It’s been a long day. Productive, yes, but tiring in the way that only days like this can be. The process of reworking printed documents into a format that’s actually useful to Ignis is tedious. First the pages are scanned; the image files are converted to text where possible; the text is used to generate an audio file, which is exported to a cloud; and then Ignis can finally download the files to an app on his phone that allows him to name and sort them for easy access. And that’s been his entire day, just converting and uploading and downloading a mess of nonsense legal documents. But it’s easier, in the long run, than relying on other people to do his work for him, or having someone on hand just to read things aloud whenever he needs them to. Easier, too, than expecting Noctis to finally take an interest in bureaucracy.
But now Ignis is home. The only responsibility left for the day is cooking dinner, which is more a meditative act than a chore anyway. He moves his cane to the crook of his elbow, enters the passcode in the door, and opens it.
And he’s struck, immediately, by the feeling that something is Different.
He pauses in the doorway, then steps hesitantly inside, pushing the door shut behind him as he assesses the room. Sometimes it takes a moment for his brain to catch up with what his senses are telling him; he has to analyze the space around him, take stock of what he hears, feels, smells. He waits, turning his head slowly, breathing in through his nose as he frowns at nothing.
Then he hears it: something skittering along the hardwood floor.
His first thought is that it’s a rat, but he hasn’t heard anything about pests in the Citadel towers. And while Ignis’s skills at matching the sound something makes to its mass are far from perfect, he thinks it sounded a good bit heavier than the average rat.
“What in the world,” he mutters, clutching his cane just a bit warily. He raises his voice to call out, “Noct? Are you here?”
“Iggy!” The shout floats over from the bedroom. “You—hold on.”
There’s a loud thump, and from the hissed-out curse that follows Ignis guesses it was Noctis hitting one of his limbs against something solid. It’s a familiar noise. Then bare feet pad along on the floor and come to a stop on the opposite end of the room from Ignis.
“You’re home early,” Noctis says with poorly-concealed nervousness.
“Noct,” says Ignis, “is there some sort of animal loose in our home?”
“Uh.” Noctis coughs. “I dunno if loose is the right word. I mean, that’s what you call something that, uh… escaped from somewhere, right?”
Ignis turns toward the spot where he knows Noctis is standing and sends an unimpressed look in his direction.
“Okay,” says Noctis, “so we have a cat now.”
“A cat,” Ignis echoes. Then, “We have a cat.”
“Your name’s on the paperwork for her, too,” says Noctis. “So. Our cat.”
“I see.” Ignis drums his fingers along the handle of his cane. “Am I forgetting the discussion we must have had about this?”
“No, because we didn’t.” At least Noctis has the decency to sound sheepish. “It was kind of a spontaneous decision.”
Of course it was. Ignis takes a deep breath. “Where is she now?” he asks.
“In front of the couch, watching you. Want me to bring her over so you two can meet?”
Ignis was mostly asking to make sure the animal wouldn’t be underfoot as he put his things away, but this might as well happen, he thinks. He says, “If you like.”
Noctis moves to the couch, and is met with a little trilling meow. His voice goes soft and sweet as he says things like, “You wanna meet your other dad?” and “Come on, it’s okay,” and “There we go, I got you.” It makes Ignis’s chest feel light and airy, swelling into a balloon of warmth, to hear Noctis turn so gentle and fond.
“She’s pretty friendly,” Noctis says as he walks toward Ignis, “and she doesn’t bite or scratch or anything.” He stops just in front of Ignis. There’s a very faint smell in the air now that’s new to Ignis. A cat smell. “Specs, this is Maggie, our adopted child.”
Huffing a quiet laugh, Ignis reaches a hand out carefully. Something tickles against his knuckles. “Did she come with a name already?” he asks. “That doesn’t sound like something you would have chosen.”
“Iris named her,” Noctis says while the cat continues investigating Ignis’s hand with her nose. “Short for Magnolia. She was one of the strays Iris took in and nursed back to health. Not enough room to keep all of them at the house, though.”
“So you volunteered to take one off her hands,” Ignis fills in. He feels Magnolia start rubbing her face against his hand, and can’t help but smile. “Purely for altruistic reasons, of course.”
“What can I say, I’m a giving soul,” says Noctis. As Ignis moves to scratch under her chin: “I always knew you were a cat person.”
“Did you?” The gentle rumble of a purr vibrates against Ignis’s fingers. Her fur, he notices, is fairly long, a veritable cloud of fluff. She’ll have to be groomed regularly, or it’s going to make their lives a waking nightmare. “I like dogs as well, generally.”
“But you definitely prefer cats,” says Noctis. His hand bumps lightly against Ignis’s when he joins in the petting. “They’re quiet and clean, and they sleep a lot and just do their own thing most of the time. Seems like you’d appreciate all of that.”
“When you put it like that, I suppose I do like the idea of them,” says Ignis. The joke he could make about how all of that sounds like Noctis, minus the cleanliness, feels like low-hanging fruit, so he doesn’t say it.
“You wanna hold her?”
Ignis pulls his hand away. “Ah, not just now,” he says. “I’m afraid I need both hands at the moment.” He pats his cane by way of explanation.
“Sure, yeah,” says Noctis. “Wait, hold still for a second.”
Ignis does. He feels Noctis step closer to him, one of the man’s arms making contact with his chest, and has to resist the impulse to step back. “What—”
Now there’s a tickle against his chin. A moment later, what could only be a sticky sandpaper tongue flicks out, licking him once, then again. The purring continues, as loud as ever.
Noctis lets out a delighted laugh as Ignis rubs perplexedly at the spot Magnolia just licked. “Cute, huh?” he says. “She’ll kiss your nose, too, but I figured you wouldn’t be into that.”
“No,” Ignis confirms. “She does seem very sweet, though.”
Most importantly, Ignis thinks while unlacing his shoes, the little creature makes Noctis happy. Everything else is secondary to that. As long as Noctis is happy, the details don’t especially matter, whether or not they’re nice. Even if it’s just a fleeting thing. Ignis has learned to embrace anything that can make their lives just a little brighter.
Then, after dinner, Magnolia pees on the floor next to her litterbox, and the stench is overwhelming.
“She’s your cat,” Ignis says firmly.
“I’ll go grab one of the housekeepers,” says Noctis.
“It’s a lot of pee, Ignis.”
“I wasn’t aware the King of Lucis could be so easily overcome by a puddle. Let’s hope none of your enemies find out.”
“Fine,” Noctis groans. “I’ll take care of it.”
While Noctis cleans up the mess, Ignis sits on the couch with Magnolia stretched out across his lap, purring away.
“I have the feeling you’re going to be very good for him, you know,” says Ignis, scratching between her fuzzy ears. “But let’s try to aim for the box next time, shall we?”
Magnolia, being a cat, gives no indication that she understood. Ignis isn’t altogether worried, though. Noctis is going to be happy, firstly, and beyond that he’s going to finally, finally learn to be responsible in the way that normal, living people are. Because carrying out the duties of a noble and merciful ruler who saved all of Eos is one thing, but now—now Noctis will have to get down on his hands and knees and scrub the odor of cat piss out of a floor. He’s going to make mundane, unspectacular sacrifices from here on out, the sort that have nothing to do with war or destiny. Small ones. Bad-smelling ones. And it’s wonderful to think of, that they could have something as normal as this.
Ignis asks, loudly enough for his voice to carry, “Do you think he’s being thorough enough?”
Noctis grumbles in reply, “Eat me.”
“Language, Noct,” says Ignis. “Don’t be crass in front of the child.”
“This was a mistake,” says Noctis, though he clearly doesn’t mean it.
Soon enough, they fall into the habit of referring to the cat as their child nearly every day, usually to mock each other. Magnolia bats at the living room blinds, and it’s “Noct, your daughter wants to sit in the window”; she meows at the kitchen entrance, and it’s “Hey, cook up some more chicken for the baby”; Ignis grazes his teeth just below Noctis’s jaw, and it’s “Not in front of the kid, Iggy,” breathless and teasing.
“She used to live in a bloody alleyway,” Ignis murmurs. He fumbles with the fly of Noctis’s trousers. “I’m sure she’s seen worse.” Then he adds, “You missed a spot when you shaved, by the way.”
“Shit, did I?”
“Just here.” Ignis presses his mouth to the spot where he felt the scratch of stubble. It’s faint, but with Noctis’s dark hair it might still be noticeable, worth pointing out.
“That’s gonna be my legacy, I bet,” says Noctis. His breath hitches as Ignis’s hand slides down. “They’ll remember me as the king who managed to be less clean-shaven than his boyfriend who was literally, completely blind.”
“Your heroic deeds will be mentioned as an afterthought, of course,” says Ignis. He pauses what he’s doing, stilling his hand for just a second while his brain backtracks. “And pardon me, your boyfriend?” he repeats.
“We are not having the marriage talk while you’re jerking me off, Ignis,” says Noctis, a little desperately.
It’s a rare occasion where Ignis finds himself flustered, too, a bright heat creeping over his face. “Gods, no,” he says. “But it’s a bit of a juvenile term, isn’t it?”
“Boyfriend? Maybe,” says Noctis, audibly distracted. “Didn’t really think about it.”
“We’re in our thirties,” Ignis points out. “Hardly boys at this point.”
“Fine, how about I call you my special gentleman friend like an old lady who doesn’t want her grandkids to know she still has a sex life?”
Ignis clucks his tongue. “That would be far too confusing for our daughter,” he says.
Noctis laughs, but soon enough the laughter falls away into soft panting. He rasps, “Stop, stop, wait,” and takes Ignis by the wrist, pulling his hand away. Noctis’s own hands are clumsy with want as he hurriedly unbuttons Ignis’s shirt. Then less clumsy when they touch bare skin. Then he replaces them with the wet heat of his mouth, and—
After, Noctis sprawls over Ignis bonelessly on their bed, like a human blanket. He doesn’t often cuddle, so much as find ways to take up space on or near a person and let the proximity stand in for affection. He’ll let himself be cuddled, though, which Ignis happily takes advantage of: One of his hands rests lazily on the small of Noctis’s back, and if he turns his head very slightly he can press his nose into that shaggier-by-the-day hair, which only gets softer the more it grows out.
Noctis mumbles into Ignis’s shoulder, “We should get married, though.”
“We could,” says Ignis. The subject makes him feel something that isn’t quite anxiety, but maybe a cousin to it, the littlest moth of trepidation fluttering under his skin. “There’s no one forcing us to.”
“But we’re supposed to, right? It’s expected.”
Expected of Noctis, at least. But that goes without saying. Ignis says, “I suppose,” as noncommittal as he can manage. Things like this—talk of obligations, of what he’s meant to do—can sour Noctis’s mood all too quickly.
“’M not giving them an heir anyway. Don’t see why it matters if I get married or not.” Noctis bites Ignis’s shoulder—not hard, not with any pressure. Just gets his mouth on it like a restless puppy that needs to chew something. Then he stops and says, “Unless there’s some loophole that lets me name Mags as the next in line. That’d be kinda fun.”
“I’ll have the laws revised before you and Prompto can find a way to exploit them,” says Ignis.
“Buzzkill,” Noctis accuses. He shuffles his limbs awkwardly and his hand touches Ignis’s side, skating over his ribs. The motion of soothing an animal. “Sorry. Didn’t mean for it to sound like I don’t want us getting married.”
“I understand,” says Ignis, feeling the ridges of Noctis’s spine. “It must be a difficult subject.” Marriage, he means. Betrothal. If it’s not a matter of grief, of mourning, then it’s the association. An entire small world fell to pieces the last time Noctis was supposed to be married.
“It’s not that,” Noctis replies, in a tone that really says Not just that, at least. He lifts his head. Ignis can tell he’s looking him in the eye, for all the good the gesture does. “But it’s a hassle, and it makes everything too complicated. Besides, you can’t be the Hand of the King and the Prince Consort at the same time.”
“Oh? Can I not?”
Noctis chuckles. “Honestly? If anyone on Eos could, it’d probably be you,” he says, then nuzzles Ignis’s cheek. “But I don’t wanna put more pressure on you, Iggy.”
“You could lighten the load by reading the agricultural reports every once in a while,” says Ignis, not even slightly joking.
Instead of whining about it or hemming and hawing like usual, Noctis says, “I know. I’ll do better. I promise.”
“Fatherhood has certainly changed you,” says Ignis, and feels Noctis smile against him in reply. “Where does this leave us in the marriage dilemma, then?”
There’s a pause, then Noctis sighs. “Damned if we do, damned if we don’t,” he says. “But… I’d like to, if we can. If that’s what you want, too,” he adds. “I guess I didn’t really ask.”
It’s not much of a proposal, but Ignis can’t say he ever expected one. The only grand gestures Noctis has ever been capable of are ones that involve throwing himself recklessly in harm’s way. He’s not a romantic by any stretch. And that’s fine, really. Ignis has never needed to be swept off his feet.
“A royal wedding could be economically advantageous,” says Ignis, more thinking aloud than anything. “It might help lift the people’s spirits as well, just as the coronation did. However, there are issues of security and accessibility to consider. On a practical level, it would be a nightmare to—can I ask what you’re doing?”
By now, Noctis has crawled further on top of Ignis, resting nearly all his weight on him while he rummages about in the nightstand.
“Getting lube,” he says mildly, casually, as if they hadn’t just gotten each other off moments before and this was just business as usual.
A bony elbow digs into Ignis’s arm, and he doesn’t hesitate to push it roughly away, gritting out, “Careful,” while Noctis yelps and scrambles to regain his balance.
“Sorry!” says Noctis. “Gods, it’s like a fucking office supply—ah, there it is.”
Noctis pushes the drawer shut, then tosses the small tube unceremoniously onto the mattress, where it bounces but, miraculously, doesn’t wind up falling to the floor. He moves back to straddle Ignis, who can only furrow his brow in confusion.
“Explain?” asks Ignis.
“Apparently we’re engaged now, and it seems like something we should celebrate,” says Noctis.
“We didn’t actually agree to that,” says Ignis, but nevertheless takes hold of Noctis’s shoulders to urge him to move down.
“We’re tentatively engaged,” Noctis amends. He leans in the rest of the way and gives Ignis a peck on the cheek. “Now c’mon, I was supposed to go to sleep twenty minutes ago.”
“Twenty—it can’t be that late,” says Ignis.
“It’s not,” says Noctis, “but I have to get up early for a video conference with Secretary Camelia and our buddy Ravus, which from the look on your face I’m guessing you completely forgot about.”
“It may have slipped my mind,” Ignis admits. “In my defense, howev—”
He cuts off as Noctis captures his mouth and proceeds to kiss him thoroughly, purposefully, determinedly. Their bodies press together, and the beginnings of Noctis’s arousal makes itself known, heavy against Ignis’s navel. That and the soft, unintentional, almost wanton noise Noctis makes in his throat has Ignis’s skin already buzzing hotly, a mess of energy.
Noctis draws back. His grip on Ignis’s hips is light, even as he squeezes them gently. “In your defense, Your Highness,” he says huskily, “you’ve had a very busy day.”
Ignis lets out something halfway to a laugh. “A busy night, certainly,” he murmurs. “And what did we say about titles in the bedroom?”
“Yeah, but that was for my titles, which I agree are really tacky and not sexy at all,” says Noctis, thumb stroking Ignis’s hipbone. “His Royal Highness Prince Ignis Scientia Caelum, though…”
All his years of diplomatic training do nothing to keep Ignis from reflexively making a face at this, earning a delighted laugh from his partner. “Disgusting number of syllables,” he says. “Now, would you mind if we switched?”
“Alright, give me a sec.”
Ignis doesn’t care much at all about this pretense of an engagement, because it hasn’t given anything to him yet that he didn’t already have. But Noctis cares. Cares more than he’d let on, maybe, because now he seems sunnier than before, grinning into a kiss while Ignis makes love to him with a tender slowness that shows no regard for their responsibilities in the morning.
Lips at the shell of Noctis’s ear, Ignis murmurs, softly as he dares, that he loves him, that he would happily marry him, and in return he hears a quiet, pleased laugh, feels a hand come up to lace with his own. They’ve already given too much to each other for marriage to make a difference, but Ignis can give him this, too, if it makes him happy. It isn’t a hardship at all.
Noctis, uncharacteristically, clings tightly to him afterward, sweat multiplying between them, bodies interwoven. He says, drowsy with sleep and the haze of his orgasm, “You’re a good husband,” even though Ignis isn’t one. Then he adds, “’M glad you’re the father of my child,” which is ridiculous, but still sweet. He falls asleep with his face pressed to Ignis’s neck, where he will inevitably leave a trail of drool and sticky traces of sleep. The fingers of their hands are still laced together, interlocking.
And Ignis, too, is happy. Just with this.
The next morning, Noctis rises with his alarm. Ignis allows—forces—himself to drift off again after he feels the brush of Noctis’s lips against his temple. He doesn’t need to hear the time to know it’s too early, even for him.
Some time passes. It may be thirty seconds, or five minutes, or a blessed half hour of peace; Ignis doesn’t know. But it’s broken by Noctis padding back into the bedroom and whisper-yelling, “Ignis.”
Ignis grunts, half-convinced he could still fall back asleep even now.
“Are you awake?” Noctis tries next.
“If I need to be,” Ignis grumbles. He clears his throat. “Something wrong?”
“No, but kind of,” says Noctis, no longer whispering but still unnecessarily hushed. “Maggie took a dump by the front door, and I just wanted to let you know I’m throwing out the rug, so you don’t have to wonder where the hell it went.”
Ignis mutters, “Spectacular. Is she alright?”
“Think so. I’m gonna have someone check on her around lunch time, just in case.”
“Good.” Ignis yawns.
“Go back to sleep, Iggy,” Noctis says chidingly, as if he wasn’t the one who woke Ignis up in the first place. “The timer’s set for your coffee.”
“Thank you, darling,” Ignis manages, heart full as he settles back comfortably into sleep.
“I can’t really take credit for it,” Noctis tells him over the phone. “We all just kept adding more ideas to the pile until it turned into something halfway coherent. Ravus had a lot of strong opinions, too.”
“But you agree with the decision,” says Ignis, still a bit stunned, his brain running circles around itself.
“Yeah,” says Noctis. “I think it’s the right thing to do. For all of us, probably.”
Ignis recovers from his shock just enough to say the obvious: “You’re aware that reforming an entire body of government will be a long and very arduous process.”
“Oh, then fuck it,” says Noctis. “Let’s just keep things the way they are. Less work.”
Ignis sighs. He can’t muster up the energy for amusement.
“I can hear you already going over the logistics in your head, Iggy,” says Noctis. “Don’t worry about any of that yet, okay? Got a lot of steps ahead of that first.”
“You decided in the course of one meeting, for which your chief advisor was not present, to abolish the millennia-old monarchy and replace it with an electoral system that has yet to be decided upon,” says Ignis, rubbing his temple. “And you want me to refrain from making any preparations for this whatsoever.”
“Just for now! I don’t want you getting all worked up about it before we’ve talked it over with the council and made plans for the international—”
“Noct,” Ignis cuts in. “You have perhaps the least foresight of anyone I’ve ever met.”
Noctis lets out a hmph. “Well, yeah, that’s why I’m quitting my job.”
Ignis feels compelled to point out, “You realize you’re putting me out of a job as well.”
“Well, good thing you’re marrying rich, huh?”
“Very funny, Your Majesty. At least one of us can see the humor in this.”
“Ignis.” When Noctis whines his name it gains an extra three syllables. “Come on, babe.”
Instead of responding, Ignis hangs up. It’s not even that he’s angry—it is the right thing to do, having Noctis step down and relinquish his authority—but he can pretend to be, just this once. He thinks he’s earned it, all things considered.
Noctis tries calling him six times, ceaseless. The only reason Ignis eventually picks up is because he tries never to silence his phone, because he needs to be reachable nearly always. And maybe, as an afterthought, because he loves the unbearable man on the other end of the line with a staggering intensity.
He answers the phone, and in lieu of greeting says, “You’re a dreadful husband.”
Noctis, with a smile in his voice, replies, “Love you too.”