Rare was it that Ishgard had a warm day—well warm by Ishgardian standards, at the very least. This day was beautiful, bright, and warm, warm enough for the windows to be left open to let the breeze in, which is what Aymeric did to air out his office.
The Lord Commander hummed a soft, old tune to himself, pen gliding across parchment only lifting to dip into the inkwell beside him. While he could ill afford to take the time away from being Lord Commander of the Temple Knights, he was at least going to enjoy the day and the respite of calm he had found for a few hours.
Even if that meant enjoying it while finishing up the paperwork he had neglected.
“That’s a pretty tune. Is it an Ishguardian hymn?”
Aymeric jumped in his chair, and he most definitely did not squeak in surprise. Had the voice come from the door or been the gruff voice of his dear friend, he probably would not have reacted as he did. But this voice was coming from his open window and far too smooth to be Estinien. He whirled around, hand reaching for where he had left Naegling lying against his desk and...stopped, staring at the widow and whom the question came from.
Crouching there, on his window seal, was one sheepish-looking Warrior of Light.
“Sorry, I thought you might have heard me climbing up.” the dark-haired Miqo’te apologized, ears folded back as he held up his hands placatingly. If Aymeric weren’t still so startled by his sudden appearance, he would have worried about the Warrior of Light falling back out from whence he came with the lack of grip on the frame.
“Warrior of Light? What—”
“Ser Aymeric! I heard...a...,” Lucia burst through the door and stopped just past the threshold, blinking at the sight before her. The first commander looked the Warrior of Light over before looking to Aymeric with something akin to resignation and amusement. “Oh. I see you’ve attracted another window stalker, ser.”
“Window stalker?” The Warrior of Light asked, amusement clear in his voice as his tail happily flicked back and forth just outside the window.
“Yes. Estinien has the habit of entering through the window more oft than through the front door,” Aymeric explained with a soft chuckle. He set Naegling back down and gestured the Miqo’te inside. “To what do I owe the pleasure, Master Nheekto?”
Aymeric blinked, confused. “Pardon?”
“Mika’to,” he repeated, hopping down from the window. He looked up through a fringe of black and red with a soft, almost shy smile that made Aymeric’s heart flutter. “I prefer my friends to call me by my name.”
Aymeric stared at him, for once speechless—if Estinein were there, the dragoon would have undoubtedly teased him for the lack of a quick and elegant reply. Thankfully, he was not. But then, words could not describe the elation he felt that the Warrior of- that Mika’to considered him a friend. He’d admit, ever since Haurchefant started telling tales of the hero, Aymeric had been intrigued by him. After meeting the man, intrigue quickly turned to fascination, seeing first hand the man Haurchefant saw. A man who was brave, kind, witty, practically selfless...and by the Gods was he just breathtakingly beautiful.
Suffice to say, Aymeric was more than a little enamored. If he were a braver man, he would tell him everything he thought and felt...but he was not; he was a coward hiding behind a mask of polite professionalism.
He came back to his senses when Lucia cleared her throat—like Estinien; she would tease him too but be far more merciful about it and do so at a later date. He knew the tips of his ears were red; when he blushed, it always seemed to start there before his cheeks. Clearing his throat, he put a hand over his heart and bowed slightly.
“‘Tis an honor that you consider me as such, Mika’to,'' He said, making eye contact with silver and brown. The Miqo’te smiled wide at him, which Aymeric returned before he turned to Lucia to address her. “If you would be so kind as to have someone bring up some tea for us?”
“Three cups, if you could,” Mika’to added before Lucia could accent, his ears flicking back towards the window.
“Three?” Aymeric asked, perplexed. Why would they need three?
His question was answered when he watched Maki’to lean back out the window, looking up at something Aymeric could not see. “Unless you’re not the tea-drinking type?”
The familiar grunt that followed had him let out a long, exasperated sigh, even as a fond smile spread across his lips.
“He is not,” Aymeric said before turning back to Lucia, “A coffee for our dear Azure Dragoon, if you please, Lucia?”
“Of course, my lord,” Lucia chuckled, bowing before leaving and shutting the door securely behind her.
By the time he turned back towards the window, Estinein was already inside the office. The dragoon looked down at Mika’to with a frown. “You almost fell.”
Aymeric felt his stomach drop. “He what!?”
“About halfway up, he lost his gripping,” Estinien explained, seemingly unaware of Aymeric’s distress.
“I wasn’t expecting the ledge to be so slippery, that’s all. I recovered my grip,” Mika’to huffed out a soft laugh. “I’m fine; I didn’t die.”
“Hn. I do hope that ‘not dying’ is not your benchmark for success in all the things you do,” Estinien snorted.
“If I’m alive to see the next day, I call that a win,” Mika’to said, ears wiggling. He grinned when Estinien let out an annoyed growl.
Aymeric pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. Apparently, besides attracting window stalkers, he also attracted friends that liked to cause him undue worry. With a soft, resigned sigh, he moved back to his chair, deciding that dwelling on the fact that the Warrior of Light almost fell to his death now would do him no good. Although, he did make a mental note to purchase the man some climbing rope—just in case.
“Please, make yourselves comfortable,” he offered, motioning for the other two to have a seat.
He smiled as he watched Mika’to nestle into a corner of the small couch to the side, one arm on the armrest as he leaned back. Estinien, after resting Gae Blog against the wall, planted his rear on the edge of Aymeric’s desk facing the Warrior of Light and crushing the paperwork that laid there—much to Aymeric’s utter annoyance.
“You never answered his question,” Estinien said after Mika’to settled in, crossing his arms. The protective tone in his friend’s voice had the dark-haired Elezen sigh.
“Estinien,” he chided.
“Lord Commander,” the dragoon growled, looking over his shoulder at him with a glare, “Our rogue friend here just risked death by climbing up the side of the Congregation of our Knights Most Heavenly to get to this window. Are you not curious as to why he’s here?”
“I am, and if you gave Mika’to a chance to answer, we would know,” Aymeric reminded, chuckling softly as Estinein growled again.
“Technically, I’m a Red Mage,” Mika’to muttered.
Estinien pointed tilted his head down where Aymeric was sure he was staring at the twin daggers on the Miqo’te’s belt.
One fluffy black ear flicked a few times before he shook his head, the two braids in his hair swaying from the movement, and sighed loudly. He didn’t rebuke the dragoon’s point and ignored Estinien’s smug grin, instead looked at Aymeric. “I wanted to see if I could hide in your office for a while. Hopefully, until I have to depart for the Sea of Clouds with Emmanellain.”
Aymeric furrowed his brow in a growing concern. “Hide? Are you having trouble with the guards about your documentation?”
“No, no,” Mika’to said, waving his hand as to dissipate the very thought, “not the guards, they’ve been more than courteous,” he paused and cleared his throat, “Twould be everyone else. I’m hiding from.”
Aymeric was almost afraid to ask, “Everyone else?”
Mika’to ducked his head, ears going flat against his hair—Aymeric’s eyes flickered to the movement, thinking not for the first time at how expressive the Warrior of Light’s ears were and how soft they looked. He mentally chided himself for that, now was not the time for those thoughts.
The Miqo’te looked up and gave the Lord Commander a sheepish grin. “My patience has run thin with all the inquiries I’ve been receiving. Apparently, for many here, I’m the first Miqo’te they’ve encountered.”
“Ah,” Aymeric said softly, crossing his arms and frowning. He closed his eyes, feeling a pang of guilt at what his countrymen must have put the Warrior of Light through to cause him to seek a hiding place. Opening his eyes again, he looked up at the Miqo’te. “I am truly sorry that you’ve had to deal with such behavior.”
“‘Tis naught you have to apologize for. You’re not the one who’s asked me a multitude of questions.” Mika’to told him, his eyes dancing with amusement. “And despite my annoyance at them, I can forgive people for being curious...well, not the ones asking how I manage so many women in my harem.” He scoffed, shaking his head.
Aymeric raised a brow at that. “Isn’t that a tradition of the Seekers of the Sun?”
“Aye, it is,” Mika’to confirmed. “Regardless of the fact my tastes are for men; I’m a Keeper.”
Yes, yes you are—Aymeric, no. Stop thinking. Now.
He stilled when he saw Estinien’s head shake from the corner of his eye, heart pounding in his chest. An irrational fear crept into his mind that his stoic friend had somehow gained the ability to read his mind like he read everything else about him most of the time.
“While I am not surprised people would ask you that—the horny buggers,” the dragoon snorted. “Ignorance does not shield them from asking something so...personal,”
Aymeric hummed in agreement, if only because his heart was still in his throat.
Mika’to looked like he wanted to say something but stopped, ear twitching towards the door just moments before there was a knock.
“Enter,” Aymeric said, sitting up in his chair, arms crossed loosely.
A young Elezen boy, no older than ten or eleven, with a mop of red hair and large brown eyes, entered with a tray of drinks and tarts. He stopped past the door, wide-eyed and seemingly unsure of what to do.
Aymeric gave the young boy a kind smile, recognizing him as one of the newer squires.
“Thank you, Roland,” He motioned the young boy closer, clearing a place on his desk. “You may set the tray here.”
“Y-y-yes Lord Commander, ser,” Roland stuttered, moving quickly to set the tray on the desk. Despite the quick movements, he managed to not spill a drop of liquid, even with how his hands trembled as he backed away. Aymeric watched as the young boy glanced up at Estinien and then quickly looked back down. When he looked over at Mika’to, however, he received a warm smile and wave. Roland’s face lit up with a smile, and he waved back. “Yer that ‘ero that all the knights have been talkin’ about.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say ‘hero,’” Mika’to chuckled.
“Nonsense,” Aymeric spoke up, lifting his cup of tea to his lips and taking a sip—pointedly ignoring the smirk Estinien was giving him from over his shoulder. “While I do not doubt that Lord Haurchefant has added more than a few colorful exaggerations to your exploits in Coerthas, that doesn’t take away from all you’ve done for him and Ishgard. And, that’s not even mentioning what you’ve done for the whole of Eorzea. I hate to say it, my friend, but you are every bit the hero the people say you are.”
Mika’to had ducked his head, but Aymeric was thrilled to see the blush and pleased grin spreading across his face. His black fluffy tail thumped against the couch cushion much like Isabell’s did when she was pleased and had Aymeric’s full attention...and that was going to be the only time he was going to compare the bloody Warrior of Light to his cat. Really Aymeric?
“What’s it like to have a tail?” Roland blurted out, eye fixated on the furry appendage.
Mika’to let out a startled laugh, grinning at such an innocent question. “Hard to say, really. I’ve never had the experience of not having one. I mean...what’s it like having ears without fur covering them?”
The young Elezen blinked and reached up for his ears. Aymeric couldn’t help but smile at how serious the young boy looked at the question given to him.
A moment passed before he replied simply with:
“Very cold, ser.”
There was a beat, and Aymeric soon found himself grinning from behind his tea, biting back the giggles bubbling up. And he wasn’t the only one if Estinien’s shaking shoulders were any indication.
“Aye, I bet they would be,” the Miqo’te laughed in delight.
Roland was smiling again, seemingly very pleased with his answer and the reaction it got him.
Mika’to stood from his spot and popped his lower back. He waved his tail at the young lad, who giggled. Plucking up a tart, he held it out to Roland. “I think an excellent answer deserves a reward.”
“Fer me?” The boy looked up at the tart like his nameday came early, holding out both hands for the pastry. “Truly?”
“Truly,” Mika’to said with a big grin as he placed the tart into the waiting hands before ruffling the boy’s hair. “Enjoy it.”
Roland nodded quickly, still staring at the tart in his hand.
“Eat it on the way back to the barracks, lest the others get jealous,” Aymeric chuckled, “They’re probably starting to wonder where you are. Dismissed, squire.”
Roland nodded again and stammered out a ‘yes ser’ and ‘thank you’ before running out of the office with his treat.
“I daresay that made his day right there,” Aymeric said, smiling as he picked up a tart for himself. He sniffed at it and hummed happily. Strawberry. He’ll have to remember to get Lucia some flowers for this.
“More like his week,” Estinien commented, standing from his spot and reaching for the cup of coffee on the tray; he raised the visor of his helm so he could drink more easily.
Aymeric watched in amusement as his friend looked over the tarts with the same indifference he gave most things before picking one up and nibbling at it. There was the briefest of smiles as the dragoon ate, a rare look of bliss flashing across his features before it was gone. Aymeric hid his smile behind his teacup, few knew about the fearsome dragoon’s sweet tooth—save for himself, Lucia, and Ser Alberic, and they were all glad to indulge the man when they could.
It was then that he noticed Mika’to still staring at the door. Even Estinien turned to look at him, head tilted in silent regard. Aymeric cleared his throat.
“Mika’to? Are you alright?”
The ninja startled, tail going straight and rigid. He looked back at Aymeric and blinked. “Huh?”
“Are you alright?” Aymeric repeated, brow pulling together in concern.
“Oh, no, ‘tis naught. I’m fine, just...thinking,” Mika’to said, smiling once again, but this one seemed less bright than before, more sad than joyful. He reached for his own cup of tea, swirling the liquid before sipping.
Before Aymeric could ask anything else, there was another knock at the door once again.
“Must be something important if Lucia let them pass,” Estinien commented, finishing the last of his coffee as Aymeric bid the person entry.
Haurchefant stepped inside the office, his warm, ever-present smile on his face. Which only seemed to brighten when his eyes landed on Mika’to.
“Ah, there you are, my friend!” he exclaimed, both arms raised in a gesture towards Mika’to. “I feared those nobles had driven you off.”
Mika’to laughed and shook his head. His demeanor brightened with the Dragonhead Camp commander’s presence, which was good to see, of course. It’s not like Aymeric felt a pang of jealousy when the Keeper smiled at the other man like he was the moon. Not at all.
“They didn’t,” Mika’to said, chuckling, “You’d have to chase me out to get me to leave.”
“Perish the thought,” Haurchefant laughed, waving a hand. “Our dear Alphinaud sent me to collect you; Emmanellain is eager to set out.”
“Eager to set out with the Warrior of Light? Or eager to spend time with his lady love, much to her chagrin,” Estinien asked with a soft snort.
“Emmi would say it was the former,” Haurchefant huffed. He crossed one arm across his midsection and braced the elbow of his other in his hand, placing his free hand to his cheek, “But I know my younger brother far too well to be fooled. It’s the latter, without a doubt. Mayhaps one day, he will get through his thick skull that dear Lani wants nothing to do with him. Hopefully, ere I’m dead and buried.”
Aymeric chuckled, resting his chin on folded hands. “Hopefully.”
“But probably not,” Haurchefant snickered.
“Hmm, playing wingman for a mission,” Mika’to said, stroking the light amount of hair on his chin. He laughed, shifting his weight to one foot and placing a hand on his hip. “I have to say, that’s a first.”
“Oh Heavens no,” Haurchefant grinned. “Lady Laniaitte is well aware of your fighting capabilities, she’ll put you to good use, and more than likely have Emmi stand as a guard and spotter.”
“Oh, and pray tell how does she know this?” Mika’to asked, crossing his arms and smirking at Haurchefant. “Why do I have this feeling a little gossiping bird twittered in her ear about my capabilities?”
Haruchefant took a step back, feigning a look of indignity. “My friend, you wound me! I’ll have you know that there are several who can attest that I am in no way little! In fact, they’d say I’m quite the opposite!”
Aymeric choked on his tea as a fit of laughter caught him as Haurchefant waggled his eyebrows at the last part.
“By the Gods, Haurchefant, you’re horrible!” Mika’to laughed and punched the gleeful knight in the shoulder. “Please, never change.”
“The absolute worst,” Haurchefant agreed, eyes sparking in merriment. “And I promise that I won't!”
“Idiots, the lot of you,” Estinien scoffed, trying to keep his face straight as he rolled his eyes.
“Proud idiots,” the Fortemp bastard laughed. He turned to the Miqo’te and gestured towards the door. “I daresay, I should get you back to the manor ere poor Alphinaud sends out a search party for the both of us.”
“He’d just send Tataru; then we’d be in real trouble,” Mika’to laughed as he headed towards the door. He turned back to face Aymeric and smiled. “Thank you for letting me use your office as a hideout, for as short of a time as twas.”
“Think naught of it,” Aymeric said, returning the smile. “You are more than welcome here any time, Mika’to,” he paused and grinned ruefully, “although, mayhaps use the door next time?”
“I’ll try, but I’ll make no promises.” Mika’to laughed and bowed. “Till next time, Lord Commander.”
“Aymeric,” he corrected him. Mika’to stared at him for a moment before giving him a soft smile.
“Till next time, Aymeric,” he said before turning and heading out the door.
Haurchefant glanced between the two men then looked to Estinien with a raised eyebrow. The dragoon just shrugged, which the other man sighed at, shaking his head before heading out of the office after the Warrior of Light.
Neither said anything few moments. Aymeric leaned heavily on his desk with his elbows, eye closed. He knew his friend had words to say, opinions on the matter. For all he tried to hide his heart, he could never do so from one who once held it.
“I approve of him,” Estinien’s gruff voice stated.
Aymeric’s eyes popped open, and he blinked up at the dragoon in surprise. “What?”
“He suits you well,” Estinien said before giving him a wry grin. “Even if he makes you bumble around like a fool.”
Aymeric blushed at that and looked away. “I feel like a boy again with this crush,” he admitted.
He heard other Elezen chuckled and felt gauntlet-covered fingers tug on his bangs gently. Aymeric looked back up at him and was greeted with the rare soft smile from his friend.
“A bit of advice from one fool to another...do not let him slip through your fingers. You’ll regret it.”
“I know,” the Dragoon told him, smile turning sad. He leaned down and kissed Aymeric’s forehead. “Enjoy the rest of your day, my friend. I fear there won’t be many chances later in the days to come.”
Aymeric’s eyes fluttered at the touch.
“I will try,” he murmured, looking up as Estinien stepped away, lowering his visor.
“Good.” With that, the dragoon moved back towards the open window and lept out. He was never one for goodbyes.
After a moment of staring at the now empty window, the Lord Commander sighed and looked down at his desk...and the unfinished paperwork. He made a face at it and reached for another tart. So much for getting that done.
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