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The Fall

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Sweat was perhaps unavoidable during this season, especially with the pace Ignis was keeping as he pedaled his bike across the sprawling campus of Tenebrae University. There was nothing worse to him than being late - even if it meant sitting through an entire lecture with drying spots under his arms and across his shoulders. He had done the unthinkable earlier, unhooking the first few buttons of his dress shirt in defense against the unseasonably warm autumn day, but even that paled in comparison to the thought of bringing even more attention to his disheveled state by bursting into the classroom after everyone had taken their seats.

He had been taking classes on this campus for a short time in the scheme of how long he was to stay here, but Ignis already felt fairly comfortable with the layout. It wouldn’t have been such a dash across the campus, except he was determined to finish early and thus cramming 15-18 credit hours into every semester. That meant he had to leave his morning’s Biology class and make a fairly brisk ride across the entire campus to Calculus. The school was renovating the general sciences building, making future students’ lives better. Unfortunately, Ignis realized too late that for at least two students, today was not going to be continuing as planned.

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There was nothing better than a nice, warm day to keep the biting chill of winter away for just awhile longer. Nyx was glad for the more varied climate of Tenebrae compared to his home of Ghalad, but he never could get used to how cold it actually got. Tilting his head up toward the waning sun, he closed his eyes and smiled softly to himself. He had a class to get to but it was the second lecture of the entire semester and he was pretty sure that despite loving the idea of being in the business world, ‘Principles of Financial Accounting’ was going to be his doom.

Sighing visions of debits and credits invaded his peaceful thoughts, he adjusted his backpack and turned slightly to continue the walk to his next classroom once again. As he made to step out onto the concrete path, he only had a second to register a smattering of ash blonde hair, a horrified expression and then the sensation of falling onto his back, a stranger and unfortunately, his bicycle, colliding with him. Nyx lay there winded for a moment, unable, and frankly unwilling, to see if the person practicing for the Eos Triathlon was faring any better. At least that was the reason Nyx came up with in the moment for why someone would be riding their bike like it was on fire across a campus littered with students.

“I’m so sorry.”

Nyx heard the stranger wheeze out an apology and he struggled to right himself to get a better look. He knew the man must be local by the crisp, Tenebraen accent he spoke with, but there was just something in his voice. “Where the hell were you going so fast? There’s a bike path, you know.” Nyx knew it wasn’t going to help his case to argue with the guy but he figured he’d a right considering the circumstances.

“Calculus.”

Nyx heard the word and shook his head. “You were speeding like a daemon was on your tail to get to math class?!”

The stranger looked up at him for the first time and Nyx was taken aback by the beautiful green of his eyes. As the man, student presumably, reached in the grass and placed a pair of glasses back onto his nose, Nyx decided it only added to this guy's looks. Shallow as it was, Nyx was less angry now.

“I take my studies very seriously, Mr….”

“Nyx. No mister involved, please.”

“As you wish. I am Ignis.” The man stood, presumably uninjured save for favoring his left leg a bit and righted his bike.

“You’re the nerd who ran me over,” Nyx quipped, but his smile belied any aggression. The stranger gave him an appraising look and smiled softly in return.

“A fair assessment, unfortunately.”

“Being a nerd isn’t that bad,” Nyx scanned the ground, making sure nothing else was left behind.

“I was referring to the unfortunate incident with my bicycle colliding with your person.”

Nyx chuckled. “Were you speeding to class because you love math, or because you’re afraid you’ll fail if you miss a class?”

“I am not a math major, but I grasp the intricacies well enough.” Ignis was making his own check of the ground and his backpack before hopping back on the bike. “I will be late, which I detest, however that is hardly your fault and I apologize again.”

“Well, I know how you can make it up to me,” Nyx said the words before even thinking them through totally. “I mean, if math is math then you should grasp Principles of Accounting right?”

“I’m not required to take that class but I imagine it can’t be that difficult.”

Nyx gave the man a dirty look. “Right, so I’ll just take my idiot self to class then.”

“Forgive me, that was rude.” Ignis sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Yeah, a bit.”

“It will not behoove me to show up to class like this. When would you like to show me the work? Perhaps I can be of assistance.”

“I was headed there now but that sounds like a much better plan,” Nyx gestures they start walking and Ignis walks with his bicycle, trusting Nyx knows where he’s going. “There’s a quiet coffee place up here, figure caffeine is perfect after our near-death experience.”

Ignis chuckled. “Caffeine is always perfect.”

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Ignis planned everything. His clothing was chosen with a very specific image in mind. He took classes he knew he could pass easily so that he could get to the more challenging College of Law as quickly as possible. He planned his first job, had an idea what he would like his first case to be regarding.

Ignis did not plan Nyx Ulric.

The Astrals, it seemed, had a sense of humor and this time they were directing it at his life. Or rather, the lack of anything resembling his normal life that had occured since literally running into Nyx a week ago.

It seemed the man was always there. He had agreed, with no small amount of relief that there was some way to make recompense for the unfortunate situation, to help him with his accounting class.

Ignis had been prepared for that. Sure, he knew it probably wasn’t a one time meeting, but normally he had scheduled Thursdays for any study sessions. Nyx, of course, wasn’t available during Ignis’ pre-planned study time. Instead, Ignis found himself heading to a strange dorm after dinner on campus that next Tuesday. Nyx only had one class that day to Ignis’ two, but it was still one of his lighter days. Of course, this would be the fifth or sixth time since the coffee house he’d actually seen Nyx and spoken with him. He knew more about him in the span of a handful of seemingly spontaneous meetings than he did about several of his friends he’d known for years.

Nyx was from Ghalad, which Ignis had already guessed from the distinct braid in his hair.

He was a business major who planned to travel after graduation. Ignis had heard that before from just about every aspiring business major he’d ever met going back to high school. He had a sister, but she and their mother had been killed when he was younger. He had raised himself since fourteen. His father couldn’t deal with the death and immersed himself in alcohol to deal with the grief. His close friends that came to study here as well served the role of family. Ignis was grateful on his behalf, but unsurprised to hear that he had gained the ability to attend TU due to the Caleum Family Annual Scholarship Fund. Having known the Caleums for many years, Ignis knew that a story like that would tug at Regis’ heart. Nyx probably had no idea that Ignis was close to the family of his benefactor and it wasn’t something he was keen to blurt out. Nyx Ulric didn’t strike him as the type to exploit but Ignis had been wrong before.

And he was a fighter. Which explained in hindsight how Ignis didn’t send him to infirmary by careening into him with his bicycle. He had considered joining the Lucian Coalition Fighters but decided to attend college first. This, and the political climate surrounding Tenebrae had been their main topic of discussion as they sipped coffee at that first meeting Ignis, ineffectually, tried to steer them back to Principles of Accounting.

The book sat in Nyx’s bag the entire time.

Ignis neared the dorm where Nyx told him to meet and was immediately greeted with the smell of smoke. He steered away from the group passing around a cigarette on the stairs, instead making his way up the few concrete steps and into the building. Nyx’s dorm was only on the second floor but it had been a long day with a lot of unexpected work. Ignis pushed the button for the elevator and hoped it actually worked still. Being so early into fall semester it was a good bet.

His gamble paid off and as the doors slid open, only a few students spilled out. Ignis stepped aside, completely ignored in favor of animated conversation, and slipped into the elevator alone. It was a short and relatively smooth ride which left Ignis little time to prepare for what was to come. He had no idea what that might be, actually, but that was yet another thing he wasn’t used to. He wasn’t a stalker or anything, he was just quiet. And quiet people didn’t make friends easily. He was used to meeting new people in the library, in the school gym, places where you can strike up a friendship over the course of months. Get to feel a person out. Ask questions, see what you can expect.

Nyx had jumped into Ignis’ life with both feet and was in the process of making himself at home.
Ignis was still not sure exactly how he felt about that.

He was lost in thought and almost walked right past room 215. Only the door was open and ‘there he is’ spoken in that voice he was starting to know just from hearing it stopped him.

“Here I am,” Ignis proclaimed with a small smile, immediately noticing the other two in the room. It shouldn’t have surprised him, given what Nyx had said about his friends practically being his family. He just assumed they would be working alone.

“So this is the guy who almost ran you over?” A large man with the same braiding gave Nyx a friendly punch to the arm. “You don’t look like you could take out our boy here.”

“In my favor I was aboard a large and fast moving object.” Ignis quipped, instantly defensive.
“I don’t know Lib, I can kick Nyx’s ass. This guy’s got at least a foot on me.” The girl next to Nyx must be Crowe, Ignis surmised.

“Great, now we all know everyone in this room can beat my ass if they wish,” Nyx laughed. “Get out of here you two, I’m supposed to be studying.”

Crowe smirked at Nyx and pointedly looked at Ignis as she left. Libertus patted Ignis on the shoulder and he had to compensate quickly for the added weight. “Take care, buddy,” he called to Nyx and they were gone, shutting the door behind them.

“Well, now you’ve met the family,” Nyx gestured to the door before standing and grabbing his book bag from the floor by the desk.

Ignis took a moment to appreciate the surprisingly tidy room. “Do you not have a roommate?”

“Technically, yeah. But he’s got himself a girlfriend off-campus so he’s never actually here. Which suits me fine. Lib stays over sometimes when his own roommate has his girl over.”

“And here I thought college was for studying,” Ignis mused. “What about you?”

“Yeah, studying is important,” Nyx smirked.

“I’m glad you agree because this time we are going to accomplish something,” Ignis groused. “But pardon my intrusion, you’ve never mentioned a paramour of your own.”

“Well, Ignis, we’ve only known each other a few days,” Nyx was practically laughing now.

“Nevermind.” Ignis grabbed the chair from the unused desk a bit more forcefully than he intended, making up for it by almost gingerly placing his backpack down on the top.

“No, it’s a fair question, I’m sorry for being a dick about it.” Nyx sighed. “I don’t have a boyfriend, actually.”
Ignis stopped for a second, replaying the moment in his head to make sure he heard that right. “Boyfriend? I see.” The zipper was loud in the room, his book sliding out and making a dull thud on the wood. He realized Nyx might be waiting for the other shoe and so he replied as honestly as he could. “Me either.”

“This place isn’t repressed or anything but...”

Ignis turned to see the normally snarky man looking almost sad, waving his hand around like he was searching for the right word. “There isn’t exactly a welcoming presence for those outside the norm,” Ignis finished.

“That,” Nyx snapped his fingers. The smile was back and Ignis returned it.
Ignis dragged the chair over to the desk Nyx had claimed for his own and bade him to catch him up with the lessons they had gone over in lecture so far. After that, working together came more easily than it had earlier. Ignis could feel how something had shifted between them. He realized that Nyx might have been holding out on him on purpose. For all the charm and personality he exuded, Ignis could see through it to someone who carried pain.

“Ugh, this gives me a headache.” Nyx complained, lightly tossing his pencil down. “If it’s yours, it’s an asset, right? How can you consider it an expense if you own it?!”

Ignis sighed, loathing to agree with him out loud. “I know it seems, redundant,” Ignis ventured.

“It seems like a reason to pay someone a lot of money to put up with learning this shit.”

Ignis smiled, patting Nyx’s hand unconsciously. It was something he did with Noctis when he helped him with his homework. Though in Noct’s case, it was usually to snap him back to the present because he hadn’t been listening. “I take it you only need to pass this class in order to graduate? You are not planning to become an accountant.”

Nyx scoffed. “If I was, I sure wouldn’t now.”

“Well then, we just have to get you past this class so you can go on to travel Eos.”

“And 202,” Nyx moaned, pitching forward allowing his head to hit the desk.

Ignis sighed and tried not to be upset about it. He quickly realized he actually wasn’t upset about the prospect of working with Nyx through both semesters. His friends might take some getting used to, but for once he had met someone and not ran away or second-guessed every move they made. It was...freeing.

“Just promise me you will try to keep my schedule in mind,” Ignis asked. “I can help you, but I am taking more classes than most students.”

“Yes, because you’re a nerd.” Nyx grinned.

“I prefer determined,” Ignis smiled back and turned to finally open the book he had acquired just that afternoon. “Principles of Accounting, I see this is the edition you are using, thank the Astrals.” Ignis took note of the page they were on and pulled out his stack of sticky notes.

“You bought the book?!” Nyx genuinely seemed surprised.
“Yes, I realize it’s…

“Dedicated?” Nyx ventured.

“I’ll take that,” Ignis relaxed. “Since I am not in the class, I needed to see exactly what you were working on, and taking your copy away seemed counterproductive.”

“Ha, you know I would have given it to you in a heartbeat,” Nyx picked up his own copy and dropped it rather carelessly on the desk, making a loud thud.

“Perhaps, however you need it for your own studies.”

“I guess.”

They once again fell into a comfortable, if not entirely productive, study session. Nyx rubbed at his face after it felt like hours had passed. “I may not be good at accounting, but you’re good at this.”

Ignis looked up at him then, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “I have practice with a much more recalcitrant student than you.”
“Oh, do tell,” Nyx shut his book, “because I am done for now.” checking his watch he saw this his estimation was a bit off, it had only been just over an hour.

Ignis sighed. “I am sure you would find it suitably amusing, however I cannot tell you about my tutoring. Confidentiality clause.”

Nyx studied his face for a moment, clearly looking for something. “You’re serious.”

“Absolutely. My employer would not take kindly to me spreading gossip.”

“Nerdy and mysterious,” Nyx smirked. “I like you even more now.” Nyx shoved his book back into his bag, tossing it toward the bed.
“I appreciate the sentiment,” Ignis mumbled. Then more confidently, “If you are indeed done, I’m afraid I need to go. I have a long day tomorrow and homework to finish.”

“Of course. I’ll go harass Lib and Crowe, I’m sure they have a million questions about you.”

Ignis scoffed, moving his chair back across to the empty desk and grabbing his pack.. “I doubt that. I would be more inclined to bet they will harass you for needing a tutor.”

“They have no leg to stand on, trust me,” Nyx stood up, stretching a bit. “You’ll have to come hang out with us sometime soon. Let them meet you for more than two minutes."

Ignis froze. He was not good at socializing with strangers. Sure, he could if it was necessary, but that was usually related to a job of some kind. He was more than capable of donning a social mask for awhile when required, only to collapse later. This was just hanging out. They would expect him to be himself. Open. Vulnerable.

“Or you could just stare a hole in my wall,” Nyx deadpanned.

“Apologies, as you can surmise from my course load I don’t have much of a social life.”

“So, you’re not taking advantage of the whole college experience? Oh man, we need to change that.”

Ignis truly hoped he was not going to offer to take him somewhere now and attempt to get him drunk.

“Relax, Ignis, I’m not going to kidnap you or something, geez. You really need to learn how to lighten up.”

Ignis sighed. “So I’ve been told on occasion.”

“Well, if this works for you we can just make this our regular time? I know I’m going to need more help.”

“Indeed, this time is suitable.”

“Great, then I’ll see you next week. If I don’t run into you before then.”

Nyx flashed him a cheeky grin and Ignis was more convinced than ever the occurences of the running into each other were indeed not random chance. “Indeed, I had never noticed you on campus prior to running you over.”

Nyx chuckled, “It’s fate, Ignis.”

Ignis thought for a moment about calling Nyx out on the admission but figured it wasn’t necessary. “Until next week, then,” Ignis held out his hand and then realized he probably looked odd. Nyx wasn’t someone he needed to make formal gestures around. He quickly waved instead, adjusted his backpack and headed out the door. He had not intended to take on someone here at school for tutoring but this felt right. He loved Noctis like a brother, Six knows they had practically been raised as such. This was different.

Good different or bad different, Ignis couldn’t decide yet.