Aymeric stirred awake when he felt something none-too-gently nudge his shin.
For a brief moment he hovered between sleep and wakefulness when the nudge came again – harder, enough to make him jolt – and he reluctantly opened his eyes to the darkness of his bedroom, hearing a soft, breathed out noise moan out next to him.
He fully woke from his lingering doze. He became uncomfortably aware of the warm body curled tight against his side, trembling and tense, restlessly shifting about and accidentally kicking him in the shin a few times. He wished he could say it was from an exciting dream of the pleasant sort, but…
“Nnh… no, no…” Aza’s voice was weak and shuddering, barely above a drawn in breath… it was still enough to split his heart in two.
“Shh, everything’s fine…” Aymeric murmured, shifting so he was facing his partner a little more, carefully wrapping an arm around him. Aza twitched but didn’t stir, his breathing audibly stuttering in his throat. Aymeric gently curled his fingers into his light brown hair, tugging and stroking. He felt the brush of fur against his knuckles when Aza’s ears pinned back, so he carefully rubbed his thumb behind one of them.
“Everything’s fine,” he repeated in a low, tired rumble, slowly blinking the sleep out of his eyes as he felt Aza start to settle against him, “You’re safe. I’m here.”
He didn’t know if talking helped, but it made him feel a little less useless in these situations. Aza’s trembles started to die down at any rate, so he continued murmuring small little nothings, doggedly pushing back the exhaustion creeping back in. He didn’t think about how he had an early morning ahead of him, wading through another mentally draining session with both the House of Lords and the House of Commons, because Aymeric had perfected the art of being seemingly alert whilst fatigued beyond all reason. He would manage, if…
Aza gasped abruptly, a choked noise cut off, his entire body going taut as strung carbonwire. Aymeric carefully did not jolt in surprise or react, except to continue stroking his hair.
A pause. Then;
“Aymeric,” Aza’s voice was rough and muffled from where he pressed his face into his shoulder. His cheeks felt wet, “Sorry, have I…?”
“I was already awake,” Aymeric said, an old, oft repeated lie that Aza never believed but also never questioned.
Aza sniffed and went quiet, saying nothing for a very long moment. That was fine. Aymeric let his eyes slide shut, his hand dropping to curl his fingers against the nape of Aza’s neck. He did not ask about the dampness he could feel against his shoulder, about Aza’s unsteady, choked breathing, or how he clung to him tightly, as if expecting Aymeric to up and vanish. He already knew what it was Aza would have dreamed, and knew it would help nothing to force him to speak about it.
“I should be better than this,” Aza said thickly, pushing back slightly. Aymeric relaxed his hold, watching beneath his eyelashes as Aza pulled away enough to wipe at his face, his eyes flickers of metallic gold when they caught the moonlight seeping from between the drawn curtains, an enchantingly distracting sight.
Aymeric’s hand moved slightly, his thumb brushing along the line of Aza’s jaw, catching a wet trail.
“No one’s above crying,” he murmured, “It’s fine.”
Aza made a short, hiccoughing noise that sounded like it was meant to be a laugh, “I w-wouldn’t say fine.”
“Poor word choice,” Aymeric hummed, making sure his tone remained light. His hand slid lower, his thumb brushing down the column of Aza’s throat, feeling his Adam’s apple bob with a thick swallow, passing over where the pulse-point fluttered, rabbit-quick… “Aza, you know I won’t judge you.”
“I know,” Aza’s voice was quietly subdued, and he shifted slightly, his hand lightly resting on Aymeric’s side, just above his hip, “I know. I know, but… I shouldn’t- I need to…”
Aza trailed off, his eyes downcast. Aymeric didn’t press, only waited, letting his hand slide back up so his fingers combed through his thick hair, thumb rubbing behind his ear in the way that always made him relax. This time was no exception, Aza’s body easing out of the taut coil of tension it had curled into.
This was always the difficult part. Aymeric had learned, through a lot of trial and error, how to wait these moments out, where Aza would waver over whether or not to close off to him. Even now, he still hadn’t managed to shake that ridiculous idea out of Aza’s head that he, honest to Halone, did not care that he wasn’t the perfect Warrior of Light the Eorzean Alliance propaganda made him out to be. He wouldn’t have fallen in love with him if he had been perfect, anyways.
“Aza,” he prompted, gently, when the silence stretched between them.
Aza exhaled noisily, “It was… just a bad dream.”
Aymeric kept his tone light, “And what can I do to make it better?”
“You don’t need to-” Aza stopped, and even though the dark made it difficult to make out his expression, Aymeric could see the indecision that briefly crossed his face, “I’m already keeping you up.”
“I am keeping myself up,” Aymeric pointed out, rather wryly. If he wanted to avoid dealing with this he could have very easily feigned sleep, thank you very much.
“But you have an early morning.”
“I have many early mornings, and I encounter each of them in a constant state of exhaustion,” Aymeric said with as much cheeriness as he could muster, “Staying awake now will not make a difference to me.”
It was bullshit. Aymeric knew that was bullshit, and Aza knew it was bullshit, and there was a moment where his partner stared at him, obviously very tempted to call him out on it.
“If you’re sure…” Aza said slowly.
“I am,” Aymeric confirmed, already resigned to a morning of enduring Lucia’s armoured elbow digging into his ribs to keep him awake, “So…”
Aza huffed, and his drawn, pale expression eased into something a little lighter. It was a weak smile, but leagues better than before, “You don’t need to do anything to make it better.”
“Mm, I beg to differ…” Aymeric said, “Surely there’s something?”
“Well…” Aza’s smile became a littler surer, more like his usual self, “Since you’re so persistent, I guess there’s something.”
Aware he was being teased and loving every minute of it, Aymeric tried to look at curious as possible, “And…?”
“I want…” Aza’s voice dropped into a low purr, his hand on Aymeric’s side slowly sliding down, over the narrow curve of his hip, and back up again. He even leaned in, something Aymeric’s subconsciously mirrored.
“Mm…?” Aymeric prompted, his hand lowering to lightly curl his fingers against the nape of Aza’s neck, already thinking and planning that, if he wanted this, then he would…
“You…” They were nose-to-nose, lips almost touching when… abruptly Aza pulled away and sat up, patting Aymeric on the head, “To take a ride with me!”
Oh, that. Well. Alright then.
Aymeric let out the breath he’d been holding in a soft laugh, “A ride this late?”
“It’s very soothing for the soul,” Aza said cheerily.
While Aymeric was not zealously in love with Chocobos like most of his countrymen, he could understand that point of view. There was something deeply calming about riding in the wilderness without a clear destination in mind.
“Of course,” Aza continued, a hint of hesitation creeping into his tone, “If that’s too much, I understand.”
“It isn’t,” Aymeric said promptly, sitting up and mentally sending fond farewells to sleep altogether tonight. It was a well worth sacrifice, though, “In fact, it sounds like a fantastic idea.”
Lucia was going to be merciless, a part of him sighed, even if his foolishness was borne from love.
Even if his morning was going to be filled with agonisingly painful fatigued boredom and Lucia’s pointy, terrible elbows, it would be worth it for the brilliant smile that curled Aza’s mouth. It didn’t completely chase away the shadows in his eyes, but Aymeric would take it.
“Thank you,” Aza said, softly and warm with an emotion that kindled Aymeric’s heart.
Yes, it was going to be well worth it.
Aymeric, for the fifth time that morning, stifled a grunt when Lucia’s elbow drove into his side with the precision of an assassin slipping a knife into his ribs.
“Sir,” Lucia murmured whilst barely moving her lips, her stoic gaze not wavering from the lord currently occupying the floor, talking about… erm, something involving bread taxation, last Aymeric remembered, “Please stop dozing.”
“I was merely resting my eyes,” Aymeric returned, even as he fought off the yawn that threatened to overtake him. Experience borne from enduring many formal meetings and the like managed to help him stifle it, “For… five minutes.”
“It’s been twenty minutes, sir.”
Oh, that explained why the lord was discussing bridges. Aymeric had been struggling to find the logical leap from bread to that- actually, no, how would bread taxation move onto the state of the- nevermind.
“Hmm…” he settled for saying ambiguously instead, trying not to fidget like a schoolboy when Lucia shot him a look from the corner of her eye.
“…there was a question in regards to facilitating trade with the other Eorzean city-states, specifically food imports,” Lucia supplied after a few minutes of Aymeric sluggishly trying to follow the discussion.
Another yawn threatened to overcome him, but he ruthlessly squashed it. By the Fury, this was painful, but, one must suffer for love sometimes, he supposed.
He recalled the lightness in Aza’s expression after the several hours they spent in the Coerthas Western Highlands, the way his eyes had been free from whatever darkness had touched him in the night, and decided that, yes, it was very well worth it, even now when facing the consequences of his actions.
Lucia once again elbowed him, knocking him out of his daydream of Aza’s lovely smile, and reluctantly he tuned back in with a sigh.
Worth it, keep telling yourself that.