You ran a hand past your slightly sweaty brow, and brushed back the [H/C] hair that had fallen across it. This was just proof of your hard work, really.
Boy, it really had been tough, and you had Gladio to thank for that. He pushed you and pushed you, but you were flattered by it at least. It seemed he only did so because he saw the potential for greatness in you.
Whether you were going to end up looking like a protein addict by the end of his training was...debatable, but perhaps best avoided. After all, Ignis was the one you were really seeking to impress, and you in turn felt like it wouldn't be wise to become muscle-bound.
Ignis...you didn't know why but there was something so frankly appealing about him. Well actually, you did know why. He was tall, suave and handsome. He pulled off glasses and shades like they were second nature to him, and the gloves were an added bonus. Even just his posture screamed 'gentleman'.
All that being said though, his strongest appeal no doubt lay in his cooking abilities. The man could whip up a gourmet dish over nothing but a campfire. He was a talent in the kitchen.
Perhaps a talent in other ways too, but your flustered self would never discover the truth to that notion unless you actually managed to...well...seduce him, so to speak. That didn't mean you were always flouncing around in Cindy-esque garb, but you did figure that strengthening yourself for him would hold some good appeal.
You wanted to be a valuable party member. Someone they could all count on, all four of them, whenever demonic creatures sprang up during the night and threatened to trash the Regalia.
The Regalia, which as an added bonus, could now fly? Who'd have thought?
Nonetheless, you spent that particular day absolutely beasting yourself in the Cleigne countryside. The monsters you chose as targets were turned to tatters in mere seconds, and it felt all too easy. You really were getting more and more powerful, but you also landed yourself further and further away from Noctis, Prompto and Gladio, to the point where you might as well have set out alone.
The forest didn't scare you, but the dark did somewhat when you were isolated, and when you couldn't find them easily again you resolved to just trek your way back to the glowing amber light of the camping site.
Ignis had smartly set it up on top of a large rock, somewhere that monsters would be even further deterred from despite the wilderness surrounding you. As you trekked back and ascended up the uneven side of it, you eventually reached the top and were greeted by a delectable smell.
“Mm...what is that?” you had to ask, as you rounded the top and came trudging over towards where Ignis was stirring the pot, practically drooling. Your weary body flopped down into one of the canvas camp chairs and he looked up at you. His hand pushed his glasses a little further up his nose, just by the center of them, and he smiled charmingly as ever.
“It's a new recipe I'm trying. Something that I concocted myself.”
You giggled slightly, not hiding how smitten you were right there and then. “'Concocted'...sounds like you're making a witch's brew.”
Perhaps that wasn't too far off...
Ignis only kept smiling and stirring, before eventually spooning up some of the meat-filled soup. These kinds of stews rarely looked so delicious, but he had a knack for making even the plainest toast look irresistible. Swallowing as he handed you over a bowl and took a seat of his own, you felt like you could already taste the salt.
“Careful now, it's hot.” Ignis warned you gently, getting comfortable before picking up his own bowl and blowing gently onto the liquid. Eyeing him sheepishly, you figured you'd try something.
“Ah-!” the soup was as scalding as you might have expected. Boldly, you tried sipping some early, and almost made your lip blister. Ignis' eyes instantly shot over to you, and he tutted.
“I told you, did I not? You need to be careful...”
Your hands around the bowl were replaced with his, and he picked up the spoon instead, hauling his chair closer just so he could easily raise a portion up to your slightly stinging mouth. He blew on it first, then held it out to you.
This was what you had, admittedly, been aiming for. It was kind of romantic, right? To be taken care of like this, especially after such a long and grueling day of monster battles. You gazed at him shyly for another moment, before just parting your lips and trying the food.
Instantly, your eyes lit up. Forget the context, the taste alone was just phenomenal! Why, this was like the best home cooking you could possibly imagine!
“Gods that's...that's amazing Ignis!” you gasped and touched your lips in awe. Some might have called it an overreaction on your part, but they clearly weren't familiar with just how good this dish was. Ignis had really stunned you with it, it was probably the best you'd ever had from him, or even just period.
“I'm glad you approve.” he smirked, and handed the meal back to you so you could continue eating yourself. You dug in quickly, in a hurry because you just couldn't resist. Oblivious, you just kept up, only breaking the silence so you could ask:
“What kind of meat is this? If this is a local monster then I need to make sure I kill some tomorrow, stat!”
“Haha...you really are eager, aren't you?” Ignis was amused by your almost childish reactions. He clasped his hands in his lap and leaned back smugly, having finished his own. “There won't be any need to hunt, there's plenty more in the cold boxes.”
Your eyes cast over to where they were sitting, just by the edge of the campfire. True enough, they'd all been filled up with something, and sealed.
“Right, but I still wanna know what this actually is. I don't think you've cooked with this before.” you didn't know how to describe it, but the meat was just perfection.
Ignis took off his glasses for a moment, just so he could huff onto the lenses and wipe them with the cloth from his pocket.
“It's not meat from any monster, I can tell you that.”
Pausing, you lowered your spoon down to your near empty bowl and hummed. “But it's not some kind of fish, is it? Doesn't seem like it.”
“No, you're right.”
“Is it from one of the local animals?” you tried to think about which one it could be. Yet you were surprised to see Ignis simply shaking his head again, returning his glasses to their rightful place while he did so.
“That's...weird.” you completely set the spoon down. Then you looked over at the three empty chairs, and into the woods beyond. “...Where are the other guys anyway? Shouldn't they be here by now...?”
“They should be.” Ignis cryptically spoke, and your gaze swiveled back to him. Somehow, all the pleasure had vanished. Now you had a pit forming in your stomach.
“...Did they already come back earlier?”
“Ah.” Ignis finally set his empty bowl aside and met your eyes. “...Now you're catching on.”
Your grip loosened, and you were pretty sure you dropped your spoon in the process, but you weren't even paying attention to that. No, your focus was solely fixed on the boxes arranged at the edge of the campsite, stacked up there were so many of them. Each was maybe big enough to hold a few big fish. Or something else in great volume...
Could three cut up corpses fit neatly into those cold boxes?
“You see I'd grown quite sick of them myself.” Ignis stood up, speaking in a relaxed tone while he watched you drop the rest of your dinner too. The soup scattered, as did the red meat inside, and he eyed the remains of his comrades with disdain. “They were a constant irritation, so when I had them alone back here and you were still gone, I couldn't help myself. Getting rid of them was necessary, after all.”
His eyes cast up to your pale and frightened face.
“It means that I can finally get you all to myself.”
A series of expletives and cries left you as you sprang up from your chair, knocking it back, staggering away from him. Your skin had broken out in a sweat, your heart pounding relentlessly as Ignis started pacing calmly in your direction. You turned quickly to where your sword was resting at the side, and tried to lunge for it.
Ignis was quicker, one hand seizing your arm and pulling it behind your back. As you hit his chest, his other snaked up to your chin, leather gripping your jaw from one side to the other and squeezing. His voice was like a snake in your ear:
“Over time you'll learn not to miss them, [Y/N].”
His tongue flicked against your ear, and you let out a pent up and desperate whimper.
“I'll make you forget they ever existed...”
Your eyes shut tight, forehead furrowing as you cringed and tried to cope with this. Trembling in his hold, you had never felt weaker, as if all your training had been for naught.
Your knees buckled, legs turning to gelatin. Ignis' twisted confession had pushed you to the breaking point, and your vision was already blurring.
You might have fainted entirely had you not heard a startlingly chirpy voice suddenly speak up:
“Woah! Looks like somebody made a mess!”
His cruel hands had already slipped away, leaving you standing there like a shaking idiot as your eyes flashed open and set upon the shocking sight before you.
Prompto came jogging up towards the camp, tutting as he saw the spillage you'd unwillingly made. Ignis was already busy clearing it up, acting as if nothing had happened while he chatted with the freckled boy and his two companions. Yes...Gladiolus and Noctis were there too. They came strolling up with dirt and the odd cut or bruise embellished upon them, but otherwise unharmed.
“Hard day's work, sorry we took so long!” Prompto apologized while he took a seat and grabbed some soup for himself. “Yummy, looks great!”
“[Y/N]?” Gladio's presence beside you startled you, and you quickly looked at him with widened eyes. He just frowned, then laughed. “Hah! What's the matter, did you see a ghost when you wandered off alone? I told you it's better to stick together when it's getting dark.”
“I'm bushed...” Noctis moaned, yawning as he sat down too, and soon enough Gladiolus was encouraging you over like you were some sort of black sheep among them. Everything in this situation had taken such a drastic 180 that you were genuinely shell-shocked.
“We've already eaten, but you all enjoy. [Y/N] seemed to approve, and I think we all know we can trust her sense of taste.” Ignis spoke in an almost jovial manner. It was disgusting. After what he had just done...you could only stare at him in bewilderment. The other guys just remained none the wiser.
“So what kind of meat is this?”
When Noctis asked that, Ignis took a pause, before smiling simply again.
For a stretch, there was silence. Then, it was broken by Gladio's sudden and hearty laughter, followed by Prompto's too. Noctis didn't exactly laugh, but he at least smiled a little.
“Hahaha, well it's damn good if that's true!” Gladio joked, “Maybe we should be the bad guys!”
“Hehehe!...For real though, where'd you get this?” Prompto asked once he'd calmed down from his giggles.
Ignis answered straight away:
“Altissia. A special shipment came in from there to one of the local stores. It was more expensive than I'd like to say, but I figured it might be alright to treat ourselves for once.”
Nobody objected to that. Nobody batted any eyes about eating it. Nobody knew what had really happened.
When they all went to their beds inside the tent, you remained lingering outside where Ignis was cleaning up. You weren't there to help him. Just to stare at him pointedly, to try and get inside his head somehow. Try and figure out exactly why the hell he'd tried to trick you like that.
“...If you don't believe me, you can check inside those ice boxes over there.” Ignis uttered, not looking at you while he finished packing up.
“...I believe you. I just don't know why you did it...and why you...”
“...” Ignis suddenly stood up straight, and approached you then. From the tent you could hear distant snores, but besides that the night was eerily silent. He walked right up to you, urging you to take a step back out of instinct. The way the moon was positioned, it sometimes reflected against his glasses and hid his unfeeling eyes from sight.
“You are not just strong, [Y/N]. You are also intelligent, and perfect in many other ways.”
In other circumstances, you would have been falling on your knees from those words,
“-But to assume that I would ever kill the very person I've been tasked to protect, and my fellows, is foolish. I won't deny that it's a dream of mine, but it will have to stay that way if I don't want to become a fugitive for the rest of my days.”
His words shook you to your core. How could he so easily admit that he wanted them dead?
Ignis seemed to read your mind: “I've a desire for you, [Y/N]. That's why. For so long I've wanted nothing more than to have you all to myself, but alas that can't be for now. I have my duties to fulfil, after all. It's as I said...and so I simply decided to play a little game. It was for my own amusement...”
“And you believed me, possibly because you love me in return. You'd rather assume I was really a murderer than call me a liar. I'd call you naïve...but perhaps it truly is better to be cautious...”
His gloved hand reached out again, cold touch gracing against your jaw and tilting your chin up. His steely eyes gazed back at you heartlessly...his lips pulling into a wry, victorious smirk, upon seeing how you looked at him so petrified, feeling how you quivered.
The lips that met yours were like poison, and his heated tongue pushing through and exploring your mouth even more so. But even if his hand hadn't curled around the back of your head, you were rigid regardless, unable to move as Ignis forced that kiss upon you by the flickering flames. He only pulled away once he'd had his fill, and his hand moved to cup your cheek, his own breath short.
Still, he managed to speak, as much as you wished otherwise.
“...Indeed it is, [Y/N]...”
Leaning in, he let his lips hover right beside your ear, delivering that penultimate line he'd just been dying to say.
“Because one day, it might be a reality...”