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He appears on the throne in tendrils of smoke, coalescing into the figure of a man: the form he had before the fall of his home. He doesn’t normally sleep in it, and his favourite thing to do is sleep, but he can sense that another gift’s been brought to his doorstep. It’s not one he asked for. Never is. But the mortals that linger outside the city ruins bring him other humans like animals for slaughter, and Noctis has yet to find a way to tell them to do otherwise. Perhaps he could simply send one of the presents back, but he knows the other humans would only think it mad and kill it themselves.

He sees that he was right—another sacrifice is at the bottom of the stairs, forced onto its knees, head bent forward and arms bound securely behind its back—forced submission that it subserviently yields to. They usually do. He often hears their sobs even before he’s taken mortal form, and he’ll find them lying in a shuddering heap atop his rich red carpets, begging to be killed as quickly as possible.

As Noctis descends the stairs, one slow step at a time, he begins to recognize this one. Then his pace picks up, until he’s all but jogging across the marble floor. There are too many thick layers of dust for his reflection to follow. He has to weave around the crumbling stone that fell when the Wall did. The man on his knees is smeared with grime, but not nearly so much as those that struggle. None really fight, just whimper and squirm. This one is trembling but otherwise impressively strong.

And Noctis knows him. Noctis finally reaches the man, stopping just short of his bowing head, and breathes, “Ignis Scientia.

Ignis winces with his whole body. Noctis would know him anywhere, though most of the mortals that traipse outside the city are far beyond his comprehension. He recognizes only the most devoted of servants—the priests that guard the gates from daemons day in and day out and keep the streetlights lit against Insomnia’s eternal darkness. Ignis is the most devout of all of them. Noctis doesn’t understand.

He bends slowly down, reaching to slide his fingers under Ignis’ chin, still clean shaven—he’s always well-kept. His jaw tenses under Noctis’ grip, but he lets Noctis lift his head. He keeps his eyes averted, lowered to the floor and Noctis’ boots. Noctis murmurs in awe, “How could they have chosen you?”

Ignis’ face scrunches as though he’s in great pain. Noctis’ chest clenches, worry warring in him—they’ve never given him a sick sacrifice before, but maybe this is how Ignis wanted to die. Ignis seems to struggle with the answer. Eyes clenched shut, he mutters, “I... deserve to be punished.”

No one deserves it less than Ignis. “You’re my most loyal servant.” He knows that. Ignis watches over the gates almost every night. He always carries a torch to light the lamps. He scolds children that come too close and fends of daemons that dare draw near, and he tells travelers of the majesty Insomnia once held, keeping it alive in legend and not just another trash heap for mortal men to waste. Noctis has seen it all.

But Ignis quakes in his hands and haltingly asks, “I... please, I cannot lie to an Astral, but...”

“Tell me.” Noctis has to know. It comes out as more of a command than he means it, and he knows Ignis won’t refuse.

Ignis draws in a shaking breath. It looks like he would hang his head if Noctis let him, but Noctis holds him firm, gently thumbing his cheek and stroking beneath his jaw. He’s such a handsome creature, absurdly attractive—perhaps that’s why Noctis first took notice of him. The light of the stars outside just barely reach through the cracked windows and catch in his glasses. His ash-brown hair is a mess across his forehead, when it’s normally brushed straight up. His attire is tight, well-fitted, but ruined by the ropes binding his wrists. Noctis knows they aren’t necessary. Ignis is nothing if not obedient—he would never have run.

He finally admits, “I... I have sinned, Your Highness. I sullied your name.”

Noctis still doesn’t understand. “What does that mean?”

Another laboured breath. Ignis finally squints his eyes open, daring to peer up at Noctis, filled with wild desperation for forgiveness. “I... I touched myself... to the thought of you, over the ancient texts, with your name on my tongue...”

Colour fills Noctis’ cheeks. His hand falls away from Ignis—he straightens up, sucking in a breath himself, feeling hot in a way no immortal should. But he’s often felt things stir in him when looking down at Ignis. Before the fall, he was told he wasn’t ready, not to be king or immortalized in the line of Lucis, and he knows he definitely wasn’t ready to become an Astral in the wake of the war. He still curses Insomnia’s scourge-ridden forbidden tech attacking his crystal for that. Sometimes he still feels like just another young man, irritated by responsibility and plagued by hormones.

The gorgeous creature in front of him doesn’t help. He shouldn’t have anyone there, but if he has to, he can’t believe how lucky he is to get Ignis. He still wouldn’t have wished it on Ignis. But with this new information...

Normally, he simply sends his sacrifices to the settlements on the other side of Insomnia, far from the borders of Ignis’ small village. He has no real need for the people they send him. He struggles with the wording of that before settling on: “Don’t get me wrong, Ignis. I appreciate your prayers and the way you protect my city, but... your people have a lot wrong about me. And about what happened here. I don’t really care about purity. I don’t need my priests to be celibate.”

Ignis frowns, brows drawing together. He swallows. “Your Highness... it’s not only that... it was you I thought of...” He blushes as he says it, but he still talks, because he’s always been like that—professional to the last, able to continue with his duty even when tired or wounded, in this case embarrassed. “I know it’s blasphemous, but for all my efforts, I’m weak, and the pictures of you from old...”

Noct is blushing hotter. He remembers the adorable blond who took most of those pictures before the fall, and his chest aches. But he tries not to think of that loss now, so many eons on. Instead, he pictures a man of this century in his mind: Ignis, kneeling in one of the village’s small hovels, bent over a faded magazine with one hand between his legs, languidly stroking to thoughts of Noctis. For all the many times Noctis looked at Ignis and felt lust, he never would’ve imagined it’d be mutual—Ignis always seemed so untouchable. Noctis leans down again.

Ignis doesn’t pull away but closes his eyes, as though waiting for the sword of the kings to slice through him.

Noctis’ lips are the only thing to touch him. They press against his forehead, chaste but lingering, then fall to his cheek, tender and firmer, and Noctis would kiss him right on the mouth but doesn’t dare go that far just yet and instead hovers right there, tasting Ignis’ breath. When he pulls away, Ignis’ eyes open, and they’re dilated, hazy. The change is immediate, though surprise is still all over his face.

He parts his lips but has no words. He closes up, then tries again, quietly begging, “Please, Prince Noctis... allow me to continue to serve.”

Noctis never cared much for his title, even in the old days. But there’s something so hot about the way Ignis reverently purrs it. He murmurs, “You don’t deserve this... but I can’t send you back to a village that would treat you like an object they can just give away. And... I don’t honestly know if I could bring myself to let you go, now that I’ve had you this close.” Ignis’ eyes blow wider, green and sparkling. Noctis quietly admits, “I want to keep you for my own.”

Ignis answers without any hesitation, “I’ve always been yours.”

It’s Noctis that gets the shiver down his spine. He hopes that in time, Ignis comes to realize how very human Noctis can be, and that Ignis is as intoxicating to him as he seems to be the other way around.

In the meantime, he exercises magic. He cups Ignis’ cheek, marveling at the softness of Ignis’ skin, and lets a small surge of energy trail down Ignis’ neck, over his shoulder and along his arm, right to his bound wrists. Ignis’ breath hitches, and the rope snaps, falling apart around him. Ignis hesitates there, still holding position.

Then he tentatively brings his hands around and lifts them to cup Noctis’ face. He leans up on his haunches, tempting Noctis—they meet in the middle for a proper kiss that sends sparks through Noctis’ whole body. Fire bubbles up in him, steam wafting from their lips. He nips at Ignis and bids Ignis open—Ignis opens wide, allowing Noctis tongue to slip inside, to swirl around and trace his teeth and thoroughly mark every part of him.

By the time Noctis pulls back, they’re both breathing hard. Ignis looks as fierce as he does in battle, hungry but eager for his next command: the perfect servant. Noctis has never really wanted servants.

He sees Ignis, and he wants a lover.

So he lunges forward, knocking Ignis backwards, and claims his sacrifice right there on the floor.