The next morning, Noct woke up feeling like some of that awful weight has eased off his chest. Luna was safe with them and she was looking a lot better. Gladio was pissed, yeah, but not so bad he couldn't suck it up in front of Talcott, and maybe... maybe he'd get over it once they got moving again. Maybe with Luna helping him, Noct could get better at this whole... King thing.
Ignis had made him breakfast yesterday, just like old times, and it turned out okay. Ignis seemed more like himself afterwards than he had for a while. Maybe this morning they could do it again, and then take a walk.
It sounded pretty good. Good enough to make Noct crawl out from under the covers and get ready for the day. As ready as he ever was, anyway.
When he looked out the window, Luna and Iris and some of the others were working in the garden again. Prompto was taking photos and probably shouting encouragement instead of actually being helpful. He didn't see Ignis, though.
Noct headed out of the room, wondering if he'd have to search for him, but — no, there he was.
Noct could see him from the top of the stairs, alone in the kitchen. His hair was a little messier than usual — must have done it himself — and he wasn't wearing gloves. Hadn't since Altissia, and every time Noct noticed he felt weird and startled about seeing Ignis's bare hands, and then shitty when he remembered why. Ignis needed to be able to feel his way around.
Like right now. He was... walking back and forth, slowly, his fingertips trailing along the countertop. Stopping every once in awhile to open a cupboard and feel inside before closing it again.
He was learning his way around the kitchen.
Noct's throat felt too tight all of a sudden. He looked -- he looked unwell, digging through the cupboard, picking things up and frowning while he ran his hands over them, working out what they were.
They were supposed to do this together.
Ignis probably couldn't help himself, though. He'd always made everything he did look effortless, whether it was giving a presentation to the Council or decorating a birthday cake or doing a perfect backflip. For a long time, when Noct was a kid, he thought Iggy was just naturally good at everything except having fun. It was seriously irritating.
He must have been in his early teens before he finally realized how hard Ignis worked. How many hours and hours of practice and research and sweat Ignis had to put in to make things look easy.
He'd hate that anyone was seeing this, but Noct couldn't quite bring himself to interrupt. He stood there leaning on the railing instead, and watched Ignis figure things out.
It was kind of fascinating. Ignis was checking and re-checking the cupboards. For the most part he moved in a pattern — left to right, then right to left, then the other side. But every once in awhile he changed it up. At first, Noct thought his aim was off. A little too far to the right, and then he just kept going until he found the next handle. Eventually, though, it became pretty clear he was doing it on purpose. He was testing himself.
After a few minutes of sorting the cupboards out, Ignis crouched down to root through the refrigerator, starting with the door. It wasn't until he knocked something over that Noct started to really feel guilty about watching him. It'd be weird to say something now, though. Better to just wait until he was done.
Ignis found some towels in one of the bottom cupboards, to wipe up whatever he'd spilled. Felt his way to the sink to rinse them out before he went back to the fridge, gingerly moving things around. Probably reorganizing everything for maximum efficiency while he was at it. Noct had no idea how he could guess what everything was until he saw Ignis pull out a jar, open it, and hold it to his face.
Seemed pretty obvious, in retrospect.
Noct was seriously starting to consider going back to bed when Ignis finally finished working his way through the fridge. That done, he went back to digging through the cupboards. Only this time he pulled something out: a small brown package. He lifted it to his nose, breathing in deep, his eyes closed and his mouth blissfully curved.
Coffee. Ignis had found the coffee.
Noct grinned, quietly settling in on the top step. He could almost hear Ignis humming to himself as he found the tea kettle and carefully poured in a few mugs of water to boil. Measuring out the coffee took more time. Noct watched as he navigated the drawers, lifting a lot of really little spoons and running a thumb across each. He picked one, finally — the biggest — and put a few heaping scoops into Monica's fancy glass coffee press.
That done, he leaned back against the counter and waited.
It was kind of nice to see him unguarded like this, hands were loose by his sides, mouth relaxed. Definitely not something Noct got to see much. He almost seemed happy, waiting for the water to boil, ready for a cup of fresh coffee. Even his scars didn't look as bad in this light.
Noct was a little startled when the kettle started whistling. Ignis turned off the stove first and then approached the kettle carefully, holding his hand palm out like he could sense how close he was by the heat. Maybe he could. It didn't look like he burned himself picking it up, anyway.
And then, oh-so-gently, he felt for the press and held it in place, pouring the water in slowly. He winced a little when the water level hit his palm, but kept going anyway. And then, once it was finally done, he stepped back.
It smelled good. Really good. Noct hoped he'd made enough for two.
He'd never realized how much waiting you had to do to make coffee, though. Noct pulled his phone out, checking to see that Prompto hadn't sent him any more selfies. Iris had texted him Where r u a few days ago and he'd never answered. Probably asleep. He flipped through his photos, wondering if he had any good ones to show Luna, but most of them were blurry pictures of Prompto goofing around. A couple of Gladio tangled up in the tent after it collapsed in a storm, and one of him asleep and drooling in the back seat of the Regalia. He had a few of Ignis, too, cooking or playing King's Knight and being just as intense about it as he was about everything else. Two of Ignis secretly talking to his chocobo and feeding her carrots when he thought nobody was looking, one of him catching Noct taking photos and trying to grab the phone, and another of him chasing after his startled chocobo. It made Noct's chest ache, so he put the phone away and stood.
He was ready to make his way down the stairs and pretend he just woke up when Ignis finally moved again. He slowly pushed the filter down into the coffee press, centered the mug, and started to pour. Then jerked his hand back suddenly, hissing, and set the press down too hard. The thing shattered, coffee splashing everywhere, and Ignis just... froze, hand held at a weird angle in front of him. Was he hurt?
Noct stared, at a loss.
Ignis took a short, sharp breath and bit out, "Of course." And then, slow enough Noct could see every deliberate move, Ignis reached out for the mug, picked it up, and hurled at it the floor to shatter at his feet. "Bloody hell."
"Ignis," Noct yelled, running down the stairs.
He jerked, just like when he'd burned himself. "Noct?"
"Are you okay?" Noct asked, reaching for his hand.
Ignis yanked it away. "I'm fine," he snapped.
"No, you're not!" Noct was shouting, all of a sudden, and he couldn't stop. "Quit lying!"
"And say what, Noctis?" Ignis snarled. "That I'm burnt? Blind? So bloody useless I can't even make a bloody cup of coffee anymore without help? What do you want me to say?"
Noct flinched, his throat tight. Ignis was breathing hard, glaring past him at nothing. It took everything he had to fight the urge to shut down, shut his mouth. Swallow it all down and go back to bed. But finally he forced out, "Yeah, that... pretty much covers it."
Ignis's face crumpled. He squeezed his eyes shut, pressed a hand to his forehead.
Noct swallowed. "I just want you to let me help."
Ignis took a slow breath and let it out even slower. "You are the Crown Prince of Lucis —"
Ignis grit his teeth. "I will not stand idle while my prince stoops to serve me. To have you leading me by the hand, picking up after me, protecting me — it's obscene. It pains me." He gestured sharply at his face. "Worse than this."
Noct wanted to hit him. Hard. "Well, too bad," he said, his voice sunk somewhere in his throat. "You did it for me for years. Now it's my turn."
"It was my duty to —"
"Are you kidding me?" Noct laughed. "When the hell did my dad order you to — to make me coffee and fold my shirts and teach me to tie my shoes? What the hell kind of ceremony did I miss where you swore an oath to cut the crusts off my peanut butter sandwiches?"
Ignis was silent and still. When he finally spoke, his voice was so, so small. "Do you... want me to stop?"
"No," Noct insisted. "Of course not." He swallowed. "The crusts are gross, and you always manage to cut them off without getting peanut butter all over the place."
Ignis let out a breath. "I'm afraid that, going forward, you may have to do it yourself."
"Fine. I don't care. The point is, you're still lying. You don't want anyone else to help you either. So it's not about me being a prince. It's about you being an idiot."
Ignis opened his mouth. Closed it.
"Nobody would think you were any less amazing or — or any less Ignis if you broke your leg and had to use a wheelchair. This is no different. So just suck it up and let me see your hand."
Ignis automatically obeyed, wordlessly holding his hand out, but still flinched when Noct took it. "Merely a small burn," he murmured.
"I'll be the judge of that," Noct said, even though he had no idea what a bad burn would even look like. He'd seen the aftereffects of a strong fire spell, but that was magic. This looked like it might blister, but it wasn't gross or oozing or anything, so he guessed it was probably okay. But — "You're bleeding," Noct told him, sounding a little panicked even to his ears. "A lot."
"Oh dear," Ignis said mildly. "Is there any glass lodged in it?"
Noct winced. "I don't think so," he said, carefully turning Ignis's hand, trying to find where the blood was coming from. There was a wide cut on Ignis's palm, but he couldn't see bone or anything. "It's not too deep."
"Not worth wasting a curative, then," Ignis said firmly.
Noct rolled his eyes. "Fine, but it still needs to be washed and bandaged."
Ignis stayed quiet. At least he wasn't protesting.
"C'mon," Noct told him, tugging him towards the sink.
Ignis went along with it, still not saying anything.
"Here, I turned the sink on."
"My thanks," Ignis murmured, letting Noct pull his hand under the water, even though he could probably hear it just fine.
Noct watched him wash the blood off, turning his hand to rinse the burn. "I've got some soap here."
Ignis opened his other hand, palm up, and took it. Carefully cleaned the cut, then waited while Noct turned the water off and grabbed a clean towel, carefully patting his hands dry for him.
That done, Noct led him out of the kitchen and over to the big dining room table. "Just — stay there," Noct told him. "I'll be right back."
Noct took the stairs two at a time, digging for the first aid supplies Ignis always kept in his bag. Grabbed some gauze and bandages — probably way more than he needed — and hurried back downstairs. "Okay, I've got the bandages and stuff," Noct said, sitting down and taking Ignis's hand. "Good thing you stocked up before we went to Altissia."
"Quite foresighted of me," Ignis said faintly.
Noct rolled his eyes and held the gauze against the wound, making sure the bleeding had mostly slowed before wrapping it up tight. Ignis's fingers were cold after holding them in the running water. "That okay?" he asked, keeping Ignis's hand in his, trying to warm it up a little.
Ignis drew in a slow, shuddering breath. "Much improved, thank you," he said. He sounded tired. Really tired. "Would you mind, terribly..."
Ignis sighed. "Would you mind helping me clean up the mess before anyone else walks through it?"
"Right," Noct blinked. "I'll take care of it. Where did you get those dish towels?"
"The top drawer on the right side, second from the fridge. I...suppose I should stay out of the kitchen until you've gathered up the glass."
"Perhaps I'll put the first aid supplies away, then," Ignis suggested. "And change into something slightly less... caffeinated."
Noct snorted out a laugh. "Sure. Just be careful on the stairs."
"I will," Ignis said, but he didn't move. "May I get up?"
"Of course." What the hell?
"I simply wasn't sure if you were finished," Ignis said smoothly.
Noct looked down and realized he was still holding Ignis's hand. "Oh, uh, yeah," he said, letting go. "Sorry."
"Think nothing of it," Ignis said softly, getting up and gathering all the gauze and bandages.
It took Noct a few tries to find the dish towels, and probably way longer to clean up than it would have taken Ignis. When Ignis came back down in clean clothes, Noct had to ask him what to do with the towels and put up with Ignis thanking him about eight times for dealing with the mess.
"It's fine, Specky."
Ignis sighed. "It sounded — and felt — like far more liquid came out of the press than I actually put in it."
Noct laughed. It did get... pretty much everywhere. "At least it smells good. The coffee press is done for, though."
"Maybe they'll have another one at the market truck?" Noct tried.
"It can't hurt to check," Ignis agreed.
"Let's go, then," Noct said, wiping his hands off. "Lead the way."
"I'll have to apologize to Monica," Ignis said, reaching for his cane and making his way to the door. "For destruction of property, on top of the mess. Not to mention the waste of good coffee."
"Don't forget the mug," Noct pointed out, following him outside and down the stairs.
"I hadn't," Ignis sniffed, "but thank you."
"It's probably for the best that you broke it," Noct told him. "It said KISS ME on it, and you know Prompto would have taken it as an invitation."
"It did not," Ignis said, offended.
"I'm serious," Noct laughed. "With big pink lips and everything."
Ignis made his way towards the stone steps, frowning. "Do you suppose it was your father's?"
Noct grinned. "Maybe. My money's on Clarus."
Ignis laughed, low and easy.
"Anyway, at least you've got a pretty solid excuse."
Ignis arched his eyebrows, not quite turning his head in Noct's direction. "For attempting to handle boiling water, unsupervised, while newly blind?"
Ignis kept moving, feeling his way over the rocks. "You'll let me know if I drift off-course?"
"You know it."
When Ignis spoke again, his voice was a little rough. "Thank you, Noct."
The truck did have a coffee press after all. It cost an arm and leg and wasn't nearly as nice as Monica's, but Ignis didn't need to know that. They bought some more coffee, too. Ignis took one sniff and knew exactly which valley in Galahd it came from.
After that they made their way back up to the house, one step at a time, and when they got back to the kitchen Ignis said, "Would you mind, terribly, brewing a few cups of coffee?"
"Meh," Noct shrugged. "Not really feeling it. How about you do it, and I'll help."
Ignis ducked his head for a second. "Of course." Then, "Should we fetch the fire extinguisher, just in case?"
Monica came in while they were finally pouring out two fresh hot cups of coffee. She noticed the press and silently arched an eyebrow.
"Sorry, I broke the other one," Noct said, before Ignis could get started. "My bad. I tried to make myself a coffee this morning without adult supervision."
"Of course, Prince Noctis," she said, amused, and left them alone.
It was almost time for lunch by the time they'd finished their coffee, but Noct had Ignis make them breakfast anyway.