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These Wicked Games We Play

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The skyline of Insomnia looked peaceful, the lights flickering on and off like twinkling stars fading in and out as the city came to life in the night. Overhead the full moon shone down on the cityscape, highlighting both the decent and indecent actions down below. The city streets came alive in the night amongst the entertainment district, the business district now closed for another day, and the youth of Lucis came out to explore their pulsing bodies at the night clubs through the use of illicit drugs and alcohol.

On the street corners, outside of the main lights of the clubs, were drug peddlers, lackeys in a connected network of the mafia that were hoping to one day be at an elevated status. They were pushing the newest product, working to meet the demands of their bosses, lest they face retribution from a night of bitter disappointment. It was easy to tell the difference between the lower level drug peddlers, usually dressed in baggy clothes to hide their product, and the upper tier mafia, typically dressed in sleek black suits and driving expensive cars. They gave the lackeys something to look up to, even though the chances of elevation through the ranks was slim to none for those down below.

It was another busy night in Insomnia, the crowds of people pushing past each other excitedly as they looked for their next high, whether it was with someone or something. A sleek black car drove by a nightclub, the windows tinted as whoever was inside looked out at the strobe lights flashing blue and green and purple. There was a line outside the club, as usual, the bouncers doing their due diligence as they let in only the most attractive, famous, and wealthy individuals first. The rest had to wait. As the most popular nightclub in all of Eos, it was no wonder that people clamored for entry to The Kingsglaive.

Everyone knew that the club belonged to the Caelums, the wealthiest and most dangerous family in Lucis, perhaps in Eos. Certainly in Insomnia, everyone knew that the Caelums ruled the city, even though no one dared mention them by name except in hushed tons of giddy delight. It was taboo to so much as glance at a Caelum without expecting to deal with their wrath. They were too dangerous to approach, and the group of bodyguards they had was both a reminder to the world of their importance and a warning to others not to approach. One didn’t approach the Caelums. The Caelums made the first move, and it was usually the last.

The nightclub wasn’t the only popular destination. Insomnia’s redlight district was full of tourists coming in and out, brothels enticing men and women alike for a night of frivolity. Women and men advertising their bodies were all doing what they could to sell their wares, usually reporting to a madam or pimp who would take a cut of their revenue. There were a few renegades, prostitutes who didn’t operate under the watchful eye of a pimp or mafioso who provided protection for a cut of their profits. Those in the brothels all worked for the Caelums, the mafia having the monopoly on the official establishments in Lucis. The night belonged to them, and everyone knew it.

Amongst one of the few renegades, one of the few prostitutes who eschewed the protection of the mafia or another pimp or madam, was Prompto. He was petite, blond, with freckles and blue eyes that were jewels of sapphire and lapis. Prompto considered himself to be lanky, rail thin with aching joints, despite only being thirty years old. Thirty was old for a prostitute. The fact that he wasn’t a drug addict, that he was just doing what he had to in order to survive, kept his tired eyes young and his pouting lips supple. He was popular among the higher end clientele seeking a taboo excitement without the mafia using it against them.

Prompto was a drifter, never settling in one place within the city for too long. Having the gil on hand to make ends meet was far different than having the safety on hand to be in a stable apartment. He knew that being near any gang member was dangerous, and Prompto was careful to navigate the streets like a ray of light passing through a filtered screen. Occasionally he would catch the eye of a passing pimp or madam, but some of them had given him his space to work his trade while they worked theirs. It was an unspoken agreement that as long as he didn’t step on their territory then they wouldn’t worry. And any stolen client from the Caelums was a win for the independent pimps and madams working their networks.

As a beautiful man, Prompto kept his blond hair long and pulled back into a low bun. He didn’t have to dress in any particular way, but his black jeans were tight and his black shirt was cut off at the sleeves. A black band covered his wrist to hide the barcode tattoo he had hidden, a reminder of the reason why his life had ended up as anything but a fairytale. Prompto had several piercings which seemed to bring in the clientele who had more dangerous tastes, including his nose, ears, nipples, and tongue. The tattoos he had were beautiful, giving him the look of a painted lady instead of a tattooed whore. Always tasteful, Prompto was unassuming, and therefore, a favorite amongst the elite.

Right now, though, Prompto was trying to get away from the rich CEO of a company that he didn’t bother to ask about. The man had invited him to his place to live for the past six months, and Prompto had accepted since he had nowhere better to go and living in a highrise penthouse suite was far better than being homeless. He had been pampered, spoiled, all for the trade of using his body to pleasure the man until he got tired of him or Prompto determined it was time to get out. He was the one he got his nipple piercings from, someone who enjoyed bondage and rough foreplay more than the average person. Prompto knew when he had recommended a piercing in a more sensitive area that it was time to leave.

Weaving in and out of the crowd, Prompto kept his only bag on his back, his bare feet padding on the sidewalk as his heart raced in pure adrenaline. His former john was trying to find him, sending out a network of his guards to bring him back to his bachelor pad. There was no way Prompto was going back to someone who tried to get him to pierce his dick. He needed to find a way to survive, but it didn’t have to involve him doing anything he was uncomfortable with. Prompto had rules that his johns had to follow, one of which was honoring his right to say no. This man was not honoring it, and so he had to get away.

Prompto passed by a brothel with a woman standing outside, her long legs enticing a local tourist as the lights flashed red and blue behind her. She was wearing shorts that barely covered her ass, a pink bra, and a crop top jacket that kept her flat stomach exposed. Her blond hair changed color in the strobing light, and she looked at Prompto with her bright blue eyes. Cindy flashed a sign to him, indicating that two men were following him with just the flick of her wrists. It didn’t matter if the pimps and madams and mafiosos were against them interacting. All the prostitutes working their trade looked out for each other.

With a nod of recognition, Prompto signed a quick thanks and then took off, moving faster than before. He heard laughter around him, tourists and businessmen alike enjoying the nightclubs and brothels until they were sated for another night. Prompto hated each and every one of them, but if the money was right he would do what he had to so he could survive. For the past several years he had been couch surfing, drifting from hotel to hotel, or staying with a john for a prolonged period of time until it was time to go. Sometimes he slept within the homeless networks in Insomnia, knowing he was safest there. That’s where he would go for the night, but getting there wasn’t the safest path. Not with someone tailing him.

The pulsing lights and laughter around Prompto only served to heighten his anxiety, his adrenaline giving his legs the energy they needed to move swiftly and carefully. Prompto had taken off from the man’s penthouse suite with little ceremony, carrying everything he owned in his backpack, including his shoes. There hadn’t been time to put them on his feet. Not when he knew that he had to get out. Prompto was acutely aware of the two men following him, both of them wearing dark grey suits that set them apart from the black suits that were typical of the Caelums. They were hired help, and right now they were tasked with finding and bringing Prompto back.

Prompto cursed himself under his breath for thinking it was a good idea to go with the man in the first place. He weaved in and out of the people, dodging down an alleyway that was far darker and emptier than he had originally hoped for. It left him vulnerable, exposed and afraid. When he heard the two men behind him, Prompto made sure that he was already down the alleyway, turning the corner before the men had a chance to catch up with him. He was fast, faster than most thanks to his life as a runner when he had been in middle and high school. Prompto missed the youthful, optimistic teenager he once was. It had been a long time since he was that smiling, youthful boy.

It was lucky enough that Prompto had been able to dodge and lose the security detail that the CEO had sent after him. Despite his assurances that he could get away, he kept moving quickly, knowing that the homeless network would welcome him back at any point in time. They were set up in the middle of Insomnia Central Park, the largest space of vegetation that was occupied by the homeless at night and kept pristine during the day. Underneath, in the subways and abandoned tunnels of Insomnia were the hovels and cleared out holes that the homeless occupied during the day. It was a forgotten world, an acceptable blight on Lucian society as long as they were unseen and unheard during the day when polite society operated in the sunshine.

The park was removed from the nightlife and joviality that came with the revelry of losing oneself to the darker side of Lucis. Prompto hated the nightlife and preferred the quiet of the park, the hush that came with the swaying of the trees in the wind, the smell of the freshly cut lawn and beautiful flowers tantalizing his senses. If he had his way, he would like to have a small cottage in the countryside, chocobos chirping in the distance while he sipped a morning coffee and stared out the window. But that was a pipedream that was never going to happen. Prompto was barely surviving day to day.

The homeless men and women of Insomnia all gathered in the same open lawn of the park, tents erected each night and taken down gruffly by the police each morning. Prompto would hide among them until the CEO lost his patience and gave up searching. Then he would come out of the woodwork, find another john, and continue on the cycle. It had been something that Prompto had fallen into years ago, and it was his best way to survive in this cruel world.

“Hey Prompto,” a homeless man said as he passed through a row of tents, fires burning in several barrels for light, warmth, and a way to heat whatever food was on hand. The man was old, grumpy, and well seasoned in his bitterness towards the world and its inhabitants. “How’s tricks?”

“I’m here, so what do you think?” Prompto asked with a tired smile. “Another john seems to think I love him.”

“Stop being too sweet on them then,” the man replied with a laugh.

Prompto waved him off as he navigated through the tents, looking for a place to hide and rest easy. He found a place next to a young mother rocking a baby who was clearly sick. Sighing, he took out a prescription bottle of antibiotics he had stolen, instructing her to crush them up and give the child a small dosage to see how it worked with his system first. Prompto had seen it before and knew that something was better than nothing. The mother gratefully accepted it and offered him a spot in her tent to rest. He accepted the offer, neither of them looking for sex between each other, and he fell into an uneasy sleep for another night until he was too anxious to sleep anymore.

Sighing, Prompto sat outside the tent, looking up at the night sky as he pulled out one of his few sweatshirts from his bag, the chilly air making him shiver. This was Prompto’s life, and there was no changing it. Nothing, no one, could bring him out of such darkness that he found himself free.

***

The music in the nightclub was louder than it needed to be, but that was intentional. The walls were solid black, the strobe lights dancing across the vision of the patrons seeking a night of ecstasy and bliss. Waitresses and other staff moved seamlessly throughout the crowds, delivering drinks to the VIPs and throwing out the occasional asshole who got too drunk and belligerent. A DJ stood in front of a wall of lights that changed color as it pulsed to the beat, the music segwaying seamlessly from one tempo to the next.

At the back of the club on the upper deck was the VIP box that others were unable to access without explicit permission. The upper deck had a full bar, a bartender mixing drinks for the guests, with several security guards standing at the bottom and the top of the steps. On a plush black velvet sofa sat Noctis Lucis Caelum, the leader of the Caelum group and the most dangerous man in Eos. He was annoyed by the beat, but he knew he had to make his presence known at least once a week.

Noctis had grown his dark hair out down to his shoulders, his stormy grey-blue eyes standing out against his pale skin. At thirty years old, Noctis kept his facial hair finely trimmed, a slight beard growing that was not quite trimmed enough to just be a five o’clock shadow. He wore a black suit, finely tailored like silken lingerie, his thin frame both muscular and lithe. He wasn’t as tall as most, and he wasn’t as built as others, but he could hold his own easily in a fight.

Standing just behind him was his personal bodyguard and brother in arms, Gladiolus Amicitia. He wore a black suit, just as Noctis did, with longer brown hair pulled back into a hair tie, his eyes of liquid honey looking for any sign of danger. Under his suit was his wing tattoo covering his arms and chest, his broad muscles both intimidating to their enemies and comforting for those he protected. Noctis had been raised to treat Gladio as his brother, and the bodyguard had, in turn, treated him like someone worth dying for.

They were as close as Noctis was to Ignis Scientia, the Tenebraean advisor who sat to his right, tall and proud. If Noctis had a lithe frame then Ignis was a wild coeurl, dangerous and deadly and ready to strike at any moment. He gave every appearance of being calm, demure, and sophisticated, but Noctis knew better. He had seen Ignis fight and be ruthless in his assignments and knew that it was better to be friends with Ignis than his enemy. The advisor wore glasses, his green eyes like shining emeralds in a dark room. His dirty blond, nearly brown, hair was kept slicked back, making his black suit even more refined.

Ignis was just as much a brother to Noctis as Gladio was, and together they were far more dangerous than any other group of men in Eos. Noctis knew that he was considered the most powerful man in Eos, let alone Lucis, something he had inherited from his father and mother before their untimely demise. It was still a sore spot for him, and one day he would get revenge on the party responsible. Until then, he would maintain and expand their kingdom in the darkness of Lucis that was meant to one day take over the rest of the world. They were constantly locked in a battle, a fight to gain territory and ground that had to be played out carefully and cautiously. One misstep meant death.

A waitress came over, setting a cocktail for Ignis and Noctis on the low sleek back table in front of them. Ignis was drinking a cocktail in a martini glass, the liquid a mixture between a strong liquor and coffee, just enough to feel pleasantly warm in his system while bright enough to keep him awake and focused. Noctis’s cocktail was sweeter, masking the taste of alcohol while shimmering like liquid mercury, a ridiculously expensive drink that was made of a silver substance that looked like a potion rather than an alcoholic beverage. Gladio wasn’t drinking. He never drank when he was on duty, and he was rarely off duty.

There wasn’t any space to talk, and their presence at the nightclub was more for show than for planning or action. The Kingsglaive was a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, and they knew that making their presence known was a warning to those who thought to move on their territory. Insomnia was theirs, and they wouldn’t let anyone try and take that from them. Recently there had been talks of the Izunia gang moving into their territory, but so far they had been able to stay one step ahead. Noctis needed to be ten steps ahead. There was little chance for rest.

Noctis watched as a ray of moonlight ascended the steps and was let past the security guards with little fuss. Lunafreya walked towards him, wearing a tight white dress, her blond hair pulled back delicately. A smile danced on her lips, kind and demure, as her deep blue eyes offered a warm greeting that she couldn’t vocalize over the sound of the music swelling. Noctis knew why she was there, and he offered her the seat next to him on the left side of the sofa. She sat next to him, leaning into his chest as he put an arm around her shoulders comfortingly.

They had known each other for years since they were children. Noctis’s parents had hoped that one day they would marry and unite their families, but so far Noctis had been able to resist the idea. Lunafreya knew his secret and why he couldn’t marry her, and she had only been supportive of his decision to stay single. Her brother, Ravus, was a different matter in the issue, though, insisting that Lunafreya one day marry him. Unless it was absolutely necessary, they would both decline.

Lunafreya was of the Nox Fleuret family, the other major player besides the Caelums and Izunias. They acted more independently between the three with Ravus in charge and Lunafreya at the helm. She was very kind, far kinder than how her brother was, but it was the type of kindness that had a real sense of strength behind it. Noctis knew that she was really the one in control of the Nox Fleuret business and fortune, able to easily manipulate her brother into believing her ideas were his ideas from the beginning.

Noctis spent the better part of the hour with Lunafreya on his arm, looking like they were a perfect power couple to all the outsiders who might look in. It was a display of power for them both, an indication that the Nox Fleurets had sided with the Caelums, or at least Lunafreya had. Noctis had no doubt that Lunafreya would go back to her brother and tell him everything that she had seen, heard, and discussed. It would be foolish to think he could trust anyone other than Ignis or Gladio. He learned that very early on in his life.

Eventually, Noctis got tired of the nightclub, his mind weary from the lights and the noise. He untangled himself from Lunafreya, who sat up straight and gave a nod of departure before leaving. Noctis watched as she descended back down the steps, several patrons looking at her in awe as she was joined by her bodyguards waiting for her at the base of the steps. Noctis stood up, buttoning his suit jacket. Ignis smoothly did the same, and he and Gladio followed him down the steps towards the exit, all of them ignoring the gaze of the many patrons staring at them in amazement. They were slow and deliberate in their steps, standing tall and walking proud to indicate that they were unafraid and unintimidated by anyone watching them.

Once out into the night air, Noctis felt like he could breathe a sigh of relief. It was impossible, of course, for him to ever truly relax in public, but it was easier once they were out of the nightclub and into the cool air welcoming a cold winter just on the horizon. The valet had their car, a pristine black Regalia, ready and waiting for them, and Ignis got behind the driver’s seat with Gladio sitting in the back with Noctis.

“Where to?” Ignis asked, knowing that business didn’t have to be tended to until the next day. They had made their appearances, and so far all of their brothels were operating smoothly, the drugs they were pushing doing well in the market. It was another peaceful night on all fronts. “A brothel perhaps?”

“I’m thinking Insomnia Central Park,” Noctis said to no one’s surprise. He wasn’t going to throw himself into his own product’s arms in a brothel, nor was he going to indulge in anything that would potentially make him weak or compromise his position as the leader of the biggest gang in Lucis. Noctis preferred solitude, and the park was a place he frequented when he needed it. “I need to take a walk.”

“There’s talk of a CEO being upset with a prostitute,” Ignis commented as they drove off, switching the subject back to business. Noctis frowned, considering the implications of that. If one of his whores had upset a client then it would be bad for any of their businesses. He couldn’t let that stand.

“Do you think it’s one of ours?” Noctis asked, taking his phone out of his breast pocket and looking at his notifications. None of the brothels had called with any concerns. His frown deepened.

“Most likely not,” Ignis replied as he drove the car towards the park. He kept both of his hands on the wheel, gloved for the driving excursion. It was an odd compulsion he had, but Noctis wasn’t going to say anything about it.

“They would be foolish to do something like that,” Gladio replied with a slight chuckle. “No one could handle the punishment you’d give them.”

“Then let’s hope it’s not one of ours,” Noctis pointed out. He needed a break from being the boss of the underbelly of Insomnia. Whenever that happened, he went to the park to clear his head. Right now the music and strobe lights were still pulsing in his temples, and he sighed as he looked out the window. He needed to be amongst nature to get his head right for another day ahead of him.

“I’ll look into it and let you know,” Ignis offered, although he already knew that his advisor was assessing the situation. They pulled up to the park, and Ignis turned the car off, the keys lingering in the ignition. “Gladio, go with him.”

“It’s fine,” Noctis argued with a dismissive wave as he got out of the car. “One five minute walk by myself isn’t going to end me. If there’s an assassin with the homeless then I deserve to die.”

“Your sense of nihilism is worrying,” Ignis said with a frown, his lips pursed together in a tight line. “Fine. Five minutes. After that, Gladio and I come for you if you’re not back at the car.”

“Done,” Noctis agreed as he opened the car door and got out of the right passenger side. He looked at them with a teasing smile that was familiar to the group. “Don’t make out too much while I’m gone.”

Ignis bristled at the notion while Gladio gave Noctis a wide grin. Noctis didn’t need to know what was between them to be able to tell that Gladio had been trying to work his way into Ignis’s heart for years. Instead, he just laughed as he closed the door and stepped into the park. He had a few guns and blades on him, and right now he kept his gun in its holster tucked in his suit jacket, ready to pull it out at any moment. It didn’t matter if he thought that five minutes alone wasn’t going to make a difference. He still had to be prepared for the worse.

Noctis felt bad for the homeless population as he wandered through the park, looking at row upon row of tents set up for those who needed shelter for the night. He had set up a few public programs to aid with the homelessness problem, but it wasn’t enough, and he knew he had to do more. Despite being the leader of the most fearsome gang in Eos, Noctis did have a heart and wanted to see people suffering raised out of poverty. Then again, he also thought it was a way to soothe his guilty conscience, knowing that he had done plenty of bad at the detriment of others.

“You think he’s gonna get away from the guy?” Noctis overheard an old man saying to a younger man, both of them homeless and standing around a barrel that had been lit to warm them through the increasingly cold nights.

“Who? Prompto?” the other guy replied with a laugh. “He’s able to work his way out of anything. If he can’t get away from this dick then we’re all screwed.”

Prompto. That was a name Noctis hadn’t heard in a long time. He wondered if it was the same Prompto he was thinking of, but he doubted it. The last he heard, the Prompto he knew had left Insomnia for Altissia, disappearing on a ferry carrying him to the city, never to return. It made him feel nostalgic for a past that was and a future that could have been, even though he knew he was deluding himself entirely. Noctis never had the nerve to so much as talk to Prompto in school, let alone befriend him.

Continuing on his way, Noctis thought about how the past could have been so vastly different if they had all made drastically different decisions. They were the more difficult decisions that he would have had to make, and Noctis had always been one to go with the flow of doing whatever his father had asked of him. There was a slight twinge in his leg, his old injury acting up, as he thought about how life may have been kinder if he had just taken the time to try a little harder. Then again, life seldom worked out the way he wanted, and no reminder of the past could change that now.