Chapter 1: Same boat.
“Dare I say you are wishfully thinking, Royal Advisor?” you asked with a nudge. Ignis turned his head to look at you. And you felt a sting of guilt for lying. He didn’t look like he was wishful thinking. He looked — for lack of better word — sad. This is a wedding you are attending. Gladiolus Amicitia from this day on is a kept man. It was a love-is-in-the-air atmosphere, but he didn’t look all too swayed by it. Neither were you, truth be told. But seeing someone sad at their best friend’s wedding was a bit too gloomy for the atmosphere.
“Admiring the happy couple,” he retorted quickly. You hummed, nodding, sipping champagne from the glass, “They do make a good-looking couple.”
Ignis gave you a once-over, “You look breathtaking.” For a second, you even believed him. For a fleeting moment a human brain barely registered, it seemed as if his breath was indeed taken away. But this was Scientia, the best man at the wedding who took his duty perhaps a bit too seriously. He had been actively socializing with people throughout the day, asking if they were enjoying the ceremony and whatnot. Hearing him complimenting women in their best dressed wasn’t all that shaking.
“You know,” you laughed, “I’d be flattered if you didn’t say it before.”
“Well, I don’t see you gasping for breath.”
“Must you be so cruel?” he laughed with you.
“I get it, being best man and all, must have been stressful,” you spoke when the laughter calmed down. It should be said just in case. You never wanted him to take offense to a silly joke.
“It was,” Scientia admitted, “but I feel strangely elated now.”
“Elated? Can’t you say happy like normal people?” you scoffed. The way he spoke was amusing to you.
“If I didn’t take offense before, I might start now,” he lowly hummed. A faint smile on his face. You reciprocated. The apology came out as a quiet mumble between your lips.
“Do you want to see the pictures?” you suddenly asked, spurred with excitement. Pulling out a phone from a small clutch purse, a grin splayed on your face. This had to be good.
“Have you taken any?” he asked, taken aback. You nodded, giddy with the excitement of seeing his next reaction. The picture you took was one after the group photo session was done. Only for best men and maids of honor. Ignis and Prompto were the only two best men. His Highness couldn’t be one on the grounds of being higher on the social ladder. Being close to the bride you also knew Cor Leonis politely declined, saying he was too old for this. You also heard Gladiolus sulked for days after. You weren’t a maid of honor for two reasons: you didn’t really want to, and four was plenty as it is.
“Good grief,” Scientia mumbled, laced with regret. “Must you be so unforgiving?”
You giggled. It’s not that Ignis was unphotogenic, but the picture you’ve taken captured his frustrated expression. He must be getting tired of the whole “smile for the camera” there. It was cute to you and embarrassing to him.
“I think it captures you nicely.” The comment comes out absentmindedly.
“Ah, is that what you think of me?” he asked.
“It will be for my eyes only, I promise,” you teased, nudging him on a shoulder. Ignis gave you a meaningful look but didn’t say anything against keeping the photo. Something you didn't expect. it would be reasonable for him to ask to delete the picture but he said no such thing.
“May I have this dance?” you asked.
“Did they announce —?”
“No,” a laugh from you, “I’m just asking you.”
“Ah,” Ignis let out a gentle sigh, “forgive me.” He bowed slightly and offered a hand. “May I have this dance?”
“Sure,” you smiled. Though the leather of the glove you could still feel how warm he was. Your other hand snaked up his arm to rest on his broad shoulder. The other gloved palm rested lightly rested on your waistline. Yes, a gentleman just as he looks.
“I must say,” he suddenly spoke, watching your face, “I’m impressed with your photography skills.”
You will die first before you tell him how much your phone camera had been following his face, so, instead, you say, “Lucky, I guess.”
He smiled. No other words followed. Green eyes were either looking at your face or your intertwined hands. It felt peaceful, swaying slowly to the music, while countless others were seemingly drifting far away. Ignis led you confidently and gently in the slow dance. Your eyes could meet his only for a second. Such intense gaze and so close was a bit too much with all the alcohol you’ve consumed.
“Can I steal your beautiful partner, Ig?” a woman’s voice asked. The bride herself had come to retrieve you from the clutches of Scientia. The man stopped in his tracks; shock obvious on his face but only for a moment. Neither expected the newly wedded couple to interrupt the peace and quiet you had shared.
“Be my guest,” he said with a faint smile. His warm gloved hands fell at his sides, letting you go freely. Strange as it was, you felt disappointed by his easy-going nature. He could have pretended to fight for your attention and presence. But then again, it made sense for him not to.
“Come,” the bride nudged, “let’s give those two some room,” she nodded at the two men. Gladiolus let out an amused chuckle. He placed his hand on the best men’s shoulder. The last thing you heard was, “Let’s get a drink, Iggy.”
Bellis took your hand, leading confidently ahead. You silently complained about being whisked away. You'd happily listen to what the two men had to share. What was going to happen was 'girl talk' and you weren't particularly good at contributing to it. Listening, however, was no problem at all. The bride giggled, you heard, but still decided not to question her. It’s her wedding, she’d been drinking and dancing. God knows why she could be giggling. Maybe it’s nerves.
“So, you two get along?” the woman asked, turning to you. Bellis was always quick to action, naturally, she never gave you a moment to reply. Her hands grabbed yours as she moved rhythmically in a mockery dance. You followed suit. This was her wedding, she was a good friend, you'd do many things to keep her happy on this day. Even if it meant being ridiculous.
“You should have seen his face,” you say, looking back. The expression you had witnessed on Ignis’s face… cannot place it. It was something so fragile and intangible, every time you wanted to name it, it slipped away. The words could not perfectly capture that mixture of nostalgia, happiness and a sting of pain. He must have felt very conflicted about something. Something that you'll never get to know.
“Based on your expression,” the bride picked up, “it wasn’t a wide happy smile.”
“I think it’s time he started to think what he wants from this life,” your friend ambiguously answered. “Look to your right.”
You did so. On the right were two couples. One was easy to recognize among all the crowd: King Noctis and his wife. The royal marriage. The dark-haired man was dancing with his wife, a smile tugging at his lips, while the blond woman giggled, hiding her mouth behind her hand. Not far from them was another couple. Both golden-haired, they were dancing to the music in their head, you guessed. But it looked like they had fun. You recognized the golden-haired male. His name was Prompto. You gasped, finally grasping on the meaning behind Bellis’s words.
“I see you understand what I mean,” she teased. You could only nod. It was a miracle how Bellis didn’t grasp on it yet, but you and Ignis were in the same boat. You were growing older and your friends were slowly drifting apart, creating families of their own. And unless you decided to take the reins, you were bound to a life of solitude.
Chapter 2: Same boat, different passenger.
Ignis followed Gladiolus but not before sparing his dance partner one last glance. She looked beautiful. And the dim lights softened her features while illuminating her bright eyes. Strange as it was, he couldn’t remember complimenting her earlier in the day. He must have really stressed himself. It wasn’t even his wedding.
“So, you two getting along?” Gladiolus asked with a nudge. Scientia sighed, exhausted already. He could tell where the conversation was about to stir. It’s not like he hadn’t think about it himself. In fact, he was thinking about it right before you showed up. He looked at his friends, three couples slowly dancing in the distance. Gladiolus and Bellis, Noctis and Lunafreya, Prompto and Cindy. His friends were growing up, moving on to better things, mature things… Marriage and family. He felt the heaviness in his chest as he realized a simple truth: he could be left behind, alone. It was true they were slowly growing apart. They had less and less time to spend with each other. Their bonds as strong as it ever was but there was a good chance it wouldn’t get stronger. Noctis busy with his kingly duties. Gladiolus was now a married man and leading Crownsguard. Not to mention he always wanted kids. Prompto was drifting around Eos as a photographer while still trying to sweep Cindy off her feet. What had he done recently? His job. He was proud of it but as painful as it was to admit it, he didn’t want to marry his job.
“I found her cruel humor refreshing after all the mingling,” Ignis admitted honestly. He wasn’t taken by her. Only by her looks and only for today, she looked mesmerizing. After sweet-talkers and phonies, her mockery was a breath of fresh air. But give him a few days and he will think nothing of her.
“I bet you did,” the groom huffed out, “I swear she is worse than Bellis.”
“Afraid your wife might take after her?”
“Nothing I can’t take,” Gladiolus smirked. Confidence was always his strong suit. Ignis couldn’t imagine what kind of an insult it would have to be to shake it.
“She’s single, you know.”
“I’m not surprised,” Scientia nodded.
“Gee, Ig, that’s harsh,” Gladio accused. Ignis…agreed. It was harsh but he wasn’t going to take it back.
“What did she say to you?”
Ignis contemplated his answer. He found himself very petty, holding a grudge over something so pitiful and small. But since Gladiolus asked himself, Ignis decided to bite the bullet and blame the alcohol later if need be.
“I complimented her, she said I had done so already and called me a liar,” he ended with a frustrated huff. There were two things Ignis Scientia believed himself to never be. He wasn’t a liar. He wasn’t forgetful.
“Grave offense, Iggy,” Amicitia rubbed his forehead in frustration. “Don't you think she was just flirting?”
“I mean it. Look at it this way. You compliment her, she…What did you say, by the way?”
“I said she looked breathtaking.”
“Breathtaking, huh?” Gladiolus chuckled. “High praise from you.”
How he wished he could retort. He wished he could shake it off. Beautiful, delightful, lovely, enchanting and many other things he’d said today. But when he gave her a once over, he thought of this praise and none other.
“So, you throw a compliment,” Gladiolus continued, “and she said your tricks are overused?”
“Something like that,” Scientia begrudgingly agreed. “And she called me a liar.”
“Ignis forgot. Akela missed.”
“I can’t recall saying anything of the sort to her, but why would she lie?”
“To see if she made an impression. And because you always say things like that, Iggy.”
The conversation died down after Gladiolus’s sardonic dismissal. And Ignis was fine with that. Until he heard a sentence he’d rather not hear.
“I hope I can be your best man." The knife was thrown, the bomb was dropped. And Ignis felt his heart sinking to his stomach. His friends were worried about him. He made a deep breath. They do not mean to mock or hurt him; they are worried about his happiness. Just as he would be worried about theirs.
“You have my word, Gladiolus,” was all he could say to that.
“Happy to hear that, Ig.”
Chapter 3: They put you in the same boat.
Ignis and you agreed on a brilliant idea.
You didn’t need help with dating. You had just ended things with another fleeting affair. A few dates and you already figured out what he was all about. Spoilers: it wasn’t you. A good-looking skirt-chaser with a sense of humor and no desire to commit. And that was your problem: choosing men who were not suited for you. The taste you acquired from your childhood was very specific. Emotionally unavailable who tended to sulk and be angry in silence until those emotions numbed enough or burst. And neither did you any good ever. If you tried to deviate from that pattern, you chose individuals who were even less suited for you. If Bellis wanted to help, she should have paid for your therapist and not a ticket to a speed dating event. But now that the couple had returned from their honeymoon, you could feel in your bones Bellis would not leave you to live your life in peace.
“Bloody hell,” you say as you spot someone familiar. The brain panicked upon seeing someone familiar before you could even name the person. But you remembered fast. Ignis Scientia was standing just ahead of you, speaking with the receptionist. It makes sense, doesn’t it? He is friends with Gladiolus who is married to Bellis now. Why wouldn’t they give you, two single friends, tickets to this showcase of desperation.
“Let me guess, Gladiolus?” you asked, coming to his side.
“Not a hard guess, is it?” Ignis asked calmly. His voice was even enough to hide the surprise of your sudden appearance. It’s the way his hand twitched on the reception table that gave him away. You flashed him a smile and proceeded to walk inside.
“It’s going to be a long evening,” he added bitterly. You still heard it. There was no doubt in your mind he meant you.
The displeasure you felt wasn’t something you tried to hide. Some guy was also wearing a god-awful cologne, which gave you a mild headache. Speed dating should be banned. Outlawed. And whoever came up with the idea should be put behind bars or in a mental institution. The candidates were… questionable. Liars, creeps and con artists, the lot of them.
“There,” a voice spoke close to you. The voice was also terribly familiar. As you turned around, your eyes were met with a towering figure.
“You look like you need it,” Ignis added softer this time. Your eyes followed his gaze, falling on a bottle of water he offered.
“Thank you,” was all that came out. You wished to graciously take the bottle from his hands, but your grip was desperate. Cold water did you some good. A brain freeze might even be better in this circumstance.
“I must confess,” he continued, “seeing you going through the same ordeal made my suffering a little more bearable.”
“Very eloquent way to admit you are a sadist,” you derided.
“Not at all what I meant,” he dejected. “No matter. Do you need a ride?”
“I’m asking if you need a ride home,” he explained. The expression that fell on his face spoke what he thought of you. You were either socially inept or an idiot in his eyes. Perhaps even both. And while the offer is tempting considering the time of the day, you could not accept.
“Why?” you asked, confused.
“It’s late,” Scientia offered a very sensible answer.
“We aren’t friends?” It was obvious that you were not friends. So obvious neither of you tried to pretend otherwise. You’ve met a very few times before the wedding, mostly holidays that were far and between. The very first time you met him… Did he remember? That would make for some good conversation.
“No, we are not,” Ignis agreed. “However, I have no desire to face the wrath of our mutual friends in case something were to happen to you.”
Well, gee, thanks. How nice it is for him to admit everything. No, he was not doing it out of his good nature. He was not being a gentleman either. He just felt somewhat socially obligated. Damn it, Ignis wasn’t even doing it because you made a good impression and he wanted to become friends.
“Um, thanks, but I, ugh,” you tried to give a sensible reply. Under his intense gaze and grating admittances, you felt very lost and very small. He was being nice because he felt he should be nice. And that was just off-putting.
“I am not going home. I’m hungry and it would be too late to cook by the time I get home,” you say, backing away slowly. Spare the guy the need to drive you around. And yourself the need to be in the car with him.
“I don’t mind,” Ignis simply stated. This was a bit surprising and frustrating, considering you were giving him plenty of room to back away from his niceness. And yet Ignis just didn’t politely bow out. He couldn't be this dense, could he?
“A-are you sure?” you ask in hopes he’d get it.
“Of course. In fact, I have a recommendation.”
“I must say,” you say teasingly.
“Go on,” he deadpanned.
“You know good food,” you finish, meeting his eyes. In certain light and angle, his stare isn’t so scrutinizing as you tend to find it. Sometimes Scientia even looks like a person. But he only huffed in response with a rather tired heaviness to it. Ignis nodded, wished you both to enjoy your meals. You ate in silence. It wasn’t quiet in the diner. The speakers were still playing music. The atmosphere was welcoming and pleasant. But only if you didn’t look right ahead of you. Your companion was a very intense person even when he said absolutely nothing. His confident and barely relaxed posture and small bites in which he consumed his food. You felt like a heathen compared to him despite the fact you did absolutely nothing wrong. You didn’t even leave crumbs and yet…
“I’m glad to have met you today,” he said. Ignis was just as unnerved by the silence between as you were. And by the tone, you could guess that this conversation was about to turn sour very soon.
Without wanting to know the answer, you still ask, “Why?”
“I got the tickets the same way you did, which makes me suspect the same rules were applied to you.”
Ah, yes. Bellis didn’t just give you that ticket. No, she emotionally manipulated you and after her mission was accomplished, she required proof of your visitation. You guessed a picture would be proof enough, but Scientia’s presence was a much better alibi.
“Aw, shit.” It just happened to come out.
“Not how I would say it yet accurate,” Ignis nodded.
“Well, we are each other’s proof, so what?”
“I’m afraid it might not be the last attempt.”
“Oh indeed. So, I have a proposal.”
“I’m listening, smarty-pants,” you lean forward.
“Let’s exchange contact information and share whatever social events our friends…obligate us to attend. If it so happens we were to meet there, we can coordinate our stories —”
“And not go!” you exclaim joyfully. “I’m in!” This was a perfect solution to everything. No longer would you have to endure the stress of unexpectedly running into him and make an idiot out of yourself. Without any other word, Ignis simply takes out his phone. You quickly exchange information. This sealed your pact. But when you were about to return to your food, something just didn’t feel right. You knew your motivations to avoid all the romance options Bellis was pushing on you. There are many reasons why. For one, her idea of meeting a potential romantic partner is grossly unrealistic by your judgment. Her meeting Gladiolus was a tad unusual, but it wasn’t anything out of a fairy-tail either. It left you wondering where her ideas were coming from. And if they were hers to begin with… No matter. There’s also your bad taste in men. Bellis should really invest in your therapy instead of ridiculous social events. But why did Scientia was so against going out and putting himself out there?
“Why though?” you asked. Ignis stopped moving the fork closer to his mouth. You surprised him, huh.
“Simple reasons,” he shrugged. “I have little time for those kinds of things.”
“No, ridiculous notions about it,” he shook his head. “Even if the person fitted for me was sitting in front of me at that table, how could I ever tell so?”
“True,” you agreed.
That took you by surprise. People often return questions asked, but you didn’t expect him to be interested in your lack of interest in finding romance as soon as possible. He didn’t make that impression and he had done nothing to change your perception.
“I don’t believe in convenient romance,” you replied. The romance sprouting from being friends or by working in overlapping fields was all too good to be true. You have tried both options and it didn’t work once. Your views went from believing relationships were to develop naturally to being…deterministic. Make or break. Relationships are hard. Relationships require determination, communication and many other things from both partners. Since you sucked at choosing the right ones, you slowly burned out of the desire to invest in them too much too soon.
“Perhaps too many struggles in romance is a sign of a bad romance,” Ignis parried.
“I’m not saying otherwise, I just don’t think I’d meet them within a circle of friends or work,” you explain. Terribly so. Your explanation made little sense now that you said it out loud. But it made sense to you. The people you worked with were very different people from your circle of friends. And those also differed wildly from the people you were having crushes on. Colleagues were instantly crossed from the potential dates. A messy thing. The friends you kept were usually warm and kind people. Like Bellis. She was giggles and support personified. With a streak of mean-when-necessary, she felt welcoming and accepting to you.
“Romances born out of friendship and familiar circles tend to be more successful statistically,” Scientia noted.
“But if it falls through, you lose a lover and a friend.”
“I sense there’s a story, but I won’t pry,” he replied. It stunned you. He had graciously and kindly given you room to think about what you had just said. And how you said it. Alright, you had seen your share of failed attempts at forever after. More than him, most likely. And you were tired of chasing this wild goose. If there was a man meant for you, he better chase after you. But this conversation cannot become about your issues. You’d rather drag them out from him.
“For someone believing in that kind of romance,” you say with a growing smile, “you don’t seem to be aware of your reputation.”
“You have slighted many women in the Citadel by rejecting them so cruelly.” You were mocking him just as cruelly. Knowing it didn’t make you feel better about yourself one bit. Just a moment ago he had shown certain grace and benevolence by not prying into your matters of heart and mind. So, you decided to prob his.
“Of the ones I was aware of, I had only rejected women working in my department,” Ignis explained, collected and unbothered. “Given my position, I cannot afford to romance those under me.”
You’d mock him but he had a good point. He held a position of power over many. Dating one of his subordinates would cause a lot of problems. It would damage his professional reputation and put his ethics in question. Not to mention the mean-tongued rumours and scandals that could erupt in case of romantic failures or successes.
“That’s all the women in the Citadel, which narrows your dating pool,” you sneered.
“Not all,” Ignis disputed. Something about his voice tugged at your heartstrings. “Just my direct subordinates.” He sounded almost buoyant. It made you want to see Ignis Scientia dating someone. Would he be sitting just as confident across his date as he was across from you? Would he sound just as humoured? But that was a fleeting thought. You much rather hope to find your own partner than watch him find his.
“Okay, I’m ready to go home.”
Chapter 4: Two-for-one ticket.
You: You got invited to the comedy show?
You: I hoped not. It makes no sense.
Scientia: Whatever do you mean?
You: Why would they expect you to enjoy comedy?
Scientia: I will not be attending. Enjoy your evening.
You: They’ll miss you.
Scientia: You have no interest in lectures regarding the newest discoveries of alternative energy, do you?
You: I do but I can take a hint.
Scientia: Now I feel guilty for taking away this opportunity from you.
You: You better.
Scientia: We should start this conversation again. Please provide easy to understand answers.
You: You really gonna show this convo as proof? Okay…
Scientia: You must have gotten the invitation to the Haunted Castle at the Citadel.
You: I work here too, you know.
Scientia: Gladiolus is bugging me to go at least this once.
You: I got you. I’ll tell him all about how unimpressed you were if asked.
Scientia: You have my thanks.
You: Ooo, I’ll be seeing you today.
Scientia: Your excitement is disturbing.
You: Meh, I just thought you’d come up with some lame last-minute excuse.
Scientia: Apologies for letting you down.
You quickly moved across the ground hall. Everyone was slowly leaving the Citadel now that the workday was over. But your feet were carrying you with newfound lightness. He’d never seen you in such a state. Despite seeing you being joyful in the company of your friend. Something good must have happened. And while he noticed you in the corner of his eye, he had no intention of stopping you. That was, of course, not all the reality he had to face.
“Oi!” Amicitia called out. “Where are you heading to?”
“Home,” you turned around to look at them. “It’s the weekend!” And you smiled. Wide and happy. Ignis hadn’t seen that either. Gladiolus gestured for you to join them for a few minutes, “Weekend comes every week, why are you so happy?” Your grin grew wider, pulling something out from your purse. Gladio examined the slip of paper you offered. He’d seen it before.
“Another connoisseur of arts,” he commented, looking at the ticket. “You know, Ig—”
“You have taste,” Scientia said stealing a peek at the ticket. And you graced him with an unpleasant stare.
“Okay, give it back,” you asked and extended your hand. Gladiolus easily complied, “Go on, run along.”
“I better,” you curtsy, “before Ignis starts offering me a ride.”
Ignis heard Gladio’s thunderous laugh the moment you were out of the earshot. He laughed and laughed, placing a heavy hand on his shoulder. Amusement wasn't shared. Instead Ignis let out a sigh of frustration. He understood exactly why his friend was so amused. More importantly, Gladiolus was about to blurt out things to you that would complicate the matter. The two of you happened to enjoy the same artist but Ignis didn’t entertain the ideas you could potentially get from knowing he would be coming too. A mere coincidence, that’s all. Unless..?
“You expected me to ask her?” Ignis asked, shaking his head. He tried to subtly give enough clues to his friend he wasn’t interested in pursuing you. He would find his partner on his own terms and in his own time. Besides, why would he invite you to visit an art exhibition? Oh, right. Both Amicitias thought you were on more amicable terms through your agreement. That allowed you to avoid meeting each other or deceive your mutual friend you had been in each other presence. While Ignis felt guilty, that was all to your agreement. Neither was aiming to lie to your dear ones about the actual level of your closeness.
“I didn’t expect you to ask her,” Gladiolus answered after calming down, “but I wanted you to ask someone.”
Ignis pulled out his wallet. Two tickets to the Gainsborough exhibition. Gladio knew Ignis better than anyone.
“Hey,” he said. A pat on Ignis’s back was very forceful. “I just want you to be happy. If it is with or without her, I’m fine either way.”
“I understand,” he nodded. He truly did understand the best intentions Gladiolus had. But he also needed to do something with a spare ticket. There wasn’t nearly enough time for him to get a date so soon.
“How about Refia?” Gladiolus nudged.
“Ridiculous, Gladio,” Scientia scolded. “She’s much younger than myself.”
“Ah, so you are into older women?”
“I prefer someone close to my age, thank you very much.”
Fingers nervously tapping at his phone. Ignis never thought he’d find himself stuck in such a stupid conundrum. Should he tell you that he was also going there or should he no bother himself with such questions? You couldn’t monopolize the exhibition. It wasn’t that you couldn’t stand each other’s presence. But Ignis didn’t expect for you to embrace his company. After that look you gave him when he commented about your taste or the one you graced him with when he offered to drop you home… Whatever he did to gain such a scornful look on your face, he was sorry. You seemed to take offense to every action and word coming from him. But it didn’t hinder him so much as to bow down and ask for forgiveness. You had said some things too. And that unflattering picture you had taken too... No matter. He pressed the button. He wasn’t a coward. This was a stupid conundrum.
“What happened?” your voice worried on the phone.
“Whatever do you mean?” he asked in return.
“Why are you calling me?” Well, this was bound to rub him the wrong way. Technically, you were on amicable terms. Technically, you shared a group of friends. Technically, you were supposed to get closer if only for the sake of your mutual friends. But you both decided to remain as distant as before for your own personal comforts.
“To tell you about the art exhibition,” he said calmly. “I have my tickets already. I should have mentioned it today.”
“I should have known,” came from you. “Gladiolus was too excited when he saw the ticket.”
“They — It was a gift on his part,” Ignis explained.
“Lucky, I had to buy my own,” you said. “Dunno why you had the need to tell me and what should I say.”
“Think of it as a courtesy,” Ignis replied. He felt like he should have told you beforehand even if he couldn’t quite place the reason. Perhaps it was all the recent texting that got him thinking this way. Perhaps he should have offered to give you a ride. You weren’t a stranger and you were going there as well... But then he remembered your face and the things you said. You weren’t strangers but you weren’t’ friends either. We aren’t friends? And how you escaped the situation earlier today. Before Ignis starts offering me a ride. You’d be fine on your own. That was a decision he didn’t come to regret. In less then a month, he had encountered you again at the exhibition.
“You are out of your office, you know,” your voice said from behind. Ignis needed a moment to prepare himself to face you. Your humor left a lot to be desired. As he predicted, it was refreshing after a day of restless mingling but after it was but wicked humour.
“Well aware, thank you,” he said with a slight bow.
“You really prefer to dress this way?” you asked. The way you phrased the question left him irked. Whatever do you mean by that? “I guess it makes sense,” you added. Whatever do you mean by that? And then you started talking about how you should proceed around the gallery, suggesting that you follow the halls by the dates collections were released. Chronologically. He was taken aback by the suggestion. There was no obligation to spend this time together but if that’s what you wished for then he would go with it. Ignis was a gentleman, he would not refuse a woman.
The conversation was easier than he imagined it would be.
“This is my favourite piece,” you said pointing at the painting. Ignis was familiar with the piece. Not the most famous one but certainly with unique charm. The ruins of a church with the night sky above. There was a clearing at the ruins that reflected the moon above.
“What’s your favourite piece?” you asked staring at the painting. He had to think for few moments. The fact he regarded the question childish shouldn’t be mentioned.
“The Lifestream,” he answered.
“I see you are a man of culture,” you smiled at him. Fleetingly but at least it was genuine. Perhaps he was wrong to be so opposed to your company. Once you got over your…eh…something, you were very easy to be around. Your condescending and hostile attitude had dissipated. You didn’t regard him as a suspicious element.
“Perhaps,” he smiled too, “but why The Church in the Slums?” You didn’t say anything. Instead, you placed your hands on him and pulled him away from the painting. Ignis tensed. Invading his personal space so frivolously…
“Look at it,” you said.
“I am.” If you had something to say you may have as well already said it. “What am I to see?”
“Doesn’t it look like the pond is holding the moon?”
“That is how reflections work,” he replied obliviously.
“No,” you protested eagerly, invading his personal space again by slapping his arm. “The pond is the source of light. Look.”
And he did. And he saw it. The pond was illuminated by the moonlight. Or perhaps it was the source of moonlight itself.
“I see,” he nodded and stepped away from you. Too close for comfort is what you were. “Let’s continue.”
“Ya know, you aren’t as bad as you look” you spoke again, following him a few steps behind. Could it be you were giving him space?
“For all your posh and over-the-top demeanor, you are not so bad to talk to once in a while.” And he let go of it despite all the possible interpretations of such flattery. Your choice of words left much to be desired. Careless is a simple way to put it. And thoughtless would be more accurate. Yet he didn’t find any desire to thank you for such a backhanded compliment.
The new Mako series depicted a rather cyberpunk city, often sunless, with white flowers growing in the most surprising of places. The one with a large flower sprouting thought the cracks in the cement, that’s the one that got you stuck there for a while. It wasn’t the best time to bring up that topic, but it not like you found each other’s company to be that much a pleasure.
“May I ask you a question?” Scientia faced you. You didn’t want to answer, he could tell, and yet you agreed. Meekly as if you were doing him a favor by doing so. “Why did approach me at the wedding?” The question had been on his mind for some time. He decided not to ask about the picture you had taken or whether you still had it. Because he didn’t like the idea of you possibly still having it and knowing it. As to why you took it… there were more important matters in the world to frat about. Most likely it was for the sense of twisted joy or even blackmail. And neither scared him.
Your face fell, “Ugh, it’s because… the way you looked then. Your face… that expression. I didn’t think it was an expression suited for the wedding of your friend.” Ignis stifled a laugh. You pitied him. Of all the people in the city, he would expect someone more accomplished to pity him.
“Not only do you consider me a sycophant and a liar, but you also pity me,” he spoke with twisted amusement in his voice. “I’d ask what else you think of me, but I can’t bring myself to care.”
“That’s fine by me.” Your agreement came out too easily to ponder it. You had no care then why should he?
“It’s settled then.” With that, he moved on. Such a wonderful opportunity to enjoy art should not be wasted on the likes of you. He spared one last look just to make sure. So unbothered by what had just happened. Unmoved. It mattered not, the only thing you wounded was his pride.
Chapter 5: Opinions we form.
“I know when you are pissed off, Iggy,” Gladiolus noted.
“Am not,” Ignis rebuked, tapping his foot. He wasn’t so oblivious to his behaviour as to not know.
“Sure,” Gladiolus groaned, “you’ve been like this all day. There’s a deep line your forehead, you are tapping your foot. You are pissed.” This time it was Ignis who groaned. How could be so careless as to let his frustrations be noticeable? While that could be blamed on the trust he shared with Gladio, there was another reason he didn’t like his obvious behaviour. His frustrations had to do with you. And admitting that would be hard and troublesome.
“What’s up, Iggy?” Amicitia did not relent. Well, Ignis might want to bite the bullet. There was no stopping his friend now that he was worried. The last thing Ignis wanted is to give his friends a reason for worrying.
“It’s her,” he admitted. Gladiolus let out a short laugh but collected himself fast enough. The amusement in his eyes told enough. Ignis didn’t appreciate it. His friend would prob the matter further which wasn’t welcomed. The woman was nothing but — as one might say — a prick. And he was fine without knowing her briefly.
“This ought to be good,” Gladio mused. “Spill the beans.” Scientia breathed in and out, leaning back in his chair, collecting his thoughts on the matter and filtered out all the insults.
“Perhaps that’s for the best,” he pondered. “It’s a trivial matter, truly. Her opinion of me is that I am a sycophant, a liar and that I should be pitied.”
“She couldn’t have said that,” Gladiolus shook his head.
“But it is so,” Scientia confirmed.
“I feel like we’ve been over this,” Gladio rubbed his forehead in frustration, “but what did she say exactly?”
“I asked her why she approached me at the wedding. She said it was the expression I wore.”
“I don’t hear the word pitiful.”
“The expression I wore was pitiful.”
“Sure, but did she say it?”
There weren’t many opportunities where Ignis couldn’t take control of the conversation and win an argument. But this one was one of those rare occurrences. He hit his desk in frustration. This was pitiful of him and incredibly petty. He decided something so carelessly. And he arrived to that conclusion because of the opinion he held of you. He fit your thoughtless words into a narrative that fit his dislike of your personality. The personality he didn’t mind while you were in the gallery. Why did he rebuke you? You were a stranger. A foreign object. He knew and understood that you would be a new person slowly gravitating towards his circle of friends. Even Gladio already liked you. He just didn’t wish for you to invade…
“My job here is done,” Gladiolus sounded victorious. He opened the door of the office to leave.
“You didn't do anything,” Ignis retaliated. But that came out too late, his friend was already gone. For the best. As much as it hurt his pride to admit it, Gladiolus did more good here than Ignis could ever do on his own. As to how he should apologize…
Chapter 6: Simple man.
Scientia: I want to apologize for my behaviour. Could you come to my office during your lunch?
Your fingers were nervously tapping on your desk. You were surprised and perturbed by the sudden invitation. While you were willing to accept an apology, you couldn’t see a reason why. The two you worked out a perfect way to avoid each other in social situations whoever unpredictable your friends might make them. Friends…Bellis. She wouldn’t like to hear what had happened. She wouldn’t like to hear I refused to listen to another one of her friends. In case Ignis leaked the information about the unpleasant scene that happened during the viewing, you wanted to be the bigger person in the situation.
You: Sure, but start by buying me lunch.
When the time had come, you headed to Scientia’s office, giving a pathetic excuse to your curious colleagues. None needed to know you had Scientia’s personal phone number saved. That would shift the dynamic you had built with each and every one of them.
The door of his office felt ominous. Once you step inside, you couldn’t turn back. And there’s also the fact that you would be alone with him. Not in public or surrounded by friends. Only the two of you and four walls. Dreadful. But still, you knock on the door and receive a quiet invitation to come in. Your eyes were expected to find him at his desk but there wasn’t anyone sitting there.
“Over here,” the voice called. Ignis was sitting on a leather couch already picking up on his lunch. Next to his container was another one left untouched. That was too close for comfort but eating behind a work desk wasn’t the best idea either. Thus, you were placing yourself beside him.
“I apologize for my outburst,” Ignis started, leaning forward. He placed his elbows on his knees as his head heavily rested upon his clasped palms. “If anything, you were being honest with me and I couldn’t face the music.”
That was a bit abrupt. You didn’t think he’d place you up on a pedestal so quickly. Quickly regaining your composure, you cleared your throat and gathered your thoughts. No, there had been only one thought on your mind regarding this matter.
“I didn’t pity you,” you shot straight, “and I didn’t find you pitiful. I guess I just understood what it’s like to watch your friends move on to the things you couldn’t reach yet. And the fear of being left behind.”
“I-I know,” Ignis confessed with a heavy, burdened sigh. “You never even said as much. I jumped to a conclusion based on every interaction we previously had. I am truly sorry.”
“Okay,” you pathetically submit. You couldn’t quite grasp what had him thinking you detested him. It was a simple dislike without any particular feeling attached. There were two major things that you disliked but then you considered his position... it was to be expected. His obligatory pleasantness and conceited nature were to be expected of a man in a position of great power and status.
“Perhaps I even came to that conclusion because I found myself pitiful,” he admitted with a soft chuckle. That was not something you expected from a man who was so…prideful and quick to take offense. On the other hand, perhaps your whole perception was wrong. But what do you say to this sort of confession?
“If so, then I am pitiful too,” you said. “After all, we both got invitations to the speed date thing.”
“She is just trying to look out for your happiness.” Your eyes finally met. They were not as scrutinizing as before. They were rather ordinary in their soft green hue. The eyes of a very ordinary man.
“I know but trying to get us together is ridiculous,” you replied.
“Do not misunderstand, I completely agree. Nonetheless, I’d like to know what in your opinion she is doing wrong.”
“I am not like her,” you shrugged as if it was obvious. “I am not Bellis. I’d be more comfortable with someone of my own station,” you replied, averting your gaze.
“What’s so special about her that she decided to climb up then?” Ignis sounded amused by the conversation topic. You weren’t entertained in the slightest. A deep sigh escapes you. He confided something in you, didn’t he?
“Ugh, but it’s Gladiolus,” you said. “He’s so down-to-earth and easy to get along with,” your gaze met his. There was no easy way to say that Ignis wasn’t as approachable as his friend. They way they talked was drastically different. You could forget that Amicitia was way above you on the payroll and social ladder because he acted just like you. His speech was simple, and his desires were simple too. But Ignis wasn’t as simple as the rest. He had a posh, refined way of using words and causality never seemed to be an option with him.
“He is a simple man, I mean it in the best of ways,” you continued your clumsy explanation. “He enjoys the simple things like good food and an evening surrounded by loved ones. He goes camping and buys his wife flowers on holidays. He hugs her in public without any regard for who might be looking and is very open about why he got married to her. He’s a rare catch, I should say.”
The thoughtful humming coming from Scientia unnerved you. You tried to soften the blow.
“Judging by what you said, I believe you picture me to be a very different man then,” the man said, a little amused. “A complex one, I might guess.”
“Sorta,” you awkwardly agreed.
“What makes you think I do not enjoy the simple things in life?”
“You just seem so… stern and posh and…”
You couldn’t put it into words. Ignis, as you observed, was many things. One of them was prideful. While his speech was refined that didn’t spare him the slight he could cause. You have taste. Where was his polished way of speaking then? He could add one simple word like fine and you wouldn’t misunderstand. Perhaps that one was on you. And there’s also his obligatory niceness that drove you up a tree.
“Perhaps I’ve made a wrong impression on you,” Ignis said with a hint of a smile.
“Well, you can help mend it by stop being fake nice to me,” you offered. “Don’t offer to do something for me out of propriety or some expectations.”
He laughed. Openly, without holding back. It was a brief moment of respite. “I do not know what caused you to think I had ever been so insincere.”
“You said so yourself!” you were quick to object. “'I have no desire to face the wrath of our mutual friends!'”
“You are either foolish or incredibly forgetful,” he rebuked. “I stated the reason for my offer was the time of the day. Yet you implied my offer was malicious since we were not friends.”
You didn’t think he was malicious that time. Just insincere. You were not friends, why would he give you a ride home? He didn’t even know where exactly you lived. It could have been across the city. Right.
“You did,” you meekly agreed. You misplaced your trust in the goodness of an acquaintance. Ignis chuckled. “I’m sorry,” you sincerely said, looking up at him.
“No matter,” Ignis dismissed the apology. “What have I done to deserve your distrust?”
“The wedding,” you said, turning away. So ashamed of your quick judgment and the slight you caused, you hid your face in your hands. “You were going around complimenting women.”
“And what about it?” he earnestly asked.
“You really thought what you said to each of them?” Why was your heart beating so fast? Why were you dreading the answer? Why did you already know you had misunderstood him again?
“I do not recall seeing a single woman who didn’t look like she put an effort into her appearance,” Scientia answered. He finished with a snarky remark, “But pardon me for being a gentleman.”
You had your share of men in your unsuccessful love life. You must have decided you knew how their brains worked. Perhaps you were correct in your assumptions, but you shouldn’t have used him on Ignis too. “I’m an idiot,” the confession came out in a whisper. But not hushed enough for another party to ignore it.
“I am partly to blame,” Ignis said calmly. “I should have cleared any misunderstanding you had about me but never bothered. I decided it was easier to dismiss you as thoughtless and inconsiderate.”
“That’s nice,” you mumbled, clearly hurt.
“I’m not saying I still think of you this way,” another heavy sigh escaped his lips, “but I felt comfortable when I did.”
Gathering some courage to face his stern face again, you raised your head, “Really?”
“Yes,” the man nodded. “As it turned out, you were merely an idiot.” He joked. Of course, he joked. But even in a joking way only you could say such things about yourself, he wasn’t allowed. You'd punch his shoulder but it would probably hurt you more than him. And given how he tensed when you touched him in the gallery, you decided against it. You invaded his personal space without any good reason to. Idiot.
“Forgive me, I was just teasing,” he spoke genuinely.
“I got it,” you meekly said. “I have to go back.”
“Please, take the food with you.”
You took the container from the table very aware that he was observing you. You stood up from the couch, unsure of what you should or shouldn’t say. Should you simply say goodbye? Or leave with a see-you-later? Fingers nervously fidgeting, nails digging into the material of your dress pants.
“I am glad we had this talk,” Ignis spoke in your stead.
“Yeah, me too.”
Chapter 7: Nothing like a crisis.
It’s not like that conversation with Ignis solved everything about the two of you and you became best pals, thick as thieves mates. Nuh-uh. You thought about inviting for a coffee or something after work but who drinks coffee after work? And what would you talk to him about? But today you didn’t have to dwell about anything like that. A certain image had found its way to the public and the whole department was buzzing in retaliation. This was a crisis of public perception. The Kingdom of Lucis was exactly that — a kingdom. There was an established monarchy that had a lot to say about the affairs and policies of this land. People’s perception of the royal family and the affairs of the Citadel was crucial for the lack of rebellions and such. But then some guy with a camera gets a picture that could be misinterpreted, and it blows into the faces of people like you.
You needed to calm down a bit. Open air and height gave you some perspective. Your phone buzzed in your pocket and you hoped it wasn’t another Moogle alert for another article being published online. The whole department was managing the public perception crisis since morning. The official statement was already published explaining the misunderstanding but it never stopped anyone from stirring the pot anyway.
Scientia: How are you faring?
Now, this is rich, you thought, huffing out some air. The warm breath visible in the cold air but vanishing just as quickly.
You: [file attached]
Scientia: Familiar view.
You: Careful. It sounds like you leave your office once in a while.
Scientia: Must you be this way?
You: It’s in my employment contract.
The outside was very refreshing and calming. You just wished you had taken your jacket with you before hurrying out from the department briefing. The crisis will be managed. It wasn’t the first, won’t be the last either. But your stress hormones needed to go down and soon because you couldn’t tell why exactly you were shaking. Was it cold or stress? No one else was out here which was reasonable of them. That's precisely why you came out here. It was a sudden decision. You just knew you had to leave and find some way to calm down. And then you saw an opportunity.
“I do hope you won’t jump,” Ignis said. You would be surprised if you didn’t anticipate something like this. He abruptly messaged you. And then you very much gave out your location. You just couldn't comprehend why. Unless he really did think you'd jump...
“Here,” he said, taking off his jacket. You watched him. The jacket came to rest on your shoulders offering the little warmth it had collected. It wasn’t much improvement from your freezing state but at least it was immediate.
“Ah, I forgot, you are gentleman,” you said instead. Not without a hint of teasing either.
“You’d rather prefer I wasn’t?” Scientia asked, crossing his arms.
“I just don’t understand your motivation for coming here.”
“And simple human compassion isn’t enough?” You didn’t reply anything to that. Ignis sighed and told you to follow him. For a moment you wondered what if you refused to. How would he get his jacket back? Ask for it or just take it? But you didn't manage to just stand there. He looked back at you over his shoulder, and you followed him. He led you to his office and told you to sit down. You didn’t know what he was planning to do. Neither did you want to ask. So, you sat there biting your nails.
“It occurred to me,” he said without turning to you, “we don’t know much about each other.”
“Because there’s no need for that,” you noted. Ignis moved around his office with two food containers. He placed one before you. It was peppery daggerquill rice.
“I hope you don’t mind a little spice,” he said.
“No, quite like it, actually,” you replied unsure, remembering the first time you were introduced to each other. I wonder… He sat down. You recalled the last conversation you had here last time. Oddly familiar and about just as uncomfortable as before. You watched him. There wasn’t much else to look at. His office while grand and organized but it was just that — another office. The standard of the Citadel.
“Dig in,” he prompted you pointing at the food container with his fork.
“Why?” you asked mindlessly.
“It’s lunchtime,” Ignis frowned. You grew too familiar with this look in his face. He must think you to be an idiot. And to his credit, you realized what you said after the fact. You said okay and decided to follow his command. He was offering food. You’d take food any time of the day. And it wasn’t Citadel cafeteria food either which is always a bonus. But aside from the food, you couldn’t enjoy anything else. It was quiet between the two of you. So much so you were acutely aware of the plastic fork scraping the container and your chewing.
“Let’s get to know each other, I guess,” you lamely offered.
“Ladies first,” he said. That was not the first time his gentlemanly nature annoyed you but this time you expected it. Maybe his gentlemanly nature should have spared you the falling on a sword but…
“Let me think for a sec,” you said. There must be something you’d want to share with someone like him. There must be something you could say to impress him. Or even surprise him a little. Something he would never suspect. But you had no clue what that thing could be. There wasn’t anything interesting about you, you knew that fact well. After all, you had to live with yourself. God, you are boring and very single and growing old. “I don’t like cooking for people unlike you,” you spoke.
“You must have noticed then,” Ignis replied with certain gentleness you’d never heard before from him. As if it was a big secret that he enjoyed cooking for others. You didn’t know if he enjoyed cooking for himself though.
“In fact, I don’t like cooking at all,” you continued. “But I am always happy to treat friends to their favourites.”
“Ah, should I take advantage of it then?”
“This is the second time you are feeding me,” you said, “I am very much feeding this idea to you. Let me treat you.”
“If you insist,” Ignis said with a smile, “ but let’s work out the details later.”
“You got it,” you finger-gunned at him. “Now your turn.”
“Anything you’d like to know?”
“I dunno,” your words were getting lamer and lamer. “Tell me something you would want any person you meet to know. I’m sure you have a few things people always get wrong about you.”
“Why would you get that idea?” he asked, raising a brow. “Personal experience?” And he smiled. Ignis Scientia poked fun at you. You found it oddly endearing. Look at him being social and human and simple. What else could he do? Sleep at night like all the rest of us simple mortals?
“Yes!” you agreed. “Now spill.”
“Well, when it came to you, I should have told you to jump today.”
You exploded. What the hell was that? You leaned back into the couch, laughing, with your mind cleared from any negative thought you had today. A moment of respite. He was the one who granted you one.
“Good to hear you laugh,” he said, “instead of watching you bite your nails.”
“Bad habit, I know,” you were quick to get defensive about it. But Ignis only hummed. There was a moment of quiet. And then your phone chimed with a text message that you knew by the sound was from Belly.
“Sorry,” you said before getting out your phone.
Belly: Where are you?
You: Scientia’s office.
Belly: ( ͡o ͜ʖ ͡o)
Belly: He figured you out fast.
You: Are you gonna come or what?
When you stopped staring at the screen of your phone, you shivered at the feel of someone’s eyes on you. Ignis was watching you this entire time, you had no doubt, you just failed to notice it.
“Sorry,” you said before meeting his eyes.
“Should I expect Bellis at my office soon?” he asked with a smile. There was something about his smile, you couldn’t put it into words. As if you were ever any good with words. But you liked when he smiled. All the smiles you recently observed were sincere, they were reaching his eyes. He looked content even. Scientia’s smile was something you wanted to see more of.
“Yeah, sorry, I should go ca—”
“Don’t worry,” he interrupted, “she will be bringing Gladio with her. I do not mind the company.” He was oddly…soft today, you caught yourself thinking. Warm and comforting as a soft light in the night. It was drawing you in. Ignis was, in fact, a very different person if you bothered to get to know him better. His job did not define him. And you took him at face value.
The door opened. Your friend barged in. Before you could even process what was happening, Belly was hugging you. “You okay?” she asked, pulling you closer. This woman was strong, you realized in the tight embrace. It came from a place of friendship and care. You, however, were still staring at Ignis and his carefully hidden confusion. You didn’t finish what you wanted to say. What did you want to say?
“You must have had a bad day,” Belly started rocking you like a baby. Because she knew it annoyed you. And with those simple acts of care, all the bad things that happened today were forgotten. Overwritten with the things that made you laugh, things you found yourself suddenly enjoying and things you still found annoying.
“Let me go,” you whined, “I’m fine.”
“Hey, Ig,” Gladiolus said as he entered. Bellis must have run around the Citadel to get here before him, which was very much in her character. And she was still hugging you tightly and rocking you. If only she wasn’t such a good friend, you’d choke her.
“Whatcha two been doing?” Belly asked. She stopped rocking you and placed her head on your shoulder. This physical closeness, you welcomed it, craved it even. And the joy of being friends with Bellis was the fact she knew it without ever needing to hear it from you. She was precious to you.
“Trying to be better friends to you two,” Ignis smoothly replied. “And you?” His question made the married couple exchange quick looks. It was rare to see Gladiolus — a large, tall man made of pure muscle and smugness — avert his gaze rather bashfully. He was, ironically, a man you could read so easily.
“Oh my,” you teased. Your hand covered your mouth to amplify the scandalous subtext of their brief exchange and lack of any coherent answer.
“You doing okay?” Amicitia asked instead. The change of subject was embraced by everyone in the room. That bashfulness was gone very quickly. He collected himself faster than his wife.
“I’m fine,” you said.
“Thanks, Ignis,” Bellys said, “for taking care of her.”
You reddened. But there was no way to hide your face from green eyes without being too obvious you were hiding. You couldn’t turn away because of Belly. You had to face him head-on with your red cheeks.
“A pleasure,” Ignis answered tilting his head as if in curiosity. He was watching you. He was looking into your eyes. You wanted to die.
Chapter 8: Small victories.
Amicitias want to cheer you up. You play a game with Gladio and talk about the upcoming holidays. What does someone like Ignis do during the holidays?
This evening the Amicitias decided to have a little comforting party. You and Ignis had no right to refuse. While you could understand that Belly and Gladio wanted to be good friends to you after the tough situation at work, you didn’t want to. A bit exhausted and stressed, you felt like you would no fun to be around even if you decided to drink. And there would also be Ignis. Strange that was.
But there was always something you and Gladiolus could do together. Weird as it was, you could get along with him quite well. Bonding over your nerdy tendencies. Slowly but surely his relationship with Bellis grew more solid. And it was hard to deny to it. So, you decided to be a good friend and see who your bestie was dating. Not bad at all, Belly. You introduced Gladio to your choice of literature. The man was surprisingly taken by all the emotional stories. He introduced you to a game of Hexapartite. He, of course, taught his then-girlfriend first. It was a game of many rules.
Metaphorically, you were sweating. Gladiolus played the game since he was a child. He was damn good at it. He could keep all the rules and nuances in his head while you had to recall them one by one. You could tell you weren't doing that well but still wanted to win.
“What are you planning for Bestowal?” you asked in hopes of dividing the opponent’s attention. Gladiolus still carefully measured the board. You were fighting on your last legs. He could pull a move and divide your attention a lot better.
“Not much,” Belly answered instead. Not at all what you wanted to achieve. Her husband nodded, “Family things mostly.”
“Makes sense,” you mumbled. The gears in your head were turning but nothing productive was happening. Isn’t this a metaphor for life? “Your first Bestowal. Married.”
“True,” your friend cooed. “And you?”
“I want to do absolutely nothing,” you answered sincerely. It had been quite a year for you. First, you ended a long-term relationship. Then Bellis got married. And then you had a short affair that lasted a number of dates. Strange to think of it as it happened right within her honeymoon. Your judgment calls were getting worse if she wasn’t around. You finally decided on a move. “I feel like I need it.” Gladiolus countered better than you expected. You were doomed to lose.
“What is Iggy doing?” Belly asked. Iggy? Cute. You looked at her. She was a bit concerned.
“What he always does,” the husband answered, eyeing the pieces on the board, “work himself to exhaustion and then barely recovers during holidays.” That did sound like Ignis to you. It wasn’t a big secret how much dedication he held for his work. He looked like he was always at work too. Right now you three were waiting for him to finish his work and join.
“Hey,” Gladio sounded a bit excited, “I can beat you before Ignis shows up.”
“What?” you looked at the pieces again. “How?” You didn’t see it. But that didn’t mean it wouldn’t happen. Bellis stood behind her husband, hands leisurely wrapped around his neck and overlooking the board. She agreed. “Give me a tip!” you begged.
“Sorry,” she shrugged, “but wife stands by her husband and all. You won’t be able to learn the game unless you understand your mistakes. And his moves.”
“Unless you understand your mistakes,” you mocked. But your spirits were down. Another game lost to the Amicitia. Deep sigh of disappointment escaped your lips. It just wasn’t meant to be a winning day for you.
“Thank you for waiting,” Ignis said, entering Gladio’s office.
“Iggy!” Bellis threw her hands in the air. “Finally! Let’s go have fun!”
“Hey!” you and Gladiolus protested. The game wasn’t finished. And while you knew you were a lost cause here, you still wanted to finish. In your mind, that would be a lesson: Ignis should understand what it’s like to wait for people. “We haven’t finished yet.”
Ignis walked over to stand by your side. You didn't mind per se yet comfort wasn't something that came off of him often. And it surely wasn't happening right now. He hummed thoughtfully tapping his chin with one finger. What? you wanted to ask yet remained silent. “May I?” he asked pointing at the board. You should have expected him to play it as well. He was a Scientia.
“It’s a lost cause, but be my guest,” you said leaning back in the chair. The game will be lost but, if he felt like fighting, why should you be the one to stop him? Ignis made a move you decided not to risk.
“Go away, Iggy,” Gladiolus said looking at the new piece on top of his. He placed another one.
“Old time’s sake,” he replied with a faint smile on his face. “Arch,” he prompted. You gave him the appropriate piece. An Arch was a singular piece that would prevent Gladiolus from piling up another piece. That came with the loss of point sometimes but that’s beside the point. Amicitia huffed out in annoyance. You were watching Ignis. This made sense. Scientia was likely another person who, like Gladio, was taught Hexapartite since childhood. And they must have played often together. They knew the moves. With the Arch on the board, your opponent had to move away. With two clean moves Gladiolus could still win. But for those clean moves to happen, Ignis needed to go completely blind.
“I can’t believe I’m gonna walk into this one again,” Amicitia smiled and placed another piece on the board. Ignis placed your piece on top of his. Will he use an Arch now? Your eyes were watching Gladio’s expression and found it. Hesitation. As if he knew what would happen if he used the Arch piece.
“You won’t make me waste marks,” he said. He didn’t use it. Neither did he cover your piece with his own. He played another square.
“I’m sure,” Scientia nodded and covered the new mark on the board. Gladio played a new one. Your eyes opened wide. He overlooked. It was easy to forget sometimes that the Arch while different in shape than marks was still a piece of the game. It counted. Ignis made Gladio think he was in for a long game of who could waste most marks. And Gladio played into it. You jerked back in your seat throwing hands in the air victoriously. You won! Well, not you, but Ignis. You won.
“Sly move, Iggy,” Amicitia said looking at the board again. The ascension was formed with your pieces. There’s little chance left he could beat you with points. You didn't play nearly enough pieces for that even with the Arch used. Ignis wouldn’t be smiling so widely either, you thought.
“I try,” Scientia chuckled. “Now, I believe we should go.”
“Yeah, let’s. I’ll clean it up tomorrow.”
I got enough comments to let me do this little bonus chapter before....something happens.
Hexapartite is a game based on Tak but connected to the Six and worship. It is named Hexapartite, after all. In the times of Kings of Yore, royalty and all close to it play in court. Marks were usually made of some rustless metal bearing the family's sigil. They were placed on the board of 6x6. To honor six deities, their 4 messengers and 2 blessed families (Lucis Caelum and Fleuret). Now anyone who bothers to learns its many rules can play it with anything: stones, colorful glass, wood chips... You really didn't need to know this.
Chapter 9: Getting along.
Never tell that to Bellis when she’s sober but she is an absolute lightweight. And that amused both you and Gladiolus. He liked his wife drunk. You liked her drunk too. A wicked pair you were. She was giggles and cuddles. And bad jokes. No harm was done, he as her husband was responsible for her drinking. She was slightly flushed and leaning against your arm. Two men were sitting opposite of you. Gladio restricted himself to one beer while Ignis refrained from alcohol altogether. It was you and Bellis who were getting tipsy. You — tipsy, she — smashed. You couldn’t get trashed; tomorrow is a weekday.
“I can never win against you,” you complained. The glass made a thunk as you placed it on the table. “Why?” This time you pathetically whined like a sore loser you were. Amicitia only laughed at your attempt to soften him and let you win for once. You had no power here. He was better and he knew it.
“You are very restrictive with your movements,” Ignis noted. “But I’m surprised you play at all.” He did sound impressed by this. So, this is what I should have said today in his office. It was strange that this is what impressed him. Your knowledge of the game. Hexapartite was just old, many other table-tops were more popular and not attached to worship. Strange dude.
“That’s on me, Iggy, I confess,” Gladio said, “I taught them both.”
“Bellis plays too?”
“I knew she was gonna be an Amicitia,” Gladiolus mumbled. He spoke very casually about something like this. As if it was the most obvious thing in the world. He loved his wife, he always did, he knew she was the one for him. It always impressed you. However, feeling how your friend had gripped your arm, seeing the expression on your friend’s face — the expression of immense doubt and infuriation — amused you.
“Ah,” Ignis chuckled affectionately upon hearing a confession from his friend. You laughed inappropriately, your forehead was pressed against the cool surface of the table — alcohol was making you feel hot — trying your damnest to stop laughing. But your friend was giggling and saying something no one but you could understand.
“Hallways nude,” she said, “my ass.” The bad words always were coherent in her drunk speech. You snickered. Bellis was mocking Gladio. She had made her wait a while for someone who always knew. “Cut her off,” you struggled to say. It was starting to hurt your face to laugh so much.
“She had two drinks,” Amicitia observed.
“You should have stopped her before that.” You raised yourself to an appropriate position, breathing deeply, calming yourself. Belly pressed herself closer to you. Your sweet dear friend was being so cute, but you could also feel her boobs against your elbow. You wondered if she was too drunk to even comprehend who was next to her. “Should we?” you asked Gladiolus. He only nodded. The two of your quickly switched places. Belly didn’t even fall on the seat while it was empty. You were an efficient team.
“Hey there, babe,” he said with a smile on his face. You decided to avert your gaze from their affections for a moment and met eyes with Ignis. He raised his glass to welcome you on your newfound seat. Sitting with him on the couch of his office made you a lot more comfortable with the proximity. You grinned at him. Alcohol is funny that way: smiles turns into grins, affection in a boob-pressing matter…
“Hallways nude my ass!” Bellis complained again but louder. This time she slapped his arm. Oh, she comprehended reality very well. Just couldn’t do the same with her tongue. Both men were confused.
“I know!” you agreed. It was very hard not to explode again. “Five years!”
“How are you communicating?” Gladiolus skeptically questioned. His eyes were either watching you or his wife who was now slouching on his arm. The answer was just a shrug. You had seen your friend drunk enough times to know how she was. The affection part was also a part of that. That’s how she — Nevermind. That’s her story to tell. You were just there to listen and judge as friends do.
“What are they communicating?” Scientia asked politely watching Gladio and no one else. You took notice of that. He didn't look at Bellis. Neither did he look at you for longer than few heartbeats. Gladiolus sank. You exploded, “Oh sweet Shiva, mother of fuck, she told you!”
“Of course, she did,” he said still sinking into shame. “I am her husband. You think she didn’t drink at her own wedding?” You couldn’t take it anymore. Placing your hands on the table, you leaned on them and started wheezing it all out. You could see drunk Bellis complaining to her husband right on their wedding night about how long he made her wait for a proposal. In your head, it wasn’t that long but that’s not a question with a definitive answer.
“Not funny,” Gladiolus said.
“You right,” you squeaked, “hilarious!”
“Hey,” he reached out to pull your arm. You were bound to stop yourself from a big boo-boo, but someone else did it for you. He didn’t break the fall but seeing his hand almost underneath your chin sobered you. Ignis was trying to save you from losing your face. Quite literally too...
“Gladio,” Scientia scolded. At that, the other man offered you an apology. He didn't expect you to try to kiss the table.
“Ig,” Bellis said. Everyone turned to her. This could only go two ways: hilarious or deeply intimate. She had only two modes when drunk. If it was the latter, Gladiolus better shut her even forcefully. “Somedimes, sey get along terribly well.” At least everyone could understand the last part.
“Is that so?” Ignis smiled a bit at that. You didn’t know how to take that. You got along with Gladiolus because you both had that weird streak of needing to prod others, which meant especially each other. And there’s the unreasonable desire to beat him at a table game. What was undeniable was that you could read each other so easily as if you had been acquainted for a much longer time.
“Uh-huh,” she nodded a bit too eagerly. Alcohol must have started to let go of her. Or maybe she was just messing with you all… You eyed her closely now. “I hot jelly-house once,” she begrudgingly confessed.
“Truly?” Ignis said eyeing his friend disapprovingly. Oh, you better not start laughing again. This was getting good. That did you no good as Gladiolus showed a middle finger to you two, How are you communicating? he mouthed, mocking. At least this time you shut your mouth forcefully.
“Aw, really, babe?” Gladio smiled at that, pulling his spouse closer. You knew exactly what that one time was. Belly, just like last time, was a bit under the influence of alcohol and spoke about her feelings. She never accused you of trying to steal away her man, just talked about her insecurities. You didn’t know how to help her and said the only sensible thing you thought could remedy the situation. It was not a good sentence to be repeated in Gladio’s presence. You needed to prove a point. You were not interested in the slightest. Your metaphors were always off.
“I’m flattered,” Gladio pressed a quick kiss to her temple. You and Ignis exchanged a quick look that only third wheels could understand. The we-should-call-it-a-night-soon look. Something you could agree on.
Cold night ait surely sobered you up. But you still melted into your friend’s tight hug. While you were having your moment of friendship so were the guys. From the corner of your eye, you could see Gladiolus placing his hand on a friend's shoulder. They even laughed about something however brief it was. You saw that smile again on Scientia's face. Not quite the one you saw at the wedding. But very close to it. That sting of pain was missing. This smile was just a smile of a man who had a long night and he enjoyed it. And he was feeling the same as everyone: the night had come to an end.
“I love you,” Belly said very clearly. You hummed, pleased to hear her say it. You knew she loved you. It was returned in full. But it was nice hearing it.
“I love you too, drunkard,” you replied. It was nice saying it too. The embrace had to be broken. You saw the flush of her face and the wide smile. Gladiolus came to stand beside his wife. You felt Scientia’s presence.
“You got it, Iggy?” Amicitia asked.
“I shall take her,” Ignis spoke casually. You turned to look at him, confused but not surprised. He was annoying this way. Always willing to do you favours, which you attributed to your relationship with the Amicitias. He agreed to stop being fake nice to you and do things for you out of obligation. You were very tempted to label him a liar again. But decided to wait with your judgments. True, you had nothing to deserve his favour. “If she would have me,” he added meeting your eyes.
“Thank you, Ig,” Belly grinned. “I can trust you.”
"But of course," he nodded with barely a smile on his face. You didn’t like it. Why were they now getting along as old pals? Gladiolus gently pulled his wife to him bidding you farewell.
“See you both tomorrow,” he said with a respectful nod. You and Ignis simply waved the couple goodbye. When they were gone, you could only stand there like a statue, not wanting to look Ignis in the eye. You should have protested and declined his generous offer, but you were being dumb and alcohol wasn’t helping. You were not as sober as you wished to be. Why didn’t you open your mouth when it mattered? It would have been a lot easier to resolve this matter of politeness in front of everyone. Now you were alone, drunk, and getting colder in the night air. Don't shiver, idiot, or he will offer a jacket again.
“Coming with?” Ignis asked, turning his face to you.
“With me,” he explained, “to the car,”. In a manner that clearly gave you a clue he thought you were trashed. Which you were not so that was insulting. “Or would you rather wait for me to drive out of the parking lot?”
“No, I’m coming,” you hurriedly agreed. It was just another car ride. It was late, you were drunk. Scientia was the best option you had right now getting home. Ignis offered his elbow to hold on to. He must think I’m a drunk. So, you didn’t take it, ignored it, as if you never noticed the gesture. “It was fun tonight,” you said instead. If you started talking, he wouldn’t question what had just happened. “Thanks for coming,” you added. Ignis hummed. You shot him a look. He wasn’t acknowledging you with his gaze, yet you could tell by the set of his jaw he was far from pleased.
“You once asked me to not do anything out of propriety or obligation,” he said coolly. He sounded very distant as if he didn’t want to have the conversation that was bound to happen. Detached. You felt a slight chill run down your spine. He was going to retract his proposal. You would have to call a car. “I’m afraid I must ask you the same. Do not say what you don’t mean.”
You grabbed his arm without understanding why. You’d write it off as shock and influence of alcohol. The fabric of his jacket between your fingers was oddly familiar from today. Simple human compassion isn’t enough? You went to his office the first time because you wanted to be a bigger person. Yet Ignis Scientia always seemed bigger, however, no matter what you did or said. He was the one to be considerate of you in situations where he didn't have to be. Today he had no reason to come to you during lunchtime. You were not close friends. Yet he texted you first, asking how you were faring. He was thoughtful, he was selfless. He didn't have to offer you his jacket either. Yet he did. He offered you food. He made you laugh. He was a bigger person — scratch that — a better person.
“I’m not,” you defended yourself. Yanking his jacket, you demanded his attention on you. “I’m glad you came. Because now I can ask you,” you purposefully turned your face away from him, chewing on your lip. Take the bait, green eyes.
“Yes?” he probed carefully. Your smile turned wicked. Ignis Scientia, a man of many virtues you didn’t possess. Among them is his skill in Hexapartite.
“Teach me how to beat Gladiolus,” you said with a terrifying smile. The fire of your competitive spirit warming you up in the cold of the night.
“Alright,” he said, tapping his chin with his finger. He did the same thing when he was analyzing the situation on your board. “However, I must ask for something return.”
“That will have to wait,” he flashed you a smile just as wicked.
Chapter 10: Dealing a deal.
Ignis teaches you how to play a better game. You don't make much progress.
You felt stupid now that you were standing in front of the door of his office. With two cups of coffee. You realized the trouble you went through wasn’t worth it like at all. First, you went to the cafeteria in the Citadel to buy coffee. The only thing that the cafeteria did right was coffee. Second, you avoided your colleagues asking about your strange lunchtime and how you were spending it. You answered honestly. You were learning how to play Hexapartite. Why coffee? Good question, you couldn’t answer. You just felt that it would be an appropriate drink after an evening out, drinking. He didn’t drink, you stupid. Your forehead hit the door as you were punishing yourself for stupidity.
“Come in,” a voice called in from the inside. Bloody Infernian manifestation. You pulled down the handle and opened the door for yourself. His eyes widened when he saw you. Scientia got up from his seat as he saw that your hands were busy and rushed to help. It was just a carrier with two coffee cups but whatever floated his gentlemanly boat.
“You should have told me you were coming,” he said freeing your hands. “I’m afraid I’m not having lunch yet.”
“It is lunchtime,” you observed.
“And you must know it’s the end of the year soon,” he chuckled. “Speaking of, what are your plans for Bestowal?”
“Why do you ask?” You took your cup from the carrier he was now holding.
“Making a polite conversation,” he answered, “since you came bearing gifts.” That made you laugh albeit briefly. It was a sharp joke. The Bestowal, a holy day that signified the beginning of a new year, was all about giving presents. Hence the name. After a month of cold winter, Ifrit could not watch the humans suffer any longer and gifted them fire. That began a new age for humanity, propelling it into enlightened age and creation of the Solheim empire. Then humans did what humans often did — something stupid, — and Infernian decided he made a mistake. Then the whole war of Astrals occurred. At least that’s what Cosmogony spoke of. Infernian wasn’t a popular deity anywhere given the story, but Lucid took the lesson to heart. The Bestowal is celebrated to remember the gifts that were granted to them and thus started to give presents to each other too.
“Nothing,” you answered with a shrug. “You?”
“Same, I’m afraid.” He took a sip and his eyes widened. “Ebony? How did you know?”
“I asked Gladiolus,” you mumbled. It was true. While your decision was hasty, you did text Gladiolus asking if Ignis had any preferences regarding coffee. It seemed reasonable to ask him since they seemed so close. ‘Only one: ebony. black.’ You knew what that was. An awful drink made out of darkness and bitterness. Like dark chocolate but about three times more potent. And with far less sugar. You rarely craved it.
“You aren’t keen on calling him anything but Gladiolus,” Ignis observed, “despite him teaching you to play Hexapartite.”
“It’s weird,” you explained, “I don’t feel like we are that close.”
“Foolish,” he said, “but you may continue walking your foolish path,” he beamed.
“Well, damn,” was all you could say. Nothing clever was coming to your mind. Therefore, you did what you often did and changed the subject. “I probably came at the wrong time, sorry to bother you.”
“You are no bother,” he shook his head. “And I’m grateful for the coffee. You wanted to play, right?”
You did. “No,” you lied.
“Shall we, then?” he said. “Ascension or descension?”
Ignis nodded to let you know he heard you. He pulled out his board and marks. Still fancy. Hexapartite was a game of the royal court. Noble families, those close to royalty, liked to rub it in in everyone's faces and tended to put their crests on top of the marks. Sometimes that could also help to identify them and prevent stealing. And there were also some stories connecting to giving someone a mark with a crest on it, but you didn't remember whatever fiction and tales you read in elementary school. But obviously, Scientia's marks and board were fancy: dark green and gold on the wooden lacquered board. The marks were made of some light but non-corrosive metal. No symbols on them but they were surely used. A lot. For decades. No wonder he was so good at this. Soon, the game had started. You were aiming to give him a run for his money. That, of course, was not going to happen.
You looked at the board and deemed yourself helpless. There was no winning with Ignis. Even worse, he made you lose in even fewer moves than Gladiolus. Damn those two and their excellent skills in this game. You felt inferior. You were inferior.
“You are too good at this,” you mumbled, disappointed in yourself more so.
“You are very restrictive with your moves,” he noted once again. It made you cringle. While it was criticism you could get behind, he offered no solution. “Hexapartite is a beautiful game because it offers creativity. For example, you could make your first move in the middle of the board and then built towards the goal.”
You hummed, thinking how you would play the way described. “I think it’s too advanced for me right now,” you confessed.
“If you truly wish to win against Gladio, I’m afraid you have no choice,” he spoke before taking another sip. You nodded dumbly at that. He was right. What else is there to say? He placed another the Arch on top of your mark. The game was complete. Ignis won.
“Let’s try it again,” he offered.
“That’s something none of my exes ever said,” you joked dryly. Surprisingly, Ignis stifled a laugh at that. So, it is your type of humor.
“What did they say if I may ask?” he was fighting a smile, you could tell. It amused him. Your failed love life amused him.
“You suck,” you said staring dead into his eyes. Scientia didn’t laugh this time, only rubbed his forehead, shaking his head in disapproval, “You must be aware of the connotations,” he mumbled.
“What are you talking about?” you feigned ignorance. “I suck at Hexapartite.”
“Your humor leaves much to be desired.”
“Probably right about it,” you agreed dismissively. “Now, teach me, master.”
“It’s kinda sad,” you noted looking at the board. After a few days later and even fewer games played with Ignis taught you one thing: wherever you placed your marks, you could predict the ways he’d win. That, however, didn’t help you in the slightest. You could never just turn the tables and cease the game.
“You are learning, don’t be so hard on yourself,” Ignis replied. His fingers were tapping on the paper cup slightly. You knew he was thinking about his next move. You had learned that particular little habit simply because it irked you and not because you were observing. Tap-tap. Passive-aggressive yikes of appropriate attitude.
“Ha-ha,” you deadpanned, tapping his cup as he did before but forcefully. Maybe he could take a hint to control this. “I meant our plans for the holiday season.” He didn’t say anything to that. But silently placed a mark on top of yours. Made sure to do so as quietly as humanly possible. He could take a hint sometimes but was al
“Why is that?” you asked. You knew full well why you would be alone during the holidays. Well, alone might be a bit too strong of a word. But you sure knew you wouldn’t have anyone special. Basically, you meant a partner. Any sort of partner. There's a very particular sense of loneliness to being single when everyone else close to you wasn’t. “Why are you planning nothing for the holidays?” You regretted questioning Scientia the moment your eyes met. You quickly realized that he had no wish to continue this conversation because you didn’t deserve to know.
“Sorry, nevermind,” you dismissed your own words. “Anything you want as a gift?”
“Pardon?” he asked with surprise in his voice.
“Bestowal,” you said as if explaining. “Anything you want? Within a reasonable price range, obviously.”
“Nothing in particular,” Ignis replied casually. His surprised expressions were always so fleeting. It’s like he was asking for you to be more shocking more often. So, you placed the Arch on one of his marks. He wasn’t taken by surprise at all. “And you?”
“Me?” you asked yourself. What you wanted wasn’t something Scientia could give you. “Nuh, I’m good.”
“Is that so?” he questioned no one in particular as he set the final piece on the board. Another game you lost. You sighed in defeat, rubbing your eyes. This was getting rather tiresome, you noticed, in many ways. Being alone with Ignis was problematic: you always managed to say the wrong thing, and someone would soon question where you have been spending your lunches. Scientia is too big of a figurehead for something like this to be ignored. Not to mention his reputation… You had no plans to discourage it or encourage hatred towards yourself.
“Don’t be so discouraged,” Ignis said. Not sounding sympathetic or particularly patronizing, you had taken it exactly the worst way.
“Don’t patronize me,” you groaned as you added another game to the tally. At least the number of games you’d lost to him could be counted on one hand.
“Am not,” he countered. “Your tactics had improved. And you are more inclined to take risks.”
“They never pay off,” you rebuffed. To comfort yourself, you dig your plastic fork into the food Ignis had generously shared with you. With a separate container, and plastic fork from the cafeteria, which you started to suspect of being re-used. Speaking of, he always had two containers of food with him. That time when he wanted to apologize and later then disastrous morning. You sure questioned it before but thought little of it. Maybe the guy had an appetite, nothing wrong with that.
“Why always two containers?” you questioned. “What stray woman are you secretly feeding?”
“Currently, you,” Ignis replied with a slight smirk. “They used to be for me.”
“A man with an appetite, I like it,” you grinned.
“Not quite,” he answered, “I’m used to working late hours, hence two lunch boxes.” He spoke so casually about the fact that he overworked for no particular reason. The Citadel wasn’t known for being understaffed.
“So, now you carry three?” you tilted your head in question. Was he truthful right now? Because if yes, then this was about the saddest thing you had heard in a good while. This was even sadder than spending the holiday season alone. He worked himself so much simply because… he didn’t like to go home?
“No,” he averted his eyes, “on the days you come by, I simply turn in sooner.”
“Even if I had a third one, you wouldn’t get it.”
“Fair enough,” you offered a smile. But you couldn’t shake the feeling that overwhelmed at his revelation. A feeling you didn’t welcome at all. You looked at him, trying to take it as much detail as possible. How could it possibly be you never noticed how overworked he was? Because he tended to always look like this. What's a little darker undereye bags when they are always there?
“Rather selfish of you,” he said, amused, “to want to take the last of a man’s lunch.”
“Meh,” you shrugged. You didn’t know which path you should tread now. You could stop your gaming sessions and let him stay at the Citadel for as long as he liked with an extra lunchbox. Or you could continue making him go home sooner. You honestly didn’t feel inclined to any particular way of conduct. Whether he stayed here till dark or went home when everyone else did, it made little difference to you. The food and Hexapartite were not a justification enough to care about him. You shrugged it off. Those were his choices only.
"So, what do you do?" you asked him. "Except the whole teaching damsels play table-tops." This was you returning to the topic you never had a chance to explore. It seemed a while back you both agreed you needed to learn more about each other and that never comes to any fruition.
"I'm ashamed to admit, but there's isn't much to me except this," Ignis pointed at the board, "my position here," he gestured around his office, "and my Crownsguard duties."
"You are a Crownsguard?" you questioned. It totally made sense and also completely didn't. Being a Crownsguard explained his physique while maintaining a sitting lifestyle. But you also could not imagine Ignis with a weapon of any sort. Perhaps it's the glasses. Or the cautious way he spoke. Maybe even his gentlemanly attitude. When did he have the time?
"I am," Scientia nodded.
"This is the most exciting thing about you," you noted with sincerity. "You also cook but that's not at all exciting."
"You don't," he was quick to pick on you.
"I do, I just don't like it," you said. "The process, I mean." Ignis nodded, acknowledging your words, thoughtfully processing them. You didn't like how everything you said to him felt like a statement. The anything-you-say-will-be-used-against-you kind of statement. Ignis did look like a man who would keep receipts. Never stopped you from talking, however.
"Why did you go that time?" you questioned no one in particular. "Was it because of Gladiolus or something else?"
"What are you talking about?" Ignis asked with exasperation. That sounded good. If he was getting tired of you, his exhaustion would make him more talkative. A chance to cease a moment.
"The speed dating," you answered. You could feel your anticipation building up inside but hoped to not be so oblivious about it. There was no moment of thought dedicated to Ignis's answer. It was terribly simple and terribly humane. Not to say a little bit out of character and even despondent.
"Curiosity," he simply stated with a light shrug of his shoulders. Your answer was a simple but powerful wow. Is it the reason he subjected himself to that? You were getting lonely, bored and a little bit desperate. Not to mention how you didn't want your friend thought and money go to waste. With enough time the whole thing will be turned into a story you would tell your tipsy friends and everyone would have a good laugh. Somehow, you doubted this way of thinking was in line with Scietnia's.
"What about you?" he asked. You averted your gaze. He either didn't know the answer or he was simply polite to ask. The answer was obvious, wasn't it? Even to someone like Ignis Scientia, the answer must be obvious. "Same," you replied.
"No, obviously," you replied with a shrug. "I didn't have any expectations it went about as bad as I thought it would. But let's be honest, it's harder to meet new people when you are older. It's hard to keep in touch with friends too."
"That's why," Ignis thoughtfully dragged out a sentence as if you had just broken him and he needed time to collect to put the gears in his head back in their place, "speed dating?"
"Just as they say," you grinned, "speed date, speed date, all the local prospects aren't so great." Ignis, being a better person than you were, hid his laugh behind very timely coughing.
"And who are they that saying this? Perhaps you should have listened."
"I wasn't going to pick anyone there," you said, "I knew that."
"I-I-I," you sang, doubting whether you should even continue talking. What was going to come out of your mouth was stupid, you were well aware of that. Ignis might not be able to take that much stupidity in one sitting. "Let's say, next time I go on a date, I will be around eighty-percent sure it's something that's going to last."
"And how are you planning on knowing that?" Ignis tilted his head and gave you a puzzled look. "I think it would be a little too convenient of a romance."
"Very funny," you spoke with an obvious sulk.
"I'm afraid I do not share the sentiment," he answered seriously. Ignis leaned in forward, placing the elbows on the table, placing his chin on top of interlocked fingers. He was watching you closely as seeing you for the first time. It was uncomfortable. Too much stupidity in one sitting, your panicked thoughts flashed before your mind. It soon turned blank as he continued to look into your eyes. Ignis was expecting an explanation, a defense case for your dumb and bold statement.
You sighed, "I dated enough, I think, to be able to tell what partner I want." You truly believed it. Not having quite done the "done it all, seen it all", but more so that you knew what kinds of people were going to stick around and which weren't going to. Also, what kinds of people you wanted to be around for a long time and not simply for fun. But if someone were to ask to describe these people with words, you'd make incoherent noises and look like an idiot.
"But not the partner you need?" he smirked.
"Clever," you hissed, "but what would you know?"
He didn't jerk back. He didn't scoff at you. He didn't as much as furrowed his brows at the insult. His answer was smooth and calm as if he predicted your reaction, "Not much, you have a point. I wasn't judging you, either. Merely curious what's going on in the mind of a woman."
"I am a bad example because I'm a mess?"
"Probably," Scientia smiled again. "Nonetheless, thank you." His smile wasn't deceiving nor was it plastic. But you couldn't remotely guess what he was trying to get out of this conversation. Yet you couldn't let him have the last word either. Torn between taking the gratitude and saying something snarky, you always chose the worst.
"Maybe you should casually date then," you pushed, "then you'll get it."
"Hm, perhaps you are right."
Shit. You didn't expect him to agree. But you'd take it eagerly.
You know, guys, I'm so happy you enjoying this. And I'm happy when you ask questions. I just can't help but wonder why no one asked about how the hell the first meeting with Ignis went? Tee hee hee
As the days went by, you played with Ignis less and less. For one, you had enough on your worktable to keep busy and tired. You started spending your lunches by either eating through your workload or by catching a much-needed break for everyone and everything. But you caught a glimpse of Ignis once. He didn’t look much different, just a little more tired. Understandable. There were no words exchanged, he probably didn’t even notice you. But you noticed him and that was enough. You stopped in the lobby before leaving as you spotted a familiar large figure.
“Hello,” you said with a curious look. He looked exhausted. The appropriate amount of exhausted, you guessed, considering how physical his job could get. If he was here, Bellis would soon be here too, and a friendly face is always welcomed. You could always wait.
“Hey there,” Gladiolus greeted. Despite the tired appearance he spotted, he still smiled at you and his voice was just as lovely as it always were. The man is an energy generator. “Heard you’ve been learning how to win against me,” he smirked.
“Then you know how little I progressed,” you replied, resentfully. And here you assumed your sessions were in secret so that you could attack Gladiolus unexpectedly with your acquired skills.
“True,” the man agreed. “Did you play today?”
“I had to work through lunch,” you said. It was the truth. As the end of the year was coming up, everyone was busier and had to take up more than usual. There was much to be done during this time of the year. And you were not an exception.
“This sucks,” Gladiolus said. He reached out his hand and placed it on your shoulder. “Listen, I hate to do this but I have a favour to ask.”
“All ears,” you nodded.
You respected Gladiolus. But more importantly, you liked Gladiolus. He was a good man and easy to get along with. He taught you Hexapartite and never let you win. He took good care of your friend and he was reliable, caring and even funny on occasion. He still never let you win. But when he told you about Ignis, you listened. And you knew he was worried. And to spare him the bother, you had taken it upon yourself to get him out of the office. Because you had no life, nothing to busy you instead and annoying Scientia was kinda amusing. It was going splendidly in your head as everything was always perfect in your head. But Ignis Scientia was a prideful and stubborn man. And standing in front of the door of his office reminded you that he was also above your station. He cannot fire you, right? And if he gets pissed at you, Gladiolus could talk him down, right? Right. Because those were the only thoughts that kept some of the confidence locked in your chest. You opened the door without knocking and stormed in. Ignis, knowing the silence and peace of his office, almost jumped from his chair when you rudely let yourself in. Before his smart mouth could form any sort of response, you took the opportunity for yourself.
“You are going home,” you bubbled out. Keep talking, don’t let him think this through. “You look like hell.” Ignis was about to rise from his chair. His insulted pride so obvious on his face. But you got to his chair before he could do anything. A finger firmly pressed against his forehead would keep him down. That is until he uses his hands to get up or bend his back…
“The only way you are getting up is to get your things and go home,” you said with authority you didn’t have. But the look in his eyes was everything to you. For everything else there was a credit card. The astonishment at your loud words in his green eyes at how offensive he found your rude intrusion. The slightly agape mouth to indicate his surprise of your arrival. And his desire to get away from your touch as he was leaning away but you pressed on. You realized why men enjoyed fighting so much because winning is a drug. Who are you to talk after trying so desperately win at Hexapartite? The victory is all the more potent if the opponent is that much stronger. That lost expression on his face didn’t last long. Ignis gently grasped your wrist and freed himself from both your touch and submission. Victory didn’t last long for you.
“I have work,” Scientia said in a very measured tone. “Important work,” he accentuated.
“You look like beaten-up hell,” you protested again.
“Then you should head home as to not see this beaten-up hell,” he bit back.
“I’m staying here unless you are leaving with me.” Your eyes met for a moment. Ignis got up from the chair towering over you. But it mattered not how threatening he looked, you knew him a little better than that. His stern looks and stinging wit aside, you learned of the quality that dominated him the most. Selflessness. He would not stand to be a burden to others. Even if they were a burden to him. Even if someone agreed to be burdened by him. You had seen it already, thus, never averting your gaze from his hard, terrifying eyes. A moment passed and then another, Ignis finally let out a tired sigh.
“Alright,” he nodded before moving out of your way. You watched him getting his briefcase and coat without putting any resistance whatsoever. This victory came much easier than anticipated. You had expected a bitter fight, but he simply bowed down to your will. Why? “Gladio put you to this?” he asked while throwing his coat over his shoulders.
“Why did you agree?”
“You looked like hell.”
“Beaten-up hell,” he corrected. “What does it even mean?”
“Just trying to emphasize,” you shrugged. Ignis chuckled. Then, offered you a smile. A tired smile that touched just the corners of his lips, but it was the brightest you had seen so far. Together you left his office.
“You really shouldn’t overwork yourself too much,” you said to him as you were walking to the elevator.
“Are you worried for me?” he asked coolly. What a gift it must to be able to ask questions like this in a very cool manner.
“No,” you answered, “but I just might start pitying you.” His movements halted for a moment as you went on. You got to him. It was easier than you anticipated. What a thrill. He didn't hurry to catch up with you, however. You stopped walking and turned back to look at him.
“Anything I can do to remedy that?” Ignis asked in his usual collected manner.
“You can promise to stop doing this to yourself,” you answered, matter-of-factly. Scientia took a deep, audible breath. I should take pride in annoying him so quickly.
“Alright,” he said, breathing out, “you have my word.” There was a reason why he agreed to it and it wasn’t you. Ignis Scientia didn’t like worrying others and especially his friends. You could tell that just by looking at him. He looked at you but saw someone else. And that pissed you off. You came here because Gladiolus asked for a favour. He had been worried about his friend, sure, but you were under no obligation to do as he asked and much less so to try and stop Ignis from being so thoughtless about his own wellbeing. He looked at you but saw someone else. He saw the manifestation of a dear friend's worry and felt guilty. He wasn't grateful for being taken care of. He wasn't taking it for granted either. And he wasn't feeling anything of the sort towards you. Ignis saw Gladio instead of you. You understood that. It was only natural.
“I don’t want your words,” you stated, coming closer. Your steps determined and heavy on the floor. “I want something else." Ignis was perplexed. So much so, he stepped back when you came close. You raised your palm and curled your fingers into a fist but for a pinky.
“You can’t be serious,” Scientia scoffed, looking at your raised pinky. The surprise and confusion were gone, now he looked at you with doubt and many more questions. “We are two adults.”
You didn’t reply to him, keeping your wide smile instead. The only reason you were doing this is that you wanted to know if you could bend this man to do something so childish. A powerful man with an important family name who was also a Crownsguard, standing about 6 feet, was about to do a pinky promise. Ignis let out a sigh. He did it quickly: a moment his pinky was wrapped around yours and then it was gone. And then he walked past you, while you quickly pressed your palm against your mouth. Oh shit, I did it.
“There, you have it,” his voice was just as cold and distant as before. “Now let’s get ourselves home.” You turned around to look at him, still pressing a palm against your mouth. You could squeak like a child just by thinking about it. You could tell Belly about this. I made Ignis Scientia do a pinky promise. This was a manifestation of your wicked will. He was an instrument of your desire if only for the briefest moment.
“Coming,” you mumbled thought your palm, hurrying to catch up with him, failing to notice how tight Ignis was clenching his jaw.
You might think I'm writing it as I go, but in fact, I finished the story a month ago. All I do now is move the bits and pieces and pathetically try to edit this.
Chapter 12: Selfless.
You: The gods may bless you with their light.
Scientia: And your future.
You: You are very hard to shop for.
Scientia: That’s a first.
You: Really? What did Gladio give you?
Scientia: We didn’t have a chance to exchange presents yet.
You: So, you don’t know what he’s going to get you?
Scientia: No, I do.
You: Fuck it, what should I get you?
Scientia: You don’t have to get me anything.
You: Answer the goddamn question. I’d poison you if I had an opportunity.
Scientia: How about some ebony then? I’m sure plenty of shops will have some seasonal blends and holiday packages.
You: See, it wasn’t so hard, why did you have to fuck me with me?
Scientia: You are very insistent on this analogy.
You: I’m frustrated with you and your bullshit.
Scientia: I would never do such a thing to a woman.
You: I’m both delighted by your wit and disgusted by the innuendo.
Scientia: Good, it makes us even then. I have a present for you too.
Scientia: I assure you, I’m not fucking with you.
Scientia: You are plenty awful.
Ignis had given you your own set to play Hexapartite. Gladiolus and Belly gave you a book on it: history, strategies, variations of the game, anything connected to it. Same book but with very different connotations. Bellis meant it as I know you are interested in something and I want you to get better at it. While Gladiolus obviously meant Go on and try to beat me.
It was strange being completely alone during this season. You had always had someone beside you before. Whether it was another boyfriend you broke up in the past or simply a circle of friends or just Bellis. This was a holiday you had greeted, served, and waved goodbye alone. It left the taste of ashes in your mouth and heavy stone in your heart. You weren’t nearly as good equipped to be alone as you thought. But you’d deal with it one way or another. For now, you were re-reading a conversation you had with Ignis during those days.
Scientia: It wasn’t ebony.
You: You really couldn’t tell the moment you saw it?
Scientia: I was hoping you were trying to trick me.
You: Too complicated.
Scientia: I understand I’m not worth the effort.
You: I meant I’m lazy. But do you like it?
Scientia: Very much so. Thank you.
You: Cool with me.
Scientia: Did you enjoy my gift to you?
You: It’s great. I just didn’t expect to feel so empty when I realized I had no one else but you three to play it with. And y’all have your own sets.
Scientia: Now you could teach someone else.
You: And what a great teacher I would be.
Scientia: True. But you are not alone.
You: You fixed me!
Scientia: That was fairly easy.
You: I was being sarcastic.
Scientia: I’m afraid I cannot keep you company. Family matters.
You: Serves you right. Be afraid.
Scientia: You are very sharp.
You: Grind myself against a whetstone every night before bed.
Scientia: You had taught me to be terrified of the next sentence that will be coming from you.
You: You are really into that, huh. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
Just like that, the holidays were over and you were bound to return to work. All you could think of is the painful realization you got at Belly’s wedding.
Chapter 13: Little help.
Ignis is calling a favour you owe him. It's not nearly what you expected.
Scientia: I need your help.
You: Don’t fuck with me.
Scientia: I’m serious. An urgent matter. I’m calling the favour you owe me.
You: I owe you???
Scientia: You are forgetful. Hexapartite.
Well, this freaked you just the right amount.
You came to his office as soon as you possibly could only to discover Ignis slouched over his desk. When he looked at you, there was an agonizing expression plastered on his face. Something had gotten to him good. You were losing your confidence in being able to help him but you would still at least try. As you walk inside, his posture relaxed bit by bit, but the pain didn’t disappear from his face. Your hip pressed against his table, leaning against the solid piece of wood. Whatever had gotten to him this badly, you will need to be able to stand up on your two to hear it.
“Please, take a look,” he said, offering an envelope. A regular white envelope with his name on it. It was already opened with the contents stuffed back inside with little care. You pulled out the latter inside and scanned it through. Damn.
“I’m not one to judge,” you said, licking your lips, “but I think it’s a love letter.” You had to place your hand on your mouth otherwise you’d be grinning like an idiot. Oh, this was funny. This was good.
“She didn’t sign her name,” Ignis commented gloomily. “What are the chances she’s in my department?”
“I mean, the handwriting is feminine, but you never know, Ignis,” you joked. You will have your fun with this one. It’s a rare and precious opportunity to watch Scientia struggle with something so personal as a love letter. And at the workplace no less. That would make him agonize over it for weeks. Especially since he didn’t know exactly who she was.
“I wish it was just a manifestation of your cruel humor,” he said, unamused by your attempts at humor. You eyed him. It wasn’t you.
“Too much even by my standards.”
“Then I’m sure you have a solution.” He wasn’t seriously thinking you had experience with love letters at work. You, in general, had no experience with love letters. You’d tell yourself you weren’t into those sorts of romantic gestures, but the reality was a little more complicated.
“I do not, Iggy, sorry,” you shrugged. His assumptions —flattering as they were — were only making the situations worse. You had little idea as to what to say or do to make it better. But you sure knew how to make it worse. “Any suspects?”
“I’m afraid not,” he spoke with a struggle. The situation was paining him a lot more than you thought. “And please refrain from saying such things. She didn’t commit a crime. It’s just—”
“I know, I know,” you softly say to calm him down. But no ideas come to your mind. No solid ones at least. You could try to girl-talk here and there to figure out who could it be. Or the two of you could go to the archives and try to find the very few hand-written documents and compare the writing. But the effort of it pissed you off. “We do have security footage, so let’s see who put it there,” you jokingly suggested.
“No,” he strongly objected. “A love letter is not a good enough reason to ask for such a thing. This is against our codes of conduct.”
“I was kidding, relax.”
“I asked you for help because you too are a woman.”
“Took you a while to notice that,” you sneer. "But I wouldn't write a love letter."
“True, you are horrible with words.”
“Are you sure you operate on a normal body temperature? Because that was cold, Ignis.”
“Why wouldn’t you?” he asked, relaxed. In a moment, he leaned back in the chair. Hands clasped together under his chin and a curious smile on his lips. Green eyes observing you carefully without making it uncomfortable.
“My handwriting is horrendous. And if I print it, the whole charm disappears. What about you?”
“Okay, I have an idea,” you say. “Do you have a kerchief or something?”
“Of course,” he reached inside his suit jacket. A white handkerchief was offered to you. Of course, Ignis is the kind of man who would carry a handkerchief. For once his old-fashioned nature is doing him some good.
“Never understood why they had to be white,” you mumble as you take it. Reaching inside your pocket this time, you take out the lipstick. It could do the trick on the white cloth. The intensity Ignis watched you put on the coloured balm was very strange. You decided not to think about it or call out his behaviour. He probably just doesn’t understand what you have in mind. When you felt like you’ve wasted enough lipstick you refolded the cloth two and pressed it in between your coloured lips.
“There,” you say victoriously, unfolding the cloth. A colourful lip stain was left in the corner.
“What should I do with this?” Scientia asked, begrudgingly. He examined the cloth as if it was contaminated with a miasma instead of having some lipstick on it.
“Well, you don’t know who she is, but if you ever get a suspicion, you can just take this out and clean your glasses. Any woman would be able to take that kind of a hint.”
“This is not what I use for my glasses,” he replied, accusingly.
“Listen here,” you warned, “I gave you a woman-repellant and didn’t ask for compensation.”
“Thank you,” he mumbled, unsure. His eyes were still inspecting the stained cloth. The voice was screaming in your head, pissed at his neat freak behaviour. Goddamnit, it some cloth with lipstick on it, get over it.
“I’d say anytime but I’d rather that be a one-time occurrence.”
Chapter 14: Him is him.
Nothing was extraordinary inside his apartment. No leather couches or redwood tables. It was very average. Not even a gold-plated candelabra anywhere in sight. The walls in neutral tones. Nothing extravagant. You swore the coffee table was antique, but the bookshelf wasn’t. In fact, you were sizing up the bookshelf, suspecting it was bought from Spira. It was very generic. The man didn’t even live the family house, which you didn’t doubt he had. How could a man like Ignis live in a generic apartment with a bookshelf bought from Spira? Was he the one who put the shelf together?
“I’ll help with the salad,” Bellis said, brushing past you. You stumbled back a bit but followed her with your eyes. They operated silently in the kitchen knowing what needed to be done. Belly took the tomatoes and started cutting them without being told to do so.
“I can help in the kitchen too,” you said, guilty of freeloading.
“No need,” Ignis said. “Three is a crowd. Plus, I recall, you don’t like cooking.”
I told him that, didn’t I?
“If you are eager to help, come help me,” said Gladiolus. He set your mind and heart at ease, not that you would tell him. You straightened your posture and saluted, “Hai!” The large man groaned and shoot you a look of disgust.
“That reminds me of work,” he said, pointing a spoon at you, “don’t remind me of work.”
“Or else?” You skipped steps to join him as soon as possible, eager to ‘earn’ your place at the table. This was something entirely different yet oddly familiar. It reminded you of the first time you met Ignis and Prompto. Who could have ever guessed that almost a year later you would be celebrating Scientia’s birthday? It was his birthday party but not birthday. That was yesterday, a Friday. He shared a birthday with the artist you both adored. Ignis assured you he didn’t intend for this to happen. It made you laugh. Lately, you had found yourself laughing because of him. That was probably the reason why you decided to accept the invitation.
“I’ll throw a spoon at ya,” Gladio grinned. The two of you laughed, setting up the table. First came napkins, readily available at the table. Then you grabbed plates, two for each of you and placed it on the table. When it came to cutlery, however, you and Gladiolus decided to have a fight, jabbing each other with spoons.
“Children, calm down, please,” Ignis said, observing the antics. You did what you did with Gladiolus: saluted the man. Gladiolus hit you with a spoon. The pain. Whether he didn’t know his own strength or accidentally overdone it, the pain was intense.
“Ouch!” you yelled, hands rubbing the top of your head. There was a saying about how fearing the knife shouldn’t be the primal fear. One must be also afraid of the fork: one stab, four holes. But the spoon was just as dangerous: one hit, the skull is shuttered. It was a clever saying about being cautious as things that don’t look harmful, can be just that. Fuck that ancient wisdom. “Do you know how painful it was?”
“No,” Amicitia spoke with a hint of regret, “but I warned you.”
“You said you’d throw it!”
“Why throw it when you are close?” he irked a brow. You never stopped rubbing the top of your head. Soon, your hair would stand up due to all the rubbing but that’s the only thing that kept it from burning with pain.
“I told you,” Bellis said, gravely. The tone of her voice amidst the bickering made you and Gladiolus emerge from the bickering you had been sorely enjoying.
“Is that what you meant?” Scientia asked. He never stopped observing whatever the wicked pair of you were doing. Even if it was just bickering, his eyes were on you. Nothing joyful came from the stare. Belly never gave a verbal answer, just a slow nod of her head. Ignis let out a sigh and fixed his glasses. Gladiolus shoot you a look. You both felt the same: scolded children.
“You will be using those spoons,” Ignis said sternly.
“Understandable,” Gladio agreed. “Sorry.”
“Yeah, already forgotten,” came your half-truthful reply. The pain was still dull and throbbing but you held no ill will against your assaulter.
It was fun and games. Literally. Fun was provided with great company, alcohol and stupid jokes. Games were also here. Hexapartite. You against Gladiolus and Ignis against Bellis. You were struggling most but were also question how good your friend could possibly be. Better than you seemed to be the answer.
“Don’t be afraid to take risks,” Ignis said. It was aimed at you and no one else.
“Shut it, Iggy,” Gladiolus scolded jokingly. “Let her figure it out.”
You could figure out how to get Ignis out of the love letter issue but not how to beat Amicitia in a game he had been playing since he was a child.
“You are just taking pleasure in beating her,” Scientia parried, “but you should teach her too. Otherwise, I’m afraid, you are taking an easy challenge.” It brought you immense satisfaction to see Gladiolus clench his jaw. Something got to him. Worse, Ignis got to him. To commemorate it, you took another sip from the wine glass.
“Funny hearing that from you, Ignis,” you said cryptically, looking directly into your wine glass. Such a beautiful colour.
“Ig,” Belly cooed, placing a mark on the board. You were too concentrated on your own game to pay attention to theirs. Winning was important to you. Gladiolus was drinking a lot more too. This was your chance to shine.
“Yes?” he responded.
“Why do you want to teach her?” she smiled coyly. You rolled your eyes. Ignis started talking about the importance of Hexapartite in the history and culture of Lucis. A lecture you didn’t expect nor wanted because what you had done over the holidays was read the gifted book. You knew everything there was to know about this game, no need to hear it again. But he continued talking — ignorant or willingly oblivious to the looks he was getting — about Hexapartite, it’s history and connection to the deities, royal families and court.
A board of six-by-six to represent each Astral as well as four messengers and two blessed families. The marks placed on the board to connect one side to another like a bridge. It was connected to the worship of Astrals and was viewed as a way to connect the human world to the godly one. Through playing the game, humans were building bridges to help gods transcend into the mortal plane… God, he really likes to talk.
“That’s not what I expected,” Bellis mumbled in disappointed the moment Ignis finished his lecture.
“What did you expect?” Gladio asked without any interest, far more interested in the game.
“Nothing,” she replied. You could tell she was lying but whatever. Something in your gut was telling that the answer would be problematic.
“Are you gonna make a move?” Amicitia asked. “I’m getting older.”
“Nah, the only one getting older is Ignis,” you replied, mulling over your choices. After all your reading the only thing you could be sure of is that you weren’t likely to win. Unless your opponent got blind drunk, there weren’t many choices.
“Speaking of getting older,” Gladio picked up, “did you figure out who was the author of the letter?” At that, you suddenly felt very chirpy. A conversation about anyone’s failing love life was something to be excited about. That meant you were not the only one in the boat.
“Please explain how those two subjects connect,” Scientia cleverly diffused the sudden attention on him. You were glad someone else was just as interested in petty love affairs. Perhaps Ignis already knew who it was.
“They don’t,” Gladiolus shrugged.
“Come one, Ig,” Bellis supported, “we are worried about you.”
“You are nosy,” you retorted. Ignis hummed. It was a thing of the moment, didn’t last even for a minute, but it communicated to you. He was agreeing with you. He appreciated your speaking up. It was the alcohol talking, boosting your ego.
“Okay, we are,” Gladiolus agreed, forgetting about the game for a moment. He leaned against his wife, meeting Ignis’s stare, “but admit it, it's something new. A love letter. That's your type.”
“Ridiculous term,” Scientia rolled his eyes. Belly perked up, forgetting there was a body leaning against her for support. His weight held her from jumping up and begin interrogating.
“Everyone has a type,” you intervened.
“Is that so?”
“I start to hate this question,” you groaned. “Everyone has a type. I have a type. I know my type.”
Bellis facepalmed. “Your type sucks.” Gladiolus laughed. Ignis just tilted his head in curiosity.
“That’s why you decided to pair up me and Ignis?” you asked accusingly. The memory served you right regarding the very incident you and Ignis got close. The speed dating thing that brought you two together through mutual suffering and distrust. The two of you went as far as to agree to communicate regarding social gatherings initiated by your friends. The trust had been shaken. They wanted their friends to be happy — admirable quality — but decided to cheap out on the way to achieve it. They decided to push two single people together out of convenience. It would make everyone feel better, wouldn’t it? Belly wouldn’t have to feel the way you watch her leave with Gladiolus by her side or the way you eyed her ring when she got engaged. The feeling you got as you opened the envelope knowing the wedding invitation was inside as if you were trying to catch water running between your fingers. No way to stop it or catch it. The feeling you were losing something but could never name it. You were happy for her — undoubtedly so — and you didn’t feel like it was the friendship you were losing. It must have been something else, so ephemeral but essential. Time. You felt like you were running out of time. You felt as if you were falling behind.
“Hey,” you heard suddenly, a voice laced with worry. A voice calling out to you from the depth of your dark and ugly thoughts. “Are you okay?” she asked, reaching out her hand to you. The presence warm and familiar and loved.
“Yeah,” you lied. “I think I’m getting tipsy,” you lied again. So easily it disturbed you a little. “I’m good for tonight.” You looked at the glass of wine as if it had done something wrong. As if the deep red liquid was responsible for the alter thoughts inside your head.
“We weren’t, by the way,” Bellis answered the question you had already forgotten. “It was my sister’s last punch in the gut.”
“She still doesn’t like him?” you asked, solemnly, looking between the married couple.
“Not one bit,” Gladio confirmed, gravely.
“Why two?” Ignis chimed in with a tone much lighter than either of you cared for.
“For him,” Belly answered.
“Ouch,” came from you.
You couldn’t allow the mood to drop like this. It would give you too much room for your thoughts. You placed the Arch on the board, forcing a grin to appear on your face. As Gladiolus got consumed in the conversation, you saw a small opportunity for a win. Perhaps he would still be engrossed in thoughts about Belly’s sister and how much she disliked him for no logical reason. Amicitia didn’t make a move right away. You made him stagger.
“So, what’s your type?” Scientia asked, returning back to their game. You hoped he, on some cosmic level, understood what you were trying to do and was helping you. That he was picking up the mood with you so the weight of what had just happened wasn’t resting heavy on all four sets of shoulders. But you were more willing to believe he just wanted you to suffer through the answer.
“Take off your glasses,” you asked. “Please.” Politeness or helplessness was the key to make Ignis do something, you thought. With a heavy sigh, he removed his glasses. Nothing much happened. He still looked like him. Ignis is Ignis. Same green eyes, same sharp features. The only thing you saw different was the slight pink mark on the bridge of his nose from the glasses.
“Nope,” you shook your head, “still not my type.”
“Your type is terrible,” Belly remarked.
“True,” you nodded eagerly, “but a heart wants what a heart wants.”
“Now,” Ignis chimed in, fixing back his glasses, “I suggest we change subjects.”
Bellis was the one who would be driving tonight. But that meant Gladiolus was plenty tipsy. And that meant he talked. At first, it was some trivial things and mostly he was repeating ‘happy birthday’. Until, of course, he stopped.
“You really need to think before you talk,” Gladiolus said and made a sound between a groan and a yawn. There was little chance he just said this to his wife and in this tone. You went full offense.
“What did I say?” you questioned. You did not recall insulting anyone. Bellis started the engine.
“Not my type,” he answered. That made your head spiral. You did say that. To Ignis, of course. But that was nothing personal. You were not calling out his flaws or insulting him for kicks and giggles. He just happened to not be your type. That’s a personal preference. If someone prefers blonds, it’s not like they are trying to insult brunettes. As your hazy mind was trying to comprehend what was so wrong with that sentence you said, Gladiolus decided to explain it himself.
“You do realize it was salt on the wound,” he said. “How many —”
“Gladio, stop,” Belly said gently but with undeniable command. “He didn’t take offense. And why would she know? It’s all history, let it go. He is a grown man, he can deal with it.”
“I don’t want him to deal with it,” he mumbled angrily. “I want him to get over it.”
“Well, then, I believe one needs time to do that.”
“He had years! I saw the face he made when she said he wasn’t her type.”
“She didn’t mean it the way you are taking it,” her voice was not so gentle anymore. He didn’t reply. He sulked silently. You were sitting in the backseat, stunned. It wasn’t a conversation you should have been privy to. For one, there was something in between the sentences they said, something only they knew, a subtext you couldn’t grasp. The second reason was, you had no clue how to respond. Belly was a confidante to Gladio, he must have told her something, shared stories. Because you were barely grasping on whatever insult you could have caused with your words. If you did, Ignis would surely let you know in his prideful way. You had seen that look already, you’d know.
Chapter 15: She is in love. Unlike me.
Ignis asks for a favour. It's worse than last time.
It was getting warmer in Insomnia but it didn’t matter. It’s not like it snowed here much with all the ocean surrounding the city. But the wet and cold weather was getting to you in the worst possible ways. Mornings are awful but so are the evenings.
Today was game night. Bellis and you would be meeting at a friend’s place for a game of Menace Sleeps and tabletops. Because that’s what adults like you do for fun.
You: Where are you?
Belly: Common training room 2. Come down, it’s fun.
She was most likely watching her husband’s training some Crownsguard. However unusual it was for them to train so late and in the common room no less. But it didn’t matter. You were excited about games and not sweaty men. But Bellis was your ride there so you couldn’t just leave. The elevator doors opened with a quiet ding. You walked in and pressed the right button. The hall was lonely. The Citadel had gone very quiet in the evening and the only reason you were staying was because of Bellis. The steady rumble of the elevator going down now sounded loud in the quiet. Lonely. No, push away those thoughts. You were not lonely, you had Bellis and colleagues and other friends. You had even playmates for Menace Sleeps. Finally, the doors had opened. You walked through the corridor painfully aware of echoing sound your heels made against the stone floor. Reaching for your ID, you showed the guard you were an employee and could go to the common training rooms. Quietly opening the door, you walked inside unnoticed. Gladiolus was training with none other than his friend. Ignis was wearing a white tank-top, showing too much skin for you to bear. This was not the Ignis you were used to witnessing. Ignis you knew was always wearing something at least business-casual, his hair was always in place and he never looked out of breath. But this sight of him standing there in a white tank-top with his arms exposed and covered in sweat was breathtaking in its own way. His hair was down, covering his forehead and some locks falling in his eyes. You strangely wanted to call this Ignis cute and childlike.
“Belly, are we leaving soon?” you ask. Everyone’s attention was on you now, but yours was on Bellis. She placed a quick on Gladio’s cheek, “I need the keys.”
“Right,” her husband agreed, wrapping his hand around her waist. “In the locker. We’ll be back soon,” Gladiolus waved at them before leading his wife away. They simply left you and Ignis to your own devices.
“What’s that about?” you asked, turning to look at Ignis. The moment he noticed you were looking at him, he turned away, wiping the sweat from his face with a towel. You couldn’t tell if he was blushing or was it a flush produced by training. He really is a Crownsguard, huh. And that’s when he trains. For all the proof you had, imagining Ignis in a uniform wasn’t within your capabilities.
“I’m sure he wants to spend a moment with his wife without onlookers,” Ignis answered still not meeting your eyes.
“Ah,” you nodded, understanding. Not being a prude, you understood the desire to kiss your partner in private after a day of work, knowing you won’t see each other until much late in the evening. As intrusive and annoying as Amicitias were in their endeavors to get their friends into the dating scene, the simple fact was they loved each other. They acted as a unit. They were in love. Your gaze was wandering around the training room, anywhere but the locker room and Ignis.
“Going somewhere?” Scientia suddenly inquired.
“Just a game of Menace Sleeps,” you replied absentmindedly.
“I see your interest in Hexapartite didn’t come from nothing.”
“I’m a nerd, yes, thank you.”
“Would it be alright to call you past nine?”
“Yes, but why?” That was surprising. But also, who asks this kind of question? People just call, usually, and, if need be, apologize later.
“I have a favour to ask,” he answered, sounding a bit guilty.
“I’m intrigued. Omniscient and omnipotent Ignis needs a favour from me,” you tease. “Hope it’s not like last time.”
“I have a way to repay you if you agree,” his statement detached. That was rather rude to suggest you needed a form of payment to agree to help him. And here you thought you were falling into friendship. He didn’t take offense to your comments about not being the type for you. But before you could tell him how insensitive his words were, Bellis emerged from the locker room. She was looking a bit flushed for someone who didn’t do any physical exercise. And Gladiolus was not spotting a wide grin of satisfaction. She is in love, you thought. They both are. You weren’t bitter or jealous. Just disappointed in yourself.
The call came around 9:30 p.m. You picked up just as you promised, intrigued by the favour Ignis needed from you.
“What is it going to be?” you ask immediately.
“Good evening to you too,” he smoothly replied. “It’s nothing special, truly, I just need you to accompany me to an event.”
“Haven’t you heard? Prince Ravus will be visiting Insomnia. The King will be hosting a celebration of sorts.”
You thought about it for a moment. “You don’t want to appear the only one without a plus-one or something?”
Ignis let out a heavy sigh, “You caught me.”
“Yeah, sorry, Ignis, but no,” came your answer.
“Pardon?” he asked. He sounded truly taken aback by your refusal. That was funny to you. Scientia The Great must have thought you’d be flattered to be making an appearance with him. The reality of it didn’t suit you. Outside the three of them, you knew no one and was no one. And even with Ignis you quite often forgot he was more than just an office head: retainer, Advisor, Crownsguard…there must be one more title…forget it. Gladiolus wouldn’t mind you coming, especially as Ignis’s decoy, but that idea still didn’t smile at you. Going there would require the dress, the stress and an evening you could be spending however you liked.
“I’m flattered I am the only other female you know,” you said, “but I don’t want to go.”
“Anything I can do to change your mind?” Ignis insisted.
“Expand your circle of female friends so I am not your last resort,” you tease.
He didn’t reply immediately, “My question remains.”
“No, not really, I simply don’t want to go.”
“Then I must appear there alone?”
“Sounds like a you problem,” you shrugged.
“Please,” he said, hushed. You breathed in. He sounded so desperate for your help. Help you didn’t wish to provide. There was truly nothing he could do to change your mind about not wanting to go. But… Please. Such a touching plea. Ignis sounded so human with simple burdens. He would be embarrassed about appearing alone.
“Well, I don’t know the dress code,” you spoke, “you’ll have to get me something to wear.”
“That…that is easy.”
“When is it?”
“You are fucking with me,” you said. There was no possible worse day to have to someone’s decoy than Coalescence. A day once dedicated to Ifrit and Shiva. It was a holy day once too. But now it was just a day dedicated to couples. Purple hearts, chocolates, flowers and all other symbols of affection. No one wanted to think of the union between two Astrals anymore knowing how it ended. “I take it back, I’m not going,” you said.
“Come now, it’s not like you have plans for that day,” Ignis said, irritated. It must have ticked him off the fact you could change your mind so easily and go back on your word.
“I’m gonna hang up,” you bit back.
“Wait.” It was sharp but not loud. It made you hesitate for a moment. “I’m sorry,” Ignis said.
“You better,” you scoffed.
“I’m sorry for what I said. But I would appreciate your help.”
“Why? Can you not go? Or ask someone else?”
“I have to go. And no, I don’t have friends I could ask for such a favour.”
Friends? He called you his friend. He thought of you as a friend. You were friends. It was a bit pathetic, you thought, how little you needed to agree. All he did was call you a friend and you were flustered enough to decide to help. Even if it meant being a decoy. And suffering the formal ways of conduct and protocols of behaviors. It would be quite a drudge.
“Yeah, whatever, you owe me big time,” you sighed, displeased with yourself.
Chapter 16: Stations.
As per agreement with Ignis, you go to the Citadel in a dress and dance among royalty and such. And then you meet someone very special to Ignis. Someone from his past.
You practically were hanging on his forearm but worried little about it. This was torture. The glorious life of royalty and nobility in actuality was nothing but a drag. There was a lot of talking and standing. And the crowd was rather awful. You didn’t expect the kingdom’s top citizens to be in such numbers. There were guests from all over Lucis and a few from Tenebrae. And then there were the words that made you want to cry from misery. Obligatory formal dancing. Three words but such great pain. When the King danced, so must you. When the Prince danced, so must you. Royalty was above you. You had to dance even if they were not your liege.
“Is it necessary?” you asked, looking up at Ignis. You knew the answer beforehand. This was about being able to complain than receiving an answer you wished to hear.
“I wouldn’t ask otherwise,” he coldly replied still offering his hand. You groaned, taking the offer. Dancing with him was familiar and easy. It was the thought about the place and people surrounding you that was getting to you. Dancing at a wedding was for fun and enjoyment. Dancing here was an obligation, compliance. And extremely official. Proper ballroom waltz, nothing casual.
“That stung, by the way,” you noted about the previous comment.
“You are clearly uncomfortable, I wouldn’t ask you to subject yourself to something like this unless necessary,” he elaborated.
“Oh indeed,” he openly mocked. You felt like dropping on the floor and whine instead of gracefully waltz. But whatever needed to be done. The things we do for friendship, luxury alcohol, and royal banquets.
“I bet the Queen is pregnant,” you whispered. That shook Ignis to the core, you felt the nervous twitch of his arm on your waist. As if you said something inappropriate. The royal couple was married for years, there was no one after to inherit the throne as King Noctis was the only child. Why else would Prince Ravus travel here from Tenebrae?
“That’s,” Ignis mumbled. You caught the expression on his face. He was doing some complicated maths in his head. “That is a possibility.” You eyed him curiously, wondering why he looked so uncomfortable. And you had a few guesses.
“Possibility?” you mocked. “I bet you fifty yen.”
“That is the future of Lucis we are talking about. Our liege,” Ignis reprimanded. “A hundred, no less.”
“When did you become greedy?”
“When did you become a gossipmonger?”
“I’m bored,” you answered.
“You are dancing among the most esteemed guests and the royal family of Lucis,” Ignis said. “I guess you are right to be bored.” You needed to force your mouth shut after that comment. Ignis could be so compliant at times. It took you by surprise.
“Specs, is that you?” a woman’s voice echoed behind you. The two of you turned around to see a woman with silver hair and a self-satisfied smirk. Oh, you didn’t feel comfortable at all. She was drop-dead gorgeous and more…mature. She didn’t look old, she just looked more sophisticated than you, which wasn’t that hard, truthfully. She was of the military. Dress in black and red stylized as a uniform but in a dress-cut. Elaborate, elegant, expensive and definitely authoritative.
“Aranea,” Scientia greeted with a slight bow, “it’s good to see you.” You couldn’t tell what had made you want to look at him. What made you watch his face and listen to his voice so carefully, but you did. And you knew one simple truth about men: they never look at the women they’ve slept with the same way. You just met a woman Ignis had slept with. Away! Give them privacy.
“I see you had grown,” Aranea said crossing her arm, flashing her teeth in a sneer, “you don’t follow the King like a puppy anymore.” She regarded you with a cold, measuring stare. “Even got a girlfriend.”
“Just a friend,” you said defensively, “just a friend.” Your feet carried you backward. Awkward, awkward, awkward. “Ugh, I’ll leave you to it.” Why the finger guns? The look the two ex-lovers gave you made you feel borderline ashamed of your exit. Among the mingling crowd, you carried yourself to the other side of the room where drinks and food were. A buzz could silence the nasty feeling growing inside your chest. Eating and drinking and not thinking about what had just happened. There will be some questioning in the future but no now. You were not prepared to meet a woman Ignis slept with at the royal reception. That makes sense, you thought begrudgingly, who else would he have relationships with? Someone of his own station. You were drinking some sparkling wine and sneaking glances at the two of them. At first, they just talked. While only guessing what they were talking about, you were watching Scientia’s reactions to everything. Did he move closer or further? Did he try to touch her? Did he avoid her touch? Ignis was acting like a damn statue. The only thing startling him was Aranea’s hand touching his shoulder, poking it slightly, laughing a little as she did so. Her fingers slid down to his chest and then dropped. To any stray gaze, it would look like an interaction between friends. But not to you because you were watching as if you were on a stakeout. Sadly, no mobile phones or cameras were allowed in here. Otherwise, you’d have blackmail for the rest of Scientia’s mortal life.
No, this was something you could have used as blackmail. Aranea made a move on Ignis, placing her hand on his shoulder. You chocked on your sparkling wine. They were going to dance. He placed his hand on her back — even more formal and polite than he was with you — and took her free hand in his. And they danced. Elegantly, beautifully and in perfect synch. Does bedding your dancing partner improve the dancing? You could only guess. But you were not the only one who was watching them. Whispers around you were getting more and more prominent.
“Wasn’t he with another woman before?” someone asked in front of you.
“I know,” a woman’s voice replied. “But does it mean anything these days? He could have brought his cousin for all we know. Anything to avoid unwanted attention.”
“True,” the first voice said. “It’s impossible to court in the ballroom these days.”
Interesting. So, that must be the reason Ignis was desperate not to appear alone. He was a man of station, money, age and — for some — even looks. Appearing at a setting like this alone would be like screaming at every single woman to pay attention to him because he was searching too. You shrugged. Weird things the royalty and closer to them were into back in the day. There was no need to watch Ignis and Aranea either: they were charged. You were sure the sparks between them could power up a lightbulb. You turned to the tables with foods and drinks, searching for someone you hadn’t tried yet. As you were just about to put something in your mouth, familiar footsteps were heard behind you.
“Very kind of you to leave me,” he said sarcastically close to your ear. That whisper in your ear almost became the reason for your premature death. The reply you had was snarky and snappy, but you couldn’t offer it until you chewed your food. That surely stole away from the moment.
“I just didn’t expect to meet someone like her,” you replied lamely before washing it down with sparkling cider.
“Someone like her? A commodore?” Ignis sounded amused.
“No,” you said smugly, “someone you slept with.” The amusement was wiped off his face. Instead, came embarrassment. Ignis Scientia never appreciated being read so easily.
“It was ages ago,” he said sternly. You snorted. Why is he acting like you had wounded his pride again? Wounded puppy. Jilted lover. Was it because he got dumped first? Oh, you would have so much fun with this. You didn’t regret coming here and wasting time on this if it meant learning about embarrassing things related to Ignis.
“Do tell,” you encouraged with a wicked grin.
“It happened not long after the plan for the royal marriage was set into motion. We were both young and due to our positions had frequent and regular interactions with each other.”
“Oh my, Ignis mixed duty with pleasure?”
“That was a good lesson,” he said coldly and not meeting your eyes anymore. There sure was a story to it, but it’s too early to pry.
“Okay, I won’t ask anymore.”
“I’ll just joke about it.” You didn’t need to look at his face to know the expression. That alone could make you laugh for a day and a half. A hand sneaked around yours and pulled you. Aw, shit another dance was coming in. You were too absorbed into jokes than listening to music. But Scientia was sure always paying attention to everything. You followed his lead meekly like a ragdoll. You knew the drill and you hated the drill. His hand on your waist — light and gentle. A soft and warm leather beneath your palm. Your hand resting on his strong shoulders. And the very neutral eye contact you maintain in between casual conversations.
“The Prince is dancing with his sister,” you observed. Their striking white clothing was easy to spot however brief it was.
“Not surprising,” Ignis replied. “The King and he famously do not get along. Prince Ravus had had enough.”
“Really?” you sneakered. Whatever Ignis was about to tell you, he was only telling you because he knew you were trustworthy. So, you would absorb every word because the guy knew interesting things. And you were starved for real entertainment.
“Hmm,” he confirmed. “I’ve been thinking about what you said before. I have an idea of my own. I think Prince Ravus is to be wed soon.”
“That would be something,” you nodded along. Calling for such a lavish welcome could be because Prince Ravus was about to get married and being a brother to Lady Lunafreya. Royal connections and protocols. Whatever. This was a lifestyle you didn’t need to worry about. “Someone should put a smile on his scowling face.”
“That would be something,” Ignis parroted, “considering his intense personality.” That came out a bit condescending.
“I see you’ve met,” you enticed him further.
“Noct — The King takes his duties seriously but is very laid back about everything else. Prince Ravus is not.”
“Is that why they don’t get along? Tenebrean Prince thinks our King a slacker or something?”
“Spill that royal tea, my friend.”
“There’s nothing to spill. Everyone on the council had already seen their tense relationship.”
“Okay, who’s the Prince to marry?”
“Considering he is the only heir to the crown of Tenebrae,” Ignis spoke, “the marriage would likely be arranged.”
“That sucks,” you blurted out before thinking.
“More often than not,” the man agreed, “but sometimes you can get lucky. Look at our King and Queen.”
The royal marriage was arranged, it was never a secret from the public. “What about them?” you asked, eyeing the Prince and his sister behind Ignis’ back. The walls and floors of the Citadel never seemed so dark but when they were contrasting against the white colours of Tenebrae royalty. The Queen never did wear the black of Lucis.
“They knew each other since they were children,” Ignis spoke with odd fondness, “and years later were married. While the marriage was an arrangement to steady the Empire’s hand, neither of them minded.”
“Aw, that warms my heart,” you cooed.
“Ah, so you must have one.”
“You had been rather cruel to me this evening.”
“That’s for lying to me last time we danced,” you parried.
“I said you looked breathtaking and I meant it,” he dejected. The topic wasn’t his favourite to discuss which meant you needed to discuss it a lot. Especially now that you were dancing again, it was the perfect moment to tease him about it.
“Don’t recall you being out of breath,” you sneakered.
“I said you were breathtaking,” he said, “but I didn’t say you took my breath away.”
“Are you still sulking about me leaving you with your ex-lover?” you huffed, offended. That’s why you did your damnest to accentuate lover. Ram it home for a very apparent reason. You could hear the gears in his stopping with a very loud, screeching noise each time you mentioned his adventurous youth. Anything and everything to aggravate your companion.
“Commodore. Aranea. Miss Highwind. Anything but that, please.” He was pleading with you. But why? Was he embarrassed about his boisterous youth? Or was it hurting him to be reminded of something he apparently could no longer have? Ah, the questions in your head would not let you sleep at night.
“So, royalty marry for political reasons. What about you and Gladiolus then?” you prompted. If the answers were impossible to get by asking direct questions, you will take the roundabout road.
“The Amicitia household is above mine,” Ignis answered. “There can only be one Shield of the King but many royal retainers.”
“You are more than just a retainer,” you nudged.
“True,” he agreed very calmly. He wasn’t smug about it. Proud, most likely, but even that he never let out. You just knew he was. His voice never betrayed it. “But not thanks to the circumstances of my birth. Merely quick thinking of my uncle.”
“Go on,” a grin grew on your face. He was talking too eagerly than anticipated. He rarely talked about himself or his youth. What a treat.
“His Majesty was four, I was six. My uncle decided to offer me as a retainer, friend, tutor, and advisor for the young prince.”
“All that? At six?” you huffed in annoyance. This was not a way to treat a child. No matter the circumstances of his birth or the flexibility of his mind. He was a child and he should have been allowed to be one. “What are you to your uncle? A sacrificial lamb?”
“Do not fret on my behalf,” he said with a faint smile. “It’s been quite some time since that. Besides, His Majesty became my friend just as I was his. We are as close as brothers. And I am grateful for it.”
“Still,” you insisted without having any argument to pursue. Ignis was right. It was done and it was a long time ago. He sure seemed fine how his life turned out. It may have crippled him romantically but even that wasn’t too much of a damage. “Of course, you are grateful,” you cooed sweetly, “how else would you get to know the Commodore so closely?” It was a good one. A sneer still escaped from you despite your restraint. His lips formed a thin line signifying his irritation with you. Ignis pulled you closer rather forcefully but never hurting you. And that entertained you ever more so. It could only mean you got under his skin. And it was making you giddy. Such a soft and sensitive spot of his. And so effective.
“I believe I asked you nicely,” he hissed into your ear. The hand he was resting on your waistline was now holding your form close like a vice. Goddamnit, it was so funny.
“And I only promised not to ask questions,” you retorted.
“Will you let me live this down?”
“Tell me the dirty details,” you giggled.
“Gods, why would you want to hear this?” Never had you ever heard Scientia be so repulsed and surprised at the same time. That whisper contained more emotion than you had ever heard coming from him most of the time.
“Now, seriously, how did you fall in love? I’m curious.” It was an innocent question because Ignis Scientia did not fall in love in your mind. In your mind, Ignis Scientia was running on Ebony that was made with machine oil. He didn’t sleep in your imagination either and just plugged himself into an outlet. While imagining Ignis as a robot was fun, you knew he was painfully human. Prideful and stupidly selfless, dedicated but not very good with letting people in.
“I do not recall saying anything of the sort,” Ignis growled with irritation. A very inappropriate and unladylike gasp escaped you. Not a squeak of surprise but a scandalous gasp. The one anyone would make if their best friend just confessed to shagging their boss. The few couples around you turned their heads. You buried your head in his chest to stifle your amused sneers.
“A hook-up?” you mumbled in between the laughs. “How hotheaded of you, Scientia.”
“If that was one of your innuendoes —”
“Oh, you want one?”
“Mercy, I beg of you,” he sighed but smiled nonetheless.
“Come on, I’m not judging you, nothing to be ashamed of.”
“I am not ashamed,” Ignis rebuked. “Everything was consensual and mutually beneficial.”
“For fuck’s sake, don’t like that about that.” You hissed at him. This was not the way to talk about his experiences. Mutually beneficial. Who the hell talks like that about sex! Gugh! He is awful sometimes without malice or realizing it but still awful.
“Oh,” Ignis sounded smug, “how would you like me to talk about it?” The Six would wake up from their slumber sooner than you would let this man turn the tables on you when the topic was this good and so over his head.
“Sensually, of course,” you grinned.
“You are incorrigible,” he rolled his eyes at you. Finally, the melody came to an end. This was a rather long dance. Prince Ravus had chosen the melody very wisely. But you were curtsying Ignis goodbye for now. Not that you would separate but the dancing part was over. The obligatory dancing. A few couples broke apart only for a few moments of formality then began their swaying again. That’s when you heard a familiar voice.
“Mind if I cut in?” she asked.
“Be my guest,” you replied smiling wide and looking Ignis in the eye. He was pleading you not to do this. And you did exactly the opposite. Aranea took the reigns and pulled him into the dancing stance once again. Ha! This was getting good. Perfect karma: Ignis made you come here and suffer the dancing, and then someone came along and avenged you. Before retreating, you blew Ignis a kiss and made a mental note to return to the conversation about arranged marriages. Gladiolus wasn’t in one and Ignis was too single for his own good.
Chapter 17: A change one must believe in.
Ignis bowed down to Aranea after the dance. She bestowed a smile, confident and charming. Alluring even. Years had passed but her attractiveness didn’t change. It was still pulling him like a magnet. He just learned to resist it a bit better. Getting older came with its perks.
“So, she’s your decoy or something?” Highwind nodded in the direction of a certain woman. Ignis couldn’t understand why the two women decided to exclusively ask him about each other. In his youth, he jokingly suspected all women knew each other. That made perfect sense. It still does, in a way.
“A friend,” he corrected, “but a decoy as well.”
“You should consider marriage,” she said with a sting of condescension.
“And you?” he parried with a smirk. He wanted to let go of her stinging comments but she still had great power over him: she was right.
“You know me, Ignis,” Aranea answered, “I like my life the way it is.”
“You mean your duty,” he spoke coldly now, a grudge obvious in his voice. He shouldn’t be getting angry over this. Not after all this time. Not again. He was over her and their issues. He had outgrown them. “And I’m afraid, I am the same way.”
“Be afraid all you want,” she smirked. Ignis tensed. “You and I know that’s not true,” she shook her head in disappointment. Ignis felt like a child being scolded by a parent. “You need someone to stand by, always did.” Those were her final words to him. So reminiscent of their last conversation. Ignis felt his blood boiling. Anger and hurt. He hated himself for feeling this way after all those years. He had thought to be above it. How foolish. He took off his glasses and wiped it with a white handkerchief. The one she used to stain with lipstick. What a perfect opportunity to use as a… woman-repellent. That’s what she called it. Someone caught his attention the moment he put his glasses back on. Gladiolus gave him a signal to come over. Ignis obeyed.
“May I ask what was that?” Amicitia tried to control his tone but it came out as hissing instead. A hissing of a big, angry feline.
“Aranea Highwind, Commodore, you’ve met,” Scientia replied dryly. He wasn’t in the mood to have the conversation they had years ago. It was a loop he seemed to put himself into endlessly. Also, he had enough scolding for one evening.
“I know,” Gladio rebuked, “she’s great. You are great, Iggy. But you together just don’t mix anymore.”
“It was nothing, Gladio,” he spoke in his defense without any passion behind it. “A friendly chat, nothing more.”
“Friendly chat? You are quite a joker tonight, Iggy,” the man sighed. He was worried. Ignis didn’t wish to worry him. “You are gonna fall at her feet again and watch her step over you. Again.”
“I assure you, I am not planning on it,” Ignis said, looking into the distance. Among the crowd, his eyes found the person he came here with. The person he admired for one quality he didn’t possess: an ability to move on. She spoke of her failed romances as comedy plays. That’s something none of my exes ever said. She didn’t harbour any particular feelings towards people who broke her heart or she sure made a good act out of it. She was either able to move or made a much better spectacle making others believe she did. He should learn to do the same. But seeing Aranea, hearing the same words she had spoken to him all those years ago as if he didn’t change at all, it hurt. A heart wants what a heart wants. He had changed, he had grown, he had moved on. He must believe it.
“I have gotten over my desire for her,” Ignis admitted.
“Your desire but not your feelings?”
“They do not stop just because the person had hurt you. But I am willing to let her go and not hold it against her.”
“Are you?” Gladio asked.
“Yes,” Ignis nodded.
Chapter 18: Loyalty.
You didn’t mingle among the crowd, too uncomfortable to initiate any sort of conversation and too lost in politics and protocols to join in. So, you wondered around the tables with food and drinks trying to not attract any attention. Next time you agreed to something like this, you would ask Belly if she would be here. While she could, she decided not to. 'I can’t dance with Gladio anyway.'Gladiolus was somewhere around, but you knew he was on duty. Plus, there were too many people dressed in royal black to be able to find anyone easily. At some point, Ignis was bound to find you. That point, however, could arrive very late. He was just dancing with his former lover. What about a tryst? Nah, that wouldn’t be Ignis. At least, not the Ignis you came to know. Maybe a younger Ignis would. Nothing stopped him from shagging his… colleague? What would be the appropriate term to describe the relation between a Commodore and a Crownsguard with a few more titles to his name? That, however, explained why Ignis was adamant about dating his subordinates. He knew what it’s like to be dumped by your superior. You had awful thoughts. You always knew you had awful thoughts but recently you started to question your mental state. You decided to drink some juice this time instead. Vitamin C and all the goods to improve your souring mood.
“You have this face again,” he said nonchalantly. Screw this man and his sudden appearance. But he didn’t startle you at least. You felt like walking on needles for the last few needles. The only thing that could surprise you was a Behemoth in the middle of the ballroom.
“I was kinda born with it, sorry but the blame ain’t on me,” you replied. Scientia could navigate a room like a professional. Oh yeah, this was his environment. Privilege and all that.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” he spoke sternly. “What is it you were thinking about?”
Should I blind him? How many years in prison would it land me?
“It’s creepy how you are watching me,” you replied as casually as you could while dying from discomfort. The idea of him knowing you better than you knew him didn’t smile upon you. “I was just thinking about arranged marriages and such. You know, things I never had to worry about.”
“Arranged marriage is a dead practice now,” Ignis said with a glimpse of a smile. “Only royal families still might reserve to that.”
“That’s why Gladiolus was free to marry whomever?”
“There’s little that could be done in terms of swaying Gladio one way or the other.”
“What are you? Friends?” you joked.
“That explains why your uncle didn’t marry you off,” you noted. He seemed to be in control of your life. You looked at Ignis for the first time after leaving him to Aranea, taking in the way he looked. He didn’t look pleased or elated. He looked stressed. He seemed to be insulted by your leaving him to be eaten by sharks. A very good-looking shark. A shark he chose once. But, then again, you thought if he had done the same to you. Yeah, it wasn’t your best behaviour. On the other hand, you agreed to come with him and not save from the shark’s mouth.
“That it does,” Ignis replied distantly. Again with the tone. On the list of flaws of Ignis Scientia, there was one you seemed to neglect. He distanced himself from unpleasant things of the heart. Ah, damn, that makes sense why he didn’t appreciate me leaving him with Aranea. An unpleasant dealing of the heart. It couldn’t be he never suspected his ex-lover to be here as well with the Prince of Tenebrae. That’s how they’ve met. Why would he come then? And with you under his wing?
“I get why Gladiolus is here,” you said instead, “alone. Why did you have to come?” You dropped the question of your presence. After all, there was food and drinks and stories of Ignis’s past.
“For Noc— For His Majesty,” he replied. “My life is in his servitude.”
“Terrifying,” you spoke honestly. “I don’t think he needs you.” You turned to look at the throne that currently was empty. The King must be among the crowd with his Shield. When you turned to look at Ignis, you almost shrieked. The look on his face wasn’t directed at you. He wasn’t scowling. But it was the look you had seen at the wedding. A perfect copy. You knew you said something wrong. Something you shouldn’t have said. You didn’t offend him or insulted his pride. You hurt him. Shiiiiiiit. Your hand reached to touch him out of instinct. There was little you could say to fix what you had just done. He was right, you were no good with words. So, you offered physical comfort, hoping that somehow through your touch he would be able to understand you didn’t mean it. Ignis shrugged off your touch and made a half-step away from you.
“You are correct,” he said quietly. The sound chilled your heart. He didn’t sound remote as he used when it came to matters of the heart. He either couldn’t look away or grew tired of it. You hoped it was the latter. You reached out to touch him again, softly and gently you laid a hand on his shoulder. He didn’t shrug you off this time but neither did he look at you.
“It’s not so bad, Ignis,” you said, hoping you could fix what you had just broken. “It means we can leave early,” you offered a smile. The gears in his head were turning slowly. Finally, the light had returned to his bright eyes. And even a tug of smile was on his lips.
“You are correct,” he said. “Just say when.”
“Now is a good time.”
For all the royal banquet you had had, there was one undeniable fact...You felt sick.
Chapter 19: Desperate.
Raw seafood. Who does that?
One day, someone will understand the references I had put into this fic, count them, and be terrified by the amount of media I consume.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
You were getting better at this game. You liked to think you were troubling Ignis but it was wishful thinking. Waiting for his move, you were slowly sinking deeper into your thoughts. You took the iced coffee you bought for yourself today. Drinking something hot didn’t seem appealing the morning. You still felt a bit icky after the light case of food intolerance. Raw seafood. Who does that? The cold of the cup against your warm forehead felt incredibly good. Almost as good as a mother’s lullaby. If you didn’t live alone, you wouldn’t have to suffer alone either. Someone could have taken care of you tonight. Doting and caring for you, giving you undivided attention. God, your thoughts were so desperate. You were growing desperate.
Ignis finally did something with the game. A move you could predict, a move you had little idea how to counter. Damn him. But your reactions were slowed down and downgraded due to the state you were in. Sluggish, icky, sickly. You sank deeper into the chair, contemplating. He would win again. As if there was any room for doubt.
“You have improved,” he said. His encouragement was too dry for your taste to truly appreciate it. You scowled at him and his empty flattery. He was his regular self. Even after yesterday’s encounter, he seemed his regular self. Composed and collected and in control. As if you hadn’t seen that crushed expression on his face. Or the displeasure he felt when you had left him with Aranea. As if you didn’t open your mouth yesterday and reminded him that —
“Say, Ignis,” you say, hoping a conversation would take you away from those thoughts. You could feel his eyes on you again. He might make a comment about your face. “Do you wish you were…not single?”
“I don’t see how that’s a question,” he irked a brow.
“I mean, do you wish you were intimate with someone?” The expression of absolute astonishment on his face was precious to you. But then you realized what exactly you’ve been asking. No! No! No! “Wrong choice of words,” you hurried to correct yourself, waving your hands in panic, as if the words were written in the air, trying to wipe them off. God forbid he’d give you an answer to that question. Especially after meeting Aranea. “Do you ever wish for affection? You know, someone hugging you when you cook for the two of you or snuggling to you before going to sleep?”
“Not quite,” he answered. “I guess I am more of a giver than you.”
“Probably,” you quickly agreed. That sounded about right. You were the one selfish here.
“I’ll be honest I haven’t felt that way towards a person for a good while,” that smile of his wasn’t one of amusement. “But with a stretch of imagination, let’s say, I have been seeing someone long-term,” he paused, thinking. You examined his expression. Now that how wishful thinking looks on his face. Such serene beauty hidden in his relaxed features. Corners of his mouth turned slightly upwards, eyes closed for a moment. And then his gaze was aimed somewhere far away. Probably somewhere he can see the future he was imagining. He cleared his throat, expression losing its wistfulness, “I would be a happy man giving affection to someone.”
“Not only did I sound desperate just now,” you said, dropping your head in your hands, “but you also made me sound selfish.” This was beyond simple embarrassment. You admitted to being desperate for intimate human contact, closeness, and affection while also sounding like a selfish, inconsiderate, neglectful prick. That would explain why you were single, though.
“That’s quite alright,” Ignis softly spoke. And then he gently preyed your hands away from your reddened face. “You are human. It’s quite alright for you to wish for simple human joys like affection.” The words came out as a soft murmur, it was lulling you closer to him. It’s quite alright to wish for simple human joys like affection. His gloved hands were still wrapped around your wrists, his face was close to yours.
“I guess you are right.” The words come out with a struggle.
“I know I am,” he nodded in agreement. You scoff at his confidence. How cocky of him. But it’s true he rarely was wrong.
The spectacled bastard won another game. You didn’t eat lunch with him for obvious reasons. But you were glad to find out he had only one container.
“Are you eating a fucking soup?” Gladiolus asked as he sat beside Ignis. His wife plopped beside you. You didn’t need to greet each other, there was no need for any formalities. Those people were your friends and just as importantly they were friends with each other. You ravished in the feeling of warmth and familiarity and amity. It was the best feeling after yesterday’s disaster. The disaster you could still feel the aftertaste of. Bloody raw seafood! Who does that? Why did you eat even? It's not like it tasted good. But the novelty of it, dammit.
“It’s a regular soup, thank you very much,” you replied with a sly smile. A fucking soup. It sounded so stupid but was so amusing to you. It was ridiculous how funny you found it. It was embarrassing.
“Gladio, language,” reprimanded Ignis. You just rolled your eyes. As if you couldn’t keep up with raunchy humor. As if you minded. As if it made you blush.
“Sorry,” Gladio said meaninglessly. He said just so he could be left alone. You strangely related to that dismissive reply of his. “You don’t look so good,” he observed. His eyes quickly sized you up, took in the colour of your skin and the pained expression on your face. And the soup, of course. What food better informs people you aren’t doing so splendidly as a soup bowl after a workday?
“I’ll take it as a compliment,” you scoffed. You wouldn’t be surprised to look in the mirror and see how green your face was.
“I meant it as one,” Gladio replied quickly. Bellis her hand around your shoulder gently as to not disturb your slurping. “Who finally decided to poison you?”
“It was the King himself,” you answered dryly, looking just ahead of you for dramatism.
“I knew it was dangerous for you to go,” she said with a giggle. “It was nice knowing you.”
“That’s it?” you asked, offended. You have been friends for years! You have been her friend for longer than she’d been dating Gladiolus! You were owed more than just ‘nice knowing you’. You deserved tears and loud proclamations of love. You demanded she avenged you, went against the Crownsguard, Glaives, her husband even, all for the sake of getting her hands on King Noctis.
“My heart will be forever empty,” she said. “I will know no love or joy. Only endless sorrow.”
“That’s better,” you grinned.
“I swear,” Gladiolus chimed in, “sometimes I think you love her more than me.”
“That’s not true,” you hurried with a reply. “Most of the time.” Gladiolus looked confused for a moment, looking at you with his eyes wide. Belly pressed herself closer to you, finally picking on up the set up you had laid out for her.
“Most of the time I love her more than you,” she sweetly cooed and placed her head on your shoulder. He opened his mouth —
“I put the groundwork in,” you said before someone else could interrupt this beautiful once-in-a-lifetime joke. “You don’t get to give her a ring and go number one, you sociopath!” That was a much softer version than the one you initially thought. Your first version included the word dick, but you decided against it. Ignis was here. And it was perhaps a bit too crude for your taste. Those were your friends you were talking about. Let's not conjure up any images. You heard polite coughing coming from Ignis. His eyes were glistening with tears in the corner of his eyes. He was trying to conceal laughing. After a few fleeting moments, Gladiolus boomed with laughter himself. You grinned with pride. Belly was giggling beside you. Ignis was still pressing his fist to his mouth as if he was the only one laughing right now. Gladio carefully reached for his wife across the table. It was very careful as if he was trying to avoid being noticed but not slow. She placed her hand in his for a few seconds and smiled.
“Alright, time to order,” Amicitia said, retrieving his hand. “I might have some fucking soup myself.”
“Kinky,” came from you.
“No spoon fighting,” Ignis chimed in before taking off his glasses.
“Who do you take me for, Iggy?” the other man asked.
“I don’t think you'd like my answer,” the reply was cold but only in jest. He wiped his glasses and placed them back where they belonged. Gladio scoffed dismissively but looked amused nonetheless. Belly leaned into you and whispered one word into your ear. “Children.” You didn’t show any signs of amusement on your face but you were deeply touched by her participation. This was good. This felt good. Having dinner with friends, even if sick, surrounded by laughter and silly jokes. Surrounded by care and love. This should be your forever after. This was better than anything. This was best.
Ignis let out a sigh and took out his wallet. After a few moments, he placed a hundred yen on the table in front of you. The gears were turning in your head. Is this how he decided to thank you for coming with him?
“I believe we had a bet,” he said, strangely elated. He just parted with money. Oh. OH. You gasped in surprise. No way! You were right! A hundred yen if the Queen was expecting. You giggled, excited and giddy. Winning felt good.
“Keep your mouth shut,” Gladiolus commented, eyeing the stupid expression on your face. He too was wearing a stupidly wide smile. Nothing better than some good news, good food, and good company.
“Hai!” you saluted.
“I swear to all six gods,” he mumbled, exasperated.
There's nothing to dodge, my dudes. It's not fake dating. Ignis asked for a favour, Reader fulfilled it. Nothing more. Now let's move on with this ode.
Chapter 20: Season of love.
Are you ready kids?
Are you ready for angst?
Aye, aye, Captain!
“Hey, you! Wait up!”
You didn’t know who the voice belonged to, so you assumed it wasn’t calling for you. You were wrong to assume that. A woman jumped in before you in a Crownsguard uniform. What did I do? your panicked for a moment. You paid for you coffee, the transaction went through, you had receipt. What else could you have done?
“I remember you,” she said. Nothing left for you to do but stare her down. Tall and lean, wearing the black uniform. Black hair cut above her shoulder and dark eyes staring you down, measuring you, weighting you. “What’s more, I’ve heard of you.” She smiled. A smile looked nice on her pale, pointy face.
“Ah, yes, it’s me,” you said awkwardly, completely lost in the situation. You hadn’t recognized her, which shouldn’t be hard considering everything about her. And she’d heard of you, which wasn’t necessarily a compliment. You didn’t mingle with anyone at the party, let alone Crownsguard on duty. Who the hell was she? She must be mistaken.
“I’ve seen you and Ignis at the ball,” she explained. “Name’s Garnet. You may have heard of me as Garnet The Dagger.”
You haven’t heard of her. At all. You weren’t a Crownsguard to be meddling around with other sworn members. And the only two members you actually did meddle with didn’t act or talk about their duties. Gladiolus was especially peeved if you brought up work while hanging out. Understandable, he was leading them as well as serve as King’s Shield so he really wanted to talk about his strenuous job. And Ignis held a position slightly more important than a Crownsguard. But he was one still. Which was confusing. It’s a like a side job of his or freelance. That’s the only way you could think of it. Besides, you were all friends, there are plenty of other things to discuss than someone’s nicknames.
“Tell me,” she spoke earnestly, “how long have you been an item? He ignored my letter and I feel stupid for doing so.”
Letter? You looked her up and down. No way. So, this was the author of the love letter to Ignis. Why didn’t he sign her name? Yours truly, Dagger. You’d laugh if you weren’t so astonished by the jigsaw puzzle falling into place. She wrote the letter, thinking Ignis would figure out whose handwriting it was. Or something like that. And everything would unfold like a romance book. Or accept her rejection and move on. But neither happened. All she achieved was a big frighten she’d given Ignis over the fact one of his direct subordinates could be harbouring less than appropriate feelings for him.
“No, no, no,” you replied, shaking your head. “The only ship we are sailing is friendship. The SS Get Along. In his defense, though, he didn’t know it was you. He assumed it was someone in his department.”
“Funny that,” Garnet smirked, “given his reputation. So, I have a chance, you think?”
“I dunno,” you answered to the best of your ability, “so I won’t promise you anything. But he is not taken as far I know.”
“It’s better than nothing,” she beamed. “Thanks!” Garnet rushed towards the elevators, a skip in her step. She turned around and waved at you with the same bright smile on her face. It seemed like you’d given her hope by telling her you and Ignis were not an item. You should have felt good about it but you didn’t. If Ignis accepted her, your friend would start a new chapter in his life with a woman. You should be at least happy for your friend if not for a random person. You didn’t. Instead, you felt bitter, betrayed and dreadfully lonesome. You left the Citadel alone, unaccompanied, moody. Being happy for someone’s success was getting harder, you felt it in your gut. Not that you wanted to admit it to yourself but you knew your thoughts. They never really left your mind. Living with yourself is the worst. So, Ignis might accept Garnet’s feelings and move on. That would be very awkward for you. Next time you hang out, he’d be with her and the Amicitias and then there was you — the black chocobo of the found family. You couldn’t put yourself through that, you knew. There were only so many isolating thoughts you could process before going mad. But Ignis could refuse her too. And everything would remain the way it was. Which, you realized as an adult, wasn’t good either. There had to be a change. There had to be progress. It was natural for Ignis to level up and evolve.
You walked down the stairs of the Citadel, unfolding your umbrella, hearing the distant thunder. It was right about the season for Insomnia to be showered in rains. Everything good ended eventually. And the season of storms was coming.
Suffice to say, next you learned a very important fact: Ignis Scientia was now dating Garnet. Her full name was so obnoxious that it made you think how sickeningly fitting they were for each other.
Chapter 21: Reliability.
She had been an awful person lately. More than usual as Ignis would put it. She avoided socializing with friends and when questioned, lied through her teeth. Bellis was noticing it, Ignis wasn’t oblivious either. She’d been dodging them. She’d been lying to them.
“Are you sure you’re doing alright?” Bellis asked, placing a hand on her shoulder. There wasn’t as much as hesitation about lying again.
“I’m good, really,” she said with a flashy smile. Ignis didn’t appreciate casual lying or how easily it came. It truly scared him for a moment. He was able to see through the deceit. Was he always being able to tell? Had she lied to him before, and he’d just gotten wiser? When she lied before it was about things so trivial it wasn’t even worth brining up. It seems so simple to you. She waved at them before quickly disappearing. At least, her behaviour was a dead give-away that something was wrong and bothering her.
“Did you see it?” Bellis asked. Ignis nodded in agreement. They both had seen it. Gladio couldn’t be deceived so easily either, he might just keep his tongue behind his teeth because he didn’t know what to do with it. He noticed how well the two could interact with each other, how they could read into each other. If Bellis didn’t have a clue, there was a chance Gladio did. Their minds were working in a similar way. It was a tad annoying. Just as annoying as her thinking she could lie to them. How could she even think she would manage to fool all of them?
“I will talk to her, don’t worry,” Ignis offered himself up. Last time she had come to his help when he clearly needed it. It was about time to repay for it.
“Are you sure, Ig?” Bellis asked again, hesitantly. “It can be hard to get through to her.”
“I’d like to believe I’m up for a challenge,” he said with a hint of a smile. Ignis could tell what kind of an idiot she was to lie to her friends like and run away mere moments later. He just needed to press the right buttons.
“If you say so,” Amicitia agreed with a shrug. “Call me if it gets ugly.”
You hated the weather sometimes. Why on this beautiful day it had to rain? Thunder, lighting. Ramuh was really having it. It must be bloody nice to be able to lash out at the world for being unfair. Projecting. You are projecting. You breathed in and out, deep and loud. As an adult, you had an umbrella. As a hurt child, lonely adult and sulking woman you wanted nothing more than to go out there and get soaked.
“Yeah, fuck it,” you said before stepping out. Cold drops immediately hit your face, top of your head and shoulders. Splash, splash. Every step. Splash, splash. Every step you took was accompanied by the sound. Splash, splash, splash. Those were not your steps. Those were much faster. You turned around only to see a male figure running after you.
“Mother hen,” you mumbled under your breath. “I have an umbrella!” Perhaps that would stop him. As if. “Oh, you are approaching me?” you spoke quieter. “Instead of running away, you are approaching me?”
“You are an idiot,” he rebuked when he came close enough to you. He finally was able to cover you with his umbrella. “At first I thought you were prideful,” he said, steadying his breath, “but you are just an idiot.”
“I think we established it a while back,” you remarked sarcastically.
“I’ll drive you home,” he said.
“I’m good,” you replied with a sigh, reaching to take out your umbrella.
“It’s not a question or even an invitation,” he spoke again, firmly, angry. Fuck it. I’d rather not risk it. It wasn’t about the rain and soaking through in the cold, potentially getting a cold. It was about making Ignis angry. You didn’t want to know what Ignis was like when angry. Truly pissed with you and tired of your bullshit. They rightfully say beware the anger of a gentle man. You were not idiot despite your questionable decisions.
Ignis led you to his car. Underground parking lots are always creepy. And it echoed here quite nicely too. Every time a car engine started, you swore it was right next to you. And then you didn’t even see the car leaving. You’d pay attention to anything rather than watch the scowl on your friend’s face. Scientia was visibly irked. What a good sport you were.
“She’s been worried,” he said with a heavy sigh when you came to the car. The lights blinked at you, bright red. “And she tried to reach out to you. When she couldn’t, Gladio asked me about it since we play during lunchtime. They were hoping I’d have something to tell but you bailed even on Hexapartite.”
I know. His tone was enough to fill your head with guilt regarding your immature behaviour. “Sorry to make you all worry about me,” you offered a lame excuse. “But trust me, it’s no big deal and it has nothing to do with you or anyone.” The words filled you with regret the moment you saw how he looked. It wasn’t about the glare of frustration he was gracing you with or how his fist tightened, stretching the leather of the glove. No, it was a sound barely audible. Not a sigh or a whine but something in between. As if a broken plea or an interrupted prayer. The sound of it froze your heart solid and chipped a piece of it. You wished it was Belly who was doing the confrontation. That would save you and Ignis the heartache.
“No big deal?” he asked, taking a step closer. It was heavy and filled with livid purpose. “Nothing to do with me?” He made another step closer just as heavy and upset as before. “Us?” You stepped back. Not in fear of him or his retaliation but out of sheer shame you felt for your hurtful behaviour. Yet you had to say something, you had to put on a front. You needed to convince him he was just seeing things.
“Yeah, I swear,” you nodded eagerly and smiled widely.
“Don’t,” he scolded harshly. His eyes were unforgiving with flashes of anger behind them. “We both agreed not to do or say anything out of propriety or obligation. Don’t give me that.” Your smile dropped that second. Here you thought you could fool him. How cocky of you. You didn’t manage it even for a second. They all had seen through your bullshit. And there you were thinking it would be better to not disturb them with your moments of melancholy. Here you thought you could get over this on your own. Here you thought you could be just a little selfless. You managed to even get that part wrong.
“You are right,” your head bowed in meek submission. “I’m sorry.” What else could you say? You were no good with words. You didn’t even know what to say. You were sorry, that was it.
Ignis opened the door for you, “Get in.” You obeyed. He closed the door for you and walked around the car. Soon, you were leaving the parking lot. And the heaters were doing their best, warming you up. You didn’t soak through in the rain but you were just the right degree of wet to appreciate the hot air around you. It was more comforting than you imagined. It felt good to share a ride with Ignis. To know that everyone cared. Anything that could bring your mind back to the state it was before. To remember all the car rides you had with Ignis.
“Why wouldn’t you tell anyone?” he asked. Guilt was eating at you. Guilt for being jealous of your friends, guilt for deciding to keep them in the dark about your state. Guilt, guilt, guilt.
“I didn’t want to worry anyone,” you said looking outside the window. The drops of the rain harshly wiped against the window by the wind. Perhaps tomorrow the rain would cease to follow. “Belly is busy, you just got into a relationship.”
“I understand not wanting to burden your friend when they are having a hard time themselves,” Ignis supported, “but what does my relationship has to do with our friendship?”
“I just didn’t want to bother you.”
“Am I that unreliable?” Ignis asked with a lilt of disappointment. He wasn’t disappointed in you, which was the worst part of it all. How did he manage to take the guilt from your shoulder and take it upon himself? Even when it was clearly not his fault. Damn him and his selflessness.
“No,” you shook your head in disagreement, “no, you are reliable.” Finally, you smiled at him today. Genuinely.
He drove you home. He soothed your mind. Just like once before, he was able to give you a moment of respite from the world. He made silly little jokes that got to you. He was now walking you to the door of your home. Which wasn’t necessary but not unwelcome. Together you walked into the elevator. You leaned against the wall, feeling unnaturally tired. The weight of dark, ugly and negative thoughts is quite a heavy burden to carry throughout the day, day to day.
“Are you feeling any better?” Ignis asked. He must have been watching, you concluded, as his questions never came from the need for reassurance. Something about your expression, posture or whatever else he could observe, turned you in.
“Somewhat,” you said. “I guess you are the best person to talk about it.”
“Perhaps,” he said, hesitantly.
“I feel,” you hummed, thoughtfully, “I feel like what I think you felt at the wedding. I’m happy for you, really, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous.”
“Jealous?” he asked with hesitation. He was weighing your words, he was looking for meaning.
“Yeah. Bellis and now you, you two are moving forward and I’m falling behind,” you explained.
“That’s a wrong way to think about it,” he countered but didn’t push for it.
“Sure,” agreement came easily, “but it doesn’t change the fact how I feel. I’m jealous I don’t have what you have.”
“I’m sure you’ll find someone soon enough,” he offered you a comforting smile. You slightly hated it. The elevator door opened, letting you out. Ignis walked with you to the door of your apartment without saying anything else. Observant as he was, there was little chance he missed the way you reacted to his comforting. The attempt wasn’t bad, the intention is right, you just couldn’t bring yourself to appreciate it. It felt like pity. No wonder he was offended by you. It was a nasty feeling.
“Thanks for everything, Iggy,” you spoke without any particular emotion attached. You swore you would find a way to properly thank him for all his help and support, but it couldn’t be done right now. There was no strength in you to play out that scenario.
“You accused me of being dangerously selfless,” he started. You didn’t follow. “But I’m afraid your motivation for doing what you are doing isn’t better.”
“And what is my motivation?” you asked without any interest whatsoever. The key was stuck in the lock, waiting to be turned. Yet you’d hear him out first, it was the least you could do.
“Well, I am selfish.” The lock clicked.
“You don’t want others to know of the thoughts in your head,” he continued. “Do you consider them unworthy of being shared? Or perhaps you think they are dark, ugly or even terrifying? You selfishly hold on to your feelings and thoughts, thinking no one has any interest whatsoever in any other part of you except the one you put for a front.”
The sensation of cold overwhelmed you. Cold from the bottom of your stomach. It had nothing to do you with you soaking in the rain. It was terror. He had seen right through you and he saw everything. You couldn’t let him know he was right. “It’s natural for people to want to show off their good side,” you said, praying it would be convincing. Praying it could divert his mind to something else, persuade him to give up on the ideas he had just voiced.
“Look at me,” Ignis said instead. For all the games of Hexapartite — all the worshipping you had done — the Astrals ignored your prayers as empty words thrown into the wind. Reluctantly, you turned to face him and raised your head. How terrifying this was.
“I am your friend,” he said, stepping closer to you. “That means I want to know your thoughts regardless of what they are.”
“You wouldn’t like those thoughts,” you argued, weakly.
“Perhaps I wouldn’t,” he easily agreed, “but me is beside the point. It’s about you being open and honest with me, your friend, sharing and letting me in.” The guilt sank to the bottom of your stomach, making you feel sick. Those were your opinion of Ignis. You were not like Ignis. You could not be like him. The nod of your head was weak, submissive.
“Now you have to promise,” he said, raising his hand. Your eyes followed the motion automatically. Gloved fingers curled into a fist all but for a pinky. You laughed. Openly and honestly, you laughed, letting your feelings out. Tears were gathering in the corners of your eyes. This was a light of relief, nostalgia and a sting of pain. Your pinky wrapped around his longer one. He didn’t let you go so fast, however. Before bidding his farewell, Ignis pressed a light kiss to your forehead. It was a magic spell that kept your negative thoughts away until you fell into a blissful sleep.
Chapter 22: Explode and die, happy people
Gladiolus hummed and tsked and shook his head. As if that would help him to wrap his head around a very simple fact. Ignis and Garnet had their third date. Ignis said they were progressing slowly but surely. You had gotten over it faster than Gladio. You were proud of it. However little that was…
“I dunno if I should joke about it,” he said, scratching his beard, “considering you are partly you to blame for the nickname.”
“Wait, what?” you said, whipping your head so fast you’d get whiplash were you a little less lucky. Today was a good day. A better day. The four of you were currently in the cafeteria, enjoying the little break you got with each other. Ignis was drinking his ebony, you and Gladio regular coffee and Belly — tea with milk. Don’t be deceived by that woman, she had a lot of energy within her. It was frustrating sometimes.
“No,” Ignis warned, “don’t.” Amicitia shrugged dismissively as to agree with whatever demand was made. You got curious and annoyed at the fact that you didn’t know something they knew. And they made it obvious they knew. It was just between them. How dare they! Aggravating!
“Do you know?” you looked at Bellis, scrutinizing. She shook her head. “Are you just standing by your husband?” you pointed the wooden stirrer at her.
“She doesn’t know,” Gladiolus was quick to defend his wife. “That’s…. an embarrassing story. I believe only three people know its true origin and one of them is Garnet herself. You can try asking her.”
If you were in better control of yourself, if you didn’t feel so comfortable in the company of these people, you’d be able to control your reaction much better. But after recent events, you decided to be more open and honest about your feelings, guilty of recent deception you’d been pulling. That wasn’t good for this particular situation. The grimace you displayed must have told everyone that you’d rather die than do that. Nothing was wrong with Garnet, you just didn’t know how to interact with her. You had met her once and she was the bearer of bad news that time. There was only one chance to make the first impression. By happenstance, she made a bad one.
“Okay,” Gladio hummed, averting his gaze, taken aback by your reactions.
“Scientia, what did you so?” you were now scrutinizing Ignis. He was a hard nut to crack but it wasn’t impossible.
“It was an accident,” he said with a wave of his hand. “Other than that, my lips are sealed.”
“Screw you,” you spoke with an obvious grudge.
“That’s my partner you are asking about.”
“Quit bragging, will ya?” you ridiculed. Not that it didn’t hurt. The only one in the circle who was single. The unwanted. The undesirable. The one left behind.
“I can’t imagine what Ignis did so that even Gladio would consider it embarrassing,” Belly quietly mumbled. That stirred the pot. Ignis visibly reacted, guilty and ashamed by the implication. Gladiolus looked away and hid his mouth with his fist. His way of saying that his wife was hella right. You had a little something on Ignis too. Something you could use to stir the pot even more so. You knew that coming with him to that stupid royal dancing party would pay off. Even you getting sick wasn’t as important as the fact you could just throw a ton of spice into that boiling stew.
“Well, considering what he was like in his youth,” you started, “it may something to do with,” you twiddled your thumb. Ignis slapped your hand as gently as possible. You giggled.
“In his youth?” Belly asked in surprise. “And here I thought we were friends, Iggy,” she said equally accusingly and teasingly. Ignis stepped back. You could tell he knew what kind of trap this was. He had two choices: run like a coward or fess up. And you couldn’t call him a coward.
“Well, good luck, Iggy,” Gladio said with an intense pat on his friend’s shoulder.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” Scientia protested. Amicitia didn’t turn around, just lifted his hand above his head, waving goodbye.
“I’m waiting, Ignis,” Bellis said very seriously. Ignis turned to face her with an apparent terror in his eyes. You were entertained beyond measure, sipping your coffee, anticipating all that was bound to unravel here and now.
“It’s nothing to concern yourself about, Bellis,” he said. There were flashes of panic in the green of his eyes. You were eager to call him a hypocrite for avoiding the truth.
“Oh really?” your friend cooed, keen on getting the information out of him. “Then there’s no reason for you to hide it, is there?” This was glorious. Ignis walked himself into a corner. It was better than winning a game against him. He had brought defeat upon himself.
“Iggy!” said a woman’s voice. You had heard this voice before, calling out for you. It was Garnet. She really knows how to ruin everything. The mood of exhilaration was ruined for you. It curdled. The man whose name was called out turned around. A smile crept up his face. You and Belly exchanged a look. Both meaning different things but neither of thought of anything positive. She had ruined it, unknowingly, innocently, but ruined it. It was hard even to hold it against her.
“A moment,” Ignis said to his partner. Garnet was not ready to wait, however. She was heading towards the three of you. You tensed immediately. What would she think of you? Would she thank you again? Would she dismiss you now that you were not a threat to her in any way? That’s why she approached you in the first place, isn’t it? She assumed you and Ignis were close. And you were. Just not as close as she was afraid of.
“I’m afraid I must leave you, ladies,” he said with a sly smile. Blissful with the fact he could get away from the interrogation elegantly and without looking like a coward. Garnet came up behind him with a bright smile on her face. She wrapped her arms around Ignis’s.
“Good to see you again, my lucky charm,” she said with a smile never-wavering. Judging by the direction of her gaze….
“Me?” you asked, confused, pointing at yourself.
“Who else,” she laughed, “you, you, you.”
“Umm, okay,” you said, uncomfortable with the nickname. It was better than Dagger but still…
“We should go,” Ignis chimed in looking at his watch. “Good day, ladies.”
“See you, lucky charm!”
“You too, Garnet,” you replied, hesitantly. They turned around, ready to leave you and Belly alone. But just as they made a step, Ignis gasped as if remembering something. He took out the wooden stirrer from his cup, turned around and before you even realized what the hell was happening, the wooden stirrer was in your cup. A moment went by. Another.
“SCIENTIA!” you screamed, enraged, looking at the wooden stick violating your coffee. The only thing stopping you from attacking him — trying to attack him — was your friend. She put herself in front of you, preventing any sort of attack.
“Ignis!” Garnet reprimanded with a slap on his hand. You could get behind this woman. This how one fixes a bad impression. They get on your side of the argument.
“Trust my judgment,” he said, “she deserved it.”
“You ruined her coffee,” she continued to scold him. Not as passionately as before but reproaching, nonetheless.
“As I said, she deserved it,” he added a smile this time. A smug smile. Garnet shook her head disapprovingly. She wasn’t persuaded.
“I’ll make him text you my number,” she said apologetically, “and I’ll buy you coffee one of these days.” You nodded. Whatever. You’d take it. She flashed you a smile one last time before leaving with Ignis by her side. You looked inside your cup. At least it wasn’t a big loss. You were almost done anyway.
“Remember what we used to say in college?” Bellis asked, letting go of you. Her gaze was still following the newly formed couple.
“Explode and die, happy people,” the two of you said in unison before starting to laugh.
Chapter 23: Pity party.
I messed up the posting. It's fine now. Pity party is supposed to be one chapter.
The day Garnet fulfilled her promise was the day she told you something very important. She was very insistent. You agreed despite the discomfort her insistence caused you. The coffee didn’t come free at all and tasted bitter. She asked you to take care of Ignis in her stead. Agonizing as it felt asking, you posed the question. Her reply was something else entirely. Something you connected to Gladio's words after the birthday party. It made sense. ‘Ignis is complicated. I’m awful for saying it but the idea of him was more appealing than… well…you get it.’
“So,” you say and bite on your nail. Something was wrong, you could read it on his face. But more importantly, you had heard about it. He looked his usual self. Perhaps, a bit downcast, which was understandable.
“You’ve heard is my guess,” Ignis says solemnly. His brows furrowed, expression stern. It’s not sadness or heartbreak, you realize, it’s contemplation. He was trying to understand what he did wrong. You knew the answer.
“I have,” you confirmed.
“Do you know what have I done wrong?” He sounded too casual asking such things. It’s like it didn’t matter to him all that much. He was…removed from the fact. As he always was when something outside of his control had happened. When he couldn’t tell his heart what to feel.
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” you say sympathetically. Even to you the reasoning was very flawed. The idea of Ignis is more compelling than… You didn’t get it anymore.
“What do you mean?” he turned around in his chair, confused plastered on his square face. And the offense he had taken to your words… You weren’t the one who dumped him. This was misplaced. But even then, you couldn’t repeat the words back to him. You didn’t want to feel your heart break. His was broken as it is.
“You feel like it’s your fault and it’s not. It really is not,” you said sternly. You weren’t good with words. You had no clue what to tell him to soothe his heart or mind. What were you supposed to say to him? What are the magic words to heal what had been broken? Engrossed in your own thoughts, the silence that surrounded you slowly became more apparent. Why isn’t he saying anything? And when you look at him, you understand why. The smile on his face is rather twisted.
“Perhaps I have an idea then,” he said sardonically. You couldn’t get over the tone of his voice or the look in his eyes. It wasn’t sadness or regret. It was the same look he had whenever he was apologizing. This was painful to watch and hear. But you would endure it. With him. For him.
“I’m here for you too, ya know,” you said quietly.
“Hmmm, I do.”
“Good. So, I will listen to anything you have to say.”
“I don’t think you shou—”
“Maybe I won’t like it but me is beside the point,” you grinned. Ignis smiled at that. For a moment he even looked proud at how skillfully you threw his words back at him.
“Perhaps I simply have no clue how to make a relationship work,” he said, “I simply lack the understanding to do so.”
“I doubt it,” you replied honestly. Scientia was able to figure you out. Nothing was impossible for him. Especially something as trivial as relationships. “You probably were a bad fit to begin with. I mean, why did you start going out?”
He hummed, deep in thought. “In retrospective, it’s a good question.”
You couldn’t say anything to that, astonished by such a confession. You thought that Ignis was driven by something, some feelings or… but that’s not necessarily why people get into relationships. The reasons are more complicated and sometimes downright silly, you knew that firsthand.
“I thought…. I thought a great deal of things, truthfully,” he said solemnly. “And neither make me proud now.”
“You are not good with words,” you observed. “Suddenly.”
“I don’t feel words would be enough to remedy the situation.”
“Probably not. But it’s normal with heartbreak.”
“There’s no heartbreak,” he rebuked. “It has only been —”
“She wrote a letter, Ignis, I read it,” you countered. This was a bit off. Ignis was the one to put feelings of others before his own. But right seemed to ignore or acknowledge either side. Oh boy, he was worse than you thought. He was beating himself up in that pretty head of his.
“Ig,” you said hesitantly, “it hurt, I know it does, but it too shall pass.”
“And I get if you are not proud of what you’ve done, but here’s a thing, it’s human. You were seeking something from someone, and they couldn’t give you. Trust me, I would know how that feels. Whatever it is you are seeking, you might not be able to find it right away. But you have me and Gladio and Belly.”
“I know,” he said with a nod. “Thank you.”
“Yeah, no problem.”
“Ya know, I can some filthy jokes to lift your spirits.”
“I-I appreciate the offer.”
“Your loss,” you shrugged. “I’ll get Amititias for tonight. Let’s have a pity party.”
Ignis placed his elbows on his table and dropped his head in disappointment or frustration. “I believe I declined the offer.”
“Nope, you just said you appreciated it,” you beamed.
“Subtlety is not your strong suit,” he sighed.
“True. But look at you sulking for a completely unrelatable reason.”
“Please go,” he said light-heartedly. “It’s too early in the day for your humor.”
“Going, going,” you dismissed his complaints.
This was better than you expected it to be. The true friends that Amicitias were, they did throw a pity party. At their house, with warm wine and even warmer atmosphere. The married couple on the couch, enjoying each other’s company. It was a dinner party but it soon migrated to couches and blankets.
“It’s no big deal,” Gladio smirked. Bellis slapped him playfully on the hand. “We are married,” he accentuated.
“It doesn’t change the fact it’s embarrassing,” she retaliated.
“Okay, I can tell that story,” you pitched in. You knew the story, of course, you did. There weren’t many aspects of their early relationship that you weren’t aware of. And the things you didn’t know of… better stay that way.
“Don’t you dare,” Belly warned you. Her voice was gentle enough but only a fool would not react to the expression on her face. “Okay! Okay!” she threw her hands in the air as a sign of submission. But forgot she held a wine glass. It wasn’t much spillage but…
“You’ll get it out,” Gladiolus noted.
“I always get it out,” she parried.
“Back to the story, please,” you reminded.
“Okay, yes, I admit it,” Belly continued begrudgingly, “I drank a bit and then seduced him.”
You’d laugh truly if it wasn’t the n-th time you heard this story. Ignis perked up at that, confusion obvious on his face. He probably had a hard time connecting the dots. By looking at Gladiolus and Bellis you’d think it was him who would be the seductress.
“I think you flustered him,” you said, watching the expression on the bespectacled man’s face. This was amusing. Pure joy.
“I think I did,” Belly easily agreed.
“You broke him,” Gladiolus noted half-heartedly. “Snap out of it, Iggy. They make it sound worse than it really was.” Ignis reacted to that. He straightened his posture and cleared his throat. Yeah, sure, buddy, as if the pink on your high cheeks is invisible.
“Should take some lessons too,” Gladio added this much quieter.
“Hey!” you actively protested. “I’ve never done anything like that!” Gladio raised a brow.
“It’s true,” Belly confirmed your innocence.
“Should take some lessons too, then,” he shrugged.
“Is it strange we’ve never done it?” Ignis asked, puzzled.
“I mean, you are old-fashioned.” Your attempts at softening blows were always pathetic.
“Oh, please, you make me sound like a prude,” he rebuked.
“Have you ever?” you asked, curious now. If he decided he was comfortable sharing this with you, you were sure to ask all the possible questions. “Yeah, of course, you have, I forgot the alluring Commodore. So, how would you do it now?”
“Kiss the girl, obviously.”
“Why should I tell you?” Ignis looked around the room. Amicitias did the best to look as if they were not listening to this part of the conversation. Oh, look how cool this glass looks in dimly lit room.
“I’m curious, and we are already talking.” He didn’t say anything to it. So, you decided to push for it. “If you don’t tell me, I will let my mind think of something absolutely filthy.” That was about the only way you knew you could support him. Give him a moment of respite from the heartache and make him laugh.
“I’d rather not have my image in your head,” Scientia said with a hint of disgust in his voice and a smile on his face. “May I kiss you?” You felt the heat of your body rising rapidly upon hearing the question. Did he just…? But he didn’t do anything outside of posing the question. You stare at him speechless. But he doesn’t get up from his chair or try to hold your hand. Nothing. It’s like he’s indifferent… Oh. He was indifferent.
“Meaning?” you dare to ask with your weak, trembling voice.
“Meaning,” he emphasized, “I would ask if I could kiss her first. And why are you blushing?” Shit. But getting out of hot water with only your words was a part of your job. A grain of truth to regain confidence and then spread the bullshit.
“Because it was hot,” voice confident. “I mean, a guy asking for a kiss like that? Especially after a date? You won’t hear me saying no.” He eyed you curiously. It’s all the blushing. And it would only add to your blush and frustration afterward. You decided it was your queue to leave as to not give Ignis any ideas regarding the reason for your reddening face.
“I knew you were the every-kiss-begins-with-consent guy,” you snarked.
“His tricks never change,” Gladiolus said sardonically.
“It gets old fast?” you questioned.
“I see you’ve courted.” Gladiolus threw a pillow at you with all his might. And he wasn’t one to miss.
Chapter 24: Purple Hydrangeas
You decided to take Ignis to do stupid things while he is sulking over his semi-break-up. There will be no scenes from THAT movie with the pottery scene.
“You have no choice but to come with me,” you say proudly presenting the tickets. The masterclass session for the two of you to learn how to make things with clay. Pottery, basically. And while you were very excited about getting messy with wet clay, Ignis was eyeing the tickets suspiciously.
“Why?” A question from him you really didn’t want to hear.
“Why not?” you parried. He looked you in the eye. Ignis wanted an honest and full answer. You sighed. It was never easy with him. He could always see through your superficial gestures. Annoying. For once he could choose to roll with you.
“It’s fun. And… I know that making something with your hands can help with the feeling of failure you are undoubtedly having right now,” you explained. The excitement you’ve felt before had deflated significantly. You could his eyes on you but meeting his gaze wasn’t something you were capable right now. He’d look at you like you were an idiot or something.
“You,” Ignis sighed. “You don’t mince words.”
“Eh,” you shrug meeting his eyes. For a moment there you were expecting some convoluted refusal. But Scientia surprised you with his prideful compliance.
“Perhaps you have a point,” he nodded taking the ticket from you.
“I do,” you eagerly supported the argument. “I had experienced more romantic failures than you.” That shouldn’t have sounded as excited as it came out. But it was the truth. Through all your unsuccessful attempts at finding love, you had gained some skills. Knowledge. Wisdom. The sage of failed love. And every failure had made you what you were today. Not necessarily a good thing. But Ignis chuckled at your humor and that was enough to erase your worries.
“Here I thought you pitied me,” he joked.
“I kinda am,” you smiled.
“I’ll see you there then.”
The knocking on your door so early in the morning and on a weekend gave you anxiety. In this day and age, no one you personally knew would show up on your doorstep without as much as a text. So, this knocking was anxiety-inducing. You opened the door to see Scientia.
“The hell?” It just came out this way. It was surprising to see him at your doorstep so early in the morning without any warning. It wasn’t like him at all.
“May I?” he asked instead. You stepped away from the door to let him in. As soon as he stepped inside your apartment, he offered you purple flowers. You silently accepted them too stunned to ask or argue. The familiar sound of the locked door brought you back into reality.
“What’s this?” you mumble looking at the bouquet. The flowers were growing in bunches and were purple in colour. You knew shit about flowers. Daisies and roses. That’s how far apart they needed to be for you to tell the difference.
“Hydrangeas,” Ignis answered.
“Why?” you ask before turning around. The flowers need water. You walked into the kitchen looking around. I don’t think I have anything to put the— oh for Shiva’s sake. Ignis Scientia was a diabolical man. Of course, he would bring you flowers to put into the handmade clay vase you’d made. You rolled your eyes. Meticulous as ever. Placing the flowers on the counter, you grabbed the empty vase to fill it with water.
“You haven’t said anything about the flowers,” Ignis said from behind you. His voice sent shivers down your spine. He’d been so quiet getting around your apartment it was a bit creepy.
“Sorry,” you say turning around, “I like them, really. I just panicked about where to put them. I guess it’s a thanks for taking you out,” you said instead. You touched the flowers again. The soft purple petals were so small. The flowers that grew in bunches on the top of the stern. Hydrangeas. You liked them. They somewhat reminded you of less sophisticated common lilacs.
“You don’t know flower language,” he said.
Well, damn, the accusation stands true.
“Got me there,” you glanced it off. “What, do they have any meaning?” Ignis hummed thoughtfully. “Of course,” you shook your head. He didn't strike you as a man who frivolously bought flowers. Scientia wasn’t a man to do anything on a whim. Every action, every word had a meaning with him. That's why it was easy to offend him at times. Unless you catch him off-guard or fluster him. Like Belly did. That was a good look on his face too.
“Right. It’s you we are talking about. The flowers have meaning.” What was undeniable about the colour purple is that it usually represented the union between Shiva and Ifrit. Coalescence was always bursting with purple hearts and such. However, brief it was in the myths, the two Astrals were in love and through that gained a greater understanding of humanity. No need to think about how it all ended.
Oh Shiva, my love, my divine soul is forever yours.
Sure, my love, but I’m going to assist in fighting you to the death. And then take the longest nap.
“Hydrangeas grow in Altissia,” Ignis said instead. “I’m surprised you didn’t know.” Altissians bowed to the Hydrean. Leviathan’s blessing allowed the capital to be built and bloom. And neither of those facts explained anything to you. You’d say you weren’t interested in flowers regardless of where they were growing but the more important question was about Ignis. Is he avoiding the question?
“You want something? Coffee? Water? Bread? It’s cut,” you said instead. Being a hostess so early in the morning and without any announcement beforehand wasn’t your fortune. If not for the flowers, you’d be very, very pissed.
“I must say, I’m surprised you take the time to cut your bread thoroughly,” he said.
“Very sharp, Ig.”
“Coffee then, please.”
“Gotcha,” you nodded and turned to the coffee maker. It was nice to know Ignis could stomach regular coffee as well as ebony. While you were doing all the things required for the perfect cuppa, you couldn’t feel anyone watching your back. Whatever Ignis was doing, he wasn’t watching you. A relief. When you were done, you turned around to see him be a tad engrossed in his phone. Fair enough. A polite cough from you. He raised his head to meet your eyes.
“Will be ready soon,” you said with a smile.
“Thank you,” he replied and returned a smile. You leaned against the counter and crossed your arms, noticing how much of a mess you were compared to him. But you felt no guilt or shame. He was the one who barged in.
“There are no weekends with you, is there?” you asked aloud. It was supposed to be a thought, but oh well, nothing can be done to retract it.
“Very few, I’m afraid,” he replied briefly meeting your eyes.
“I’d be afraid too,” you cleverly parried. Ignis smiled. You knew it was because of your remark and not because of whatever was on his phone. You uncrossed your arms and placed yourself in front of him. You had looked at him many times. You knew his green eyes and the curve of his lips. You knew how he looked in profile and the lines of his face when he smiled. You had seen him without his glasses and with messy hair. But right now you were taking him all. His sandy hair and the hard line of his jaw. You saw the span of his shoulder underneath the dress shirt he saw wearing. You saw the familiarity of his green eyes, their hardness and gentleness at the same time. You took in the curve of his lips. The baritone of his voice and the accent he spoke leaked through your memories. You knew it so well, you could hear anything, any sentence in his manner. You took the gentleness he rarely showed at face value. Gentleness he could rarely showed to people outside his circle because people would see him as weak. You saw his selfless nature that would harm him greatly at times. Self-sacrificial to a fault. And you accepted his undying loyalty to the Crown. The loyalty that always came first. The kind of loyalty that was hard to accept because it put everyone else in his life behind Noctis. But you thought it was okay. After all, his loyalty to everyone else was just a half-step behind. He did bring you flowers on a weekend.
The two of you had coffee and exchanged a few jokes. You were still seeing him. The lines of his face when he smiled. The depth of his laughter. The way he could turn a phrase. He moved closer to you and lifted his hand up, curling his fingers into a fist. All except for a pinky.
“I’m afraid my visit will have to end,” he said. You caught up with his speed and wrapped your pinky around his for a few seconds. His fingers were longer and stronger than yours still. You grinned at him. He took the little joke a bit too far, a bit too heart. But it was cute. “I must be going,” he said with a briefest of smiles.
“I get it,” you said with your eyes wide.
“Have a lovely day,” he said before leaving.
“Ignis, sir,” you shouted before he could leave. You heard the halting of his movements. “Close the door on your way out,” you said, taking two cups to the sink. Loud sound echoed within the walls of your apartment. The door was now locked.
Chapter 25: Big victories.
After all this time, spending time in his office, you had finally managed to win a game against Ignis. And if you could manage that, you could do it again. You could win against Gladiolus. No, you felt like you could win against anyone in anything. This was exhilarating. You yelped joyfully, raising form your chair, hands in the air.
“YESSSSS!” you shouted victoriously. Ignis was watching you patiently from his chair. His hands came together in restraint applause.
“Congratulations,” he said with a wide smile on his face.
“Thank you!” you said genuinely. If not for this bespectacled bastard and all the games he had won before, if not for his patience and desire to teach you, this would have never happened. You would thank him so much when you defeat Gladiolus. “Thank you, Iggy! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!” You were starting to come down from the high of victory. Hands came to rest against your sides. You looked at the board one last time. You had won. No mistake there.
“I’m happy for you,” Ignis said, raising from his chair.
“I’m happy to have you,” you cleverly parried. You were happy to have him teach you. “As anyone would,” you added hesitantly. The previous remark was a bit much for your taste. This was about game and victory, not mushy feelings. This was about competition.
“Anyone?” he looked at you and raised a brow. You eagerly nodded. “You are happy to have me in your life?”
“Yeah,” you confirmed trying to sound normal. The probing irked you. He was asking weird questions. You never liked it when he asked questions like this.
“How about it then?” Scientia asked stepping closer to you. He came close and took your hand. “How about me?”
“What about you?” you asked confused by the display. This was getting weird very quickly. All you wanted to do is to show appreciation for his care and patience. You wanted to compliment him. Let him know you appreciated him. All of him. Even the snarky side, the irritable part, every part.
“Are you dense?” he asked unamused.
“Yeah?” In this situation, you were not being coy or trying to annoy him. You truly couldn’t grasp the meaning of his words. You couldn’t even understand if he was irritated by your denseness. “Maybe you should stop being so cryptic.”
“You truly are dense.” Ignis chuckled. Such pure amusement on his face…It was precious. You witnessed such unfiltered openness from him before but it was always precious. You didn’t see his hands raising up to cup your face. And that smile of his wasn’t of amusement anymore. It was so much more now. He hummed, lowly. It confused you for a moment. The gentle gaze he regarded you with. The warm smile he offered you. And his ungloved hands soft against your skin. He stepped even closer.
“Be with me,” he said.
“As you tend to say it,” he let out a short laugh filled with affection, “casually date me.”
“You want to date?” you asked, dumbly. “O-okay.”
“Okay?” he moved back. “That’s all you have to say?”
“What else is there to say?” you asked, confused.
“Perhaps you are right,” he said with a smile. “I doubt it was the most romantic proposal you had.” You could have lied there. You could have. But decided not to.
“Sure, but that rarely saved it from disaster.”
“I didn’t expect you to agree, truthfully, with all your talk about dating friends,” he admitted bashfully. And he was right. You didn’t date your friend before. You had few friends so no way to afford to lose any. But him…
“I made you my friend once, I can make you my friend again,” you said instead of confessing anything bigger than that. You barely believed your word if the truth were to be shared easily. But denying his proposal wasn't in your wheelhouse either. Ignis didn’t say anything, just chuckled. Before the silence between you cold get awkward, Ignis leaned in closer to your face.
“May I kiss you?” he asked with a tilt of his head.
“What?” you asked, utterly lost.
“Don’t be coy,” he said, inching a little closer to your face. “You heard me.”
“No,” comes out of your mouth. Such a lame protest. Ignis inched away from your face. “Wait, no, I mean, yes, I heard you but why?”
“Why what?” He was even closer now. His breath is hot against your lips. Your heartbeat is hammering in your ears. He must be toying with you.
“Why would you want to kiss me?” The question seems very natural to you but, giving how close his lips were to yours right now, it was also stupid.
“Makes me wonder what you truly think of me,” Ignis chuckled.
“No, I don’t think —”
“You aren’t answering my question.” His voice is low and hushed. And you could feel the light brush of his lips on yours.
“I would have pushed you away by now,” you murmur. The kiss was searing. It wasn’t reserved. It wasn’t shy. It wasn’t anything you expected from Ignis you’d known. The kiss was fire, fire, fire. And you melted, melted, melted in the heat. One hand dropped away from your face to rest on your waist. He towered over you, pulling you against his solid presence. Searing. Powerful. Overwhelming. This was his kiss; he didn’t let you forget that for a second. He pulled away first, but it took you few moments to realize that.
“You appear quite dazed,” he teased.
“That’s because I am,” you completely giving in. Your eyes wouldn’t open. For one, you couldn’t imagine what his face would look like. How intense his eyes were and how close they could be. His lips would probably be swollen and maybe even a tug of a smirk in the corner of his mouth. Ignis carefully pressed his forehead to yours. Finally, you regain your senses, lifting your hands to wrap around his neck.
“W-why?” You couldn’t help but ask.
“You see, when a man and a woman are —”
“Don’t talk the birds and the bees to me,” you reprimanded, pulling away from him. With a little more distance, you saw his face. Exactly as imagined but better. “Why all of a sudden do you want to kiss me?”
“All of a sudden?” he asked, bemused. “As I recall, we are ‘casually dating’.”
How fucking smart, Scientia. You were in control of yourself to keep the thought in your head only as to not ruin the moment. “I just,” you say instead still in a rather begrudging tone, “I was just surprised, that’s all.”
“That’s quite alright.”
“It’s nice,” was all you could say before burying your head in his chest. He didn’t get to be so amused at your expense for long. And if it was your expression that was giving you away, you’d hide it. Nimble fingers gently went through your hair once, twice. “I don’t believe in convenient romance,” a mumble from you. Suddenly, this all seemed a bit too good to be true. His solid and warm presence, supporting you. His searing kiss too.
“It’s not convenient,” he answered calmly. “We’ll have to plan out dates according to our busy schedules, enduring teasing from our friends, learning to tolerate each other’s habits —”
“I don’t like your tapping,” you confessed.
“I’ve noticed,” he replied with sarcasm.
Chapter 26: Casual dating is hard.
The Amicitias measured the two of you with a very peculiar look of curiosity. As if they didn’t know what was happening between you and Ignis. They made you sit together too, which added to the awkwardness. You didn’t want to invade his space even more so now. Aware of your movements to a paranoid degree. Was your hand to close to his? you questioned as his right hand was on the table while you were sitting to his left. You had no clue what boundaries were in place. Were there any boundaries? He did kiss you. But it's not like he was doing any better. It's not like you were looking at each other love-stricken and holding hands. It was harder than you expected. Navigating the boundaries with a friend-turned-lover. The sort of relationship you never had, avoided purposefully, only now understanding why. It was awkward to appear before your shared friends and say you were a thing now. You and Gladio exchanged a familiar look of strange discomfort. The same silent exchange you had before when he was introduced to you as Belly’s boyfriend.
Bellis eyed you closer leaning on the table. There was wicked light within them. She leaned back into her seat and nodded to her husband. Gladio leaned on the table and reached out his hand between you and Ignis.
“Chah, chah, chah,” said Bellis as Gladiolus was cutting the air between you and Ignis.
“What the hell?” you asked, astonished by the wildness of the situation.
“Cutting the tension between you two,” Gladiolus answered simply. As if what had just happened was in line with normalcy.
“It’s not the good tension either,” his wife added.
“What’s going on, Iggy?” Gladio asked.
“Nothing,” Ignis replied. You didn’t see his face — would not dare to look at him — but you heard the notes of irritation in his voice. He was either annoyed with you or with the people sitting in front of you. You were really hoping it was the latter.
“Yeah?” the dark-haired man smirked. “Then why the eggshells?” You couldn’t take the shaming anymore as you hid your face in your hands, praying the bad man away. Why would they do this to you two? Ignis and you had just started dating. It was normal to be awkward, right? Even so, the last time you felt awkward in a relationship was in like… high school? Maybe the first year of college. The answer didn’t follow.
“Did you have a fight?” Belly asked with concern.
“No,” Ignis politely answered. “Not really,” he added quieter and less sure. But you still heard it. Both Amicitias laughed. Okay, no, Ignis cannot take the two of them by himself. My place is here, I fight with you! Your hand reached out to his and when it found it, you grasped it firmly. And when his green eyes met yours, you pathetically looked away.
“So, you two are just awkward?” observed Gladiolus. Just as he finished the sentence, he started to laugh. Bellis was giggling beside him, eyeing you curiously. You grimaced at her. This is not at all what she was thinking! You wanted to say something in your defense or even to defend your, errrrr, boyfriend but nothing clever was forming in that brain of yours. When the thunderous and robust laugh of Gladiolus had subsided, he wiped away a tear in the corner of his eye.
“Why are you awkward?” he asked pointing at you. “I could expect it from Ignis,” he said as quickly realized what he had just said. “No offense, Iggy.” The recovery was fast and frank.
“Offense taken,” Ignis said coolly.
“Geez, I’m sorry, Iggy,” Gladiolus smirked.
“Let ‘em be,” Belly said, pushing her husband back. “They’ll figure it out at their own speed.”
You sure hoped she was right. But it did little in comforting you. Now you two were dating. And something was supposed to change. But you had no clue in what way this was supposed to change. Neither of you changed so how can the relationship between you change? But it had to, otherwise, what’s there to say you were more than friends now? Those thoughts were awfully confusing and as equally frustrating. You looked at Ignis. Something was supposed to change between the two of you — two friends who started dating — but nothing did, not to you.
It was warm in the car. The night lights of the city twinkling through the windows. It was a lovely night with a lovely ending. The problem was, however, the soft roar of the engine and the tapping of Ignis’s finger on the wheel were the only sounds saving you from a deafening silence.
“I’m sorry,” he suddenly spoke. It made you jump in your seat. And you would have gotten far if not for the seatbelt.
“What?” you asked with sincere confusion.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know how much space I should give you,” he explained, “or not give you, for that matter.” Mysteriously, you turned into a fish, opening your mouth and then closing it again and again, not knowing what to say. His eyes were diligently on the road. You wished he could look at you and smile. What do you say when your friend-turned-boyfriend is like this? You wouldn’t know. You never dated anyone who’d been your friend before the relationship.
“It’s funny how we seemed closer when we were just friends,” the words were spoken before you could realize what they meant. Tap-tap.
“Perhaps,” Ignis agreed with hesitation, “I shouldn’t have begun our relationship so spontaneously.”
“N-no—” Somewhere in the depth of your mind, a tiny voice was echoing a weak yes. But you knew better than to annihilate a man’s self-esteem.
“I startled you,” he protested softly. “Even in the moment, you were confused by my actions.” There was no denying that. “It’s my fault, I should have planned it better,” he continued verbal self-abuse. The car came to a stop as the red light was brought in the night. You wanted to reach out to him and place a hand on his shoulder lightly in a comforting gesture. But then you got startled with one simple sentence.
“I shouldn’t have lost myself in the moment,” Ignis repeated, “and shouldn’t have told you how I felt.”
If only you could hear how the silence had dropped. The quiet revving of the engine seemed to simmer down just so the two of you can truly experience the silence in-between. No, he never said that. Your head whipped back into the straight position. Look straight ahead. Because the moment Ignis realized he didn’t say anything of the sort would be devastating to him. Grant the man a little mercy and give him some privacy. He didn’t say anything about any feelings, let alone for you. He just kissed you, which was just as powerful as a confession and grand words but… It was different. There were no words or confessions exchanged and it felt right. The light had changed to green. The car barely moved forward in a curve for a right turn. You looked at his hands that were gripping the wheel as if in terror. Shit. What do you tell your newfound boyfriend when he confessed much deeper feelings than he initially let on? You only watched the road ahead, hearing him make a deep breath and collect himself. The car started moving faster. He regained a semblance of control. Good.
When you finally saw the building you were living in, you exhaled with great relief. This moment was over, tomorrow would be a new day. And maybe, just maybe you could move on from this awkward situation you had been marinating in for some time. When the car came to a full stop, you thought you’d dart out of it. But you couldn’t. You could barely move to do anything. Honesty or nothing.
“It’s not your fault,” you said with a fond smile. “You were being honest with me, there’s nothing to beat yourself about. I was happy. I am happy. We’ll find our footing, don’t worry.” The smile on your face grew wider and you turned to look at Ignis. He was turned towards you and was wearing a dumbfounded expression on his face. With a smooth and quick motion, his seatbelt came undone, allowing him to lean closer to you. Knowing you stroke the right chord, words were now coming easier.
“So, don’t worry and don’t beat yourself up,” you continued, “it is as much my fault. All we can do is be open and honest with each other.”
Ignis’s hand reached behind your head, pulling you into him. His face was getting closer to yours too. And your heartbeat accelerated. But his lips never touched yours. A kiss was pressed to your forehead lingering and warm.
“You are right,” he said as he pulled away from you. A happy smile appeared on his face. Not as bright and happy as you wished for but better than a frown. “For now, goodnight. I shall pick you up in the morning.”
“Yup,” you said, hurrying out of your seatbelt. “Goodnight.”
Chapter 27: Settling.
Belly: I’m surprised a bit. Though it would be easy for you two to date.
Belly: You have some baggage. And he is patient.
Belly: So, he’s suddenly your type?
You: You know it’s more complicated than that.
Belly: Well, true. You aren’t his type either.
Bellis was a good and kind soul. She was more thoughtful than you were. But that one message, and you felt like you were falling into pieces. You were not each other’s type, were you now? The type you were into can be disregarded completely because it was an awful one. One you couldn’t find yourself happy in the long run. But what about Ignis? You started biting your nails. It would make sense for him to settle for you. Considering how his recent endeavor turned out, you were an easy choice to make and go with.
You placed the book you were reading on the coffee table. It was a recommendation from Gladio. You two were nerds. And he knew a good story. Chavvot. You turned to watch Ignis in the kitchen. Barely perceptible sound of something frying on the pan. He was cooking. For the two of you. But the two women were coming to your mind again and again. Aranea. Garnet. They were quite different from you. Tall, lean and the fighter type. Not to mention other women who were interested in him. Very different women. Women that suited him a lot more. Composed and mature and elegant. You should be happy he was with you. You should be happy he had chosen you. But was he simply settling for you?
“I can feel your eyes on me,” Ignis said without turning around, “it’s quite unsettling.”
“Sorry,” you quickly replied, “just got lost in thoughts.”
“Hm, what were you thinking about?” He turned his head a little bit gracing you with profile and a small smirk in the corner of his mouth.
“Nothing in particular,” you lied. What a good sign it was, right? Lying already so early in a relationship. Not that you considered lying to be appropriate after a certain time but still… Ignis hummed. He must have figured out your little lie but didn’t pry. That would be in his nature. You got up and deciding that laying down would be a more appropriate position for sulking in silence rather than sitting.
“What is bothering you?” Ignis asked leaning into to you. You freaked at his proximity and more importantly how quiet his steps were. He got here without making a noise. Damn his and his Crownsguard training.
“Sit down,” you asked. You meant to ask but it sounded rather demanding.
“Alright,” he nodded. He obeyed your words and sat beside you. There was no touching or warmth. In fact, you felt tenser than before with him sitting beside you. There was never an easy way to approach this. You didn’t even know how to begin voicing this…
“I…You…” That was al you could manage to say. Instead of telling him how insecure you felt or how you thought he was settling for you. Wasn’t it obvious you weren’t his ideal choice? Not even his type. “Are you settling for me?” The question came out harshly, accusingly even.
“Pardon?” he asked. You felt him switching position and felt his eyes on you soon after. He was looking at you now. He was watching you. One full breath before speaking again to calm down your nerves on fire. “Are you settling for me because it’s easier or comfortable or…?” you asked turning to face him. You needed to see his eyes when he responded.
“I wouldn’t t do that to myself or you,” Ignis said shaking his head. “I wouldn’t settle for the sake of being in a relationship. And I wouldn’t settle for you if I knew this was only… an easier option or merely stop before reaching the final destination. Both out of respect for you and myself. I wouldn’t want to take you time and effort investing in a relationship that I never planned on supporting myself.”
“O-okay,” you said pathetically. There was nothing else you could say to him. You’ve got the answer you had hoped for. You knew it to be true. That was all to it.
“Do you?” he asked quietly.
“What?” you gasped breathlessly. You had just gotten a moment of relief. Could he give you a minute or something? He couldn’t possibly think you were merely settling for him. Not for him. How unobservant and inconsiderate you had to be to let him think this way? You pushed yourself forward, pulling him into a forceful embrace. “I’d never,” was all you managed to say. Instead your hands wrapped around his neck tighter. A few moments later, his hands came around your body, pulling you closer to him. And then he pulled you harder along with him to lay on the couch. You wanted to say something but the words weren’t coming. The only thing you could think of to say, the only words that were coming to mind… You couldn’t say them yet. And maybe he felt the same. This was fine. It was enough. For now.
Chapter 28: Annotations Ch 1-9
Here are the annotations to the chapters for this journey you've been on. I hope that these will help you to understand what the clusterf... heck was happening in all the chapters, while I'm also pandering to all the details I personally liked to include in the story.
I wrote this without the help of Word because it was more convenient for the quotations. Let me tell you, after saving a draft, it really likes to add some fricccccccking space after putting a quote. It was a big "screw yourself". If you read it on a phone and see a big chunk of empty space, just know I tried.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Obviously, an introductory chapter since I needed a hook to interest you in the story. I decided that Gladio's wedding would be the best place for Ignis to realize how everyone was growing and growing up, moving on to things they wanted and he...well...wasn't. He is standing alone while his friends are dancing with their respective partners. Noctis is maturing into a king with his wife at his side who had become his greatest support. Prompto is a traveling photographer who semi-lives in Hammerhead. He goes away and comes back, pursuing his passion, while Cindy is in Hammerhead with Cid pursuing hers. Their relationship is progressing slower than anyone's but it does progress. Prompto has two homes now. And Gladiolus, the newlywed, dancing with his wife who you see a lot in the story. I rightfully said in one of the comments she was the best part of the story and I meant it. She is the key secondary character. I would describe her....something like this...
Bellis is happy. Gennuinely and naturally happy, she is, what you'd call, an undeless optimist, which is something to be mistaken for something else. Aloofness, goffiness, unseriousnes. She is neither. She is very aware of everything and everyone around her, attuned to everyone's emotions. She is an empath. She understands people naturally.
That's why she is the one to speak about Ignis and how he needs to decide what he wants from this life. She doesn't say anything of the sort to Reader because she understands how hurtful that may be.
The exchange between Ignis and Reader is playfull but, in fact, is incredibly distant. They are very cautious and polite with each other but the Reader slips up as she always does, unable to completely hide whatever she is feeling. Ignis is far from ideal in her eyes. Considering her story of failed romances, emotionally distant men and so on, seeing a man going around a wedding complimenting women on their looks didn't strike the right chord with her.
She rebuked his expression 'elated' since he didn't use the word 'happy' because that reflected on her. She wasn't completely happy during the celebration either. She never said how she felt and no one asked. And then they dance.
The dance is symbolic if you want. They started dancing at the wedding, they never really stopped. They surely got interrupted a lot on the way but the dance continues. Reader saw Ignis differently even if for a few moments. A person she doesn't necessarily like but someone who seemed to resonate with her. That's why she was compelled to take that picture of Ignis, a person who seemed to struggle with something negative on a happy day, seeking something or someone to relate to and not feel alone.
Just to say, "Nope, there weren't any sparkled flying." Ignis is not taken by the Reader, perhaps a bit by the way she looked at the wedding. And her cruel humor was refreshing to him. It felt like bantering with friends even if it was majorly at his expense.
Gladiolus is the one to be suggestive here but he doesn't mean to push it. He wants his friend to be happy and be the best man at a wedding too. Whoever Ignis marries is up to him.
But Ignis already had that painful realization so he just makes a promise to fulfill Gladio's wish as well as his own. He really doesn't like to worry his friends.
The match finding, the speed dating, whatever you call it. Yeah, Amicitias gave it to their friends. The two single friends they have. They could have thrown them away, true. But here's a big dark secret, it was Belly's idea to gift them. No, she wasn't trying to get them to date, more so she wanted them to find common ground. To become friends. To support each other. And she was right about that. Ignis and Reader do offer a bit of support to each other even if it's in a form of "someone else is going through the same shit as I do and don't seem to be happy about it. Cool."
Ignis says it's gonna be a long evening because he anticipated Reader to be her usual cruel self and joke at his expense even when he was being kind and considerate. That doesn't happen. Reader is nowhere near as empathetic as Belly but she ain't a sociopath either. Ignis was pleasantly surprised by that. That only partly pushed him to offer her a ride home. And that's why he didn't mind going to have dinner with her either. It was beneficial for him too, not having to cook anything so late in the night. There were a lot of reasons for Ignis to do what he did and not all of them were selfless (he was the one to offer that deal).
There is, of course, a lot of Reader's perspective on Ignis. And not all of it is flattering. They eat in silence because they don't know what to say to each other. The atmosphere is exactly what any of us would feel if left alone in a room with a friend-of-a-friend. Ignis is the one to break the silence because there is something to gain. And Ignis is still a strategist. He naturally assumed after Gladio's comments at the wedding that this might be a set-up. It was, kinda, but not the kind he thought of. Ignis is wrong here. But to err is human and Ignis is nothing but painfully human.
There's also an explanation as to why Ignis is single, unpursued, and with a reputation. A reputation Reader is aware of.
I really do believe that subtlety is best. Writing is a craft and art. I didn't want to simply straight out write out every single thing Reader thought or assumed about Ignis. I tried to convey it more subtly either through dialogues or the way Reader sees him. Literally. Read descriptions of him through her eyes. She borderline doesn't see him as human sometimes.
But there were a lot of assumptions and prejudice on either side. Neither of them is the bigger person in this situation, truthfully. They could have chosen to get to know each other better but neither is willing to do the first step or put effort into it. After all, they already have formed opinions about each other. They formed opinions about each other quickly and in situations they should have been more reserved with their opinions. The irony is, they don't realize how alike they really are. And it goes beyond just liking the same painter or be into table-top games. But that will be explored in other chapters.
Gladio, for the record, didn't know Reader was into Gainsborough. Pure coincidence.
Just like in the previous chapter, Reader is surprised to find out Ignis is not exactly what she painted him to be. And is pleasantly surprised by it. But if in Chapter 3 Reader was the one to taint that impression, this time its Ignis himself.
The Church in the Slums is another "clever" metaphor. I'm not gonna chew on it though.
“I see you are a man of culture,” you smiled at him.
Yes, that's a meme right there.
Naturally, our heroes needed to make up. Ignis could have saved her from a fire or push her out of a car's way but... It seemed more natural Gladiolus would be the one to point out how irked Ignis was recently. And he was. His pride was wounded and he was even angrier at himself to let it be wounded by someone like Reader. Her opinion shouldn't matter to him (who is she? Regis Lucis Caelum?) but it did nonetheless.
“My job here is done,” Gladiolus sounded victorious. He opened the door of the office to leave.
“You didn't do anything,” Ignis retaliated.
Sailor Moon meme, YES.
I mean... Two adults have a conversation, come clean about their feelings and thoughts and reconcile, deciding to move forward. Pretty obvious, isn't it? There are a few moments that I want to highlight.
“If anything, you were being honest with me and I couldn’t face the music.”
That was a bit abrupt. You didn’t think he’d place you up on a pedestal so quickly.
Ignis is prideful. He kinda has to be too. But one thing that is bigger than his pride is his sense of lacking, his insecurities. No, don't misunderstand, his insecurities aren't about his looks, intelligence or his single life. He has healthier self-esteem than Reader. But what he is always insecure about is his lack of action. He is very critical of his actions towards other people and one way to strike his insecurities is to make him feel like he hasn't done enough. Which is true in this case. He hasn't done enough but his fault is partial. Reader is to blame too. He knows that, at least.
And yeah, there's a moment where Reader says two very opposite things within the frame of a phone screen. That she understood his feelings and that together they do not make a pair. They do. Maybe an unlikely one but one that understands each other intimately. Not every assumption made by Reader was wrong.
While the relationship with Ignis had improved, it's not like you both jumped into a pool of friendship. The picture bit was alluding to that picture of Ignis. A picture no one wanted to be taken but it's here so live with it now.
Ignis' motivation here is exactly what he says it is. Human compassion. And it sure hits Reader right in the gut. She just wouldn't call herself compassionate. Ever. The office is actually a place where a lot of things happen. The apology, the help, the games, the love letter. At this point in the story, Ignis spends more time than anywhere else. Even his home is only in second place.
“I don’t like cooking for people unlike you,” you spoke.
“You must have noticed then,” Ignis replied with certain gentleness you’d never heard before from him. As if it was a big secret that he enjoyed cooking for others. You didn’t know if he enjoyed cooking for himself though.
Never had a scene where Reader could have noticed that. And no one asked. I was hoping someone would question this. So, to answer, yes, this has to do with the very first time Ignis and Reader were introduced. No, that chapter will probably never get published. I don't see a point in it at this point.
Reader is comfortable relying on Bellis. But pretty much uncomfortable relying on anyone else.
“Thanks, Ignis,” Bellys said, “for taking care of her.”
You reddened. But there was no way to hide your face from green eyes without being too obvious you were hiding. You couldn’t turn away because of Belly. You had to face him head-on with your red cheeks.
“A pleasure,” Ignis answered tilting his head as if in curiosity. He was watching you. He was looking into your eyes. You wanted to die.
Ignis started to grasp this fact too. And that's important in the future.
Ignis doesn't like to worry his friends. Reader is reluctant to be anything but fun and good with her friends. if Ignis insecurities lie in lack of action, Reader's is in lack of character. I'll explain, bare with me.
A bit exhausted and stressed, you felt like you would no fun to be around even if you decided to drink.
It's reasonable to not want to bring your friends down but it's also reasonable to accept help and support even if it comes in simply hanging out together. But because the Reader's insecurities lie where they do, she isn't excited about having an evening with her friends.
It had been quite a year for you. First, you ended a long-term relationship. Then Bellis got married. And then you had a short affair that lasted a number of dates. Strange to think of it as it happened right within her honeymoon. Your judgment calls were getting worse if she wasn’t around.
Bellis is the confidante, the person who was privy to Reader's darker thoughts and feelings. That's why it's easier to accept help from her. That's why Reader loved her so much. Bellis is the friend, the guide, the support. She is anything Reader needs her to be because she is a true and best friend. And because she can understand even a chair, to be honest. But if you think Bellis is anything but smart, you are wrong. No, Belly is simply happy which can be mistaken for anything else.
“Sorry,” she shrugged, “but wife stands by her husband and all. You won’t be able to learn the game unless you understand your mistakes. And his moves.”
She can be mean and pushy when necessary but even that comes out very subtly. This sentence can be applied to many decisions made by Reader and not just her game strategy.
But for those clean moves to happen, Ignis needed to go completely blind.
I thought someone would retaliate at THIS. No one did. Cool. Because I believe I did this more than once.
“How are you communicating?” Gladiolus skeptically questioned.
That's a reference to Bungo: Stray Dogs. In that scene, there are three characters. One character was talking with his mouth full and the other character was able to understand completely. The third one was confused.
“Oh sweet Shiva, mother of fuck, she told you!”
Debra Morgan from Dexter.
Remeber about Reader's insecurities and where they are coming from? Do you remember that she didn't like Ignis at first? Well, partially, it's because Ignis is not that easy to like. He has flaws just like the rest of us simple mortals. But it's also the fact Ignis is unlike Reader in certain aspects. Aspects she is insecure about.
You went to his office the first time because you wanted to be a bigger person. Yet Ignis Scientia always seemed bigger, however, no matter what you did or said. He was the one to be considerate of you in situations where he didn't have to be. Today he had no reason to come to you during lunchtime. You were not close friends. Yet he texted you first, asking how you were faring. He was thoughtful, he was selfless. He didn't have to offer you his jacket either. Yet he did. He offered you food. He made you laugh. He was a bigger person — scratch that — a better person.
Reader is insecure in her character. She believed she lacks something, something that would make her whole, something that would make her stop going out with men who aren't suited for her, something that would make her understand others and herself a little better. Something that would make her feel better about herself. Spoiler alert: it's not how it works.
“Alright,” he said, tapping his chin with his finger. He did the same thing when he was analyzing the situation on your board. “However, I must ask for something return.”
“That will have to wait,” he flashed you a smile just as wicked.
Ignis wanted to use this as leverage to make her go with him to that fancy royal party. Life got in the way.
Thank you for being here.
Chapter 29: Annotations Ch 10-20
Reader goes into all that trouble not because of Hexapartite. Well, not only because of Hexapartite. She is very aware of the lack of character she displays and how Ignis is acting like a bigger person towards her. She tries to reciprocate. She buys coffee, a gift for Ignis, many things... She even does that favour for Gladio.
An awful drink made out of darkness and bitterness. Like dark chocolate but about three times more potent. And with far less sugar. You rarely craved it.
Just as Reader rarely craves Ignis. JOKING, A'RIGHT?
There was no winning with Ignis. Even worse, he made you lose in even fewer moves than Gladiolus. Damn those two and their excellent skills in this game. You felt inferior. You were inferior.
Insecurity talk right there. Hidden under the pretense of the game but still true to Reader. She does feel inferior to her friends. She loves them (Belly mostly) but does feel insecure about certain aspects of herself. It's human, don't @ me. Belly with her endless compassion and understanding. Gladio with his ability to connect with people (connected with Reader too). And Ignis.
"I'm ashamed to admit, but there's isn't much to me except this," Ignis pointed at the board, "my position here," he gestured around his office, "and my Crownsguard duties."
Ignis admits that's basically who he is. He is his duty. His life is in service of the Crown. He didn't have much of a problem with it before but recently it started to get to him. That's all he can say about himself, truly. His experiences are tied to Noctis, Gladio, and even Prompto. His knowledge and skills were obtained to better serve Noctis. But Noctis grew up, matured and now seeks help from many people (not because he undervalues Ignis but because it's a smart and mature thing to do, you can't rule a kingdom with one advisor; plus it lifts the burden from Ignis too).
"Merely curious what's going on in the mind of a woman."
Oh, Ignis is curious about what's going on in the mind of a woman. The man needs some closure. He might strike you as a man who had closure but all he had was a closed door. (Even this get's referenced later).
"speed date, speed date, all the local prospects aren't so great."
I like this chapter. What I like more about it is what it entails for the future. This is the first occurrence when those two idiots take care of each other. Yes, Gladiolus is the one who pushes Reader to do his bidding but that's the thing about Reader... She ain't great with people. The whole scene amused me and (I'm not bragging, just being honest) impressed me. You see, I debated this scene for a long while. Ignis is a headstrong idiot when it comes to his duties. But he just fell apart there. He simply submitted. And it felt very out of character. Until it didn't.
Remember: Ignis doesn't like to worry his friends. In a way, it's a part of his duty. He is the one who has to worry about them, not the other way around. And he became the instrument of Reader's desire for two reasons: he doesn't want to worry anyone, her included, and because they are slowly becoming closer. Ignis grows fond of her, slowly but surely. It's a flower planted in his heart and it starts to spread roots and grow. I'll prove it to you.
On the subject of a pinky promise, I needed something to connect this scene to another very similar scene. A scene where it would be Ignis's turn to take care of Reader. A phrase, an action... Pinky promise seemed fitting. A promise to take care of yourself and to let others take care of you.
"He was an instrument of your desire...."
The Wise Man's Fear. It's really nothing to all the other references to Kingkiller Chronicles I made.
Here's a little something to prove you Ignis grows fond of the Reader.
Scientia: I’m afraid I cannot keep you company. Family matters.
He wants to be there for her but he cannot. Life is, sometimes, more powerful than an individual. Yes, it's in text, it cannot convey all the emotions. And that's the point. Even Reader doesn't catch on it.
I mean... Yeah, that happens. Ignis didn't call Gladiolus because he would be about as helpful as a bench. And calling Bellis would be equal to calling Gladio as well. Calling one Amicitia is calling both Amicitias.
Right away I felt like I said how Gladio and Reader were good friends and were able to understand each other. I felt like I needed to show it too. Everyone but Ignis here is people who let go of their work the moment they are outside of it. That's why Gladio reacts this way. Not because Gladiolus doesn't like his job or doesn't take it seriously. But he understands it's a balance. Family, friend, job - it's a balance of things. If he is having a birthday party, he doesn't want to be reminded of work. He wants to be in the moment and feel every second of it.
“Don’t be afraid to take risks,” Ignis said. It was aimed at you and no one else.
“Shut it, Iggy,” Gladiolus scolded jokingly. “Let her figure it out.”
Take this sentence up a notch. Reader needs to figure out a lot of things and learns how to take risks. How to let others, outside of Belly, to know her and take care of her. To break away from the pattern of unfitting lovers. To win against Gladiolus. But Ignis is trying to help, huh...
“Come one, Ig,” Bellis supported, “we are worried about you.”
Belly is very good at understanding people. She knows the inner workings of the heart. She knows what would make Ignis talk. And he probably would if not for Reader.
“That’s why you decided to pair up me and Ignis?” you asked accusingly.
From here on out, we get a sure glimpse of Reader's thoughts. And they are not pretty, let be honest there.
Welp, here's a thing. Ignis is aware of how little there to him outside his work and duties. But that's not entirely true. To clear that up, Reader needs to see him in a different environment, look different, interact with people outside their circle. Thus, she sees him training as a Crownsguard. Something he said he was but never looked or did the part. Here he is being exactly that. Sparring with Gladio, training, improving. It's not to make anyone horny but I won't stop you if you are.
This is when Ignis wanted to use the leverage to get what he wanted. Selfish and self-serving? Perhaps. But that was his plan before he got closer to Reader, before he used up his little favour. So, he comes clean about it. He asks her like a friend because that's what he considers her to be. If you thought it's a set-up for 'pretend to be dating trope', sorry to disappoint you. I don't like the trope myself meaning I don't want to write it. I can't comprehend the motivation there but I can explain Ignis's motivation here. It's actually painfully human.
- He feels obligated to go because he is his duty.
- He knows Aranea is likely to be there and he would rather not face her alone.
- He doesn't want to go alone. Simple as that. He'd come with whoever had he anyone else. And that's the sad part. Outside Gladio, Noct, and Prompto, there's no one else.
- Iris is not even in Insomnia.
And as was stated before, Reader needs to see Ignis in a different environment and interact with people outside their circle.
I'd consider it one of the most boring chapters if not for Aranea. It's also a chapter where I spell out a lot more things. Ignis is a jilted lover, he had trouble getting over his previous partners. Especially Aranea. The life of royalty is boring. Even to Ignis. This is where Reader also learns about Scientia's childhood. Who he is and how he came to be who he is. A step forward to understand him a little better.
There are no descriptions of Reader in a dress or Ignis in a suit or how they see each other. Because it's not about that. And they don't see each other all that different. Ignis looked better at the wedding and so did Reader.
I always write Ignis chapters as short as possible. Because otherwise, I'm afraid to give away too much about the inner workings of his heart and mind. You got the important parts: he still harbors feelings for Aranea, he might harbor them for the rest of his life, but that doesn't mean he won't let her go or be incapacitated for love for the rest of his life. That's just not how it works. The reason he can move a little forward is his friendship with Reader. He sees her, hears her jokes about failed romances, hears the jokes about her terrible taste in men, and she rolls with it, she moves with it. He has trouble even getting over little jokes about his history with the Commodore.
“You have this face again,” he said nonchalantly.
There's another hint that Ignis is growing fond of Reader. He notices things about her. Even the face she makes when dark thoughts overwhelm her. And he asks her about it. He cares.
Should I blind him? How many years in prison would it land me?
Thought this would land me in trouble. Nope. Cool. Maybe I should have done this in every chapter.
The idea of him knowing you better than you knew him didn’t smile upon you.
Guess what's that. Insecurities? Possible.
“Terrifying,” you spoke honestly. “I don’t think he needs you.”
“You are correct,” he said quietly.
That's a very important moment for Ignis. He painfully realizes that everyone is growing up and maturing. That his friends need him less and less. Need. Their bond is not strong anymore or they don't love each other. They are all brothers. But Noctis and Prompto are grown up. Especially Noctis. The one Ignis took care of since they were children. Gladio was always least in need of being taken care of but he too had grown up and become a man in his own right. And that moment of painful growth was enabled by Reader and her careless words.
He didn’t sound remote as he used when it came to matters of the heart. He either couldn’t look away or grew tired of it. You hoped it was the latter.
So when he realized he is not needed but he is wanted and given a choice, he makes a choice that serves him better.
Reflecting on Reader's worsening state. Yup, dark and ugly thoughts tend to accumulate when not dealt with the right way. That sickness is a very obvious slap in the face with that fact. Self-explanatory. Reader gets better when she is in a circle of friends, having a laugh and bonding time.
I swear,” Gladiolus chimed in, “sometimes I think you love her more than me.”
“That’s not true,” you hurried with a reply. “Most of the time.”
“I put the groundwork in,” you said before someone else could interrupt this beautiful once-in-a-lifetime joke. “You don’t get to give her a ring and go number one, you sociopath!”
Daniel Sloss Jigsaw.
I will not explain what Garnet the Dagger is referencing, come on.
The only ship we are sailing is friendship. The SS Get Along.
Project Mouthwash, Fate: Unlimited Blade Works Abridged.
And the season of storms was coming.
Funny that in a chapter named Season of love.
Chapter 30: Annotations Ch 21-27
Okay, let's establish right away: Belly would be a better, more rational choice for the person to confront Reader. Even the Reader agrees with it.
You wished it was Belly who was doing the confrontation. That would save you and Ignis the heartache.
Belly knows Reader. They had been through this already. Belly knows it's not personal and knows the words to fix the problem. But she didn't do it. In fact, she let Ignis do it. And there's a reason. The one I stated before. Belly understands people. She understands how people think. Even how Ignis thinks. She lets him do it because Ignis is quick to feel like the situation is his fault. After all, it's all been good until he started dating Garnet. That's the only thing that changed. And he feels like he had done wrong and didn't do enough to fix it. So, he goes to fix it. Exactly 10 chapters later, the tables had turned and it is his turn to take care of Reader.
“Oh, you are approaching me?” you spoke quieter. “Instead of running away, you are approaching me?”
There's always time for a Jojo's reference (c)
They rightfully say beware the anger of a gentle man.
The Wise Man's Fear, Patrick Rothfuss.
During the parking lot confrontation, Ignis doesn't sound like himself. He is not supposed to sound like himself. Reader's heart is not the only heart that was frozen solid and chipped. Ignis is broken by the situation too. The situation Reader created. Her distrust hurts and her reluctance to accept help from Ignis, her friend, hurt him even more. He believed himself to be a true, reliable friend to her. He is quick to take the blame upon himself (again) but it's all on Reader.
“Thanks for everything, Iggy,” you spoke without any particular emotion attached.
That's very sad right here. It's the first time Reader addressed Ignis by the nickname (the first time I wrote Belly as 'Amicitia' too). And it was done in a rather cold manner. It gets better, however. We learn that Ignis learned to understand Reader deeply, intimately. And then there's a callback to the pinky promise. An important promise between the two. Something even Amicitias aren't privy too. To kick it up a notch, Ignis gives Reader a forehead kiss. Just to really make her understand that he truly cares.
I really didn't want to push the narrative of Garnet being the love rival. And she had done nothing wrong to anyone. She was interested in Ignis and went for it. He accepted. It was a fair game. But also understand that it's human to dislike someone because they ruined the dynamic of your group or occupy your friend's time. Especially now that Reader feels strongly connected to Ignis, it's hard to like Garnet. Not impossible but hard. So I tried to remedy that a little.
“I can’t imagine what Ignis did so that even Gladio would consider it embarrassing,” Belly quietly mumbled. That stirred the pot. Ignis visibly reacted, guilty and ashamed by the implication.
Belly being her best manipulating self right there. Ignis would have opened his mouth if not for Garnet.
“Explode and die, happy people,” the two of you said in unison before starting to laugh.
More like a reference to a reference. Wotakoi: Love is Hard for an Otaku.
Ignis realizes that he did something absolutely selfish. He accepted Garnet's feelings not because he treasured them or reciprocated them. He accepted them because they were flattering and comfortable. To him, it seemed like a relationship that was bound to work out. Two Crownsguards, dedicated to their duties, who had... interactions in the past. Yea, not all relationships and dates are based around great love. Ignis did an oopsie. It was a valuable lesson. He shouldn't try to get other people to move him on from other people and painful relationships of the past.
During the party, Ignis is probably most open he'd been with Reader. Something I believe is fitting. He is hurting but is surrounded by people who care about him. They all came together because of him. So he lets himself be a bit more open with everyone. Reader is tipsy there so she misunderstands his words for a few moments. To her defense, she didn't think it was out of romantic intentions but more from a place of hurt. She'd go with it if that was the case, too.
Belly's story gave Ignis ideas...
Obviously Ignis's ability to feel comfortable around Reader and being able to share things and have a laugh is very important for them both.
Everyone got the Every kiss begins with K?
Purple Hydrangeas apparently stand for "wish for greater understanding" in our world. Because Reader is well-versed in flower language, she could only point you the direction of what the flowers are saying. Ignis said, "thank you for great understanding". Reader will Moogle it, she'll get it, don't worry.
And yes, it's important that while Ignis has been thanking Reader for her understanding, Reader is seeing him. The person Ignis is. With his stubborn selflessness and undying loyalty to the Crown, his pretty obvious awkwardness while they are together at her place and his workaholic nature too. It's the moment they both see each other.
There are two references to musical Hamilton.
The way he could turn a phrase.
“Ignis, sir,” you shouted before he could leave. You heard the halting of his movements. “Close the door on your way out."
Yeah, okay, Ignis didn't show up with flowers just to say thank you. It sure is nice of him but there was more at play than just that. It seemed reasonable that the proposal would be coming from Ignis and not Reader. Reader can never be sure when Ignis would get over his recent failures. Ignis took it in his own hands. He was hesitant to do so. It was a spur of the moment thing. He realizes he should have done better too. He acknowledges that and starts to panic a bit. He messed up. Again. So he decided to go all-in and asks for a kiss. As if that could save the situation. Right.
Reader is having a Derek from The Swan Princess moment. But that's because not every relationship needs to begin with some grand declarations and promises. It can start with a "let's try this maybe".
“What else is there to say?” you asked, confused.
The story is complete in this chapter. Ignis and Reader are going out, aren't we all here for that? Well, true. But I didn't expect their relationship to go into smooth sailing. So, the next chapters are about them overcoming the initial awkwardness from moving on to being more than just friends. And they have been comfortable in their friendship. If life was kinder and Ignis didn't get dumped by Garnet, Reader probably would have found someone else. And they would have remained just friends.
It's awkward. As it should be. Ignis didn't say he was in love. Reader didn't say she fell for him. Because they didn't. These are two people who learned how to understand each other intimately and thus grew to love each other. It will take time for them to fully realize the depth of their feelings but they are starting. They are seeing each other. In more than one way.
My place is here, I fight with you!
Les Miserables, the musical
Yeah, relationships didn't solve their character flaws immediately. Ignis still takes failure pretty hard. Romantic failures will be hitting him hard right now. Reader still sucks with words but understand how Ignis thinks so offers whatever comfort she can. That she is okay with this. Awkward as it may be and rocky at the beginning, she is happy where they are and how they are. Though, she may still have doubts...
It's not surprising that Belly would be the one to push Reader to confront all their issues there and then. Amicitias are not ones for bullshit. You are awkward? Fine. Let's get over it in a day. Bellis is very aware of the shit going on in Reader's head and how she could start doubting everything she had ever done, ever. So, here's a little push for the talk that needed to happen.
“I can feel your eyes on me,” Ignis said without turning around, “it’s quite unsettling.”
Ignis feels what Reader felt before. I've done it more than once. Used the same sentences for Reader and then Ignis or vice versa. Made them experience the same things. You are all smart, I won't chew it for you. There are a lot of little bits and pieces. You can seek them out, you can disregard them and look at the bigger picture. I won't tell you how to read a story.
Thank you for being here.