire to hit someone is overwhelming and yet he can hardly bring himself to do that.

Life back in the palace is aggravating. Whereas it was once simply going through the motions, existing day by day feeling nothing, he is now frustrated with several things. Little, inconsequential things that no other royal would ever bother with and yet...

The chefs within the royal palace are the best within all of Garlemald. The royal family deserve nothing less. But now their dishes could be gruel made for prisoners for all he cared. He had ordered them to fix their dishes multiple times, only for the chefs to state that they had cooked as they always had. It was missing a certain taste, he had told them, something within it that he had found within his travels that it was missing. Naturally, the chefs asked what it was so they could put it in the cooking right away. But he found himself at a loss of words, unable to describe just what was lacking.

And as the chefs trembled as they feared that they would die this night, he only growled and strolled out the kitchen, throwing a knife into a wall.

Armor felt heavy, clunky, despite being suited to wear the Garlean it was made for. His armor had sat in his room for the past few days, waiting to be worn after he had commissioned cloth armor to be made for him. If anyone thought it strange that someone of his ranking chose to forgo armor, they did not comment.

He found himself standing outside more, even on the coldest days. The palace halls were stuffy all of a sudden, and as much as he wanted to remain outdoors at his own leisure there were appearances to keep.

Day by day, the feeling he had kept at bay came creeping, crawling back to overtake him.

Boredom.

The Prince of Garleans was bored, and he knew not what to do about it. 

Staring out his window, he idly watches the snow fall, expression not betraying his inner most thoughts.

Thoughts that, try as he might, always wandered back to the Warrior of Light.

It plagued him nearly every waking moment, the only reprieve from them was when he had duties to attend to, papers to sign. It felt so distant now, the months he had spent by your side, traveling your mystical and strange land.

‘Where did you run to my beast?’

Perhaps it was time to hunt again.

Grabbing his blade he leaves his room, snagging a nearby servant.

“Y-Yes, my lord?” they stutter, practically jogging to keep up with his long strides. “Prepare a singular vessel for me to travel to Eorzea.” he orders, turning corners with little thought. “Do not inform father.” he rumbles, the threat easily heard as the servant audibly swallows.

“Of course my lord!”

Chapter Text

The buzz about the town is audible, even past the double doors of the workshop as Zenos glares at the two men stand across from him.

“And pray tell, what do you want from us, my lord?” one asks, a slight tremble to their voice.

“My lord?” The other mocks, with a chuckle.

“Not all of us are so used to being rebellious children and defecting from their homeland Garlond. This was a superior to me but a year ago.”

He can’t kill them, he reminds himself once more. As much as he’d like to threaten them, he can’t. That would only make matters worse.

Nero tol Scaeva and Cid nan Garlond stand a casual, but safe distance across from him in their large workshop, one eyeing the door every so often while the other stares him down.

“I came here expecting information, Scaeva.” Though Garlond did not seem to be easily intimidated, as Nero had said he was still a superior in his eyes.

“Pertaining to...?” Cid prompts, clearly seeing his game at pressuring Nero and stopping it.

“What else? The Warrior of Light.” it takes all of his control to keep his voice calm and even, not letting any of his frustration or impatience slip through. 

“Is it a matter of that you cannot find them?” Nero asks, running a hand through his hair nervously. “The Garlean hunter, unable to find his quarry...” he murmurs to himself with a chuckle, making Zenos growl audibly.

“They are obviously hiding some place I cannot find them. And I will not lower myself to speak with savages to ask for their whereabouts.” he continues haughtily, not missing a beat. Cid lets out a loud laugh at that, clutching his sides.

“You mean the remaining Scions won’t tell you where they are. I’m sure you must’ve scared poor Tataru witless.” Cid chuckles, clearly amused. He misses the look of disbelief Nero throws him, at having the audacity to openly ridicule the prince of their former nation.

And sadly, it was true. He had spent days searching for you, unable to find hide or hair of where you had gone. He had searched over every town, every region, every nation and it was as if you had turned into mist. As if you had left the realm altogether.

“How are you to know I did not slaughter her where she stood?” he growls, hand already itching to draw his blade.

“Because I am still alive. And naturally we would have any reports about any happenings with the Scions.” He shrugs, his own glare sliding back into place. “It’ll take more than a mean look to scare me prince. I’ve been by the Warrior’s side fighting gods and Garlean forces alike. Which is why I must now ask; why should I tell you where the Warrior of Light is?” Cid inquires, his stare hard and cold.

Zenos only regards Cid coolly, seeing just how it was so easy for him to abandon his homeland. With an iron will like that, it would be easy to turn from all you had ever known. He finds himself building a begrudging respect for him, if only to calm his blood to keep the thoughts of slaughtering him at bay. “They owe me a duel.” he states simply.

“I’m sure there are many who have challenged the Warrior to a duel.” Cid responds in turn, making Zenos clench his teeth at this how stubborn he was being. Perhaps it was a Garlean trait, rather than familial.

“I’m not the only one who cares for the Warrior of Light. Just the one with the least responsibility.”

The dragoon’s words floated through his head, and now it made more sense as to why he could not scare the answer out of them.

Even in the face of what could be certain death, they cared and it was probably more than obvious that something occurred between you two when you ran to wherever you were without him.

“Seven moons ago the Warrior had their Magitek armor repaired.” He begins, watching recognition dawn on Nero’s face. “They had described that it had a problem; a lurch. They had brought it here to have it repaired.”

Recognition and shock now shows on Cid’s face, his jaw agape as he continues. “Scaeva gave the Warrior a list of items that they would need to repair the armor. I chose to remain.”

The two are speechless, processing this new revelation. A shite-eating grin slowly spreads on Nero’s face, while Cid’s mouth still hangs open in disbelief.

“By the emperor...I knew it!” Nero nearly shouts. “That cadence was unmistakable! One unique only to Lord Zenos!” he pauses for a moment as another thought hits him, looking over to Cid. “Then that means...”

“Twelve above...” Cid whispers, his voice torn between anger and awe and...amusement. “You’re in love with the Warrior of Light.”

The accusation hits him like a physical blow, too stunned to immediately retaliate. Baring his teeth, he growls low, nearly ready to throw his consideration for your friends to the wind. “Do not try my patience.” he seethes, reaching for his blade.

Cid starts forward, being held back Nero. “And do not play us for fools, prince. It all makes sense. Why you’ve spared anyone close to the Warrior. Why you had followed them everywhere, why they looked at you with stars in their eyes,”

“Perhaps you should speak in a way our, ahem, friend might understand, Garlond.” Nero murmurs, having not stopped his grinning for a second. “My Lord, if you would allow me, I can explain how Garlond would come to such a...conclusion.” He’s obviously entirely amused by the prospect of the situation, but he’s at least showing him some semblance of respect.

Taking his silence as the go ahead, Nero continues, “You see my Lord, though it might not seem so, we could recognize the signs of something more than just being traveling companions when you two had arrived. It was in the way you two moved around each other. The way how you spoke to the Warrior, the way you looked at them. We meant it when we said the Warrior’s wont was to travel alone, and to hear they had a longtime travelling companion made you special.”

“Speak plainly, Scaeva.” Zenos growls, heart thudding in his chest.

“What I mean my Lord, is that the actions you exhibited around the Warrior of Light are ones of affection. Love.” Nero says hurriedly, quickly averting his eyes.

“Impossible.” Zenos spits, teeth bared. 

“Or you do not know what it is to be loved.” Cid finally interjects, his eyes a tad gentler now. “Maybe even, you do not know what you are like in love, to see the signs. How would you know something you’ve yet to experience? What other reason would the Prince of Garleans leave Garlemald, descend upon Eorzea without a care, all to ask where the Warrior of Light is?”

That thought alone silences him, alongside with being unable to feel like he can refute the two men’s words. He could deny it with words, but each time he thought about it his tongue felt like ash, his heart twisted in pain. His memories fluttered through his mind, assaulting him in striking clarity. 

Could Garlond be right? He had never wiped anyone else’s tears. Never before had he allowed someone to be held against his person only to enjoy their nearness. Never had he reveled in the joy of training with anyone else. The feeling he had felt blossoming in his chest...could it be love?

Pursing his lips, he looks away from his former countrymen, unsure what to say. He was far too prideful to acknowledge that they were right, but couldn’t deny the truth without it paining him to do so.

“The Warrior of Light is in a place you cannot reach.” Cid speaks up, pulling him from his daze. Nero looks to Cid in confusion, but otherwise says nothing. “The Scions have fallen to a mysterious deathless sleep, and the Warrior of Light has left the realm altogether to find them.”

Pausing to scratch his head, Cid releases a reluctant sigh. “I only tell you this as a favor to the Warrior of Light.” At his continued silence, he sighs once more. “I’m not the best one to assume the Warrior’s feelings, but it’s safe to say that they were seriously hurt by you hiding your identity, now that I have the truth. You owe it to them to make it up to them.”

“As I said earlier, this is your mistake to fix. I’m sure you know that. You know as well as I do that they’re waiting on you. Don’t let them down.”

“It would seem I have to find a way to journey to this realm then.” Zenos rumbles, already pouring over theories and ideas. 

“Start at the Crystal Tower. That is the last of my help I will give you.” Cid finishes, staring the prince down.

“Very well.” Moving to leave, he pauses at the door, knowing that a crowd is waiting to see if the two men inside still remain alive. He cannot blame their assumptions, his own reputation proceeding him after all. However, he has much more important matters to take care of than slaughtering two defectors. “I will say you are still mistaken Garlond.” he calls, pulling the door open to a throng of people standing outside.

“I do not love the Warrior. They owe me a duel.”

Chapter Text

It is brighter than any sky should ever be.

The sky is a constant yellow tone, beaming down, though its not necessarily hot, for that he is thankful. Ala Mhigo had been enough.

However, as much he despised the constant daytime of this world, he could not complain overmuch. Not when he threw himself into research just to get here.

It had taken weeks, and only his determination of finding you outweighed his frustration. He had inspected the Crystal Tower as instructed, only to find that no matter what he threw at it, it’s doors would not open to him. It did not help that the local military would watch his every move and it was only after from a tip from Garlond did the Eorzeans leave him be.

His presence became common, but still strange. The prince of the enemy nation, strolling through the city to go down to the Crystal Tower as if a war had never been fought. He came and went as he pleased, too absorbed in his research about the world you had spirited yourself away to.

There had been mentions of Ascians once again, more primals, a mention of Zodiark and Hydaelyn. ‘More false gods.’ He thought, skimming through tomes and tomes of information, able to fall into his childhood habit of reading. It only took a week or so for his presence back home to not be felt, and an imperial soldier sent bumbling into town with a message from home. He had managed to spare the poor guard his life, the residents of Mor Dhona far too afraid of him to even think of attacking the poor guard on sight.

“M-My lord,” the guard trembles, his voice shaking as he bows before him. 

“Out with it.” Zenos sighs, wanting nothing more but to continue his research. Silently the guard hands him a letter, stiff as a board, of which he tears through with ease. “Return to the capital.” he reads. Sure enough, his father’s seal is emblazoned on the bottom in bold red, making him scoff. “Touching. Tell me boy, what is your name?”

“A-A-Amicus, my lord.” the boy trembles, eyes wide and fearful. 

“Amicus. Do me a favor.” Holding out the letter, he releases it for but a second, allowing him just enough time to unsheathe his sword. Amicus yelps in fear, eyes shut tight as the blade passes just over his head. Opening his eyes, he gives himself a pat down before noticing the cleanly sliced letter on the ground. “Tell father I will return home when I feel like it.” Reaching for his coat he yanks off one of the many baubles lining it, holding it out. “Take this as your proof that we have met and your job was done. You are dismissed.”

Amicus stands slack jawed for several moments as Zenos turns away, strolling through the crowd of gathered citizens without a care. They part out of fear rather than respect, gawking between the stunned soldier, and the stoic prince.

As dull as he found the stories and legends of the gods that Eorzea worshiped, they undoubtedly proved the key to reaching you again. They also seemed to provide more insight to your power, your gift that you were blessed with. Having fought you, he knew it was not your blessing alone that had struck him down from the heavens the first time. You too had your might, wielding it alongside your gift to become a true force of nature. It was those thoughts that kept him awake at night, lighting candle after candle as he continued to read.

And even though he spent weeks upon weeks researching, he had stumbled onto his ticket to the First by pure happenstance.

“How goes your search, my lord?” Nero asks, strolling into the workshop.

Zenos glances at the other Garlean across the room. “As well as it could go, since you two seem set on not aiding me further.” He drawls, flipping through more of the tomes that they (reluctantly) let him have access to. “I will find the answer I seek soon enough.” 

With that, nothing more is said, as everyone choose to ignore the other’s presence, at least while he is there. Finishing his current tome, he stands to return it to the shelf, but not before eyeing an interesting trinket near Cid’s desk. Silent like the hunter he is, he nears the desk and it’s occupant just close enough to reach out before it’s too late to stop him.

“Wha-- hey! Don’t touch that!” Garlond protests, but he is too slow, for the small gear like object is already within his grasp. As soon as he touches it, his head throbs in pain, making him immediately drop it once more. 

That feeling, that soul-sucking feeling returns, as if he is trying to be pulled from his body. “By the Emperor Garlond, what did you do?!” 

“I didn’t do anything!”

The two men’s voices are distant, hardly discernible with the pounding in his head. Between it all he can feel a calling, as if there is a tether he must grasp onto. Reaching out, it feels like he’s feeling blindly, unable to see what or where he needs to grab onto.

Just when he is about to resist, the pull becomes less painful, a soft voice drifting to his ears...his name? His name spoken softly, almost wept. So brokenly...so longingly.

“I’ve found them.” He hears himself laugh, his body slowly crumpling to the ground. “I’ve found the Warrior of Light.” And with those last word he surrenders to the pull on his soul, flying across time and space and into the First.

It had been fourteen days since then, fourteen days of acclimating to the constant sun, barren lands, and odd inhabitants. The creatures seemed to match what lore he had managed to find, of a world like the Source, but different. Somehow he seemed to just barely miss you as he traveled the land. A rumor here, a tip there, and he would always show up just a tad too late. Aggravating yes, but he was if anything, persistent. He had made it this far and to be frustrated now would not help him at all.

He was getting closer though, he could tell. Where he would miss you by days, he was now missing you by mere hours. Your presence could be felt in the air where you had walked, the thrill of the hunt pushing him faster, further as he caught hold of your trail.

A million things raced through his mind about what he would do upon seeing you. Things to say, your own reaction, would he kiss you or make you submit? It mattered little, because at the heart of it, finding you was the true goal, and anything afterwards was simply a bonus. Smirking to himself his eyes land on the city ahead, spotlights of purples and blues shining brightly into the night, visible from even this distance. You were close and he could feel it, and while at this point he most likely could catch up to you, he had received some rather interesting news first.

His adventures across Eorzea had served him well, able to do simple tasks to fetch things for others to get information and food he desired. And in doing so, he learned of the mysterious general Ran’jit, who had made a habit of cutting off your every move. He could not blame the poor fool for not knowing that his quarry was already spoken for. Even still, he found the urge to rectify this mistake supersede his need to find you. This...Ran’jit character had to be dealt with. You were his beast, and his beast alone. There was no competing for the same prey in his eyes.

He didn’t like to share.

Chapter Text

The city of Eulmore is about what he expected, able to get a rough idea from a distance. He had heard a tale here, a rumor there, of it’s marble walls where those within may live out the rest of their days in paradise, free from the worries of their world dying around them.

Savagery could be found even across worlds.

It mattered little though, as he strolled through the town without a care, shoving weak citizens off of him, arriving at the gates with minimum effort. This Vauthry’s military was laughable at best; trained to only subdue the weaker people, without any real power to stop a being such as he.

“Ugh...I can feel it...a dark presence in my domain!” a man shouts over an intercom, making him pause outside the gates to the city. “It is different...not the villains who have tormented me so! But stop them! Stop all those who would sow chaos in my perfect paradise!” he cries.

Tutting, Zenos continues, barging past the guards at the gate with total ease. The two women waiting for him inside are as equally pitiful as the so called military, cutting them down without so much as a second glance.

This place is a lot taller than it looks like from the outside but it is of no matter. There is only one place a coward such as this Vauthry character would hide, and naturally be protected by his guard dog.

Reaching the top, a lavish square sprawls out before him, flower petals floating in crystal clear waters, their scent filling the room even with it’s open areas. While it seems it would be a place where there would plenty of people buzzing about, but is instead completely abandoned.

“You are not the Warrior of Darkness.”

Behind him there are footsteps, a masculine voice he is unfamiliar with. Turning, a silver haired man stands before him, scythe in hand. His armor looks as if it made from the skin of a dragon, red scales lining him from head to toe. He frowns as he’s distantly reminded of the dragoon back on the first.

“Warrior of Darkness?” he questions, tilting his head. “No. I am merely here to seek someone out. Might you be the one I am looking for?” 

The man seems to study him, sizing him up. “You are no average man, to have made it here.” He acknowledges, still holding his scythe. “I doubt you are here to see Lord Vauthry.”

“Quite the opposite. I am here for his guard dog.” Zenos purrs, watching as man scowls even further. “Might you be Ran’jit, his general?”

Ran’jit wields his scythe with practiced hands, stepping closer toward him. “What business do you have here?” he growls, to which Zenos smiles.

“Excellent. Then my search is over.” drawing his sword he feels his power flow through him, the buzz of battle coursing through his veins. “I was made aware that a man by the name Ran’jit had been terrorizing the Warrior of Light. Though I suppose on this world you call them the Warrior of Darkness.” Wielding his blade at his side, he stares the older man down. “I have come to correct your grave error.”

Without warning Ran’jit darts forward, swinging his scythe. It takes minimal effort to bring his sword up to block the blow, barely exerting strength to resist the man before him. “Do me a favor will you?” Zenos drawls, knocking the man onto his back. “Try to make this entertaining.”

Ran’jit is quick to recover, looking slightly stunned. “Who...what are you?” he roars, charging for a bigger attack. 

“You would not recognize me if I told you.” Zenos answers, not bothering to even dodge the lightning Ran’jit throws at him. He stands there as the smoke clears, taking in Ran’jit’s shocked expression. “All you must know is I do not let anyone interfere with my hunt.”

Ran’jit says nothing, throwing himself at him again, to which Zenos makes little effort to move. The man contained some form of power it was true,  seeming to rely on cheap parlor tricks and overwhelming his opponents with sheer strength. Perhaps this was the first time in his life he had ever met his match.

Funny that it would also be the last.

“I can understand how you could give the Warrior some struggle, if you have a few tricks up your sleeve.” Zenos hums, taking delight in watching the general struggle to stay on his feet. “Though you might also have the benefit of their mercy; they always were a bit soft.”

“What is the Warrior of Darkness to you?” Ran’jit grunts out, chest heaving from exhaustion. “Who are they that you would hunt only me down?”

Zenos says nothing for several beats, thinking on his answer. You certainly were a lot of things to him. His enemy. His friend. His lover if he could find you. He had never felt so strongly about a person, about anyone other than himself. To cross an entire realm, to leave his home behind, to wander a world where no one knows where he is...you are the only person he would ever go to such length for.

“They are mine.”

Shoving his sword in the ground, the familiar power of Concentravity flows through him, sending Ran’jit into the closest wall. The impact is enough to leave a dent, the general slumping to the ground in a heap. “You could not have known this of course, being a creature of this world.” Zenos begins, slowly stepping toward him. “Which is why I came to inform you, so that it won’t happen again.” 

“You mean to show me mercy?” Ran’jit asks, coughing up blood as he does.

“Mercy...” the word feels strange and foreign on his tongue, as if he had never said it before. “No, not mercy. Your death will simply guarantee your discontinued interference.” Giving him no time to answer Zenos plunges his sword through his chest, frowning at the resulting spray of blood. Yanking his sword out, he sheathes the blade with a smooth click. While he did not necessarily mind the blood of his enemies upon him, it did make it considerably more difficult to commune with townsfolk. 

Stepping over to the decorative fountain at the bar, he kneels to slowly begin washing blood away. He idly wonders where the Lord that the general had spoken of was hiding; probably tucked away in some secret cave no doubt. He wasn’t here for him though, and with Ran’jit dead, he could return to his hunt. Hopefully this little excursion didn’t let you get too far...

“Zenos?”

Not too far at all.

Chapter Text

Though his heart leaps in his chest, only through years of practice is he able to maintain his neutral expression as he turns to the owner of the voice that had called his name.

There you stand, the very picture of disbelief, greatsword looking as it might fall out of your hand at any moment. Your emotions flit across your face too fast for him to take note of each of them, stunned for so long that eventually more footsteps are heard as the Scions emerge from the stairwell.

“Warrior of Light, is all well,” First one gasp, than many eyes land on him.

“Zenos?”

“But how did he,”

“By what manner,”

All chatter is silenced as he shifts his weight, sending the group of heroes on guard. “Well. I can see why our entrance was met with little resistance.” The white-haired male, Thancred he remembers, unsheathes his gunblade. The others follow suit, weapons wielded as a wry smile tugs at his lips. “How on earth did you get here?”

“I walked.” He drawls, further amused as it seems to rile up the other man.

“Thancred, ‘tis not the how that matters...” Urianger begins, eyes narrowing on him, “but why.”

“And just what will you all do if I refuse to tell any of you about my reasoning?” He challenges, hand slowly reaching for his sword as he delights in watching them squirm.

A single upraised hand from you is all it takes to stop their bickering, eyes cold and hard as they focus on him. “Keep going.”

Immediately the notion of being alone with him doesn’t sit well with anyone. “But we can’t leave him,” Alphinaud tries but you stop him with just a look.

“What can you do now, that you could not when we were liberating Ala Mhigo?” you ask lowly. Alphinaud freezes at that, before quickly realizing your anger is not directed at him, but at the man across the room. You are right though; there is no challenging someone of his might, he who has defied death itself. 

“Continue on to Vauthry.” you order, turning back to face him. “I will deal with him.” The other Scions all pass each other worried glances, but do as you say, continuing further upward the city.

Alone with you now, he realizes just how long it had been since he had last laid eyes on you. Not much has changed, save for that hardened look in your eyes, though it was not hard to guess that was of his own doing. “Must you look so hostile Warrior?”

Your eyes narrow impossibly further, slinging your greatsword to sit upon your shoulder. “Why are you here?” you ask, practically hissing like a snake with the most potent of venom. Shrugging, he gives no effort to appear peaceable as he moves from behind the counter, stepping out into the open space of the plaza.

“Why do you think?” he replies with his own question. You are barely controlling your fury, he can tell. It is taking all of your control to hold yourself back in this moment. “I came for you.” he answers truthfully, resting a hand on his sword.

“You would chase me across worlds, for your duel wouldn’t you?” The sound of swords connecting is sharp, familiar in his ears as you stand before him, pressing your sword against his own. He had not seen you move but had felt it all the same, his blade singing from the contact. His blood followed suit, rushing through his veins.

“I would chase you across worlds hero. I am here, am I not?” he murmurs, sending you skidding backwards across polished marble floor. He calls his power forth, feeling your strength brush harshly against his own. You do not speak again, launching yourself at him, swinging your sword that is practically the size of your body.

The ferocity you bear against him is something he has not felt since the first time you truly came to blows as equals.

When you had fought to win.

The anger in your eyes shines brighter than any gem, the gleam of your power brighter than the constant light that bathed this accursed land. Try as he might, the call of battle is infectious, tantalizing, that he can’t help but break out into a feral grin as you somersault into the air to bring down your sword upon him once more.

Show me why I chose you, and you alone.

It would be a disservice to you, to hold back when you give him your all.

Zenos is not above being flashy; unleashing Concentravity with little effort to gain some ground between the two of you. He was glad he had chosen to bring along his sword revolver, the gears clicking within like music as they came to a stop. He starts with The Swell, hair whipping about his shoulders as the wind picks up.

With a swipe of his blade, petals fly through the air as well as you, barely able to catch yourself before slamming into a wall much like Ran’jit did earlier. Your reflexes are better, faster, allowing you to use the momentum to vault yourself off the wall, sword aimed straight for him as he moves to quickly dodge out the way. A nearby counter is destroyed by the impact, your expression unchanged as you emerge from the rubble.

“I thought I told you I didn’t want to see you.” You growl, reaching your hand out as dark, purple magic oozes in your hand. Clutching your stomach you cough as it disappears inside you, eyes glowing a sharp purple before you throw yourself at him once more. You swing your greatsword with remarkable ease, hitting him with the same attack over and over, to the point where he must dual wield if he wants a chance of withstanding your assault.

You have grown in strength.

That isn’t to say he had been slacking either, grinning as he merges the power of The Swell and The Storm, electric wind surrounding the two of you, sparks racing across your skin. You grit your teeth, eyes shining brightly as you resist his strength, his might that he had built to keep up with your constantly changing power. 

He had only ever wanted to match his equal. Ever since the beginning.

“Nothing could keep me from you, dear Warrior.” With a slice of his blade you hiss in pain as he nicks your arm, your eyes like steel as they look upon him. But even beneath that flinty stare, he can see the exhilaration that is mirrored in his own eyes. The thrill of battle that keeps you both coming back. 

“How did you even get here?” you ground out, locking blades with him once more, your fangs bared to catch his eye. Claws prepared to rip and tear and maim his skin. You had yet to draw his blood, but that did not mean he would not have a bruise or two tomorrow. 

For even for when you did not hold back, you still did, unable to cut him.

“Does the how matter, hero? Even your friend had said so, did he not...” he dodges a series of black pillars surrounding you, swapping swords to bring out Ame-no-Habakiri, it’s red tint shining brightly in the room. “It only matters why.”

“Then why?!” You roar, clutching your chest, more black, dark magic pouring from your body. He watches in mild shock as a shadow figure like yourself emerges, red eyes flashing brightly as an equally dark sword manifested. “Why would you hunt me down?!” You rush him first, your shadow not far behind.

Wielding two swords, he fends off the dual attacks, nearly overwhelmed by your power. “It hurts to see you!” you yell, swinging your sword in a dangerous arc, his sword barely able to stop the blow from landing. “It hurts to know you lied!” he gasps as your expression finally breaks, tears streaming from your eyes as you prepare another devastating attack.

But there was nothing more devastating than seeing you shed tears.

“I did lie.” he murmurs, taking advantage of your emotional state to send you flying away from him, the shade vanishing in wisps of shadow. “I did hurt you.” Face still tear stained, you run at him again, teeth gleaming. “I have hunted you down.” Catching your sword with his, he moves quickly, twirling with all the grace of a trained solider. You’re too slow this close, one hand knocking the wind out of you with a swift punch to the gut, the other taking your greatsword in hand and flinging it across the floor.

“I should be clearer with my words.” The movements are practically muscle memory as you struggle to fight back, his hand blocking yours before he could disable your movement. You are still very much a threat without a weapon to channel your aether, he had to remind himself, but in hand to hand combat he was superior in pure physical strength. Exhaustion shows in your blows, having spent all of your energy on bigger attacks. 

He goes on the offensive, feels the force of his blows on your body that he knows hurts, but holding back would be an insult. “When I said nothing could keep me from you, I meant nothing.” he growls as your fist strikes him across the face. He’s quick to retaliate, catching your chin with a solid uppercut, blood dripping from your busted lip. “Have I not chased you across worlds, to see you?” He barely dodges a swipe at his face, taking that wrist in hand to swing you into the closest wall.

And still you stand.

Rushing you down, he pins you there, placing his thigh between your legs, pinning your arms against the wall. You are too weak too fight against him as he bears his weight against you, your eyes wild and defiant as you glare up at him. “Get away from me!” you snarl, struggling against your restraints.

“Never,” he whispers, letting go of one wrist for a moment, to capture your chin, bringing your lips to his own. You struggle still, even as his mouth moves across your own, body trying to push him away. Your free hand finds his hair and pulls, bringing a deep moan from his throat that leaves you stunned. Pulling away, his eyes are half lidded, desire dancing brightly within them. “You are free to do that again, if you wish.” he thrums, delighting in your expression.

You are bloodied and bruised, hair wild and mussed. Your armor is stained with your blood and his own, from a glancing blow he had not realized you had landed. Your eyes are still frenzied, the adrenaline still coursing through your veins as you stare back at him in disbelief.

Never have you looked more beautiful.

“What other reason,” he grips your chin tighter, presses closer against you, “would I have to cross worlds, hunt you down? For one battle?” he laughs. “Nay...you are mine hero.” His grin is roguish as he flips his hair from his face, eyes twinkling with satisfaction. “You know this.”

Your face is red hot, body slowly relaxing in his hold. That grip on his hair loosens and your struggles slowly cease. “To chase you down across realms...to follow you for months on end. To make peace with the only other Garleans on the continent. Living amongst your people for months as I researched a way to find you.” His grip unconsciously tightens. “I have trained with you, rescued you, stayed by your side. Why else would I have come?”

All is silent save for the sound of your shared breath, the sound of heartbeats pounding in his ears. “You came for me?” you whisper so quietly, that were he not so close he would not have heard you.

“Always.” He whispers, claiming your lips once more.

Chapter Text

There was nothing Zenos was better at than being (willfully) ignorant of the feelings of those around him.

Well, aside from fighting of course.

He had not spoken a word to any of them, and yet every last eye of the Scions were turned on him with possibly the most muted resentment he had ever felt. And as someone who was known for the death of thousands, for dismantling an entire rebellion with only his hands, nothing quite compared to what he was feeling right now. It was impressive really.

Those eyes bored into the back of his head, as if staring hard enough would merely make him drop dead, rescuing the love struck Warrior from his vile clutches. He had been forced (or rather coerced on your part) to walk at the head of the pack as they made their way to get some mysterious machine working in the nearby land.

Tempted as he was to spite the Scions for their unwelcome (though not unwarranted) hate for his presence, he knew it not best to antagonize them and make matters worse.

After all, he was already in hot water with you.

Kissing you is as sweet as he knew it would be, that sham of a body he had never doing what it is to taste your lips justice. You return the kiss with equal fervor, hands threading in his hair that has him pressing further into you. 

He’s glad he ditched the armor.

Suddenly an ear piercing shriek is heard, followed by an earthquake that has you clutching onto him for stability. His arm snakes around your waist as he steadies you both against the wall, shock in your eyes as you watch Vauthry take off to the sky and Mt. Gulg rise toward the heavens. “What on earth...” he hears you whisper, staring at the mountain top high in the sky.

“I see you cannot stay out of trouble.” He laughs, making you turn back to look at him with a pout.

“I’m not in any trouble,” you cut yourself off with a light squeak as he presses his hips toward you, the arm that he was using to steady you now bringing you closer against him.

“Really now?” he purrs, watching how you go red in the face, mouth opening and closing as you struggle to form words. “There is a lot of trouble we could get in, hero.” Leaning close he kisses your neck, enjoying how your breath immediately quickens.

“Warrior of Light, are you well...!” Looking up, Alphinaud’s face is red much like your own, to the very tips of his Elezen ears. You and the boy are frozen as a deer caught before the eyes of a couerl, neither of you knowing what to say. Alphinaud quickly drops his codex and turns away in shame.

“Alphinaud, is the Warrior,” Alisaie too, is red in the face, despite her mean scowl as her eyes land upon him. “Just what are you doing?!” she nearly shrieks as the rest of the Scions trickle in.

“I can explain,” you offer weakly, pushing to free yourself from his grip but he’s not quite ready to let you go yet. “Let. Me. Go!” you ground out, giving him a hard smack on his shoulder.

“I’m disinclined to. Though you’re free to try pulling my hair again to release you, if you’d like.” he rumbles, a throaty laugh bubbling forth as you bury your face in your hands.

After some more begging and convincing right hook on your part, he had finally released you, allowing you to explain his presence to your friends. It was equal parts amusing and bothersome to watch their reactions to your shared story, especially the bit where they realized he had been following you for so long.

He was only “allowed” to stay under the guise that he would be better watched close by, to keep him from wreaking any kind of havoc on the First. How greatly they insulted him by thinking he only killed because he could. Death was merely the consequence of battle. He took no pleasure out of the act itself. 

Strange, how being good at something gave you the wrong reputation.

It mattered not, for nothing could have kept him from your side. He would not have killed your friends had they opposed him, but he doubted none of them would be so eager to take him on in battle if they disliked him that strongly.

Thus, a traveling arrangement had been made. You were to not be let out of the Warrior’s sight, if it could be helped. Not that he had planned to ever leave your side in the first place, but if it appeased the little ragtag group of heroes, so be it.

“You friends are overly wary.” he comments as he leans against a nearby tree, having made camp on your trek back to the Crystarium. There had been talks most of the day about could be done in regards to reaching the floating mountain top, giving a good glimpse on what this adventure was about. Though he might not care for whatever heroic acts you were set out to do, it was good to remain well informed.

“They are not wrong to. All of them have been on the business end of your sword after all.” Comes your slightly scathing reply. “You will have to earn their trust. And mine as well.”

He raises an eyebrow at that, prompting you to continue. “I...while I am happy to see you...” you slowly begin preparing a spare bed roll given to you by the Scions, “You still hurt me very deeply Zenos....I had watched you die. I had...” you choke on your words for a moment, and allow him to see the pain you felt. “I had cared about you then. Even before you were Soryu.” you whisper softly, wringing the bed roll in your hands.

“You lying to me shattered my trust horribly...I don’t...” He stops you by catching your chin his hands, turning your face to look at him head on.

“I have gained your trust once Warrior. I have lived, died, and lived again all for your existence.” Rubbing his thumb across your bottom lip, he feels you repress a shudder. “Does it bear repeating? That I crossed worlds for you? Chased the stars for my beast?” he hums, feeling your heartbeat quicken beneath his hand.

“I never took you as one for such fanciful words.” The words have a slight tremor to them, your body tensed as if you are resisting to reach out and touch him.

“You would be correct, my beast.” he grins, releasing your chin. “Flattery is beneath me. The truth is much better, don’t you think?”

Chapter Text

Try as he might, he is incapable of keeping his bottom lip from sticking out, in what the savages would call a pout.

He cares little for whatever Scions’ feel or think about him; after all the Warrior of Light is his one and only concern. So long as they do not actively endeavor to keep you from him, he is impervious to their silent glares and dirty looks.

What he is not impervious to, however, is the sudden reality of having to share your attentions.

One could say he is almost sulking, sitting a good few yalms from the group as you interact with the rest, discussing strategies and other plans of attack. He studies how you interact with each of the Scions, gaining insight onto your relationship with each of them.

That they all have a deep respect for you is clear, but he can also see an affection that was not present in the last time he had seen them. Whatever you had been doing on the First had strengthened their feelings toward you, any of them looking as they might throw themselves on his blade if he ever did turn on you.

Even still, he can’t help but feel like a petulant child, watching as your attentions are given to others, no longer focusing solely on him. In truth, it was only a problem since you still did not see the benefits of killing anyone who was an inconvenience to you.

“Are you all right?”

Looking down, the newest member, Ryne he remembers, stares up at him with curious blue eyes nearly the same color as his own. The other Scions are back at camp preparing dinner, while he spent time alone with his thoughts. That Thancred would let her out of his sights with him around spoke highly of his trust in her, or rather, his trust in you. “I am well, girl.” he answers, staring out into the horizon. It is thankfully dark, the group currently stationed in Lakeland before they at last make it back to the Crystarium.

“I’m sorry. I mostly ask because it seems that you keep to yourself a lot, and the rest of the Scions dislike you.” she adds hesitantly, hand fiddling with her red hair, long and silken.

“Dislike, would be doing their feelings a disservice.” he chuckles, crossing his arms. “They haven’t told you about me? About what kind of person I am?” He does find that oddly surprising, given that they remained adamant about wanting nothing to do with him.

Ryne shakes her head, gaze steady as she looks at him. So it was not bravery that let her approach him, but ignorance. “From what I gather, you are not...a hero like the rest of them. Fighting for the good of others. But the Warrior seems to care for your regardless.” Though her last sentence is phrased like a statement, there is still question to her voice, as if she is struggling to wonder how bad he could be.

Raising an eyebrow at that, he faces her, lips curling in a smirk. “I am far from a hero.” he rumbles lowly. “I am the prince of a fearsome empire, struck down by the Warrior in a duel that shook the heavens. There is more blood on my hands than you could possibly even imagine. I seized power with my own hands, able to live again with the Resonant, sought them out again, for they are the beast I chase in the hunt.”

“They’re more than that to you aren’t they? More than just an opponent.” She presses, lips set in a firm line. “I’ve seen the way you look at them. You’ve hurt them I think, and that’s why they don’t come near you a lot,”

Growling he draws his sword, not at all phased by her small squeal of shock as she backs away, drawing the knives she kept holstered on her person. “Cease your prattling, before I cut out your tongue.” he hisses, angered further at how she doesn’t run away in terror. He did not need to be reminded of his failures where you were concerned, especially by this slip of a girl.

“I just wanted to say,” she begins, slowly easing out of her stance, eyes unwavering, “don’t give up. They still care. I think it practically pains them to keep themselves from you, even if you did hurt them. You still need to regain their trust and it won’t be easy...but I think they want you to.” Slowly standing, Ryne returns her knives to their rightful place.

“A pity it is then, coming here to waste your breath.” he sneers, running a hand through his hair. “I would not be here on your world if I intended to give up.”

He scoffs as the young girl breaks out into a smile, eyes twinkling with hope. “I’m glad.” She beams, giving him a small wave before running off. Watching her go, he can only think that he has definitely grown more patient in his time with you. Less rash. More sympathetic.

By the emperor, you taught him how to feel.

The girl was right in that the road to earning your trust back would not be easy. It was in his favor that you wore you feelings on your sleeve, making it glaringly obvious that you pined for him as much he did for you. Even so, the act of regaining trust left him lost; another battlefield he was unaccustomed to. Turning to head back for the camp, he’s stopped by your small gasp, hands holding what looks like perfectly roasted fish.

Clearly caught, you seem to grow flustered, avoiding his gaze. “Dinner was ready, and you didn’t come back, so I...” you trail off, holding out two skewers for him to take. Approaching, he can’t help but snicker at how embarrassed you seem, especially as he makes sure to brush his hand against yours. 

“Thank you, Warrior.” You look at him astonished, eyes wide as he takes his first bite. “I see now, what the chefs at the Imperial Palace could not replicate in their cooking from my time in Eorzea.” He purrs, eyes half lidded as you stare up at him. The skin is roasted well, save for a few burnt edges. It’s seasoned, though the balance could use some work, and it’s overly salted. Yet for it’s flaws, it doesn’t stop him from eating it as if it’s the best thing he has ever tasted.

“Replicate? What do you mean?” you ask, finally mustering the courage to look him in the face again.

Taking another bite, he lets you stew in your curiosity for a moment, watching your growing impatience. “Is it not obvious? Though to be fair it was not to me at first...”

“Zenos!” you huff, hand moving to hit him. His reflexes allow him to catch your hand before it lands, pulling you close against him, feeling your warmth. Tossing one skewer away, he examines the last one with a practiced eye. “For all of the training the cooks have had, there is one thing they could never hope to copy.” he drawls, sly grin in place as he looks down to your slowly reddening cheeks. “They weren’t you.”

Chapter Text

Something is amiss.

Looking toward the forest of which you had wandered into, his brows furrow and his lips curve downward.

“Something the matter, prince?”

Turning back to the one who addressed him, Thancred, he does not bother to hide his ire. To his credit he doesn’t immediately falter under his glare, but he can see the tensing of his entire body as he doesn’t lessen the sheer distaste he feels for him. When you were away, he didn’t bother masking how clearly he didn’t not give a damn about what any of them thought.

“The Warrior has been gone too long.” He states simply, garnering the attention of the rest of the Scions.

“They said they were only going off to go bathe didn’t they? Perhaps they are just taking the time to indulge themselves and don’t need any peeping toms such as yourself.” Thancred grounds out, Ryne coming to tug on his arm. 

Your friends were not brave. They were stupid. Killing them, would be unforgivable. Slapping them around a bit would probably still get him in trouble, but they wouldn’t be dead.

“Watch your tongue. You might think yourself safe behind the Warrior’s graces, but even I have my limits.” His voice is like ice, immediately chilling the already tense atmosphere of the camp. This group would learn that no matter how much he had changed, how merciful he had become, he was still very much Zenos yae Galvus.

Still a monster.

The message was received nonetheless, the Scions settling into a strained silence, until the cat woman spoke up. “Threaten us as you will, but we still know the Warrior well. They have always acted on their own, and have lived on their own terms.”

He can’t help but bark out a laugh at that, unbothered by their angry faces. “You know the Warrior well?” he snickers, blue eyes twinkling. “Tell me then, what is the Warrior’s favorite dish?” he asks, looking at the many faces staring back at him. No one seems to have an answer, the Scions looking between themselves as if one might have the correct response.

“Nothing? Let me give you another then: What is one potion they struggle to make?” Silence greets him again, his smirk growing as they can do nothing but stare back at him. “Something easier perhaps; what is their favorite color?” No one has anything to say, suddenly unable to meet his eyes. He can’t help but laugh again, standing to his feet. “It would seem you do not know the Warrior as well as you thought. Know their habits yes, but you do not know them.” he hisses, staring them down. “They have been naught but a weapon to you all. An ace up your sleeve for when your backs are against the wall. Perhaps you will choose your words carefully next time.” 

Turning his back, he wanders off into the forest. “Their favorite color, is blue.”

Wherever you had gone, you had wandered quite far from the camp, giving him a sense of unease. As far as he knew the shore of the lake was not that far from the camp, and you seemed to deviate from the path. 

Getting closer, he hears coughing, the shadow of your figure hunched over on the ground. It sounds as if you are trying to cough up your entire lung, his eyes widening as white bile spills from your mouth. “Warrior!” he calls, dashing toward you.

Your eyes are panicked as you look toward him, knees already moving to push you up so that you may flee. He’s too fast however with his long strides, skidding to a stop at your side, capturing your arm in his hand. “What is the matter?” he asks, looking between you and the glowing, white mess on the ground.

“Nothing, it’s nothing,” you lie, his grip tightening as you try to turn away from him. Grabbing your chin harshly with his free hand he forces you to face him, eyeing the remnants of the strange fluid on your lips. Reaching with his thumb, he wipes it way, testing the texture on his gloves. “D-Don’t,”

“You have been hiding this.” It is a statement more than it is a question, his eyes hard as you guiltily look away. “Look at me.” he growls, gripping your chin a little harder, stopping when you whimper in pain. Sighing, he breathes through his nose, and tries to calm the feeling in his chest.

Fear.

“What is happening?” he asks, looking into your eyes, seeing your pride, your worry. “This is something you have tried to hide from your friends, and worse hide from me.” he murmurs, loosening his hold on your arm. “A mistake on your part, but one I am willing to let you rectify, if you will tell me what is going on.”

Releasing you fully, he lets you sit there, biting your lip as you unceremoniously wipe your mouth on your arm. “It’s just a slight side effect from my battles against the light wardens.” You grumble, staring at the cool grass beneath you. “It’s fine. I’m fine.” You breathe, standing to your feet.

Standing with you, he can sense the lie, angry at himself at how you closed yourself off to him. “If that is what you claim, then I will believe it to be true.” he whispers, watching closely as you turn to meet him with guarded eyes. You open your mouth as if you would speak, only to close it again. You settle on a slight nod turning away from him. You stride off into the forest, back toward the camp.

Once you’re out of ear shot, Zenos allows himself to channel his anger, his frustration. Drawing his sword, one strike is all it takes to fell several trees in the area, his body glowing red as blood. Groaning, he runs a hand through his hair roughly, unable to deal with the emotions coursing through him. Feeling is painful. 

He would have to watch you closely. Even more than he already had. It was not unlike you to hide your suffering from the people you considered dear to you. You had fallen back into the habit of relying on you and only you, even though he was by your side.

Staring out into the night sky, he looks at the stars, their presence somehow soothing. “Even now, I have never left you Warrior. I am still here.” he whispers, clenching his fist at his side. 

You were not alone in this world. No matter what shard you were on. He had made a promise to remain by your side.

And he was always a man of his word.

Chapter Text

“Well, I can certainly say you are possibly the last person I ever expected to see here on the First.”

Turning from his place of watching as you rally the nervous Chai-Nuzz, Zenos finds himself staring back into golden eyes much like his father’s.

Raising an eyebrow, he crosses his arms. “You are...?”

The man in question barks out a laugh, perfectly white teeth glinting in the sunlight. “Come now boy, I know that my grandson cared little for your upbringing, but surely you can see the family resemblance?”

He studies the man’s features closely. His face is well defined, much like his honored father’s, and they also share the same gold eyes. His hair is not blonde, but the fur’s and coat he wears reminds him of...home.

Confusion rolls through him as he stares down the man before him. “You are my great-grandfather.”

“Solus zos Galvus, at your service.” He bows with a flourish. It is not often Zenos feels on edge around anyone, but something about his presence puts him on high alert. “Or rather, I should introduce myself as I have to the rest of your group; Emet-Selch, Ascian.”

Rolling his eyes, Zenos glances toward you again, watching as you deliver supplies to the workers buzzing about. “To think, that Ascians had a hand in building the Garlean empire; no wonder your acquaintance felt at home in my body.”

Emet-Selch lets out another laugh at that, his smile saying everything and nothing at once. “Ah, but you, my dear progeny, seemed to have evicted him from the shell you sought to inhabit once more! I must say that I do hold a tidbit of pride in that; that even though you are a sundered soul, my power can produce a result such as yourself.”

Narrowing his eyes, he studies the man before him, sensing that he is being played with. “What is it that you want then, honored great-grandfather?” he asks, turning to face him fully.

Emet-Selch’s lip slowly pull into a bored frown of their own; a family trait straight from the sire himself. “So to the point. Your Warrior is far more entertaining to tease and toy with. Sadly, not as easy to manipulate...”

Zenos can’t help but scoff at that, crossing his arms across his chest. “That they are.” he agrees, idly wondering how powerful he is. If Elidibus was strong enough to wear the Warrior down, it would stand that the Ascian before him is equally as powerful.

The feeling of his blood singing brings a smile to his lips.

“I know what you are thinking, and as much as I would love to spend some quality time with you my dear boy, I must decline. As it is, the Warrior has already thrown quite the loop into my plans, and I must needs make sure they fulfill their end of the bargain.” Emet-Selch’s lips quirk up again at the deathly glare he pins him with. “Now, now, no need to be so hostile! I’ve done nothing to the Warrior in their time here, save educate them on the beings of eld. I have but one task I have asked of them; to slay every Lightwarden in this land and contain the light within. You believe in them as much as I do, do you not?”

If there was anything he believed in, it was that all of his forefathers were schemers down to their core, unwilling to take up the sword themselves and fight. It was almost startling in a way to see his father’s habits in this man who was as old as time itself. Strange, how the proverbial apple truly did not fall far from the tree. “How terrible that the Warrior of Light remains only a pawn even to beings more powerful than they; fighting battles that others wish not to dirty their hands in.” He says loftily, watching as Emet-Selch’s grin spreads further.

“Why, you remind me so much of myself, it is nearly enough to bring a tear to the eye. Trying to curry your grandfather’s favor are you?” he laughs, full of mirth. “I have quite enjoyed our talk. Perhaps...we shall speak later.” Within that phrase lies a thousand possibilities that Zenos is unable to find meaning in. “Take care of your love, my grandson. They’ll need it.”

As fast as he came, Emet-Selch disappears, surrounded by darkness that swallows him whole.

Turning back to the work site, he feels calmer once his eyes land on you again, still hustling and bustling as you try to help with the effort. Whatever plans the Ascian had for you would remain at the back of his mind; it was unlikely that it was not anything he could not put to rest to keep you safe.

Though it only does just now occur to him how odd it is to speak with his great-grandfather.

Chapter Text

Though he never thought much of it, he can say he is truly thankful that he is not a person who requires much sleep; even after somewhat adjusting to this strange world, there’s no true way to get used to the constant daylight in the short time he has been here.

The Scions who have been here for years he had learned, somehow manage, covers upon their eyes as they all rest for the upcoming battle on the morrow.

Aside from you.

His feet carry him across the harsh dirt, any wildlife that dares cross him being quickly dispatched with a clean slice of his blade. You had run off again, with another excuse of running to relieve yourself, which he saw through easily enough. He might’ve been slower, lacking one of the many mounts you kept, but he was determined to find where you had stashed yourself away nonetheless.

“Why are you here?” He calls, sensing you are near.

Your voice reaches him as he slowly slides down a slight incline, finding you hidden behind a small cliff by the one stream in this desolate land.

You answer him by retching, keeled over on your hands and knees as white bile spews from your mouth. Furrowing his brows, he kneels by your side, taking note of how your arms tremble.

“You are shaking.” He begins, slowly pushing your hair from your face, lips thinning as he presses them together. Your eyes well with unshed tears, and he realizes your arms shake not from exhaustion, but fear.

“What ails you?” He asks, an almost pleading note to his voice. “Do not lie to me.” There is an urgency in his tone that he is surprised to hear himself, but that’s to dissect another time.

You slowly meet his eyes, searching them for something. “I’m scared, Zenos.” That in itself is alarming, considering of what he knew of you. You did not fear anything, or at the least did not let it strike fear into your heart, charging blindly at whatever the Scions threw you at.

It’s how you two met after all.

Warning bells go off in his head as he fumbles on how best to proceed. “What do you have to fear?” He asks, watching as you finally move to sit on your bottom, lips trembling as you try to hold yourself together. It pains him much more than it should to see you so vulnerable, to look so helpless. 

“With each Lightwarden I defeat, I absorb the light that dwelled within it. Things had seemed...fine at first. But as time has gone on, it caused me pain.” You wipe your mouth with the back of your hand. “Y’shtola had told me that I had looked like a Lightwarden via my aether...what if...” His eyes go wide as you grab onto him, yours frantic and panicked. “What if I become one? What if I lay waste to this land I’m trying to save, Zenos?”

“You are worrying over nothing,” And too late he realizes it’s the wrong thing to say, your face crumpling up in frustration. 

“It’s not nothing! I could become too powerful for my friends to stop!” You shout, shaking him as if that will make him understand. “I could kill thousands! Kill the Scions! K-Kill you,” You can hardly finish your sentence as you choke back a sob, hands leaving his body to clutch at your face.

He can only stare back blankly for several moments, trying to digest this new information himself. Tears finally spill over from your eyes, causing him to frown. What words does he say? What can he tell you that will cease your tears?

Words fail him. They always had in a way. He had never been a man who sought to win over others with words, when he could do so with pure might. It was easier to merely threaten those beneath you, or to make an example out of others. Messier yes, but far more effective than using his words.

Right now, the only mess is tears staining your face and the sound of your sniffling. With each passing moment you cry harder, until it nearly turns into full on wailing, the guilt of his poorly chosen words bearing down on him with each cry.

Have you ever cried like this, cried at all before the Scions? Ever shown this vulnerable side of yourself, or did you remain ever steadfast to your duty?

He knows not the answer. He could not sit here in silence any longer.

He does what does best. He takes action. Reaching out, he slowly brings you into his arms.

You fit against him far better than you had in that old body, your form melding to his as he rearranges his legs to also sit upon the ground and bring you into his lap. Immediately, you bury your face into his neck, sobbing into leather that cost millions upon millions of any currency he could think of as if it were but a handkerchief. 

A distant memory tugs at his mind, prompting him to circle his arms around you, his hand slowly stroking your back as you unleash all the worry and anxiety you had pent up inside. It had been sometime since he had held you, and as much as he wanted to relish the feeling of you being in his arms, it was dampened by your tears.

“You’ve nothing to fear, Warrior of Light.” he tries, words of comfort sounding strange on his tongue, even if he means them. “Have you not conquered all your trials thus far? Struck down anyone who has opposed you?” Your arms slowly encircle his own body, pressing yourself into him, rather than bringing him closer. “Am I not proof that even when you are struck down, you come back stronger than before?” 

Leaning against the rocky mound behind him, he gazes up at the eternal day above. “You have me on your side as well.” He murmurs, feeling you stiffen in his hold. “That itself is enough to tip the odds ever more in your favor.” 

Slowly, you peel yourself off of him, gazing deeply into his sky blue eyes. “You’re going with me?” You question, fingers still gripping onto him tightly. “You had to ask?” is his response, a smirk teasing his lips as your face flushes red. The smirk is wiped clean off his face and you capture his lips with his own, his eyes wide before he quickly returns the kiss, eyes falling shut as he gives himself into the sensation.

When you moan into his mouth and move to straddle his thighs, he has to break the kiss, trying not to look too closely at your swollen lips or notice the heat of your arousal. “As much as I would enjoy having you out here in the middle of nowhere,” he begins, shifting beneath you, moving to where you can comfortably rest in his lap, “You have a battle to rest for.” It is easy to coax you to rest your head against his chest, falling into the familiar position of cuddling up against him for a night of rest.

“Sleep. I will wake you when it is time to go.” You close your eyes, slowly going lax against him, your breathing steadily evening out as you allow sleep to claim you. Looking out onto the land, he runs his tongue across his lips, smiling at what tastes like the beginnings of forgiveness.

Chapter Text

Zenos has learned to feel many things in the past year since he had joined you.

He has learned the bitterness of regret, the lows of remorse, the sting of rejection.

He has felt the high of euphoria, the warmth of contentment, the fire of passion.

Oh, but what he would give to never, ever again feel fear.

To his credit, he hides it quite well as you kneel on the ground before him, his arms barely restrained by some incredibly powerful spell that the Exarch had turned on him, his teeth bared in a snarl as he fights to free himself.

The ones known as Urianger and Thancred use their weight to keep him pinned to the ground, knowing that if he was allowed any leeway he would slice the Exarch’s head clean from his shoulders without a second thought.

“Do not...interfere...” Urianger grunts, using all his strength to keep him in place. Whatever spell is cast on him is doing the majority of the work, for his will is so strong that even without magic he can feel the bonds slowly breaking.

You look like you’re in unbearable pain, pain that he could not possibly relieve you of. Pain that was not caused by him and him alone. He roars in rage, hardly hearing the Exarch’s words of self sacrifice, uncaring of whatever higher purpose or so called greater cause he planned to serve.

What good is his sacrifice, if he had to watch you suffer?

“Can you not see?!” Urianger hisses, trying to strengthen the spell once more. “He is saving them!” 

The Elezen’s words only incite his fury, turning his head to sneer at him. “When have any of you, ever done,” His words are silenced by the sound of gunfire, whipping his head back around to look over your body, checking for any injury. Finding none save for the light spilling from you, he turns to watch as the Exarch falls to the ground in a heap.

“Exarch!” He hears the Scions shout, watching as his great-grandfather stands there alone, lowering his gun. “Only those who posses the Allagan eye may control the Crystal Tower. Such individuals do not exist on the First.” The gun vanishes into thin air, his arms hanging limp at his sides. “Therefore, in all likelihood, the Exarch arrived here with the tower. This much I had surmised, yet I could not discern his grand scheme.” With measured steps he moves toward the fallen Exarch, staring down at him with a bored expression that obviously got passed down the family line. “To think, that he went through all this trouble for the sake of a single hero. It’s almost admirable in its absurdity.”

Sighing, he speaks, “Alas, it is not your grand scheme that will succeed, but ours.” 

“You bastard!” Thancred snarls.

“Stay put. Your friend is still alive, but whether he remains so depends on you.” He gives a confident smirk, looking back toward the Exarch. “And I’m not feeling up to dealing with my unruly grandson quite yet. After all, you cannot challenge me without letting him go. How does your little proverb go again? Chase two rabbits and both will get away.” 

Turning to face you, the Warrior, the disdain on Emet-Selch’s face is clear as day. “What a disappointment you turned out to be.” Zenos feels affronted on your behalf, staring daggers into the back of his grandfather’s head. “I placed my faith in you. Let myself believe you could contain the Light. But look at you now, halfway to becoming a monster. You are unworthy of my patronage.”

“W-What did you intend to do?” He hears you choke out, hunched over impossibly further. 

Emet-Selch raises his arms, shakes his head. “I am an Ascian. My heart’s sole desire is to user in the Great Rejoining.” Looking upon the rest of the group, he speaks, “A hundred years ago, I entrusted my comrade Loghrif with the task of increasing Light’s sway over this world. This we sought to do by manipulating heroes. When that failed to achieve the desired result, I created Vauthry.”  Brows furrowing, the Ascian grumbles, “But thanks to your meddling, that too has ended in failure.” 

“What was your true purpose in approaching us?” Alphinaud demands.

“By your Twelve, boy, have I not told you before that everything I said was the truth?” He finally turns fully to them, his voice low. “You were specimens by which I might gauge man’s potential as it stands. I genuinely had an interest in you. Genuinely considered taking you on as allies.” His eyes wander back toward you, Zenos catching that earlier disappointment and...something more within those gold eyes. “Provided they, could contain and control the Light.” 

He turns to face you completely once more. “If not then them--and by extension you--would be of no use to me. ‘Twas as simple as that.” 

“So, we’ve been found wanting. How disheartening.” Thancred drawls, clearly not at all hurt by the thought. What angered Zenos further is how they all stood around, clearly too weak to do anything in your hour of need, merely watching as his grandfather monologued and degraded their precious tool. 

“Consider yourselves lucky. Had you managed to be worthy of my power and still stand against me, I would have killed you all. At the very least, it would restore the world to the way it was before you went about trouncing Lightwardens all willy-nilly.” Emet-Selch offers smugly, lips pulled into a smirk. 

You grab their attention by retching, light spilling from your mouth and onto the ground. Emet-Selch approaches slowly, that fear rising in Zenos’ chest til it forces him to speak. “Do not touch them!” He yells, fighting harder to break his bonds. 

“Hm...you still retain your form and your senses...but you have all but become a sin eater.” Emet-Selch muses, ignoring him as he crouches before you. “Whether you will it or no, your mere existence will serve to engulf the world in Light.” Zenos’ eyes widen as Emet-Selch whispers, wondering if he had meant his next words for anyone to hear. “I had believed in you. With that soul, I had thought...you have turned on me, once again. My friend...”

Standing, he takes one long look at you. “But I have overstayed my welcome.” He says louder this time. “I shall look forward to seeing you bring the world to its knees, hero.” With a snap, the Exarch vanishes, much to the horror of the Scions. Floating high above them, Emet-Selch gives another glance at your body as it shines even brighter. “I pity you, I do.”

His voice is somewhat soft, as if speaking to an old friend. “When it all becomes too much to bear, you may seek me out in my abode in the dark depths of the Tempest. There, you may complete your descent into madness with some dignity, far from prying eyes.” Shutting his eyes, his expression is almost pained. “It is the least I could do for you.”

As he vanishes, you finally collapse. His binds suddenly disperse and he all but throws the two men off of him, rushing to your side. “Warrior!” he shouts, bringing you into his arms. 

“Zenos!” He hears them shout but he pays them no mind, searching your face, shaking your body. “You are stronger than this,” he growls, mind racing a thousand malms a minute. He shifts to slides his arm under your legs, one under your back to keep you safe against him.

“Let them go you,”

“No, Thancred, wait.” Ryne interupts, quickly running to his side. A wisdom beyond her years shines in the girl's eyes; as if she can see past his anger and frustration gleaming in his own blue eyes.

As if she can see his fear.

“I will need him to carry the Warrior of Light until we can get them back to the Crystarium.” He can hear her voice waver, clearly unused to taking charge of the situation. “There, I can try to contain the light. At least long enough for us to figure something out. He’s clearly not going to hurt them, so please,”

“Do as she says.” He orders, his voice like ice as he stares them down. He did not expect the young girl to be able to help them, small as she is, but in the same breath he is not surprised that she the only one of actual use. Only her promise to help keeps him from killing them all for failing you. The Scions visibly flinch beneath his cold stare, Urianger being the first to speak. “Very well. We have much to process. Quickly,”

Without another word, he hurries to descend the giant Talos. He clutches you tighter with each step, silently cursing his inability to teleport and return you to the Crystarium at a faster pace. Anger is the only thing that keeps that fear a at bay; at his grandfather, at your friends, at himself.

At you, for showing him yet another emotion.

To show him, what it’s like to feel helpless.

Chapter Text

There’s a knock on the door.

“You may enter.”

The door opens slowly, a peek of rolanberry blonde hair popping from behind it. “I-I’m here,”

“I know why you are here.” Zenos murmurs, nodding for the young girl to close the door behind her. She does so quietly, mindful of the sleeping warrior tucked in his lap. 

“Have they awoken?” she asks, gently moving to stand before the bed. He shakes his head slightly. “They have not stirred.”

The girl visibly frowns, able to outwardly express the inner turmoil he had spent the past day or so feeling. Her eyes sweep across the Warrior again, before hesitantly meeting his own. “May I,”

“You may do whatever you need to save them.” He whispers, unable to make his voice soft and non-threatening. Ryne nods, eyes focused as she nears the bed, reaching her hands out with a gentle glow. He watches as her eyes slide closed, face pinched together in concentration. “Their aether...it’s still only barely contained.” Her already quiet voice is even softer now, the pain and concern evident in her tone. “I worry,”

“Do not worry, girl.” Ryne’s eyes snap open at his interruption, meeting his steady gaze. “The Warrior has fought gods. Once they wake, we will find my honored grandfather, and make sure he pays for his meddling.” Something in the girl’s face says she can see through his ruse; that she can see past the wall he had spent so long building up.

“You’re afraid too, aren’t you?”

He merely glares at the girl, unable to growl or snarl to scare her off, not without running the risk of rousing you from your sleep. “It would seem I cannot escape presumptuous fools no matter what world I’m on.” he grumbles more to himself, than for Ryne’s ears.

“It’s okay to be afraid.” Ryne tries, her hands clasped together nervously. “I mean just...what I meant to say,”

“Say what you mean, girl.” He sighs, tiring over her stuttering. “That man, Thancred was it, he is your guardian, is he not?” He questions, looking deep into her eyes. She nods slowly, fiddling with the bottom of her dress, staring down at the floor. “I suspect you wish he did not treat you like a child. How do you expect him to see you as you wish, when you cannot voice your own thoughts?”

Her mouth closes at that, any protests she had dying in her throat. Already he could feel your admonishment, for speaking to harshly to one so young. He chuckles to himself at that, his arms closing a little tighter around you. “Simply mean what you say, and say what you mean. Now, out with it.”

Pursing her lips together, Ryne clenches her fists and looks him dead in the eye. “It’s okay that you’re afraid. It just shows that you care for the Warrior of Light. And even if no one else can see that you care, I do.”

He stares at the girl long and hard for a few moments, holding back the urge to laugh in her face for her boldness. “Only your ignorance of my nature keeps me from killing you where you stand, girl.” He grins deviously, watching as she tenses before him. “But, it is also why I currently have more respect for you, than any of the other Scions.” Looking down at your peaceful face, he carefully brushes a hair to the side. “You have already done more for the Warrior in the days I have known you than in the months I have known of the Scions existence.”

Ryne shifts uncomfortably, clearly unsure whether to take the compliment while acknowledging his scathing words about her friends. “As I have told you before, I am not a kind man. Your friends, especially the rogue, see me as a monster. Their apprehension towards me is not without reason. I have more blood on my hands than you will ever see in your lifetime.” He didn’t like not having her fear him. Only you should have that privilege.

“Even a monster, can be kind.” Ryne murmurs softly, her eyes sparkling with that wisdom he had seen once before. She pointedly looks at you cradled in his lap, the gentleness with which he holds you. “Maybe you aren’t as bad as you think,”

“Get out.”

His tone leaves no room for argument, leaving Ryne to scurry out the door as fast as she can.

Sighing, he allows his eyelids to slide shut, taking a calming breath. Much like the rest of your friends, he could not kill the girl for her insolence, but some part of him also disliked the idea. How could someone as young as she, see right into his steeled heart, see his feelings as if they were as bright as the sky outside? Truly he had gotten soft if he could even dislike the idea of killing her, despite her ignorant ways.

If anything, he is at least thankful she is discreet. She seems to be content to keep their interactions “their little secret”, and he is not willing to expend further energy to threaten her. No one needed to know of his...feelings toward you. He’d be the laughingstock of the entirety of Garlemald if word ever got out. Travelling with enemies, speaking with children, tending to his...friend.

The only thing that soothes barely restrained rage is that you have slumbered peacefully ever since the group returned to the Crystarium. He had scared the concerned masses away with angry glares as he followed Ryne’s lead to your rooms, where the girl silently got your aether under control. The Scions had voiced their concerns over him being left alone with you, but one cold look was enough to have them rethink if that was a battle they wanted to fight.

And thus, here you were, snuggled up against him. Or rather, perhaps he was holding you as he sorted through his emotions.

He had not slept since your return, his own stamina notwithstanding. Nay, it was his own thoughts that plagued him, these newfound fears that toyed with his mind. Before his death he would’ve merely been angry that anyone that was not he had tried to kill you; but now, things aren’t so simple.

Zenos was in a way, immortal. Even if he did not always return to his exact body, through the Resonant his soul would return to the world of the living. As far as he knew, you did not possess such an ability. He had seen before that you were not one with your gift, as much as it empowered you. You could not control eikons and primals at will, could not look beyond the memories of others and enter their dreams. If you were to fall in battle...would you return to this world?

The thought shakes him incredibly, of a world without his beast. Would there ever be one as strong as you in his lifetime? In his series of lifetimes? Was he truly bound to this mortal realm, never able to taste the exhilaration of being so close to death now that he could no longer die?

Grimacing, his head thuds against the wall as he leans back, idly wondering if it was possible to experiment on how to release himself from this mortal coil. What world was there without you in it? How could he live on without his enemy, his friend, his lov--

“No.”

He doesn’t mean to say the word aloud, but he does. He can already see the smug grin on Scaeva’s face, unable to deny his own feelings without effort. You had changed him, to the point where he could not even imagine a world where you did not exist.

Was it a change for the better, or the worse?

Thoughts for another time perhaps. For now, he will merely enjoy the feeling of having you arms after going without it for so long. A man was allowed his vices, and the warmth of your body held against his own did wonders for his soul.

Whatever his grandfather had planned, he would most certainly put a stop to it. Your life belonged to him and no one else.

And maybe, he realizes quietly, his belongs to yours.

Chapter Text

When you wake, it is in the dead of what should be night; for the majority of the Scions and the city itself is asleep.

He has remained steadfast is in his vigil over you, only allowing Ryne into the room to stabilize your turbulent aether and to his surprise, bring him food. He had not paid much mind to his hunger until the smell of food had come wafting in, Ryne’s eyes full of concern. He wonders just what is so different about this girl that she does not fear him in the slightest. Hinting at his crimes, his nature, seems to do nothing from dissuading her curiosity about him.

As long as she continues to perform her role in healing you, it matters little. Three days have passed since your battle with Vauthry, and he cannot deny that his concern grows with each passing minute. He wonders if your body is healing itself, or if your condition is deteriorating.

To his relief you wake up, blinking sleepily as you try to stretch your limbs before realizing you are trapped in his embrace. Your body tenses at first, eyes searching for a threat before they land on his face, relief washing over your features. “It’s you.” You say softly, muscles relaxing in his hold.

“That it is.” He responds, his own body relaxing as well, seeing you awake at last. You seem to be doing fine so far, resting your head against his shoulder comfortably.

“How long was I out?” You ask, snuggling closer to him. His heart leaps at the  action, making him grunt as he quickly tries to stamp the feeling down before you can notice. “You have been unconscious for three days.” He finally answers.

You jolt up at that, seemingly about to leave his arms but he holds you tight. “Let me go, why are you,”

He only holds you tighter, an unexplainable feeling in his chest. “You are still weak.” He lies, not quite ready to let go of you yet. You pause to look at him momentarily before finally settling back down, meeting his gaze head on. “What...happened? Was it all a dream?” you whisper under your breath, shifting your legs around to where they fell on either side of his hips, letting you sit comfortably between his crossed legs.

“No. ‘Twas no dream Warrior. It was all very real.” His voice carries that gentleness he had struggled to bring forth in dealing with the girl, his voice soft as he watches a despondent look enter your eyes. Looking back toward the shuttered window, he can see you frown. “Is it...am I,”

“Yes.” He answers, already knowing what you were going to ask. “Shortly after my grandfather had spirited the Exarch away, you had fallen unconscious. I had brought you back to the Crystarium where you have been tended to by Ryne. She has been stabilizing your aether while your body has rested.”

You turn back to him with a sad expression, making the need for vengeance on his grandfather rise exponentially. “So I really am...a Lightwarden.” Your eyes seemingly catch something else in the room, his eyes turning to find nothing of note in the direction you’re staring in. His brows furrow in confusion, but he does not comment.

“Zenos.”

He wishes circumstances were not so dire, for the sound of his name on your lips does something awful to his heart. He turns to face you, staring into your dejected eyes. “I want you to return to the Source. If you can.”

He scoffs at that, leaning back against the wall the bed was pushed against. “You think I would leave you to die here? To watch you become the terrible monster that you fear? To save me?” His voice grows angrier with each question, his hands moving to grip your arms tightly.

“You can still live,”

“Did I not tell you I had come to this world for you? I have traveled across time and space, only for you to want to return to that wretched land, in some needless self sacrifice,”

“It is not needless,” You try to interrupt, voice thick with emotion.

He snags your chin roughly, forcing you to look at him as your lip quivers. “What of your Scions? Am I to understand they are unable to return to our home world? After all, they have remained here all this time have they not? How flattering, that you are willing to send me away and leave your friends to die.”

“I’d send them back if I could!” You nearly shout, your voice hoarse with misery.  “I just...I don’t want you to die,”

He barks out a laugh at that, holding you tighter as you try to free yourself from his grip. Your free hand tries to pry his hand from your wrist to no avail. “I think we both know I have no qualms about dying, hero.” His voice is low, bristling like an angry cat as he stares into your hurt eyes. How did he make you understand? 

Could he not put aside his pride, just this once?

“Do not think to be rid of me, when I cannot be rid of you.” He growls, letting his feelings flow.

“Rid of me?” You snarl, immediately on the defensive, renewing your efforts to break out of his hold.

“Yes, Warrior. You’re like a disease. Crawling under my skin, plaguing my heart with sickness. Changing the very fiber of my being until I am unrecognizable to even myself.” His tone is resentful, and in some parts he is; he did not find you so that you could change him. He wanted to duel. He wanted to fight. You denied him his wishes, leaving him little choice but to follow you around.

A fatal mistake.

“You denied me my one wish, while granting favors to thousands of others, all while I watched. Fetching children and killing vermin, and still you saw me unfit to give me my duel.”

“I didn’t know it was you!” You yell, baring your teeth. “Maybe if you hadn’t lied, I could have,”

“Don’t say that things would have been the same.” He cuts you off, jerking you toward him. “Would you have allowed me to follow you across your savage lands? Allowed me to watch you as you slept in this body?” You struggle to form a response, so he presses on. “Would you have let me hold you against me?” Your eyes widen, face flushing red. “Would you have run away, to have me come save you?” His voice grows softer as your eyes begin to glisten, your resistance coming to a stop. “Would you have let me enter your dreams to ease your fears? Break bread with you on the coldest of nights?” He releases your other wrist, both hands cradling your face firmly.

“Would you have ruined me, a cold hearted monster? Would you have put these awful feelings inside me? Make me cross worlds not for my duel, but for you?” 

Your lip trembles, tears pooling at the corners of your eyes, but he catches them before they can even fall. “Zenos, I,”

“Answer me.” He demands, not letting you look anywhere but him.

You swallow, throat bobbing at the action, taking a deep breath. “You really came for me?” Your voice is raw, strained from your efforts to not cry. 

“Have I not told you enough times already?” He sighs, exasperated as he brings you closer to him, your faces ilms apart. “How many times must I repeat myself? When will you take responsibility for this pain I feel within?”

Sniffling, you choke out your next words. “I didn’t...I didn’t know that I was hurting you,”

“You have no one but yourself to blame, hero. You have cursed me.” He hisses, eyes jumping down to your lips for a brief moment. “Fix me.” he begs, searching your eyes.

“Zenos,”

You fall into him with ease, your lips meeting in a rush, your arms thrown around his neck in little time. You shift to straddle his lap, hands shifting to rest on his chest as his own move to settle at your waist. Your tongues dance together; there is no lust in this kiss. Only deep longing, apologies, affection so strong he cannot tell where his own feelings end and yours begin. He wants to hate you. Wants to be filled with nothing more than that all consuming fixation of tracking you down, ready to thrust his sword through your chest, drink the blood from your veins. Caring not for anyone but himself and his duel.

You have ruined him, beyond repair.

The taste of you makes him groan in your mouth, your closeness making him hunger for more. But not now. Not when you need saving.

You eventually part for air, his teeth giving one last bite to your bottom lip as you pull away, your eyes a torrent of so many emotions he can’t pick out a single one. His hands force you closer to him, smirking at your small gasp as you nearly fall into him again, steadying yourself with your hands on his chest. “I will make sure you are never rid of me Warrior. Even when you finally see fit to give me the duel I crave so dearly.” His voice is ragged and to his surprise, having an effect on you. “I have already followed you across lifetimes. You will be hard pressed to send me away.” He gives you a possessive squeeze, recommitting the feel of you to memory. “Let me wound you as you have done to me. Fester in your heart until the damage is irreversible.”

Your hands fly to your face to furiously wipe at tears before they can fall, but your chest already shudders with a choked sob. “Thank you.” The words are barely audible, but he catches them nonetheless. “Dry your tears.” As harsh as the words themselves sound, there’s no bite to them, his hand reaching to help clear the tracks of your tears. “We will follow my grandfather to where he’s stowed himself away so that we can ease your fears.” The way you lean into his touch makes his heart feel on fire, the adoration in your eyes as you look at him stills his breath. Your lips, your touch, your--

He’s in love.

“Foolish hero.”

He brings you in for another kiss, reveling in the feeling of your lips against his own. You press yourself against him again, his hands find their way into your hair. “Zenos,”

A strange weight feels lifted from his shoulders, a sighing breath leaving him as he drowns in your kiss. How terrible, that it had come to this. How far he had fallen. If only he could have stopped himself before it was too late.

When you bite his lip, he pinches you in reprimand, his eyes half lidded as he takes you in. The very sight of you makes his heart swell, causing him to inwardly chuckle as he swears it hurts. As if the muscle had gone unused for so long and was only now being put back to work. “Your life belongs to me, Warrior of Light.” He murmurs, the conviction in his voice sending a shiver through you. 

Perhaps, when all this was over, he could belong to you too.

Chapter Text

While outwardly able to hide his interest, Zenos can’t help but feel somewhat awestruck at the city before him.

“It’s made entirely of aether?” He hears you question, Y’shtola nodding in affirmation.

It had been no small feat to reach the depths of the water; having to make a pact with a magical whale and run errands for beastmen. They had wondered if you were “The Ancient Ones”, though he was certain that you were no such sort.

After helping the beastmen, they showed you how to reach beyond the natural shelf that now served as a cliff, the Scions fumbling on slippery rocks and squishy plant life. At the final bend did his great-grandfather’s home reveal itself to you all; an entire city glittering below the sea.

It had looked far more advanced than anything of Garlean, let alone Allagan origin, buildings so tall that they were lost to a fog as they reached to even darker depths below. As magnificent as it was, what caught his attention was not it’s advancement, but it’s structure.

“This city...” he begins, feeling the eyes of the Scions upon him. “It reminds me of Garlemald.” The confusion from the group is palpable, his eyes turning to you as you wait for him to explain. “I do not mean as far as aesthetics are concerned.” Facing the city, he points toward a building. “Forget not that this Ascian is my grandsire. He himself had built my very nation; founded my very existence. That there must be the capitol.” He faces another building area. “The residential district should be in that direction.”

Lowering his arm, he looks out onto the magical marvel before him. “Though I suppose there’s not much to be surprised by. It’s only logical to create a nation in his image.” It certainly didn’t take a scholar to know that his grandsire most likely had some hand in a multitude of events over history; seeing how long lived he was.

“That shortens our trip then. The Warrior of Light can make haste to see what that lift was going on about.” Thancred grumbles, trudging forward through the city. Zenos pays him no mind, merely glancing down at you to see what your next plan of action is. Reaching for his arm you give a light tug in the direction you want to go, and he follows along wordlessly. The eyes of the Scions are like hawks where he’s concerned, your handling of his person not going unnoticed no matter how small. Even though the motion was trivial, he can’t help but throw a smirk over his shoulder as the two of you wander off into the city.

Zenos did not pay much attention to your interactions with the shades wandering the city, given that they all spoke to you as if you were children ambling about without their guardians. It hardly irked him any, but it did appeal to his innate curiosity. What old world did his grandsire hail from, and just how powerful was it in comparison to the way things were now?

“You seem lost.” Zenos raises an eyebrow, turning to the shade that’s approached him. He can feel the Resonant hum lightly in his head, allowing him to understand the garbled sounds the shade speaks.

“I am waiting on my companion.” He shrugs, turning to watch you wander off toward another counter to ask more questions. It bothers him little to speak with a ghost; accepting that there are forces in the world that even he does not know about.

“Ah...so it is they...” The shade muses, grabbing Zenos’ attention. 

“They...?” He prompts, turning to the shade slightly.

He has a feeling the shade would grin knowingly had it the faculties to do so. “I am perhaps the only one here, in this frozen moment of time who can speak to you thusly.” The shade takes a seat on the large, but aptly sized for someone of their proportion bench. “My name is Hythlodaeus. Emet-Selch and I were colleagues, in a time before time. And looking at your soul...you must be his progeny.”

The shade has his full attention now as it chuckles. “I wonder how it must feel, to see history repeat itself.” 

Zenos resists the urge to grumble, seeing he very well cannot threaten a mere specter with violence. “Care to enlighten me then?” He asks, watching as Hythlodaeus tilts his head. 

“Emet-Selch must be beside himself, seeing his own progeny so enamored with them.” Zenos follows the shade’s gaze to you once more, your voice echoing in the large chamber as you struggle to see the large Amaurotine at the counter. “In days of eld were they and Emet-Selch inseparable...such closely bonded friends.” Hythlodaeus’ voice is wistful, but takes on a teasing quality as they stare him down. “Though, it would seem your feelings go far beyond friendship...”

Zenos doesn’t bother to hide his frown. Is he truly that obvious?

“I know not of what you speak.” He growls, cursing himself even though he had accepted his love for you but a night ago. “Is that so...” The shade muses, Zenos able to hear the impish smile that would surely be present if it had a face.

“Forgive my presumptions then...I will take my leave.” That same amusement is present in his tone, making Zenos glare until the shade disappears from his sight. With a sigh does he turn to you, watching as you attempt to scale the counter to better speak to the shade who seems to be working as the clerk. He can’t help but want to smile in his own amusement, stopping himself before his lips can even curl into a small grin.

He finds himself in need of fresh air suddenly, as fresh as one can get it malms below sea level. It baffles him how that a mere shade can so plainly see what the Scions are too blind to notice. It angers him that it is so obvious to anyone at all in the first place.

He cannot deny that that specter provided him with the useful information that in a past life, you and his grandfather were friends. His words upon your defeat make much more sense with this knowledge, leaving him to wonder if it really is hard for him strike down someone he once felt so close to. He gets the impression however that caring little for other’s lives is a family trait, and that it had probably started with him. Would you play the part of the hero through and through, trying to convince his grandfather that your world was worth saving? Or would you actually strike him down?

He moves before your hand can even rest on his arm, your eyebrows raised as if you were not expecting him to move. “You seemed so deep in thought...” you mumble, cheeks slightly red as you avert your eyes. “I was worried. Are you allright?” You ask, meeting his gaze once more. Zenos turns to face you fully, rolling his neck as he does so. 

“I am well.” He answers truthfully, smirking as he offers his elbow out to you. Your cheeks are truly red now, accepting his silent invitation by curling your hand into the crook of his elbow. “I find this place as curious as you do. Have you procured what we need?”

You nod, holding up a simple folder. “The way these shades speak...speak to me...it makes me wonder...” You drift off, allowing him to lead you through the paved streets. He says nothing as he leaves you to your thoughts, your fingers flexing lightly on his arm. “I’ll have to kill him, won’t I?”

His lips press into a thin line, unsure of what to say for a moment. “It depends on the outcome you desire.”

You cease your steps, staring up at him in confusion. “I could have killed you, so long ago. You know this.” He explains, taking your hand in his own. He can feel their rough texture even through his gloves, can feel the trials you endured, the blood you have cleansed. “However it was not the outcome I desired. I would not get a worthy opponent by striking you down so early. You proved to me at our second meeting that me sparing your life was no mistake.” He can’t help but smile fondly at the memory. 

“And now, you are the only one who understands.” He murmurs softly, bringing your hand to his lips to press gently against your skin. He feels you tense before relaxing, your fingers curling around his hand as best they can. “I would not put it past you to find some way to spare my grandsire. You have proven to me time and time again that even the heavens will bend to your will.”

He feels your hand reach to tuck a lock of hair behind his ear, your fingers lightly tracing his jawline. “So tell me, hero. What is the outcome you seek?” 

You meet his gaze steadily, a light tint of red still floating on your cheeks as you gaze up at him. Your hand cups the side of his face now, your skin on his as warm as the affection he sees reflected in your eyes. “I want,”

“This is all very touching...”

The two of you break apart, meeting the bored, golden gaze of Emet-Selch. “I bid you come to my home to lose your sanity hero not...whatever it is the two of you were doing.” He drawls, arms crossed as if he was reprimanding two children. 

“I’ve no sanity to lose.” You respond, the very picture of confidence as you fully face his grandfather, gripping his hand tightly.

“Such conviction!” He scoffs, clearly unamused. “Your friends await you at the capitol. Don’t keep them waiting, will you?” Through speaking he vanishes into the aether, as fast as he came.

Squeezing his hand you turn toward the capitol, staring at it’s gleaming spires that reach toward the surface. “I suppose we should go.” You huff, giving him a grin. He feels his lip quirk, itching to return your smile. As the two of you make your way towards the capitol, you do not release his hand, even in the presence of the Scions. You clutch his tightly, taking a deep breath, trying to calm yourself as you march towards certain doom...or salvation.