It was just after midnight when Aza jolted awake.
It was so abrupt that there were a few, bewildered seconds where he wasn’t quite sure where he was or what was happening, and it was only thanks to the blankets wrapped tightly around his legs that stopped him from impulsively leaping to his feet in a fight of groggy panic. As it was he stayed sprawled flat on his back, heart hammering against his ribs and his lungs feeling distressingly tight as he focused on in, out, in, out, in, out, in…
Stone ceiling above. Large bed. Aymeric’s scent. Distant noise of patrols and chatter, despite the night. Ala Mhigo. Okay.
His breaths slowed as he recognised his surroundings, forcing his locked-up muscles to relax as he rolled onto his side and curled up, managing to kick his legs free from the constricting blankets. Okay, he was fine. Just a nightmare. One of many. He just needed to calm down a little.
He shivered, from what he determinedly told himself was from the night chill, and pressed his face into the pillow, breathing in the lingering scent of Aymeric. While he normally hated waking up alone, in these instances he was relieved. It wasn’t that he was ashamed of having nightmares, not exactly, it was just… he didn’t want Aymeric to see him have them. He didn’t want him to worry.
But waking up alone like this was still… his gaze flickered about the room, as the dark shadows loomed ominously in the corners. Trick of the mind, he knew, but in his current state, hypervigilant to the point of stupidity, he felt ready to spring alert at any sign of-
Aza was up before he fully processed the noise and- went right over the edge of the bed. In a grand display of absolute grace, Aza went tumbling onto the floor in a mess of flailing limbs and dragged off blankets. The dull pain from hitting solid stone floor was enough to distract him from the fact that he very nearly had a heartattack holy fucking shit.
“Gods…” he groaned under his breath, pressing his burning face against the pleasantly cool floor, hearing raucous laughter from outside – the source of the banging noise. This was getting ridiculous. His brain needed to stop being so stupid.
Untangling himself from the blankets he crawled back onto the bed and sat on it, rubbing his hands over his face. This had been happening ever since the thing with Lakshmi, which was stupid because nothing had happened! Lyse and Raubahn hadn’t been tempered, he, Arenvald and Fordola beat back the Primal with no casualties, and Zenos was dead and buried and gone. No Shinryu. No psycho-Garleans (except Nero but he was their psycho-Garlean so he didn’t count). Everything was fine.
So why was he getting these horrible nightmares now? It didn’t make any rational sense. Was there something wrong with him? He couldn’t afford to be like this. The Warrior of Light needed to be strong and… this wasn’t…
He pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes until he saw stars, letting out a few harsh, forced breaths. Enough. Maybe he needed to exhaust himself more during the day. Push himself so his brain was too tired to conjure these unnecessary dreams. Let himself sleep for longer than a handful of hours at a time. It was getting to the point where Aymeric and the Scions were starting to notice and he couldn’t have that.
“There’re some hunts I’ve been putting off,” he muttered to himself, “Maybe I’ll do all of them one after another.”
Yeah, that could work. Try and solo some of the lower ranked ones to push himself some more.
Plan now in place, Aza flopped back against the bed, squeezing his eyes shut and hating the exhaustion already biting at the edges of his mind. He was so tired already and he was leery of going back to sleep. It was normally fine if Aymeric was here – somehow having a warm body beside him eased his nightmares long enough for him to snatch a full night’s sleep – but that was impossible with the times Aymeric had. Aza was busy with his duties and questing, and Aymeric was busy running the Temple Knights, the Dragoons, part of the Ishgardian Republic, etc, etc, etc. It was a miracle they even had time together at all!
“Hrmm…” Aza made a quiet noise of dissatisfaction, his mood brought lower by this thought. He missed Aymeric, which was ridiculous because he saw him some hours ago, but the feeling was still there, lodged uncomfortably under his breastbone. He missed Aymeric terribly, and he hated it.
He curled up again, knees right up against his chest like he could suffocate that feeling out of him, and told himself to stop being stupid. Through sheer determination, he managed to make himself drift off into an uneasy, fitful sleep.
He woke up again three hours later, this time with a cry he couldn’t quite muffle.
The difference this time was that instantly he was aware Aymeric was there. A strong hand gently pressed against the nape of his neck and Aza curled into the warmth beside him, too disorientated to be embarrassed as he soaked up the comforting low, albeit groggy, rumble of Aymeric’s voice.
“It’s alright. I’m here. You’re in Ala Mhigo. You’re safe.”
Why did he think waking up alone after nightmares was better again? Despite his heart trying its damnest to squeeze between his ribs, Aza felt that hypervigilant panic gnawing at his nerves ease up at a familiar voice associated with comfort and safety murmuring at him. He was distantly aware he was shivering, and Aymeric’s hand moved from the back of his neck and down his back, up and down, in slow, soothing strokes.
“Sorry,” Aza managed to get out, once he gathered enough wits to be mortified at his display, “Sorry. I’m- I woke you up.”
Aymeric was quiet for a moment before saying anything; “Nothing to apologise for. I was awake anyway.”
Liar, Aza thought, but didn’t have the energy to argue the point. He felt mentally drained, wrung out, yet horrifically on edge. The latest craziness his brain conjured up was mashing together Haurchefant’s death with Zenos almost murdering Y’shtola and ended up with a nightmare scenario of all the Scions and Eorzean Alliance leaders dying at Rhalgar’s Reach. Which didn’t happen, obviously, because half the people involved weren’t even there at the time, but for some reason the nauseous terror of that dream was clinging to him still.
Because he knew that he wouldn’t survive a scenario like that. If something happened that ended up with the Scions dying and Aza being left alone… no, he felt sick at the thought.
“I’m sorry,” Aza said again, because this was probably the last thing Aymeric wanted to deal with at some ungodly hour in the morning, “I’ll try not to do this again.”
Aymeric sighed, lifting his hand from Aza’s back to scratch behind his ears instead. Aza had to bite back the instinctive urge to purr and melt at the contact, and he buried his face into Aymeric’s chest to hide instead.
“I don’t think you can help having nightmares,” Aymeric said dryly, though his tone softened at his next words, “I’m no stranger to them, Aza. If I can help you, I will.”
Aza said nothing, because he was a horrible coward, but it seemed like Aymeric didn’t expect a response anyway. Instead he simply stroked Aza’s hair, occasionally scratching behind his ears, and it was enough to make Aza slowly relax. He even felt his eyes start to slip close, that horrible, clenching knot sitting behind his breastbone easing up.
Before he realised it, Aza drowsed off.
Four hours later, Aza jerked awake to the noise of something booming in the distance.
Instantly Aymeric’s hand smoothed over his hair, thumb rubbing behind his ear, and Aza felt his instinctive combativeness drop before it even gained momentum. Groggily, his brain filtered the booming noise from “Something Threatening” to “Familiar But Unsure”. He made a vague, curious noise into the crook of Aymeric’s neck.
“Cannon drills,” Aymeric murmured, “Over the lochs. Nothing to worry about.”
Oh, okay then.
Aza settled once he was certain the city wasn’t being invaded by Garlean forces or whatever, caught in a state between sleep and wakefulness. He wasn’t fully aware, but enough to listen to Aymeric’s steady breathing and bask in his body warmth, filtering out the unwelcome noise of Ishgardian cannons.
He didn’t know what time it was, he realised sleepily, his internal clock kind of confused from his fragmented sleeping. He thought about asking, but then he was worried that it might prompt Aymeric to get up in case he was late for something. He felt too tired to get up right now and… selfishly, he didn’t want Aymeric to leave him alone right now either. As much as he hated worrying Aymeric, he felt so comfortable lying in his arms like this.
“Hmm, someone’s happy this morning,” Aymeric said, his voice rough with sleep, “You’re purring.”
“I know,” Aza mumbled, deciding he very much liked Aymeric’s sleepy voice, “S’comfy ‘n nice.”
“Hm,” Aymeric shifted against him slightly, and Aza made a very happy noise when he felt his fingers scratch behind his left ear. It was a sweet spot to end all sweet spots, never failing to lull Aza into a happy puddle of goo – a fact Aymeric ruthlessly took advantage of. Usually to make him sleep, like last night (earlier this morning?), but sometimes he did it if Aza was giving head and oh, that was always amazing…
As it was, Aza was just pleased to lie there and be spoilt. His purring briefly slipped into a breathless groan when Aymeric dug his nails in just so, a jolt of heavy heat slipping through the fog of sleep.
“Mmn…” Aza hooked a leg over Aymeric’s hip at that, nuzzling his neck and arching his body when Aymeric’s hand then swept downwards, stroking along the curve of his spine to settle just above his tailbone, fingers lightly rubbing the upper base of his tail. Then, back up, slowly, a drag of fingernails against bare skin…
“Keep doing that,” Aza said roughly, feeling parts of him perk up from Aymeric’s wandering hand (and people thought Aza was the frisky one in this relationship), “And I’ll dry hump you.”
“Hm, is that something I don’t want to happen…?” Aymeric asked playfully, dragging his nails back down Aza’s spine.
Honestly, this man was a menace.
Aza shoved Aymeric onto his back and promptly sat on his stomach. Aymeric docilely went along with the manhandling, looking far too pleased with himself.
“I don’t know where you get the energy from,” Aza said, smiling as Aymeric’s hands rested on his thighs, lightly stroking up and down, “Frisky lil’…”
He didn’t finish the half-hearted grumble. He leaned forwards instead, until he was sprawled over Aymeric’s chest, his mouth finding the pulse point on his neck, grinding against the firm planes of Aymeric’s stomach.
And in the distance, the booms of the Ishgardian cannons went silent.
Two hours later, Aza woke up with a grunt.
For a moment, he wasn’t quite sure why he woke up this time. Aymeric was asleep next to him – practically on top of him, actually, which Aza didn’t mind because he liked having Aymeric’s weight on top of him, even if he was stupidly heavy. He wriggled slightly, and grimaced when he realised his arm was half-trapped and numb underneath Aymeric.
That must’ve been what woke him up.
With a grunt, he managed to free it, flexing his fingers as a rush of pins and needles prickled through them. Aymeric muttered something, shifting in his sleep, and Aza curled into him, kissing the underside of his jaw. Aymeric settled instantly.
Hm. This was nice, he thought lazily. Rare was it for Aymeric to stick around so late in the morning. He himself felt languid, body still sated from earlier, and took a moment to soak up this rare moment. He also felt rather refreshed, which was a pleasant change of pace.
He should probably wake Aymeric up, he thought. No doubt Aymeric actually did need to be somewhere but was horrifically late because he wanted to comfort him, but… well, until someone came knocking, Aza didn’t see the need to rush his departure. He closed his eyes, listening to the general hubbub outside – it really was late morning, Aymeric was definitely late for something.
Feeling happy, Aza went back to sleep.
One hour later, Aza and Aymeric were both woken up by Lucia barging in to drag Aymeric bodily out of bed. Turned out he was late to an Eorzean Alliance meeting.
By three hours.