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Sylleblossoms and Hope

Chapter Text

"That's it! No more dancing!" Ravus said, stepping away from Luna and sticking his hands behind his back. "I am going insane. If I have to hear that bloody waltz again, I swear to the Astrals, I'm going to fall on my sword."

Ravus hated dancing. Being royalty, he was expected to be graceful and steady on his feet, but he was the exact opposite of that. He had been clumsy and duck-footed since childhood, and no matter how hard Luna tried to help him, he could never get the hang of being elegant. He was constantly tripping over his own feet, or bumping into things, and it really annoyed him. He was supposed to be cool. A cool person didn't trip over mid-air, did they?

He had spent most of his afternoon doing this hated activity with Luna, who apparently needed to practice for the upcoming ball at the palace. Ravus had initially resolutely refused to even step foot onto the ballroom floor, but her persistent wheedling had forced him to give in. Thus he had been forced to repeat the same steps over and over again, consistently making a mess of it all. Luna's constant giggling had not helped, nor did the fact that she was far more elegant and dignified than him. After he had tripped over her foot for the fiftieth time, he had finally snapped.

"Oh, Ravus," Luna said, grinning at him knowingly. "Are you sure it's the waltz that's driving you mad?"

"Yes," Ravus said firmly. "No more of this, I beg of you. We've been dancing for centuries."

"We've been here for an hour."

"That's too long! No more goddamned dancing!" Ravus complained. "I won't be dancing at the ball, so why should I even have to be here?"

"I need a partner to practice with, Ravy-oli. I'm going to be dancing at the ball with Noctis, am I not?" Luna said amicably. "You've helped me out for this long, just a bit more-"

"No, Loony, you're not going to fool me this time. Find another partner!" Ravus replied, his resolve unwavering. 

"There's nobody else to dance with," Luna said pleadingly. She had widened her eyes slightly, and was giving him her infamous doe-eyed look- an expression that could make Ravus give in to anything. She had used this weapon against him ever since they had been children, and it had always worked. Well, not today.

"Don't give me the look, Luna, I'm not going to dance anymore. Get Gentiana to dance with you. She's a divine being. Surely she will know how to tango."

"Oh, don't be so silly, Ravus, I can't possibly ask a Messenger of the Gods to practice dancing with me! Come on, Ravy-oli... You're my last hope."

"You're being so melodramatic," Ravus muttered. "You can dance. It's not like you even need the practice. You just want to see me suffer!"

"Don't be ridiculous," Luna said, though her repressed grin gave her away. Ravus pointed an accusing finger at her.

"Aha! So I'm right! I have been wasting my time here!"

 "No!" Luna said. "You haven't. Oh, please, Ravus, just dance with me for a little longer. Just a little bit!"

"What's so important about dancing?" Ravus retorted. "It's not like you can't dance. It's just Noctis. He isn't exactly the most talented dancer himself."

"But I have to impress him, Ravus," Luna said suddenly. "You don't understand. You've never been in love like this. Everything has to be perfect! Otherwise it'll all just feel wrong and awkward, and that can't happen. Pretty please? I promise it won't be for very long."

Sometimes his sister could be too much. She was the only person who could persuade him to do anything, and that was really annoying. Looking into Luna's eyes, shining with hope, he finally gave in. He felt so exasperated he wanted to cry. He couldn't refuse Luna now, could he? It would just make him an asshole. Rolling his eyes as hard as humanly possible, he took his sister by the shoulders.

"Stars above, you will be the death of me," he grumbled. "Just for a little longer, then, okay? Just a little longer. And you have to stop giggling at me whenever I trip."

Ignoring Luna's look of triumph, he took her by the waist again just as she had taught him. The truth was, he didn't mind dancing if it made Luna happy. He didn't mind doing anything if it put a smile on his little sister's face. 

Chapter Text

Prompto was by no means a sophisticated gentleman. He was a twenty year old photographer who liked video games, food and marathons of his favourite television shows. Hell, he even had a moped. Somebody who owned a moped had no place in a dignified party thrown by the nobles of Tenebrae.

Yet he had been invited. Lady Lunafreya’s influence, he supposed- she knew that he and Noctis were best friends. Prompto had been thunderstruck to see his beautiful invitation in the morning post- him? Invited to some big, elegant Tenebraen do? He had been convinced there had been a mix-up, but Noctis had assured him that he was indeed invited.

He had intitially been extremely excited, but as the night grew closer, he had grown more anxious. He had no idea how to act around so many aristocratic people. He didn’t have Ignis’s smooth charm, or Gladiolus’s people skills, or Noctis’s status. He was just… Prompto.

And so he stood awkwardly to the side in the hall where the party was taking place, holding a wine-glass filled with water in one hand and his camera in the other. Noctis had been dragged onto the dance floor by Queen Sylva, who called him her “second son”, Gladio was mingling with some pretty ladies and Ignis was talking earnestly to the chefs who had cooked the banquet. Prompto tried to cut a casual and charming pose, but almost dropped his water all over himself.

He was a mess.

He caught sight of Lady Lunafreya, talking and laughing with a girl with long dark, highlighted hair. The girl was smiling and gesticulating wildly, seemingly enthusiastic and social. Not a conversation for Prompto- he was sure he’d mess shit up just by walking over to them. Talking to Cor was out of the question- he was having a serious and manly discussion with King Regis and Gladiolus’s father, Mr Amicitia. Hell, even fifteen year old Iris was having more fun than he was, spinning around with Monica Elshett of the Crownsguard. There was no chance of him making conversation with the Tenebraen folk, either- there would just be instant judgement at his expense.

Prompto sighed, resigning himself to his water and his camera.

And then he had a sudden idea.

The balcony was outside of the hall, and it overlooked Tenebrae. With his camera, he had the perfect excuse to head outside and away from the others. He could take some shots of the landscape. Internally praising himself for his brilliant idea, Prompto began to move towards the exit of the hall.

Lunafreya suddenly swayed in front of him, a carefree smile on her face- the girl she was talking to following suit, laughing.

“Prompto!” she said brightly. “Where are you going?”

“I was just plannin’ on taking some shots of Tenebrae, actually,” Prompto laughed nervously. “That okay?”

“Oh, of course, go ahead! And if you see Ravus, will you tell him to come and find me?I can’t find him anywhere!” Luna said, and she giggled as her friend grabbed at her hand. “Rinoa! Just wait, we’ll find Squall in a minute! See you later, Prompto, enjoy the party!”

A drunk Lunafreya. What were the odds of seeing that? Prompto smiled and waved at her as she waltzed after her friend Rinoa, and then hurriedly continued on his way. He stepped outside and onto the balcony, and sighed in relief.

And then tensed up. Because, leaning against the balcony with his head facing towards the view of Tenebrae, was Ravus.

Damn. Damn. Damn, damn, damn. Retreat. Abort mission. Let’s turn before he notices-

“Who’s there?” Ravus said, turning his head. “Is it- oh. It’s you- er- Prompto. Mr Argentum.”

The odd formality and awkwardness in Ravus’s voice took Prompto by surprise. He stood with his camera in his hands, a nervous smile on his face.

“Aha!” Prompto said. “No ‘Mr’ for me. I’m just Prompto. Nobody special.”

He cringed as Ravus set his heterochromatic eyes on him- the other man really was quite a terrifying presence. And then almost fainted in shock as Ravus smiled slightly.

“My apologies. Was there something you needed?” he asked, his voice slightly gruff.

“Er- I was just gonna- take some shots. But if you’re here, and you don’t want me to- then that’s cool, I’ll just- just head back inside, ha, ha-”

“No, it’s fine. Take as many as you wish,” Ravus said. “Tenebrae is too beautiful to not be photographed, after all.”

“You’ve got that right.”

There was an intensely awkward silence, where Prompto fixed up his camera and adjusted the focus, gulping as he felt Ravus’s eyes on him. Take the photo, and leave. Don’t think about making small talk. Don’t make small talk. DON’T MAKE-

“Uh… So, what brings you out here, Ravus?” Prompto asked, before mentally slapping himself. His finger slipped and he took a shot, as Ravus looked surprisedly at him.

“Ah… Socialising isn’t exactly my… forte.”

“Mm. Right. I get ya.”

Silence.

Prompto squinted slightly, before taking a lower-angled shot.

“Don’t like dancing?” he asked, and Ravus, to his utmost astonishment, chuckled.

“Not at all.”

“Same,” Prompto said. “I’m way too clumsy for that shit.”

Ravus nodded.

Prompto pretended to fiddle around with his camera, squinting theatrically at the horizon, before snapping another shot. Don’t try and make more conversation. Just take another shot and leave the poor guy alone.

“Tenebrae is super pretty,” Prompto commented, and luckily his face was hidden by the camera.

Ravus’s eyes lit up. “It truly is. In daylight, it is a ravishing sight. Loony’s field of sylleblossoms is particularly beautiful when the sun is out.”

Prompto accidentally snorted. “Loony?”

Ravus cringed, his cheeks turning red. “I… I meant to say Luna.”

“Aw, that’s too cute. You have nicknames for each other! What does she call you?”

Ravus muttered something inaudible.

“What was that?”

“She doesn’t have a nickname for me.”

Prompto grinned widely. “Aw, man, you’re lying. Tell me, dude, I won’t laugh at ya. Pinky promise.”

“The pinky promise is the highest form of promise. If you break a pinky promise, it means certain death,” Ravus warned him, and Prompto laughed. The two awkwardly locked fingers, and Ravus, a bright scarlet, mumbled, “Ravy-oli.”

“What?” Prompto burst out laughing. “Ravy-oli! That’s the best nickname I’ve ever heard! Oh, man, that’s too good!”

The normally stoic Ravus’s face broke out into an embarrassed smile. “You broke the promise.”

“Ah, dude, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t not laugh. That’s too adorable.”

“I’m going to have to talk to her about that.”

Prompto smiled. “Oh, yeah, that reminds me, dude! Luna said she wanted to talk to you about somethin’. Dunno what, though.”

Ravus looked aghast. “Was a tall girl with dark hair with her?”

“Uh… yeah? Rinoa, I think her name was?”

Ravus took a deep breath and rolled his eyes. “I had better go and speak to her. Whenever she’s around, Luna gets exceptionally intoxicated- I suppose I can’t allow that to happen.”

“Oh,” Prompto said, as Ravus made to leave. “See ya, then, I guess.”

“Bye,” Ravus said, offering Prompto a polite wave. “I hope to see you around, Prompto.”

“You too.”

Chapter Text

“Right, we have to talk.”

Noctis made a groggy noise, halfway out of his seat. “Do we have to have a lecture now? I wanted to go to sleep.”

“You always want to go to sleep,” Gladio said irritably, placing his hands on his hips, in an uncanny imitation of Ignis. “This is important, Noct. This is an intervention.”

Noctis gazed around at his three closest friends. They did not look good. They had spent a day hunting for yellow frogs for Sania, which had turned out to be an incredibly tedious and long process. The little bastards had been next to impossible to find, and Noctis had been driven to the brink of insanity at certain points- but they had eventually rounded up the load. Their reward had not been worth the trouble, and it was safe to say that nobody was particularly happy by the end of the day.

“What is it, then?” Noctis said, returning to his seat by the campfire. “Is it something serious?”

Since the fall of his home, Noctis had been particularly paranoid, and was always expecting the worse out of a situation. He could not help the twinge of nervousness he felt as he met Gladio’s eyes.

“Yes,” Prompto interjected. “Enough with the favours, dude!”

Noctis frowned, nonplussed by the accusatory glares all being directed at him. “Favours? What do you mean?”

Gladio looked immensely frustrated. “The damned favours! You know- you always offerin’ to help every person we meet. It’s getting out of hand, man. I spent all day looking for frogs. Frogs. All because you’re too nice to say no!”

“You’re the King of Lucis,” Ignis said in a pained voice. “You have a duty to your country. Of course you should try and help everyone you can. But a king can’t always provide everything for everybody.”

Noctis made a face. “It was just a couple o’ frogs. It was no big deal.”

“No big deal?” Prompto gasped. “It took us forever to find those things! Even you were twitching by the end of it!”

“Iris is still waiting for us in Lestallum,” Gladio said. “She’s been waiting for days! It’s noble of you to try and help all these random people you’ve never met, but I think my sister and your mission to collect the royal arms is more important than some fucking frogs-”

“Alright, alright, I get it!” Noctis said, raising his hands in a surrendering gesture. “You don’t want me to lend people hand! I didn’t think it was that big a deal.”

“Well, it was,” Gladio said. “Please, Noct, no more hunting for dodgy Dino or Dave or whoever the fuck we help on a daily basis- Dino! Why do we even help that guy? He’s as morally intact as Iedolas Aldercapt!”

Noctis shrugged. “We get stuff out of it.”

“At the end of the day, your duty is more important than loot, Noct,” Ignis said sternly. “I agree with Gladio. Don’t you think we should finally set out to Lestallum tomorrow, seeing as we’ve spent so long roaming about with no clear goal in mind?”

“Alright, alright, jeez,” Noctis said. “You should’ve just told me earlier, if you felt like that. So, is that it? Because if it is, I’m gonna head to bed.”

The three friends gaped at each other without a word. Noctis shrugged, getting up out of his seat, and heading into the tent.

“‘We should’ve just told him earlier’,” Prompto said.

“I’m… going to kill him,” Gladio said.

Chapter Text

The journey from Cape Caem to Hammerhead was a long one. Noctis and co had just received the Valiant gun from Tony the carrot dealer, and were heading to Cid to see if it was potentially upgradable. That meant an hour’s journey, and hour’s journey meant a lot of boredom and silliness on the behalf of Prompto.

Ignis had already prepared himself for what was inevitably coming. Prompto couldn’t stand long journeys, and thus he never sat still. He was constantly fidgeting, asking questions every five seconds, pointing out irrelevant details in the landscape, making inappropriate jokes and much more. Ignis was perfectly content with sitting in silence and listening to some peaceful music, but Prompto seemed determined to ruin his calm.

“Noct. Hey, Noct. Noooct.”

Noctis made a muffled noise of annoyance, blinking awake from his nap as Prompto jabbed him in the shoulder. “What do you want, Prompto?”

“If you had to choose between watching two Sabertusks bang for six weeks or never having sex again, what would you pick?”

Gladio snorted. “The hell kind of question is that?”

“... You didn’t wake me up just to ask that, did you?” Noctis said. “What the fuck, man? I’d never have sex again.”

Gladio looked surprised. “You’d give up sex that easily? I mean, okay, watching Sabertusks go at it for six weeks is a bit much, but hey, I’m willin’ to go through it.”

 “I don’t care!” Noctis said, turning a deep shade of pink. “It’s a dumb question.”

“It does seem rather arbitrary, Prompto,” Ignis said. “What in the world goes on in your brain?”

“Not a lot,” Gladio muttered- inciting an indignant response from Prompto.

“I’m bored, okay? Hey, Iggy? What would you pick?” Prompto asked, wearing an impish smile. Ignis made a face.

“The latter, obviously. Prompto!” Ignis said. “Put your seatbelt back on right this instant.”

Prompto grumbled something, but obliged. For the next blessed five minutes, there was relative silence. Noctis gave a drowsy sigh, and he fell asleep again almost instantly. Gladio pulled out a book and began to read, and Ignis set his eyes on the road in front of him, revelling in his newfound peace.

Then Prompto spoke again.

“Are we there yet?”

Ignis channelled his inner peace and forced himself to remain calm. “It’s been fifteen minutes, Prompto. We aren't there yet.”

“Ugh,” Prompto muttered. “Hey, Gladio, whatcha reading?”

Gladio looked up from his book, his expression neutral. “Nothing that'd interest you. Sit down and shut up.”

Prompto pulled a face. “I'm bored. How long is it gonna take to get there?”

“At least forty five minutes. Why don't you read a book? It might satisfy your constant need for entertainment,” Ignis suggested.

Prompto shrugged. “I don't have a book to read.”

“Then just listen to the music. Take some pictures.”

“I don't like the song. Can you put on JENOVA?”

Ignis sighed. “Very well.”

He changed the song on the radio, and Prompto settled down once again.

If only Prompto could be more like Noctis. The prince simply dozed off whenever he was bored, and that meant silence. Or like Gladio, who was actually mature. But alas, Ignis was stuck with the little hyperactive idiot. Such was his luck.

“Hey, Ignis!”

“What is it, Prompto?”

“Can we get waffles from the Crow’s Nest? I’m hungry!”

They were nearing the Cauthess Rest Area. Ignis thought for a moment and then shook his head. “We can eat at Takka’s once we get to Hammerhead, Prompto, I don’t want to make any unnecessary stops. I want to get there before nightfall.”

Prompto grumbled. “But I’m starving.”

“By the Astrals, Prompto,” Noctis groaned. “Do you ever shut up?”

“Noct, you’re up! Let’s play I Spy!”

“No.”

Ignis turned around the corner, and smiled slightly as the Duscaen landscape hit his eyes. He always felt overwhelming admiration whenever he saw the stunning scenery- with the Disc of Cauthess proudly standing in the background, a mass of green stretching out for miles. Duscae was by far Ignis’s favourite outdoor place to be- the serenity and the sheer beauty of the place was just what he needed after a stressful day.

He heard the snap of Prompto’s camera, and his lips quirked up approvingly. This place was nothing if not photogenic.

“Hey, Iggy, how much gil we got left over?” Noctis asked.

“... I’m not condoning any more gambling action, Noct.”

“I’m not gonna fucking gamble at the arena, man, I just wanna know how much money we’ve got.”

“Four hours and no wins.”

“The Cactuar was out of control, man- Iggy, just tell me!”

“We’ve got seventy thousand gil. Those wyvern wings we picked up proved to be quite valuable, I sold them to a merchant.”

Gladio whistled. “Hot damn. Wanna splash some cash at the-”

“Absolutely not.”

“Aw,” Prompto said. “I was gonna buy somethin’ for Cindy.”

Gladio snorted. “Give it up, Prompto.”

“I will not give it up! She loves me, deep down!”

 Gladio cleared his throat loudly. “You’re such a slut, Prompto, I saw you eyeing Ravus the other day. And don’t tell me you weren’t admiring his bone structure, because even I was, and I’m as straight as a ruler.”

“Enough persiflage,” Ignis said, though he was amused. “Noct, are you quite sure you purchased the Delta Daggers from the arms merchant when we were in Lestallum. I’ve been looking forward to testing them out all day.”

“I did, Ig, but you’re not gonna test them out now, are you?”

“Yes, because I have always expressed a heartfelt desire to end my life.”

“No need to be snide.”

Ignis rolled his eyes. Suddenly, Prompto let out a dramatic gasp. “I felt a drop!”

 “Not to worry.”

Ignis pressed a button and the top of the Regalia came up, shielding the four from the torrential downpour that followed Prompto’s exclamation. As beautiful as Duscae was, the weather really was ridiculously unpredictable. Fortunately, they were approaching Leide now. It wouldn’t be long now.

To his immense surprise, there was a drowsy silence that lasted for more than fifteen minutes. Noctis fell asleep again (rain had always lulled him into slumber), Gladio was staring out of the window, and Prompto was looking through his camera, occasionally smiling and rubbing the back of his neck. Ignis smiled vaguely.

Prompto took massive pride in his photography, and Ignis knew why. Or at least, he could tell why. Prompto, despite his outgoing exterior, had always seemed rather lonely to him- and Ignis could tell that their company truly delighted him. Their friendship meant a lot to him. Ignis understood him completely. They all valued each other more than anything. Keeping all of their memories intact through photos was Prompto’s way of showing it.

Ignis was so lost in his fond reflection that he almost missed the turn into Hammerhead. Astonished, he realised that they had managed the last part of the journey without chatter- only content, comfortable quiet. Smiling, he drew the car to a halt, cutting off Blue Fields in mid-note.

The other three gave startled grunts, and then all of the complaining and grumbling returned, but Ignis merely smiled as they climbed out of the car to see Cid. Honestly, as annoying as his friends were… he really did love them.

Chapter Text

In times of stress, Ignis was the one they turned to. Ignis was the most sensible of the four- meaning he was far more likely to give sound advice. His calm and logical approach to life made him a reliable source of comfort when things got a bit too out of hand.

Noctis reflected on this wistfully as he sat in the kitchen of the palace, unburdening his soul to Ignis as the man baked feverishly. Ignis was helping out with the refreshments for the ball, and he had, as he did with everything, taken his job very seriously. Trays of pastries lay across the counters, and more were in the ovens. The aroma was divine. The taste was pure bliss. Noctis was sure that the cakes had been blessed by the Astrals themselves- they were just too good to be made by a mere mortal.

The pastries and the lovely, warm air from the ovens was enough to soothe Noctis’s rampant nerves. Talking helped as well.

“I mean, I feel like Luna is way out of my league. Like, we’re talking millions of miles out. She’s just so cool, and I feel so lame when I’m around her. She has this mystical presence, does all of this cool Oracle stuff, and I like fishing,” Noctis complained, discreetly plucking a golden brown pastry off one of the trays, taking a bite into it. Honey flooded into his mouth, and his eyes watered in pleasure. “What if I can’t think of anything cool to say to her? Like, when we’re dancing? It might end up just being awkward silence…”

Ignis did not look up as he sprinkled sugar over a set of pies. “Noct, I am sure Lady Lunafreya will find the night to be immensely… satisfying. You are worrying over silly things.”

“Am I, though?” Noctis moaned. “I can’t dance at all. Ravus will be there. Man, that guy scares me. Aranea will be there. She’s kinda intimidating, too. And Ardyn will be there! That’s just too much! I’m gonna be so awkward!”

“You need only worry about impressing Lady Lunafreya,” Ignis said. “I imagine she finds you to be incredibly alluring and charming, though personally, I don’t see why. All I see is an inherently lazy moron who can’t restrain himself from eating what he shouldn’t be eating!”

Noctis paused with another pastry halfway to his mouth. “Ah, don’t be like that, man. They’re delicious.” He took a bite. “Anyway, there’s loads there.”

“Humph,” Ignis said. “Well, Noct, I’ll say this. You are underestimating yourself. With us, you are perfectly fine- just bone-idle. I don’t see any awkwardness whenever you talk to us. Hm… Why don’t you try envisioning Luna as one of us? That may help you feel more uncomfortable.”

Noctis spluttered. “Imagine Luna as one of you three? Are you mad? I’d just see her stuffing her face with noodles, waving guns around and whooping.”

Ignis chuckled- the image was indeed rather ridiculous. “Well, perhaps you should think of amusing stories to tell her. Or open the conversation with some sort of inside joke.”

“Hm…” Noctis said thoughtfully, scooping up sugar with his finger and sucking it off. “Inside jokes, huh? Well, I guess we have a few.”

He thought back to his childhood, where he had spent time in Tenebrae with Luna and Ravus. Good memories had come from that visit. Weaving flower crowns had been one such highlight of that trip. Noctis had been awful at trying to thread the stalks of sylleblossoms together, but Luna had done it so intricately, weaving beautiful chains. She had made herself a sylleblossom circlet, and had worn it on top of her head- she had also made Ravus one, which he had grudgingly worn (he felt that it emasculated him, but he did it for the sake of his little sister’s grin). Noctis’s attempt had been laughable, but he had still enjoyed himself all the same. Listening to Luna’s stories and gentle yet great jokes… Lying back, basking in the sunlight…

There had also been memories from their teenaged years, and even early adulthood. There had been the time that Ravus had gotten extraordinarily drunk, so they had taken advantage of his intoxicated state, and had duct-taped him to the ceiling. There had been the time Ravus had been awfully hungover, and Noctis and Luna had gotten the Tenebraen marching band to play outside his bedroom door, inciting his wrath. They had laughed together and had talked with one another, they had enjoyed each other’s company… and things had gotten a little more intimate...

Ignis smiled as Noctis recounted (most of) these memories to him, a faint and loving grin on his face. “I see. So that’s why Lord Ravus seems to have a particular hatred of you.”

“Yeah, we pranked him a lot,” Noctis said reminiscently. “That probably explains why he seem to really hate me, then.”

“I can see why,” Ignis said dryly. “But perhaps those memories could serve as a gateway to a brilliant conversation. You never know.”

Noctis studied his fingernail, deep in concentration. “Hey… That’s not a bad idea at all. Do you have anything else that could help? I need everything I can get, to be honest. Actually, if Gladio was here, he’d probably give me sex tips I wouldn’t end up using, but hey, all advice is good advice.”

Ignis snorted. “You could present your gift to her, when you first greet her. I imagine she would be charmed by that.”

Noctis went very still, his mouth slightly agape. Ignis didn’t notice this at first. After Noctis had been silent for a full minute, however, he glanced up.

“What? Are you alright, Noct?”

Noctis had turned a pale shade of green. “I was- supposed to get Luna a gift?”

Ignis laughed. “Of course you were! You couldn’t just turn up to the ball with nothing for your fair la- Oh, Noct. You haven’t gotten her anything, have you?”

Noctis put his head into his hands, making a sound of utter despair. “Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Oh man. No. I didn’t get her anything. And tonight. Is the ball. And I didn’t get her anything.”

“Why in the world did you not get her a gift, you clod?” Ignis said, sounding exasperated. “Is it not common courtesy? What do you plan on doing when she gives you her thoughtful present, and you have nothing in return?”

Noctis stood up from his seat abruptly, his expression one of determination. “I’m on it!”

Ignis opened his mouth to say something, but Noctis had already raced out of the room. He closed his mouth and sighed to himself. Was he the only intelligent person out of his friends?

The answer was probably yes.

Chapter Text

Gladio leaned against the wall outside his apartment, trying to catch his breath. He was off-duty today, so he had gone for a morning jog. Something to clear his mind before the big party tonight. He was looking forward to it. A chance to mingle with Cindy again. To meet new people. It was just his cup of tea.

Iris was ecstatic about her invite. She had been chirping non-stop about the upcoming event, fussing about what she was going to wear, dreamily thinking about Noct in a suit. It had started to drive Gladio slightly insane. He was glad his sister was so excited, but there was only so much one could hear before they lost their mind.

He smiled. His little sister was growing up. It was very strange, watching her turn from an excitable little tomboy to a mature and strong teenager. Actually… was mature the word for her? Maybe not. But she had definitely changed a lot since their childhood days, and Gladio could not help but feel a massive surge of pride whenever he looked at her. She was just as strong as he was. He didn’t need to worry about her anymore, like he had done when she had been a child.

Gladio tipped his head back against the wall, sticking his hands into the pockets of his hoodie. He didn’t need to worry about his sister, but he certainly needed to worry about his stress levels. A night of fun was just what he needed. Recently, he had been growing more and more worried and uptight, and that was not what he wanted. He didn’t want to end up like his dad, who seemed to be in a state of perpetual stress. He was meant to be a laid-back guy, but he spent all of his time worrying about the prince. It was getting a bit out of hand.

Having been told all of his life that his sole duty was to be the King’s Shield, Gladio had developed a slightly obsessive protection complex. He felt nervous whenever Noct was let out of his sight. Whenever Noct did stupid shit that got him in danger, Gladio was instantly in panic mode. It was difficult, having such a great duty- especially when the person you were supposed to protect was practically your brother, and also a massive idiot.

He sighed. Tonight he wouldn’t worry. Tonight Noct would be the responsibility of someone else. He could enjoy being in his friend’s presence without worrying about assassination attempts, and that was refreshing. Tonight, Gladio would be free from worry- if only for a short while.

Chapter Text

Ravus had been sleeping quite peaceably before he had been awoken rudely by the buzzing of his phone. Squinting irritably, he picked it up, looking at the display.

>>>Unknown Number: DUDE
>>>Unknown Number: i need ur help!!!

Ravus frowned. Who in the world was messaging him at… three in the afternoon? Perhaps he had overslept a tad.

>>>Ravus: Who is this

His phone vibrated almost instantly in response.

>>>Unknown Number: noctis
>>>Unknown Number: bro i need ur help
>>>Unknown Number: not bro as in brother in law bc luna isn’t my wife lol
>>>Unknown Number: pls!!!

Ravus rolled his eyes. Of course the prince would find a way to irritate him even when they were miles apart.

>>>Ravus: How did you get my number

He received a reply at once- as if Noctis was awaiting his responses desperately.

>>>Unknown Number: luna gave it to me
>>>Unknown Number: dude i’m fuckingn freaking out

Ravus took a deep breath, trying not to let his frustration overtake him.

>>>Ravus: What do you want

Noctis’s next response again came instantaneously.

>>>Unknown Number: u know luna right

Ravus waited for Noctis to continue, but no response came. Ravus realised he was waiting for Ravus to reply. Ravus wanted to reach through the screen and strangle the idiot at the other end.

>>>Ravus: Yes I know my sister
>>>Unknown Number: what sort of stuff does she like

Ravus paused with his fingers hovering over the screen. He had been ready to tell Noctis to fuck off, but the question had caught him by surprise.

>>>Ravus: What do you mean
>>>Unknown Number: like what things
>>>Unknown Number: does she like

Ravus breathed in and out deeply.

>>>Ravus: You’re not being very specific

His phone chimed a second later.

>>>Unknown Number: like if u were gonna get her a present what would u get her

Oh. Noctis had forgotten to get Luna a gift. Ravus distantly remembered Luna fondly gushing about Noctis’s endless consideration and generosity, and shook his head in exasperation.

>>>Ravus: I don’t know

His phone vibrated again.

>>>Unknown Number: aw dude
>>>Unknown Number: anything i beg u pls!!

Ravus rolled his eyes hard, and tried to think of what his sister liked. She liked singing. She liked art. She had an interest in history. She… adored flowers.

>>>Ravus: Flowers you fool

There was a slight pause, and then Noctis replied again.

>>>Unknown Number: omg
>>>Unknown Number: ofc
>>>Unknown Number: im so dumb
>>>Unknown Number: sylleblossoms!!!!!
>>>Unknown Number: how could i forget
>>>Unknown Number: dude thank u!!!
>>>Unknown Number: hey can u get sylleblossoms in lucis???
>>>Ravus: I DON’T KNOW FIND OUT YOURSELF

Ravus set his phone down on his bedside table with a huff of frustration- a fairly pointless decision, as it vibrated another second later.

>>>Unknown Number: alright my dude calm down
>>>Unknown Number: lemme check
>>>Unknown Number: ahhhhhhfiuewhgr
>>>Unknown Number: gods bless u
>>>Unknown Number: ilysm
>>>Unknown Number: not in that way!!!!
>>>Unknown Number: thank u ur a godsend and a brilliant human !!

Ravus screwed his face up, and tapped back an overly gracious response.

Ravus: It’s ok

His sister’s boyfriend… was a moron. But a determined one. Ravus resignedly saved his number, so he wouldn’t be surprised if the idiot messaged him again.

Chapter Text

Regis rubbed his eyes, doing his best not to yawn. Yawning was a sign of weakness. And Regis was not weak. Nor was he sleep-deprived. It had just been a long day. A long, productive day. Many things had been achieved. He hadn’t spent six sleepless nights just for a Council meeting where nothing of significance had been accomplished-

Regis yawned.

“Damn it,” he muttered to himself, as his eyes watered. He was so, so tired. He had not had a moment of leisure time for what felt like centuries. The only times he got peace was when he was asleep, and even that was a rare occurrence. He had really taken his life of pleasure as a prince for granted. Being the king of a nation was an exhausting job.

He thought about his fourteen year old son, Noctis, who couldn’t sit through a class without falling asleep. He wondered how Noctis would manage, day in, day out, on a few hours of rest and endless amounts of torturous waffle. Perhaps he needed to stop spoiling his son, and teach him the realities of being ruler.

Maybe later.

Regis was traipsing aimlessly around the palace, quite unsure of what to do with his precious free time. He wondered if he should look for his son, but then remembered that Noctis was at school. He thought vaguely about finding Clarus, just for some company, but then remembered that Clarus was busy actually doing his job. His mind worked through various possibilities, ranging from mundane to highly dangerous (he had to remind himself that he was no longer a young man), but none seemed to appeal to him.

His stomach chose that time to growl particularly loudly, reminding him that he needed to eat. Regis rubbed it ruefully, thinking of all the meals he had missed over the past few days, but he relished the thought of raiding the kitchens. Maybe he could get Ignis to rustle something up for him. He had heard legends about the man’s cooking through the palace’s grapevine, and from Noctis himself, and now was a better time than any to rate the truth of this for himself-

“Lost, your Majesty?”

Regis turned on the spot, his thoughts about food interrupted, and was pleased to see Cor standing before him, one hand on his katana. The man never seemed to be at ease. It was almost as if he was also doing his job.

“Ah, Cor!” he said, suppressing another yawn. “Words cannot express how glad I am to see you. What are you doing?”

“I’m off duty for now, your Majesty,” Cor replied. “Just doing my regular checkup of the palace. You seem to be in a daze.”

Regis spread his hands out. “Daze? No, no, I’m quite all right. Come, Cor, walk with me.”

Cor looked doubtful, but he joined Regis’s side as the king began to walk.

“Eventful morning?” Regis asked. Sometimes he envied Cor, because the man did so much yet enjoyed his job wholeheartedly. He also got a lot more action than Regis, who was tied down in the palace, forced to listen to the insufferable old goats from the Council.

“I was training some new recruits for the Crownsguard,” Cor said, shrugging. “Nothing particularly exciting, I’m afraid. How did the Council meeting go?”

“Shiva couldn’t explain how awful it was,” Regis said, closing his eyes. “Those stupid gits will be the death of me. You should be protecting me from them. A bunch of degenerates.”

“They’re reaching their fifties, surely they’re beyond real deviancy,” Cor joked, and Regis gave him a dirty look. “Were they being their usual charming selves?”

“Of course they were,” Regis said, placing his hand on his heart. “Refusing to accept every little thing I said, I mean. Arguments left and right. They make me feel like a bad king. If I can’t control a room full of old people, how can I control a kingdom?”

“It’s beyond me.”

“You were supposed to comfort me.”

“Was I?”

“I’m hoping that was a joke, because if it wasn’t, I’d have to fire you, and doing that means I lose my ticket to an easy life,” Regis sighed. His stomach roared again, reminding him that he needed to get something in him before he fainted. “To the kitchens, I suppose. Is Scientia around?”

“I believe he’s picking up Noctis from school,” Cor said. “Speaking of Noctis, how is he doing?”

Regis rubbed his fingers in circles around his temples. “I really couldn’t say. I have not been able to spend much quality time with him as of late. I can’t imagine he’s too pleased with me.”

Cor furrowed his brow, scratching the back of his neck. “He’s a hormonal teenager, Regis, don’t expect him to be pleasant and obedient. Any child would feel the same way if their father was a king.”

“Hmm, you’re right,” Regis murmured. “I only wish I could spend more time with him. If I had me as a father, I’d hate myself.”

The duo were nearing the kitchens, now- Regis nodded and smiled at a servant as he passed. Cor looked stern.

“Stop being so hard on yourself,” he said. “It isn’t your fault. Noctis will be in your place, one day, and he’ll understand when the time comes.”

“Stop being wise,” Regis mumbled. “You’re making me feel worse.”

All of a sudden, a yelp sounded from behind them. The two turned to see a glaive running towards them, his hair in disarray and his expression one of desperation.

“Mr Leonis, sir!” he gasped. “There’s- there’s been some trouble with the new recruits- would you mind comin’ with me for a sec-? Oh, shit, your Majesty- I mean, oh, darn- ah, fuck, don’t execute me!”

Regis laughed. “It’s quite alright. No executions will occur today.”

Cor’s ability to keep a neutral expression was admirable. “Ulric, if I find there to be chaos, I will execute you myself, you understand? Come. Your Majesty, I will see you later.”

Ulric the glaive gave a hurried bow and raced along the corridor, Cor right behind him. Regis watched their retreating backs, and then realised with a jolt that he was alone once again. And he was still hungry.

Being a king was hard.

Chapter Text

"Hey, Ravus, I gotta ask you something."

There was no reply.

"Ravus."

Silence.

"Ravus."

Ravus furrowed his silver eyebrows, apparently too deep in thought to notice the mercenary captain.

"Ravus!"

The prince of Tenebrae looked up, the expression on his face distant as he regarded Aranea Highwind, who was waving a hand in his face. The captain looked irritably at him, glad that she had managed to catch his attention.

"Finally, what the hell are you thinking about?" she asked, folding her arms.

"Yes, yes, that's fascinating," Ravus responded vaguely, before wandering away. Aranea looked after him in disbelief.

***

"My dear High Commander," Ardyn Izunia purred, taking a step towards the silent young man, who seemed to be lost to the world. He was bored and wished to stir up trouble amongst his fellows, and where better to start than the stoic Tenebraen prince? It was serve as a fun challenge, at any rate. "Loqi has begged me to tell you that a unit of foot soldiers has wrecked one of the MA-X forces. He seemed loathe to tell you himself."

Usually, a statement like that would have incited Ravus's well-known and widely feared wrath, but instead he just nibbled at his fingernail and nodded at him.

"Fascinating," he said, and he left Ardyn standing alone, affronted. It was the first time the Chancellor had been ignored in possibly his entire life.

***

"Brother, may I have a word with you?"

Ravus was staring out of the window, his arms folded and his expression one of thoughtful interest. He did not glance at his sister, nor did he seem to register her presence.

Luna frowned. It wasn't like Ravus to ignore her. Had she said something?

"Ravus? Is something the matter?" she asked, prodding his shoulder cautiously. Ravus gave her an absent look.

"How fascinating," he said, nodding at her. Luna raised her eyebrows at him, knowing that he had not listened to a word that had come out of her mouth. What was going on with him?

***

"To me!"

"To you!"

"To me!"

"To you!"

"To-"

The shield went spinning out of Wedge's hand, and the world seemed to slow down as many things happened at once. Ravus appeared, absorbed in his thoughts, walking down the corridor without looking at them- and Biggs and Wedge stared in horror as the shield came hurtling towards his head. At precisely the right moment, however, Ravus ducked his head to look at the ground, and the shield narrowly avoided decapitating him by centimetres. The shield bounced off the wall with a loud clang, and landed on the floor so loudly both Biggs and Wedge jumped and screamed at the same time.

Ravus did not even look up. 

***

"Ha, ha... yo..." Noctis said weakly, as he watched Ravus sit absolutely still, his eyes settled on a point far away. "Ravus... my dude... how's it going..."

Ravus completely ignored him.

"So I- so I came because there was something I wanted to tell you," Noctis said hurriedly. "Um, so, you're probably going to kill me for this, but, um-"

Ravus blinked out of his reverie, and looked at Noctis. "That's fascinating."

And he got up and left Noctis in mid-sentence. Noctis was unsure whether he was being sarcastic or if he had genuinely just completely not noticed Noctis's existence.

He suspected it was the latter.

***

"Man, what's going on with the High Commander?" Aranea asked, looking bemused. "He's been totally zoned out all day."

"I have no idea," Ardyn sniffed. "He's been completely ignoring everyone, even me. How can someone ignore me? And I told him Loqi had destroyed stuff, he didn't even blink an eye!"

"What!" Loqi gasped. "And he didn't say anything? He doesn't want to kill me?"

"It is most confusing," Luna agreed. "When you speak to him, he doesn't listen to what you say and just says it's fascinating."

"We nearly killed him," Wedge said, sounding dazed. "And he didn't even look at us."

"He even passed up an opportunity to strangle me," Noctis said. "Something's up."

Perhaps it was entirely by chance that Ravus appeared at that moment, as if the fates did not know how to introduce him into the scene in a more original manner. He noticed the group huddled around, and nodded at them.

"Ravus!" Luna said, and he stopped in his tracks. "We were just talking about you?"

"Were you?" Ravus said. "All good things, I hope."

"Wow, you're acknowledging our existence?" Aranea said dryly.

Ravus frowned. "What do you mean?"

"You've been ignoring everyone all day," Ardyn said, looking annoyed and haughty. "Care to explain to us what was so important to you?"

Ravus looked bemused for a few seconds, and then he shrugged. "Oh, I can't remember." And with that underwhelming remark, he strode away.

Aranea turned to look at Luna. "What is wrong with your brother?"

Luna looked at Ravus's retreating back with a pained expression on her face. "I have no idea."

Chapter Text

“Hey, Luna? Can I ask you a question?”

“Of course.”

“Would you slap Ravus for a hundred million gil?”

“Well…”

“A hundred. Million.”

“I know… Ah... that’s a difficult decision. I mean, if it was for a hundred million gil… How hard would I have to slap him?”

“Hard. Hard, hard, I mean. So hard he’d go flying.”

“Oh, that’s so mean… I mean… I suppose I would do it… But he’d understand, right, because it is for so much… Oh, I’m such a horrible person, I’d hurt my brother for money!”

“So you would do it?”

“... I… Yes, I suppose so.”

***

“Hey, Ravus? Can I ask you a question?”

“What do you want?”

“Would you slap Luna for a million gil?”

“... Ha! What kind of question is that? I would obliterate her for a quarter of that. Try again, Prince of Dimness.”

“So you would do it?”

“Of course I would! Wait, are you going to tell her I said that?”

Chapter Text

The last tomb had considerably pushed the group past their limits. Noctis wasn’t quite sure how he was still alive, let alone still conscious. He wanted to travel back in time, find the ancestor who had placed the Greatsword of the Tall in Costlemark Tower, and slap him.

“Fucking hell,” Prompto wheezed, flopping down onto the wet grass with a loud groan of discomfort. “I’ve been awake for more than a day, I know it, I don’t even want to live anymore-”

Gladio set himself down onto a rock, wincing. “Fuck me sideways. Every muscle in my body hurts right now.”

Even Ignis seemed to be too exhausted for any sort of witty retort- he simply sat cross-legged on the ground besides Prompto. “I think we all deserve a break, don’t you, Highness?”

Noctis knew it was his job to rally his retainers and be a supportive and strong leader, but he just wanted a nap. He simply chose to yawn ridiculously loudly and settle down next to his friends.

“I’m thinking of- of- of- retiring,” he said, finishing off his sentence with another earth-shattering yawn.

“Do. Then the next tomb we’d have to look for would be the Tomb of the Bone-Idle. Sounds good to me,” Ignis said.

“Ignis wants to be lazy? Gods, this trip really has touched us all,” Gladio said, stretching out his limbs. “In all seriousness, Noct- fuck your ancestors. Fuck every one of them. And you can execute me on the spot for saying it, I’m beyond the point of caring right now.”

“I think he’s asleep.” Prompto pointed at Noctis, who was leaning against his hand with his eyes closed, dead to the world. “No executions today, I guess.”

“Aren’t I lucky.”

The Duscaen sky was streaked with pink- signalling the rise of a new morning. They really had spent too long inside the tower. Prompto was sure he’d have nightmares about the ridiculous thunder bomb monster daemons for weeks. He had felt the magic of the phoenix down so many times it no longer felt appealing to him- only really fucking annoying.

“No phoenix downs. No potions. No ethers. No elixirs. No remedies. No hand sanitizer,” Ignis said, sounding distinctly upset. “I think Noct has run dry of elements as well. How wonderful.”

“At least we’re alive,” Gladio sighed. “Be grateful, Ig. We’re probably going to have to face worse.”

“Gods, I hope not.”

Gladio got to his feet rather unsteadily, yawning briskly. “We should head to the nearest camp. I’ll wake the Prince of Light, shall I? We don’t want to get ravaged by daemons after surviving the Jabberwock, do we?”

Ignis sighed, following Gladio’s lead. “Sometimes I wonder how long my sanity will remain intact.”

“Don’t we all.”

Chapter Text

Prompto stared uneasily at himself in the mirror. The ball was in the evening, but he had already started to prepare himself for the night ahead. He felt unbelievably nervous as he surveyed his outfit. It was smart, but not too over-the-top. A nice blazer, a pair of clean black jeans, and a  shirt that wasn’t creased. He didn’t own any fancy suits, so this would have to do. He stroked his clean-shaven chin, examining himself critically. He certainly didn’t look like royalty, but he didn’t look so much like a commoner, either…

 

He sighed to himself. He wasn’t sure how he was going to cope at such a major event. It was a ball with so many important people- Luna and Ravus of Tenebrae, the king, probably dignitaries he didn’t know the names of… He would probably end up coughing up his lungs in an effort to be charming.

 

Ignis knew exactly how to act in these sorts of situations. He was crisp, calm, and a perfect gentlemen. His manners were perfect. Gladio was brilliant with people. The only person similar to him was Noct, who was awkward and shy, but even he had a sort of casual elegance that Prompto could only dream of possessing.

 

“Shut up, Prom,” he muttered. “It’s going to be fine. You’re going to meet a pretty girl, have a fun night with the bros, and you’re going to be fine. You understand?”

 

He glared at his reflection- and his reflection glared right back. Prompto stretched out his muscles, and looked at his camera, which lay on his desk. Perhaps this would be the only time he looked fairly smart. It was worth snapping a shot of himself.

 

He picked up his camera, and pointed it at the mirror. He pressed the capture button, and smiled slightly at the picture. It wasn’t that bad! He was probably being overly anxious about nothing. As he always was.  He placed his camera back down on his desk, and jumped as his phone vibrated in his pocket.

 

>>>noct: dUDE I’M IN BIG TROUBLE

>>>noct: HELP


Prompto smirked slightly to himself. There was always somebody worse off…