“Noct, listen to me. Whatever it is you think you’re doing, you need to stop and think it over. You can’t know what will happen if you-”
Noct deletes the voicemail with the swipe of his thumb, staring at all the missed calls and messages on his phone, before locking it. He stares at his shaky reflection on his screen, the way his face trembles because his hands can’t get a secure enough grip on his damn phone.
It lights up again, Ignis’s name showing up for the third time. He declines the call, pocketing his phone in his back pocket as he leans back against the wall of the elevator. Leave it to Ignis to have a ‘Noct is doing what I told him not to do’ sense – unless Luna already told him, which wouldn’t be surprising. He feels a little shitty for leaving her there by herself when she’d come all this way to see him.
There’s a gentle vibration beneath is feet as the elevator slowly descends, time seeming to tick by slowly. He takes a deep breath, in and out, and it helps a little. His phone vibrates in his pocket again, but he ignores it, eyes fixed on the slowly descending numbers of the elevator.
There’s still that rush of adrenaline in his veins, that silly, petty eagerness to do exactly what Ignis told him not to do, and to do something about the current situation that he had found himself in earlier – having himself a little pity party and worrying himself sick over what-ifs. What if Prompto is in danger. What if he’s scared, alone, or hurt. What if the police don’t get there in time –
What if I don’t get to tell him how I really feel?
The elevator jolts, knocking Noct out of his daze. He shakes his head, running a hand through his hair briefly, swallowing thickly. His heart is hammering against his chest from what’s to come, from the thought of what he’s about to do, and he feels motivated – yet, his mouth is becoming incredibly dry.
The adrenaline is starting to wear thin, reality settling in the pit of his stomach. He’s really about to do this, isn’t he? His lower back throbs in response, radiating down and wrapping around his hip, and he shifts, sighing. All this stressing over everything that’s been going on, of course his old injuries flare up. Always at the most inopportune moments.
The elevator slows down to a halt then, a faint ding signaling that he’s gotten to the ground level. The doors open with a quiet whirring, and he shoves his hand into his pocket as he crosses the threshold.
The garage is strangely empty at this time of night…or day, whatever, and he’s alone with his thoughts, which is another thing he can add to his steadily increasing list of first world problems. He spends way too much time in his own head.
His fingers brush against something large in his pocket, attached to his keys, and it makes his heart flip. That tacky fish that Prompto had probably gotten for 25 cents or something – a piece of junk.
“I know it’s just a piece of junk, but it reminded me of you – not that you’re a piece of junk or anything! Just ah, y’know, I know you like to fish and stuff.”
His heart thumps almost sadly at the memory, at the echo in his ears of that voice, but there’s a little grin on his lips. Distantly, he wonders how Prompto would’ve reacted if he’d said what he was really thinking at that moment – that he was really glad Prompto was the way he was. But that would’ve been too embarrassing – fuck. Talk about first world problems.
He’s still walking with his eyes on the ground, not really paying attention to his surroundings. So he doesn’t see who’s leaning against the hood of his car, arms crossed and foot tapping incessantly against the concrete. Not until they call out to him and he nearly jumps right out of his skin.
“Took you long enough!”
His hand is clenched around the keychain in his pocket as he jerks his head up in alarm – it’s Cor. Noct relaxes, the adrenaline fading once more, and he furrows his eyebrows in confusion.
“Cor?” He asks, slightly out of breath, and Cor stands up, facing him fully with his arms still crossed. There’s an unreadable expression on his face, and Noct swallows. “What are you doing here?”
“Waiting on you.”
“Me?” Noct frowns – hadn’t Gladio told him earlier that Cor had gone to talk to that friend of his at the police station? Suddenly, his phone vibrates in his pocket again, and he glances down at it after twirling around and tilting the screen to face him. It’s Ignis again, and suddenly all the pieces are fitting together – of course. Ignis had sent back up to stop him.
Cor’s expression remains unreadable, but his hands are twitching into fists near his sides, almost impatiently. “So are we doing this or not?”
Noct sighs, resisting the urge to grit his teeth in annoyance. He can already picture Cor dragging his sorry ass back up to his apartment. “Cor, look, I’m sorry. I can’t just sit here and do nothing, alright? I have to do something, and if you try to stop me-”
“Stop you?” Cor interrupts, a short bitter chuckle escaping him, and Noct pauses for a good five seconds, confused.
“Uh…yeah? Isn’t that why you’re here?”
“Of course not.”
“Ignis didn’t – I mean didn’t he tell you to-?”
“To wait and let the police do this? Yeah, he did, and I know he’s trying to be responsible about it. Especially because of the tension between the companies already.” Cor’s face shifts, eyes hardening. “But I don’t have any more room left in my life for regret.”
Noct is taken aback at that response. Mostly because he’d thought that Cor would’ve agreed with Ignis; but it’s like Cor is thinking the same thing he is. That they don’t know what could happen if they sit around and wait. So, that means Cor was probably thinking that Noct would want to do the same, and he’s been waiting so they could go together. Honestly he’s lucky that Cor is even still here.
He must’ve been silent for too long, because then Cor is shifting impatiently, mouth still set in stone. “You want to do this, don’t you?”
Noct looks up so fast that he’s surprised his neck is still attached to his head, and he takes a steady step forward. “Yes.”
“Alright then,” Cor nods firmly, jerking his head back towards the sleek black car next to them. “Let’s go. We don’t have time to sit around and wonder about what-ifs.”
Noct doesn’t hesitate, nodding, and taking his keys out his pocket to unlock the door, sliding into the driver’s seat while Cor sits beside him. The engine purrs to life softly, and they make their way out of the parking garage.
There’s something familiar about this, he thinks, as he drives aimlessly down the road. The sky is dark and ominous looking, a breeze filtering through the almost bare trees, and there’s a curl of nausea in his gut as his hands tighten against the wheel. He shakes his head; he’s just nervous.
A few minutes pass of silence – or maybe more, he’s not really sure, between him and Cor. The expression on Cor’s face from the corner of his eye hasn’t changed since they left, and honestly Noct doesn’t know what the hell to say at this point. Maybe he shouldn’t say something along the lines of ‘hey, so…sorry about lying to you for over a month, we good’? because that would most definitely not end well for him.
But of course, things haven’t really worked out in his favor recently, and he opens his big mouth during the worst possible moment – but maybe, it’s not merely an apology, but more of a reminder for him that he and Prompto aren’t the only ones who are going through this.
“I’m sorry,” He says, and his voice is tiny, but Cor must be looking at him because there’s a tingling sensation on the back of his neck. “for everything. For it coming down to this. This is the absolute last way I wanted things to end, this is all my -”
“Noctis,” Cor interrupts, and Noct pauses. “you care about Prompto, right?”
A blush erupts across Noct’s face, unprepared for that question and the rush of the heat against his skin. It’s suddenly very difficult to admit it, in front of Cor of all people, but he nods, albeit jerkily.
Cor inhales, and Noct’s surprised to hear that it sounds slightly shaky. “Good. Then it’s fine.”
“…It’s fine? Just like that?”
“You really want to know what I want to say?”
Noct’s breath hitches. That sounds incredibly ominous. “Uh…”
“I’d rather not. Now now, at least,” Cor continues in his deep voice, and soon the gangly branches of the trees around them start to look like they won’t ever stop as they continue down the dark road, past civilization. They’re getting closer. “because we have more important things to worry about.”
There’s a silence between them again. For a moment, he wants to argue, because he wants to be yelled at, called an idiot, to be discredited for the chaos he’s created – but maybe this time he should really keep quiet.
More silence stretches on, until eventually, it’s obvious that they’re out of the city limits. Noct looks in his mirror, noticing that they’re alone out on this road, and have been for probably the last five miles. That feeling from earlier pushes at him again, and he exhales through his mouth quietly. Just nervous.
Cor speaks again. “You have a plan for what we’re gonna do when we get there?”
That makes his foot twitch a little on the gas pedal. His at-the-time-amazing made up plan he’d had during that boost of confidence earlier is at the forefront of his mind, and it’s not good. Actually, it’s shit. He’d acted rather impulsively, spurred on by Luna’s words at the moment, and he shakes his head.
“Not really. Did really think, just…acted.”
Cor hums thoughtfully. “Had that feeling myself earlier. But it won’t do Prompto any good if we just show up and wing it.”
They really do need to think this through, while they still have the chance. His phone vibrates again near the center console, both of them glancing at it. Cor reaches forward, reading the message on the screen before placing it back carefully.
“Just a message, from Luna. She told you to be careful, and to not expect a warm welcome.” Cor says, shifting in his seat. “That has me thinking. You’re going to inherit Insomnia from you dad one day, right?”
“Yeah,” Noct says, not liking the idea that that day will probably come sooner than he would like it to.
“Niflheim has been trying to gain control for such a long time, everyone there probably knows your face. You’re going to get noticed.”
Noct frowns, still continuing down the dark road. Up ahead, he can barely make out the shape of the colossal brick building somewhat obscured by the bare branches of the trees. Cor’s right though – he probably won’t make it five steps onto the main floor without someone recognizing him. Doesn’t matter, though. The important thing is, is that Prompto isn’t far away.
He shrugs, pressing forward, and the brick building comes more into view, approaching fast. Before he knows it, the building is looming over them as he pulls into the lot, parking off to the side. He shuts off the engine and sits back against the seat. He takes a deep breath, heart hammering against his chest, and a firm hand grasps onto his shoulder. Cor nods, and they move. Noct makes sure to pocket his phone, but not before powering it off.
It’s just the nerves. He’s just nervous, that’s all it is. Noct looks up at the building, noticing how different it looks from the last time he remembers, and shoves his hood over his head. Suspicious looking yeah, but it’ll give them more time than they would’ve had if he just walks in like it’s nothing.
Noct keeps his hood over his head, but keeps his eyes down, and crosses the threshold.
It’s not so bad, at first – he makes it past five steps, then onto six, seven, eight…on the tenth step, he musters up enough courage to peek up from underneath his eyelashes. Everything that happens in the span of the next thirty seconds is all a blur. For a moment, everything seems fine. No one recognizes him. It’s fine.
Then, he sees that same, hidden door behind that pillar that he’d dreamt about earlier, that leads towards the stairwell, and it’s almost like he’s in a daze. All too vividly can he remember what happens next in this nightmare. He looks too closely at it, and his hood angles away from his face.
He’s not sure how long it is until someone yells something that sounds like his name, and his hood is being ripped off of his head. He hears Cor’s voice in his ears, feels his hands shoving him away from him, towards that door. He glances back then, in time to see Cor pitching forward with his fist, and blood drips down his knuckles – what the hell is Cor doing?
“Hurry up! I’ll keep them busy,” Cor shouts, and Noct grits his teeth and turns away, shoving open the door, letting it shut behind him. He can distantly hear more shouting from behind the door, but he looks around, at the stairwell that leads both up and down. Fuck, there’s no way he knows which direction he should go! This building has to be at least over ten stories tall, and he doesn’t have the time to search each and every floor. Fuck it, he heads up.
An alarm super loud and high-pitched sounds a minute later, almost sounding like a fire alarm, nearly has him tripping over a step as he catches himself on the whatever floor he’d managed to get to. Pain radiates up his arms and around his kneecap where he had banged his knee on the edge of the step, before it circles up to his hip. It hurts, but he has to keep going, no matter how badly his body is telling him to stop moving.
He stands again, trying not to make any sound as he takes a step, when suddenly the alarm stops. His ears are still ringing, but at least he can hear his own thoughts again, which is something he never thought he’d actually be happy about.
He exhales shakily, lowering himself onto a step. His heart is racing, and his leg is aching so bad he’s surprised he’s not crying from the pain of it.
Fuck, he didn’t think this through. He’d had no idea Cor was going to fight anyone, and now things have gotten out of hand. He has no idea where Prompto is in this big ass building, everyone knows that he’s here, and now he’s pretty sure he’s damaged some kind of muscle or joint or whatever in his leg, fuck.
A thought crosses his mind for a moment.
He shakes his head, trying to rid that thought from his mind, but it still lingers. Ignis’s voice echoes in his mind, about how Insomnia literally can’t afford to be having a commotion with the Empire right now, that the police should be handling this. Not him. He has no idea what he’s doing.
He bites his lip, swallowing hard, because there’s a little nagging feeling starting to creep up his back. What if…what if Prompto isn’t even here. What if during all this time of sneaking around this stupid place, Prompto has been somewhere else, or even worse, dead somewhere.
Noct shakes his head. Nope, no, not gonna think like that. Prompto is fine, and when he finds him, Prompto will –
Noct scoffs, bitterly. Does Prompto even want him here?
There’s no guarantee that things will go back to the way they were before. The chance that he’ll see Prompto again after everything, the chance that he’ll be able to move on after everything, is seriously against him. The thing is though, that whatever he and Prompto are at this point, he’ll still remember the way they were – and that makes this worth the risk, right?
Noct runs a hand down his face, scowling; when did he become such a sap?
It’s okay though, because it’s the thought that he needed. He stands up, in pain still, but it’s easier to breathe, to see clearly, and he moves to take a step; but he hesitates. He looks up, through the thin shaft of the stairwell, at how high it goes, and how tiny he feels. What are the odds that Prompto is below?
It’s worth a shot, and he turns and starts making his way down, not as fast as before, but still in a hurry.
Eventually, he gets to the floor where he originally came from. At least, he thinks so, but he keeps heading down. The ache has subsided a little, but it’s still apparent in his steps as he limps slightly down the stairs, determined.
He sees it then – a dried patch of blood at the bottom of the stairs, seemingly somewhat fresh, and there’s a good amount of it. Noct stares at it when he finally gets to it, ignoring the ache as he kneels down to look, trying not to imagine the worst. A light catches his eye, and then a door angled open, like someone had ran past it and had forgotten to close it behind them. It may not seem like much, but it’s the first sign of something different from however long he’s been walking around aimlessly, and he takes off towards it.
He finally gets to level ground, stepping past the door and looking around. It looks like an ordinary hallway, with doors on either side of the walls, almost like a hotel; except, the atmosphere feels funny.
Okay, so there was that blood, and then the door – so, that means someone is here, right? Hiding, in one of these rooms. Noct steps towards the first door, pulling it open and closing it with a sigh when he’s met with an empty room. He tries the next, same thing, and he’s getting nervous again. Even if Prompto isn’t down here, someone is hurt, and maybe theyknow where Prompto is.
He turns, staring at the door to his left, and there’s something on the wood. He steps closer, and upon further inspection, realizes that it’s blood. His heart leaps up to his throat. This is it, isn’t it? He’s literally imagined this moment in his head a thousand times since Cor had told him that Prompto was missing. Sure, he doesn’t have a plan, but he needs to do this. Even though there’s still that lace of fear in his gut, images from that nightmare still fresh in his mind – he can’t hesitate, when it comes down to Prompto.
His fingers, slightly trembling, grasp the knob of the door and turn it.
Before he can even pull the door all the way open, something flashes in his peripheral, and he barely has the time to look up before it connects on the juncture between his shoulder and neck. It surprises him so much that he topples over, landing on his back in pain with a grunt. He opens his eyes and looks up in time to see a crowbar heading for his head, and he juts his hand out, quickly.
His eyes dart down and meet violet.
Time seems to stand still, as they stare at each other, Noct staring up, violet eyes staring down at him. They say nothing. But it was the nothing that meant everything, and Noct feels his entire body flood with warmth.
He feels like he should be thinking something really profound right now. Maybe a poem. A sonnet? Something that would explain the rush of emotion that flows through him, but he doesn’t know literature. Instead, he’s still sitting on the ground with his mouth hanging open, gaping like a fish.
“Prompto?” He croaks out, and Prompto blinks at him. A moment passes, and Noct doesn’t know what expression is on his face, but Prompto is looking at him strangely.
“Do…do I know you?”
He hears the words, he really does. They play on repeat in his mind over and over again. They don’t register. They don’t matter. Because Prompto is here in front of him, alive, not dead –
He shoots up off the floor, and before Prompto can even blink, Noct’s got their bodies crushed together. His arms are tightening around Prompto – has he always been so thin? – and he grips his shirt in his hands.
He doesn’t notice how stiff and uncomfortable Prompto is in his arms, doesn’t hear the quick intake of breath – he tightens his grip, fingers nearly clawing at the fabric of Prompto’s shirt. He’s very solid and real against him, fuck, he’s been so worried, out of his fucking mind with guilt, but Prompto’s okay and he’s alive and everything just –
Prompto’s hands grip his shoulders tightly, and he shoves him away. He literally pushes Noct away, away from him, and Noct stumbles, almost loses his footing.
There’s silence between them, save for the rising and falling of Noct’s chest and the air that passes through his lips as he regains his balance. Prompto’s staring at him, not one ounce of recognition on his face, but that expression and the words from earlier fly over Noct’s head, the pieces don’t fit together, because rejection sinks into Noct’s bones and distracts him from literally everything else.
Prompto’s been missing for hours, they haven’t seen or spoken to each other for who knows how many days, but…honestly, what was Noct expecting?
There had been that tiny sliver of hope he had held onto, that things would suddenly…make sense once he got to this point. Instead, he’s left feeling emptier and more confused than he’s ever felt, and the rejection still radiates all through him as Prompto continues to stare at him like’s grown two heads.
He’s not gonna lie – he’d expected relief, or least some version of happiness, to greet him. He’d hoped that his being here would at least quell the fear that Prompto must be feeling after being dragged here against his will. The rejection still stings, and he wonders if he was too bold to assume that Prompto still felt the same.
Noct moves to take a step forward; Prompto takes a step back in response, eyes cautious. “Who are you?”
For some reason, the words suddenly sink in at that moment. He’s not entirely sure why – maybe the way Prompto’s regarding him warily, like doesn’t know what Noct’s going to do. Maybe the way his eyes flicker to the open door Noct had come through, like he’s ready to bolt and leave Noct behind at any second. The words from earlier come rushing back, they hang thick in the air, and he breathes it in. The rejection, although still there, fades into the background.
A thousand emotions filter through him so fast in that moment they almost have him reeling back. He chokes on a strange wheeze that bubbles its way up his throat and out of his mouth; he can feel his lips quirking up into a lopsided grin of disbelief.
“What?” Noct chuckles, tilting his head as if this is all a joke. It has to be a joke, though. It would make sense, it’s the only logical thing his brain is conjuring up. The only way Prompto would forget him is if he’s playing some type of game. Pretending. To get back at Noct, to let him know how much he’s fucked everything up, as if Noct doesn’t already know. “Are you serious, right now?”
Prompto’s eyes trail up and down his body, meeting his eyes again. “Look, dude, I don’t know who you are,” He replies slowly and carefully, like Noct didn’t really understand the first time – and he didn’t. Noct can’t help the insane pressure that suddenly builds behind his eyes in response to the words Prompto mutters so nonchalantly. Like he’s talking to a stranger, and it makes Noct see red.
“This isn’t funny.” His disbelief is starting to get replaced by anger, distress, because this isn’t making any sense. “Do you have any idea how fucking worried I was? How worried all of us were? Cor and I, we-”
“Cor? Cor is here? Why are you with my uncle?”
“Just – stop, alright? I get it!”
There’re words on the tip of his tongue, yet oddly, he can’t help but replay their last conversation in his mind. The arguing, the feelings, that fucking confession- honestly, how did Prompto think Noct was going to deal with that? He doesn’t even know how long he spent agonizing over it, and to make it worse it’s not like Prompto had the decency to tell him before the event. Now he wants to top the fucking cake with this?
That’s the thing though. Prompto didn’t tell him, even after he found out about the past. If anything, Noct probably still wouldn’t know if things hadn’t come to how they did – but Prompto hadn’t even had the choice then. He can only imagine how difficult it was for Prompto to speak up, but he doesn’t know why he can’t get that through his hypocritical mind.
“I really don’t know who you are, dude. You sure you got the right guy?” Prompto’s mouth quirks up into a forced, lopsided grin, as if he’s trying to make light of the situation.
Noct swallows thickly, clenching his jaw – he feels powerless in this moment, and he hates it. Prompto’s still staring at him, probably waiting for an explanation or something, but Noct doesn’t give it. He’s holding onto the closure he needs to give up from the fear that he’s wrong, about everything.
Prompto’s grin fades as time ticks by quietly, clearing his throat nervously as he runs a hand through his hair – only to pull away with a grimace, having brushed against the raised cut near his temple covered with remnants of dried blood.
Noct focuses. There must be a look on his face. Something there that keeps Prompto rooted in his spot as Noct steps forward again, as he reaches out – his thumb dragging across the skin, encrusted with more dried blood that has smeared underneath his eye.
Prompto blinks then, seemingly back to reality, and he grips Noct’s hand to tug it away as his face contorts into confusion and annoyance from Noct getting too close to him, when they share a look. It’s somewhat familiar, tugs on Noct’s heartstrings. It helps to clear the fog away and let the logical part of his brain help him see that this is most certainly not a fucking joke.
Distantly, he wonders if he’s being dramatic. There are probably better times and places to be thinking about things like this. He waits for more emotion to rush through him from the revelation written all over the blonde’s face, from the bruises on his arms, that puddle of blood at the bottom of the stairs - but nothing happens. Prompto’s literally standing in front of him with obvious signs of some sort of memory loss, and Noct can’t feel a thing. This shouldn’t have happened.
Prompto breaks eye contact, dropping Noct’s hand and swallowing. “Look, I’m sorry, but I think you have the wrong person.”
Noct doesn’t know what to do. He feels pitied, he feels guilt for not being more upset. The saying ‘things couldn’t get any worse’ suddenly feels like an understatement. His heart is hammering against his chest, faster than it’s ever gone before.
Prompto is biting at his lip. “I’m sure you’ll find who you’re looking for soon. But, uh, for now…do you have your phone on you? Does anyone know you’re here?”
Noct doesn’t even bother to say that he’s sure as hell has found who he’s looking for, because suddenly his phone is dead weight in his pocket. It’s enough to distract him a little bit, the idea that they’ll both be out of this shithole soon – and in the recesses of his mind, the idea that Prompto will remember once everything is…not like this.
He fishes it out after clearing his mind a little, powering it on, and he can hear Prompto’s subtle breath of relief. It doesn’t last long however, because suddenly sound echoes down the stairwell, past the door and into the hallway where the two of them have been arguing out in the open like two idiots.
The sound is unrecognizable, yet eerie at the same time. Maybe his heartbeat is way too loud in his ears for him to really listen. Either way, Prompto urges them both into the room across from them, effectively knocking Noct out of his stupor enough for his feet to move and follow. He shuts the door shut behind them, Noct’s phone illuminating their faces and the small, musty dark room they’ve entrapped themselves in.
He must be staring, because Prompto looks away for a moment before opening his mouth to say –
Noct’s phone powers on completely, and his text and voicemail notifications go off, one right after the other like Christmas bells. Noct watches, with a little annoyance, as Ignis’ name pops up across the screen. Luna and Gladio pop up a few times, but it’s Ignis that has really been blowing up his phone.
Finally, the last message sounds, and it’s from three minutes ago. It’s then though, that Noct realizes the time – he’s literally only been together with Prompto for six minutes. It had felt like forever, especially after…everything, and he’s still numb, in a way. He wonders what’s happened in the span of those minutes.
Obviously not much, since they’re both in this broom closet. But no matter how much he knows Ignis will likely scream at him for being an idiot, he needs to let him know what’s going on – he owes him that much, after everything Ignis has done for him. And if he calls anyone else, he knows Ignis will probably make him eat carrots for the rest of his life.
He taps Ignis’ name and holds it up to his ear. Ignis picks up on the first ring.
“Noctis!” Ignis voice screeches in his ear, and Noct pulls back quickly, grimacing. Ignis continues, his voice slightly shaky, his breathing shallow – he must be walking somewhere, and fast. Probably on his way to get Noct’s sorry butt, but this time, Noct is incredibly relieved about that. “Why the bloody hell haven’t you been answering? Do you have any idea how worried we’ve all been about you?”
Suddenly, Gladio’s voice chimes in, slightly muffled but getting louder as he seemingly matches Ignis’ no doubt fast-paced walking. “Is that Noctass?! Noct! You piece of-!”
“Calm down,” Noct interrupts, running a hand down his face, which feels slightly clammy. His voice is…weird. Like it’s lacking emotion. “We’re fine.”
“Are you bloody joking? Do you ever listen?" Ignis groans, irritated. "Why should we calm down when both you and Cor pointedly ignored my-?!”
"It's Prompto, he's here."
Ignis quits talking immediately, his voice breathless. “You…you found him?”
He hears Ignis sigh a breath of relief. Yet, his heart pounds against his chest unsteadily, because Ignis doesn’t know that it’s not all good news.
There’re some shuffling noises, the sound of a car doors slamming shut. Gladio’s voice sounds again, a little less harsh. “Holy shit Noct, you found him? Is he alright?”
“He’s…” Noct swallows, his throat dry. His mind is numb. “He’s, uh-”
“Spit it out. Is he hurt or anything?”
There’s a pause.
“Noct,” Gladio says. His voice is low, cautious – the atmosphere has shifted into something a lot more tense, and he can sense it. “Is Prompto okay?”
“He doesn’t remember.” Noct blurts out, and his breathing picks up.
There’s an even longer pause on the other end of the line. “…He doesn’t remember what? You need to expl-”
“Me,” Noct cuts Gladio off. He’d wanted this to go a lot smoother, explain things better - but it’s hard to say it out loud, harder to try to explain. Because then it makes it true. “He doesn’t remember me.”
Noct can almost see the way Gladio’s face twists in disbelief. He can almost see the way Ignis’ thin eyebrows furrow over his pale, mossy green eyes. He can feel Prompto’s stare burning a hole into the side of his head.
“What?” Gladio says incredulously.
“What happened?” Ignis asks, just as miffed – Noct’s obviously been on speaker this entire time. Both of them heard what he said. Hopefully they won’t make him repeat it.
“I don’t know,” Noct croaks out, and copper erupts on his tongue – and the taste makes his mind whirl. That’s become his answer to everything, hasn’t it?
“…So what? You just found him like that?” Gladio asks, sounding irritated, almost like he doesn’t believe it. Noct doesn’t blame him – he still kinda can’t himself, either.
“Where are you two?” Ignis asks, and his voice sort of tweaks Noct in a weird way. He sounds too calm, too peaceful, like he’s had a lot of time to process this information and has decided he’s perfectly fine with it.
“Some closet.” Noct glances to the side. Prompto’s faint silhouette is there. “I don’t know how far down we are, but we heard something, and the closet seemed safe enough.”
Gladio scoffs. After a moment, Ignis’ voice emits from the phone, careful and wary. “Are you alright, Noct?”
Not really. He hasn’t been for a while now, but he makes a noise of affirmation anyway.
“Sounds to me like bullshit,” Gladio growls suddenly. “If Prompto can’t remember, especially you, then why aren’t you more upset about this after all the shit you pulled?”
“Gladio,” Ignis’ voice is still careful. “Everyone processes these things differently.”
Gladio huffs indignantly. “You’re buying this?”
“I believe Noct is in a state of shock, Gladio.”
Noct silently agrees. Maybe not the type of shock that could kill him, but it’s certainly starting to feel like it at the moment.
Surprisingly, after a moment Gladio sighs dejectedly. “Shit, Noct. I’m sorry, I…it’s just what else can go wrong, y’know?”
He was honestly expecting more of a fight. Especially from Gladio.
“What do we do?” Noct says.
“Stay with him, and don’t throw everything at him at once,” Ignis replies, and Noct can hear the muffled purr of the engine as Ignis turns on the ignition. “When it comes to amnesia, some people can lose their entire lives.”
Well. That’s not helping.
“You think it’s amnesia?” Gladio asks.
“It’s probable. Sometimes amnesia can be caused from traumatic events, when the victim is exposed to overwhelming stress or pressure.”
Sounds about right. If Prompto’s brain has literally forced memories away that he’d rather not remember, forced away memories of Noct, then -
“Yeah, that, or could be from head trauma. Had to learn about that when I went through my training – if the brain is damaged enough, it could cause memory loss.” Gladio pauses. “Is Prompto hurt anywhere, Noct?”
Noct blinks. “There’s blood.”
It's so hard to think. Formulate a response and make his tongue force the words out. This is a terrible feeling. “On his face.”
“I don’t think Noct’s gonna be much help,” Gladio sighs, obviously talking to Ignis. “We need to get over there. Like right now.”
“Indeed.” Ignis agrees. “Noct, the police are already on their way. Gladio and I should be there momentarily.
It’s barely there, but he feels it. The relief that swarms in his chest, because the police are coming, Ignis is coming, soon they’ll both be out of here and Prompto will remember.
Noct nods. “Okay.”
Ignis takes a breath, like he wants to say something else – but he hangs up instead. Noct lets the phone slide from his ear, lets the heaviness of it weigh his hand down. He can hear Prompto shifting uneasily beside him.
“Is…what did they say?”
“They’re going to be here soon. Said the police are-”
The sound of a slamming door startles both of them right out of their skin, Noct nearly dropping his phone and Prompto taking a step back away from the door. They both stand still, but it’s as if whatever made that noise knows that they’re listening, and it’s silent again.
Prompto exhales. “You think…it’s the police?”
“I…” Noct fumbles with his phone, the bright screen casting a shadow over their faces. “I don’t know. Ignis said they’re on the way.”
“Knowing Ignis, it’s possible that the police are already here, yeah?”
“Yeah. He probably called as soon as I..." The words trail off his tongue, the rest of the sentence being forgotten as the weight of Prompto's words dawn on him heavily.
Prompto looks confused. “What?”
“You…you remember Ignis?”
Prompto blinks, the realization registering on his face. His eyes take on some sort of weird look, like he’s trying to figure it out himself, and Noct can’t tell what kind of expression is on his own face.
“But not me.”
Prompto bites his bottom lip. “…No. I’m sorry, dude.”
Before Noct can think about having another episode of an existential crisis, another door is slamming – harder than before. In a way, it’s almost like it’s mocking them, and it’s getting closer. There’s a funny feeling in Noct’s gut, but they literally don’t have time for this.
Prompto looks towards the door, then back at Noct, his mouth twisted into a grimace. “C’mon. It’s probably the cops, right?”
“Ah, yeah. Probably.”
Prompto pulls open the door slowly, the wood hissing in protest, and peeks his head out. He checks both ways, and then angles his head back a little at Noct, nodding. He steps out of the room, and Noct can only follow him out.
Seeing him underneath the iridescent light fixtures, Noct can see the blossoming bruises near his elbows and shoulders, the way his blonde hair has dried near the side of his face with blood. Noct doesn’t know what to think – was Prompto’s amnesia from getting hurt or from some kind of ‘traumatic event’? Or both?
Another thought passes through his mind at that moment. One so…indescribable that he can’t even put it into words in his own head. Not that he’d want to, anyway, but he shoves it aside to notice Prompto hesitating near the steps. Noct walks through the threshold of the heavy door that leads to stairwell to stand beside him.
Prompto glances over at him quickly, the air thick and tangible between them, and he clears his throat awkwardly as he stares at the stairs. “I couldn’t tell which way the sound was coming from.”
Noct blinks, trying to remember. “I came from up there. They’re probably on the main floor.” He points to the ascending steps, before letting his arm swing back down and into his sweatshirt pocket. His phone feels ridiculously heavy in his jeans pocket, but he starts for the stairs, noticing Prompto follow him from his peripheral unwillingly.
The only sound between them is the light tapping of their shoes against the concrete. Noct’s constantly straining his ears every second to make sure there are a second pair of footsteps behind him – and there are, but he wishes they were closer. He misses when he used to be free to just, reach his hand out for his and join their hands together. Even if Prompto thought Noct did it for show. He wonders what Prompto would say now if he were to reach out and show him how their hands fit together like two puzzle pieces.
“Were we like…together?”
Prompto’s voice echoes off the walls, bouncing right into Noct’s eardrums, and he nearly misses the next step. He clears his throat. “…Not really.”
“But you wanted us to be.”
Noct stops then, before turning around to stare into pools of violet. For a moment, the two of them just look at each other. There are so many unspoken words between them that won’t ever be said. Unspoken words that Prompto can’t even remember he wanted to say, unspoken words that Noct never thought he could force between his lips.
The distance between them isn’t much – both have subconsciously closed the distance between them, Prompto slowly taking a step up and Noct a step down, so their words won’t echo or be overheard and to protect themselves against the weird draft that’s blowing silently – but it somehow feels like they’re miles apart.
He must be taking too long to answer, because Prompto reaches up to rub at the back of his neck awkwardly, and the motion reminds Noct so much of how much simpler things were before. Prompto chuckles softly.
“Uh, sorry. You don’t have to answer that.”
Noct wants to answer it. That's the problem. So why can't he fucking admit it?
Prompto starts walking again, up the stairs and past Noct. Probably to the head to the next floor. But when Prompto walks past him, in that instant, some kind of force takes over, and Noct’s hand shoots out.
His hand grabs at Prompto’s thin wrist, yanking him back towards him. He’s not particularly sure what he was going for, and he obviously didn’t think it through, because Prompto’s angling his body away so that they don’t crash into each other when his foot slips off the step. Noct’s fingers grip his wrist tighter as Prompto’s weight has him following Prompto down the stairs – and he feels his arm dislocate from his shoulder.
They crash together at the bottom in a heap, the sound filled with groans and whimpers of pain. Prompto groans again, rubbing at his side where the stairs had dug into his ribs. Noct on the other hand, is trying not to pass out from the rush of pain that erupts from his shoulder, and his breathing is shallow as he lies there, his arm limp and throbbing beside him.
Prompto looks over at him then, his eyes widening as he takes in Noct’s crumpled form beside him, and he leans over him in a panic. His hands hover over his body, unsure, and Noct hates that he's so reluctant to touch him. “Holy shit man, are you okay? …Noctis?”
Noct whimpers through his teeth, his vision starting to blur around the edges and around Prompto’s heart shaped face. Hearing his full name come from Prompto’s lips somehow hurts worse than his fucking shoulder, because Prompto’s never called him that. He must’ve heard it when Ignis shouted it through the phone.
Prompto opens his mouth to say something else, but then the door at the top of the stairs slams open, and footsteps head towards them. Noct can’t bring himself to look, because it’s gotta be the police, right? They’ll help him, both of them, get them out of here, because Noct doesn’t think he can handle anything else-
Except when Prompto’s head shoots up towards the noise, his expression changes into pure terror. He shuffles onto his knees, like he’s about to take off running and leave Noct there, but he hesitates when Noct emits another pained whimper. The footsteps loom closer, and Noct’s eyes slide over to the sound.
The barrel of a gun is the first thing he sees, but it doesn’t really process that it could be the last thing he ever sees. Next, narrow, amber eyes beneath a head of burgundy hair – and that’s enough for him.
The gun tilts in an upwards motion.
“Up, gentleman. Both of you.” Ardyn commands, and Prompto immediately rises to his feet, his hands clenched into fists at his sides. “Ah, Prompto. I wondered where you had run off to!”
Prompto doesn’t answer, but his fists are starting to tremble, and Noct watches the interaction between them. The way Ardyn smirks in response, that jagged wound encrusted with dried blood on the side of Prompto’s head, and the poor job someone did of cleaning that rusty blood off the side of the gun that Ardyn holds.
It all clicks into place, and in that moment Ardyn’s eyes dart down to Noct, and he smirks. “Don’t think I don’t see you down there, Noctis. C’mon, let’s get a move on.”
Everything in Noct’s body is screaming as he sits up, for him to lay back down and just suffer, but the gleam of that gun and the revelation that Ardyn is why Prompto can’t fucking remember, gives him enough motivation to get up and sway on his two feet. Suddenly everything else - his back, his hip, his knee, his heart - all the pain fizzles away and focuses on his shoulder where his bones rub together.
Prompto meets his eyes, and there’s still that look in his eyes that says, ‘I don’t know who the hell you are’, but Noct grabs his hand with his uninjured arm anyway, breathing unsteadily. Their hands close together and fit just like two puzzle pieces, just like Noct knew they would, and Prompto looks down at them. He doesn’t pull away.
Ardyn’s smirk turns into a smile at the two of them, and he takes a step back, extending his arm out as if he’s showing a brand-new convertible they’ve just won on a gameshow, and Noct wants to throw up.