A/N: Re-upload from Pictures of a Colouring Book since it's been scrapped.
The Abandoned Teddy Bear
The image at hand portrays various toys congregated in what seems to be the corner of a room. Part of a small train can be seen to the side, three blocks depicting sequential alphabets are piled up into a precarious tower, and, most importantly, a sad-looking furry plush toy resides at the centre of the masterpiece. Whereas its surroundings are coloured with vibrant hues, the teddy bear appears only to be brown. It is holding onto what looks like a pillow in the form of a symbolic heart; stitched across the middle in careful pencil are the words: "I love you." The heart is left meticulously blank for fear of crayon blurring the intentional message, but, in the end, it is scribbled out by the same pencil that had brought it to life.
As a father, the worst thing one could do was to ignore his own child.
The king and the queen wrote their vows in the lonely clock tower in the middle of the city, promising to hold and support each other in sickness and in health. That lonely clock tower symbolised, at least to them, the undying and continual love that was their relationship, and how they were able to rise up above all others and stand strong for many years to come. Things fell apart after the first issue of the war.
He had been unable to appear present at the birth of his first son due to an emergency meeting with the nations of the Crystal, to so-called "discover a treaty" – how he had fumed upon receiving the damning phone call that had essentially torn his life apart. He did not hear his wife's declaration of their child's namesake, Noctis Lucis Caelum, named after the stars in the night sky. The quiet celebration they had had in honour of the new heir had been cold, distant, for the king had not been there to grant his blessing.
He had been unable to hear his first son utter his first intelligible words that were supposedly, "Mama," a probable plea for more nursing to sate the babe's seemingly insatiable hunger. After a good seventy-two hours sans sleep, the king had simply been attempting to regain some rest before finding out the next day that he had missed such a milestone event. Damnit! Perhaps the next child would call for him first.
His first rejection.
He had been unable to witness his first son's first steps that were allegedly encouraged with the promises of milk and cookies and a warm hug. Rushing out of the meeting room, the king had fumbled about breathlessly for his phone to find that his son's mother had messaged him approximately two hours prior. Two hours prior, when he had been cursing the name of the foolish Oriense leader who had suggested a backdoor deal, two hours prior, his son had already begun his first steps towards independence.
He had been unable to walk his first son to his first day of school, to the imperial academy to where young Noctis had met his first friend, a small, weedy sort of boy toting a dictionary and a pair of glasses. He had been perfectly unaware of his child's relations until he had come home to the living room practically torn apart, his son shrieking with joy while leaping from couch to couch with a cushion in his little paws to hit an older child, big and brawly and roaring with the same enthusiastic laughter. The small, weedy boy was crouched in a corner, holding his own cushion with a terrified look on his face, and the king noted that the boy's glasses were dangling from his ear by one wobbly arm.
True fathers would never even think of leaving their children, no. The worst thing one could do to the king was to accuse him of intentional negligence, of preferring his work over that of his child. By then, there had already appeared a notable rift between King Caelum and Noctis, and it was the goddamn politics that prevented him from doing anything about it. His wife had approached him late one night whilst he was deeply engrossed in post-office work and asked him why he couldn't have taken more time off to see his son grow up.
Perhaps the king should not have reacted in the way he did. Fueled by weariness and coffee, he had risen to his feet to yell at her, slamming his fist into his desk and shouting, inquired of her contemptuously if she was able to step into his shoes and calm all of these idiots who desired their land's prosperity, lead the country back from the beginnings of a cold war, prevent Tenebrae from advancing any further than they could, and come back and have the energy to even stand! Of course the king wanted to be beside the young prince as he grew! Of course the king wanted to witness the life of his firstborn, the heir to his kingdom and the next generation of the Caelum dynasty. How dare she accuse him of ignoring his son, their son, their hope for the future and the light in their lives?
Breathing heavily, he had affixed his wife with a bleary eye as he realised, horrified, what he had done. There was a hasty scuffle beyond the ajar door, undeniable indication of the presence of smallish feet. She said nothing to his outbreak, however, but turned on her heel and strode off.
Three days later, his final ally broke the treaty and the country was engaged in all-out war.
He had missed his son's first violin recital, and subsequent recitals up until his "graduation". He had been unable to console his son when his mother "disappeared", been unable to offer his son consoling words of any sort. Young Noctis did not understand what it had meant at the time, perhaps, that he no longer had a mother. The prince fell into silence, withdrawing from the extroversion he had always prided himself in. The king watched nightly as the boy wandered off into the city, towards the clock tower that stood ever so proudly despite its defunct state, to sit at the balcony and watch the stars, then he realised with a pang what this had all meant.
One night, as Noctis again headed towards the door to leave for the clock tower, the king reached out and rested his hand on his son's shoulder. Without skipping a beat, the prince brushed his father's hand from its position and slipped away.
His second rejection.
With the intensifying war and political heat, it was becoming increasingly difficult to even return home for long periods of time. The king spent many a day abroad, ascertaining the state of the ever-fragile Crystal and within the government building, where he conversed at length with the men he trusted as "allies in the war". By the end of the day, the king was often far too tired to even eat and so trips back home were treated as godsends, opportunities to catch up on sleep.
When he was overseas, he missed Noctis's last recital, his first girlfriend, a tomboyish youth with tousled blond hair, and his graduation. The youth, ever eager to tie up loose ends, had once invited his father to a lunch in celebration of a – of a "Father's Day" of sorts. The king agreed immediately, anxious to catch up with his son and promising to fight through the deadliest waves of soldiers if it meant to see him.
He never showed up, and, with that, he lost even his son's trust and his final chance at reconciliation.
But once, some years after Noctis had begun schooling, the king had the chance to eat breakfast with his son.
The boy was exceedingly impatient, even then, sloshing milk into his bowl of cereal so hard that he spilled nearly half of it right then and there. He had then proceeded to dash off, returning shortly with a roll of paper towels to dab up the mess. The king grinned at the sight – evidently, his mother had taught him well. Enough.
"Hey, Noctis, come here."
Noctis snapped to attention, dropping the roll of paper towels and looking entirely his part of a rabbit caught in headlights. "What is it, Father?" In his defence, the boy rarely had the opportunity to even see the king.
"'Father'? Pshah! You make me sound like a geezer, son, and I've still some good years left in me! You can just call me 'Dad'." The king laughed, patting Noctis on the arm. The boy remained absolutely still. "Come here – Dad has something to show you."
"But I'm not done cleaning up the mess, sir," Noctis protested, looking gloomily at the puddle of milk that was seeping into the tablecloth. The king shook his head.
"Don't worry about it – I have a trick to show you that you might find useful the next time you decide to spill your cereal like that." At this, Noctis flushed a bright pink. "I kid, I kid, haha... Come on, now, out of the way, out of the way..."
Eager to please and still mortified at his mistake, the boy quickly scampered away as the king raised his hand in the direction of the growing stain. Summoning his magic to his fingertips, he swept his arm through the air in a theatrical fashion as he seized the upset bowl with one hand and lifted the milk from the fabric with the other, scooped up the scattered cereal, and ran them in a spiral shape back into the waiting bowl. Noctis's eyes widened at this, evidently awed at this bit of circus trick. At this, the king broke out into rancorous laughter, and, his concentration slipping, the bowl fell back onto the table and splashing even more cereal onto the tablecloth.
"Hahaha! Like father, like son, I see." At this, the king crouched down to pick up the now dampened roll of paper towels to clean up the mess the old-fashioned way. "How's that for a bit of magic, eh? I bet your school doesn't even touch on telekinesis like that."
"That was amazing, Father!" Noctis turned his doe-eyed gaze towards the king, his eyes glistening with excitement as he broke out into a wide grin. "You're so cool!"
Shaking with visible laughter, the king seized the young prince in a playful headlock, tousling the boy's hair while the child squealed delightedly in protest. "That's right, son – your ol' man's pretty cool, isn't he?" he growled, planting a kiss on Noctis's head as the latter tried to wriggle out of his father's grasp. "Now, you're going to grow up and become big and strong, so you can come back and arm wrestle Dad for the throne, alright?"
"Yes, Father!" Noctis threw his arms around the king's middle and gazed up at him with bright eyes. "I promise I'll be just as strong and amazing as you one day!"
Still chortling good-naturedly, the king pressed another whiskery kiss on Noctis's cheek to an embarrassed, "Fa – ther..." "I love you, son," King Caelum said peacefully, ruffling the young prince's hair again. "I'm so proud of you..."
Young Noctis continued to gaze up at him with his enigmatic eyes, his grin unwavering in place, but there was no mistaking that the child was finished speaking.
His final rejection.
That fateful Father's Day, Niflheim broke the fragile treaty of the Crystal and launched a blitz attack on the unwitting kingdom. Soldiers fell like rain from the sky, fire flowers blooming horribly in mid-air. Their own military had arrived almost too late – the king nearly did not make it out alive. One of the soldiers scored a deep gouge along the length of the king's arm that took three of their best healers to simply stitch it up again. After the brief and impromptu battle that had resulted in their kingdom's barest success, King Caelum withdrew his weaponry with a flick of the wrist and dashed off towards their rendezvous point, ignoring the calls of the militia men and the blood still dripping from his uniform.
He burst into the café with his helmet clutched under his arm and his breath ragged with exhaustion. The patrons were stunned into silence; perhaps they were shocked by the sudden apparition of the crazed and bloody man who happened to carry the same visage as their – before it suddenly dawned upon them that this was the king. A tap was hastily wrench closed and there was a soft tinkling of glass as someone set down their cup. The king glanced about the establishment, trying to regain his breath as he searched for his son.
But it was too late.
He had already lost his son.