Chapter 1: The Fallen
Life was… bloody.
That was all you could make of the war in the present time, with casualties piling into the over-crowded medic ward as thousands fell to the cacophony of violent genocide wrought by the seemingly unstoppable Northern Coalition. Niflheim used all they had, their military tactics unrivalled to none. The only hope the Southern Coalition had was the mystical, other-worldly capabilities of the Lucian Crystal.
If the Crystal was to be lost, then Niflheim would reign victorious, and the people of Lucis would fall to mutinous perils like they never experienced before.
“Y/N, bring me a blood pack now! And call Joy Amicitia immediately— we need to administer Life if this soldier is to live through another dawn.” Dr Luche Lazarus barked his orders, and you scurried to follow them like a good nursing aid.
You caught sight of General Clarus Amicitia’s wife standing wearily amongst bloodied, disfigured bodies of doomed soldiers, and you walked forward resolutely. Your eyes were numb to the sight of the sheer gore you saw on a daily basis— a body was only worth saving if it was viable in the long-term.
All these men suffered extensive burns— they were beyond saving.
“Mrs Amicitia?” You called, your voice sharp and precise, emotions stripped and tucked deeply inside you, only to come out at the end of your shift. “You are required at Bed 74. Dr Lazarus’ orders.”
Joy turned to you, her large wine coloured eyes surrounded by dark circles. She nodded wearily and moved to step away from the almost lifeless bodies, only to be halted momentarily by a desperately hoarse cry of her title.
“Unfortunately, they got caught in the midst of an attack by their own officer. Major Scientia managed to win the battle with his attack, but the number of our own men who fell to the attack… I wish his soul peace. He must be suffering from the guilt of the massive loss of his men.” Joy shook her head before turning fully to attend to the viable patient.
“Nurse, please… save me.”
You clenched your jaw and turned your head towards the more viable body on Bed 74. Joy followed your example, though she squeezed your elbow gently as she passed you. You wanted to turn back and look at the man who had called for Joy, his voice so strange to your ears for having been so familiar mere weeks ago.
“Y/N… please! I don’t want to die! We… w-we were supposed to get m-married…”
You clenched your fists and continued walking forward.
You were on duty after all. You needed save the more viable bodies; the ones who would live to see another dawn. You needed to concentrate on saving the ones you could throw right back onto the battle field with the right amount of magic and medical attention.
“Y/N… please! Please… PLEASE?!”
You didn’t turn around.
And you didn’t hear him call for you again.
Dust to dust, ashes to ashes.
Your tears broke from the well practiced emotional barricades you perfected after two years in service. He was gone, and you followed protocol to ensure that the best outcomes for Lucis could be had. Sergeant Felix Agnito, age twenty-five, was a spirited man with a penchant for mischief. You grew up with him, and fell in love with him, and waved him off with tears in your eyes as he departed for the war front on the S.S Leviathan from Galdin Port.
Your eyes had never left his, and you waved at him for as long as you could see the boat until it has crested over the horizon. You wrote letters to him, and his responses were as witty and hilarious as the personality you loved dearly.
He promised you countless hugs and breathtaking kisses on his return back.
He promised you a grand wedding, and seven children. Three boys and four girls. Why four girls?
“Girls are cuter, and need their papa more! Come on Y/N, get with the program!”
Now Felix would have no boys, and no girls.
Now you would not feel Felix’s warmth enveloping you in a cocoon of protection, his laughter rumbling in his chest and shaking you with his contagious mirth.
You would not feel his lips upon yours, fire and softness, his taste to sweet and his touch so tender.
“Felix… I’m sorry I couldn’t save you.”
The guilt threatened to eat you whole.
The fallen had their way of haunting the living, and you… were haunted to the core.
Chapter 2: Sorrow
And the letters begin! Ah man, I'm already feeling all the feels haha *sobs a little* Thank you all who decided to check this fic out! :D
Come find me on tumblr: blindedstarlight.tumblr.com! :)
It has been five days since you left this world.
I wonder if you ever received my last letter to you— I sent you a recipe for butter cookies with it. You always loved my butter cookies. I wonder if your spirit is standing over my, looking over my shoulder as I write this letter…
Do you see the way my tears blot at the ink? It’s smudging the writing, you know? It’s annoying, and a pain. Your death is really inconvenient.
How dare you die?
How dare you die so painfully, reaching out for me, knowing full well that I couldn’t have done anything to save you?
I’m not happy with you. This is completely unfair. You cheated me— you wanted to get married to me! How is this fair? It’s not fair, Felix. No one on Eos is crying more for your loss than I.
I am so angry at you right now.
You left me alone. You promised me that you would come back, and you would take me in your arms, and that you would never let go ever again. You broke your promise. You jerk.
You brave, reckless, wonderful jerk.
I love you.
I’m so angry, I’m so sad, and I’m so broken.
But I love you, and I hope that you can still love me from wherever you might be right now.
I hope that you can forgive me. I hope that…
I hope that we meet again, and that when we do meet again… I hope that we can have another chance at happiness.
I want to be happy with you Felix.
I… I want you to tell me that everything is going to be alright.
No, that’s not it either… I guess I just want to hear your voice again.
I couldn’t save you.
I’m so sorry.
All my love,
The funeral had been a somber affair.
Joy Amicitia had arrived towards the end of the small, sparse service, with a bouquet of wilted flowers cradled in the crook of her elbow. The gardens at base camp weren’t exactly flourishing with lively greenery and popping colours. Flowers, no matter what their state, were a luxury on their own.
She placed the flowers atop the lacquered wooden coffin box and spared a sad look at Felix’s pallid, lifeless face.
“It’s a shame. He was a good soldier—.”
“He was a good man.” Turning away from the coffin box, you hugged yourself around your waist and hunched in on yourself. Your eyes were dry and burning, your tears exhausted. Small hiccups impacted harshly inside your raw throat, and you felt cold to the bone despite the intense noon sun upon your skin.
Joy sighed as she made her way to your side. You felt her gentle arm pull you close to her side, and you didn’t offer up any resistance as you buried against her warmth. The smaller woman kindly pressed a soft kiss to your shoulder and then rested her head upon it in friendly solidarity.
“You’re too young to have gone through this. It’s not fair—.”
“I told him,” you murmured, your voice coming out raspy, “in my letter to him.”
You felt Joy pull away from you, and then felt her stare on the side of your face. You wanted to hide away from her questioning gaze, but she was so warm, and you needed to be with someone lest you fell deep into your own numbed state of mind.
You were still a nursing assistant, and you still had an important job to go back to the next day.
“You wrote him a letter?” Joy asked, her tone bordering between sad and incredulous. “Is it inside?” You followed Joy’s gesture and found yourself staring at the smooth surface of the coffin box.
You shook your head, “No. I sent it to the front,” you clarified shakily.
You shut your eyes just as Joy spoke up.
“You… but why?” Joy asked. She sounded incredibly confused.
You didn’t blame her.
In all honesty, you didn’t know why you sent such a personal letter off to the front. You knew that Felix couldn’t answer you. You knew that he wasn’t at the front— he was in a coffin box, waiting to be cremated.
Felix Agnito was gone.
Your eyes burned, and this time your vision blurred with a fresh onslaught of tears.
You hunched in further into yourself as you shrugged, a pathetic whimper prefacing your fresh wave of heaving sobs.
“I d-don’t know! I just wanted… I wanted someone to know!” You broke.
Joy held you there, and soothed you with her presence. She didn’t say anything else, but she simply held you gently and rocked you in her arms. Her energy was dwindling, and you knew she was bone tired just like yourself. Perhaps even more so— still, she remained a pillar of strength for you, as she was for her own husband and her patients.
“I don’t blame you,” Joy finally said as your sobs began to abate into tired hiccups, “I’d want someone to know exactly how I felt about losing someone I love as well. But Y/N,” you heard the soft smile in Joy;s voice, despite not making any move to look at her, “you’re not alone. And this isn’t the end. I promise you, the war will eventually end, and this hurt will eventually go away. The memories will always remain, that much is true. It will be painful, but you don’t have to hurt for the rest of your life. You will find a new ray of hope in this life. You will find another reason to smile. Don’t you worry, my dear. You’re going to make it through this war. I promise.”
You huddled against Joy and nodded tiredly. You didn’t have the energy to say anything against Joy’s hopeful words. You felt hopeless, and you wanted to scream at the world for being so disgusting and unfair— but you were so tired.
And the part of you that yearned for the innocence that came from the moments you shared with your Felix… that part of you hoped that Joy was right.
He could still hear their screams.
The enemy’s… and his men’s.
He could hear his men’s screams the loudest.
“Major Scientia, there’s been a communication from General Amicitia for you.”
Ignis shut his eyes, the phantom ache between his eyes growing like a searing fire right in the centre of his head. Eyes flickering open, his blood-shot sea-foam eyes locked onto the loaded pistol a hand-span away from his grasp.
He could end it now.
He could grab the gun and bring it to the centre of his head and pull the trigger and just end it.
The voices would not bother him any longer.
Ignis rolled his eyes and stood with purpose, rolling his shoulders back and raising his head, before he turned to address Major Argentum.
“Must you be so loud?” Ignis asked testily, his tone clipped.
The blond soldier relaxed his stance and shot Ignis a crooked smile, “Yes.”
Ignis sighed and rubbed at the top of his nose, between his eyes, as he moved to pass through the entrance of his tent where Prompto Argentum was standing. He brushed shoulders with the shorter soldier, and paused for a moment to make eye contact with Prompto.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Ignis’s gaze flickered down to Prompto’s bandaged upper thigh, noting that the white bandage was already seeping through with rusty, vivid crimson. “I could arrange your transport to the Medical Garrison—.”
“No,” Prompto immediately protested, his brows furrowed, “not until Gladio gets back, okay? We’ve talked about this already.”
Ignis bit the inside of his lip, but nodded in reluctant agreement.
“Okay. But if your condition regresses, you’re on the first transport back to the Medical Garrison.”
Prompto smiled gratefully at Ignis and nodded, “Okay, fair enough. Now go— the General wants to talk.”
Ignis nodded and moved past Prompto, making his way steadily towards the Communications tent. His knees threatened to buckle from exhaustion as he walked, but he pushed himself forward. His entire being was depleted of all energy supply, and all he wanted to do was curl up in his own warm bed and sleep the rest of his life away.
But he couldn’t.
Lucis was at war with Niflheim, and Ignis Scientia was the best damn military strategist Lucis had to offer to the war effort.
The entirety of the Southern Coalition was counting on him.
Still, he couldn’t fathom how the General had allowed him to stay out on the fronts after what he had done. If Ignis had his way, he would have had himself tried and hung for treason and mass murder.
The intent was not there, but the outcome was the same.
Brave innocent lives, turned to charred skin and bones and shrieks of pain with a calculated move filled with potent, burning dark magic… Ignis was being eaten alive by the guilt.
He entered the Communications tent and saluted at the foot soldier who was stationed beside the field radio. The soldier saluted back, his whole body growing stiff as he stood upright before his superior. Ignis lowered his hand and waved at the soldier, signalling for him to be at ease.
The soldier let his hand drop to his side, but the stiffness of his body remained.
Ignis held in a sigh, and instead addressed the General on the other end of the transmission.
“General Amicitia,” Ignis said curtly.
“At ease Major Scientia,” Ignis heard the General sigh softly, “Ignis, are you alright? I’m sorry I haven’t been able to get in touch until now— the collateral damage took some time to address.”
Ignis shut his eyes tight and screwed his fists up tightly, nodded as he hummed in acknowledgment. “It’s quite alright, sir. Is Gladio on his way to the base?”
Clarus replied with his own affirmative hum, “He is— though he is running a little behind schedule. The Niffs attacked our strong-hold in Cartanica, and Gladiolus fell back to assist in the efforts there.” Clarus’ tone grew soft, and Ignis felt a sharp pang of emotion cut right through his chest at the care that seeped in through his General’s next words. “Special Agent Nyx Ulric of the Kingsglaive is close by. I can task him to your garrison and send for a medic transport to bring you and Prompto here—.”
“No,” Ignis cut in promptly, shaking his head. “I will stay. If anything, send Ulric along and have him replace Major Argentum. He’s injured, and if he does not receive treatment soon, the wound will become infected and he will be cast aside like…” Ignis trailed off, unable to find the strength or resolve to complete the rest of his sentence.
If Clarus had been standing before Ignis, Ignis knew that the older man would have been casting him a worried glance. He was a father after all, and he has watched Ignis grow alongside his own son. Seeing Ignis hurt was just as painful to Clarus as seeing Gladio hurt— still, this was war, and war took no prisoners.
It was kill, or be killed.
“Understood son,” Clarus sighed finally. “I will be in contact once more when I hear back from Ulric. End transmission.”
Ignis saluted, even though he knew Clarus couldn’t see it. It was more out of habit than anything else.
“Thank you, sir. Transmission received.”
As Ignis turned to leave the tent, the foot soldier timidly cleared his throat and held a letter out to Ignis. “S-sir… this is addressed to Lieutenant Felix Agnito. I thought… maybe I should give this to you.”
Ignis automatically reached out for the letter, the name of the soldier barely registering amongst the phantom shrieks of his fallen, doomed men.
Letter in hand, Ignis made his way back to his private tent. When he fell back onto his bed roll, he unceremoniously ripped the letter open and skimmed over the contents.
Ignis bit the inside of his lip, eyes burning with unshed guilty tears.
“Astrals… forgive me for my inexperience. I’ve ruined an innocent maiden’s whole world. I am not worth any praise… I’m a heavy burden to all who trust in me.”
Dear Ms Sunshine,
I do hope you are well.
Though I am not the intended recipient of this letter, I thought that your feelings should be validated through a reply. Thank you for writing this letter, and thank you for being courageous enough to send this through.
I am sorry you had to see your love suffer so greatly before he met his end. However, I am sure that seeing you one last time set his soul at ease. He is, in a twisted way, a very lucky man.
I envy him.
He had someone to go back to… he had someone to work hard for. He was personally motivated to meet the source of his everlasting hope at the end of this war. It is a shame that the war took him before his time.
I am sorry.
I do not know what else to say Ms Sunshine… except for the typical expression of sorrow— I am sorry.
Chapter 3: Real Emotion
The plot thickens... thank you everyone for your kinds words and support for this incredibly angsty fic! My focus will be to complete this fic before 17 September 2018, so let's see if I can do this LMAO!
Come find me on tumblr: blindedstarlight.tumblr.com :)
The post-runner handed you a letter almost a week later, and you couldn’t help but stare at him with wide-eyed wonder. Tredd Furia simply shrugged his shoulders and pointed at the letter you now held in your trembling hands. Both you and he ignored that fact that your hands were covered in the blood of the dead man you had just left to the mortician mere minutes ago.
“What’s this?” You asked, knowing that you sounded incredibly dumb for asking.
Tredd, predictably, rolled his eyes at you. “It’s a letter, doll. From the front lines. It’s a mess out there— you’re lucky your man’s still alive,” Tredd said sombrely.
The letter crumpled slightly in your grip as you glared at your shoes, eyes burning, but tears unable to form. You had run out of those.
It was hard to tell what you were truly referring to. All you knew was that you had run out.
“He’s not,” you murmured after a short silence. “He’s not alive. Who wrote this?” You tried to contain your outrage. How dare someone open up your very private letter, read it, and then have the gall to send back a reply?
Tredd grunted noncommittally, “Dunno. Wasn’t there when he wrote it. It was just sitting in the outbox for collection. Next time I make my run, I’ll ask.”
You nodded in response, shoulders relaxing a little at Tredd’s words.
“Thanks Officer Furia. You may go now.”
Tredd saluted at you with a small smirk. “Yeah, yeah. I know when I’m not wanted. I’m gonna go see the woman who will carry my children after this damn war is done with. She’s so beautiful…” Tredd sighed, trailing off as his mind clearly raced with his own thoughts about his elusive girlfriend.
No one really knew who he was talking about— no one had ever really set eyes on this amazing girl of Tredd’s. Still, no one really had the time nor the energy to ask Tredd questions about this incredible woman of his. In your case, you liked seeing the fond sparkle in the otherwise flirtatious man’s eyes as he spoke about his mystery woman. You didn’t want to be the reason Tredd lost that fond sparkle, for whatever reason, so you simply nodded and smiled back.
“Tell her I said hi, and that I hope she is well!”
Tredd grinned at you and nodded before turning to take his leave.
“I will! Keep up the good work, medic!” Tredd called at you over his shoulder.
You couldn’t help but smile, though the emotional burden of your role felt even heavier upon your shoulders.
“Thanks Tredd. I’ll do my best.”
When Tredd left you on your own in the break room, your eyes returned back to the letter that was slightly crumpled due to your hard grip . You loosened your hold and fingered the envelope flap. You took a deep breath and shut your eyes, breathing in and out to calm your nerves and your growing temper— preparing yourself for whatever you may find in the letter.
The paper ripped in your hand, and you slipped the letter out. You unfolded it, and your eyes widened as you skimmed the words initially for anything triggering.
There was nothing of the sort in the letter.
His words calmed the dull thudding of your heart, and before you knew it you were crying again. Your shoulders shook, but they felt lighter than they ever had before.
Someone got your message. Someone actually cared.
He was sorry. He said that he was sorry, and he said that Felix was a lucky man to have you… but was he really?
You choked out a silent sob as to not alert your co-workers. You had ten minutes of your break left. You eyed the pen and paper that sat nearby on the break table, and nodded to yourself in determination.
You weren’t angry that Mr Sagefire had seen your letter.
In a way… you were incredibly grateful.
You felt heard, and you felt less lonely.
Pen in your hand, and crumpled letter laid beside your fresh white sheet of paper, you bit the insides of your cheeks until you tasted blood. Your hand shook as you held pen to paper, and yet you were determined to write.
So… you wrote.
Dear Mr Sagefire,
Truth be told, I was not expecting a reply to my letter. Another truth for you; I was incredibly angry when the post-runner brought me a reply. The letter I sent was full of personal feelings that I never thought would be seen by another living being.
As I wrote that letter, I imagined my sweet heart watching me over my shoulder as I wrote it. I was heart broken, I was angry, and I was… no… I am still in love with Felix Agnito. He may be gone from this world, but his memory lives on inside me. I am lonely, knowing that he is no longer going to be smiling at me, no longer going to be able to hold me when I am afraid, and…
My apologies… I should not be divulging so much of my desires for intimacy to a stranger. Mr Sagefire… who are you exactly? And what is it like, exactly, out on the front? The post-runner told me that it’s bad out there. Are you injured? Are there any injured men still posted there?
You are posted to the front where Felix’s fate was decided… Did you know him? Did he ever speak about me? If so, I just want to know… did he speak fondly of me? I apologise if I sound incredibly obsessive— I’m just so full of curiosity. I want to know if he died thinking fondly of me… It’s incredibly selfish of me; I do not believe I deserve those fond thoughts my way, but I find myself wanting that validation. If you know anything, and if you can tell me anything about Felix and his time on the front, please… share what you know.
I… want to thank you for your reply Mr Sagefire. Truly, as I write this letter, I realise how much this reply means to me. I do feel less lonely, I must admit as much. Though, I really don’t know… these days I really don’t know what I feel anymore.
Perhaps you can empathise? Perhaps you feel the same? You’ve seen your fellow comrades pass on, burned to the crisp. I cannot imagine how much turmoil you must be going through, having witnesses such an atrocity. I heard that the deaths came to fruition in the wake of friendly fire? Major Scientia… I do not know what to think of him. I am sorry for all the pain he must have caused you, Mr Sagefire. I am truly sorry…
Sagefire… that’s a very tragic pseudonym. Nonetheless, I think it’s fitting.
It’s been a pleasure meeting you Mr Sagefire. I… look forward to hearing from you again, if you are able to accommodate me. I will not hold it against you if you cannot— the front is not a leisurely place by any means.
I’ll end this here, duty calls.
All my prayers to you and your men,
It had been twelve days since he sent that letter back to Ms Sunshine.
Ignis had felt guilty after he placed the letter into the outbox for the post-runner to collect the following day when he was due at the front. To drown his guilt, he took to an incredibly bad habit that he loathed himself for indulging in.
He downed yet another glass of whiskey, and the burn down his throat was absolutely appalling.
And yet, he couldn’t stop.
With a sigh, Ignis poured himself another glass and raised it to his eye-level. He could see the reflection of his dull sea foam green eyes through the yellow-orange stained surface, and he took the distorted image of himself and committed it to memory before shutting his eyes and bringing the glass to his lips. He threw his head back and downed his third glass of the morning, feeling warm and loose as the alcohol began to dull his senses.
“Major Scientia— there’s a transport here to escort Major Argentum back to Lestallum for treatment. Major Argentum has requested your presence. Oh— and there’s a letter for you, but the post-runner said he wants a word with you before he leaves.”
Ignis turned to the foot-soldier with the cold blue eyes and the straw blond hair. He nodded his acknowledgement and stood on surprisingly steady feet. The foot-soldier saluted Ignis, and Ignis simply nodded at the soldier before brushing past him. He could not find the energy for proper protocol; and that in itself was telling enough regarding his current state.
Ignis Scientia was not doing well.
He steeled himself and made his way towards the transport— a reinforced truck— where Prompto was being loaded on and strapped in like he was some kind of cargo rather than an injured human being. Ignis’ eyes narrowed as he stepped up to the medics loading Prompto in.
“Do take care with him— he is one of our most valuable soldiers.” Ignis curtly addressed the medics.
They spared the Major a passing glance and nodded just as curtly before continuing on with their procedures. Ignis held in a long-suffering sigh, and was about to snap at the medics, but Prompto’s tired yet amused tone stopped Ignis in his tracks.
“Give ‘em a break, Iggy. They’re just doin’ their job—.”
“You are slurring,” Ignis frowned at Prompto, noting how the younger man’s speech was not particularly as sharp as he was used to.
Prompto grinned weakly and shrugged, “Yeah, ‘m so sleepy. Leg hurts…”
Ignis cast a worried glance at Prompto’s leg, and noted that the bandages were just as bloodied as they were a week ago, despite having changed them personally every single day. Ignis noted the pale pallor of Prompto’s skin, and how starkly dark his freckles suddenly were as his dark circles complemented them not-so-healthily.
“You must save him…” Ignis murmured, his voice breaking in his worry.
It was all his fault.
If only he’d just known about the surprise attack. If only he had been more careful…
If only he had just listened to Prompto’s hunch and just stationed their sharpshooter in the trenches instead of the tree canopies… things might have worked out differently.
The medics looked at Ignis blankly, and Ignis fought with the urge to grab them each by their collar and throttle them for their dispassion and distance.
“We will do our duty. If he is beyond saving, then he will perish like the rest of your men.”
Ignis felt his shoulders tense, and his anger rise to boiling point. He wanted to scream at the medics, but knew that it would not do either himself or Prompto any good to argue. Ignis clenches his fists and gritted his teeth.
“Please… do what you can.”
Ignis’ gaze flickered over to Prompto, and Prompto smiled gratefully at Ignis. Ignis didn’t feel like he deserved to be looked upon in such a way.
“Iggy, I’ll be fine. I promise, I’ll be back before you know it. And more annoying than ever, so prepare yourself!”
Ignis smiled weakly at Prompto and saluted him. Prompto simply winked back at his friend and shut his eyes as he laid back.
Taking this as his cue to leave, Ignis sent one last withering glare at the medics and turned to make his way towards the communications tent. He saw Tredd Furia waiting there for him.
Offering Tredd an outstretched hand, he was surprised to have the post-runner personally hand him a letter in return. “Furia, to what do I owe the pleasure of a personal audience with you?” Ignis took the letter in his hand and regarded Tredd with a curious look.
Tredd looked Ignis up and down and smirked, folding his arms in front of himself, almost triumphantly.
“You’re not looking too good, mate. The war’s been killer, huh?”
Ignis frowned, but said nothing.
Tredd’s grin widened.
“Mr Sagefire, huh? You’re even crueller than I imagined, Scientia.” Tredd looked Ignis up and down appraisingly, and Ignis felt a cold shiver driven by sheer guilt run up and down his spine.
“I,” Ignis paused, gulping as a nervous lump formed in his throat, “I could not leave the letter unaddressed. She was hurting—.”
“You killed her fiancé. Think you should come clean and tell her exactly who you are and what you did?” Tredd levelled Ignis with a glare, and Ignis withered even further. He was not ready to have this conversation. He did not think that he was doing anything wrong. He provided anonymous comfort to a woman in need. That was all.
“Is there any real need to?” Ignis countered, though his voice did not hold the strength that he wanted it to. “The woman is completely anonymous to me also—.”
“No, she’s not. You know exactly who she is Ignis.” Tredd deadpanned.
Ignis frowned at Tredd, “I do not follow. She referred to herself as Ms Sunshine in her letter…”
Tredd stared at Ignis long and hard, his eyebrows raised. With a sigh, his shoulders deflated as he shook his head. “You know who she is. You just don’t want to remember her right now. Felix’s girl… just think about it.” Tredd shook his head in disbelief, and sighed again. “Anyway, I’ll be hanging around for another fifteen minutes. Lover boy in there’s writing a letter to his sweetheart.” Tredd smirked, raising his eyebrows at Ignis suggestively. “If you wanna send Ms Sunshine a reply, you better get to it now.”
Ignis, despite his dislike of Tredd Furia, nodded obediently and made his way towards his tent.
Truth be told, he was waiting for your letter. He wanted to read your reply.
It was the only thing that had stopped him from putting a gun to his head.
He finally had something to look forward to, as small and uncertain as it may have been.
Dear Ms Sunshine,
I thank you for your reply, and I apologise for inciting anger for reading such a private communication. I can appreciate how lonely you must be feeling— I myself feel quite isolated and troubled myself.
Felix Agnito… truth be told, my memories are foggy. All I can seem to remember these days are the screams of the men around me, and the scent of burning flesh. I can’t forget those things, and they take up the entirely of my mind and all of my memories seem to be over-written with these horrid sensations and images.
I want them to stop, but I suppose that will take some time. I assure you, if the memories do come back, I will be sure to share them in future correspondences.
Though, I believe it is bold of me to assume there will be any further correspondence between you and I. Surely, the front is busy, but I find myself desperate to speak to anyone far away from here— it allows me an escape from the bloodshed. I am grateful to you, you really do have very little idea of how much the thought of receiving a response to my last letter has kept me going. I must thank you, Ms Sunshine, for giving me something to look forward to.
I am… a soldier who wants the war to end. I am a soldier who just wants to live to see an end. Honestly, whether the end is the war or my own life— at this point it really does not make a difference. I will gladly die fighting for Lucis, and will gladly join my brother’s in arms who perished so violently at the hands of… that monster.
Major Scientia… all I can say is, once again, I am sorry. I am sorry that this man has caused you so much hurt Ms Sunshine. And I hope that one day you can exact your revenge on him. He took something incredibly precious from you— true love and devotion like what you and Felix seem to have had is rare to come by in this day and age. Again, allow me to express my envy; I have never experience such a delightfully painful feeling for another.
I hope one day I can. But hope does not seem to be on my side.
My dear friend, Prompto, is in a terrible state. He is being transported to Lestallum for treatment— but he is not very lucid. I blame myself, and only myself, for the state he is in. The war is cruel, and it is breaking me. Ms Sunshine, I want this to end… but I want to keep the people of Lucis safe. I’m not sure I am qualified to do so anymore…
I’m both empty of emotion, and so full of it that I feel like I am going to burst.
It hurts, but writing to you ebbs the pain away— not by much, but it is still an incredible relief.
I do hope all is well with you Ms Sunshine. Please, feel free to divulge your emotions in your letters— listening to all you have to offer is the least I can do for a fellow brother in arms’ lady love.
My thoughts are with you,
Chapter 4: Breaking Point
Long time, no update huh? *hides* I'm gonna defs be working on this fic more consistently now that I know exactly how I want this to pan out! Angst incoming! :O
The medic tent was as bloody and pungent, ironically alive with the scent of death.
Mr Sagefire’s letter clutched in your fist, you hurried into the cramped space, gaze expectant as you cast it over the numerous groaning bodies. You passed by the men calling and reaching for you, begging you to save their lives. To your trained eye, you knew they were already beyond saving. Such was your job; to pass judgment on the barely living.
Your feet carried you swiftly, stumbling occasionally out of bone deep exhaustion, towards the furthest side of the tent where the bloodied gurneys still held the newly arrived men from days ago. Something inside you pushed you forward, even though the pragmatic side of you deemed all of the new arrivals as good as gone.
“Prompto…” you called out.
Uncertain, you slowed down and forced yourself to take a good look at the men that lined the edges of the tent. There was one with dark hair and thick eyebrows, a little too skinny to be viable with the deep gashes right through his chest. Another whimpered in despair, his long auburn hair covering his face as he wept, his arm a mangled mess of crushed bone and raw minced flesh.
The last man was asleep, hair matted with dried mud, freckles and dirt barely distinguishable from one another on his flushed skin. His chest rose and fell too quickly in succession. The bandages on his upper thigh were soaked through with tell-tale crimson.
He didn’t look good.
“Prompto?” You called out once more, though your voice wavered.
A groan parted his lips in response.
Shuffling closer, you gulped, eyes widening and fingers trembling as you reached out to gauge his temperature with the back of your hand. As soon as your skin touched his, his whole body jolted, as if shocked. He wheezed in a deep breath, and coughed it out, the sound and actions too violent to have been pleasant.
“Ugh,” he groaned again after the coughing fit had subsided. You watched with morbid fascination as he finally cracked his eyes open to reveal the clearest cornflower blue you had ever seen. His lashes fluttered against his cheek bones, eyelids clearly fighting overwhelming fatigue.
“Where am I?” He croaked with effort.
You had to take a couple of seconds to find your voice as you floundered around mentally, trying to find the words to reassure him that he was in safe hands. It was hard to do, given that you weren’t quite sure you could do anything for him at this point.
“Um,” you murmured, busying yourself with brushing his matted bangs from his forehead and out of his line of sight. He was so muddied, bloodied, and beaten that you couldn’t tell what colour his hair was. Withdrawing your hand, you sighed. “You’re back in base camp. The hospital’s over-run with viable bodies, so you’ve been brought here—.”
“I’m not viable?” The panic in his tired voice struck a chord in you.
You took a deep breath and tried to lie. For once, you were putting in the effort to spare a patient’s feelings. All for a stranger who wrote you letters.
“You will be when I’m done with you.”
He looked both sad and hopeful as he turned his head in an attempt to finally look at who he was talking to. You helped him, adjusting your position so that you were right in front of his line of sight. His gaze briefly hovered on your face, and then his eyes widened in obvious realisation.
“Felix showed us pictures of you…”
Your heart soared high before subsequently plummeting low into the dark depths of your eroded hope; all within the same second. Crumpling Sagefire’s letter further in your fist, grounding yourself with the gesture, you bit the inside of your cheek.
“You know Felix?” You couldn’t speak louder than a whisper. Sagefire had spoken of the war breaking him, and you were one-hundred percent sure that you had broken too. “That means you know the man who killed him.” You hadn’t meant to say that out loud, but the heart had its way of letting itself be known.
“Mm, yeah.” Prompto took a shaky breath inward, his chest rising before stuttering slightly as he exhaled, pain knitting his brow. “Uh, I knew him.”
It was simple, and shouldn’t have hit you so hard, but Prompto’s use of past tense… Felix really was gone. It wasn’t just a cruel joke.
“Who?” You clarified. “Felix, or…?”
You didn’t want to say his name.
Major Ignis Scientia.
“Both.” Prompto’s gaze looked haunted, but through his pain he managed a smile. His gaze flickered to the letter you still held in your fist, and he rasped a short laugh. “My friend back at the border’s really into writing letters these days too.”
“You might know him too.” You raised the letter, and without really meaning to, you smiled wide enough that your cheeks felt a little strained. You hadn’t smiled in a while. It was new; it was nice.
Prompto winced, and the private conversation was cut short, working brought back to the forefront. You stuffed the letter into your nurse’s apron and jumped into action. Ignoring the desperate cries for help around you, you focused solely on Prompto Argentum.
If you really tried… you could help him.
For once in your time as a nursing assistant, you could actually make a difference.
You had a reason to make a difference.
That reason: Mr Sagefire.
I hope you don’t mind me dropping the formalities?
I met your friend Prompto today. He wasn’t doing too well, but I put some extra efforts into ensuring his wounds were treated and his temperature was controlled. He is stable for now, and Nurse Amicitia told me that he’s likely to make a full recovery. The injuries have torn into some sensitive muscle tissue, but with specialist rehabilitation, Mr Argentum will be fit and ready to serve on the field once more.
I can say, with confidence now, that your friend in safe hands.
I… also smiled for the first time today. I mean, the first time in a long while. It felt strange— painful almost. Like I was doing something I shouldn’t have been.
But I also felt warm. I felt significant. I felt like I was worth something.
All because I thought of you, Sagefire.
It’s weird. Your letters give me something to look forward to, and in a way I also feel like I’m keeping track of my one and only enemy through you.
Ignis Scientia… Prompto told me he knows him. I mean, of course he would; Major Scientia is his commanding officer…
Do you know him well? Is he a good person?
Sagefire, I feel like I’m going to drop to the ground, heavy with the deaths of all the men I couldn’t and can’t save. I’m not sure how much longer I will last in this war. I’m afraid.
Will you tell me that everything will be okay?
I just want everything to be okay.
“He reported in three days ago,” Clarus Amicitia’s voice crackled through the radio. The transmission was weaker in the rainy weather. Once proud shoulders hunched, Ignis listened to his senior officer with as much concentration as he could muster.
His mind kept insisting that it was time to quit. Time to finish everything off.
It was time to join his fallen men.
“Is he alright?” Ignis broke all pretence of formality and voiced his concern for his friend.
The missing major’s father let out a tired sigh on the other side of the transmission.
“Last I heard, yes. He was travelling with a rogue soldier from the other side. Lieutenant Highwind—.”
Ignis’ eyes widened at the name. “She was our biggest threat eight weeks ago— what happened?”
He heard Clarus laugh, though the sound fell dead.
“I don’t fucking know, Ignis. I just don’t know anymore. It’s a blood bath out there, and my son’s in the thick of it.”
A jolt of pure envy shot through Ignis at the vehement worry in Clarus’ tone. Gladiolus Amicitia was lucky to have a father who loved him enough to worry. In fact, he was lucky to have living parent.
Ignis didn’t have anyone left.
He never had the time to court a lady who would wait for him back on the home front either. It was all work and no play; or so he had made it as such for himself.
He regretted it. He wished that he had gotten drunk alongside Gladio all the times he accompanied him to the bar on their days off duty. He wished that he had taken the chance to throw caution to the wind and just experience the heady embrace of a woman in want of man’s touch on a drunken Saturday evening.
He wished he had lived when he had the chance.
“Ignis?” Clarus’ concerned tone broke through his reverie.
He managed a short grunt of acknowledgement.
“Son, Ulric can be dispatched now and arrive in forty eight hours. Come back to base camp and take a break—.”
Ignis shook his head and glared at the radio console. The envelope he held in his hand crinkled and brought him back to reality. He took a deep breath, shoulders shaking with pent up emotion.
General Amicitia made it sound so easy.
Just pack up and head back home.
No one would mind. Except he had killed so many of their own…
Inexperienced. Useless. Incompetent. Murderer.
He shut his eyes tight, the pressure in his eyes growing tighter and tighter as he withheld his tears. He couldn’t cry. He didn’t deserve to cry. Not after what he did. Not after what his freakish talent had made him become.
“A monster…” Ignis whispered, hushed and trembling.
“Ignis, no, don’t do this to yourself—.”
He cut Clarus off with a laugh, dry and bitter like the alcohol he drowned himself in for want of a couple hours of sleep. Ignis was a shell of himself, and he didn’t want anyone to see him so far gone from the brilliant man they expected upon his return.
“I am.” He said, louder and clearer.
Clarus paused, and then let out a sigh.
“I’m deploying Ulric. He’ll rendezvous with Gladio and Highwind. You’re in no condition to apprehend a prisoner of war—.”
Blood shot eyes widened further, manic almost.
“No. I can’t come back. Not like this! Not after having destroyed so many lives—!”
“Ignis.” Clarus’s voice carried the order loud and clear. “I am deploying an escort party. You are coming back to Lestallum. Is that understood?”
No room for argument for risk of being courtmartialed, Ignis nodded.
Realising that Clarus was still waiting for a verbal response, Ignis sighed.
“Good. See you in a few days.”
“And Ignis?” Clarus’ tone softened once more.
Ignis lowered himself to his knees and spoke quietly.
“You’re not alone. You’ve got people who will look after you here. I’ll send a nurse to look after you on the way back to Lestallum as part of the escort. Mental injuries are just as significant as the physical.”
Ignis wanted to protest, but he was just too tired.
He agreed robotically. “Yes sir. End transmission?”
He could hear the fatigue in Clarus’ voice. “End transmission. Take care, son.”
The radio crackled into silence, and Ignis’ fingers loosened on the letter signed Ms Sunshine.
Tears pricked at his eyes, regret heavy in his gestures as he picked up a pen and fresh piece of paper to reply to her letter.
She asked if he was a good person.
He wasn’t so sure what the answer was.
I do not mind that you drop formal tones with me. These letters are to be a comfort for you, so do as you see fit.
I am glad that you got to meet Prompto. He was close with Felix, much more so than myself. I wish I had taken the time to know my comrades; it is much too late now…
Their screams haunt me, Ms Sunshine. I man this base on my own, with very little hope to win over the Niflheim regime, but while I have an obligation to the Southern Coalition, and our homeland of Lucis… I want to let it all go and pretend that I did not witness the atrocities that have seated themselves deeply in my conscience.
I wish I could have done more. I wish I could have been better…
I hope Prompto remains stable; he kept me sane so long— I owe him the remainder of my lifetime, and then the next few lifetimes after as well. I suppose I will be seeing him soon though; I have been ordered back to Lestallum.
I do not know how I will be received. I barely have a scratch on me. And yet it hurts so much more.
I want to drown in a drunken conscience so I can spend my days dreaming of a better outcome. I want to pretend that I did not commit the sin that won us the Caem Front.
It does not feel like we have won anything at all; not when I caused so much loss in payment.
Ms Sunshine… I fear I have led you on.
I am Major Ignis Scientia— I killed your fiancé.
I am sorry.
I am so sorry.
I will not ask your forgiveness, that would be out of line. I only ask for mercy.
That if I lay before gasping for my last breath, you must snuff out the last vestige of life in me. I cannot bear to live on with the sins of my comrades weighing down my soul.
I cannot bear being the subject of your hatred.
I am Major Ignis Scientia.
I am Mr Sagefire.
Chapter 5: Realisation
Aaah, it's been too long; have a chapter! :D
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“Joy,” you sighed, sobs having subsided only minutes ago. You felt the older lady’s hand resting gently on your shoulder and you gathered the courage to speak. Turning to her, you shook your head and handed her the letter.
“It’s him. It’s from him.”
She hesitated a second, meeting your eyes with her own warm hues, blinking for silent permission. You nodded, and she un-crumpled the letter and skimmed it, her eyes twitching back and forth until she reached the end, only to gasp in predictable shock.
Turning her gaze back to you, she sighed and squeezed your shoulder.
“I’m sorry. I know he was a great support to you these past few weeks—.”
“He lied to me.” You hated the way your voice wavered as you spoke, feeling another onslaught of tears ready to overwhelm you. Eyes sore and heart heavier than ever before, you willed yourself to keep your tears at bay. It wasn’t worth the hurt.
Ignis Scientia. That murderer— he wasn’t worth the hurt at all.
“He didn’t mean to—.” Joy began, and you felt your whole body burn with the flames of betrayal. Whipping your head to face her, your chest rose and fell as you tried your best to keep calm.
“Don’t you dare speak from his side—!”
Joy’s expression turned dark as she placed the letter down on the bench between the two of you. She stood abruptly and held her hand up, a silent command to remain quiet. You didn’t care go against her, but you were still seething.
“You understand that in war, men are lost.” She began, not facing you. Your eyes lingered down to the petite woman’s clenched fists, and you were quickly reminded that Joy Amicitia was currently in the midst of attempting to bury down the all-encompassing worry that plagued her day in and day out.
Her husband, Clarus Amicitia, was out there facing dangers that most couldn’t even begin to fathom. Gladiolus Amicitia has been listed as missing in action for three months before word came around explaining that he was being escorted through enemy territory by a rogue, and extremely dangerous, enemy soldier— Commodore Aranea Highwind. Her youngest, Iris Amicitia, was plagued with nightmares in her sleep—only to wake beside a tent full of screaming, men begging for their lives…
Life was shit for everyone; but especially shit for Joy Amicitia.
And she was still fighting it all.
She was still doing her best.
She was still supporting everyone as best as she could.
You felt ashamed.
But the shame did nothing to dispel your hurt.
“I’m sorry,” you whispered, just loud enough for Joy to catch. “I’m sorry for being so angry.”
She turned to you, her expression softened once more into one of sorrow.
“You’re allowed to be angry. But you need to realise that Felix’s death was the result bad timing, inexperience, and pure fate.”
You shut your eyes tight, hearing the raw truth in Joy’s words, but still unable to come to terms with it. You felt your eyes water under your lashes, and you sniffled quietly, shaking your head with your fists clenched on your lap.
“Why did he get to live when so many others died?” You whimpered. “Felix and I were to be wed!”
Joy hummed low in her throat and leaned down to take your fist in her small, warm hands. She felt so frail as she held you, but her spirit was strong. She lowered herself until she was looking into your eyes, resolve clear in her watery amber eyes.
“The world works in mysterious ways, Y/N. It’s best not to ask such questions. It’s best not to linger where things cannot be changed. It’s best to just keep moving forward with your chin up and your back straight and proud.”
Spent, you hung your head and wept. You had nothing to say to that. You had no argument. No spiteful words.
Nothing at all.
Joy held your tightly clenched fist until the tears stopped.
Then, it was back to work as usual.
The letter lay forgotten on the bench.
Nyx had arrived just before the sun rose for the day, in the cloak of the night. He entered Ignis’ tent, took one look at his unkempt appearance, and let out a low whistle.
“Fuck, you’ve seen better days Scientia.”
Ignis managed a bitter smile. “I suppose. Any word of, or from, Gladiolus?” His voice carried hope and a slight tinge of desperation as he narrowed his eyes at special operations officer.
Nyx let out a short sigh and shrugged, raising his arms slightly.
“Not since the last communication from Highwind from the enemy comms tower. Amicitia’s good, but I heard Highwind’s a bitch to take down—.”
Ignis frowned. “I heard she’s never been taken down.”
Nyx turned his face towards Ignis’ and smirked knowingly.
“I wouldn’t count Amicitia junior out. My sources say he’s had that rogue screaming his name, on her back and legs spread on multiple occasions.”
The lewdness of Nyx’s description would have usually made Ignis roll his eyes in distaste, but for once he barked out a relieved laugh. Nostrils flaring as he took a breath in, he rubbed his hand over his visibly grown stubble on his jaw and chin before nodding.
“I’d rather him fuck her than be killed by her.” Eyes set on Nyx, he nodded firmly once more, jade eyes tense and serious. “Thanks.”
The word held more weight than Ignis could ever wish to express.
Nyx, smiled, the stress of the war lining his red-rimmed eyes.
“No problems. You packed and ready to ship out?”
Ignis’ gaze flickered over to the soldier’s pack and wooden case that held the entirety of his belongings in them. Biting the inside of his cheek, he fought with the trepidation that rose in his chest and nodded.
Nyx moved toward him and clasped him on the shoulder, squeezing him reassuringly before letting go.
“General Amicitia’s worried about you. So’s Joy, and Iris. Heard the prince has been communicating with the general every morning and evening to check in on you. Apparently he’s sending some dog. Pretty neat.”
Ignis’ heart lurched with an ever-present guilt at the mention of Noctis. Did he know? Did he know that his best friend… his once most trusted advisor… did he know that his hands had spilt so much blood in the blink of an eye?
His palms felt hot, phantom flames licking at his skin as vivid oranges, reds, and blues engulfed his vision. He shuddered, knees growing weak, and his eyes shut as he tried to will the image away. A screech erupted from his throat, teeth gritted and grinding hard against one another as he fell to his knees, the ache from the impact barely registering over the screams.
“Gods… have mercy! I didn’t mean to—!”
Hands, covered in cool leather, and warm breath against the nape of his neck. Solid chest against his frantic hands, clawing before him. Hurried, rushed words, with all the feeling, but no damn meaning evoked in Ignis’ mind.
There were only flames. There were always flames.
And gods, the crying just wouldn’t stop.
“I’m sorry!” Ignis gasped, a choked sob ripping from his throat as he fully collapsed into Nyx’s hold. “They won’t stop. It never stops!”
“It’s okay,” Nyx’s voice was steady. The rumble of his tone grounded him. He melted into Nyx’s hold, letting his adrenaline burn out, and allowing his body to finally crumble. “You don’t have to bear this burden anymore. You fought well, kid.”
Before Ignis faded, his mind paused for a blissful moment, only to charge at him with the proof of his incompetence.
It was true, after all— he was JUST a kid.
“Agent Ulric, report your status.”
Clarus’ voice crackled through the speaker, authority clear in his tone. Nyx stood up straight and saluted out of pure instinct.
“Sir, I have arrived to Scientia’s base of operations. I have three foot-soldiers and a field medic accompanying me. They’ll bring the major back safe—.”
“How is he?” The general cut in.
Nyx frowned, casting his stormy eyes towards the feverish young Major curled in on himself atop his cot. He let out a sigh and deflated.
“ Bad. Like he’s seen a ghost. Or two. Or three…”
A crackled sigh sounded from the other end of the transmission.
Nyx scoffed. “No, but he’d be better off deemed non-viable at this stage.”
Silence permeated the air, the transmission crackling with the tension that grew thick between the two conversing men. Clarus hummed in thought.
“Perhaps he needs a few weeks back on home soil—.”
Nyx’s narrowed his eyes at the radio and then cast his gaze over to the private who stood stiffly by to operate the communications hub. He rolled his eyes at the young soldier and shook his head, gesturing at the radio before signing the universal gesture for ‘crazy’. The private’s lips quirked upward, but he remained as silent as ever.
“You know the moment Scientia’s back in Lestallum, the Marshal’s gonna rip into him. Kid doesn’t need that right now.”
“It can’t be helped,” Clarus shot back. “Men have been lost Ulric, discipline must be had so these mistakes never happen again—.”
“He’s hurting, sir.” Nyx murmured quietly. “You know him better than I do. You watched him grow up alongside your son. You know he’s a proud little hellion. He’s always been dependable. Always knew what needed to be done. Always succeeded. He’s never fallen from the fucking high pedestal the Lucian Army and Crown forced him onto.” Venom in his tone, Nyx clenched his fists in sheer frustration and continued to voice his stance. “He’s fucked up, big time. A whole fucking battalion’s been wiped out by his own two hands. I’ve seen his front, and it’s burnt to a crisp. I can still smell the burning flesh. He’s been out here, on his own, handling things for weeks now— and he’s not okay. He’s barely sane. He needs to be taken away from here, and he needs to rest for a while. Not just two weeks. He’s gotta be decommissioned.”
Clarus sighed again. He couldn’t stop sighing.
It was too much.
The whole war was too much.
Nyx could feel the general steeling himself before he spoke again.
“Decommissioning the boy would do more harm than good.”
Nyx shook his head and clenched his fists, insistent; for Ignis’ sake.
“Hearing it from you would be leagues better than from Cor. Just food for thought, Clarus.”
“Right,” Clarus said, sounding resigned, “duly noted. Send him home safe, and man the post until Gladiolus and his escort relieve you. Is there anything else that needs saying?”
Conversation casual, and military protocol dropped for the moment, Nyx chuckled dryly.
“It’s fucking terrifying out here. I don’t know how Ignis did it for so long. He’s tough.”
A fond chuckle returned back to Nyx’s ears, clearly disguising a voice thick with tears.
“He’s a good boy. He did good. He’ll be safe at home, I’ll make sure of it.”
A sad smile pulled up at the corners of Nyx’s lips.
“Hope so. He’s been through a lot. Deserves a good rest. He’s a hero; I want him recognised as one. He completed his objective. We’re at a tactical advantage—.”
Clarus cut Nyx off with a short laugh. “I’ll be sure to provide all of these details to Cor before he sees Ignis. Thank you.”
Nyx licked his lips and let out a shaky breath, nervous for the young major.
Clarus cleared his throat, and replied back with strength to his tone once more.
Chapter 6: Lestallum
Aaaaand the plot gets thicker!
Come scream with me at blindedstarlight.tumblr.com if you'd like :) <3
Much credit to amber_sword_lilies for beta reading, and letting me scream incoherently about all the side plots that are to come LMAO <3 Find her on tumblr: amberswordlilies.tumblr.com :D <3
Prompto’s freckles were stark against his much too pale skin. The tips of his ears were flushed, and his forehead was damp. Shivering under the white covers, he reached out to you just before you stepped away to check the vitals of another feverish soldier nearby.
“Wait,” he rasped, “I heard Iggy’s coming back?”
You shook Prompto’s hand off your wrist and watched it fall limply at his side. A twinge of guilt assaulted your heartstrings, but you remained glaring at your clipboard. Shrugging, you cast the young soldier a brief glance, eyes lingering on the infected wound on his leg. It was stable so far, but the healing process was a pain. You were using too many resources on him— your mind told you to wheel him out with the non-viable patients one cramped, bloody tent over. Your heart, however, goaded you into sneaking Sagefire’s friend extra painkillers when the throbbing of his wound could be felt in his bones. Your heart coerced you to treat his wound twice a day, to rejoice the progress in healing, and to be consistent with your administration of antibiotics.
Gaze softening, your shoulders dropped and you nodded.
Your answer seemed to breathe some life into Prompto’s dulled cornflower hues.
“About time! He’s been through a lot, you know?” His voice lowered, his eyes avoided yours for a brief moment. And then he looked right at you, his expression pleading. “Y/N?”
You pressed your lips together into a firm line and nodded, not trusting yourself to speak. Emotions turbulent, you wanted to both provide words of comfort to your sweet patient and bark back in disdain of the mere fact that Prompto Argentum was that monster’s friend.
Joy’s stern words echoed in your head for a brief moment: Felix’s death was the result bad timing, inexperience, and pure fate.
A loud, angry voice in your head screeched in contest: Why did Felix have to be the one to die?
“… of him?”
Prompto’s words drew you back out of your head, and you blinked at him, eyebrows furrowing as you shook your head.
“Sorry, I missed that.”
He raised an eyebrow at you, and then winced, his hand twitching towards his bandaged thigh.
“Ah, nothing. Just… he’s not a bad guy—.”
“I’ll form my own opinion of him, thank you very much—.”
“Seems like you already have.” Prompto cut you off. You could hear the disappointment laced in his tone. “Just… please? Give him a chance to explain himself. And take care of him like you for did me, if you can?”
A sigh escaped your parted lips. You shrugged and stepped away from him, unable to remain at his side as your thoughts continued to war against each other.
You knew Ignis wasn’t inherently a bad person. You knew that he was just doing his job. You knew he had actually won Lucis a great tactical advantage; the war was close to ending. Lucis just had to gain enough ground to mount an attack on the main city of Niflheim— thanks to Ignis, Lucis was closer than ever to ending the war.
But at what cost?
Dragging your feet, you made your way towards your next patient. You checked his stats, and took one look at his feverish pallor and shaking limbs before knowing immediately that he was beyond saving.
His antibiotics had been given to Prompto. His painkillers— given to Prompto.
“I’m sorry,” you said, voice devoid of emotion, simply following script. “We’re going to have to move you.”
The man’s eyes widened, and you could see the whites of his eyes already yellowing. He wasn’t going to make it.
“N-no! Gods, please! Save me!”
You turned away from him, and in the midst of your movement, your eyes briefly locked with Prompto’s again. He tilted his head at you, curious, before nodding in thanks.
He knew how much you had favoured him.
You saved him.
For Major Ignis Scientia.
The bitter taste of rising bile clung to your tongue as you tried your best to swallow the sick feeling down. Blocking out the hysterical man’s begging, you moved on to the next patient.
A brief look at the mounted analogue clock on the far end of the tent had your gaze narrowing into an intense glare.
He was due to arrive in a couple of hours.
You would finally meet the man who murdered your fiance, along with his numerous comrades.
Part of you couldn’t wait to tear at him, to hurt him, and to rob him of any semblance of peace he hoped to find at the medical garrison in Lestallum.
But… there was a more human part of you, ever-persistent, who wanted to talk to Mr Sagefire.
Your eyes watered as you diverted yourself from your next patient, opting to take your break early. You were barely holding yourself together; the pungent, metallic smell of blood was too much, and the hate that burned inside was eating at you, leaving you with phantom pains all over. Much too tense, you managed to stumble into the break room and collapse onto the cot in there.
Holding yourself around your middle, you took in a deep, shuddered breath and tried to exhale as steadily as you could. Your breath hitched, and your tears inevitably fell.
“Felix,” you whimpered weakly. “What the hell am I supposed to do now?”
Tredd caught sight of three foot-soldiers escorting a chocobo-drawn envoy towards Lestallum Gate. His eyes drifted between the approaching party, and the ever-stern Marshal who stood a mere few feet away from him.
Cor Leonis surveyed the approaching three soldiers with a steely gaze and huffed, crossing his arms.
“Right on time. Glad the journey went well.”
Tredd nodded, patting his mail-satchel resting on his hip. “The trip between Cartanica and Lestallum’s been pretty breezy since Major Scientia took the Niffs down at the current tactical base.” He spared a brief glance at Cor, surveying his body language, pressing his lips together into a grim line when the corners of Cor’s lips tilted further downward.
That wasn’t a good sign.
“Would have been ideal if he brought a few more able-bodied men along with him.”
Tredd winced at Cor’s deadpan.
“With all due respect, Marshal… wars aren’t won without sacrifice—.”
Cor turned to him and shut him down with a pointed glare. “You think I don’t know that, Corporal?”
Tredd’s gaze dropped to Cor’s muddied boots. He nodded.
“I’m sorry, Marshal. Spoke outta line—.”
The older man sighed and ran a hand over the top of his head, gently massaging his scalp, the ever-present headache hardly easing at his efforts.
“No, you’re okay. Don’t apologise.”
The two men stood awkwardly after that, only allowing themselves to shuffle around slightly to ease their discomfort at their weary joints. The rumble of the envoy grew louder as they approached, and in a few minutes, the three soldiers and the cart carrying Major Ignis Scientia were upon them.
Cor stood up straight, and Tredd followed suit. The lower ranked infantrymen halted abruptly and saluted, the one at the very end stumbling a little on exhausted legs. Tredd held in a laugh at the soldier’s expense and schooled his expression, humour only showing in the dull twinkle of his tired eyes.
Cor and Tredd saluted back.
“At ease, men.” Cor said.
Tredd dropped his arm back to his side and relaxed his posture. The three infantrymen mirrored his example, regarding Cor with almost starry-eyed expressions.
Cor Leonis was a wartime legend, after all. He’d spilt so much of the enemy’s blood on his blade alone… he was terrifying. But he was a hero.
Ignis Scientia was just as terrifying— but no one was going to regard him a hero.
Not after the losses incurred by the home front.
“Status?” Cor barked, arms folded once again.
The stockiest of the three stepped forward, his expression both amazed and fearful.
“Um, Major Scientia’s been pretty quiet the whole journey back. Been in and out of sleep through the week’s travel.” The soldier’s brow furrowed, concern marring his features. “Woke up screaming, though. I mean, I don’t blame him. It was hell out there. Everything charred to a crisp; smelt like a demented barbecue—.”
One of the reporting soldier’s comrades had the nerve to snigger under his breath. “Of course fat shit here’s comparin’ the carnage to a barbecue…”
Cor rolled his eyes, but the corners of his lips tugged up slightly in a repressed smile. He’d take whatever form of light-heartedness he could get out in the field. Every soldier could use a bit of a laugh.
“Sounds like hell. Good job getting him back safe. Get him to the medics immediately for a once-over, then arrange for one of the nursing assistants to bring him to my quarters this evening.”
The stocky soldier ignored his still-sniggering mate behind him, regarding Cor with a curious expression. “At what time should I arrange for this meeting?”
Cor clicked his tongue in thought, and then surprised everyone with a tired shrug of his stiff shoulders. Even Cor the Immortal bore heavy burdens of the war, it seemed.
Though that shouldn’t have been surprising.
There was so much blood on his blade…
“I’ll be stationed at my quarters for the next week. Have the head nurse call in twenty minutes before Scientia is ready to meet.”
The three soldiers saluted Cor immediately.
The marshal nodded. “Dismissed.”
“Thank you, Sir!”
The gates opened after a few moments, and the three marched onward, still actively escorting the chocobo and its carriage to the medics. Tredd and Cor watched them as the distance grew between them.
Tredd turned to Cor and grinned. “Didn’t think you’d be into fat jokes.”
Cor shrugged, not bothering to look at the younger man. “I like a laugh.” He paused, and turned his body towards Tredd to address him. “You heading off soon?”
The younger hummed an affirmative. “Yeah, gotta meet my girl before I ship out back towards Altissia. It’s been two days since I’ve talked to her. Miss her.”
Cor smirked at the light tone Tredd’s voice took on. “She must be real special if you’re drawn back to her time and time again.”
This time, Tredd caught Cor’s steel blue gaze and smiled tiredly.
“Yeah,” he nodded slowly, “she’s the only one for me.”
The marshal’s expression softened, and he nodded back in turn. Something akin to respect shone in his eyes as he regarded his younger corporal.
“Good man. Travel safe. Send your lady my warm regards.”
Tredd grinned wide, saluting his superior officer with gusto.
Chapter 7: Regret
Finally get to meet Iggy face to face! I wonder how're you're gonna react hmmm? O_O
Tumblr: blindedstarlight.tumblr.com <3 :D
He didn’t look like a monster.
In fact, he looked beyond broken. Eyes rimmed a deep pink and sunken in, he looked as if he had not slept for days. No, forget days— he most probably hadn’t slept through any night for weeks. He looked unkempt, his hair falling limply down over his forehead, the long strands brushing over his eyelids. His jade hues looked vacant, but you couldn’t be sure as you were much too far from him to confirm it. He sat on a wooden chair beside Joy’s desk, hands folded upon his lap.
You grew tense at the sight of him, but you had patients to check on; lots of work to do.
As you did your rounds, your eyes continued to flicker over to check on him. He looked skittish, nervous almost, and you felt yourself growing anxious at the sight of him.
If he was capable of taking out his own able men, then what was stopping him from burning the whole medic garrison to the ground?
You gulped and shook your head, willing yourself to ignore him. The reek of infection climbed up your nose and threatened to make you wretch. There was nothing you grew to hate more than the stench of the medic tent. Circumstances forced you out of university and to the front, your Lucian History degree put on hold indefinitely until the war’s conclusion.
Many of your friends had been dispersed throughout Lucian land, aiding as best as they could in their respective ration and medic stations. You had heard that a few of your friends had long passed on, but you never had the time to sit down and mourn them. There was too much to do— too much at stake to take time for yourself to just think.
“Iggy’s here,” you turned your head to the familiar voice at your side. Mindlessly doing your rounds, you managed to find yourself beside Sergeant Prompto Argentum again. Taking a deep breath, you hummed and nodded.
Prompto reached out for you again, clasping his damp palm and fingers around your wrist. You didn’t have the energy to shake him off again. Your eyes remained on his bloodied bandage, though the blood didn’t disperse as far from the wound’s origin as when you first began to treat him. It was a good sign.
“Did ya meet him?” His voice was hushed, but hopeful. You avoided his downtrodden gaze as you shook your head.
“Busy tending to patients—.”
“He’s a patient—.”
“The nurse will deal with him.” You said, force behind your tone. Prompto let go of you and let out a breath, chest sinking, his whole body burying into the cot he was laid down in. Despondent, he nodded.
You frowned and reached over to brush his damp blond bangs back from his forehead. Taking his temperature with the back of your hand, you noted that he was cooling down; the antibiotics were working.
“Why are you so stuck on me helping that man?” You couldn’t help but ask. “Why is it so important to you?”
He remained silent for an extended period of time, and you simply went ahead and checked his vitals, noting them down on his chart before turning to move on to the next patient. He spoke up, halting you with his words.
“You’re the only one who was able to make him smile. Your letters—.”
Eyebrows furrowing, you glared down at him, fists clenched at your sides as realisation dawned on you.
“You… you knew? You knew that murderer was the one writing to me? And you didn’t tell me?”
Prompto nodded, averting his gaze.
“I’m sorry. He’s not a bad guy—.”
You huffed and turned away from Prompto. Malice that you hadn’t truly intended dripped from your words in your final address to him for that day.
“He is. You both are. I should have left you to rot, Prompto. Would have hurt less.”
You didn’t hear a peep out of Prompto Argentum as you walked away, heart heavy and tears brimming, threatening to fall down your cheeks.
Regret weighed down on you as the gravity of your words sunk in.
You didn’t mean it.
Not towards Prompto.
And on further thought, you came to realise… you didn’t mean to demonise Ignis either.
But you were so angry. You were hurting.
You just needed someone to blame.
Just for a little while longer, at least until the fires of grief simmered down, and Felix’s memory stopped haunting you.
“Ignis,” Joy called gently, hand brushing his arm over his black uniform. “Can you tell me your full name and rank?”
He gulped and nodded, starting straight ahead, taking in the gruesome sights and smells of the medic garrison. He needed to get out of there, and fast, but he wasn’t going to break composure and go rogue now. The higher ups already had enough on him to dismiss him.
He bit his lip and shook his head slightly as his chest tightened, and it grew harder to breathe.
The last thing Ignis wanted was to be dismissed.
Without the distraction of war, he’d be left alone to his own thoughts.
That couldn’t happen.
It would be too cruel a punishment.
“I, uhm…” He trailed off, heat rising to his cheeks as he quickly realised just how foolish he sounded. He felt even more incompetent as Joy remained silent, giving him as much time as he needed to answer the simple question. “Ignis Stupeo Scientia.” He cleared his throat to get rid of the tight feeling, but his voice sounded weak regardless. “Major.”
“Great!” Joy’s tone rose, a crude mockery of exclamation. She was tired too. He winced as his ears honed in on the pained moans and prayers for mercy rumbling throughout the tent. He recognised a few of the voices; those were his lucky men. The ones who had made it out alive; charred, disfigured in non-vital areas of their body— but predicted to be fully viable within a couple of months, only to be thrown back to the dogs.
“… I’m sorry.” He couldn’t help but apologise again.
This time to Joy Amicitia.
For making her life hard and painful. The tent would have been significantly less stifling and gruesome had it not been for his impulsive actions out on the Cartanica front. The battle had surely been won in theory— but the casualties were plentiful. And the body count; that was all on Ignis.
“Hey, none of that over here young man.”
Her voice was full of compassion, as soft as ever. Her tone reminded him of innocence; of the times where she would bring out cookies and warm milk, and hold Ignis tight against herself to calm him from nightmares of his parents’ death when it was still fresh in his mind. Her presences reminded him of the countless times she had patched him up as a boy, with a smile and a piece of candy— either a moogle or cactuar band-aid stuck onto the wounds that always seemed to occur on his knees.
His eyes watered, and he clenched his fists.
No… not here.
Not in front of my men.
“Apologies.” he grit his teeth, hissing his words out between the gaps, words coming out sharper than intended. “I’ve nothing else to say.”
He heard her chair screech, and from his peripherals, he saw her stand and round her desk. Her small stature filled his vision, and suddenly, her worried eyes were gazing right into his haunted jades.
“Ignis,” she took his hands in her’s, voice shaking with mixed emotions, “you’re okay now. It’s done. You didn’t mean to—.”
He shook his head and looked away from her kind, amber eyes. He couldn’t take the compassion in them; he didn’t want to accept what he didn’t deserve.
His breath hitched, and his shoulders shook.
Joy held his hands tighter, rubbing circles onto the tops of his hands.
The hands that had destroyed so many… and so much.
“I-I’m sorry.” He hated that his once proud and intelligent way of prose was reduced to a pathetic whimper. “I don’t know anymore…”
He heard Joy let out a sigh, and then felt her stand. And then her hands left his, and her arms wound around him. Head pressed against her stomach, her floral aroma was welcome after the pungent scent of oncoming death in the large marquee tent. He shut his eyes and grew limp in her protective hold.
He didn’t deserve it. He knew he didn’t deserve it.
But gods… he needed it.
He needed to hide in her arms. He needed her to tell him it would all be okay.
“Oh, my sweet little boy…” Joy sighed, running her fingers through his hair.
Ignis sobbed quietly against her.
Even Joy Amicitia couldn’t tell him it was going to be okay.
And that burned.
“Y/N?” Joy sounded exhausted, voice thick with unshed tears as she made her way into the break room where you were currently cooped up. After having finished your final rounds for the day, you sought reprieve from the stench of the ailing men in the sterile room. Curled up on the cot, you hummed in acknowledgment.
You felt Joy sit down on the cot, and you couldn’t help but nestle closer to her warmth. She smelt a great deal better than the generic disinfectant used in the break room too. Naturally you sought out as much comfort as you could.
You felt her hand card through your hair, a mother’s touch you desperately needed. You pressed your lips together and held your emotions at bay as you listened for her next words.
“Ignis needs to be taken to the Marshal’s quarters. He’s not to go unescorted. I know your shift has just ended, but… I can’t leave—.”
You had expected yourself to turn your cheek and outright refuse, but you surprised yourself when you slowly sat up and met Joy’s eyes with resigned obedience.
“Sure. I’ll help.”
The corners of her lips tugged down into a frown. “I… thank you. I’m sorry I’m putting you in such a hard situation—.”
“It’s my job.” You cut her off, tone soft, bordering on shaky. You remembered the harsh words you had spat at Prompto earlier that evening and fought back the tears of regret that threatened to spill down your cheeks once more. “He’s a patient above all else. He looks exhausted, even from a distance. Still,” you cleared your throat and shrugged, “he doesn’t look injured. He’s viable. It’s my job to get men back onto the front as quick as possible.”
It was hard to read Joy’s expression as she looked at you, her eyes searching yours for any sign of distress. You knew she would find nothing in your glazed over gaze.
She finally offered you a smile. “That’s right. Thank you, Y/N.”
You managed to smile back in turn, though your heart felt like it was going to rip through your chest with how hard it thudded against your chest, nerves rising with every passing second.
“You’re welcome. Should I go now?”
Joy nodded. “I’ll call Cor now. He’s expecting both of you to stay through the meeting.”
You nodded, too tired to contest.
“Sure. No problems.”
And with that, you exited the break room, bag on your shoulder and eyes searching for Major Ignis Scientia.
Tired eyes locking onto a crying man hunched in on himself beside Joy’s desk, you gulped and steeled yourself as you approached the man who was responsible for the death of Sergeant Felix Agnito.
As you approached him, the cacophony of suffering was reduced to a white noise around you. Your whole body tensed, and you saw only him.
You took a deep breath, and then exhaled quietly.
Then, you addressed him in a quiet voice.
His head shot up, eyes haunted and wild. His nostrils flared, and then his face screwed up in anguish. You bit the inside of your lip until you tasted blood, fists clenched at your sides as his reaction to you both felt satisfying and heartbreaking at the same time.
“Oh… gods. Miss Sunshine…”
His voice cracked with a loud sob, and he fell onto his knees before you. He bowed down, head touching your feet, and you felt the regret radiating from him.
This person before you…
He wasn’t a monster.
He was just a man.
You couldn’t do anything but stare ahead. You felt wetness on your cheeks, but you didn’t bother to wipe it away. Confronted by the man you vowed to be angry with for the rest of eternity had your resolve whittled down to a mere fragment of its previous intensity.
This man wasn’t just Major Ignis Scientia.
This man… he was Sagefire.
And he was hurting.
Chapter 8: Suspension
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He didn’t say anything to you, he just followed a couple of paces behind you as you led him towards Marshal Leonis’ quarters. It was a marquee tent, the same dirty white as the rest set up in close proximity to each other. The medic tent was by far the largest, the most ominous looking— at least from your perspective it was.
You briefly wondered what the marshal’s tent looked like from Ignis’ perspective.
Pausing just before the entrance, you stepped aside and kept your eyes on the dusty pavement. Jerking your head slightly towards the tent flap you cleared your throat loud enough to get his attention.
“You should head in first. The meeting is yours. I’m just an escort.”
Ignis moved past you, the underside of his boots dragging against the grit of Lestallum, settled in a fine layer on all the roads and walkways. You let out a short breath and bit your tongue to ground your thoughts. Overwhelmed by the sheer presence of Sagefire— or Ignis— you were having a hard time making sense of any of the streams of thought floating around aimlessly within your mind.
Slipping into the tent after him, your eyes immediately focused on the legend himself. Presence larger than life, his cold, hard eyes examined Ignis. Cor gave him a quick once-over with his eyes and let out a sigh. Steel-blue hues flickered over to you and locked onto your wide eyes. You stood at attention and held your breath, feeling stifled under his calculating gaze.
After an extended moment of charged silence, Cor’s gaze faltered, and he looked despondent.
“You a nurse?”
You shook your head quickly. “Nursing assistant, sir.”
He nodded and looked at Ignis. “What do you think I should do with you, Scientia?”
The question hung heavy between the three of you.
Ignis’ throat bobbed visibly as he gulped, dry and with clear difficulty. He opened his chapped lips to speak, his stubble dark against his skin in the low light of the tent. You heard his low rumble of a voice hitch before he began to speak out loud. You couldn’t help but wince at the fear his tone possessed, masked with a refined lilt that seemed out of place with his dead spirit.
“Rehabilitation, and further education. And then,” he paused and took a deep breath, eyes fluttering shut and fists clenching at his sides, so tight that his knuckles turned white. His shoulders trembled slightly, and you knew Cor caught the movement with a softer gaze. “And then, I want a posting at Cartanica agai—.”
“No.” Cor shut him down curtly, eyes narrowing at him. “Not a chance in Ifrit’s flaming hell, Ignis.”
The trembling in the major’s shoulders stopped. He sighed, shoulders deflating, his head remaining bowed.
“Why ask for my opinion on the matter if it was never to be heard?”
“Because,” Cor rumbled, his whole presence stern, “I want you to own what you did.”
You didn’t expect your heart to drop to the pit of your stomach at the accusation in the marshal’s tone. Nor did you expect to feel like you’d just been punched in the gut when your eyes flickered to Ignis’ face, only to see brilliant jades rimmed with glazed red. Tears were gathered and brimming, but they did not fall.
His fists were clenched again, but he didn’t tremble. He just stood, almost lifeless, and took what was thrown at him.
Cor surprised you as he gestured your way with an open palm.
“Y/N lost a fiance. I lost good men. Lucis lost countless sons and daughters.”
You shook your head, your eyes flickering between the two men, unable to make sense of the feelings that were bubbling up inside you. Part of you was happy to see the man responsible for the death of your Felix being torn to shreds with harsh, poison-laced words. But there was a bigger, more human part of you who had forgiven Ignis the moment he fell to his knees before you.
He was a broken man. He knew what had happened wasn’t right. But he didn’t have any other choice.
He was trained to win at war. He was trained to fight for the greater good of Lucis. He achieved his objective, and he lost himself for it.
You wanted to hate him, but it seemed your heart was yet to learn what true, unrelenting hate was.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
A tear trailed down the corner of his eye and dissolved into his facial hair, wet trails on his skin in the low, yellowed lighting.
You took a step forward, standing almost side-by-side with the man you had so often referred to as murderer. Standing so close to him, you didn’t feel any murderous intent. You didn’t feel the lick of deadly flames as you had feared you would. Instead… there was an overwhelming guilt that clouded over his demeanour.
Raising your head, you looked Cor in the eyes. Shaking your head, you spoke low and even.
“He doesn’t need this right now. Tell him what needs to be done, don’t string him along like this. It’s cruel, and it’s not good for him.”
The marshal smiled at you, but of course the gesture was cold.
“You’re defending the soldier who burned your fiancé alive for Lucis?”
“No,” you said quietly, keeping your eyes firmly on Cor’s. “I’m defending the man who may have possibly won Lucis this war.”
The marshal kept his eyes on you, pinning you to your spot. Barely able to breathe under his scrutiny, you could only hear the short catches of Ignis’ breath as he tried to hide his tears. You didn’t dare look at him to figure out what kind of tears they were.
Cor suddenly moved, crossing his arms, his gaze softening yet again. He looked tired beyond his years— the war was eating at him, too. Even the Immortal wasn’t faring well— Ignis’ actions, though catastrophic for Lucis, were absolutely devastating on the Niffs.
Lucis owed Ignis.
“Would you call him a hero then?”
You bit the inside of your lip as you considered his question.
“I’d call him a man.”
Cor huffed. “A man, huh?” He nodded towards Ignis. “I suppose you’re right. He’s a very valuable man.”
You nodded, suddenly feeling bitter as thoughts of Felix rose to the surface of your mind, assaulting you with vivid memories of his final moments.
“Every man is valuable—.”
“Only the men who survive are worth saving.” Cor cut you off. His words cut right through you, the truth inciting silent screams within your conscience. “You’re a nurse, you know this better than anyone.“
This is not right. This is not fair. Everyone deserves a chance.
You shook your head, tears finally falling down your cheeks.
“Nursing assistant.” You whispered. “I’m just a nursing assistant. It doesn’t make sense to me. I could have saved him. But… he wasn’t fucking viable by your standards!”
The marshal unfolded his arms and glared at you, effectively silencing you with a single expression.
“Well, he is.” Cor gestured at Ignis, who was trembling again. “I’ve filed for a suspension of active duty for two weeks. In that time, you are to be his full-time carer. He might look okay now, but shell-shock’s a silent killer.”
“It’s fatigue,” Ignis sighed quietly. He didn’t seem to have the energy to be any louder than what he was in that moment. “This isn’t permanent. I’m just tired—.”
“It’s likely you will be decommissioned. Upon my recommendation.” Cor tacked on, watching Ignis closely for a reaction. When none came, the marshal simply nodded. “That is all. Dismissed.”
The major immediately turned on his heel, no salute— nothing. He held his head high and marched out of the tent. You found yourself pinned under Cor’s gaze again; there was something different about his demeanour now.
He looked… pained.
Blinking at him, you shrugged in defeat.
“That was cruel.”
He nodded. “I have a responsibility over all my men. I can’t let it slide.” Eyes pleading, he surprised you with his soft tone. “Watch him carefully. He’s going to burst soon, I’ve seen it before. I’ve been him.” The Immortal shuddered and shut his eyes. “It’s a small mercy, to give him two weeks to come to terms with his decommissioning. I’ll let him wear his title and uniform for a little while longer. Right now—.”
“It’s all he has.” You finished off for him.
Cor nodded curtly. “Exactly.”
Ignis was a ghost of a man, following you quietly as you weaved through the tents towards the main town. Cor had handed you a key to a suite in the Leville before you left his quarters, and advised you to remain by his side.
You weren’t sure how you felt about that.
On one hand, it would be interesting to find out how Ignis Scientia decimated his men, but on the other hand… he’d decimated his men.
No matter how you tried to think of the events that had led up to you unlocking his hotel room door, and not in the sexy way, you couldn’t shake the feeling of thinking that you should have been livid. You weren’t angry at him; you were just tired.
Pushing the door open, it creaked slightly before lending way to a neat little room with a double bed and sofa bed tucked against the wall opposite the window. You let out a sigh of relief— though you would be sharing a room, at least you had separate sleeping spaces. Then again, the war had made you and many others less picky about when, where and how you slept.
Most times, you were lucky to be provided a bed.
You thought about the stiff cot you called home in the visitor’s marquee tucked away beside the Lestallum market. With half the stalls closed down two years into the war, the space was being used to provide basic accommodation— beds, really— to volunteers and the families of soldiers stationed in and around Lucis’ official medical garrison. You were afforded very little privacy, and the grief the families drowned themselves amongst was contagious and overpowering.
A big part of you was grateful towards Ignis.
Even his punishment was bearable to the common man…
Though, Ignis was no common man.
You followed him with a cautious gaze, stepping into the room after him. He made a beeline for the bathroom, swaying in his step as he ambled forward. He paused before reaching out for the door.
Raising his head, he turned towards you, though he didn’t attempt to make eye-contact.
“It was a long journey. I’m in need of a shower.”
You didn’t say anything.
You just watched him.
He let out a sigh and opened the bathroom before stepping in, shutting the door with a soft click.
You heard nothing but the soft cries of a young baby, presumably a few doors down the hall, for the next five minutes. Then, the muffled splattering of water against tile reached your ears. Pressing your lips together, you shakily made your way to the other end of the room where the sofa bed was. Pulling it out, you quickly fetched a pillow from the bed and threw it onto your claimed space.
Only then had it occurred to you that you didn’t bring a change of clothes.
Eyes flickering over to the green wooden door, you eyed the chipping paint thoughtfully.
Maybe I can duck out and grab my belongings and run back before he finishes?
Cor’s stern glare filled your mind and you shuddered, shaking your head in silent reprimand.
No, you’d have to wait until Ignis was finished with his shower. Then, your best choice of action would be to ask him to accompany you to your assigned quarters.
Nodding, you allowed yourself to relax as best as you could, taking deep breaths as you sat yourself down on the edge of the sofa bed. There was nothing else you could do but be patient and wait.
In war, that was the bleak truth— you were powerless to the tides of fate.
So, might as well just take a deep breath and allow the currents to take you where they willed.
In your case, fate brought you right to Major Ignis Scientia… Mr Sagefire.
A mere man, whose first desire upon arriving to his hotel room with a young woman after quite frankly having his ass handed to him by his superior officer… was to have a shower.
Unable to help it, you smiled sadly, mind made up.
“Felix… I’m sorry. I need to help this man. He’s trapped in a purgatory that’s eating him alive.” You shook your head. “Death is a sweet mercy— to live in such a cruel state; it’s a living hell. No matter what; he doesn’t deserve it.”
Besides, it was easy to forgive the man who gave you a reason to smile.
In many ways, Mr Sagefire… Ignis… whoever he was; he gave you a new path in life.
You weren’t going to fight fate anymore.
You were just going to go with it.
Life was too short for hate after all. Felix had been your everything, and everything had been taken from you. There was nothing you could do about it. Nothing could bring him back.
And it was clear to you that Ignis Scientia was no monster; he was just a pawn in a political war. He played the game as best he could before he got knocked right off the board. His deeds were done, his glory turned to shame.
A muffled sob sounded through the door amidst the falling water. It struck you straight through the heart, the phantom pain in your chest throbbing with the sting of powerful emotion.
He was no monster.
He was simply a broken man who gave his all for Lucis.
Chapter 9: Realisations
Thanks for reading, everyone <3 Thank you amber_sword_lilies for beta reading <3 Thank you <3
It took exactly thirty-eight minutes for him to finish his shower.
When he opened the bathroom door up, his hair was damp and mussed up in a way that made him look much younger than he had previously. Clean-shaven, Ignis Scientia looked incredibly sharp and admittedly handsome to boot.
Lightly tanned skin tinged pink from the self-inflicted scald of his shower, his whole countenance looked flustered when he met your eyes with his own wary gaze.
“Ah, apologies. I just… I needed to wash off.”
You nodded once. “It’s okay. I would too.”
He nodded back and remained quiet, though his wary gaze remained on you. He stood stock still, hands limp at his sides, open for attack, and looking as though he wasn’t going to defend himself at all.
Ignis Scientia looked like a man who had well and truly just given up on fighting.
Perhaps decommissioning him really was for the better…
Shaking the thought from your head, you forced out an awkward laugh, trying to break the growing tension in the suddenly small room.
“Actually,” you gestured to yourself with a pointed look at the major, “I’m wanting to shower as well. Trouble is, I don’t have a change of clothes.”
His eyes widened slightly.
“I can lend you a pair of mine—.”
“No!” You shot him down, abrupt and loud.
The hurt on his expression was striking. You shook your head quickly, heard pounding in your chest, the sound deafening in your ears.
“I mean, I have clothes. Not far from here. All my belongings actually—.”
Realisation dawned on Ignis’ face, and his lips pulled into an attempted smile, looking more like a grimace more than anything else.
“I’ll be fine on my own, you go—.”
“Actually, I wanted you to come with me.” You interrupted.
He blinked at you, disbelief clear in his whole posture; especially pronounced in his widened eyes and slightly parted mouth.
“Oh. I— very well then. Happy to be of assistance.”
“Good to hear.” The conversation fell flat.
You turned away from him as he towel dried his hair, and only turned back to acknowledge him when he cleared his throat quietly. Dressed in a white pinstripe shirt and dark grey pants, Ignis clipped on his brown leather suspenders and nodded at you once he was done.
Hair in a neat little coif at the front of his head, you couldn’t help but think he looked like a sophisticated cockatiel. The corners of your lips quirked upward and you huffed a short laugh before jerking your head slightly towards the hotel room’s door.
He nodded. “Always ready to serve Lucis and its people.”
Uncomfortable with the confidence with which he spoke, despite all that had happened to him in the past month, you didn’t continue the conversation. He followed you out with shortened strides, keeping at least a few feet away from you.
The two of you walked in silence amongst the bustling, over-crowded thoroughfares of Lestallum, pointedly making your way towards the large, navy-blue marquee tent set up where the markets used to prosper. Your gaze grew dull with unadulterated sadness as you took in the wilted appearance of the ‘fresh’ greens on sale for five times their standard price. The war had really caused a lot of economic inflation, and people were slowly but surely beginning to starve.
You had heard the thieving incidents in Lestallum were on the rise.
Slowing your pace, you allowed Ignis to catch up with you until he was walking beside you.
“Is everything alright, nurse?”
You bit your tongue at his incorrect address and shook your head. “I’m not a nurse. I’m just an assistant, here in voluntary capacity.”
“Ah, my apologies Miss L/N—.”
You sighed loudly and shook your head, cutting him off mid-sentence.
“Y/N. You can call me Y/N.”
Looking up at him, you felt as if your breath had been knocked out of you when your eyes met a dull jade gaze. He blinked at you, his lips pressed in a firm line, and further appraisal of Ignis’ body language revealed tightly coiled muscles in his arms and shoulders, and a stiff upright posture that just screamed discomfort.
You cocked your head to one side, feeling your heart break at the sight.
“I’m not sure I can…” he murmured, voice rumbling deep in his throat and upper chest. There was an ache that came across in his words, so deep and suffocating that it felt impossible to alleviate.
A small, sad smile appeared on your lips, and you shook your head.
“Sunshine, then?” You offered him a lifeline of sorts.
His jaw tightened.
You blinked at him, and then let out an exasperated huff, shoulders sinking. You averted your gaze and addressed, voice hushed, your words only for his ears.
You heard him pause mid-step. Turning your head, you spoke over your shoulder.
“What?” You laughed, though the sound came out tired and soft. “I thought we were talking about our feelings?”
Ignis sputtered. “I suppose… is this funny to you?” His eyes narrowed at you, and his whole posture grew stiff.
You shook your head. “No, there’s nothing funny about the situation.” Smile falling from your lips, you shrugged. “That’s why it’s best to laugh about it.”
He nodded, though he appeared confused.
You didn’t blame him.
After all, you were confused too.
“Well,” you gestured at your small cot and allocated wooden storage crate with a flourish, “here it is! Home, sweet home!”
Children’s giggles and mothers’ reprimanding tones begging their little ones to ‘keep quiet please’ rang in your ear like a dull roar. There were at least one-hundred and fifty living spaces to each of the three large marquees set up in the long-lost marketplace.
Though, it was hardly worth living in.
Still, it was a place to stay, free of charge, sans the men and women carted off into battle and other war-time stations.
Ignis took a step forward and appraised your cot and crate with a frown pulling at the corners of this lips.
“Charming. I suppose your new role as my caretaker is both a curse and a blessing?”
Back turned to him, you bit your lip and shut your eyes. Your nostrils flared slightly as you took a deep breath in. Exhaling out of your mouth, you turned on your heels to face him.
Tilting your head up to meet his eyes, you briefly noted that you were standing very close to him. He smelt like cinnamon and gunpowder. But there was something else there too…
You took in another breath through your nose, eyebrows furrowing in thought as you tried to pinpoint exactly what Ignis’ scent was.
“I wouldn’t call it a curse, per se—.” You began.
“Living in close-quarters with your fiancé’s murderer—.”
Something inside you snapped, though it wasn’t what you had expected.
“You’re NOT a murderer!” Your words came out as an aggressive hiss. You glared up at him, and found your finger poking at his chest. He was firm underneath his thin shirt.
Snatching your hand away from him, you huffed and turned towards your crate, checking the underside of your cot to see if there was anything else you owned stored there. Finding it empty, you hastily reached for your meagre possessions, only to feel a gentle touch guide you away to one side.
You turned to Ignis, mouth open to argue, only to catch him reaching down for your crate with grateful determination watering in his eyes. His gaze flickered towards you, and his eyes locked onto yours. He nodded at you as he picked the crate up and straightened his posture.
“Miss Sunshine, you are too kind to me. I am in your debt.”
Unable to muster a response, you simply shrugged again and gestured towards the marquee’s exit. He nodded and turned to exit, walking tall before you, clearing you a path between the running children crowding the walk way as well as the elderly refugees and curious Lucian citizens.
You had almost made it to the end of the tent when you heard a stray comment that stole your attention.
“Isn’t that the major?”
“I can’t believe they let him come back!”
“Fucking ruined our lives, that’s what he did.”
“How does he live with himself— so much blood on his hands and all…”
“Some people are shameless.”
“He’s not a person. He’s a monster.”
You turned to Ignis and found his head hung low, shoulders hunched, and his feet dragging. It was as if all his energy had just been drained.
Wincing, you realised you would have joined those women in badmouthing Ignis if he hadn’t immediately fallen to your feet in tears. It scared you that he had to paint such a pathetic picture, throwing aside all of his dignity in one fell swoop, just to show you that he was truly sorry.
It had you thinking… perhaps Ignis never was the monster.
Maybe the monsters were the people groundlessly appraising his actions out on the battlefield?
The realisation chilled you to the core.
You stepped closer to Ignis and put a careful hand on his shoulder. Still, he jumped at your touch.
Again, your heart ached at his anxious disposition. He didn’t look like a monster, nor did he look like a man ranked Major in the army. He just looked… scared and tired.
“Mister Sagefire,” you murmured, moving your hand from his shoulder to rub at his back in what you hoped was a soothing motion, “let’s go.”
“I’m sorry.” He apologised, voice wavering with the burden of his guilt.
Eyes glazing over, you felt your heart break at his weak tone.
Moving your hand back up, you squeezed his shoulder reassuringly.
Felix would have done the same; whether Ignis was guilty or not. That was the beautiful thing about your Felix— he just wanted everyone to feel safe.
You wanted to impart his legacy, and do what he would. You wanted Ignis to feel safe.
“I know.” You said, voice soft as to soothe him in any way you could. “It’s okay. I promise.”
He turned to you, lower jaw trembling. Lips pressed into a firm line, he blinked at you.
His eyes… they were lit with something you had yet to see in him; it seemed that he had finally dared to hope.
Chapter 10: Monsters
Thank you as always to amberswordlilies for being an incredibly beta (the typo is on purpose heehee) <3
as always, i'm on tumblr: blindedstarlight.tumblr.com <3
The major stood before you, dressed in his black military formal attire, the gold embroidery a stark contrast to the pitch black suede of the jacket. He raised his eyebrows at you, the corner of his lips turning up into a half smile.
“What do you think? Presentable?”
You looked up from your paperwork, hastily ticking clearance boxes on physical examinations that indicated healthy bodies based on a static check-list. Eyes growing wide as you took his appearance in, you nodded, gaze running up and down his attire in sheer appreciation.
“Very.” You offered him a smile as you took in the brighter mood shining clear in his eyes. “You’re looking much better too.”
Ignis nodded and stood in perfect posture, saluting you and turning on his heel towards the door. Stopping just short, he turned his whole body back to you and tilted his head in question.
“We dally any longer, and I’ll be sure to miss my appointment with the Marshal—.”
“I don’t see what the rush is. It’s not like he’s got other people to see right now…” you mumbled, cutting Ignis off. Placing the remainder of your work onto the clear side of your sofa bed, you stood and smoothed out your clothing with the palms of your hands. Easing a glance at Ignis, you nodded before moving towards the door where he stood waiting, arms crossed and spectacles worn down low on the bridge of his nose.
With a huff, Ignis opened the front door and allowed you through before he took the chance to step through himself. Regarding you with a wry smile, he made sure to keep a respectable distance between himself and you as you made your way down to the Leville’s lobby, side by side.
“Of course he’s got no one else to see, but it’s more about the discipline of the matter.” He explained, voice quiet and calm.
You huffed out a nervous laugh, palms growing sweaty as you recalled Cor’s last blatant assessment of Ignis’ ability to get back out into the thick of the war. There really was no chance in hell of that happening at this stage.
Ignis seemed fine during his waking hours, all confidence and dry wit. He could have fooled you with his ‘fully-recovered war veteran’ act; but you knew better.
You witnessed the cold sweats, and the raw screams that woke him mid-dream, so intense during some episodes that he coughed blood. You sat beside the man as he sobbed into your shoulder on countless occasions.
It was terrifying.
He was trained to be a warrior who gave his all for Lucis before anything or anyone else. He knew exactly who he had injured, who he had killed… he remembered the names of all the men who had begged him to either save him or end him in the aftermath of his terrific exploits that had won Lucis the Cartanica Front.
There was a vicious voice inside you that kept pestering you to ask him whether he knew Felix Agnito. You wanted to know exactly how well he knew the men he had slaughtered for Lucis. You wanted to especially know if he had really been comrades with his men, or if they were just meaningless puppets to him.
Troubled, you shot Ignis a side-glance once more and let out a soft huff of frustration. Two weeks had passed since you first met Major Ignis Scientia; the man that called himself Sagefire in your written correspondences. You had quickly determined that he was no monster, only a broken man— but there were other things that you had learned about him that turned him from a mere name to a three-dimensional, autonomous human being.
He caught your quiet show of frustration and regarded you with a grim expression, on edge once more. You felt bad for it instantly.
“Is something the matter?”
You winced internally at the timidity that filtered through his usually confident tone. Shaking your head, you reached out to soothe a hand over his arm. The jacket felt smooth and rich under your touch; a clear luxury in trying times.
You wondered if Ignis would have to give the uniform back with his badge and title.
“No. Just lost in thoughts.”
“Gil for your thoughts?” He didn’t miss a beat.
You couldn’t help but smile. “They’re worth more than a gil, Mister Sagefire.”
“Name the price, and I will pay it,” he chucked quietly, though the sound faded off and his expression grew pensive. He turned his head fully towards you, and once again over the span of two weeks, you found yourself unable to look away from his expressive jade hues. Eyes searching as they flickered between your own, the intensity of his concentration on you didn’t waver. “It’s the very least I can do to ease the burdens that weigh you down.”
It flew out of your mouth before you could even think to mark the question as entirely inappropriate.
“Tell me what you know about Felix Agnito.”
The two of you had just made it out of the Leville. You were both on your way towards the main thoroughfare that would lead you to the front of the Lestallum encampment where the old service station was. The Marshal’s quarters were only a short distance from there, and if the two of you kept at your pace, you would have been there in five minutes.
But you both stopped to take in the harrowing question you had just posed to Ignis.
He cleared his throat, expression blank as he simply stared straight ahead. He looked lost in thought.
“Sergeant Agnito was a very sociable man.”
You hung to Ignis’ words, an indescribably greed clawing its way out from your chest, up your throat and right out your mouth in the form of hastily spoken questions.
“What was he like? What did he talk about? Was he a good soldier?”
Ignis turned to you and blinked slowly. He seemed to ponder your questions, and his gaze softened as he parted his lips to let out a short breath.
“He made this interesting. Exciting, even. He got along well with Prompto—.”
You bit your lip at the mention of Prompto. Joy had been giving you updates on how he was progressing, and you were relieved to have seen his discharge papers among your pile of work. Seeing his papers meant that he was now viable and ready to get back out there.
But… you were yet to sign his discharge clearance, despite all of that.
If you were to be honest with yourself, you simply didn’t want to send Prompto Argentum back into the shit storm that was the war. As harrowing as the medic tent was, at least it was safer than the open field.
Technically it wouldn’t be you sending him back into the fray— that honour was all up to Cor Leonis— but you couldn’t help but think that you would be equally as responsible if something were to happen to him out there on the battlefield.
“— and he would always mention his pretty little lady.”
You blinked, only having just zoned back in after getting lost in thoughts of your patient.
Ignis narrowed his eyes at you. “You weren’t listening?”
“I’m sorry.” You shot him a guilty smile. “You mentioned Prompto and I kind of remembered that I said some… not so nice things to him.”
“He’s forgiven you.” Ignis laughed, sounding too sure of himself.
“How do you know that?” Disbelief clouded your tone.
“Well,” Ignis shrugged, “I wouldn’t expect any less from Prompto. The man’s incapable of holding a grudge. Very much like Felix.”
You grew quiet. After some thought, you took a breath and asked your next question with trepidation lining your voice.
“Did Felix ever regret joining the forces?”
Ignis let out a sigh, though you didn’t see the expression that went with the gesture. You were hyper-fixated on the worn brown leather of your standard-issue boots, too scared to look directly at the major lest he tell you something you didn’t want to hear.
Then again, as confused as you were lately, you didn’t know what you wanted to hear. Or not hear. You… you just didn’t know anymore.
“He often asked for leave back to Lestallum. I… should have granted it.”
You shut your eyes at the rawness in Ignis’ voice.
“Why did he ask for leave?”
“Because… he needed to marry his girl before he died a dog’s death.”
You couldn’t hold back the sniffle that escaped you, loud and clear for him to hear.
Tears spilled down your cheeks, and Felix’s last pleas rang loud in your ears. He wanted to be with you, right until the end. And yet, you were the one who had made the conscious choice of walking away.
In a way… you were a monster in your own right.
“Oh, Y/N…” you felt a warm hand on your shoulder, and you hated your mind for immediately screaming at the offer comfort, accusing the warmth to be scorching instead of comforting. “Y/N, I’m sorry for upsetting you—.”
“A-all this ti-time, I’ve been thinking you a mo-monster, but in actual fact… I walked away from him and listened to him cry for me for two hours before he died!” You confessed with a loud sob. Your legs were close to giving out. Ignis saw this and rushed forward to offer you an arm for support.
You took it like a lifeline and clung to him with all you had.
His grip was tight on you, afraid to see you fall further into your despair if he let you go.
“You’re not a monster, you’re just doing your job—.” Ignis tried to soothe you, though his voice wavered; it was like he knew he was being a hypocrite.
You let out a flustered laugh, choking on your tears and coughing loudly in response.
“So were you, Ignis. So were you…”
Cor shook his head at Ignis and extended an open palm to the major. Your heart ached as you had already anticipated what was about to happen. Ignis, dangerously, had dared to hope otherwise.
“Your badge, Scientia.”
Ignis stood stock still, not making any move to give up anything on his person. Instead, he blinked coolly at the marshal.
To his credit, his one-worded question came out curt, strong, and full of authority.
It was too bad the whole aura was ruined by Ignis’ shaking hands and stiff posture. Sweat beaded at his forehead, dripping around his hairline, down his jaw and off his chin. It wasn’t even warm in the tent.
Ignis wasn’t doing so well.
That was as clear as day; you didn’t have to be a nurse to make that determination.
Cor clenched his jaw and exhaled through his nose, nostrils flaring as he tried to keep his own emotions at bay. He had been one of Ignis’ main trainers, and he knew just how good a soldier Ignis was. Still, he actually gave shit about him as a person, and for that very reason, Cor wanted to keep the younger man safe and sound.
Steel blue hues flickered over to your eyes, locking on them momentarily before softening.
Gods, the marshal looked exhausted.
“You’ve done enough for this war. Pretty much have it in the bag for us—.”
“I need to get back to Cartanica and wait for Gladiolus. He might need help with his hostage—.”
“Not a hostage,” Cor actually smirked as he shook his head, folding his arms in front of him. “I’ve heard they are getting along really well. And, besides, Nyx reported in just this morning. Said Gladio and his friend would be arriving tomorrow morning.”
Ignis’ fingers twitched, and then shakily reached for his badge. Pulling his rank off his uniform, he licked his lips and averted his gaze in a resigned fashion.
“Seems it’s all under control. I’m not needed—.”
Cor’s fingers tightened around Ignis’ badge as he brought it to his side. He stared hard at the young soldier— officially decommissioned as of mere moments ago— and then nodded curtly at him, growing serious once more.
“You’re to sit in on tactical meetings. You’re going to be our scribe.”
Your jaw dropped at Cor’s words. Eyes flicking to Ignis’ form, you noted how even he stared at his superior officer with a slack jaw.
Gathering himself, Ignis shook his head, blinking at the older man in disbelief.
“You… you can’t be serious? After all I have done, and all I have trained for… I’m reduced to being a mere scribe?!”
“It’s for the best—.”
“It’s bullshit.” Ignis spat, eyes burning with the injustice of it all.
Cor threw Ignis’ badge down on his desk, the clanging ringing in everyone ears as it eventually settled on the wooden surface. He glared at the decommissioned major and pointed a steady finger at him.
“You’re lucky you get to continue associating with the army after that stunt you pulled. I’ve pulled a lot of strings to get you into the tactical meetings.”
You bit your lip and cleared your throat, garnering both the riled up men’s attention.
“The stunt Ignis pulled was something most likely borne from these tactical meets.” You shot them both meaningful looks, wide eyed and insistent as you continued speaking. “While Ignis is surely not fit to return back to the frontlines—.”
“Y/N…” Ignis spoke over you, though his voice was too soft; too weak to even bother pausing. He sounded betrayed.
“— I do believe he could be an incredible asset to the war from a tactical perspective.”
Cor nodded in agreement. “Upon Y/N’s recommendation, and my clearance, you are being granted permission to remain in the army under the rank of Corporal.”
“I am not a Corporal. I am a Major. I am well on my way towards your position, Cor, and you know it!” Ignis appealed, voice rising an octave with unbridled emotion.
You pressed your lips together in a grim line and shot Cor an alarmed look.
He simply shook his head and narrowed his gaze at Ignis.
“Stand down, Corporal.”
Ignis gritted his teeth, hands clenched into fists.
“Address me as you should, Marshal, and I will.”
Cor stood his ground. “Corporal, I will not ask again.”
You chose this moment to step forward. You reached out for Ignis’ arm, only to have him flinch away from you. His eyes met yours, and you let out a stilted whimper at the hurt swimming in his jade gaze.
The name came out on its own, an endearment that you had only dare think, but never had the nerve to actually say out loud.
His stiff shoulders relaxed at the sound of it.
You took a deep breath and said it again, voice shaking with fear, nerves, and excitement.
He bit his lip and nodded. “Is this what you want of me?”
You shut your eyes and took in a shuddered breath. You nodded.
“I don’t want to send you out there again. If you go, then I follow you out there. You’re… all I have left.”
He laughed dryly. “I am that important to you? The monster who ruined everything—?”
You shook your head, making a loud sound of protest.
“You’re important because you gave me a reason to look forward. And now…” you paused and looked at him, taking in all the emotions that turbulently whirled around the both of you, with Cor witness to it all. “Now,” you repeated with conviction, “I’m trying to give you a reason to look forward. You can still help win this war. Just… from right here, where I can keep an eye on you and make sure you’re safe—.”
“How are you so sure you can keep me safe, Y/N?” Ignis suddenly asked, though there was a strange smile on his face. You couldn’t quite place what it meant. Still, you let out an exasperated huff and smiled back at him, mustering all the warmth you could.
He needed it. You needed it. The situation needed it.
Anything to save him in a way you hadn’t been able to save Felix.
“Because,” you assured quietly, “I’m not going to leave you to fight this alone. You’re no monster. You’re no murderer. You’re just a man prisoner to his circumstances, and I’ll be damned if I let this prejudice hold me back from helping you any longer.”
“Corporal,” Cor interrupted, “meeting’s at o-seven-hundred hours tomorrow.” He cast you an appreciative look, nodding your way as he spoke. “Y/N is to accompany you everywhere. Understood.”
It took Ignis a couple of extended moments to react, but he finally nodded in agreement.
“… Understood, Marshal.”
“Good man,” Cor finally relaxed into a smile. “We’re just worried about you. I don’t want to be writing a crappy eulogy for you at a prematurely held funeral. You’re young, and you’ve got a lot of living to do. Find yourself a good woman, and hope that this war ends quick— start a family and put this all behind you.” Cor sighed and addressed Ignis with a softer tone that usual. “You know I’m on your side, right?”
Ignis’s nostrils flared, out of frustration or sheer confusion, you weren’t sure.
Still, he nodded. “I know. I’m just… War’s all I’ve known.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“No, there’s no need to apologise for that. It’s been a pleasure, Marshal.” Ignis shook his head, eyes wide at the sight of seeing his Marshal suddenly apologise to him. Though, in your opinion, the apology was long overdue.
It had you wondering— had you properly apologised to Ignis? For thinking he was below scum?
Cor shook his head, a small smile pulling at his lips. “It’s not over yet, Scientia. See you tomorrow morning— dismissed for now. Go get a good rest.”
Ignis saluted, and you bowed.
“Thank you, sir!”
Turning from Cor, you and Ignis walked from the tent.
It wasn’t until you were almost back at the Leville that you realised Ignis was walked much closer than he had ever dared to before.
The very gesture had your lips pulling up into an uncontrollable smile.
Felix, you internally prayed, would it be okay if I loved on Ignis? He needs it… and, in all honesty, I think I need it too.
A gust of wind blew up around you and Ignis, dust and debris of the dreary town stirring at your feet— but with the wind came an unexpected gift. A single red petal, looking like it belonged to a rose, flittered along in the wind currents. You outstretched your palm, and it landed perfectly against your palm.
You scoffed a laugh of disbelief.
“Felix?” You murmured.
“Y/N?” Ignis called for you.
Head snapping up, you closed your hand over the rich red petal and hurried over to your charge.
“Iggy. I’m coming.”
His expression relaxed immediately.
“Right then. Keep up, or you will lose sight of me.”
Taking in the sight of Ignis before you, you stored the memories of Felix into the depths of your mind, and finally moved forward toward the next chapter of your life.
“I won’t,” you murmured softly, “I promise. I won’t turn my back on you. I’ll keep you safe. I will.”
Chapter 11: Scorched
Another day, another update! :D Bless all of you who are actively following this fic, it's a pleasure to write this for ya! Thank you @amberswordlilies for your invaluable beta reading help <3
The Cartanica front was even worse than Major Gladiolus Amicitia could ever have imagined. Wincing, he stepped over the charred remains of a large tree and turned to glance over his shoulder. Behind him, he heard the tell-tale crunching of Commodore Aranea Highwind’s heeled boots against the burned leaves and twigs.
“This is fucked up…” she murmured.
Gladio’s expression was grim. “Yeah, it’s… not pretty at all.”
The older woman scoffed and lightly punched him on his upper arm, the touch affectionate. She shook her head, and then raised it towards the off-white tents with the Lucian skull displayed on them.
Nodding at their destination, she spoke quietly.
“Shouldn’t I be heading in as a prisoner? I’m a Niff—.”
“You were a Niff.” Gladio corrected, his gaze like honeyed red tea, warming her insides in the frigid climate. “You’re on our side now. You just gotta tell ‘em what you told me, and it’s all gonna be fine. Promise.”
Aranea placed her hands on her hips and raised a silver-grey, perfectly arched brow at him.
“Awfully optimistic for the Lucian general’s son.” She ran her tongue over her lip and bit the plush flesh, worrying it between her teeth as her gaze grew distant. “What if you get court martialed for this? It’s going to be worse for you, and you know that—.”
“Why would it be worse?” Gladio shot back, cutting Aranea off.
She laughed. “Your country will hate you for fucking around with the enemy, and your family will probably disown you.”
She watched his throat bob up and down as he gulped dryly.
His eyes grew glazed in thought, but then quickly drew back into clarity. He blinked and shook his head, humming gruffly in disagreement.
“Dad might have a hard time at first, but ma will bring him back around. She’s got this way about her— looks gentle, but fucking terrifying if you grate on her nerves.”
This drew a laugh out of the formidable female soldier.
“I want to meet her.”
Gladio’s gaze softened, and he tilted his head towards the campsite, holding his hand out for her in wordless invitation.
Gloved hand trembling, ever-so slightly, to the point that only she was able to discern it, she allowed herself a moment of weakness and entrusted herself to Gladio’s safekeeping.
He took her hand and closed it in his own, safe and sound.
“She’d love you.”
Aranea let out a soft snort of amusement, averting her gaze, feeling strangely timid and flustered at how soft the younger man was with her.
War wasn’t supposed to be like this.
She wasn’t supposed to find home with the enemy.
Much less the Lucian general’s son.
She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, armour clinking with her slight movement. Gladio’s eyes immediately fell upon her in concern, and it was then that she realised that since she’d been in his company, she’d lost track of the times her heart fluttered within her chest.
“What’s that look for?” she asked, breathless.
He shrugged, smile pulling at his lips, lighting up his whole countenance, like sunshine forcing rain away.
“The dumb ass sappy look on your face.”
He grinned. “Cos I’m looking at you.”
Aranea wanted to keep her eyebrow raised; her expression neutral.
But she couldn’t.
Not with him.
“Damn it,” she laughed, her free hand rising to cover her wide smile. “You’re a fucking idiot, Gladiolus. Stop it.”
He laughed with her and squeezed her hand before tugging her forward, leading her towards the camp site, hand-in-hand.
Nyx took one look at their joined hands and smirked, arms folded, and a knowing glint in his tired, stormy blue eyes.
“Took ya long enough, Amicitia!” The special special forces officer nodded respectfully towards Aranea after shaking hands with Gladio. “It’s good to see you make it back to home turf in one piece,” Nyx glanced at Aranea, gaze lingering in distrust before falling back to Gladio.
Catching the calculating gaze directed his unexpected companion’s way, the younger soldier took a step forward and positioned himself between the two, raising his eyebrows at Nyx.
“Good to see ya too. Can we open a frequency to Insomnia? I gotta speak with the general.”
Nyx nodded, eyes widening just a fraction at the younger’s abruptness.
“Uh, yeah. Sure! Just,” Nyx gestured around him towards the black charred surroundings that were slowly being covered by sparse snowfall, “don’t you wanna take a look around before we call him—?”
“I’ve seen enough. Iggy did a number on this place.” Gladio murmured, loud enough to stop the older man mid-sentence.
“Honestly, the more I think about it, the more impressed I am. We’ve got an amazing tactical advantage—.”
“Not really, pretty boy.” Aranea spoke up, tone as wry as ever.
Nyx narrowed his eyes at her. “What do you mean?”
Gladio simply shut his eyes and sighed, worry settling into his weary body once more as he got ready to Aranea to recount what she had explained to him almost two weeks ago when he’d first run into her outside the Niflheim stronghold during a intel-gathering mission that ran for longer than initially expected— Zegnautus Keep.
“I mean,” Aranea leaned forward, movements precise and practiced, as if she was ready to pounce at any moment if the need came to rise, “the Niffs have men inside Insomnia already. I got some of my own in there, keeping tabs and recruiting neutral rebel forces to stage a full civilian evacuation when the need arises.”
“You make it sound like we’ve already lost Insomnia to an impending attack—.” Nyx accused, stepping forward, chest out and shoulders back, ready for confrontation.
The commodore wanted nothing more than to rise to the challenge and bite back, but she caught sight of Gladio, soft amber hues glazed over with worry.
It wasn’t worth it.
He had enough to worry about. For the first time in her life, she didn’t want to cause a shit-storm just for for the hell of it. This time, she actually cared enough to stand down and fight another day.
She stepped back and raised her hands in surrender.
“If we don’t let General Amicitia know now, Lucis will suffer— and that’s a fact.”
“Why are you telling us this? You’re one of their best soldiers. What are you getting out of this?” Nyx’s gaze flickered warily between Gladio and Aranea as he tried to make sense of them both, along with the information he had just been bombarded with.
The former enemy shrugged and boldly took a step towards Gladio.
“I met a good man. Made me want more than just what the battlefield can offer me.”
Nyx raised his eyebrows at Gladio.
“Your old man’s not gonna be impressed, boy.”
Gladio’s nostrils flared, his eyes glinting dangerously.
“That’s Major Amicitia to you, soldier.”
The older man scoffed.
“Right. Whatever— fine, I mean… it’s kinda fucked up, but if this intel’s correct,” Nyx cast another unsure look Aranea’s way, only to be met with a blank expression in return, “I’m payin’ for all the booze at your wedding.”
The commodore couldn’t help the way heat rose to her cheeks, unable to ward off the pleasant giddiness that fluttered in her abdomen at the thought of living a normal, post-war life with her younger lover.
She felt Gladio’s hand on her shoulder, warm and assured, and she took a deep breath as she felt his rumbled laugh through his touch.
“You’re gonna eat your words, Ulric. We drink enough for a whole damn squadron between the two of us.”
Nyx laughed loudly, shaking his head.
“Cute.” He cocked his head towards the communications tent. “Come on, we got shit to report.”
“Major, it’s good to hear from you again. Any new reports on activity in enemy territory?” Clarus didn’t waste any time, his voice crackling through the frequency. Gladio’s gaze wavered at the sound of his father’s voice, and he cleared his throat quietly before standing at attention.
Beside him, Nyx did the same.
Aranea remained relaxed beside Gladio, hand on her hip, though concern filtered through her deep green eyes. Even she could feel the ‘no-nonsense’ attitude of Amicitia senior through his voice alone.
The couple simultaneously turned to each other, and Aranea nodded, encouraging Gladio to go ahead and explain the entirety of the wartime situation from the Lucian perspective.
“Glad to be back on home turf. Things aren’t looking good, sir.”
“What do you mean?”
The younger man sighed, shoulders deflating as the reality of the stakes came crashing down on his young, inexperienced shoulders. He could still smell the burning from outside in the communications tent, and he was reminded very quickly that if it wasn’t Ignis who had given his all to win Cartanica for Lucis, then the job would have been given to none other than himself…
In many ways, he was grateful to Ignis.
And in a very big way, he felt sorry for him as well.
The sickening stench of burned human flesh mingled with the charring of the sparse greenery around the frozen wasteland. Gladiolus Amicitia didn’t squick easily, but the sight of Cartanica upon arrival was enough to have bile rise up his throat. The acrid taste remained stained on his tongue, and no matter how much he tried to gulp it down, it just wouldn’t leave.
He couldn’t imagine how Ignis was feeling after being the man who had caused the destruction with his own two hands.
The man had talent.
A terrifying talent, only fit for use in a war where everything was fair game.
His hands started to shake, so much that he had to clench them to at least attempt at hiding his nerves. Dropping military protocol, Gladio felt ashamed as his eyes misted over.
He felt like a failure; too emotional to be his father’s son.
“Dad,” he croaked, “this war’s fucked up. It’s so fucked up…”
“Gladio.” Clarus sighed through the radio. The silence grew heavy, only breaking with the younger Amicitia’s quiet sniffles. Aranea place a supportive hand on his upper back and nodded once before speaking.
“General Amicitia, excuse me, but I think I can give you some very valuable intel from deep within the Niflheim regime’s ranks. I’m Commodore Aranea Highwind,” she trailed off suddenly, gaze growing distant as she considered her own words.
Before she could correct herself, Clarus spoke up.
“Do you hold your rank if you have deserted your army?”
She narrowed her gaze, calculating but not accusatory.
“What makes you think I deserted the Niffs?”
She felt Gladio’s gaze on her, and she turned towards him and nodded reassuringly.
Clarus’ voice crackled through again.
“My son’s still alive. I’ve heard of your exploits Highwind; he wouldn’t have stood a chance against you on his own.”
Gladio’s head dropped further. He worried his bottom lip between his teeth, fists still clenched and tears barely kept at bay. The shame and the stench— everything— it was all too much.
“With all due respect, your son’s an incredible soldier—.”
“You speak too high of him to simply be his prisoner. What is the nature of your relationship?” He cut straight to the chase.
Gladio raised his head, mouth agape for a few moments before he spoke.
“None of your business. We’re here to give you intel—.”
“Gladiolus Amicitia, you tell me what you’re doing sleeping with a Niff soldier right now.” There was fire in Clarus’ words; that much was obvious. Aranea’s eyes widened and her heart dropped at the crestfallen look on Gladio’s face.
She’d never seen him look so helpless before.
It was new— she didn’t like seeing him hurt so deeply at the expense of disappointing his father. All through their journey, Gladiolus Amicitia could only talk about how much he idolised General Amicitia; all he had ever wanted to do was make him proud. She quickly grew to realise that his father’s standards were very high.
It wasn’t fair. Gladiolus Amicitia was one of the best warriors she had ever come across. His father needed to acknowledge that; so far, Aranea was under the impression that he didn’t.
“I have a rebel faction based in three locations around Insomnia underground. We’ve got a good amount of people to assist in evacuations to neighbouring towns and cities if the need arises. The Niffs are going to attack, and they are going to be fucking aggressive about it.” She licked her lips and glared at the radio.
“How do we know this is not false information—.”
“Clarus.” A new voice rang out through the radio. Soft, but full of commanding strength, the woman speaking had cut the general off with a single stern mention of his name. Aranea was impressed.
“Ma…” Gladio murmured, awe clear in his tone. “What are you—?”
“Gladiolus Amicitia,” Joy’s voice filtered through, louder and clearer than before, “you went off, gallivanting who knows where, and then found yourself a nice girlfriend, and you didn’t even think to send a letter? I am very disappointed in you young man—.”
Gladio grinned, and his tears finally spilled down his cheeks.
“Joy, what are you doing here?!” Clarus called out, exasperated.
“I can’t be in my own bedroom? Are you being serious right now?”
The son of the bickering couple narrowed his eyes. “Bedroom? Why are you hailing a frequency from home? Isn’t that a security issue? And I thought ma was in Lestallum? I thought you were both in Lestallum?”
“Military barracks has been compromised,” Clarus grunted quietly, “safest place to contact you is from here. Regis is staying here with us; it’s not safe at the Citadel either. Noctis is with Lunafreya, but I cannot disclose their location to you until we rendezvous in person. As for your mother— I don’t know why she’s here. I thought I told you to stay in Lestallum no matter what?!”
“You can’t order me around. I’ll do what I want. Besides, I wanted to hear Gladio’s voice.”
“It’s not safe here, Joy! The Niffs are planning a fucking attack on Insomnia, and you’re no soldier. You’re not going to be able to fight your way out of here if things go south!”
“Ah,” Aranea murmured, ignoring the domestic, “so you already know.”
“Yes,” Clarus said, voice softer as he addressed her, “we’re just keeping a low profile. We’ve got some who snuck in among our ranks. They’re corrupting our soldiers from the inside. Quite a few of our glaives are thought to have deserted their posts, but we’re keeping it quiet. Your information checks out, Highwind.”
She hummed in agreement. “Of course it does. General Glauca’s the one behind this whole shitstorm. He sent some grunts after me to take me down after I deserted my post at Zegnautus, but the major helped me out of a pinch.” She glanced at Gladio an nodded, gratitude clear in her gesture.
He nodded back and gulped.
“Y-yeah, thought it would be good to bring her back home. Tactical advantage and all—.”
“Gladio,” Clarus cut his son off.
The silence was deafening.
Joy said something in the background, but she was too far from the receiver for it to pick up her words.
The older Amicitia finally sighed.
“You did good. I’m sorry, I’ve been worried. We all have. Just hadn’t heard from you for so long son— I thought I lost you.” He took a shaky breath in, and Gladio, Aranea and Nyx— who had been quiet throughout the whole communication— heard it in its entirety.
“I’m glad you found a loyal woman out there Gladiolus. At least the war’s given you something beautiful. Thank you, Aranea.”
Speechless, she simply saluted, though she was under no obligation to do so.
“I should be thanking you; you’ve trained him well. He’s a machine out on the field. But he’s got enough heart to hold on to his humanity. I’m really grateful for that; it’s refreshing.”
Clarus let out a tired laugh.
“The training’s me, for sure— but the humanity; that’s all Joy.”
“So, when’s ma going back to Lestallum? Do you want me to escort her? I could be there in a week or so if I hurry.” Gladio cut in, feeling anxious about the impending attack on Insomnia. He had known that his father was there, but knowing that his mother was there with the king’s shield was troubling him. If anything was to happen, his father’s duty would be to the king, not to Joy.
She was a sitting duck.
Aranea squeezed the nape of his neck gently, the warmth of her touch calming him.
“Like I said, I got some guys down there operating in neutral rebel factions. Just get her to the bar downtown on Fifth Avenue, and tell ‘em you’re with the Gilded Dragoon, and that Joy’s the Great Eagle’s precious cargo, due to head down to the Meteor.”
Clarus remained quiet, and then he sighed.
“Alright. I suppose it’s her best shot. Rendezvous point?” He asked.
Gladio spoke before anyone else could get a word in.
“‘Nea and I can be at Galdin in four days. We’ll meet there.”
“Alright,” Clarus said, “solid plan. Travel safe.”
“Right. You stay safe too, dad.” Gladio rumbled, affection filtering through his tone.
“Thanks, son. End transmission—.”
“I love you, Gladdy! Treat her right, and see you soon!” Joy called out, cheery as ever.
He rolled his eyes, amber hues glinting with amusement. “Love you too. Both of you. See you soon.”
The transmission was cut off, and the silence was deafening until Aranea chuckled quietly.
“Your ma. I like her. Dad? He’s a bit of a prick—.”
“Nah,” Gladio sighed, “he’s just tired. And thanks.” He set earnest eyes on her, “you know, for briefing him when I froze up. I just… it’s too much.”
Aranea’s gaze softened, and she reached up to cup Gladio’s cheek in her leather gloved palm. She ran her covered thumb over his cheek and smiled before leaning up to press her lips gently against his own.
Pulling away slightly, she laughed breathlessly.
“You’re a good soldier, but you deserve a better fucking life. I’m still not sure I’m the woman who can give that to you…”
Uncertainty rang clear in her tone, but he still managed a bright smile at her words.
“Life’s already better with you at my side. I’m grateful every fucking day. I love you.”
She shut her eyes at his declaration and let herself lean into his hold.
“I fucking love you too.”
They paid their flustered audience— one Nyx Ulric— no attention as they took comfort in each other.
After all, they were at breaking point.
They needed all the comfort they could get.
Pulling away, Gladio turned towards Nyx to address him.
“When’s the next transport to Lestallum from here?”
Nyx tilted his head and regarded Gladio and Aranea with a wry smile before breaking eye contact to examine the far tent wall on his left. He pointed to the schedule pinned here.
“This evening. So take the time to rest up; you guys are cute and all, but you both look like shit. Go grab a shower, have a bite, and hit the hay. I’ll wake you up when the transport arrives; we’ll have a few grunts minding the base here— the general’s given all higher ranking officers orders to gather in Lestallum so we’re closer to Insomnia if anything big goes down.”
“Right. Thanks Nyx.” Gladio nodded in gratitude.
Aranea mirrored the gesture, smirk pulling at her lips as she passed Nyx to leave the tent.
“Yeah, thanks pretty boy. You’re not so bad when you’re not looking at me like you’re gonna stick a knife in my throat.”
The special operations glaive smirked back, shaking his head at her playful banter.
“Oh, fuck you Highwind.”
“Ha, not a chance. This,” she gestured at her chest and hips, “is all for him.” She pointed at Gladio, who was too lost in his thoughts to partake in any of the playful banter— for good reason.
Nyx nodded, grinning wide.
“Yeah, yeah— go on then. I’ll get ya when the transport’s here. Don’t wander off too far, okay?”
She simply gave him the one-fingered salute and followed after Gladio towards the showers.
Cleaning off was a little luxury in the middle of a fucked up war, and she wasn’t going to miss it for anything.
Chapter 12: Frayed
FINALLY SOME ROMANCE xD
Thank you @amberswordlilies for being a beautiful beta reader <3
Find me: blindedstarlight.tumblr.com :D
“A man called Alandro will meet you at the corner of Fifth Avenue, where the flower shop used to be. He will ask you how you know the Gilded Dragoon—.”
“She’s my daughter-in-law.” Joy smirked, arms folded in front of her. She stood in front of Clarus, bundled up in a brown trench coat, a woollen grey scarf wrapped around her neck. Unfolding her arms, she held them out and beckoned the general closer for a hug. “Please?”
He shook his head and shifted forward, his own ornate white and gold uniform rustling as he gently draped himself around her, his strong arms coming around her small frame completely. He held her close, pressing his nose into her dark brown hair.
“I still can’t believe you came all the way here. It’s not safe—.”
“I just missed you, Clarus,” she whispered against him, clutching at his lapels. “I’m sorry I’ve complicated things, but I’m not sorry for being here right now.” She sniffled, burying herself closer to his warmth.
He held her protectively to himself and bit his lip, heart aching at the broken tone she adopted.
“What am I going to do with you?” He moved to cup her face in his hands, lifting her head so that he could take his wife’s face into memory just as she was in that moment. Looking as beautiful as the day he married her, he brushed the pads of this calloused thumbs over her soft cheeks.
He loved the way her eyes fluttered shut at the contact, and the way her lips parted, corners pulled up in a blissful smile. This moment, right then, was theirs— and Joy Amicitia was the one to have made it possible.
Expression growing serious, Clarus held her in place and leaned down, his head and shoulders completely hunched as his lips met hers in a gentle kiss. He heard her whimper, and felt her grip tighten on his uniform as she pressed herself closer to him. Angling his head, he deepened the kiss, teasing her bottom lip with a swipe of his tongue.
A breathless moan escaped her as she opened up her delicate lips and let him inside.
He lifted her into his arms and turned her to their bed, laying her down like a prize, pulling away just long enough to take in her flushed cheeks and hazed over honey-amber eyes.
Clarus’ heart fluttered in his chest, and he wasn’t sure whether it was out of pleasure or impending pain. He grazed her bottom lip with his thumb, feeling the softness of her against his calloused skin.
He sighed and surged back in, capturing his wife’s lips again with a soft groan. Large hands roamed her sides and squeezed at her soft hips, and she mewled helplessly in response. The room started to get hot, and Clarus forced himself up and away from one of his three weaknesses.
He sat up and rubbed a hand over his face, flustered.
“Gods, I… if we had more time I would have—.”
Joy giggled, cutting him off. He turned his head to watch her as she gracefully fixed her shoulder length hair, a dazed smile on her thoroughly kissed lips.
“You win this war, General Amicitia, and Nurse Joy will take special care of you. That’s a promise.”
“And if I don’t? If I’m too old? Too tired… if I’m too scared?” Clarus hunched in on himself, shame filling him to the brim.
He felt a small hand on his shoulder, the support behind him larger than any existence on Eos.
He smiled even before she spoke.
“All the more reason for me to take even better care of you, my darling.”
He took in her flowery scent, reminding him of her beautiful, but deceptively dangerous, rose garden at the Citadel, grown and maintained in memory of the late Queen Aulea Bellarus Caelum. He shut his eyes and felt her soft petal-like lips plant a gentle kiss against his stubbled cheek.
“I love you. Please, stay safe. And give Gladio and Iris my love when you see them. Tell them dad’s gonna be okay.” He opened his eyes, the clear blues delving into deep amber pools.
She looked concerned, but she nodded.
“Dad’s going to be okay. I’ll let them know. As for your love,” she pinched his thigh, earning a slight wince of surprise from him, “you can give it to them yourself when you’re back.”
Clarus ignored the sting of bitter tears in his eyes and turned his face away from Joy’s line of sight.
“Give Gladio and Aranea my blessing.”
“Give it to them yourself, idiot.” She chided, though her voice was thick with tears. He felt her smaller arms wrap around his waist with a hidden strength that he could never even hope to harness himself.
Her love ran deep, and he was grateful every day for it.
“Joy, if I die fighting this war—.”
“You won’t.” She bit out. “So don’t.”
“Joy, please… hear me out?”
She shook head head and buried herself against his side.
“I can’t. I just can’t do it, Clarus. C-come with me. Come to Lestallum with me—.”
“I can’t,” he repeated her words back, feeling helpless. “King Regis needs me here.”
“Bring him with you. He’ll be safe away from here—.”
“And what of the people?”
Joy shuddered against him, growing silent.
She had no answer to his question.
The general and his nurse sat together in the heavy company of each other, their last few minutes before parting carrying greater stakes and burdens than they could have ever imagined.
The medical tent was clearing out at a fast rate, the standards for release being set lower and lower as the need for more manpower around the perimeter of Insomnia grew more and more urgent. You held a pen to Prompto’s papers with a shaky hand and signed him off with a heavy heart.
He plucked the papers from your hands and then ducked down to show you his grinning face.
“Finally! I’ve been itching to get back out there—!”
You brushed him off, tears stinging at your eyes as the pressure of taking over Joy Amicitia’s position during her sudden leave of absence threatened to consume you whole. It had only been four days, and you were about ready to keep over from exhaustion. You never realised just how easy you had it as a nursing assistant to the head nurse. Only now did you realise the bone deep exhaustion that came from being responsible for the lives and wellbeing of so many.
“Be careful. I can’t be saving two people at once, okay?”
Prompto sobered up immediately, and he nodded with a punctuated blink of determination.
“Yeah, I’ll be careful. Promise.”
His eyes widened, alert. “Yeah?”
“I’m sorry about what I said that day—.”
He shook his head, smile lighting up his delicately handsome features. He reminded you of the pureness of summertime.
“Stop apologising. Iggy’s rubbin’ off on ya!”
You couldn’t help but laugh as you shook your head, quickly diverting your attention from him, moving on to the next patient. Though you wanted to talk with Prompto more, you had a role to fulfil as Joy’s assistant. There were no other nurses around with your level of knowledge, and that was a scary thought in itself. At present, the patients had no choice but to be treated by a woman who was simply playing at being a nurse.
It was terrifying for all involved.
“Noted. Take care Prom; I’ll see you again— hopefully somewhere happier than this.”
He nodded back at you, grinning from ear to ear.
He bounded off, a slight limp still in his gait, but he seemed ecstatic to join the fray again. You couldn’t fathom why, but then immediately thought of Ignis and the helplessness he felt when his rank was stripped from him.
War, to these soldiers, was everything.
It was all they knew.
You allowed yourself a moment to gaze at all the injured soldiers in your care, and you briefly wondered what would happen to their minds once the war was over.
Would Joy be stuck with caring for thousands of men like Ignis?
Would they all need to be watched almost every hour of the day to prevent any self-inflicted harm?
You drew in a shaky breath and held it, turmoil bubbling within you at the very thought.
War was cruel…
So very cruel.
All because soldiers couldn’t live with, or without it.
Ignis stood at attention before a flustered Cor Leonis.
It seemed the older man couldn’t look him in the eyes as he clutched Ignis’ medallions in his palm.
“We’ve no choice. You’re being deployed again.”
The former major’s eyes widened, the marshal’s words seeming to breathe life and purpose into him once more.
“Where, sir?” He tried to keep his tone level, but the rise of excitement could not be hidden from Cor.
The older man’s lips turned down into a frown, and he stood straighter before raising his arm and closed fist over his the table.
Ignis didn’t have to be asked told twice. He reached out and placed an open palm under Cor’s closed fist. Expectant, the younger soldier even wiggled his fingers, impatience clear in his overall countenance.
Cor held onto the badge denoting Ignis’ former rank of major.
“Gladiolus will be your commanding officer. Whatever he says, you will do. Understood?”
Ignis bristled slightly at the undermining tone, but nodded.
He wasn’t going to lose his opportunity to get back to what he knew best. Not now, when it was literally dangling above the palm of his hand.
“And you are, under no circumstances, to use your elementalist abilities on the field without prior clearance from your commanding or senior officers, understood?”
Ignis clenched his free hand at his side, nodding obediently.
Cor levelled him with a sharp stare. “Good. You will refrain from engaging enemies in battle unless absolutely necessary. Think yourself a valuable source of intel—.”
Ignis shook his head. “I will fight.” He levelled the marshal with a glare. “You can ban me from using magic, but I will fight by other means. I am a soldier of the Lucian army and I have taken an oath to do what I think is right by the Crown.”
“You killed hundreds with that kind of flawed judgment. If you do not agree to these terms, then you will remain behind the safety of this gate.”
He flared his nostrils, frustrated, and nodded reluctantly.
“Intel it is.”
“Good man. Major Amicitia and the rebel leader, Miss Highwind, will be arriving late this evening. You’re to accompany them to Galdin Quay, and do as instructed by your commanding officer; understood?”
Cor grated on his nerves. Still, he nodded stiffly.
“Good,” Cor sighed. “Dismissed.”
He watched as Ignis turned on his heel and marched out of his quarters with his head held high.
Cor knew, deep down, that Ignis Scientia would be a force to be reckoned with on the field, regardless of what he was told or what promises he made.
And if Cor was to be honest with himself; he was counting on the younger man’s stubborn streak to win Lucis the war.
Total annihilation via the fires of hell seemed a good way to win the bloody war.
All Cor could do was hope Ignis Scientia was as stubborn as he appeared.
The younger man’s defiance would encourage him to fight.
It was necessary; but he couldn’t be the one to order it.
Ignis was never to see a battlefield again, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
Ignis’ destructive fire was all the Lucians had if it came down to a final stand.
You were taking a much needed break in the familiar cot nestled in the staff room cornered off by thick black curtains when someone entered. Cracking your eyes open, you were surprised to find none other than Ignis Scientia standing before you, tall and proud, dressed in full uniform.
You noted his medals back on his breast pocket, and your expression fell.
His gaze hardened. “Don’t you tell me that I can’t. I belong on the battlefield. My exploits are evidence enough—.”
“And the nightmares?!” Your voice rose as you clambered off the cot, standing at your full height to stare right into Ignis’ determined eyes. He didn’t back down, but you weren’t going to go down easily either. “What the fuck is your screaming bloody murder in the middle of the night evidence of?”
You wanted to save Ignis from himself so badly that the thought of him going back out there had you relying on forceful words to keep him at bay. Obviously, by the looks of Ignis’ defiant expression, he wasn’t backing down any time soon.
“Guilt. Trauma. Boredom?” Ignis listed off, uncertainty seeping into his answers.
You rolled your eyes and pointed an accusatory finger at him, prodding him in the chest.
“See, even you don’t know what it is. You’re not in any state to go out there—.”
“Are you telling me that I am useless now for everything except deskbound strategy?”
You paused, mouth agape and eyes narrowed. You shook your head in disbelief.
“No one’s calling you useless; all I’m trying to say is that your chances of recovering as little as you did from the fuckery that happened in Cartanica will be slashed even further if you’re forced to take action again!”
After a pregnant pause, Ignis smirked, though the gesture was cold.
“Isn’t that what you want?”
It hurt to hear him believe that you wanted him to suffer. All the terrible things you had immortalised in your letters to Mr Sagefire sprang up mockingly in your mind; your ignorance becoming an everlasting curse.
Choked up, you shook your head and pressed your palms against his chest, your fingers tracing his hard-earned medals. Your bottom lip trembled and you shut your eyes, head hanging in shamed defeat. You didn’t know how to keep him from leaving; you couldn’t stop Prompto, and now Ignis was leaving too.
It was like seeing Felix off again.
But this time, it hurt so much more.
“I don’t,” you whimpered. “Please…”
Ignis laughed quietly.
“Don’t feel so responsible for the wellbeing of a murderer—.”
“Stop calling yourself that. You’re not a bad person. Felix’s death wasn’t your fault. You’re as much a victim as they were. You’ve been treated like a weapon so long, you don’t know what it means to be human anymore!”
He surprised you with a soft sob.
Your own expression crumpled as you met his gaze. His hands cupped your elbows and held you still, and you found him close to you in a way he had never dared to initiate on his own.
The moment was punctuated with confusion, yearning, and something intangible that brought you both warmth and sorrow. Your hands remained on his beautiful uniform, black with gold detailing; a set of clothing that appeared to exist only to decorate the warmonger that was your major—.
You raised your head and searched for his gaze, locking him down with your own as you curled your fingers against him. Hold firm, you moved slowly, rising onto your toes, craning your neck up to cover the distance between your lips and his.
Pausing, you felt his breath against your lips, and they parted in anticipation.
“Iggy?” you whispered, eyes hooded, but never leaving his.
Jade eyes looked down at you, wide and alert.
His hands remained on your elbows, more to anchor himself than to keep you in place.
In your proximity to him, you heard him gulp. Beads of perspiration gathered atop the bridge of his nose and at his hairline. He was nervous, but he did not dare pull away.
“Yes, Miss Sunshine?”
“If you must go… let me bless you, Mister Sagefire.”
The deep jade that hypnotised you time and time again disappeared between heavy, fatigued eyelids. Your heart ached at the sight of his tired visage. Yet, though you wanted to protect him from himself, you knew that you were powerless to do so.
The man you grew to know over the months was one of stubborn temperament.
He had made up his mind, and he wasn’t to going to budge. No matter how much you begged and cried, he would still leave the safety of your watch on his own accord and fight the battles he chose for himself, and himself alone.
His lips parted, a light flush making itself known on his cheeks.
His voice cracked, emotion raw in the single uttered word.
Your hands slipped up, draping around his shoulders, cradling the back of his neck and threading through the hair at the nape of his neck. Your lips met his, and your breath hitched at the feel of his still lips pressed against your own.
He was warm everywhere; a gentle fire burned within him, enveloping you in its life giving embrace. He wasn’t a monster. He wasn’t a killer. He wasn’t evil incarnate.
The way he held you was so gentle, so still— so desperate for your acceptance, but so afraid to reciprocate in case you pushed him away.
You held him close and pressed up against him more insistently. Taking his bottom lip between your teeth, you gently grazed the flesh, earning a soft groan from him.
His hands slipped from your elbows, down to the dips of your waist, and then further down more until his warm palms settled on your hips.
Ignis’ lips moved tentatively against your own, testing the waters, as cautious as ever.
You smiled against his lips and angled your head to get closer.
Lips locked and pressed against each other, you lost track of time.
You broke away from each other, breathing hard, gulping in lungfuls of air, cheeks flushed and lips curled up into bashful smiles. Your eyes met his, and you bit the inside of your cheek, holding your complaints to yourself.
“Be careful, then. Don’t force yourself out there; come back home if you can’t handle it out there.” You took a deep breath, trying to calm yourself, in an effort to keep him calm alongside you. “You’re a great soldier, but you need to know when it’s time to just pack it all up and come back home.”
Ignis sighed and pressed his forehead against yours.
“And where, my darling, is home?”
You memorised the way the endearment sounded in his high society, stylised lilt, and shivered with a warm excitement at hearing him address you with such an intimate term.
“Here,” you smiled, unable to hide the worry pooling in your eyes, ready to fall down your cheeks at any moment, “right here, with me. Come back home soon. I’ll be waiting. I promise.”
Ignis’ gaze grew serious, smile falling, awe replacing the uninhibited happiness.
“Are you… is it solely me? Am I the only one you wait for now?” he asked, disbelief clear in his tone.
You nodded, thoughts of Felix long buried as Ignis softened the loss, filling it with wildflowers and the scent of the warmth that came with a life-bringing spring.
“Yes. Only you. So come back to me, okay? Come back home to me, safe and sound.”
His eyes brimmed with emotion, and he blinked back his tears. Pulling you against himself, he held you tight against his chest. You felt him nod into your hair.
“Of course. I’ll be home as soon as I can. I promise.”
Chapter 13: Escape
Just a warning; there's a minor character death in this one, and some graphic depictions of injury, so if you're not okay with that, please be careful toward the second half of the chapter <3 Thank you @amberswordlilies for beta reading as always <3 Your help is invaluable!
Joy blinked at the anxious looking young man who met her at the rendezvous point.
“Y-yes ma’am.” He bowed before her, and she couldn’t help but let out a flustered laugh.
The boy had a dark complexion, like milk chocolate, and a healthy head of dark curls. He was a twig of a boy, clutching a small dagger in his palm, his dark brown eyes flickering here and there nervously as he took in his surroundings as vigilantly as he could manage.
Joy kept her distance from him, her voice gentle as she addressed him kindly.
“You look too young for a job like this—.”
He bristled at her comment, though she caught a small pout on his lips.
She raised an eyebrow. “My Iris is fifteen. She’s still a baby.”
“Yeah. She’s just a kid.” Alandro agreed, tilting his head towards the opening of the Fifth Avenue Pub. “C’mon lady, get in. The transport’s out back.” He paused suddenly, causing Joy to stop in her tracks before she ran right into the spindly little thing. He turned his head and jibed petulantly at her over his shoulder. “And I’m eighteen. A man. Not a baby.”
Joy held in a snort of amusement and shook her head.
“Well, Alandro, if you must know— the Gilded Dragoon is my daughter-in-law.”
He paused, his whole body stiff.
Alandro turned fully to face the older woman and winced apologetically.
“Can we just say you told me that after I asked you the question?”
Joy nodded, smile never leaving her lips.
“Of course, munchkin.”
He squared his shoulders, annoyance clear in his posture, but the confusion written on his face gave way to a more pressing question.
“She’s married? Doesn’t seem the type…”
Joy shook her head, an amused giggle leaving her lips. The boy was innocent and completely clueless; his company was refreshing after countless months spent in a tent full of tormented men.
Gaze softening, she shook her head. “No, not yet. Maybe after the war— you’re welcome to attend the wedding!”
Alandro scoffed and turned back towards their destination, leading the older woman forward through the dimly lit establishment. Joy noted that there were no patrons around, and soon found a ‘closed for renovations’ sign sitting a little ways into the entrance corridor giving reason as to why.
The boy turned his head, his side profile visible over his shoulder. “Never been to a weddin’. Everyone dies before we get to have a reason to celebrate.” He shrugged and gestured before him. “Libertus is through there. He nabbed a sweet ride from the Citadel earlier— some geezer called Clarus lent it to him.”
Joy bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself from screeching with laughter.
The boy was a charmer; if it were possible, she would have adopted him.
“Ah, that geezer.” Tones of humour dripped from her sweet voice. “I heard he’s the general of the Lucian army—.”
“Eh, what’s an old man gonna do when the Niffs come ‘round and nuke ‘im with their high tech whatchamacallits?”
The small woman stumbled mid-step, the humour draining from her countenance as the stark reality of the boy’s off-handed commentary settled in bone-deep. Though ignorant, it was true— Clarus stood no chance against the technology of the Empire.
The only officers capable of taking on the Empire head-on were those recruited to the Glaive. Even then, Joy was aware that many of them had deserted their posts. Frowning, she kept quiet and simply followed the boy, humming along in affirmation to his rambling until they came to an opening within the side of the wall in the hallway.
Alandro side-stepped and gestured to the opening, his gaze expectant.
“He’s in there. Used to work for that fancy army group ‘till he realised the King was just throwin’ talented Lucians out to rot in the fuckin’ bloodbath we’re callin’ a war.” He shook his head, and Joy couldn’t help but think he suddenly looked as old as her own boy. His gaze was glazed over, and the bags under his tired eyes were hauntingly pronounced.
Joy felt sick to her stomach.
Another child caught up in the wretched lessons only wartime could bring.
What she wouldn’t give to let all the kids on Eos live a carefree life, free of the fear of death and trauma that came with grave loss.
She stepped through the opening and blinked at the familiar man standing beside the sleek black car that belonged to the Royal Lucian Motor Fleet.
“You’re a Glaive,” she murmured, trying to make sense of the situation.
Her gaze flickered over to the dark-skinned man with curly hair, looking very much like an older version of Alandro. Her eyes narrowed as she took in their uniforms, the ornate black leather, multitude of buckles, and armoured shoulders with silver detailing throughout.
“Lady Amicitia,” the dark-skinned one addressed her with a low bow, “I’m sorry for anything strange that’s been said to you on your way here. My cousin’s not from the city—.”
“Lady doesn’t gotta know that, Pelna.”
Pelna levelled Alandro with a glare.
“Behave.” He turned back to Joy with a bashful smile. “Sorry.”
She shook her head, gaze soft and heart fond.
“Don’t be; he’s a sweet kid.” Joy turned to Libertus, who had remained quiet the whole time she had been in the room. Then again, she hadn’t been in there long, and the two blood-related men had taken up most of their occupied time in the room.
He straightened and nodded at her.
“Gladio told me you’d be coming by. Ready to hit the road?”
He glanced at her, his eyes appraising.
Joy nodded. “As ready as I’ll ever be. Just get me to my boy, please. That’s all I ask. And… thank you.” She bowed in gratitude. “I know I’ve caused enough trouble as it is—.”
“That geezer was pretty bummed about you bein’ here, and all. Was all woman’s a crazy bitch, what’s she thinkin’—!”
“Alandro!” Pelna hissed loudly, cutting the younger of the two off. “You realise you’re talking to the General’s wife, right?”
The youngest in the room grew rigid. He turned to Joy, eyes wide, shoulders hunched.
“Well… shit. Sorry, lady.”
“Lady Amicitia.” Pelna sounded resigned as he corrected his cousin.
Joy shook her head, smiling at the two reassuringly.
“Don’t worry, it’s fine.” She turned to Alandro, her voice softer as she spoke to him. “Will you be along for the ride? I’d love to hear more stories from you.”
He suddenly coughed, a small smile pulling at his lips— shy and pure.
“Ah, yeah. It’ll be my first field mission thing. Was told if anythin’ goes wrong, I’ll be sorry.”
Joy frowned at his matter-of-fact tone.
“Nothing will go wrong, sweetheart. And if anything does go wrong, it will not be your fault. I’ll vouch for you on that front, promise.”
Alandro’s smile stretched across his lips, unsure, but still full of hope and unflinching trust.
“Well then, lady, I’ll make sure you get to the drop-off location all safe and stuff. Promise.”
They piled into the car without much fanfare, Pelna at the wheel and Libertus in the passenger seat. Alandro stared at the interiors of the car in awe, his lingering gaze finally landing on Joy, who had her eyebrow raised expectantly at him.
“Can’t fart in here, can I?”
No one said a word, the dangers of the world outside Insomnia Wall too dire to push out of everyone’s minds. Still, Joy managed a smile and a slight shake of her head.
“Unfortunately not. But, if you really need to, I promise I won’t tell.” She winked at him, and he laughed, catching the attention of the two in the front.
“Speak up, I want in on the joke.”
Alandro rolled his eyes at the back of Pelna’s head.
“Wasn’t for you.” There was a fond twinkle in his deep brown eyes as he regarded his older cousin. “I got a good one for ya though; what’s brown and looks like a piece’a shit—?”
“Pelna.” Libertus interrupted, tone serious, though Joy could see through the rear-view mirror that he was holding back a full-blown grin.
Pelna simply sighed, hunching over as Joy burst into laughter at the crude joke.
“Fine, fine. As long as Lady Amicitia’s having a good time, all good.”
The tension faded slightly, and silly jokes at the expense of others were thrown around as the group drove further and further into danger. She’d been escorted to Insomnia by a very reluctant Tredd Furia on her way to her home city, but she didn’t know what the rebels were capable of. Added on to that uncertainty, young Alandro was barely aware of the dangers he was potentially to face on war-torn Lucian lands.
Joy prayed silently; for a safe journey, and for the war to end soon.
She didn’t know how much longer she could be everyone else’s rock.
Tired, she just wanted everything to end so that she could finally rest in her husband’s protective embrace.
But first, she needed to hold her son in her arms.
It had been too long since she’d seen him.
The sun was setting, and Gladio was growing restless. He paced back and forth, his sword slung over his shoulder, his shield idly held in his other hand, at the ready.
Aranea stood a a few meters away, lance planted into the ground and arms folded in front of her as she squinted into the distance.
“The daemons will be out soon. What’s the time?”
Gladio grunted and glanced at his special-issue military watch. Wrapped around his wrist, he felt it burn against his skin with urgency as the seconds continued to tick by.
“Fuckin’… Almost eighteen-hundred hours.” He growled out. “Where are they?”
Aranea sighed through her nose and shrugged, gaze softening into concern.
“Dunno. I’m sure they’re gonna be fine. Probably just delayed from the onset. She was with your father, after all.” A hint of her smirk found its way into her tone.
He shot her a sharp look, too on-edge to play along with her teasing.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he snapped.
She scoffed and unfolded her arms, stepping towards him with swagger in her step. She raised her eyebrows at him, levelling him with an unimpressed look.
“I mean, they were probably saying goodbye— you know how fucked up things are gonna get, don’t you?” She paused, letting the weight of her words sink in. She watched him as his eyes fell from her’s, a sense of dread marring his ever-fading optimism.
“They’re gonna be fine,” Gladio rumbled, averting his gaze from Aranea and opting instead to stare into the distance where the setting sun set fire to the horizon in brilliant shades of oranges, red and pale pinks. He dared to look right at the sun, squinting in determination, as if he was daring the world to bring him more suffering. His grip tightened on the handle of his sword. “It’s gonna be fine.”
Minutes turned into an hour, and the sun had settled below the horizon, giving rise to the bright moon in the inky sky.
Still no sign of the car.
He heard Aranea let out a wistful sigh, and his breath caught in his throat as he took in the sight of the moonlight reflecting a platinum sheen off her silky silver hair. He smiled despite the worry gnawing at his mind.
She perked up at the sound of his voice, knocked out of the deep reverie she had found herself in. Shaking her head, she cast him a questioning look.
“Yeah, sky’s pretty—.”
“No, I meant you,” he corrected, without missing a beat.
Her cheeks heated up and she snorted with a roll of her eyes.
“Idiot… oh shit, I see some people.” She suddenly hissed, grasping Gladio’s wrist hard and pulling him down with her to crouch low. He grunted, landing on one knee, barely keeping balance as his sword threatened to slide from his grip. His eyes searched the darkness, unable to see what Aranea had seen. “Three— no, four people— they’re heading towards Galdin. Coming our way.”
She grunted softly. “Dunno, can’t tell in this dark. We’ll just stay hidden, wait till they get closer and—.”
“We need to stop. He’s not going to make it like this— it’s okay sweetie, I’m here. I’ll try to make it better… Gods, he needs help!” The sheer desperation in the panicked the voice carrying through the chilled coastal breeze made Gladio tense before he shot up, pulling Aranea along with him.
“Gladio, what the hell—?”
He turned his head as he ran, still tugging her along insistently, eyes glazed with worry and relief.
“It’s Ma! We gotta hurry, I’ve never… she’s never sounded like that before.”
Aranea held her tongue, the soldier within wanting to tell her younger lover that he was acting brashly. He should have stayed down and scoped the area before trailing the group down to Galdin Quay where they had left Major Ignis Scientia to receive them. She fought back a loud sigh at the thought of the broken soldier Gladio was babysitting.
She understood that the pride of a soldier was fostered on the battlefield, but she doubted the credibility of the Lucian marshal’s decision making in this regard. The man was skittish, and quick to assume the worst. The journey from Lestallum to Galdin had been full of reassurance and small-talk used to distract the former prodigal soldier from his multitude of fears and worries.
Aranea did not understand why he was recommissioned, and back to his rank of ‘Major’, no less…
She halted to a stop before the part of four, immediately recognising her glaives-turned-rebels. She saluted them. They shot a hasty salute back, Pelna raising the wrong hand as he supported a sagging body with correct one.
It was then that Aranea noticed the iron stench of blood on them.
Eyes searched for wounds on the two men flanking the sagging body, and then she settled on the small-statured woman kneeling before the gasping man between the two.
“Libertus, Pelna; status report. Quick.”
She kept her eyes on the haggard youth they supported between themselves, eyes flickering to the kneeling woman as her small, shaking hands worked desperately on the charred skin on the majority of his abdomen.
“He took the hit for Lady Amicitia. It was an ambush— fuckin’ bombs everywhere. Thought we could speed past ‘em, but you know daemons… they just spawn wherever the fuck they like.” Libertus winced as Alandro let out a weakened cry of pain. “Fuck.”
“N-not, in front of th-the lady…” Alandro croaked, pain laced in his tone.
Pelna choked out a laugh, though his grip grew desperate, harsh almost, on the only blood family he had left.
“You pick now to show some manners? Idiot…”
Aranea’s lips quirked up, not quite able to form a smile at the jibe. She felt Gladio move from her side before she saw it.
He fell beside the woman, and Aranea felt the ache in her knees as he landed hard on the firm ground. He didn’t seem to register the pain, arm gently settling across the woman’s shoulders.
She took in the woman’s dark hair, and caught familiar amber eyes reflecting silver moonlight. Realisation caught up to her, and she realised she was watching Joy Amicitia doing what she was trained to do— and failing badly, to no fault of her own.
Aranea stepped forward, feeling her stomach churn at the sight of Alandro’s exposed muscles. Violent red, they quivered as each breath he took was a labour to painful to bear. She placed a hand on Gladio’s shoulder and squeezed, unable to bring herself to jar Joy out of her ill-fated battle with the young boy’s fast-slipping life.
“We gotta get them to the port—.”
Gladio shook his head with a growl, grip on his sword still tight, soldier instincts still on in full force. “We can’t. Iggy.”
She narrowed her eyes.
“So we forego this boy’s life to save the sanity of a disgraced soldier?” she hissed.
Gladio opened his mouth to argue back, only to be interrupted by the firm tone of his mother.
She looked at Gladio first, and then at Aranea— sadness deep in her eyes. She smiled, looking bitter, her hands falling away from Alandro. He let out a helpless whine, and Joy shut her eyes, tears spilling down her cheeks as she clenched her blood-soaked hands.
The words hung heavy between the five able-bodied people present.
“L-lady? A-am I gonna d-die?” Alandro sputtered.
Joy let out a quiet sob and breath a sharp breath in. Shaky ambers met terrified obsidian. She shook her head.
“You’re going to be fine, my dear. Just close your eyes. Just… listen to my voice. Just keep listening, okay? You’re going to be fine. You just need to relax. You just need rest. So sleep. Go to sleep, Alandro.”
He nodded, breath hitching.
“‘Kay. Don’t get ‘em hitched ‘till ‘m better, right?” he slurred.
Libertus and Pelna glanced Gladio and Aranea’s way before averting their gaze, feeling the boy’s body slowly go completely limp in their grasp. The boy’s older cousin bit his tongue and keened in anguish as he felt the life escape the last of his surviving family.
“He’s gone,” he whispered.
Everyone hung their heads. Silence permeated the air, the roars of the daemons in the surrounding areas threatening to take another life.
They’d been out in the open too long.
Aranea set her sights on the lights in the distance, marking their destination.
“The port’s that way. We’re bringing him back—.”
“No.” Gladio rasped, expression urgent as he shook his head at her. “We can’t. Iggy—.”
“He’s dead,” she shot back, glaring into his wide eyes. She felt a pang of remorse in her chest, but continued on, pragmatism driving her militant stance home. “We honour him like a soldier. Don’t forget, he’s one of mine.”
“We can’t take him back like this. You saw Cartanica! Are you telling me we should just rip all his wounds open all over again?” Gladio’s voice gradually rose as he spoke. He gestured at the direction of the port with wide arm gestures to punctuate his point. “He’s my responsibility. I can’t just expose him to the same damn thing that’s gonna destroy him—.”
“Why is Ignis back on the field?” Joy spoke, voice hushed.
Son honed in on his mother’s tone, he reeled himself in and turned her head slightly to meet her eyes. She looked blank; utterly spent. Tear tracks shone against her dirt-flecked porcelain skin under the moon.
Her clothes… they were all covered in blood.
“Cor. He deployed him; he’s under my supervision—.”
“That boy is supposed to be in Lestallum. He’s supposed to be resting!” Joy’s eyes grew wider and wider, her expression bordering manic as she finally let the dam of backlogged emotion within her burst open. “You’re all supposed to be living; not throwing yourselves into this fucking shit storm, fearing for everything you know and love!”
Pelna slumped onto the ground, the limp form of Alandro cradled against his chest. He cried quietly, Libertus’ shaking hand holding firm onto his shoulder; a display of solidarity in crippling times.
Joy rose to her feet, stumbling backwards before standing to her full height. Her whole body shook as she pointedly worked on removing her bloodied coat. Gladio could only watch his mother, slack-jawed, as she moved towards the deceased among them to place the coat over the boy.
She met Pelna’s teary gaze and nodded before turning to her son, glare piercing through his authority.
“We can take him now. I will not take no for an answer. Let’s go.”
The small woman took a deep breath, composing herself as best as she could before she ran her bloodied fingers through her hair with a huff. She paused on her way to the front of the group, stopping beside Aranea.
She placed a gentle hand on the warrior.
“He’s still a boy, my Gladio. He’s just trying to do right by his friend. Don’t hold it against him. He’s a good boy.”
Aranea softened at her words, casting a sad look over her shoulder at Gladio, who tailed the group. Sword in hand and eyes alert to the potential dangerous around them, she could still see the stiffness in his shoulders and the sorrowed exhaustion in his expression.
She nodded and placed her hand atop Joy’s.
“It’s okay. I didn’t take offence. He’s had it rough, being away from you and the others. The war’s done a number on him; I guess that’s why he’s so protective of Ignis.” Aranea sighed. “Gladio and I are going to head on to Insomnia with Libertus and Pelna once we’ve got you safe and sound with Ignis. He’ll escort you, along with Tredd, back to Lestallum.”
Joy could only manage a grimace, her usual polite smile too hard after losing a life so vibrantly charming. The boy hadn’t been to a wedding… he had been excited about attending too.
“Thank you…” she trailed off, a horrifying thought chilling her to the bone.
If she hadn’t snuck her way to Insomnia to meet with Clarus, against his wishes, then perhaps Alandro would still be alive.
Her heart shattered.
Chapter 14: Eruption
This one’s a long one! Also a very violent and graphic one; trigger warnings for blood, gore, violence and self-mutilation (major canon character) O_O ALSO IMPLIED CANON CHARACTER DEATH! Thank you everyone for following this fic, honestly it’s been such a pleasure writing it <3 It’s one of my most… rewarding fics that I’ve shared EVER and I’m so grateful to my bean @amberswordlilies for having so much patience and enthusiasm when beta reading <3 I ADORE YOU! <333
Find me on tumblr: blindedstarlight.tumblr.com <3
The sea was tumultuous, rocking the ferry to and fro. The vessel bounced through the waves, jumping up and down to its own beat at the constant crashing of the water against its sharp bow. The night sky hung above the moving vessel, cloaking its movements, but unable to hide its sounds.
Ignis sat silently beside Joy, able to do nothing but listen to her quiet sniffles.
They had left Galdin Port in silence, Sergeant Tredd Furia joining them after spending an extended period of time at the seaside memorial dedicated to fallen Lucian civilians. His eyes had been rimmed red, whites bloodshot. Still, he maintained the strength to greet Ignis and Joy with a relieved grin. He’d ushered them onto the ferry, ensured they were settled, and then excused himself to the upper deck once the vessel was on its way to Caem Port.
Ignis fiddled with his fingers, hands clasped together and eyes unfocused. He took a deep breath through his nose and let it out slowly through parted lips. He wanted to talk. He turned to Joy, hesitation slowing his movements. Clearing his throat, he adjusted his position so that his body was turned towards the older woman. She was shivering.
Movements jerky, he shrugged off his decorated uniform blazer and thrust the warm material her direction.
“Apologies, I should have offered it sooner.”
He felt her tug the blazer out of his grip, and heard the familiar rustling of the material as she draped it around her shoulders. She let out a small sigh, and he felt a light touch on his knee.
“It’s okay, dear. You don’t need to apologise. We’ve all got a lot on our minds anyway; don’t stress about it.”
Ignis’ brows furrowed in consideration, leg stiff from the contact. “I suppose we all do.” He noted the thickness of her tone and winced as the burning question forced its way out despite every fibre of his being telling him to keep quiet. “You left your station at Lestallum… Why?”
She pulled his blazer around her trembling body, inhaling the bitter scent of coffee that always seemed to cling to Ignis. She frowned as she caught a whiff of whiskey on him, masked with his spring-scented cologne.
“I missed my husband. I needed a hug. I don’t know.” Her responses were stilted, like her body was present but her mind was elsewhere. Her bottom lip trembled. “I miss my family. I miss my home. I miss dinner time and I miss my routine.”
His shoulders tensed at hearing her quaking tone. She wasn’t doing well.
Yet she was the strongest woman he’d ever had the pleasure to meet.
Well, one of the strongest— his train of thought took him back to the memory of your lips moving against his. He remembered the promise he made to you, and he perked up at the notion of being home again so soon.
He’d see you, and the war would fade to the background for even just a moment— just so long as those lips wrote poetry onto his lips in only a way you knew.
In that moment, Ignis realised why Joy needed to see Clarus in Insomnia. He didn’t need any further explanation. The warmth he felt at the idea of returning back to your welcoming arms was explanation enough.
He frowned. He felt sorry for the tired nurse.
“Lady Amicitia?” Ignis’ voice came out as a croak. He cleared his throat just as she turned to him, warm ambers concentrated on calm emerald. “Do you think… I deserve to be in love?”
She blinked at him, smile tugging at the corners of her lips. She nodded gently.
“Of course.” A short, knowing laugh left her. “You both do.”
He blushed at her knowing tone.
“How was she when she found out?” He paused, collecting his thoughts. He turned his head to Joy and continued, tone laced with trepidation. “I mean, about me? And what I’d done?”
She smiled at him, sadness in her eyes. She placed a hand on his knee and squeezed gently.
She didn’t say a word.
The silence was loud in Ignis’ ears. Shoulders hunched over, he let out a soft sigh.
“Yet she still waits for me…”
“Love’s funny.” Joy laughed quietly, voice hitching as she held soft sobs in. “Makes you do things you never think yourself capable of.”
He nodded, shutting his eyes to concentrate on the roar of the sea around them. “I suppose. After all, love’s got me hoping again. For what? I don’t know.” Turning to Joy, he placed his hand on hers and squeezed gently. “Is there something I can help you with? Is there something you need me to help you unload?”
Joy shook her head. “It’s nothing. It’s my own fault; it’s my own burden to bear—.”
“It’s that boy,” Ignis murmured, squeezing her hand again, “Alandro, right?”
She stiffened beside him. Staring at her shoes, she nodded.
“He had so much living left to do. He had so many lessons to learn and so many people to meet.” The tears spilled down her cheeks, fresh and hot, almost scalding. She reached up with her hands to swipe at her cheeks, an embarrassed chuckle leaving her. “Gods, I barely knew the boy a day, but it’s like losing one of my own.” She shook head head, disbelief clear in the gesture.
Ignis withdrew his hand and reached around the smaller woman, propriety forgotten for that moment, wrapping her in a one-armed embrace. “I’m sorry. Gladio briefed me; he couldn’t be brought to the port on time because of me—.”
Joy let out a noise of disagreement. “No, don’t be absurd!” She pulled away from him and reached out with shaky hands, grasping his hands in her own. “Look at me, Ignis.”
Forest jade met warm ambers. His vision grew blurry the longer he looked into the sincerity pooling in her eyes.
“He wasn’t viable. Regardless of when or how we got him to the port, nothing could have saved his life. His life is a burden on my soul, and my soul alone.” She shuddered and squeezed Ignis’ hands in her own. “I’m just glad you didn’t have to see him in that state.” Tilting her head, she pleaded with her eyes. “Is there any way you can remain back at the garrison in Lestallum—?”
Ignis’ eyes narrowed. “I’ve been deployed. I cannot just go back on my oath—.”
“Your life is bigger than any oath you ever take, and you’re smart enough to know that.” Forceful with her words, Joy glared up at her son’s long-time friend. She’d watched the boy grow into a fine, albeit stubborn, man— she wasn’t going to watch him die one too.
He held her gaze with a glare of his own. Within seconds, he softened into a tired smile.
“I suppose. But the Marshal…”
Joy pressed her lips into a line and shook her head. “You leave Cor to me. I’ll have a word with him myself.”
Ignis didn’t dare challenge the fierce woman beside him. Despite her deep-seated sorrow, she held herself with a ferocity that in turn brought him strength to fight for himself and what was important to him for yet another day.
The image of your smile, coupled with your sad glazed eyes, entered Ignis’ mind.
Though sent away from the battle, he was still somehow content.
He could see the sun peaking out from the horizon.
He couldn’t wait to see you again.
Tredd looked to the sunrise and sighed.
“Selena Ulric,” he laughed quietly, hands clasped together in prayer to the sun that reminded him of his warm-hearted love, “things are really bad down here. You’d be really pissed at your brother for running around playing hero at times like this.”
He let his words carry out to sea, the cool sea breeze whipping against his skin. He reached up to rub a hand over his weary face. He felt a familiar wetness on his cheeks and let out a bitter sounding laugh at the tears that made themselves known. He shook his head slowly and licked his lips, wetting the chapped skin, only for the dryness to get worse a few seconds later.
“Your brother had no idea about us, huh?” he mumbled into the wind.
The sea was loud, almost deafening in the comparative silence around him.
His breath hitched, and he grimaced. A louder, forced laugh escaped his lips.
“I miss your voice. Come on, tell me I’m stupid or somethin’…”
He waited for a reply.
He gripped the railings hard, his knuckles white and his palms stinging against the frigid cold of the steel against his skin. Gritting his teeth, he did his best to keep his tears at bay. Shoulders shaking, and whole body trembling— he failed abysmally.
“F-fuck… I just wanna see you again.”
“There’s something wrong…” Aranea murmured, hand steady on Gladio’s shoulder as she surveyed the border between the Leiden desert and Insomnian land. The sun was beating down upon them, its heat most intense at midday. “There’s only one battalion spread pretty damn thin around the border. If the Niffs were gonna mount an all out invasion on the capital, the border would have been impenetrable by now. No one in, no one out.”
Gladio spared her a glance before turning keen eyes back to the enemy patrols.
“We got no way of communicating this back to base. Should we head back?”
She glanced at Pelna and Libertus and observed the two maintaining their weapons, eyes like hawks on the nearest enemy soldiers. Aranea turned back to Gladio and shook her head, grip tightening on her lance.
“Too late for that. I’m thinking they changed their plans in the time it took us to get to Cartanica. Damn it!” She cursed, whipping her head to the side and spitting onto the ground in distaste. Gladio didn’t blink at her display of frustration.
He kept his eyes locked onto his prey.
“So, we’re going in then?”
Frowning, Aranea nodded with an affirmative hum. “You know it. Come on, let’s go.”
She moved forward, standing tall, lance at the ready. Gladio stood abruptly, reaching out for her, eyes wide in alarm.
“Wait! No battle plan? No strategy? C’mon, ‘Nea— the stakes are damn high with this one!” A gentle grip on her wrist, he tugged her back, only to meet resistance.
She pulled herself out of his grip with a glare. Levelling him with a hard stare, she shook her head. “The stakes have always been high, Gladiolus. We don’t have the luxury of time right now. The Niffs are up to something, and the sooner we inform the garrison in Lestallum, the better chance Lucis has to survive this shit.”
Gladio returned her stare, though softer, and he nodded.
“Fair enough. Khara! Ostium!” He called to the ex-glaives, pleased when they turned to him before he finished their names. Nodding at them, he pointed towards the border with his free hand. “We’re goin’ in, no holds barred. Let’s give ‘em hell, boys!” He turned to Aranea and nodded. “Ladies first.”
“What a gentleman. Lemme show you exactly how it’s done. Watch’n’learn, boys!”
And with that, she flew into battle. Her movements were so fast, they blurred in Gladio’s vision. He ran after her, eyes on a mech soldier that seemed to be readying an electrical charge to ground Aranea. Raising his broadsword with a roar, he brought the heavy weapon down hard against the hybrid being. The green-tinged monstrosity let out a mechanical scream before sparking and falling to a heap onto the ground. He licked his lips and turned on his feet, upsetting the dust beneath his boots with the movement.
There were two ambling up behind him.
Gritting his teeth, his body tensed up. He lunged right, swinging down at the grotesque being. Steel sliced through machinery and flesh, giving way to black ooze that bubbled out from the afflicted wound. The soldier fell to the ground, twitching and whining in agony.
Nostrils flaring, Gladio swung his sword around, twisting on his heel to take down the remaining soldier. It too, fell into a heap at his feet. His chest rose and fell with harsh breaths as his heart beat wildly in his chest. Adrenaline pumped loud in his veins, deafening him momentarily to any instruction or reason.
He was conditioned to kill.
Much like Ignis.
Jaw clenched in concentration, he gazed upon his battlefield with sharp eyes.
He caught sight of Aranea engaged with the last of her target group, her moves so elegant yet deadly, he could watch her fight in awed fascination for days on end. She twirled midair to deliver a final deadly blow right to the neck of her final enemy combatant. Scream ripping through a torn throat, the soldier’s robotic tone fizzled into a garbled croak. It fell to the ground, and Aranea let out an almost manic cry of victory.
Fifty feet away from her, Gladio’s eyes locked onto the violent skirmish between the enemy and the ex-glaives. His jaw dropped at the sheer ferocity of their attacks. They didn’t kid around with their movements, economical and deadly with every motion. Libertus stabbed at their jugulars, his deadly precision despite their jaunty unpredictable movements absolutely terrifying. Pelna, his back to Libertus, worked in perfect sync with his fellow glaive.
Where Libertus leapt and lunged for his kills, Pelna danced. Gladio thought the dark-skinned warrior to be a hybrid of his own power and Aranea’s graceful athleticism.
He was the deadliest of them all.
His blades struck down at his enemies in arcs and calculated flicks. Again, he never missed his mark. His face was grim with concentration, dirt and sweat clinging to his skin, turning him more haggard than he already was.
His battle style left no room for mercy.
Not when he was the last of his family left to fight.
Pelna fought with a desperation that could either keep him alive or get him killed.
Gladio moved forward, crouching beside Aranea and surveying their surroundings with her. Breathing finally under control, he turned to her, elbow gently nudging her side just as Pelna finished up with his batch.
He and Libertus had been silent their whole fight.
“The glaive’s pretty neat, huh? They get the job done, no mess to clean up after.”
Aranea nodded absently. “Yeah, they’re the ones trained to maim on demand.” She raised an eyebrow at Gladio. “Lucky they’re on our side, huh?”
He couldn’t help but smirk, reaching out to steal a tender moment amidst the fight. He couldn’t help it; he didn’t know when it would all go to hell. He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear and rubbed his thumb over her cheek. It came away with a black smudge, and he frowned, snatching his hand back and observing it with a grimace.
“Shit, I’ve got that crap on me. Sorry, ‘Nea.”
She snorted and used the back of her hand to wipe whatever she could away.
“S’okay. Doesn’t bother me.” She pressed her lips into a line and nodded at the cleared path. “Now quick, before more come by and figure out we fucked their friends up.”
He stood with her and they ran forward toward the glaives. Pelna and Libertus nodded at the two and gestured at the duress escape door on the edge of the border patrol building.
It was their only way in.
“Anyone got a passcode for that one?” Libertus drawled, eyebrows raised in expectation. Pelna’s eyes flickered from the door to the field of dead mech soldiers. He shivered, gulping loud enough for everyone to hear.
“We’ve gotta get in quick. I can hear something big coming.”
Gladio narrowed his eyes and listened carefully.
A deep rumble could be heard in the distance. Screeches of metal crushing metal.
He rushed forward and opened up the key panel. Whatever was coming, it was big, and probably capable of wiping all four of them out in one fell swoop. As blood-driven as his blade was, Gladio stood no chance against a fully functional war machine.
Aranea’s lance would do very little, and Libertus and Pelna would be useless against a metal beast. Their speciality was seated in the disposal of live beings.
“Two… one… zero… four. C’mon… yes!” Gladio pushed the door open with some difficulty, having been unused since its installation over twenty years ago. Though his shoulder smarted with the force he used to force it open, he ignored the pain in favour of waving the others over, eyes glancing over to the desert, noting the rumble sounding like it was getting closer. “Get in, quick! We’ll go straight to the manor and report to the general there.”
They all hurried in, and Gladio slammed the door shut just as a tell-tale battling resounded from the distance. As they ran, through the brushes towards the surrounding parks of the wall, Gladio winced at the deafening impacts of the explosive shots that had only been seconds from decimating them all.
He thanked the Astrals for his father’s predictable use of their grandmother’s birthday for all of his passcodes.
“C’mon, hurry!” Gladio ordered, voice ringing clear for his party to hear. “Cor’s gotta know to be prepared for what’s comin’ for ‘em in Lestallum.” He bit his lip, trepidation clear in his expression. His eyes locked with Aranea’s, and he let out a shaky breath.
“It’s gonna be a bloodbath down there, isn’t it?”
Cor cursed under his breath, katana at the ready. Huddled against the sparse medical supply crates behind the main hospice tent, you blinked up at him with fear apparent in your eyes.
“What’s going on out there?” You winced as you head a gun fire in the near distance. They were just beyond the gate. It sounded like an impending invasion. “Do we need to evacuate the patients?”
The marshal didn’t answer you.
Stepping away, he left you with a single order.
“Stay hidden. Do not leave your position until a senior officer comes to escort you out—.”
You frowned and moved to stand. “But the patients—?!”
“You must stay alive. The patients will live if they’re destined to live, and will die if that’s what written in their cards. Do not leave this spot unless you want to perish with the rest of them.”
His words scared you deeply. Still with fear, you nodded and curled in on yourself, hands around your shins and forehead resting against your knees.
The sounds outside were getting louder.
There were screams.
Dull thuds of bodies falling, and the ricocheting spurts of bullets from guns that were impossible to win against without divine intervention. You heard Cor curse loudly as he ran right into the carnage, ever-ready to wield his deadly blade before the enemy.
You bit your lip hard and shut your eyes. Arms rising up, your hands covered your ears. The violent sounds of war were replaced by the dreadful thrums of your uneasy heart.
You wondered if Ignis was okay.
Tears gathered at the corners of your eyes and spilled over. Unable to stop yourself, you allowed yourself to cry loudly. Your sobs were painful; you gasped for breath with every inhale, and every exhale was left incomplete as your throat constricted with the spasms your lungs forced upon you for more oxygen.
It grew hard to breathe. Even harder so to think.
“Ignis…” you whimpered. “Please be okay.”
Part of you felt pathetic for being so openly weak. You didn’t need him; you didn’t need anyone. Yet you felt so lonely, you felt like your mind was going to implode and become a mess of thoughtless radio chatter. The idea scared you. You wanted someone to hold you and tell you that everything was going to be okay.
You wanted to feel safe and certain about your future for once.
Cor was yelling on the other side of the tent, and the crashes that were previously in the compartmentalised distance was now on the other side of the flimsy marquee. It was loud. You held yourself tighter and curled into yourself more than you thought possible. You tried to make yourself as small as possible in an effort to disappear.
“Don’t let them through! Medic tent falls, all of Lucis fucking falls!”
“I… I can’t stop ‘em, sir! They’re overwhelming us. It’s an ambush; we’ve got no one but our grunts here to keep ‘em at bay!”
“Fuck!” Cor’s voice cracked with a hoarse scream. “This is bullshit.” You heard the shink of his blade sliding from its scabbard. He let out another cry, and it faded as he ran out into the fray.
The battle roared on around you, and you lost track of time. You heard countless men fall to the ground, screams fading into the dust as their lives faded from their bodies; only to remain around as tormented souls gone too soon. Things quickly grew quiet as even the non-viable stood from their cots for their final hurrah. Tears slid down your cheeks as you hid between the wooden crates, shaking and helpless.
You heard eerie footsteps, sounding mechanical more than human, getting louder and louder as whatever it was approaching continued to get closer to your hiding spot. You whimpered and shook your head.
There was a time where you wanted nothing more than for the gods to take you straight to Felix’s arms in the afterlife. But now… you wanted to cling to the life you had; you wanted to see it play out by his side.
You prayed for one man who you knew could end this all in one terrifying, heroic, sweep.
The sight that met Ignis, Tredd and Joy upon their arrival to Lestallum that late afternoon was appalling. Bodies littered everywhere, blood spilt like it meant nothing, torn bodies thrown around like they were nothing but rag dolls.
It was Cartanica all over again, but this time— the Niffs had done the damage. Without magic. It was all in their advanced war technology. Their bionic killing machines.
Horrified, Ignis made a quick start for the medic tent.
Tredd ran towards the large mechanical monstrosity, crying out in a fit of rage at the sight of his fellow soldiers strewn around in bloodied heaps. He ran towards a battle that promised him only one fate.
Ignis didn’t think further on the redhead, knowing full well the man had been searching for his death ever since his beloved had been so cruelly taken from him at the beginning of the war.
He murmured a silent prayer for Tredd’s soul, and continued forward.
Joy followed behind him, shocked into silence, her eyes wide as she did her best to avoid stepping on the fallen men amidst the chaos. Bullets were still flying, and soldiers were still swarming. The mechs were fully functional, with barely a scratch on then.
She held her gaze forward and ran with all the energy she could muster.
“Ignis!” Cor’s voice carried over the violence of the war on their home soil. Jade eyes honed in on the imposing figure of Cor, hunched over a fallen mech soldier, readying himself to jerk his katana out of its ‘flesh’. It gurgled grotesquely as he wrenched the unforgiving steel out, and then fell limp.
With a huff, Cor flicked his blade of the black substance that drove the beings on, and turned sharp eyes to the recently re-commissioned soldier.
“Glad they chose to send you back. We’re fucked down here.” He gestured to the destruction around him, expression grim. “Lucis needs you.”
Ignis’ eyes widened, and he immediately clenched his fists. He shook his head, vehemence in the movement.
“No. I can’t… I could destroy you all—.”
“Then do it.” Cor bit out. His steel hues were glazed over, tired and helpless as the people he was charged to protect. “Destroy us, but just make sure these fuckers are done for—.”
“Y/N.” Ignis stared unblinkingly at Cor. “Where is she?”
The marshal scoffed, eyes flicking briefly towards the medic tent.
Ignis didn’t wait for anymore confirmation. He started in that direction, determined to reach you before the enemy could—if the enemy hadn’t already ravaged you and left you for dead like everything else.
He bit the inside of his cheeks until he tasted blood. Stumbling forward, he regained his balance and continued to run toward the tent. He winced as he stepped on soulless bodies, bleeding out with slackened jaws and permanently terror-filled eyes. He couldn’t stop for his fallen men; someone far more important to him was in need of his protection.
With that thought, he barrelled on through and plowed through the entrance of the tent. The inside was a barren, sans patients who wept helplessly on their cots, arms and legs missing, and bodies unable to cooperate with their wilful minds. He spared the few a glance and shook his head, rushing through towards the back of the tent where the staff quarters was located.
Ripping the curtain open, his shoulders slouched forward as his eyes were met with yet another empty cot. He allowed himself a moment to breath, his lungs burning and his hands shaking. His heart grew cold out of pure fear; what if he couldn’t find you?
“Major! Listen to me; this is an order—!”
Ignis whipped around, addressing Cor with a fierce glare. He brought his hand up and curled his fingers around his medals and ripped them from his uniform. He threw them down at Cor’s feet, his disrespect deliberate.
“You can’t order a retired soldier.”
Cor’s nostrils flared as he held his outrage back. His fingers flexed on the hilt of his katana, and he quickly had to remind himself that Ignis wasn’t his enemy. He took a deep breath and shook his head.
“Then listen to me as your mentor- as your elder, Ignis,” he held eye contact with the prodigal soldier, steel blue hues turning soft and glazed in defeat, “I just need you to try. All of Lucis needs you to try. You’re truly our only hope. You’re the only one capable of decimating these fucked up mockeries of human life. We need your fire.”
Ignis licked his lips; the grime that settled in a thin film upon his skin tasted bitter. With a grimace, he shook his head.
“I don’t think I can—.”
His eyes widened at the sound of your voice.
He turned towards your voice and blinked at you, his disbelief turning into pure relief. The tenseness that drove him forward turned into a limpness that stole all his energy from him. His knees buckled and he fell before your shaking form. He bowed, curling in on himself as the desperation he felt to see you alive and well overwhelmed him.
“Y/N! Gods, I was afraid I was too late—.”
“Iggy?” Your whimpered call of his name cut him off. He straightened and looked up at you, growing still, his smile fading as concern threw him off centre. He reached for you as you fell onto your knees, and felt his heart shatter as you broke into silent, uncontrollable tears.
“Y/N? Are you hurt? Tell me!” His tone rose into what resembled a bark as he took hold of your shoulders, his grip searing and firm. You flinched away from him and shook your head.
“You n-need to.” Your sobbing bashed at his frayed will. He felt himself crumbling, barely knowing wrong from right anymore. “Please, you need to help us. We’ll… we’ll all die.” You coughed, raw and bloody, and it was only then that Ignis’ eyes travelled downward, only to widen in horror at the blood that stained your front.
“Y/N… fuck!” Cor cursed, kicking at the ground in frustration. “The supplies?” he asked, gentler.
Ignis’s gaze flickered up from your wound, only to see the regret in your pained eyes. You shook your head and slumped against him. You felt heavy, like you had no strength left to hold yourself up.
“D-destroyed. ‘M sorry…”
Ignis shut his eyes, pained to see you in such a state. He took a deep breath in and let out a shuddered sigh before letting go of your shoulders and pulling away from you. He glared up at Cor, and the older man immediately crouched down to attend to you in Ignis’ stead.
“It’s okay. It wasn’t your job to protect them anyway; I just thought those damn crates would keep you hidden long enough for us to extract you and evacuate you.”
“I’m sorry…” Your apology struck Ignis somewhere inside so painful that tears welled up in his eyes. You sounded so weak; so dispirited. But you still had the strength to apologise for something that wasn’t anywhere near being your fault.
Ignis gulped and stood up, palms open, dry burning jade eyes alight with determination.
“Stay down. I’m heading out.”
He took three steps away, and was hooked back by the sound of your soft, pleading voice.
“Ignis… come back safe.”
He shut his eyes and gritted his teeth. He didn’t say a word.
He didn’t trust himself to make promises he couldn’t keep.
Clarus slammed the receiver of the radio down and cursed underneath his breath before turning to his son and the ex-Niff in the room. Libertus and Pelna had joined back up with the remaining glaive, putting aside their difference to make their way towards Lestallum to provide backup as soon as possible to contain the devastating ambush.
No one was answering his transmissions. That could only mean one thing. The ambush had started, and the medical garrison was not holding up well at all.
He pointed an accusatory finger at Aranea, shaking with fear and anger.
“You!” He took a step forward, his usually calm eyes bloodshot. Aranea clenched her jaw and stood her ground, though her fingers curled into fists to hide the way she shook out of the unfairness of Clarus’ unsaid accusation. “Explain yourself.”
She gulped, and feigned a calm demeanour. Shrugging, she turned her gaze away from him, not quite able to stop her eyes from burning in a tell-tale sign of oncoming tears.
“Nothing to explain. I gave you what information I had. They changed their plan in the time it took for us to reach Cartanica. It ended up fucking you guys over.” Aranea took a deep breath and dared to look Clarus in the eye. She raised an eyebrow at him, curiosity showing despite feeling a fear so overwhelming that it had paralysed her still.
“You gonna kill me now?”
She heard Gladio move beside her, but didn’t dare look at him. She didn’t want him in any more trouble than he already was. His arm found its way around her unarmored shoulders, and his hand brushed against one of the fresh wounds she’d attained from their battles into the city of Insomnia. She hissed and tensed further, earning her a hushed apology.
“He’s not. He can’t.” Gladio reassured.
The general scoffed. “She’s an enemy soldier. She misled our troops and cost us thousands of our men—”
“Hypocrite.” Gladio narrowed his eyes at his father. “I know what you signed off on. I’m not an idiot. You were the one who told Ignis to do whatever he needed to do to win that campaign. That’s the only reason you guys re-commissioned him now as well— to be a fucking pawn used to decimate everything around him for the sake of the Crown. And don’t lie to me. I’m no fool at war. You know that, dad. You’re the one who taught me.”
“You are a fool if you think we’re going to let a completely viable, able-bodied soldier sit out on this war. Especially when he’s got a destructive talent like no other! He’s our only hope right now; he has to step up and fight for our Crown—!”
“He’s broken dad!” Gladio lost his nerve, voice thick as he wrenched his arm from around Aranea to advance on his father. “He’s done! He can’t do anymore! He did his fucking best, but he can’t do anymore! He shouldn’t have to do anymore!” His breath hitched as he glared into his father’s crystal clear blue eyes.
He wondered when exactly it was that he’d lost the shine in his eyes— the shine that made Gladio feel like nothing in the world was ever going to be ‘too hard’. He wondered when things had gotten too hard for his father.
“Dad…” Gladio sighed, voice rough as he opened up his arms before the general. “Dad, please. Ma and Iris… can we just—.”
He didn’t have to finish his sentence as his father stepped forward and brought his boy into a fierce hug. The two large men held each other, shoulder shaking and faces wet with long-held tears.
No words were exchanged between them; they weren’t needed. The language of sorrow used less than sounds to communicate the hurt and fear held deep within.
Aranea took the chance to let a few of her tears slip, but of course, once the floodgates were opened, there was no slowing the flow until it ran dry. She cursed softly and turned away from the two, hands covering her face as she did her best to relax her shoulders.
A loud sob escaped her shaking body, and she laughed despondently.
“Ah, fuck it all…” she sniffled, rolling her eyes at how pathetic she sounded.
Gladio’s warmth seeped into her back as he wound his arms around her middle and held her close, his own wet cheek pressed against hers. She let out a dry laugh.
Gladio shook behind her.
Whether he was laughing through his tears, or simply just crying, she couldn’t tell.
“You two aren’t going back out there.” Clarus declared quietly. “Not until you’re both rested. Cor’s in Lestallum; Ignis and Tredd too. They’ll find a way to set things back to balance again. You two,” Clarus sighed, drained of energy, “please, just stay and rest.”
In Lestallum, the sun was beginning to set. Dark storm clouds hung overhead, and the distant rumble of thunder set an uneasy pace in Ignis’ chest. Heart thudding hard within, he drew in a deep breath and concentrated on the red hot rage that built up deep inside him.
His palms grew hot.
Beads of perspiration dotted his skin, his clothes damp with the unnaturally conjured head emanating from his body. He licked his dry lips and glared straight ahead at the enemy soldiers and machinery wreaking havoc on the gated thoroughfare leading to the Lucian refugees.
Ignis shook with rage and let out a roar of unhinged fury.
The image of you, bleeding out, apologising for no wrongdoing of your own— it fuelled his inner fire further.
His feet carried him forward, his body and mind separated, his entire being in a complete trance.
The incredible energy was concentrated at his palms, burning sensation faint and far away. He could hear the flames burning, and the screeches of agony around him. He felt the roars of the machines falling to the ground, and saw the shrapnel from the resulting explosions raining down all around the military stronghold.
His mind grew tired, but his body was still full of rage. He felt another burst of energy erupt out from inside him, filtering through his hands, and bursting into violent flames. They wrapped around the half-human, half-machine soldiers, and burned them alive— if those creatures could be considered living in the first place.
He blacked out before the flames had finished scorching his surroundings.
His body fell upon the dead Lucian warriors who had bravely given up their lives before he came to finish what they had started in vain.
Energy depleted, Ignis felt cold.
He could smell burnt flesh.
He whimpered, soul crippled by the torment of the lives lost— enemy and friendly alike.
Palms still hot, he let out a broken cry and forced them upon his eyes.
His scream echoed around the haunting battlefield. His skin blistered, and his vision turned from hot white to abysmal, endless black.
It was done.
He’d made his last stand for Lucis.
It was over now.
He’d made sure of it.
Chapter 15: Repentance
Last chapter before the Epilogue! Thanks for coming along on this angst fest loves <3 It's been such a great opportunity for growth in terms of writing! Character death explicitly mentioned ahead; lots of angst off-set with a tiny bit of floof <3
THANK YOU AMBERSWORDLILIES (SCREAMS UP IN THE DIRECTION OF SCOTLAND) <333 BEST BETA BEAN EVAAAA <333
My tumblr to scream incoherently at: blindedstarlight.tumblr.com <3
Pelna’s expression was hard as he stared at the chaos that lay before him. Bodies were strewn everywhere; some mauled so badly that they were unrecognisable. But that wasn’t what had him gulping down the bile that threatened to rise up his throat— no, there was something even more horrific.
Something he’d seen only one other place.
Lestallum’s army barracks smelt like a rotten roast. The smoke was still thick in the air, and there was shrapnel everywhere. He took a step forward, forearm covering his mouth— though even that wasn’t enough to keep the pungent scent from clogging up his airways.
Coughing, he turned to Libertus, who was staring at the state of the Lucian stronghold with horrified awe in his eyes. He met the larger man’s gaze and tilted his head towards the smoking plains of the deceased.
“Search and rescue?”
“Might as well. Don’t think it’ll take us long to search this place— it’s like stepping right into hell.”
Pelna nodded in agreement. “Yeah. There’s only one man alive capable of this—.”
“… the hospice tent— Y/N and the Marshal. L-lady Amicitia…”
Libertus and Pelna looked to each other, eyes wide as they heard the familiar voice of one of the Lucian majors. Libertus cursed under his breath and took off into the thick smog, not paying mind to the bodies and stray machineries he trod upon on his way towards the man most likely responsible for the carnage they were witnessing.
Pelna licked at his dry lips and pressed them together in a firm line.
“Speak of the devil… hope he’s gonna make it.”
They almost ran past Ignis, the decorated man laying covered in dirt, blood, and a thick black substance. He was stripped down to his basics; a simple man ready to end his own war. Libertus crouched down beside him, grimacing at the severed arm that lay only a few feet away from his position.
“Hey, we’ve gotcha. Just relax— o-oh shit!” His voice wavered, horror clear in his tone. “Pel, get your ass over here now!”
Pelna stumbled forwards, concern blowing his eyes wide.
“What? What’s wrong?”
Libertus let out a distressed rumble and shook his head, hand shakily hovering over Ignis’ face. The major groaned in pain. Pelna got down on his knees on the major’s other side and peered at his face through the thin veil of smoke.
His skin was an angry pink, blistering with the intense heat that he’d forced upon it. It looked like the explosions from the war machines had also wounded the major’s previously unmarred face. He was littered with cuts and bruises, only on his face— the angry burns sealing his eyes shut the worst of them.
The brown-skinned glaive let out a sad sigh. “Looks self-inflicted. Poor bastard.”
“L-leave me be. Save them,” he whispered weakly.
Libertus shook his head. “No. No way, brother. We’re bringin’ you back to the tent. They’re bound to have some supplies—!”
“They’re all g-gone. Destroyed,” Ignis rasped quietly. “This is my repentance, for the sin of ending countless lives. Give me a slow, tortured death, or a life where I am destined to live my life blind to the pain I’ve inflicted on all of Lucis children. On all of us.”
“That’s bullshit. You’re a fucking soldier. You did what you were ordered to do. You’re a fucking hero, and people ought to start treating you like one!” Pelna bit out, eyes damp at the sound of Ignis’ pain. He shook his head and looked to Libertus. “You grab him under the arms, I’ll get his legs.”
Ignis moaned in pain, too weak to express the torture of the jostle in any other way. The two rebels winced and murmured hushed apologies before they stumbled over piles of human flesh and machinery to get to the half-destroyed medic tent.
A familiar woman stood at the entrance, pale and shaking. She took one look at the three men coming through, and bit her lip so hard that it bled. Emotion filtered back from her eyes, stowed away deep, as she pulled her sleeves up and glanced at the minimal supplies she had spread out on a table beside an empty cot.
She’d known they’d be coming.
“Get him on,” Joy murmured gently, “I’ll patch him up right away.”
Libertus and Pelna didn’t wait. The placed him onto the cot, gentle in their movements, and stepped away to allow to wheel him away. They watched the major— the only reason the refugees were still safe—be wheeled away, and heavy sighs left them both.
“This war’s fucked up. It’s so damn fucked up.”
Pelna nodded at Libertus’ emphatic words.
“Hopefully we have an armistice of sorts. The Niffs just got served big time, they’ve gotta regroup now. Their next move will determine ours.”
Libertus nodded, expression grim. He locked eyes with Pelna and shrugged.
“Probably best to keep searching.”
The dark-skinned ex-glaive shuddered. He looked to the mass of fallen soldiers; enemy and friendly alike. Bitterness became him as he wondered if Niflheim had really suffered any loss at all. It wasn’t like they had sent actual men into the fray.
He shook the thought out of his head and focused on the task at hand.
“Right. Let’s go.”
Two weeks later…
Joy tightened the bandages around your abdomen, and you let out a short shriek of pain. She huffed and lightly smacked your shoulder. “Oh, stop being dramatic— it’s just a scratch!”
You pouted and bit the inside of your cheeks for the rest of her expert treatment. Your wound had been deep, but the MT had thankfully missed your vital organs. You were incredibly lucky. Glancing up at Joy, you tilted your head, watching her work.
“Aren’t you tired?”
She looked up at you with a bright smile and shook her head.
“No, I’m fine. Promise—!”
“Joy?” A deep voice called through the tent flap. You noted the way she perked up at the gentle call, and couldn’t help the way the corners of your lips rose up into a small smile.
“Ah, in here!” She fixed your fresh bandages in place and leaned down to press a kiss to your temple. Heat rising to your cheeks, you nodded in thanks. Joy didn’t have to treat you with so much familiarity, yet here she was— caring for you like you were one of her own.
She waved someone over, and you didn’t realise that she’d just invited the general of the Lucian army to your bedside until he was already looming over you. You tried to sit up to greet him, only to fall back with a cry of pain.
Joy tutted, chiding you quietly as she fussed over you. Adjusting your pillows and covers, she turned to the man beside her and smiled brightly at him.
“Did you need anything?”
The general shook his head. He glanced at you, and a smile formed on his lips.
“How many kids are we going to end up with, Joy?”
Miffed, she turned her nose up at him and huffed.
“As many who need a mother’s touch. Now shoo, I’ve got work to do.” She placed her small hands on his arm and pushed. When he didn’t budge, she glanced at you and frowned before turning back to the general, blush apparent on her cheeks. “Gods, Clarus— not in front of the children.”
“I mean,” you began, hiding a snort of laughter, amused by the older couple’s antics— though you weren’t quite sure if you were allowed to be laughing at the Lucian general, “I can leave if you just take my cot off the safety lock—.”
Joy gasped, turning to you with wide amber eyes. “I will do no such thing! Clarus,” she pushed harder, “you’re being a nuisance. Out!”
Clarus chuckled and folded his arms, shaking his head as he made eye contact with you. His tired blue eyes struck you in a way that had you feeling a deep sadness that you had never experienced before. He looked so damn tired.
“Just one thing.” He turned to Joy and opened up his arms.
Your heart melted at the sight.
He was warlord second to being a man in need of his wife’s comfort.
The small woman stepped into his arms and held him briefly before lightly slapping his chest.
“Th-there.” Her voice wavered, softer than you’d ever heard it. “Now go back to our room and stay with Iris. Cor’s on duty today. You rest, I’ll come join you two in a few hours.”
Clarus nodded. “Right. Love you.”
Even you could hear the waver in his tone. It was the voice of a man who had thought he’d lost his wife and daughter. Gods… the losses suffered by all were tremendous. Some, like the Amicitia family, lost their peace of mind— others lost far more.
“Love you too.” She paused, expression pensive as she turned curious amber eyes up at Clarus. “Have you seen Ignis? He’s been wanting to speak with you—.”
“I can’t.” Clarus cut his wife off with an abrupt grunt. “Not after what I’ve done to him.”
You couldn’t help it.
You rolled your eyes and let out an exasperated groan.
“You sound like him.” You shot Clarus a pointed stare. “Like Ignis. Blaming yourself for something he had to do as part of something bigger.” Shaking your head, you allowed yourself a glance at Ignis, hidden behind sterile blue curtains on the other end of the tent. You tried not to look over too often; you didn’t want to grow too curious about his state of being.
They’d told you that he had been injured. No one offered you any information as to how injured he was.
The omission of information scared you.
“She’s right.” Joy nodded approvingly at you. “What’s happened is no one’s fault. It’s the result of being at war with another nation with conflicting ideologies. The line between good and bad is always blurred, and you know this. Your men did the best they could— and so did you.”
Too short to reach his cheek, Joy brought one of her husband’s hands to her lips and kissed the back of it tenderly.
“Don’t beat yourself up for what happened to Ignis. You and Cor were right; he was our only hope. Let’s all rejoice the fact that he’s still with us today. That’s what matters.”
A sickening thought crossed your mind, and you had to shut your eyes as your lips pried themselves open to ask an important question.
“Is he viable?”
Both Joy and Clarus were silent.
The silence dragged on.
You got your answer.
“Why’d you do it?” Prompto took his regular seat by Ignis’ side, looking beyond exhausted with his pink-rimmed eyes and pale countenance. Still, he was uninjured— viable.
Ignis’ lips remained a grim line. His fists were clenched tight at his sides. Prompto could tell he was clearly in a lot of pain; still the proud man would never admit to it. The former major hadn’t spoken a word since coming into consciousness a week prior. Unable to see, and unable to find the will to talk, Ignis Scientia was considered a living corpse.
But at least he was living.
Cornflower blue hues wilted. Shaking his head, Prompto licked his lips and let out a loud sigh.
“Tredd’s ceremony happened two days ago. Nyx had his memorial plaque go up beside Selena’s. I’m glad he gets to rest with her.”
Ignis exhaled, but didn’t offer any words. The blond frowned and fought back tears.
“Th-the war’s on pause. Armistice. Niffs are regrouping up north; Car-Cartanica’s still ours.” He sniffed and turned away from Ignis, only to belatedly remember that the undecorated major wouldn’t be able to see his tears fall. He chuckled thickly. “Lestallum’s pretty good now too, all things considered. We’ve cleaned up and the supplies have all been restocked to a pretty decent standard.”
He paused and shut his eyes tight, a small keen sounding from the base of his tightened throat. Taking a glance at Ignis, he felt overwhelmed with sadness. Ignis was beyond broken.
All in the name of the Crown.
“Prince Noctis and Lady Lunafreya reached their safe houses. No one knows where, except Clarus, Cor and the king.” A bitter laugh exploded from his lips as he took in Ignis’ limp countenance once more. “I don’t get why they sent you out when you weren’t ready—.”
“Lucis needed a hero.”
His voice was raspy, his usual accented lilt slurred.
Shocked into silence, Prompto could only listen to Ignis speak, watching him with sorrowful eyes as bloody tears crept down from under his bandages.
“I was the only one who could save them. The only one… who could save her.”
Prompto’s shoulders shuddered as he tried to keep his crying at bay. He hated that his friend was hurting. He hated that Ignis had been forced against his will to play hero for a nation who couldn’t recognise his accomplishments for the war effort. He hated that Ignis would never be able to see a peaceful world.
He had taken that right from himself.
It was cruel.
“I’m sorry. This whole thing’s… all of it. It’s fucked up. It’s not fair—.”
“Come now,” Ignis sighed quietly, strained smile tugging up at his lips, “a small sacrifice in a greater battle. Wounds will mend, as will hearts. I, for one, have offered my repentance for my sins. And now, I look forward to an ignorant life away from the war.”
He sounded sad.
That was all Prompto could hear in his words.
Ignis… for all the pride and sensibility coming through in his speech; he was clearly devastated.
“Whatever you say, Iggy, it’s still not fair. Not now, and never will be. You shouldn’t have had to do any of it. I know you didn’t want to. Not in Cartanica, and definitely not here. You’re a hero though, okay?” Prompto’s voice grew urgent. “And you deserved better after Cartanica. You did. And you deserve even better now.”
He could only sigh at Prompto’s words. Despondent, he mumbled under his breath, absolutely defeated by life and himself. The fight had left him. He’d done his duty, and now his part was over.
“I suppose. It’s done now; best not linger on it.”
Prompto’s shoulders hunched, his face in his hands. Tears fell from his eyes, trickling through his fingers. He couldn’t help it. He wanted to fix it all— or at least take Ignis’ place. But he couldn’t.
“Yeah. I guess not.”
Black vision faded even blacker, and Ignis fell once again into a fevered sleep.
In the dark, he saw a smiling face.
His heart warmed in the unrelenting cold that had consumed him, just a little.
The memory of your smile; it was his light.
He saw sunshine.
Chapter 16: Lucian Hero
Aaaaan here's the end! Gods, it takes sooo long to write fics, and so little time to post 'em up LOL! BIG THANK YOU TO AMBERSWORDLILIES AS ALWAYS FOR BEING A GOREGOUS BETA <3 Thank you to everyone who stuck around to see this story though; I really appreciate you all <3333
My tumblr to scream at: blindedstarlight.tumblr.com <3
He held your hand, sweaty palms wrapped around yours. He didn’t let go. He couldn’t. Not now; not when he was shaking so hard his knees were threatening to give out from under him. His eyes remained forward, unseeing for the most part, but able to make out a brightness in the near distance.
It was the stage.
“Iggy?” Your voice was soft in his ear, consideration seeping into every syllable you spoke. You gently tugged at his hand, grounding him back to reality with the gesture. “You okay?”
He nodded before he could really think about your question.
“Fine. Just wondering why this is happening, is all—.”
“It’s happening,” you emphasised, “because you deserve the recognition.” He felt your hand squeeze his, and he felt the tension knotting in his stomach ease little by little at the influence of your presence. “You’re the reason Lestallum is politically independent—.”
“I didn’t hold the summit; our king and prince did—.”
“It wouldn’t have been possible without you– when the entire base was under attack,” you spoke firmly, leaving no room for argument.
He chuckled, shaking his head slightly to will the negative thoughts away.
“I suppose so. It’s hard to see sense in anything when I’ve been in the dark so long…” Ignis turned his head in your direction, a knowing smirk pulling up at his lips.
Your sigh made him laugh warmly.
“At least you’ve got a sense of humour about it now.” He could hear the exasperation in your tone; but there was also something else lining your words as well. Gratitude… and something warm.
It wasn’t that he couldn’t figure out what it was— more that he didn’t want to put a label on it in case he lost that warmth amidst the dark.
“Glad you can appreciate it now—.”
“Shhh,” you suddenly chided with a final tug and squeeze on his hand, “they’re announcing you. Get ready; I’ll be beside you every step of the way.”
Ignis grew rigid in his stance, nerves hitting him like a tidal wave. He nodded stiffly and squeezed your hand in turn.
“My thanks. Sincerely.”
He could feel your tender gaze on him, his cheeks growing warm in a very telling blush. He still couldn’t believe that you’d stayed by his side despite all that you’d witnessed him do. The destruction, the chaos, the loss… you stayed with him despite it all.
No ulterior motives on your part; he knew very well why you stayed.
Again, he was afraid to even think it.
But he knew what it was.
It was the smile that pushed him forward even when the rest of the world fought to hold him back from life. It was the gentle arms that wrapped around his trembling body for countless nights in a row— three years and counting— soothing him back to reality from the gruesome images of war seared into his memory. It was the gentle kisses, and the softly trailing fingernails on his back as he experienced what light felt like in your intimate embrace.
It was life itself.
“Major Ignis Scientia, recognised on this day for his invaluable contributions to the war effort. The Crown recognises his dedication to the Lucian homeland, and is forever indebted to his service. A true Lucian hero.”
His heart thudded violently in his chest. His blood pumped too loudly in his ears. He wanted to run away. He wanted to hide. He heard the crowd cheer for him, and he couldn’t fathom why. He’d killed their fathers, their sons, their friends, and their lovers.
They’d all wanted him dead. They’d all wanted him to suffer a death as horrifying as their lost ones.
But now, they cheered for him.
He couldn’t even begin to make sense of it.
Ignis bit the inside of his lip hard, concentrating on his buckling knees as he stepped up to the stage with your guidance. He felt you lead him forward, and your hand remained on his arm as King Regis spoke to him with gratitude laced in his words.
He couldn’t hear them.
He could only hear the screams. The mechanical shrieks. The explosions. And then his own blood curdling roar of pain.
He felt yet another medal decorate his breast pocket. His hand was squeezed in an all-too-firm handshake.
“Ignis, my boy, you’ve done well for Lucis. I’m so proud.” He heard Regis compliment him.
Ignis nodded in thanks, the gesture more out of respectful habit than anything else.
Hurried, he turned to you.
“Is it over? Is it done now?”
Ignis hoped you knew he meant more than just the medal ceremony.
He felt you take his clammy, shaking hand in your own, and revelled at the warmth you squeezed back into him. Gentle and patient as always, your voice grounded him in a reality that felt warm and safe.
“Yes Mister Sagefire. It’s over now. We can go home now.”
He relaxed beside you.
It was done.
The war… it was truly over.