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Beyond the Beyond

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Through the dimly lit corridors of the fallen citadel, Lady Lunafreya was making her way to her favourite place, the vast library. As she entered, her thoughts wandered to how the evening has progressed, surprisingly well actually. With a sigh she closed the door behind her and went to sit at a table with the book she had previously abandoned. She would give them one hour.

Back in the hearthroom, Umbra and Pryna were silently making their way out of the ajar door, leaving the two men by themselves. Not that they noticed anyway. And besides, one needn't be inside the room to hear the resounding, surprisingly melodious but way too loud sounds which were about to be coming out of it.

"Aaardyyyn!! Come on, sing that song again, I think I got the lyrics now, I wanna chime in" Noctis drawled from where he was starfished all over one of the couches, glass filled with cojured wine in hand. The man he was adressing was still sat on his chair, refusing to sing the words of the song, only humming it.

"Nah. Don't wanna. 'S my song, mine, for me, and you would just mess it up, and it's mine so I won't let you do that. Cause it is my song" Ardyn finished proudly, taking another swing of his wine as Noctis groaned. Then Noct got up, put his glass down and suddenly yelped as he almost toppled over from getting up too fast. Ardyn looked his way, getting up as well, though carefully holding onto the back of the chair he'd just vacated, watching as the King righted himself then locked his eyes with Ardyn's. And by the Astrals, were those big, deep blue eyes pleading. He looked like a big black cat, asking to be petted. Ardyn lowered his eyes and muttered an alright, to which Noct gave a sloppy smirk, then summoned some more wine, offering one of the glasses to Ardyn, who took a long drink before setting it on the table.

A moment of silence, then the older man began to sing in his trademark smooth voice.

When the night, has come...
And the land is dark
And the moon, is the only, light we'll see...

It only took a few words for Noctis to begin singing along, almost throwing Ardyn off the notes as his voice was slightly higher than his own lower one, yet gliding just as smoothly, with a deep undertone which added a nice vibration to the longer sounds. Ardyn snuck a glance at him, but Noct was not looking in his direction, rather staring down at his feet with his dark hair obscuring his eyes and his hands clasped almost nervously in front of him. There was however no hesitation in his voice, so the Chancellor did not pause or allow his voice to slip, continuing the melody flawlessly.

Oh I won't, be afraid,
No I won't, be afraid
Just as long, as you stand, stand by me

By the time they reached the chorus, their voices had risen in volume and intensity, both men completely invested in the song as they swayed in place yet still did not look at each other.

So darling, darling stand, by me
Ooh stand, by me
Ooh stand, stand by me...

Finally they glanced at each other at the same time, dark blue meeting warm gold, and that's when the song was suddenly not just a song anymore, but a story they both knew and shared, even if it was told from different sides.

If the sky, that we look upon
Should tumble and fall,
Or the mountains should crumble to sea
I won't cry, I won't cry,
No I won't shed a tear,
Just as long, as you stand, stand by me

So if music allows the soul to freely express itself and alcohol makes you careless towards situations where you would be guarded otherwise, needless to say that the two men in the room we're dancing drunkenly around the small glass table, almost following the lead of the flames in the hearth, gesturing furiously in time with the words of the song, so much passion shining in their eyes as they tried to convey to the other just how much their story was in this song, how much one's memories from long ago of friends and family and love and light mirrored the other's more recent ones of brotherhood and love and family and hope, how here and now, the darkness that had encompassed all of them did not exist, will never exist in this peaceful beyond, even if they were already far away even from that, beyond that, soaring in a melody that was initially Ardyn Lucis Caelum but could now also be Noctis Lucis Caelum...

So darling, darling stand, by me
Ooh, stand - stand by me- by me

...

Silence suddenly stretched heavily between them and their movements ceased. The King watched the rare and stunning sight of the Chancellor gaining the tiniest bit of color in his cheeks as his head lowered and his mouth snapped shut, left hand lifting to rub at right shoulder. It took a moment for him to register exactly what had stopped both of them in their tracks: the lyrics got messed up and it sounded wrong enough to jostle them out of their singing trance. It was a few more moments before another realisation set in: it had been Ardyn who messed up the song.

As that thought formed in Noct's head, he gave a light snort at the irony. Ardyn snapped out of his resigned pose instantly upon hearing the King and turned angry eyes on him.

"You messed up your own song" said Noctis nonchalantly as he found his wine glass on the table and drank some more. He really had not meant it as mockery, merely a statement of fact.

"You observation skills are as sharp as they were in life, your Majesty, only conquered by your astounding musical talent, so stunning in it's beauty that it managed to knock even me off my notes" Ardyn smiled pleasantly at the now flustered King, proud of himself that even in drunken stupor his words were able to hit home, though with much less tact than usual.

Noctis couldn't believe the other man. Here they'd been, having a good time, yet at the possibility of being made fun of he got defensive in the way he knew best and Noct hated most: sarcastic, nasty words coated in layers of honey. The man delivered hurtful insults like sweet poison. But that wasn't what made Noct take a step towards the Chancellor, his face spelling pissed off.

"What's the matter with you?! You always try to make others beat on retreat, but you're actually defensive yourself. What the hell are you so afraid of anyway?" he surprised himself when he did not yell any of that. Later he would be surprised he'd been so straightforward at all, but hey, that's alcohol for you.

Now usually Ardyn would steer such conversations towards safer, less personal topics, but he was no less drunk than the King, so instead of smoothly talking his way out of it, he also stepped towards Noctis and retorted angrily "It is a good thing your time in death had taught you to be perceptive towards other people's problems because you sure were terrible at it in life, what with your boys always looking after you and not the other way around, and you wife holding your hand all the way through the journey-"

"Well I wouldn't have had to take that journey if it weren't for the empire's attack, which you were behind-"

"You would have taken it anyway, perhaps the part with "inevitable prophecy" escaped you, not surprising if it did, and it wasn't exactly my choice to be the bad guy in this tragic drama either, but you should stop whining since you were hardly alone in this-"

"Am I supposed to be fucking happy that my friends and family were dragged into this as well?! I'll have you know I'm not, for fucking me up, I would forgive my destiny or whatever, but messing with my loved ones was a big damn mistake. But of course you wouldn't understand, what do you know of frien-"

"Don't you dare. Don't you dare imply something like that. I had people I loved too, but unlike you I made sure they stayed safe!"

It was in that moment that Noct's eyes gained the hue of storms and he lunged at Ardyn, aiming a punch to his face... and missing comically, over ballancing and nearly topling over. Ardyn had only taken a step back and let the King stumble forward, then he himself went to shove the younger man to the ground, tripping on his own feet halfway there and only barely managing to catch himself before face - planting on the floor.

Now, with two rather complex men being shit - faced drunk, there are several thoughts bound to run through their minds, all from "what a fine evening we had" to "hmm, I wonder where Luna and her dogs are" to "what the hell is wrong with me I can't fight" and finally to "just what the hell are we really arguing about".

The fight, as expected, did not last long as their dizzy and uncoordinated movements led to them landing on top of each other on the floor, panting, wine spilled around them, the only chair topled over but the glass table thankfully intact. As they partially regained their bearings, the men stared at each other, before both looking away, Noctis pouting and huffing like a child during a tantrum and Ardyn crossing his arms and making the face of a disgruntled teenager.

They sat that way for a while, until they thought they heard the door open, to which they both went to stand and compose themselves, but it was only Umbra, who went to lay down by the stil merily dancing fire.

The black dog's arrival made them both gather their courage and talk. "You really are an asshole for picking on my singing, it's something I love doing" was Noct's choice of words, while Ardyn muttered that "You needn't have been an arrogant brat and made fun of my little mistake".

Noctis chanced a glance at Ardyn, and acknowledged for the first time how much the man had changed from before. His words, his attitude, they were part of him as a person, but even his darker humor and mean sarcasm seemed not as dark as before. He wasn't talking to a man who's very being crawled with daemons anymore, he just talked to a man now. A man who, like the King himself, had not asked for his fate, but had been given the role anyways. And he had been right, Noctis knew; if they had met under different circumstances they would have been friends. Maybe even close friends. And that thought brought forth memories of his own friends, his brothers, and suddenly there were a few tears sliding down his cheeks, but he couldn't bother with them, because he'd just realise there was something in himself Ardyn had truly hurt.

Ardyn had understood that too, as he had been studying the King out of the corner of his eye as well. This man who began his road with little knowledge of just what his journey meant, yet pushed forward regardless of the obstacles thrown at him. This man who managed to win his Crownsguard's not only respect, but love and deep care. This man who was now silently crying, and by the Six he looked pitiful. So Ardyn did something he hadn't done in a long time: dragged himself closer and awkwardly laid a hand over his former enemy's shoulders. To his great surprise Noctis leaned into the hug, whispering slowly "You don't have to do that. Push people away, I mean. You'll make yourself alone, sad and bitter. Sometimes, you have to consider how your loved ones fell too, otherwise you may end up hurting them anyway".

"I am sorry I hurt you, it was really not my intention" Ardyn said truthfully, sitting himself more comfortably next to Noct, both leaning against the couch. Noct turned his head and stared deeply into hazy golden eyes, his own dropping closed, and he smiled a silly, tired smile, murmuring "I know" before falling asleep cuddled on Ardyn's shoulder. The Chancellor sighed softly and leaned his head back, what a strange evening this was, plagued with old and new memories for them both. He did not dare think of the hangover awiting them come morning, but he just hoped Lady Luna would be willing to take care of them; he was pretty sure he hadn't seen her drink much that night anyway.

Speaking of her, the door creaked open once more and her graceful figure entered, immediately stoppimg in her tracks as she caught sight of them, and Ardyn moved to stand and at least smile at her, but Noctis clung a bit more fiercely to him, growling lowly in his sleep and Ardyn found himself trapped in that position, more out of unwillingness to upset the other really. Obviously. So he smiled at the Oracle, petting Noct's hair to help settle him back down into peaceful slumber. Honestly, the man's resemblamce to a cat was uncanny. He thinks he muttered something along the lines of "the King is so cute, I would like to cuddle with him, please and thank you" as Lunafreya moved towards them, but blissful sleep claimed him before he could discern anything else.

XXX

The next day found both men near the fishing lake, both sat down with their rods in the water, not really hoping for big catches, just doing something relaxing while enjoying a cup of summoned Ebony each, as well as the cold breeze.

Considering Lunafreya had refused to tell them any of last night's events, her attitude suggesting a combination between amusement and worry, it was an unspoken agreement to never bring it up again, even id the King's wife obviously knew perfectly well just what had transpired in the hearthroom. They both remembered a good share of the evening's events too, yet neither had any intention of finding out just how much of it was true, preferring to maintain a comfortable silence as they waited for their headaches to ease. Things had been said in that room under the influence of way too many drinks, and yet much more remained unsaid. Neither Noctis nor Ardyn were exactly sure if they could ever really call the other "friend", but...

But for now they were content to know they did not need to refer to each other as "enemy". Simply because you don't get drunk with enemies.