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deeper into the night (now fall)

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When Jongdae returns, he arrives with a blizzard and a handful of parchment under his coat, hidden in a desperate attempt to protect them from the howling winds and heavy snowfall.

 

Junmyeon can’t say he was expecting him - Jongdae has a knack for being whisked off to a mission every couple of days, sometimes not returning for weeks on end. He’s kept busy, their Warrior of Light, and Ishgard is nothing but glad for their champion. “Jongdae,” He gasps, tripping all over himself to greet him. “You’re back. Are you unharmed?”

 

Sehun, who had let Jongdae in, disappears out the door with a bow. Junmyeon makes a mental note to thank his second-in-command before turning his attention back to Jongdae.

 

Jongdae, ever uncaring, falls straight into Junmyeon’s arms and sighs happily. “As much as I’ll ever be,” He mutters into Junmyeon’s neck, tail curling around Junmyeon’s waist before he huffs in discontent. “You’re always wearing these-” He gestures at the whole of Junmyeon. “Horrible, horrible garments. They’re awful for cuddling.”

 

Junmyeon sends him a look that’s 2 parts exasperation and 8 parts fond. “I’m supposed to wear these, Jongdae, you know that.”

 

Jongdae does, in fact, know. As Lord Commander of the Temple Knights, the horrible armour that Junmyeon drapes himself in everyday is mandatory. Now, Jongdae won’t lie and say that he doesn’t have a thing for Junmyeon in his armour, but the, well shoulderpads, for lack of a better term, might as well be goddamned shoulderspikes. They certainly aren’t pads.

 

“Sorry, I don’t make the rules,” Jongdae mumbles into Junmyeon’s neck, sounding a lot less like the Champion of Eorzea and a lot more like a petulant child. “I just whine about them.”

 

“You do whine a lot.”

 

They both look up at the sound of a third - but familiar - voice, coming from the doorway. Baekhyun stands in it, smile wide on his face. Jongdae makes a happy noise in the back of his throat and flings himself at Baekhyun, who catches him with a loud laugh.

 

“Warrior of Light,” Baekhyun teases, nuzzling his nose against Jongdae’s in an eskimo kiss. “Your presence in Ishgard is much appreciated.”

 

Jongdae snorts, rolling his eyes. “Baekhyun of the Silver Fuller,” He responds in kind, watches as Baekhyun’s nose scrunches up at his full title. “It is, after all, your doing that I was first accepted into the Holy See.”

 

“But your deeds afterward will never be forgotten,” Junmyeon cuts in, voice soft, but as commanding as always. “The Dragonsong War would not have ended had you not left with Lord Iceheart to strike a deal with Hraesvelgr, leading to his aid against Nidhogg.”

 

“Our hero,” Baekhyun echoes. While it would have been tinged with teasing, usually, Baekhyun was born and raised in Ishgard, and had known nothing but the war against dragons since the day he was born. Jongdae had been an instrumental part - the most important part, people would argue - in the end of it, slaying the Great Wyrm and saving Jongin from his influence. Jongdae is Ishgard’s hero, whether or not the Holy See wanted to admit it.

 

Jongdae flushes, unused to the praise. Oh, he received many a compliment from the people of Eorzea, what with his usual primal slaying and city saving deeds, but they were never the same as the ones Junmyeon and Baekhyun enjoyed lavishing upon him every chance they got. “Can we-” He barely manages to get out. “Are you done with your work today?” He asks, sending Junmyeon a pitiful look.

 

“No,” Junmyeon sighs, disappointed. “But-”

 

“But the Lord Commander would be honoured to spend his evening with you and Lord Baekhyun,” Sehun interrupts, the door open and the Azure Dragoon behind him.

 

Jongin laughs at Sehun’s deadpan, his visor, for once, lifted to reveal his young, youthful face. Jongdae still gets nightmares, sometimes, of Jongin under Nidhogg’s influence, eyes tinged red and voice an echo of hatred. Jongdae is so, so fucking glad that they managed to save him. “Sehun’s right, you know,” Jongin says, amused when Sehun gives him a large, pleased smile, and Junmyeon starts making excuses. “Your paperwork can wait. It’ll always be here, always piling up. Jongdae, on the other hand, will not.”

 

“When are you next leaving?” Baekhyun asks, setting Jongdae down onto his feet.

 

Jongdae shakes his head. “I don’t know,” He replies, truthfully. “There’s nothing that calls for my immediate attention right now - nothing that can’t be dealt with by the other Scions, at least - but something always crops up last minute.”

 

“I just- I might only have a couple days here, at most,” He continues, turning big, teary eyes on Junmyeon. Baekhyun sees through his scheme immediately, and turns his own droopy, equally teary eyes on the Lord Commander. “Please, won’t you spend a couple days with me? Sehun can hold the fort here, if Jongin helps him. Right, guys?”

 

The two snort, but nod good-naturedly. Jongdae gives them both a mental fistbump before looking back at Junmyeon, starting to turn on the waterworks.

 

“Okay, okay,” Junmyeon relents, unable to turn the two of them down whenever they pull out the puppy dog eyes. Jongdae cheers, grabbing each of their hands in one of his own and dragging them out the door with a cheeky grin.

 

“Slow down,” Baekhyun laughs, even as he follows Jongdae’s quick pace down the stairs. Not for the first time, Baekhyun wonders why Junmyeon still chooses to have his office space at the top of a tower. “You’re going to trip and fall.”

 

Jongdae flips his hair arrogantly. “I’m the Warrior of Light,” He huffs. “I do not trip.”

 

He does, in fact, trip, a mere 5 steps after his proclamation, letting out a screech in panic. It’s only Junmyeon and Baekhyun’s lightning fast reflexes, honed from years of training as a gladiator and knight respectively, that saves him, pulling him back with firm grips on his hands.

 

“Don’t trip, huh?” Junmyeon questions cheekily, amidst Jongdae’s whines. They continue at a much more acceptable pace, afterwards, walking down the stairs and out the door to the aetheryte shard.

 

They all know where they’re going, no communication required, one hand up to activate the aetheryte shard. Jongdae closes his eyes and gives in to its magic, letting his body diffuse into aether and travel on its wings. It’s comforting, almost, like coming home, like he’s closer to Hydaelyn, whenever he does it. The journey itself is a short one - they’re only travelling within the city of Ishgard, after all - and when he comes back to himself, his eyes are sparkling with remains of Mother Crystal-blessed aether.

 

“You’re always so beautiful, like this,” Junmyeon says, voice soft and reverent. Jongdae blinks at him in confusion, and Junmyeon smiles. “Whenever you teleport,” He explains. “Hydaelyn always seems to bless you a little more than anyone else; your eyes always shine a little more when you end your journey.”

 

Baekhyun says nothing, merely brushes Jongdae’s hair out of his eyes, but his smile is equally as endearing. Jongdae flushes under their gaze, again, shaking his head. “It’s nothing special.”

 

“On the contrary,” Baekhyun denies, following Junmyeon’s lead into the his manor. “You’re stunning, Jongdae.”

 

The door closes behind them, and here, they are safe. Baekhyun tugs Jongdae into his arms, and Jongdae lets himself fall, gently. Their lips meet, weeks of stories untold, shared with the other. Jongdae relishes the warmth that rushes over him, watches Baekhyun’s pretty, pretty grey eyes flutter shut. They kiss, and oh, Jongdae’s always known that Ishgard is home, but Ishgard is home because Baekhyun and Junmyeon are here, and he’ll never turn down a reminder like this.

 

He feels arms wrap around him from behind, and Junmyeon’s comforting presence against his back. There’s a hand in his hair, scratching at the base of his ears, fond kisses being pressed into the back of his neck. He arches into the touch, tail swinging wildly until he wraps it around Junmyeon’s waist in an effort to tug him closer.

 

“Hungry?” Junmyeon whispers against his cheek, nuzzling softly. “A light meal’s already been prepared for you.”

 

Jongdae pulls back from the kiss, Baekhyun whining and trying to chase after him. Jongdae indulges him with another, but his stomach is growling, and a hungry Jongdae is a grumpy Jongdae. “Please,” He directs towards Junmyeon. “I’m starving.”

 

The Lord Commander smiles, tugging Jongdae and a reluctant Baekhyun into his dining hall, the table already set for one. Jongdae takes this to mean that they’ve already had their meal, and sits himself down in front the spread that Junmyeon had deigned to call ‘a light meal’. It might as well be a feast, considering how Jongdae was a terrible culinarian and resorted to meat harshly cooked over fires when he couldn’t make it to an inn.

 

Baekhyun and Junmyeon seat themselves on either side of him, watching fondly as Jongdae closes his eyes and thanks Hydaelyn for the meal. Jongdae shrugs out of his coat, hands both of them the bundle of parchment he had been so intent on protecting from the elements. “There weren’t any delivery Moogles around,” He explains, spooning hot soup into his mouth. “So I just kept all the letters until I got back here.”

 

Their stations, of course, don’t allow them to travel out of the city often, if at all. Baekhyun, while he lives at Camp Dragonhead, doesn’t get much reprieve, the furthest he treks being the little cove Lord Chanyeol lives in, a mere stone’s throw away from Camp Dragonhead. Junmyeon, who’s only managed to make it out of Ishgard to follow Jongdae into Dravania, might as well be chained to the Holy See.

 

Jongdae is their view into the outside world, his letters always beautiful penned - if sometimes roughed up and interrupted when Jongdae is suddenly called into battle, which happens more often than one might think - and wonderfully detailed. Jongdae watches as they devour his words, eyes moving quickly. They exchange letters when they’re done with the ones that had been handed to them, a habit they’re so used to, now.

 

He finishes with his meal just as Baekhyun emerges from the stories he had penned out in his last letter. “I feel bad for Yotsuyu,” Baekhyun says, chin perched on his palm. “No one is born evil, and she was a victim of such horrible treatment.”

 

“It doesn’t excuse what she did,” Junmyeon shakes his head. “But it is a sorrowful tale. That she did not believe she deserved Gosetsu’s kindness after what she had done to him shows that she had some good left in her. Her family were such unfortunate catalysts in her downward spiral.”

 

Jongdae says nothing; He was the main reason Yotsuyu had now passed. Sometimes, when he was asked to kill, there was a part of him that wanted to stop. Stop the mindless killing, the endless bloodshed. If Yotsuyu had had enough good left in her that she was unwilling to continue to receive kindness from Gosetsu, why could Jongdae not have let her live? He’s an astrologian, for Hydaelyn’s sake, a healer. He shouldn’t be using his astrometer to kill as much as he has.

 

Jongdae would have given her a second chance, he thinks. The Eikon Slayer would not. Did not.

 

“Jongdae?”

 

He looks up to see Baekhyun’s questioning gaze and Junmyeon’s concerned one. He shakes his head, smiling at them. “It’s nothing. Just thinking too much,” He reaches out to smooth away the furrow between Junmyeon’s brow.

 

“She achieved what she wanted, in the end,” Jongdae says as an answer, leaving out just what Yotsuyu had done. “And was at peace when she left.”

 

Junmyeon stands, then, one hand outstretched for Jongdae to take. Jongdae does, smiling at him. He’s thankful; Junmyeon always knows when not to push Jongdae, when he’s too strung out to be answering every question they fire at them. Jongdae knows they mean no harm, are only curious about his adventures and travels when they’re stuck here in the constant blizzard that is Ishgard, but he gets weary, too.

 

Ishgard is comfort, and Junmyeon, Baekhyun, are home.

 

“Come,” Junmyeon says, walking past Baekhyun and taking his hand as well, leaving the dining hall. Jongdae’s so familiar with the manor that he could walk it in his sleep, despite not being able to stay for more than two weeks at a time (if he’s really lucky, and he usually isn’t). They walk, quietly, through the halls, to Junmyeon’s room.

 

Jongdae is led into the warm bath, already prepared. Baekhyun kisses him, gently, when Jongdae sinks gratefully into the hot water. Showers are a luxury for Jongdae, let alone baths, and he enjoys every minute of it, taking advantage of the stupidly large tub Junmyeon owns. Baekhyun perches himself precariously on the bath’s edge, helping him lather shampoo in his hair.

 

Junmyeon is nowhere to be found, but Jongdae can hear the sounds of him padding across the carpeted floor of the next room, and lets himself relax. Here, in Junmyeon’s manor, with Baekhyun and Junmyeon, he is safe. He doesn’t have to be the Warrior of Light, Champion of Eorzea, Eikon Slayer, every and all the titles bestowed upon him. His shoulders lighten, burdens lifting, and it’s nothing short of blissful.

 

“Chanyeol’s been absolutely dying to meet you, again,” Baekhyun relays, voice soft and comforting. There’s always been something about it that makes him melt, and he does exactly that, leaning his head back against the edge of the tub and letting Baekhyun’s voice wash over him. “He won’t stop talking about how he was saved from being tossed off of Witchdrop by the Slayer of Gods.”

 

Jongdae chuckles, softly. “He’s not wrong,” He preens, beaming up at Baekhyun, all kitten lips and scrunched up nose. “I did save him, after all.”

 

Baekhyun snorts, then shrieks when Jongdae splashes soapy water onto him. He stares down at his wet robes, then back up at Jongdae, offended. Jongdae just sends him a shit-eating grin, wiggling his eyebrows. “You should get naked with me, then.”

 

Junmyeon takes this moment to enter the bathroom in his sleeping robes, one perfect eyebrow raised. “Please don’t flood my bathroom,” He says, and Jongdae catches a shade of fond exasperation. Junmyeon places one hand into the bathwater, then, “The water’s cooling, Jongdae. You should get out before you catch a cold.”

 

Jongdae sticks his arms out as quickly and as childishly as he can. “Carry me.”

 

He receives a flick on the nose for that, but perks up when Junmyeon says, “If you dry yourself, I’ll carry you to the bed.”

 

Jongdae leaps out of the bathtub with all the agility of a Miqo’te and grace of a Keeper of the Moon. Baekhyun laughs with mirth from his spot next to the tub at how quickly Jongdae manages to dry himself off, but Jongdae ignores him. He’s not going to miss a chance of being carried to the bed of the Lord Commander by said Lord Commander himself.

 

Junmyeon makes good on his promise to carry Jongdae to bed, scooping Jongdae up with one hand supporting his back and another under his thighs. Jongdae cheers, way too happy in Junmyeon’s cradle carry as they exit the bathroom.

 

Junmyeon’s bed might as well be clouds - the only problem being that Jongdae has traversed through the Sea of Clouds and isn’t exactly fond of them - with how soft it is. Jongdae sinks into the mattress. He’s so used to sleeping on flat ground with nothing but his black chocobo and his pack. Oh, of course, inns are everywhere, and he could always return to his apartment in Shirogane, but sometimes after fights he’s tired, drained of aether, and too fatigued to teleport.

 

“Cuddles,” Jongdae demands, making grabby hands at Baekhyun, who’s more likely to give in to Jongdae considering how he loves cuddling as much as Jongdae does. Baekhyun’s entire face lights up at the request and he dives into the bed, limbs draping themselves haphazardly around Jongdae’s form.

 

Junmyeon sends them a fond look, watches on as Baekhyun buries the both of them under the blankets, fluffing up the pillows and shoving them under Jongdae’s head until he’s whining with laughter.

 

Every light in the room is extinguished, one by one, until the one in a corner of the room is the only one left. Jongdae sticks his head out of the layers of blankets and eyes Junmyeon, who looks like he’s debating if he should turn that one off, too. “Junmyeon,” Jongdae calls. “Don’t think so much about it, silly, come to bed.”

 

Junmyeon seems to make up his mind, turning it off as well, and Baekhyun makes an appreciative noise in the back of his throat; Baekhyun can’t sleep when there’s any light in the room. As it is, the only light now is the moon shining in from the windows, and even that is dimmed slightly with the sheer curtains pulled over them.

 

Jongdae wraps his arms around Junmyeon, pulling him closer, when he enters the bed, shuffling his way beneath the blankets. Baekhyun still has a vice grip on him, but Jongdae can’t say he minds particularly much - he’s pretty much the same.

 

“Comfy,” Jongdae beams. Baekhyun’s head pops out from under the sheets, own grin angular and bright. Junmyeon smiles in return, leaning forward to kiss Jongdae.

 

Jongdae whines when Junmyeon’s lips nudge his apart, kiss deepening. He’s clinging onto Junmyeon’s robes, voice becoming breathier with Baekhyun’s hands spread wide against his abdomen.

 

“It’s a good thing you’re not wearing any clothes,” Baekhyun murmurs lowly into his ear. “Makes this much easier for us.”

 

Did you-” Jongdae gasps, Junmyeon’s lips at a particularly sensitive spot on his neck. “Did you two plan this?”

 

Baekhyun chuckles, then speaks in that low register of his that always sends Jongdae reeling. “We haven’t seen you in weeks, Jongdae,” Baekhyun says, hands moving down, down, and Jongdae’s about to lose his fucking mind. “We’ve had a lot of time to think about what we were going to do with you once you got back.”

 

“Wine, dine, fuck you into the mattress,” Junmyeon says with a smirk, pulling back from the bruises he’s left on Jongdae’s neck. He’ll definitely have to cover those up, god.

 

If Jongdae were in any other situation, he’d make a snarky statement about how that’s definitely not how the process goes. As it is, Jongdae’s way too turned on to be anything but pliant, putty in their arms.

 

“Well,” Baekhyun laughs. “That’s not totally right. You’ll be the one fucking me into the mattress.”

 

Jongdae’s mind barely has enough time to register a oh my god before his brain short circuits, and he doesn’t do much thinking - or at all - for the rest of the night.