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The dawn broke over Altissia, glowing red sunlight reflecting off of the now still waters that showed no sign of the turmoil that had arisen from them the day before.  Amber eyes watched the sunrise intently, lost in the moment of pure serenity as for the first time that night Gladio’s mind was able to stop for a few moments to bask in the glory.  While it currently was far from its former glory, the city on the sea was still a sight to behold as rays crept over buildings and structures casting away the shadows brought by the night.

 

Leaving the curtains open just a crack, the dark haired man looked to the still figure in the bed.  There was still no sign of him awakening, and sadly nobody knew how long it would be until the prince awoke.  All they knew was that harnessing the power of the Lucii drained the user and after the hell that Noctis has rained down on the Hydraen with the royal armiger there was no telling how long it would take for him to recover, coupled with the emotional trauma they were all now just playing a waiting game. Sadly, they didn't have all the time in the world so every minute was precious moments being thrown away.

 

The door to the current makeshift chambers in the hotel clicked, blonde head poking round the side to see if there was anybody else in the room.  From the looks of it, Prompto seemed to have had about as much sleep as Gladio who stopped his slow pacing by the grand windows that looked out upon the devastation that had wrecked through parts of the city.  “Anything?” Soft voice was barely above a whisper as Prompto stepped further in to the room.  While he knew he could probably shout at Noct right now and he still wouldn't awaken it just seemed the right thing to do.  A part of him was  expecting the shake of a head that he got in response even if it wasn't what he wanted to see.  “I stuck a head in on Ignis on the way…” Prompto’s trailing off spoke for itself as eyes met across the room.  “Still asleep, aswell.”

 

Gladio breathed a quiet sigh of relief.  The last thing he wanted was Ignis waking up on his own when they still didn't know the full extent of his injuries, however the duty that had brought him to Altissia had also brought him to ensure the state of the new king of Lucis. “You stay with Noct, I will go sit with Iggy.” Clearing his threat to try and clear some of the hoarseness that came out with his words, the pair smiled weakly at each other, a smile that didn't even reach the eyes as neither could get their heads around the situation and the gravity of it all. “I'm sure he'd much rather see your mug than mine when he ever wakes up.” Large hand clapped down reassuringly on the blond gunmans shoulder as he walked past, being sure to close the door quietly behind him as he entered the hallway.

 

As he walked into the room, all he wanted to do was climb under the sheets and wrap himself around Ignis’ sleeping figure and they could just stay like that, asleep and at peace pretending everything was still on track.  While he did eye up the bed and the perfect amount of space there was for him on there, he instead opted for the comfortable looking chair that sat by the window, facing towards the bed.  There was no predicting how the sleeping man would be when he woke up after all and he didn't want to run the risk of overdcrowding him so to speak.  Slouching into the chair, one leg rose to rest ankle on opposite knee, soon finding himself dragged slowly into the light clutches of sleep.

 


 

He didn't know how long he was out, but it wasn't a peaceful rest.  As soon as his dreams started going to a nice, serene place he heard it; the cry of leviathan piercing through the clash of metal, the imperials closing in on them, a shout, but no matter how quick he turned he couldn't stop it and then it came, the blood splashed across the cold stone floor, the pained cry of his partner.

 

Eyes snapped open as Gladio took a few moments to slow his breathing, trying to ignore the heavy feeling of dread that settled in as the reality that It wasn't just a dream sank back in.  Rubbing awake eyes the first thing he looked at properly was the still body in the bed.  Except he wasn't as he had left him. He was sat up?  “Iggy?”  Pushing himself up off the chair it only took a few strides and Gladio was at the bed, sitting carefully on the edge as a hand took that of the younger man who reached out to him as he sat down, fingers lacing together tightly, reassuringly.  His lips parted, a sigh of relief tumbling from them before he was able to say anything more but somebody else got their before him.

 

“I didn’t know you were here.”  While his voice was its usual, calm dulcet self the tightness with which Ignis gripped onto his hand gave the swordsman a somewhat truer glimpse as to how he may have actually been.  Always one to keep up appearances.  “How's Noct?”  Gladio’s eye roll was practically audible as he questioned why he expected anything else out of Ignis’ mouth. 

“How're you?” He didn't mean the retort to come out as sharp as it did, but he was in disbelief at how the strategist was still seemingly putting his duty before himself.

“I'm inconsequential, is he okay?”  He already knew this wasn't anything worth arguing about; with everything that had happened it was the last thing they needed, but emotions were running high right now and he needed Ignis to think of himself and the situation that he was in.

 

“He's fine, as far as we can tell.” If it took putting his mind at rest to talk about other pressing matters such as the state of himself, Gladio would get the formalities out of the way first.  “He's not woken but everything is stable, all things considered. Prompto is with him in case he wakes up.” Thumb gently stroked over the back of slender hand that still resided in his, his gaze watching Ignis tentatively.  “Now again, how're you?”

 

“Luna?”  For a moment Gladio forgot that he didn’t know about the outcome of the Oracle.  There was nothing that they could have done for her and while she paid the ultimate price, she had in doing so given them a fighting chance to do what had to be done.  The silence that filled the room said more than words could, the pair sitting still as the gravity of the situation sunk in.

 

Raising the hand in his, Gladio pressed a soft kiss to Ignis’ fingers before letting them go, scooting on the bed slightly so he was closer to the brunette.  “Now can we talk about you?”  Choosing to ignore the sigh that escaped the other man he brushed hair from forehead, hesitating as he loitered over the dressings that covered that handsome face that he adored so.  The beautiful green eyes that he could get lost in for hours.  The what-if’s were endless as he hesitated, but it was picked up on.

 

“It’s nothing I can’t handle.”  Such softly spoken words, but it was enough to spur Gladio on as he gently removed the smaller of the two dressings, exposing the lesser of the two injuries.  Compared to when it first happened, the older male had to restrain from the sigh of relief as to how much better it looked now it was cleaned and stitched up, the cosmetic side was one thing but the lasting damage was yet to be discovered.  That and this was only one half of a greater whole.  It wasn’t like those few years previously when the tables were turned, Ignis declaring with such gusto that he would be fine after taking an attack meant for the crown prince.  He still remembered the exact tone to his words as he declared how lucky he would be if it did scar, it might make his face more interesting. The thought alone drew a shadow of a smile to Gladio’s face, a bittersweet smile as he watced Ignis wince slightly as he tried to blink open his now uncovered eye. 

 

With a deep breathe he worked up the courage and slowly started peeling away the second dressing.  He almost closed his own eyes as he did it, not wanting to see the true extent but the hand that found his leg, settling on his thigh softly reminded him that he had to.  “Your silence is very reassuring.”  The comment drew a nervous little chuckle from Gladio as he completely removed the second dressing, that sigh finally leaving him but it was not one of relief.

 

“Ignis…”  Gently brushing finger tips over a part of soft skinned cheek that wasn’t dominated by the still tender injury that consumed that part of his face Gladio found himself blinking furiously as tears threatened to fall from his face. The last 24 hours had been too much for one man to handle and as he looked upon Ignis who was still so defiant in appearing strong and composed despite all this it was almost too much.  “I’m so sorry…”

 

Voice threatening to crack as he spoke he swallowed the lump in his throat.  He didn’t know what else he could say, as far as he could see he had failed; the state everything was in he couldn’t do anything to prevent it and it weighed on his mind like a ton of bricks.   Before he could say anymore hands found him, taking him by the shoulders and pulling him close.  Amber eyes closed as he let himself relax against Ignis’ chest, arms embracing him tightly. 

 

“Gladiolus Amicitia, sworn shield of the king.”  The words spoken to him were barely above a whisper as his own arms snaked their way around Ignis’ waist.  “Your life is dedicated to protecting the king as your father did, as your grandfather did and everyone in your family has before them.”  He should have been the one comforting the brunette now, not the other way around but he still found himself unable to interrupt Ignis as he spoke, his words being a comfort that he didn’t know he had needed, as well as the truth that he needed to hear. “And I, Ignis Scientia, am not the king.  It isn’t your duty to protect me.”

 

Unburying his face from the advisors chest, he looked up into the scarred face that wore a soft smile on features, albeit haunted with a certain melancholy, the one eye that was able to be opened unfocused as he looked in Gladio’s direction.  “I’ve known the risk that comes with my position from day one, my safety will never be a priority as long as the crown is at risk.”  He didn’t understand how he could do it, how he could lay there and just accept what had happened but as silence once again grew between the two that’s when he heard it, the slight shake to Ignis’ breath as his hand searched for Gladio’s face, thumb softly stroking over his cheek and the swordsman’s own scar that he bore from doing his duty as Noct’s guard.  It was the only indication that perhaps the advisor wasn’t dealing with this quite as solidly as his demeanour may have projected.  Shifting slightly Gladio leant up, lips softly brushing against Ignis’ before letting his head rest on his shoulder, amber eyes closing as he relaxed for the first time that morning to the sound of soft whispers.  “But I know I couldn’t, and will never, have better comrades to stand at arms with, than the people I left the crown city with.”