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The Monster of the Tale

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 A royal married off to a monster - 

 That’s how the old stories always go, no? 

 For the sake of hearth and in the name of home’s love, off goes the young maiden or man to be wed to the core of villainous tales. The boogeyman. The one whispered about in the deep dark stories of the night. The inhuman creature with a name so foul it was like scourge on one’s lips. 

 But...what if that creature was human? And was if that maiden or man was really nothing more than a boy? A child? That of the innocent that all swear to protect and defend for their future’s future?

 The story turns all the more horrific, does it not?

 To an outsider’s view, perhaps. 

 To the Kingdom of Lucis, ruled by Regis Lucis Caelum, it most certainly was that...and more. 

 For the Crown Prince was an untouched boy, no older than thirteen years, unaware of anything that fate had planned for him. Unaware that the Council was arguing about his life’s path whilst he was attending school. And kept entirely out of the loop when Nifleheim messengers came with an offer Lucis couldn’t afford to refuse. 

 Victory without war, without death, with all of the stolen lands returned unchallenged to the kingdom, in exchange for one...little prize. 

 King Regis roared against it, like the dragon his family was known for being close to. Protect his brood. Protect his son - his family. Protect against the outside, protect against the inside, protect against everything.

 But the Council overruled him.

 Poor Prince Noctis never even got a proper explanation, because said Council took him from his elementary school’s grounds and forbade any from seeing him. Including his father.

For they couldn’t risk the bargaining chip they had being snuck out of the walls before Nifleheim arrived, could they? 

 Prince Noctis never got that explanation, but he was dressed up all primly in the finest of suits. Locked up in the same bedchambers he’d been kept in for a month now. Unable to see his dad. To ask Iggy for the reason this was happening. To hide behind Gladio and hope for protection - he had none of it. 

 The Citadel’s servants were abuzz with activity, excitement, when they came to fetch him. When he was allowed to leave that bedchamber at last. 

 The little Prince was dressed up nice and pretty, and looking around curiously at all of the smiling adults as he was led to the cathedral.

 He hoped his dad would be there to explain.

 And when he walked down the aisle, to meet a man with auburn hair and irises that shone like the gold of his family’s insignia, he stood looking up at him curiously. Wondering who the stranger was. This man who smiled down at him with a gentleness he couldn’t place. 

 Noctis looked around, but there were no adults to hide behind as he shuffled his feet. And his dad wasn’t in attendance for this - whatever it was.

 The priest said words, many too big for him to properly understand, and the stranger became even more gentle. There was a sanctity to the cathedral as always. There were drapes of black and flowers of pure white lining the aisle he’d walked down. Offerings of every sort had been lain out for the Astrals; it sort of looked like Lady Vivienne’s wedding.

 But who would be getting married here, now?

 The stranger with such striking features lowered himself down, onto his knees, when the priest raised his hands on high. 

 The stained glass images of the Six seemed to be staring down so furiously at them, and Noctis ducked his head. Feeling frustrated that he didn’t know what was happening.

 But the stranger leaned in, and pressed a kiss to his brow.

 “I now pronounce you, husband and husband. May you rule well.”

 

...

 

 Thank the Six, his dad was awaiting them on the stairs. But Noctis was still confused. Still panicked by that final line from the priest, and how this stranger had slipped a ring of simple silver with a blue crystal embedded in its center onto his finger. Now the stranger was holding his hand to lead him out, but he didn’t know him.

 His dad dropped to his knees as well, his brace loud and ear-grating as it struck stone, but the stranger let Noctis’ hand go so he ran to the only familiarity he had here. 

 Dad seemed more distressed than he’d ever seen him as he took his boy into his arms, wrapping around him so tightly it was as though they’d never separate. Rocking him back and forth and mumbling soft things against his hair where his voice sounded so shaky and wobbly it only made his son more panicked.

 And when King Regis pulled away, he lifted his son’s ringed hand and really did look like he was going to cry.

 “Oh, my baby I’m so sorry - !”

 Noctis still didn’t understand, and when members of Dad’s council stepped forward to forcibly tear them apart and hold the tearful man in place?

 He didn’t understand even more, because they were meant to help his father, not hurt him like they were so clearly doing now. It might've been more merciful to the King for them to carve out his heart than hold him firmly on those steps as he was forced to watch his son be pulled away by a monster.

 The stranger took his hand and led him from the cathedral, back into the Citadel. Into the royal ballroom where a party was obviously in motion.

 Noctis wasn't allowed near his dad again.

 When they allowed Uncle Cor closeby, close enough to grab, he tore free of the smiling stranger and latched onto his leg. Tears had begun to fall and even if it wasn’t princely to cry he hadn’t been able to stop it because he understood none of this and the atmosphere of this particular party felt so heavy his spine hurt.

 His legs too.

 Uncle soothed him, wiped away his tears, glared at the stranger -

 And then was unceremoniously torn away too, replaced by Uncle Clarus who worked to hush him as well before the same was done to him.

 Then there was Iggy, and finally some semblance of answers promised as his oldest friend argued with some of the mean-looking guards that had surrounded them this entire time. Hissing out that ‘he deserved some semblance of an explanation - !’

 Noctis was taken into a private conference room with his Hand and his Shield who finally were there after a month of being alone, and he curled into them both as he sniffled and they told him he had to listen.

 The stranger’s name was apparently Ardyn, and he was Nifleheim’s Chancellor. 

 Which confused him because Nifleheim was the enemy.

 They weren’t allowed to speak to him for long, and the flow of strange words confused him so much. Maybe it was being in solitude for a month? Maybe it was the stress of all of this thrust onto him at once? But Gladio gripped his little hand tight and glared at his new ring like he wanted nothing more than to cast fyra on it, and Ignis was holding his face gently. Asking him to focus

 He was married now, and Lucian marriage was binding for life. 

 But he was lost and crying again, because -

 “But...but I’m not old enough to be married...” 

 They were both stiff with fury and working to calm him, and at one point Gladio’s knuckles cracked loudly off the wall as Ignis explained something else against his hair, pressing kiss after kiss into raven locks and rocking him until those mean guards entered the room.

 Noctis went back to holding the stranger’s - Ardyn’s - hand and watching others somberly celebrate, with nobody he really knew permitted to stay. 

 And he looked up at those golden eyes, and he wondered if this older man was really his husband now.

 

...

 

 Nightfall came, the fireworks crashed in a billion colors and lights across the sky, and the refreshing breeze rolling over the Citadel’s rooftop was practically bone-chilling to the little Prince who could do nothing but shake and shiver since the sun dipped below the horizon. Everyone who approached congratulated Ardyn, and spared him these sad and pitying blinks before walking away without another word. 

 Afterwards, he was led through the halls of his home back to his bedchambers that he’d already been forced to stay alone in for a month. 

 He didn’t expect Ardyn to join him, pulling the fine silk tie loose from around his neck, and unbuttoning his jacket as he finally let go of Noctis again.

 He didn’t know what to do, until the man with such striking eyes was kneeling in front of him on the stone tiles. His smile nothing but soft. Gentle. His touch coming up to brush at Noctis’ bangs, tweaking each lock of raven between his fingertips. And the princling remembered what Ignis had told him to make his Shield break his fingers.

 ‘Noctis, after the party you will return to your rooms with Lord Ardyn. And he will...he will do something to you that may hurt. If it hurts too much, please, PLEASE call for guards and agreement or not we will come for you. But if...if you CAN, try to b-b-be brave through it, alright?’

 His Hand had never cried in front of him before that. 

 But now he got the feeling the ‘hurt’ would come.

 So he braced himself, with his little shoulders drawn up tight, and shook violently as the softly smiling man unbuttoned his suit’s jacket as well. Off it went, sliding to the floor silently. Off went his shoes with tender care, unrolling his socks like Iggy used to do for him when he was exceedingly bratty. 

 And then he was unbuttoning the Prince’s undershirt, and he clenched his eyes tight because he hated people examining his body.

 He trembled under the sensation of the air conditioning on his supple skin, felt the weathered touch of fingers go next to his pants. Tried not to cry again, because Iggy had said be brave

 And then a new set of fabric was sliding onto his body, and he sniffled as he opened one eye to find Ardyn sliding silk pajamas up his legs.

 The same was done for the shirt, and the calm man lifted his hand afterward, to press a kiss to his new crystal-blue ring.

 When the boy - so innocent and lost - sniffled again his husband wiped at the tear tracks on his cheeks, humming quietly.

 “One more thing, little Highness,” and he’d heard Ardyn’s voice several times through the evening, but it still came across so rich and musical as he chuckled and tutted at Noctis’ meekness, “and then you can go to bed. But you must not mention it to anyone, understand? It shall make your father very, very sad if you do.”

 The last thing Noctis ever wanted was to see Dad sad.

 So he nodded with all the shyness at his disposal, and let the musical man tilt his chin to the side. Let Ardyn make him display his neck. 

 And then Ardyn was tucking his face into that crook in Noctis’ neck, and the strange sensation of skin on skin that was wet and warm made him whine and curl his toes. So different. So strange. Like the kisses Dad gave him on the cheek, but somehow something more -

 Like the kisses married grownups always give each other.

 He squirmed, fisting his tiny hands into Ardyn’s shirt, and tried to stay brave as the skin of his neck was sucked on. Tingling. Shivering. 

 His supposed spouse broke away, and then returned to press his lips back again. Repeating the same actions as the first time.

 Noctis tried to breathe through it. He only partially succeeded. 

 Then Ardyn tipped his chin in the other direction, and did the same to the opposite side of his neck once. Three times in all. Taking heed of the Prince’s new tears and shudders and the way he balled up his fists to rub at his eyes as the scary man pulled away because he felt gross

 “Shhhh, shhhh, little Prince. That is all - it’s over now. I’ll tuck you into bed.” 

 It’d felt skin-crawling, but it hadn’t hurt like Iggy said it would.

 “Oh, I’m not quite that monstrous, husband Mine. There are lines even I shan’t cross.”

 Noctis was soothed and tucked in that night by his new husband, who curled around him like Dad always used to when he had nightmares about vicious demons tearing him apart in the midst of flames and death.

He fell asleep eventually. Holding Ardyn’s hand close to his chest, with his fingers tracing the shape of the other ring to his own. 

The gold stone matched Ardyn’s eyes really well. 

And the young Prince was too exhausted to care about sharing his bed when he was finally warm and safe again and Ardyn was whispering promises of hot cocoa when morning came, telling him a bedtime story about a royal marrying a monster for the sake of all...but the monster wasn’t quite as monstrous as everyone believed.

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