“Yeah, I’ve got eyes on him.”
Nyx switched off his ear-piece before they could ask for a location. He was going to get chewed out for that later, he knew, but he also knew better how to read a situation. And this one called for privacy. He was about to remove himself, as well, hoping to slip back into the stairwell as unseen as he came up, but he wasn’t as good at his job as he thought.
“You can stay,” the prince called out without turning around to look at him.
Nyx bit on a curse before composing himself into his straight stance and stepping out onto the roof. He maintained a healthy distance from Noctis, checking the rooftop exits for nothing, really – no one was going to come up here; that’s why it was the prince’s favorite spot.
Noctis sat on the edge, legs hanging out over the infinite space between the top of the Citadel and the lowest streets of Insomnia. The wind roughed the perfectly tailored lines of his suit into disarray, a visual representation of what was boiling underneath. A half empty bottle of something dark and strong was set next to him, perilously rocking half off the edge and half onto it beneath Noctis’s indecisive fingers. He couldn’t decide whether or not he wanted to throw the bottle off the top of the building or throw his head back to drown himself in the rest of it.
Nyx stayed quiet, a chill that had nothing to do with the wind, pricking over his flesh. The prince was in a more severe state than usual tonight. Nyx vacantly wondered what had been said to finally push him this deeply into the bottle, but ultimately decided the reason didn’t really matter. His job now was to get the prince back to his chambers without having the whole Citadel, host to a loud party of a hundred esteemed dignitaries, snickering at his state of intoxication.
“Isn’t it a bit chilly for a midnight climb, Your Highness?” Nyx tried first, scrutinizing the silhouette of Noctis’s back against the silver-blue lights of the city’s skyscrapers.
Noctis lifted the bottle he was toying with in answer. “Portable heater.” Setting it down again nearly sent it over the edge. Nyx felt himself lurch forward on instinct to catch it, but, thankfully, the prince fumbled a little bit and managed to keep it from going airborne. A shudder went through Noctis once he steadied the bottle and he dropped his head into his hands, fists knotting through the dark fronds of his hair.
“Something you need to get off your chest, Highness?” Nyx knew he shouldn’t have asked well before the words were out of his mouth, but he’d never been one for propriety. He wasn’t paid to be a confidante, just a human shield. The way Noctis’s fists were shaking though – like he needed to punch something – Nyx just might fulfill that part of his job description.
The prince’s laugh was dark, almost cruel, as he answered. “Plenty, but let’s start with the fact that if one more person asks me about this fucking marriage, I’m gonna snap.”
His hands dropped to clench at the roof’s edge, nails digging into the coarse stone. His shoulders rose to his ears, clenching hard on some rage inside of him that his body refused to let go of. “Every time they ask, I just want to scream.”
His voice was as rough as the wind, syllables crashing and words cracking, breaking like planes of glass. His hands flexed around the roof edge, and when the concrete started to hurt his palms, he pressed them together, tapped his knuckles against each other, punched at his own forehead. Anger fought through his hands for some kind of release, an outburst that befitted its intensity. When he couldn’t make it work by himself, he gripped the bottle next to him and made to pelt it out into the city. Nyx caught his arm mid-pitch before he could.
Noctis glared up at the glaive, eyes rimmed red and glassy, teeth ground into a snarl. Nyx just cocked his head at the expression, unimpressed, and jerked the bottle from the prince’s grasp with an easy twist of the wrist.
“Never know where that might land,” Nyx cautioned, setting the bottle clear of any steep edges. “Or where you might, if you’re not careful. Come on, let’s go.”
Noctis growled and tried to pull himself out of the grip Nyx maintained on his arm, but he was drunk and Nyx did about 200 pull-ups every morning. While it was no contest, the prince’s struggle was a risk. More than likely it was the alcohol having an effect on his depth perception, but Noctis seemed to forget where exactly he was and that it was ill-advised to flail and squirm given the location. Despite Noctis’s explicit protests, Nyx held firm, looping his other arm around the prince’s waist and dragging him to a more substantial section of the roof.
“Leave me alone!” Noctis all but screamed at him, swiveling around and managing to get his hands on the glaive’s chest so he could shove himself out of his grip.
He didn’t get very far, bumping back into the emergency door he’d used to get up here in the first place. He leaned against the dark metal, heavily, head lolling and eyes clouded. Nyx snorted in annoyance. It was gonna be one helluva challenge, getting him back to his room if he was going to throw a tantrum any time he touched him. Human shield, Nyx reminded himself, rolling his neck and cracking his knuckles. He could take a few hits to get the job done.
He moved towards Noctis and the prince flinched back, pressed to the door and shaking. “Don’t take me back down there,” he pleaded. “I can’t…”
“You won’t, please, I’m taking enough heat for not reporting you in. You think I’m gonna risk taking more by letting you make an ass of yourself in front of every duke and duchess from here to Tenebrae?”
Something in Nyx’s words flared the rage in Noctis again, and the prince shoved at the glaive’s chest. He pushed all of his drunken heaviness into it, and it was enough to make Nyx stumble back a step. It gave Noctis just enough space to try making a run for the edge of the roof again. The air around him crackled with crystalline fractals of light, his phantom sword ready to be summoned for a warp escape. The king’s crystal bit at the air around Nyx quicker than it did the prince though, and the glaive flitted through space to clamp his arms around Noctis before he could call on his powers to make a run for it. Noctis roared in frustration, his arms trapped beneath Nyx’s. He kicked out at nothing as Nyx hefted him back to the emergency door, cursing the Six for the bad luck of having to be the glaive that had to deal with the prince in this state. He briefly considered calling in reinforcements, even tried adjusting his grip on the hostage prince to free up a hand to switch back onto comms, but as they wrestled for control, Noctis’s efforts steadily declined.
His fists went slack, the wrought tension in his muscles began to melt, and his furious howls slowly turned to whimpers. He slumped back against Nyx’s chest, knees buckling, and head hanging over the bicep trapping him against the glaive’s body. He started muttering something in a breathless, broken sob.
“Can’t get away… Can’t get away…”
And Nyx knew that he wasn’t talking about him. He paused with his hand against the emergency door and his arm wrapped around the suddenly enfeebled prince. An unrestrained shaking quaked throughout Noctis’s body, rolling against Nyx’s chest. It was a hollowing feeling, one that made him look down at his charge in concern. Noctis’s body was flushed hot against him; half of that heat came from the liquor and the other from the tears he was trying to choke back.
Nyx considered his position. His job was to cart the prince like a sack of potatoes back to his room and lock him in there until he sobered up. Which would be an easier task now that he was puddled against him, body yielding to capture and protests silenced… But. A memory that Nyx had spent a long time trying to forget kept him from slinging Noctis over his shoulder to deliver him to his bed.
Nyx gently took Noctis by the shoulders and turned him around to face him. The boy looked up at him without seeing him, drunk, destroyed, and utterly miserable. And Nyx couldn’t help but remember another man, who just buried his sister and was determined to poison himself with scotch until he joined her in the ground, ending up sobbing into his best friend’s shoulder for hours until the tears and the booze finally dragged him into unconsciousness. While this wasn’t like the grief Nyx had experienced once, it was still grief – a grief for freedom, for agency – and Nyx couldn’t resign Noctis to a night left alone with it.
Carefully, Nyx tugged the smaller man closer, pressing a hand to the back of his head and holding it against his chest. Noctis stiffened, confused and suspicious and angry at the world. Nyx watched the city and all its cold, white lights laughing back at them.
“Take it easy,” he said. “Get it all out. It’s gonna kill you if you don’t.”
Maybe it was because he was of the kingsglaive, and thereby sworn to keep the king’s secrets whether he liked it or not – Nyx didn’t flatter himself into thinking it was because the prince trusted him – or maybe it was because this rooftop was Noctis’s getaway, where only the concrete saw his tears, and the fact that he wasn’t alone this time didn’t change its function. Maybe it was just because he was that drunk. Whatever it was, the prince collapsed against him and just did as he was told for once. The tears came hard, soaking hot through Nyx’s uniform, and the knight just waited, patiently, fingers occasionally carding through the prince’s soft, black hair, until he put himself back together again.