“Your Majesty,” greeted Ignis as he swung the front door open. The prince and his retainers had finally been caught, and it could not have come at a worse time. With both Noctis and Gladio passed out cold for the foreseeable future, Ignis was entirely on his own in facing the king.
“Master Scientia.” King Regis’s greeting gave no hint to his true feelings. Behind him stood his Shield and Gladio’s father, Clarus Amicitia. A Crownsguard member whose name Ignis didn’t know formed the rear. Ignis could see another Crownsguard in one of the two black cars they had arrived in.
Stepping aside, Ignis waved them in cabin with another deep bow, striving to control his breathing. The king walked ponderously, stopping at the kitchen table and sitting in one of the chairs rather than going further into the house like Ignis might have expected. Regis drew his fingers underneath his chin, and questioned, “Am I correct in assuming that my son and his Shield are also in this house somewhere?”
Ignis drew himself up stiffly. “Yes. But they’re both asleep right now.”
Standing behind to his king, Clarus was expressionless. He turned to the Crownsguard. “If you would fetch my son and the prince for me?”
The silence expanded as they waited. Ignis wondered if the Crownsguard would even be able to wake the prince and his Shield. He wanted to say something, but he wasn’t sure how, so instead he stood impotent. Vague shouting noises echoed down the hall, then the distinct patter of regulation Crownsguard boots. The guard returned, expression drenched in distress. “Sir! They won’t wake up. Neither one!”
So that answered that question , thought Ignis.
“What?” demanded the Shield, but he was already moving down the hall.
The king lifted his head from where he had been resting on steepled fingers. Rather than follow his Shield, he steadily met Ignis’s gaze. Regis seemed to sense something in that gaze, because after a moment, he nodded and rested his head once more. “Master Scientia, I trust my Shield to discern the situation for himself, but I’m sure your reassurance would not be amiss.”
“Majesty.” It was odd. These two men’s children had just spent the morning fucking each other in the family vacation home. Was that not awkward for them, even under the admittedly unusual circumstances? Ignis had little desire to confront his old mentor, but he obligingly followed the Shield and Crownsguard into the bedroom.
Clarus stopped at the foot of the bed, his arms crossed over his chest. The guard next to him had an anxious expression, eyes darting back and forth between Clarus and the two sleeping men. For a moment, the only sound that could be heard was the snuffling of Gladio’s half snore lifting Noctis’s hair, and the heavy breathing of the young Shield’s father.
“Explain,” demanded Clarus tightly.
Ignis would not let himself be cowed. The Shield had to understand what the scene before him, the two naked men and their apparent unnatural exhaustion, meant. “We were given an ultimatum,” Ignis started, fighting to keep the accusation out of his voice. He didn’t think he was very successful. “They’ve fulfilled it.” He did not avert his eyes as Clarus swung around to meet him.
“You were given an ultimatum, and they’ve fulfilled it?” the Shield repeated incredulously.
“Yes,” insisted Ignis, remaining stubborn.
Clarus opened his mouth, then closed it. He took two deep breaths, looked at his son, and spoke, his temper clearly barely in check. “There is a place,” said the Shield slowly, “within the Citadel, specifically for the completion of the Ritual of Retainers. Everything there is designed to keep both participants safe and comfortable; magic replenishing potions for the prince, doctors to make sure they are both clean, and a place to rest afterwards. Why on Gods’ green earth would you completely throw all of that away and haphazardly attempt to perform a dangerous magical ritual outside of the protection of the city and away from anyone that could help if things went wrong?” When Ignis didn’t answer fast enough, he snapped, “Well?! Answer me!”
“It wasn’t planned that way,” admitted Ignis unwillingly.
“Not planned?” The Shield took another deep breath. “Astrals, help me! I am not stupid. Obviously this was never going to be an easy situation at the prince’s age, so why the hell would you make it even more complicated?! What were you thinking?”
Ignis snapped. “I was thinking that our prince deserved to choose for himself how he was going to lose his virginity.”
They glared at each other. Clarus sighed. “How long ago?”
“How long ago did my son complete the Covenant with Prince Noctis? I assume they were successful?”
“I—yes they were. About three hours ago.”
“Right.” Clarus turned to his Crownsguard. “Stay here,” he commanded. Pointing at Ignis he said, “You, with me.” They walked back to where the king still waited.
As they approached and the king saw his Shield’s face, he said neutrally, “So, it’s done then.”
Clarus nodded tightly.
“And Noctis?” asked King Regis, looking at Ignis.
“Your Majesty?” questioned Ignis, not sure what he was being asked to tell his king.
“Is my son—well?”
Ignis swallowed. “He is,” he replied softly. “As well as one could expect.”
The king nodded, his face still that neutral expression. “Good. That’s good,” he said.
Clarus did not allow that moment to sit for very long. He rounded on Ignis once again. “You helped Prince Noctis steal a car last night, removing him from the safety of the Citadel. You damaged the gate of the royal garage and attacked a Kingsglaive. Because of yours and Prince Noctis’s actions, every Kingsglaive member and most of the Crownsguard were called from their usual duties to perform a massive and ultimately pointless manhunt.”
Even though Ignis had known it was coming, the disappointment in Clarus’s voice stung on a deep level. Clarus had mentored Ignis for years before declaring the advisor fit for his duties without supervision. To hear that pride in Ignis broken was almost impossible to bear. Ignis hung his head. At least he would not shame himself by making up excuses or refusing responsibility for his actions. That much he could still do. “It was all my idea,” he said steadily. “Not Noctis’s. I made a mistake.”
“I find it difficult to believe that stealing the Regalia was truly your idea, Master Scientia,” King Regis said with a twitch of his brow.
“I was upset,” lied Ignis. He willed with every ounce of self-control for his expression not to give him away. He didn’t expect them to believe him. But if he could prevent them from laying the blame solely on Noct, then maybe he could also keep the worst of the punishment from his prince. At the moment, that was best that he could think to do. “I drove to the Citadel to find Noctis. I told him that I wanted to do something rebellious. I was—upset at the pressure we’ve been feeling lately to form a Covenant together, and I wanted to let off some steam. Noctis was reluctant, but I manipulated him into following me.”
Both of the men that faced him wore identical expressions of skepticism. “Ignis,” began the Shield, “You don’t do Prince Noctis a favor by keeping him from the consequences of his actions. He’ll never learn better that way.”
Ignis had already considered that argument, but he wasn’t Noctis’s parent. And he didn’t believe that Noctis had chosen his destructive actions because of a character flaw or something that could be inherently corrected through harsh discipline. If anything, harsh discipline and punishment would make it worse. He looked at the king and insisted, “I did my best to force Noctis into it. If you would blame the events of last night on someone, then it must be me.”
“And you will not waver from that conviction, Master Scientia?” King Regis asked. “What if I demanded the truth out of you as your King?”
Ignis swallowed heavily. “I would respectfully remind you of your own words to me, Your Majesty, the day I asked to become your retainer.”
The king’s eyes glinted. “And which words were those?”
Ignis refused to look away. “You told me that when the time came, you expected me to belong to Noctis. Only to Noctis,” he said unwaveringly. “And so I do.”
The king held his gaze a bit longer, then snorted. He waved his hand. “I assume my son is conveniently passed out from his magic for the foreseeable future?”
Clarus spoke. “I’d say a couple more hours at least, from the look of them.”
With a nod, the King replied, “Well, that’s that. Please inform Drautos that his services in instructing my son seem to be no longer necessary. Then take Gladiolus and Noct back to the Citadel. We’ll give them an appropriately angry lecture after they wake up.”
“No,” Ignis interjected unthinkingly. Both men gave him some form of a shocked look. “I mean,” he began again, trying to regain his footing, “Please don’t. Let them go back to the penthouse. It’s bad enough that the entire Citadel knows Noctis was being pressured to perform the Ritual of Retainers. If they are both carried into the Citadel as they are, anyone worth their salt who knows anything at all about the Covenant will know what that means. Please don’t subject them to that.”
Ignis didn’t bother to hide the pleading in his eyes as he looked from Clarus to the king. Clarus was the one who was self-righteously angry, and thus the harder one to convince. And indeed he said dismissively, “If you had wanted to avoid the entire Citadel knowing what you were up to, perhaps you should not have incurred a manhunt that required the entire Citadel to be involved.”
Ignis remained silent, but turned his gaze on the king. Finally, King Regis gave a curt nod. “Take Gladiolus and Prince Noctis to the penthouse then. But have Guard Adrian remain with them until they both awaken. Then have them come to my chamber first thing tomorrow morning.” Clarus bobbed his head and went outside. Guard Adrian must have been the one in the car.
With that, the king slowly stood up. Ignis raced to hand him his cane, feeling useless. King Regis took the cane from him gratefully, then headed towards the bedroom. As they entered, the guard that had been left there bowed and straightened back up into attention.
“Leave us,” commanded King Regis. Ignis watched in confusion as the Crownsguard obeyed without hesitation. He was still trying to figure out what exactly was going on, when the king spoke again. “Young Gladiolus was not the first to form a Covenant with my son, was he, Ignis?” At Ignis’s shocked looked, he chuckled, though his mirth seemed rather forced. “I have been bound to the Crystal for longer than you’ve even been alive. To me, you practically stink of fresh Crystal magic.”
Ignis frowned. “Does that mean that all the Crownsguard and Kingsglaive know as well?”
The king shook his head. “My retainers are bound to me, not the Crystal. Just as you and Gladiolus are bound to Noctis. I sense all Crystal magic; you sense only his.”
Ignis remembered how Glaive Ulrich had interrupted his conversation with Noctis last night. How Noctis had frozen and whispered, “Magic.” The prince had been able to sense his father’s magic as clearly as the King could evidently sense his son’s.
“Have you tried to use your bond with the prince yet?” asked King Regis. The curiosity in his voice was clear. Ignis shook his head and the king added, “I assume you have some weapon of his that you know well? One that was a present from you, perhaps?”
Ignis did indeed have a weapon like that. A short knife, like those the Kingsglaive carried. He had given it to Noctis after the prince had first learned how to warp as congratulations for the teen’s efforts.
The king turned to the sleeping Noctis and spoke without facing Ignis. “Don’t think about what it looks like. That’s not important. Remember instead that moment of connection to Noctis that you felt when he first bound himself to you. You’ll have to learn how to call up that feeling instantaneously eventually, but for now just try. Then remember what the weapon feels like. It’s weight in your hand. The cold of the metal, perhaps.”
Ignis closed his eyes, aware of how many times Gladio had snapped at Noctis for doing the same when trying to call his magic. Oh well. It wasn’t hard to bring back the memory of that connection. It felt like it was soldered onto his brain, bright and painful in its power. The problem was in connecting that feeling, that memory, to a specific weapon. Ignis suddenly understood why it had taken Noctis so many months to grasp this concept. But then again, Noctis had not had someone to show him the way, whereas Ignis had this unforgettable memory to work from.
Ignis felt it, like a thread snapping into place. He felt the weight and the shape of the knife before he saw its glint. A few silver sparks crackled in his grip, and then he was holding the squat little knife. At the same time, Noctis took a gasping breath and jerked upright, upending the oblivious Gladio.
“Ignis?” wheezed the prince. He blinked stupidly for a few seconds, clearly trying to get his bearings.
For himself, Ignis could only stare at the weapon that now lay in his grip. It was real. Of course, he had always known that the weapons Noctis banished and retrieved from the void were real. But still, this was real. It had weight. There was a small nick in the handle from someone’s carelessness, probably Noctis.
“Ignis?” asked Noctis again as he rubbed his eyes. He finally seemed to focus, then shrieked. “DAD!” If it weren’t so horrifying, it would have been hilarious. Noctis fumbled into a better sitting position, scrabbling against the covers, limbs flailing. Only he was still naked, and his movement pulled the blanket away from his crotch. This started an entire new round of shrieking and a flailing jerk of the covers.
Frankly, Ignis thought it could have been worse. The teen could still be covered in dried cum, as he had been earlier before Ignis had cleaned him off.
After mostly recovering himself while the king watched impassively, Noctis repeated, “Dad! What are you doing here?”
The king’s mouth curled. “I’ve come for my car, Noctis.”
At that, Noctis’s face turned bright, cherry red. “I—I—,” repeated the teen. His eyes met Ignis’s and then the knife in the advisor’s hand. Eyes widening, he obviously recognized the weapon. “Ignis,” he repeated for the third time.
Letting the weapon disappear was as easy as a thought. With another ripple of silver sparks, it returned to the void. Ignis held his hand up, staring at the space left behind. The thought kept repeating like a mantra, it’s real, it’s real.
Ignis heard the king take a deep breath behind him. Then it all seemed to happen at once. Noctis’s face widened in horror, and Ignis heard a whooshing noise. Some instinct had him turn around to face the king.
King Regis was swinging a sword a him.
King Regis was swinging a sword at him, and Noctis was shouting, and Ignis was going to die. It didn’t make sense, but Ignis was still going to die, split in two by the man whose son’s virginity he had taken.
The ringing, clashing sound of metal on metal rang out. A splash of magical sparks blinded Ignis momentarily. Then everything cleared away.
Ignis held a polearm defensively across his body, and the king’s sword was buried in it. They both stood there silently panting, until Noctis broke the quiet. “What the hell are you doing, dad?!” The teen stood up shakily, heedless of his nakedness in his desperation to help his friend.
Something about that frantic thoughtlessness warmed Ignis. He glanced back from the prince to the polearm in his hands.
With a mighty heave, the king jerked his sword back, and it dissipated into a wave of sparks. Ignis didn’t dare drop his weapon or move it in anyway. He stood frozen as Noctis sidled up, panting in his post magic weakness.
The king spoke when Noctis finally stood beside his advisor. “I wanted you both to understand why I pushed this on you, why it was necessary. Do you see now?”
Noctis was angry in the way that Ignis could not be. “I see that you almost killed Ignis!”
“Did I?” The question was flung at them. Noctis glared and snarled at his father, his teeth bared almost wolf-like. The intimidating effect was only slightly marred by the fact that he stood before them as naked as the day he had been born.
Once again the weapon disappeared from Ignis’s hand. He lifted a palm to rest on Noct’s bare shoulder, hoping to calm the prince’s temper before he said or did something regretful. “I’m alright, Noct. Truly.”
The prince shook his head. “What if you had, what if—?” Noctis trailed off as the king stooped laboriously to pick up his discarded cane.
He straightened up and met Noctis’s gaze steadily, oblivious to his son’s nakedness. “The magic is easiest to teach when it is fresh in their minds. Which you would have known, had you chosen to do this within the Citadel.” His gaze swiveled to Ignis, though he still spoke to Noctis. “Even without teaching in the finer aspects of the magic of retainers, he is already faster and stronger. He calls a weapon to himself as naturally as you would have, for it is your skills he uses to do so. Do you understand?”
Ignis, at least, understood. He still wasn’t sure that forcing Regis’s son to give up his virginity for that magical power was worth the heartbreak, but he did understand it. This was the potential difference between life and death, as his still racing heartbeat helpfully informed him.
Noctis jerked his head to the side. Both Ignis and the king waited on him to make up his mind. Finally, he turned back to face his father and nodded stiffly. At that, King Regis let out a long breath.
Noctis, in that moment, seemed to finally notice his nakedness. He blushed again fiercely and stumbled away to search for his discarded clothes. As the prince rummaged on one side of the bed, Ignis called out gently, “Other side, Noct.” The look Noctis shot him was not particularly grateful, but he did follow Ignis’s direction, finally finding his torn clothing from the night before. Facing the wall, he yanked his clothes back on, the trembling of his hands obvious despite his attempt to hide it.
As Noct came back around, the king raised a brow at the state of his son’s clothing, but neither Noctis nor Ignis ventured an explanation. Though in Noctis’s case, Ignis thought his lack of response might have more to do with how pale and shaking he was, and how his eyes squeezed shut like he was fighting a wave of dizziness.
“Master Scientia has convinced me to allow you to return to your apartment, rather than the Citadel, Noctis,” said the king. At that, Noctis shot Ignis a look. “However, this does not mean that you will not face the consequences for your actions last night. You and Gladiolus will report to me first thing tomorrow morning. Do you understand me?”
Noctis’s answer was toneless. “Yes, sir.”
“One more thing.” Ignis jerked his head up. The king had ignored Noct’s less than enthusiastic assent, but still, his voice had grown grave and commanding. “I don’t believe that Master Amicitia or our Crownsguard friend have realized that this past night involved both Ignis and Gladiolus. For now, let us keep that information between the four of us.”
Ignis knew that Noctis did not grasp the depth of what the king was saying with that. It was highly doubtful that it was Clarus that King Regis did not trust. But maybe someone else in his guard? After all, somehow the entire Citadel had found out about the ultimatum in the first place. Someone had to be talking. He let his eyes met his king’s and nodded, allowing the weight of his inference to show in his gaze.
King Regis did not respond, but instead said, “I’ll give you a few minutes to gather yourselves, shall I? Perhaps dress Gladiolus if he still cannot be woken. Then I’ll send the Crownsguard to help him to the car.” With that, the king left, his lame leg dragging along.
Ignis waited until he had closed the door behind him, then went to shake Gladio. Of course, the Shield gave absolutely no response. If he still hadn’t been snoring, Ignis might have been worried about him. “Just sit down, Noct. I’ll take care of this.”
“Humph,” snorted the prince, but nevertheless he obeyed, collapsing back against the edge of the bed. Noctis watched as Ignis found Gladio’s pants and then brusquely dressed him, ignoring any potential embarrassment. After he finished that task, Ignis made to leave, but Noctis stopped him.
“Wait, Iggy. Ignis!” Noctis called out to his advisor.
“Noctis, we cannot stay here any longer—.”
Noctis cut off Ignis’s words. He stumbled to his feet and strode up to the advisor, far too close for comfort. Taking a moment to hold Ignis’s gaze, Noctis suddenly smiled, bright and warm, and then he reached up slowly. Ignis knew he should back away. He must back away. But he did not. He let the shorter teenager reach up with soft lips and press himself against Ignis.
Ignis drowned in the heady scent of his prince. He soaked in the heat of his mouth, the fullness of his lips. Noctis kissed him with a quiet assurance that was slow and content, rather than hungry. Even when the kiss turned open mouthed, tongues pushing and exploring, it stayed sweet.
Afterwards, Noctis hid his face in the crook of Ignis’s neck. “I’m glad it was you,” he whispered. “Thank you.”
Ignis’s heart stopped, and he started to pull his head back to look at Noctis aghast, but the teen was already walking past him. He could only stand dumbfounded as Noctis left the room without looking back.
In life, there are certain things that can never be taken back. Some words that remain between two people for the rest of their lives. For Ignis, I’m glad it was you, was one of those irreversibly life altering moments. He stood there, Gladio’s snoring the only noise around him, and he fought not to cry.
He was still standing there when the two Crownsguard came back to carry Gladio to the car. He stood as they heaved the Shield up, and he remained as they carried Gladio past him and down the hallway.
When he finally walked outside, Noctis was already in one of the cars with Gladio, the Shield’s head lolling against the window. Clarus waved to Ignis. “We can trust you to drive the Regalia back to the Citadel in one piece, I hope,” he said dryly.
“Ah, yes, sir.”
“Good. I’ve got Guard Adrian driving those two idiots back to the apartment. You’re to come with us to the Citadel after you drop off the car. The king wants to have a few more words with you.”
“I am his to command,” Ignis demurred.
Clarus wasn’t impressed. “Humph. Glad you remember that.”
Ignis watched as the car bearing Noctis drove away. The prince twisted around and stared at Ignis until the cloud of dust from the gravel road blurred everything away.
The young advisor took a deep breath.
I’m glad it was you. With just those few words, Noctis had the power to sweep over all of Ignis’s defenses, to lay his soul bare and bleeding. Ignis remembered what Noctis had said to Gladio, before the teen had turned the tables on him. The power you have over me, it’s power feely given. Ignis wasn’t sure that the power Noctis had over him was freely given, but it was too late now, and it couldn’t be taken back. Nor, if he were being honest with himself, did Ignis ever wish to.
If I had to fall, then I’m glad it was you, he thought.
With a sigh, Ignis climbed into the Regalia, and flicked the ignition. It was going to be a long drive back to the Citadel.
Two men were in an office. The first man sat behind the desk, and it was clear that he was the powerful one in the room. His bright blue eyes and scarred face exuded security and competence. The second man hovered in front of the desk, pacing restlessly.
The pacing man spoke. “The king has been too secretive on this. He knows.” The last sentence he shot at the man behind the desk like an insult.
“The king is protecting his son. Of course he’s being secretive,” replied the man behind the desk placidly. “I’d be more concerned if he weren’t attempting to shield Noctis from the weight of the Citadel gossip chain.” He pursed his lips and added, “What we need to concern ourselves with is whether the prince has truly made a move with his retainers. The reports on that have been . . . unreliable.”
“He ran off with the chamberlain. Don’t you think that means he likely completed the ritual with him?”
The man behind the desk shook his head slowly. “You forget; I was there when the chamberlain spoke to the king. Ignis Scientia is a coward. He fears the ritual. It is unlikely that he will allow himself to be the first to complete it with the prince.”
“But we know something unexpected happened yesterday morning with the Amicitia heir. The prince refused to complete the ritual with him as well.”
“Regardless, the young Amicitia is the bigger threat. He’s been trained since he was a child in royal arms and magic, whether or not he actually possesses it yet. The king believes that it is the Amicitia’s birthright to lead the prince in his magic. He will not allow another to take his favorite retainer’s son’s place as long the boy is in anyway competent, despite my efforts.”
The pacing man asked nervously, “What will you do then?”
“Simple. I will show the king just how foolishly he places his trust. Gladiolus cannot protect the prince. No, the prince is easily manipulated and weak himself. What he sees in that boy I have no idea.”
“I just hope you know what you’re doing. You know he wants one of his own close to the prince.”
“And he’ll get it.” The man behind the desk waved his hand. “Now leave. I have work to do.”
*End of Part 1*