It began with a Chocobo chick Aza had ‘liberated’ from Tailfeather.
“Just look at him, Aymeric,” Aza gushed, practically thrusting the tiny, half-blind chick into his face. Even at this young age, its musk was beginning to come through, “Isn’t he the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen?”
Aymeric – who had been slowly battling his way through a backlog of patrol reports in his office before Aza barged in with his new friend – looked dubiously at the chick. It looked about a few weeks old, covered in thick, fuzzy down feathers with massive, bulging eyes and a beak that opened wide enough that it edged into the uncanny valley. For Aymeric, who was very neutral towards Chocobos on most days, he thought it looked, uh.
Well, it looked ugly, to be blunt.
But Aza was looking at him excitedly, holding up the cheeping chick in anticipation of Aymeric’s agreement. Argh.
“Ah, yes… adorable…” Aymeric said slowly, wondering if it would be rude to nudge it away slightly. Aza was holding it directly over his paperwork and last thing he needed was it going to the bathroom there and then, “It’s very…” he groped for a nice thing to say about it, “…fluffy.”
“Right?” Aza, thankfully approving of that assessment, pulled the chick away, cradling it against his chest. He cooed at it, wagging his finger in front of its beak and laughing when it latched onto the thick leather of his gloves, tugging mindlessly, “Oh, you’ve got a strong grip there!”
Aymeric watched for a moment, smiling at the scene. Now that was adorable. “Are you handing it over to the Holy Stables?”
“What? Them?” Aza scoffed, “They’d train it to be a stuffy, uptight War Chocobo. No. Little Pork Chop here is gonna be our Chocobo, isn’t that right lil’ Pork Chop?” he cooed at the chick, tickling under its chin, “Yes, it is! Yes, it is!”
Aymeric coughed slightly, “Ah, Pork… Chop…?”
“Pork Chop,” Aza confirmed, “He’s kinda fat, so.”
“I think most chicks are a bit pudgy.”
“He also just looks like a Pork Chop,” Aza continued. He looked up at Aymeric with a smile, “So, you’re okay with us keeping it?”
Now that was a… tricky question. Aymeric had no idea what Aza meant by ‘keeping it’, in that, was he going to whisk it away to his FC stables and let it remain there? Or will he have it stay with them, in the house, which Aymeric had not Chocobo-proofed at all, as Rations was far too big to fit through the front door (he knows because Aza had tried to get Rations into the house, and had even gone as far as opening the windows to squeeze her through before Aymeric put his foot down on that misadventure)? He supposed he should get right on that, if Aza was determined to bring home baby Chocobos…
“I’m fine with it,” Aymeric wouldn’t be the one to look after it, anyways. Knowing Aza he would monopolise his time on it, take it with him whenever he left, and Chocobos grew up fast. In a few months it would have to go in stables, no ifs or buts, “Just make sure it’s house broken before letting it roam free throughout the house.”
“Chocobos are very intelligent creatures, don’t worry,” Aza said, “He’ll be potty trained within a week!”
Aymeric hummed, reluctantly turning back to his paperwork as Aza set the chick down on his office floor and began speaking to it in serious tones on the rules of potty time. Aymeric left him to it. It was nice, anyway, to listen Aza talk, his voice a pleasant, smooth murmur that made him feel a little dozy and relaxed.
It was just the one Chocobo, anyway. Aymeric can deal with that.
Two weeks later, Aza came back from a foray into Doma with two Chocobo chicks under each arm.
Under each arm because they were clearly destriers.
“Aza,” Aymeric began, eyeing the pair of them wearily. The Chocobos were looking about curiously, uncaring about how they were tucked under some Miqo’te’s arms, chirping and cooing. At least their feathers were coming in, so they looked less like down-covered goblins and more like, well, Chocobos.
“I’m just looking after them for a friend,” Aza said quickly, setting them both down on the floor. They huddled around his legs, looking reluctant to part too far from them, “Their mom’s really ill, so they wanted me to take them in for a bit.”
Well… hm, that sounded alright, then… “Just for a bit?”
“A few weeks, tops,” Aza confirmed, “They’re already house-broken too, and quiet, so you won’t even notice they’re there.”
Aymeric – who, for the past fortnight, had to deal with Pork Chop getting into everything (and being a very unfortunate cockblocker because Aza instantly became as chaste as a priestess the moment he realised Pork Chop was within earshot of anything ‘scandalous’) – gave them a considering look. Unlike Pork Chop, who liked to put his beak into everything, these Chicks were content to sit on Aza’s boots peacefully. They blinked up at him with large, dark eyes, chirping cutely.
He was going to regret this. He could feel it in his bones.
“Fine,” Aymeric sighed, “But only for a few weeks.”
“Thanks, babe,” Aza blew him a kiss, grinning brilliantly – it stifled whatever bad feeling Aymeric had about the whole situation, “Trust me, just a few weeks. It’ll be fine.”
Hm. Why did he feel like they were suddenly jinxed…?
Exactly three days later, Aza walked into his office carrying another, black-feathered chick.
Before he could even open his mouth, Aymeric said, “No.”
Aza instantly pouted, “You didn’t even know what I was going to say!”
“You’re carrying another Chocobo chick,” Aymeric said flatly, “We already have three.”
“But- but I found this one, all abandoned out in the highlands!” Aza protested, holding the chick up. It did look a little weak around the edges, its black feathers dull and scraggly, and it cheeped weakly at him, like it hadn’t had a good solid meal in it for a while.
“Then take it to the Holy Stables. There’s a veterinarian there who can take care of it.”
Aza scuffed his feet, and whined, and complained, but Aymeric weathered it all by tuning him out and focusing entirely on the petition he was reading. It was a rebuttal to another iteration of the Adventurer’s Guild Proposal, by the same Lords and names as last time, and Aymeric was certain that this was about 90% the same as the last one with just a few words swapped around. Were they even trying anymore?
“Aymeric!” Aza finally huffed, “Are you even listening?”
“No,” Aymeric admitted, lowering the petition and deciding he’ll turn it into a parchment airship and toss it out of his window, to see if it would fly further than the last one. He started folding it up, “No matter what you say, Aza, we’re not keeping it.”
Aza grumbled, looking grumpy – before he suddenly smiled. Aymeric eyed his mood-change warily.
“Aymeric, handsome~” Aza purred, “If you let us keep her, I’ll be very thankful.”
Aymeric paused his folding.
Hips swaying, Aza swaggered closer to the desk, somehow managing to look seductive despite toting about a cheeping Chocobo chick in his arms, “I mean, it’s been a while since we’ve had some private time together…”
“Because, and I quote, ‘I don’t want to traumatise the children with our fucking’,” Aymeric said flatly.
“I’ll put them in the stables for tonight, for lil’ Noodles to be looked over by the vet,” Aza said, his tail curving up and his mouth curled into a little grin, “Then you can have me all to yourself all night~”
Aymeric eyed him for a very long moment.
“Halone help me… fine,” he finally grumbled, graciously ignoring Aza’s fist-pump of victory, “But this is the last one, are we clear?”
“Crystal,” Aza smiled, stroking the top of Noodles’s head with a fond smile, “No more after this, I promise, babe.”
Aza was a filthy liar and a promise-breaker.
“Aza…” Aymeric groaned into his pillow, surrounded by six cheeping Chocobo chicks all jumping and fluttering over the bed. He was too tired to move – too tired to truly care – even if one of the destriers was sitting on his back, its sharp little claws stinging pinpricks. Its weight felt kind of nice on his stiff back, hmm…
“I know what you’re gonna say,” Aza said over the noise the chicks were making, “But it’s just for a week! Bluebird’s visiting family and I told her I’d look after her twins!”
Bluebird has a family? She was born like a normal person? Aymeric was distracted by this mystifying revelation long enough for Aza to take his stunned, tired silence as permission.
“Aw, thanks, handsome, you’re the best,” Aza told him, sitting on the edge of the bed and patting his shoulder, “I’ll treat you later.”
“Treat me now by letting me sleep,” Aymeric mumbled into his pillow, resigned to his life now being plagued by endless Chocobo chicks, “It’s three in the morning.”
“Is it? Oh, I’m still running on Doman time. My bad,” Aza jumped off the bed, “Alright, kids, let’s leave Daddy alone to get some sleep! C’mon, shoo, shoo!”
Chirping and ‘kwehing’, the Chocobos dutifully fluttered off the bed and let themselves be chased away by a laughing Aza. Aymeric basked in the sudden quiet… until he realised Aza just called him ‘Daddy’ and had to squelch a very weird feeling before he thought too deeply on it. He knew Aza was just joking when calling those chicks their kids…
…was he? Honestly, with Aza, it was difficult to tell sometimes.
“What is it?”
The knight, Enert, who had come to deliver his weekly report on Falcon’s Nest took in the Lord Commander’s stone-faced expression and glanced around his office which currently had eight Chocobo chicks, all various ages, roaming it. Some were curled up on a makeshift bed of blankets in the corner, a few were playing with blocks of toys, and one was standing on the Lord Commander’s desk, shredding a piece of parchment that looked like it was a petition of some sort, Enert made sure not to look too closely.
“You have… a lot of Chocobos,” he said slowly.
“Yes, I do,” the Lord Commander said, staring straight at him, as if daring him to make a comment on it. Enert… was not that brave. He swallowed down his questions and delivered his report, finding it oddly easy to just ignore the Chocobos after a while – even if he kept glancing at the dark one on the Lord Commander’s desk. It was kind of cute, if runty.
Just as he was about to be dismissed, the door was thrown open and the Warrior of Light himself strolled in, carrying another chick in his arms. It looked like a destrier, bright red, and looking excitable.
“Aymeric!” the Warrior of Light said, ignoring Enert entirely like he was a part of the furniture, the Chocobos immediately flocking to him and chirping like he was their mother, “I found-”
“No,” the Lord Commander said.
Enert, despite not being officially dismissed, very quietly and slowly began backing away from this domestic dispute in the making. It looked to be an old argument, one the Lord Commander was going to lose, judging by how his office was all but overrun with adorable, cheeping Chocobos. When he was close to the door, the Lord Commander looked over at him, his expression all but begging for help.
But Enert knew better than to get involved. This was like his sister and her husband whenever she kept bringing stray cats home. It always ended with the cat staying, and sometimes a lot of sex. Enert did not want to see his Lord Commander and his hero in that kind of scenario ever. Nope. No thank you.
Snapping off a salute and giving him the most apologetic look he could muster, Enert fled the scene, abandoning the Lord Commander to his Chocobo-filled fate.