Disclaimer: not mine

Thanks to those who helped me decide on who to have in Pax's Retinue though it's been so long since we chatted about it that I've forgotten who helped, sorry.

Chapter 17

Ignis sat down on the couch as they gathered in Pax's suite again. Pax's return had been announced yesterday and it was all that the news was covering, not surprising considering how long he had been gone. Pax had confirmed that Noctis was the Crown Prince and he had no intention of challenging that. That morning though, Ignis had overheard some Councillors speaking and he wondered if that was the topic Pax wished to discuss – the Prince's Retinues.

They had always assumed they would be Pax's, had been trained for that, and then Pax had vanished. Prompto had sworn his Oath to Noctis but everyone had expected that, the two were too close to make Prompto leave his side. When Pax vanished they had shifted all their attention to Noctis, and he knew most assumed they were his Retainers, but they had not taken the Oath to him.

"What's up Pax?" Prompto asked as he curled into the corner of the couch, Noctis leaning against him.

"There's something we need to discuss as a group," he answered, green eyes serious, and Ignis assumed he was correct.

"What's that?" Noctis asked in concern and Pax looked at his brother.

"Your Retinue," Pax told him and Noctis straightened up. "Cor told me that only Prompto had taken the Oath to you," he explained and then looked at them. "Why?"

"Pax?" Gladio asked in confusion.

"I've been gone six years, six important years developmentally, years the four of you have spent together. You've trained together, lived together, you're a team."

"Pax…" Ignis swallowed but his Prince just smiled at him.

"Pax I can't just," Noctis began and Pax reached out to lay his hand over Noctis'.

"You aren't doing anything Noct. If I'd never left then things would be different but I did leave. They're your Retinue now."

"Does that mean Iris will be your Shield?"

"Technically I think she's meant to be, but the age gap is kind of crazy. I'll talk to Dad about working it out. Maybe I'll end up with rotating members of the Guard or Glaive for a while," he shrugged.

"But Pax, that isn't…Iggy and Gladio were always meant to be your Retinue," Noctis argued, despite how much he wanted them in his. It wasn't about what he wanted; it was about what was right.

"And now they're yours. More importantly, they're your friends," Pax smiled at them and Ignis swallowed but nodded, seeing Noctis slowly accept his big brothers words.

Ignis stood and knelt before his Prince, his future King, hearing Gladio follow him. Pax was right, they'd just been ignoring it, clinging to how things had been before he was taken, but it was Noctis he fussed over, Noctis that Gladio would move to cover…not Pax. They had become his Retinue in function if not name years ago. Noctis stood up shakily, swallowing hard, glancing towards Pax who nodded. Ignis and Gladio remained kneeling and then when Noctis looked at them, they recited their Oaths to Noctis, taking their places as Adviser/Hand and Shield.

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Noctis stayed back when the others left, hesitating, and Pax patted the couch beside him. Noctis walked over and sat beside him, relaxing as an arm draped over his shoulders, pulling him into Pax's side. Everything had been so busy since Pax had come back that they hadn't had a lot of time together but sitting like that, just felt right, like they'd never been apart.

"Feels like I stole them," he admitted, and he felt Pax's grip tighten.

"I was stolen and maybe if that hadn't happened, things would be different. You're Crown Prince, Noct, you need a Shield and Adviser a lot more than I do. You've all stood by each other the last six years while I was off with my Godfather and magic school friends."

"Do you miss them?" Noct asked before shaking his head. "Dumb question," of course Pax missed them, he'd known them for six years.

"Keep a secret?" Pax asked and Noctis looked up at him.

"From who?"

"Everyone, including Dad."

Noctis' eyes went wide and he stared at his brother. What? He hesitated but then nodded. "Okay."

Pax summoned a photo album from his Armiger and gave it to Noctis who opened it slowly. The first picture was of Pax and…Hermione, both dressed very nicely, in front of some sort of form they were signing. There were photos of them in an apartment and then Noctis noticed Hermione was changing, her stomach getting larger… he turned the page to see an exhausted Hermione in a bed with a bundle wrapped in blue held to her chest, Pax leaning in. Beneath the picture was Pax's handwriting – James Regis Potter Jan 1 2000, which he assumed was the date.

"Pax?" Did that mean what he thought it did? Why would she give her baby their Dad's name…and Potter was Pax's birth name.

"That's your nephew James," his brother confirmed and Noctis began looking at the photos going on, at Pax, Hermione, and others with the baby.

He was an Uncle! "He looks like you."

"With his Mum's eyes, yeah. Everyone found it funny because I look like James Potter but with Lily Potter's eyes. Seems to be something of a tradition."

"Why don't you want Dad to know?" Noctis asked, confused, their Dad would love to know he was a Grandpa.

"I don't want to hurt him, to know he has a Grandchild he'll never see, never get to hold, to even see outside of these photos…"

Oh…Noctis traced a finger over the small face. He would never see his nephew, never know what he was like. "Why? How could you stand to leave them?"

"The Potter's are a very old family and I was the last one left. I wasn't going to do it at first but then Hermione offered. Her arguments were good, and I could give her something she wanted, a baby. We had a non-magical wedding because a magical one would have been far too binding when it'll be expected for me to marry here one day. We used a special potion that night to ensure pregnancy and that was the only time we were together. In a while, I'll be declared dead on Earth and my will enacted, leaving Hermione as Regent of House Potter until little James is of age."

He couldn't imagine getting married and having a baby that way but…it was like a political marriage wasn't it? Except at least in one of those you got to raise your own baby, Pax would never see his son again. He put the album down and then turned to hug his brother. He was a teenager, too old for hugs, but not with Pax. He'd missed his brother so much that he didn't care if he was too old for hugs. Pax hugged him back, resting his head on top of Noctis'.

"I'm an Uncle," Noctis whispered. "Maybe it's a good thing Dad doesn't know, you're too young to be a Dad and he's too young to be a Grandpa," Noctis told him and Pax laughed, sitting back.

"Yeah, Dad would probably say that."

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Regis smiled as Pax joined him in the comfortable living room that was in the hall their suites shared as a place for the family to mingle without having to be in someone's personal rooms.

"Did Noct tell you?" he asked as he sat.

"Tell me what?" he asked as he set his book aside to give his eldest his full attention.

"Ignis and Gladio took their places in his Retinue," Pax explained. "Noct felt like he was stealing them from me, and I think they were using it as a way to keep up the hope I'd come home one day."

"Ah, I had wondered what was holding them back," he hadn't realised Noctis felt like that though. "And how do you feel about that?" he asked gently.

Pax shrugged slightly. "It's been six years Dad, we've all grown and change, we can't just pick up where we were. It wouldn't be fair on any of us to try."

"Alright, what about your Retinue then? Technically, Iris is next in line as Shield, but she is rather young at the moment."

"There's nine years between us Dad, not really workable for a few years at least."

"Agreed. So what do you want to do?" he wouldn't just pick people for him. It worked alright for young children as they grew together but as an adult, Pax needed to choose people he could work and live around.

"I'm not really sure. I knew some of the Glaive a little, but it's been a while. Same with some of the Guard."

"The Glaive have more use of my magic and are combat tested beyond the Guard now as they have become the main military force outside of the city. Maybe if you watch some training, see who works well together within both groups, and then work with them. If we could alter your appearance a little we could pass you off as a new trainee to both groups," Regis told him and then his son smirked at him.

"I can manage that."

"Do I want to know what you're planning?" Regis asked and Pax suddenly sported shorter, dark brown hair rather than black, his eyes more hazel than green and even shaped a little differently. Regis just stared; his magic couldn't do that!

"The Black family is one of the few that still has Metamorphmagi pop up in it. I can't do much, not compared to Tonks, but it should be enough to throw people off. They're people born with the ability to change their appearance, even become someone totally different in looks. I can't change much but it's enough that most people seeing me will shrug off the resemblance."

"Useful," Regis admitted still shocked. That would be a very useful skill, pity it wasn't one that could be taught.

Pax nodded and the changes vanished, leaving the son he knew. That would take some getting used to but would be a good way to help keep him safe when away from the city. Once Pax had a Retinue, it would be time for him to claim the Royal Arms and changing his appearance would hopefully help keep the Empire off his back. Thankfully, the Arms could be held by more than one person at a time since for the first time in centuries, there would eventually be three of them with access at the same time.

He hated the idea of Pax leaving so soon, but it was tradition to go between nineteen and twenty one. By the time Pax had a Retinue and they had trained together, he'd be closer to twenty one. Noctis wouldn't be happy either with the idea but in a few years it would be his turn. Regis wished the war would be over by then, but he doubted it very much.

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Pax stood in the shadows, the hood of the generic Kingsglaive uniform up to conceal his face as he watched them train. Drautos knew he was there but as far as everyone else was concerned; he was a new recruit. He'd changed his appearance so no one should recognise him and hey, Ulric looked like he could be a Lucis Caelum so his resemblance would hopefully be shrugged off.

He looked over as he was joined, nodding in greeting. "Captain." He'd managed a slight shift to his vocal chords, altering the pitch of his voice slightly and doing his best to lose to the traces of British accent that he'd picked up.

"We won't be going easy on you," the man warned.

"Good," Pax grinned, he didn't want them to go easy on him.

He'd had a spar with Cor and another with Gladio. Against Cor he'd used everything he'd learnt in both worlds. He'd won because of the more versatile nature of Earth magic but in a straight fight, he would have lost. Not surprising, Cor was the Marshal of the Crownsguard, had been his Grandfather's personal bodyguard. He'd limited himself more in the fight against Gladio, the younger male was a lot stronger than him physically, but warping had evened that out a bit. He'd lost that fight, but it had been close.

Against the Glaive? He was looking forward to it, but he knew he was going to get his butt kicked. He could learn a lot from them even if that wasn't the main reason he was there. With their hoods up he couldn't really tell who was who, especially when he hadn't seen any of them in so long.

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Crowe looked over as the Captain walked out with the group of newbies, all in full gear. Hopefully, there were some potential mages in the group, but they'd have to see during the assessment. They had plenty of fighters, they needed more magic specialists, but they were hard to find.

All of them could use the Kings' magic, otherwise they wouldn't be there, but it took more than that to be a mage. Nyx was the best, the magic came to him as easily as breathing, but he didn't have the right mindset for being a mage.

In full gear, it was hard to make out much of the new recruits though she was pretty sure they were all male, a pity, they needed more women in the Glaive. At least they'd get to have fun running them ragged, all in the name of testing them of course.

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Nyx chuckled as he heard one of the recruits losing their breakfast as the collapsed from a warp. Seeing the newbies throw up or plummet to the training ground floor was always amusing.

To his surprise, one of the recruits threw himself off the ledge, throwing his blade into the large rock structure in the middle, warping after it. He reappeared with a hand around the hilt of the blade that was buried in the rock…okay one warp but could he manage the next. There was a pause and then a blade buried itself in the dirt, the recruit appearing over it. They fell to their knees, breathing heavily, but that was it.

Okay, Nyx was impressed. He'd never seen a newbie manage two warps without losing their last meal at least. This one was just tired out. He warped down and clasped the shoulder of their heavy jacket, the recruit raising their head. Ah, the recruit was male from what he could see.

"Deep breaths," he coached, hauling him to his feet and out of the way.

"Thanks," the recruit panted, yep, male.

"No problem." Nyx pressed a water bottle into a gloved hand and moved on.

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With the heavy, covering, uniforms on it was hard for even Titus to keep track of who was who among the recruits, but he was sore the one to make both warps was the Prince. Even though he collapsed to a knee after, apparently worn out, he was sure the Prince was acting so as not to stand out even more. Ulric approached to yank him out of the way and Titus smirked, wondering what the younger man would think if he was told he'd just manhandled the Prince.

The King hadn't told him why the Prince was training with them, but he assumed it was to get him battle ready. He knew the Prince had been kidnapped back then, the story about the Astrals was just that, a story. Whoever had taken him was good, they had scoured the continent, sent teams to Accordo, Tenebrae, and even Niflheim to look for Prince Pax and never found any sign of him. So how had he escaped? Or…had he been let go?

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Pax collapsed on his bed; hair still wet from his shower. He ached! After three days with the Kingsglaive his respect for them had risen even higher. Yes, he had done what he could on Earth to continue his training and he'd been working hard since returning but their training regime was brutal.

He groaned as he heard the beep that was someone wanting to come in who had their own code, but since he was in the rooms they needed his permission to enter. He reached over to press the button beside the bed, and Ignis was soon standing beside the bed with a tray.

"Ignis, you didn't have to…"

"I wanted to," Ignis smiled and set the tray down as Pax sat up. "And Noctis was very sure that he wanted someone to check you're alright."

"Well you can tell him I'm fine, just tired. Is he actually doing his homework or playing games with Prom?" he asked and Ignis chuckled.

"Homework if they know what's good for them."

"So glad I finished school."

"Have you?" Ignis asked and Pax sighed.

"Yeah, I know, I've missed things not taught in Britain. I'm guessing tutors until I'm caught up and then see if I'll be going to university or not."

"Any possibilities for your Retinue yet?" Ignis asked as he moved to clean up what little needed it, but Pax kept his rooms pretty clean and magic made it even easier.

"Maybe, it's only been three days though."

"Well it's not something to rush, you'll find the right people."

"Thanks Iggy," Pax smiled at his old friend. Things still felt a little strange with all of them, but he knew only time would fix that. It didn't help that Noctis lived in an apartment now which left Pax as the only one living in the Citadel. "Ignis?"

"Yes Highness?" Ignis moved back to him.

"How are you all, really?"

Ignis perched on the side of the bed and Pax shifted over to give him more room. "It is a mental adjustment," he admitted. "We are all very happy you're home," he quickly clarified, and Pax nodded, he knew that.

"But part of you thought you'd be taking the Oath to me, not Noctis, despite how things have changed."

Ignis nodded. "I think he is also worried that he has taken your place from you."

"I never wanted to be Crown Prince and it's not like he took you guys from me, we're friends still."

"And nothing will change that."

TBC…