Noct’s phone blares at 6 am sharp—he yelps and scrambles to sit up, already prepared to summon his sword before he remembers where he is. He’s in bed, in the Citadel. He’s safe.
The thought doesn’t bring him comfort.
He doesn’t check who’s calling, simply swiping to decline the call. Rolling over, Noct shuts his tired eyes and tries willing himself to fall asleep. It doesn’t work. His heart is still thumping like crazy and his mind’s beginning to scream at him again. His entire body feels heavy and he doesn’t wanna move.
The doors to his room are slammed open some twenty minutes later. Noct doesn’t need to look up to see who’s coming in. There are only two people who’d enter his room without knocking and one of them’s gone.
“Noct,” Gladio growls. His footsteps grow louder until they reach the foot of his bed and childishly, Noct burrows deeper into the covers. Gladio’s not having any of that shit, and yanks the edge of the blanket. Noct comes tumbling to the ground and he groans, rubbing his backside. “Get the fuck up.”
His exhaustion is quickly replaced by anger. “What the fuck do you want?”
“Why the hell didn’t you answer my call? Get dressed,” Gladio says. He stomps over to the windows, throwing the curtains open and so what if Noct hisses at the light. Gladio crosses his arms and stares expectantly at Noct.
“No,” Noct says. He’s not interested in whatever bullshit Gladio’s trying to get him to do. Fuck training, fuck camping, fuck all that shit. Like any of that is going to really distract him from what’s important. “I’m not going anywhere, not unless they’ve got an update on Iggy.”
Gladio huffs. “You’re in luck, dumbass. That’s exactly why I’m here.”
“ What?” Noct jumps up and he’s immediately hit by a wave of dizziness—he stumbles and nearly falls over. Would have, if Gladio weren’t there to catch him. Not really surprising, considering Noct can hardly remember the last time he ate. “They—they found him?”
“We’ve got him,” Gladio says. “He’s here, in the Citadel hospital. I’m here to escort you to him. Now get movin’.”
Noct’s already throwing a sweater on before Gladio’s finished.
On the way there, Gladio explains.
Cor was leaving the Citadel around 2:30 am, having finished a couple of reports on the newest Crownsguard recruits, when he saw a black vehicle skidding away from the front entrance. Curious, Cor went closer, until he saw a figure on the steps.
Ignis was nearly unrecognizable, apparently. He’d been beaten so badly that Cor was unsure if he was even alive.
(If Gladio notices Noct’s shudder, he doesn’t comment on it).
When they reach the entrance to the Citadel’s hospital, Noct bursts through the doors—the Crownsguard inside jump up at the noise and immediately back down once they see his expression. With wary nods, they part to let Noct through.
“This way,” Gladio says. He leads Noct down a secluded hallway. There’s a single Crownsguard standing outside a door at the very end of the hallway. “Is it okay if we visit?” Gladio asks, like Noct’s not going to bust in whether or not the Crownsguard will allow him.
They nod, and step aside. “Yeah, but he’s still unconscious. Don’t expect much, Your Highness.”
Noct was never expecting much. He knew that asking Ignis to be conscious was too much. He only wanted— needed —to see him, to know that he’s here, and alive.
But the man laying in the hospital bed isn’t Ignis. It’s… not. It can’t be. Ignis is all hard lines and fancy clothes, never a hair out of place. Noct knows every detail of Ignis’ face, from the bump on his nose down to the acne scars he’s never been able to rid himself of.
The person in the bed— Ignis , Noct has to remind himself—looks barely alive. He’s thin, just skin and bones, and Noct sees blue veins stark against pale skin running along their arms. And his face is swollen, purple and black. Like he’s been stung by bees a million times all over.
Noct also recognizes the sign of rope burn on his wrists. And he's got some burns that look like cigarettes were pressed into his skin, searing holes into his body. Noct doesn’t want to see what’s under the bedsheet.
Hell, he can hardly bring himself to look at Ignis in general.
Gladio pushes a chair under Noct, and his legs buckle under his weight. He learns forward, elbows on his knees, and stares at the ground.
“Cor suspects a kidnapping,” Gladio says. As if it’d be anything else. When Ignis first disappeared, Noct heard rumours being spread that he’s abandoned his duty. That he’s taken the Crown’s money and benefits and ran. He even heard some people calling him a traitor, that Noct was lucky Ignis didn’t take his life.
Bullshit. Fucking bullshit. There was no way Ignis would abandon Noct, just like that. Not once did Noct believe Ignis up and left.
‘Course, the alternative wasn’t much better. But it’s the truth, it seems.
Gladio slaps a hand down on Noct’s shoulder. “We haven’t confirmed a motive, but we’ve basically got proof that it was some Niffs that did it,” Gladio continues. “Apparently he’s got the Niff’s emblem burned onto his chest.”
Branded, like some goddamn cattle.
“Though it’s easy to imagine why they were… torturing him.”
Like Gladio needs to bullshit around. Noct already knows, dammit. He’s known from the very beginning that Ignis was kidnapped to get information on him. In the four months that he’s been gone, Noct’s known that he was probably being tortured and tormented because of him.
There’s no way that Ignis said anything, though. If anybody’s stubborn, it’s Ignis and he’d rather die ten times over than put Noct through the slightest of danger. He’s always been protecting Noct—whether it’s been lying to keep him out of trouble when they were kids, or taking care of some thugs that threatened him and Prompto one time—and this is no different. Judging from the expression on Gladio’s face, he thinks the same.
(He’s angry, though Noct knows now that it’s directed all inwards. He’s blaming himself for letting Ignis get hurt and Noct would offer some words of comfort if he weren’t doing the same).
“We don’t know why they dropped him off here, though. Or why they risked dropping him off so close to the Citadel. There was no ransom, no nothing. It was almost like they got bored and finally realized they weren’t getting anything out of Iggy.” Gladio takes a deep breath. “Well, whatever the reason, I couldn’t care less. Iggy’s back and that’s what matters.”
Noct wishes that was enough for him. But it’s not. The restlessness that’s been plauging him has only grown tenfold now.
Somewhere, out there, is a group of fuckers that took Ignis and tortured him for four months. They kept him tied up and beat him until he was unrecognizable and ruined him and they’re out there, free.
He’s not gonna fuckin’ rest until he’s gotten those captors under his boot, begging for a mercy he’ll never give.