Iris laughed as Gladio choked on his dinner. It was just the two of them, sitting on a couch in their apartment. Nothing glamorous, but it was enough for what they needed. Everyone else part of the resistance was in the same boat, after all, living in abandoned apartments as the Niffs continued closing in their ranks.
The rebellion was all that was left against Niflheim. After the fall of the wall because of the king's failing health, there was little to withstand the onslaught of MTs and sudden daemons at night. The once city that never slept, was slowly becoming the battlegrounds between the last stand of Insomnia's rebellion against Niflheim. The abandoned apartments of Insomnia were perfect for hiding out. The streets and other buildings not being used for residency were useful for urban warfare. The remaining Kingsglaive would give the Niflheim a run for their money, and what Gladio would give to be right alongside them.
Over the course of the years, their numbers waned, and now it was just a handful of rebels left. The worst part of it all, their leader and rightful king of Lucis was killed earlier that week. Moral was low and it was tough trying to keep everyone from sinking. Thankfully he had Iris there to remind him of why he was fighting and why they needed to pull through with this asinine plan. In truth, Gladio should have been with the prince, considering he was the prince’s shield, but things had changed.
“You have a what? Come on, Iris. You’re only now telling me?” Gladio sighed, forgetting about his meal for a moment as mediocre as it was. How could he know anything about a boyfriend when his sister just now decided to tell him that she was seeing someone for months.
“What? I couldn’t have told you till now. You’d go and find him and beat him up, Gladdy. I don’t want that,” she said, smirking. “Besides, you had more important things to deal with.”
Gladio could see it, the unshed tears starting to gloss his sister’s eyes as her smile wavered. Of course, she’d wait till the last fucking minute to tell him about a boyfriend. He wasn't around to really be there for her in the last few months. Not with the Niffs drawing closer and closer and his detail of protecting the prince. Not to mention he and their dad were fighting about the cryofreeze they wanted to put him under in hopes of a better future.
'You are a shield and part of the house Amicitia, Gladiolus. Start acting like it.’
Was his father’s way of saying there was nothing more to discuss, despite Gladio being old enough to make his own choices. But this decision was not coming from his father, it was coming from the head of the Kingsglaive along with the Crownsguard now. It was an order to a soldier and not a son. Perhaps he resented that part of his father, wishing that he wasn’t the head of both the Kingsglaive and Crownsguard, the ones everyone were looking to for hope when the king fell.
The two hadn’t spoken since. Gladio too furious at his own dad for wanting to freeze him because of a prophecy their king had before his death, and Clarus-- well who knew what his dad was thinking.
“Nothing's more important than you, moogs,” Gladio reached over ruffled her hair. “But if he’s not treatin’ you right, you tell dad, yeah?”
She nodded, sniffling. “I-I’m going to miss you.”
“Me too, Iris. Me too. Trust me, if I didn’t have to, I would stay right here.” Gladio rubbed the back of his neck. He hated making his sister cry, or even just on the verge of tears. How was he supposed to protect anyone if he couldn’t even keep his kid sister from crying?
“I-I’ll write letters, and maybe even record something for you. You’ll just have to find it, kay?” Iris said, tears now spilling over her eyes.
She hiccuped before flinging her arms around Gladio and cried. He patted her head and held her. Even if she did those things, there was no telling if he’d actually be able to find them. But for her sake he nodded, afraid his voice would crack if he tried to speak. If only she could have come with him. She would have been able to keep him in check and give him something worth fighting for, but it just wasn’t possible. Instead, it would just be him and Noct. He cleared his throat when she finally let go of him.
“Good. Now, did ya make your favourite brother dessert?”
Laughing, she shook her head with an apologetic look. “No. They didn’t have what I needed…..sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry about.” Gladio pushed his plate aside, no longer all that hungry.
He hugged her once more, wanting to convey to her how much he loved her and that no matter the time or distance he always would. He practically raised her when their dad wasn’t around and now that things would only get worse from here on out, he didn’t want her to be alone. Holding her, he had a feeling it would be the last time he’d get a chance to do it. She would grow up while he remained a frozen corpse essentially until they woke him up again.
If he was ever woken up. This was more like a suicide mission really, if no one actually woke him or Noct back up. The thought sent a shudder through him. None of this was to his liking, but with his sister next to him, he finally drifted to sleep. They slept like that until Clarus came to fetch his son the next morning.
“Gladiolus,” Clarus said before sighing.
Gladio ignored him as they walked down the corridor that led to the cryovat chamber. They were several floors below the basement of a building that had served as some sort of science tech lab before Niflheim decided to invade. The way he saw it, the making of the cryovat made Gladio wonder if maybe this was a plan the crown had all along, since the beginning of the invasion. To throw the prince into a cryostasis because they fucked up too much to actually win. He knew he was being bitter and didn’t care.
“You know why you must be the one.” Clarus put a firm hand on Gladio’s shoulder, who was ready to all about shrug it off, but didn’t when he looked up at his dad. “Noct knows you. Your vats are synced up. If he wakes up, so do you and he’ll need you. Along with this.”
Clarus held up a ring. It was small in his father’s large hand. The metallic black held the image of the royal seal of Lucis. In the middle of the seal was an icy blue crystal. Gladio took it gingerly. The only way his dad could have gotten a hold of the ring was to be with King Regis when he died or sought the body after he was killed. Or had King Regis given Clarus the ring before he was killed? So many questions and there was hardly any time for answers. Whatever the answer was, he just hoped that Noct wouldn’t ask him later.
“That is the ring of Lucii and very important if you are going to help his high- his majesty win back the war later.” Gladio could see the pain behind his dad’s eyes. Noct was technically king now, not that the kid acted like it. Not yet anyway, but Gladio would help him. “Everything has been put in place, except your willingness to go.”
“Can you blame me?” Gladio asked shrugging out of his dad’s grip. He glanced to his dad as they made their way into the room that held the cryovat.
Gladio sighed, stuffing the ring into the pocket of his pants, much to his father’s chagrin. The air in the room was chilly, but he knew in moments he would be much colder. People flitted about, working on machines he couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Not that it mattered. He didn’t really want to know what the hell they were doing; Gladio preferred the weight of metal in his hand or a good book. Would they have books when he woke up? He sure as hell hoped so. Maybe they should have packed some gear or something and left it in the room for them? Not like his dad actually told him the plan for how they were supposed to wake up aside from the fact they were going to wake up.
“I’d rather stay and fight, but if Noct needs me fine. I’ll do this.” Gladio stripped himself of the jacket he wore and shirt, knowing that the pants and the shoes were about the only thing coming with him.
The tattoos he got when he joined the Kingsglaive and then later the Crownsguard were revealed. Nothing new to him and Clarus, Gladio could feel the technician’s gaze on his arms. The feather tattoos had been Nyx’s idea, and Gladio had to admit they were pretty nice to look at. What would the future think of his tattoos? Not that it mattered, they were more for him in the first place, just like his father had a pendant of his usual broadsword hanging around his neck. The technician applied pads to his chest when Clarus cleared his throat. Gladio distracted himself by looking at his dad.
“J-Just….keep everyone safe. Kay? And make sure you check on Iris every once in a while, she misses you.”
And I won’t be around to pick up the slack anymore.
“I’ll do my best Gladio.” Clarus came forward with quick strides when the technician was finished hooking Gladio up. He could feel his dad’s love through the hug, strong and a bit hesitant. Neither of them wanted this, but it was the only way to secure the future. Gladio just hoped he and Noct didn’t fuck it up. If they couldn’t do it now with his dad and Cor, he wasn’t so confident they could do it in the future either.
“I’ll do my best too...dad,” Gladio said, a lump forming in his throat.
Sirens blared to life. Shit, Astrals take him, those fucking Niffs had somehow gotten into the cryovat building. Gladio made to grab for his clothes, screw being put into the cryovat. He would fight alongside his dad. They could put the ring in the cryovat alone for all he cared. But Clarus held out a hand and shook his head.
“I’ll make sure they don’t get this far. Get into the vat, now.” Clarus assumed his role as head of the Kingsglaive and the Crownsguard. Gladio didn’t want to part like this, but the order was there and he had been raised to follow orders. “Please... So they can start the process. And Gladio….no matter what happens, I’m proud of you.”
Gladio bit back the tears, watching his dad walk away. Niflheim would pay for what they had done and going to do. Letting it all go, Gladio turned his attention to the machine that would be his home for an insurmountable time. It was large and rather crass compared to some of the tech Insomnia had produced in the past, but then this tech was still fairly new. The large chamber released small puffs crystalized air as it was opened. One of the techs helped him inside, hooking up the remainder of the cables to the machine. When everything was good, the door closed. It took all of Gladio’s will to push down the sudden fear of the enclosed space.
This wouldn’t be the end. He would get woken up again. He had a job to do and he was going to do it. Wait for Noct to wake the fuck up and then kick some ass. A cold crept through him as the air around him began to crystallize as if Shiva herself was freezing him. He watched outside the little window from the vat. He could see the technicians scurry this way and that, shouting something or other. The lights flickered, but the power to the vat stayed the same. Gladio wanted nothing more than to rip open the door, but when his hand went to feel for the handle, he quickly realised there was none. He was trapped until someone would open it for him.
Panicked, he tried to steady his breathing, but it hurt. Gods did it hurt. His breath came out in short bursts of crystallized air. Slowly his body began to shiver and after another minute or so, he couldn’t even feel his legs anymore. He didn’t dare look down at them, panic and fear making him wish he had never set foot in this damned thing. Instead, he focused on the commotion outside the window through his ragged breathing.
Right as his hands started to go numb, he saw it, his father come barreling through the door. Someone had pushed him. Rage and anger filled him, seeing his dad get tossed by some Niff trash. The old man had better get up. Some of the technicians pulled out weapons of their own, coming to his dad’s rescue. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to move his hands to bang on the door of the vat, calling out to his dad.
It was just so damn hard to keep his eyes open.
It was just too damned cold.