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Life of the party.

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The Citadel’s Annual Fall Costume Party was well known as a staple of Insomnian politics. Everyone participated. Crownsguard and Kingsglaive appeared in dollar store versions of their own uniforms. Clerks with aspirations to office challenged each other with increasingly elaborate costumes, and Council members employed the city’s top fashion designers to avoid being shown-up by Patroclus in accounting. This year, the king himself was dressed up as one of his ancestors, and Prince Noctis, who was six years old and finally allowed to see what the big fuss was about, sat on the throne in his father’s uniform and somberly ate chocolate by the handful.

Cor Leonis hid a yawn behind his hand. He was the only one in a proper uniform—Clarus was wearing more glitter than leather, poor man—and despite the fact that someone needed to be on guard while the Crownsguard compared abs with the Kingsglaive across the hall, he still felt a bit like a stone in the works. He always said that he just didn’t do parties, but the truth was... well. There were very few places where Cor felt comfortable making a fool of himself, and in front of fucking Patroclus from accounting wasn’t one of them.

“Nice one,” he said, nodding to the clerk in question, who was apparently dressed like some kind of river god with a suggestion of blue silk at his waist. His boyfriend gave Cor a dark, suspicious glare and hauled them both away, and Cor sighed.

Then, without warning, the doors to the main hall swung open.

“Odd,” someone said. “Do you remember them closing those?”

A figure stood between the great shadows of the open doors, hip cocked, a hand propped on his waist. His robes fluttered in the breeze. His hair, wine dark and tousled expertly, glinted with strands of gold beads. His eyes were dark with shadow, and underneath his loosely-tied, mostly open healer’s robes, golden, skin-tight booty shorts clung to his muscular thighs.

“Good evening,” he said to the room at large. “Sorry I’m late.”

Cor stepped forward. The man looked him up and down, lingering on the buttons of his uniform, and Cor swallowed thickly. “Sir,” he said.

“So polite.”

The man’s voice was a purr, low and amused. Cor closed his eyes for a second to brace himself.

“I’m afraid this party is invitation only.”

“And look!” the man whipped a card out of the inside pocket of his robes. “An invitation. Here you go,” he added, and before Cor could blink, he’d deftly popped open the buttons of Cor’s collar and slipped the card inside. “The name’s Ardyn, by the by. Ardyn Izunia.”

Cor scrambled to yank out the card from under his uniform, but Ardyn was already slipping past, sliding his fingers along Cor’s shoulder as he melted into the crowd. Every now and then, Cor caught a glimpse of gold flashing through the crowd, and he could have sworn, just for a second, that Ardyn turned back to cast him a knowing smile.

He folded the card in his fist, took an unsteady breath, and tugged at his open collar. It was remarkably hot for autumn, even with the air conditioner blasting, and Cor stiffly strode from the doors, heading for Regis.

Regis sagged when Cor approached, holding a flailing six year-old still with both hands. Noct, red-faced and smeared with chocolate, glared at Cor balefully. “Thank the gods,” Regis said. “Clarus has been trying to reach you. He’s taking Noct to a sleepover at the Amicitias now, and I’ll need you to take on his duties.”

“Of course.” Cor bowed, and Regis and Clarus exchanged a long-suffering look. “Your majesty, I don’t—“

“Its a party, Cor,” Clarus said, picking up Noct, who went limp like a miserable cat in his arms. “Try and loosen up a little.”


“Yeah, I’m gone,” Clarus said, hefting Noct like a sack of potatoes. The prince sighed, looking as woebegone as Cor felt. “Good luck, Reg.”

“I’ll try,” Regis said. He waved at his son, who waved mournfully back, and gestured Cor over with a jerk of his head. Cor stepped up to the throne, and Regis clasped his face in both hands.

“Cor,” he said. Cor struggled not to back away, all too aware of the curious looks of party-goers below them. “How old are you?”

“Thirty this spring—“

“Twenty-nine,” Regis said. “You don’t hit a moratorium on enjoying yourself when you put on the uniform, Cor. In any case, I’m tired of watching you sigh like a heartbroken puppy. You’ll enjoy yourself tonight,” he said, pulling away. Cor’s cheeks burned with heat. “Have I made myself clear?”

Cor clenched his hands behind his back, straining to remain still as stone. “Yes, sir.”

“Hear, hear,” called a low, unfortunately familiar voice from the steps. Cor turned to find Ardyn Izunia ascending the stair to the throne, a bottle of wine in one hand, robes twitched open to reveal his spandexed thighs in all their glory. “I couldn’t have put it better myself.”

The wine was, in Ardyn’s defense, really quite good. Not that Cor drank much more than a sip of it before Ardyn snatched it back, doing something with his tongue and the lip of the bottle that probably should have had him kicked out for indecency.

Then again, Cor admitted to himself, as Ardyn’s fingers dug into the leather of Cor’s jacket, he’d probably have to kick himself out of the party at this rate.

The marble floor of Regis’ private balcony was hell on the knees, but Cor was still writing checks that his body hadn’t cashed yet, and the bite of pain on his skin kept him from dazing off, drifting in the warmth of Regis’ fingers in his hair and the weight of Ardyn’s cock on his tongue.

It was hard to pinpoint the exact moment he lost his better judgment. Somewhere on the inner stairs, perhaps, when Regis placed a hand on the small of his back and Ardyn leaned over him as though he weren’t there to whisper in Regis’ ear. Cor has shuddered, then, something shaking loose in the corner of his mind, and when Ardyn asked, Cor had said yes.

Which was why, some twenty minutes later, Cor was trying not to squirm under Ardyn’s boot while Ardyn released his shoulder to take Regis in hand. Cor heard Regis let out a soft sound in Ardyn’s mouth, and pulled back an inch to find Ardyn’s knuckles brushing the back of his neck. Gods, Regis was right there, just behind him—He looked up, and moaned around Ardyn as the boot slipped away, leaving him to his own devices. He took hold of himself as Ardyn turned back to Regis, leaving Cor ignored between them, just a warm mouth, just a guard on his knees.

Cor came over his hands in seconds, drawing away to gasp over Ardyn’s thighs. Ardyn chuckled fondly, and Regis cursed under his breath as he leaned forward, ruining Cor’s uniform.

“Well,” Ardyn breathed, as Regis braced himself on Cor, fingers sliding close to his neck. “This has been an enlightening experience. I’ve never fucked a man dressed like the founder king before.”

Regis laughed, his voice hoarse, and rubbed at the smeared makeup over his right eye. “You haven’t,” he said, and Ardyn smiled, slow and wicked as a fox on the hunt.

“No,” he said, leaning in for a slow, languid kiss. “Not yet.”