Author's note: Posting this to gauge interest. I've got a couple more chapters written that I'll post regardless. I'm approaching this fic as a way to explore Cloud's reactions to the world of XV.

When Cor Leonis sneaks out of Niflheim with evidence of the Empire's new research project, he takes as much of it as he and his team can carry. Not only the observational notes and the reports, but also... the babies. Each member of the team is tasked with their care during the long road back to Insomnia.

Of the six blond babies they start with, only three make it to Insomnia. Not through any negligence of the people caring for them, their little hearts simply stopped beating, one after the other. Of the three that arrive in Insomnia, one dies during the tests the doctors and scientists subject it to. They speculate that being within the Crystal's influence harms the child, and that this leads to it quickly fading away. But it is merely prejudiced speculation with no supporting evidence.

With only two of the experimental babies left, and after carefully considering the information in the recovered notes, it is determined that they will both be put up for adoption. One child, according to the notes, was part of a small number of 'control specimens' and had undergone very few modifications. With nothing more to be gained from studying the child, it is put up for adoption and given a normal life as an Insomnian citizen.

The other however... the King's people aren't sure what to make of it. All that can be said for sure is that it has quicker reaction times than that of a normal baby of the same age. Something had been done to change it but the stolen notes lacked a detailed explanation. Whatever Niflheim had been trying to achieve with the cloned babies, this one appeared to be a success. Further study and monitoring was required. And so the last child was adopted by a servant of the noble Amicitia family.

The first child goes to public school and lives with no knowledge of his history, save for the strange barcode on his wrist he is told to hide.

The second is home schooled for most of his life, with regular check ups with the palace doctors and an individual of the Crownsguard. His barcode is only hidden when he goes out in public.

The two clones are never told about each other.

At fourteen, one year before the recommended age, the second boy begins to train with the Crownsguard. While there, his aptitude for swords stuns his teachers. Though he lacks the strength of his older peers, his quick mind picks up the techniques faster than normal. Some whisper it is unnatural. By the time he reaches 16, he feels he's learned all he can from the people around him, only showing enthusiasm when masters of the blade, especially Cor the Immortal, are around to beat him in spars.

All it takes is one accidental witnessing of the Kingsglaive training to change his life forever.

He's heard of them of course. And seen them around the palace. But watching them warp and fight and bend the elements to their will lights a fire inside of him. He wants that. He needs that.

After much begging and pleading, his guardian and his supervisor both agree to take him before the King. But first he is forced to undergo invasive tests the likes of which he hasn't experienced since he was a child. The King's scientific advisors aren't sure if it is wise to expose him to the crystal. There is still a chance the changes made to him as a baby could manifest themselves.

They don't tell him the reason for the tests of course. He sees it as yet more proof that there is something inherent in him that is unworthy. He despairs that he'll never be given the chance.

But then... But then he is cleared to meet the King. For the front lines were in desperate need of more fighters and King Regis couldn't afford to reject those who showed an affinity for the crystal's magic.

He doesn't know this. He has some vague dream of being recognized as a hero. Thinking that if he becomes a leading fighter in the war effort, then- surely then, they'd have to recognize him.

MT number: 05953237, just three numbers off from his clone twin Prompto, kneels before the King of Lucis and says his vows. The King accepts him, and places his ringed hand on the blond's shoulder, beginning the ritual to tie him to the King's magic and, by extension, the Crystal's.

Crocus, ward of the Amicitia, so named in the ancient tradition of his adoptive family, bows his head and closes his eyes.

When he reopens them, Cloud Strife manages a quick glance around the room and a soft "Planet-damn it," before he faints on the throne room floor.