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Fever Pitch

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If there was anything Ignis loathed more in this world than hot weather, it was tardiness, and today was already threatening to feature both. Dazzling as the Crown City palace may be, it’s many halls and windows meant warm days were exceedingly so, to the point that Ignis was already a touch overheated at merely half past eight. Though he’s always wont to look his very best, he was silently cursing the hug of his dark, expensive suit. He’d already rapped several times on the Prince’s chamber door, electing to wait patiently before tossing a few more knocks its way.

“Highness,” he calls authoritatively, knowing the sound of his voice had a formidable foe in the form of Noctis’ drowsiness, one he’s come never to underestimate. “Please, we mustn’t keep His Majesty waiting. Again.” The last word issues from his mouth like a projectile.

Ignis fancies himself an exceptionally patient man, the likes of which are more than necessary as the Retainer to the Prince of Lucis. Much as he’d enjoy throwing the door open and barging in, rousing the Prince from his bed with his bare hands, King Regis strictly forbade entry to his son’s chambers as he slept, even to Ignis himself. As an alpha in service to the House of Lucis, Ignis was given utmost leniency in his comings and goings, but on this singular issue even he could not elude the King’s order. It was unanimous and absolute.

This decision, and many others, did not come to fruition without ample reason. The history of the line of Lucis is a rich and storied one; having been told and retold within the Royal Palace and beyond for many generations. The Royal blood bears only alphas, thus ensuring every King of Lucis is as such. So it has been, era after era.

Until Noctis Lucis Caelum.

Ignis has long been one of the blessed few to be privy to the knowledge that the next King of Lucis was born omega, however. King Regis has spent the two decades since the birth of his heir covering his tracks, or more accurately his scent; carefully placing the care of his son in the hands of a select few, always screening those he can, wary to allow too many alphas anywhere near his household than was necessary without too much errant discrimination or paranoia. When Noctis was marked as Chosen at the tender age of five, the King assigned to him a small retinue of omegas that could train him to hide his scent from even the most keen alpha, however that strength all but slips away completely with unconsciousness, rendering the Prince helpless as he slumbers.

For this reason, Ignis can never bring himself to impose upon the Prince too early in the morning or too late at night; partly out of apprehension, but mostly out of respect for his King.

He hears a shuffling on the other side of the door, rustling of blankets, followed by footfalls.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” a groggy voice says finally, “sorry.” There are still a few more beats before Noctis opens the door, hair disheveled by sleep, one leg of his dark sweatpants bunched up to the knee. His shirt is still crumpled awkwardly so that a hip bone juts out in Ignis’ direction before disappearing beneath the folded band of his sweatpants. Ignis steals only the most modest glance before Noct’s eyes adjust to the light.

Noct,” he allows himself to fall a bit out of ceremony, “you haven’t even dressed yet. At this rate it would take a miracle to get you across the Palace in time.” The lack of formality allowed for the slight fussiness in his voice to emerge naturally, something he was grateful Noctis never seemed to mind much.

Noctis rolls his eyes with an amiable smile, waving Ignis into his darkened chambers as he turns towards his wardrobe along the right side of the oversize room. Ignis steps in, marveling only for a moment at the lack of lingering scent, before sighing heavily at the drawn curtains.

“You worry too much, Ignis. It’ll give you wrinkles,” he calls over his shoulder as Ignis parts the heavy curtains, filling the space with pure white light in one fell motion.

“I worry just the right amount,” he responds, turning just as the Prince was peeling his shirt up and over his head, muscles and tendons in his wiry back flexing and coiling, giving Ignis a half second of pause.

Noctis disappears inside the wardrobe for only a few minutes, shuffling around as Ignis waits patiently in the light of the morning sun, dismissing wayward thoughts about how lithe and impressive a young man Noctis has become. When he emerges, he’s dressed in his typical fashion of relaxed and all black, smile reflecting not a care in the world.

“See?” he says, shrugging, arms outstretched at his sides as if to offer the vision of himself to Ignis as some sort of prize.

“I see we’re our customary level of disheveled today,” Ignis teases, regarding the muss of hair atop Noct’s head with utter amusement.

Noctis swipes a hand over his head, taking a flirtatious step toward his steward.

“You wanna fix it for me?” he asks, almost like it’s an accusation, then strides confidently toward the exit.

Despite his slight indignity, Ignis follows close behind, sucking his teeth.

“Cheeky rather early this morning, aren’t we?”

“Maybe I slept well.”

Ignis meets him at his side as they walk the long hall from Noct’s room for a conference with his father in the adjoining tower.

“I wasn’t aware His Royal Highness Prince Noctis was suffering from lack of sleep,” Ignis says sarcastically.

“Not my fault you’re losing your edge,” Noct replies with a laugh, rapping his knuckles against Ignis’ shoulder.

Ignis presses his middle finger to the center of his glasses, entertained.

“My prescience has suffered no such deformity, I can assure you. However, I’ll be losing more than edge if we continue to be tardy when your father summons.”

Now Noctis sucks his teeth, annoyed.

“Don’t worry, just blame it on me. It’s my fault, anyway,” he says it so passively that Ignis is almost insulted.

“You already know that isn’t an option for me, Noct.”

Noctis is silent for a while as Ignis gazes subtly at the changes in his expression as they walk. He senses something is buried beneath the surface of Noctis’ banter, as though the tip of his tongue holds something worthwhile, but he thinks better of pressing him on it for now.

“I know, Iggy. I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful next time,” he finally speaks without a single hint of jest in his tone, sending pangs of relief through Ignis’ core.

Ignis nods, grateful.

“See that you are.”

---

This particular conference room isn’t so marvelously lavish as the throne room but it still stands impressive on its own, carpeted in a rich red and split down the middle by an ornate long table, at the head of which sits King Regis in all his mighty glory.

Noct takes an empty chair to his father’s right and Ignis the chair beside his charge, primed to wait patiently for the remainder of the advisers and aids he expected should file in any moment now or risk being insufferably late. However, to his complete surprise, King Regis laces his fingers together, leaning forward to draw upon both of their attentions.

“Good morning, son. Ignis,” he nods to each of them individually, to which Ignis nods in return.

“Good morning, Excellency,” he responds in deference, a bit alarmed at the intimacy of the encounter thus far. The nerves he suffers when in proximity to the King never truly go away, but he’s always found a way to work around them; to dull them so that he could fulfill his duties with the utmost efficiency. Now he found himself struggling to do so.

“What I am about to share with you is not to leave the palace halls, do you understand?”

Suddenly Ignis is certainly apprehensive. He nods wordlessly.

“Noctis, I am sending you away from the palace temporarily. Ignis will accompany you.”

What?” Noct’s voice comes out stereotypically annoyed, but Ignis is taken aback by the prospect of an extended assignment.

“There’s a property in the north owned by Royal ties. It is secluded and ready to bear your stay. Ignis, you’re to take the Regalia.” Their eyes meet but Ignis is so uneasy, he struggles to maintain his composure.

“Of course, Your Majesty. Is the Prince in any danger?” he asks before he has the ability to stop himself.

“No,” Noctis interrupts, “he just wants to get rid of me for a while for some reason. What is it now? Got some new important guests I might fail to impress?”

Regis glares at his son but refuses to acknowledge his insubordination.

“To answer your question, Ignis, no. Not immediate danger. However, please understand that these measures I am taking do directly ensure both his safety and his future.”

Noctis clicks his teeth, a displeased sound that prompts Ignis to jab two fingers into his ribs despite himself. Noct wriggles in discomfort, swatting Ignis away in irritation.

“I’m afraid I must be vague until you reach your destination. Instruction will await you at the safe house. It isn’t without amenities; however discretion is required from the both of you.”

“As you command, Your Majesty,” Ignis bows his head, and when Regis dismisses them both, he waits till Noct is far enough away before he addresses the King alone. Yet again to his surprise, Regis begins to speak straightaway.

“Ignis, I need you to protect the Prince,” he lifts a hand and rests it on Ignis’ shoulder with such grace that it astonishes him. “I expect you to conduct yourself abroad with the same level of obedience and care that you do within these walls. When he is awake, you must be at his side. You mustn’t let him out of your sight. Do you understand?” The intensity in King Regis’ eyes did not escape Ignis even for a moment.

“Of course, Your Majesty. I will fulfill my duty to the Prince and to the House of Lucis. It is my solemn vow.” He means it but his heart is pounding so hard he fears the King may hear it and doubt his words as a result. Regis nods and dismisses him finally, and when Ignis emerges into the hallway, he finds Noct has already disappeared.

“Admirable start,” he admonishes himself.

---

Set to leave promptly the following morning, Ignis and Noctis took to hurriedly packing and saying hasty goodbyes to those who merited the extra effort. At a bar in the first floor of the palace lobby, Ignis decides to meet Noct’s trainer and bodyguard of sorts, Gladiolus Amicitia, for a farewell drink. As it happens, he is also an alpha like Ignis, one of the few others in the palace, in fact. This is mostly due to the natural gift for combat alphas are often blessed with, particularly Amicitias, who are known as the shield to the House of Lucis.

Gladio had surprised him by donning a full shirt in public, perching beside Ignis on a stool at the lacquered bar with a dark beer in hand. They’d caught up just a bit upon arrival, Ignis sipping from a glass of whiskey and reminding himself that to overdo it would be incredibly bad form. He rotates the glass in hand, admiring the way the amber liquid catches the light, when Gladio suddenly interjects his thoughts.

“I don’t understand why he ain’t sending me,” he says with a tone, taking a long swig of his beer. Though Regis had indicated palace employ could be made aware of this moderately clandestine task, Ignis was starting to wonder if he should have kept it entirely to himself.

He puts his own glass to his lips, savoring the drink as it electrifies his tongue.

“It seems King Regis doesn’t want a Royal retinue in tow,” Ignis replies, “but I can’t seem to figure out why.

Tch,” Gladio nearly spits. “Must just be a babysitting job after all!”

“Perhaps you’re right,” Ignis says, furrowing his brow into a look of displeasure that Gladio finds amusing.

“Sorry, I’m sure it’s important, whatever it is,” he takes a more serious tone, leaning his elbows onto the bar surface. “Kid can be such a brat.”

Ignis sighs, throwing back a distinctly larger gulp of whiskey than before. Gladio has an expression on his face as though something suddenly dawned on him and he sits his beer down with a clack.

“You still have a thing for him, don’t ya?” He snorts, shaking his head, but continues before Ignis can protest. “You better get over that, Iggy. You’re never gonna find a mate if you keep chasing that dream.”

“Well, you’re positively abhorrent this evening, aren’t you,” Ignis says, thrusting a hand through his own hair. “And when, may I ask, have I ever implied that I was looking for a mate?”

“Pfft, we’re all looking for a mate, Iggy.”

Ignis nods dubiously at Gladio, making a face that probably only surfaced due to the alcohol.

“Wise words from a mateless alpha,” he polishes off the last of the whiskey in his glass and slides it over to the bartender.

“Hey, I got my eye on somebody,” Gladio says through a smile, a flash of brilliant white teeth. “Somebody attainable, that is.”

Ignis stands finally, throwing on his jacket and laying a few gil on the bar to satisfy his tab. He decides to turn in relatively early for his own sake, so he pats Gladio on the thigh and grins at him playfully.

“All the luck to you in that very real endeavor, my friend.”

---

The following morning finds Noctis in a bad way, so bad that Ignis is a touch worried as he carefully arranges their baggage in the trunk of the Regalia. The Prince appears utterly harried, already slouching in the passenger’s seat, having slept not a wink by his own admission. Ignis climbs into the driver’s seat beside him, sliding his phone into the center dash console after shutting the door and deciding not to pop the roof for the sake of privacy. He looks Noctis over a moment, curious and concerned, before gently placing a hand on his bare forearm. Noctis turns to him, expectant.

“What?”

“You don’t look well. Are you sure you’re quite alright?”

Noctis smiles crooked and sighs.

“I didn’t get any sleep, Iggy. I’m not sick or anything. Let’s just hit the road, okay?”

Somewhat impressed by the Prince’s fortitude, not that this would be the first time for that, Ignis pulls his hand away and starts the car. He cracks open the can of Ebony he’d tucked into the center console cup holder before accelerating away from the palace and into the city, headed for the nearest highway ramp. The trip would be several hours and with Noctis feeling under the weather, he was eager to get it under way and put as many miles behind them as quickly as he reasonably could. They chatted a bit here and there during the first hour until Ignis could tell the Prince was struggling to stay engaged, so he allowed himself to fall into a welcome silence for the benefit of his ward.

Eventually, the road lulls Ignis into a sea of his own thoughts surrounding the King’s orders and he can’t help but mull a thousand different scenarios and possibilities over in his mind. For all intents and purposes, the King’s reasons were neither any of his business nor his concern, but he found himself eager to arrive at the safe house in northern Insomnia and the remainder of his instruction nonetheless. He certainly wasn’t the type to flourish under the weight of ambiguities.

Without warning, Ignis is struck by a sensation so jarring, he nearly jerks the wheel. He can feel the hairs on his arms and the back of his neck slowly standing straight up as he takes a deep breath, inhaling sharply simply in an attempt to still his mind. It turns out to be a horrible decision.

The scent he breathes in sets him on fire, an agonizing fervor blossoming inside him further south than was decent, and through the sudden blur in his vision he peers over at Noctis in the passenger’s seat.

He’s fallen asleep.

Ignis grips the steering wheel with all his might, groaning in distress at the realization that Noct’s unchecked scent is filling the Regalia from wall to wall, suffocating him under the most tremendous burden of lust he’s ever experienced. He’s so beset by obscene images in his mind that he’s failing to stay on the road, so with every atom in his body he floors it, racing like a madman to the pull-off not a mile away. Even as he throws the car into park he’s fighting detestable urges to reach across the center console and into the hem of Noct’s pants, a thought that renders him barely able to recognize himself.

He unfastens his seatbelt like it’s his first day with his new hands, grunting and sobbing through the intoxicating cloud of his Prince’s scent, audibly moaning when the belt rubs against the swell of his aching erection as it retracts back into the seat. He makes the colossally terrible decision of stealing one last look at Noctis as he clambers out of the driver’s seat, having to literally bite his lip until he threatens to break the skin in order to keep from lunging at him.

Ignis slams the car door shut, unafraid that he may have woken Noctis anyway, and staggers to the trunk of the car, bracing himself on the Regalia with one hand the whole way. Sitting on the back bumper, elbows on his knees, gasping for air, he’s able to collect himself and arrange his thoughts so that they make sense to him again. It’s not perfect—he can certainly still feel the tinge of frenzy nipping at his heels—but he’s far enough away from it now to clear his head. To breathe, deep and even.

He’s horrified at what is happening, and yet he can’t help but laugh; to laugh almost maniacally, in fact, as the cold truth seeps into his veins, cooling the heat in his blood that Noctis left there unbeknownst to him.

This can’t be, Ignis thinks. He can’t have chosen me for this task.

A quarantine during the Prince’s first heat.

Chapter Text

Ignis isn’t sure just how much time passes as he sits at the edge of the bumper, reeling mind coming to a full stop at the sound of a car door slamming shut. Before he can decide just how to react, Noctis is at his side, peering down at him in perplexed concern. He’s doing a decent job of masking his scent now, but the empathy in his eyes cleaves straight through Ignis’ weakened defenses, piercing him square in the heart.

“Ignis? Hey, what’s the matter?” he asks, resting a hand on the trunk and leaning a little closer than he probably should have. “Are you sick or something?”

Ignis lifts a hand in an effort to hush the Prince, only recoiling slightly out of a lingering fear that Noct’s scent may suddenly burst out of him and smother Ignis once more.

“It’s nothing, Noct, I simply felt a bit faint and thought it best to get some fresh air.”

Noctis tilts his head to one side, doubtful.

“Are you sure? You look a little flushed,” Noctis reaches his hand towards Ignis’ face but is caught by the wrist in one swift motion that appears to startle the Prince momentarily.

“Noct, I am fine,” Ignis presses, dropping Noctis’ wrist at his side before he starts to focus on the pulse under his fair skin. “Did you get enough rest?”

“I mean, I feel a little better,” Noctis straightens, shrugging. “I can probably make it the rest of the way.”

Ignis readjusts his glasses, bowing his head to do so.

“A blessed state of affairs,” he says to himself.

“What?”

“Nothing. Let’s be off then.”

When they’re both seated in the car, Ignis immediately lets the top down, eager to rid his personal space of any of Noct’s remaining covert aroma. At least if he managed to nod off yet again, the blustering wind might help keep Ignis sane. Might.

The remainder of the trip is mercifully uneventful, much to Ignis’ delight, but he falls victim to his own anxieties over the reality of this disquieting predicament. He expected Noct to have a scent, it’s not like he hadn’t chanced upon him at a vulnerable moment in the past and experienced it first hand, but the overwhelming strength of this particular encounter couldn’t possibly have any other explanation; Noct’s heat was heavy on the horizon. Perhaps only days away. Closer, even. Ignis is beside himself at the thought.

There’s simply no possibility whatsoever that His Majesty would send his vulnerable son away with an alpha. Ignis desperately grasps for some other reasoning outside of the obvious, sure that Regis wasn’t the type of man to play games, but also sure that he didn’t mean for Ignis to—

Just reserve your judgments until you reach the safe house, he tells himself, and he decides to do just that.

---

The safe house is a bit cottage like, far off the beaten path and shrouded in trees; more trees than Ignis realized existed in all of Insomnia, and it was flanked on its right side by a man made pond. Parking in front, Ignis makes for the trunk of the Regalia as Noctis wanders off, babbling excitedly about the surroundings and leaving his adviser to do most of the heavy lifting.

“Hey Ignis!” he calls from the bank of the pond just as Ignis slams the trunk shut, bags hanging from either shoulder and dangling from both hands. “You think there’s any fish?” He’s smiling wide as can be, a sight that never fails to set Ignis’ heart afire, and pointing at the water as if there were any chance the fish may reside elsewhere.

“Sadly, I’m unfamiliar with the property. Perhaps you’ll find appropriate trappings inside?” Ignis nods toward the cottage. “After relieving me of some of my current burden, I should hope.” He lifts the arm holding Noct’s duffel and Noct trots back to him, still smiling as he takes the bag from Ignis.

“Sorry,” he offers, upbeat, and reaches for the bag in Ignis’ other hand. “Here, gimme that one, too.” He swipes it from him before he can make much of a fuss and Ignis can’t help but grin a little warmly as he follows his Prince up the heavy oaken stairs. With both hands free, Ignis withdraws a key from the breast pocket of his button down, more than anxious to discover what lies inside for the both of them.

Stepping into an open foyer, he absorbs the surroundings as Noctis proceeds directly to the living area to dump the bags sloppily on the couch. It is a smallish wonder of dark woods and lacquer, the kitchen to Ignis’ immediate left and the living area—complete with seating and television—is to his right. Directly down the middle extends a hall, more than likely to the bedrooms, but Ignis deposits his bags on the floor against the island in the kitchen, admiring its austere but well-kept appliances and overall presence. Noctis wanders off, likely in search of a tackle closet, so Ignis seizes the opportunity to look for his extended instructions.

There’s nothing on the table of the small breakfast nook in the corner of the kitchen, nothing on the island either, nor the countertops. He glances about in the living area, on the low coffee table which was bare but for a remote control, yet still nothing. Puzzled, he decides to follow the hall wherever it might lead, and finds there is one master bedroom with an attached bath on the far end, a guest bedroom with detached bath on the right, and a laundry closet on the left. Ducking into the guest room, he tosses his own two bags on the bed—the size of which takes up most of the floor space—and turns when he hears Noct stop at the threshold of the door.

“You’re not gonna take the master?” he asks, a hand on each side of the door frame, casual. His choice of words gives Ignis a bit of a start.

“Would that I was the master, however that title is reserved for you,” he responds jokingly, turning to unzip his bag and remove the charger for his phone. It was dying and served as their only contact to the outside world other than Noct’s, and heaven knows if he can peel himself away from it long enough to let Ignis use it in a pinch.

“Alright, if you insist. Try not to be too jealous,” Noctis says, walking towards the living room and picking up his bags. Ignis can hear him pass by again on his way to his quarters and he’s suddenly besieged by an array of inappropriate imagery, wishing with all his might that he knew what the hell was going on here.

Just as he’s plugging his phone into the wall, it rings, and to his surprise and, more importantly, relief, it was Regis himself.

“Majesty,” Ignis answers, trying to force deference to override frenzy.

“Ignis, did you both arrive in one piece?” the King asks.

“Of course, the Prince is quite safe. A bit charmed, if anything,” Ignis answers. “Your Majesty, if I may, I’m exceedingly concerned about the details of this assignment.”

“I cannot lie to you; the coming days for him are going to be very trying.”

Trying, Majesty?” Ignis walks over to his door and pushes it shut, afraid Noctis may overhear if he comes strolling past again. “With all due respect, I am lacking a level of clarity that I desperately need in order to fulfill my duties.”

Regis is quiet for a few seconds, sighing loudly, before he continues. “You know better than most about the Prince’s condition.

“I do, Your Majesty, and it’s precisely why I fail to understand the reasoning behind leaving him in my care. Surely you know that I’m…that he shouldn’t be around my kind.” He was perhaps walking on thin ice in terms of tone, but at this rate he was worried not just for Noctis, but for his own sanity.

“You are the most qualified person for the task, Ignis. I couldn’t have him wandering these halls, possibly gallivanting in the city, when this day comes now could I?”

Ignis is quiet, lips pressed into a hard line, inwardly petulant over the fact that the King had a point. The thought of Noctis bonding with someone less than toward made Ignis’ stomach turn, let alone the thought of another alpha daring to put their hands on the Prince, likely without a single care for his safety or well-being. He was suddenly grateful on a certain level that Noct was only a room away. “I understand, but Majesty, please—”

“All you have to do is keep him away from outsiders, Ignis. He minds you,” Regis says in such a familiar tone that even Ignis loses form.

“He most certainly does not!” He clears his throat, runs a hand through his hair. “Forgive me, Your Majesty, but I couldn’t possibly be the best choice for what you’re asking.”

“You are,” Regis replies without hesitating, and it has such a degree of finality that Ignis struggles to keep hold of his thoughts. He’s losing steam in this battle and it wasn’t his place to put up a fight at any rate. He stays silent for a while; eyes clenched shut and free hand massaging his forehead in disbelief.

“How much does he know about what’s going to happen to him, Your Grace?” Ignis almost dreads the answer.

“Little,” Regis admits. “He knows whatever his retinue taught him.”

“He was only a child then,” Ignis points out, bordering on accusation.

“Ignis,” Regis says finally, sounding as though he’s grown tired of resisting Ignis’ innumerable doubts.  “You’ve been entrusted with Noct’s safety. He’s away from the roving eyes and noses of strange interlopers and is instead in the care of someone that not only I, but he, trusts. You are the right person for the task.”

Ignis opens his eyes, brows knitted as a strange feeling washes over him that he can’t quite place, try as he might. His attempts to form words in response are all thwarted, so he simply replies, “As you command, Your Majesty,” and hangs up when dismissed.

He cracks the door to his bedroom so that he can keep an ear out for Noct’s movements, all the while mulling over the King’s last words. He’s almost certain there was something buried there that he couldn’t bring himself to face, but the sound of Noctis talking in the distance catches him off guard and forces him to table the thought outright. Following the sound down the hall, he finds Noctis standing on a small deck outside, accessed by a sliding glass door in the kitchen that Ignis failed to notice when he did his prior scan. Despite his aversion to eavesdropping on the Prince he listens, intent on upholding his promise to the King of Lucis.

“Yeah, I mean there’s a pond and everything.” He pauses briefly. “Yeah, I found rods and tackle in the house, just gotta bother Ignis about bait, probably.” Another pause, then laughter. “You thought I came out here by myself? Nah,” a heavy exhale. “I should be so lucky.”

Ignis ignores the childish pang in his chest.

“Prom, you would totally dig it! There’s a lot of, ah, trees? I don’t know, seems like good photo ops.” He laughs again. “Yeah, you should try and come down, it’s not that far—”

Ignis flings the glass door open with a loud thwack, loud enough that Noct spins around to look at him wide eyed as Ignis snatches the phone out of his hand and raises it to his own ear.

“Prompto? Much as the Prince would appreciate your company, he is here on very important business and shan’t be disturbed. Apologies, he’ll contact you upon his return to the Palace,” he hangs up and shoves the phone into Noct’s chest. Noctis grabs it angrily but Ignis doesn’t let go, he just allows Noctis to sneer at him.

“What don’t you understand about your father’s instructions?” Ignis scolds, finally releasing the phone into Noct’s care.

“You can be such a pain!” Noct shouts, shoving past him to reenter the house and flop down on the couch, kicking his booted feet up onto the coffee table. Ignis is repulsed by the display, but he hasn’t much strength left to bicker over the little things.

He slides the glass door shut behind himself, locking it with a solid click that jars him from his own thoughts. He scans the kitchen again, letting his gaze fall to the sullen Prince in the adjoining room.

“What would you like for supper,” he asks, voice a bit hushed as he switches his cadence from authoritative to nurturing.

Noctis exhales through his nose, already crumbling beneath the steady pressure of Ignis’ unspoken truce.

“I don’t care,” he answers.

“Shocking,” Ignis chuckles, taking a few steps toward him. “It seems there is in fact a first time for everything.”

Noctis looks up at him, weak smile a bit crooked, eyes weary.

“Whatever you’re in the mood for. I’m not that hungry.”

---

Dinner went over rather well all things considered and Ignis silently praised himself for knowing his way around even the most unfamiliar kitchen, finding just what he needed to perform each task on the first cursory glance. As Noctis seemed to be suffering a bit from fatigue yet, Ignis had taken to most of the cleanup, hands still buried in a sink of dishwater and sleeves rolled up at the elbow. Noct shuffled lazily through TV channels in the living area, sprawled across the couch, mercifully bereft of his muddy boots that Ignis hadn’t even been forced to ask him to remove.

Though food in his belly certainly satisfied a particular need, Ignis’ concerns still mount as the evening begins to fall in earnest, giving way to his own righteous anxieties the closer the Prince comes to falling unconscious. When will the day finally come, and how in the name of the Astrals was he going to survive it if he could hardly bear mere minutes near an unarmed Noctis as is? It was good that Noct wouldn’t be at a crowded market or in a downtown night club when he suddenly succumbs to the fever, but without the ability to mate—to bond—it was going to be quite the stretch of fresh hell for him. Ignis isn’t sure if that puts him in more or less agony than denying the way his own body reacts upon the memory of Noct’s heady aroma surrounding him, overwhelming him, rending him fully asunder.

He wants to yield to it more than he wants anything, more than he wants air in his lungs and blood in his veins, more than he wants not to want it because it’s just so indecent. He can’t believe Noct doesn’t know; might not know that he’s going to lose control of his own body, his own ability to govern his thoughts and urges. Ignis wonders if he even has any grasp of what will happen to him physically, that he’ll suddenly wake one morning in the desperate throes of his heat, alone and excruciatingly sensitive, eyes bleary and skin hot to the touch, hard as stone and yet intoxicatingly pliable, writhing in sleep clothes sodden by his own slick.

It’s around the time that Ignis considers whether or not the beleaguered Prince would call out his name that he hears a high pitched crack, only realizing once he pulls his hands from the soapy water and sees bright red rivulets between his fingers that he’d broken a glass while idling in reverie.

Damn it all,” he hisses, fumbling awkwardly for the nearest towel with wet hands.

“Everything okay?” he hears Noctis call out over his shoulder, so he turns to see that he’s already on his way into the kitchen, brow slightly furrowed in distress.

Ignis clutches the towel tight about his wounded hand as he takes a seat at the breakfast table, more burdened by the laceration to his pride than any bodily harm inflicted.

“Nothing too serious, however the glass won’t be joining us for supper from here on out,” he jokes dryly. “I was being careless.”

Noctis takes a seat across from Ignis and scoots the chair close, taking Ignis’ wrapped hand and gingerly unraveling the impromptu dressings.

“Well, that’s not like you,” he replies with a smirk, but even his bit of levity did little to distract Ignis from the delicate curve of his wrists as he turns Ignis’ hand over and around with surprisingly gentle fingers, searching for the cut. He pauses, holding Ignis’ hand palm up, and splays his fingers apart. He makes a face that leads Ignis to believe he’s found the culprit, but he’s been too enamored by the look in Noct’s eyes to spare a corroborative glance for his own edification.

They’re both quiet for a few, pregnant seconds.

“There,” Noct finally breaks the silence, and before Ignis can comprehend what’s happening, he presses the soft pad of his lips to the cut which extends up and over the palm from between Ignis’ ring and middle finger.

Ignis tenses from head to toe, heart at once all aflutter, aghast when he can suddenly feel the unmistakable flick of a warm tongue against the sensitive flesh between his fingers.

Noct,” he breathes, jerking his hand away involuntarily in the tiniest increment, enough to snap Noctis out of his activities but not enough to free Ignis from his grasp.

Noctis blinks a few times, almost dazed, and exhales heavy and hot into Ignis’ palm. The sudden flush in his cheeks delivers Ignis’ mind someplace faraway and lewd yet again, and he clambers and claws to get back to his normal self as Noctis releases him and stands, appearing positively debilitated.

“I’m sorry, Ignis, I don’t know,” he forces a hand through his dark tresses and in the kitchen light Ignis can see a thin layer of sweat at his brow. “I don’t know what came over me. I think I’m just a little delirious,” he laughs nervously, and his desire to flee is plain as day.

Ignis stays seated, trying to convey to the Prince that he’s free to go at will.

“It’s alright, Highness. Perhaps it is best if you retire for the evening.” He hopes the use of formalities will put a much needed distance between them. One that will allow Ignis to sleep, at the very least. He gestures to Noctis with his wounded hand. “I’ll take care of this. Please, rest.”

Noctis gazes at him intently for far longer than Ignis prefers, rubbing his upper arm over and over again like a child formulating an excuse not to go to their room. But Noctis is no child, so when he finally turns toward the hall, flashing eyes over his shoulder that seem full of a hundred unspoken words, Ignis allows himself to think once more—however briefly—about the warm lick of that little omega’s tongue and how sublime it might feel when put to more intimate use.

---

Ignis had high hopes for the first night, high indeed.

However, as sure as Noct could sleep through a visit from an Archaean, Ignis simply could not, and though the Prince was cordoned off in the farthest room from his current position, Ignis could already feel his scent permeating the cabin and dulling his senses.

He’s sat at the couch in the dark, slouching, he hates slouching; doesn’t even like the way it feels, but it’s easier this way. Almost like he can sink into the cushions and disappear entirely. Be something he’s not. His arms are wrapped tight about his abdomen and he taps one foot almost obsessively, counting how many seconds he can go without blinking. Counting strokes of the clock on the wall that is comically loud. Counting taps of his own foot until he loses the number and has to start over again from zero.

None of this matters. This is the single most inane set of tasks he’s ever bestowed upon himself, but he’s doing them all in a desperate attempt to ignore that scent pushing down the hall and into the living room, lighting his blood on fire like kerosene. He can’t fight it, then he can, then he can’t, then he must, then he’s suddenly on his feet, palm pressed into the underside of his stiff cock like he can will it to simply vanish. In peaceful slumber Noct has him by the throat, dragging him toward his locked door on a scent so utterly intoxicating that Ignis thinks he may simply plunge a dagger into his own gut to escape its grasp. Even that might prove to be insufficient.

Before he knows it he’s at the door, forehead plastered to it as he bites down hard on his lip to keep from growling his Prince’s name. His thoughts are nonexistent as he grips the frame, exhaling through clenched teeth as he ruts clumsily against the door. Noctis, he thinks, Noctis, Noctis, Noctis…

In his mind is the hollow of his sovereign’s throat, the swell of his naked chest as he sleeps, the pulse throbbing beneath the skin of his neck just behind his jaw where his scent was the strongest; where Ignis could sink his teeth and hold him down as he claims the sweltering vise of his primed body over and over and over again. The images leave him stricken.

He slumps onto the floor, still pawing helplessly at the door until he can endure it not a moment longer. He reaches a hand into his trousers and only has to stroke a few times before he’s at his absolute limit.

Panting and clawing, he whines longingly into the cool surface of the door, pining even as he comes messily into his own hand.

Noctis,” he sobs, collapsing fully, a spent mess of his own design, soon lucid enough to be plagued by his myriad guilt.

Through the night his intermittent stupor rendered him unable to account for his whereabouts at every second, let alone able to remember just how many times he returned to Noct’s door like an abandoned pet. However, it was locked from the inside, and when Ignis woke in the morning, he found it had in fact remained undisturbed.

So, a success of sorts.

Chapter Text

Ignis is fully dressed and on his fourth cup of coffee when he hears Noctis opening and closing doors in his room, running water, probably washing up. In the wee hours of the morning he had traveled from room to room, cracking every window open in the cottage in the hopes it would aid in dissipating any of Noct’s lingering ardor. It did seem to help a bit, even if he had to douse himself in a long, cold shower in the interim.

By now he should be making breakfast, but he just couldn’t will the dexterity into his fingers without adequate caffeine, what with his miserable amount of sleep and shot nerves. It was uncharacteristic of him to be anything other than punctual, however he’d opted to wait until Noctis emerged from his quarters for the day to confirm what he’d like to have made. That said, the Prince seemed to be taking an awfully long time even considering his lethargic tendencies. Just as Ignis began to worry, a sudden clatter followed by a few loud thumps down the hall sent him flying to the nearest flat surface to deposit his drink.

Ignis!” Noctis calls from his room so desperately that Ignis nearly jumps out of his skin as he rounds the island in the kitchen and bolts through the hallway.

“Noct?” he shouts in response, concerned that perhaps the Prince had simply slipped and may potentially have injured himself, but truly nothing could’ve prepared him for what he sees when he enters Noct’s room, turning until he reaches the threshold of the master bathroom door.

Ignis,” Noct moans again, breathless and lying completely naked on the bathroom tile, struggling to rise up onto his elbows. He tilts his head up to Ignis, eyes cloudy and welling with tears beneath a knitted brow and damp lashes. Ignis is immobilized for a few brief seconds, his own gaze settling on the bright flush across the Prince’s cheeks and the way his jaw is slack and absurdly lurid as he tries over and over again to wrap his lips around words that never escape as anything other than Ignis, Ignis.

“Highness,” Ignis finally exhales, rushing promptly to kneel at Noct’s side. He stretches an arm out pitifully toward Ignis, grasping, and when Ignis takes his hand to pull him close to his chest he can already smell the enemy in the form of Noct’s scent. It isn’t overwhelming, not yet, however it would seem that in his compromised state Noctis is losing the ability to exert control over it. He wraps an arm around his Prince's shoulders, cradling him, peering down into his frightened eyes as Noctis grips his other hand so tightly Ignis is afraid he’ll fracture a bone.

Ignis, something is wrong with me,” he stammers through labored breaths, and his vulnerability is absolute. Ignis has never seen such a beautifully wretched thing and the sight of it almost wrenches the wind from his lungs.

“What happened, Noctis? What’s the matter?” he speaks low and even, keeping eye contact so that the young Prince can focus.

“I don’t know, I felt…I felt strange. Like I was gonna pass out, and,” he winces, shuddering, and turns his head to bury his face in Ignis’ chest. “I’m so tired, Ignis.”

“You haven’t been sleeping, have you? We have to figure out a way to make sure you’re resting—”

No, not like that, I’m not sleepy,” he interrupts, exasperated.

Ignis is perplexed, but when Noctis releases Ignis’ hand and presses his own flat to the center of his adviser’s chest he stills beneath the pressure, convinced now that his heart was going to beat out of his breast.

“I don’t feel like myself. My…my body is…”

It dawns on Ignis that the fatigue, the bouts of strange behavior, the preternatural aroma rolling off of him unchecked; they’re all a result of Noct’s well-meaning attempts to stifle his own scent, exhausting himself in ways he can’t even understand. Eventually, the heat will grip him so tight he’ll hardly be able to speak, and yet here he is fighting with all his might against its early stages, petulantly oblivious. Ignis is so overcome by sorrowful adoration that he’d give anything to hold Noctis close to him and shower him in affectionate kisses right then and there.

“Yes, I know,” Ignis murmurs, stroking the Prince’s hair and breathing deeply, welcoming the tinge of fervor into his body for the first time since they left the Crown City Palace. Just as the familiar warmth begins to morph into an inferno deep within him, Noctis stirs, lifting his head to meet Ignis’ gaze.

Help me, Ignis,” he whispers, eyes lidded and hand curling into Ignis’ shirt.

Ignis digs his fingers unknowingly into the flesh of Noct’s shoulder, wrapping his free hand around the delicate wrist of the creature metamorphosing before his very eyes. Without warning, Noctis yanks Ignis toward him, rising up from the tile floor to press a warm, wet tongue to the bare skin of his exposed neck, dragging it up until he reaches the man’s jawline. Instinctively, Ignis folds both arms around him, drawing him so close that he’s afraid he may crush the air right out of the poor omega’s body.

Noct,” he exhales into his ear, positively drunk on the scent of him now that they’re entangled in one another. He slides one large hand up Noctis’ spine, cradling the back of his neck and digging his fingertips into the short tresses at his hairline.  With spite he bites back the urge to clamp his mouth around Noct’s unprotected throat where his scent emanated most prominently, choking on his own words as they struggle to get free. “I can’t,” he says, sentiment in direct opposition to his actions.

Noct’s small but powerful hands have an iron grip on him and when he whines lecherously into Ignis’ neck, the man nearly comes undone at the seams. With more strength than he would’ve thought necessary, Ignis pries the covetous Prince from his body, holding his face tight in both hands. Noct is still blushing brightly and panting, not dissimilar from Ignis’ own expression he was sure, but his eyes seem clearer now than they were before; like he comprehends what’s in front of him instead of staring vacantly through it.

“Noctis, there is nothing wrong with you. I know you’re exhausted, I know. But I have to ask you one last time to endure it. Endure it, and I will tell you everything you need to know. I will help you.”

Noctis blinks dozens of times it seems, a flutter of lashes that makes Ignis weaker in the knees than he already was. He nods meekly in Ignis’ grasp, resting a hand over top of Ignis’ for good measure.

“Now, I’m going to lift you from this floor and place you in your bed, do you understand? Nothing more.”

Again, he nods.

The Prince is surprisingly pliant as he scoops him up from the bathroom floor and carries him to his bed, propping him up on his many pillows and throwing the comforter over his exquisite naked body. Ignis feels a bit guilty at having stolen glances throughout the ordeal, but as Noctis calmed down and regained control over his senses Ignis realized there were many alternative outcomes that were mercifully avoided which would have evoked far greater feelings of remorse.

Smoothing out the blankets with one hand, Ignis sits beside Noctis on the bed, resting a hand heavy on his hip. His skin still bears a touch of red, but he’s far more focused and akin to himself again.

“I don’t know how best to tell you any of this, but I’ll try to make it plain. You are losing the ability to control your scent and it is taxing your health.”

Noctis leans his head to the side, slumped almost against his own shoulder. “Why?”

Ignis clears his throat, looking down as he adjusts his glasses; all empty gestures meant to forestall the inevitable.

“Soon—very soon—you’re going to lose control of it altogether, Highness. For several days at the least, you won’t be able to stop it and you mustn’t try. Your body will…do things it’s never done. Things you can neither change nor control. Do you understand?” Ignis hopes harder than he ever has in the past that Noctis does, in fact, understand.

“Heat?” he asks, blinking lazily. Ignis is taken aback.

“Yes. You already know?”

“A little. I mean, the omegas told me some stuff when I was a kid and I just kinda know from talking to Prompto, I guess. I just didn’t know it would be…like this.”

“I think you’re making it harder on yourself than it has to be.”

Noctis wriggles under the covers, almost like he’s getting comfortable, prepping for sleep. “Maybe.”

Ignis bows his head, wondering now if Regis hadn’t simply sloughed some unpalatable parental duties off on him after all, and suddenly Gladio’s comment about babysitting rises to the fore of his mind. He stifles a disgruntled snort.

“You’re an alpha.”

The word hits Ignis’ ears like an accusation even though he knows it isn’t meant to be. Tilting his head in Noct’s direction, he nods almost imperceptibly.

“Yes.”

Noctis radiates certainty from his eyes in a way that virtually takes Ignis’ breath away.

“So you can help.”

Ignis averts his eyes at that, unable to return the intensity of Noct’s gaze without stoking flames he’d rather burn as embers.

“No. No, Highness. I cannot.”

“Not even if,” Noctis leans forward, rubbing his hands together between his knees, still a bundle of nerves and inquiries from what Ignis could see. His next words come out scarcely above a whisper. “Not even if I want you to?”

Ignis’ heart jumps up into his throat so quickly he’s sure he’ll choke to death on it.

“It…it’s not that simple, Noct.”

I would walk for years across a pit of burning coals if it meant you’d be waiting for me to claim you at its end.

It’s what he wants to say.

Noctis keeps his eyes cast down, face contorted into a look of soft agony that both punishes and intrigues Ignis.

“If I’m stuck here…through this…you’re the only one who can help, Ignis.”

Ignis shakes his head vehemently. “I can’t.”

“You won’t,” Noct nearly chokes, fists clenched in his lap. The anguish in his expression is so unexpected that Ignis forgets his surroundings, forgets himself entirely, and leans forward to press a kiss into Noctis’ lips, languishing too long against the soft curve of them as he considers whether or not to take his bottom lip between his teeth. He’s quickened at the huff of hot air that Noctis exhales into his mouth, drawing back in acute shame and leaping to his feet so swiftly he practically loses his balance.

No,” he says out loud to himself, turning toward the door. “I must—we mustn’t. We’ll find another way, Noct. Forgive me.”

His feet ferry him to the hall with such robotic efficiency that he doesn’t even know the Prince’s reaction but he closes the door behind him nonetheless, pausing to regain his composure.

He slips his phone from his breast pocket to check the time. Not even nine thirty in the morning.

Well. Breakfast, then.

---

Much to Ignis’ relief, the rest of the day was fairly uneventful. Noctis suffered no further moments of weakness and Ignis was free from the dizzying effects of his scent, save for the occasional instance when it emerged a little dull around the edges, only to subside in short order.

Noctis fiddled outside with a rod and reel, using some of the food in the house as bait after flashing a toothy smile Ignis’ way and a promise to replace whatever he took. He didn’t catch anything but it wasn’t for lack of trying and Ignis knew he had the skill and patience to be successful; he simply chalked it up to a bad day for the sport. Ignis spent a good portion of the afternoon alone with a coffee and an article to read, that is until Noctis descended upon him with countless questions about things he’d searched online; everything from the length and intensity of the average omega’s heat to alpha physiology. Ignis could only take so much before he had to turn him and his curiosity away, piqued at the prospect of discussing his own intimate details with the Prince he’s supposed to be watching over. ‘Does yours do this?’ he’d asked, and that was the moment when Ignis decided he’d had enough of the internet for one day.

Even as darkness fell and Ignis recalled the night before, he felt mostly good. Tonight, he would be better prepared. He would put the Prince to bed and see that he’s locked tight in his quarters, then he would usher himself to bed straightaway with a mighty sleep aid and a heavy comforter. Even low dosage drugs weren’t typically his style, but for the sake of rest and sanity alike, he was willing to make an exception.

He sees Noctis to his room and shuts the door, only satisfied to leave when he hears Noctis throw the latch on the other side. They bid each other good night, amicable, before Ignis retreats to his own bedroom for the duration. It’s near midnight when he takes the sleep aid with a tall glass of water, changing into a pair of light cotton pants which he fancies as pajamas. He’s never been the type to overdress for bed and the feeling of fabric clinging too tight always made him too restless to sleep well. By the time he situates himself properly and plunges the room into welcome darkness, he can already feel the gracious kiss of sleep weighing his eyelids down.

---

This sleep is a heavy, deep thing, like death. Like something holding his head down into the pillow, pressure. Gratifying pressure, body dense with sleep like it’s a liquid poured into an empty vessel. He’s the vessel.

Except the pressure isn’t sleep, and it certainly isn’t constant; it’s restless. Clinging, hungry. Babbling. Breathing?

No.

Ignis opens his eyelids like they’re made of stone, slow and yet clumsy at the same time, trying to focus in the dark on the figure in his bed but his mind is still caught up in the warm embrace of unconsciousness.

Ignis,” it says, except it’s not an ‘it.’

He takes a deep breath, chest heaving, oxygen animating his brain and dragging him more completely into the waking world. The pressure on his sternum is unmistakable.

Noct,” Ignis croaks in a voice still rapt with fatigue. His hand descends to Noctis’ head where it lay on his chest, and he’s surprised to feel a thin sheen of sweat against the Prince’s forehead.

Suddenly he knows with complete clarity what has happened, and just as he makes this realization he is electrified by the scent Noctis has released into his room and rubbed against his bedding. Noct twists the blankets in his clutching hands, grinding crudely against Ignis’ thigh with all the might in his lower body. He’s panting so loudly, on the verge of whining, that Ignis can scarcely believe it didn’t wake him.

He’s barely been conscious long enough to comprehend what’s going on but his body is responding regardless, and Noctis spares not a second taking advantage of it. He clambers on top of Ignis, throwing a leg over him before Ignis could react, sinking into his lap and rutting against Ignis’ hard cock.

Ignis, please, please,” he starts to beg, and between his voice and his scent and his artless but vigorous undulating, Ignis can’t keep up. His form is silhouetted in the dark, hands clawing at Ignis’ bare chest clumsily. He exhales sharp with each thrust of his powerful little hips, and Ignis has to grip him by the thighs to try and strip him from his pelvis before he loses control of himself.

Damn it, Noct!” he curses, more to himself than to Noctis. His hands grip something wet as he twists and turns the ravenous omega in his lap, and it’s like the physical touch awakens all of Ignis’ other senses in one fell swoop. Suddenly he’s beset by the totality of Noct’s unique smells; his scent, the salt of his sweat, the slick that’s soaked clean through his boxers and is likely to be smeared in splotches across Ignis’ bed spread at this rate.

If his scent during sleep was agonizing, this turn of events was wholly excruciating. Ignis freezes with his hands buried deep into Noct’s thighs, lifting him up a few inches to separate their glutted erections. He’s paralyzed, just trying to breathe, to think, to overcome this feeling of drowning, of being suffocated by hunger and greed and desire and a raw kind of selfishness that Ignis couldn’t imagine in his wildest dreams.

Please, please, please,” he continues, shattering any possibility Ignis could think about anything other than the sound of his desperate voice. “Please, Ignis, help me, let me,” he moans loudly and it’s clear that Noctis isn’t there anymore; the heat is there, driving his every action and choosing his words for him. Ignis groans, distressed, as Noctis folds over him and starts nipping at his chin and jaw, all the while rotating his hips which Ignis still has fixed up in the air. If there was something there to press his cock into, he was apparently determined to find it.

“Noctis, stop, you have to stop,” Ignis pleads in the most pathetic tone he’s ever heard escape his throat.

Iggy,” Noctis claws at Ignis’ shoulders hard enough to make him gasp. “Please, Iggy, help, I need it. I need you.”

After years of serving the House of Lucis faithfully, years of training both mind and body, Ignis is perversely amused by the fact that he’s been undone—utterly vanquished—by three words falling from the right lips.

Chapter Text

There isn’t exactly enough light by which to see, but Ignis is damned if that will stop him, let alone the lust-addled soul still huddled close to his neck, hot little mouth biting marks into his ear and jaw in between hungry gasps and barely intelligible babbling. He wraps his arms about the Prince, pinning him against his chest in order to roll him over onto his back, startled at the euphoric moans that issue from Noct’s throat as a result of Ignis’ sudden acquiescence. Depositing him face up amongst the crumpled sheets, Ignis finally has the opportunity to study him, eyes having adjusted adequately to the scattered moonlight that broke through between his blinds. He can’t make out much detail, but the light is cast brightest in a band across Noct’s face and that is all he needs to see in order to crumble completely to dust.

Noctis stares up at him, lidded eyes dense with yearning, panting open-mouthed as he parts his legs at the knee, spreading them voluntarily to accommodate the broad expanse of the alpha’s hips. Ignis about asphyxiates on the spectacle of his lithe, slender body, nude but for the boxers that he was already hooking his fingers into and peeling from the Prince’s legs. He tosses the damp article to the floor and runs a hand along Noct’s inner thigh, absolutely thrilled when he opens himself to Ignis once more, stretching so wide his knees nearly touch the bed. His hand catches a little rough on the skin of Noct’s thigh as he slides it along the path that his wayward slick had traveled and dried, leaving him an appetizing mess already.

Noctis squirms as Ignis momentarily cups his balls, taut and cool to the touch, before pressing his fingertips into the base of the beleaguered Prince’s cock, skimming them along the vein on the underside until he reaches the head. A thin line of precome stretches from the bare skin of his belly to the head of his beautiful cock, catching the light and making Ignis dizzy with want. Curling his slender fingers around the slight omega’s shaft, he swipes a thumb across the slit, smearing seed and snapping the strand of precome as he massages it into the tender skin just below the tip. Ignis exhales and the sound of his own voice strikes him as foreign.

Noctis is writhing beneath his grasp, made stupid by the strength and steady persistence of his own desire. Ignis wants nothing more than to devour him whole; to stake his claim on every inch and in every opening, to feel him and taste him and knot him and make a mate out of him. The thoughts fill him with a bitter shame that hovers over his every move, taking shots at his unfettered lust in an attempt pry him away from Noctis; to get him up and out of the room as quickly as possible. However, no knowledge of duty, no concept of right or wrong can change the fact that he’s simply too far gone. His deep longing for his Prince has pierced the veil of his servile obligations and settled hot in his groin, spurring him ever onward despite reservations on how to proceed.

He doesn’t want to do more than is necessary to satiate the Prince—to take advantage of his station—but Noctis is again calling out his name and digging fingers into his clavicle, using every trick in his arsenal to seize and maintain Ignis’ attentions.

Ignisss,” he whines, hooking his fingers into the hollow made by Ignis’ collarbones and clawing to pull him down closer. “Don’t stop, please, I need it.” He cants his hips up into Ignis’ clenched fist. His ardor almost looks like agony and it causes Ignis’ breath to hitch suddenly in his throat.

“I’m here, Noct,” he coos reassuringly, folding over Noctis to bite and suck hungrily at his lower lip, desire coiling tight inside his body, ready to snap at the right moment.

No,” Noctis says into Ignis’ mouth, still gripping and scratching at his chest and neck, the pain of which fails to even register in Ignis’ mind. “Inside, Ignis, I need you inside.”

Ignis groans without warning when those words seep into his skin like warm sunshine, and if he was unsure of how best to slake his Prince’s thirst before it would be hard to tell now. He snakes his hand from around Noctis’ cock and between the smooth skin of his cheeks, meeting the warmth of his slick as he presses his middle finger inside Noct’s body to the second knuckle. He moans only a little in response, wriggling as if to find a better position, so Ignis inserts a second finger, this time forcing them deep into Noct’s center until they are buried completely.

Noctis lets out a choking moan, pitch rising high right alongside his legs as he lifts them to beckon all of Ignis’ amorous advances. Ignis hovers close above him, enshrouding him, pressing his hips into Noct’s ass while he fingers him, twisting and curling his long digits and growling possessively into his ear. Noctis is beside himself, whimpering and bleary eyed. He turns away from Ignis, pressing his cheek into the mattress and exposing the long lines of his neck. Ignis rumbles low in his throat, knowing Noctis is most sensitive there and wanting to save the sensation of that tendon between his teeth for the opportune moment.

“You sound magnificent, Noct,” Ignis manages to say, withdrawing his fingers from Noct’s body and reaching down to pull his own pants from around his waist. Noctis gasps and protests as though the sky had just fallen until Ignis guides the head of his cock to Noct’s entrance, pressing into his slick with just enough pressure to force Noctis to yield to him. He stops there, languishing, the sultry clench of the Prince’s body making him lightheaded. His pleasure radiates out into his fingertips and toes, it electrifies his brain and sends shivers down his spine. He has surrendered to the frenzy willingly, at long last, and he knows now that nothing in this world or the next can keep him from making a mate of Noctis. From becoming his alpha.

Iggy!”

The cry is so despondent that Ignis snaps briefly out of reverie, hesitating in a shallow pool of his own doubts that hadn’t completely dissipated. Knowing what’s to come, knowing that he won’t be able to stop once he’s past a certain point, he thinks again for his Prince’s well-being and pauses, half sheathed inside Noct and gritting his teeth to keep from closing the distance between them entirely.

“Highness,” he says, and he’s not even sure why that’s the word that fell from his lips, “I don’t know if you…I don’t know if you understand what will happen if you allow me—”

Just do it, do it, I’ve waited as long as I can,” he pleads, pawing at Ignis’ hips in a futile effort to drag him closer, to force him further inside.

Ignis braces himself on the bed, sliding in fully with one strong stroke that bends Noctis nearly in half. Noct keens high, a broken sound of utter relief, and when Ignis thrusts into him, tentative and shallow, it’s enough to turn the Prince into another person.

Ignis, do it. Harder!”

A request or command from his sovereign Prince is all it takes, all it has ever taken, for Ignis to fracture under the commingled weight of his duty and adoration, so he heaves into Noctis with abandon, finally choosing this very moment to bear down into his neck. He practically roars into Noct’s throat, maddened by the scent in his nostrils and the startled cry that rings out from Noct’s mouth. The pleasure coiled in his gut from before is beginning to sprawl open and he’s acutely aware that there isn’t much time.

Fuck, Ignis,” Noctis gasps, voice so laden with bliss that he sounds like a new creature, “I want it, I want you to knot me, I want you to do it, please, please—”

Again, the request seems to be all it takes to manipulate Ignis to the core, and he rises from Noctis’ neck to gasp for air as he comes, swelling inside of his Prince, the Prince he wants as his omega, muscles locking and mind going completely blank but for the blessed ring of his own name on Noct’s lips.

Noctis comes, shuddering as he paints himself in sticky white ribbons, tears streaming down his face as he stills beneath Ignis. He whimpers pitifully and twitches in discomfort for the first few moments as his body adjusts to the knot. Ignis kisses him, sympathetic, nuzzling him where his scent resides, licking the sensitive skin there affectionately as he cradles him as best he can. If he’d been thinking clearly, he wouldn’t have chosen this position for them to be fixed in as he knotted Noctis, but he slipped up and simply had to suffer the tired legs and arms in order not to crush him.

Knotting Noctis, he thinks.

For now, he endures no errant guilt or nagging doubts. For now, his heart is warm and his desires sated, and the only thing that really matters in all the world is that Noctis wants him.

Noct sighs suddenly beneath him, wrapping his arms around Ignis’ neck and humming contentedly. At least, he certainly sounded content, and no other thought has ever given Ignis more pride.

“Thank you,” he murmurs, and though Ignis can’t see his face he is convinced he hears a smile in that voice.

Ignis turns into his neck, speaking low with respect to his proximity to Noct’s ear.

“It is I who should thank you,” he replies, head still a little swimmy as he shifts a bit on his elbows to hold his weight above Noctis. He’s already pinned him in place with his knot, there was no use adding insult to injury by crushing the poor young man.

Noct laughs sweetly and it’s a divine thing, indeed.

“You should.”

Ignis runs the bridge of his nose along the line of Noctis’ jaw, eyes shut so he can block out everything other than the exquisite feel of him, the heat of his skin, the way his body tenses around his knot even now. He’s never felt anything like it and is confident nothing else will ever come close to replicating this little slice of absolute ecstasy.  

“Thank you, Noct. I am…grateful beyond measure,” he says, the last few words coming out more hushed than the first.

Noctis inhales so deeply that his bare chest rises to touch Ignis’. He falls silent for a few moments, breaths falling even over Ignis’ shoulder and arms still hooked around his neck. Ignis buries his face in the crook of Noct’s neck and shoulder, ruminating blissfully on the events that have come to pass.

This feels right,” Noctis whispers into Ignis’ hair as though it must remain a secret.

Ignis’ heart skips a beat, but even under the circumstances it was imprudent of him to leap to conclusions, so he errs on the side of caution as is his predilection.

“You will get a bit of respite before it sets in again in earnest.”

“That’s not what I meant, Ignis,” he responds, embrace tightening such that their chests are flush. Ignis is afraid the pounding of his heart couldn’t possibly be more obvious.

“Noct,” Ignis says, because for the first time perhaps ever, he doesn’t know what else to say.

Noctis clutches him as though he’s fearful Ignis may simply get up and go, even despite the absurdity of the sentiment given their current state.

“Tell me you don’t feel the same,” he almost accuses, and Ignis is caught up in his web, thunderstruck at Noct’s ability to reach right inside of him; to know what all his careful planning has been meant to hide.

“To say such a thing would be a lie,” Ignis replies after a few pregnant seconds of silence, unable to hide the devotion that imbues his words.

To give voice to such fragile, private thoughts is so profoundly against Ignis’ way that he can hardly believe he’s doing it. Noctis has done this to him; has broken down the already thin barrier between them and extended him an invitation that he almost didn’t take. He made it safe somehow for Ignis to submit to intimate things, and for that he was finding himself eternally grateful.

“You’ll…see me through the rest of this?” Noctis asks, almost as if he’s concerned Ignis might say no.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Highness.”

Noct trembles a bit beneath him and Ignis isn’t sure if it’s due to what he just said or the knot still pushing firm against his insides.

“It can’t be anyone but you, Ignis. Ever.

Ignis is suddenly dizzy, caught off guard by the fact that Noctis is just so affected. He wants to rise up, to meet Noct’s eyes, but the Prince still holds fast to him, clearly unprepared to set him free.

“Noctis,” he speaks low, languorous, still enslaved to the heady scent of Noct’s skin. “What are you saying?”

“You’ve always been there, Iggy. Right by my side. I never have to worry about anything.”

“It is my duty to serve,” Ignis responds without thinking, kicking himself just as soon as the words escape his mouth.

“Has it always been like that?” Noctis asks, sounding more inquisitive than hurt.

Ignis shifts slightly, trying to find comfort as his legs start to tingle with numbness.

“I suppose it is a mischaracterization.”

Ignis,” Noctis says, exasperated.

“My apologies, Noct, it…it’s difficult to put to words.”

“Try,” he urges him.

Ignis swallows hard, grateful for the darkness and the ability to fumble for his words without the scrutiny of Noctis’ gaze.

“I care about you deeply. I have only ever wanted to take care of you. I expect it was simply good fortune and convenience to call it duty.”

Noctis finally releases Ignis, cradling his head in both hands, blue eyes sparkling in the moonlight.

“It has to be you,” he says again.

“Noctis,” Ignis says absentmindedly, eyes resting longingly on his venerated Prince.

“Don’t say no, Ignis. You are my alpha.”

Ignis' heart swells so fully inside his breast when the magnitude of Noctis’ words envelop him, summoning such a torrent of adoration that he senses he may drown in it; allow it to pull him under straightaway. All these many years he truly had been filling that role for the Prince, a role he’d only allow himself to dream about on the rarest occasions, never once considering that Noctis may already see in him what he was desperately trying to hide, but yearning to reveal.

He feels the give in his body begin as his knot slowly shrinks inside the Prince, the conclusion of their mating rendering him faint with feelings of love-struck possession.

Yes, he thinks. I suppose I am his alpha.

“And you are my omega. You are mine.

---

Ignis sends Noctis to the bath at once, perversely proud of the way his mate is genuinely debauched, covered in Ignis’ bite marks and his own dried come, not to mention the slick that undoubtedly mingled with Ignis’ seed and fought free of the vise of Noct’s body. Ignis could see it streaking across his thighs in various stages of dry as he left for the bathroom.

The bedclothes are already a mess, unsuitable for a dog to sleep in as far as Ignis is concerned, but he knows the heat has its own time to keep so he resolves to simply take Noctis in his own bed when the next bout of need arises. Until that time comes, though, he follows his omega obsequiously to where he’s run a hot bath and crawls inside with him, sitting at Noct’s back and wrapping his arms around his torso. He nuzzles again at Noct’s neck, relishing the way the steam from the bath makes him somehow smell even sweeter. Noctis yields to his petting and his praise, drifting someplace far off, possibly even sleeping. Ignis doesn’t have the heart to disturb him until the water starts to look grim and turn lukewarm.

They rinse and dry off, or rather Ignis does most of the preening as Noctis is fatigued beyond measure, having endured not only the heat but presumably a night without sleep. Ignis is able to slide him in between the cool sheets of his bed before crawling in beside him, the urge to care for and protect his mate overriding every other sense or thought he’s ever had.

He cradles Noctis close to his chest, kissing the mop of hair atop his head and stroking his face gently with an open palm. He murmurs yet more praises into the dark, unsure if Noctis is even awake anymore but completely unconcerned. With Noctis here in his arms, skin still warm with heat even as he slumbers, Ignis can do anything. He can wait however long for this to pass. If he was being true, part of him wished it would never pass.

In the pitch black of Noct’s temporary chambers there ceases to be any task more pressing than seeing to the needs of his omega. There are no meetings or duties, no breakfasts or chores, no meaningless formalities. There is only Noctis and clarity pure as crystal.

“I am your alpha, Noctis,” he speaks into the darkness; almost as though he has to hear the words himself in order to believe them.

And I will do everything in my power to protect this.

Chapter Text

Noctis sleeps longer than Ignis expected that first night into the early morning, giving him ample opportunity to slip away and toss his soiled bedding into the wash along with stray articles of clothing that hadn’t made it out of the path of their more salacious activities. It’s early even for him, a prospect which wracks his yet weary bones with displeasure as he dresses for the day. He realizes the deed is almost pointless seeing as he’ll likely be wrested of his attire at length anyway, but he hadn’t packed for an easygoing trip and his only real options were button down and slacks other than sleep clothes, which he could never deign to wear day in and day out.

Noct’s scent slumbered as soundly as he, leaving Ignis the opportunity to plan what parts of the day he could, assuming it may be required that he feed Noctis at some point between sessions and sleep, finding it unlikely that the Prince could keep pace with his own heat without proper nourishment to couple with his rest. Loathe to begin cooking at the risk of having to stop abruptly to tend to Noctis, he preps some relatively simple but healthy alternatives to a full meal that can be accessed quickly. Noct’s picky eating made it a bit of a challenge, but Ignis was never lacking for motivation in that regard. Tending to Noctis had purely become second nature to him, and Ignis realized over the years that his nature was to nurture. It may very well have been his relationship with the Prince that led him to that discovery, in actuality.

To his surprise, his mate remains dreambound long enough for Ignis to complete his tasks without much hurry and return to the bed, anxious to check on Noct’s condition. He seats himself on the mattress beside Noctis, gently resting a warm palm on his belly through the thick comforter. Noct is lying on his back, head drooping a bit to the side on the pillow, lips slightly parted and breaths falling at perfectly even intervals. His arms are at his sides atop the comforter which stops just short of his chest, leaving him exposed to the keen scrutiny of Ignis’ ever watchful eye from the ribs up.

Noctis stirs and with it follows his scent, rising in a sudden miasmic burst that makes every hair on the back of Ignis’ neck stand on end. He’s suddenly aware that he’s been biting down on his bottom lip, not hard enough to break the skin but hard enough to have left indentations that he scrapes his teeth over repeatedly in an effort to stay present. Noct’s eyelashes flutter lightly, brows knitting just a hair as he draws in a timid breath through his teeth, looking so entirely vulnerable that Ignis feels his lust rise acutely from his groin, almost as if someone reached inside him and stuck it there with bare hands.

Ignis exhales, the broken sigh of a man realizing how fully he’s at the mercy of his baser desires, wondering if he should wake Noctis or allow him to wring whatever sleep he could from the next few days. His fingers twitch disobediently at Noctis’ stomach, animated more by the will of Noct’s scent than the will of their owner. Sliding his hand up until his fingertips graze Noct’s skin, he leans forward, shifting position on the bed to relieve some of the pressure on his already stiff cock. Noctis seems as though he’s close to rousing, color rushing to his cheeks and scent virtually billowing from him like a smokestack of pure sex. Ignis rests a hand on the bed beside him, allowing the other to roam the plane of his lover’s chest, pad of his thumb ghosting shamelessly over one of Noctis’ taut nipples.

The way Noctis fidgets and whines a little suddenly beneath him stops Ignis cold, but his ability to suppress his need is beyond compromised. Scanning the length of Noct’s body, he notices he too has sprouted a rather enthusiastic erection. It pulses defiantly up into the covers, practically waving Ignis down, so when he turns back to Noctis to be met with a flushed face and heightened panting, Ignis presses his palm down into it, trapping it against Noctis’ stomach. He doesn’t have time or the clarity of thought to really think about what he’s doing; to ask himself whether or not he should be doing it. But when his damned perfect omega lifts his hips up into the touch, Ignis is grateful to have accurately read and prioritized his Prince’s want.

Even now, still clinging to unconsciousness, your need is ardent, he thinks, pushing the flat of his hand down each time Noctis thrusts lazily upward.

Incredible.

That feeling of drowning, of going under, comes rushing back in a hot torrent as Ignis bends to lay impatient, greedy kisses across Noct’s chest and collar, lifting his head only when he senses movement and sound from Noct that suggests he may finally be waking.

Ignis is sure the look in his own eyes is predatory, though he tries his best to soften it at the sight of Noctis’ lidded eyes, blue as tropic waters and still puffy with sleep. Noct leans his head to the other side, never releasing Ignis from his gaze, that soft expression of intense hunger blossoming over his beautiful features; turning him into something immediately seductive and obscene. He parts his lips and Ignis leans in, rapt, unable to shirk the imagery that arises regarding the myriad ways he could derive rapturous pleasures from that precious mouth.

Already?” he asks, voice a raspy mewl, seemingly oblivious to the fact that his hips were by now several steps ahead in the process.

Ignis nods, a wolfish sound vibrating from his throat with enough menace to startle even himself.

“It would seem your body has begun without you,” he answers, dipping his hand quickly beneath the covers to coil fingers around Noctis, tugging firm but steadily in order to keep his mate sated enough not to fall victim to maddened frenzy. Each pull of his warm cock sends a jolt through Ignis that simply transfers from him to Noctis it seems, until Noctis arches his back rather dramatically and splays his arms out at his sides, gripping his sheets and grinding, head thrown back into the pillow so that his entire throat is bared to Ignis.

“That’s quite enough of that,” Ignis growls, powerless to withstand a second more. He clamps down on Noctis just above the hollow of his collarbones, sucking a possessive mark into his flesh as a reward to himself for good behavior. The scent overtakes him, so near to his brain that it dulls his thinking and sharpens his need like a powerful blade. He groans in surprised pleasure at the sensation of a hand kneading clumsily at his cock, quickened now by not only lust but heartfelt affection.

“Take this shit off,” Noctis hisses, pulling erratically at Ignis’ dick to indicate his pants apparently, and Ignis cracks a smile despite the thick urgency in the air.

“Of course,” he answers obediently, more than happy to defer to his mouthy omega so long as he’s blessed with the sight of him, and he is a sight indeed.

Ignis hurriedly removes his shirt and pants, all the while letting his eyes rove around the lines of Noctis’ body; the way his lean little muscles twist and coil beneath his skin as he writhes under the burden of waiting, the way he clenches and unclenches his hands around the crumpled sheets, the way he rotates his hips every time his immaculate cock jumps and smacks back down into his belly.

Ignis wants to consume him then and there. The deed has never been more singular in his mind than it is in this moment. He reaches down to seize Noctis in his hand once again, and curling over his naked body he devours him whole without a second thought.

Ignis! God—”

Noctis is overwhelmed, thought more than likely cut short by the sudden heat of Ignis’ mouth and tongue. Ignis revels in the feel of him, swallowing greedily around the warm press of his omega’s cock in his throat, thumb hooked around the base as the remaining fingers of the same hand dig wanton bruises into Noct’s hip and groin. He wails unfettered under the force of it all, attempts to thrust against Ignis’ advances all thwarted by the grip of a mighty hand holding him down at the waist. Even through his own fervor, Ignis can tell he’s dragged Noctis to the precipice of climax within seconds, so with all the strength in his muscles he could muster he snaps his head up, emancipating Noct from the winch of his throat with a sound both vulgar and wet.  

As he crawls up to Noctis he’s beset by demanding hands and despondent little moans, all things that make him feel wickedly accomplished.

“Together,” Ignis offers by way of explanation, hoping it’s enough to merit him a little forgiveness.

Noctis nods emphatically, twisting a hand up into Ignis’ hair.

Yeah, I’d like that,” he says, all breath, lips glossy with a sheen of saliva. Ignis kisses him merely as a means to taste him before sitting beside Noctis and beckoning him into his lap. He leans back against the many pillows of the bed, fancying this a better position to have should he knot his mate yet again. Noctis faces him, sinking into his lap when Ignis grasps him by both hips, halting his movements entirely.

“Turn around,” Ignis commands affectionately, squeezing and kneading at his Prince in a concerted effort to elude any exasperated ire that may bubble up out of his besieged little body. To his pleasure, Noctis obeys without a fuss, though he heaves and trembles as he turns, desperate for the pressure of something against his more intimate parts.

Ignis places both of his hands on either side of Noct’s neck, squeezing a little cry from him, before running them down over his shoulder blades, the small of his back, the swell of his ass where he lingers, again kneading with both hands, forcing little hisses and moans from Noctis that were trapped somewhere near the surface.

When he swipes two fingers through his slick he leans forward, forcing them through that familiar tight ring as he does, his other hand solid on Noctis’ hip. He tries to force Noctis gently down but he’s resisting him, body so tense with his own ardor that he doesn’t even seem to know what’s best for him.

“Sit, Noct. Relax,” Ignis breathes hot between his shoulder blades, and this time when he pulls Noctis down at the hip, he submits readily. With Noct flat in his lap his fingers are sheathed fully inside, the unfamiliar angle inducing new and exciting reactions from him. Ignis slides the hand at Noct’s hip forward to grip his cock, the shock of which causes Noctis to jerk in his grasp.

Fuck, Ignis…holy fuck.”

“Such a mouth on you,” Ignis accuses into the shell of Noct’s ear, drawing back to lick his nape with the tip of his tongue, teasing, before suddenly biting down hard into the fleshy curve of Noctis’ neck, practically tearing the gasp from Noct’s throat with his own teeth.

He pumps a steady rhythm into Noctis’ cock, even as his fingers dig feverishly into Ignis’ wrist and his delicious begging fills the room almost as densely as his scent does. Ignis continues to nip and suck at his back and neck, to bury his face in his hair and near his ear, growling profane things under his breath that put Noctis utterly beside himself. When it’s clear that Noctis is close again to coming, pitch higher than usual and dick leaking all over Ignis’ knuckles, the alpha frees him from his hold, pressing a hand into Noct’s back and folding him over. Removing his fingers from him, he pulls him open with one thumb as he guides his own cock inside, dragging Noctis down slowly so that he might enjoy the breathtaking view this position has afforded him.

When their bodies are finally flush and Ignis is seated comfortably inside him, he wraps both arms around Noctis and draws him into his chest as he leans back once more against the pillows, situating himself for the remainder of their coupling. Noctis spares no time clawing at Ignis’ hands, lacing their fingers together over his own chest and sinking backwards into his alpha. His head is thrown back against Ignis’ right shoulder, a lovely turn of events that begets a glimpse of Noctis that is rare indeed. He swallows down his strong desire to simply take what is his, lacing Noct’s jawline with tender kisses that are merely the faintest brush of lips.

“Whenever you are ready, Highness,” he says deliberately to return to Noctis some semblance of control before he loses it completely.

Noctis twists in his lap, moving erratically at first until he finds his pace, rotating his hips in what feels like a damn near perfect circle. It won’t take Ignis long, he knows, he’s been holding it back ever since he walked into the room as Noctis slept, so when that devilish boy reaches back to thread his fingers through Ignis' hair, gyration of his hips already devolving into rapacious bouncing, Ignis expels a gravelly sigh of relief.

Do it, Ignis, don’t stop.”

The knot about bursts out of him this time around, the sound and come and ability to process information all rising up and fleeing Ignis’ body as though in a mass exodus. The only reason Ignis is sure Noctis has come is because he can feel something warm splatter across his leg. Noctis sings into Ignis' ear a sweet symphony of cries laden with contentment, head still pressed firmly into Ignis’ shoulder. Ignis is suddenly aware of the pleasant give of Noct’s skin beneath his fingertips, and he kneads idly at the flesh of his chest as Noctis again adjusts to the swelling knot deep inside his body.

“Ignis…yes,” he pants happily, making a little choking sound when Ignis’ tongue makes contact with that sensitive area of his neck. “Why is this so good?”

Ignis can hardly think through the haze of his own pleasure and the scent radiating from Noct’s neck like the heat from a fire.

“You would find rutting against a wall most stimulating in your current condition,” Ignis jokes, making up for the dig by continuing to shower Noctis’ throat with attention.

Noctis snorts, releasing Ignis’ hair finally and returning his hand to that of his mate.

“Not this stimulating,” he retorts, adjusting slightly as he blesses Ignis with the gift of his full weight.

“Be careful,” Ignis urges, not trying to sound fussy but realizing he probably will anyway.

“I know,” Noctis answers, and he sounds annoyed until he turns to place a wet kiss to Ignis’ chin.

They look at each other as best they can given the somewhat awkward position. Ignis’ heart is suddenly light at the thought of Noctis’ words from before, seeing vulnerability in his eyes that he swore was never there prior.

“You shall have to eat before you rest this time,” he settles on a harmless subject in order to keep his mind clear. They are mated, and that means quite a lot, but past that Ignis doesn’t want to assume labels or roles that may not yet be there.

“I could eat.”

“You should, and you will.

Ignis can feel the chuckle that escapes Noctis more than he hears it, and he takes that as a subtle sign of acquiescence.

Chapter Text

Ignis follows Noctis down the hall and into the kitchen to the soothing sound of rain falling in tinny drops against the roof and outer sills of the windows. He keeps a steady hand at the small of Noct’s back, more to placate his own misgivings than that of his charge, determined to seize this opportunity to refuel the Prince before they fall victim to his lust or his lethargy once more. Noctis is uncommonly cheery despite his passing commentary on aches and pains that seem to be cropping up; a short list of tasks that Ignis makes mental note to tend to later on.

They help themselves to the finger foods that Ignis left on the kitchen island, Noctis leaning his elbows onto the cool surface as he fiddles with just about every morsel on a platter of crackers and expensive cheeses before finally settling on one he likes. Ignis pauses with his mug of coffee in hand, defenses too weakened to hide the disdain in his eyes caused by the untenable behavior. As opposed to admonishing the Prince, however, he allows his gaze to wander up the delicate length of Noct’s forearm, over his shoulders and chest, partially bare between the hanging sides of a dress shirt of Ignis’ that he’d slid onto Noct as he was rolling out of bed.

It’s the only thing he has on, a fact Ignis finds he can’t linger on without running the risk of growing hard yet again.

Ignis leans his lower back against the counter beside him, convincing himself he’s paying no mind to the sumptuous curve of Noct’s thigh as it disappears beneath the dangling shirt. Noct’s weight is thrown almost completely on one leg, the other bent lazily as he eats, the entire spectacle a pretty picture of something lewd enough to be a centerfold in a racy publication. Ignis swallows down his coffee right alongside his more carnal reflections.

“How are you feeling?” he breaks the silence.

Noctis finishes chewing a bite and swallows, peering sideways in Ignis’ direction.

“A little tired. Okay otherwise, though.” Another bite.

“Good, that’s good to hear.” Ignis falls victim to silence suddenly, but not entirely by choice. At a loss for what to say, he’s prey once more to his fears and insecurities, realizing now that their minds are more clear the gravity of what they’ve done together. For the first time perhaps ever, Ignis isn’t entirely sure how to proceed with Noctis. He inhales, hoping words will form somewhere from the ether and not abandon him in his time of need, but to little avail.

“Noct, I, ah,” he trails off, not even a firm grasp on what he wants to say before he says it.

Drat.

“You’re worrying again, aren’t you?”

Ignis turns to look down into the eyes of a rather playfully curious Noctis, empty mug still heavy in his hand, a security blanket of sorts. He clears his throat.

“I suppose I am. But always only the right amount,” he says as he turns to face the counter, placing the mug gingerly atop it with a soft clink.

Noctis regards the cup for a few seconds, eyes darting up to meet Ignis’ again when it’s clear the man hasn’t a more eloquent response prepared.

“What about?” he asks, and the glint in his eye, the way he holds the corner of his mouth just so, would lead any man to believe Noctis already had the answer. Ignis can’t help but stare back at him with breath frustratingly bated, lips parting to wrap around words that he’s yet unsure he has any business sharing.

Right,” Ignis says finally, nodding once. “It sounds a bit forward, however that’s necessary under the circumstances.”

He’s intentionally vague, but Noctis continues to regard him expectantly, worry furrowing his brow.

“We’ve both been experiencing quite a lot since our arrival. While I’m certainly not averse to it, I am having reservations about—”

He’s startled from his thought when a reaching hand grazes him above the left eyebrow and sweeps a few errant strands of hair from the space between his eyes and glasses. Warmth pools in his stomach the way an opulent whiskey might, and he hopes with all his strength that the way his eyes widen at the guileless touch is somehow obscured from Noctis’ scrutiny.

Noct,” he says in a lower tone, sighing in spite of himself.

“What? You look good with your hair down but I couldn’t see your eyes,” he answers so nonchalantly that Ignis has to wince when the words strike him. As a matter of fact, he all but flushes at the sentiment. He had the fortitude to clean up and dress in the morning, but he hadn’t bothered to expend the extra effort on his hair, and he was finding himself childishly pleased over that turn of events.

“I…thank you.” He swipes his own hand over the same path Noct’s fingers took as if to double check for strays, folding his arms at his chest when finished. “You’ve gone and disrupted my train of thought.”

“That’s fine. Sounded like you were about to say something lame, anyway,” Noct replies with a smile, straightening simply to turn and lean a hip against the counter. It brings him within inches of Ignis, facing him, wide band of his nude body exposed between the sides of the shirt. Ignis casts his eyes downward and away, if only to grope for some semblance of control over his thrumming insides.

“It must be said,” Ignis tries to sound stern.

“I don’t wanna hear it.”

Ignis closes his eyes, fists tightening at his ribs. Try as he might to remain focused, it’s Noctis in various throes of ecstasy that he sees painted against the veil of his own eyelids, and he clenches his jaw tight as Noct’s scent hangs ambient in the air, like the hum of a household appliance.

“Highness, you say such things so effortlessly now…” It’s not like Ignis to mince words, to leave his thoughts at Noct’s feet without giving them due clarity, however he knows Noctis is perceptive beyond even his own ability to grasp.

When his eyes dart over to scan Noct’s reaction, downright timid, he’s surprised to see the Prince looking rather put upon. Noctis shifts his weight from the island, drawing so near to Ignis that his little oppressed exhale can be felt on the bare skin of Ignis’ forearm. His eyes are stunning and glossy beneath dark lashes and a knitted brow, all features that torment and entangle Ignis on a near daily basis.

“You mean you don’t believe anything I said,” Noctis accuses him, words razor sharp as they cut Ignis to the quick.

Ignis is overwhelmed by the entirety of him, the woeful expression on his face, the way his scent seems to redouble its efforts to cloud every ounce of Ignis’ judgment. The fervor is returning to mix with his own plagued emotions in a manner that fractures not only his heart, but his resolve.

“You wound me, Noctis,” he says finally, voice reflecting his turbulent mental state only by a hair. 

Tch! I wound you?

“It’s not a matter of belief. I simply can’t bring myself to trust it.”

"Same difference, Ignis.”

Ignis can’t seem to hold Noctis’ gaze, the boy is utterly ablaze and threatening to immolate the both of them.

“Highness, I trust your word implicitly. I know in my heart you mean what you say in the moment, however…when the moment is past… when we’re forced to leave this place, to return to the palace, when your wits are about you and your choices are again infinite…”

…will you still want me?

Noctis sucks his teeth and tosses his head to the side as if to reiterate how earnestly he in fact, does not want to hear it.

“So what? I thought...? We mated, Ignis. I chose that, I chose to be yours. You’re saying none of that matters? That doesn’t mean anything to you?”

“It means everything, to me,” Ignis snaps in reply so quickly that Noctis nearly jumps back.

Ignis stuns himself by his own reaction, clearing his throat and turning his head away to look at the door, the couch in the far room, the gleaming hardwood floor, anything. Anything to rescue him from floundering helplessly beneath the steady impetus of Noct’s gaze. Under the spell of Noct’s heat, Ignis feels sluggish and ungainly; completely unaccustomed to the sound of his own voice and the ruthless pounding of his own heart. He’s losing everything to Noctis.

“You can’t even look at me.”

Ignis grits his teeth at the hurt in Noctis’ voice, suddenly appalled with himself for having lain it there by his own hand. Turning to him, he releases his arms finally from their defensive crossed position, letting them fall slack at his sides. All the muscles in his face relax as he softens, takes Noctis in, allows whatever magic Noct has cast to render him defenseless.

“Because looking at you has made me feel so utterly weak, Noct. It mortifies me.”

Noctis doesn’t respond, just bears the weight of Ignis’ contemplative stare as though he hasn’t been given permission to flee from it yet. In only a few short seconds, a thousand words seem to pass through his eyes, the nature of which Ignis can only speculate upon, but he senses they wouldn’t be much different than his own.  Ignis exhales as Noctis is suddenly on his toes, a hand pressed into the nape of Ignis’ neck. In the moment, he moves with such otherworldly grace as he closes the distance between them, and Ignis feels suspended somehow, as though he’s experiencing everything in slow motion.

He burns the image of Noctis into his memory, how his eyes are fluttering shut, flush fresh at his cheeks, full lips pursed ever so slightly, until the soft graze of them at his own lip prompts him to squeeze his eyes closed tight. Ignis wraps his arms feverishly about his mate as his head swims wanton in the sea of his scent, the warm flick of a little tongue parting his lips and receiving similar attention in kind.

Before Ignis is able to process what he’s doing, and certainly long before he is willing, he’s lifted Noctis onto the countertop to face him, hands searching his Prince’s body unencumbered only to settle one around his cock, the other at the small of his back. Ignis draws him close, awkward and hungry, mouth sealed against the tender flesh between Noctis’ neck and shoulder, hand stroking steady from base to tip, pulling Noctis toward him, pulling gasps from his throat and precome from his dick. He meets no resistance from his precious, precious omega, who braces himself on the countertop with one hand while the other rests about Ignis neck, hand clawing desperately into his shoulder. Noctis pants and whines sweetly, wordless, bereft of control and wholly unequipped to deal with it otherwise. The heat has wrapped round him tightly, like a ravenous, benevolent creature, and for the first time since they set foot in this cabin Ignis acts without thinking.

His lips are at the Prince’s chest, clamped around a taut nipple, sucking, coaxing gasps and curled toes and strong little hands twining into his hair. He drags his lips lower, catching dry on Noctis’ skin until he laps at him with his tongue, lavishing the dips and curves in his abs with care and affection. Tracing the lines of his body lower, he hums at the gentle graze of Noct’s cock against his cheek and jaw, a pleasant sort of warmth and hardness that sways his attentions, compelling him to turn and place open mouthed kisses up and down the length of him. He teases the other side of Noct’s dick with gentle fingers, pressing him firm into his parted lips and beckoning tongue.

Ah, Ignis…Ignis…”

They’re the first and only words the Prince manages, even as Ignis presses the breadth of his tongue to the base of a twitching cock, even as his fingers force surrender from the greedy suction hidden beneath a mounting layer of slick. Noctis keens and keens, his alpha’s name drifting from his throat, melodious, a clarion call that Ignis takes so deeply to heart that it blocks out all else in this insufferable world.

When Ignis hesitates for the sake of breath, Noctis digs his heels into the side of the island, kicking forward and twisting onto his belly, nearly kneeing Ignis’ glasses from his face.

Noct,” Ignis gasps, perplexed, as Noctis reaches behind himself to claw at Ignis shirt clumsily. He strains on his toes and in his eyes, pleading, presenting himself to his mate in passionate appeal.

Realization blooms hot across Ignis’ face as he rests a palm flat against Noctis just south of his lower back.

Noctis, let’s move elsewh—”

No, now,” he begs, pressing a cheek to the surface of the counter and splaying both hands out at his sides, elbows bent drastically. “Ignis, now. Ignis…”

His better judgment nowhere to be found, Ignis slips himself from his pants, kneading gently at Noct’s ass with one hand as he tries to situate his cock with the other. The angle isn’t quite right, so he hoists Noctis up by the waist with both hands, leaving his legs to dangle helplessly over the edge. Noct  grunts in momentary discomfort, a reaction which gives way to anticipatory moans as Ignis guides the head of his cock once again to his entrance, sliding stiff against the pliable warmth of Noct’s cheeks. Ignis inhales sharp through his teeth when he meets the heat of Noct’s slick, clenching his jaw and clasping his mate by both hips once he feels that telltale yield, followed by the intoxicating grip of Noct’s body. This is the moment; the exact second when everything shifts from Ignis’ control, as if he could simply let go and allow Noctis to swallow him up. His will is gone, ephemeral, a thing so infinitesimal in his mind that he can scarcely believe he ever relied upon it.

Noctis uses his hands for leverage, throwing his weight into Ignis’ hips ass first, ripping a surprised cry from Ignis and a full bodied jolt to match.

By the Six, Noctis, you’ll kill me yet,” he groans, leaning over him to brace himself on the counter with both hands, heeding Noctis’ silent demand and pinning him to the island as he fucks him ardently and without distraction.

There’s little Ignis can focus on, little he can see other than the scar snaking across the center of Noctis’ back, all sinew and muscle and shuddering with the strain of Ignis’ purposeful thrusts. He can’t tear his eyes from it, panting open mouthed on Noct’s olive skin, beset by the sound of a young man’s voice; a young man more familiar to him than the back of his own hand, a young man speaking words Ignis never thought he’d hear and spent a short lifetime convincing himself he had no right to long for.

His own climactic cry is so agonizing, he scarcely recognizes it. Can hardly believe it’s come from him, but it has. From someplace deep within.

“…nna be alright? Ignis? Ignis?”

He shakes his head, blinking away whatever phantom reality drew him so far away from Noctis’ voice in the first place. Leaning closer to Noct, he sees the fret in his omega’s features and his heart sags.

“I’m sorry, Noct?” He has to push his glasses up on his nose so many times, he simply removes them.

“I said are you gonna be alright? You kinda scared me.”

“My apologies, I…surprised even myself, truly.” He sinks slowly to his elbows in an effort not to shift much during the knot, pressing the front of his body flat into the curve of Noct’s back so he could hide sympathetic kisses in the unruly tresses of his hair. Noctis all but purrs in satisfied appreciation, bending a knee between Ignis’ legs and brushing a heel against his thigh.

The talk and touch lead Ignis inexorably back to his good senses, reminding him what a fool he’s been to take Noctis in such a detestable and uncivilized way, subjecting the Prince of Lucis to the cold, hard, filthy surface of a kitchen countertop. He’s even further disgusted with himself for enjoying it, laden with guilt over the indecency of it all. And now he knots his mate in possibly the least comfortable position imaginable, simply because he could not wait.

Gods, you’re toying with something beyond your reach, he thinks to himself as he runs his hands up and down Noct’s sides and over his arms, still kissing at his ear and the back of his head and neck, nuzzling, comforting.

Noctis breathes evenly, so still that Ignis is almost convinced he’s fallen asleep, when he sucks in a quick breath.

“Everything fine?” Ignis asks quietly, lips pressed to Noctis’ ear.

“You won’t leave me when we get back, right? I don’t want you to…push me away.”

Ignis attempts not to rise up as the wind is knocked clean out of his body.

“There’s no reality in which I would ever do such a thing,” he says, the shock evident in his tone. It was always like Noctis to be blunt, he’s honest but he’s certainly not the most eloquent at conveying his emotions, but the sheer directness of the question pressed into Ignis like the point of a spear. “I could never abandon you, Noct. So long as you wish to have me, I would stay beside you until you require me no more.” Even saying the words puts a knot squarely in Ignis’ throat.

Noctis lifts his jaw, nuzzling up into Ignis as best he can under the circumstances. The gesture is returned without hesitation.

“No. Not require, Ignis. Want. I want you. I think…I always have. I don’t want anyone else. I won’t want anyone else.”

Ignis is nigh to trembling, hearing with complete clarity what his Prince, mate, and omega, is trying to say. He buries his face into Noctis’ neck, bested by something that felt a great deal like relief.

Noctis,” he whispers against Noct’s skin.

The young man with the familiar voice stirs.

Stay. Forever.”

Between them, something ruptures.

As you wish...my love.”

Chapter Text

The rest of the day is an ignominious blur of limbs and sticky messes and halfhearted attempts at harmless tasks ultimately left incomplete. Noctis’ heat flares in grandiose plumes at sporadic intervals, and like a good alpha Ignis chases them down, every one; indefatigable in his intent not only to satiate his mate, but to thank him in so doing. Somewhere, in the recesses of his mind not muddled with lust and apprehension and latent fear, while he fucks Noctis on the floor beside his bed, the bed he refused to climb into because for some reason arousal turns Noct into a downright bellicose little letch, Ignis is determined to show gratitude to this enchanting soul that deserves all the stars in the night sky. And, oh, if he could just show him, just lessen the burden of his intense desire, just ease the tension and fuck him back to well…

Ignis clears his throat, thrusting a hand through his hair to get it out of his eyes, though it all flutters immediately down to cling to his forehead again. Noctis is half asleep in the living room upon the couch, television humming with the sound of over the top ads that are several decibels louder than needs be. It had been perhaps an hour since the last time he took the Prince in a dreadful haze of his own, having at least made it to the bed that particular go round, lack of sleep delivering him into the embrace of some rather embarrassing coital speech that he wouldn’t dare repeat even at gun point, and the ease with which such indecency slipped from between his teeth had him heading directly for his own bed once Noctis was cared for and could bear some time alone.

He rested the majority of that time, much to his surprise, and it’s only the detestable buzzing of his phone that rouses him to a seated position in his bed. Grabbing at his glasses and arranging them neatly on his nose, he grimaces at the screen before swiping to answer.

“Gladio,” he says by way of greeting, grit from sleep still residual in his voice.

“Hey, Iggy,” Gladiolus answers from the other end, sounding a bit cheery from what Ignis could glean.

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” He massages his temple with the fingertips of his free hand, by no fault of Gladio’s. He’s simply not used to this constant level of…activity.

“Just checkin’ in on you and his Royal Highness,” he responds with no small degree of cynicism. “Let me guess; he’s unconscious, right?”

Ignis considers lying, but only briefly.

“Likely, but he’s been through quite a lot. I can’t find it in my heart to blame him.”

Gladio is quiet for a beat, then makes an annoyed sound.

“The hell are you two doin’ that’s got him so compromised?”

“Nothing,” Ignis answers a little too quickly, and he knows it’s a grave misstep. Gladio is quite capable of cunning just as sure as he’s capable of brute strength.

That means you don’t wanna tell me.”

“It’s a sensitive topic, I will concede to that. However, at the behest of the King, I think it best you leave well enough alone.” Ignis has self-preservation on the mind, of course, but also is sincere in his desire to avoid ensnaring Gladio in any of the borderline treasonous acts he’s committed himself to since arriving in northern Insomnia.

Tch, and here I thought we were close. Never imagined you of all people would insult my intelligence,” he replies with an air of judgment despite the ribbing tone.

“What are you on about?”

“There are whispers, Iggy.”

“Whispers?”

“Yeah, all around the Palace. About why the precious Prince was spirited away by his faithful steward.”

Ignis freezes, nearly chokes audibly. His mind reels but he’s grasping desperately for the right words to keep from arousing any more of Gladio’s suspicions.

“The clucking of hens makes no matter.”

Come on, Ignis! You want me to believe you’re out there alone with him, with him, and it wasn’t orchestrated?”

“Orchestrated by whom?”

Gladio actually laughs.

“You’re not this dense. You know it’s true.”

Ignis prickles at the direction the conversation has taken, not remotely able to face down his innumerable unanswered questions about the King’s ministrations with Noctis only a room away and potentially in need of attention. Ignis’ attentions, specifically. The commingling of the two thoughts leaves him feeling utterly disgraceful.

“That isn’t entirely appropriate, wouldn’t you agree?” A question to dodge answering a question.

“Since when have your feelings been appropriate?”

A bitter silence.

“That’s quite enough, Gladio. I won’t abuse my station.”

Gladio grunts and sighs into the receiver, making certain his dissatisfaction is a known priority. He takes a deep breath, holds, exhales. Exasperated.

“You’re not lying to me, are you Iggy?”

“Not yet. Although I think it best that you inquire no further, lest I have reason to.” It was a hard-nosed answer that he was well aware would play nicely with neither Gladio’s temperament nor his concerns, but Ignis’ desire to express finality regarding the subject was paramount.

“Have it your way.”

Hm. Surprising.

“That’s not the only thing being whispered about.”

Ignis stiffens yet again despite his relief over potentially dropping the matter of he and Noctis altogether. Something about the shift in Gladio’s cadence alarms him.

“Go on.”

“There are concerns over some sort of diplomatic envoy. Seems like some of the Nifs may be showing up to the Palace.”

Preposterous.”

“Think so? It ain’t just cooks and chambermaids gossiping over nothing. This is higher ups. I can’t say for sure obviously, but it seems legit.”

Ridiculous. Bordering on impossible.

“Diplomatic? It hasn’t seemed as though relations between Niflheim and Insomnia could even graze diplomatic in a generation.”

“Again, whispers. But I thought you’d like to know, regardless.”

“Yes. Thank you. It certainly gives one a lot to consider.”

“Understatement.” Gladio audibly shuffles. “Listen Iggy, I gotta go. Watch your back out there, and the brat’s.”

Ignis scoffs, but takes the sentiment to heart.

“Likewise, Gladio.”

When he hangs up, he stares down at the phone in his hand, worry furrowing his brow as the enormity of what he’s been told sinks into every atom of his body. Surely, these two events cannot be linked. Regis had been anything but clear in his instruction that Ignis take Noctis so far from the Palace, but Ignis had never the breadth of imagination to conjure up such a possibility as this.

He is starting to wonder if Noctis had in fact been in immediate danger, and thus was hurriedly shooed away from—

From what , Ignis?

He shakes his head, wondering now if the compounding surrealism of his current situation isn’t clouding his ability to reason. All things considered, it’s highly unlikely that the timing of Noctis’ heat was merely a coincidence. Better to put the extreme out of his mind and focus on this task, this immediate responsibility, and deal with the validity of far reaching claims when he has the leisure.

Such musings bring him decisively into the present, where he finds that he ought to check on his mate’s condition before long. When he pads quietly out of his room and down the hall, he realizes the sun has already set completely, leaving the living area dark save for the bluish hues cast by the television. It appears to be playing some crime drama or another that Ignis thinks unsuitable for restful sleep, but the grievance passes quickly when he eyes Noctis stretched long over the couch.

Noct is already staring at him as though he was aware Ignis was on his way, a fact he nearly misses due to the manner in which the garish flashing from the television falls over his face, subtly changing or outright obscuring it. He’s bare from the hips up, flimsy grey sweatpants clinging to every curve of his groin and thigh in that way that chokes each molecule of air from Ignis’ lungs. He pauses at one end of the couch, feeling Noct’s glare rove over him from the opposite end as keenly as if it were a physical touch.

“How are you feeling?” Ignis asks, though the meaning behind it is more akin to ‘is it time?’

The question is, without doubt, formality. Ignis hasn’t exactly gotten used to Noct’s scent, never would, but it has dulled to an ever present buzzing around his ears until, all at once, it beats its mighty wings and becomes a maelstrom from which there is little recourse. At present, Noctis appears to have a wingspan a mile wide.

The silence is ethereally deafening.

Noctis doesn’t answer; hardly moves but for the lazy spreading of legs to reveal a dark stain between them that was visible even in the erratic light. Ignis catches his gaze as every hair on his body stands on end for what must be the sixth or seventh time in less than twenty four hours. Noctis doesn’t merely beckon, he pleads without a single word, without even the curl of a finger or the slightest nod of the head. He snags Ignis in the haunting melancholy of his beautiful eyes and the familiar scent of his slick, dragging him effortlessly to kneel at his side.

Ignis makes a noise somewhere between a growl and a purr when he revisits his favorite spot high on Noctis’ neck and inhales, nuzzles, claims. Noctis responds in whines that vary in tone and pitch, each individual sound a cue that Ignis has already catalogued and memorized from now until the day he ceases to draw breath. A restless hand finds its way into Ignis’ hair so he leans into it gently, drawing back just enough to meet warm lips and even warmer breath.

I need it, Iggy,” Noctis whispers so low that Ignis could hardly hear it beneath the intermittent hum and clamor from the television. “But…I don’t think I can take it,” he says with such dejection that Ignis’ heart is heavy with it.

Odious guilt rears its ugly head as Ignis peels the slick sodden pants from his omega’s legs and tosses them aside, placing reassuring hands all about his body and resting them heavy; tension in the fingertips so that Noctis could feel that Ignis was there, present, every atom within him.  He wastes no time sliding an arm beneath one of Noct’s legs as he remains knelt beside the couch, all four fingertips curling warm over the soft, wet contour of a cheek that leads to the sensitive heat of what is clearly an oversexed hole.

Ignis stops, lets his fingers linger without probing inward, much as his growing desire is beginning to leave him punch drunk. This near to his slick, Noctis smells differently; somehow more raw and sweet, and it threatens to render Ignis a slave to his own cravings, a thought which terrifies him beyond words. Noct stirs at his touch, a twitch of the hips that reads more like discomfort than anticipation. When he settles in, Ignis takes the opportunity to assess Noctis with careful tips of the finger, tilting his head to draw his nose along the length of cock jutting up before him in silent entreaty. He hopes the tender attention will keep Noctis sated and preoccupied, however when he presses inside as delicately as he can manage, he’s immediately aware that he must consider other avenues.

Ah!” Noctis jolts, clearly too sore to take even the comparably light treatment from Ignis’ hands.

He detests that he’s done this to the Prince, to royalty, to his charge and his responsibility. However, the side of him—the side that is fast consuming him whole—that prioritizes only his omega’s every need and meets it with a strong will and a weak heart, knows that this was clearly an outcome on the horizon. Not that it is easy for him to slough off the shame of having harmed his mate despite his concerted effort to alleviate the burdensome lust that simply must sap him of every ounce of his energy. Truly, if Ignis nearly crumbled to fine specks of dust at every intake of Noctis’ scent, then being Noctis must be an altogether overwhelming prison.

“Too much?” Ignis asks, meeting Noct’s eyes as he struggles to stay calm, to control the fire in his blood beating hard and fast and loud.

Noctis nods, and how the apologetic look in his eyes simply cracks Ignis in half.

“It hurts…too sore…”

“Don’t worry, Noctis,” he coos under his breath, using every ounce of his determination to exude compassion and consolation even though he’s sure that his eyes radiate that selfish sort of greed that Ignis has come to acquaint himself fairly regularly with over the past few days. He withdraws his fingers, rising up on his knees to kiss the mat of hair sticking to Noctis’ forehead. “I won’t harm you.”

“Touch me,” he begs, so Ignis obeys, wrapping long fingers loosely about his cock, already cognizant of the fact that this touch simply will not be enough; will not offer his mate the fulfilment that he desperately seeks. It won’t leave him pink and happy and stretched full from within. It can’t displace the feeling of emptiness and leave behind the contentment that comes with being whole; with intimate attachment that seems, every time, to border on the cosmic.

“Sit up,” Ignis commands quietly, bracing Noctis with one hand while he keeps the other busy at the Prince’s neglected cock. “Try.”

Noctis peels his back from the couch in agonizingly slow movements, clearly begrudging the demand either because he is assaulted on all sides by his need or because the sum of all their trysts has left his body an aching mess. As Ignis pulls Noctis toward the edge of the couch by the hips, situating himself between shaky, pale legs, he makes an internal vow to dote upon his mate to his heart’s content after bringing him.

Their eyes lock and hang in the balance for what may have been seconds or perhaps minutes, Ignis couldn’t be sure. Noctis looks as though he has a million faces in the flashing lights, or perhaps Ignis’ mind is too muddled by his aroma yet again, and the tears wetting his lashes, and the few strands of hair caught in his breath as he pants open mouthed and hungry and spent. Inexplicably, Ignis is overcome by the desire to beg him for forgiveness; for what, he has no idea. For everything? For nothing. Not a single thing makes sense anymore…

He bends, wordless, dragging his tongue from the base of Noctis’ cock to the tip, where a sudden jounce had Noct leaving a streak of precome across Ignis’ cheek. He doesn’t bother to wipe it away, merely gazes at a breaking Noctis before him, both hands grasping gingerly at the Prince’s ass. The boy gasps audibly when Ignis runs both thumbs through the slick along a swollen rim and pulls.

“Noct. Remove my glasses. Please.”

Noctis is rapt, wide eyed and unexpectedly present. He reaches a trembling hand forward to pluck the frames from the strong bridge of Ignis’ nose, setting them aside on the couch just as Ignis closes his eyes and dips his head.

Noctis’ slick has its own sort of flavor; a tang, a thick, meandering thing that Ignis can’t imagine going another day without for as long as he may live. He licks broad, lazy strokes with the flat of his tongue repeatedly over Noct’s battered hole, nodding with each pass and pressing evenly over the twitching flesh. With every clean swipe Noct’s body re-lubricates, and Ignis thinks it ought not be so bad to have a belly full of Noct’s slick.

Noctis, on the other hand, seems altogether mollified and horrified, crying out all jittery and fractured, but it doesn’t sound like pain.

Thank goodness.

His assault on Noctis is slow and deliberate, careful in a way that he’s amazed to find himself capable given the fact that he’s close to buried completely inside of Noct’s sex. He flits the tip of his tongue along the outer rim before letting it dart inside to test the severity of his omega’s reaction. The hand twining in his hair coupled with the pitiful whine spoke the volumes Ignis was hoping for.

More,” Noctis mewls, pressure in his hand a little frantic at the crown of Ignis’ head. “More, Ignis…”

Ignis keeps his eyes shut but he can still tell from the jostle of Noct’s balls on his nose that he is tugging at his own cock. The thought cuts a smile into Ignis’ face just before he seals his lips around Noctis and sucks, moaning into him as his hands tighten about the Prince’s hips to draw him firm against the press of Ignis’ depraved kiss. At least, he certainly felt a tinge of depravity in the act, no matter how badly he desired to take Noctis by every possible inch, and no matter how justified he could be in doing so.

Noct’s back rises in a beautiful arc, face twisted into a look of utter bliss; mouth wide around a silent cry. He heaves for air when Ignis forces in a persistent, warm tongue, laving dutifully against the shuddering walls of Noct’s insides. He isn’t as tight as Ignis expected; not fighting to push him out right at the onset, perhaps due to the abuse meted out by his own cock and knot, but it isn’t a bad thing by a long shot. Against the affections of Ignis’ tongue, Noctis is warm and malleable, open and ready to be taken someplace gentler, softer, perhaps more placid.

Ignis endeavors to deliver him there, the slide of Noct’s slick against his chin and cheeks and mouth as he squeezes the boy tight against him encouraging him ever forward. Noctis’ cries, which tumble from his lips at a new and intoxicating register, encourage him forward. The vulgar, wet sounds against his own skin and Noct’s encourage him, set him afire, black out everything and everyone and everywhere until Ignis groans and Noctis is weeping, body wracked with aftershock and weeping. Oh, he is weeping, as Ignis gasps for air, bleary eyes straining to focus before he remembers that he doesn’t have his glasses, but that doesn’t matter.

Noctis is literally weeping.

Ignis clambers up between legs yet trembling in the wake of orgasm, crawling toward Noctis and smearing the boy's come between them as it seems he’d released on himself at some point during Ignis’ absorption in his previous task. He’s dumfounded, both hands reaching automatically to stroke Noctis by the face, thumbs spreading slick over skin that was meant to be wiped clean of tears.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Ignis admonishes himself, pulling at the collar of his own shirt to dry Noct’s eyes and then rub his own face clean. “Noctis, what’s the matter? Does it hurt? Please, gods, don’t tell me I hurt you—”

Noctis shakes his head even as a few more tears push through the curtain of his eyelids.

No,” he says, and the word is broken in that pitiful way that words are when crying catches them in the throat. “No, it was perfect, it’s just…I’m just…”

He and Ignis seem to fight momentarily over who will wipe away his tears before Ignis clasps him by the wrists, worried and more than a little perplexed.

Noctis. Open your eyes.

He obeys. The sight of this boy in tears is almost more than Ignis can bear. He has seen him cry in the past, has even held him and comforted him through some of those times, but this goes far beyond the pale. Noctis has been stricken by something, just bowled over by it, and Ignis is at a complete loss as to whether or not he should press him on it. For the moment, he’s not even confident the knot in his throat will subside enough to grant him the capacity to form words.

“It’s good, Ignis…it’s so good, and you’re just perfect, and I’m so…”

“Hush. You’re in need of rest.”

Noctis blinks several times, inhaling a stuttered breath.

“Will this feeling ever go away?”

Ignis has been absentmindedly stroking at Noct’s face and lips and hair the entire time.

“It won’t last forever, I promise.”

Noctis almost looks like he doesn’t believe him, but then he stretches his arms out and wraps them about Ignis’ neck, sighing, collapsing. Falling.

“I’m sorry I’m like this, Iggy.”

Ignis finds his favorite place high on Noct’s neck, nuzzling, deflating, seeking comfort.

“Don’t ever apologize to me, Noct.”

It was a valiant effort, but it wasn’t quite enough.

Chapter Text

Despite the fact that Noctis sleeps through the entire third night without so much as shifting positions, by midday Ignis is left with garish scratches to his neck and shoulders that bleed and sting, and if he weren’t so sleep deprived himself he might entertain the idea that he has ventured far further into dangerous territory than is remotely wise.

Has it been four days? Four?

Ignis can’t quite place the time, which is a terrifying prospect in and of itself. He feeds Noctis well, tries to give him teas and snacks that will help him sleep, sate him in other ways so that he may heal and return to something resembling normal before a seemingly insurmountable drive overtakes them and Ignis simply cracks under the pressure of fighting, withholding, resisting.

At some point there is another doting bath, during which Noctis paws at the markings with wet, apologetic hands, utilizing one of his few lucid moments to plead for forgiveness while blissfully unaware that bath salts and soaps do little to soothe open wounds. Ignis tries not to visibly wince, taking his wrists in hand and speaking gentle words that assuage Noct’s frankly adorable, however misplaced guilt.

The day slides by distant and lazy, almost as if Ignis is adrift face up in warm waters, blinded by the light of the sun and deafened by the water in his ears. He nods off more than once, losing time, waking cross-legged in the leather armchair in the living area half dressed, then again hours later in the evening on the couch, fully dressed and sitting bolt upright when he forgets where he’s been for the past few days and struggles to regain his senses. He has never been more disoriented in all his life that he can recall, and his memory is a bit of a steel trap.

Gladio calls late into that very evening, a fact which Ignis would find strange had he the presence of mind to notice. He says he’s checking in again, or some such, however it turns out to be merely a guise to justify more political gossip, something Ignis simply cannot entertain with the Prince tugging idly at his waist from behind. Noctis is waking again in the night, his aura far from lost on Ignis, who sounds more than a little terse when he addresses Gladio about all the probably nothing he bothered to call and fuss over yet again.

He can’t help it. There is no front or façade any longer; every brick that made up Ignis’ defenses has been supremely obliterated.

He blames his mood on the late hour and dismisses himself, half tossing the phone onto the bedside table and turning at once to curl an arm over Noctis as he prepares to mount him for another blessed, cursed time.

Gladio speaks of talk and whispers, but Noctis’ warm, pleading whispers are the only ones that pierce the barrier of Ignis’ haze.

 

---

 

Fifth day, and Ignis is up early and prepping Noctis’ morning for him, making breakfast and pulling clothing and other personal items from Noctis’ bags and drawers as he sleeps. It seems he only half unpacked, which Ignis couldn’t possibly blame him for under the circumstances.

This must be nearing its end, he thinks as he places a tall glass of water on Noct’s nightstand beside his contraceptive. It is intensely personal; simple and familiar, something Ignis had been helping him keep track of for years now. Of course, in this new, uncharted context, Ignis finds himself hot under the skin, standing stock still at Noct’s bedside and staring down at the fraction of his face exposed beneath a mess of tangled, dark hair.

Ignis has had sexual encounters in the past, of course, but never has he been with an omega in the midst of their heat. He had ridden out his own ruts in voluntary isolation like a good servant to a royal house, or like any good unattached alpha as far as he was concerned, always taking care to keep well enough away from Noctis and have the Prince’s entire schedule plotted out for the week and tended to only by the most trusted hands. He’d return to his duties with his pride and reputation still intact, and if it weren’t for his week long holiday falling during mating season, staff in the palace would be none the wiser regarding his placement in societal structure.

When Noctis came of age, Ignis was tasked by the King with working the contraceptive into Noct’s routine.  It was something Ignis was always meant to play close to his chest, as Noct’s status as omega was more or less brushed under the rug. Ignis never pried in this regard, never asked questions, only understood that Regis was doing as he saw best for his son, considering his safety and privacy as paramount, precious things, and ultimately Ignis agreed. Noctis masked his scent, was safe from unwanted conception, so when his first heat did finally reveal itself, he would not have to suffer some of the same vulnerabilities common omega have to contend with. Palace walls kept him safe, but they also kept him curious and naïve, and upon rare occasion Ignis would find himself fielding some fairly personal questions from the Prince.

All of this has somehow culminated into a series of events that brought Ignis to where he now stands, in a cabin he hadn’t known existed merely a week prior, with a mate he couldn’t have dreamed of claiming in his wildest and most permissive dreams, and somewhere in the recesses of his mind he knows he’s far too calm about it. Noctis’ little exhales can be heard in time with the rise and fall of his chest, a caught patch of hair trembling in its path.

Ignis is rapt, and this time he is positive it has little to do with Noctis’ scent.

 

---

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever been hungrier,” Noctis croaks as he rounds the corner into the kitchen merely an hour later, presumably nude beneath the shirt Ignis wore the previous day. Ignis has a brief moment of internal crisis as he turns from the counter, deciding whether or not he finds the Prince in day old clothes a touch odious or altogether alluring, given that Noctis does appear particularly delectable in his clothing. Especially in the morning. And especially without pants.

“Then you’ll be pleased to know I had ample time to prepare you a proper breakfast,” he slides the already plated omelets and seasoned potatoes before Noctis as he reaches high to rummage through the cupboard for a coffee mug. The oversize shirt gaps at the chest, buttons fastened crooked, revealing a string of marks and bruises from sternum to the column of Noctis’ neck, and Ignis half turns, trying and failing to justify his actions and weigh them against his own little brandings of devotion. He raises his mug to his lips, his own plate of food in his other hand. “Seeing as you were kind enough to wait a bit to grace the wakeful Lucis with your presence, of course.”

Noctis makes a face at him that’s all eyebrows as he pours the mug half full with hot coffee before dumping an alarming amount of sugar in it.

“Is coffee really the best course of action, here, Noct?” Ignis finally asks disapprovingly.

“The hell’s that supposed to mean?” The mug now has so much creamer added that it appears to be full.

“It means that if anything I should be calming you down, not riling you up.”

“You don’t seem to mind it when I’m riled up,” Noctis answers with a clever grin, turning into Ignis and hiding a warm kiss behind his jaw, just beneath his ear. Ignis swallows audibly, still enamored by Noct’s willingness to show him passing affection.

“Fascinating,” Ignis says, following close behind as Noctis makes for the small, round table at the front of the kitchen, the same table at which Noctis administered his unique form of triage on their first night in the safe house. “The rate at which you’ve learned to disarm me could set one’s head to spinning.” Noct’s proximity, however brief, left an intoxicating cloud of his scent clinging to Ignis’ skin, the kiss still burning into his neck, tingling as if to force Ignis to relive its placement repeatedly. He unconsciously rubs at it as he brandishes fork to omelet.

Noctis shovels food into his gullet in a way that threatens to steal Ignis’ appetite. It’s behavior he would simply never tolerate were they in the Palace, and Ignis is suddenly acutely aware that, oh yes, there’s a life to return to in which he is this young man’s Chamberlain. His mouth goes altogether dry.

“When do you sleep, anyway?” Noctis asks out of the clear blue, mouth half stuffed with potatoes.

Ignis blinks away encroaching dark thoughts, replaying Noct’s question in his mind until it invariably sinks in.

“You needn’t worry yourself with such things. Your rest is to be prioritized. It is you suffering the physical consequences, after all, far be it from me to make grievances.”

Noctis knits his brow at that, fork in hand, watching as Ignis takes a wary bite. He’s suddenly fearful he said something he hadn’t meant to say, or said something with hidden implications. Perhaps it is fatigue, but he finds himself again replaying dialogue internally.

“You never know when to stop working.”

Ignis makes to respond but catches himself stunned. Noctis takes to his omelet as if Ignis might snatch the plate away.

“I’m not even sleeping that well. Can’t stop having dreams,” he says, this time doing Ignis the courtesy of swallowing before he intends to speak.

“Not uncommon given restless sleep.”

Noct pauses for a fraction of a second and Ignis swears he can spot an almost imperceptible roll of the eyes, but he’s wiped his plate clean and is back on his feet before a response settles itself in his brain. He throws the dishes in the sink with a clatter, running water over them and rinsing his mug.

“I’ll take care of all that,” Ignis insists, increasingly bewildered the more he tries to understand what is going on. Staying so long in this place, enveloped in Noct’s scent and delivered to another plane of reality, another headspace entirely, has left him frighteningly ill equipped and slow to react.

“Fine,” Noctis shuts off the water, turning to make for the long hall to his room as his slender fingers start to pick little buttons free from their loops. “I’m gonna take a bath before whatever decides to happen happens. You can come if you want.”

The last few words echo down the hall as Ignis sits dumfounded at the table, half eaten breakfast going cold, which will undoubtedly render it inedible by his lofty standards. The last thing Noctis’ tone implied was that he had any interest in Ignis joining him, however the invitation was extended nonetheless. Is this the heat? Or is Ignis merely too delirious and sensing tension where there is none? More likely, he’s too delirious to be capable of exposing the source of it.

He puts forth his greatest effort not to think about the kiss at his neck, the scent in his nose, the sound of Noctis’ borrowed shirt making contact with the tile floor of his bathroom before he extends one long, graceful leg over the edge of his tub.

At the sound of water running, he rises automatically to his feet.

 

---

 

That night before bed, Ignis finally discovers what Noctis’ come tastes like and decides point blank that he’s rather fond of it. He lets it sit thick on his tongue before swallowing it down, luxuriating in the way it lingers everywhere that it touches as it slides through his throat and into his belly.

“You don’t have to look so ecstatic,” Noctis says beneath the crook of his arm, voice muffled and face flushed pink.

“Am I not permitted to enjoy it?” Ignis asks, accusatory, as he eases up beside Noctis and pulls covers about them.

“I didn’t know you were such a perv.”

Noctis turns into Ignis, face drawn into the crevice between neck and shoulder, before taking Ignis’ stiff cock in his hand. Ignis huffs out a chuckle, a sharp rise of the chest that Noctis can feel in his body.

“Seems an unfair allegation considering the source,” he muses, and wraps his fingers gently around Noct’s wrist.

“Let me do you,” Noctis pleads, but Ignis is already prying his fingers away, ready to bear the brunt of his petulant, sex-drunk ire.

“Another time, Noct,” he commands softly.

“But you’re still—”

“And I’ll be fine. It is very late and you are very much in need of rest.” Ignis kisses the top of Noct’s head, keeping hold of his wrist as he folds it up close between their chests. His other arm he has wedged beneath Noctis and he uses it to pull him close, pinning him and stripping him of options that don’t involve unconsciousness.

Noctis yawns.

“…You’re kind of an ass.”

Ignis laughs affectionately under his breath.

“Again, unfair considering the source.”

“Next time,” Noctis demands, already half asleep.

Ignis nods, head heavy against the pillow.

“Next time.”

 

---

 

Hands. Warm, strained, clinging.

The pressure at his back is what wakes him, having shifted in the night in such a way that Noctis was playing big spoon to Ignis’ little despite the visual incongruity. Noctis is wrapping trembling hands about him, face digging hard enough into Ignis’ back to be uncomfortable.

Ignis can tell that he’s awakened, though it takes a moment for him to come to his senses in the dark and realize that Noctis is talking to him. Carefully he turns, hoping Noctis will release his hold enough for Ignis to face him, but the agitated Prince instead clambers into his arms, forcing Ignis the rest of the way down in his haste.

Noctis?” Ignis yelps in surprise as arms grasp at his sides and a head rests heavily at his sternum. He pauses momentarily in shock, arms hovering over Noct’s back as his brain labors to find purchase in the corporeal. He’s hot; impossibly hot, it seems, and just as Ignis lets his hands descend to embrace his omega, just as he expects the impatient nips and bites and the searching hips and the begs for debasement, Noctis raises his head, half lit by the moon.

“Don’t let me fall back to sleep, Iggy, please…”

Ignis is too perplexed, having readied himself mentally for this to be yet another result of the heat, even finding himself growing hard against Noct’s bony hip. He collects his thoughts, runs a consoling hand through Noctis’ hair. His temperature has Ignis wholly concerned.

“Are you ill? Did you have a nightmare?”

Noctis sags, his forehead resting flat against Ignis’ chest.

“Yeah…the second one…”

“It’s alright, Noct. It was merely a dream,” he pets in order to soothe. “A terrifying one, if your condition is to be believed.”

Noctis takes a few deep breaths, sinking into Ignis and clearly meaning to remain there for the duration.

“You must go back to sleep at some point, my love. It was just a dream, after all.”

Noctis answers with the shake of his head. Ignis sighs.

“I will hold you here until you sleep. You are safe, I can promise you that.”

There’s a strange silence between them as Noctis fidgets, the kind of silence between two people pretending not to notice one another; the kind of silence that speaks on its own. Ignis can’t say with any degree of clarity what has been gnawing away at the Prince every night as he slumbers. Actually, the more he considers it, the more he kicks himself for not noticing signs prior. Their shared fatigue seems to be both masking everything and magnifying everything at once.

“What has made you so agitated?” Well, if he wasn’t going to sleep anyway…

“What do you know about the Astrals?” Noctis asks abruptly, sounding as far from tired as Ignis has ever heard him.

Odd question.

“Perhaps more than most, only because I’ve come across them in my studies. Why do you ask?”

“I keep dreaming about one,” he answers, lying completely still in Ignis’ embrace.

“Is that what this is about?”

“Yeah. Been almost every night since we got here.”

“Is that so?” Ignis inquires, wondering just how he managed to miss night terrors so completely.

“Mhm. This one was the worst though. It was, ah…trying to talk to me, I think?” He shudders and Ignis’ arms tighten around him.

“Enough, Noct. It wasn’t real, and you’ll never rest if you force yourself to relive it like this.”

The authority in Ignis’ tone is palpable and absolute, and to his relief Noctis says not another word about it as they lie abed together in the darkness.

What’s happening here? Ignis asks himself.

What’s happening is that the entire bloody world seems to be tipped upside down.

In truth, what Ignis knew about the Astrals probably didn’t amount to a great deal more than anyone else knew, though he prided himself on his interest in the more magical aspects of Eos’ history and structure, especially as was relevant to Insomnia’s great need.

Perhaps this is all a fat lot of nothing. Perhaps it is simply chronic, borderline delirium brought about by the continued stress on his mind and body that the heat has wrought. More distant still, it could be Noct’s proximity to the plane of the Astrals as the crystal’s Chosen King, filling his unconscious mind with myriad divine imagery. Interesting to consider, that, however unlikely.

At any rate, Noctis falls asleep at last amidst Ignis’ musing, and with heavy lids Ignis can tell he’s not long behind. Despite the whimsy of it, despite even the frivolous nature of the thought, Ignis wonders as he drifts away if reality itself isn’t merely a dream. Half conscious, he thinks he laughs, but he can’t be sure.

Whose dream?

Chapter Text

“Ah! Ignis-“

Already Noct is making that face—the face—that he makes every single time he comes; when his eyebrows furrow high on his forehead and his jaw hangs slack, as though stuck at the crest of a sharp inhale.

Ignis grips him firm by either hip, digging fingers into his flesh harder than usual as he strains to keep focus in the living room armchair, where Noctis saw fit to trap Ignis between his rather convincing thighs early enough in the morning that the coffee in Ignis’ mug had yet to enjoy its inaugural sip. He bucks rapaciously in his alpha’s lap, announcing his coming orgasm before releasing messily across Ignis’ abs and chest. The warmth of both his come and his cries never cease to fall short of maddening, and just as Ignis’ cock jolts inside the Prince, he heaves him upward with an agonized grunt, coming hard in several streams that hit Noctis like a shot.

Noct twitches in surprise with each splatter of contact, still clearly in a haze imparted by his own climax as Ignis clenches teeth in a grimace due in large part to the exposed and unattended swell of his knot. With an exasperated exhale he opens his own eyes, startled by the shock in Noctis’ own as he glances down at Ignis’ cock, still pulsing with a different kind of need, then back up.

“What the fuck did you do that for?” he near shouts, energy still thrumming in his veins just beneath the skin. Ignis has to shake his head free of grog in order to speak clearly.

What?”

Noctis shifts his weight from one knee to the other, throwing his hands between them to indicate the very obvious result of Ignis’ actions.

“Are you kidding me? This! Now you’re—, I mean I’m not—”

Ignis rests his head against the seat, sliding his hands affectionately along the sides of Noct’s body.

“I didn’t want to risk hurting you again, nor did I want you trapped here like this on my account,” Ignis says warmly, touch apologetic as he squeezes Noctis at lazy intervals in an attempt to soothe.

Noctis sags, sitting back on his heels. The expression on his face is curious; one of total disbelief as he rests his hands atop his own thighs.

“When are you gonna stop making decisions for me?” he asks, the depth of his hurt not fully clear to Ignis until he makes to leave the armchair and fails, held fast by an unrelenting grip.

Wait, Noctis,” Ignis pleads, leaning forward and brushing his beleaguered cock against his own belly, stifling a pained groan. “I never meant to upset you.”

Noctis is quiet for a moment, refusing to meet Ignis’ eyes as he pouts unrelenting. He hangs his head after a while, falling somber as he places his palms over the hands at his waist.

“You’re so damn selfless that you’re selfish, Ignis.”

It’s a sentiment not unlike some he’s heard before, but never from Noctis’ own lips, and never have words cut him more deeply.

“I…am sorry, Noct,” he admits, for certainly it would feel entirely better to be knotted within his omega than without, though his scent had finally begun to ebb in the past half day. The cold, sticky mess between them stops Ignis short of gathering Noctis into his arms, so he stills a little awkwardly with softening eyes, hoping he hasn’t done more damage than can be repaired in the span of an embrace. Or two.

“What about what it does for me? You’re going through this on your own now, and…it does more than just hurt me, ya know?”

It’s clear the this and it in question is the knot still vigilant in Ignis’ lap. He regards Noctis thoughtfully, heart suddenly swelling with a peculiarly timed pride, though not without a dingy edge of guilt and self-shame.

“You’re right, Highness,” Ignis purrs in an effort to seduce Noctis to forgiveness, but instead Noct reddens and playfully slaps a hand across his shoulder.

“Don’t Highness me,” he complains from behind a half smile, yet irritated but losing the ability to wear the guise of it.

“Forgive me,” Ignis entreats low in his throat, hands roaming the curve of Noct’s ass and grasping.

Noctis sighs, peering down at Ignis finally beneath half lidded eyes and dark lashes.

Fine,” he murmurs begrudgingly, shifting enough that his soft cock rests gently on the knot. Ignis sucks in air through his teeth in response. “Just don’t do it again. It’s my time to just…be close to you. And I like that part.”

Ignis nods wordlessly, entranced by the weight of Noctis’ words and the heavy presence of his stare. Something seems less sharp about him now that the fervor from the heat is fading; there’s a clarity that Ignis couldn’t quite grasp before, a sincerity that he feels utterly baffled he ever missed. This is a side of Noctis that wants not just for him to simply take care, but to take heed. This is another facet of his charge that he had yet to unveil, because truly, he’d never given himself the leeway to consider unveiling it, and the prospect suddenly bested him whole.

“Of course, Noct. Whatever you wish,” Ignis starts, but Noctis is soon leaning forward in search of a warm mouth, an eager tongue, a relieved moan. He holds his faithful steward still by the lips, laving into him; forgiving him, punishing him, rending him fully apart. Noctis sighs into him like an overtaxed machine expelling excess steam.

Ignis has never felt more lost in a kiss.

---

Long after they’ve cleaned up and dressed themselves, Ignis finds himself tidying his own room, picking it apart and neatly returning its contents to the luggage from whence it came. Oddly enough, it’s right around the time he is fretting hardest over how best to transition back to the Palace that his phone rings from the nightstand across the room. The sound about startles him, as does the prospect of interacting once again with members of the outside world. Turning from his luggage, he leans over the screen to discern the caller before pulling it from its charger and raising it to his ear.

“Cor?” he answers a bit perplexed, hoping his surprise isn’t too evident in his voice.

“Ignis. Is the Prince safe?”

Straight to business, as usual. Something Ignis always appreciated about Cor Leonis.

“Of course. Is he required at the Citadel?”

“Yes. It should be safe to leave the area at this point.”

Safe?” Ignis exclaims involuntarily, back stiffening as he attempts to read meaning between lines.

“Just return at your earliest ability. Make sure he’s taken directly to his chambers.”

“Of course, I can return him as soon as this evening, however is something the matter?” It was already strange enough that Cor should be the person making this call when so far all of Ignis’ orders have come directly from the King, but given his position in Crownsguard with respect to Cor, his line of questioning would only be entertained so far.

“Consider your task fulfilled, Ignis. Make contact when you’re near the Citadel.”

Ignis nods despite standing in the room alone.

“Understood.”

“Take care,” Cor replies in a suspiciously hushed tone before hastily disconnecting the call.

Ignis holds the phone out as if to inspect it, brow knitted in something resembling displeasure as he considers his next course of action. The kaleidoscopic bubble that he and Noctis have enjoyed since arriving at the safe house was certainly always meant to burst, but Ignis was becoming downright anxious over the result of such an abrupt end. He could hear Noct shuffling around in the living area, up to what he’d no idea. His scent is already noticeably absent, now dissipated so greatly that the Prince could resume adequate control over it, a fact which both pleased and wounded Ignis all the same.

Cor is Crownsguard. It is perfectly normal that he should make such a call.

Nevertheless, it means that the overtly intimate nature of this mission, of which Ignis is now quite sure Regis was well aware, has become priority to more than simply Ignis himself and the Caelum line, and the prospect only makes him flush brighter and worry with twice the intensity. It should make him feel safer that Crownsguard was privy to their location all this time; however it instead fills him with ominous feelings of overexposure and protectiveness, his duty clearly coming to odds with his alpha nature that Noctis has unwittingly tapped into.

Noct, Ignis thinks.

Supposing now is as good a time as ever given the sudden urgency in their time table, he stalks down the hall and into the living room, finding Noctis fully dressed on the couch, fiddling with a rod and reel, looking content as Ignis has ever seen him. Ignis pauses at one end of the sofa, hesitating long enough that Noctis notices his presence and flashes him a smile full of teeth.

“Hey, where you been? I was gonna go out and see what I could catch since I’m mostly back to normal.” He nods in the direction of the house bearing the man made pond and the glint in his eyes nearly capsizes Ignis’ heart.

“About that, Noct. While I’m loathe to be the bearer of bad news, it would seem we are needed at the Palace.” He pauses for effect. “At once.”

Noctis’ nimble fingers come to a halt as his smile fades, drawing his eyebrows inward until he appears downright displeased.

What? Did something happen?”

“No, everything is fine,” Ignis answers a hair too quickly, not even sure if the sentiment is honest. “We have simply been commanded to return. It is well enough, Noct. We have enjoyed quite a few days abroad, as it were.”

Noctis makes a face, rolling his eyes as he glances away to survey the room.

“Yeah, yeah…I kinda liked it, actually.”

“I should hope so,” Ignis says softly, allowing himself the moment of vulnerability. Their eyes meet, and Noct’s expression warms.

“C’mere,” he demands, patting the sofa cushion to his right while resting the fishing rod along his left shoulder like a weapon. Ignis takes a seat at his side, leaning into the Prince to receive a kiss along the jut of a cheekbone; merely the faintest brush of full, warm lips.

“You don’t want to return.”

“Not at all.”

“I would be more than happy to arrange for an excursion were the fish your source of heartbreak.”

Noctis shakes his head, wearing a rueful smile.

“That’s not the only reason, Iggy. I just…have a feeling.”

Ignis considers the entirety of everything down to the last molecule; even Gladio’s several phone calls.

“I won’t allow anything untoward to come between us, Noctis.”

“I know, Ignis, I know you won’t. I guess I’m worrying over nothing. It’s just,” he trails off, clearly eyeing Ignis’ hand rested at his knee before wrapping gentle fingers around it, growing quieter. Growing still. “I mean the entire time I’ve been here, I was just…”

Touched?” Ignis adds, a sympathetic grin appearing despite the heaviness of the atmosphere. Noct smiles knowingly, absorbing the double meaning.

“…Yeah. Quite a bit.”

Ignis squeezes his hand and holds, rising to his feet as he releases.

“You should pack your things, my love,” he says, using the term of endearment to coax Noctis from his dark place and perhaps soothe and reassure. Ignis can only hope. “Whether either of us likes it or not, I must take you away from here with all haste.”

“You’re sure we can’t stay? We can’t call and make up some reason?” Noctis is gazing up at him with his most pleading eyes, lips parted, expectant. Ignis shakes his head apologetically, wishing that he had the power beyond his station that would grant him authority to make such a decision.

“I cannot, Noct. Please. To your room,” Ignis implores, standing aside so that the Prince could make his mopey exit.

He does raise up, expelling air through his teeth in obvious disapproval, trudging eventually down the hall to leave Ignis standing alone in a room that has become suddenly oppressive and unfamiliar.

Perfect, he muses to himself. If neither this place nor your home seem tenable, perhaps you should simply leave Insomnia altogether, Ignis.

---

The sun hangs low in the distance when Ignis finally finishes straightening up the cabin, sitting their baggage beside the front door as orange hues meld with deep purples in the sky where they commingle, transforming an Insomnian night into an utter work of art. Noctis is doing a final sweep of his quarters at Ignis’ behest, and just as he’s inclined to believe the Prince remembered everything, he rounds the corner and makes his way to the door, toothbrush in hand.

“Almost forgot,” he laughs, unzipping his duffel and jamming the utensil into a pocket, coverless. Ignis contorts his face only slightly.

“I may see that you’re outfitted with another, regardless.”

“What? Whatever. You ready to go?”

Ignis nods, turning the door handle and shooing Noctis over the threshold, bending to grab the remaining two bags in one hand. The evening glow spills into the cabin, illuminating it almost romantically after he shuts off the final light, and he can’t help but hazard a final look.

Unlikely, all of this has been, and unlikely still that Ignis would ever return to this place. This place he never even knew existed prior to last week. This place, that has somehow become a safe house in the most literal and figurative senses; a microcosm. The plane on which he was permitted to dream past his self-imposed limitations and reach out to touch something divine, fingertips grazing a cosmic truth beyond his ability to comprehend. Noctis had always been important to him, ‘important’ seeming too small a word, laughably inadequate to describe exactly how or when or why Ignis couldn’t fathom his own life unaligned with his Prince’s. Light gleams from the countertop in the kitchen on which he burned the image of a slithering scar into his brain, taking again something that never belonged to him merely because it was offered. The hall fades into almost pitch black, where he can see himself against a locked door in agony. His grip inadvertently tightens around the doorknob. The couch nearly faces forward, Noctis draped across it in tender distress, until Ignis is all at once overwhelmed by every sound uttered within these walls over the past week. He buckles at the knee as he shuts the door and gasps once, vision a little hazy as he snaps out of reverie, animated by the distant sound of a familiar voice.

“Ignis? Are you alright?”

Noctis touches him lightly by the shoulder, other hand resting at his forearm as he bends the hip to lean his face close enough to Ignis to inspect. He’d ditched the bags half way between the patio and the Regalia, a fact which warmed Ignis’ heart despite his nagging, however distant concern over the cost of having them dry cleaned.

“Yes, I’m fine. I must have suffered a bit more exhaustion than I’d expected.”

“You gonna be okay to drive?” Noctis asks with a look of concern as Ignis straightens.

Ignis chuckles, ducking to Noct’s side and descending the stairs as he digs in his pocket for keys with his free hand.

“That your way of asking for the wheel?” he calls over his shoulder as he draws near the Regalia, leaving Noctis to gather up his bags and trot over to the trunk.

“You’re a real smart ass, ya know?” he complains through a smile as Ignis pops the trunk remotely, neatly arranging his own luggage inside before meeting Ignis half way round the car and taking his as well, closing the trunk lid with a loud snap after filling it with all four bags. They slide into their respective seats in unison.

“You must be rubbing off on me, if that’s the case,” Ignis replies as he takes key to ignition, belts buckling and radio stations being toggled. He adjusts both mirrors and glasses before glancing one last time at the cabin, pond glittering in the late evening, before gripping the gear shift with the tight squeak of a leather glove, pressing his slender foot to the gas pedal.

On the road, Noctis is quiet, though he doesn’t opt for sleep, which Ignis can’t help but be somewhat alarmed over. The ride home is several hours and even well into the first hour, once the sun has finally set and the lights along the highway crisscross in attractive patterns across the Prince’s skin, still he is wakeful and silent. Ignis uses it as an opportunity to fret unabashedly against his will, reframing his mind to return to life in the Citadel; to answer to not only Regis for what has gone on over the past week, but eventually everyone. Gladio’s warnings bubble up from someplace inappreciable, making themselves known the faster the wheels of the Regalia bear them to their destination.

Bizarre, yes, that Noctis should be sent far from home without his shield, even given Ignis’ capability with a weapon. Until this point, he’d thought it merely an indication of the relaxed nature of the excursion; however with Gladio’s talk of whispers and Cor’s sudden involvement, he couldn’t be so sure. Ignis is Crownsguard, but he’s no Amicitia. Gladio is poised to be to Noctis as Clarus is to Regis, so why leash him on such an occasion?

Unless it was more important that he remain near the King than the Prince.

Not possible. What circumstance could merit the need for all defenses? Particularly when the Prince himself wasn’t at the center of such a phalanx.

As Ignis takes the last exit ramp before the Citadel, he rouses Noctis from his own potentially thoughtful and restless daze.

“Noct, do me a favor, please.” He pulls his phone from where it rests in the center console and hands it to him, keeping his eyes fixed dutifully on the road.

Noctis sits up sluggishly, taking the phone in hand and waiting for further instruction.

“We’re nearing home. Call Cor.”

Chapter Text

They were met with curiously little welcome upon returning to the Citadel, most notably absent being the King himself. Though not likely for any old event to merit the personal scrutiny of the King, Ignis did consider it rather disconcerting that he failed to be a greeting party as his son was finally delivered home; instead ferried safely into the usual car park by an alarming number of arm waving Glaives. He was even more disenchanted when Regis was neither waiting patiently within the antechamber nor Noct’s own quarters, finding it increasingly difficult to bridle his wayward concerns lest they degenerate into wild speculations the likes of which Ignis was unwilling to prioritize given his very present apprehensions over the state of he and Noctis. 

Night had long since fallen by the time they padded quietly through the halls lit primarily by moonlight spilling in from the tall windows, Ignis’ footfalls echoing with the clack of expensive dress shoes as Noct’s drag of booted feet gave away his lethargic state. With a gentle hand at his back he’d shuffled Noctis into his rooms with all of his things, pausing to receive a bleary eyed kiss on the cheek and a hardly intelligible good night before turning to make his way back to the elevator, eager for it to carry him to his own floor with his own room where he could at last lay his head someplace familiar.

Cor made it exceptionally clear that Noctis was to be sequestered until the following morning when they both could be privately briefed, a term which gave Ignis immediate pause. Regardless of peculiarity, his heavy eyelids could not be convinced to remain open for much longer than the time it took to deposit baggage on the floor, find fresh sleep clothes, brush teeth, and crawl between cool sheets, exhaling every thought, whim, and worry that he was quite sure would tarry till the morning.

--- 

He turns out to be mostly correct, though his rest was fitful to say the least. The briefing with Cor ends up being mind numbingly basic and fruitless in terms of information, other than the fact that his schedule seems to be stuffed full over the following week with busy work and meetings. In fact, Ignis is suspicious that his time is being intentionally misused to the degree that his contact with Noctis appears nonexistent; and that thought is highly unsettling.

When he asks Cor why Noctis isn’t present, he simply asserts that the Prince has other duties per the King, and because Ignis is convinced that every soul with a set of eyes and a functioning nose can easily sense the sins on his skin, he presses no further.

That very day, Ignis attends a meeting on the state of crumbling Insomnian infrastructure in more challenging areas and the means by which the Monarchy could be of aid despite the intrinsic mistrust of the Crown in such low income spaces. Filler work, essentially, when all the rumors are flitting about and Ignis can barely focus through the rising irrational panic of one newly mated alpha. He can’t help but wonder constantly at the back of his mind what Noct’s precise location might be, and how quickly he could get there, and if any of this is real or simply biological instinct. Mercifully, the meeting is dismissed without him being called upon to interject, and he stops in the hall to shake a few hands with mid ranking officials as they file out one by one.

“Iggy,” Gladio calls from behind, the gravity in his tenor instantly tensing Ignis’ shoulders.

It is the first time they’ve seen one another since his return, and it is one of the multitudinous moments he’s been fiercely dreading whilst simultaneously steeling himself over.

“Gladio,” Ignis turns just in time to witness him stop a few steps away and cross his arms, cocking his head to one side in a way Ignis wasn’t entirely sure he liked. “What has you in this wing at such an hour? Is the Prince not training this afternoon?”

“I wouldn’t know, he’s with his father.”

An awkward pause.

“And that…vexes you?” Ignis asks, unable to deny the way Gladio’s brow furrows in concern. Different than his resting scowl.

“I know he’s got priorities and duties and all that, but I’m typically still kept in the loop. I’m supposed to protect him, after all. Can’t do that if they keep sending him away.”

They glower at one another for a long moment before Ignis clears his throat.

“I’m sure it’s nothing to be alarmed over,” he offers, not even believing his own sentiment.

Gladio suddenly surges forward, a large hand tight about Ignis’ upper arm as he leans close, tone dropping low enough that, were there any passersby left, they wouldn’t be able to hear. Ignis tenses again, not expecting the sudden closeness and fighting the urge to reject it outright, teeth clenching and eyes growing wide behind his glasses as he struggles to suppress a scent that he knows lies thick on his own skin.

Something is definitely very wrong here, Iggy, I know you don’t want to see it, but—”

His eyes, which were previously scanning the hall for onlookers, lock with Ignis’ as he draws away slowly; indignation blooming over his features as realization strikes his thought process down.

“What the hell have you done?” Gladio asks rhetorically, as Ignis is aware he already knows the answer.

“Nothing I wasn’t asked to do,” Ignis protests somewhat indefensibly, prepared for the turn in conversation as best as he’ll ever be.

“Are you insane?! Any idiot alpha is going to smell this on you, not to mention the King. You just gonna tell him the same kid that asks to skip breakfast talked you into this?”

The malicious dig of his fingers into the meat of Ignis’ arm sends a spark of prideful enmity through him, coaxing a terse jostle that frees him from Gladio’s grasp.

“Unhand me, I’ll have you know I’m prepared to answer for my actions. But I will not belittle the Prince, nor rob him of his personhood.”

“Oh, is that how you’re going to justify it?”

“Certainly, but not to you,” Ignis snaps, straightening the lapels of his jacket and wearing a fierce expression of what he knows is unearned entitlement.

Gladio balks, huffing out a discontented noise as he turns, hands on his hips, shaking his head.

“I’m just telling you, as a friend. You’re being an idiot,” he says finally, head half turned to peer over his shoulder.

“Duly noted. However, there’s nothing for it now,” Ignis makes to leave, stopping in his tracks when a tinge of guilt renders him cold. “Feel free to pretend this conversation never happened, Gladio.”

As he rounds the corner to his next meeting—this time with palace staff—he realizes it is far beyond an Amicitia to lie to the Crown, even by omission, and he can’t help but bear the weight of that on his shoulders for the remainder of the day.

--- 

The following week is fraught with business as usual with every official other than the ones Ignis needs to meet. It becomes clear through the hushed whispers of everyone from cooking staff to cleaning staff that something is very much amiss in the Palace, although Ignis had a reputation to maintain regarding gossip and chatter, so typically when such conversations could be heard between young maids or busboys, he simply removed himself from the situation or interrupted them outright, overloading them with duties to keep their hands at least as busy as their mouths.

His suspicions mount night after night as his exchanges with Gladio fall to a single grunted word and his ability to see Noctis becomes nonexistent. As his Chamberlain, it’s highly alarming and agonizing on a personal level, not to mention the way it haunts his sleep, leaving him agitated and restless in the morning. With what little free time he has he eats hastily and checks on Noct’s chambers, always finding them woefully empty but for the alluring scent of him that clings to the sheets and the curtains and the carpet and the upholstery. On several occasions he’d waited there, convincing himself it was because he’d hoped to catch the Prince between meetings and not because this scent is the only thing settling his shot nerves.

In reality, both things are true.

At one point, he even passes Prompto as he exits the elevator, spinning on his heel and pressing his palm to the automatic door in an attempt to keep it ajar.

“Prompto? I wasn’t aware you were visiting the Citadel today. Are you seeing the Prince?” Ignis asks, trying not to sound as desperate as he’s sure he appears, reading the odd look of surprise in Prompto’s eyes.

“Y-yeah, I mean, I’m on my way out now. I’ve been here all afternoon.”

Ignis takes the information like a punch to the gut, but straightens nonetheless, neglecting to remove his hand from the elevator.

“Of course. And he was well, I assume?”

Prompto laughs nervously, smile fading just a bit when he realizes that Ignis is quite serious.

“Well…yeah. We just hung out. He seemed kinda tired, but that’s all.” Prompto wrinkles his nose, gaze falling on the arm keeping the elevator door from closing. “You, uh…you think I could maybe go home now, Ignis?”

Oh, right, right. Pardon me,” Ignis stammers as he pulls his hand away. The door closes finally, Prompto bidding him goodbye with a soft nod and a wave.

Ignis is immobilized there in the hall for a few moments as his mind races between a hundred different emotions, not the least of which is sheer outrage over the fact that this visit was unbeknownst to him; the caretaker of the Prince in question.

Before he knows it, his percolating rage has led him straight to Cor’s office in the wing of the Citadel reserved for Crownsguard. He barges into the room, reports still tucked close to his chest, seething as Cor looks up from his desk, pen hand slowing to a stop as he knits his brow in discontent.

“What’s the meaning of this, Ignis?”

“With all due respect, Marshal, I might ask the same. What is going on in this palace when the Prince’s own Chamberlain is unaware of his schedule?”

Cor squints, clearly missing the weight of the situation.

“What?”

“Visitation is to be cleared, sir. Through myself, firstly. Who, may I ask, is taking on my duties as I traipse from one insipid meeting to the next, in a constant state of tedium that renders me unable to do the one thing for which I was trained?”

“You don’t find my orders to your liking?” Cor sounds threatening, but it seems to Ignis as a superficial thing, barely skin deep.

Why are his daily whereabouts being kept from me? Am I being reassigned after so many years of service? Have I been found wanting? If so, I simply ask that I be made aware—”

“Calm down, Ignis, calm down,” Cor placates him as he stands, making his way around his desk until they are face to face. “There’s a lot of rearranging going on, but your post is not among those tasks. I’ve kept you busy as the King has kept the Prince busy.”

“Why?” Ignis asks upfront, emboldened.

“It’s not for me to tell. You and the relevant Crownsguard will find out soon enough. Take tomorrow to yourself. I’ll see that Prince Noctis does the same.”

Ignis can barely believe what he’s heard, going silent for a few beats in order to process the information piece by piece. Cor’s expression is unreadable, a fact which only serves to make Ignis uneasy.

“Of course, sir,” he answers finally, still coming to his senses even as he bows and excuses himself, apologizing for the curtness of the interruption.

He’s distracted as he walks the long hall back to his wing of the Citadel, the evening sunlight spilling in from the tall windows and warming the right side of his body. If his gaze wasn’t cast down he might’ve noticed Noctis rounding the corner toward him before he heard his voice; let his scent set all of his dulled senses suddenly alight.

Ignis!” his voice calls out before his palms are wrapped tight about his alpha’s shoulders, shocking his system enough that the packet of reports hits the ground with a flat thud.

“Noct,” Ignis exhales, his own hands coming up to grip at the Prince’s wrists as his familiar aroma overwhelms. Not like the heat, not because it is particularly strong, but because it is soothing and customary and intimate, and Ignis has had to go without it for days longer than he’s ever had to so far in his young life. Without thinking, he curls to bury his face in Noct’s neck, snapping back to the odious present when his affection is met with an exhausted and telltale sigh from his omega.

“Where have you been?” Noctis asks, making a little hurt noise when Ignis pulls them apart and holds their hands between them.

“The Crownsguard has kept me inordinately busy,” he replies lamentably, powerless to resist the inherent longing that gazing into such starved and curious blue eyes always stirs up. “Forgive me, I haven’t tried hard enough,” Ignis continues, admonishing himself.

“No, no, no, it’s okay. They have me doing a bunch of crazy shit, too. It feels like they’re about to send me off again.”

Noctis leans forward, clearly searching for more, more of Ignis than he was willing to give in a public hall of the Palace, spotlighted by the glaring sun.

“Noct, please,” Ignis dodges his advances, tone pleading. “What do you mean, send you off?

Noctis sucks his teeth, retreating only long enough to answer the question.

“Who cares, I’ll tell you later, can’t we just—”

He tugs Ignis by the wrists toward the opposite end of the hall, eyes darting around all the while, until they are obscured in an alcove created thanks to an aptly placed pillar. Noctis is so determined that Ignis has to anchor a hand against the wall to keep from colliding with the Prince and crushing him into it. He doesn’t seem to mind though, as his hands find Ignis’ waist and impatient lips find his neck.

Noctis,” Ignis hisses, his free hand snatching at demanding fingers. “Not here, you must be discreet.”

A literal growl issues from Noct’s throat as he nips a little cruelly at the bared column of Ignis’ neck.

“I’m not asking you to fuck me, Iggy, just kiss me. Touch me, anything.”

“I’ve thought of nothing else, believe me,” Ignis responds, taxed, resting his hand on Noct’s shoulder to allow him the briefest moment of respite before he would tear them apart for good.

The sun warms him through from behind, the dark fabric of his jacket deepening the sensation as Noctis searches for his mouth, intent on reiterating his claim upon his alpha. Ignis thrums with worry and anticipation, standing as still as he can manage as their mingling scents grow heady, biting Noctis by the lip when his fingers slip beneath the waistband of his slacks.

“Noctis, no.

Shit, Ignis, come on,” he fists the dress shirt in his hand in an attempt to trap him there, wrench it free from where it’s tucked neatly into his pants, but Ignis has his gloved hand about Noct’s wrist, tight enough to cause discomfort.

“Absolutely not, you’ve had enough. It’s too great a risk to do this here.”

Noctis whines, beyond displeased and heartsick, appearing as though he’s torn between wanting Ignis and wanting to kick him in the shins.

“You’re blowing me off after all this time?”

“You know I’d never do such a thing,” Ignis says flatly, calling upon the full might of his self-control to bring Noctis down from his rising passions. “The Marshal is going to clear your schedule for you tomorrow, as he has cleared mine. I’ll put things right starting then.”

Noctis looks hopeful despite the irascible manner in which he snatches his arm back to his side, tossing his head to shift long, dark hairs from his eye line.

“Fine. You better be right, though,” he pushes past as Ignis steps aside, a bit blinded by the unexpected glare of the sun. Noctis shields his eyes, pulling out his phone to look at the time. “Look at this. You made me late to see my dad,” he says with a smile, sliding it into his back pocket.

Ignis sighs, chastising himself internally.

“Hurry along then, if you would. We needn’t give him any more reason to eject me from your service.”

Noctis laughs, his smile full of what Ignis could only describe as relief, before turning to retreat with a lazy wave of his hand. Ignis is motionless until the Prince is out of his sight, neglecting to even gather his scattered reports. When he finally bends to collect them, he expels a ragged sigh akin to unnerving laughter.

Thank the Gods.

--- 

Late that evening, Ignis finds himself too energized by the prospect of free time, let alone free time with his mate, to return to his quarters, so he instead does the only thing he can stand to do when in need of physical activity; train.

He spends hours in the Citadel training room, graciously uninterrupted by a single soul until, bathed in sweat and muscles warm and loose from the exertion, he takes to the showers and replaces soiled tank and sweats with matching outerwear suitable to get him across the residential areas of the palace and to his own rooms.

It’s near midnight once he’s returned, cleaning properly in his own bath, the water hot and the soaps and salts pungent enough to clear his mind of sins and his skin of lingering filth. As he dresses for bed, he lets his mind wander into the inane regarding how he might spend his time with Noctis, where they might meander to, if anywhere, if he should try to rush to the kitchens in the morning to gather necessities to cook for him. The thoughts have him all aflutter until he reaches his bedside table and notices he has a missed call and a single voice message.

He sighs, picking up his cell phone and swiping it open, snarling automatically when he realizes the call is from Gladio. Even as he lifts the phone to his ear he imagines yet another tiff, seating himself at the edge of his bed as the message plays itself out.

Hey. I know we haven’t exactly been BFFs the past few days, but this is important. Like, hatchet burying important. Thought you should know, I’ve been looking hard into that low key Nif envoy situation. Not only was it real, it was small in name only.

Ignis pauses, his breath held tight in his chest as his heart pounds in ardent search of oxygen.

It was the Chancellor. Ardyn Izunia.

Chapter Text

When Noctis raps at his door the following morning, it’s rapid; curt, almost nervous if anything. Not to mention early , which Ignis did find rather peculiar if not a bit heartwarming, but he brushes it off as he throws the door open to behold Noct, accompanied by a swift gust of air.

Peering down, Ignis feels a greeting catch in his throat when he gets a good look at the young man in his doorway, and for once the long awaited scent of him has little bearing on it. Noctis seems shrunken, perhaps because the clothes he decided to throw on are a bit large, but even that fails to explain away the sheepish set of his eyes as he looks up from beneath dark lashes, chin pulled in close to his neck. The whole of it gives Ignis enough of a start that he forgets even the most basic of manners.

“Aren’t you gonna let me in?” Noct asks, arms crossed defensively about his torso and palms pressed flat to his own ribs.

“Of course,” Ignis bends to place a kiss at one of Noctis’ temples. “Come in, come in. I apologize, I wasn’t expecting you quite so soon.”

Noctis barely turns to accommodate the display of affection before slipping inside the room and around Ignis entirely. This behavior is certainly a far cry from the evening prior, when not even the threat of roving eyes could keep the Prince from leaping into every crevice of Ignis’ personal space.

Noctis scans the room with distracted eyes, making for the small kitchen island not far from the entrance and leaning his elbows onto it, searching. After a beat, he snaps his head in Ignis’ direction, nose wrinkled in apparent displeasure.

“No breakfast?”

Ignis takes in a breath simply to release it forcefully, eyes rolling as he strides over to the kitchenette to face Noctis on the opposite side of the counter. He notes, without express intent, that the countertop is a bit too tall...for the two of them.

“I suppose if anything were formidable enough to rouse you from your sleep at an amiable hour, it would be the prospect of a meal.”

Noctis snorts, fine features of his face contorting into the familiar expression of haught and snark that Ignis has become enamoured with.

“You haven't even made coffee yet.”

“Ah, that's where you're mistaken. I've already had two cups,” Ignis indicates the number two with the flash of fingers before committing them to the center of his glasses for adjustment.

“Overachiever,” Noctis accuses.

“I prefer the term efficient , personally.”

They exchange warm smiles before Ignis caves, as he is wont to do, turning to the fridge to rummage for eggs and the ingredients to make a particular style of pancake Noctis enjoys. He cannot shake the feeling that something is off, though, trudging cautiously through conversation with the Prince whose melancholy eyes betray him despite his grinning and lighthearted banter.

They eat standing up, picking at their plates and chattering between bites, behavior that Ignis would typically find a little garish if it weren't for the company and how the relationship with that company has morphed over the past weeks. The fresh pot of coffee fills his quarters with a rich aroma warm enough to complement the late morning sun streaming in through the windows at their side, giving Ignis the impression that they were frozen in time again; like the picture inside a brand new frame that is simply too flawless to be real and thus ends up in the bin.

The morning waxes uneventful until Ignis situates them both on his unassuming, albeit pricy loveseat, gathering Noctis near under the thin pretense of enjoying a film of his choosing. Even Noctis seems disinterested in this, though he still cuddles and coos lackadaisically, as if his mind is still caught up elsewhere. Ignis had tiptoed around the subject most of the morning, but he is fast realizing he hasn’t the stamina to man the front for much longer.

“Noct,” he says gently, threading his fingers through raven tresses as Noctis begins to stir at his neck, inhaling, grazing lips. “Won’t you tell me what’s troubling you?”

He hopes if he poses the question as though he’s aware that trouble exists, Noctis will merely concede defeat. However, the tactic almost immediately falls flat.

“Who said something’s troubling me to begin with?” Noctis sounds dismissive, which would normally come as a great relief except that it’s clear now the scent of his alpha has simply distracted him.

“You take me for a fool?” Ignis asks, the amusement in his voice apparent when a laugh threatens to escape.

Noctis counters with the click of his teeth, irritated, leaning his head back to rest upon Ignis’ broad shoulder. Ignis can see him staring at the ceiling from the corner of his eye, expression drawn taut until it relaxes, slowly, the corners of his lips softening and inadvertently beckoning. He ignores the urge to press a kiss to them, waiting patiently for the Prince to respond in his own time.

“Can we talk about this later?” he asks finally, turning inward to hook an arm about Ignis’ torso and hide his face in the crook of his neck.

The somber tone only worries him more, however the last thing he wants is to push Noctis someplace he is unwilling to go, particularly if he is not emotionally prepared for the consequences of going there. Instead, he encourages Noct with gentle caresses at the back of the head when he senses the delicate kiss of warm lips against the tendon of his throat, escalating quickly to open mouthed and wet massaging meant to draw Ignis’ attentions definitively away from any further interrogation.

Ignis underestimated how the distance from his omega had left him in quite the diminished state, growing stiff between the legs with an almost uncomfortable haste. His breaths quicken when Noctis finds him with an open palm, rubbing downward with fingertips poised to spread Ignis’ legs and be buried in the heat there. Wordlessly, Ignis complies; catching Noctis by the chin when he comes up for air, depriving him of it when he seals their lips together in a kiss that travels between sweet and desperate at a breakneck pace. Benevolently, Noct keeps that hand working steadily over the fabric stretched across Ignis’ stiff cock, already aching with need at the not so distant memory of unspeakable pleasures.

When Noctis twists his grip on Ignis, swiping his thumb over the smooth ridge of the head of his alpha’s cock beneath his trousers, he pulls their lips apart abruptly with a wet smack , hovering close though his eyes are cast down into Ignis’ lap.

“You’re already soaked through,” he says with a clever smile that staggers the sharp inhale Ignis can’t help but respond with.

He peers down, his chest already heaving with increasingly labored breaths, to see that there is indeed a dark spot forming where Noctis had stroked the precome straight through his slacks and briefs alike.

“So I am,” he exhales as Noctis slides his palm from Ignis’ groin to his inner thigh, pulling his leg so that he’s spread wide on the couch with a tantalizing view of the Prince as he kneels before him, drawing his shoulders in tight and situating himself, poised; almost feline. He laces his fingers over the bulk of Ignis’ erection, resting his chin on the top of his hands, coquettishly locking eyes with Ignis.

“You’ll let me, right?” He drops his head to one side, looking inquisitive and deceptively innocent for a young man that Ignis was already well aware possessed quite the appetite.

Ignis shuffles his heels further out, dropping his hands to his sides and relaxing all his tensed muscles, sinking into his seated position. Noct’s meaning is as clear as it could ever be, so despite some lingering hesitation Ignis nods once, holding his breath as fingers immediately unbutton his slacks and peel them open, one flap and then the next. The little points of pressure as Noctis picks at clasps and zippers with surprisingly adept fingers are enough to curl Ignis’ toes. It isn’t long before he has what he’s been rummaging for wrapped tight in his hot little palm, observing it with what Ignis could only describe as admiration.

He gazes at Ignis, head tilted, as he opens wide to press the flat of his tongue to the underside of his cock, laving upwards and not once breaking the intensity of his stare. Ignis goes rigid from head to toe, mouth falling slack as the warmth against his skin ignites the blush in his cheeks. He can’t help but jolt when Noctis presses the tip to his satin lips, letting the pressure force them apart as he sinks down, hands falling dangerously low until a groan escapes Ignis.

“Noct,” he threads his fingers through his omega’s hair, fisting tight and pulling Noctis up from the length of his cock with a wet choke just as his knot begins to swell beneath warm fingertips.

“Ah! Ignis, what,” Noct cries out, cut off when his eyes settle again on Ignis’ groin.

There’s a startlingly unfamiliar noise that forces its way free from Ignis’ lungs, a punched-out, animalistic whine that even he is shocked to hear. Though Noctis could not possibly be handling him anymore gently, the contact is overstimulating and molten, robbing Ignis of the precious air necessary to form words. The pad of each one of Noct’s fingers he feels against him like a million tiny cells stroking him separately, the heat emanating from his palms along sensitive skin simply too much to bear.

“Careful,” Ignis stammers at last, beset by his own errant breathing enough that Noctis twists in his grip, eyes widening with interest. He meant the warning to apply strictly to Noctis and his safety, however it is just as easily applicable to himself. His hold loosens and dissolves into apologetic petting as the Prince leans into the touch, appreciative yet infallibly curious.

“I can take care of it, don't worry about me,” he reassures, though his tone betrays a hint of irritation that makes Ignis fidget nervously in his seat.

Ignis pauses, eyes fixed to the sensuous curve of Noct’s now dewy bottom lip as it hovers dangerously near the tip of his cock, already weeping precome to replace what was lost to the warmth of his omega’s tongue. He has the time to neither protest nor acquiesce before he disappears inside of an eager mouth again, positively deflating with the luxurious stroke of fingertips along the knot and the pressure against his head as it makes contact with the back of Noct’s throat, hugging the bend ever so slightly.

Ignis cradles his head absentmindedly, thoughts floating up and out of his body when Noctis pinches his eyes shut and flushes a little brighter, working the shaft deeper until he can take it no further, soft lips grazing the swell of Ignis’ cock still held delicately in his hands. He strokes it with both thumbs as he slowly withdraws, cheeks hollowing as the slick drag of lips leaves the alpha’s dick glistening until it’s immediately engulfed once more. The sight is so completely overwhelming that Ignis is nearly trembling with the effort not to tense that hold; to push downward and thrust upward, claiming again and again what has become undeniably his.

No, he thinks, biting his lip until it causes him pain, sighing when a tongue slips into the slit before adhering anew to the shape and contour of his cock, ever accommodating. He is still Noctis, he’s still—

Ah, Noct, ngh,” Ignis gasps between wet, labored breaths, finally throwing his head against the back of the loveseat and sighing, unable to cast his gaze down at Noctis any longer. His pleasure is becoming frenzied, boiling hot beneath his skin and flirting perilously with utter loss of control. The last thing he wants to do is cause the Prince any harm, even if the ropes restraining his wanton hunger in its purest form seem to be fraying; even if all he can think about is the scent of Noctis in his nostrils and the taste of his skin on his tongue if he sinks his teeth into him right now, right this second…

Without warning Ignis erupts while still buried in the vise of Noct’s throat, crying out agape and helpless as he fills him to the point of glut, feeling close to hollow when Noctis snaps upward, spit and come sputtering from his mouth. Gasping for air, he flinches each time Ignis coats his face in wave after wave, splattering hot across his lips and neck in streams that seem without end until Ignis coils his own fingers about his cock and leans forward to squeeze and heave as the last of it drips warm over his knuckles.

“Fuck,” Noctis says after what appeared to be a fairly strenuous swallow that made Ignis burn in the cheeks yet again. Sliding the back of his hand across his lips is almost comically futile as it doesn’t serve to wipe him clean so much as displace the sticky mess already beginning to dry in places.

“Are you alright? I’m sorry, I—”

“It’s fine, it’s fine. I mean…I wasn’t expecting quite that much, but…” Noctis trails off, his chest still rising in somewhat drastic intervals in an attempt to bring his heart rate down.

“Well, I was ,” Ignis responds almost sarcastically, still clenching his agonizingly sensitive cock in his hand, afraid even the slightest movement will agitate the knot and suddenly overstimulate every nerve ending in his body. “You should see to the…the state I’ve left you in.”

“What about the state you’re in,” Noctis asks defensively, clinging to Ignis’ knees with come slick hands.

Ignis shakes his head, watching as his seed gathers at the tip of the Prince’s chin, in danger of dripping on the couch and floor. It still runs in thick rivulets over his jaw and down the column of his neck, pooling at the center of his clavicle and already saturating the collar of his shirt. Ignis averts his gaze down and away, releasing an overtaxed sigh of lecherous remorse.

“I shall have to sit and wait a while, Noct. In the meantime, please take care to clean yourself up. By the time you’re finished, I will have clean clothes to replace what’s been soiled.”

Noctis rears back, resting his weight totally on his heels and looking nothing short of debauched. Ignis can now see the tips of his hair are also wet with the fruits of his baser passions. Even through the many layers of vulgar distraction, the perplexity in his eyes is as clear as any cloudless day.

“Ignis…did you like it?”

The question, in all its frankness and austerity, stops Ignis’ breath.

Did I like it?

“I would’ve thought the fact would be plain, given the…”

Ignis peers almost bashfully at Noctis, head hanging between broad shoulders hunched over his lap as he carefully rests elbows on his knees so as not to disturb his sex. Noctis looks away, flush returning as he thrusts a hand through his tangled hair, making a little tch of displeasure through his teeth when he realizes his hand is still wet.

“Yeah I gotcha, I just…wanted to hear you say it, is all.”

“You were nothing short of perfection and I’ve enjoyed little else in life quite so much,” Ignis answers without hesitation, letting every word hang dense with meaning and clarity so that room for interpretation would cease to exist.

Noctis blinks several times with wide, glossy eyes, clearly a touch embarrassed, before customarily shaking it off with a laugh and a rise to his feet. Ignis follows him with his eye line, endeavoring to remain still until the knot has passed.

“I’d kiss you but, ya know.”

---

Despite the shower, Ignis sets upon Noctis again after he prepares them a light lunch, having spent the rest of the late morning chatting through a film series they were supposed to have been watching. Far be it from him to deprive his mate of pleasure and fulfillment, so when they take to Ignis’ bed he wastes little time wrapping Noctis up and massaging him open with gentle fingers, swallowing his orgasm whole and drinking it down as he trembles and sighs beneath him.

It doesn’t take long before the love struck haze drains from Noct’s face, though, and his voice again sounds solemn and put upon and his normally bright and beautiful eyes grow weary. Ignis has simply been checking in on him, catching up to speed with the day to day goings on in his life that Ignis has missed; odds and ends that he found himself heartsick over not knowing because he would normally be very much a factor in their playing out.

“Have you heard lately from Lady Lunafreya?” Ignis asks matter-of-factly, knowing that their fraught correspondence was always something Noctis both looked forward to and fretted over.

His expression finds a way to go even colder, a sure sign that all was not well. It is always a touchy subject even when on the upswing, what with Lunafreya in the precarious clutches of the Empire, but what is important to Noctis is worth the fleeting discomfort of awkwardness.

“Nah, I haven’t sent anything to her yet.”

This would be a cornerstone moment to either press on or let sleeping dogs lie, and with Noctis already so inexplicably gloomy and unwilling to address it, Ignis thinks it best not to go round kicking canines.

“In good time, then,” Ignis slides a hand over Noct’s hair, still flat from the shower, and draws him close to leave a reassuring kiss against his forehead. They cuddle silently for the moment as Ignis searches for the next topic of conversation that might keep Noctis awake a bit longer, as an impromptu nap is certainly on the horizon. “Have you any plans to see Prompto again soon?”

“Not yet, but I’ll probably text him later, see when he’s free.”

“It is probably good for you to get out of the Citadel for a while if you can manage it,” Ignis offers, inattentively stroking where his hand lies atop Noctis’ head. “Did you do anything interesting on his last visit?” Ignis finds himself childishly curious being that he would normally have at least had knowledge of the meeting, and the awkward incident with Prompto in the elevator still rubbed him the wrong way.

“Nah, not really. Just played some video games and hung out. Had lunch.”

“I ran into him on his way out,” Ignis replies conversationally. “It wasn’t long before you and I stumbled over one another in the hall, actually.”

Noctis snorts, sounding indignant.

“Ah, I think you’re confused. He left right after lunch.”

Ignis makes a confused face that Noctis can’t see as his head is still buried in the crook of the alpha’s neck.

“Are you sure?” Despite the fact that Noct has no reason to lie, the incongruity in time is alarming.

“Yeah, I had to go to yet another meeting that was apparently important enough to bump my training. Again.”

Meeting about what? is what Ignis wants to say, but despite his nagging curiosity, there are some duties of the Prince’s that require confidentialities even Ignis has to respect. Beside that, Prompto hanging around the Palace hours after Noctis and he parted ways is very peculiar.

“Gladio did mention something similar not long ago, now that I recall,” Ignis propounds thoughtfully, more to himself than to Noctis. Something about that last bit rings distantly relevant to Ignis, so he pockets it for future scrutiny.

“Feels like the world is ending.”

Silence.

A long, arduous silence.

Heavy. Mortifying.

“Why in the world do you feel that way, Noct?” Ignis asks, letting the concern worry his brow completely only because he knows Noctis cannot see it.

There is no answer from the omega, so Ignis allows his mind to wander quietly, stewing in his own dark thoughts as he searches for a reason behind every strange nip and tuck to their schedules, every odd command or hiccup in details that renders him powerless to piece together what his life now consists of. Assuming Noctis has fallen asleep, he takes an investigatory eye even to the initial charge from King Regis to spirit his son away, seemingly inexplicably and without further order, sensing something isn’t right. The only thing that appears to him crystal clear is that he should speak to Gladio at his earliest ability, because indeed things are wrong. Egregiously wrong.

It is at the precise moment that Ignis suddenly begins to fret over the likely visit from Chancellor Izunia that Noctis stirs, lifting his head slowly to meet Ignis’ eyes. His expression is bizarrely unreadable, and if Ignis hadn’t been so caught up in the miasma of his dreadful detective work, he might’ve been better prepared for the words that fell in pitiless monotone from the Prince’s lips.

“I’m engaged to Lunafreya.”

No.

He could never have been prepared for that.

Chapter Text

Even as Ignis waits idly for the guards to open the door to the King’s chambers, spine straight and suit pressed neatly to the high heavens, he’s in an almost inconceivable frenzy over what he’s planned to do; plan being both an operative and insufficient word in this case, as it still is only a half fleshed out and resoundingly desperate scheme in his mind. At any rate, he’s confident the words will come to him as needed despite the fact that he hasn’t the right to such blind conviction when less than twenty four hours prior he’d allowed Noctis to slip from his grasp, leaving the confines of his room and his bed with barely a comforting sentence to accompany him.

The doors make their customary greeting with an aged creak, sounding ancient less from use and more from style of build, akin to the manner in which a tomb barricade or sarcophagus lid might audibly begrudge the violation of its previously enjoyed peace and quiet. His first steps inside are heavy, the marble seeming to push back at his dress shoes, resulting in an unsteadiness that likely has much more to do with his state of mind than any design flaw or physical incongruity. Regis is found within, picking through books on a high bookshelf not far from his open windows, the late day sun spilling into his hair and over the shoulders of his suit jacket, illuminating him such that Ignis has to stop in his tracks and steel himself for this conversation once more. Reminding him again, in no uncertain terms, that he’s called to serve something divine.

“Ah, Ignis,” he greets with a warm smile as he turns, sitting a book on the end table beside a leather armchair not far from where he stands, “to what do I owe the pleasure? I take it everything is quite alright with my son?”

Ignis quietly draws a breath and holds it in, a gesture meant to make him appear and feel a bit more present and capable.

“He is well, Majesty, yes,” he answers with a conventional bow, demonstrating the necessary reverence despite the knowledge that he’s already blatantly lied to the King of Eos. “Perhaps a bit fatigued on occasion, but nothing out of the ordinary.”

“That’s good to hear,” Regis responds quietly, meeting Ignis’ eyes with a weak smile that looks peculiar on a man with so much power at his disposal. “I’m afraid his burdens will only grow from this point on, so a strong foundation is key.”

“He certainly has that in spades.”

Regis nods in agreement, knowing it’s a compliment but eager to throw it back.

“He certainly does.”

A hush falls between them for a few moments, dense and phantasmal, as if the silence itself is a third presence among them, wielding all the knowledge neither man has the wherewithal to address.

“Well,” Ignis clears his throat finally, a fist to his mouth, a sidelong glance, dithering. “Your Majesty, I’m here this afternoon outside of any jurisdiction on the part of my senior officers. And, of course, I’m very grateful you made the time to entertain my inquiries despite that fact.”

Regis only regards him attentively, the slightest nod urging him to finish his nagging thoughts.

“You see…the palace, and therefore my staff, is abuzz with a rather alarming rumor that begs clarification.”

“Oh?” the King responds with an amused tilt of the head, suddenly looking the slightest bit accusatory. “You’re given to the idle chatter of underlings of late, are you?”

“No, of course not. There will always be banter floating about in my line of duty, however the seriousness and persistence of this particular rumor is infiltrating everything. And I do believe it directly influences my ability to serve the Prince at the absolute highest capacity.” Ignis is genuine in his desire to do just that, and is well aware that Regis trusts him in that regard above and beyond any other duty he may boast. His hope is that sensibility will win this battle for him where secrecy and shut doors have kept him completely isolated from the truth.

“What is your rumor, Ignis?” Regis asks gravely, all pretense of warmth washed away to be replaced by cold pragmatism. Not threatening, per se, but no longer an invitation.

Ignis has been with the Caelum family for quite some time, the vast majority of his life, and he found very early on that shooting straight with Regis is the best approach. He’s an earnest man, weighed down by obligation but never allowing it to let him falter even for a moment, and without ever having the words spoken to him directly Ignis has always known the expectation for his service was similarly high.

“There’s an ever growing belief that Niflheim sent an envoy whilst the Prince was indisposed, and that the envoy included none other than the Chancellor Izunia himself.” Ignis pauses, believing that the accusation is heavy enough that it merits a few moments to stew, expecting Regis to interject and either confirm or deny, or at the very least chastise him for believing his own King of such duplicitousness.

However, none of those things occur. The silence drags on and outward, pulling Ignis along with it so acutely that he can almost feel himself pitching forward, lying in wait for an answer that never comes. Perplexed, he nearly falters, his only conceivable course of action to simply continue talking until answered or ordered to stop.

“And…of course it seems preposterous indeed, however if there’s even a shadow of truth to it, I’d be more than a little concerned as to why the information was withheld. The Empire hasn’t had interest in diplomacy in over a generation, and surely their presence here would merit the involvement of the persons closest to the Prince. It makes one wonder if the decision to spirit him away was due in large part to this supposed visit…because, quite honestly, Your Majesty, I can’t—”

“You’ve heard by now of my son’s engagement, surely?” Regis asks abruptly, his distinct subject change by way of interruption throwing Ignis completely off kilter.

“W…why, yes,” he’s forced to admit, unable to lie about something so serious and caught hopelessly off guard. Heat rushes to his face, shame over his true feelings on the matter betraying him as the exact image of Noct’s face materializes in his mind’s eye. “He did only just mention it to me, Your Majesty, my apologies for failing to extend my congratulations.” He manages another bow, and when he rises his smile is amenable and feigned, but it will do to get him through the niceties of such a subject. “Lady Lunafreya is a fine choice, indeed.”

“Indeed,” Regis agrees, but both his voice and the grin on his face seem empty. Eventually, he looks away, out the window and toward the sun as a few steps bring him so close to the surface that Ignis can see his reflection in the glass. “There will be a private announcement to staff soon, of course, and then a public revelation soon to follow. I thought, however…that no one deserved to hear the news first more than he.

“Of course, Majesty,” Ignis concedes, holding his head low to hide the way his ability to control facial reactions is fraying. They both become contemplative, but the floor beneath his feet is all he can truly focus on, losing track of time for a few moments as the enormity of what has come to pass squeezes all the air out of his body for what must be the hundredth time since Noctis was last wrapped in his arms.

“Soon enough, you will be among the retinue responsible for transporting him to Altissia, where the ceremony is to take place,” Regis breaks the silence matter-of-factly, and when Ignis finally looks up, eyes wide and breaths heavy, the King has already turned his gaze toward the faithful servant to his house.

“Your Majesty, please—”

“Concern yourself with my son, Ignis. Nothing more.”

There’s finality to his tone that Ignis finds jarring indeed, and he can’t help but furrow his brow, the little hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. Without answers, he hasn’t the fuel to keep pushing the issue, and something lying beneath Regis’ choice of words is leading him to believe that far more has happened here in the mighty King’s chambers than he has the ability to grasp without first calming his nerves. He’s still reeling by the time Regis pivots fully toward the window, crossing his arms before the more familiar gentility returns to his voice.

“You’re dismissed.”

 

---

 

This time Ignis doesn’t wait for Gladio to reach out to him first, making the call hastily before he’s even stepped past the threshold of his quarters.

“Yeah?” Gladio answers knowingly and Ignis completely dispenses with formalities.

“I think we should meet,” he responds a bit curtly, removing the suit jacket with his free hand. “I’ve just come from a parley with the King, and he was far more forthcoming than I might’ve ever hoped.”

“Well don’t you think that should stay between the two of you?” Despite the judgment inherent in the question, it’s clear that Gladio is covertly asking permission to be privy to the information. It stops Ignis short, dead in his tracks, and suddenly there’s a duplicitous grin spreading across his face.

“Actually, I was given the distinct impression to the contrary.”

 

---

 

When Ignis rounds the corner to the long hall bearing Gladio’s quarters, he’s surprised to find a familiar figure emerge before he can get very close at all. He lags back, recognizing the shock of bright blond hair anywhere as Prompto of all people turns to face the doorway and energetically gesticulate, clearly having words with Gladio, presumably, but too far away to be heard. Mercifully, he disappears around the far corner. Peculiar indeed seeing as civilians would never be familiar with this wing of the palace, and by the lock-step of his gait it’s clear he’s memorized a well-worn path, for sure.

Ignis picks up pace, making it to Gladio’s door only a fraction of a second after it clicks shut, rapping on it quietly and yet, somehow, urgently. It opens so quickly that he doubts the man’s hand ever left the knob.

Gladio’s eyes are wide, an expression Ignis can’t quite place but he’s convinced his own face reflects a similar tangle of emotions registering somewhere along the scale of bewilderment.

“How long were you out there?”

Ignis pulls an amused sort of look, stepping inside with an almost cunning slide of a long leg.

“Not long enough to merit a hello, apparently,” he teases, shoving a thumb into the air and back in reference to the hallway. “What, pray tell, was that all about?”

“None of your business,” Gladio says defensively, the gruffness as much a show as the dismissive turn after he shuts the door, zipping his athletic Crownsguard hoodie up to the neck.

Ignis knits his brow, his lips a flat line as he narrows his eyes on the curve of the hood as it obscures the skin of most of Gladio’s throat. He doesn’t even need to find what he’s looking for after catching a decidedly un-alpha scent clinging to the room. In that very moment, Gladio snaps his head in Ignis’ direction with grumpy eyes but curiously colored cheeks.

“The hell are you lookin’ at?!”

“I see those, you hypocrite,” Ignis balks, storming over and pointing an accusatory finger as Gladio snatches the hoodie closed with a fist, covering himself all the way up to the chin. He bats the admonishing hand away.

I’m not the one secretly giving it to the Prince of Lucis,” he reproaches as defense, half turning before simply walking away to rummage through his refrigerator.

Ignis follows behind slowly, giving him adequate space to fume, assuming he’s shoved his head in a cold box in order to hide his flushed face. With an eyebrow raised and an exasperated sigh, he fiddles with the cuffs of his shirt, changing his tone from harsh to a little empathetic.

“No, just his best friend, I suppose. Why not one of his tutors?”

He’s teasing, of course, but Gladio slams the refrigerator shut with a sour face as if to protest, realizing the jest when his eyes settle on Ignis’ face.

“Look. We’re all adults here. It didn’t happen on purpose—”

“Please, spare me details,” Ignis lifts a hand in resistance, eager to change the subject back to pressing matters.

Gladio scoffs and rolls his eyes, throwing his arms up in insult, the laughably large bottle of protein drink he’d plucked from the fridge still in hand.

“I only mean that there are more urgent issues that require tending.”

Trying to steer the conversation away from the refreshingly ordinary back to the initial meaning for the visit, Ignis plays at decorum as opposed to surprised indignation. Gladio keeps an eye trained upon him as he tilts the drink bottom up, a less than subtle change in intensity.

“Yeah, about that,” he says when he sits the plastic bottle on the countertop, taking a much needed breath after downing half its contents in a single go. He lowers his voice from that point, as if the entirety of the palace is now bugged against him. “I’ve had my ear to the ground, but I’m surrounded all day by Crownsguard. Soldiers can be tough to crack, even if I am a superior officer. Hard not to arouse suspicion with certain questions…”

“Indeed. I doubt any of them know what I’ve got to tell.”

Gladio leans forward, interested, and yet Ignis senses another air about him that he can’t quite put a finger on. Preparedness?

“Ah…I don’t know how else to say this so…out with it, I suppose…” Ignis dallies, pep talking himself more than informing his comrade.

“Luna.” Gladio grunts the name, and when Ignis’ eyes dart up from where he’d been sheepishly staring whilst considering his options, he’d folded forward to lean a tattooed elbow on the counter.

“You knew?”

The question comes out just above a whisper as if punched out, betraying any remaining sense of ceremony to which Ignis might cling. Of course, after only a brief second of consideration it would be preposterous for Gladio not to be on the roster for Noct’s Altissian retinue.

“It came to me straight from my father,” Gladio answers, suddenly going a little solemn. “Not anything official or observed. But definitely meant to be passed on to me.”

Ignis considers that for a moment, his eyes lost to the analysis of information caught in his mind.

“I’m afraid you were always right to be suspicious. The fact that a revelation like this is taking trusted and yet clandestine routes to reach the right set of ears is alarming. You must know about the—”

“Literal joy ride to Altissia? Yeah.” He abruptly snatches the bottle back up and sucks down the remaining half. “Looks like we’re about to be spending a lot of time together.”

Ignis sighs heavily, rubbing his temples and sounding put upon as a very persistent migraine crops up. He almost accidentally glances over at Gladio and doesn’t like the look on his face. The crooked mouth and eyes wandering sidelong.

“What. What are you not saying?”

Gladio expels a healthy groan, rubbing his neck and tapping the cup against the counter as he visibly procrastinates.

“Well…it doesn’t seem like anybody told you who the retinue consists of, sssso…”

“Oh for heaven’s sake,” Ignis exclaims with a little snarl of realization, full realization, for once. “Him too? So now we’ll be en route with not one, but two omega?”

“Look, I know it’s a little bit far from ideal but the kid’s been showing up for combat crash courses and Noctis wanted to bring him along.”

Ignis rolls his eyes.

“Combat crash courses, is that what you’re calling it?”

“I’m serious, here! That’s how this…that’s how this,” he gestures to his own quarters with waving arms, the way it smells now of omega and mate, “happened in the first place. From now on, though, he’ll be showing up for some proper briefs before we’re all forced to shove off to Altissia.”

Ignis is frustrated beyond comprehension that he seems to have been the last stop for details such as these, at a loss for whether or not his own haze as newly appointed alpha dulled his sensibilities of late. If he should have sussed this all out on his own long before today.

“The ceremony is weeks away, the Oracle is still on pilgrimage last I’d heard. We should still have time.”

“Don’t count on it,” Gladio warns, and while he hasn’t any further intel to back up the suspicion, Ignis imagines his lack of faith is well founded.

“Well. I’ll keep a watchful eye and ear on staff and council so long as you do the same on the Crownsguard and Glaive front. The Chancellor came with offerings of peace and matrimony but I doubt everything is out in the open. Any sharing of information should be between us alone, and in person. Leave Prompto out of it. He shouldn’t be privy to any more than Noctis is willing to tell him.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Gladio answers passively as if he’s irritated but in reality he knows these distinctions are vastly significant. Grabbing the plastic cup marred inside by goo of an unattractive color, he runs the sink and dips it beneath the cascade of water to give it a good rinse. Ignis turns up his nose.

“You’re the size of a damn house, Gladio. Why don’t you just eat a meal?”

“This? This is just a boost. Let’s just say…I’ve gotta get some energy back.” He shuts off the water and grins, though he refuses to look up from his chore.

“On that note…I think I’ll take my leave…”

 

---

 

In the days that ensue, it becomes clear in agonizing waves that the marriage is merely an exchange for what will likely be a contentious peace, as Ignis mused but could never truly bring himself to believe, and to say that the Citadel is thrown into upheaval by it would be an understatement. The prior rearrangements that Cor mentioned take full form as the Kingsglaive step in to perform the sworn duties of the Crownsguard, regardless of public or even internal whispers and dissent.

Through all of this Ignis keeps his focus on Noctis as commanded by the King of Lucis, but he can’t help seeing a monster in every shadowy corner, a spying eye on every alpha, a whispered promise of tribulation on every gust of wind when he stands alone on his balcony or walks brusquely through the courtyard between brief after brief. He feels that he’s no more than a vessel being force fed information until it spills over, immobilized while everyone around him moves at breakneck speeds. Even Prompto finishes his little spate of combat training, and every time Ignis passes him in a hall or has to greet him at Noct’s door they struggle to meet eyes for longer than the span of a few short seconds. At this rate everyone’s business is likely out on the table, and if close friendships weren’t what gave up the ghost then their blatantly obvious scents whirling about certainly were.

The time for embarkation close at hand, Ignis toils ceaselessly for free time, spending every ounce of it with Noctis, even insisting on little esoteric trips into the city after a full work day and an evening of packing up his apartment. He’d barely used it since before their jaunt in the safe house anyway, but every second in it is still bittersweet and dense with memory. On one particularly quiet day there, only a few nights from departure, Noctis shoves Ignis to the couch without a word and climbs on, facing nary a hint of resistance when he strips the necessary clothing, still dreadfully silent even at the moment he muffles his own climactic cry.

Their eyes never meet, it’s almost agonizing until it’s over, and Ignis leaves never wanting to see the inside of that apartment ever again.