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You have: seven new messages.

"Hey son, it's your old man, here. I'm just calling to ask if you needed anything - it hasn't been long since you moved into that old shitty place, and I was thinking that by now it must've-"

*delete*

"Prompto, why aren't you answering your phone? I know it's in your hand 24/7, so there's no reason that I should be going to voicemail - you know I haven't gotten the hang of texting yet-"

*delete*

"Hey boyo, it's me. I've been thinking. Maybe you moving out wasn't such a good idea. I know you're not a teenager anymore, but you're still in your early twenties, and kids that age are still-"

*delete*

Prompto clicks off his phone, shoving it into his back pocket and proceeding to roll over and smother his face into his flat, weirdly shaped pillow. The cheap mattress springs squeak as his wiggles around, trying to get comfortable, but it's almost impossible with the bed being so cheap. Maybe getting this bed at a garage sale wasn't the best idea. Even if it did seem like a good deal at the time.

His phone vibrates in his pocket, and he reaches back to pull it out, blinking blearily at the screen. He groans when he reads the screen. Just another stupid email about his rent being late. Like he doesn't already know that. 

Don't landlords have anything else to do other than send stupid emails? Especially since this landlord is being extra shitty by deciding to increase the rent by three hundred bucks - three hundred bucks Prompto does not have and does not want to ask his uncle for.

He rubs a hand over his face before rolling onto his back and staring at the cracked ceiling that looks like it's about to cave in any second. Honestly at this point, he hopes that it does. 

Life isn't going as great as he hoped it would when he had decided to bypass college and go straight into photography, going after some 'dream' that he's had ever since he was a pudgy loser in the fifth grade. If he'd known that he would be living in some shitty apartment with some shitty job that can barely help his pay his rent, then maybe he would've considered going into debt at university. At least he would've been in debt with a decent place to live.

Taking a black and white photo of a lawn chair won’t pay the bills, Prompto. Get your head out of your ass and make an adult decision.

Well, shit. Maybe he should've listened.

It had taken a lot of begging and pleading for his uncle to finally relent and let him get a place of his own. His uncle had put down the deposit, helped Prompto gather a few things, stayed a while, and then went on his way. Prompto couldn't help but notice the way his uncle kept looking back over his shoulder at him, like he didn't want to leave Prompto in this shithole apartment.

Then came the phone calls. They weren’t everyday or anything crazy. Just enough to get on Prompto’s nerves.

It was always something - asking about his rent, asking about his job, asking if he was sure that he really wanted to live on his own - after a while, Prompto quit answering.

He gets it, he really does. His uncle is the only family he has left. Sometimes he wants to pick up the phone and call him up too if he didn't think that his uncle would grill his ass about his life choices.

His phone vibrates again, the email notification popping back up again like a notification usually does when you don't open it after two minutes.

Fuck. He has no idea what to do next. He can't afford to pay three hundred dollars more for rent per month - especially when the apartment isn't even worth the extra amount - and he sure as hell does not want to go back to crash at his uncle's house.

He grabs his phone again, swiping past the email and tapping on the search engine app as he holds his phone above his face. 'What should I do if I don’t have my shit together and how do I fool people into thinking that I do?’

Prompto stares blankly into his phone that he holds above his face, biting his lip as he scans the links. This is a terrible idea. Has he really stooped so low?

His phone suddenly slips from his fingers, the bulky corner of the old, worn out phone case smacking right onto his face and onto his nose. Pain erupts across the bridge of his nose, and for a second he considers just laying there and suffering. Serves him right for googling how to get his life together with one of those clunky, 5 year old phone models above his face because he can't afford any of the new shit that has come out.

His nose throbs, and he feels the tiny trickle of what feels like blood, so he groans and he gets up off his sorry ass to assess the damage.

A pretty noticeable nick to his nose that’s starting to turn red around the edges stares back at him; he winces as he pokes at it and swipes away the little bead of blood. He applies some ointment to it anyway, and flips off the light and climbs back into bed, kicking at the boxes in the corner as he passes by.

He wriggles around until he’s comfortable, and picks up his phone to continue his little pity party, when he notices a page loading that he doesn’t remember looking at. Huh, he must’ve accidentally clicked the link when he dropped this cinderblock on his face – his nose throbs painfully in response.

When the link finally loads, Prompto raises his eyebrows in surprise. Apparently, there’s some event going on near the beach, at Galdin Quay, and tomorrow is the last day. It’s cliff-diving, something he’s never done before. He scrolls through the rest of the page, and his jaw nearly drops to the floor at the entry fee –  yup, way more numbers that he currently has in his bank account.

His phone suddenly vibrates again, his uncle's name flashing across the screen, and he takes a deep breath before he swipes and accepts the call. He should probably answer some of his uncle's calls before the man shows up at his porch.

“Hi Uncle Cor." He clears his dry throat a little.

“Hey son." Prompto can hear the television in the background, the telltale tune of the I Love Lucy show that his uncle takes to watching over and over again. He suddenly really misses him at the moment. “How’re things? You and that boy doing okay?”

Prompto swallows. Somewhere among the awkward phone calls between he and his uncle, Prompto might have let it slip out that...he had a boyfriend. Like, a real boyfriend. A person. With skin and bones and everything. 

It had been some last ditch effort to keep up the "nah, I'm doing fine, I'm a real adult, doing adult things!" charade he was currently playing, and it sorta worked for a little while. But suddenly it feels like the world's stupidest idea ever.

His uncle had been surprised, to say the least - not that Prompto had a boyfriend, because they'd crossed that bridge a long time ago. 

He's really glad that he’s alone in his room in the dark and that his uncle can’t see how much he resembles a ripe tomato.

“Heh, uh yeah, we’re doing okay! Don’t worry about us.”

“You sure? You sound kind of…distracted about something,” Cor replies, and Prompto tightens his hold around his phone. His eyes dart over to the boxes that he has packed away in the corner of the room, ready to be moved and settled into a new apartment. Hopefully.  

“W-well uh, actually I was packing.”

“Packing? Where are you going?”

Shit. This isn't going where he wants it to. He tries to get his uncle off the topic, anything to not to get to that point where his uncle is going to ask about his living situation, and his mind flashes to the cliff-diving page that he’d been looking at a few minutes ago.

“C-cliff-diving?”

There’s a pause. “Cliff-diving?”

Prompto should really just come out and say it, that he’s single and he needs a place to crash until he’s back on his feet again, it would really help him out a lot – “Yeah! Sounds fun right?”

“I suppose,” Cor sounds amused. “Maybe I should tag along? It’d be the perfect chance for me to meet this boyfriend of yours, you know the one I haven't even met yet?”

Well, this is it. Prompto is officially screwed, and then in a few days he’ll be screwed and homeless. His opens his mouth to say something, anything, but he stutters when the words finally slip out. “Uh, I-I don’t think that’s a good idea-“

“Of course it’s a good idea, I haven’t seen you in so long,” Cor interrupts, and it’s obvious that he’s playing along. Which is not a good thing. Definitely not a good thing. “Don’t you think?”

“Uh-“

“Then it’s settled. Tomorrow.”

He hangs up, and all Prompto can do is just dramatically roll over onto his bed and scream pathetically into the thin duvet, because tomorrow is going to be one shit day.


Why the hell does the beach look so beautiful on the day that Prompto is supposed to be digging his own grave?

He glares menacingly at the crystal blue waves and the soft sand between his toes. Children are laughing in the water, splashing each other, building sand castles. Families are having picnics, laughing and smiling. A volleyball game is going on the far-left side of the beach.

At least his uncle isn’t here yet. The sun is almost in the center of the sky, meaning it won’t be long until lunchtime. He sighs – he knows that his uncle won’t kill him, but he’ll be very disappointed, and fuck that’s probably worse in his opinion. 

Prompto walks aimlessly through the soft sand, letting the sun’s rays warm his back. He’s not going anywhere in particular, but he’s also not paying attention.

Suddenly, something smacks into the right side of his head, knocking his head to the left and causing him to stumble into the sand as he lets out a cry of surprise. A volleyball is rolling through the sand near his knees, and he glances up to see a group of people staring at him, a net between them. One of them is standing with their arms crossed, smirking.

Rubbing at the throbbing spot above his ear, he’s about to reach for the volleyball that had attacked him when he hears footsteps treading towards him. He looks up, blinking in the harsh sunlight.

“Hey, sorry about that. That’s the second ball I’ve had to replace. Probably shouldn’t have been standing there, huh?”

The voice has a smooth, yet rough edge to it, and honestly that's a point in Prompto's book. He squints, trying to see the person's face, but the sun is making it very difficult right now.

"Uh, yeah. I guess so. Sorry." His face heats up despite the scalding heat of the sunny day as he climbs shakily to his feet. He dusts the sand off his shorts.

"I think I'm right, in this particular situation. You should've been watching where you were going." The voice says, a little condescendingly, and Prompto feels a snark remark right on the tip of his tongue in response.

Okay, so maybe this dude was right on some level, because he should've been watching where he was going, but the guy didn't have to be an asshole about it. Prompto wasn’t about to take any shit today.

But then he looks up, and their eyes meet. Violet eyes meet azure. Suddenly, the crashing of the waves, the laughter of the children, and the squawks of the seagulls as they fight over a french fry in the sand - all of that fades away.

The guy in front of him is...incredibly handsome. His hair, spiked and mussed from the breeze, is so black that it almost looks blue. A few strands rest above his eyes. His body is somewhat pale, despite the heat of the day.

Prompto can't describe the look in his eyes. They stare at each other for a few seconds more, before the other guy blinks, crossing his arms and smirking. 

The smirk, looking so good on his face, catches Prompto off guard, and he blushes even further. The guy cocks a hip, and for some reason, the mood shifts.

Suddenly Prompto feels like a fourteen year old freshman girl being hit on by a senior in high school. This guy knows that he looks good, and is amused at Prompto's obvious fluster.

Prompto scoffs, kicking the volleyball towards the guy so that it taps at his bare feet and settles down in the sand.

“Maybe you should learn how to handle your balls dude." His heart leaps in victory at the stunned expression that flashes across the guy’s face for a split second. He notices movement behind him, and two figures are standing by the volleyball net, as if they're waiting for this guy to get the ball so they can finish playing.

One of them has dirty blonde spiky hair with glasses that look like they turn into sunglasses outside, wearing swim trunks and a white t-shirt. The other has sunglasses on as well, with dark hair that reaches his shoulders and a tight, long sleeve black shirt that seems like it was meant for surfing. He's wearing swim trunks, as well. Prompto doesn't know why he's studying them so much.

The guy in front of him suddenly composes himself quickly, lets his face returns back to its cocky smirk, before he shifts onto his other hip. “By the look you just gave me a few minutes ago, it looks like you’d rather do it yourself."

Prompto feels his heart leap up into his throat, and he opens his mouth weakly to protest - 

“Attention! All cliff-diving participants, please make your way towards the checkpoint!” A voice echoes across the beach, and Prompto's ears perk up. Cliff-diving. That's what he was here to do, right? Right.

He glances back, noticing a few people heading towards the area where someone with a big megaphone is waving and guiding the guests towards the sign-in area.

When he turns around, the guys eyes are slightly unfocused - and for some reason, it gives Prompto the confidence boost he needs to step froward and reach out, laying a hand on the guys shoulder.

The touch of their skin is somewhat electric, but Prompto shakes it off due to the thought of the heat of the sun beating down on them. He's honestly trying not to freak out, and this confidence boost is wearing off fast.

“I’d better go, I got a cliff to go dive off of, but hey, it was nice meeting you.” He winks, before quickly turning in the sand and jogging away.

He nearly gnaws his lip off as he jogs, his heart racing beneath his tank top as he makes his way towards the checkpoint. His hands are trembling from the adrenaline, and he runs faster, trying to loosen up.

Where had that cockiness come from? He’s never had that sort of confidence in his life, much less in front of a hot guy. He shakes his head, following the group of people up the hill after storing his belongings away in a little storage cubby provided. He's pretty sure there's a line for the entry fee but somehow no one sees him as he makes his way up.

He’s so caught up in his own head that he doesn’t realize how fucking high up he is. When and how the hell did he get here? Why is he doing this? Is he uncle here yet to bury him? He looks down at the coastline, and swallows back the curl of nausea at the sight of the ants down there. But they aren’t ants, they’re people because he’s so high up and-

“Hey buddy! I’m not getting any younger over here!” A few people begin to yell at him, annoyed at his frozen state on the edge of the cliff. He looks behind him, noticing the line that has formed while he was here hyperventilating.

He shakes his head, fuck this, fuck everything –

As he turns around, intent on running past everyone so that they can’t see the rosiness of his cheeks from embarrassment and the tears in his eyes from fear, his bare foot slips on the rocky edge, and before he knows it he’s falling.

Fleetingly, Prompto thinks he’s too young to die; sure he’s joked about death before (unironically), but now that it’s actually happening, he’s terrified.

He can’t muster up the strength to scream, or to even open his eyes, the pressure is so strong. He can’t even maneuver his body into a position that would somewhat allow him not to break his fucking neck. He can feel his neck snap hard against his chest as he outright plows into the water, and he can feel himself sinking.

He closes his eyes.


Water gushes up his throat and out of his mouth, sloshing back onto his face as he struggles to breathe. He feels hands on his shoulders, turning him onto his side, and it helps - more water rushes back up, the puddle growing beneath him as hacks up more salt water. His hands are scrabbling around in panic, clutching at the sand, at his drenched shorts, at the hands still on his shoulders - he shifts, fingers grasping onto forearms and taking deep breaths. 

He blinks, and looks around.

It looks as if the entire beach is surrounding him, staring at him. A few people are even recording, to his utter embarrassment, and he lets his head hang, defeated. 

“So, how fun was that? Wanna do it again?” A voice says, and a few people in the crowd smother a chuckle, and Prompto just wishes for the ground to open and swallow him up.

It’s the same voice, the same gravelly voice that has Prompto’s heart beating into overdrive; timidly, he looks up, and sure enough it’s that hot dude, onyx hair wet and plastered against his face and neck. Water droplets hang from his thick eyelashes, and some even cascade down his chest. A thought passes through his head - is this really the time for the guy to be showing off? Worse, he still has the guys arms in his death grip, and he yanks his hands away, face burning. The guy doesn't seem to care, though.

Once he’s assured everyone that he’s fine, the crowd starts to dissipate. A few linger, but it’s obvious that everyone is starting to go back to what they were doing before. He runs his hand through his hair, which is sopping wet and hanging in his face. He turns to look at the guy tiredly.

Before he can open his mouth to speak, he hears his named being shouted, everyone turning to look as his uncle runs as fast as he can through the sand before landing in a huff beside him.

“Prompto! Are you okay? Why didn’t you wait for me? I didn’t think you would actually do it-“

“I’m okay,” Prompto interrupts. His head is starting to hurt, and he rubs at his temples. “I’m just lucky I washed up on shore, I guess.”

“Washed up on shore?” Prompto almost jumps out of his skin, because he forgot that it wasn’t just him and his uncle here. The guy kneels closer to Prompto’s face, looking into his eyes. “Everyone saw you fall. When you hit the water, you didn’t come up. So I went and got you.”

“You-" Prompto points at him, dumbfounded as the guy smirks back in response. “Saved me? Why would you do that?”

Before he can get a response, his uncle grabs him by the arm roughly. “Prompto, if this was some stunt to prove to me that you actually have a boyfriend, then-”

“No! No, it’s not,” Prompto nearly shouts, because the guy is still sitting next to him, watching their conversation. “I just…wanted to have some fun?” He cracks a smile, trying to lighten the mood. His uncle shakes his head.

“Next time you wanna have some ‘fun’, how about you stay on the ground, huh?”

“Duly noted,” Prompto chuckles, but it turns into a coughing fit. Cor worriedly helps him to his feet, pulling a water bottle from his bag and handing it to him. Then he looks past Prompto’s shoulder. “Thank you for saving my nephew. How can I thank you?”

Prompto looks back unwillingly, because the guy is still standing there. He has a calculated look on his face, and Prompto’s gut drops because he can feel that whatever comes out of this dude’s mouth isn’t gonna be good. He cracks open the water and takes a huge mouthful.

“How about your nephew’s hand in marriage?”

Prompto immediately begins choking, the water going down the wrong pipe and some up his nose. He splutters, hacking and coughing until he’s red in the face. He stares incredulously at the guy, and a look to his right shows the exact same look on his uncle’s face. He turns to him.

“You know him?” he asks, and Prompto tries to answer, but his throat is burning and he goes through another coughing fit.

“Of course he knows me." The guy steps forward to interlace his fingers with Prompto’s. “I’m his boyfriend Noctis, and maybe his fiancé, if you give us your blessing, sir.”

Cor opens his mouth to no doubt ask the same thing Prompto is thinking, but Prompto beats him to it.

“Wait wait wait. Fiancé?! Who the hell-?” He tries to tug his hand away, but the grip tightens.

He looks towards his uncle, flashing him a small smile. “Excuse us.” He tugs hard and leads Noctis into a secluded cave nearby, and snatches his hand away.

“Okay dude-"

"Noctis. You can call me Noct."

Prompto gives him an exasperated look. Is this asshole really interrupting him?

"Noct, whatever," he says, watching the subtle smirk Noct gives him as he cocks his hip. "What the fuck. Why did you say all that-?”

“Pretend.”

Prompto takes a step back. “W-what?”

Noct takes a step forward. “For one month. Please, pretend that we’re married.”

Prompto is completely confused, and he’s staring at this guy he’s known for literally thirty minutes. Thirty minutes! He can’t form a coherent sentence at the firm look in Noct’s eyes, but he manages one word. “Why?”

“You owe me,” Noct replies, simple as that. “I saved your life.”

“That doesn’t mean I have to marry you!”

“Hey, I said pretend.”

“That’s not the point!” Prompto shouts, and he lowers his voice at the curious glances of onlookers. “Why can’t you just ask someone else?”

Noct shrugs, looking away. Obvious that he’s doesn’t want to go into much detail. “I heard what your uncle said. You told him you had a boyfriend, but you really don’t, right? That’s where I come in.”

Prompto had to admit that he kinda-sorta liked the idea of that, but he shakes his head. “No, I can’t do this. I’m already at my wits end here, with my job and my place-“

“You don’t have to worry about that,” Noct interrupts, for the third fucking time. “You move in with me, and you won’t even have to work. It’ll be more believable to other people that way.”

“You’re a stranger.“

“Yeah, I am, but so are you. We both need something from each other, so why not? I'll scratch your back, and you scratch mine.”

Prompto stares at him. His heart is racing, because he can’t believe he is actually considering this. It would be nice to have somewhere to live, and not have to worry about how much money he had to save. Plus, he wouldn’t have to keep hiding from his uncle, making up excuses as to why he couldn’t meet his ‘boyfriend’…

And Noct is really nice to look at.

“So? You pretend to marry me, and I’ll pretend to marry you and give you a place to live for free. You don't want your uncle to find out you lied to him all this time, do you?" Prompto cringes at his words...that would really disappoint and piss off his uncle.

Noct holds his hand out, waiting. Prompto doesn’t move.

Noct rolls his eyes. “C’mon. I mean really, I’m not that bad looking, right?”

No the hell you are not.

Noct reaches forward, gripping Prompto’s hand and shaking it firmly. Prompto gathers his wits, inhaling deeply. It’s better than what his original plan was, right? He's got nothing to lose.

He grips his hand back.

“Well that certainly didn't take as long as I had thought,” Noct grins a lopsided smile, and Prompto scoffs and looks away to hide the heat rising to his cheeks. He shakes off Noct’s hand, and makes a motion with his fingers towards him.

Noct looks confused. “What?”

“Propose to me.”

Noct’s eyebrows shoot up straight to his hairline, and Prompto presses his lips together in amusement. If he was going to go through with this, then he was going to have some fun with it.

“Down on one knee, or I won’t do it, Noct,” he says, and Noct doesn't move for a second. Prompto clicks his tongue at him, and Noct realizes that the blonde actually wants him to kneel in the sand. Grumbling, he does so, and looks up at him with a bored expression. 

“Marry me,” he deadpans, and Prompto frowns.

“Like you mean it.”

Noct, clearly irritated, smiles, though it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. He holds Prompto’s hand delicately.

“Would you please, with whipped cream and a cherry on top, marry me?”

“Hmm…okay,” Prompto grins, and Noct looks away in embarrassment as he retracts his hand. “I don’t appreciate the sarcasm, but I’ll do it.”

Noct stands up, his face serious. “Prompto. There's something else that I need you to do.”

Prompto raises an eyebrow, trying not to dwell on the fact that this is the first time that Noct's said his name aloud because this sounds serious. “Okay?”

“You have to promise not to fall in love with me.”

Prompto blinks, his chest fluttering at the thought, and for a second he can imagine it. Falling in love with this stranger in front of him, going through multiple scenarios together while Prompto learns more and more about this person, finds out he's more than what he seems, and falling for his antics-

Prompto's never been in love before. Never been in a relationship, actually. Noct's staring at him with his pretty blue eyes, his sharp yet soft features, and his hair shifts with the light breeze that passes through. Noct's probably been pined after by a lot of people, been in a few relationships, broken some hearts.

Prompto's never done any of that. So he's pretty sure that he'll never fall for Noct anyway.

He nods, and Noct visibly relaxes. He turns, looking. He finally spots Cor, who's drawing with his toe in the sand. His sunglasses hang over his face, tipping onto his nose. He looks like he's trying really hard not to look at the two of them.

Noct makes his way towards where Cor is still waiting, then pauses to look back at him. 

“Hope it’s not too difficult for ya,” He grins, with that stupid lopsided smile before continuing to walk away. Prompto rolls his eyes, catching up to Noct quickly.

“Oh, it won’t be.”

Chapter Text

“Hey, are you even listening to me?”

Prompto sets the taped box full of a few of his things and sits back on his feet, and lets his head fall between his knees as he breathes heavily. He gives Noct an unimpressed look from the corner of his eye.

“Yes, Noct,” He straightens back up, stretching as he makes his way towards the last of the boxes he has left in his bedroom. “I genuinely care about whatever you have been complaining about for the last half hour.”

It’s the next morning after their little agreement, and he’s cleaning out what little stuff he has left in his tiny apartment. He doesn't have much, but it's enough for him to be sweating off his deodorant. Noct’s not helping or even offered to help in the first place, not to Prompto’s surprise, but he's not sure if he even wants Noct to see what shitty stuff he owns anyway. He’s still in disbelief over the fact that his uncle was happy for him despite never having met with his ‘fiancé’ or ‘husband’ or whatever the fuck he and Noct were supposed to be. Isn’t that how it usually works? Then again, he's never been in a relationship before. Maybe getting all those relationship clichés from those chick flicks isn't the best teacher.

Prompto sighs because he can still see Noct’s dumb smug face perfectly clear in his mind when they exchange numbers later that evening so that they can get to moving Prompto into Noct’s place as soon as possible. That dumb face is standing in the middle of his shabby apartment.

When his phone had rung this morning, Prompto had still been in bed, wondering if it was all a dream..he’s not really going to live with some stranger in exchange for a place to live and to keep up his lie to his uncle...right?

But it’s Noct calling to ask for his address and saying that he’ll be there in thirty minutes, and suddenly the world turns upside down again. Thirty minutes leaves Prompto to choose between a shower or cleaning up a little bit. He picks the shower after he sniffs himself, the smell of saltwater still on his skin from his little fun activity yesterday. He shudders at the memory.

He’s tying a flannel around his waist when he hears three loud knocks on the door, and when he opens it Noct walks in like he owns the place, nose wrinkled. “This is it? You actually live here? By yourself?”

Prompto was already too exhausted to be offended and tunes him out as he gets to packing a few things. Okay, what does he need? Everything is moving so fast.

After about thirty minutes of Prompto shoveling things into boxes, taping them up, and stacking them near the kitchen, Noct’s still standing in the middle of the room. His mouth is still running, and honestly Prompto’s just glad that Noct has found a way to entertain himself.

“I don’t think you are listening to me,” Noct calls out to him now as Prompto disappears into his bedroom. “Communication is important, you know.”

Prompto doesn’t even bother to answer as he leans down to heave the last box into his arms, and he exhales a shallow breath; He knows that he’s agreed to this, but he’s still questioning his decision. Is this really worth it? Should he just call up Cor right now, explain everything to him, and hope that he has the decency to bury him someplace nice?

He shuffles the dark duffle bag he’d packed earlier over his head and behind him, filled with clothes and some necessities that can’t be packed away in boxes, and teeters his way out of the room.

Returning to the living room, he sees that Noct has made his way towards the kitchen, towards the boxes. His heart stutters as he sees Noct’s little fingers opening the flaps to look inside.

“Hey!”

“Whoa, nice,” Noct turns the camera over in his hands experimentally, fingers running over the lens and turning over the viewfinder. His eyebrows shoot up in surprise at the photo of the sunrise that Prompto had taken earlier that morning, but then Prompto yanks the camera from his hands to place it carefully back into the box. “You do photography? You’re pretty good.”

Prompto feels his cheeks heat up, and he runs his hands over the tape of the box multiple times. “Don’t touch my stuff, please. Especially this,” he sighs wistfully, and he sees Noct shift from his peripheral, fumbling with his phone. “This literally costs more than this entire apartment.”

“Yeah, I kinda figured, it’s the only thing that’s clean around here.”

Prompto clenches his teeth in annoyance as he turns around, walking past Noct and poking his head into the other room to check if he had left anything behind. He looks back towards him. “You are such an asshole, you know that?”

Noct smiles, that stupid lopsided smile of his that never fails to make Prompto flustered.

“But I’m your asshole now. Right?”

Prompto blinks slow, unimpressed, and then Noct's phone is vibrating in his pocket.

Noct holds the sleek phone up to his ear, flipping his long dark hair away from his eyes like some kind of movie star. “Specs? You here yet?” There’s a mumbled reply on the other end of the line, and Noct’s face twists. “I don’t wanna do that. Not yet.”

Another mumbled reply.

“I…” Noct pauses as his eyes drift to Prompto’s, and their eyes meet. Then Noct is looking away, and his voice takes on a commanding tone. “I don’t want to tell him yet. I’ll do it when I feel the time is right. That is not up to you to decide.” He hangs up abruptly, rubbing the bridge of his nose. He pockets his phone and looks to Prompto who’s awkwardly shifting from one foot to the other.

“Alright,” He raises his arms above his head to stretch, (as if he actually did any work) the movement causing his shirt to ride up a little, showing off a strip of toned skin that has Prompto’s head spinning. “My advisor is waiting for us outside. You ready?”

Prompto's first thought is who the hell has an advisor besides royalty, but he shakes away the thought, eyes shifting to the small window in the center of the room. Outside, he can see the top of the church that's near the apartment complex, and he'd always thought that it looked like a castle. The white bricks that make up the foundation of the building, the wooden double doors and the stained glass windows sounds like what a castle would be made of, with a prince and everything. That would be the icing on the cake if Noct was a prince. Haha. Ha.

Unless-

"C'mon dude, don't start getting sentimental now. You'll hardly even miss this place soon," Noct shifts onto his hip, and Prompto blinks back to reality.

“Uh, yeah,” Prompto nods, taking one last look around the tiny place. He’ll miss it here, the first place he could call his own. Although he spent a lot of time being stressed as hell and barely getting any sleep, it was his home.

Noct is tapping his foot impatiently, and Prompto gets the point and loops his duffle bag back around his torso and picks up two boxes. Hm, it looks like he'll have to make another trip to get the rest. He turns away, somehow managing to open the door with his hand that’s trapped under the boxes he’s holding. He waits for a second, expecting Noct to at least hold the door open or some shit, but nothing happens. He turns back around to see Noct still standing there, typing away at his phone. “Noct?”

“What?”

Prompto hestitates, before he looks pointedly at the remaining boxes near the two of them. He forces a closed-lip smile on his face, though it feels more like a grimace, and shifts uncomfortably underneath the weight in his arms and around his torso. “Could you grab those for me? Please?”

Noct stares at him for a moment, Prompto trying not to show how his arms are starting to get fatigued, and follows Prompto’s gaze to the remaining boxes. At first, Prompto thinks Noct is going to complain about not wanting to get sweaty or something (not like that would be a bad thing, but whatever), and that he’s going to have to make more than one trip to get all his stuff out of here, but then Noct is moving.

“Here,” He unloops Prompto’s bag from around him and hangs it over himself, before grabbing the boxes from his hands. He jerks his chin to the remaining boxes. “You carry those, I’ll take these.”

Prompto doesn’t move for a second, dumfounded as Noct easily turns out of the room and down the hallway.

He's thankful that he won't have to make another trip up here, but he was not expecting Noct to agree so easily to help. It's weird. Why is it weird? Does he think that Prompto is some sort of weakling?

Well you did slip off that damn cliff yesterday and nearly drown, Prompto thinks, and he nods in agreement. 

But maybe…Noct is just being nice?

Noct is already halfway down the hall, so he hurriedly catches up, scurrying to follow him down the hall as he leaves his tiny apartment. For good? Maybe. He glances back at the direction of the apartment, and bites his lip.

As they walk, Prompto notices Noct shift his grip a few times, and he catches up to him so they’re walking side by side. He reaches a hand out, barely catching the sleeve of Noct’s jacket.

“Listen, I know I don't have a lot of stuff, but let me-”

Noct jerks away from the contact, and his face is tight like he’s in pain somehow. Is he limping? “Shut up.”

Prompto draws his hand back, frowning. “Hey, if you’re doing this just because you think I’m a weakling or something-”

“Just shut up and follow me, Prompto,” Noct interrupts, and walks at a much faster pace. Prompto shakes his head; if he wants to carry all that, then he can go right ahead.

After dropping the key at the front desk, Prompto tags alongside Noct, who is actually limping at this point and Prompto has to bite his tongue to keep from saying something. It must be one of those things he doesn't like to talk about, and Prompto can respect that. They finally get to a sleek, black car that looks ridiculously out of place in this neighborhood. It’s the middle of the afternoon as they unload everything into the trunk that honestly looks like something out of a horror movie, it’s so huge. Prompto’s pretty sure that it can at least fit four bodies. Not that he's counting or anything.

He slides in beside Noct, mesmerized by the smooth and dark interior, before closing the door and buckling in. He tries to get a look at the driver, leaning and trying to see his reflection through the rearview mirror to greet him. But the man must’ve noticed, because he presses a switch and a little barrier comes up, blocking Prompto’s view of him. He’s a little taken aback because that was kind of freaking rude, but then the engine starts up, so he sits back with a huff. He can hardly hear the engine it's so soft, and they pull away from the building.

Prompto watches the complex disappear as they drive down the street, and he fidgets in his seat. Okay. Okay, he's doing this for real. The lengths he'll go for his damn ego.

He fingering over the seatbelt across his chest and a few blonde locks that tickle his neck. He’s nervous. He really hopes he’s not driving to his death or something, because that would really suck.

Prompto leans towards Noct, his voice low like they aren't alone in the backseat of a rich ass car that has a barrier like the limo you see in The Princess Diaries. “Dude...are you…rich or something? Because I think I’m sitting on actual leather here. The real kind. Like I don’t think I’ve ever even seen it in person. I haven't seen a lot of things in person, though- ”

He’s babbling, the way he always does when gets nervous, and he’s rubbing his hand across the material of the seat between the two of them quickly to try and calm his anxiety. And does it smell like rosemary in here or is it just him?

Noct doesn’t answer. Prompto glances at him, and he frowns at what he sees. Noct is leaning back against the leather seat, eyes closed, and eyebrows furrowed as if he’s in pain.

“Are you okay?” He asks, and Noct cracks open his azure eyes to look at him. With Noct looking at him like that, with his onyx hair swept perfectly over his eyelashes and that wistful look on his face, he looks unreal.

“Don't worry about it.”

Prompto tries not to, but it's the kind gesture, the words that Noct had snapped at him earlier, that runs on repeat in his mind. He leans away, his nervous energy starting to bubble up again. Noct taps the space between them.

"Keep talking."

Prompto blinks, but Noct has closed his eyes again. He doesn't have long to ponder on what the heck Noct meant by that as he just lets his mouth run, his stomach bubbling anxiously.

It helps.


Eventually, they make it to their destination, and by that time the sky has grown darker, the sun starting to go down. At first, Prompto thinks that this must be some kind of joke because no way in hell does Noct live here. It looks like some sort of castle or something - it has nothing on that church - the building so tall that it could almost be called a skyscraper, with countless pristine windows, painted an egg shell white and detailed delicately with pieces of gold.

He’s looking up at the magnificent building in awe, wishing that he had his camera as Noct slides out beside him. He’s limping still as he steps out onto the curb, not as bad as before, but it’s obvious that he’s still bothered by it. He shifts to step off the curb onto the street and his foot slides off faster than he wants it to, and it’s on instinct. Prompto swears it’s an instinct.

When Noct stumbles, Prompto’s hands shoot out towards him, gripping him to keep him upright. Noct's movement causes his hand to slide up towards the base of his neck and the other lower, towards the top of his thigh. Noct turns his head, and for a split second, their faces are so close that Prompto can see that Noct’s eyes aren’t just one color; they’re another shade of blue, a hue that he’s never seen before - 

Noct pulls away, and Prompto lets him go, looking at the ground. That was unexpected, really unexpected. Ugh. He's too nice.

When he glances back up, he notices the very light tinge of red on Noct's cheeks as he shuffles to the trunk and attempts to reach for the items inside. Once Prompto realizes what he's trying to do, he pulls away from the car.

“You hurt yourself carrying all these, didn’t you?” He questions, honestly worried, and Noct rolls his eyes at him.

“It’s fine, I can do it.”

“No,” Prompto argues, reaching for the box and clutching it to his chest. “I don’t want you to make it worse.”

Noct’s expression shifts for a moment, before he’s raising an eyebrow at him. “You falling for me already?”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Prompto deadpans, trying to force the expression his face that shows that he’s unimpressed when in reality he’s worried that Noct could fall over any second and break something. “I just don’t want you to be hurt.”

Noct cocks his head to the side. “Why? You literally met me yesterday.”

Prompto sighs, reaching into the trunk to take another box and stack it on top of the one pressed against his chest. “Those types of injuries can ruin your life, you know? Don't make it worse.”

He expects some kind of witty comeback to come from Noct’s mouth, but when he glances at him, his expression is completely unreadable.

Later on, to shut him up, he lets him carry one box while he carries the rest with his duffle bag slung across his torso. He had tried earlier to thank the driver, but Noct stops him and tells him that he can do that later. Prompto is immediately suspicious as he follows him into the lavish entrance and towards the elevators.

When they get in front of the door, Noct takes out a key card, inserting it into the door before pushing it open. Prompto can’t help the gasp that escapes his lips as he takes in the room.

The apartment is ridiculously divine, a word that Prompto has never used in his entire life and probably never will again – has he died and gone to heaven?

The walls are a deep, deep dark color – not just black, but a shade of black that just ties the entire place together, with the wooden floorboards to match. Everything is completely furnished with gold trim, from the sofas, the cabinet doors in the kitchen, the kitchen table, just at least everything in the whole place has some gold. Even the fucking toilet has a ring of gold outlining the base, and Prompto just wants to faint. And is that a black marble tub?!

“Holy shit, Noct,” Prompto’s running his hand along the walls as he walks back into the living area where he’d initially dropped his stuff in the middle of the floor, in complete awe as Noct ignores him and limps to the kitchen to pull out a bottle of ibuprofen and a glass of water from the large fridge. “What the hell do you do for a living? Am I married to a celebrity? Are you a prince or something??"

Noct shakes his head as he forces the pills down his throat, swallowing roughly. “I can’t answer that.”

Prompto pauses - what if Noct really is a celebrity? Or some prince in hiding? Well, that would explain his giant ego, Prompto thinks to himself, but then he shakes his head. That's crazy talk - well honestly it wouldn't be that much of a shock, considering his current situation at the moment.

As he’s running his hand over the black, soft sofa, and looks over at him. He crosses his arms, pursing his lips. “That reminds me,” he says, and he sees Noct’s shoulders stiffen immediately. “You never did tell me why you needed me to pretend for us to be married. I think that’s important for me to know, don’t you think?”

With his shoulders still stiff, Noct holds up two fingers. “You can only ask two questions and not the one you just asked,” Noct leans on the counter, chin in his hands. “Yet. I’ll answer that soon enough.”

Biting his lip in thought, Prompto takes a seat on the sofa, trying not to groan as he sinks onto it. Noct hops up on the counter, pulling out his phone and tapping away at it. “Okay then,” Prompto begins, looking towards Noct as he sits up straight. Might as well get the first question out of the way that bothered him way more than it should have. “Why did you carry those boxes for me?”

“I just felt sorry for you,” Noct replies a little too quickly, his attention still on the phone in his hands. His body language, however, seems different than what he’s trying to convey with his expression. “You looked as if you hadn’t done a single push up in your life.”

"I could've handled it on my own," Prompto scoffs. "Just haven't done anything for a while, but I would have managed."

Noct smirks, still looking down at his phone. “And how long is a while? Years, probably.”

“Weren’t you the one who hurt yourself carrying them?”

Noct freezes for a second before he resumes typing on his phone. “I was in a car accident when I was eight…was in a wheelchair for a while. Just gotta watch it sometimes.”

"Oh, ah, I-I’m sorry, I didn’t know-"

"What the hell were in those boxes anyway?"

Prompto's mind goes to the chocobo related blankets and collectibles that he's collected, his camera, his video games, and his worn out console, all things he couldn't bare to live without. Not the photo of him and his uncle when he was a kid, or the day he graduated high school with honors - nope. He'd dumped all that on his uncle's doorstep the day before. They're just full of his guilty pleasures. Prompto shrugs. "Nothing really."

"Hmm."

After a few minutes of silence, Prompto scratches the back of his neck, and then clears his throat. “Okay then…why me?”

“Why you what?"

"Why'd you pick me?"

“Huh?” Noct’s head jerks up in surprise.

“I mean, honestly you could get anyone you want,” Prompto explains as his eyes lose focus for a second, and he feels a little self-conscious as he’s suddenly extremely aware of the thousands of freckles that adorn his back and shoulders that he hates so much. He tugs at his shirt nervously. 

“Yeah, you’re right,” Noct agrees as he scoots back to sit on the counter and crosses his legs, tilting his head and letting his dark hair fall into his face. He shoots Prompto a sideways glance. “But I don’t want anything out of this; I don’t want it to go from pretend to real.”

“Pretend to-? Like, catching feelings?"

Noct's lips quirk. "Yeah, catching feelings."

"...I guess that's...reasonable." Prompto sort of gets it. He guess he feels the same. Some people just aren't ready for the commitment of a relationship, he guesses. Still though, a thought passes through his head - if Noct had picked someone else to be apart of this whole thing, would they be having the same conversation?

Prompto shakes his head. Why is he even thinking about this? Does he want Noct to-?

"What is it?" 

Prompto blinks, and Noct's looking at him from his position on the counter in the kitchen. His dark hair has titled away from his eyes, and they seem so blue underneath the kitchen light cascading down on him.

"Ah, nothing, just uh..." Prompto looks away, wracking his brain, trying to remember what they were talking about. He tries to shrug it off, maybe toss in a bad joke. "Just... " Why can't his brain make his tongue form the words? His mouth feels dry and full of cotton, and he doesn't know why.

"Why don't I want to catch feelings for you?" Noct asks, and Prompto does a full head to toe blush.

He jerks his head towards Noct, expecting some type of smirk or look of satisfaction on his face, but there isn't. Noct shrugs, snorting as he meets Prompto's eyes.

"Nothing against you, dude. Promise. Just haven't had the best experiences with relationships."

This is the first time Noct has said something genuine and...without some sort of arrogance behind it. He's not used to Noct being so open. Prompto waves his hands vaguely, eyes wide, because things are starting to move fast in a weird type of way that Prompto can't explain.

"I wasn't -"

"I just don't want us to get too close."

Prompto’s first impression of Noct wasn’t a very good one. The cocky attitude, the arrogant look on his face that made Prompto sometimes wanna punch him in the neck. But now that they’re alone - together - Prompto’s not too sure about anything anymore.

“So, this wasn't like, some ulterior motive to ask me on a date or something?” Prompto says suddenly, trying to ease the tension that suddenly filled the room, and Noct looks taken aback as he looks over to him, before he smirks.

“Bet you’d really like that, wouldn’t you?”

Prompto rolls his eyes like he’s exasperated, but the tension has lifted a little. He grins to himself.

Noct leans back on his arms, continuing. “But nah, it’s nothing like that. It’s just that you didn't seem like the clingy type, I guess. That was my impression, after your little comment about my balls.” He chuckles softly.

“Wait,” Prompto holds both his hands up, trying to ignore that cringy memory that pops to the front of his mind. “Did you throw that volleyball at me on purpose, then? To see if I seemed the clingy type?”

“Yup. I literally hit on you.”

Prompto groans, covering his face with both of his hands as Noct laughs at his own joke. “You didn’t have to hit me with a ball dude, you could’ve just talked to me.”

Noct pouts. “But then I wouldn’t have been able to make my pun.”

“...Yeah, that was pretty punny.”

Noct just grimaces at him. “That one was pretty shitty. I’m supposed to be the funny one in this relationship.”

“Say wha-?”

“Anyways, then you fell off that cliff, and well,” Noct interrupts, with a smile on his lips as Prompto immediately shudders at the memory of all those people staring at him. “Things just kinda fell into place for me after that. I had my chance and I took it.”

Prompto grumbles to himself as Noct leaps off the counter, his gait much smoother now, and walks into the living room to sit on the sofa next to Prompto.

“I’ve answered your questions,” He shifts on the cushions, making himself comfortable. “Now you answer one of mine.”

Prompto's mouth goes dry.

“Why did you lie to your uncle that you had a boyfriend?”

Oh. Prompto wasn’t expecting that question, and he exhales shakily as he rubs the back of his neck nervously. “I…just wanted him to be proud of me, I guess.”

Noct’s eyebrows furrow in confusion. “Proud of you for having a boyfriend?”

“Proud of the fact that I could handle my shit,” Prompto explains quietly, and Noct listens intently. “Proud of the fact that I could do the adult thing on my own – paying bills, having a job…responsibilities. The boyfriend thing was just something I thought would make it seem more so.”

Noct hums thoughtfully. “You didn’t have your shit together, did you?”

Prompto sighs, shaking his head. “No. You saw that apartment; I could barely afford it with the shit job that I had, and my landlord decided to raise the rent,” He glances at Noct, with a pathetic grin. “Honestly, if it weren’t for you, I’d probably be homeless right now.”

Noct bites his lip in thought, and Prompto is momentarily distracted at the motion. “I don’t understand that, though. Why didn’t you just tell your uncle the truth? You could’ve avoided this entire thing.”

Noct’s tone is condescending, and he’s looking at him as if it was the most obvious fucking thing to do and he’s the world’s biggest idiot for not figuring it out, and Prompto just grits his teeth in frustration.

“I didn’t want him to be disappointed in me, okay?” He’s not quite yelling, but his voice is definitely louder than before, and Noct’s eyes grow a little wide. “I...I'm an adult. I have to act like one. That means getting a job and being able to provide for myself. I can't...he can't know.”

He can feel his nose prickling annoyingly. He rubs at it, before quietly groaning in pain at the bruised cut adorning the bridge of it. Noct doesn’t say anything for a while, but when he does, his voice is unusually soft.

“I’m not trying to tell you how to handle this, but,” Noct leans back against the couch, resting his arm along the back of it near the wall. “If you don’t tell him the truth, especially after this is all over, sooner or later he’s going to find out and he’s going to be more than disappointed.”

Prompto closes his eyes, running his hand through his hair. “I know.”

It’s quiet between them for a few minutes, before Noct speaks up again.

“So, what are you gonna do then?”

“I dunno.”

"I'm a little worried about my situation, too. I hope we can pull this off."

"Huh?" Prompto asks, glancing his way.

Noct raises his eyebrows. "We're pretending, remember? I'm lying, too."

"...oh yeah."

They both sit in silence for a while, before Noct’s making some weird hand gestures towards Prompto, pointing at him and then back at himself. Prompto stares at him confused.

“Uh?”

“Your hair.”

“My hair?” Prompto’s fingers move against his scalp quickly, but Noct is shaking his head and moving closer. His hand reaches towards him, and he tenses as Noct brushes his fingers through his hair.

“You had something in your hair,” He explains, showing him a piece of white lint, and then flicking it onto the floor. He then pauses, before combing his fingers through Prompto’s blonde locks, and tilts his head. “You know, has anyone ever told you that your hair looks like a chocobo butt?”

Prompto grabs Noct’s hand and moves it away from his hair, annoyed. Noct frowns, moving to put space between them.

“Don’t take it the wrong way. Who said that’s a bad thing?” Noct says, and Prompto mumbles, looking away. “We need to learn about each other anyway, right?”

“Yeah, yeah."

“Just pretend. I’m not asking you to fall in love with me. Actually, I’d rather you didn’t. It would save us both the trouble.” Noct is grinning. “Shouldn’t be too hard, right?”

Nope.

“So, in order to get to know me better,” Noct’s voice takes on a sort of breathy whisper as he moves onto his knees, and he leans closer to him. “Don’t you want to know what’s it’s like to kiss me?”

That doesn't shock him as much as he originally thought it would. He’s grown pretty used to Noct's shenanigans by now, so his reaction is a little delayed when he feels breathing on his neck. 

When he turns his head, their lips probably would’ve brushed if it weren't for Prompto backing away to let Noct's face refocus in his vision. Noct’s eyes are bright and full of mischief, and his lips are twitching with the effort of trying not to laugh as his lips near closer to him still. He’s having fun, teasing, and watching Prompto make a fool of himself. With a shaky inhale, Prompto squares his shoulders and puffs out his chest, mustering up all of his strength and courage, because he can be an asshole too when he wants to.

So, when he grabs Noct by the back of his head and leans in closer that their breaths mingle, he’s not thinking. Apparently, neither is Noct as his breath hitches and he’s suddenly very, very still as his eyes trace over Prompto’s face. They’re both paralyzed, waiting to see who does what first, and the clever comeback that Prompto had ready on the tip of his tongue is suddenly stuck in his throat.

Noct pulls away first, much to Prompto’s relief, and he pokes at a freckled cheek. “You have a lot of freckles.”

Prompto’s mouth is hanging open in shock because it took all of his strength to muster up the courage to do what he just did in an attempt to make Noct flustered, and he can’t detect a hint or a tinge of embarrassment over his face. Noct meets his eyes with that lopsided smile again as he grabs Prompto by the cheeks with both hands, squeezing until his lips are forced to pucker.

“That was cute, but it was weak,” Noct says, and then releases him as he stands up, stretching as Prompto rubs at his cheeks, pouting.

“By the way, I have to go to a meeting tomorrow morning, but I’ll be back by the afternoon. I’d prefer it if you stay here because there’s…” He trails off, shaking his head.

Prompto stares up at him, still rubbing at his cheeks. “What?”

Noct looks pointedly at him, and Prompto slumps, shrugging. “Okay, fine. Whatever.”

Noct visibly relaxes, walks out of the room, down the hall. The bathroom door closes, and soon enough the water is running in the shower. Prompto finally releases the breath he’d been holding and leans down to hold his head in his hands.

This is almost too much, coming to some stranger’s place to pretend to be married so that he can keep lying to his uncle. It’s fucking ridiculous, and Prompto’s beginning to think that this isn’t even worth it. And Noct’s constant mood swings are going to eventually give him whiplash.

Once he’s taken his own shower, put away his belongings, and is snug in the lavish bed in the bedroom across the hall from Noct’s later that night, he drifts off into a dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

It’s like something out of some sickly sweet romantic movie when he stirs awake the next morning; the birds are chirping, there’s a light breeze blowing through the room and the sun’s rays are toasty warm against the back of his neck.

Prompto cracks his blue eyes open, blearily looking around and wiping the drool from his chin. He stretches, pleased with the various cracks his spine makes as he stifles a yawn. Then, he pauses, because something doesn’t feel right. The sunlight streaming into his room is at an unnatural angle - why is the window way over to his left? Shouldn’t it be to his right?

This bed, has it grown larger? He could’ve sworn that his bed was a twin, and not the massive size that it is now. He fingers the fabric still thrown over his legs, confused at the softness of the material, because call him crazy, it feels like actual silk.

This definitely isn’t his room, and when he sits up, throws the sheets off of himself, his feet hit the soft carpet that’s covering the wooden floor and it all comes rushing back to him all at once.

For one month. Please, pretend that we’re married.

Oh, right.

Prompto slumps as he turns back around and cannon balls into the firm mattress, tucking his legs up against his chest and into a fetal position. He buries his face deeper into the fabric, inhaling deeply. Will he ever to get used to this? Waking up in this ridiculous apartment with some stranger?

Prompto turns his head, hugging his knees closer to his chest as he rubs his cheek on the silk sheets the cover the bed with a sigh, because he doesn’t know if he can do this. What are they going to do in public? Does Noct expect him to act all lovey-dovey with him? Or worse – Prompto swallows hard – actually have a wedding ceremony?

Prompto shudders at the thought of all those people he won’t know, having to stand there while he and Noct exchange vows, seeing Noct in a tuxedo, because if he can barely look at him now, holy shit his eyeballs will probably melt from their sockets – and the kiss.

Prompto groans, smothering his face back into the bed, because he’s still embarrassed about that little stunt he pulled, which by the way, isn’t completely his fault. If Noct had just kept his hands and other body parts to himself, he wouldn’t have - suddenly, he picks up something.

The sound of someone in the apartment, in the kitchen, which is conveniently the room to his right. At first, he thinks it’s Noct, getting ready for the meeting that he had told him about the night before, but then the delectable smell of pancakes cooking has Prompto sliding off the bed and tiptoeing to the door to open it a crack, because there’s no way that Noct can cook, right? He can’t have it all; a gorgeous body and face, a lavish apartment, and he knows how to cook? Unfair.

His mouth is watering as he slides through the door and pads down the hall. He peeks around the corner, half - expecting to see Noct, but there’s some strange man standing at the stove. He’s rather tall, with a slender build underneath the button-up shirt tucked into a pair of black slacks. He’s cooking pancakes, and a bowl of vibrant red strawberries sit on the counter on his left.

Prompto’s stomach growls again, louder this time, but he’s frozen in place because he doesn’t know who this guy is, and Noct hadn’t told him that someone would be coming over. The stranger fumbles in the fridge for a moment, taking something out and cutting the package open. The sound of bacon sizzling literally makes Prompto’s knees go weak.

Well, it’s obviously not an intruder. Who breaks into someone’s house to cook breakfast? He runs back to his room to grab his phone and checks the time – it’s eight thirty. Has Noct left yet?

He pokes his head out to look at the door across from his, noticing that Noct’s door is slightly ajar, before he’s making his way towards it. Looking in, he can see a bundle underneath the blankets on the bed.

He quietly shuffles inside, trying not to step on the various things that litter the floor. Had the nerve to complain about my apartment, when his room is just as cluttered, he thinks as he makes his way towards the bundle on the bed. He lifts one corner of the comforter, and for a moment…Prompto simply stares.

It’s Noct, obviously, but he looks different when he’s asleep. Peaceful, actually, without a constant smirk or frown adorning his features. He’s curled up on his side, bare arms tucked underneath his head as he inhales deeply, his chest rising and falling steadily. His onyx hair is swept almost perfectly across the right side of his face, across his smooth cheeks, his eyebrows drawn together.

Prompto reaches forward without thinking, and when the back of his fingers brush against the skin of Noct’s cheek, Noct immediately relaxes, his lips parting .

Prompto snaps out his daze when he hears the glasses in the cupboard in the kitchen being moved around, the sound of pots and pans, and he shakes Noct gently.

“Noct,” he whispers quietly, trying not to let the stranger in the kitchen hear his voice. “There’s some strange guy cooking breakfast in the kitchen.”

Noct makes some sort of noise as he bats Prompto’s hand away, before snuggling further into the mattress. Huffing, because he just wants some pancakes and bacon dammit, he shakes Noct more vigorously before Noct lets out a groan, blinking his eyes open.

“What?” Noct hisses, rubbing his eyes with his fists that is honestly a little endearing.

“Some guy is cooking,” Prompto repeats, looking towards the door as he sniffs. Damn, whoever that guy is he hopes he can snag a plate, because it smells so good. “He was in there when I woke up.”

Noct flips over onto his back, throwing an arm over his eyes, and it’s then that Prompto realizes that Noct’s chest is bare. He can feel his eyes literally burning with the effort to look, but he shakes his head and takes a step back, because it’s too early for this. Noct yawns, unaware of Prompto’s little meltdown right beside him.

“It’s just Ignis,” Noct says thickly, his voice deep with sleep.

“…Who?”

“Ignis,” Noct peeks over at him from underneath his arm. “It’s the same guy who drove us yesterday.”

“Oh!” Prompto exclaims, before he remembers the uncomfortable and nerve wracking car ride over here, when the guy had literally put up a barrier between them to keep them from seeing each other. He frowns. “Oh.”

“Why that face?”

“I don’t think he likes me,” Prompto’s reaching a hand up to rub at the back of his neck, looking away. “He didn’t even say anything when he drove us here.”

“That’s because I told him not to.” Noct yawns again, and he closes his eyes. “He usually comes on Sundays to help clean around here, make breakfast, all that shit…”

Noct’s nodding off again before Prompto can ask him why he has someone to come do all those things for him, and the door opens. Prompto jumps in surprise, nearly tripping over the shit all over the floor, but Noct’s dead to the world already.

Ignis pauses as he takes Prompto in, his green eyes scrutinizing him underneath a perpetual gaze beneath sleek, spotless glasses that rest upon the bridge of his nose. Up close, it’s obvious that he’s older than both of them, although not by much; his smooth lips curve into a welcoming smile as he bows his head in acknowledgement.

“Good morning.” His voice is like melting honey, and Prompto immediately tenses, intimidated.

“G-good morning, sir,” Prompto’s face is heating up, and Ignis’ eyebrows lift delicately, seeming impressed.

“Such polite manners you have, Prompto,” Ignis says smoothly, and Prompto’s a little surprised that Ignis already knows his name. “Despite my silence during the drive yesterday. I apologize for seeming rude, but I was told not to speak to you.”

“It’s okay,” Prompto replies, and he forces himself to stand up straight and offer his hand. “It’s…nice to meet you.”

Ignis steps forward into the room, walking one can only describe as ‘gracefully’ as he steps around the clutter on the floor, to grasp his hand firmly, amused. “Likewise.”

Prompto lets go of the gloved hand, stepping aside as Ignis makes his way towards the drapes. Ignis looks very familiar - Prompto swears that he's seen him somewhere as Ignis flings the drapes open, the sunlight streaming into the room. Noct growls and shoves his head underneath the blanket in response.

“Ignis,” Prompto begins, and Ignis gives a hum of acknowledgement as he wipes a gloved finger across the dresser that sits in the corner, frowning at the smudge of black that now stains the tip of his finger. “Can I ask you something?”

“Of course,” Ignis nods as his eyes sweep around the room, finally landing on him.

 “Why does Noct need me?”

Ignis tilts his head in a manner similar to Noct, eyes shifting and Prompto immediately knows that he knows exactly why. Ignis tries to play it off as if he hadn’t heard the question correctly. “Pardon?”

“Ignis, I know that you know-”

“Hey.” Before Prompto can even think about turning his head to find the source of the voice that had come from the bed beside him, a hand shoots out, grabbing his wrist and pulling him until he loses his balance and falls into a heap on the bed with a yelp.

Prompto feels all the blood rush into his face as he feels Noct’s bare chest pressed up against his back, his arms encircled around his waist and his lips at his ear. Noct freezes for a moment, almost as if he’s just as surprised as he is, before he settles.

“I said I’d tell you all about that soon enough,” Noct’s voice trembles a little as his lips brush against the skin of Prompto’s ear as he speaks. “Don’t try and corner Specs; he’s being paid to keep his mouth shut.”

“Not nearly enough, I’m afraid,” Ignis mumbles.

Prompto tries to move away, but Noct’s arms only tighten around his waist. Prompto closes his eyes, because if he doesn’t get out of this situation soon, he might go into cardiac arrest.

“Dude,” He chokes out. “Will you me let go please? You said you had a meeting today, right? You don’t wanna be late!”

“It would be wise,” Ignis offers. “Today is a very important day.”

“Yeah, Noct, c’mon. Let me up!” Prompto struggles harder, wiggling and twisting until he feels Noct’s fingers dig into his hips, probably at an attempt to get him to stay still. What Noct doesn’t know, it that Prompto is very ticklish.

He jerks his hips back involuntarily with a yelp, and Noct gasps, immediately loosening his grip. Prompto untangles himself from Noct’s limbs, climbing over the covers and off of the bed.

His heart beats against his ribcage harshly as he leans on the wall outside the door. He’s trying to calm his breathing when he hears low mumbling.

“The deeper you get into this, Noct, the harder it'll be to get out of."

Prompto perks up at this new tidbit of information.

“I know.” Noct’s voice is stern, and the most serious Prompto’s ever heard him speak. They don't say anything more. He rubs his fingers against the little indentations that cover the wall beside the door absentmindedly, before he continues down the hall.

He ends up in the kitchen, his stomach leading the way, and he’s almost drooling over the stack of pancakes and pile of bacon that are on the table, both steaming hot and looking like they were made from a restaurant.

“Please have some,” Ignis’ voice calls out to him from behind, and he turns around to see Ignis walking into the kitchen. “I hope that you’re not a vegetarian of any kind.”

“You kidding?” Prompto laughs, before sitting down quickly and piling two pancakes onto his plate and a few slices of bacon. He cuts into the pancakes, shoves a piece into his mouth, and he moans. Blushing fiercely, he gives Ignis an ashamed look. “Sorry, I uh…I’m not a vegetarian, heh.”

Ignis only looks amused as he walks to the cupboard and pulls out two glasses, and filling them with orange juice and setting them both down onto the table.

“That’s good to hear,” Ignis is stacking pancakes and bacon onto the other plate across from him, a content smile on his face. “It’s…nice to hear someone enjoying my food so verbally.”

Ignis literally fucking winks, and Prompto almost chokes.

Ignis retreats to grab his mug that he had left on the counter, no doubt filled with steaming coffee as the smell of it drifts over to Prompto’s nose. Ignis makes a quiet noise of distress, and Prompto pauses, looking over to see what’s wrong.

“What’s the matter?”

“The strawberries,” Ignis shows him the bowl. “I had planned to put them in the pancakes for Noct, but it completely slipped my mind.”

“Oh, good thing you didn’t,” Prompto takes another bite of his pancakes, letting the maple syrup settle against his tongue happily as he chews. “I’m allergic to them.”

Ignis frowns, staring down at the berries. “What a shame.”

“What’s a shame?” Noct’s sauntering into the kitchen, plopping down in a chair across from Prompto. He’d showered quickly, his hair still a little damp as a few strands cling to the base of his neck and the smell of a musky scent pungent on his skin as he picks up the glass of juice to take a sip. His eyebrows are raised in a silent question, and Prompto chews quickly, putting his fork down on his plate.

“Strawberries. I’m allergic to them.”

“Ugh,” Noct’s face twists in disgust. “That’s good then. I hate fruit.”

Prompto’s eyebrows furrow in confusion, looking up at Ignis as Noct cuts a piece of his pancake and takes a bite. Ignis’ cheeks rise, as if he’s smiling behind his mug, and Prompto smirks as he picks his fork back up, because Noct is such a baby for having to have fruits hidden into his food.

It takes Noct thirty minutes to leave, because he’s sluggish as he gets the things that Ignis tells him that he’ll need, he can’t find half of those things until Ignis has to do it himself, and every time he passes by Prompto, he literally tells him a million different ways that he should stay home.

“It’s hot outside today, so don’t leave the apartment.”

“If you get bored, brush up on your acting, because you need it.”

“If anyone comes by, ask them their name first. If they don’t give it to you, don’t let them in.”

That last one had Prompto’s eyebrows shooting up in surprise, because that particular statement was pretty detailed. Almost as if Noct was expecting something like it to happen – or maybe he thinks Prompto lacks the common sense of ‘stranger danger’, which is probably true.

Finally, Noct gets his shit together – well, Ignis does it for him. Noct turns and gives Prompto a sly grin, winking at him. “Don’t miss me too much. I’ll be back soon.”

Prompto tries to roll his eyes to convey that he’s annoyed, but it hits him suddenly. It bubbles in his stomach before racing into his chest, and he forces it down. It’s been a while since his anxiety made an appearance, so he’s unsure of the look on his face as Noct tilts his head at him in confusion. He realizes that he doesn’t want Noct to go – not because he’ll miss him or anything, but because he doesn’t want to be alone.

Ignis lingers for a while, before telling Noct quietly that he’ll be outside the door, waiting. Noct waves a hand at him, before taking a few steps closer to Prompto with that lopsided smile.

“Don’t worry – when I get back, you can have me all to yourself.”

Prompto scoffs, not meeting Noct’s eyes, and tries to make it seem that he’s fine. He forces out a dry chuckle. “You wish. Just hurry up and go.”

Noct stares at him, before shrugging as he finally goes out the door, Ignis trailing behind him, and suddenly Prompto is alone. In this giant, luxurious apartment.

For what feels like hours, Prompto tries to keep himself busy, keep himself distracted from the fact that he’s going to be alone for a few hours. At least when he lived at his apartment, he wasn’t alone often because of his schedule, never staying in one place for long. But now, he can’t help but feel it creeping back up his throat, his fear.

He watches a few videos on his phone, slides up and down the hall in his socks, only stopping when he crashes into the wall and kind of hurts his elbow, and digs his camera out from its box and takes a few shots of the skyline from Noct’s balcony in his bedroom.

When he’s satisfied with the shots he’d taken, he takes a look around Noct’s room. Noct’s room looks to be almost if not a little bit bigger than Prompto’s, with two black nightstands on either side of the messy and unmade king-sized bed. There are a few other pieces of furniture around the room, either covered with clothes, multiple books and binders, and food wrappers. If Prompto didn’t know any better, he would have never guessed that this was a room someone actually slept in.

As he’s looking around, he can’t help but feel a little guilty; he’s invading Noct’s privacy…even though Noct invades his almost every second that they’re together. He scoffs, kicking a shoe out of his way as he heads for the door, before his eyes catch something gleaming from the open closet. Something magnificent.

Prompto runs his hands across it, the newest console, still packaged, that had just come out last month, and – oh my god it’s the limited-edition bundle, Jesus

He’s debating on whether or not he should just tear it open and hog it for himself, because it doesn’t look like Noct uses it anyways, when he hears three loud knocks on the door. He carefully sets the console down, getting up and carefully heading into the living room. He approaches the door quietly, and peeks through the hole in the door.

There’s a huge, behemoth of a man standing outside, and Prompto can’t help the little squeak that falls from his lips at the sight of him. Even through the little hole in the door, Prompto can see that this guy is ripped. The man knocks on the door again, harder, the action making the door quiver underneath the force of the knocking and causing Prompto’s nose to bump against the hard wood. He lets out a little cry of pain, holding his nose, and he hears a deep voice coming from outside.

“Hey! I know you're in there.”

Prompto’s eyes widen as he tries to soothe his throbbing nose, as he suddenly remembers what Noct had told him about asking for a name. So, he boldly clears his throat, but his voice cracks anyways. “Who are you?”

There’s a pause, before the deep voice responds. “Gladio, a friend of Noct’s.”

Although Gladio’s voice was deep and intimidating, Prompto couldn’t help but feel like this man was telling the truth, even if the man didn’t seem so sure himself. Also, because he knew that by the looks of him Gladio could easily bend his limbs like a toothpick and use them to pick his teeth.

“Are you Prompto? The guy Noct is using? No offense,” Gladio says a slight chuckle escaping him. Prompto frowns; does everyone know what the fuck Noct needs him for except for Prompto himself?

“You gonna let me in, kid, or not?” Gladio says through the door after Prompto apparently takes too long to say something.

“Will you tell me what Noct’s using me for if I do?”

There’s another, longer pause. “If he hasn’t told you, don’t you think he has a reason for it?”

“Do you think pretending to be legally bonded to a stranger I met two days ago is a good enough reason for me to wait until Noct decides to tell me?”

“Look, there’s no hope in arguing about it; You made the choice of agreeing to it. I’m not going to tell you until Noct decides that you should know.”

Prompto pouts, crossing his arms and leaning his back against the wooden door, because he’s irritated that Gladio is right. It's his fault, in a way. But what is the reason that is apparently important enough to for everyone to keep it a secret?

“Are you really gonna leave me out here?” Gladio asks, and Prompto sighs, because he knows that Gladio is just being nice, asking if Prompto will let him in when they both know Gladio could literally kick it down with a little tap of his foot.

He hurriedly unlocks the door before swinging it open. Gladio looks even more huge in person. Prompto’s head barely reaches his broad shoulders, which by the way, are covered in swirly black ink that melt into his neck and shoulders as the man steps over the threshold. Again, Prompto gets this deja vu affect - has he seen this guy before?

“So, you’re Prompto, huh?”

“Y-yeah,” Prompto stutters as neck literally bends in half as he looks up to meet Gladio’s brown eyes. His face looks older – older than Ignis, but not by much. He has smooth, tan skin that suddenly tightens into a jagged scar that goes from the middle of his left eyebrow, past his left eye and down his cheek. His hair is dark, not as dark as Noct’s, but looks just as soft.

Gladio’s lips pull into a smirk as he takes Prompto in, zeroing in on his scrawny body complete with skinny arms and legs.

“Don’t know what Noct sees in you, honestly.”

Prompto shrugs, because he had been wondering the same thing, but apparently his face must have shown some sort of expression of hurt, because Gladio’s brown eyes are widening.

“No no, I didn’t mean it like you’re ugly or something, just that…you’re different.”

Prompto raises a blonde eyebrow. “Different how?”

“Well, for starters, you’re wearing kid pajamas,” Gladio points out, and Prompto glances down at himself in horror as he realizes that he’s wearing his chocobo print pants still, and his face burns in embarrassment as he tugs his shirt over them roughly, but Gladio only chuckles. “And you’re…loud.”

“Loud?” Prompto asks as he scrubs his cheeks in an effort to cool them down.

“Not, like, loud loud…you’re bright. Open. Like you can light up a room. Usually, Noct goes for the dark and mysterious type.”

Prompto’s eyebrows shoot up, unprepared for the compliments, because ‘open’ and ‘bright’ are the last words he’d ever use to describe himself, and tries to open his mouth to speak, but Gladio’s already walking past him and heading for the couch, before settling down.

“Where’s Noctass, anyway?” He’s flipping through the channels on the tv, and Prompto tugs his shirt lower over his pants again, and shrugs a little.

“He said he had a meeting today and that he’d be back by afternoon, but that was a couple of hours ago.”

“A meeting? Wait, what’s today?” Gladio’s pulling his phone from his back pocket, thumbing through it quickly before cursing and flipping the phone onto the cushion beside him. “Damn, I forgot it was Sunday. I fucked up.”

Prompto makes his way over to the couch and sits on the opposite side, curling his legs up underneath himself. “Something important planned?”

“Yeah,” Gladio nods, his features annoyed. “Was supposed to be at that meeting. Noct gets my schedule all messed up when he skips out on training.”

“Training?” Prompto asks.

“Yeah. It’s important to keep up your strength, y’know? In case you get into a fight or some other shit,” Gladio’s shifting on the couch, and he stretches, the ink on his arms quivering as he does so. “You look like you haven’t done a single push up in your life.”

Prompto rolls his eyes. Apparently, Noct has spent a lot of time with Gladio and Ignis, because all of their similar mannerisms are starting to make him dizzy.

“I used to run a lot, but then shit got complicated.”

“I feel ya on that one,” Gladio agrees. “But I’ll tell you what. Now that you’re living here, why not come along? You could use some meat on those bones, and Noct could use some inspiration.”

Prompto almost refuses, because there is no way in hell he’s going to be able to do anything if Noct is there, but the thought of staying in this apartment alone for so long has him reconsidering. The idea of getting back into shape and having the time to run again like he used to, has him nodding his head slowly in agreement, and then rubbing his shoulder in pain when Gladio grins and punches him on the shoulder.

Gladio stays for a while, maybe an hour or so. They play a couple of rounds of King Knight, to Prompto’s surprise and happiness. While the man seems huge and intimidating, he’s actually pretty gentle, and has a good sense of humor. Prompto learns that he and Ignis had grown up with Noct, and that’s why they’re all so close. It gives Prompto a little comfort to know at least something about Noct other than the obvious.

After a while, Gladio stretches and announces that he’s headed out. Prompto’s a little sad about that, because he realizes that he really enjoyed his company. He’d even forgotten about his anxiety for a moment, thanks to him. Something must have shown on his face, because Gladio ruffles his hair and writes his number down on a little sticky note and sticks it to the fridge.

“Text me if you’re bored or need some company sometime,” Gladio’s stepping over the threshold and into the hall as he turns back to look at him. “Tell Noct I couldn’t stay the entire time, but he shouldn’t have texted me so last minute.”

Prompto’s confused. “Stay the entire time for what...? Did Noct tell you to come?”

“Uh…shit, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that,” Gladio sighs, before nodding and running a hand through his hair. “Yeah, he did. Told me that you were here by yourself and asked if I would drop by. I really did forget about that meeting, though.”

Prompto doesn’t really hear the rest of what Gladio says before he’s gone, and the door is sliding closed slowly. His palms are getting a little sweaty, confused about Noct’s simple gesture. He must have noticed Prompto’s discomfort and went out of his way to text someone to keep him company. It’s…probably the most thoughtful thing that Noct has done so far, or anyone has ever done for him, really. It has his heart racing and stomach clenching in the most unexpected way.

Maybe an hour and a half goes by before Prompto decides to finally shed his chocobo pants and put on some real clothes. He’s nibbling on some dry cereal in the kitchen when another knock sounds at the door. Sealing up the plastic bag, he swallows quickly and goes to the door. But this time, he completely forgets about Noct’s warning, and opens the door without checking to see who it is.

The middle-aged man standing there instantly smiles at him with deep, amber eyes underneath a fedora that rests upon his burgundy colored hair. He bows in acknowledgement, his long black jacket billowing forward around his tall frame. “Hello there, Prompto.”

The strange man’s voice…sounds fucking creepy, and it makes Prompto’s skin crawl.

“Hi?” Prompto says, fingers gripping the edge of the door tightly. "Do I know you?"

The man chuckles softly. "Not yet, I'm afraid."

He's stepping forward, forcing Prompto to move back until they’re both standing inside. Prompto’s honestly a little terrified, because there’s a strange looking man in front of him who forced his way in, and now he’s blocking the door. "Ardyn Izunia. It's so nice to finally meet...Noct's partner. Or 'husband'." From the way that Adryn sneers that last word, it's obvious that he doesn't believe it.

Prompto's stomach feels uneasy, and there's something in this man's eyes that makes him feel as if something bad is going to happen. There's a strong urge to reach for his phone, to send a text to Noct to see if he knows some weird dude in a fedora, but then he remembers that he had left it sitting on the couch. A quick glance over, and he sees that the couch is too far. Too far away if he has to make a run for it, because he could surely be caught.

He could be caught...and then what? Would Adryn hurt him or something? He doesn't seem like the type, but it has Prompto thinking - what if he just told him the truth? Prompto’s eyes meet his, and for a second, he considers it. Shouting out at the top of his lungs that he and Noct are just pretending, because they both need something from each other – Prompto needs to keep up this charade for his uncle’s and his own sake, and Noct…hasn’t even told him the reason behind all of this. So…why shouldn’t Prompto just come out and say it?

“Just shut up, and follow me, Prompto.”

Noct turns his head, and for a split second, their faces are so close that Prompto can see that Noct’s eyes aren’t just one color; they’re another shade of blue, a hue that he’s never seen before...and they're also staring right back at him intently.

…he grabs Noct by the back of his head and leans in so close that their breaths mingle, he’s not thinking, and apparently neither is Noct as his breath hitches and he’s suddenly very, very still as his eyes trace over Prompto’s face.

He taps the space between them. “Keep talking.”

“Yeah, he did. Told me that you were here by yourself and asked if I would drop by.”

The memories flash through Prompto’s mind, and feeling behind them are...weird, almost as if they had been in his mind for a long time instead of a couple of days. He’s realizing that things aren’t the same anymore, and never will be the same. This part of his life in this very moment will be etched into his mind, and honestly...he wants things to end up okay. For both of them.

If anyone asks though, it's because he's thinking about his own situation with his uncle - not because of Noct.

"Ah...yep, that's me," He swallows thickly, and he's taking small steps back, an uneasy smile on his face.

Ardyn simply follows, until the back of Prompto's legs bump against the side of the couch, and he quickly snatches up his phone to hold it tightly in his hand. Adryn notices the movement, looking up to catch his eyes for a second, and shifts away until he's seated on the cushions of the couch. Prompto exhales slowly, before sitting cautiously on the loveseat across the room. 

"So, Prompto," Adryn says smoothly, his amber eyes looking around the spacious living area. "How long have you and Noct been...together?"

Prompto's eyes grow wide, because he and Noct hadn't discussed it yet. Fuck, they haven't discussed anything, and if Adryn asks him any more questions then he's going to figure it out. His eyes are boring a hole into the carpet, and he's fidgeting nervously - wait. 

Prompto looks up to meet amber eyes. "Who are you, exactly?"

Ardyn frowns, tilting his head. "Have you forgotten my name already?"

"No, not your name," Prompto questions, as he runs his fingers over the screen of his phone sitting in his lap, scrolling the brightness down enough to make it difficult to see what he's doing. He sweeps his fingers again, unlocking his phone and pulling up his messaging app.

"Who are you to just barge in here, asking these questions?" His voice sounds more confident than he feels, and he's surprised for a second, but Adryn doesn't seem convinced.

"Ah," Ardyn nods, crossing his ankles as he leans forwards. "What a superb observation you have made! My apologies. Noctis and I are...business partners, if I may be so bold."

Prompto's fingers freeze. Noct hasn't told him anything about working at a business, or anything really. Prompto can't help but feel that this may be his only opportunity to get to know at least some of the truth. But at the same time, he’s unsure if he has the right to do so.

"He, uh, never mentioned you," Prompto replies, rubbing the back of his neck nervously as he lets out a cracked laugh, and Ardyn hums thoughtfully.

"Well, I would expect that he wouldn't have the time, with him being so busy with the company, and his father's health. It's shame about Mr. Caelum." Ardyn is shaking his head mournfully, as if he could burst into tears at any moment. 

"His father?" Prompto pauses, taking this new information in. Ardyn tilts his head, seeming confused, but there's a sly grin on his lips.

"You mean, you don't know that Noctis' father is dying?" He makes a distressed sound, placing his hand gently over his heart. "Now, why wouldn't Noctis tell you something so important? You are his husband, after all, correct?"

Prompto's at a loss for words, his mouth hung open in shock, and a quick glance down at his phone shows him that his phone had shut off. His hands start to tremble again, because he wishes that Noct had never left him here alone, and he tries to seem nonchalant as he licks his dry lips. "Well, I mean-"

"If Noctis hasn't told you about his father, then I doubt he has told you about the deal, I presume?"

Prompto's tongue suddenly feels way too big for his mouth. "D-deal?"

Ardyn nods, his sly grin a full smile now. "The deal about upcoming heirs to the company?"

Upcoming heirs? Is Noct...is he an heir to something? What has he gotten himself into?

"Good heavens Prompto, why don't you know any of this?" Ardyn continues when Prompto fails to reply. "Have you and Noctis never spoken about it? Or perhaps...?”

He pauses, dramatically, and Prompto nearly passes out from the anticipation from how much deeper Ardyn is going to smother him into this corner.

"You're not really together?"

Chapter Text

Prompto never thought he would be so happy to hear the sound of the door sliding open, and never thought he would be so glad to see the person that stepped inside at just the right moment.

Prompto whips his head so fast he’s amazed that his neck is still attached to his shoulders, and heaves a big sigh of relief as Noct stands in the doorway, looking confused as hell. Then, his facial expression shifts as his eyes land on the unwelcomed visitor sitting in his living room, and he’s stepping inside to close the door behind him. His eyes meet Prompto’s for a split second, and in that spilt second Prompto is off the couch and almost running towards him.

Noct barely has time to react before Prompto’s hands are tugging at his shoulders to bring him closer. Then, Prompto lets his lips press against the smooth skin of Noct’s cheek gently – he feels Noct freeze, and his hands brush slightly against the skin of Prompto’s hips where his shirt has ridden up.

Almost jerking back from the feeling of Noct’s fingers, Prompto pulls away to meet Noct’s eyes. He forces a smile on his face, and he can see his fear – stricken face in the reflection of Noct’s dilated pupils. His hands tremble as he slides his fingers down the length of Noct’s arm, before finally grasping his hand firmly.

“W-welcome home, Noct,” Prompto’s voice sounds very small and weak, and he turns to look at Ardyn behind them. Prompto’s crossing the fingers of his other hand behind his back, hoping, begging to anyone up above, that his little act was enough to convince him, but Ardyn is just staring at them, his expression unreadable. “We have a visitor.”

Ardyn chuckles in that creepy voice of his that make all the blonde hairs on the back of Prompto’s neck stand on end. “Yes, well, it seems that your visitor has overstayed their welcome. Forgive me for intruding – a fine couple such as you two should have some time to yourselves,” He stands up, tipping his hat as his long, black jacket billows around his legs. The same sly grin is back on his face – it’s obvious that Prompto hadn’t convinced him of jack shit.

Noct grips Prompto’s hand tightly, and Prompto looks at his face to see his jaw clenched, as if he’s holding back from saying something that he’ll regret. Ardyn leaves casually, hands in his pockets while whistling some strange tune. He raises a hand up as he crosses the threshold, and tosses back, “Do be wary of strangers.”

Then he’s gone.

Maybe a minute passes, before Prompto lets out a huge sigh of relief.

“That was fucking horrible. The dude is creepy as hell.”

“Did he say anything to you?”

Noct immediately turns to him, his voice urgent and demanding, and he’s staring Prompto down. Prompto replays the conversation in his head – Noct is the upcoming heir to his dad’s company, which means he’ll probably have to take over the company…very soon, if his dad gets any worse. And the contract…he hadn’t gotten to know about.

Well, there is a chance that Ardyn wasn’t telling the truth. He could very well just be some crazy deranged stalker or something else worse, but as Prompto looks at Noct, noticing the way that his face is flushed, the way that his eyes are glassy and slightly unfocused, his heart thuds with the thought that maybe it wasn’t a lie after all.

Noct looks so fucking tired – and he must be, with his dad’s health, having to deal with being the heir, the company, the relationship that he has to pretend to be in. It’s a lot, Prompto has to admit, that Noct has to deal with. How does he sleep at night?

While Prompto was here all day, selfishly thinking about spilling the beans because Noct hadn’t told him anything. And why would he, anyways? Sure, they’re supposed to be ‘married’ and all that, and in some way Prompto thinks he should at least know a little about something, but at the same time, he should…trust him enough. Right? 

Noct’s been nothing but thoughtful the past two days, when he thinks about it. Carrying those boxes for him; calling Gladio to come and hang out with him because he noticed that Prompto was acting weird. He’s never really done anything that would make Prompto want to risk telling his uncle the truth and having him disown him.

Noct has been parading around with this aura of confidence, a cocky look on his face and lopsided smile on his face that he knows he looks good in. He’s been hiding the fact that there’s this burden that he’s being forced to bear. His dad is literally dying, and Prompto can’t even begin to think about how he would go on if Cor were to suddenly become sick.

He looks down between them, and notices that their fingers are still laced together, and he nibbles on his lip for a brief moment.

“He just asked me the couple stuff, like, where we met, how long we dated…things like that. He didn’t really give me a chance to answer them, though. Asked them one after the other.”

Noct visibly relaxes, tilting his head back and letting out a sigh. “What a relief, then.” The muscles in his pale neck quiver as he swallows, and then Prompto’s hand is empty. Cold.

Noct crosses his arms awkwardly, and lets that lopsided smile grace his features. “By the way, that was a pretty poor display.”

“Huh?”

Noct finally meets his eyes, shifting onto hip as he pokes at his cheek. Prompto’s face darkens considerably as he touches his lips absentmindedly, remembering the feeling of Noct’s soft skin against his lips, and then his fingers gracing the skin of – he’s shaking his head as he frowns.

“W-well what else was I supposed to do?” He stammers out. “We’re supposed to be married, right? What kind of person doesn’t greet their husband when they get home?”

Noct’s expression falters for a moment, before a gentle smile crosses his face. A real smile – not that lopsided smile, or some smug grin that he thinks is sexy – his cheeks lift, his eyes soften, swirling with some sort of emotion, and it makes Prompto still. Sure, he's made Noct smile before, but this is different, and something underneath his shirt underneath all the flesh and muscle, underneath his ribcage shudders like an engine trying to start. The flutter is back, but something about it this time is odd. Nothing like what he felt at the beach the first time they met.

But it’s nice and warm.

Then, Noct is stretching his arms above his head, yawning. He’s rubbing his eyes with his fists as he begins to tread down the hall.

“Sorry for leaving you here all day. The meeting went way too long; I wanted to dip as soon as I got there but Specs made me stay.”

“It’s cool,” Prompto replies as he rubs at his chest, fingering the material of his shirt. “I met Gladio, and he stayed for a while. He’s nice.”

“Yeah, well you just wait,” He can hear the echo of Noct’s voice against the walls. “You won’t think he’s nice when – hey.”

Noct comes back down the hall, now dressed in a pair of black sweat pants and t-shirt, holding the box that contains the console that Prompto had been drooling over not too long ago. Prompto almost melts, because he’d almost forgotten how amazing it felt to even be in the console’s presence. Noct’s frowning at him, though.

“Did you go in my room?”

“Uh,” Prompto straightens up, reaching a hand up to rub behind his neck. “Heh, yeah. O-only to take a shot of the skyline! And to drool over that limited edition console, Jesus Noct they only made like four of those,” He pauses to take a breath. “…your balcony, uh, has a nice view. Wanna see?”

He doesn’t wait for Noct’s reply before padding down the hall into his own room, grabbing his camera and bringing it back out into the living room. Noct had set down the box, and was now seated on the couch. Prompto sits down next to him, not too close, but close enough that Noct can look over his shoulder at the viewfinder.

Noct doesn’t say anything at first; he just stares at the picture so long in silence that Prompto worries that he doesn’t like it. Then, Noct is grabbing the camera from his hands, before turning his head to look at him. “You took this…from the balcony in my room?”

Prompto grimaces. “It's too much, isn't it? Sorry for going into your room, but I couldn’t find any-”

“This is beautiful, Prom. I had no idea that something like this was right beside me.”

Prompto tenses at the words, snorting as he mutters out something along the line of ‘thanks’, and then Noct is shoving the camera back into Prompto’s hands and Prompto is up and scurrying off to put the camera back into his room.

When Prompto returns, Noct is sitting on the floor. He’s frowning at the box containing the console, and Prompto nearly gnaws his lip off from the anticipation that Noct is going to rip open the packaging and take out the magnificent gem. Finally, he can’t stand it anymore and plops down beside him to interlace his fingers together and tuck them under his chin.

“Noct, can we play it? Can we?” He begs as Noct fingers the tape on the box that he’s been nursing at. Noct rolls his eyes, a small grin on his face as he shrugs and carefully pulls apart the lids of the packaging to pull it out, and oh em gee - the console is gold, limited edition, and he can see his damn reflection in it.

The console had come with two controllers, and the newest video game that had just come out that had been hugely anticipated. When Noct starts it up, the living room glows, and the two boys are entranced by the screen.

Hours pass, the two of them playing together. They’re laughing, and joking with each other when the other dies, and overall, spending time with each other.

They’d played for maybe about three hours before Prompto is starting to nod off. Noct’s in the same boat, as his character keeps missing certain jumps and items to collect as he fights to keep his eyes open. Prompto yawns loudly, and Noct pauses the game to put his chin on his hand and look over at him sleepily.

“Y’know what we should do?” He slurs, and Prompto sighs before blinking at him.

“Hm?”

“We should go on a date.”

That wakes Prompto up, and his eyes wide as Noct scoffs halfheartedly.

“Don’t look so scared – I don’t bite,” He winks, or at least he tries to, because both of his eyes close. “Unless you want me to.”

Noct had been out cold for at least a good forty-five minutes before Prompto had finally gotten to sleep.


It’s a couple of days later that Noct brings it up again – right in the middle of Prompto swirling mouthwash in his mouth. He chokes, the liquid going up his nose and burning as he tries to hack it back up, and manages to lean over the sink to spit it out, his mouth burning and his eyes watering. He rinses the sink clean, wiping a hand over his chin as he turns to look at Noct leaning casually against the bathroom door, a smirk on his face.

“You didn’t think I’d forget, did you? After all, we have a lot of things to talk about.” He winks, before straightening, his footsteps being heard as he walks down the hall.

Prompto sighs and leans his hands on the counter - he had kinda-sorta been hoping that Noct had forgotten about the whole date thing. He had been pretty busy during the past couple of days that had passed, going to more meetings, and other things that he was pretty quiet about, but assured Prompto that he would be back and that he would tell him about it soon enough. Each and every time, Ignis had been there to give Prompto a reassuring smile, which Prompto reluctantly gave back in return.

Gladio had even come by during those days too, to either hang out or to lug Prompto’s sorry butt out of the apartment and into the gym that the building had. The morning after Noct and Prompto had nearly stayed up all night playing video games, Ignis had called with an urgent matter, and the look on Noct’s face as he talked over the phone was enough for Prompto to realize that something was seriously wrong. Noct had barely spoken a word to him as he rushed, only muttering out a “I’ll tell Gladio, he’ll drop by,” before he was gone.

When Gladio arrived, he’d come with a solemn look on his face, but Prompto didn’t ask as Gladio lead them towards the gym area, talking about how fun exercising was, how much better he’ll feel afterwards, which Prompto knew was one big lie. From experience.

He was right. It was not fun. It was a fucking mess, and Prompto should’ve known that it was going to be one of those days when Gladio made him run a mile around the indoor track as a ‘warm up’.

He’d started running, feeling confident as he effortlessly finished the first lap with barely a sweat. It was near the beginning of his fourth lap, that he almost lost consciousness and felt the curl of nausea at the back of his throat.

He was gasping and heaving with every step he took, his arms all but flailing as he tried to keep going. He couldn’t believe that he actually used to do this, because so far it’s fucking trash. He’s so exhausted that when he trips over his own feet and crashes to the floor, he just stays there, arms and legs sprawled out and his cheek pressed against the warm and sticky ground as his chest rises and falls rapidly.

He cracks his eyes open, seeing Gladio who had his back turned to him as he talked on his phone pressed to his ear. He mumbles out a whine and closes his eyes again.

He felt like he was gonna implode – how can someone feel like they’re going to pass out and hurl up all the contents of their stomach at the same time? How do people like exercising? How do they do it??

He’d lost weight by running as a kid, but that didn’t mean he had enjoyed it.

After a few hours of more running, stretching, and exercises that left him literally dry heaving, he just wanted to curl up into a ball and sob, but even the thought of that made his muscles throb. At least Noct hadn’t been there to laugh at him.

When Noct had gotten home that evening, he had brought take out, much to Prompto’s happiness. They had sat together at the table as they ate, and Prompto really wanted to ask him what had happened, but the look of utter stress that lined Noct’s face as he tried to keep a constant smirk on his lips kept him quiet as he chewed.

The few days after that, which Noct went to more meetings and other stuff, was pretty chill. Noct wasn’t gone for hours at a time, and on a few occasions, didn’t look like he was carrying the world on his shoulders when he came back.

Prompto had even gotten used to the training sessions, even sometimes (sometimes) looking forward to it, as he realized that his stamina was building up. Instead of wanting to throw up and pass out at the same time, now he only wanted to do one of those things, so that’s improvement, right?

Now Prompto is starting to feel like that first day of training with Gladio all over again – the nausea, the dizziness and the impending doom. All because the word ‘date’ had fallen out of Noct’s mouth so casually, like it was something that they did often. Prompto can only cross his fingers and plead to anyone listening up above that he can handle it.

He almost ruins the entire thing when Noct grabs his hand to twine their fingers together as they walk toward the fishing dock that Ignis had driven and dropped them off at. It’s beautiful day, a few clouds in the sky as a slight breeze brushes through the trees and ripples the water underneath the dock they’re going towards. The sun will be setting soon, and if Prompto weren’t so nervous, it would probably be romantic.

When he feels the first brush of contact of Noct’s fingers against the inside of his palm, he snatches his hand back and steps away so fast that he nearly slips off the dock and into the water, were it not for Noct’s grip on his arm.

“Calm down,” Noct releases him, an annoyed look on his face. “We have to act like a couple in case someone sees us.”

Prompto nods, taking a deep breath as he follows him towards the edge of the dock where they both sit down. They take their shoes off, letting their toes dangle in the water as Noct casts out a line from his fishing rod and settles it between his legs. Prompto’s snapping away, getting a few shots of the water, the little glimmers of the fish as they swim near the surface, and even one of Noct who’s too busy watching the water to notice.

About maybe five minutes pass before Prompto sighs and places his camera behind him out of direct sunlight, closing his eyes and leaning back on his hands and tilting his face up towards the sun. Then, he feels Noct poking at his arm, and he opens one eye to see the confused expression on his face.

“…what? What is it?” Prompto’s poking at his own arm. “Did I not put on enough sunscreen?”

“Your arms look different.”

“What?” Prompto twists his arm this way and that, doing so with the other one. “I don’t see anything.”

“They look…I dunno.”

Prompto hums, and clenches his fist. Right before his very eyes, a very faint line of an outline of muscle is staring right back at him. His arms are a little more toned than before, his biceps even slightly rising. 

“Have you been training or something?” Noct asks.

“Yeah. Gladio’s been training me during the times you’re away – I wasn’t doing anything anyways.”

Noct leans his chin on his hand, frowning. “Damn. Sorry.”

Prompto’s confused. “For what?”

“For making you suffer with Gladio – it’s my fault, really. I think I’m away too much.” Noct looks genuinely apologetic, but Prompto shrugs. He’s not bitter.

“Nah, it’s cool-”

“You’re still way too jumpy, too. I should tell Gladio to give you acting lessons, instead."

Prompto glares at him, but there’s a slight smile on his face. “I can act just fine, thank you very much.”

Noct grins, his eyes still on the water. “So, I can kiss you in public, then?”

“W-wha? I, uh-!”

Noct laughs, before shaking his head.

The sun is starting to set, the warmth of the setting sun starting to warm their backs as they stretch lazily. Noct’s caught three fish already, packed away in the little ice box they brought, and they’ve only been sitting here for maybe thirty minutes. They would’ve caught four, if Noct hadn’t offered Prompto to try.

Prompto had no idea what he was supposed to do with the thing, so when a fish took the bait and the rod jerked in his hands, Noct had immediately wrapped his arms around his torso to grab ahold of his hands, keeping the rod in place. The fish had gotten away, but both of them had looked away from each after Noct took the rod back.

“Y’know,” Noct says eventually, after a few minutes pass. “Seeing Ardyn a couple of days ago got me thinking.”

"What about?"

"There are more people out there who don’t believe us. People who work for my dad, specifically.”

Prompto’s interest is immediately spiked – could Noct finally be giving him some details? “Your dad?”

Noct nods. “Yeah. He’s the owner of Insomnia Inc., I’m sure you’ve heard about it. Nearly everyone has.”

Prompto’s mouth has gone slack, because he had no idea that Noct was the son of Regis Caelum. He supposed that he should’ve seen this coming – who else has an apartment that fancy, with an advisor to look after him, and not to mention share the same last name as the legendary owner of Insomnia Inc., who had somehow rebuilt that company from the ground up once he had inherited it from his own father?

Noct’s looking at him, unimpressed. “You really didn’t know?”

Prompto shakes his head, and Noct hums thoughtfully, before shrugging. “I guess that’s not that important. Anyway, my point is, is that we can’t be in another one of those…dilemmas.”

“What dilemmas?”

Noct rolls his eyes, shifting his hands as he leans back on his arms. “You’re so nervous, dude. Are you always this timid?”

“You’re still a stranger, y’know? Give me a sec.”

Noct gives him a sideways glance. “Just relax – we’re only pretending.”

Prompto can’t help it – he blushes, and he fingers the fabric of his pants as he grumbles out, “I’m not that nervous.”

Fingers slide over his hand, and he jerks his head down, arm tingling as he fights the response to snatch his hand away. He swallows, before turning his hand over and grasping Noct’s hand back firmly.

Noct nods in approval, giving his hand a gentle squeeze. “That was okay, I guess. Could be better.”

“Hmph.”

Noct tilts his head thinking, before he meets Prompto’s eyes again. “Okay, then. How about we make you less nervous?”

Prompto’s eyes narrow suspiciously. “How so?”

“I could tell you a little about myself,” Noct replies, and Prompto’s eyes widen. “That way, you can feel a little more comfortable around me, yeah?”

That’s…not a bad idea. Prompto had been wondering about that, anyways. He nods, and Noct sighs, leaning back and closes his eyes.

“Let’s see...I hate fruits and vegetables.” Noct shudders, his face wrinkling in disgust with his eyes still closed. Prompto suppresses a grin, remembering how Ignis had been sneaking those in Noct’s food without him noticing.

“Gladio and Ignis. They're like family to me. We all grew up with each other. Gladio's dad works with mine, and Ignis' uncle...does something, I forget but it's important," Noct grimaces, shrugging. "Gladio’s kind of like my body guard, I guess you could say, since being the son and the next heir of one of the prestigious companies is pretty dangerous.”

Prompto nods in agreement. “Yeah, Gladio seems like the kind of guy I’d want on my side in a fight.”

“Yeah. Ignis, he’s more of my advisor than anything else – he helps me with company policies, contracts, meetings. Anything that needs organization or is written down on paper, he’s the guy. He also makes this amazing rice bowl, and this schnitzel sandwich, and…” Noct trails off, sighing wistfully, and Prompto laughs.

Noct looks over at him, confused. “What’re you laughing at?”

“Nothing, nothing.”

Noct scowls, annoyed. “Well, what about you? Tell me some things about yourself.”

“Me?” Prompto’s voice goes up an octave, and Noct looks at him pointedly, before Prompto sighs. “I…I’m nothing, really.”

Noct snorts. “I somehow doubt that.”

Prompto rubs his free hand across the back of his neck. “Uh, well, I really enjoy photography. I've been doing it since I was a kid, and it’s just something that I’ve always been pretty good at. Uh, I love playing video games – could play them all day, if I could,” he lets out an awkward laugh. “Um…my uncle taught me how to use a gun when I was a teenager. Said it might be important one day.”

Noct’s eyebrows disappear beneath the long locks of hair that cover his forehead as his blue eyes widen. “Really? You know how to use a gun?”

Prompto nods, and Noct whistles through his lips, impressed. “That’s pretty cool.” He turns his head to give him a smirk. “You lied.”

“What?”

“You lied,” Noct repeats, pointing at him accusingly. “You said you were nothing – all that sure does sound like you’re something.”

“What else about you?” Prompto tries to distract himself as the flutter in his chest prickles at his ribs in response to those words.

Noct's lips quirk a bit, amused, his eyes idling on Prompto's for a while until he finally lets his hand fall back into his lap. He hums.

“Let's see...my birthday, I guess? 30th of August. Usually spent it with Gladio or Ignis, mostly because my dad was always really busy when I was growing up," Noct sighs, the reflection of the water dancing on his face for a moment as Prompto listens intently.

"Did...did that bother you?" He asks. He can't even remember the last time he'd had a birthday that involved anything other than the usual 'happy birthday, kid' and a small cupcake with a candle in the center. A small, green frosted cupcake with those funfetti sprinkles.

Noct flinches slightly, as though he had been struck across the face, and Prompto immediately realized he's jabbed an open wound. Or at least, a wound that hasn’t quite healed completely.

He releases Noct's hand to wave his own around, wildly, apologetically. “I didn't mean to ask, like, you don't have to -"

"It did bother me at first," Noct interrupts, and Prompto lets his hands still, until he lowers them slowly into his lap. "But I was a kid, y'know? What kid wouldn't be bothered by that?"

Prompto nods slowly in agreement. He can still hear the sound of his next door neighbors birthday parties in their backyard, with one of those giant inflatable bouncy castles, a piñata, a giant ice cream cake - he'd spend hours looking through the hole of the fence in his uncle's backyard. 

Sometimes, he'd even pretend that the party was for him, and that his uncle had decided to quit his job to surprise him. It made him feel better about the fact that he usually spent his afternoons after school by himself. Or in the burger shop four blocks from his house. Not always, though.

He's brought back out his depressive memories when Noct grabs his hand again, twisting their fingers together like puzzle pieces. Prompto’s happy when he doesn’t overreact like last time. "Yeah. But, it's alright. I knew my dad was busy, and I don't hold it against him. Just trying to make up for it, now."

Noct unconsciously tightens his grip around Prompto’s hand, as he turns to him. A tiny grin forms on his face, and he raises his other hand to poke at Prompto's warm cheek. "What's up? You feel sorry for me?"

Prompto meets his eyes, shaking his head. "No, no - just, that sounds like me. The feeling alone part."

Noct pauses, the tiny grin morphing into a frown on his delicate features as he retracts his hand. "It does?"

Prompto's never told anyone about his parents. Never had any real friends to talk to, or had enough trust in a school counselor, or a therapist - hell, even a pet -  to tell how he became an orphan at the age of eight and was taken in by his uncle as a chubby little blonde kid his sister had left behind.

Noct's staring at him, waiting. His azure eyes aren't trying to force something out of him, his features aren't twisted mockingly. He's simply...waiting. 

Prompto wants to curse at any astrals or beings for making Noct so easy to talk to.

"Lost my parents when I was eight. Car accident. My uncle took me in, raised me the best way he knew how. But I was alone most of the time, and that really got to me, y'know? Especially for an overweight loser with no friends." Prompto shrugs as he laughs dryly, and Noct's expression hardens slightly. "Going from seeing my parents everyday,  to suddenly being in a strange house with an uncle I'd only ever seen in pictures - it's, not easy."

There’s a shift in the air, as the breeze blows through their hair, rustling it softly. Prompto hadn’t noticed, but Noct had scooted closer so that their thighs brush, but he doesn’t mind it. It’s comforting actually, to have this type of physical contact. The sun has lowered into the sky completely, but the sky isn’t completely dark yet, allowing for Prompto to see the solemn look on Noct’s face.

“So, that’s why you looked so anxious the first time I left,” Noct says slowly, meeting his eyes. “You should’ve told me.”

“I didn’t have to – you made Gladio come stay with me.”

This time, a light dusting of pink appears on Noct’s cheekbones, and he looks away. “Gladio and his big mouth.”

Prompto smiles. “Thanks for that, by the way. Really thoughtful of you.”

“…I guess.” Noct rubs his fingers over the rod in his lap, looking out into the water, before he looks back. “You said you were overweight when you were a kid?”

“Yeah?”

Noct looks him up and down. “What made you decide to lose the weight?”

Prompto thinks back on the memory, not really wanting to remember, but it looked like Noct wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

“Just wanted to be someone’s friend. Thought they would only be my friend if I didn’t look like a loser, ha.”

Noct frowns. “What made you think that?”

“They told me I was heavy,” Prompto replies, and shrugs like it’s not a big deal, but there’s a tiny rug in his gut. “Don’t think they meant it, but I felt bad anyway. Took me awhile, but when I finally felt that I was decent enough to look at, the kid had moved away.”

“That’s kinda dumb,” Noct argues, angrily putting his chin on his hand as he leans his elbow on his knee. “Why would you want to be friends with a kid who called you heavy?”

Prompto sighs. Because he had thought the same thing. “He had told me that he was alone – he wanted a friend. And me, being a pudgy eight-year-old kid, knew that I had to become his friend, no matter how hard it was going to be.”

Noct stares at him for minute, before shrugging. “I guess that’s a good enough reason, for a kid. What did he look like?”

“Dunno. It was raining, a storm actually, and he was walking alone. Never saw his face, he was wearing all black with a hood over his face. I gave him my umbrella.”

Noct bites his lip. “Was it a chocobo umbrella?”

“...maybe.”

Noct chuckles softly, and his eyes go distant for a second. “Wish that kid would’ve been me. I could’ve used a friend as a nice as you, back then.”

Prompto hesitates, before giving Noct’s hand a squeeze. “Well, we can be friends now. Is that cool?”

He feels weird, saying those words, if he's honest. They haven't known each other long, but things have changed since then. Before, every word that fell out of Noct's mouth made Prompto want to punch him right in the neck, and all Noct ever did was shamelessly flirt and tease him.

But now they're sitting here, on a fishing dock during the sunset, holding hands, Prompto really meaning the words that he says, Noct talking to him like a normal person, and it's all so... wholesome. But it's also strange, because...because why? What has happened that it's come to this?

Noct looks at him from the corner of his eye, before sitting up straight with a sigh and a grin. “Yeah. It’s cool,” He nods, before looking back out over the water. “So, you’re okay now? Less nervous?”

Prompto lets out a deep sigh – he does feel better, a lot less nervous. His heart isn’t threatening to beat out of his chest, and his hand is comfortably cozy in Noct’s hand. He nods, and Noct gives him a thumbs up.

Suddenly, the rod in Noct’s hand twitches, and he barely manages to tighten his grip when the rod is yanked so hard he nearly falls over.

Prompto immediately tightens his hold around Noct’s fingers to keep him from falling, as Noct flails a little bit, before regaining his balance. He has to use both hands to reel the fish in, and once he does, a huge catfish hangs in the air between them, a triumphant grin on Noct’s face and a shocked expression Prompto’s, before it turns into a full-blown smile.

“Whoa, Noct!” Prompto exclaims, as Noct unhooks the bait from the fish. “Great job!”

Noct pauses, before pulling in the little ice box that they had brought with his feet and shoving the fish inside to lay on ice and keep it from rotting. “Thanks,” he says once he closes the lid. “I’ve only fished by myself for the longest time, and…it’s nice to have someone here with me.”

Prompto’s smile never leaves his face as Noct smiles that lopsided grin at him, but this time, it doesn’t come off as sexy, or arrogant – it just comes off as...content. Like he’s content with Prompto being with him. And really? It feels good.

Ignis calls to tell them that they should be getting home soon, because it’s gotten dark, and that he’s already waiting to take them back.

Noct agrees, asking if Ignis will cook something with the fish he caught, and Ignis must have agreed because Noct’s expression immediately relaxes and he sighs wistfully.

They stand, stretching, and as they head off the dock and onto the path, Noct stretches his hand back, and Prompto doesn’t hesitate to reach forward.

Chapter Text

Prompto is shuffling into the kitchen, yawning and rubbing his eyes as he sits down at the kitchen table to watch Ignis working over the stove, a tea kettle placed over one of the burners, and simmering the oatmeal in a pot.

It’s an unusually cold Sunday, with dark, heavy clouds littering the sky and a cold wind blowing through the trees outside, rustling the leaves on the ground and forcing the public to put away their t shirts and shorts and dust off their warm sweaters and blankets.

Prompto shifts, crossing his legs underneath himself to keep his feet warm as he tugs the drawstrings of his hoodie tighter about his head – because it’s super cold and Prompto has a pretty bad case of bed head, but no one needs to know that.

Ignis turns, clad in his own sweater vest, to bid Prompto a good morning, who replies back happily, a smile on his face, much to Ignis’ surprise. He stares at him a moment, before he chuckles, reaching into the cupboard to grab three black mugs, placing them onto the counter beside him.

“How has your morning been so far, Iggy?” Prompto asks, leaning his chin in his hand as he watches Ignis move about the kitchen. If Ignis notices that Prompto is calling him the same name that Gladio has given him, he doesn’t say anything about it, instead wistfully sighing before he meets his eyes.

“Not what I was expecting it to be, if I’m being honest,” Ignis stirs the pot of oatmeal, turning up the heat. “This morning is unusually peculiar; don’t you think so?”

“How so?”

“Well, for starters, the weather has changed drastically,” Ignis frowns as his gaze drifts towards the windows, to stare out at the dark sky and rapidly moving trees from the wind. Then, his lips curve upward as he glances at Prompto, who is tapping a little tune on the wooden table with his fingers. “Secondly, you seem different. It’s a splendid difference.”

Prompto pauses, confused as Ignis turns to switch off the heat to quiet down the boiling tea kettle. “Different how?”

Ignis pours the liquid from the tea kettle, which Prompto notices is actually steaming hot milk, into two of the three mugs sitting on the counter. He’s stirring in cocoa powder from the cupboard as he answers him amusingly.

“You seem more at ease, more comfortable with your situation – has Noct told you anything at all?”

At the mention of Noct, Prompto rubs a hand on the back of his neck with a nervous, closed lip smile. “Uh, yeah, I guess. He told me that he’s the heir to Insomnia Inc., and that his dad owns the company. Which kind of explains why he’s pretty busy all the time.”

Ignis pauses. “…Is that all?”

“Uh,” Prompto shrugs, thinking that Noct probably wouldn’t want Ignis to know everything that they had talked about. “Pretty much.”

“Hmm.”

“What? Is there more?”

Ignis doesn’t reply right away, setting aside the steaming mugs in favor of stirring the oatmeal into two big bowls, setting them on the table, along with butter and brown sugar. “It is not my position to say.”

Prompto groans, pulling his hood farther over his face until it covers his eyes. “Is that a yes, then?”

Ignis doesn’t answer as he moves the bowl of oatmeal to make room for the mug near Prompto’s elbow, instead murmuring a quiet warning about the steaming contents of the mug. Prompto hears him retreat, before the sound and smell of coffee pouring into another mug hits his nose and ears, before he lifts his hood up to mumble a thank you. 

He takes a sip of the steaming cup beside him, almost melting out of his seat as the sweet, warm taste of the hot chocolate settles over his tongue and slides down his throat. He shudders, closing his eyes, and he hears Ignis chuckle.

“No noises of contentment this morning?” Ignis teases, and Prompto tries to glare at him over the rim of his mug, but fails as he takes another sip, distracted. Ignis hums as Prompto shifts to stir in a spoonful of brown sugar into his oatmeal.

“How is your relationship with Noct progressing?”

Ignis’ sudden question makes Prompto freeze, his spoon in mid-air as it makes its way towards his open mouth.

“I’m only asking, because I am aware, that you are aware, that he hasn’t told you everything.” Ignis continues. “You aren’t as inquisitive as you were before.”

Prompto swallows the mouthful of oatmeal, before clearing his throat awkwardly. “Well, I mean, we’re friends. I’m not going to force him to do that.”

Ignis raises an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“Yeah.” Prompto nods, another small smile making its way onto his face as the little bits and pieces of their ‘date’ make it to the forefront of his mind. Ignis pauses again in thought, and Prompto uses the opportunity of silence to make a grab for the hot chocolate and drown in its chocolatey goodness.

Eventually though, Ignis makes a noncommittal noise as he takes a sip of his coffee.

“Are you certain that is all?”

“...What do you mean? What more is there to it?” His voice has a hint of snark in it, but Ignis doesn’t seem to notice as his cheeks rise light heartedly.

“You aren’t…developing a fondness towards him?”

Prompto’s jaw goes slack, his chin almost hitting the table as he tightens his grip around the handle of the mug in his hands. “…are you implying that I'm getting a crush?

Ignis merely shrugs. “Think about it. You are evidently nervous and quite content when we speak of him, and I would think that implies that you care for him and how he feels, don’t you?”

Prompto stares at the kitchen table, everything around him zoning out until it’s just him and his thoughts, which is never a good thing. He's...getting a crush on Noct? As in, feelings? He lets out a laugh, or tries to, because it comes out half garbled and shaky.

“...I don't like him like that.”

“Even if you were to admit that you are advancing to that point, why would that be such a bad thing?”

Prompto can feel the blush on his face. It would be bad if he were to develop feelings for Noct, because they’re supposed to be pretending. Lying. Faking it. That’s the way things are.

He can’t help but think of yesterday, though. Them sitting together, thighs brushing, talking about themselves and watching the sunset. It was...very nice, and Noct had let his guard down enough for Prompto to see that he’s much more than what he seems. Prompto had told him some things, too, and although he does feel a little closer to Noct than before, it doesn’t mean...it’s a crush. Right?

It would be bad. For him, at least. He’d known coming into this that he’d need to be careful not become too attached. When everything is done and over with, when they don’t have to keep pretending that they’re together or married or whatever they’re supposed to be - he doesn’t want to get hurt.

Just pretend. I’m not asking you to fall in love with me. Actually, I’d rather you didn’t. It would save us both the trouble.”

Prompto agrees.

He wonders what Noct feels. About him. Maybe, there is something between them now that wasn’t -

Prompto shakes his head quickly. There’s no way. Ignis is just way too observant for his own good, probably looked into it way more than he should have. But it’s time to get a grip, and say something back so it doesn’t seem like he’s having some mental breakdown about-

“Hey.”

Prompto nearly flips out of his chair when he looks up to see Noct sitting across from him, a confused look on his face as he takes a sip from his own steaming mug. He’s wearing a hoodie himself, but it’s a dark shade of blue that seem to match his eyes that are staring intently at Prompto.

“What’s the matter with you? You didn't hear me?”

“Uh, shit, sorry,” Prompto mumbles as he hurriedly picks his spoon back up, shoveling a huge bite into his mouth. “I’m a little weird this morning.”

Noct gives him a look, before shrugging and setting down his mug beside him. He peers down into his bowl with a sigh.

"Really, Specs? Did you have to put raisins?"


After showering, just giving up on his hair and sporting a black beanie, Prompto wanders into the living room to see Noct lounging on the couch with his feet near the coffee table, and Ignis staring out the window with a frown on his face. Upon Prompto’s return, Ignis turns towards him with a gleam in his eye, and Prompto grimaces as he glances at Noct, who is too busy fumbling with his phone.

“Ah, Prompto,” Ignis says, hands behind his back. “I was just telling Noct that his plans at the incorporation have been canceled today.”

Prompto furrows his eyebrows as he sits on the loveseat across from them, chin in his hand as he leans on the arm of the sofa. This better not be some trick or something to get him alone with Noct, who puts his feet up on the coffee table in the middle of the room. “Really? Why?”

“There’s a storm brewing,” Ignis replies, shooing Noct’s feet away as Noct grumbles in annoyance. “It’s merely a necessary precaution.”

“Ah,” Prompto doesn’t totally believe that, but the weather outside is acting crazy at the moment, so it seems pretty logical. He crosses his arms as he shifts on the sofa. “So, what now?”

“Actually, I was hoping that the two of you could lend me some assistance,” Ignis pushes his glasses up further over his nose. “I have a few errands to run and work to do, since the incorporation will be closed today. Usually, I help with the cleaning and the dinner preparations on Sundays, but today I’m afraid I simply won’t have the time. It’s up to you two to fend for yourselves when it comes to dinner and the housework.”

“Whaaat?” Noct moans out, sliding off the couch and onto the floor dramatically, his arms and legs sprawled out. “You mean I have to clean and cook for myself?”

Prompto tries not to laugh, because he’s in the same boat too, and he has no idea how to cook. He realizes that he’s been staring and smiling for way too long, and looks away to angrily to play with the hairs on the back of neck. This is all Ignis’ fault – now he’s going to overthink every little thing, just when things had gotten comfortable.

Ignis sighs, shaking his head. “There’s no need to be so dramatic. I’ll give you a recipe that should be simple enough for the two of you to handle, and I’m always a phone call away if you require my assistance.”

“Specs,” Noct says as he inches forward and grasps onto the pant leg of Ignis’ slacks. “I don’t wanna.”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to, Noct, lest you desire to live in filth and starve to death while you’re at it,” Ignis pries his leg away from Noct’s grip, stepping over him and heading towards the kitchen counter, to write down a few words and then step by step directions onto a slip of paper. He folds it, and hands it straight to Prompto. “Prompto, please make sure that Noct doesn’t burn down the building.”

“Hey,” Noct pouts, sitting up to rest his back against the couch. “You talk like I don’t know how to cook. Have you tasted my frozen pizza?”

Ignis rolls his eyes as Prompto pockets the recipe, before giving Prompto a gentle, reassuring squeeze on the shoulder while giving him a knowing look, which Prompto tries to pretend not to see.

Ignis bids them goodbye after showing Prompto where the cleaning supplies were kept, neat and stored in a closet. Prompto looks over at Noct, who is now sitting on the couch tapping away at his phone. Prompto plops down across from him, back on the loveseat with his eyes closed and arms around the back of the seat. Noct glances up at him.

“So…do you wanna clean?”

Prompto cracks open one eye. “What? Why me?”

Noct groans, letting his head loll back and giving Prompto the perfect view of his pale throat. “I hate cleaning.”

“Cleaning can be fun,” Prompto replies, stretching his arms above his head. Noct glares at him.

“If you’re just saying that to make me clean, it’s not gonna work.”

“No, really, watch,” Prompto stands up, going down the hall into his room to get his speaker, before lugging it up front to sit it on top of the kitchen counter. He connects it to his phone via Bluetooth, and soon, music begins to play through the apartment. Noct looks surprised, but interested, as Prompto shuffles through his music, finally landing on a playlist that plays the latest hits. “See? Cleaning is more fun when there’s music playing.”

Prompto starts to do the robot, albeit nervously, while Noct just cringes and shoves his hood over his head. Prompto runs over, grabs his hand to pull him up, leading him towards the closet that houses the cleaning supplies as Noct drags his feet.

At first, Noct is annoyed at the fact that he has to exert energy. Prompto is sweeping the floor, and when he notices Noct dragging a cloth across the wooden table with a sour look on his face, he gets an idea, an idea that makes all his nervousness and anxiety melt away, even for just a moment, long enough for him to switch the song onto something upbeat and begin dancing with the broom, much to Noct’s surprise, which then switches into laughter.

After a while, Noct gets the hang of it, and they’re both laughing and giggling as they clean the place, sliding in their socks and moving their heads to the beat of the music. Prompto forgets, at least for a while, all about what he and Ignis had talked about earlier, instead enjoying the most fun he’s had in a while.

At one point, when Noct is cleaning the bathroom, he comes out with a box of adhesive bandages in his hand, with chocobos printed all over them. Prompto pretends like they’re not his, but they both know whose they are. Noct just calls him a nerd.

When they eventually tire out, Prompto shuts off the music and joins Noct on the now swept and mopped floor, where they both breathe heavily.

“Y’see?” Prompto is panting, wiping the sweat away from his brow. “We cleaned the entire apartment, and had fun doing it.”

Noct doesn’t answer for a while, his hair fluffed out in all directions after having to shed his hoodie and tie it around his waist. He’s breathing hard too, but he laughs anyway. It makes Prompto’s heart pick up speed at the sound, but he shakes his head, because it’s just because he’s still trying to catch his breath. Not because of what Ignis said.

“Yeah,” Noct agrees, turning his head so that their eyes meet. “You were helpful, for a change.”

“What do you mean ‘for a change’?”


When evening rolls around, the weather outside has calmed a bit, the rain turning to a drizzle and the breeze not as strong and violent as it had been earlier. Prompto tugs his beanie tighter over his ears as they walk down the sidewalk towards the busy supermarket, the place crawling with people who are trying to get some supplies ready in case the storm gets worse.

Noct pushes the shopping cart, as Prompto walks beside him, list in hand as they make their way down the aisles in search of the ingredients that Ignis had written down for them to get. The thought that they looked like a happy couple shopping together is shoved into the corner of Prompto's mind.

So far, they’re not doing a good job, because the cart is full of junk food - sugary cereals, sodas, fried potato chips, frozen pizzas. It’s kinda-sorta his fault though, because Noct had asked him what kind of cereal he liked, soda, chips, etc., and Prompto wouldn’t have said anything if he knew that Noct liked the exact same things that he did – which is why he didn’t really make an effort to stop him from dropping all of it into the cart.

“Noct,” Prompto says as Noct tosses in another box of frozen pizza, because things were getting out of hand, and they only came to the store for like three things. “We’re supposed to be cooking the dinner. Not thawing it out and heating it up.”

Noct pauses, before shrugging. “Cooking and heating are basically the same thing, right? They both involve using the oven,” He closes the freezer door, a huge gust of the cold wind making Prompto shiver in his jacket. “Now, to the Pop-Tarts!”

Prompto rolls his eyes as Noct enthusiastically pushes the cart down the aisle, but he follows him with a grin anyway.

Apparently, they don’t like the exact same types of Pop-Tarts, or even Oreos; They argue, quite loudly, over what flavors to get, because Noct wants the disgusting looking soda flavored Pop-Tarts, and Prompto just gets the feeling that he’ll have to end up eating them if Noct decides they’re gross.

They literally get scolded by some old lady for being too loud, and Prompto wants to tell her to mind her own fucking business, because they wouldn’t be arguing if there weren’t so many ridiculous flavors.

Then, Prompto sees it - the clawing machine holding the limited edition black chocobo that he hadn't gotten the chance to get his hands on when it first came out. He'd heard the news that they'd discontinued, and had decided to leave the last few remaining in every store they could sell it in - and apparently, they meant every store, but it doesn't matter, because Prompto is tugging at Noct's arm anyway. Noct gives him some strange look, but he follows him over there.

Prompto's face is pressed against the glass like a kid in a candy shop as he stares at the plushie, tucked tightly in the back right hand corner, just waiting to be grabbed and taken home.

"You gonna try to win it?" Noct asks, leaning on his elbow on the shopping cart, crossing his ankles. Prompto glances at him for a moment, before pressing his face back against the glass with a frown, before his lips curl into an evil smirk. 

"I don't know.” He makes his voice whiny and pathetic as he sighs. "I'm not very good at this type of thing; maybe there's some cool guy here that can win it for me?"

He doesn't take his face off the glass, biting his lip in the hopes that Noct takes the bait.

Noct's fingers dig into his shoulders to pull him away, before he's stepping forward and digging his hands into his pockets for change, muttering something along the lines of 'I'm gonna win this fucking thing because I'm the only cool guy in here' and Prompto just takes a step back with a grin on his face.

After the first three failed attempts, Noct's face has turned a remarkable shade of red as he angrily shoves the machine, making it wobble. He crosses his arms. "The damn thing is broken, Prom."

Prompto can't help it, he erupts into a fit of giggles, holding his sides as Noct scowls at him. He wipes a tear from his eye, before sighing. "It's okay, dude. It's just a toy, let's just get everything else that we need and head home."

Noct pauses for a moment, before growling and producing another pair of quarters to shove into the machine. He grabs the joystick, jerking it around while Prompto watches, amused. Suddenly, the machine lights up, and a plushie is dropped into the dispenser at the bottom. Noct exhales loudly, bending down and resting his head between his knees. He grabs the plushie from the machine, and holds it up to Prompto.

"Here," he huffs, as if he had just won a marathon, and there's an exhausted smile on his lips. "Looks like you had a cool guy here all along."

Prompto takes the black chocobo, shaking his head as he hugs it to his chest. "I'm so impressed."

Noct's eyebrows shoot up before he puffs out his chest. "What can I say?" Prompto rolls his eyes before he looks at the toy in his arms, at its blue eyes staring at his own intently, with one stitched eyebrow raised, and a smirk on his lips.

"Hey, he looks just like you!" He holds the chocobo right next to Noct's head, and Noct swats it away as Prompto laughs. "I'm gonna name it Nocobo."

Noct runs a hand through his hair, exasperated with a pained expression on his face. "Please don't."

Prompto opens his mouth to reply, when a chuckle behind them catches his attention. They both turn to see an old woman (not the same one who shushed them for fighting over Pop-Tarts like two idiots) pausing with her shopping cart full of various items, with a warm, happy smile on her face. "Oh my, what a lovely couple you two make," she coos, and both boys blush. "You two should get hitched!"

"Uh-"

"We already are." Noct interrupts sweetly, but the woman frowns at him.

"Then why didn't you put on ring on it young man?" She scolds, pointing at Prompto's bare ring finger of his left hand that is currently wrapped around the plushie. Noct follows her finger, and he grimaces. "Haven't you ever heard the phrase, 'if you like it then you should of put a ring on it'?"

Prompto is having a real hard time to keeping it together, watching as some old woman scolds Noct like a child. Eventually, the woman takes her leave, and Noct stomps away, Prompto following behind with Nocobo.

“Okay…we have the chickatrice leg, the allural shallots, and the sweet peppers. I think we have everything for the Green Curry soup.” Prompto reads over the list twice as they stand near the produce, before folding it and shoving it into his pocket. Noct scoffs, and Prompto looks over at him to see that his face is wrinkled in disgust.

“What?”

“I don’t like the name of the soup.”

“...Green curry soup?”

Noct shudders, nodding. “Yeah. Just hearing the word ‘green’ makes me think of vegetables, and it makes my skin crawl.”

Prompto smirks at him playfully. “It doesn’t even taste like vegetables, dude.”

“You could be right – I haven’t had this type of soup or even any vegetables in so long,” Noct scowls as he tightens his grip on the shopping cart. “But I still remember what they taste like.”

The tone of his voice sounds like some type of prince that is dead set on taking back what was stolen from him and avenging the death of his people or something, and Prompto presses his lips together to contain his grin, because he can remember the look on Ignis’ face when Noct said he hated fruit and – fuck. Ignis.

Prompto can feel his chest tighten as the words that Ignis had spoken earlier that morning swim around his mind.

“You aren’t…developing a fondness towards him?”

Dammit. Even if he was, which he isn't, he wouldn't let it grow into anything else besides something friendly.

Prompto glances at Noct, who has wandered away from him and headed towards the bakery section. He’s looking rather attentively at a package of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, before Prompto notices a little girl near him, looking somewhat pained as she nurses her hand.

She’s wearing a pretty blue dress that matches her blue eyes, which are looking around in quickly in search of someone. She seems lost, and her eyes are glistening with unshed tears. Prompto makes a move towards her, but Noct notices her first, and kneels down in front of her.

He can’t make out what Noct’s saying, but he reads the little girls’ lips. She’s not lost, but she cut her finger trying to open a box of cookies, and she doesn’t want her mom to find out. Noct hesitates, before reaching into his back pocket. He takes out the chocobo themed bandage, much to the little girls’ delight and to Prompto’s utter disbelief, and wraps it around her finger. She grins at him, before she’s skipping away.

Prompto must have the world’s most ridiculous look on his face, because Noct laughs at his expression as he makes his way back towards him.

“Hope you don’t mind, I borrowed one of your chocobo band aids. I wasn’t planning on using it, but that girl needed it more than I did,” Noct says, and Prompto makes some sort of affirmative noise, before Noct takes a step closer to pat him firmly on the back, his hand lingering for a second too long. “I was trying what you told me, before.”

“...what I told you before?”

“Being considerate. Even if she was a stranger.” Noct’s tone is so sincere, and Prompto feels the heat creep into his cheeks, and Noct frowns, his own cheeks darkening as well before he turns away to grab the cart and push it towards checkout.

Prompto watches him go, Nocobo peeking from around Noct's elbow as he sits in the seat meant for kids, and as Prompto's standing there, the tingling feeling pokes at his chest and says 'hey, you can't ignore me, bro', and he hangs his head in defeat.

They make it home, bags of groceries hanging from their arms and droplets of rain clinging to their clothes as they shuffle inside quickly. The storm had picked back up while they had been fooling around in the store and wasting time, and the rain had just started pouring a few seconds before they made it to the building.

Prompto sheds his jacket, tugging off his hat and running a hand through his hair. Noct sheds his own jacket after placing the groceries down the counter, and shakes his hair out. Then, he begins rummaging through the cabinets, making a mess and swearing after he can’t find what he’s looking for.

After Prompto tosses the plushie onto his bed, he finds the pot that Ignis uses to make soups with, and they try to follow the recipe that Ignis had given them in his neat and perfect handwriting. They do good at first, letting the broth simmer, making sure nothing boils over. Prompto washes the chickatrice thoroughly in cold water, while Noct peels apart the shallots.

Prompto is stirring the broth, the smell of the curry wafting up into his nose and making him sigh, because he loves the smell of this soup. The idea of eating something warm and filing when it’s cold and rainy outside is one of his favorite things to –

Fuck!

“Noct?!” Prompto whirls around quickly, to see Noct holding his hand against his chest tightly. Prompto eyes look at the counter, to see the sweet peppers half cut, the knife carelessly thrown to the side. Noct hisses in pain, flinging his hand in the air to ward off the sting.

“Damn, that hurt like a bitch,” Noct says, and Prompto wastes no time, grabbing Noct’s hand, cradling it gently in his own. Noct had cut himself on his left hand, on the sides of his thumb and index finger, right by the nailbeds.

It isn’t a life or death situation, but the knife had cut swiftly, blood trickling down the length of Noct's fingers. Some of it trails over Prompto’s knuckles as he looks over at Noct staring at his hand in his, but Prompto grits his teeth.

“Shit Noct, what were you thinking?”

Noct jumps in surprise at the volume of his voice, but then he shrugs sheepishly.

“I’m fine, it…just slipped. It’s not that big of a deal.”

Prompto glares at him, blue eyes shooting daggers. “But it could’ve been, dude! You need to be more careful!”

Noct stares at him a moment, letting Prompto hold his hand and shout at him for hurting himself, without saying anything more. His blue eyes are focused, intent on him, and Prompto swears there’s a shift in the air, causing him to remember that he had probably been holding Noct’s hand for too long.

He loosens his grip, before reaching to turn the burner off and tugging Noct to the bathroom, where he urges him to sit on the closed toilet seat. He goes through the medicine cabinet, pulling out the first aid kit.

It’s quiet as Prompto works, stopping the blood and rubbing the disinfectant over the little wounds on his fingers. He’s wrapping the extra strength bandages around Noct’s fingers, the ones that are super durable and waterproof, before he lets out a sigh of relief.

“Hey, uh,” Prompto mumbles as Noct flexes his fingers. “I’m sorry for yelling at you. I know you didn’t cut yourself on purpose…you just, scared me half to death. I thought you’d cut off your entire hand or something, with the noise you made.”

“It’s cool. I’ve never chopped anything with such a big knife before, but I thought it was easy enough.”

Prompto nods, reaching a hand behind his head to rub at his neck with a low chuckle. “Leave the chopping with the big boy knives to Ignis, alright?"

"Yeah, yeah. Thanks for helping me out. Kinda disappointed you didn't use the chocobo ones, though."

"Shut up."

Later, Prompto turns on the burner, noticing that his fingers were still striped with blood, but not caring enough to wash it off right away. What was really his main concern, was his reaction when he had thought Noct had really hurt himself. Why had he been so angry, angry that Noct was careless enough to hurt himself with a knife? It’s not like Noct had done it on purpose or anything, so why did Prompto have to make it a big deal?

He sighs again, stirring the broth as it starts to bubble. He knows the real reason why, and he’s just in denial about the whole thing. And he's kind of pissed about it, too.

After they finish up the soup, they sit down together to eat it together, Noct making a surprised noise at the taste. Prompto laughs a little at his expression, because it was almost like Noct had been expecting the soup to turn out bad. Which, if it had, wouldn’t have been so bad, since they bought like four frozen pizzas.

After a while, they both bid each other good night and head off to bed. It’s been one hell of a fucking day, thanks to Ignis, and Prompto’s overthinking mind - he’s worn out.

There’s no doubt about it though, what Ignis said. He can feel it, nagging at him. Is it bad that he kinda likes these warming feelings in his chest, though?

He snuggles under the covers, tucking Nocobo into his side and shoving a pillow over his head to drown out the noise of the rain against the window and the sound of the wind blowing against the trees. Whatever it takes, he can't allow for the beginnings of this measly little crush to get any bigger - shouldn't be too hard, right? 

Chapter Text

It had just been an ordinary morning when Gladio had texted him to get his ass out of bed and down to the gym area for more training, because it’s been a couple of days since their last session. Now, Prompto didn’t mind that – he’d been itching to get back to running again, and with the weather suddenly going from pretty fair to outright cold and dark, his bones were starting to throb.

What he did mind though, was that Noct was going with him. Noct was going to be there.

It’d only been two days since Prompto had recently discovered his ‘crush’ on Noct (all thanks to Ignis), and so far he’d been doing a pretty good job at keeping it under control. But as he watches Gladio hold Noct’s outstretched leg straight up in an attempt to stretch out his hamstrings as he lays on the floor, Prompto just wants to smash his head into a wall.

Prompto can’t help it, and he doesn’t make any eye contact with him as they do a few warm up stretches, and jog around the indoor track. He can feel Noct’s eyes boring a hole in the back of his head, and he tries to make it seem like he’s focused on what he’s doing, when it reality he’s freaking the fuck out because it’s getting really hard not to make a fool of himself.

Instead of their usual exercises, Gladio does something completely different and out of Prompto’s comfort zone and coordination, wrestling or something like that – Prompto doesn’t really hear past the first syllable.

“Whoa, whoa, what? Why are we doing this?” Prompto questions as Gladio positions him an equal distance away from Noct, who is trying not to laugh. Gladio claps him hard on the shoulder, before moving off the mat and standing near the two of them like some sort of referee.

“Relax – you’ll be fine.” Noct tries to reassure him as he rubs his fingers against the bandages still adorning his thumb and index finger, but the look in his eyes has Prompto thinking differently as he nervously chews on his lower lip.

“You’ve been training for a while, kid. This shouldn’t be too bad. Plus, I want to see how much worse Noct has gotten since he’s skipped out on his own sessions.” Gladio says, pointedly look at Noct, who just rolls his eyes and shifts his stance.

Prompto’s breathing picks up quickly, because he’s never even been in a fight. How the hell is he supposed to-?

“Alright ladies,” Gladio barks out, clapping his hands together loudly, making Prompto flinch in surprise. “First one to pin the other down is the winner – but no cheating.”

Noct scoffs, the last part obviously directed at him, and Prompto is one second away from just bolting the fuck away from-

“GO!”

“Wait!” Prompto yells out as Noct approaches him, a sly grin on his face as his fingers dig roughly into the fabric of Prompto’s shirt. Prompto immediately recoils, resisting as Noct tries to force him down. Noct falters for a bit, and Prompto twists around until he somehow manages to wiggle free. He holds his hands up in surrender, but Noct keeps approaching him. Prompto’s eyes flicker to Gladio, who’s watching amusingly.

“Gladio! I can’t do this, I’ve never done anything like this before!”

“I know,” Gladio calls out to him as Prompto runs around in circles, Noct giggling as he chases him. “That’s why I’m not easing you into it like some wuss; you don’t want Noct to pin you down? Fight back!”

By this point, Prompto is just barely dodging Noct’s advancements, Noct’s fingers brushing against the fabric of his shirt, or against his skin seconds before they close around air. Noct’s grinning now, his blue eyes bright and his hair bouncing freely.

After a few minutes, Prompto begins to notice Noct slowing down a bit, his breathing shallow and his face a faint shade of red as sweat begins to glisten against the skin of his neck and collarbone. Prompto is still running, a little worn out, but otherwise pretty okay, compared to Noct. He bites his lip in concentration, waiting for the moment, before he stops and whirls around, outright charging at Noct and taking him off guard.

His hands bury into his shoulders, knocking him off balance and sending them both crashing to the ground. On some sort of involuntary instinct, Prompto’s hand shoots out to grasp the back of Noct’s head, cushioning it as his head hits the floor.

Noct is staring up at him, lips parted, breathing hard and face flushed. A feeling of accomplishment overwhelms Prompto, because he did it! He can’t help it, and his lips split into an accomplished smile as he grins down at Noct, expecting to see some sort of embarrassed or upset look on his face, some sort of cocky response - but instead, Noct's blue eyes are smoldering, if that's the right word. He's not entirely sure.

Slowly, Noct's arm shifts, before his fingers reach up, towards Prompto's face. After hesitating a moment, warmth tingles from Noct's fingertips as he brushes a lock of blonde hair away and the air shifts between them. That fluttery feeling is back, in the pounding of his heart against his ribs and in the soft breath that passes from between his lips - his eyes search Noct's face. Hold on. Has he always had that tiny mole to the right of his lips?

It'd be so easy to lean in. And he's pretty sure judging from the look on Noct's face that he wouldn't mind.

Wait. What?

Gladio's deep chuckling knocks him out of his stupor, and he blinks, realizing their position – one hand behind Noct’s head, another grasping his shoulder as his right knee lies in-between Noct’s parted legs. Noct seems to notice then too, a slight blush erupting across his face, and Prompto scrambles away from him, snatching his hand away. Noct's head bumps against the ground, and he lets out a noise of pain as Prompto scoots farther away, swallowing.

“You’re pretty quick on your feet, kid,” Gladio praises him, as Noct rubs the back of his head and sits up to rest his elbow on his knees. “Use it to your advantage.”

Gladio winks, and Prompto just wants to the floor to swallow him up as he groans and sprawls onto his back.

“Y’see what happens when you skip out on training? You get your ass beat,” Gladio kicks at the bottom of Noct’s shoe, and Noct just grumbles and looks away as he gets to his feet, before hobbling his way over to Prompto.

“Not bad. You did pretty good, this being your first time and all.”

Prompto lets out a huge gust of air from his lungs, closing his eyes. “Thanks, dude. But I’m not doing that again.”


They head back up to the apartment after a few hours, both of them sweat-stained and smelly. Noct rubs the back of his head, rummaging through the cabinet and pouring a few tablets into his palm before heading to the fridge for a water. 

Prompto watches, taking his time as he sits on the step and unlacing his shoes. "You alright?"

Noct swallows the huge gulp of water in his mouth, making eye contact. He shrugs. "Yeah, 'm fine."

Prompto hesitates but decides not to push it further as Noct puts the pill bottle back and takes another swig of his water. Prompto stands up and heads over to the kitchen, leaning on the counter with his chin on his hand. He accepts the water Noct offers him, and while he takes a sip, Noct tugs out his phone and swipes it open. He grumbles.

"Company stuff today?" Prompto asks, and Noct flips his phone over on the counter, running a hand through his hair.

"Yeah." Noct looks at him for a second, before doing a double-take. Prompto blinks, looking over himself as Noct stares at his hand lying on the counter near his elbow. Noct reaches forward, grabbing his hand. "Your hand is bruised."

Prompto looks down at his hand - sure enough, the knuckles across his hand are slightly bruised, starting to darken in color. When he flexes them, a string of pain follows, and his sucks air through his teeth. He hadn't felt it earlier. Noct must've fallen harder than he thought. "Ah, yeah. Didn't notice before."

Suddenly, a cold, frozen bag of peas is on his hand. He looks up, and Noct turns back towards him after closing the freezer door. "This should help, right?" Noct says, and Prompto nods.

"Thanks."

"No problem. Don’t like peas anyway. Don’t even know how they got in there.”

Prompto rolls his eyes. “Glad I’m of use for someone.”

Suddenly his phone vibrates, distracting him and making him miss the expression that crosses Noct’s face.

He looks down at it, and his heart almost drops down to his feet, because his uncle is calling.

Noct’s notices his frozen stature. He points to the vibrating phone in Prompto’s hand that hasn’t budged. “You gonna answer that?”

Prompto barely manages a nod, before he accepts the call and shakily holds the phone up to his ear. “Hello?”

“Hey, son. How are you boys doing?” His uncle’s voice sounds…strange. Almost like he’s waiting for the next words to fall out of Prompto’s mouth so he can interrupt him and make some outrageous statement. His voice is tight, yet somehow the same as always.

“Hi Uncle Cor,” Prompto greets, and Noct’s eyes widen, before he’s motioning some weird hand gesture Prompto can’t understand, and he huffs and makes a grab for the phone as Prompto recoils.

“Uh, we’re doing okay. How are you doing?” Noct makes a move again, and they’re fighting for the phone as Prompto struggles to keep it pressed to his ear.

“Well, I’m doing just fine,” Cor replies, and finally Noct snatches the phone away from his ear to put it on speaker so both of them can listen. “but I gotta say, something’s been on my mind lately.”

“O-oh?” Prompto stutters out, and Noct’s eyes flicker to his before they shift back to the voice emitting from the phone.

“Mhm. About you and that ‘fiancé’ of yours.”

“You never told him we were supposed to be married already?!” Noct mouths angrily, and Prompto scowls at him.

“It never came up!” Prompto mouths back, and Noct pinches the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger as he exhales.

“What about us?” Prompto asks, gripping his phone tighter between his fingers.

“I’d rather talk to you two in person,” Cor says, and Prompto just mouths ‘fuck’ and waits for him to continue. “Could you boys meet me for lunch at the Square Enix Café later today? Say, around one?”

He’s never even heard of that café before, and how long has he lived in this city? Prompto’s eyes shift up towards the clock that’s ticking on the wall – it’s only 11:30, not enough time for them to move across the country and change their names.

Noct’s gesturing at him, nodding at him quickly and mouthing at him, “Say yes,” and Prompto just blurts out without thinking.

“Sure! Sounds good!” his voice cracks, but if Cor hears it, he doesn’t say anything about it, and bids him a goodbye before telling him he’ll see them later. Once Cor’s name disappears from his phone and pops up in his recents, Prompto covers his face with both hands and groans loudly.

“Shit, Noct,” he groans, shaking his head. “What the hell are we supposed to do?”

Noct doesn’t reply for a moment, before the sound of the chair scraping against the floor makes Prompto peek between his fingers. Noct is typing away at his phone quickly, and Prompto sits across from him.

“I’ve canceled my meetings for today,” Noct says, and immediately holds up a hand as Prompto opens his mouth to protest. “they weren’t that important anyway. It’s fine, Ignis will handle it.”

Prompto brings both his hands up to interlace his fingers together nervously, chewing on his lower lip. He’s freaking out, because his uncle could always sniff out when Prompto was lying about something – just like when he was sixteen and ‘borrowed’ his uncle’s gun from underneath his bed and nearly shot himself in the foot.

He’d stuttered and stammered his way into a confession from the look on his uncle’s face, and as punishment, was forced to spend his entire summer at the shooting range, practicing with that gun until he could do it in his sleep.

It was absolute hell, and Prompto never in his life wanted to see that look on his uncle’s face ever again – the look of disappointment. The look that always screamed to him, ‘you’re unworthy of my time and energy’ and made him feel three inches tall.

“Everything will be fine if we play our cards right. I’ll be there with you.” Noct’s tone is soft when he suddenly speaks up, probably meant to soothe Prompto’s nerves and the tension in his shoulders, and Prompto wants to believe him, but his chest gets tighter and tighter with every thought that passes through his head.


After they shower from that ridiculous training session from earlier, it’s time for them to head out and make their way over to the café. Noct’s driving his own car this time, since Ignis is covering for him today, and Prompto can’t even marvel over Noct’s sleek black Audi, at its leather interior with a gold trim, touch screen navigation system and the complicated looking stereo system, and how it probably costs more than his entire life, because he’s so nervous.

The weather is still cold and dark, the wind having picked up, and the air of foreboding nearly has him choking.

Noct peers at over at him from the corner of his eye as he drives, and motions for Prompto grab the wheel while he reaches towards the back seat. Prompto’s holding the wheel steady as Noct quickly reaches behind his seat, finds what he’s looking for and then twists around to face forward.

“Here,” He stuffs Nocobo into Prompto’s chest as he regains control of the wheel. “Figured he’d make you feel better.”

Prompto stares at the plushie in his hands, the black stuffed chocobo staring at him with its blue eyes and one stitched raised eyebrow, and he grits his teeth. He wrinkles his nose as he feels it prickle, the thought of Noct going into his room to grab the toy in an effort to make Prompto feel better. It’s not fair, it’s not fair, because Noct isn’t making this any easier for this measly little crush to stay hidden.

Suddenly, a thought passes through his head. "What if Cor asks us some things?”

Noct doesn’t take his eyes of the road, but his eyebrows furrow underneath his dark bangs. “What kind of things?”

“Those couple type questions – the ones that Ardyn asked me before.”

Noct’s hands tighten on the wheel, before he flicks on his turn signal, and turns right to head down the street. He nods. “Okay, then. We just have to make some shit up.”

Prompto’s nodding, watching as the cars speed by going the opposite direction, at the various buildings and restaurants they pass, honestly just wishing he was home. “Yeah, okay. Uh, let’s say that we met like a year ago or something?”

“That’s good,” Noct assures him, eyes still on the road. “We met at Hammerhead, at that car garage, because both of our cars happened to break down at the same time. Then, we started talking while we waited for them to be fixed, and exchanged numbers. We could say I asked you for a date, first.”

Prompto tries to shake the fluttery feeling in his chest away at the fact that what Noct is saying sounds like he actually sat down and thought this out more than once. “Yeah. Um, then you proposed to me at…” Prompto hesitates, thinking about what would be the perfect place, and Noct shakes his head.

“The beach, remember? I asked your uncle right in front of you,” Noct says, and Prompto grimaces as he remembers that day, when he fell off that damn cliff, and when Noct of all people had to go and save him, all those people watching.

Noct turns around corner, finally pulling into the café parking lot. He turns off the motor, before unbuckling his seat belt. “That should be good enough, I think,” he says as he turns to Prompto. “Anything else, whoever makes something up, just go along with it.”

Prompto agrees, placing Nocobo in his seat, and steps out, tucking a few loose strands of blonde hair into his beanie as a few drops of rain hit his cheeks. He looks up at the sign on the door, at the swirly little font, and it’s probably going to be one of those cafés, where they serve stuff that literally no one can pronounce and pay a lot of money for. He hears Noct close the car door behind him, and walk towards him until he’s standing by his side.

“Prom, relax,” He says, shivering and huddling further into his sweater as a particularly harsh gust of wind blows his bangs away from his forehead. “It’s just your uncle, remember?”

Prompto nods, trying to calm his heartbeat. He feels Noct’s warm hand slide into his, weaving their fingers together and Prompto immediately relaxes, tightening his grip around Noct’s hand as they go up the path to the door and walk inside the warm, dry and sweet-smelling café.

They spot Cor, sitting at a booth near the corner of the restaurant, looking out the window. His face is set in a deep frown, his hands tucked underneath his chin as he shifts in his seat. Then, his eyes blink over to them, and he gives a wave, before beckoning them over.

It's Noct who has to tug Prompto’s hand towards the table, and the two of them sit down across from Cor who smiles at them, although it doesn’t reach his eyes. Noct mutters a polite hello, which Cor acknowledges, before Prompto slides next to him, with Noct closest to the window. Prompto sits a safe distance away, and when their eyes meet for a second, they both look away awkwardly.

Cor’s already ordered, a cup of ice tea to his left and some type of sandwich filled with eggplant, gouda cheese, and some other type of meat that Prompto has never even seen before and honestly it looks gross, but he forces a smile on his face anyway.

He orders some type of salad, the first thing he sees on the menu that he can’t even pronounce. Noct just sticks with water, much to Prompto's surprise. The server smiles at the three of them after placing their glasses full of water near them, before taking their leave.

Prompto can’t help but feel like he’s being interrogated, from the look that his uncle is giving the two of them for the first couple of minutes. His blue eyes are hard, flickering between them, before finally settling on Prompto.

“I don’t want to say this,” he begins, shaking his head and sighing deeply, and Prompto grips the edge of the table. “but I can’t let this go on any longer without saying it.”

Prompto’s nearly chewing his lip off, his knuckles turning white from the force of which he’s gripping the table. He feels Noct shifting uncomfortably beside him, and when their elbows brush, they both lean away from the contact. Cor notices, and leans in closer.

“I can’t help but feel that this relationship between you and Noctis – whom I met not too long ago, need I remind you – is not what it seems.”

Prompto can feel Noct freeze beside him, his hand tightening around his glass of water, before he lifts it to his lips to take a sip. Prompto isn’t any better, the words he wants to say dying on the tip of tongue, because he wasn’t expecting this at all.

Honestly, he was obviously expecting some questions about them, like the ones Ardyn had asked before, and he was kinda-sorta ready to answer them. Instead, Prompto feels a rush of emotion go through him, bubbling in his stomach, as his uncle’s words run on repeat in his mind.

"Are you saying that you…don’t trust me?”

“...That’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m saying, that from what I can recall happened on the beach, it's got me thinking that-”

“That’s exactly what you’re saying,” Prompto interrupts, the bubbling in his stomach turning warmer.

He can feel Noct pause beside him, eyes boring into the side of his face. Cor is staring at him with a perplexed look, before he shakes his head. “That’s not what I’m talking about.”

“Of course it is." The words are spilling from his mouth before he even knows what he’s saying. “Otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about this!”

Cor sighs, closing his eyes and rubbing a hand down his face. He looks tired and worn out, and Prompto feels a pang of guilt hit him, but he’s too heated to dwell on it.

“Okay, fine.” Cor straightens up in his seat. “You’re right. I haven’t since you moved out.”

Prompto falters, his breath picking up as he blinks quickly. He can see Noct shifting uncomfortably from his peripheral.

“I know that you struggled, living on your own.” Cor pauses. “And that you would say and do anything to keep it from me.” He gestures between the two of them again, his gaze lingering on Noct.

Prompto scoffs, surprising himself and Cor as he raises his elbow and slams it against the table a little too forcefully, the sound echoing and causing everyone near them to turn their heads in curiosity. There’s a sneer on Prompto’s face, he can feel it, but he can’t seem to make his face muscles work to wipe it off. His elbow is throbbing annoyingly, but it's grounding in a way that's hard to explain.

His eyes glance down at his lap for a moment, and he can't help but notice the distance between him and Noct. They're sitting too far apart from each other, and even though Prompto still has that little budding feeling in his chest, he still feels distance between them.

He tilts his head in Noct’s direction, who has been busying sipping his water for the past thirty seconds. “Then I guess this is a lie?"

It is a lie.

Cor presses his lips together, eyes narrowing. He doesn't even say the words, but Prompto can hear them as if he were shouting them at him. The bubbling in his stomach boils over, racing up his throat and out his mouth as the words he says ricochets off the walls like bullets.

"What have I ever done to make you distrust me?" Prompto says, but Cor recoils, unprepared, and Prompto realizes that he's talking a lot louder than he originally thought he was. A look crosses Cor's face that Prompto knows means that he's pushing it, especially because they're in a crowded restaurant, but all Prompto can see it red. "Is it too much to consider that I'm actually doing fine without you?"

Cor’s obviously shocked at Prompto’s outburst, and his eyes reflect hurt for a split second before he contains himself. “Lower your voice, you’re causing a scene.”

Prompto feels his heart thudding in his throat, his fingers gripping the table top harshly. He wills the hot tears away, blinking them back, because he doesn't want to cry. The only reason he’s doing this, this fake relationship with Noct, was to prove to Cor that he's not the pudgy loser he was forced to take in after the death of Prompto's parents. Hearing that his uncle didn’t trust him in the first place about this entire thing, enrages him because now there’s no point in this anymore. But has no one but himself to blame for all of this. He was the one who made the decision to do this, keep up this façade of a relationship.

“I'm doing fine on my own," Prompto chokes out, lowering his voice as the restaurant starts to quietly murmur again, some heads turning away back to their lunches and waiters starting to go back to work. He thinks he’s looking at his uncle, but his vision is swimming with tears and his cheeks are way too hot. “You don't need to worry about me. You don't need to trust me. Do whatever you want.”

Prompto’s lucky that Noct had chosen the seat closest to the window, because there’s no one in his way when he shoots up and barrels out of the restaurant and towards the door.

He runs outside, the rain pounding against the sidewalk harshly as he steps off the curb into the wet parking lot. He just stands there, letting the water soak into his sweater, through the fabric until he’s dripping wet. He tears off his beanie, balling it up in his fists as he tilts his head back and lets the rain fall against his face.

The rain feels nice. The wind is blowing his wet hair around his face as he shivers, and takes huge gulps of air. This sucks. He just wants to lie down, right here, on the wet ground in the middle of this parking lot.

Honestly, he feels like complete shit right now. He shouldn’t have said those things. He shouldn’t have left Noct in there by himself. This isn't what he wanted at all.

Suddenly, the rain stops, and there’s a shadow over his head as he looks up, confused. He turns to see Noct standing beside him, holding a black umbrella over the two of them.

Noct’s face is sad, his eyebrows furrowed and lips parted as if he wants to say something. Prompto is so tired, from that outburst, from just fucking everything. He leans forward, resting his forehead against the juncture between Noct's shoulder and neck. He closes his eyes.

He notices the way Noct moves back a little in response, and he feels funny; he shouldn't be relying on Noct this much, but warmth radiates from him and it feels too nice.

Noct hesitates for a second, probably debating whether or not he should move away, but he relaxes and clears his throat a little awkwardly. The wind is picking up, the gusts of wind causing Prompto to shiver uncontrollably, teeth chattering. Noct moves then, pulling the umbrella farther over the two of them.

“Wanna go home now?” He asks softly, and Prompto nods quickly, already feeling the sinking feeling in stomach. He lifts his head up unwillingly, ignoring the pounding headache that he has, and lets Noct lead him towards the car. Noct closes the door after him, and through the water spotted window, he sees his uncle coming out of the door.

He looks sad and hurt, one hand stuffed into his pocket while the other holds an umbrella. Noct notices him, giving Prompto one last look before he walks his way over to him.

Prompto can’t help it, and he opens the door a little, not caring that the bottom of his seat was getting soaked, and tries to listen in on the conversation. His hearing is a little muffled, but he hears most of it, thanks to Noct's back facing him and causing his voice to echo from the arched entryway of the building.

Noct stops in front of Cor, umbrella over his head and one hand stuffed in his own pocket. They don’t talk for a second, Cor looking over Noct’s shoulder at Prompto who refuses to meet his gaze, before Noct speaks up.

"I don't think he would never have yelled at you like that...if he could've helped it. I'm sure this isn't the way any of us thought this would go." Noct shifts, and Prompto can tell from his body langauge that he's nervous. "The last thing he wants is for you to be disappointed with him."

"I'm just worried." Cor's voice sounds rough, and he looks over Noct's shoulder to meet Prompto's eyes again, but Prompto looks away. Cor sighs. "You two are so young. What if you get hurt trying to prove something you're not?"

"I won't let anything happen to him," Noct says suddenly, and Prompto feels the budding flower in his chest bloom with its first petal. It echoes throughout his chest, and despite being completely drenched from being dramatic in the rain not that long ago, he's suddenly not that cold anymore. He knows he shouldn't be basking in its warmth, but it's really hard not to when Noct is saying such nice things. He wishes Noct meant them.

"But, he can also take care of himself. I think that's what he really wants to show you. So you won't worry."

"How can I not worry? He's the only family I have left."

"I understand," Noct adjusts the umbrella in his grip, and Prompto wonders what expression is on his face. "But he's okay. We're okay."

Noct doesn't say it directly, but Cor reads between the lines. He's gnawing at his lip, like he wants to say something - maybe ask if the relationship is fake like he thinks it is - but he doesn't. That scene in the restaurant is probably way too fresh in everyone's minds for him to bring it up.

"I’ll take care of him for you, until he’s ready to talk. You can believe that part.” Noct says. Cor’s eyes wide with surprise before they shift down to look at the ground with a deep inhale. He sets his mouth into a grim line, nodding, before he’s walking away.

Prompto closes the door, and sits back in his seat, Nocobo wedging into his side. He hugs the plushie tight against him and Noct gets in the other side, switching on the engine and turning the heat up.

Sometime during the ride home, Prompto falls asleep. It seems like only seconds later that Noct is nudging him awake. Prompto is groggy, sore and exhausted. He opens the car door, his vision blurry and his legs wobbly. He trips, but Noct’s strong hands are there to hold him up, and they ascend the elevator and then hobble into the apartment.

Prompto takes a long, hot shower, muscles aching and eyelids heavy. He changes into dry, warm clothes before just collapsing face first into the bed. He’s so cold, goosebumps litter his arms and he shivers, teeth chattering. He shifts, trying to get comfortable, before his foot connects with his phone sitting plugged on the nightstand and hits the floor, loudly.

Noct comes in a few seconds later, after Prompto has given up trying to get comfortable and is just lying in a ball in the middle of the bed.

“You okay? Need help?” Noct picks Prompto's phone from off the floor, and Prompto groans in response, his throat too dry and sore for him to attempt to use it. After seemingly hesitating, Noct's hand barely touches his back, before he draws back quickly. 

“Holy shit, you’re burning up. Here, get under the covers.” Noct’s hands are back on him, helping him sit up until his head is against the pillows with the covers tucked underneath his chin, his touch sure and steady now. He’s still shivering as Noct runs a hand over his forehead, before frowning and leaving the room. Prompto muses that his temperature must be pretty high if Noct could feel the heat of his skin through his sweater.

He comes back with a thermometer, pressing the thermometer between Prompto's lips. Prompto closes his eyes, his head throbbing as he feels the chills throughout his body make him quiver and shake. Noct clicks his tongue against his teeth, and Prompto can hear the sound of his foot tapping against the floor.

When the thermometer goes off, Noct whistles low. “You have a fever, alright. 101.”

Prompto groans again at that, lifting his arm up from underneath the covers to toss it over his head in an attempt to dull the pain. Noct is typing away at his phone, before he pockets it. “You hungry? I can make you something.” He pauses. “Can’t guarantee it won’t make you sicker, though. Iggy can't make it over here right now."

The corner of Prompto's mouth quirks up. “I’m okay,” he chokes out, his throat burning. He swallows painfully. “It’s just my head…it feels like it’s splitting open.”

“I'm pretty sure I can help with that.”

Prompto forces back the acetaminophen pills (he thinks that’s what they are, Noct having butchered the name so badly) with a glass of water, and lies back down. Noct sits near his feet, sighing and rubbing a hand through his hair. He looks over at him sadly.

“I, uh, I’m...sorry about what happened today.”

Prompto cracks open his eyes, looking up at the ceiling with a croaky scoff. “You don't have to feel sorry for me."

"No, no, that's..." Noct sighs. "I'm not trying to pity you or anything. I just - ugh, I suck at words." Prompto knows what he's trying to get at, but he doesn't say anything, and silence stretches between them for a moment before Noct speaks again. “So…now that you know…are you gonna stop?”

Prompto glances at him, confused. “Stop what?”

Noct gestures between them, and Prompto’s eyes widen. That’s right, he’d almost forgotten. There’s no point in pretending anymore if Cor doesn’t believe them anyway, is there? He could say yes. He should say yes, because it's the obvious choice for him now.

If he stays, these growing feelings will get worse and worse. He could be done with this, with all this lying, and just leave. He would probably never even hear from Noct again, and that would be the end of that. He feels his heart contract at that thought.

He’s looking at Noct’s face, which has contorted into a mess of emotions. It looks like he’s trying not show it, but it’s obvious that he’s upset. He’s very interested on the pattern on the comforter that he’s sitting on, rubbing the piece of string that had gotten loose in between his fingers.

Suddenly, Prompto realizes that he doesn’t want to leave. He doesn’t want to put an end to this, and he doesn’t want them to put everything that they’ve been through together behind them. After all, Noct still needs him, right? Yeah, that’s it. That’s what he’s going to tell himself – that Noct still needs him.

Nevermind the fact that he's just making things harder on himself. He deserves to be selfish with this, after the shit day he's had. Noct did keep up his half of the deal, after all. Prompto can at least do his part.

“No,” Prompto says thickly, and Noct’s head shoots up in surprise. “You still need me to do my part, right?”

Noct looks relieved. “You’d still do this, even after everything that happened today? Even when I haven’t told you everything?”

“Yeah. It’s the least I can do, after what you said to Cor.”

Noct stares at him for a second, before his cheeks darken and he clears his throat. “You, ah, heard that?”

Prompto turns his head, looking at Noct with a sideways glance and tug at his heart. His eyes are getting heavier, the stress and weight of the day suddenly pressing him down into the mattress and into the soft relaxation of sleep. “Yeah, I did. Thanks for saying all that, by the way. For pretending, even after everything.” He closes his eyes, the dull throbbing in his skull fading, and he lets out a sigh.

He doesn’t know if it’s from the fact that he has a fever, or if he’s dreaming, but Noct’s voice sounds sad, and pained as he says, “…Yeah. No problem.”

Chapter Text

Zero missed calls, zero messages. He’s not used to the silence.

Prompto sighs and tucks his phone back underneath the burrow of blankets that he’s burritoed himself in for the last couple of days. The tv plays aimlessly in the background, but he’s not really watching it as he shifts, pulling his legs up to snuggle deeper into the corner of the couch that he’s been in all day.

There’s been nothing but silence from his uncle’s end – not that he’s surprised, or anything. After what he said the other day, he supposes that he deserves it. Prompto sighs, sniffling as he rubs a hand through his hair.

He’s still sick. He’d expected by now for his cold to lessen up at least a little bit, but he’s still congested and often has fits of sneezes. He hasn’t been getting much sleep lately, and his bones ache. It would have been even worse though, if Noct hadn’t been here.

Prompto smiles a little, remembering Noct looking so flustered from trying to figure out one of Ignis’ recipes that were supposed to be good for congestion and fevers. Prompto had tried to help, but Noct had shooed him away, and as a result it had literally taken him four tries, before he finally made something that Prompto could choke down. The soup had been way too salty and lukewarm, but Prompto forced it back anyway.

The last couple of days have been…a blur, really. Gladio and Ignis had stopped by, Ignis with more recipes and Gladio with gruff words of encouragement. Prompto didn’t know if Noct had told either of them what had happened with Cor, but neither of them said a word about it, and Prompto was happy for the company.

Noct had problems of his own, too – his dad’s health had gotten worse. Noct told him about it later, and Prompto’s look of disbelief on his face wasn’t a lie, because it was just another thing that Ardyn had mentioned to him earlier in the month that had been true. He shudders now, in his burrito blanket. Hopefully nothing else he had said is true…including the so called ‘contract’, which sounds ominous, but then again he doesn't really know that much about it and he can't ask Noct about it -

“Hey,” Noct’s voice echoes across the room, and Prompto looks over to see him coming through the door, closing it with his foot behind him as he yawns. “You feeling better?”

Prompto barely resists the urge to rolls his eyes – Noct had only been gone for an hour, and he’d asked him before he left. He sniffles, nodding, and Noct hesitates before giving him a thumbs up as he toes off his shoes and heads into the kitchen. Prompto watches as he dry swallows some ibuprofen, frowning.

“Your leg bothering you again?” His voice is gravelly from lack of sleep and the congestion in his chest. Noct shrugs as he closes the cupboard door.

“Nothing I can’t handle." Noct pats his head once as he passes by him on his way down the hall, towards his room. Prompto turns his head, watching him go. That's another thing - Noct's been less hesitant to touch him.

He supposes it's because he's been sick. Probably because he looks like he might actually pass out on the floor whenever he manages to stand on his own two feet, but Noct's touch has been really nice.

He lives for the moments when Noct checks his head for a fever, or when their fingers graze each others when Noct hands him a bowl of soup or something.

He can't even respond to the little skip his heart does just from those simple touches of contact. He’s been too exhausted.

There’s a knock on the door, and Prompto groans and starts to shift to get up, but then Noct is jogging down the hall towards the door, waving a hand at him to sit back down, and Prompto lets himself snuggle back into place.

Gladio comes in, along with Ignis trailing along behind him. Ignis takes of his shoes, but Gladio trudges forward to all but jump on the couch as Prompto protests and bounces in his own seat. Gladio ruffles his hair, which Prompto swats away weakly as he moves into a sitting position.

“How you feelin’, kid? Noct poison you yet?”

“Hey,” Noct snaps, closing the door and walking over to sit cross legged on the floor beside Prompto’s blanket covered legs. “I did my best to follow Spec’s recipes, not my fault they didn’t wanna come out right.”

Ignis rubs an ungloved hand across Prompto’s forehead, underneath his bangs which he’s allowed to hang in his face the last couple of days. Ignis hums, stepping back.

“You’re feeling better? Your temperature seems quite normal.”

Prompto hesitates, before nodding. It’s all a lie, really – he feels like shit, and it's not because of this cold. It’s no surprise to him, but he assures the others he’s fine.

“You don’t look fine.” Gladio snatches up the remote and flickering through the channels, before finding something and balancing it on his knee. He glances at Prompto. “You look pretty pale to me.”

“Well he has been inside these last couple of days,” Noct replies, stretching his arms above his head, and Ignis crosses his legs when he sits down in the loveseat near Gladio, a calculated look on his face.

“Noct, you do have that excursion for your father very soon, yes? The one where your father has entrusted the seeking of the expansion for the incorporation to you?” Ignis asks, and Noct looks over at him confused.

“Uh, what?”

Ignis sighs loudly, before pushing his glasses up further over his nose and clearing his throat. He clears it again, this time aimed at Gladio who’s entranced by the images on the screen. Ignis reaches over to take the remote from where it’s balanced on his knee to switch it to another channel.

“Hey, what the hell I was watching that-” Gladio stops from the annoyed look on Ignis’ face, before swallowing. Ignis raises his eyebrows.

“Gladio? You do recall what I was talking about?”

Gladio’s brown eyes shift nervously, and Ignis merely rolls his eyes as he takes out his phone to swipe it open. He tosses it to Noct, who barely catches it, and Prompto reads over his shoulder, since the font is so huge.

Insomnia Inc., Set to Expand in the Following Months; Potential Future Expansion Location(s) Endowed to Future Heir Noctis Caelum

It looks like a newspaper article, actually published a while ago, at the beginning of the month. Noct scrolls through the rest quickly, and Prompto gives up trying to follow when his head begins to throb, pulling his legs up and becoming a burrito again. Noct tosses it back to Ignis, and rubs his hands over his face tiredly.

“Ugh, I had completely forgotten about that,” Noct whines, leaning his head back against the couch and sighing – not that Prompto can blame him. Noct has a lot on his plate, and it looks like Ignis is thinking the same think as he gives Noct a pitying look, not noticing when Gladio sneaks forward to grab the remote back.

“I have no doubt that your father is aware of the pressure that you’re under, Noct,” Ignis says softly. “but I do believe that this excursion could be well for you and Prompto.”

Prompto looks up from his blanket burrito that he’s hiding in to meet Ignis’ eyes, which are filled with mischief. He looks down at Noct, who’s looking at Ignis curiously.

“What? Me?” Prompto stutters out, his voice still a little gravely from his cold. Ignis nods, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

“Yes. It would do you well to get some sunlight and fresh air.”

Prompto swallows thickly, because the idea of being outside after being cooped up inside for the past couple days does sound pretty damn nice. The thought of feeling the warmth of the sun on his back, or the gentle breeze blowing through his hair has him sighing wistfully, and Noct swivels his back to meet his eyes.

“You wanna do it?” His blue eyes are bright. “It might help you feel better, being outside.”

Prompto pauses for a second, wondering how in the world Noct knew that he still wasn’t feeling like his old self when he’d assured everyone that he was. Well, he was there at the showdown between him and Cor, after all, so it shouldn't be surprising. Before he can open his mouth to reply though, Ignis is shaking his head in disagreement.

“Hold on a moment, Noct. Remember, this isn’t a vacation, this is business-”

“Oh man, we should all go,” Noct says excitedly, gesturing to Gladio and Ignis. “we can go to that place where that old couple rents out those cabins for the weekends, the ones that sit right on the lake, and the stars…”

Noct is babbling now, his blue eyes alight as he continues to ignore Ignis’ words about business, responsibility, and Prompto is trying not to laugh at Ignis’ expression.

“Need I remind you that this excursion is extremely important for the future of the incorporation?”

Noct gives him a sideways glance, before shaking his head. “Yeah, I know, Specs. But why can’t we have fun and do the other part?” Ignis just stares at him, eyes narrowing behind the thin lenses of his glasses as Noct interlaces his fingers together with a pout.

“It sounds like a lot of fun,” Prompto croaks out, and Noct tilts his head back to grin at him, and then smirk at Ignis who sighs and starts swiping through his phone again. Gladio switches it over to some random channel and turns his head to glance at them.

“What I miss?” he asks, and Noct takes out his own phone, unlocking it and typing quickly. Then, he holds the screen up for Gladio to see.

“We’re going here,” he says, and Ignis opens his mouth but Noct shushes him with a hand up. “and Specs says it’s not a vacation, it’s a ‘business excursion’.” Noct does a poorly done accent, and Gladio chuckles as he takes the phone from Noct’s hand, giving a low whistle before passing it Prompto.

“Damn, I’ve heard of that place – just beautiful at night. The perfect place.” Gladio agrees, nodding before his eyes land on Prompto. “The kid going too?”

Prompto holds Noct’s phone in his hand as his eyes sweep over the page. The place Noct has chosen it gorgeous, with white fluffy clouds in a blue sky, a crystal clear lake, tall – looking dark colored cabins and an astounding mountain view. He’s never seen anything like it, and for the first time in a couple of days, he smiles with his whole face.

“Hell yeah.”


The next day is hectic; Ignis had managed to book them a cabin somehow, and Prompto swore it was a miracle. He’s still kinda in shock that Ignis had even agreed – once Gladio had told him about the bulk of Ebony he’d bought the day before, suddenly Ignis didn’t seem to mind anymore. Prompto chuckles at the thought as he flies through his room. He ignores the weather outside his window, which is dark and scary looking. Huge, dark clouds are settling over the city.

He’s rushing now, having overslept and his alarm not going off because he had forgotten to plug in his phone. He tosses in a few necessities, a few t shirts and jeans, some sweaters and his camera cleaning equipment.

His contact case bounces from his fingers and falls to the floor, rolling under the bed. He gets down on his hands and knees, digging around until his hand comes into contact with something hard. He furrows his eyebrows, and pulls out the familiar looking case.

He sighs, running his hand over the rough case that his uncle had given him all those years ago. He unlatches the locks, and lifts out the gun, the familiar weight of it in his hands. He bites his lip…he can stuck see the little nick on it, from when he'd screwed around with it all the years ago, and a sharp pang hits him. This is probably the longest they've gone without speaking to each other since his parents died.

The gun gleams at him, having been very well taken care of the last few years, and Prompto’s resolve dissolves as he sighs. He tucks the gun back into the case, before stuffing it into the bottom of his duffel bag and tossing his clothes over the top of it.

He sneezes then, sniffling and scrubbing his cheeks as he pulls his contact case from underneath the bed and zips it into a little pouch.

“Bless you,” Noct leans against the doorframe. He’s dressed casually, with sneakers and dark jeans, a white t shirt and a gray puffy vest. A hat even adorns his head, a few spikes of ebony hair sticking out from the sides. He looks adorable, and Prompto can’t help the little blush that stains his cheeks as he stands.

"Thanks. Nice outfit, Noct," He blurts out, tugging the flannel shirt wrapped around his shoulders tighter against him. Noct looks down at himself in confusion, before meeting Prompto's eyes suspiciously.

"You complimenting me or making fun of me?"

Prompto shrugs, a smirk on his lips. "That's for me to know and for you to find out."

"Ouch."

Prompto chuckles, unplugging his phone and checking the battery: enough to get him through the day, he supposes. He notices Noct shifting uncomfortable from the corner of his eye.

“You sure you’re up for this? I mean I know it was my idea and everything, but it’s just weird to me that your cold hasn’t really gotten better.”

Prompto blinks, because he’d distantly been thinking about that too, and he turns back to face him. “I’ve always had a shit immune system anyway." He mentally checks off a list in his head, looking around the room for a second, before stifling another sneeze. “But I wanna go – to get my mind off things.”

Noct looks like he’s going to argue again, but he thinks better of it and nods. Prompto swings his duffle over his shoulder and follows Noct out of the apartment and into the elevator.

While inside, Prompto can’t help but notice Noct shifting from side to side frequently, a slight pained expression on his face, and he frowns.

“It’s still bothering you?” he asks, hitching his duffel further over his shoulder. Noct shakes his head, but when they finally get to the parking garage, Noct is trying really hard not to limp. It’s still obvious though, the way his gait is slightly teetering as they pack their luggage into the car. He makes a mental note to get some ibuprofen once they get to where they’re going.

While Ignis drives, Prompto fiddles with the radio; Gladio sits behind him while Noct dozes next to him. They drive for maybe about an hour; during that time, the dark clouds start to lighten up, until there’s nothing but a few white puffy clouds and a clear blue sky.

Prompto inhales deeply, the fresh air clearing his sinuses as he snaps a few shots with his camera. He can hear Noct and Gladio talking in the back, Noct having woken up not too long ago, arguing about something very trivial, and Ignis is just tapping his gloved fingers against the wheel as he hums quietly, but not unpleasantly, to the tune of the radio.

For the first time in what feels like forever in Prompto time, the ache in his chest is forgotten as he’s finally able to breathe deeply, and the car pushes forwards towards their destination.


“Hi! Hello! Welcome, thank you so much for choosing to stay with us!” The elderly couple who owns the little cabins the four of them are going to rent out for the weekend are extremely friendly and hospitable; the woman nearly shakes Prompto’s arm off when she introduces herself.

“My wife Anna and I have been wanting to sell this plot of land for years,” the elderly man says to them, introducing himself as John. “but we just can’t seem to get any of the locals out here enough, especially during this time of the year.”

“Ah, yes, how unfortunate,” Ignis says smoothly, adjusting his glasses over the bridge of his nose. “Well, if all goes well, there could be potential for this particular plot of land to finally be out of your hands.”

“Really?” The wife, Anna, says excitedly, gripping onto her husband’s arm. Her green eyes are bright, her long brown/silvery hair braided as a few strands blow with the light breeze. “Oh, that is wonderful news! Thank you so much for your consideration!”

Ignis nods with a small smile. "You know what they say - location, location, location."

From the corner of his eye, Prompto notices movement from behind one of the buildings. A small girl, maybe six or seven, trots out in pink overalls, her hair braided into pigtails. She hides behind Anna’s legs, peering out at the four strange men before her. Anna smiles down at her, before stepping back and allowing her into view.

“This is Grace, our granddaughter. I hope you all don’t mind, but she would love to take you all to your rooms. Isn’t that right, Grace?” Anna asks the young girl, and Grace’s big brown eyes take in the four of them, before titling her head with confusion.

There’s an awkward silence for a second as the girl stares at them – no, she seems to be staring right at Prompto. Prompto’s eyes shift nervously, trying to force out a laugh as he waves. She smiles brightly, before waving back.

“My puppy really likes you!” She says, and everyone stares at Prompto like he’s grown a third head. Prompto clears his throat nervously, before lifting a hand to rub the back of his neck with a grin.

“Is that so? Well, I really like your puppy. What’s its name?” Prompto plays along, and sees Anna’s small smile on her lips. Grace bounces on her toes, her pigtails bouncing along with her.

“Umbra!”

Prompto’s eyebrows shoot up – what an odd name for a little girl to name her imaginary puppy. Still, he smiles back at her before he muffles a sneeze into his elbow, and Noct hands him a tissue.

Once everyone is settled into their respective rooms, Ignis announces that they’ll be having a barbeque. Everyone cheers, including Prompto, and they cook right out by the water, where they sit on the benches and drink while Ignis cooks the steaks and shrimp.

Prompto drinks his water as he watches Ignis over the barbeque, adding pinches of spices and turning the meat over when it’s fully cooked. Ignis looks over at him as he works, eyebrows furrowed together. He closes the lid over the barbeque pit, before he moves to clean the shrimp.

“Prompto, I’d like to ask you something whilst the others are…busy,” Ignis asks slowly, and Prompto looks over his shoulder to see Noct and Gladio talking loudly, obviously both of them buzzed already as they nurse their third beer.

Prompto almost groans, because the last time Ignis had ‘talked’ to him, he’d ended up nearly making a fool of himself trying to figure out if Ignis said was true. He must have had some sort look on his face, because Ignis chuckles softly.

“Remembering the last talk we had, hm?” He muses, and Prompto shrugs before stuffing his hands in his pant pockets. “Well, I’m afraid that the topic hasn’t changed.”

“Ugh, please spare me,” Prompto moans out as he sits down on the bench to rest his chin in his hands. “I don’t think I’ll be able to handle it this time around.”

“I suspected as much, as well,” Ignis continues to clean the shrimp in his hands. “after Noct told me what transpired between you and your uncle.”

Prompto closes his eyes, but it’s not like he specifically told Noct not to tell anyone. Still, he’s a little annoyed that Ignis knows about the whole big blow out.

“I was told not to speak of it, in front of you,” Ignis says. “Noct didn’t wish to upset you further.”

Prompto opens his eyes tiredly, hands tightening around the bottle of water in his hands, and he stifles a cough. Ignis hums thoughtfully, before reopening the lid of the barbeque and carefully putting the shrimps on to cook. He flips the steaks over, checking the insides, before closing lid again. Then, he takes out a package of sealed vegetables, and rinses them off in the sink provided.

“It has me thinking that…Noct has changed in this short amount of time that you’ve been here.”

Prompto’s grip on his water falters. He shouldn’t let the skipping of his heart distract him, but it’s annoyingly fast in his chest, and he shakes his head. Can’t Ignis see that he’s already a wreck, and that he’s just adding fuel to the flames?

Well. It is his own fault, anyway. He’s the one who chose to be here, but he doesn’t want Ignis to know that. Unless, Noct’s already told him, and if he has, then who the hell cares?

“I don’t know if you know this,” Ignis begins, hands still busying with the vegetables. “but Noct has been…distant, ever since he was in that accident when he a child. He had become withdrawn, and has struggled with isolation since then. Nevertheless, he’s always struggled to articulate the way he feels about others, and keeps things bottled up.”

Prompto’s quiet, picking at the label that’s peeling off the bottle in his hands. He’s not quite sure why Ignis is telling him this, and he looks over to see Noct and Gladio farther away than he realized, sitting near some tree stump and trying to outdo the other with an arm wrestling match.

From where he’s sitting, it looks like Noct is losing, and he drops Gladio's hand and stands up to turn away. He nearly stumbles when Gladio shoves him playfully.

“So, for you to come into Noct’s life so suddenly, and for him to almost become the way he once was when he was a child, in such a short amount of time…it makes me realize that he’s changed. And it’s because of you.”

Prompto can’t meet Ignis’ eyes as he continues to stare at the ground. Ignis shuts off the water, patting the vegetables dry before cutting them in half with the knife he’d brought, and sprinkling different flavors over them. “I’m not trying to force you to do anything, Prompto, but I do wish for you to see what I see. Whatever will be, will be.”

His voice is soft and comforting, and Prompto can barely breathe now, and he takes a huge gulp of water, before he’s shaking his head again. “Iggy, I…I can’t do that.”

Ignis pauses, before he opens the barbeque pit to check on the steaks and shrimp, and to toss the cut veggies on there too. He takes the shrimp out, placing them neatly on a plate before covering them, and closes the lid of the barbeque pit before facing Prompto with a solemn look on his face. When Prompto looks up, Ignis is staring at him wordlessly, and he stifles another sneeze into his elbow, before sniffling and sighing sadly.

“I know what you’re trying to do – but I don’t think that’s such a good idea. I’m not used to it. Being important to people. I mean, we don’t even know if Noct’s feelings have changed during this whole thing. I only met him, like, two or three weeks ago or something, don’t you think this is a little fast?”

“Is that why you’re still here? Still doing this? Still pretending?”

It’s obviously meant as a rhetorical question, but Prompto opens his mouth, only to quickly shut it, the words dying on his tongue. He knows what he wants to say, he just…can’t seem to make his mouth form the words.

“I believe that you’re good for him,” Ignis says gently, his green eyes soft. “and hopefully, soon you’ll think so as well.”

Prompto doesn’t respond to that.

Eventually, the smell of the cooking food brings in Noct and Gladio, both of their pants covered in dust and dirt and ignoring the displeasing look on Ignis’ face. The sun has set, and there’s a gentle breeze blowing through the evening sky as the four of them toast together, Noct plucking the veggies from his skewer and plopping them on Prompto’s plate. The sky looks crystal clear, without all the hustle and bustle of city life there to mask its beauty.

That night, Prompto tosses and turns as he waits for sleep to claim him. He groans, shoving his pillow over his head, but he can’t seem to get to sleep. He can still hear Iggy’s words on repeat in his mind – it makes him anxious to think about what he said. He lies flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling with a sigh.

He checks his phone – it’s nearly one in the morning. Grumbling, he yanks the covers off of himself and heads downstairs. As he passes by the window near the back yard, he notices a figure siting there in the hammock, familiar ebony locks blowing in the breeze, and before he even knows what he’s doing, he’s sliding the door shut behind him as he pads his way over.

Noct makes room for him as he shuffles onto the hammock, both of them swinging their legs gently back and forth to make the hammock sway. Prompto gives him a sideways glance, noticing the deep circles underneath his eyes.

“Couldn’t sleep?” he asks, leaning back against the hammock, and Noct nods, the motion causing them to jostle a little bit.

“Yeah. It feels kinda weird, being out here, without having to check on anyone or make sure that someone is doing their job correctly…it feels nice. I don’t think I’ll wanna go back.”

Prompto chuckles softly, letting his gaze sweep across the night sky. “It is really nice here; I’m glad that we came here.”

“Me too.”

Silence passes between them for a couple of minutes, both of them content enough to listen to nature quietly hum throughout the night. Prompto chokes out a few dry coughs, still sniffling. Crickets are chirping nearby, and there’s the telltale sound of water flowing down a creek. It’s peaceful.

Eventually though, Noct speaks again, but his voice is a little quieter, causing Prompto to lean a bit closer to hear him.

“A little too quiet out here though – I guess I miss the sounds of the city.” Noct laughs softly, and Prompto hums.

“Maybe that’s why I couldn’t get to sleep,” Prompto wonders, sighing wistfully, lifting a hand up to rub it up and down against his goose bump covered arm. “Or maybe because this cold isn’t getting any better.”

Noct doesn’t respond, instead shifting until he’s almost facing Prompto head on. His face looks ashamed, as he runs a hand through his hair.

“I, uh, saw you talking with Ignis. From the look on your face, I’m guessing that he told you that he knows about what happened with your uncle?”

Prompto glances at him, wanting to be mad, but with the flustered look on Noct’s face he only manages a quiet hum. “Yeah, he did. It’s cool though, not like I told you to keep it a secret or anything.”

“I guess.” Noct replies slowly, hesitating, as if he’s unsure if he wants the next words to fall out of his mouth. “But uh, I wanted to ask you something.”

“Hm?”

Noct hesitates again, and Prompto’s heart skips a beat at the thought that this is going to be another one of those conversations.

"Is...that the only thing that Ignis talked about?"

Prompto blinks. 

"I believe that you're good for him, and hopefully soon you'll think so as well."

"Pretty much," Prompto nods jerkily, thankful that the sky is dark enough that Noct can't see the color of his face, which is undoubtedly pink. "Why?"

Noct ignores his question, instead turning to face him a little too eagerly. "Do you think we should have pet names?"

There's a forced look on his face that's a combination of grimace and a smile. It's more the abrupt change in topic that surprises him, not what Noct just said, but it's obvious that he's trying to distract Prompto from something he doesn't want him to know. 

He's thinking back on all the times Noct had teased him, made him blush and flustered all at once - and he plays along, a smirk on his face. "Sure. How 'bout I call you 'babe'?"

It has the desired effect; Noct's facial expression drops, and his Adam's apple bobs as he swallows nervously. Then, he composes himself, leaning back against the hammock and jostling them again.

"I mean. If. If you want." Noct shrugs, scratching the back of his head and avoiding Prompto's gaze. For some reason, it has Prompto suppressing a fond smile. This is different. Noct's different. Somehow seeing him like this is endearing. Where did that cocky, arrogant guy that he met at the beach go?

It's enough to distract him from Ignis' words from earlier, from what happened between he and his uncle, from the fact that he's sick, stuffy and gross with a cold - and he leans back too, and their shoulders brush.

That though, that little point of warm, fluttery contact reminds him about this fake thing that they're doing. Noct doesn't feel anything.

Prompto stands, shaking out his numb legs, and he feels Noct get up behind him. He turns, and their eyes meet, Noct having about three centimeters on him. Noct’s eyes look dark, but Prompto turns away before he can say anything.

Suddenly, they hear shouting, and when they both turn to heads to find the source, they see two flashlights bobbing not too far away. They both make their way over, and it turns out to be the elderly couple from earlier, Anna and John. They’re both wearing their pajamas, hair mussed and scared expressions on their faces.

“What’s going on?” Noct asks as he and Prompto finally stop in front of them, and Anna lets out a distressed noise.

“Oh, I’m so sorry for waking you,” she cries, twisting her hair between her fingers. “but we can’t find Grace. We’ve looked everywhere.”

Prompto’s eyes widen, but before he can open his mouth to say anything, Noct is stepping forward and placing a calm hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’ll help you look. We all will, right Prom?” Noct turns back to him, and Prompto nods quickly. Anna looks relieved, fresh tears welling up in her eyes.

Noct goes to wake Gladio and Ignis while Prompto begins the search with the flashlight from his phone. His circles the perimeter, near the water, near the beginning of the forest of trees, but there’s no sign of the little girl. Eventually, he hears footsteps behind him, and turns to see the three men jogging towards him.

“Have you found her yet?” Gladio huffs, holding his own flashlight and waving it around the trees. Prompto shakes his head, and Ignis sighs, rubbing the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger.

“She couldn’t have gotten far,” Ignis says, his own flashlight near his side. “Let’s split up and find her, before she gets into trouble.”

Pretty soon, Prompto is alone in the woods, a slight breeze ruffling the trees and causing him to shiver. He’d gone to bed in his sweatpants and t shirt, but he’s walked too far away from the cabins for him to go back and get a sweater.

The wind picks up, leaves blowing around Prompto’s feet as he crunches his way down the path, his phone stuck out in front of him as he calls Grace’s name. His throat is beginning to go dry from all his yelling, and he sits down on a rock, head between his knees.

He sneezes, and it burns through his chest, and he aches all over. He wonders how Noct feels, if he’s in pain or anything from walking on his bad leg so late at night. He'd forgotten to get the ibuprofen for him earlier, but maybe if he can find Grace and get her back soon, he can - 

Then he hears it – a little voice, being carried away by the wind. He stands up quickly, eyes scouting, before he spots Grace, still wearing her pink overalls as she walks aimlessly through the trees. Prompto is sprinting towards her, and when she notices him, she cries out and wraps her arms around his waist.

“What’s wrong? You alright?” He asks, breathing heavily, and Grace pulls back, eyes filled with tears.

“I can’t find my puppy!”

Prompto freezes, before he’s sighing in relief. At least she’s not being chased by someone or something, and she looks to be unharmed. He pats her head softly, before bending down to her eye level and giving her shoulders a gentle squeeze.

“I’ll help you look for your puppy, but then we have to go back home, okay?”

Grace sniffles, nodding and taking Prompto’s outstretched hand. They start shouting for the puppy, Prompto sneakily sending off a text to Noct.

[Prompto]

'Hey, I found her. Says she lost her puppy. Gonna swing back around near the cabins soon.'

He doesn’t hear anything back, probably because they're out in the middle of nowhere, and he’s busy trying to locate a signal before Grace snatches her hand away and starts running at full speed.

“Wait!” Prompto shouts, breaking out in a run to catch up to her. Thankfully, she stops in front of some strange building, and points towards the mysteriously open door.

“Umbra is in there! Please, go get him!” She cries, tears falling down her face as Prompto catches up. He glances over, and the door is wide open, with light streaming out of it. It looks creepy as hell, but the only way he’s going to be able to go back to bed is to get the damn dog, so he goes in.

He walks in about five feet, shivering as the ice cold air brushes against this bare arms. He’s glancing at all the various frozen foods that adorn the shelfs, packages of frozen meat and vegetables - huh, it must be some kind of cold storage unit or something.

There's some big boxes too, some stacked on top of each other, wooden crates. How is he supposed to find an imaginary dog anyway? Just walk around for a minute and then pretend like he couldn't find the dog?

Prompto frowns; Grace looked so sad though. What is he gonna do if she starts to cry again and he has to bring her back with her face all red and blotchy because - suddenly, he hears a noise, sounding like something really heavy being moved across the floor, and when he turns back, he sees Grace. Sliding the door closed.

“Hey!” He runs forward to stop her, but she’s already gotten it closed before he gets there. He begins pounding on the door. “Grace! Open the door, what are you doing?”

He hears a giggle, before the sound of the lock clicking has his heart dropping to his feet. Did she just…lock him in a freezer?

Prompto backs away, whipping out his phone. His hope that he can call for help fades when he sees that his battery is dead - he had drained it using the flashlight on his phone, hadn’t he? - leaving him completely stuck. He grits his teeth angrily, before stuffing it into his pocket and running his hands through his hair.

Okay, okay. What the fuck does he do? He looks around, but he can’t find any windows, any vents to crawl through, nothing that would get him out of here.

The door is locked, the metal of the door bruising his knuckles as he continues to pound it, trying to pry it open with his fingers. There's a black bar at the top, near the ceiling, the bright red numbers - obviously the temperature of the cold storage, and it's thirty one degrees. Prompto is breathing hard as he sits on the floor, head between his knees as he tries to keep warm. Someone will notice he’s gone and come looking for him eventually, right?

An hour passes, and Prompto can barely feel his hands anymore. His teeth are chattering, his jaw aching from the effort, his whole body shivering violently. The tips of his fingers are starting to turn blue. He’s balled in the corner, trying to keep himself from knocking out.

His nose is stuffed, and he coughs, his throat dry. He can feel himself getting worse, and he sneezes harshly.

Ugh, he hates this. He hates how his life has turned out, to get to this point. He’s got no one but himself to blame for the shit he’s in right now, and he just wishes that he would’ve have just told the truth, in the beginning. Should’ve come right out with it, and just pushed aside his dignity and pride to sleep on his uncle’s couch. His uncle has a nice couch.

He thinks of Noct out there, who doesn’t even know Prompto’s in a freezer. If only he had stayed the arrogant asshole he was, that only cared about himself and the way he looked. Instead, he had to go ‘change’, or whatever Ignis thinks he did, and make Prompto just one big mess of nerves and feelings.

Prompto tightens his arms around his knees, because he can still see the look on Noct’s face as they talked. Noct must've talked to Ignis about him - otherwise, why would he asked what Ignis had told him? And why is Ignis getting into things, too?

Not that Ignis is nosy or anything. He cares about Noct too, but at this moment Prompto wishes he'd back off just a little

At first, Prompto had been appreciative of Ignis’ presence and friendship, but he'd had no idea Ignis was so observant. Now he’s gritting his teeth because Ignis is making it seem like he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to Prompto.

Does he know what he’s talking about? Does Prompto even know what he’s talking about? Would it kill Noct to not make Prompto's heart beat like crazy on the daily?

Is Ignis right, after all? Is he really good enough for Noct?

He’s uncertain.

It’s definitely something to think about, and definitely something he has the time for. He laughs a little, and he wants to be angry, but all he can feel is the warmth in his chest. Somehow, it’s the only thing that’s keeping him awake right now. 

Actually, he's starting to find it hard to think - everything seems to be moving slightly slower, and he can feel his breathing getting shallow. Now he's getting scared.

He sits up straight, his head hitting the wall as he reaches up and bangs against the door hard, one last time, before he’s closing his eyes.

“Prompto! Where are you?”

Is he dreaming? Is he hallucinating, or does he really hear Noct’s muffled voice from outside? He opens his eyes, and turns his head, listening. He can hear the faint sounds of footsteps running, more than one pair of footsteps, actually. It sounds like more than one person is out there. Prompto stands up shakily.

“N-Noct? Is that y-you?” He calls out against the door, lightly tapping on it. For a moment, there’s silence, and then there’s feet pounding against pavement, near the cold storage but not close enough.

“Prompto? It's me! Where are you?” It’s definitely Noct’s voice, and Prompto doesn’t think he’s ever heard Noct’s voice like this before. He knocks again, raising his voice.

“I’m in h-here!” he calls out, voice rough, and he can hear rushed footsteps until they stop right outside the door, and then there's fumbling with the lock.

“Fuck, Ignis, I can’t get this fucking thing open!” Noct’s shouting as his voice is much more clear now that he's right outside the door, and Prompto wants to cry because he’s freezing and all he wants is to see Noct’s face.

Eventually, Noct gets the lock unlocked somehow, the sound of it clicking open heaven to Prompto's ears. His heart is beating a mile a minute as he tries to stand, and he wobbles and can barely stand straight, before placing his numb hands against the metal door as Noct unlatches it and pulls it open.

Noct’s face is flushed, hair mussed and skin damp with sweat. His eyes brighten considerably as he pulls the heavy door, and Prompto only manages one word before Noct pitches forward, and his arms are around him tightly as Prompto yelps in surprise at the force of the hug.

Noct’s breathing hard, cheek brushing up against the side Prompto’s hair, and Prompto can’t move.

"Are you okay?" Noct's hands are moving across Prompto's back quickly, trying to warm him with friction and Prompto shivers harshly against him.

Prompto nods against Noct's shoulder. "I-I'm okay."

His teeth are chattering as his heart is races beneath his t-shirt, because suddenly, it’s like he was never cold in the first place. Slowly, his arms move and they encircle Noct’s waist, before they tighten - Noct's body heat feels like heaven.

He feels Noct’s warm hand on his hair, all but crushing Prompto’s face into his shoulder. A shocking sense of being cherished spreads through him, before he pushes it away with a forceful shudder. Not the time.

Noct pulls back, quickly. He looks around, confused before his expression hardens, looking back at Prompto.

“What the hell?” he shouts, and Prompto tenses at the volume of his voice. He opens his mouth to speak, but Noct’s hands are gripping his arms. “How the did you get locked in here?”

“I-"

"We’ve been looking everywhere for you," Noct interrupts, and Prompto blinks, boggled, and Noct just seems to get more upset, running a hand through his dark hair. "Why did you come in here?"

Prompto stares at him, the air shifting around them as Noct scolds him. He wants to be angry, shout right back at him, because it’s not like he wanted to spend the last hour in this damn freezer. Noct’s yelling at him, obviously upset as his cheeks flush further, and honestly it’s the best thing that Prompto has ever seen.

"I'm s-sorry I m-made you w-worry, but I...I didn't-"

Noct shakes his head, shrugging out of his jacket and wrapping it around Prompto's shoulders. “It's freezing in here - c’mon, let’s just get out of here.”

Noct turns around and bends down onto his knees. Prompto doesn’t move, and Noct looks back over at him, exasperated.

“Uh?”

“Hop on,” Noct says, jerking his thumb back. When Prompto still doesn’t make an effort to climb onto his back, Noct lets out a growl and reaches back, yanking Prompto’s arm and pulling him forward until he has no choice but to lock his arms and legs around Noct’s neck and waist.

“Noct, let me carry-” Gladio suddenly appears, Ignis behind him, both of them looking at the two of them in disbelief and wonder, and Noct merely pushes Gladio’s hand away, adjusting his grip beneath Prompto’s knees.

They make their way back, all four of them quiet, the only sound being the crunching of leaves beneath their feet. Prompto shivers against Noct’s back even as the warm night soothes his frozen skin, and Noct walks faster, still grumbling.

Prompto wants to feel happy – wants to feel relieved that Noct found him, and he is, but he doesn’t know how to feel about the way Noct screamed at him. Of course, he knows that Noct was upset, but when he had pulled Prompto into his arms…he hadn’t been expecting that.

He’d been happy enough at the time to return Noct’s embrace, but he can’t help but think that Noct isn’t doing this because he wants to. Ignis and Gladio already know everything, so why is Noct doing this? Why is he putting on this act in front of them?

"You’re so cold," Noct mumbles lowly, and Prompto stares at his profile.

Fleetingly, he remembers how upset he had gotten when Noct had cut himself last week. He’d shouted at him, been angry at him because he was worried that Noct has hurt himself. As a matter of fact, it’s quite similar, their reactions to the other in possible danger. Prompto frowns - he’d been angry because he cares about him, he knows that now, but what about Noct? 

Prompto turns his head and lays his cheek on Noct’s back, closing his eyes and letting the limping gait of Noct’s walk lull him to sleep. He really needs to stop asking himself these stupid questions – the answer is always going to be the same. Right?

Chapter Text

“We are so sorry! So very sorry!”

The couple apologizes over and over as Prompto tries to explain to them that it was fine, that’s he’s okay now and that no one was hurt. Even if he did end up having mild hypothermia, he was fine now. His temperature had gone back to normal overnight, which relieved everyone.

He hears Noct scoff beside him, mumbling to himself, and Prompto knows that Noct is trying his hardest not to lash out at the elderly couple in front of them for their granddaughter Grace locking Prompto in that freezer.

When they had all gotten back to the cabins the night before, Anna and John had rushed forward, saying that Grace was safe and sound, thanking them for looking for her. Prompto, who had actually fallen asleep during the ride back, had woken up, keeping his eyes closed. Noct’s back was really warm and comfy. He could hear the couple’s sudden intake of breath.

“Oh my…what happened to your friend? Is he okay?” He could hear the panic in their voice, and he knew that he must look like shit.

“No, he’s not okay.” Noct snapped, and Prompto could feel the vibration of his voice through his back. “She nearly killed him. Locked him in that freezer about half a mile back.”

Anna and John were silent, and he cracks open one eye to both of their faces looking outright shocked. Ignis takes a step forward in front of the couple, speaking lowly while Gladio hovers around near them. Prompto doesn’t get to hear what they’re talking about because Noct is walking away from everyone, still limping, towards the cabins.

Prompto took a long warm shower, put on his heaviest sweatshirt, but goosebumps still littered his arms as he settled onto his bed. Noct comes back then, knocking before entering and trailing a thick blue duvet behind him. He swaddles it around him, until he’s nearly suffocated. Prompto’s trying to keep his eyes open, as Noct takes a step back and sits on the floor, leaning against the wall heavily.

Prompto sniffles, before he stands shakily and stumbles his way over to join Noct on the hard floor. It’s uncomfortable and cold on the floor, and he’s pretty sure that he can see a few dust bunnies near them, but he’s leaning back against the wall anyway.

Suddenly, Noct’s hand is over his forehead, which is clammy and cold. Prompto turns his head, and Noct’s lips are turned down into a frown, but his eye brows are creased with worry.

“You still feel really cold.” Noct's voice is low as he takes his hand back and settles it in his lap. “How do you feel?”

Honestly? He can’t really think straight. All he knows is that he’s really tired, and whenever he tries to think too hard he just gets confused. He opens his mouth to reply, but he immediately forgets what he was going to say. He just ends up shrugging, blinking tiredly.

Noct stares at him, eyes searching his face. He stands then, walking out the door and coming back with Ignis at his heels. Ignis kneels down and rubs an ungloved hand across Prompto’s forehead, before taking his pulse with the other. He stands, eyes narrowed behind his sleek black glasses that sit on his nose.

“Mild hypothermia.” Ignis's voice is soft. “No doubt about it. His temperature and pulse are very low.”

Noct shakes his head, clicking his teeth as he leans against the wall. “I knew something was off about that kid. Should’ve listened to my gut.”

Ignis stands, pushing his glasses further over his nose. “While I will admit what she did was very dangerous, you do have to keep in mind that she is just a child, Noct.”

“Dangerous?” Noct hisses out, crossing his arms. “How about deadly? This could have been ten times worse if we didn’t find him in time, Ignis. That kid almost killed him, and there is no excuse for that.” Noct starts to make his way towards the door, but Ignis grabs his arm forcefully, and Noct glares at him.

“I need you to calm down, Noct.”

“I’m as calm as I’m gonna get.”

Ignis releases his grip on Noct’s arm, titling his head in Prompto’s direction. “What you need to do right now, is to keep him warm. Not go out there and cause a scene. I’ll handle it.”

Noct hesitates, eyes flickering over to Prompto on the floor, who has been listening in to the conversation the entire time. Or, at least he tried to. He’s still a little out of it as he sneezes.

Noct huffs and looks away as Ignis leaves then, shutting the door quietly behind him. He makes his way back to the floor, and without much thought, Prompto scoots closer, seeking out his warmth. Noct lets him, not really making any move to stop him or push him away.

Instead, he unravels the blanket Prompto is cocooned in, sliding in so that they’re both wrapped inside. Noct’s body heat feels so heavenly, and Prompto lets out a contented sigh as his head clears, the bleariness and confusion fading away.

“I’m...sorry.” Noct says suddenly, and Prompto glances at him. Noct’s eyes are downcast as he fumbles with the edge of the comforter. “For all of this.”

Prompto shakes his head.

“It’s okay. and I’m fine now.” He lets his eyes slide closed. Being locked in a freezer really took out a lot out of him, and after all of it he thinks he deserves some well needed sleep. “Not your fault this happened, dude.”

Noct mumbles something else, but Prompto is already asleep.


When he wakes the next morning, it’s to Noct still beside him, head tipped back against the wall as he snores softly, Prompto’s head in the crook of his neck.

He slowly sits up, his neck sore and his nose still stuffy, but he feels fine. Not a shiver is running through him, and he’s even a little hungry. Starving, even.

He sighs as he stands, rubbing a hand through his tousled blonde hair. He tiptoes to the bathroom, flickering the light on. His hair is a mess, no surprise there, and his eyes are a little red and grainy because he’d been wearing this pair of contacts for over twenty-four hours now, but other than that…he looks absolutely fine. No one could even guess that he spent an hour in a freezer.

He plucks out his contacts, cleaning them carefully and then putting them away in their respective case. He’s digging through his duffle bag and opening the case that holds his glasses when Noct stirs, and Prompto looks behind him to see Noct lower is head against his chest. His chest swells with something warm, and Prompto smiles a little.

Noct has been so worried about him lately – that thing with his uncle, being locked in that freezer and now getting over some mild hypothermia. Seeing Noct worried, flustered and angry…over him, no less, isn’t really helping his case that is building in his chest.

He’d told himself nearly a thousand times by now that he wasn’t going to let this get any bigger, that all of those sweet words and gestures that Noct has been saying and doing for him have just been for the sake of pretending. It hurts him to think about it. Maybe he’s some kind of sadist.

Maybe, in the way far back corner of his mind, Noct feels this way too.

He pushes his glasses over his nose, the world becoming clearer, and he steps quietly out into the hall. Noct had stayed with him all night – the least he can do is get him something sugary, full of carbs and saturated fat to eat for breakfast.

He stops in front of a vending machine, fishing out some quarters and buying two packages of pop tarts, one strawberry flavored and one s’mores. He’s bending down to retrieve them from the machine when he sees the small machine beside it – keychains. He purses his lips as he tucks the packages into his sweatshirt pocket, and looks closer.

There are different types of keychains in this cute little machine, all for twenty-five cents. There’s even a little fish, and Prompto immediately thinks of Noct. He shuffles his feet a little bit, embarrassed at the thought that Noct would even want some little piece of junk, but he buys it anyway.

When he returns to the room, Noct is rubbing his eyes with his fists, a yawn escaping from his mouth. He hears Prompto come in, and look up at him groggily.

“How long have you been up?”

Prompto shrugs, fishing the pop tart from his pocket and waving it in front of his face. “Not long. Here.”

Noct takes it with a mumbled thanks, before tearing it open and taking a bite out of both of them at once.

Prompto is beside him opening his own, trying not to scowl as he takes out one and eats it the right way. He has a feeling Noct is one of those crazy people who also eat KitKats weird, too.

Noct glances at him for a second, before he does a double take, and there’s the faintest shade of red appearing over his cheeks.

“What?”

Noct looks away. “I…didn’t know you wore glasses.”

Prompto nods, swallowing nervously. Noct's not looking at him. "Do I look weird?"

Noct clears his throat, rubbing his fist across his nose as he sniffs, eyes looking everywhere but at Prompto. "No."

He's unsure what to make of that reaction. "I usually don’t," Prompto shifts, putting a little more distance between them. He shoves the pastry in his mouth, and speaks around the crumbs. "Just slept in my contacts."

Noct doesn't reply, and for a moment there's silence except for the sound of wrinkling pop tart wrappers. Finally though, Prompto manages to mumble "Thanks for staying with me."

Noct fumbles with the wrapper in his hands, shrugging. “Just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Prompto takes a deep breath, which turns into a little coughing fit, but he still reaches into his pocket. It’s now or never. The little keychain ghosts across his fingers, and he feels his heart pick up speed as he holds it up, the fish dangling in front of Noct’s nose.

“Here, I got this for you. To say thanks. 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.”

The fish keychain is still dangling in the air, Noct just staring at it wordlessly. Prompto loses all of his courage and balls it up in his fist, grimacing. “Y-y’know what, it’s stupid-”

“No!” Noct suddenly cries out, grabbing at Prompto’s fist with both of his hands, finally meeting his eyes. He swallows thickly. “I mean, I needed one anyway.”

Prompto hesitates, before he opens his hand and lets the keychain fall into Noct’s palm. Noct immediately digs into the pocket of his jeans, taking out his keys and attaching the fish to them. It looks tacky and the fish stands out, but Noct doesn’t seem to care.

They nibble in silence until Ignis comes in to tell them that they’ll be leaving soon – they’re cutting the trip a day early. Prompto can’t help but feel that it’s his fault.

Anna and John are bowing to them now, their heads lowered towards the ground as the mutter a final apology. Prompto is still trying to tell them that it’s fine, because kids do some pretty dumb things sometimes.

Then, he sees her – Grace is walking towards all of them, with her bright purple sundress and her hair long past her shoulders. Her face is crumpled, tear streaks across her cheeks and she marches right up to Prompto.

“I’m so very sorry what I did. I just wanted someone to play with, but I understand what I did was very wrong.” Her voice is shaky and her lips tremble, and Prompto’s heart melts from her heartfelt apology. Anna and John lift their heads and stand straight, giving Grace a firm look.

“We made it clear to her that what she did was unacceptable,” John says gruffly, and from his peripheral Prompto can see Noct nodding in approval. But Grace is still standing there, looking ashamed, miserable…and lonely. He suddenly sees himself in her, just wanting someone to play with. He bends down to her level, and places a gentle hand on her head, and smiles warmly.

“It’s okay, Grace. I know you were just playing.”

“I didn’t mean to make you sick!” Her shoulders start to quiver, and Prompto panics for a quick second, because he absolutely sucks at comforting someone, especially a kid, when they cry.

“Hey, don’t cry. I’m okay now, see?” He holds his arms out, showing her his dark sweatshirt with a chocobo printed on the front of it, and she grins as she rubs her eyes with her fists. “I know how you feel, wanting a friend. All you had to do was ask me to play with you.”

“Really?”

“Of course!” Prompto says, adjusting his glasses, and Grace’s face brightens. “I love to play. When I see you again next time, we’ll play together.”

“Okay!” Grace is bouncing on her toes excitedly, Anna and John having awestruck looks on their faces, Anna about to unleash her unshed tears, but they don’t say anything. If Prompto were to turn to look beside him, he'd notice the look on Noct's face - but he misses it.

When everything is packed in the trunk of the car, the luggage, the cooking things that they brought, everyone piles into the car. Prompto waves at Grace as they drive away, and Ignis hums thoughtfully.

“That was very kind of you, Prompto.”

Prompto reaches up to rub a hand behind his neck nervously. “Heh, well, I know how she feels. Making friends wasn’t easy for me growing up.”

“You really gonna come back and see her again?” Gladio asks from behind him, and Prompto peeks at him through the side mirror as a worn book suddenly appears in front of Gladio’s face.

“I'd like to,” Prompto leans back against the headrest of the seat. “but knowing kids she’ll probably forget anyways.”


Time seems to go by faster as they drive home to the city, the cloudless blue sky starting to turn darker, the air around them becoming thicker, somehow. Prompto shivers, because he can’t help but feel that something bad is going to happen.

He shakes it off though, when Ignis drops them off at the apartment building. The air is still a little thick, but that could be because he still has that lingering cold in the back of his throat.

They’re closing the door behind them and kicking off their shoes when Noct’s phone goes off, shrill and loud. Noct’s pressing the phone up to his ear with his shoulder while he sets his backpack on the floor when he answers.

“Yeah?” Suddenly Noct’s face contorts, and he’s gripping his phone with both hands. “What? When? Right now?”

Noct is speaking too fast, and the voice on the end of the line is muffled. Noct is chewing on his lip, and Prompto stands off to the side, not wanting to eavesdrop but really wanting to know what’s going on.

“Fuck, okay. Tell him I’m on my way.” Noct ends the call, sliding his phone into his back pocket and reaching into his front pocket for his keys. The fish is swinging back and forth as Noct slips his shoes back on, and Prompto timidly speaks up.

“Everything okay?” He asks, and Noct freezes, turning to look at him as if he’d forgotten that Prompto was even there. His eyes are shifting, and his breathing is shallow as he swallows.

“Yeah, it’s – just my dad.”

“Your dad?” Prompto asks, sniffling and scratching his nose with his sleeve. He shifts his glasses on his nose. “Is he okay?”

“Yeah, yeah he’s okay. He just wants me to go see him. Said it was urgent.” Noct is digging through his backpack on the floor now, taking out his wallet and stuffing it into his jeans before he stands.

“Damn, Prompto you’re just gonna have to come with me,” he says, and Prompto’s eyes grow wide. “I’d rather not leave you here by yourself.”

“I, uh-” Prompto tries to stammer out, but Noct is already out the door, and Prompto has no choice but to stuff his feet into his shoes and hurry after him.

The drive to wherever Noct is going isn’t long at all. They get there in probably twenty minutes, thanks to Noct’s driving. He seems frantic and somewhat unfocused as he drives, and Prompto is pretty sure that the bottom of his seat is probably worn from his hands gripping it so tight.

Well, he’s also nervous because…he’s going to meet Regis Caelum. Holy shit.

He’s been hearing stories about the guy ever since he was a pudgy kid, and the way his uncle talks about him you’d think he was the king or something.

Another thought passes through his mind for a split second though, as Noct turns sharply around a corner, causing him to hold onto the seat tighter. What does Noct’s dad think of…this? This fake relationship? Does he support Noct’s reason for doing this?

Also, Prompto and Regis have never met – what if he’s not good enough. Good enough to even be pretending? What if all Noct’s dad sees is some poor unfortunate soul who’s really just a mess of hang ups? Ugh, fuck this would be so much easier if Prompto just didn’t give a shit, but he really really does.

Prompto can see the building, as tall as a skyscraper, about ten minutes before they even turn onto the street. The building looks to be the same as the apartment building Noct lives in – eggshell white, with countless windows and detailed with gold, but it’s much taller, branching out intricately. It honestly looks like a castle and Prompto tries to keep his mouth from hanging open as they drive past the gates.

The inside of the building is even more extravagant – marble floors, pristine white walls, granite countertops. It’s unbelievable really, and Prompto fleetingly wishes that he had his camera to document this all.

The ride in the spacious elevator is…awkward. Prompto can’t seem to stop sniffling, and Noct is running his fingers over the fish keychain in his hand with his fingers noisily. Prompto wants to ask about his pain in his leg, but thinks better of it.

It almost feels like they’re a young couple going to meet the parents for the first time – which in a sense is true, but not completely.

Eventually, the make it to the floor, the very top. Prompto literally has to force himself not to look out of the windows to his left as he follows Noct down the winding and confusing halls and corners, the outside world looking so tiny and insignificant.

Finally, they come across some grand, heavy looking double doors. Noct doesn’t even knock, just pushes them out of his way and almost runs inside, his limp all but forgotten, and Prompto tries to keep up.

There’s a long, red carpet that stretches almost across the entire grand room. Steps lead up to another floor, where two staircases on either side trail up to the top, where someone sits behind a black, golden striped desk. Behind him, golden, elaborate metal work.

The room is incredibly intimidating and huge, and Prompto feels like he'd just soil the floor with his steps, so he hangs back, near the door. He had no idea that Noct’s dad was this powerful, had this much control…it’s amazing, and he pinches himself.

“Dad,” Noct’s voice echoes throughout the grand room as he flies up the stairs to his dad’s side, to grasp at his arm. His shoulders are taut, nervous. “What’s wrong? Are you sick or anything-?”

Regis Caelum looks up at his son with a small smile on his face as he pats Noct’s arm gently. “Not at all,” he says, and his voice has so much authority and power that Prompto feels like he’s in the presence of royalty or something. “Just wanted to see my only son. Is that too much to ask?”

Noct scowls, stepping back and crossing his arms. Prompto exhales, feeling a little better knowing that Noct was worried for nothing, and walks in slowly. Noct relaxes then, his shoulders winding down. “I thought you said this was urgent.”

“It is,” Regis says, staring at Noct momentarily as though he's looking for something. He reaches for his cane beside his chair as he stands, and Prompto notices the elegant and pristine black suit that Regis wears, and the golden knee brace that adorns his right leg. Noct reaches out to hold him steady. “My birthday is coming up soon and I wanted to know what you’re going to get me.”

“Dad.”

“I’m joking,” Regis chuckles, patting Noct on the back lovingly and looking him up and down keenly. “don’t you ever lose that scowl from your face?”

He begins to take the stairs, and although he’s walking with a cane and that brace, he’s actually pretty steady. Before Prompto knows it though, Regis is coming closer to him, and he panics for a quick second.

Noct notices too, but he can’t get down those stairs fast enough, because his dad has already noticed Prompto, probably looking out of place in this grand room.

“Hello,” he says, and Prompto freezes in his spot. “I assume that you’re a friend of my son?”

Up close, Regis’ face is adorned with soft wrinkles – they line is mouth and the edges of his eyes. He looks…tired, and worn out, like he could collapse at any moment. Although he looks a bit pale, his eyes look old, but alert, and Prompto can’t help but notice that they’re not blue. Noct must have his mother’s eyes, then.

Prompto tries to think of something, anything to say to show that he’s not some idiot who doesn’t know how to introduce himself, and he can feel his heart in his throat. He opens his mouth to speak –

Only to sneeze right on Regis’ shoes. His shoes that probably cost more than his entire life, and Prompto almost dies of humiliation.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry sir,” he apologizes profusely, stepping back and bowing his head, hand rushing up to his face so his glasses don’t fall off and break. “please don’t have me thrown in the dungeon!”

There’s a moment of silence, and then Noct’s dad is laughing. His laughter is bouncing off the walls, and if Prompto weren’t so scared he might have laughed right along with him.

“It’s fine,” Regis says, waving his hand dismissively. “Clearly an accident – although appreciated, bowing to me is unnecessary. “

Prompto raises his head, skull pounding from the pressure, with a blush staining his freckled cheeks. He looks up to see Noct near them now, looking worried as his eyes shift quickly between his dad and Prompto.

“I, um-”

“Wait,” Regis interrupts, eyes suddenly focused on Prompto’s face, as they slide down his body and then back up. “you seem familiar. Have we met before?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Prompto says weakly. “if I’d met you before I’m sure that I would remember you, heh.”

Regis wiggles his eyebrows flirtatiously, and Prompto has to swallow back the bile that rises in the back of his throat at the gesture, because he can’t be having these thoughts and his heart stuttering like crazy all because it’s like he’s looking right at Noct. How is it even possible for a father and son to have so much in common? “Why, you flatter me.” Regis chuckles softly, and Prompto can feel his expression shift on his face.

“Well, I aim to please.” Oh my god shut up shut up

But Regis merely laughs, before slapping Prompto on the back firmly, causing him to stumble forward. “I don’t believe I got your name, young man?”

“I-I’m Prompto. It’s finally nice to meet my ‘father-in-law’, heh.” Prompto forces out a laugh, even though it’s weak and his voice cracks. He sees Noct clench his fists and grit his teeth as he looks at the floor.

Regis’ facial expression changes, his smile fading to a confused frown, as he turns to look at Noct over his shoulder before looking back at Prompto. “I beg your pardon?”

Prompto’s face falters – obviously that was the wrong thing to say, and his tongue feels too big for his mouth. Great, he’s fucked it all up. “I, um, I’m sorry, was that rude of me to say? I don’t know what I’m saying,” Prompto tries to cover it up, but Regis tilts his head, eyes narrowing.

“…is this some roundabout way to ask for my son’s hand in marriage?”

What. Prompto can’t seem to form words, Regis is looking at him like he’s the most stupidest person in the room (and he is) and Noct is just covering his face with his hands. It takes Prompto around eight seconds of awkward silence, before he gets it.

Noct’s dad doesn’t know. He doesn’t know.

He can’t explain the feeling – borderline hurt, but also something else.

“Noctis,” Regis turns to look at his son, and Noct uncovers his face before holding his hands up.

“Dad wait, I can explain-”

“What about Lunafreya?”

The name has his stomach rolling around uneasily. A surge of jealousy tingles in his chest along with that weird feeling from earlier, and it's kind of scary how upset he is over some name that clearly makes Noct freeze in place as Prompto's eyes shift over to meet his. 

He’s starting to tremble beneath his old worn black sweatshirt that has some stupid chocobo printed on the front of it, because of the thought that his dad had other plans with Noct and someone else. His throat is suddenly extremely dry, and he can feel Noct's stare. As if he's waiting for some kind of reaction - and honestly, Prompto is waiting for it, too.

He doesn’t know whether to feel pissed off, or just…nothing. It shouldn’t really be a big deal that Noct had kept something this important from his own dad, or that his dad is mentioning some woman that Noct obviously hasn’t told Prompto about, but somehow it is. Is he overreacting, or is this becoming a big deal?

“Dad, I’ll tell you everything, just…not right now. Just trust me on this,” Noct pleads, and Regis stares at him for a minute, before sighing and shaking his head.

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Regis gives Noct a knowing look, because it seems that he’s maybe figured it out, it’s unclear to Prompto at least, and Noct runs a hand through his tousled hair. “and do remember about the festivities that are planned for the upcoming week.”

“Right.” Noct tries to meet Prompto’s eyes, but Prompto is looking away, not sure.


The drive back home is silent; neither of them know what the hell to say to each other. Prompto runs through a hundred different scenarios in his head, but he doesn’t know what he’s going to say, or how he’s going to feel when they talk about it.

They’re inside, the door clicking closed as the silence follows them. Noct brushes past him, and Prompto watches his stride across the dimly lit living room. The sky has gotten dark now, the wind calming down as the moon shines brilliantly across the night sky, and it’s casting an ominous glow across the living room. Noct’s halfway across the room before Prompto just thinks fuck it, it’s now or never.

“Dude...you didn't tell your dad about this?"

Noct pauses in his steps, before exhaling dramatically and turning his head towards him. His face looks tired, worn out, and his eyes are a little glazed as he frowns. “I…just didn’t think it was such a big deal, him knowing.”

"This isn't a big deal to you?"

"It is! I mean - I didn't think about...ugh, I don't know."

Prompto bites his lip in thought, gripping the back of the kitchen chair that he’s standing near. “Why would you keep something so important from him? Were you ever going to say something?"

“I-I was gonna tell him, y’know eventually.”

“When?” He gets the feeling that he’s pushing this too far, but he’s been through a lot of shit the past few days so his mind is a mess. “When this was over and done with?”

“No - just - I don’t know, alright?”

"...When are you gonna tell me?”

Yeah, he’d told himself that he trusted Noct enough to wait, but…hasn’t he waited long enough? Or is he just being selfish?

Probably selfish. 

He didn’t specify, but it’s obvious that Noct knows what he’s talking about as his eyes dart to the side with uncertainty. He runs both of his hands through his hair, until they rest on his neck, and his face is starting to become flushed.  “Prompto, I – everything is a mess right now, okay? Things have changed, things aren’t the same anymore.”

He shoves away that little burst of hope that erupts across his skin and heats up his face. Ignores the way his brain conjures up the idea that...a confession might be making its presence known. His mind runs the words on repeat. 'Things have changed.' They sure as hell have. For Prompto, at least.

He shouldn't be thinking about this, especially right now, but the way that Noct is looking at him is really making things difficult. He swallows.

“What do you mean? What’s changed?”

Noct meets his eyes, stepping closer until they’re about an arms width apart, and Prompto’s breath quickens. His fingers twitch against his sides, but Noct stops and takes a step back. “Uh, I – um. I dunno.”

Prompto's almost relieved at the rush of rejection that washes through him. “What about Lunafreya? You were supposed to marry her, right?"

“No!" Noct exclaims, cheeks reddening as he speaks too quickly, as if he's been caught cheating and he's trying to rush out an excuse. "...she's just a friend. We met when were kids."

It hurts. 

“I think she was meant to be more than that," Prompto mumbles to himself, and he notices the way Noct shifts, crossing his arms across his chest. He's closing himself off, probably because Prompto's making this a bigger deal than it needs to be, and he's asking too many damn questions. “You should have told him in the first place.” 

Noct's eyes drift back over to his, narrowed. “You’re one to talk.”

Prompto’s breath audibly hitches – where had that come from? He clenches his jaw in frustration. “Don’t be an asshole, Noct.”

Noct laughs, short and bitter. “You haven’t called me that in a long time.”

“I can start again, if you want.”

“Why are you so upset about it, anyway?” Noct asks suddenly, and Prompto can’t help it, the emotion that rushes through him.

“Because I thought you cared about-!” He stops midsentence. ‘Because I thought you cared about me’.

How irrelevant. It's not what they're talking about at all. They’re supposed to be talking about why Noct’s dad has been out of the loop for so long, who this Lunafreya is, not why Noct has inadvertently hurt him.

That’s not important, and he shouldn't be acting this way, because it's supposed to be pretend - but fuck it feels awful, like he's the only one who's putting forth the effort.

“Care about what?” Noct asks, and Prompto can’t reply. He’s gritting his teeth so hard that it’s causing his jaw to ache, and he’s never felt this way before. Never felt so...angry? Is he angry about this?

It's weird, and it's weirder that it's somehow worse than that horrendous day between him and Cor. That, that was floating on a fluffy cloud. But this? Somehow it hurts the most, and it’s strange as it beats against his ribcage.

“Your dad,” Prompto begins, and he knows, just knows he going to say something completely fucking stupid but it’s out of his mouth before his brain catches up. “why would you keep this from him when it’s obvious that he doesn’t have much time left?”

There’s a long, long silence. Noct is silent. He hasn’t moved, even blinked, for the longest time. Prompto has no idea what expression is on his face, but then Noct is moving towards him. At first, Prompto thinks he’s going to get a punch to the face, but Noct is shoving past him. The door is opened and slammed shut, and suddenly he’s alone.

The apartment feels big and empty without Noct, and he feels like the world’s biggest piece of scum as he stares at the door.

Thoughts pile into his head - some sad, some angry, mostly self deprecating, and he lets out a huge breath he hadn't know he'd been holding. He'd let his emotions get the better of him again, and it's ridiculous how dramatic he's been lately.

Noct didn't deserve that last comment, but Prompto still feels that little insecure tug in his gut about this whole thing, about who's putting more effort into this, who's taking this more seriously - and that shouldn't really matter, right? Who cares?

He snorts, because he does, obviously, and he shouldn't. Noct doesn't like him like that, and they made this deal with the promise that nothing would come out of this - so this, this shouldn't be a surprise. If it's not a big deal to Noct, then it shouldn't be a big deal to him either. If anything, it just makes the fact that this is pretend all the more real.

He sits down at the kitchen table and covers his head with his arms. He takes off his glasses, tossing them, and they skid across the table until they clatter to the floor. He doesn’t want to cry, but a few tears are smearing into the wood and he’s pretty sure his nose is dripping.

Suddenly, his phone vibrates in his pocket, and Prompto really wants it to be Noct so that he can apologize, but it’s some number he doesn’t recognize.

He doesn’t usually answer unknown numbers, but something about this one has his blood running cold. So, he swipes to answer the call, clearing his throat.

“Hello?”

“Is this Prompto Argentum?” A woman’s voice is on the phone, and she sounds frantic.

Oh, fuck. “Y-yeah, it is. Who is this?”

“This is the local hospital." Prompto can feel all life slowly draining from his body. “Your uncle, Cor Leonis, has been in an accident. It’s urgent that you come right away.”

Chapter Text

Prompto has no idea how he gets to the hospital. He’s just suddenly there, standing in the middle of the room, barely able to stand on his two feet. His vision is a little blurry, and he can’t read the signs above the entryway of the long hallways. Apparently, he’d forgotten his glasses after he’d tossed them. He can feel everyone’s eyes on him, people walking past him and staring at him, people whispering from the plastic chairs that they sit in, the nurses behind the desk watching him.

He’s breathing hard, he can feel his legs turning to jelly as he makes his way towards the front desk. The nurse there looks a little terrified, but she meets his eyes calmly. Prompto swallows, his hands gripping the edge of the desk in front of him tightly.

“I-I’m looking for my uncle,” Prompto stutters out, and he almost starts to cry, right in front of this woman. “Cor Leonis.”

The woman stares at him for a moment, before she’s hurriedly clicking through her computer and tapping away. “He’s in the emergency room right now.” Prompto makes some sort of choked noise, and she reaches over to pat his hand. “They’re doing everything they can.”

“Is he gonna be okay?” Prompto can see her hand over his, but he can’t feel anything. He’s completely numb.

The nurse’s face softens. “I’m sorry – the only thing you can do right now is wait.”

Wait. How Prompto hates doing that. He’s mumbling out something, probably a thanks or something, before he makes his way over to an empty plastic chair near the emergency room waiting area.

He’s sitting there by himself in the empty row of plastic chairs, and he can feel his hands gripping the armrest of the chair. He can feel the sense of dread, deep down in his chest, and the worry etched over his face. He wants to cry, and he can feel it burning behind his eyes, but the tears don’t flow. His eyes just remain dry and unseeing, as he stares at the white tile of the floor.

The last words he’s spoken to Cor run on repeat in his mind, taunting him, and honestly it’s almost unbelievable how much regret he feels. The last thing he’d said to his uncle, the last thing he had hissed at him to his face-

Prompto covers his face with hands, because right now he would give anything to be able to tell his uncle that he was sorry, and how much he - 

Suddenly, people are shouting. People are rushing past him, and he looks up, to see some wearing blue, others in doctor’s coats. They’re all running towards the emergency room, and for a split second, Prompto can see the defibrillator being wheeled past him.

The nurse from before notices as well, and her eyes meet his. She seems to know what he’s about to do, and Prompto just takes off before she gets the chance to warn someone.

He’s running behind all those people, pushing past them into the room. There’s more shouting, hands grabbing at his arms to pull him back, and Prompto reels forward. Their grip slackens, and he can see a body on the table…which is so unrecognizable to him that he just stops. There’s a chance that that’s Cor lying there, still and unmoving on that table, coated with so much blood that he can’t recognize any of his facial features, eyes closed and hair matted down with dried blood. How could he let this happen?

He lets the security drag him out, and sit him down in the waiting area. They hover around him for a while, ready to grab him again if he moves, but when minutes pass and Prompto hasn’t even blinked, they wander away.

He’s never been in shock before, but he imagines that it’s something like this.

He doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know how to stop quivering, and he wishes that he weren’t alone. He wishes a lot of things right now, but at this very moment in time, he knows who he wants by his side. His hands are digging into his pocket, pulling out his phone. His hands tremble as he swipes it open, and calls the only person he wants to see right now, the only person who can make all of this okay.

Noct answers on the first ring, and his voice is rushed. “Prompto, fuck, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not telling my dad about you, and I shouldn’t have left you there by yourself-”

Prompto chokes, a noise forming in his throat that probably would’ve turned into a full blown out sobbing mess had he let it out, and Noct stops talking immediately.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

Prompto grips his phone, pressing it tighter to his face, because even though he’d said all that stupid shit, that stupid shit about Regis and made a big deal about everything, Noct is apologizing to him, about not telling his dad about this fake relationship, about leaving him by himself because he knows that Prompto hates to be alone, and for fucks sake he does not have the time nor the energy for this shit in his chest.

“Hospital,” Prompto manages, and his voice is barely above a whisper. “It's not me. Cor, he's…”

Noct doesn’t need to hear anymore – Prompto can hear in the background, the starting of an engine, a car door slamming. “On my way.”

Noct gets there in five minutes. From the way he runs in, out of breath and slight sheen of sweat over his flushed face, it’s obvious that he’d been running. He spots Prompto, sitting in the waiting area with his knees drawn up to his chest and his head leaning against the wall.

Prompto hears the footsteps, and turns to shift his legs onto the floor. He feels Noct sit beside him, breathing heavily. They don’t say anything for a while, until he feels Noct’s hand, warm and gentle on his shoulder.

“Prom,” Noct breathes out, his voice raspy as if he's fighting to get the words out, fingers gripping him. “what happened?”

Prompto closes his eyes, letting out a shaky exhale. He tries to form a reply, but his voice isn’t working right, and he just mumbles out some mumbled cry, and Noct’s hand moves towards his back, rubbing in small, circular motions. Prompto wants more than anything right now, to bury his face in Noct’s shoulder and just stay there forever in his arms, because fuck, Noct’s presence and his hand on his back feels so fucking good.

But Cor is in another room, currently fighting for his life, and here Prompto is, enjoying himself. He doesn’t deserve this! Prompto’s face crumples, and he scoots back, grabbing Noct’s arm and pushing it away. Noct leans back, eyebrows furrowed in confusion and blue eyes staring intently at him as his hand lingers in the air.

“Don’t.” Prompto says, surprising himself at the scratchiness of his own voice, like he hasn't used it for a long time. Noct sighs, letting his hand fall into his lap.

“I’m sorry. About...especially what I-"

“Stop. Don’t apologize to me. I don’t deserve your apology.”

Noct pauses, eyes narrowing as Prompto runs his thumb over the dried blood adorning his knuckles. Noct scoffs, before tilting his head to get in Prompto’s field of vision. “What’re you talking about?”

“Do you remember what I said?” Prompto asks, although it doesn’t come out like a question, more like he’s talking to himself. “That stupid fucking thing I said that could be the last thing I ever said to him?”

You don't need to worry about me.

You don't need to trust me.

Do whatever you want.

It's obvious that he does, and Noct visibly hesitates as he reaches out, grasping Prompto's shoulder firmly. “...What happened was not your fault.” His blue eyes are hard, like gemstones, and Prompto’s chest vibrates as their eyes meet. “Don’t blame yourself for this, people get in accidents all the time-” Prompto flinches at that, bad memories piling on top of the new ones, and Noct's eyes widen. "Fuck, I didn't mean..."

Prompto shakes his head. “That's - that's what makes it worse. I haven’t even talked to him since that day, and if it weren’t for me, then he...I would've been able to do something, right?”

Noct presses his lips together, retracting his hand and bringing it into his lap. A few emotions filter through his face, but he can't seem to figure out what he wants to say, and Prompto laughs weakly, bitterly.

“Dude, if my uncle dies, I’m going to live with this pain for the rest of my life.”

Noct stares at him, swallowing thickly, before he takes another deep breath. “Prompto, I…don’t know what to say to make this better. I really, really don’t.”

Prompto nods. He knows that feeling all too well. He doesn’t know what he’s feeling, right now though. Sorrow and regret of course, but something else that he can’t pinpoint.

“I’m no therapist, and I suck at comforting people, but,” Noct gnaws at his bottom lip. “I’m here. Right here, with you. For as long as you’ll let me.”

That’s what does it – tears fall, and he scrubs them away quickly. He hates crying in front of people, and now Noct too, but Noct doesn't seem to care. He pulls a few tissues from his pocket, conveniently packed in a travel size pouch - Prompto must be staring at it, because Noct shrugs. "Ignis makes me carry these around."

Prompto sniffles, taking a tissue and balling it into his fist. He knows that he looks like a mess; his cheeks are probably flushed and his eyes all red and puffy and gross. His heart is beating wildly against his ribcage, of all the fucking things, because he shouldn’t want Noct here. He's being way too nice, way too comforting, and he’s way too good at this. It’s just making him more vulnerable, more numb, but it’s what he wants right now. He needs this.

“Could you stay here?" He swallows thickly. "With me? Just...just until they can tell me he’s okay.”

Noct doesn’t answer for a few seconds, and Prompto barely gets his eyes up to see the expression on the other boy's face before Noct's arms are around him, firm and sure. There's no hesitance in Noct's embrace.

Prompto's first instinct is to pull away; he doesn't need Noct's pity. But then he remembers that they're in public, and he needs to play along - not that that would be difficult right now. He lets himself settle into the warmth, the brush of Noct's skin against his own allowing him to relax as he inhales slowly. It's just a hug. They've hugged before. Right? He honestly can't remember.

He stiffly interlaces his fingers behind Noct’s back and closes his eyes. He can feel Noct's heartbeat against his chest. This hug is different than the hand-holding, or the brushing of shoulders, or the sideways glances that they've been tossing back and forth with each other.

It’s like they’re back at that freezer, when Noct had rushed in and had held him so tight, like he was afraid to let go. Now though, Prompto’s holding him back just as tight.


Prompto has no idea how long he's asleep, but suddenly he’s waking up. He blinks, eyes puffy and sore as he looks around the room. It’s quite empty now, save for the few patients and doctors walking by every few minutes.

Apparently, they’d both stayed the night at the hospital – the sky is brighter outside, although it's overcast, and the trees are swaying with the wind. Prompto sits up, a little sore from sleeping on these hard plastic chairs for so long, and he realizes that he’s alone.

He stands, albeit wobbly, and makes his way over towards the front desk, before he runs into someone. It’s Noct, who is by some miracle awake before him, and he looks frantic, but happy.

“Prompto,” Noct says, his cheeks a faint shade as red as Prompto blinks sleepily at him. “Cor, he’s awake. He’s okay.”

That wakes Prompto up, and he’s standing there for a second before Noct is shoving him down the hall in front of him. Eventually, the make it to a room all the way down the hall to the right, and Prompto peeks in, afraid at what he might see. Noct is hanging back, urging him to go in with a wave of his hand, and Prompto nods, before stepping in carefully.

Cor is there, looking absolutely fine. His face is a little bruised near the left side, near his ear, and there’s a noticeable, much darker bruise near his left shoulder, but other than that, he looks…the exact same.

Cor’s eyes flick up, capturing Prompto’s, before his blue eyes widen and his eyebrows furrow together. He opens his mouth to speak, but before he can utter a word Prompto is attached to his right side, arm around his middle as he sobs out his apology. He’s ugly crying, getting snot and tears and whatever else all over the thin hospital gown his uncle is wearing, and he’s so happy.

So relieved, and the tremendous weight that has been crushing him this entire time has been lifted - or at least most of it has - and he can breathe a little easier. He feels Cor’s fingers carding through his hair, which is no doubt an absolute mess, Cor’s dry and thin lips on his forehead.

"I’m so sorry,” Prompto cries out, his voice bubbly and wet. “if something ever happened to you I’d-”

“Prompto, hey,” Cor’s voice is raspy as he shakes his head. “I’m fine.”

“It’s all my fault, I should have been there.”

“You need to quit doing that, Prompto – quit being so hard on yourself. Don’t blame yourself.”

Prompto lifts his head, pulling away a little to sit on the edge of the bed near Cor's hip. “You’re not mad?”

Cor’s expression hardens. “Of course I’m angry – you shouted at me in a public restaurant and then didn’t contact me for days.”

Prompto grimaces, but Cor lifts a hand up to grip the back of Prompto’s neck affectionately, and he rubs the little hairs curling there at the nape of his neck. “Yeah kid, you were an asshole, but you deserved to be one.”

“I didn’t want to be an asshole,” Prompto wipes his nose with the sleeve of his wrinkled black sweatshirt that probably smells like sweat and tears, and he wrings his hands together. “It’s just...I uh, I care. About you. I've been working really hard lately, and I guess hearing all that in that restaurant made me feel like...it was all for nothing. I uh, kinda exploded.”

Cor’s fingers around the back of neck pause, before they tighten reassuringly. “I know. Forgive me. Don't you worry about all that hard work - you’ve proven yourself already.”

It hits him all at once, because no, he hasn’t, and he can feel his face drop. Here he is, spilling out all his feelings about how much he wants his uncle to be proud of him, see him like a man. And now he’s hearing it fall from his uncle’s lips, and he wants to feel accomplished - so why does it leave such a bad taste in his mouth?

Probably because his so called ‘husband’ or ‘fiancé’ is standing out in the hallway.

He’s in too deep, because he can’t let his uncle down, and now he can’t let Noct down either. So what the hell is he supposed to do?

“I wanted to believe that you were making it out there in the real world, being an adult, and that’s why I didn’t question when Noctis asked for my blessing for the two of you to be together," Cor explains, and Prompto can feel his heart thudding against his ribs as he recalls the words he shouted, the look on his uncle's face, the silence of the restaurant as he made that scene. It's literally going to haunt him for the next eight years. "I wanted to believe that you were happy, and…I guess it hit me harder than I thought. That you didn’t need me anymore.”

Cor’s letting his eyes glisten, and Prompto is briefly surprised, and just feels like utter shit, because he doesn’t think he’s ever seen his uncle cry.

He forces his face into a quirked grin - because all this crying and feelings between the two of them is weird, and Prompto just needs things to go back to the way they were. "I'll always need you, yeah?"

“Ok, ok. Quit crying on me.” Cor says, batting Prompto’s face away like he’s irritated, but he’s smiling, and Prompto is too, even though it feels foreign to his lips.

There’s a knock on the door then, and both of them turn to see Noct peeking in almost shyly, before he’s stepping in quietly with his hands stuffed into his pockets.

“Everything okay?” he asks, meeting Prompto’s eyes. Prompto wants to shake his head, tell him that no, it’s not okay. My uncle almost died and I’m still lying straight to his face. Instead, he nods, and Noct visibly relaxes, before walking further into the room to Cor’s other side.

Cor meets his eyes intently. “Noctis, I want to thank you, for taking care of my son, the way you spoke about him. I really appreciate it.”

Noct flushes, and Prompto does too, at his uncle’s words – he sniffs, willing back the prickling of his throat.

“I’m sorry about before, about not believing about the two of you.” Cor says, and Prompto sees Noct’s face turn a shade darker, before he’s frowning and looking up underneath his eyelashes to meet Prompto’s eyes. Noct feels it too.

Cor looks between the two of them, some sort of understanding in his eyes as he nods to himself.

“Wanna tell us what happened? I mean, if you want?” Noct asks slowly after a few minutes of silence, obviously trying to change the subject, and Cor thinks about it for a moment.

“Can’t really remember anything after the impact – they told me I was hit by some van speeding. Ran through a red light and smashed right into me.” Cor drags the top of his hospital gown enough to reveal the ugly, dark bruising below his collarbone that melts into his shoulder. There’s more bruising, that wraps around up his neck. Prompto winces at the thought that this could have been much worse, as Cor covers himself again, and sighs.

“They told me it was good thing I had my seat belt on. That’s what caused all this.” He gestures vaguely to the left side of his body. “There’s more bruising wrapped around my ribs. That van hit me on the right, hit me so hard that I knocked myself out when I hit my head on the window.”

There’s a gentle silence, save for the beeping of the heart monitor in the room, before Noct takes a step forward. “We’re glad you’re okay,” Noct says, placing a gentle hand on Cor’s forearm, and Cor nods at him. Prompto looks away from his uncle to look at Noct, but Noct’s already staring at him again.


Three days pass by, slowly. Prompto hasn’t left his uncle’s side, but if he has, it was only for a short moment. He’d gotten his glasses back, scratched up and dirty, but whatever. They’re talking to each other now, learning more about the other than they did all of these years being with each other. Prompto learns things that he’s never known about his uncle before – that his uncle and his mom had been best friends when they were kids. They’d only become estranged when she’d married Prompto’s dad, and Cor hadn’t liked him.

Prompto expresses his interest about that, and Cor gets this weird look on his face, not answering.

Cor continues though, saying that he hadn’t talked to her for a long time after her marriage, and when Prompto was born, he hadn’t come to see him either. Prompto knew about that part. He’d only seen pictures of his uncle, in his military uniform.

When his parents had died on that fateful day, his uncle had called him on the phone, telling him to stay home and not to worry. A few days later, the funeral was when Prompto met his uncle in person for the first time. Cor was tall, intimidating, and had this constant frown on his face. Prompto was always full of sorrow whenever he looked at Cor’s face – it reminded him too much of his mom. Of course, Cor knew. He saw her in the mirror every day. It’s comforting to hear his voice, but at the same time painful as Cor talks and talks, about his past, about his life when he was Prompto’s age. It doesn't feel the way he thought it would.

Noct’s been by too, whenever he has the time. He brings them cards, movies to play on his laptop, once even brings them burgers and fries from that place he knows Prompto likes so much, and even brings Prompto a change of clothes, which Prompto is extremely grateful for, yet it's almost too much. Everything is just...confusing. They're pretending, and Prompto gets that Noct has to play it up for the public eye, but - he feels bombarded with how caring Noct is being, so much to the point that sometimes the line between what's real and what's not is fragile and blurry. It's driving him insane.

Finally, at the end of the third day, it’s announced that Cor can go home. Prompto helps him into the car that Noct had let him borrow that day, sleek and black and just outright out of place in the hospital parking lot. Cor doesn’t seem to mind though, eyes big and wide as he runs his hands over the leather interior of the car.

“Damn,” Cor muses as Prompto gets in other side carefully, turning the key in the ignition as the car purrs to life. “What does Noctis do for a living? Is he a celebrity? A prince?”

Prompto chuckles, slowly pulling forward and turning out into the street of traffic. The day is overcast again, the trees blowing, and the city hasn’t seen the sun in days. It’s off-putting, and just makes Prompto’s skin crawl, because it seems like there’s a storm brewing. Metaphorically.

“His dad is Regis Caleum,” Prompto says as he flicks on his turn signal, heading onto the freeway. “Noct’s gonna inherit Insomnia Inc., someday.”

Cor pauses as his hands runs across the leather dashboard, and he slowly turns to look over at Prompto. Prompto glances at him for a second, confused. “What?”

“Noctis is the son of Regis Caelum?”

“Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either. Resemblance is there, though.” Cor is quiet, a little too quiet, and Prompto frowns. It’s not like Cor to be like this, nervous and thinking for so long. “Is there something wrong with that?”

“No, no, just…I’ve had a few unpleasant encounters with their rival company…in Nifilheim.”

Prompto legit almost drives into a fucking ditch. Noct hasn’t told him about any rival companies, but he’d literally have to be living under a rock if he didn’t know that Insomnia’s biggest competitor is the Empire, a Nifilheim owned company. He’s heard nothing but bad things from them, from their constant attempts to overtake Insomnia. The reason why, Prompto has no idea, but he can’t believe that his uncle has even encountered someone from there.

“When?”

“Long time ago,” Cor says, looking out the window at all the passing cars. “met a bad man. He did something horrible, and I’m…not going to talk about it.”

Prompto understands why – Cor had just survived a car accident, and he doesn’t need to be bringing up bad memories. But at the same time, Prompto really wants to know, not only because it sounds intriguing as hell, but because he wonders if Noct knows anything about this.

“Regis Caelum,” Cor whistles low, before shaking his head. “that man is a legend. I can’t believe you didn’t tell me. I almost can’t believe it.”

“Yeah, me either,” Prompto mumbles out, and they don’t really say anything more for a couple minutes. Prompto drops Cor off at the house, going inside for a bit, making sure everything was okay, before he leaves. He promises to call his uncle more often, and Cor happily agrees.


It’s a week later, that Noct tells him about the business party his dad is throwing. Prompto had just gotten off the phone with his uncle, whose bruises are healing nicely, and he’s pulling a sweater over his head as Noct follows him down the hall.

“A business party?”

“Yeah.” Noct takes a bottle of water from the fridge, before twisting it open and taking a swig. He’s dressed warmly, the weather still the same as always. He’s about to head out actually, the company still in need of his assistance. “Remember when my dad was talking about it?”

Prompto winces subtly, remembering. Every time he even thinks about Regis, he just feels horrible. Noct hasn’t said anything about their argument, and neither has Prompto. They’ve been skirting around each other, jerking each other around in circles for the past week. They also haven’t talked about what happened at the hospital – how tightly Noct had held Prompto in his arms, the comforting words he’d said…it makes him cringe just thinking about it. There’s been a silence between them now, one that they both know needs to be taken care of, but nothing has happened. Prompto doesn’t know if he should be worried or grateful, that Noct hasn’t bothered.

The real reason though, at least in his opinion, is that it’s almost the end of the month. They have one more week, and then…it’s over. Noct only said they had to pretend for a month. Everything will be over, they probably won’t see each other again, and Prompto’s going to have to come up with another bullshit lie about why they aren’t together anymore. At least the pain will be real, though. Prompto looks up towards the kitchen, at Noct who lowers the bottle from his lips to stare at the wall somewhat longingly.

The event will be at the end of the week – of course, two days before the end of the month. Noct’s voice is careful and low as he explains, that as a ‘married couple’, they’ll have to be there together – but honestly it looks like Noct doesn’t really like the idea of that. Prompto doesn’t either, because there’s that panic in the back of his mind. If Noct hadn’t told his dad…then that means that he probably hasn’t told anyone else either. Everyone will be staring at him, obviously out of place at such an event, and Prompto can already feel his chest tightening. He doesn’t know if it’s from nervousness or the dread of what’s to come.

Noct’s phone rings in his pocket, and he swallows the mouthful of water before he swipes to accept the call. Prompto just turns away, fumbling with his own phone, opening King’s Knight to harvest.

“What? Why?” Noct’s voice raises a little, and Prompto really wants to turn his head to look, but he’s harvesting right now, dammit. Noct sighs heavily.

“Okay, fine. Just don’t know why you want me to do it...right. Whatever.”

Noct ends the call abruptly, shoving his phone into his pocket as he tosses the empty bottle into the recycling. Noct’s grumbling as he cards both of his hands through his hair, and Prompto glances at him.

“What is it?”

Noct pauses, meeting Prompto’s eyes, before he’s looking away. He reaches into his pocket to pull out his keys, the fish still dangling there looking tacky and out of place. “My dad – wants me to go in his place to Nifilheim.”

Prompto freezes. It makes his mind flash to Ardyn, with his amber eyes and creepy smile, remembering Ardyn talking about he and Noct being ‘business’ partners. He wonders what Ardyn is playing at, all of a sudden. “What? Isn’t that place…supposed to be like, creepy as hell?”

Noct chuckles a bit, nodding. “Yeah. They’ve been our number one competitors for a long time though, even before my dad was born. My dad has been dealing with their shit for a long time, and I guess it’s time for me to learn how to do it too.” Noct’s shrugging, but there’s that tension in his shoulders again, and Prompto frowns.

“Does Ardyn work there?”

Noct pauses again. “How did you know that?”

Prompto raises his hands vaguely. “Just had the feeling.” Yeah, he had a feeling alright – from the way Noct’s jaw is clenched, it’s obvious that even talking about the guy is upsetting him.

“Well, yeah. He does.” Noct’s pulling on his shoes, tugging his jacket tighter around him, but Prompto can’t help but stare at the paleness of his throat, standing out. Prompto stands up.

“Wait,” he says, and Noct raises his eyebrows at him as Prompto runs down the hall, rifling through the drawers he’d stuffed some clothes in, before returning with the bright yellow scarf in his hands. He offers it up sheepishly.

“Look, I know it’s probably really stupid, but it’s pretty cold out there, and…this is the only one I have, okay?” Prompto smiles a little though, as he wraps the chocobo scarf around Noct’s pale throat, looping it. His fingers curl around the little ball of fluff at the bottom of the scarf, as he looks up.

Noct’s staring at him. His eyes are boring into his, the air shifting around them as the rest of the world seems to blur away. Prompto can feel his heart racing, a prickle of sweat forming underneath his arms, and his fingers tighten around the scarf in his hands.

It's kind of silly, the thought that passes through Prompto's mind in that moment; that this would probably be the perfect moment for a first kiss. He's seen this particular scene before, where they guy and the girl look up at each other, and the guy is just so taken aback by the girl's beauty and he leans in for a - no, no.

Don't think like that. He'd probably ruin everything if he were to lean in right now, no matter how much he wants to - because this is pretend, a fake thing, and Noct doesn't like him like that.

It's so quick that Prompto almost misses it. Noct's eyes dart down to his lips, and Prompto's lips part in response, but then he panics, taking a step back. His eyes are playing tricks on him. He's hallucinating. Delusional. Because there's no way in hell that just happened.

“I-uh, you can just take it off before you go in there. Don’t wanna stand out, heh.” Prompto offers up a smile as he reaches to rub behind his neck nervously.

“Uh... yeah. I guess.” Noct blinks, seemingly back to reality as his eyes search Prompto’s - his azure eyes are dilated. “When I get back,” Noct takes a step back and reaches for the door. “I…have something I need to tell you. It’s important.”

Prompto chews on his lips nervously, but manages to give him a thumbs up. It's probably nothing, anyways. “Cool.”

Noct smirks at him, that little lop sided smile Prompto hasn’t seen for a while. “We’ll go on another date.”

Prompto tries to ignore that as he swats at Noct halfheartedly, before he’s gone. Then, he just leans up against the wood of the door, titling his head back, closing his eyes. He feels a warmth, on his back, and for a moment wonders if it’s Noct, leaning against the door too.

He scoffs, before turning his head to press his hot cheek against the coolness of the wood – he’s been watching too many chick flicks.

He’s filtering through his photos, catching himself smiling at the ones where he and Noct went on that first date, that photo of the skyline from Noct’s room. He realizes that he’s a little excited about this next date, and it’s enough to at least bury the guilt and hurt in his chest for a little while. His phone’s vibrating in his pocket then, and he just answers, not looking at who’s calling. He presses his phone between his cheek and his shoulder as he leans back against the couch cushions.

“Hello?”

“Is this Prompto?”

He pauses – the voice sounds somewhat familiar, but he can put his finger on who it is. But it must be important if they know his name, right? “Yeah?”

“Oh good. It’s Regis - I was hoping you and I could have a little chat?”

Chapter Text

He's gonna throw up.

Regis looks fine, though. Sipping at his cup, lounging against the back of the leather sofa, looking over at him with his hazel eyes. Prompto can feels his eyes on him, and he shakily raises the cup to his own lips. The tea is hot and soothing, and it slides down his throat nicely. Then suddenly it’s rushing back up, and he has to hold a hand over his mouth.

Regis hums thoughtfully, before setting his cup back on the table in front of them near the little plate of pastries, and he leans back, crossing his legs at the ankle. His arms are crossed, and he’s giving Prompto a look, but Prompto’s too busy trying not to hurl all over this expensive carpet underneath his feet.

As if it weren’t already obvious, Prompto is nervous as hell – apparently, he didn’t really have much of a choice when it came to Regis’s little ‘chat’ with him. Prompto barely had enough time to shrug on a sweater before there was a knock at the door. Peeking through the peephole in the door, there had been a tall, dark haired man with blue eyes. The man had held up a business card, long enough for Prompto to see that he was from Insomnia.

The fact that someone who worked for Insomnia came knocking at the door literally seconds after Regis had hung up on him without waiting for his answer had Prompto trembling like a leaf. Before he knows it, he’s sitting in the back of a luxurious, sleek black car and it’s taking him away from the apartment building.

Light rain had sprinkled against the dark, tinted windows the car – it’s another overcast day, the temperature unusually low for this time of year. The drive is silent, with Prompto trying to timidly ask questions and not receiving a response from the guy. The only reaction he’d gotten from him was a stare when Prompto had leaned too far forward to stare at the tiny tattoo of a crow’s foot adorning the man’s cheek, and Prompto leaned back into his seat and stayed there after that.

He’d been told to take the elevator to the top floor, once he was dropped off. Prompto had turned to look at the driver, barely seeing a glimpse of his profile before the window is rolled up, and the car speeds off.

Now, here he sits. Sipping tea and munching on little pastries in a large, grand room probably meant to be used for something other than tea time.

Prompto swallows, before closing his eyes tightly for a moment and letting his hand drag down his face. He can see Regis in the corner of his eyes, shifting in his seat.

“There’s no need to be so nervous, Prompto,” Regis explains calmly, and Prompto has to force himself to meet his eyes.  “I really do just want to talk.”

Prompto nods feebly, taking another sip, forcing it down. At least the tea is good, hot and flavored with just a hint of lemon.

“Unless, there is a need that I am not aware of?” Regis asks, and Prompto almost chokes again, but he’s blushing as he sets the cup down on the table in front of them. He’s wringing his hands in his lap nervously, fiddling with a piece of loose string of his sweater.

“I, I…” Prompto trails off, and he’s gritting his teeth in frustration because he knows he can do this, he knows he can talk to Regis like any other normal human being, but…it’s just the thought that Regis could end all Prompto and Noct had been doing with just a few simple words.

Regis chuckles softly, though. “I’m just messing with you. There really is no need to be nervous.”

Prompto tries to laugh back, but it comes out half strangled and weird, but if Regis notices, he doesn’t say anything. Instead, his expression shifts as he stares at Prompto intently.

“I wanted to talk about Noctis.”

At the mention of him, Prompto’s cheeks turn tomato red, and he clears his throat awkwardly as he nods. “Uh, yeah. Okay?”

“I’ll admit…I haven’t really been the type of father that I should’ve been, but I know my son. He’s been…different lately.”

…Uh oh. Prompto really hopes this isn’t going where he thinks it’s going, but Regis continues.

“I didn’t realize it at first – Ignis actually, made me aware of it.”

Prompto rolls his eyes subtly. Dammit Ignis.

“…his mood, the looks on his face…I hadn’t seen him so content and happy in years,” Regis smiles a little, his dark eyes in another time. “It reminded me of when he was small.”

Prompto hurriedly picks his cup back up from the table and swallows a mouthful, before swallowing quickly. If this is going where he thinks it’s going…then it’s not going to be good, for him, at least.

I don’t know if Noctis has told you,” Regis's voice going soft and sad. “but he was in a car accident when he was a kid. Was out, walking alone in the rain…looking for me. I had told him that I would be home that night, but work had gotten to be a handful all of a sudden, and I couldn’t reach him. I was told later that he ran away to come and find me – he was on his way here, actually.”

Prompto’s holding the warm cup in his hands tightly, peering up at Regis from underneath his eyelashes. Regis’s face looks pale, worn, and his hazel eyes have become dull, as he talks about the accident that almost took his only son away from him. Prompto has a fleeting thought that maybe he should just tell him to stop, but Regis suddenly clears his throat, blinking his eyes quickly.

“It was raining so hard that night…there was a storm. He saw the Regalia…my car, the old girl, she’s been here a long time. Long enough, that Noctis always felt safe when he was near her. That’s when it happened – he was hit crossing the street. The people who hit him…had lost control on the wet road, and after they hit him, they swerved…and drove straight into a wall.”

Rain…a storm…car accident. Somehow, it’s all linking up in Prompto’s mind, but…there’s something he’s not understanding. Something that he can’t process, can’t wrap his brain around, and he feels like there’s something missing in the piece of this puzzle.

“My parents passed away in a car accident,” Prompto replies, and Regis glances at him, surprised. “I was only a kid at the time, and I was told that they had lost control of the road…but I sympathize with you, sir. I’m glad that Noct made it out okay.”

“I’m…sorry about your parents,” Regis says softly after a few moments of silence, and Prompto takes another mouthful of the tea in his cup, nearly burning off his taste buds, as he lets the thought float to the back of his mind, and focus on what’s happening right now.

Regis wipes a stray tear off of his cheek, before continuing. “Well, Noctis had always been such a lively, happy little boy before. After waking up though…he was different. Withdrawn, quiet. I didn’t like it.”

There’s a moment of silence between them, now. Prompto’s fear has fizzled away, only leaving pity and sorrow. He sighs as he sets his cup back down, clasping his hands tightly together in his lap. “I’m sorry, Mr. Caelum.”

Regis looks over at him then, before smiling softly. “There’s no need to apologize – actually I want to thank you.”

Prompto lifts his eyebrows in disbelief. “What for?”

Regis sets his own cup down, scooting forward on his seat until he can rest his elbows on his knees. “Whenever I asked about it – whenever I asked my son what had happened that had suddenly made him change, he looked at me like I was crazy. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, Dad,’ he’d say, and he wouldn’t say a word about it. But I knew there was something there, in the bounce in his step, the bright, lively look in his eyes, the always gentle grin on his face…and I couldn’t figure it out.”

Prompto is trying very hard not to look at Noct’s dad like he’s crazy. “I…I’m not following, sir.”

Regis presses his lips together in amusement. “It’s you, Prompto. You’re the reason that he’s changed.”

It's like he's at that cabin all over again. Sitting on a stone bench, listening to Ignis grill veggies and the distant sounds of Noct and Gladio messing around down by some tree stump near the water. Ignis talking about Noct, about them, and -

“I believe that you’re good for him,” Ignis says gently, his green eyes soft. “and hopefully, soon you’ll think so as well.”

Prompto swallows. “I...I don’t -”

“I noticed when he brought you with him to see me. He's always tense when I'm around. Most likely afraid I might fall over," Regis chuckles softly. "I’ve gotten used to it, though. Then you walked in the room, and he…relaxed. I don’t even think he was aware of it.”

Prompto’s pretty sure that all of his freckles have more or less disappeared from his cheeks; He can feel the heat seeping right up into his ears. He doesn't remember that - probably too upset over the fact that Noct hadn't told him about Lunafreya. The woman he was supposed to marry. A pinch of jealous stabs at him, but ignores it, shaking his head.

“Mr. Caelum, I…I haven’t done anything."

“Apparently you have.” Regis's expression falters, and he’s shaking his head. "Although, this does come as a sudden shock to me. Noctis has always been rebellious, but this? Forcing someone to pretend to be married to him, thinking that it would work out well? I really wasn’t expecting this.”

Alarm bells go off. Prompto freezes, jerking his head up. “Wait…you know?”

Regis tilts his head in confusion. “About this pretend marriage? Of course, I do.”

Prompto has to take a few deep breaths, because what the fuck. How in the hell did he even figure it out? Were he and Noct not careful enough, even if the short amount of time spent of front of Noct’s dad? What gave them away? What did-?

Regis’s chuckling interrupts Prompto’s thoughts, and Prompto looks at him in surprise. “I may be old, but I wasn’t born yesterday. I’ve raised this wayward boy of mine for years.”

Regis’s words do nothing to help the situation, if Prompto is being honest with himself. All of this is just crashing into his mind way too fast, and he feels like he’s going to get lightheaded pretty soon. He doesn’t know what he’s feeling – relief? Impending doom? Probably both.

“When you made a crack about finally meeting your ‘father-in-law’, it became a little clearer, I think.” Regis explains, and Prompto just wishes for the sofa he’s sitting on to swallow him up and spit him out somewhere in a ditch.

“I…don’t know what to say.” Prompto says softly, so soft that he wonders if he even spoke the words. Strangely enough, he'd thought that he'd be sitting across from his uncle when this inevitably happened.

He feels a gentle pat on his shoulder, and he glances over to see Regis retracting his hand back, with a sympathetic look. “You can tell me how my son roped you into this.”

Prompto tenses up. He doesn’t know if he should spill the beans, talk about his personal life so easily, but Regis sitting beside him has him wanting to lay it all out on the table. He’s not afraid anymore, but rather comforted by the man sitting beside him. He realizes then that he just wants someone to listen. Just wants someone to tell. Besides, Noct, of course.

“My uncle. Took me in when my parents died, and I wanted him to be proud of me. To see that I could handle being an adult on my own.” Prompto sighs then, because repeating this again is making it sound more and more stupid. “I lied and told him I had been seeing someone. So when I met Noct, my uncle was there and…things just kinda escalated from there. Suddenly Noct and I were newlyweds, I guess. We both needed something from each other.”

Regis is silent, before he hums thoughtfully. “So, you’re lying to your uncle that you and my son are together so that your uncle can be proud of you.”

Prompto grimaces – it certainly does sound stupid now. Apparently it wasn't stupid enough before all of this started though, because here he is.

“What did Noct say about his reason?” Regis asks suddenly, and Prompto’s heart skips a beat, because he still doesn’t know.

“I…I don’t know,” Prompto admits, and Regis’s eyebrows lift incredulously. “He hasn’t told me.”

Regis makes some sort of sound then, probably a laugh, like he can’t believe what Prompto is saying. Prompto is afraid to look at him.

“You aren’t afraid you’re just wasting your time, then?”

Prompto’s head shoots back up, and he can feel the scowl on his face. He can feel his conscious nagging at him, telling him to shut the hell up and don’t say what’s on your mind, just keep quiet-

“I-I'm not wasting my time! None of the times that we’ve spent together have ever been wasteful. I just...since he’s so busy all the time, I don’t want him to be any more stressed out than he already is, and-” Prompto takes a deep breath, stopping mid-sentence. Whoa. That all came out of nowhere, and at the wrong time. Regis stares at him, for the longest time, and Prompto is just looking away. He’s pretty sure that his tea has gone cold by now, but he reaches down anyway and takes a sip.

“Listen, Prompto,” Regis begins after a few minutes of awkward silence, and Prompto shifts a little, subtly scooting farther away. “I think Noct has gotten in way over his head, with the whole thing, and so have you.”

After a moment’s hesitation, Prompto nods in agreement, reaching up to run a hand through his tousled hair. “Uh, yeah. We probably have.”

He wonders what he looks like, right now – he’d taken a shower last night, but he’s pretty sure that he’s probably sweated off all of his deodorant. His hair feels thick and tangled when he finally wretches his fingers free, and his face feels warm to the touch. He sees Regis shift from the corner of his eye, rolling his shoulders back.

“I don’t think you’re understanding.”

Prompto glances at him confused. “Gotten in over our heads? As in, we’ve been pretending for far too long, right? Is that what you mean?”

Regis frowns, before shaking his head. “No. I mean, you both have let your feelings for each other become the underlying reason as to why you’re still doing this.”

Record scratch. What. Prompto…can’t think. He can’t make himself form words, can’t make his lips work, can’t make his jaw move. He feels like he’s some sort of robot starting to shut down, or malfunction, because everything is becoming a mess inside him. Feelings…Noct’s dad thinks they’re doing this because of feelings?

Well, maybe that’s sorta true for Prompto (ok it is true), but he’d convinced himself that Noct still needs him. Noct needs him to keep pretending, at least for a little while longer, and not because Noct has feelings for him, but because he needs him to -

To do what?

There’s no way. Things never turn out well for him, so the thought of Noct even feeling anything towards him has him shaking his head – Noct, of all people?  He can feel his stomach rolling around, the sweatiness of his palms, and he tires to say something, anything, but his mind is fuzzy.

“I must admit, at first I did suspect that you had an ulterior motive." Regis stares at him solemnly. He scoots closer, and then his eyes relax. "But, I see that that's not the case - you care about Noctis."

Prompto is still at a loss for words - he should really say something, but all he wants to say is piling up on top of each other and he can't make his mouth work.

"I like you, Prompto," Regis sighs. "You're...a nice young man. I don't want you to get hurt."

“Hurt?” Prompto finally manages choke out, still a little out of it.

Regis clicks his tongue at him, shaking his head. “If Noctis keeps this up, you're both going to be hurt. If word gets out about you, I'm sure you're aware of what would happen.”

“…come again?” Prompto asks, legit offended. So maybe he doesn’t really have a good idea of where he was born, or where his parents were born, or anything really about his family history, but that doesn’t make what Regis said any better. He’s still reeling from the feelings thing, after all.

Regis looks just as confused as Prompto feels. “That deal is still binding, Prompto. I'm sorry, but it's better if things just stopped here. The marriage between the heirs of two rival companies that have been at each other’s throats for years won't end well. It’s apparent that my son didn’t think this completely through.”

The words 'marriage between the heirs' and 'my son' are all that stand out to Prompto. Not the blunt way Regis is telling him that he and Noct need to stop what they're doing, no, he doesn't care about that.

Jealousy surges through his chest. Noct was supposed to marry the heir of a company. And not just any company - a rival.  It makes zero sense; marriage between two people that are supposed to inherit two separate companies, legally bonding together for...for what? Is this all some elaborate plan that Prompto's stupidly made himself a part of?

Does Noct think Prompto's some sort of idiot for thinking that Prompto wouldn't get so attached? He is so incredibly fed up with the way his heart reacts because it's not the time, because Noct was supposed to marry someone else and why did he choose Prompto of all people - 

"Prompto?" Regis is staring at him worriedly when Prompto jerks his head up, pulled from his thoughts.

He clears his throat. "Sorry, I just, it's just all a little overwhelming." 

"Forgive me for throwing this all at you at once," Regis looks genuinely apologetic. "Please know that Noctis only has good intentions."

Prompto's not sure that's entirely true anymore, but he nods anyway, staring at the floor. He tries to picture it, Noct scheming behind his back and driving out a plan to completely break Prompto's heart in two - but the jealousy is fading away, replacing itself with that usual fluttery feeling Prompto gets when he thinks about Noct, and he sighs dejectedly. "Yeah. Just, wish I'd known earlier."

There's a few seconds of silence that stretches on long enough to become awkward, and when Prompto glances up, Regis is staring at him in complete disbelief. "Known about what?"

"Noct. Marrying an heir." Prompto blinks. He's not mad about Noct not telling him about the marriage to the heir of a company, he realizes - he knows that Noct probably wanted to tell him along with why he needs Prompto in the first place - he's mad about the fact that Noct literally had someone lined up for him. Yet, he chose Prompto. That right there. It's making the attachment stronger - and when that attachment is ripped off, like a sticker that's too sticky - it's going to leave a residue.

Regis's hazel eyes squint at him in scrutiny, before they widen, realization flashing across his face - and a numb feeling starts to suffocate the room, quickly enveloping Prompto and making the hairs on his arms stand on end. 

Regis's voice is quiet. "Is it possible that you're unaware that you're-?"

Prompto almost doesn't want to ask. "I'm what?"

“I'm not sure if I’m the one you should be talking to about this." Regis moves to stand, grasping for the cane near him. He's moving quickly - or at least trying to, like he's trying to get away from Prompto as fast as he can. "Forgive me, I’ve overstepped my boundaries.”

It’s like a switch being turned on in Prompto's head.

Prompto’s shaking his head as Regis manages to stand, his stance a little weary from sitting for too long, but Prompto reaches out to stop him. His fingers grab at the expensive material of Regis’s black coat, and tug. Regis glances down at him in surprise.

“Wait, please, just - what’s going on? I haven’t been understanding any of what you’ve been saying,” Prompto can feel his fingers trembling against Regis’s hip where he clenches onto his coat, and he can't believe no one's stopping him. The man is probably worth millions of dollars, he's Noct's dad, and Prompto can't let go of the man's coat. “This isn't just about what Noct and I have been doing. There's something else, isn't there?”

Regis looks pained as he sits back down, his face crumpled into worry and stress. Prompto feels the twinge of guilt through his chest, but something is going on, going on with him, and he needs to find out what.

After a few silent minutes, Regis speaks softly. “I did my research – I needed to know who you were, if you were going to be involved with my son, and…it’s you.”

“What’s me?”

Regis meets his eyes, sadness written all over his pale and soft, wrinkled face. “You’re the next heir. Of the rival company, to inherit.”

...

...

...

Prompto’s staring, unseeing into a space at the wall to the left of Regis’s face. He can't feel anything. He’s getting nothing.

”I don’t understand.” Prompto finally says, and Regis bites his lip. Prompto narrows his eyes as he continues to stare at the wall, because it all seems like some sort of sick, twisted game. And he doesn’t want to play. “Please don’t patronize me, sir.”

“I’m not-”

“You’re lying to me.”

“Why would I do that? Especially something as important as this?”

Prompto’s trying to hold the bile back in his throat. This hasn’t to be some sort of joke, because he’s not anything special. “This doesn’t make any sense, my parents-”

“Weren’t your biological parents. Well, your mother was – but your father, he wasn’t. Your real father…Verstael. Verstael Besithia.”

Prompto’s mind is almost completely blank at his point. He’s heard that name before – seen that face. Verstael Besithia, lead researcher of the Empire of Niflheim, known for being ruthless, cunning, and just outright evil in his research…even if it meant experimenting on actual people. He’s known everywhere, to be sick and twisted, and the thought the Regis is telling him this…that he could possibly be related to that sick bastard has him trembling.

He feels a gentle touch on his hands. “I really didn’t know that you…were unaware, Prompto. Please forgive me, I never meant for-”

Prompto shoots up, off the leather couch. He nearly loses his balance as he takes off, stumbling over his own feet and almost tripping his way out of the room. The men there who had been guarding the exits move aside quickly, their faces unreadable as he passes them.

He keeps running, running until he’s out of the building and is standing outside. He’s panting heavily, hands braced on his knees as he takes deep breaths. A tear drips off his chin, and he wipes it away angrily.

Him…an heir? To the Empire. Hah. He doesn’t believe it - can’t believe it. But then again, why would Regis lie about something like this? It’s almost laughable, and he wishes that he never would have agreed to talk to Regis in the first place, because he was already having a pretty shit week and it has miraculously but not surprisingly gotten worse.

His phone vibrates then – he pulls it out of his back pocket. Noct’s calling, and Prompto almost doesn’t answer it. But he does anyway, trying not to let his voice quiver.

“Hello?”

“Hey, it’s me. The thing is over, so I’ll probably be an hour or so. You doing okay?”

Prompto’s breath hitches, and he’s wiping away another stray tear as he nods. “Y-yeah, I’m okay.  How was-” He swallows roughly. “How was Niflheim?”

“Eh, like I expected – full of self-absorbent assholes who only think about themselves and waste away their whole lives trying to take control over Insomnia. The usual.”

Prompto’s fingers tighten around his phone. “Ah, heh, yeah.”

He hears fumbling, before he hears a car door being slammed shut. “Honestly, anyone from Niflheim is just a waste of time, in my book. I don’t think I’d ever voluntarily be involved with any one of them.”

Prompto can feel what little self-esteem he had left fizzling out as he shuffles his shoes against the pavement. It’s obvious that Noct has no idea. No idea the two of them were supposed to...supposed to be real. This is not the way he wanted things. Not at all. 

If what his dad said is true though…he needs to know once and for all, and there’s only one person who can tell him. The wind suddenly picks up, ruffling his hair and causing him to wrap an arm around himself as he turns the opposite direction away from home.

“You there?” Noct asks after Prompto doesn’t answer for a few seconds, and Prompto takes a deep breath before he hums like nothing is wrong as he walks.

“Yeah. But hey, why did you call me?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“Literally everyone texts, dude. I almost forgot how to answer my phone.”

Noct is silent for a few seconds, before he’s scoffing. “Yeah, I know. Didn’t feel like it, my fingers are tired.”

A little grin makes its way onto Prompto’s lips. There's a deep, heavy feeling settling in his chest. “Alright, whatever you say.”

“Maybe I just wanted to hear your voice?”

“Har, har. Be careful coming home.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Noct mutters, and Prompto presses his lips together in amusement. “See you soon, love you.”

Everything around him stills. “….I-?”

Prompto hears Noct’s sudden intake of breath, before he’s cursing under his breath. “Fuck…sorry, force of habit.”

Prompto swallows, his tongue suddenly way too big for his mouth. “Okay… later.”

“Later.”

Prompto pockets his phone, hands trembling and heart racing, because he can see it in his head – Noct’s flushed face, the way his eyebrows furrow together when he’s nervous. Fleetingly, in the back of his mind, he wishes it were true.

Eventually, he gets to where he’s going. The wind has died down, the clouds have lightened up somewhat, and the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds. It warms Prompto’s back as he stands on the porch, knocking against the wood, before ringing the doorbell. He waits a few moments, and when the door opens, Prompto doesn’t waste any time.

“Uncle Cor, is there something you’re not telling me?”

Chapter Text

Prompto doesn’t think he’s ever seen his uncle so nervous – Cor’s sitting in his old beat up recliner, hands clasped tightly together as he leans forward on his elbows. His blue eyes though, are intent and focused on Prompto, who’s still trying to calm himself down from the brisk walk over here. 

When he’d nearly shouted those words at his uncle, Cor’s face had shifted, and Prompto’s gut immediately dropped, because now he’s worried.  He’d been hoping that this was all a joke, that Noct’s dad had just been teasing him or something – maybe it was some sort of plan to get him and Noct to stop all of this, to keep them apart - but the look on his uncle’s face has him thinking differently.

He’d been invited inside, inside the small single-story house that he had basically grown up in. The place hasn’t changed much, besides the furniture being moved across the room. All the little knick knacks and doodads still sat lined up on the kitchen counter, or placed on top of the high cupboards.

There’s a scratch on the wall from when he was twelve, when he’d took in a stray puppy and it had accidentally scratched the wall with its feet trying to scratch behind its ears.

On the brick fireplace, his high school graduation photo, his high school diploma, a picture of him and his uncle together. On the little table near the end of the couch, a framed photo of his parents before the accident…the place is filled with so many memories. He used to feel so safe and protected when he was here, but now all he feels is the sense of impending doom.

Cor is silent for a few moments, before he’s clearing his throat. Prompto sits up a little straighter, trying to force his expression into something that shows that he means business, but he can feel his teeth start to vibrate in his mouth a little bit, nervously.

“How did you find out?” Cor asks after another few seconds of silence, and Prompto closes his eyes in defeat. He’s still holding onto to some tiny piece of hope that he and his uncle are thinking different things. He’d never specified what he needed to talk about, but Cor seemed to understand anyway.

“So, it’s true.” Prompto mumbles, his voice level, much to his surprise as he opens his eyes. “I’m really the next heir of the Empire.”

His uncle looks away. The air becomes thick and tense, and Prompto can feel a storm brewing.

“I’m afraid it is.”

The feeling of absolute dread sits in the pit of his stomach, before it flows up to his chest, and the heaviness of it makes him want to just let it pull him down to the floor. There’s more moments of silence, before Prompto speaks again.

“Noct’s dad,” Prompto replies, referring to Cor’s earlier question. “wanted to know who I was, since Noct didn’t really tell him. That’s…how I found out.”

There’s a brief flash of surprise across Cor’s face. “Noct didn’t tell his own father about you?”

Prompto shakes his head – brief flashes of their argument appear to the forefront of his mind, the harsh words, the slam of the door as Noct left. Noct’s apology in the waiting area of the hospital, his arms around him – it’s all pushed away, in this moment.

Cor scoffs. “What an asshole.”

Prompto grits his teeth. “We’re not talking about Noct, we’re talking about you. Why didn’t you tell me?”

Cor looks angry, but also somewhat ashamed, and Prompto feels the sting of guilt. He supposes he’s one to talk, since he’d lied to uncle about his relationship with Noct, then had the opportunity to come clean about it, and then lied again. He has no right to be sitting here and accusing his uncle of this, even if it is true. At least he didn’t lie for over ten years, right? Does that make what he’s doing any better?

“I did it to protect you. You have no idea what that bastard did to your mother, and what he planned to do to you.”

“Then tell me,” Prompto pleads, hands gripping the armrest of the couch tightly. “I won’t have any idea until you just tell me.”

Cor clenches his fists, before inhaling deeply. “Okay, okay. You’re old enough to know, now.” He stands, before disappearing down the hall. He emerges a few minutes later, an old, worn looking envelope in his hand. He sits back down, running his fingers across the paper gently.

“Your mom and I were best friends, like I told you before. We became estranged from each other, when she married…Verstael. Verstael Besithia.” Cor shakes his head, running his teeth against his lower lip angrily. “He’s just the worst piece of shit I have ever known, and he’s evil. When your mom got pregnant with you, she was happy at first – until she realized her husband’s true intentions.”

Prompto’s focusing intently, his heart pounding against his skull. Cor takes another breath, apparently still very much affected by it, and continues unwillingly.

“After what the bastard did, I did my research. The Empire, the company of Nifilheim, has been at a type of ‘war’, I guess you could say, with Insomnia for the longest time. When both companies first started out, there was a conflict between the two of them. The Empire wanted to…join forces, but the head of Insomnia at the time, Mors Caelum, the father of Regis, knew better. He denied them, and the Empire was angry for the longest time. So angry in fact, that they literally forced Mors to make a deal between them.

When it was revealed that Mors and his wife were struggling with having children, the Empire knew that the future of Insomnia would be nothing without heirs. So, as proposed by some young man…I can’t remember his name. I do remember his face, though. Wavy, burgundy hair, creepy amber eyes. It was him. He convinced everyone to make the deal that to ensure the future of both companies, the third son down the line from the companies would marry.”

It’s a lot to take in over the course of five minutes. Honestly, Prompto’s not even sure that he was listening the entire time. But the wavy, burgundy hair, creepy amber eyes – Ardyn. It was almost impossible for him to miss that part, because whatever this thing was between the two companies about heirs and marriage and shit had to be about maybe forty years ago. How old was this dude?

“I don’t understand,” Prompto asks, voice low. “if I’m the third heir, doesn’t he need me to gain control?”

“Yes, he does.” Cor replies, his voice firm. “But your mom found out everything before you were even born - he has no idea what you look like, or where you have been all this time. I intend to keep it that way.”

There’s a feeling, a distinct feeling burning through his skin right now, and surprise surprise, he can’t figure out which one it is – hurt, sorrow, regret, or anger. Hell he might have all four.

He feels like he’s having some sort of fucked up mid-life crisis in his twenties right now, because oh boy is he questioning his life choices right now – even more so than usual.

“Your mom was deceived into thinking that Verstael loved her, that he wanted to start a family with her. Sick bastard only knocker her up so that she could give him a son, an heir to take control over both companies….so she could give him you.” Cor’s gone quiet now, his head bent low to his chest, like he doesn’t want Prompto to see the expression on his face.

The faint and slowly fading memories of his mother flash through Prompto’s mind – her sweet smile, the way her hand felt carding through his hair – it makes his throat tight. He was only a kid when she was suddenly gone from his life, and ever since that day he'd been remembering less and less of her. The mere of thought of her going through something like that, enrages him.

In a fit of anger, he lashes out at the framed photo to his left. The photo shatters as it hits the ground, shards of glass scattered around, and Prompto lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding. He looks down, at the broken frame on the floor, at the smile that he hasn't seen for longest time, staring right back at him.

He can feel Cor staring at him, no doubt his face full of pity and remorse, and he bends down with a quiet grunt to lean on his knees and start picking up the tiny fragments of glass into his palm.

Prompto swallows, before sinking to his knees beside him, and Cor pauses, glancing over at him. “How could she do that?”

Cor’s eyebrows furrow in confusion as he sits back on his haunches. “What do you mean?”

“How could she let him lie to her like that?”

Again, here he is saying something that he has no business saying. Why the hell is it so difficult for him to understand that he’s being a hypocrite?

Cor clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “I’ve asked myself the same thing for years, son. But Prompto…she thought she was in love with him.”

“What’s so good about being in love, anyway? All it does is get you hurt.”

"Aren’t you in love with Noctis?”

A blush immediately rises to Prompto’s cheeks. “...that’s...-”

“Imagine it, Prompto. How would you feel if you Noctis weren’t the person you thought you fell in love with?”

Prompto chews on his lower lip. “I…would be heartbroken. I wouldn’t ever want to think about him again.”

Cor nods, lips pressed tightly together. “So that’s exactly what she did. She took all of her pain and hurt, and hid it away. She forced her love for you to overpower her heartbreak for him. It was my decision not to tell you after her death – for your sake.”

It’s suddenly difficult to keep the tears at bay, and he blinks quickly, rubbing at his eyes. He reaches down, scooting the pieces of broken glass aside to pick up the photo and hold it in his hands. His mother’s smiling face stares back at him, with Prompto’s ‘dad’ by her side, and a chubby kid nearly attached to her other side. He’s smiling too.

“I’m sorry for not telling you sooner.” Cor says softly, bringing a hand up to rub Prompto’s back affectionately. “The last thing I wanted was for you to get hurt.”

Hurt.

“You’re a nice young man, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Regis’s words are suddenly ringing in his mind, because it turns out he was telling the truth after all. He was telling the truth about all of it, and suddenly Prompto’s aware that he really isn’t good for Noct. The battle between them, between the two companies is driving a rift between them. 

Before, he’d just chalked it up to the fact that nothing ever really went right for him anyways, and Noct returning his feelings only happened in his dreams. He thought that he’d been prepared, but hearing that it’s actually true tears a hole through his heart. 

He and Noct are the heirs, of two companies that have been rivals against each other before the two of them were even born. Both of them, basically betrothed - bonded together with a deal, a literal piece of paper. 

Regis is right. They need to stop this. Because if it's found out that Prompto is here, the Empire is going to move in fast, and Noct will hate him. But he can't just leave him, not after everything.

Who is to blame for all of this? Ardyn, for making the deal in the first place? His mom, for believing that Verstael actually cared about her? His uncle, for lying to him all these years and not telling him the truth of his origins? Noct, for getting him in this mess, throwing him on this rollercoaster of feelings?

Why is it so difficult to keep his shit together?


Prompto doesn’t stay long. The awkward silence is unbearable.

Cor’s walking him to the front door, and Prompto pauses before the threshold, before turning and hurling himself into his uncle’s arms. Cor freezes, not used to them being in such close proximity to each other, before he returns Prompto’s embrace, tightly. Prompto can feel his uncle’s heart racing beneath his chest, as he takes a shallow breath. Cor pulls away, grasping the back of Prompto’s neck firmly, running his fingers along the curls of blonde hair that adorn the back of Prompto’s neck.

“I’m not mad at you,” Prompto assures him, shuffling his feet. Even though he is kinda mad, it’s more of a feeling towards someone or something else. “It’s just…a lot to take in, right now.” Cor squeezes his neck gently, nodding. His blue eyes are glistening as he laughs a little under his breath.

“I understand. Call me, if you need to talk.” Cor presses the envelope he had been fumbling with earlier into Prompto’s chest. “Read this later. If you want.”

Prompto holds the thin envelope between his fingers curiously. “What is it?”

“A letter from your mom.”

Prompto almost doesn't take it.

Later on, he makes it home before Noct – able to make himself look at least a little bit presentable. He’s splashing cold water on his face to get rid of the redness of his freckled cheeks when he hears the door open. He hurriedly pats his face dry, before walking out.

The first thing he sees is that Noct’s facing away from him, but there’s a hint of yellow peeking from beneath his dark hair at the base of his neck. Prompto wants to call out to him, make a joke about wearing that embarrassing thing around in public, or just say anything really, but the words catch in his throat. He’s not the same person he was this morning.

Noct must’ve have sensed him, because he turns to glance over at him, before lifting his hand up in a little wave. “Heyas.”

“Hi.”

“It’s a little after two…still wanna go on the date?”

Prompto’s heart clenches, because he really really does, but he shouldn’t. He should just come out right now, tell Noct everything, because he’s tired of all the lies. Tell him that they shouldn’t be doing this anymore, no matter how much it hurts him, and get all of his tears and regret out of the way right now.

He opens his mouth, but then Noct’s mouth curves upwards in a little hopeful grin, and all of Prompto’s resolve flies out the window.

“C’mon, it’ll be fun,” Noct says, as Prompto stands there with his mouth hanging open like an idiot. “I have a little something planned.”

Prompto chews on his lip in thought – he’ll just tell him later.

Prompto has no idea where they are. They’ve only been driving for probably fifteen minutes, but in a part of the city that Prompto’s never been to. Not only because he didn’t make enough at his shit job to actually be able to afford a car, but because literally only the rich and famous go down here. It’s like he’s seeing everything he’s ever seen on tv, and it’s almost unreal.

Noct parks in the back, behind some building. Prompto’s a little skeptical as he follows him through the shady looking parking lot, to loop around and head towards the front of the building. When they get there, he looks up, only to place a hand over his mouth in shock, because they’re standing in front of a dance studio.

His eyes dart over to Noct, his hand still over his mouth, and Noct’s watching him amusingly, trying not to laugh.

“Noct,” Prompto breathes out into his palm. “Please tell me we aren’t doing what I think we’re doing.”

Noct draws his eyebrows together in mock confusion, before tilting his head. “I dunno. What do you think we’re doing?”

“Please don’t tell me we’re dancing.”

Noct winks, and Prompto makes a little choked noise behind his palm. He feels Noct’s fingers interlace with his other hand, and he unwillingly follows him inside.

When they enter pass the threshold, Prompto’s heartbeat increases tenfold because he was mistaken – it’s a fucking ballroom studio.

Noct leads him up the little stairwell, and on the little table near the foot of the stairs is a plate covered with a few glasses of champagne. Noct takes one, and so does Prompto, even though he knows that he gets sleepy when he drinks. Noct though, he just down the whole thing, much to Prompto’s surprise.

They’re standing on the most beautiful and pristine hardwood floor Prompto has ever seen in his life. The ballroom studio is huge, with a line of dark leather sofas on his left, with cute little curtained windows sitting above each one. There’s a string of lights connecting across the ceiling, and as Prompto turns to follow them, he’s met with a huge mirror. It literally goes across the whole room, and he can see himself standing there, looking completely baffled and out of place.

Suddenly, the sound of quick, little footsteps can be heard walking towards them. There’s a little squeal, before arms wrap around Noct’s waist. Noct tugs Prompto’s hand a little bit as he reaches out to embrace the small, brown haired girl.

When he pulls back, Prompto gets a serious case of déjà vu – her sweet, heart shaped face is framed by short brown locks of hair, a few curling under her ears, giving her the appearance of a budding flower. Her brown eyes widen and then crinkle as she smiles, turning to Prompto and waving at him happily.

“Hi!” she says, her voice sweet, and Prompto instantly likes her as he relaxes a little bit. She’s pretty small, only going up to Prompto’s shoulders. “I’m Iris – Noct’s told me a lot about you!”

Prompto blinks, boggled. “O-oh. Really?”

Iris nods excitedly. “Yeah! He’s always talking to Gladdy about you – I think he really likes you!”

Prompto’s cheeks flush, and he glances at Noct from the corner of his eye. Noct’s looking away from him, but one look at his reflection from the mirror in front of them and it’s obvious that he’s blushing too.

Iris tugs on his hand. “You know Gladdy, don’t you? I hope he didn’t treat you mean or anything! I’ve been telling him to nicer to people, lately.”

“Gladdy?”

“My brother,” Iris explains, her head titling to the side adorably. “He works with Noct.”

Oh, shit, Gladio. He had no idea he had a sister – now that he’s looking closely, he can see the resemblance, the two of them having the exact same shade of chocolate brown eyes.

“Oh, yeah, I know him. He’s wasn’t mean or anything to me – just kinda scary sometimes, heh.”

Iris laughs, and Prompto lets a smile grace his lips for a second. “Don’t worry about that, he’s really a big teddy bear.” Iris steps back, letting go of Prompto’s hand and looking the two of them up and down, before cocking her hip. “Now Noct, you said that you wanted to help Prompto learn to dance for the party your dad is throwing soon? Which dance did you have in mind?”

“Wait,” Prompto says, holding his free hand up, and Iris looks at him expectantly. “What kind of party is this where you have to learn ballroom dancing?”

“Well, what did you think it was, silly?” Iris chuckles. “It’s not just some shindig – it’s more like an event, maybe. You and Noct will have to dance and wear suits and ties!”

Holy fucking shit, he’s gonna pass out, because the thought of dancing in front of everyone, including with Noct, has him getting dizzy. A dance just sounds ridiculous, it’s not like Noct and his dad are royalty or anything. Obviously there’s so much more to the company than he originally assumed, and the image of seeing Noct in a suit and tie…the image of seeing himself in a suit and tie

“Uh, Iris, let’s just start right now,” Noct says, noticing the paleness of Prompto’s face. “Just teach us what you think is best.”

“Okay!” Iris nods, before scurrying off across the grand room to fiddle with a computer. Noct turns to Prompto, who’s staring at his feet, before squeezing his hand.

“Hey, it’s gonna be fine. Everything will work out smoothly.” Noct assures him, and Prompto exhales shakily, because no it is not.

Noct suddenly tenses though, and his hands are trembling slightly as he takes a step back and drawing his hand away. “Sorry,” he says. “kinda nervous, dancing in front of people.”

Prompto nods slowly, because at least he’s not the only one. Noct’s tipping another glass of champagne to his lips as slow, soft music begins playing through the speakers, and Iris comes back, her face pink with excitement. “Okay, we’re going to learn how to waltz, guys!”

“W-waltz?” Prompto stutters out as Noct comes back, his hands a little steadier – he’d literally have to be living under a rock to not know that when two people dance the waltz, they dance pretty close together. The idea of being so close to Noct is terrifying. “That sounds a little…too much. Isn’t this type of dance supposed to be kind of romantic?”

Iris frowns. “Well, that shouldn’t be a problem, though. Aren’t you two supposed to be together?”

Prompto pouts a little, clicking his teeth together, because of course Gladio would tell his sister about the shenanigans that he and Noct are up to.

“Don’t worry, it’s easy! Everyone will know how to waltz!” Iris pulls them apart, before standing them in front of each other stiffly. Prompto’s trying not to tremble as Iris looks them over, thinking, before pushing them a little closer together. “There! Now, Prompto, Noct is going to lead, since he kinda knows the steps already.”

Prompto nods, and then Iris lifts his arm to rest it on Noct’s shoulder, while his other hand closes around his. Noct’s hand snakes up his back to wrap around him, just below his shoulder blades, and Prompto is blushing hardcore. Iris makes a noise of contentment, before adjusting them a little bit.

“Perfect! Remember to stand just like this,” she instructs. “now, here’s the fun part – all you have to do, is not step on each other’s feet. Sounds simple enough, right?”

Easy for you to say, Prompto thinks, and Noct’s hand presses against his back more insistently.

“Okay, now follow my steps and listen to my voice,” Iris says, and stands next to Prompto until they’re shoulder to…well, as high up as Iris can get. “you basically move in a box formation, but your feet move at different times. Noct, left foot forward, and Prompto, as he steps you move your right foot back.”

The dance is simple enough, once Prompto gets over their close proximity. He does step on Noct’s feet a couple of times, and Noct on his, but they’re getting better each time. Iris is a great teacher, helping them with the missteps and encouraging them to keep trying.

After a while, they’re getting the hang of it. Iris looks proud as she claps.

“You’re doing great! Now, let’s try with the actual music!”

Turns out, they actually know what they’re doing. Noct’s leading, and Prompto is following, and neither of them step on each other’s toes this time. Noct grins at him.

“See? Not so bad, right?” He asks, and Prompto looks up to meet his eyes. Noct’s blue eyes are slightly dilated, the ring of blue almost gone. It’s probably the alcohol, Prompto thinks, before he shrugs.

“I guess,” he mumbles, and Noct twirls them a little, causing Prompto’s head to spin. Noct’s grinning at him, his cheeks lifted and his eyes bright and playful, but Prompto can't make the smile he returns reach his eyes. Because Noct doesn’t know the truth, and 24 hours ago neither did Prompto. And it's not fair.

He’s gonna tell him. He’s gonna get this all out of the way, right now, so that it’ll hurt less later. Tell him before this apparent huge event that requires ballroom dancing. Tell him that this is too much, that he’s sorry because he didn’t know, and that he’s sorry that they can’t be together anymore. Sorry that he's too afraid of the Empire and his father to face them.

Noct’s head tips in, and their foreheads bump together, all warm and affectionate. His eyes are boring into Prompto’s, and he sighs, pressing his lips together. “Okay, so I might as well come out and say what I wanted to say.”

They’ve stopped dancing now, and they’re both standing still. Prompto can see Iris off in the distance, wide eyed and looking at the two of them, but she makes no move to come closer.

Noct takes a deep breath. “It’s…about the reason why.”

“Reason why?”

Noct nods, the movement causing his hair to shift, so that the skin of his forehead is brushing against Prompto’s. “Yeah. It’s been long enough.”

Prompto tries to wait patiently, but he’s really nervous.

“So, my grandfather…Mors Caelum, made a deal with the Empire a long time ago, before my dad was even born, I think. Both companies agreed that the third son down the line, which is pretty weird in my opinion, would marry. It was mutually beneficial at first, because my grandparents were having trouble having children – the Empire’s been craving the control over Insomnia for the longest time. They thought that cornering my grandfather and forcing him to make this deal would finally allow them control…but then my dad was born. So, everyone forgot about it for a while, until me, obviously.”

So far, everything Noct is saying is what his uncle told him. Prompto didn’t want to think that his uncle was lying, but he kinda did.

“I mean, everyone forgot about it for the longest time. I don’t know how the hell it came up so suddenly, but…it’s still legally binding. So I still have to marry, since the Empire doesn’t have their own heir, I don’t think,” Prompto’s breath hitches, and Noct glances at him for a second. “but, uh yeah. Lunafreya, I’ve known her since we were kids. The Empire took control over Tenebrae, long time ago, so…they were trying to set us up. To marry. I mean, I wouldn’t be bothered by it, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s just some shady excuse for the Empire to gain ‘control’ over Insomnia. It doesn’t make any sense to me, to marry Luna. Yeah, we’re friends, and I care about her but…I don’t wanna be used like that.”

Noct takes another deep breath. “So, that’s why I’m doing this. I’m pretending to be married to you, because they can’t force me to marry her if I’m already taken. “

So, that’s it, huh? Funny – Prompto thought he’d at least feel something when Noct finally got around to telling him.

Apparently, he doesn’t react correctly, because Noct is pulling back to look at him confused. “…why aren’t you saying anything? I finally told you.”

Prompto swallows thickly. “I-I know. I guess…it’s a lot to take in.”

Noct hesitates for a moment, before he shrugs, looking away. “Yeah…I guess that’s expected.”

There’s a few seconds of silence between them then. Prompto’s head is spinning, thinking about all of this. After all this he’s probably going to need therapy.

He tries to make light of the subject though, for some stupid reason, and he forces a grin on his face. “Pretty noble of you, though.”

Noct meets his eyes. “Huh?”

“Not marrying Luna so that the Empire won’t find a way to take all the power,” His mouth feels very dry. “My hero. I bet she’s really pretty.”

Noct frowns at him. “I don’t care about that.”

Prompto hums, voice still teasing. “For real? Cause I'm pretty sure you said could get anyone you want -”

“That’s not-!” Noct says, a little loud for how close they are, and Prompto recoils a bit. Noct shakes his head. “It's different now."

Prompto draws his eyebrows together – why is Noct getting so angry? “Different how?”

Noct bites his lower lip, and his breath starts to become more shallow, all of a sudden.

Suddenly, the conversation that he and Cor had earlier is passing through Prompto’s mind – all the hurt, the lies. Everything. All from falling in love…it makes Prompto’s heart clench.

He knows he’s never been in a relationship before, but goddamn it’s starting to seem more trouble than it’s worth. 

Noct’s looking at him with those pretty blue eyes again, and a surge of jealousy goes through him for some reason. 

It’s not like he and Noct can be together anyway. Noct was supposed to marry Luna. They can be together.

Prompto’s unsure if he should be crushed or pissed off at the fact that’s he a literal replacement to an arranged marriage. And the replacement bullshit is a lie.

Jesus. When did Prompto become such a bitter person?

Prompto’s shakes his head when he realizes Noct isn’t going to answer, and pulls his hands away, taking a step back. Noct looks at him as if he actually wants him to come back.

“Sorry, forget it. You don’t have to tell me.” Prompto shoves his hands in his pockets. “Between you and Luna. I get it.”

Noct doesn't say anything. His eyes though, they sort of drift away for a moment, as if he's in deep thought. Then he blinks, seemingly back into reality - a look of defeat passes across his face for a split second, before it's gone. Prompto tilts his head.

“You alright?"

Noct laughs bitterly. “Uh, nothing. Just…nervous. About the dancing.”

He’s walking away, back towards the front entrance, to grab the bottle of champagne and pour himself another glass.


In the end, Prompto didn’t tell him.

Instead, he and Ignis are helping Noct stumble his way inside the apartment, where they let him fall onto his bed into a heap of pillows and blankets.

Prompto’s breathing heavily, hands on his knees as Ignis wipes a gloved hand across his own forehead. He’d arrived after Prompto’s call, that Noct had gotten a little too tipsy and was unable to drive home. Prompto had no idea what part of the city they were even in, but Ignis had taken an Uber to the studio and had driven them home. Now, they’re watching Noct curl into a ball on the sheets and mumble to himself.

“Noct doesn’t usually drink so much,” Ignis notes, glancing at Prompto. “what happened?”

Prompto shakes his head, still panting. He sure as hell wouldn't have been able to drag Noct's limp body all by himself. “I-I don’t know. He just said he was nervous, about the party and the dance.”

Ignis is silent, before he nods. His breathing is steady. “Very well. Although unlike him, it’s not unusual for someone to try to calm their nerves with alcohol. It does help you feel relaxed.”

Ignis is rummaging about the room, pushing aside piles of clothes and other things on the floor out of his way, to open a few drawers. He pulls out a few t shirts, and sweatpants, and makes his way towards Noct’s sleeping form on the bed. Prompto immediately turns to head outside.

Ignis only manages to get Noct’s sweatpants on him – he received a call, and he’s telling Prompto to make sure that Noct gets his rest, give him fluids, ibuprofen, so that he doesn’t have such a bad hangover. Then, he’s gone.

Prompto sneaks into Noct’s room. Noct is barely awake, sitting up on the edge of his bed, hair all messy and out of place. He looks up at Prompto, meeting his gaze with a glazed look. He points to his button up shirt.

“I can’t unbutton,” He says simply, and Prompto doesn’t move for a second. Noct really isn't asking him to help him undress, right?

When Noct just growls and tries to rip it off, then Prompto goes over to help, because the shirt looks expensive. He’s keeping his eyes away from Noct’s  chest as he unbuttons the silk black shirt, his fingers moving quickly so that he can just get this over with. Suddenly, Noct’s hands are shoving him away, harshly. Prompto nearly crashes against the wall, and he looks up to see Noct glaring at him.

Prompto huffs, moving forward again towards him as Noct goes back to trying to rip it off, but Noct acts fast. Prompto stumbles again, narrowly missing hitting his head.

“Noct, quit it,” he says, and Noct blinks at him, blearily. “You want help or not?”

Noct rubs his balled fists across his eyes rapidly. Prompto sighs, before standing back up to reach for the buttons. Again, Noct is shoving him away, but Prompto is ready for it this time. His fingers wrap around Noct’s wrist tightly – Noct struggles, his strength weak due to the alcohol flowing through his system.

“Don’t,” Noct mumbles out. “Back off. I-I’m married.”

Prompto stops, hands still grasping the material of Noct’s shirt. His heart is pounding against his ribcage, and everything hurts.

Suddenly, Noct slumps over, asleep and head buried into the crook of Prompto's neck. Prompto takes this opportunity to unbutton his shirt, and struggle to tug a t shirt over his head. When Noct’s completely dressed and not smelling like some thousand-dollar champagne, Prompto buries his face in his hands.

It’s been a long fucking day, filled with hurt, pain, anger…he’s surprised that he doesn’t have some sort of brain aneurysm. His uncle told him the truth about his origins. Noct finally told him the reason that they’re doing this. Now he knows, everything. But Noct doesn’t. Doesn’t know the reason why Prompto was so submissive about being in love with someone. Because Prompto doesn’t want anyone else, but he can’t have who he wants.

His hands reach into his back pocket, to pull out and unfold the old and worn letter. On the front of the letter, his name in swirly letters. A note from his mom. His nose prickles, and he rubs at it harshly. He doesn’t have the time for tears. 

He knows everything. It’s what he’s been wanting. So why does it feel so miserable?

Chapter Text

As he drifts through the last few stages of waking up, Prompto can feel a distinct warmth beneath his cheek. He flexes his fingers, and they brush against a firm, warm and somewhat rigged surface as he unconsciously tightens his hold, his arm curling. Then, whatever he has his arm wrapped around shifts, and Prompto’s eyes snap open. He’s met with the soft curve of a pale jaw, perfect lips parted as air brushes past them softly. Long, dark eyelashes flutter against pale cheeks.

Prompto glances around, and with a burst of panic, realizes that he’s in Noct’s room, in Noct’s bed. His breath hitches as his eyes trail down, to his arm that’s wrapped snugly around Noct’s torso, fingers splayed across his side, near his ribs. Prompto swallows roughly, exhaling shakily, the slight movement causing him to realize that his cheek is currently laying on Noct’s muscled bicep, near his shoulder. He could’ve sworn that he went to his own room after his little pity party last night, after he’d finally gotten Noct dressed and back to sleep. How did he get here, in this position?

He should move, he should really really move. But he can’t seem to make his limbs work, as he slowly glances back up to look at Noct’s sleeping face. There’s a warmth radiating off of him, that’s enveloping tightly around Prompto like an embrace, and it’s really nice and cozy. There’s a stream of sunlight in the room, cascading across the two of them, and there’s the sweet chirping of birds outside. 

This is nice. He wishes that they could stay like this.

Naturally, Noct is shifting, and then he’s groaning. He’s lifting the arm that isn’t currently being pinned beneath Prompto’s cheek to rub at his temples. Prompto panics, because if Noct realizes that he had woken up before him to them tangled together like this and he hadn’t moved, he’ll have no way to explain it. He sees Noct blinking blearily around the room, and right before his eyes shift over to him, Prompto squeezes his eyes shut.

There’s silence, as Prompto struggles to keep his face neutral, in a sleep like state. He evens out his breathing, relaxes his clenched jaw, and he feels so stupid because it’s all so ridiculous. This isn’t helping anything, he should just open his eyes and –

There’s a brush of fingers against his freckled cheek as his hair is moved out of the way, and along with it comes a warmth – like he’d been burned, but he didn’t feel the pain of it yet. Prompto can’t help it, and he sighs. He feels Noct’s fingers freeze, before he hears the rustle of fabric, of Noct pulling his arm away.

“Shit,” he hears Noct say quietly, trying not to wake him. “What the hell am I doing?

Hmm. Same. Prompto can feel his breathing picking up, and he prays to anyone up above that Noct doesn’t notice.

He doesn’t get long to ponder that though, because then Noct’s phone is ringing, shrill and loud, somewhere on the floor. Prompto jerks, startled as his eyes fly open, and he looks up, their eyes meeting. Prompto immediately moves, nearly flying across the massive bed.

Noct is staring at him, eyes drifting low, before he’s blinking quickly and pushing off the bed to look for his phone in the pockets of one pair of pants that have been carelessly thrown to the floor. As Noct searches quickly for his phone that’s still ringing, Prompto looks down at himself - he realizes that he’s shirtless. What? Where the hell did his shirt go? A thought flashes through his mind – did they-

“Fuck,” Noct says, and Prompto’s never had a wave of vertigo hit him so hard, but it’s just Noct on the phone. Prompto swallows the huge lump that suddenly shot up his throat, and he’s sliding off the bed, looking for his shirt among the piles of clothes on the floor. Prompto wasn’t drunk last night – Noct was, and they hadn’t done anything. If they had, surely he’d remember, right? Why is he even thinking about this?

It’s hard to not overthink as he literally starts throwing shirts behind him looking for his shirt like in the cartoons, as if it could somehow answer his question. Then he finds it, standing out against the masses of black that Noct likes to wear, and he’s shoving it over his head.

“What time is it? Crap, okay, I’ll get there eventually.” Noct says suddenly, hanging up and looking around the room frantically. When their eyes meet, there’s a hint of red staining Noct’s cheeks. His eyes look torn as he worries his lip between his teeth, and he takes a deep breath. Prompto knows that Noct’s going to ask that question, and he tenses. “Um, that was my dad. Company things today, but uh…I really don’t wanna ask this, but…did we-?”

“No!” Prompto nearly shouts, and Noct’s eyes widen a little as he blinks. “No no, we didn’t, uh, I think we just fell asleep. Y’know, after…Ignis drove us home and helped you to bed.”

Noct hesitates for a second, before nodding slowly. Then, he grimaces. “Was I really that drunk?”

“Nah.” Prompto tries to reassure him, keeping his voice light as he reaches a hand up to rub at the back of his neck. “You weren’t wasted or anything like that. Don’t you remember?”

Noct shakes his head. “Not really, I just remember Iris teaching us the dance, the waltz or whatever. Did I do anything stupid?”

“Don’t,” Noct mumbles out. “Back off. I-I’m married.”

Prompto waves his hand vaguely, shaking his head, and Noct sighs, visibly relieved. Prompto takes that as his cue to leave, and he rushes out before Noct can ask about any details.

He takes a cold shower – anything to get rid of the heat on his skin. His skin looks pretty much the same, still slightly pale and smattered with freckles. Nothing hurts, nothing is sore…should he be feeling disappointed or relieved? He shakes his head sharply as the stream of water presses his hair flat against his scalp. He should be feeling relieved of course, Jesus.

There’s a text from Gladio when he’s styling his hair, about their little training sessions that they haven’t been keeping up with as of late. He agrees, anything to get rid of the tightness and heaviness from his chest that’s still there from yesterday.

There’s an awkward silence between he and Noct when they’re both in the kitchen at the same time. Prompto can’t help but feel the tension in the room, feel Noct’s eyes on his back as he cuts up a banana to place in the bowl of cereal near his elbow. He hears the cupboard door opening, the rattling of pills in the bottle, and Prompto frowns.

“Is…your leg bothering you again?” he asks somewhat timidly, turning around to look at him. Noct’s eyes drift over to his, before he’s shrugging halfheartedly.

“No…just kinda have a headache. It’ll go away.”

Prompto nods, going back to his cereal, before he hears Noct standing beside him. When he glances at him, Noct is making a face at his bowl in his hands.

“Who puts bananas in cereal?” he says, repulsed by the fruit, and Prompto rolls his eyes. “you just ruined a perfectly good bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios.”

“It’s supposed to be healthy,” Prompto quips back, dropping in the last slice of banana and throwing the peel away. He grabs a spoon, digging it into the bowl and scooping up a spoonful of Cheerios and banana, and angles it towards Noct. “Here, try.”

Noct’s eyebrows shoot up, and his lips curl, disgusted. “Ew gross, hell no.”

The tightness of his chest is easing slightly, and Prompto’s just trying to enjoy it while it lasts, because he knows that it’ll be back. It always comes back. “Bananas are good for hangovers, dude.”

If anything, this mindless banter between them is helping. It’s helping with this...thing, between them. Or at least, for Prompto it is.

Noct’s eyes narrow, flickering down to the spoon in his hand, and he opens his mouth to reply when his phone rings again.

Giving an exaggerated sigh of relief, he fishes his phone from his back pocket, before swiping to accept the call. Prompto takes a bite of his cereal.

“Yeah?” Noct asks, and his face lights up for a second, before he’s nodding.  “Yeah, here I’ll put it on speaker.” He pulls his phone away from his ear, and sets it down between them.

“Prompto! Hi!” Iris voice is bright and chipper through the speaker of the phone, and Prompto can feel his lips forming a smile. He swallows quickly.

“Hi Iris,” Prompto says, finally letting the spoon settle back into the cereal, which has by now turned mushy. “How are you?”

“I’m doing great!” Iris replies, and Prompto can just picture her bouncing up and down on her toes happily. “I was just calling to see how Noct was doing, he didn’t look so good yesterday.”

Noct clicks his teeth. “I’m fine, everything is cool.”

“Oh good!”

“Yup.”

Iris hums, dreamily. “I also wanted to say how cute you guys were yesterday! It was so romantic, watching you two dance like that.”

Noct cards a hand through his hair as Prompto takes another bite of his cereal. Iris is starting to babble though, and if she notices their awkward silence, she doesn’t comment on it.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a couple pick it up so quickly, especially you, Prompto. Have you ever danced before?”

Noct turns his head to smirk at him, and Prompto flushes. “Ah, heh, no. I’ve never really danced before.”

“Say what?” Iris says, voice full of disbelief. “I’ve been trying to teach Noct how to dance for months, and you just come in and outshine him!”

“Hey,” Noct growls, and Iris giggles at him through the phone.

“I’m kidding Noct, mostly,” Iris laughs. “even if you did have a little too much champagne.”

Noct grumbles as he crosses his arms, the movement causing the back of his arm to brush against Prompto’s skin. Noct’s skin feels warm, almost hot, like he’s running a fever, but he doesn’t look like he’s in any pain. If anything, it’s probably just from all the champagne.

“I’ve never seen you drink that much before, though.” Iris says suddenly, and her chipper voice has gotten serious. “Were you really that nervous about dancing? Or was it what you and Prompto were talking about?”

Noct blinks.“Huh?”

Prompto’s eyebrows furrow, and he looks at Noct incredulously. “You don’t remember what we talked about?”

“...I told you all about the company, the reason for the marriage right? Was there something else?”

“Whatever it was Noct, you looked really sad about it,” Iris pipes in suddenly, and Noct frowns. Prompto though, he’s starting to panic a little bit, because he can clearly see Noct’s face so clearly in his mind. When Prompto had stupidly said that he didn’t really care for falling in love, or however the hell he said it, Noct had looked…so defeated, and he didn’t know why.

What he does know though, is that he doesn’t want to see that look again, and Noct’s staring at him now, waiting for an answer.

Prompto shrugs. “I dunno, I don’t really remember him looking sad about anything.”

Noct runs his teeth over his bottom lip, leaning against the counter to rest his chin in his hand. “Huh.”

“Well, anyways guys, I’d better get going,” Iris says, and Prompto shovels a spoonful of cereal in his mouth. “the event is coming up so soon! I’m so excited to see you guys dance – please practice!”

Prompto doesn’t reply to that, swallowing as he shovels another spoonful between his lips again to mask his nervousness, and Noct chuckles. “Don’t count on it,” he says, and his finger hovers over the end call button. “See ya, Iris.”

“Bye Noct! Prompto!”

When Noct slides his phone back into his pocket, it’s silent again. Prompto’s just stirring his spoon around his bowl by this point, and Noct looks like he wants to say something – instead, he just looks away and heads down the hall.

Noct’s back at the incorporation today, that much is obvious as he returns from his room with a messily stacked pile of papers sticking out of a manila envelope. He’s digging around his coat pockets, and his keys tumble out and land loudly against the hardwood floor. Noct doesn’t seem to hear it though, because he’s shuffling through his phone as he looks over some little business card from his wallet.

Prompto walks over, bending down to grab the fish still out of place and in the way of all the other keys, to run his fingers over it. It makes him a little sad, because everything had been so different, when he’d paid twenty-five cents for this little piece of junk. Things hadn’t been perfect, per se, but they sure were a hell of a lot better than now.

“Prompto?”

He glances up, and Noct is staring down at him worriedly. He stands quickly, the blood rushing through his head, as he hands over the keys, before lifting a hand to rub behind his neck and let out a forced chuckle.

“It’s all good! You uh, you should get going now – I’ll be fine. Gonna train with Gladio.” Prompto tries to reassure Noct, but he’s pretty sure that his voice is shaking. If Noct notices, he doesn’t say anything about it, and instead waves a little as he heads out the door.


He never knew someone could sweat so much, and it’s literally pouring down his face, drenching his t shirt and causing the fabric to stick to his skin. Still, he keeps going, holding his fists in front of his face as he jabs the little punching things that cover Gladio’s hands. Two jabs, then duck, uppercut, then block. Repeat.

He’s only been going at it for probably ten minutes at the most, but it feels like a lifetime, as Gladio puffs out words of encouragement. Hell, he needs this, to release all his anger and frustration of all that’s happened the pasts few days. He needs to release it all, the fact that he’s the heir to the Empire and that he and Noct are literally enemies – he strikes Gladio’s gloved hand angrily, his shoulders aching with effort, and Gladio nods at him.

The fact that now he’s lying to the two people he cares the most about, Cor and Noct. Neither of them have the slightest idea of what kind of mess Prompto has created, and has unknowingly pulled them along with him and it hurts to think about the looks on their faces when he finally grows some damn balls to tell them – another powerful blow as he comes up from dodging Gladio’s arm.

The fact that he’s related to the evil scumbag Verstael, who has literally done nothing in his life but hurt innocent people and care about no one else other than himself – he barely feels it when he blocks Gladio’s covered fist against his arms.

The fact that he and Noct can’t be together, even if by some miracle Noct wanted to, because he’s just simply not good for him – somehow through all of this, that hurts the most, and he launches his fist forward so hard that Gladio actually takes a step back from the force of it.

Prompto’s bending over, hands on his wobbly knees as he breathes heavily, and Gladio whistles.

“Damn,” he says, and Prompto looks up to see the smirk gracing Gladio’s features. “you must be pissed off about something. What did Noctass do this time?”

Prompto scoffs a little, reaching a hand up to wipe the sweat from his brow. “Nothing, I…just needed that, y’know? Just needed to hit something.”

Gladio nods understandingly. “Yep – I can understand that. Wanna go again?”

Prompto can feel his muscles constricting, and he winces as he throbs. “Actually, can we just sit and stretch some more? I feel like my muscles are tightening up.”

Gladio agrees, and they move to a more secluded part of the building, where there’s less sweat and tears as they sit and stretch together.

Prompto’s wincing a little through the pain of his aching muscles as he stretches out his arms, when Gladio hums thoughtfully as he reaches forward to touch his toes. Prompto glances over at him curiously.

“So, Noct told you about that party, right? The one his dad is throwing?”

Prompto nods. “Yeah, he did – we even had to learn how to dance, too.”

Gladio barks out a laugh. “Seriously? Damn, I can’t believe I missed the chance to see the Princess stumble his way through that. He step on your toes?”

Prompto nods again, switching so that he curls his legs underneath himself and leans backwards a little. “Yeah, he did. I stepped on his too, though. Iris taught us.”

“Iris, huh?” Gladio muses, leaning back on the palms of his hands as he points his toes. “Yeah, she’d mentioned something about dancing – went on for what seemed like forever, and when that happens I usually just tune her out. Don’t tell her I said that, though.”

Prompto forces a small smile on his face as he leans forward sit cross legged, his elbows on his knees. It’s a little hard, having this conversation with Gladio like everything isn’t about to be over in a couple of days. Like he’s the same person he was before. Shit, how many days now?

He must have some strange look on his face, because Gladio sits up, mirroring his position until their knees are nearly touching. He can feel Gladio’s stare burning a hole into the side of his head, but he’s too busy rubbing the material of his shirt through his fingers.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Gladio asks suddenly, and Prompto gives him a sideways glance, before Gladio grimaces and shakes his head. “Sorry, I’ve been hanging around Iggy too much.”

Prompto actually chuckles at that – he considers for a split second, what Gladio would have to say about all of this, this little secret that he’s been hiding as of late. Gladio seems like the type of person who wouldn’t spill the beans but…Prompto’s afraid of how Gladio will look at him. He doesn’t want anyone to think that he’s anything like his…father, or is anything like the Empire. He’s just him, and although he’s not always fond of that, it’s all he’s got.

“Nah, it’s okay. Just uh, we’re almost done.”

Gladio raises an eyebrow. “Done with what?”

“This…pretend marriage. The month is almost up.”

“Oh. Right.”

There’s an awkward silence between them for a few seconds, before Gladio’s looking at him again.

“You seem pretty upset about that.” Gladis raises an eyebrow. Prompto sighs, because there’s no denying it. “You don’t want this to end?”

“I….” Prompto swallows, looking away. “I mean, I have three new friends now – you, Iggy and Noct. I’m just worried that when this is over, we won’t be friends anymore.”

“Bullshit.”

Prompto’s head jerks up. “Huh?”

“You don’t care about any of that friend bullshit.” Gladio says coolly. “You care about Noct.”

Prompto flushes right up to his ears, and he shakes his head. “No, I…I mean I do care! But...you guys are like…the only friends I’ve ever known. I just hope when this is all over, that things can stay the way they were.”

Gladio sighs, aggravatedly, and Prompto shrinks in on himself a little bit. “C’mon, I’ve seen the way you look at him. Just accept it, alright? What’s so bad about it anyway?”

Prompto’s clenching his fists in his lap, because he’s tired as hell having this on repeat on his mind. He really wants to accept it. He’s really close to snapping at the man beside him right now, but what stops him, isn’t the fact that Gladio can break him like a toothpick, but the fact that Gladio hasn’t the faintest clue about him, just like Noct.

“Noct doesn’t want it to come to that,” Prompto says instead, his heart thumping against his chest painfully, recalling Noct’s words during their first night together. It seems like it happened forever ago, and honestly he’d kinda forgotten about it. Now though, it’s clear as day. “He told me that he doesn’t want this to go from pretend to real.”

Gladio snorts. “Does it look like he wants that anymore?”

“What do you mean?

Gladio gives him an exasperated look. “Jesus, are you really that dense? Noct likes you, too.”

Prompto blinks.

What? No way. 

Gladio’s watching him as Prompto struggles to articulate any English words his mouth, and rolls his eyes.

“Okay, I guess you are. Almost makes up for the fact that Noct is just as dense – almost.” Gladio stretches his arms above his head, his muscles arms rippling the jet blank ink over his arms. “Just…think about it, Prompto. Noct may have said all that at the beginning, but that was a long time ago. People change. Feelings change. It’s obvious that you two have it bad.”

Prompto’s frowning, waving his hands vaguely as if to ward off any bad thoughts or hope, and Gladio huffs, reaching out to punch Prompto in the arm halfheartedly. Or at least, he tries to – Prompto’s pretty sure that he has a bruise now.

“Look for the signs. They’re there.”


The next day is Sunday.

Prompto trudges into the kitchen, the smell of breakfast waking him as he sits at the table and rests his head in his arms. He hears Ignis moving about in the kitchen, the sound and smell of eggs sizzling in the pan.

Prompto closes his eyes – he didn’t get much sleep last night. He couldn’t stop thinking about what Gladio had said, that Noct likes him too. Prompto had spent all night overthinking, again, because he’s going through all of their conversations, all their little adventures in his mind; winning Nocobo at that grocery store, cooking together, Noct taking care of him when he was sick, then taking care of him again when he had been locked in that freezer, the hospital when Cor was hurt…that’s what friends do, right?

Nothing is adding up. At least, not in his mind it isn’t. He really can’t think of an instance where it seemed that Noct was feeling anything at all, but…then again, he’s not a mind reader. Ugh, what’s the point anyway, if they can’t be together in the first place? Why did Gladio have to go and say all that?

Prompto tugs his hoodie further over his head – he hates how he has to overanalyze every single fucking thing that makes his anxious, because it only makes things worse for him.

There’s a thunk on the table to his left, and when he peeks from his elbow, he sees a steaming mug. He looks up, but Ignis’ back is turned. The distinct smell of coffee wafts its way into his nose, and he grimaces a little, before reaching for the mug anyway and taking a sip. The coffee isn’t too strong, with a hint of vanilla, but it does give him the little buzz of energy that he needs. He sighs, before wrapping his fingers around the mug, letting it warm his hands.

There’s the sound of the chair moving softly across the floor as Ignis pulls a chair out for himself to sit at the table beside him, his own steaming mug in his hands. Prompto doesn’t acknowledge him though, taking a huge sip and trying to force it down because it’s burning his tongue.

He doesn’t want to be rude or anything, but of all the times he and Ignis have had a conversation, Prompto always ends up overthinking things, or putting his foot in his mouth – mostly it’s been both.

Ignis must be thinking the same thing though, because he chuckles a little as he raises his mug to his lips. Prompto looks at him from the corner of his eye.

“I’m aware that our past conversations have left you troubled, but my intentions were only to help you.”

Prompto exhales through his teeth, nodding. “Yeah, I know.”

“Good,” Ignis leans back as he crosses his ankle over his knee. “then you’ll be alright with discussing your plans after this is over?”

Prompto hesitates, the rim of the mug resting on his lips, before he shrugs. “I haven’t really thought about it.”

That’s a lie. He’s thought about it over and over – of course, that small tiny hope in his chest that he hopes that he can stay – but mainly just telling Cor that he and Noct aren’t together anymore and he’ll need a place to crash. Which, by the way, sounds kind of stupid because he’ll just end up the last place he wanted to be, back in his uncle’s house. Which just adds to the point that he’s way too deep in this mess.

“I think it would be wise to do so.” Ignis hums, thoughtfully. He pauses. “Unless, you’d rather stay here?”

Prompto glances at him, eyebrow raised. Well duh, of course he wants to stay here, with Noct, but it’s not going to happen. Is this going where he thinks it’s going? “Stay here?”

“With Noct, of course. Usually two people who care for each other don’t like spending time apart.”

Ah. Yup. Prompto nearly resists the urge to roll his eyes as he ignores the pounding of his heart against his ribs. He sets his mug down on the table, probably with a little more force than necessary.

“Gladio talked to you, didn’t he?”

Ignis blinks. He nods. “Yes, he did. But that’s not why we’re having this conversation.”

“It’s not?”

“No.” Ignis shakes his head. “I’ve noticed the fondness between you and Noct for weeks, now. We’re having this conversation because your forged marriage with Noct is almost over. Neither of you seem happy about it. Neither of you are doing anything about it.”

Prompto’s getting annoyed now – why does it seem like everyone thinks that they should be together? Why is everyone literally telling him ‘oh, you’re good for Noct’ like they know everything? If he tells them, would they think differently. Is that what he has to do to get everyone off of his ass? He clenches his jaw in frustration, because why is this making him so upset?

“What do you want me to do, Ignis,” Prompto snaps. “rush up to Noct and confess my feelings to him? And deal with the rejection? I can't deal with that.”

Fleetingly, he realizes that this is the first time he’s openly and willingly confessed – but it doesn’t do anything to lift the weight off of his chest. Dealing with the rejection from Noct, and from everyone else too – but he can’t let that slip. Like Gladio, Ignis seems trustworthy, but just like with Gladio, Prompto doesn’t want to be looked at differently.

Ignis tilts his head, eyes narrowing behind his clean, spotless glasses that frame his face. “What makes you think that he’d reject you?”

Prompto doesn’t answer – he’s afraid he’ll start blubbering like some stupid kid, because he’s so stressed out and frustrated. He already has all this heir and Empire bullshit to deal with by himself, he really doesn’t need Ignis or Gladio to be giving him some type of false hope. And even if that false hope were true, it couldn’t amount to anything. Nothing at all, and that is the biggest pressure at the base of his skull.

“The signs, they are there, right in front of you. Whether or not you choose to see them, is up to you.”

“That’s right,” Prompto says, and his voice is low, even menacing. “it’s my choice to see what’s in front of me, not yours, so butt out.”

There’s a dead silence between them now, as Ignis remains unmoving as Prompto looks away angrily and shoves his face back into his arms. Fuck, he’s being an asshole – obviously, Ignis and Gladio are just trying to help, and they seem like the kind of people to know what they’re talking about.

Maybe, if he’d just get his own head out of his ass he would realize that they mean what they said. But, Prompto’s too dense and worn out to notice, and he’s burying his face deeper into his arms as he hears the telltale signs of Noct’s footsteps entering the kitchen.

“What’s up with you two? Did you guys get into a catfight?” Noct teases, but Prompto doesn’t reply as he hears the chair scraping back as Ignis stands.

“Nothing of the sort,” Ignis says, voice a little tight, and there’s an unreadable expression on his face as Prompto peeks to look at him. “Prompto and I were just having a pleasant conversation.”

Ah. Sarcasm. Prompto rolls his eyes, emerging from the darkness of his arms as Noct gives him a confused look.

“About what?” He asks, and Prompto just grabs his mug to take a big gulp of his coffee, when Ignis chuckles to himself, creepily.

“The suit fittings, of course. The event is in two days.”

Expectedly, the liquid goes down the wrong pipe, and Prompto is choking as the coffee burns down his throat and up his nose. He’s red in the face and sweaty by the time he calms down, and Ignis is giving him an amused look. Prompto swallows roughly – if this is Ignis’ idea of revenge for Prompto telling him to ‘butt out’, then it’s super effective.

“Hurry up and get dressed.” Ignis says calmly. “We’re leaving in one hour.”

Chapter Text

“Sir, please keep still.”

Prompto’s trying his absolute hardest not to tremble nervously as the tailor extends the measuring tape over his chest and shoulders, down his sides, down his legs…he can feel his jaw aching from clenching it so hard. He really doesn't want to be here, but at least Noct is off trying on his own suits and not seeing the mess that Prompto’s turning into.

He’d never been fitted for a suit before. He’s never even owned a suit. The closest thing he’d had was a little blazer and tie that his uncle had lent him for his high school graduation, but other than that, he’d never thought that he’d need to wear one. After skipping college and just heading straight for his dream job of being a photographer, he didn’t think he’d ever been in a situation where he needed one anyway.

Now though, he’s pretty sure that whatever type of material that this suit jacket is made out of that’s being pushed over his shoulders is worth more than his uncle’s house. Okay maybe he's exaggerating, but the jacket is thick, completely smooth, and made of a material that he’s never seen before. He’s kind of scared to move his arms. He’s put into matching slacks and given a simple white silk button-up shirt to tuck into them.

When the tailor takes a step back, brushing the fabric against Prompto’s shoulders, he tilts his head to the side with a frown.

“I’m not sure if this suits you.” His thin lips quirk into a wry smile. “No pun intended, but I don’t think black is your style. Maybe something a shade lighter? Or a completely different color. What do you think?"

Prompto’s only half-listening, but the man puts his hands on Prompto’s shoulders and turns him around to face the mirror. Prompto’s eyes widen in shock, because...he looks nice. Dashing, even.

He’s never been the kind of person to have a healthy amount of self-esteem. He hates the freckles smattered all over his body, but…the suit is form-fitting with the white silk shirt underneath, the lapels of the jacket sharp and narrow, with two breast pockets  – the kind of breast pockets that even have a little handkerchief poking out. It’s sleek, jet black, and the material seems to be made out of wool maybe, the inside of the jacket lined with the same material. It actually looks really good, and it’s like a different person is staring back at him.

He twists to the side, watching the fabric cling to his frame nicely, as it fits in a way that doesn’t make him want to wince or grimace in displeasure. It’s a nice feeling, to feel the pride swell in his chest. When he looks up at his reflection, he sees Ignis standing there, watching him with a calculated look on his face as his green eyes take Prompto in. Prompto stands a little straighter, not meeting Ignis’ eyes, but secretly hoping for his approval.

Ignis hums thoughtfully, nodding. “It looks great on you."

Prompto lets himself glance at Ignis for a second before looking away.  He’s kind of surprised that Ignis is bothering to be here, instead of with Noct, after Prompto snapped at him not even an hour prior. Prompto suddenly feels way younger than Ignis despite them being quite close in age.

"However, I agree. You’re too bright of a person to be wearing such a bleak color.” Ignis's voice sounds normal. Not teasing, or with a hint of passive-aggressiveness. Prompto feels a tingle in his chest from the unexpected compliment. He bites his lip, reaching a hand up to rub at the back of his neck.

“Perhaps…something bold, like a royal blue?" The tailor asks, as Prompto shrugs. He hears Ignis muffle a chuckle quietly to himself. "Burgundy? Work with me here!”

Prompto grimaces. He knows next to nothing about fashion and suits, and he doesn't want to look any dumber in front of Ignis. "Um. I'm not sure."

The tailor puts his hands on his hips with a sigh. “Okay, I’ll bring you a few options. Then you can see which ones you like the best. Please, give me a few moments.”

The man scurries off after taking the papers with Prompto’s measurements on them, and then Prompto and Ignis are alone. It’s few minutes of awkward silence between them, of Prompto shuffling his feet against the floor, sneaking some glances.

He feels like some stupid kid that knows that he’s done something wrong, and in a way, he kinda is. He feels so beneath Ignis at this moment that it's irritating, and he makes some sort of noise from the back of his throat. He sneaks another glance, and their eyes meet. Ignis's expression is unreadable, a perfect mask of indifference. Prompto can't tell if Ignis is silently seething over being snapped at earlier or if he simply doesn't care.

Either he's really good at composing his emotions, or Prompto is still just the same melodramatic idiot trying to stumble his way through adulthood.

He should still apologize to him. Ignis had only been trying to help, and no one knows about that day with Cor. Maybe he should tell him. Explain it all, and then Ignis will see, and he’ll stop. He’ll stop unintentionally putting this false hope in Prompto’s heart that things could actually work out.

He’ll be shamed probably. Maybe even hated. For being so observant, Ignis has probably already figured out that Prompto's been off lately. He knows Ignis isn't one to stick his nose where it doesn't belong, but he is the caring type. He can’t really expect Ignis to believe that he’s anything like...him. That Prompto even wants to be associated with that place, everything that they are, and everything they plan to do.

You never really know a person, though. Ignis seems like a practical, loyal and caring person, but…when it comes down to it, Prompto knows that Ignis has Noct in his best interest and that the idea of them being together is not a good one – no matter how much it hurts. So maybe telling Ignis, and only Ignis is a good idea because maybe Ignis can explain it better, much better than Prompto can, why Prompto will cry a little when he leaves.

Prompto’s not sure how long he spends talking to himself in his own head, having himself a little pity party, but it’s long enough that Ignis is sighing as he pushes his glasses up further over his nose.

“My apologies, Prompto,” Ignis says sorrowfully, and Prompto glances up at him, confused. Ignis’ green eyes are narrowed as he speaks lowly. “For pushing you, earlier this morning. It was not my intention to do so, and the last thing I want is for you to feel pressured.”

Prompto feels guilt expand tenfold inside of his chest now, because Ignis – the same Ignis who he had just told to butt out not even two hours ago – is apologizing to him, and Prompto just feels like the world’s biggest piece of shit.

“Although you might not agree with me, I consider you and I to be friends. And as your friend, I don’t want you to feel that I’m only doing what I feel is best for Noct; I’m doing this for you, too.”

Fuck, Prompto needs to say something, anything to show that he’s got a brain in this big head of his. He needs to get Ignis to stop because he’s making it really hard for Prompto to tell the truth and ruin the friendship with Ignis he never even knew he had, but now really appreciates.

“I can’t,” Prompto mumbles out, pathetically, and Ignis frowns. Prompto grits his teeth in frustration, and he can’t conjure up anything of what he wants to say, of what he’s supposed to say in this situation, and Ignis shakes his head at him.

“I know that you believe that Noct doesn’t reciprocate-”

“He doesn't. He can't."

"It quite alright to-"

"It's not alright! You're wrong. Everything is wrong." Prompto swallows. "I'm all wrong."

A shift goes through the air, and everything suddenly becomes very suffocating. Ignis is staring at him, mossy green eyes barely even blinking behind the concave lenses. He opens his mouth to speak but quickly shuts it when they both hear Noct’s voice echoing across the high ceilings. The tailor walks by, arms full of clothes, no doubt to check in on Noct, and Ignis hesitates only a moment before he reaches forward, grabbing Prompto roughly by the wrist to drag him outside.

For once, it’s not that cold outside – although partly cloudy, the sun is hiding behind the clouds. As if it's afraid of confrontation, and it's certainly not helping as Promtpo takes in deep breaths of fresh air.

Ignis turns to him. His expression is somewhat comforting, as his eyebrows are raised slightly and his eyes are focused on him. He doesn't say anything, but he doesn't need to. He's here, and he's listening. Prompto can feel something radiating off of him, something that he's been craving ever since that day, and he inhales it deep into his lungs.

"Prompto?"

Pressure. There's so much pressure in his chest at the moment that he's amazed his lungs can still expand with every breath he takes. Ever since that day, hearing two different men explain such life-altering news to him that he should've known, but he didn't, and now he's met someone who he really likes and kind of thought he was out of his league but after realizing that he really isn't good for him and it wasn't just something in his imagination, it's real, and he can't tell him and he can't tell anybody but he has to tell someone because it's too much for his mind to handle and-

"Niflheim," Prompto gasps out, and the word falling from his lips feels so good, but the guilt glazes over it. "It's me. The heir, it's me."

Ignis freezes, and his face morphs into confusion. His eyes narrow. "What?"

"Verstael Besithia. He's my...biological father. I'm his only son. The third. The heir."

"The third...?" Something flashes Ignis's eyes, but he waits patiently for Prompto to keep speaking.

"The Empire," Prompto breathes, unsteadily. "I'm supposed to inherit it after my father, but-"

"You?" Ignis asks, voice shooting up an octave due to his complete disbelief. 

Prompto nods.

Ignis won’t stop staring at him. Prompto's fifteen seconds away from losing it, either in the form of crying or a panic attack. He shouldn't have said anything. He shouldn't have told. But the burden was too heavy to bear, and he's only twen-

“Is this some type of game?”

Ignis’s voice is dark, cold, and cynical. When Prompto looks up, his face has hardened into a mask of complete bitterness.

Prompto shakes his head quickly, nearly making himself lightheaded. “No, no it’s not. Believe me, I wish it were, but-”

“I don’t know what sort of game you’re playing at, but I recommend that you cease this foolishness.”

“I-I’m not playing any type of game. I’m being serious about this-”

“I’m sure you’re aware of the circumstances between Insomnia and the Empire – are they not important enough for you to take them seriously?”

Prompto's stomach is bubbling uncomfortably. He hopes it's not vomit. "Listen, please, I’m telling the truth.”

“You know that this matter is not to be taken lightly, and for you to even suggest such a thing - I can’t believe a word you’re saying,” Ignis scoffs and lets a menacing smirk graces his lips for a split second.

Prompto's hands are starting to tremble, and he shoves them underneath his arms. “My mom. He tricked her, broke her heart. Took advantage of her in order to gain power. Through me."

Ignis is staring at him, listening to him like he’s deciding if he should be believing this crap spewing from Prompto’s mouth. “You’re telling me that all this time, that you’ve been the heir to the Empire, and you've had the audacity to be involved with Noct? When you knew what it could do to Noct and his future with the company?”

Prompto’s breath hitches as his chest tightens, but he keeps going because he needs Ignis to understand.

“She took me away from him. I disappeared. When she died, my uncle took me in and didn’t tell me, I swear, I just found out. He kept me away for such a long time that everyone believed that there really wasn’t an heir.”

Ignis still isn’t saying anything, but his posture has relaxed somewhat, his eyes still a fiery green. They're flickering all over Prompto's face, looking for validation, and Prompto feels a hot angry tear slide down his cheek.

"You see now? Why I can’t tell Noct. If people were to find out about me, being involved, being who I am…it would only cause trouble for Noct.” Prompto exhales, and it comes out bubbly and wet. “People would talk. The Empire would probably try to use me. I can’t tell him about my feelings. I can’t. He won’t want anything to do with me, and I can’t have that. So I’m willing to just - keep things the way they are, no matter how much it’s killing me.”

He's not sure if he's crying as he continues gasping wetly. He tries to calm down, taking deep breaths as his body quivers, and he lets out a garbled half laugh half groan. "If you could please stop trying to convince me that he feels anything for me…it only makes it worse.”

Suddenly, he's surrounded. By warmth, a thudding heartbeat, and there are arms around him and he has to turn his head to the side to breathe. Then he realizes. This is what he needed. 

A goddamn hug.

It’s not a long one – Prompto’s somewhat grateful for that. Ignis is pulling away after what only seems like seconds, to look at Prompto with an expression that Prompto didn’t know he could make.

“Forgive me if I've overstepped my boundaries,” Ignis takes a step back, putting more space between them, and Prompto shakes his head, sniffling.

“It’s okay." Prompto looks up at Ignis worriedly. “You believe me? I’m not still doing this to gain power or control or anything like that. I am nothing like him.”

Ignis gives him a sad look, glancing away for a moment before shifting his eyes back to meet Prompto’s tearful gaze. “Although it is still utterly shocking and unbelievable to hear…I believe you. Sabotage is far beyond you.”

Prompto lets out a cry of relief.

“But,” Ignis says, warily. “If what you’re saying is that the Empire has no idea who you are, then it’s essential that we keep it that way.”

Prompto nods, quickly. “Yeah, that was my plan.”

“Have you told anyone else about this?”

Prompto shakes his head, sniffling still. “No. Just my uncle, he’s the one who told me. I can’t…I can’t tell Noct.”

“My apologies, Prompto,” Ignis's voice goes kind of thick like he’s holding back a choked sob or something, and Prompto reaches a hand up to rub the back of his neck.  “if I’d any idea what you’re going through right now…”

“I know,” Prompto says softly, pressing his lips together firmly as he waves his arm vaguely. His heart is still pounding against his ribs, but it's a little easier to breathe.

“What you’re doing for him, is very noble of you. Caring, brave – not at all like the Empire. Thank you for caring about Noct enough to do this for him. I’m sorry, that things can’t be different.”

Prompto nods, miserably. He wishes that things were different too. It’s nice to hear those words, but his chest is still tightening nonetheless because doing the right thing suddenly feels like the worst decision he’s ever made in his life.


The next morning, when Prompto wakes, it hits him full force - the event. It's tomorrow, and two days after that, it’s the end of the month. It passed by a lot quicker than he thought it would.

In three days, Prompto will never see Noct again. He plans to keep it that way, even though the thought makes him incredibly sad. He wishes there was some way he could figure out how to stay without saying why, but he's overstayed his welcome and is seriously pushing it already. 

He and Noct don’t really have a conversation the entire day. Maybe a few seconds of eye contact, or a mumble of a word to two every now and again. Prompto's silently kicking himself for losing it outside the store and not being able to see Noct all dressed up, but Noct didn't need to see him like that. He hadn't even gotten to see the samples that the nice man in the store had picked out for him, but Ignis had laid a reassuring hand on his shoulder and told him he'd take care of it. Prompto had been too exhausted to argue, not wanting Ignis to do anything he didn't want to do, especially after what he found out. It doesn't feel as uplifting as he originally thought it would, though. It just makes him feel worse.

Back in Noct's luxurious apartment, he feels like he’s walking around on eggshells. There's something in the air that's being left unsaid, but Prompto can't really wrap his head around it at the moment as to what it is. Noct doesn't really give a verbal answer when Prompto mumbles about the event being in two days, and he'd hoped that they would at least talk about what’s going to happen afterward. Does Noct even care?

He knows they made that stupid promise about Prompto not falling in love with him in the beginning - and he hasn't really - but he thought Noct would at least ask what his plans were after this fake thing ended. It makes him feel weird. 

What does it feel like to fall in love with someone? 

He's never really experienced a loving relationship. His parents had been married sure, but all couples are different. He remembers them working a lot. He'd seen married couples on TV, the lovey-dovey kind who poked fun at each other and laughed together often.  and wondered why his parents weren't like that, but it didn't really bother him because Prompto was content with how things were.

When they'd died, his uncle never talked about his dating life, or at least kept it private. Again, he was content with how things were.

It gives him something to think about, but it also makes him sad. He mopes around all day, not really feeling up to any of his usual shenanigans while Noct is away at the company or whatever. He’s fiddling with his camera when he hears the door swing open, and he tilts he head back to peek over the couch. It’s Noct, closing the door shut behind him without locking it and dumping his stuff on the floor near the door. His eyes are bright and full of mischief, the first signs of emotion that Prompto has seen in a while, and it has him sitting up a little straighter.

He glances outside – it’s gotten to be evening, close to nighttime almost, but either way Noct is here early. Prompto had had plans to mope for the rest of the night, but apparently Noct has other plans as he doesn’t bother to take his shoes off before walking over to him to grab him by the hand, interlacing their fingers.

“C’mon,” He tugs Prompto up from his warm position from the couch. “I wanna show you something.”

They don’t drive long. Prompto is shifting uncomfortably in his seat, rubbing at the material of his sweater that he had grabbed and fiddles with the lens of his camera that Noct had insisted that he bring with him when he all but kidnapped him from the apartment.

Maybe five minutes have passed before Noct crosses over the street and onto a dirt path – the sun has already set, but there are still slivers of pink and yellow that litter the sky, and the breeze that flows in from the crack of the window ruffles Prompto’s hair softly.

They’re in a part of the city where Prompto has never been before. It looks a little creepy as they drive slowly across the rocky dirt past all the dark mountains and trees. When they get past a certain point, the very dim light from the sky starts to fade until it’s almost pitch black. The only thing that Prompto can see are the numbers lit up on Noct’s dashboard, and then suddenly, the car jostles a little bit as Noct carefully pulls forwards slowly.

Noct shuts off the engine as he puts the car in park, and everything becomes very quiet as they sit there for a second. Prompto expects them to get out of the car or something, but Noct merely unbuckles his seat belt, before going still, as if he’s taking in the scenery around them which has become quite dark.

Prompto looks out the window to his right – it’s basically night time by now, the last of the pink gone from the sky and replaced with shades of blue. The moon is peeking down at them, dim, like it’s shy to come out and face them. Prompto sighs then because he knows that feeling all too well.

When they sit there in even more silence, Prompto unbuckles his seat belt to shift and face Noct with an eyebrow raised. Noct blinks at him. “Okay, dude, what are we doing here?”

“I uh…just wanted to bring you out here."

"Did you bring me out here to murder me?"

Noct gives him an unimpressed look. "Give me a little more credit. If I was going to murder you I'd do better than taking you out here." Noct shrugs, like taking Prompto out to some secluded location with just the two of them under the night sky isn't the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for him. "It’s really nice here at night.”

Prompto pauses, before looking around outside again. He nods, slowly. “Ah, yeah. It’s nice out here.”

They sit in silence for a while, enjoying the peace that has come with the night and the two of them being alone together. At least that's how Prompto feels, remembering how everything is coming to an end soon. He doesn't want it to.

“The event is tomorrow,” Noct says suddenly, his voice soft, and for a moment Prompto wonders if he hears a hint of regret in his voice as he glances at him.

"Yeah. It is. You excited?"

Noct snorts. "Not really. My dad throws one every year, and I'm always bored as shit an hour in."

"Only an hour?" Prompto grins. "Thought you'd make it at least two."

"Well, you're gonna be with me. So maybe I will."

Prompto swallows as the grin slides off his face.

Another awkward silence – it’s starting to become a habit, it seems like. Prompto leans his head against the cool glass of the window, sighing and letting the window fog up before he lifts a finger to draw a sad face. He wipes it away before Noct can comment on it.

“Thanks for doing this, even after all that happened, with your uncle and everything.”

Prompto keeps his head on the window, humming. “Yeah.”

“Do you regret doing this?”

“No way,” Prompto answers, almost too quickly. He forces a smirk on his face, trying to make the conversation less tense. “What makes you think I’d regret this?"

Noct shrugs. “I dunno…you just seem pretty sad about it.”

“Well, I mean yeah, I am sad about it.”

“You are?”

“Yeah. I'm..." Prompto takes a deep breath, laughing breathlessly. "Gonna miss that nice apartment."

Noct hesitates for a second, before he blinks, slowly, and the expression on his face is unreadable. "...not me?"

Prompto stares.

Noct pushes a button then, and the roof of the car murmurs as it shifts, the ceiling pulling back and leaving the two of them in the wake of the breeze that’s flowing through the air. Without the dark tint of the windows obscuring their vision from outside, the view from the little hillside that they’re currently on is unbelievable – they’re overlooking the city, all lit up and pretty beyond the bridge, and Prompto’s breath hitches, embarrassingly as he's caught up in the moment.

“Didn’t know your car could do that,” Prompto breathes, and Noct chuckles softly as he pushes another button; the seats stir, warming up as the console between them all but disappears, the seats leaning all the way back until their feet lift off from the floor.

Prompto’s too busy with his camera by now, snapping shots of the city, a few of Noct when he gazes out across to the city, of the bridge lit up like a Christmas tree on Christmas morning. When he feels Noct poking at him, only then does he lower his camera away from his face to see Noct, gesturing upwards with one finger and a twinkle in his eye.

“Look up.”

And when Prompto does, it takes his breath away.

Somehow, he hadn’t noticed before, but the night has come – and the land is dark around them as he takes it all in. The moon is the only light he sees, shining brilliantly down on them. For a moment, he’s little afraid as he looks up at the vast night sky, but then he sees them. 

Thousands of stars litter the night sky, each one of them shining brilliantly, the darkness of the sky taking on a color he’s never seen before. Blue is painted on dark blue, creating the most gorgeous hue he’s ever seen - streaks of purples adorn the stars, almost like there're thousands of galaxies right before their very eyes.

It’s breathtaking, and he can feel his lips forming into a smile as he leans back fully against his seat, sighing wistfully. He turns his head, meeting Noct’s eyes with a genuine smile. “It’s beautiful.”

"Yeah. Ignis and I used to look at the stars a lot when we were kids."

"That's cool," Prompto's eyes dance across the sky, the millions of little white dots scattered above him. "Do you know any constellations?"

"I know a few," Noct tries to sound indifferent, but Prompto knows by now that he's trying to show off. This time though, he doesn't mind it. Not one bit. 

Noct points up at the sky. "See that one? The one that kinda looks like an unfinished Big Dipper?"

"Uh...think so."

"That's a Virgo. That was the first one I learned since it's my astrology sign and all."

Prompto's blinking at the sky, not really seeing anything, but enjoying it nevertheless. He smiles. "Do you know where the Scorpio is?"

Noct scans the sky for a minute, before pointing. "There it is. It kind of looks like a backwards question mark. Or a weird shaped J. Whatever floats your boat."

Prompto tries to find what Noct's looking at, but he can see are just...dots. They're everywhere and they all look the same. He frowns. "I can't find it. I can't...I can't see anything."

He's about to just give up and pull out his phone to google search images of the constellation when he feels Noct's arm slide between his back and the car seat before fingers are curling around his shoulder. Noct tugs him close to him, their heads nearly touching as Noct shuffles him around. 

"Look in this direction," Noct commands, and Prompto swallows. "It's difficult at first, but you just gotta know where to look."

Prompto tries to find the damn constellation so he can get the hell out of this situation, (which is not helping with what they're supposed to be doing in less than 24 hours) but Noct's close proximity is really distracting.

Noct leans his head against his, and a very quiet sigh escapes him. Prompto peeks at him from the corner of his eye. 

"Can we stay like this for a second?"

There's a confession on the tip of Prompto's tongue. It's so close, threatening to spill out his mouth and out into the open. He's never felt this way before.

He should pull away. Tell Noct no.

"...Sure."

They spend a few minutes looking at the stars above them, whispering softly to each other. It’s quiet, it’s calm, and it’s bittersweet. Eventually, they have to pull apart.

Prompto brings up his camera again, snaps a few more photos of the city in the distance, of the little hillside lit by the lights of the city, and more of Noct when he’s gazing up at the stars. As Prompto angles his camera up towards the stars above and snaps a shot, he feels Noct’s fingers poking him in his side.

“Can I try?”

Prompto’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “You wanna take a photo?”

Noct nods and Prompto happily hands it over, showing him which buttons to push and how to focus. Noct takes a picture of the moon, and although it’s a little blurry around the edges and slightly off-center, he does a pretty good job.

“It looks really good." He lifts his head back up and away from the viewfinder. “You have a talent there, buddy.”

Noct snorts, looking at the photo again. “You don’t have to spare my feelings, y’know – I know it’s nothing compared to your photos.”

Prompto flushes, glad that they’re outside at night and that it’s dark out. Noct’s fingering over the viewfinder, flipping it around until it’s facing him. He looks over at Prompto, confused.

“Uh oh, did I break it?”

Prompto chuckles softly as he takes the camera from Noct’s hands, shaking his head. “No, you just flipped the viewfinder around. It’s supposed to be for taking selfies, but I don’t really use it for that.”

Noct hums thoughtfully, before nudging him. “Let’s take a selfie, then.”

“R-right now?”

“Yeah,” Noct scoots closer so that their shoulders brush. “You take it. Hurry up.”

“...Alright,” Prompto holds the camera high above his face, keeping a firm grip on it – not wanting a repeat of what happened when he did the exact same thing with his phone earlier this month.

He sees himself in the viewfinder, looking pale and awkward with his blonde hair fanned out in all directions around his face. Then Noct scoots even closer, and Prompto almost chokes, because it’s the two of them together, their faces close. It almost makes him want to cry because they almost look like a happy couple.

He forces a little smile on his face and snaps the picture. He snaps a few more, both of them smiling, making funny faces. Picture after picture he takes. He’s looking at himself in the viewfinder when Noct turns his head to look at him. The expression on his face is so serene, that Prompto’s finger presses down, and the camera clicks. Noct doesn’t seem to notice though, as he inches forward.

Prompto feels his heartbeat pounding against his ribs because fleetingly, he wonders if this is a sign. The signs that Gladio was talking about, the signs Ignis was hinting at. Is this what falling in love means? The thought of that though, it leaves a warmth in its wake. All he has to do is turn his head.

Noct’s lips brush against his cheek, softly, until his lips are pressed gently against the freckled skin. The camera clicks. Prompto closes his eyes as he lowers the camera into his lap. 

Noct’s lips leave his cheek with a soft sound, and he's moving away.

“…sorry.”

“It’s fine.”

“You have to promise not to fall in love with me – hope it’s not too difficult for ya.”

“Oh, it won’t be.”

Except it was.

Chapter Text

How did he get here?

All he can see is white. The freezing, icy wind is harsh as it gusts past him, and he struggles to take another step through the snow beneath his feet. It’s cold, and he shivers as he wraps his arms around himself for warmth.

He can’t feel anything below the knee – he can barely see two feet in front of him. He sees nothing in the distance.

He stops, leaning over to cough and hack uncontrollably into his icy hands, the force of it causing his icy chest to ache. He swallows roughly and weakly lifts his feet to keep going. That’s just it though. Why is he still going? There’s nowhere to go, nowhere to turn – there’s no reason to keep going.

He should just stop, right here. Lay down in the snow, let it all float over him, like a blanket. Close his eyes, forevermore.

So that’s what he does – well, sort of. Expectedly, he trips, and when he lands face down in the snow, he doesn’t make a move to get up. He’s resting his cheek against the firm, wet snow that’s scratching at his skin, and his fingers twitch, but they grasp nothing. He can barely see his breath puffing out in a white fog in front of him, can feel the harsh pelts of the icy snow pounding into his back, and he just wants it all to stop.

Suddenly, it does. The loud roar of the wind stops abruptly. The snow instantly stops falling. He moves slowly, crawling up onto his knees, looking around. His breath is still puffing around him as he breathes in quickly – he’s somewhere in what appears to be a forest of some kind. In the distance, he can see the snowy, rocky mountains, and the evening glow of the setting sky turns the environment around him a lovely pink.

He flexes his icy fingers, glances down to see them pressing against the firm, snowy ground. He shifts, pulling his legs up under himself to sit with his legs crossed. Oddly, he feels at peace. He still doesn’t know where he is, or how he got here. He can’t see anything around him or up ahead that seems familiar – he still doesn’t see a reason to keep going.

He’s staring off into the distance, blinking slowly, when he hears it. The telltale sign of someone approaching him, the soft crunch of the snow coming towards him. Immediately, he whips around.

It’s Noct – but it isn’t. This Noct is different, somehow. He’s wearing all black, which is no surprise there, but the expression on his face in almost demonic. Dark, dark eyes are hidden beneath the dark ebony locks that layer his face, and his hands almost look like claws with the way they’re curling at his sides. There’s a crazed, lopsided smile on his pale lips as the sky darkens considerably.

Prompto can feel his heart pounding against his skull as he somehow manages to climb onto his two feet, can feel his entire body start to tremble, but this time not from the cold. He feels his feet taking him backwards, quickly, and when Noct suddenly bursts into a run, Prompto turns and takes off as fast as his numb, frozen feet can carry him.

He can’t run. His strides, although he lurches forward with all of his strength, are agonizingly slow. He can hear Noct coming closer, he can hear him sprinting towards him, and Prompto’s heart is beating so fast he’s amazed it’s still in his chest.

He cries out in fear when arms wrap around him, causing him to stop dead in his tracks. Warm, hot breath ghosts across the shell of his ear and across the sides of his cheek, and Prompto is trembling as the body behind him suddenly steps closer, so that Prompto can feel the pounding heartbeat against his back.

“Noct?” He croaks out, and the arms around him tighten, before they start to shake. With another burst of fear, Prompto realizes it’s laughter.

“You’ve finally come home to Nifilheim,” A voice says in his ear, incredibly deep and calm, yet emotionless. “My son.”

Shut up! Shut up, shut up, shut UP –

He wrenches upright, suddenly wide awake as the phantom feeling of the arms wrapped around him tighten, his heart beating so hard and so fast that he can feel it in his jaw. His vision swirls as he looks around his room, barely lit with the beginning of the rising sun. As the tightening feeling fades away, he allows himself to collapse back onto the bed, still breathing quickly. 

Turning his head, his fingers crawl shakily forward until they reach his phone sitting plugged in on the nightstand. Blinking blearily as he unplugs it, he reads that the time is 6:40 in the morning, before tossing it beside him on the bed as he blinks up at the ceiling.

Nightmares. He hasn't had one for a while, and you'd think he'd be used to them by now but damn…he’s never had a nightmare terrify him so much. It had felt so real, all of the it, from the harsh snowy wind gusting against his face to the look of Noct’s crazed smile adorning his lips as he chased after him. Prompto’s chest still rises and falls quickly as his fingers twist in the silk sheets underneath him, and he swallows dryly.

This one tops the fucking cake - the atmosphere, the...that voice. He knows who that was supposed to be. He's never even see the man in person, never heard his voice, or seen his face. It only makes him feel worse.

Noct's face flashes before his eyes, with that demonic look on his face, his twisted hands. It makes Prompto tremble just thinking about it - but strangely enough, that's the first time he'd ever seen Noct in his dreams. Sure, he’s had the overzealous, cutesy daydreams and fantasies about the two of them (some that he's shoved far back into the corner of his mind, never to come out), but Noct's never made an appearance. Figures the first time that he does, he's nearly scaring Prompto half to death.


An hour later, everything is hectic.

Ignis had already let himself in and had busied himself with preparations when Prompto wanders into the living room after being unable to fall back asleep. Ignis is literally talking on two phones at once, a blur around the room. 

Prompto runs a hand through his messy hair, rubbing at the back of his neck nervously as he takes a seat on the loveseat across from Ignis who has finally sat down himself, sighing dejectedly. The feeling is still there in his chest and shoulders, as he watches Ignis talk with inhuman speed on the phones on his ears – he’d really been hoping that once he had told Ignis, that it would at least make it easier to breathe.

Noct decides to shuffle into the room then, rubbing at his eyes and nearly tripping over himself as Ignis brushes past him quickly with an “excuse me” as he disappears. Noct looks after him for a moment, before scoffing and dramatically dropping onto the couch, arm over his eyes.

He’s gonna be honest here – Prompto’s a little afraid to look at Noct right now. All he can see are those eyes. Dark, pitch black eyes.

Suddenly, Noct peeks over at him with his normal, azure blue eyes, and Prompto relaxes a little as Noct looks at him with a worried frown on his face.

“You feeling okay?” Noct's head is still cushioned on the sofa as he gives Prompto a sideways glance. “You don’t look too hot.”

Prompto feels like he probably looks – a hot mess. He’s honestly exhausted, having tossed and turned all night only to fall asleep around four in the morning. This wouldn’t be the first time he’d had less than three hours of sleep, but it still feels like there’s weights dragging on his eyelids as he shrugs lazily. The pressure behind his eyes and the ache in his bones make him feel like he just got pushed off a train and then run over.

Noct grimaces. “Look, if you’re not feeling good…I can get this pushed to another day, and we can-”

“No!” The word falls from his lips easily, almost as if it's a reflex - but his mind wanders for a second. He could totally drag this out. He could spend more time here. With him. He’d really like that.

But no matter how fast his heart is skipping at the thought that Noct is even considering pushing this event to another time all because of him, he can’t. It’s an important event, for Noct and the company, and Prompto doesn’t want to get in the way of that.

He’s already pushing it. He needs to draw the line somewhere. He needs for this to be over and done with, so that he can move on with his life and just be miserable by himself. He’s ready for it – or at least, that’s what he’s been telling himself.

He forces himself to grin. “I’m fine, dude. This is really important to your dad and the company, and I don’t want to get in the way of that.”

Noct frowns at him. “You wouldn’t get in the way of anything. I can explain it to everyone that-”

“Noct, it’s fine,” Prompto interrupts, hands starting to clam up as he waves them vaguely. “Just nervous, y’know? Didn’t get much sleep last night.”

Noct doesn’t look entirely convinced, looking almost sad even, but he doesn’t argue about it further.


The event is set to start when the first signs of the evening glow hit the horizon, and Prompto couldn’t be more grateful for that. It gave him time to really think this through, to really get his shit together – or at least, attempt to do so. Even though the event isn’t set to start for another five hours or so, Ignis has both Prompto and Noct out of the apartment by noon, all the important files, papers, and whatever else was important in tow.

When they finally get to the company building, the building looking as magnificent and beautiful as always, they’re led in through a back entrance. Security clothed all in black with elegant, silver trimmings adorning their chests and shoulders watch them from their places against the wall – Prompto can’t help but feel like he’s in the wrong place. Their eyes are on him specifically, watching his every step as he trails behind Noct like a scared kitten.

“Noct,” Ignis says as they walk down what seems like an endless corridor, and Noct hums. “You have your formal wear, correct?”

“Yup,” Noct replies, nodding his head when Ignis turns to look back at him. “I’ve got it here – haven’t touched it.”

Prompto’s about to panic a little when Ignis turns around to give him a look. “Don’t worry Prompto, I took the liberty of personally handling yours. You can relax.”

Easy for you to say, Prompto thinks to himself – he hasn’t even seen the suit after he left it to Ignis, but he nods anyway, and Noct gives him a reassuring smile.

Thankfully, the finally manage to get to the room off to the side of the main corridor that is probably bigger than Prompto’s last apartment. It’s pretty big, and Prompto’s looking around in wonder at the ivory walls and pristine white, marble floor and wondering how on earth a building could have a room this big. There’s big, giant glass windows that overlook the city, and there’s elaborate golden work adorning the paintings of the walls and trim the ceiling. Off to the side, there’s a little platform the extends up towards a mirror, like a dressing room. If this is big, then he’s honestly kind of afraid of how big the place is going to be where they host the event. Probably not as big as that room where he and Regis munched on cookies and – oh shit.

Regis knows, too. He’s the one who made Prompto aware of the situation, and then Prompto had gotten it confirmed by his uncle, oh shit. How the hell could he have forgotten something like this? Ignis has no idea that Regis knows, and vice versa, and Regis is probably wondering if Prompto’s going to show up to this thing after he had basically ran out of the building like some fucking idiot who –

“Prom?” Noct’s voice suddenly breaches through his inner monologue, and Prompto tenses a little as he meets Noct’s eyes with a forced chuckle and hand behind his neck.

“Heh, sorry. I kinda spaced out for a second there.”

“You’re sure you’re okay?”

“Yup!” Prompto replies, keeping the forced smile on his lips. “Everything is great!”

Everything was not great. He barely holds it together during the next few hours, going over the preparations, when and how he should greet the guests, and how to keep up the façade between him and Noct. It’s all a blur in Prompto’s mind, and he’s pretty sure that he said something along the lines of ‘I got this’ to someone, but he has no idea who.

People are bustling around, talking fast and carrying various large items in their hands as they speed by, and Prompto feels like he’s being stared at so much that it’s insane.

Somehow, the time has come. The time is nearing the evening, the start of the end of the day, and Prompto is one nervous ball of energy as he and Noct practice one last time together in the room adjoining the one they had been in originally, as requested by Ignis.

Prompto sidesteps, barely missing stepping on Noct’s toes, before he sighs. He’d like to put all the blame of them not really being at their best right now because of Noct and how lazy he was at practicing such a simple dance, but it’s the least of his worries right now. Noct chuckles a little bit as his grip on Prompto’s waist tightens, before meeting his eyes.

“I know that we didn’t practice,” Noct says, rolling his eyes as they twirl around the room slowly and steadily. “but I think we’ll be okay. Right?”

Prompto swallows roughly, nodding, but then Noct is stopping their movement and is glaring daggers at him.

“Okay dude. You have to tell me what’s wrong.”

“Nothing,” Prompto replies, his fingers gripping Noct’s hand harder nervously. “I’m just nervous.”

Noct clicks his tongue at him, shaking his head. “Then why can’t you look at me?”

Prompto chews on his lower lip, before forcing his head up to gaze into Noct’s gentle eyes. Noct’s eyebrows are furrowed in concern as he leans forward a little. Prompto adjusts his grip in Noct’s hand, and Noct squeezes in response.

“You know you can talk to me, right?” Noct says. Prompto blinks.

He’d planned to never say anything. He's convinced himself that it will be better if he just continues on this way, and to just pretend like leaving Noct's life isn't one of the worst things he going to experience.

Noct's face is contorted with a mix of worry and hope, as if he's hoping that Prompto just comes out and tells him what's wrong, and it makes Prompto's stomach twist - he wishes that things were different. He’s so afraid to say it, to say what’s been holding him back from telling Noct how he feels, because the last thing he wants is for Noct to want nothing to do with him.

Suddenly, the door to the room swings open, and Ignis pokes his head in, raising his eyebrows at their close proximity, before adjusting the glasses on his nose.

“Noct, Prompto,” he says firmly, and Prompto’s mouth suddenly goes very dry.

“It’s time.”


The sky explodes in an array of sparkling and twinkling lights as the fireworks light up into the sky; soft, melodic music is playing as the sun sets behind the clouds. The large and spacious roof of the company building overlooks the entire city, the thousands of lights shimmering in the distance.

The roof of the building is, expectedly, magnificent. The lower floor of the roof, which separates into two stairwells that lead onto a second floor, is covered with a grand, red rug that expands half of the floor – the other half, spotless, white marble flooring. Gracing the rug are a few golden encrusted, glass tables, each one of them covered with bountiful flower arrangements that match the tables.

The stairwells, each step lit up by lights, ascends to the very top where a beautiful tower sits, with more beautiful tables and flowers near it, with something magical looking glowing inside – it’s surrounded by what seems like a giant fish tank, beautiful blue koi fish swimming gracefully in the water.

It’s all unreal.

Maybe Prompto would be enjoying it a bit more if he weren’t slumped over the railing overlooking the city, trying to breathe and not hurl onto the side of the building.

He and Noct had been separated when Ignis had come in, neither of them seeing each other looking all dressed up. Prompto wipes a hand across his sweaty brow, grimacing when his hand comes away marked with the foundation that someone had put on his face. They’d also swiped some eyeliner across his lash line, and although he had been a little skeptical about that part, he wasn’t complaining when he saw his reflection.

Ignis had told him that usually at this event, Regis and Noct are supposed to be introduced as the owner and the heir to inherit it someday, but Prompto can’t remember when that’s supposed to happen. He’s not even sure if he’s supposed to be here in this spot, behind the giant fish tank thing and out of view from all the guests that had started pouring in. He’d wandered too far away, had gotten lost, but somehow managed to end up here - lucky him.

He straightens the tie around his neck for what seems like the millionth time, looking down to check himself over and to make sure he hasn’t ruined this expensive suit that probably costs more than his own life. His royal blue blazer and slacks are still hanging straight and looking pristine – at least he thinks they do. His silk, white button up shirt is still looking nice and clean, and the shoes that Ignis had shoved in his hands do tie the whole outfit together. Okay, so he looks kinda good. He’s really grateful for Ignis right now.

Suddenly, a loud voice echoes over the speakers, and Prompto groans before shuffling his way over to where everyone has crowded around. Ignis is there, looking perfect and proper in his own suit and tie, Gladio on his other side somewhat matching, but sporting a darker gray than Ignis. He looks just as good though, and when their eyes meet, Gladio scowls at him before motioning to Ignis, titling his head in Prompto’s direction.

Ignis looks over the crowd, before catching Prompto’s eye. Ignis looks stressed for a second, and Prompto suddenly realizes that hey maybe he shouldn’t have wandered away from the room and got lost, because it looks like he’s not where he’s supposed to be, but it’s too late.

Regis is sauntering in on his cane, his dark suit tailored and fit to him perfectly, with some sort of cloak wrapped around his shoulders elegantly and held together by golden clips. His suit is all black, but there’s a faint hint of white stripes lining his blazer and slacks – all together he looks really good.

Then, Noct walks up beside him, and holy shit everything around Prompto disappears and it’s just the two of them as their eyes meet.

Noct’s suit, while similar to his dads with the all black, is just a damn shame, because no one should be looking that good. It fits in all the right places. The jacket hanging off of his frame, the silk shirt with the matching tie, the slacks - damn. He wishes he had his camera.

After shaking himself out of his stupor, Prompto realizes that Noct is coming closer. He stiffens, looking around as everyone’s eyes are on them as Noct approaches him quickly, before they’re face to face.

Noct's blue eyes are scanning over his face, dilating in response to what they see, and Prompto swallows. He can feel everyone staring at them, and Prompto keep waiting for Noct to just do something, because if he doesn't Prompto just knows he'll end up -

Noct frowns. "Your freckles."

Prompto blinks owlishly. "My...freckles?"

Noct’s head tips to the side. “I liked them y’know. They’re...they’re you.”

Prompto's stomach lurches in his gut, and he wills the blush not to rise to his face. “That’s...they’re not-“

Noct doesn't seem to hear him - or maybe he's not even listening - but then Prompto's eyes notice movement behind Noct's shoulder, and he locks eyes with Regis.

There’s a shift in the air as Regis stares at him as if he has no idea who the hell he is. He composes himself, a smile forming on his face because everyone is still watching them and this exchange. “Prompto. I’m surprised to see you here.”

Prompto blinks, boggled. “O-oh, yeah.”

Regis looks to Noct this time, who hasn’t stopped looking at Prompto since he and his dad had arrived. “Noctis, can you please explain to me why?”

All of Prompto’s nervousness is now combined with confusion. It’s expected that Regis wouldn’t think he’d show up because of what happened during their little ‘chat’, but now Regis is acting like he really has no clue as to why Prompto really is here. Regis knows about him…had he told Noct about Prompto and his backstory? Had he told him to stay away from him? Is this why Noct is staring at him like this?

Now he’s starting to get really nervous at the thought, because if he had, surely Noct would have mentioned it, right? He can feel himself trembling under Regis’ and Noct’s gaze – suddenly it seems like everyone is staring at them, all eyes on him, and he can’t breathe all of a sudden.

Noct seems to notice this as he becomes aware of his surroundings, at all the people staring at them, Prompto’s face becoming paler and paler, and he’s looking around before grabbing Prompto’s hand, looking to his dad.

“Just…give us a sec,” He’s dragging Prompto off somewhere, and Prompto looks back as Regis and everyone watches them disappear behind the giant fish tank thing.

Noct doesn’t let go of his hand when they finally make it, Noct peering around to make sure no one can see them. Prompto is too busy trying to calm his breathing, his heart beating wildly against his skull as Noct turns back to look at him, eyes wide.

“Whoa, calm down. You okay?”

Prompto can’t talk, shaking his head as he begins to feel the beginning signs of a panic attack. That thought alone scares him because he’s never actually had one before, even though it sure felt like it that one time in front of Ignis. He's probably about to have a real one in a second. Noct’s squeezing his hands though, and though that kinda helps, it only reminds Prompto about everything that he's been doing. Lying.

“D-Dammit,” Prompto stutters out, and all the nervousness from the party, from everyone watching them back there to now being alone with Noct with this nagging feeling to spill the beans now, increases tenfold, and he struggles to articulate what he wants to say.

Noct grabs at his elbows, steadying him. “Prom, calm down. I’m right here.”

“I’m trying. I just, I really need to tell you something, and I don’t know how to tell you – or if you already know.” Noct deserves to hear it from him, at least, and he can't believe he's gonna say it right now, of all the fucking times he could have earlier.

Noct pauses, eyes glowing and eager. “Wait, you do?”

Prompto nods, licking his chapped lips before he breathes out a shaky breath. There's a little nudge in his stomach from the look on Noct's hopeful face, but he ignores it.

“I...have something to tell you, too. You have to calm down first, though,” Noct tells him as he stares at him intently, and Prompto almost rolls his eyes because what the fuck does Noct think he’s trying to do?

Prompto closes his eyes, tightly, because he can’t seem to make it go away enough for him to think clearly. “I can’t. J-just hit me or something, knock me out because I -”

Warmth tingles on the corner of his mouth, and the words die on his tongue. He hadn't noticed how close Noct had gotten, and Noct lingers. Prompto is frozen, his mind slowing down and just blanking out. Electricity radiates throughout his entire body as Noct pulls away slightly, dark eyelashes brushing against his flushed cheeks.

“Sorry,” Noct’s lips are brushing against skin that is slightly warm and tacky from foundation. His fingers tighten their grip. “I just - I need you to calm down and hear me out first. Or else I’ll never get this out.”

He takes a deep breath as he begins to pull back farther, probably to look into Prompto's eyes, warm breath fanning over Prompto’s cheek. “I know that we made a promi-”

Prompto doesn’t give him a chance to finish. He jerks forward, capturing Noct’s lips with his own as he grasps at his jacket to pull him back in, and finally – their lips meld together softly.

The atmosphere is quiet, only the two of them, only the sound of their quiet breathing. Noct freezes in surprise as their lips press together chastely, electricity between them. 

It probably only lasts a few seconds, but it's enough for Prompto to realize what the actual fuck he just did. He pulls back, heart thudding in his throat, but he can't meet Noct's eyes. He's staring at the little mole on his face, the one that he's memorized exactly how close it is to Noct's lips, and he lets out a shaky breath. He's crossed a line, and now he can never get back over it.

But he can't move, can't look up and face the consequences of his actions-

Noct's hands release his elbows, shooting up past Prompto's face and grasping the back of his neck as he shoves Prompto against the wall of the giant fish tank and kisses back.

Whoa, Noct is-

Noct doesn't kiss gently, but he doesn't kiss harshly either, which Prompto is grateful for as his eyes flutter closed. His hands hover above Noct's hips, uncertain, in response to his eagerness, and he succumbs to the feeling. Noct's kissing him. He’s kissing him.

Noct’s mouth on his is...like taking a huge gulp of fresh air after being deprived of oxygen for so long. Prompto drinks in the feeling as it buzzes all around his body like a pleasant hum. His breath leaves his mouth in a quiet gasp as his head tilts to get a better angle when they press in again.

Noct sighs, thumbs stroking at the soft hairs the grow at the base of his neck as his fingers tighten in his hair gently.

Prompto's never kissed anyone before. Never really wanted to, until right the fuck now. Honestly, he'd never really seen the big deal about it and didn't really care when he'd hear his peers gossiping about their first kiss in school. He didn't have many friends, so it never occurred to him as to why anyone would want to waste their time kissing someone.

But Noct, though. Noct's different. He's kissing him, and he wants to do it every single day for the rest of his life. The one person he thought he would never do this with, the one person who put him so deep into a dream that he didn't wanna wake up from - and he'd chuckle if his mouth wasn't glued to Noct's because it's so corny. But he never wants it to end. His hands continue to hover in the air, unsure, before they grasp along Noct's lower back, and Noct steps closer.

He doesn't care about what's happened. He doesn't care what's going to happen. They made that stupid promise, and Prompto's not entirely sure anymore if he's held up his end of the bargain - but this is probably the most content he'll ever be ever again, and so he's going to enjoy the hell out of it.

His head is spinning and his chest is blooming with something he’s never felt before as they pull away, Noct moving away a bit, chest rising and falling rapidly as he gives Prompto some space. His hands stay curled into his hair though, and it's grounding in a way that's hard to explain.

Prompto forces his eyes to open. Noct's pupils are blown wide, a thin ring of azure staring back at him, and Prompto swallows roughly. His lips throb, feeling slightly swollen and empty, but suddenly everything comes crashing down all over again.

Was it a mistake? To kiss him? To put that glimmer of hope back in his heart that this can actually happen?

He shouldn't have surprised Noct like that, especially when they were supposed to be talking about something really important. Noct probably hadn't even wanted him to kiss him, because what they're doing isn't real, and he doesn't feel the same-

He's still pressed against the fish tank. Noct's hands are still in his hair, and they're both still breathing hard. But...that doesn't mean anything. Right? Should he just lay it out all on the table, including his feelings, and maybe Noct will understand his reasoning and not hate him too much?

Prompto clears his throat, removing his hands from Noct's hips, which Noct takes as a sign to pull his own hands away. Prompto immediately misses the warmth.

“I, I um-”

“We’d like to formally introduce ourselves to everyone here!”

A loud, familiar voice rings out across the party, and both of them freeze. They know that voice – they’d know it anywhere.

“Ardyn Izunia! Of Niflheim.”

Prompto’s mouth drops open – why the fuck is Ardyn here? Prompto glances up at Noct, who seems to be thinking the same thing. Although his face is flushed and lips a little swollen, he looks like he wants to say something, but thinks better of it. Prompto tries not to let the panic set in on his features, because for a split second he’s thinking that Noct regrets it.

But then Noct hesitates a minute, both of them blushing as Noct outstretches his hand, grabbing Prompto’s and tugging him back around towards the front where everyone is gathered around.

Prompto and Noct are standing near Ignis and Gladio as Ardyn walks up the final step of the stairs, bowing low as he takes off his hat. He glances up, and his cruel, amber eyes seem to glimmer as they meet Prompto’s. Ardyn stands with a sly grin, sliding his hat back onto his head as he steps to the side, gesturing outwards.

“Let’s not forget our esteemed lead researcher and Co-CEO of the Empire of Niflheim, Verstael Besithia.”

Chapter Text

Verstael Besithia.

The words are ringing in his head – but he can’t seem to really hold onto a single thought about them. He can feel his heart in his chest, beating hard and fast, so that must mean something? That must mean that something about this isn’t going to end well, is it?

If he really thinks about it, he probably deserves some type of reward. He’s been through hell to get to this point in time of his life, but honestly this is the last fucking place he really wants to be. Even with Noct here at his side, the guy he’d met and fallen for in a matter of a few weeks, and had basically just attacked with his mouth behind some fish tank not even two minutes ago – he wishes that he were somewhere else.

But at the same time, he supposes that there are worse places to be, or worse situations to be in – so there’s nothing really special about this, is there?

He’ll deny it to anyone who asks, but Prompto has never felt more terrified in his life than he does in this very moment in time, and that’s really fucking saying something.

He can hear the sounds of footsteps on the stairwell behind the man in front of them, the man who is dressed in that same weird looking tattered coat and that stupid fedora sitting on his head, with the same stupid grin on his face that has never failed to make Prompto’s skin crawl. Ardyn has that same look on his face, the same look he’d given Prompto all those weeks ago when he’d all but cornered him in the apartment, asking him all these questions that Prompto had no idea how to answer, and Prompto grits his teeth, hard.

The footsteps are coming closer, there’s someone walking up the last few steps of the staircase – there’s a tug on his hand, a gentle squeeze, and when Prompto looks down, Noct’s fingers are still intertwined with his. Prompto bites his lip, because not even this is enough to make him feel any better.

Suddenly, a dark shadow looms over him, and looking up, Prompto sees that Ignis has stepped in front of him, blocking his view. Ignis’s protective stance is front of him has his chest aching and guilt flooding through him at the thought that Ignis actually cares about him enough to do this for him, and when Gladio responds by shuffling a little closer to Noct’s other side, Prompto isn’t even angry about the obvious fact that Gladio knows, too. If anything, he feels a little safer, behind his friend’s backs.

Friends. It felt good to call them that – at least for a little bit.

“Prompto?” Noct’s quiet voice is suddenly at his ear, his warm breath ghosting softly across his skin, and when Prompto turns, Noct is so close that their lips nearly brush together. Without much thought, Prompto pulls their hands apart and stumbles back, hand held up in front of him as if he doesn’t want Noct to come any closer.

Noct stares at him for a moment, seemingly mesmerized by the gesture, before his features shift and his eyebrows are drawing together in obvious hurt. Prompto barely has the time to react when Ardyn’s voice is booming out, loud and obnoxious.

“Oh, Noctis, Prompto! I’ve come for you two – you both should feel special,” Ardyn gloats, and both Prompto and Noct swivel their heads towards the voice. Prompto’s out in the open now, having stepped out from behind Ignis when he’d stumbled away from Noct, and he swallows roughly as Ardyn grins at him, menacingly. “It’s not every day that we all get to be together like this, you know.”

Before either Prompto or Noct can say anything, Regis steps forward then, his cane strong and his shoulders pushed back as he meets Ardyn’s amber eyes. His voice is harsh and full of authority as he speaks, titling his head back in such a way that Prompto sees the security near him stand a little straighter, ready for direction. “Ardyn Izunia. I don’t recall sending anyone from Nifilheim an invitation.”

Ardyn tilts his own head back in a mocking manner, amber eyes glowing beneath his hooded lids as he waves his hand vaguely, a small grin on his lips. “Oh Reggie,” Ardyn croons, and Regis’ eyes narrow in annoyance. “You must’ve merely misplaced my invitation then! I hope you don’t mind my plus one.”

Prompto doesn’t know how to feel or how to react when a man steps out beside Ardyn, dressed in a strange looking outfit that makes him look like some sort of emperor or something. His dark, red suit is covered with traces of black, almost spider web like, across his entire body. On his shoulders, heavy dark clips rope around his neck to connect to the long, billowy red cape that flows out behind him.

When Prompto finally meets his eyes, the cold, dark blue eyes are staring right back at him, seemingly staring right into his soul. Verstael grins at him then, his thin lips cracking into a grin as he reaches up to run his fingers through the thin white beard adorning his chin and jaw.

“Once I heard of the news, I just had to invite my dear friend along with me,” Ardyn says smoothly before Prompto can start his inner monologue about all of this, and the air shifts, becoming tense and dark. Ardyn seems to notice this, as he smiles again. “He’s been dying to meet the young man who has captured our Noctis’ heart.”

Hushed whispers are heard then, and Prompto glances around to see the crowd whispering to each other, looking at him and pointing at him. Some of them have confused expressions on their faces, while most of them just look plain angry.

For a second, Prompto doesn’t understand – is everyone really that upset about Noct not marrying Luna? Is this really about Noct not marrying a woman, or is it something else entirely?

Prompto can feel his chest tightening, because he was supposed to be ready for this shit, for everyone to be staring at him like this. He just didn’t expect it to happen this way.

Noct growls under his breath, closing the distance between him and Prompto again as he moves to stand on his other side, protectively. Prompto watches as Verstael’s eyes observe Noct’s reaction. Prompto is nearly chewing is lip off, and he has this horrible feeling in his gut that something really bad is going to happen, and with the way Verstael’s watching Noct, he doubts it’ll turn out fine in the end.

“What do you want?” Noct sneers, eyes blazing as his jaw clenches in frustration, and Ardyn’s eyes drift over to his, before shrugging. He places his hand on his hip as he paces around the little area where everyone has gathered, slowly.

“To give my congratulations to the two of you,” Ardyn gestures towards Prompto, who forces himself to glare at him. Ardyn tilts his head then, feigning confusion and hurt. “and to ask you why, Noctis.”

Noct scoffs. “Why what?”

“Why you declined our offer to marry the beautiful Lady Lunafreya! Although,” Ardyn pauses, pursing his lips. “It is quite obvious to me now – that you lean towards blonde hair and blue eyes…just not on women.”

Noct crosses his arms – if he hears the hushed whispers around them, he doesn’t acknowledge it. He’s too busy glaring at the man in front of him, shaking his head. “So what?”

“So what?” Ardyn asks, raising his eyebrows. “You mean, you would just marry any commoner as long as it isn’t a woman? You don’t care for the future of Insomnia, then?”

Noct opens his mouth, but then Ardyn lifts a hand up to his head, dramatically, and cuts him off. Prompto can feel his breath escaping his lips in quick huffs, and he doesn’t know if it’s from the fact that Ardyn is making this seem like Noct is some sort of selfish sexist or the fact that he can feel Verstael’s eyes boring a hole into the side of his face.

“I’m sure you’re aware of the contract that ensures the future of both of our beloved companies? You do realize that by not marrying Lunafreya you are sentencing the future of Insomnia to death?”

More hushed whispers from the crowd, and Prompto feels about an inch tall, nose starting to burn as he rubs at it harshly. Ignis steps closer to him then, their shoulders bumping and Prompto takes a shaky inhale through his teeth.

“I know what you’re trying to do.” Noct exclaims suddenly, and Prompto glances at him to see his cheeks flushed in anger. “I’m not going to let you get away with it, and neither will Luna. I’m not going to let you guilt trip me into marrying Luna so that the Empire can have Tenebrae and Insomnia.”

Ardyn pauses then, and his eyes drift over to Prompto’s, menacingly. Prompto stares right back at him, but there’s a tugging on his heart, a pounding in his skull, because something really bad is coming. Ardyn chuckles, sickly sweet.

“I had no idea that you were so against the idea of marrying a woman, Noctis. I suppose that it’s alright in the end though, since our dear Prompto will do j-ust as well, if not better.”

“I’ve had enough of this,” Verstael says suddenly, stepping forward into the fray, and Prompto flinches back then, the sound of his voice sending shivers down his spine. Ardyn smiles then, stepping to the side to allow more room, patiently. “I see no point of me being here – waste of my time. Why am I here?”

“My dear friend,” Ardyn says then, turning to look at him. “Do you remember the child you produced with…that woman?” Ardyn sneers the last word, and Prompto’s hand clench at his sides, ripping through the skin of his palm.

Verstael scoffs, frowning. “You mean the one that foolish woman absconded with? What about it?”

It takes Prompto all of fifteen seconds before he gets it and holy fucking shit, Ardyn knows. He knows everything from the look on his face. Why else would he bring Verstael here? How the fuck did he find out? No, no he’s going to spill it out in front of everyone, in front of Noct, and everything will just go to shit because Prompto has been too much of a fucking coward to just say something –

“I thought you’d like to see the fine young man he’s become these twenty odd years later,” Ardyn bellows out, loud enough for the entire party to hear it, and Prompto panics as Ardyn comes closer to him. Ignis and Gladio step forward then, blocking Ardyn from getting to Prompto, and Noct’s hand shoots out and grabs his hand again.

Ardyn pauses, eyebrows raised as he looks at the two men in front of him, before pouting. “Gentlemen, would you be as so kind to please move? You’re ruining a very touching family reunion.”

“I think you’re done here,” Regis announces then, and Prompto peeks from behind Ignis to see Regis motioning something, and suddenly security swarms in, circling around them. Ardyn’s face falters for a second, before he takes a step back, reaching out his hand to place it on the small of Verstael’s back and leads him forward.

“As thanks for your information, my friend, I’ve brought you to the boy – your heir!”

Silence. You could hear a pin drop, it was so quiet. Prompto wishes for the ground to swallow him up, swallow him whole, because it’s all crashing down around him now, and he regrets everything. He’s dreading to see the look on Noct’s face, doesn’t even want to look, instead opting to stare at the ground near his feet.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Noct suddenly shouts, and Prompto jumps in surprise. Noct has pushed his way in between Gladio and Ignis, Prompto trailing along behind him where they are still connected by their hands. Prompto can see everyone staring at him, and he tries to tug his hand away but Noct’s got a firm grip on him.

Ardyn smiles, eyes meeting Prompto’s. “Any questions for daddy dearest, Prompto?”

“Daddy?” Noct asks in disbelief, and when he turns to look at Prompto, Prompto can’t make his brain form any words, he can’t speak, and it’s the worst fucking thing to happen to him right now, because he’s lost his chance, and now everything is fucking ruined.

“Father and son! Oh, how I love bringing families together.” Ardyn sighs out, and Noct is still looking at Prompto, face in complete disbelief and confusion, before he grits his teeth and almost growls out loud – Prompto’s fingers are basically in a death grip.

Enough of this bullshit,” Noct snarls, blue eyes wide and flaming, and Ardyn glances at him, chuckling.

“Oh Noctis, haven’t you the faintest idea of who he is?” Ardyn asks, gesturing at Prompto. Noct looks over at him, before shaking his head and turning back.

“I’m not listening to another word you say, you’re wrong about everything.”

Ardyn opens his mouth to say something back, but all Prompto can hear is static. Like his brain has switched off. All he can see is the side of Noct’s face, his cheeks rosy with anger, his jaw set tight, the tendons in his pale neck jutting out – Noct’s angry. He’s furious, and when Noct glances at him, even for just a split second, his eyes are full of so much hurt and disbelief that Prompto literally feels it throb in his chest.

So maybe Prompto’s fucked everything up. Maybe there’s no going back from this now, and the stupid choice he made to not tell Noct before, to not tell him right when he knew about it has to be the most stupidest thing he’s ever done – and he’s done a lot of stupid shit.

But this, this is destroying him, and he can see Noct’s lips moving, but he can’t hear a single thing. Maybe he’s ruined his chances of ever telling Noct how he feels, ruined his chances of ever being really and truly happy.

If he’s going to ruin everything, the least he can do for Noct is to at least let the words fall from his own lips.

“Stop!” Prompto shouts, loud, and he coughs a little, his voice dry and thick as he does so. Slowly, he looks around the room at everyone staring at him…Regis, Ignis, Gladio, the entire fucking crowd of people, Ardyn, Verstael…Noct, whose eyes have dulled so much that they almost look gray. His face looks pleading somehow, as if he’s saying, ‘please don’t let it be true’.

Slowly, he lets his fingers untangle from Noct’s – his hand falls easily to his side.

“Noct,” he begins, his throat dry and his tongue too big for his mouth. “I’m so sorry.”

Noct blinks. "What?"

“I...my parents…they were killed in that accident…but they weren’t my parents, at least my dad wasn’t. My mom, she didn't know that he lied about - ” Prompto swallows, and he’s gesturing to Verstael, who is listening just as intently. But Prompto’s focused solely on Noct, whose expression hasn’t changed. “He’s my…real dad, and he- “

“Are you fucking with me right now?”

“N-no, listen-”

“Are you telling me that he’s your father?” Noct hisses out, and Prompto feels his his chest staring to literally break into pieces from the expression on Noct’s face. “You do realize that means…?”

“Yeah,” Prompto nods. “I’m the heir to the Empire.”

Suddenly, Verstael takes a step forward towards the two of them, until his trembling hand squeezes Prompto’s shoulders tightly. Prompto flinches away, but the grip on his shoulder is firm, and he’s yanked towards him. Verstael’s eyes seem to be glowing as they rake over Prompto’s face, before he smiles, ugly and evil.

“You are him,” Verstael says, starting to shake Prompto’s shoulder with enough force that he almost throttles him. “You look just like her – oh, but everything is working out after all.

“Prompto…” Noct says then, his voice quiet and distant, and Prompto turns to see Noct staring at the two of them, pain etched all over his face. His eyes starting to glisten, eyebrows furrowed together on his forehead. “You…?”

Prompto shoves Verstael away, not caring when the man stumbles back a few feet, and hurriedly grabs at Noct’s hands, holding them to his chest. “Noct, I swear, I wanted to tell you, but I just didn’t know how.”

Noct narrows his eyes at him, and a tear slides down his pale cheek, dripping off of his chin. “So it’s true, then? You’re from Nifilheim? You're the heir?”

Prompto swallows. “I am, but I-”

“You were lying to me, for all this time?” Noct's voice isn’t angry, or outraged – it’s broken, soft. He moves to pry his hands away, but Prompto doesn’t relent, holding them tighter. Noct’s breathing wobbles for a second. “You lied to me?”

Prompto feels a lone tear of his own start to escape down his cheek, and he rubs it against his shoulder, not caring about the smudge of foundation that rubs off on his suit jacket. “I had to protect you from me. I didn’t want it to be this way!”

“Protect me?” Noct scoffs. “How is lying to me about something like this protecting me from you?”

“Because I’m not good for you!”

“Why should it be up to you to decide what’s good for me?!”

Noct yanks his hands away, stepping back. He looks down, letting his hair hide is face. “To think I even...” He trails off quietly, and Prompto feels the nausea gurgle in his stomach anxiously.

Prompto takes off running, pushing past the crowd and leaving Noct and everyone else to stare after him.


Prompto has no idea how he even gets to Noct’s apartment – maybe he ran, maybe he took a cab or something, whatever. All he knows is that he’s unlocking the door and rushing in, not even bothering to take off his shoes. He races down the hall, barreling into his room to retrieve the duffel bag he’d stashed underneath bed.

He’s sniffling, trembling as he opens drawers and tosses his clothes in, not really caring if they’ll fit. He grabs all his stuff from the bathroom, shoving it into his duffel as well, before he shoves it all down, zipping it up quickly. He double checks everything fast – not that it really matters, anyway. It’s not like anyone is going to come after him after all that shit he pulled.

He’s about to leave the room, before he pauses, looking over his shoulder. Nocobo, that black stuffed chocobo plushie is sitting on his bed, staring at him with a raised eyebrow and a small smirk. Prompto heaves out a sob, before heading back down the hall towards the kitchen. He digs in a drawer, finding a pen and small index card, before scribbling something down and racing back down the hall.

He shoves the note underneath Nocobo’s wing – the words I’m Sorry seem so illegible and smudged, but he has to go, now.

He’s hiking his duffel over his shoulder when the door opens, and there’s Noct, standing in front of him. His suit is wrinkled and windblown (did he run here?), and his pale face is flushed as he pants for breath.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Noct breathes out as he catches his breath, and Prompto takes in a shaky inhale, teeth starting to chatter.

“I’m l-leaving,” Prompto says, staring at the floor. He doesn’t want to go. He had hoped to stay. 

“Do you think you can just leave without saying anything?” Noct rubs at his red, swollen eyes, his expression a mix between anger and hurt. His keys are in his hand, the fish dangling from in between his fingers. "After all of that?"

Prompto swallows. “Noct-”

“We have to talk about this.”

“I’m sorry,” Prompto mutters, hitching his duffel further over his shoulder, and he glances up, meeting Noct’s eyes. “I really did want to tell you, but I…I didn’t want-”

“You didn’t want me to find out you were from Nifilheim?” Noct interrupts, his breathing a little steadier. “Is that it?”

“No, I-”

"Did you think I wouldn't want anything to do with you?"

"..."

"Why didn't you just tell me?”

Prompto’s getting a little irritated with all these questions, with Noct pretending like he actually gives a shit about him now. All he wants to do is just leave. He doesn’t want to argue about this anymore. It’s too much.

"I never thought it would turn out like this." His voice comes out low and scratchy, like he hasn't used it in a long time. "That so much would change in this short amount of time."

"...What?"

"You weren't supposed to change."

"The hell are you talking about?" 

"You used to be such an asshole, y'know? It was easy for me, to not feel anything for you." Prompto sighs exasperatedly, rubbing through his hair messily. He can't meet Noct's eyes. "Then you just...you became a different person and I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I think about you too much, that I care about you too much. That I really like you."

Prompto opens his eyes (when had he closed them?) to see the shocked expression on Noct’s face. Prompto's shaking his head, biting at his lip.

“I don’t know what I’m feeling Noct, but I like it. I like it too much - I’m doing this for you, okay? So please, just let me go.”

But Noct doesn’t move, only able to stare as Prompto nearly chews his lip off as he waits. Eventually, Prompto just brushes past him, and when he grabs at the door, he feels fingers wrap tightly around his arm. He stops.

He wants to turn around and just, jump into Noct's arms like some crazy person and never let go - even if it does sounds incredibly dramatic, but it's still nice to think about.

Noct's staring at the ground when he peeks back to look at him, dark hair obscuring the expression on his face. Prompto looks down at his fingers wrapped around near the crook of his elbow, swallowing thickly. "I'm sorry for breaking our promise."

Noct's grip quivers.

The door clicks shut softly as Prompto pads down the hall, and heads towards the elevators.

Chapter Text

There’s an ache, deep deep in his chest. It twinges, and he can’t really pinpoint the feeling of it.

He doesn’t know how long he’s been standing here. Doesn’t know how long it’s been since Prompto left. He doesn’t know how he should be feeling – angry and hurt from the fact that Prompto lied to him about something so important…or kicking himself for not going after him.

If he were to go after Prompto and somehow get the chance to tell him that he returns his feelings, dammit, then where would they go from there?

Noct had been an asshole to him in the beginning, he'll admit that. It's probably why he doesn't have a lot of friends outside of Gladio and Ignis. He's known them since he was a kid, since his dad introduced him to Ignis, then Gladio a little later.

But that's the thing - Ignis and Gladio have to be with him. They don't have a choice, really. So it was refreshing to have a new face around that Noct knew was there because he wanted to be. He guesses he kinda liked the way Prompto helped him escape.

He doesn’t know what to do, how to feel. Should he try calling him? Leave him an angry voicemail or a text? Leave him alone for a few hours and then call, or-?

He scoffs as he turns, kicking off his designer shoes and crossing the room to sit down on his leather couch, running his hands through his hair and holding his head in his hands as his brain pounds against his skull. His fingers open his phone, swiping over Prompto’s name – it rings five times, before voicemail. Noct tries again. Same thing. The third time he calls, it just goes straight to voicemail. Noct growls, typing out message after message.

[Noct]

‘Prom, please call me back.’

‘We need to talk about this, please.’

‘Prompto.’

‘Why did you do this to me?’

He shoves his phone back into his pocket and leans back against the couch to look at the ceiling. Does Prompto think that just by leaving he’s fixed everything? Is Noct just supposed to forget about him, forget about everything, and move on?

He should move on. Prompto lied to him, from the very beginning. Were all the sideways glances, fleeting touches and hugs...was all that a lie? Were those fake tears in his eyes when he said that liked him and then left right out the front door?

This is why he didn’t want this. This shit in his chest, the fluttery feeling of hummingbird wings. They had gotten too close, and Noct had let it happen. He remembers, Prompto sitting right here on this couch, as Noct talks about why he doesn’t want anything out of this, why he didn’t want it to go from pretend to real.

He's being a hypocrite. He’s had his fair share of secrets too…but nothing as bad as being the fucking heir to the same damn company whose been trying to take over Insomnia since before he was even born. He’s the one who made Prompto promise not to fall in love with him and –

I’m not asking you to fall in love with me. Actually, I’d rather you didn’t. It would save us both the trouble.

Fuck. When did all of that become so untrue?

It was the little things that had built up to the thrumming feeling in his chest. The little things that would always take him off guard, and would keep him up at night. It had been easy to ignore at first, but then he found himself always thinking about it. About Prompto. What he was doing, what he was thinking. It's almost comical how oblivious he was about how he felt, but now - it's as clear as day. His chest feels empty yet full at the same time. 

Noct’s hands are trembling, his face feels hot, and at first he thinks it’s all the anger boiling in his veins; but with a start, he realizes that he’s crying. Tears collect in his eyes, and as he closes them a few tears trail down his face, because he’s heartbroken. And it hurts so fucking bad. 

His phone suddenly vibrates in his pocket, and he digs his hand into the pocket of his pants eagerly, only to clench his jaw in annoyance when Ignis’ name glows on the screen. He shakes his head, but he swipes to answer the call anyway.

“What?” His voice is heavy and thick with emotion, and he clears his throat, licking his dry lips. “What is it, Ignis?”

There’s a pause. “Noct, are you alright?”

Noct scoffs as he feels his eyes tear up, and his fingers brush over his lips, and that just makes it ten times worse because he can still feel Prompto’s lips against his, soft and warm and perfect. Prompto kissed him.

And it had been amazing and wonderful and everything that he ever fantasized about, but it has ruined him. He knows he'll never get rid of that feeling, and if by some miracle Noct gets over him and decides to date someone else, kiss someone else - nothing will compare.

“I’m pretty fucking far from alright, Ignis,” Noct snaps, angrily wiping a tear off his cheek because he hates crying in front of Ignis – and Ignis knows that, too.

“I’m sorry,” Ignis says quietly, before there’s an awkward silence between over the line. Noct can hear Ignis breathing unsteadily, probably looking for the right words to say, and Noct waits, because it’s just how things are between him and his advisor. Noct fucks up, and Ignis is there to tell him that everything is okay – but this time, Noct’s not sure if everything will be.

“Gladio and I will take care of everything at the event – with you leaving in such a rush, everything did become a little chaotic, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. Have you talked to Prompto?”

Noct sighs, shaking his head. “Yeah, I did.”

“And?”

“…he’s gone.”

There’s a long pause on the end of the line again, and Noct can’t handle the silence this time.

“Look, let’s just skip past the part where you tell me everything is going to be fine,” Noct stands up, walking slowly around towards the beginning of the hallway, where he pauses, swallowing thickly. “Because everything is clearly not, Ignis, I’m-”

“Noct,” Ignis interrupts softly. “Everything will be fine. You’ll be fine.”

Noct ends the call abruptly, shoving his phone into his back pocket and clenches his fist, leaning forward and connecting it with the wall. The wall doesn’t give, not even a scratch, but his knuckles are bruised as he wanders down the hall.

He can’t help it, and glances to the open room across from his. Noct walks in slowly, breathing in the faint smell of Prompto, before he sees the little chocobo plushie staring at him from atop the covers of the hurriedly made bed. He doesn’t know why, but seeing Nocobo sitting on the bed alone makes his heart clench.

The fact that Prompto had even left it here just makes everything that much worse.

Noct bites his lip, walking over and grabbing the toy, running his fingers over it’s soft texture. The black chocobo stares up at him, with a smirk on its face, and Noct almost hurls it at the wall, before noticing a folded note left behind.

Clutching Nocobo a little tighter, he picks it up to unfold it. Prompto’s handwriting, smudged and looking like it was written in a hurry – the words I’m Sorry stare at him, mocking him, and he balls it in his fist. Suddenly, his phone vibrates again, and he doesn’t even look at the screen before swiping to accept the call.

“What?” He hisses into his phone, seriously about ready to explode from just everything single fucking thing that has happened so far, before he hears a familiar voice clearing their throat.

“Noctis,” His dad says calmly. “Come see me. Right now.”


Noct doesn’t bother to change out his wrinkled, expensive suit or even style his hair so that it’s not sticking up in odd directions. He drives himself through the night, before he slams his car door shut in the empty parking garage, the sound echoing off the walls. He fumbles with the little fish key chain in his pocket as he rides the elevator, thinking of something, anything, to get his mind off of what he really doesn’t want to think about.

He knocks, before he enters his dad’s quarters, walking down that long, red carpet and standing at the second level of the staircase, staring up at his dad. His dad stares down at him from his important looking chair, that stupid chair that Noct hates so much – he’s grown up staring at the thing, everyone telling him ‘Oh Noctis, one day it’ll be you up there’, and now he just can’t stand it.

His dad sits with his legs crossed at the ankle and an unreadable expression on his face. From where Noct stands, he feels like his dad is some kind of king or something sending him off to do God knows what. He shuffles his feet a little, not meeting his dad’s eyes.There’s a silence for a few seconds, before his dad breaks it.

“Noctis,” His dad begins, and Noct closes his eyes, because he knows what’s coming. He knows that barrage of questions that are going to be aimed at him, and for fucks sake he does not have the energy nor the patience to answer any of them.

“Dad,” Noct says quickly before his dad can get to interrogating him, opening his eyes tiredly. “I know what you’re going to say, alright? I know I fucked up.”

His dad pauses, before sighing. “Noctis…you didn’t fuck up, per se.”

If it were a normal day, then Noct would probably joke about his dad’s swearing and make him drop a few coins in the swear jar, but right now he’s a little confused. How in the world did he not fuck everything up?

“I’ll admit, what you did was not the wisest of choices. You didn’t tell me about your plan, you didn’t end it when you knew you were supposed to, and now you’re heartbroken. Isn’t that right?”

Noct’s heart skips a beat, and he blushes furiously, glancing away. His hands are deep inside his pockets, fingers toying with the little fish keychain as his eyes sweep nervously across the room. Noct laughs a little, still not meeting his dad’s eyes.

“Sure sounds like I fucked everything up, Dad.” He can feel emotion boiling in the pit of his stomach. Standing here, in front of his dad no less, is making him feel tiny and insignificant, like the world’s biggest fucking idiot. He’s not sure whether he wants to cry or scream, because everything is just so messed up.

“I know you’re hurting.” His dad's voice is gentle, but if anything it just makes Noct's shoulders tense even more so. “I’m sorry for what happened tonight. But if you’d just done the right thing in the first place, then-”

“What the hell else was I supposed to do?” Noct interrupts, his hands starting to tremble in his pockets as he meets his dad’s eyes. “I couldn’t marry Luna – and I still can’t, because the Empire will move in, what don’t you understand about that?”

He knows he’s pushing it, with all these words coming out of his mouth like bullets, ricocheting off the walls and hitting his dad right in his face. He knows that he shouldn’t be talking to his dad like this, but it’s so hard to keep his composure. His dad doesn’t seem bothered by it though, only giving him a pitying look as he sighs, rubbing at the skin between his eyebrows. Noct bites his lip as the guilt surges through him at that – his dad’s health hasn’t been getting any better, and with the shit Noct’s been pulling, he’s only making his dad worse.

“I understand completely.” His dad replies, voice still gentle. “I know you were only trying to do the right thing, but if you’d only listened to me about -”

“You didn’t tell me to end it,” Noct interrupts again, but softly, and his dad pauses. “you didn’t tell me it would end like this.”

“Maybe if you two could just talk about this, then.”

“He left me,” Noct almost cries out, but he chokes it back, trying not to be dramatic. “He won’t answer any of my calls, my texts, anything. Dad, why didn’t he just tell me? Why didn’t you just tell me to end it if it was going to be this way?”

His dad swallows heavily, his hazel eyes starting to turn a little red from his own emotion. “I’m sorry. I didn’t tell you outright, because I was trying to let you make your own adult decision. You're always telling me how 'grown up' and adult you are – and now look what’s happened. While I will admit that Prompto keeping his origins a secret from you for so long wasn't his best choice, he’s just as heartbroken as you are, isn’t he?”

Noct stiffens, the last few words echoing through his head. He can feel his face crumple in disbelief as he stares up at his dad. “You knew? You knew about Prompto and I didn’t?”

His dad hesitates, before nodding slowly, and Noct laughs out loud, the sound echoing off the walls as he runs both hands through his hair, shuffling his feet. He turns back to his dad, eyebrows drawn together in hurt.

“You knew, and you didn’t tell me?”

“Prompto’s business is his own-”

“-and you’re calling me a liar?”

His dad’s jaw clenches then, as his hazel eyes flash. Noct immediately snaps his mouth closed, gritting his teeth, as the atmosphere of the room turns tense.

“You remember who you’re talking to,” His dad says lowly, and it takes everything Noct has not to roll his eyes in annoyance. “It wasn’t my place to tell you. I didn’t think I’d have to tell you, once you made the ‘adult decision’ to end whatever it was the two of you thought you were doing. But you didn’t, and now look at you – hurt, angry, withdrawn. You’re just like you were when you were a child.”

Noct cringes at that, remembering flashes of that night – the rain, the sound of tires squealing…the dream, following some weird looking blue fox through his dream land and climbing into his dad’s car, only to wake up with him at his bedside. He’d woken up, and he didn’t feel the same. Things that he enjoyed didn’t interest him anymore, he suddenly didn’t trust anyone who wasn’t his dad or Ignis, and honestly, that pain of all that is coming at a close second to the pain he’s going through right now. But just like back then, and just like right now, it’s all his fault, isn’t it?

“It’s not all of your fault.” His dad says suddenly, probably reading Noct’s thoughts as Noct feels his eyes start to water, and he rubs at them angrily. “You’re young, my son. And when you’re young, love can be a powerful thing. Can make you do things. I know it may not seem like it right now, but everything will work out – for the both of you.”

Noct tries not to let that four letter word sear itself into his brain. “How?”

“Give it time. I’m sure it will all work out in the end.”

Noct’s not entirely sure that he believes that, and he tightens his grip on the key chain in his pocket. He’s staring at the floor, at the carpet below his feet, and there’s pang in his chest. It hasn't even been that long since they've been apart. A few hours, maybe. Who knows. 

What he does know, is that he misses the sound of Prompto’s voice, the way his freckles disappear on his cheeks when he gets flustered, or the way he’d smile at him when they ate together, his chocobo hair - 

The way that he’d kissed him. For fuck's sake, why had Prompto gone and done that when he knew-?

Prompto was never really his. He was never really Prompto’s. But if they don’t fix this, if things don’t turn out right like Ignis and his dad say, Noct will never get over him. He needs the closure, and he guesses that Prompto needs the same.

“Noctis?” His dad’s voice suddenly pipes up, all soft and cautious, and Noct looks up, blinking back the tears and scrubbing at his cheeks, sniffling. His dad still has the pitying look on his face, and somehow, he looks even more sad than he did before. “I didn’t call you here just for this.”

Noct sniffs, rubbing his eyes with his fists, before blinking blearily. “What?”

His dad’s expression falters even more, before his eyes glance downcast toward his lap, where he rubs at the ring on his finger. When he glances back up, his hazel eyes are unfocused.

“We’re moving.”

Noct blinks, boggled. “You...you mean the expansion, right? I was supposed to - with the locations, I know I haven’t been...” Flashes of the sitting underneath the stars on a hammock, a warm weight in the crook of his neck - it’s all blurring in his mind and making it hard to think.

His dad’s voice is soft. “No, not the expansion. As of tonight, that’s been nullified.”

Noct feels his blood run cold. “What does that mean?”

“It’s been decided that instead of expanding, this building will be demolished. Insomnia is moving to a different location.”

”Where?” The word comes out half strangled, and his dad hesitates, as if he doesn’t want to say it.

”Somewhere where Insomnia can thrive without the constant threats hanging over it.” A pause. “Across the country, son.”

Noct doesn’t even give a shit anymore.

Chapter Text

His phone lights up again, the second time that evening as it lays on the coffee table near his feet. Prompto stares at it, at Noct’s name lighting up the screen, before he lunges forward to snatch it up from the table and power it off. His phone skids across the wooden table as he tosses it carelessly, shifting to tuck his feet under himself and nurse the warm mug in his hands.

From across the room, Cor gives him a look, and Prompto swallows roughly.

He’d had no where else to go. He didn’t have enough to spend the night in a motel or anything – but somehow, he’d ended up here, in front of his uncle’s house, still dressed in the ridiculously expensive suit and tie that was pretty much ruined and drenched with smears of makeup, rain, sweat and probably tears. He’d probably looked like an outright fucking mess when Cor has opened up the door, looking shocked to see him standing there, clothing stuck to him in some places.

Cor seemed to know, or at least get the idea, what had happened, if the dried tears on Prompto’s face were any indication. But he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he pulls Prompto inside, sits him on the couch, and makes him a cup of his favorite hot chocolate. Cor had even had an extra pair of one of Prompto’s old tattered sweats, and he’d changed into them along with a baggy sweatshirt from Cor’s closet. The suit, probably ruined beyond repair, hangs in the laundry room to dry, damp from the scattering of the rain outside.

Believe it or not, this is the absolute last place he wants to be right now. Okay, scratch that – the second to last place he really wants to be. He’s come full circle, if he really thinks about it, and he’s really pissed at himself, because he’s right back where he started, sitting here on this fucking couch.

Prompto feels ashamed, as he looks down at the steaming hot liquid in the mug in his hands, as he glances up to see his uncle sit down heavily in his chair with a soft grunt, rubbing at his aching knees. Prompto feels his nose start to burn, and he rubs his fist across it harshly, because probably for the thousandth time this month, he wishes that things were different.

The silence between him and his uncle doesn’t last forever – on one hand, Prompto is grateful for it to finally be over, the elephant in the room. There’s so much pressure in his chest that’s making it hard to breathe, and just the idea of letting it all out sounds really nice. But on the other hand, he’s not sure if he can listen to himself speak.

“Listen, son,” Cor begins, his voice hesitant and cautious, and Prompto tightens his hands around the steaming mug in his hands. “I don’t know what you’re going through right now or how you’re feeling – and I’m not going to pretend that I do.”

Cor hesitates, seemingly trying to find more words to say. Prompto doesn’t say anything, staring at the hot liquid in his cup, the liquid forming bigger and bigger ripples the harder his hands tremble.

“And you’re probably not going to believe this, but it’s all going to be okay.” Cor lets out gust of air through his nose, blue eyes narrowing a little as Prompto glances up at him from underneath his eyelashes, just in time to see a little smile curl onto his uncle’s lips. Cor looks up then, meeting his eyes, a pitiful look on his face. “The thing is though – it’s more of a reminder for me than it is for you.”

Prompto blinks. He sets the mug down on the coffee table near his feet, before shifting around to tuck his legs underneath himself, tugging the blanket from off of the couch and draping it across his lap. Cor stands then, stretching a little as he wanders over, siting beside Prompto and scooching under the blanket, their knees bumping as he tucks his own legs underneath himself and the blanket.

Prompto’s staring down at his hands clasped tightly in his lap, clenching his jaw in order to ward off the unshed tears that threaten to escape, because they don’t do this. They don’t sit close to one another, they don’t share blankets, and they sure as hell don’t really comfort each other. Even after that short time in the hospital they spent together, things hadn’t really changed. Sure, Prompto called a lot more, but that’s it.

Maybe that’s why he really wants the feeling of warmth radiating off of his uncle to feel good, but it only makes him feel worse. His uncle is sitting here, comforting him about something that he has no idea about, and it just makes Prompto feel worse.

Cor’s hand settles gently on his shoulder, and Prompto tenses. “It really hurts me to see you like this. Heartbroken.” Prompto swallows, trying to think of something to say, but his uncle squeezes his shoulder reassuringly. “But…every word has consequences. Every silence. Every lie.”

Prompto looks up and turns his head, and Cor’s eyes are calm, understanding. Prompto can feel his heart pounding against his ribs, the blood rushing through his ears, and his eyes tear up so fast that there’s an intense pressure behind his eyes as he blinks quickly, dislodging a few as they trickle down his cheeks. Slowly but surely, he understands – his uncle knows.

He’s expecting some warm rush of emotion to flow through him – maybe guilt, sorrow, regret. But there’s nothing, and it’s honestly a little scary. That he’s so numb, that his chest feels so empty like there’s a piece of him missing, because all of a sudden it doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.

“Uncle Cor," His voice is harsh and raspy, the inside of his mouth feeling like a desert in the middle of the summer. “I’m sorry-”

“I know,” Cor interrupts softly, blue eyes still calm. “I know.”

“You’re not mad?” Prompto manages to ask him, wiping away the dried tears on his face with the sleeves of his sweater. Cor sighs then, moving his hand from Prompto’s shoulder to the back of his neck, fingers gently rubbing at the soft blonde hairs that curl at the nape of his neck.

“At first I was,” Cor replies, gazing at the framed photos that line the mantelpiece of the fireplace. “I was really upset – that you lied to me. Then I saw something.”

Prompto waits nervously, chewing at his lower lip, giving his uncle a sideways glance. He wonders fleetingly how the hell Cor managed to figure it out, but he’s too tired to think about all the ways that they gave themselves away. Not that it really mattered now, anyway. Cor has then wistful expression on his face then, and small of hint of smile graces his lips.

“It was Noctis, actually. The look on his face. At the café that day, he looked unsure, hesitant around you. I noticed the way you two acted around the other, as if you were uncomfortable.” Cor says, and Prompto lowers his eyes to the floor, remembering that day. How he’d yelled at his uncle in front of all those people, then had went and gotten sick from dramatically running out into the rain, and Noct had to take care -

There’s a throb, right in the middle of his chest, and he shuts his eyes tightly, willing it to go away.

“At the hospital,” Cor continues, not noticing Prompto’s shudder; or if he does, he doesn’t acknowledge it. “You two were completely different. I don't know if it was just me, but whenever you moved, or even shifted, he copied you. You did the same. It was almost like magnets, and it was such a drastic change from before, that I chose not to say anything. I was…kinda hoping that what you chose to do would actually work out.”

Prompto inhales shakily, his chest starting to vibrate as he shakes his head, pathetically. He has no idea what expression is on his face as he meets his uncle’s eyes again, before looking away.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Prompto chokes out, leaning forward and resting his forehead in the palms of his hands, and Cor’s hand moves down to his back, rubbing in soothing circles. The motion causes more unshed tears to form in his eyes, and they drip onto the blanket on his lap.

Cor’s silent for minute, before he sighs softly. “…I realize that. With what you’ve learned about your past and everything, it’s not like you and Noctis even have a chance.”

Prompto closes his eyes – even though he’s been telling himself the same thing ever since he learned about who he really is, it’s ten times worse to hear someone else say it. Hearing someone else say it makes it ten times more real, too. He’ll deny it to anyone who asks, but there’d been that tiny sliver of hope still left in his chest that somehow, things could be different.

“It’s not fair,” Prompto turns his head in his hands, cradling the side of his head in his palms as he blinks up at Cor. “That things are this way. I mean, I know it’s mostly my fault. I lied. I had more than enough chances to come clean, and I didn’t. I knew what I was feeling all along, and I was stupid enough to let it grow into something I can no longer control. And now everything is fucked up, I’m fucked up and – he’s not even mine. And I don’t think he ever will be.”

Prompto takes a shuddering breath, blinking quickly as he sits up now, all the blood rushing through his ears. “I’ve been trying to tell myself that maybe it’s a good thing. Because things are never the way I imagine them, and I’m tired of hoping that they will be.”

He doesn't want to sound dramatic or too whiny, but he's letting all of it out and it's not his fault it sounds like a teenage girl. He has the excuse this time. He stands up, letting the blanket fall to the floor as he steadies himself on his wobbly legs. His head is starting to throb, and he winces a little as he takes a few steps, before turning back. Prompto has never seen the look on his uncle’s face that he sees right now – sad, angry and devastated all at once.

Prompto blinks, reaching up to rub at the back of his neck nervously. “Um. Is…my room still here?”

Cor doesn’t answer him for a second, before he blinks back to reality, nodding. Prompto tries to give him a small smile to show that he’s okay, but it feels foreign on his face and he’s pretty sure that it just comes off as if he’s about to cry.

His room is almost exactly the way he left it – the twin bed in the corner covered with a blue comforter and his matching blue sheer curtains that adorn the little window near his dresser and nightstand. In the place of his old desk though, are a couple of swords hanging on the walls. Prompto chuckles a little, because his uncle had always talked about having a room where he can properly show off his swords that he’s trained with and collected over the years.

Prompto closes the curtains, closes the blinds, until the room is almost pitch black. He crawls into the bed, the familiar firmness of it giving him a little comfort. He lies there for a while, his cheek on his pillow that still smells faintly of that blue raspberry shampoo he used to use that was really fancy, and stopped using once he just started smelling like a teenage girl.

He glances at the digital clock on his nightstand – it’s nine thirty at night. Huh. It feels like this day has literally dragged on forever.

A flashing red light grabs his attention, and climbs out from the cocoon of blankets to grab his camera. Turning it on, he gets a little warning that his memory is full. He decides to delete some photos, at least until he gets around to buying another memory card.

The first couple of photos are nothing special. A few of the sky, one of a dog in a park with its owner, one of a delicious looking cinnamon roll.

Then, he gets to the one of the skyline. The skyline that had looked so beautiful with the setting sun, all swirls of pink and orange in the sky – right outside of Noct’s balcony.

“This is beautiful, Prom. I had no idea that something like this was right beside me.”

Prompto swallows hard, clicking to the next picture quickly.

It’s a picture of a lake, and for a split second, Prompto can’t remember where he was when he took it. The next one is a little closer, with glimmers of fish swimming through the water, their scales reflecting from the sunlight. He clicks to the next one, and this time, there’s a little fishing dock the hangs over the water, and Prompto can feel his heart picking up speed in his chest. Then there’s Noct, sitting on the edge of the dock, feet hanging over the side as he grips the fishing rod tight in his hand, staring out into the water.

He could just shut the camera off. He should do it. It would make things a lot easier for him.

Prompto hesitates, before giving Noct’s hand a squeeze. “Well, we can be friends now. Is that cool?”

Noct looks at him from the corner of his eye, before sitting up straight with a sigh and a grin. “Yeah. It’s cool.”

He can’t help it, though. He’s flipping through more and more of them – and he stops abruptly, at a shot of the city in the nighttime. The city is lit up like a Christmas tree, all pretty and twinkling as the water seems to glisten from the reflection of the moon. Another shot, and this one is zoomed in a little, so that Prompto can see the bridge sitting in front of the city.

Another shot, this time of the night sky, with all the stars shining brilliantly. Prompto’s breath hitches as he gets to a slight out of focus and crooked shot of the moon – which is so bright that it’s casting a glow onto Prompto’s face, that no doubt has streaks of tears across it.

Slowly, he clicks to the next one, and he stares at it, for an immeasurable period of time. His eyes flick over his own face first. At the freckles, at the messiness of his hair splayed behind him, at the way his blue eyes crinkle in a way that he hates. Then, his eyes dart to Noct. Noct’s grinning in this photo, a full on grin, and his azure eyes are bright, yet soft.

The next photo, Prompto doesn’t even bother to give himself a once over. Noct’s looking at him in this photo, his eyes seemingly boring a hole into the side of his face, while Prompto gives the camera one of those cheesy smiles. Noct’s expression is so serene and focused, that Prompto wonders how the hell he’d missed it before.

Noct’s lips are grazing his cheek then, his eyes fluttered closed.

Noct leans his head against his, and a very quiet sigh escapes him. Prompto peeks at him from the corner of his eye. 

"Can we stay like this for a second?"

There's a confession on the tip of Prompto's tongue. It's so close, threatening to spill out his mouth and out into the open. 

"...Sure."

This is what he really likes about photos. They’re proof that once, even for a heartbeat, everything was different. Prompto finally shuts the camera off, shoving it in the space between his bed and wall before curling up into a ball and hugging his knees.

There’s an empty feeling in his chest. He can feel it in his bones. His clenched fist flexes, and his fingers brush against his lips, and he can still feel Noct’s lips against his, warm and soft and amazing. Distantly, he wonders what Noct is doing. If he’s trying to fix the mess that Prompto’s created, or if he’s just as upset as Prompto is. Prompto scoffs - of course Noct is upset. Having been lied to for so long, it’d be an even bigger surprise if he wasn’t.

There’s a surge of something red hot that goes through him at that moment. He’s really unsure though, if it’s directed at him, or at Noct. He thinks back over everything, stupidly, over the past month. All the lies, all the pain…all the fun times he had, all the laughs that were short lived. When Noct’s face passes through his mind, there is that feeling again.

He’d never really had the idea that any of this was Noct’s fault, too. He’d been more than ready to take all responsibility for it, but then again, the thought had crossed his mind more than once. That all Noct had to do was just stay an asshole and not become the first person who has captured Prompto’s heart. So, maybe yeah. Maybe a small percentage of all of this is Noct’s fault too. Or maybe Prompto’s just losing his mind. Wouldn't be the first time, either.

There’s still that part of him though, that is desperate to know if his absence has done any damage. Well, obviously it has – but for Noct, personally. That possibly, he’s experiencing the same restless thoughts due to thought of him. That his heart is broken, in the same places as Prompto’s. Maybe Prompto just wants to know he’s not the only one hurting from this. That he actually meant something to Noct, and not just as a friend.

There’s a loud knocking on the door, and then a ring of the doorbell, from outside of his room. Prompto buries himself deeper under the covers, trying to block out whoever’s at the door from coming in and ruining what last little comfort of sleep he has.

He’s almost asleep, before there’s a knock at his own bedroom door, and he can see the slight form of his uncle poking his head into the dark room.

“Prompto?” Cor whispers. “Are you sleeping?”

Prompto considers not answering. “…No. What's wrong?”

“Someone is here to see you.”

Chapter Text

It seems just like yesterday when Ignis had let himself into Noct’s apartment on a sunny Sunday, toeing off his shoes and heading towards the kitchen, before a Noct sized lump sitting at the table stirs, and Ignis freezes.

“Noct?” Ignis’ voice is hesitant as he remains in his spot in the middle of the floor, near the kitchen counter, and Noct turns his head, one blue eye peeking out from the mess of black hair. Ignis frowns, immediately rushing forward to brush back Noct’s hoodie from his head and rub an ungloved hand across his forehead. Noct is never awake this early – perhaps he’s feeling sick? Noct grumbles, shoving his hand away weakly.

“What’s wrong?”

Noct doesn’t reply for a moment, tucking his hands back underneath his chin, before finally looking up at Ignis.

“I have to marry Luna.”

Ignis pauses, his own eyes growing a little wide, before blinking quickly and clearing his throat. “Ah. Well, you two have known each other since you were children. I’m sure Lunafreya will make a lovely bride.”

“I don’t want to marry her.”

Ignis furrows his eyebrows. “For what reason?”

“Not because I don’t like her or anything…I don’t want to be a part of that stupid deal.”

Ignis takes a deep inhale, before sitting down at the table beside him, Noct scooching over a little to make room. They sit in silence a while – Noct busy picking at the string of fabric that has gotten loose from his sweater and Ignis trying not to be distracted by it.

The deal…the deal between the Empire and Insomnia that the third heir down the line would have to marry to ensure the futures of the companies. It’s rather odd, if Ignis is being honest with himself – that the third son would have to marry. Almost as if whomever created the deal knew that Noct would have to go through this. It’s eerie, it’s unusual, and Ignis doesn’t like it one bit.

“I mean, it’s obviously a trick for the Empire to gain control of Insomnia,” Noct says quietly, and Ignis nods absently, still thinking to himself. “I don’t want to be used like this.”

Ignis doesn’t reply, still lost in his own head as his mind whirls. The deal was made a long time ago, between the Empire and Noct’s grandfather – at the time, it seemed like a good idea. Noct’s grandfather obviously had no other choice if he wanted to ensure the future of his company…

“I’ve talked to my dad about it, and he said there isn’t anything we could do,” Noct keeps talking, and Ignis just keeps nodding, mostly to himself, still not entirely listening. “…but I’ve been thinking…”

…Who was the one who introduced the deal in the first place? There are some ancient history textbooks and files from back then, but there’s only been the vague, publicized versions that he’s been able to get his hands on. Perhaps there’s something that he’s missing, something that could possibly…? A loophole, maybe?

“…a pretend marriage. I could totally get some random stranger to pretend with me, while I figure all of this out. Bide my time, maybe. Not a bad idea, right Specs?”

Ignis nods again, before his mind clears and he blinks. “Come again?”

Noct rolls his eyes, but he’s sitting up, stretching his arms above his head. “Don’t worry about it. I have an idea.”

“Noct, wait,” Ignis pleads as Noct stands up, already halfway across the room before Ignis’s hand on his shoulder stops him. “Please, don’t do anything rash-”

“I know what I’m doing, alright?”

Maybe Ignis should have argued more about it. Maybe he should have come up with a different plan, talked to Mr. Caelum about it, before Noct took it upon himself to drive out his plan.

Ignis and Gladio were there at the beach when Noct spotted him – slim, skinny legs, covered with freckles and windblown swept blonde hair. An easy target. Noct had smirked at Ignis then, rolling the ball between his hands before he held his arm back and pitched it forward.

Ignis could see the lovestruck look on the blonde's face when Noct went over to ‘apologize’ for hitting him with the ball. He could see the blonde's expression shift, probably a response to something Noct says, before his cyan blue eyes had narrowed and he spat something right back, Noct going rigid for a moment.

After the blonde had jogged away, Noct returns, albeit a little flushed, with a nod.

Ignis barely has time to think before Noct’s sprinting away from he and Gladio, towards the ocean after the crowd all but shouts and yells in horror as a small body crashes into the waves, not coming up. When Noct tugs the body out of the water, it’s the same young man from before.

He’s pale and unmoving, and Noct works quickly, pounding his fist against the man’s back as he turns him on his side. The young man inhales sharply, hacking up seawater and coughing roughly. The crowd cheers as Ignis and Gladio stand by, out of view.

Ignis watches the conversation between the two of them from a secluded cave, eavesdropping as their voices echo into his ears. Thus, it had begun.

Prompto was nervous, uncomfortable at first, but lively and bright. Noct was smug, arrogant, but uncertain when it came down to it all. Both of them hid behind a wall, a mask, and as the weeks passed, Ignis couldn’t help but notice both of them start to break through.

The change was subtle, for Noct. In the beginning, it was the way he walked, with a bounce in his step as if he actually looked forward to where he was headed. Then, it showed in his face – the gentle smile on his lips, the soft, wistful look in his eyes. He became the bright little boy he used to be, and Ignis had never thought it would come to this.

“Ignis,” Noct had said to him one morning, leaning his chin on his hand as he stared out the open window, gazing at the sun resting behind the puffy white clouds. “I think I’m high.”

Ignis looks up from his notes, an eyebrow raised. “Pardon?”

“I feel funny.”

“Are you feeling ill?”

“No,” Noct shakes his head, still staring out the window wistfully. “I feel like I’m out of my mind.”

At first, Ignis had just assumed it was from the lack of sleep, the stress of the company on his shoulders, or from the fact that Noct doesn’t eat enough vegetables. He’d had no idea at the time that Noct was right, he was high – on love.

The change was rather abrupt, for Prompto, in the beginning. One week he’s restless, maybe even exasperated, about the entire thing. The next, he’s comfortable, content and looking like he’s right at home.

Prompto’s forced chipper attitude is initially what causes Ignis’s suspicion. The forced smiles, the forced laughs, it all seems fake. At least, it does when Ignis is near him. But when Prompto’s attitude changes suddenly from forced to outright natural, it does take Ignis by surprise. It makes an uneasy feeling coil tightly in his gut, but when he sees the smile that Noct gives him, he pushes it back in favor of seeing more of their smiles.

Seeing both of them change from just being together makes Ignis think that perhaps, this really is the best option for the both of them?

He can’t help it, and Noct would probably make a face at him if he knew, but Ignis ‘ships’ them. It’s an odd term, but quite comical, nevertheless, and Gladio agrees with him.

Then suddenly, he can’t help but feel that Prompto knows more than he’s letting on. It’s obvious that the two of them feel something for the other, but Prompto in particular is holding back.

Then he finds out – and what does he do?

“What you’re doing for him, is very noble of you. Caring, brave – not at all like the Empire. Thank you for caring about Noct enough to do this for him. I’m sorry, that things can’t be different.”

Nothing.

Ignis watches Prompto grab Noct’s hands in his own, holding them against his chest as his blue eyes brim with unshed tears.

“Noct, I swear, I wanted to tell you, but I just didn’t know how.”

“You were lying to me, for all this time?...You lied to me?”

Ignis doesn’t have to see the look on Noct’s face to know that Noct is hurt – the sound of his voice, broken and soft, is enough.

When Prompto all but sprints away, Noct watches him leave. And when Ignis brushes a hand against his shoulder in comfort, Noct tenses and turns, pushes his hand away. Noct’s eyes are dilated, a thin ring of blue gazing at him, before he’s gone, too.

“Look, let’s just skip past the part where you tell me everything is going to be fine,” Noct’s voice is scratchy and rough as he speaks over the phone. “Because everything is clearly not, Ignis, I’m-”

“Noct,” Ignis interrupts, and he keeps his voice soft, comforting. “Everything will be fine. You’ll be fine.”

Noct hangs up on him. 


He aims to get Prompto’s home address from one of the many background checks that Mr. Caelum had ordered for him, sneaking quietly through the dark halls of the building. The building is extra quiet tonight, having closed early for the event. With the event ending so suddenly, there’s barely anyone here, now. It’s the perfect time to go snooping, and Ignis is as quiet as a mouse as he slips unseen into the main hall.

Ignis is kneeling, low on the ground as he carefully maneuverers his way through one of the many filing cabinets that adorn the grand room of Mr. Caelum, peeling back file after file and coming up with nothing. He’s becoming increasingly frustrated, images of the event and what had transpired flashing in his mind – the look on Prompto’s face, the broken sound of Noct’s voice – he needs to fix it.

“Who’s there?” Ignis freezes, slowly closing the cabinet and crouching lower in the dark. Hobbled footsteps start his way, and Ignis almost panics, before he realizes that it’s just Mr. Caelum.  “Ignis?

Ignis sighs, standing up carefully and dusting off his slacks, before bowing his head slightly in a polite manner. “Hello, sir. Forgive me for snooping – I was merely…looking for something important, to help with the situation.”

Mr. Caelum stares at him for a moment, before his face relaxes and he sighs as well, nodding slowly. “I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise, should it? After what happened tonight.”

Ignis hesitates, before swallowing thickly. “I suppose it shouldn’t, sir.”

“You can skip the formalities tonight.” Mr. Caelum shuffles up a few stairs to settle into his chair, leaning his cane against the armrest and folding his hands in his lap. “We’ve other things to worry about.”

There’s a silence between them then, just for a moment, Ignis not really sure what he’s supposed to say or do in this moment – caught snooping in the boss’s office late at night when the building is supposed to be closed and a huge scandal has just happened probably not even three hours prior on the rooftop.

“Have you talked to my son?”

Ignis looks up quickly, nodding his head. “Yes. Although, I didn’t get the chance to speak with him properly – he hung up on me.”

Mr. Caelum chuckles. “Expectedly.”

“Have you spoken with him, sir?” Ignis asks, his habit of being polite ignoring Mr. Caelum’s earlier words.

“Yes, I did. He was rather upset. Wasn’t himself.”

Ignis keeps his face neutral, his heart pounding against his ribs.

“It hurt me deeply,” Mr. Caelum continues. “to see that look on my son’s face. Heartbroken. Empty. It reminded me of when he woke up from the accident.”

Ignis clenches his jaw, breathing out deeply through his nose, looking away onto the spotless floor under his feet, bowing his head. “Please, forgive me, sir.”

There’s a pause. “Forgive you? What on earth for?”

“It is but my fault for all of this,” Ignis replies, chin still towards his chest. “You left me the responsibility of caring for Noct, protecting him, and I’ve let the both of you down – including Prompto.”

“Ignis…”

“I’m ashamed of myself sir, ashamed of my reluctance to -”

“Ignis,” Mr. Caelum interrupts, his voice firm, and Ignis stops immediately, lifting his head. “Don’t blame yourself for my son’s mistakes. Yes, I left the looking after of my son to you while I attended to things – but you can’t control him. What Noctis decides to do with his life is his own choice, and the same goes for Prompto. The best you can do is offer advice, and hope that they both have enough sense to listen. And you’ve done that incredibly well.”

Ignis blinks, looking away for a second. “I…don’t believe that I have.”

“How so?”

“I knew about Noct’s plan from the beginning.” Ignis begins, feeling guilty and ashamed as Mr. Caelum stares at him, urging him to continue.  “Yet, I didn’t do enough to stop it, I didn’t try hard enough to convince him that it wasn’t a good idea – and look what has happened.”

“You had no idea that something like this would transpire.”

“I’m aware of that, but I can’t help but feel that I’ve allowed my own selfish desire to see Noct happy get in the way of my duties.”

Mr. Caelum’s expression relaxes a little. “I don’t quite see that as particularly selfish – to see someone happy.”

“If only I’d warned him,” Ignis reaches a hand up to push his glasses further over his nose, eyes cast downward. “if only I’d talked to him about how easily he could get hurt. He'd voiced to me his concerns about it...I even cornered Prompto about it...I didn’t want them to learn this way.”

Mr. Caelum purses his lips, leaning back in his chair, and it creaks a little as he adjusts himself. “I suppose you’re correct about that. But my statement still stands – every action has a consequence. And so does every silence, as well. No matter how much we wish things were different.”

Ignis is taken aback as he blinks, boggled, and Mr. Caelum gives him a look of understanding, before it’s clear. “You knew of Prompto’s-?”

“Yes. Actually, I was the one who made him aware of it. I had an intense background check on him once I found out what Noctis was doing – just to be safe, and there were very many details of his birthplace in Nifilheim…and his title.”

Ignis frowns, his eyes flickering over the dark marble floor, gears turning in his head. He’d had no idea that Prompto had learned all about himself from Mr. Caelum, of all people. A thought flashes through his mind at that point; if Noct’s dad knew about Prompto and who he was, then...

“Forgive me for being blunt, sir.“ Ignis clears his throat. “If you knew the truth about him, why did you cease to do anything about it?”

Mr. Caelum presses his lips together, inhaling deeply. “I had assumed that Prompto had told Noctis – or even if he hadn’t, that Noctis would at least take responsibility.”

“You were hoping that he’d end it. But by then, it was too late.”

“…I suppose it was. If anything, I share a part of the blame as well.”

Before Ignis can respond, Mr. Caelum stands, hobbling his way over to one cabinet in particular that had been hidden away in the shadow of a golden pillar, before unlocking it and sliding it open. He pulls out a manilla envelope, opening it and flipping through it before holding it outwards, towards Ignis.

“Here – it’s the background check that I ordered for Prompto. It has all of his information, including his current home address. It’s possible that he might be there, with his uncle.”

Ignis walks forward to take the envelope slowly into his gloved fingers, looking down at it. “Sir, how did you know I was looking for this?”

Mr. Caelum gives him a sad, small smile. “I’ve known you since you were a boy. I’ve no doubt that you’ll do anything to help my son with whatever obstacles he may face in his lifetime – including this one. Please, if you find anything that could help my son, don’t hesitate to discuss it with me. I’ll do the same for you.”

Ignis nods once, tucking envelope underneath is arm and bowing his head slightly. “Indeed, sir.”

“One more thing,” Mr. Caelum calls after him once he begins his descent down the stairs, and Ignis stops, turning. Mr. Caelum’s face has shifted again. “Please, do continue to take care of Noctis, especially in this time. He didn’t take the news of the relocation well.”

Ignis stares. “Come again? What relocation?”

Mr. Caelum stares back. “Were you absent from the last dignitaries’ meeting? Insomnia is relocating – across the country. Initially, it was for the main company to be much closer to Eos, but now after what has happened…it may be even more so for the sake of the company name.”

Ignis feels the blood rushing through his ears, feels his gut drop, because even more than ever does he need to fix this. He’d been at the damn meeting too – somehow he must’ve let it slip his mind, and honestly it’s the worst possible timing. He can’t let Noct and Prompto live out the rest of their lives like this, heartbroken and alone when it’s so clear that the two of them are better when they’re together. If Noct leaves before he and Prompto can – no. He won’t allow it.

“Ignis?”

Ignis blinks back to reality, before nodding quickly and starting to jog backwards, retreating towards the exit. “Yes, thank you sir. I will keep an eye on Noct for you. Thank you.”


There’s a brisk wind flowing through the night as Ignis walks up the driveway towards the house, the faint glow of the porchlight lighting his way. The house is a single story, painted a soft green, with three large windows encased in black shutters and many trimmed, neat bushes adorning the yard. It’s a very neat and tidy house, and fleetingly Ignis wonders who tends to the yard? Surely the backyard must look this lovely as well.

As Ignis walks up the few steps and onto the porch, he hesitates a moment, before bringing his hand to knock on the wooden door. There’s a moment of silence, before he hears the locks unlocking and the door swings open.

Standing in front of him seems to be a middle-aged man, with kind blue eyes and short, brown cropped hair. His face is set in a worried frown as his eyes dart over Ignis’s face, and Ignis lets a welcoming grin turn his lips.

“Good evening,” Ignis says calmly, and the man nods once, slowly. “My name is Ignis Scientia. I was hoping that I could have a moment of Prompto’s time tonight?”

The man seemingly hesitates, before his hand tightens on the door he holds open, almost as if he’s ready to slam it closed if Ignis says the wrong thing. “How do you know my nephew?”

Ignis pushes his glasses up further over his nose. “Well, I am a friend of his. He’s talked about his uncle before – I believe you are Cor Leonis, yes?”

"I am..." Cor replies, but he still looks unsure.

"I sympathize with your desire to keep Prompto safe, but I can assure you that I am no threat. I merely wish to speak with him about something important."

Cor is still hesitating, but then his face hardens into a mask. "Is this about what happened at that party?"

"Yes."

Cor's eyes glare at Ignis for a while, trying to figure out if what he's saying is true, before he relaxes. "...I don’t think Prompto wants to talk to anyone right now…he‘s had kind of a rough day.”

Ignis nods sadly, tightening his grip on the folder underneath his arm. “Yes, I am well aware of that. However, I would still like to speak with him, if that’s alright with you?”

Cor chews on his bottom lip for a moment, in the same mannerism as Prompto does, before he looks back in towards the house, then back to Ignis. “…Yeah, that’ll be fine. If he comes out of his room, that is. Please, come in and have a seat.”

Ignis nods, before stepping carefully over the threshold and into the warm home, looking around. The living room is tidy, with a mahogany coffee table in the center of the room over a lush, warm looking carpet. On either side of it, sit two sofas – one a loveseat, the other with three cushions with a throw rug hanging over the back of it. The brick fireplace is mounted on the wall, the mantlepiece adorned with various photographs and a spotless mirror hanging above. Cor walks across the room after shutting the door, to close the blinds of the windows to Ignis’s right as he takes a seat on the sofa, facing the fireplace.

Cor turns around then, sighing. “Alright, I’ll go get him.”

Ignis nods again, and when Cor disappears, Ignis’s phone vibrates in his pocket. He sets the folder down beside him before fishing it out, swiping it open.

[Gladio]

Hey, you talked to Noct, right?

[Ignis]

Yes, I did. Why, is there something the matter?’

[Gladio]

No, not really. He’s just not answering my calls or texts. Not that I’d expect him to anyway, I guess. Prompto, either.

[Ignis]

Indeed. Do keep an eye on Noct for me, would you?

[Gladio]

Yeah, sure.

[Gladio]

Don’t take this the wrong way or anything, but why are you asking me to do it?

[Ignis]

I’m in the middle of something important.

[Gladio]

Something important?

[Gladio]

You mean, something that will fix all of this, don’t you?

[Ignis]

I’ll let you know as soon as I am able.

[Gladio]

Ha. Leave it to you to clean up Noct’s mess, Iggy.

[Ignis]

I’m not entirely sure that this is Noct’s mess, alone.

[Gladio]

What? You think that this is somehow your fault?

[Gladio]

Because it’s not – Iggy, you’ve been caring after Noct for how long now? Let him face the consequences of his actions, or else he’ll never learn.

[Ignis]

I appreciate the advice, but I do intend –

“Ignis?”

Ignis looks up, his fingers still hovering midair over his phone, and his heart sinks. Prompto is wrapped in a thick comforter, blonde hair sticking out in all directions. His face is smeared with patches of foundation, black smudges underneath his eyes, probably from wiping off the eyeliner in his haste to leave. There are noticeable tear streaks down his freckled cheeks, and his eyes…look dull. The dullest Ignis has ever seen them.

Prompto looks heartbroken.

“What are you doing here?” Prompto’s voice is thick and somewhat tight, as if Ignis being here is going to set him off in hysterics. Ignis stands up carefully, making his way over to Prompto, who shrinks back when Ignis’s gloved hand touches his shoulder gently.

“I wanted to apologize,” he says, and Prompto looks away, cheeks flushed. “for what happened this evening.”

Prompto forces out a dry chuckle. “You’re apologizing? You didn’t do anything wrong." He moves past Ignis slowly, to sit in the windowsill near the closed blinds across the room, wrapping himself up in the comforter. “If anything, it’s me who should be apologizing to you. For ruining the event. I know it was important.”

Ignis shakes his head, still standing in his same spot. “None of that matters. What matters is that you talk with Noct. Right now.”

Prompto stares at him for a long time, before his blue eyes glisten with unshed tears and he scoffs, looking away and rubbing the corner of his eyes with the comforter wrapped around him.

“You’re joking, right?”

“This is no laughing matter.”

Prompto turns back, catching his gaze. “Why? I’ve already told him what I want to say.”

“Really? Everything?” Ignis can hear his voice starting to deepen now, and so does Prompto, whose eyes flash with uncertainty for a second. “You managed to tell him all that before you left him?”

“It’s not like there’s a point to it anyway!” Prompto says, voice a little louder than before. “You saw what happened – you were there.”

“Yes, I was -”

“And I don’t see how talking to him is going to make anything better! I lied to him about something so important, and he found out in front of all those people, from Ardyn!” Prompto chokes a little, rubbing the back of his hand against his lips. “He probably hates me.”

“I can assure you that he feels more sadness than he does hatred,” Ignis assures him, and Prompto’s chest heaves slightly. “but leaving this matter alone will not make it any better, either. Time will not heal your wounds – it will just make the memories that much more difficult to bear.”

“Let’s say that we do talk it out – what then? Am I just supposed to pretend that everything will be okay?”

Ignis lets his fingers flex from his clenched fists as he sighs, moving to sit on the sofa in his original spot, facing Prompto. “Listen, Prompto. I’m not here to cradle egos nor hold my tongue for the sake of preserving your feelings. Authenticity isn’t always pretty; nor will it always be sweet. But it will be honest, nonetheless, and right now I’m telling you the best way I know how.”

Prompto’s not looking at him, having looked away in the middle of Ignis’s sentence, to wrap his arms around his knees and stare at the carpet.

“You may not see it today, nor tomorrow, but you will look back in a few years and be absolutely perplexed and awed by how every little thing has added up and brought you somewhere wonderful – or where you’ve always wanted to be. You’ll be grateful that things didn’t work out the way you once wanted them to.”

“When will that happen?” Prompto murmurs, eyes still boring a hole into the carpet. The unshed tears have escaped now, leaking down his cheeks dropping to the comforter wrapped around his frame.

“When the time comes, you’ll be able to answer that question yourself." Prompto’s quiet sniffling can be heard, and Ignis makes his voice a tad softer. “But right now, the first step is facing it. Face the fact that you both made mistakes, and fix it.”

Prompto is quiet for a few moments, before he speaks, his voice low.

“What if I don’t want to fix it?”

Ignis pushes his glasses up over the bridge of his nose. “Then that would be your worst mistake yet.”

Prompto’s head jerks up, red hot angry tears dripping off his chin as his blue eyes flash. “How is giving up on something that has no hope of working anyway a mistake?”

“Because it’ll be the one thing that you regret the most,” Ignis meets his eyes, steadily. “Won’t it?”

Prompto opens his mouth to speak, but no words come out, and he’s sitting there gaping like a fish. Finally, he closes his mouth slowly, to look back down at the floor again sadly.

Ignis stands then, brushing out the wrinkles in his dress shirt and straightening his jacket over his shoulders. Prompto looks up at him from waterlogged eyelashes, and Ignis sighs, before bending down to grab the envelope and pass it to Prompto, who takes it slowly.

“This is a detailed background check,” Ignis informs him, and Prompto’s eyes go wide, darting across Ignis’s face. “I recommend that you look through it – if you so desire.”

Ignis turns to leave then, heading towards the door, before he pauses after the sound of rustling fabric hitting the floor and rushed footsteps coming towards him sounds in his ears. He turns, and Prompto is behind him, looking tiny and pale in a hoodie that’s too big for him.

“Ignis,” Prompto says quietly, almost as if he’s pleading. “I know you’re only trying to help, but…I’m from the Niflheim…what good could come from Noct and I being together?”

Ignis nods in understanding, giving Prompto’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “I assure you, I am doing everything I can to figure something out. Please, do speak to Noct soon.”

Prompto swallows. “Ignis, I…”

He trails off, and Ignis lets his hand drop from his shoulder, before reaching for the door with his other hand. “I’m not asking you to profess your dying love for him – all I ask is that you make amends, make things right, before it’s too late.”

Prompto looks up at him, confused. “Before it’s too late?”

Ignis looks away for a moment, before catching Prompto’s gaze. “Yes. Insomnia will be relocating. Soon."

Prompto goes rigid. "...You mean the expansion, right?"

"I'm afraid not. The relocation could take Insomnia across the country - could take Noct across the country."

Prompto doesn't reply, but his eyes remain staring, as if he's staring right past Ignis like he's not even there. It's a look he's all too familiar with.

Cor appears then, coming from the kitchen. There’s no doubt that he’s heard everything, and the expression on his face is almost unreadable, but it’s obvious that he’s conflicted. Ignis gives him a nod, Cor nodding back, before he opens the door and walks out into the night.

Chapter Text

Three days pass. It feels like a lifetime.

Prompto starts running again – gets up early most mornings when there’s a dense fog in the air, forcing himself to keep his feet pounding against the sidewalk, choking back the tears that escape his eyes as the harsh wind makes them burn. His lungs ache, his legs tremble with exertion, but he keeps going anyway. Anything to get rid of the feeling settled deep in his stomach.

Noct tries to keep busy –  tries to force himself to be happy. But that’s the thing though. He doesn’t want to be happy. He wants to feel nothing.

He’s at the company most days, filing paperwork, writing reports, or whatever the son of the CEO of a company is supposed to do. Getting things ready for the relocation that is coming up very fast. His co-workers worry about him, and more than once do they bring up his odd behavior to Regis, who informs them that Noct is just upset about the relocation. But behind the forced smile, there’s a look in his eyes.

On the other days, they sleep – well, they try.

Prompto curls up in his bed, or on his uncle’s couch, staring at the back of his eyelids as he tries to force himself to sleep. Once or twice when he opens his eyes, he gets confused, before he remembers that he’s someplace different. He has nightmares that make it difficult for him to wake up.

Noct doesn’t leave his room at first. Then, he shifts over to where the blonde once slept. He’s twisted in the sheets, the duvet kicked onto the floor and the plushie shoved under the bed. The apartment feels too big with just him by himself, which is weird, because it had never felt this way before. He has memories that make it difficult for him to sleep.

Cor voices his displeasure about Prompto’s reluctance to talk to Noct. Prompto knows that his uncle is trying to be understanding and patient, but he also knows that he’s running out of time. It’s more than once that his uncle tells him to get his head out of his ass and figure out what he wants instead of running around outside for hours at a time and staring at walls, but he doesn’t get it. No one does, and Prompto can’t help but feel he’s all alone in this.

It’s Gladio who comes barging in, throwing the door back so hard that it slams against the wall, and Noct wakes with a start. Gladio shouts at him, calling him a coward and grabbing him by the scruff of his unwashed t-shirt that he’s slept in the past two days, while Ignis tries to calm the situation down. Noct can’t even feel anything as Gladio rattles him, as Gladio yells that all of this moping around is affecting his work, and that he really can’t afford to be acting like this right now. When he talks about the relocation and says that he needs to figure out what he wants, Noct snaps, and he screams at him to leave.

Some days, they feel everything at once. Other days, they feel nothing at all.


Four days pass, and Ignis is getting increasingly frustrated.

Not from the fact that there’s been nothing but silence the past four days on both ends – not from the fact that no matter how long he scours the documents that he was able to get his hands on with Mr. Caelum’s help, no matter how many hours he pours into reading and reading old documents, ancient notebook scribbles and even a copy of the contract itself, there’s nothing. The deal is binding.

The copy of the deal is complete with a seal of authenticity and a signature from Mors Lucis Caelum himself, and it takes everything in Ignis’s power not to ball it up and toss it into the nearest trash can.

Ignis is getting increasingly frustrated from the fact that neither Prompto nor Noct are doing anything to help themselves. Noct is acting like he’s completely fine – when it’s completely obvious that he’s not. Honestly, he’s getting tired of the forced chipper attitude that Noct has with him, and it’s painful to see a smirk on Noct’s face when his eyes are so dark. As for Prompto…Ignis hasn’t heard from him.

Gladio comes forward one evening when he’s looking over everything again, a can of cold Ebony is his hand that he had taken from Ignis’s stock in his fridge, and presses it against his cheek. Ignis sighs, letting the can cool down his skin before he takes it with a muttered thanks. Gladio sits down heavily next to him, chin in his hand.

“Any luck, Iggy?”

Ignis shakes his head, frustrated as he presses the cool metal of the can against his heated neck. “I can’t find a bloody thing."

Gladio clicks his tongue against his teeth. “How long have you been at this now? Three days?”

Ignis glances at his watch. “Four.”

Gladio whistles, lowly. “Damn.”

“Indeed.”

A few minutes of silence pass, long enough for Ignis to remove the can from his neck and crack it open, taking a sip. He holds his glasses in between his gloved fingers as he rubs the middle of his eyebrows, and he hears Gladio sigh beside him.

“Listen, Iggy,” Gladio begins, and Ignis places his glasses back on the bridge of his nose. “I know that you’re trying to help, but-”

“If you’re asking me to give up now, I’m afraid that’s out of the question.” Ignis interrupts, setting down the can and leaning forward to straighten the documents so that they line up with the edge of the coffee table. With Noct and his odd behavior lately, if anything Ignis feels even more devoted to the task.

Gladio reaches up to rub a hand behind his neck, looking away. “Okay, you caught me – but this has gone on long enough. If you, of all people, haven’t found anything yet, then I doubt that there’s anything to find.”

On some level, Ignis supposes that Gladio is right. He’s reread this pile of papers in front of him that he can practically see it on the back of his eyelids, and there’s noticeable dark circles underneath his eyes from his lack of sleep. He’s exhausted, so exhausted that he’s even let a few strands of his hair fall into his face, but he can’t stop now.

He still can’t help but feel that somehow this is all his fault, despite what Mr. Caelum and Gladio have told him. He’d talked to Prompto, with good intentions. Perhaps, he was a little too blunt, but it was something that Prompto needed to hear.

But it’s been three – no, four days since then, and Noct’s bottling up his feelings and emotions again. He’s making it seem that he’s fine, when he’s really hurting deep down. It’s…the worst feeling that Ignis has ever felt, in a very long time actually, and honestly this might be worse than when Noct was in that accident. At least back then, Noct had shown that he was really affected by what happened – but now, it’s so obvious, at least to Ignis, that this is far worse.

“You’re going to make yourself sick, losing sleep over this,” Gladio says to him, and Ignis blinks slowly, his vision slightly blurry, even behind his thick concave lenses. “So c’mon, give it a rest already.”

Gladio’s tone has Ignis fuming a little bit, because his voice drags, as if he’s tired of Ignis wasting their time over something so trivial, and Ignis clenches his jaw tightly.

“You may not care about Noct’s overall being, but I do." Gladio recoils at the deepness of his voice, unprepared for the onslaught of words hissed at him from someone who usually has the most patience out of the two of them. “I will not ‘just give it a rest’ while Noct continues to pretend that everything is fine, when it’s clearly not.”

Gladio frowns. “You know that I-”

“And I won’t suffer this pointless bickering in silence any longer,” Ignis interrupts, and Gladio looks away, a frown still on his face, remembering the day before when he and Noct had gone at it, twice.

It had been another one of those moments, when Noct would drop his façade and become quiet, staring out a window, or staring at something he was supposed to be doing, lost in thought. Ignis had trailed in behind Gladio, both of them needing to get the confirmation from Noct about something important about the relocation of the company, but Noct was in the same place they’d left him thirty minutes ago.

Apparently, Gladio was at his wits end with him, and before Ignis could say a word, Gladio was yelling again.

“The hell is wrong with you?”

Noct startles a little bit, before he looks away from his computer that has the default screensaver bouncing across the screen. The sun had been shining in through the window behind him, casting a glow of sunshine across the computer screen and allowing the dust to be seen more clearly. Apparently Noct hadn’t even heard them come in, and Ignis doesn’t have to be looking at Gladio to know that there’s a scowl on his face.

Noct narrows his eyes, his grip on the document in his hand tightening and wrinkling the paper in his hand – it wasn’t too long ago that they’ had an earlier argument, and by the looks of it, they’re about to have another one.

“What?” Noct snaps, and Gladio’s stance gets somewhat defensive from the tone of Noct’s voice. Noct’s cheeks flush, his shoulders begin to tremble from the adrenaline coursing through him, and Ignis knows that Noct knows what Gladio is talking about. “What do you want now? Screaming at me earlier wasn’t good enough?”

“Apparently not,” Gladio huffs. “I didn’t get to say all I wanted to say. All this pretend bullshit, and then suddenly getting all distant - we’re not doing this anymore. You need to grow up, and get over it.” Gladio’s words are harsh and insensitive, and Noct closes his eyes for a moment before scowling himself – Ignis can see his jaw clenched tight in frustration.

“I am over it,” Noct says, lowly, opening his eyes and staring Gladio right in the face as he stands up. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

When he stands, Gladio moves. He moves so fast that Noct barely has the time to react before Gladio’s grabbing fistfuls of his button up shirt, and Gladio’s brown eyes are blazing as he once again has Noct in a death grip.

“Maybe when you’re not too busy moping, you can look around and give a shit about someone who’s fighting tooth and nail to clean up your mess.”

Noct grits his teeth, and Ignis shifts then, stepping around Gladio’s huge form in an attempt to cease the fight clearly about to happen, before he pauses, a sense of vertigo hitting him as he blinks.

He blinks up at Noct, still clutched tight in Gladio’s death grip, and for a moment, he’s conflicted. He’s just as impatient and frustrated as Gladio is, but Noct needs to face the facts – perhaps he should let Noct hear what Gladio is roaring in his face?

Noct’s staring at him, face contorted in confusion, before his eyes flash and he hisses, eyes flickering back to the man in his face. “Let go of me.”

Gladio only tightens his grip, and for a second, the pressure is tight around Noct’s neck as Ignis sees his eyes widen for a second. “How it’s feel, huh? Taking the easy way out and not having to take responsibility?”

Noct reaches up, his hand covering Gladio’s tightly, and Ignis can see the prominent veins in his pale skin. The expression on Noct’s face is a mix of emotions – angry, sad, hurt – all of them skidding across his face, and Ignis exhales shakily as leans on the chair near him for support.

“Both you and Prompto are to blame for this, for coming up with that master plan that has done nothing but make it worse for everyone else. Now you wanna sit here, and be all sad and shit about it, and not do a fucking thing, neither of you! Ignis has done nothing but try to fix your mess, and all you seem to know how to do is pretend that nothing happened!”

Ignis has no idea what expression is on his face, but Noct’s faltering a little, eyes flickering back and forth between the two men, before he looks away with a scowl. “You don’t think I know that?” Noct seethes, and Ignis’s eyebrows raise in surprise. “You think I don’t know-?”

“You don’t!” Gladio interrupts, Noct’s shirt still in his death grip. “Ignis is taking one for you too, and for what?!”

Ignis’s fingers clutch at the chair tightly, the seat starting to whine from the pressure. “Enough, Gladio!” He says loudly, and Gladio pauses, before he growls low in his throat.

“You’re a coward.” Gladio says, and Noct’s face turns a few shades darker traveling all the way up his face and probably to his hairline.

“Shut up! Quit calling me that!” Noct shouts, and his other hand reaches up towards Gladio’s chest, giving him a hard shove, and the huge man stumbles back a few feet. “I get it alright? I fucking get it!” Noct’s eyes are starting to grow red, glistening with unshed tears.

“Then get a fucking grip!” Gladio shouts right back at him. “Pull your head out of your ass already!”

Noct’s chest is heaving uncontrollably, and he shoves past Gladio and Ignis and out the door, leaving the two of them inside.

“That was uncalled for,” Ignis says to Gladio now, while the two of them sit in Ignis’s apartment on his lush white couch. The sun risen high in the sky, light shining in through the sheen white curtains, and there’s nothing but silence between the two men as they sit together, their knees almost touching.

“He needs to grow the hell up,” Gladio says, his voice low and his hands clenched into fists, still remembering the day before, and Ignis shakes his head.

“While I do understand your frustration and agree with you,” Ignis says calmly, as he reaches back down to grasp the room temperature can of Ebony in his hands. “it is not up for you to decide when that should happen.”

Gladio’s eyes grow wide. “What? Are you kidding? Do you know how soon-?”

“I know full well,” Ignis replies, and Gladio scoffs standing up to stretch his arms up above his head. Ignis peers up at him. “but Noct will do so when he’s ready. He’s having a rough time, Gladio.”

Gladio picks up his leather jacket, tugging it over his broad shoulders and zipping it up. “He’s not the only one – we’re all on edge, here.” Gladio shoves his hands in his pockets, walking away, and Ignis hears the door open. “See you tomorrow.”

Ignis doesn’t reply, instead taking a long sip of Ebony and sighing as he tosses the empty can into the recycling bin near the entryway of the kitchen.


When Ignis drops by Noct’s apartment later that evening, it’s expectedly quiet. The television is turned off, the sofas look like they haven’t even been sat on in days, and when Ignis opens the fridge, the plate that he’d left for Noct that morning is still wrapped in plastic wrap.

Ignis tightens his grip on the handle of the fridge, before he pushes his glasses up further over his nose, and grabs the thermos of hot vegetable soup that he’s brought with him from the counter. He doesn’t even bother to check Noct’s room – he goes straight into the room across from it, and closes the door behind him.

Lying face down on the bed, Noct turns his head, mumbling an incoherent greeting as Ignis sets the thermos down on the nightstand. Noct’s phone sits near his hip, lying face down, but Ignis knows that Noct hasn’t charged it in days. He sits on the edge of the bed, facing away from Noct, clasping his gloved hands together.

Noct shifts behind him, before he groans. “Ugh, Specs do I smell vegetables?”

Ignis sighs, blinking slowly. “Yes. It’s very important that you keep up your strength, Noct. Especially during a time like this.”

“During a time like what?” Noct asks, his voice strained, and Ignis pauses.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about.”

Noct doesn’t respond at first, and there’s a long stretch of silence between them, before the bed jiggles and Ignis turns to see that Noct has his back to him. “So what, are you here to yell at me, too? I didn’t get enough from Gladio already?”

“I’m not here to yell at you,” Ignis replies calmly. “I’m just worried about you.”

“I’m fine.” Noct says quickly, and Ignis wishes that Noct were facing him so he can see what expression is on his face. “You don’t have to worry.”

“Noct, it’s my job to worry about you.”

“Then you’re fired.”

Ignis’s lip quirks up into a little grin, before he chuckles softly. “Forgive me, but I can’t allow that.”

Another long stretch of silence between them, so long that Ignis wonders if Noct actually fell asleep, but he strains his ears when he hears that Noct is actually starting to breathe a little faster. Ignis reaches a hand out to his trembling form, before he thinks better of it and lets his hand drop back into his lap.

“Ignis,” Noct chokes out, and his voice is scratchy as he breathes. “I’m not fine.”

Ignis nods. “I know. Believe me Noct, I’m doing everything in my power to help you. I’ve read countless documents about the deal, but I haven’t found anything as of yet, but I’m sure that if I -”

“Ignis, stop,” Noct interrupts, and when Ignis glances over at him, Noct has turned to look at him from over his shoulder. Noct’s face is flush, his hair sticking to his forehead and neck as his dull blue eyes meet Ignis’s gaze. “just stop.”

Ignis pauses, unsure. “Stop what?”

“Stop helping me,” Noct says, casting his eyes down. “stop whatever it is that you’re doing, and just – just – fuck, Ignis just leave it alone.”

Noct turns back around, wrapping his arms around his torso as he buries his face into the mattress, and Ignis doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t know if he should be sad that Noct is hurting so much that he just wants to forget it ever happened, or be angry that Noct doesn’t want to deal with it anymore.

Ignis’s mind flashes to Prompto, to his own flushed face and red, swollen eyes underneath the locks of blonde hair that hung in front of his face, and he can still hear the words that Prompto shouted at him.

“And I don’t see how talking to him is going to make anything better! I lied to him about something so important, and he found in front of all those people, from Ardyn!” Prompto chokes a little, rubbing the back of his hand against his lips. “He probably hates me.”

Ignis exhales slowly, quietly, letting his fingers flex against his thighs.

“I understand that you’re hurting,” He says calmly. “and that you don’t want to talk about it anymore, but Noct you have to. All of this, of pretending to be okay when you’re clearly not isn’t helping you.”

“Talking about it won’t help me either!” Noct yells suddenly, and Ignis flinches, glancing behind him, but Noct still has his back to him. “Do you think that I like doing this to myself? Feeling this way? I know. But it hurts. It hurts to think about it, it hurts to talk about it, because -”

“Because you love him.”

Noct stops abruptly. After a moment, the rustling of the sheets makes it way to Ignis' ears, and when he looks behind him he sees that Noct has sat up, crossing his legs. His black t-shirt hangs loosely on his frame, a result from all the loss of sleep and lack of appetite the last few days. There’s a conflicted look on his face as he faces him.

“...I don’t really know if I can call it that. I care about him, but I’m not...I don't think I'm...I’ve never been in love before." Noct bites his lip, blinking tiredly. "...I know that Gladio’s right. I know that I have important things to do. With the company. The…the relocation, everything. I don't have the time to sit around and feel bad for myself."

“Gladio's intentions are for the best interest of you and the company, I can assure you that. He just has his own way of showing it." Ignis stands, walking around the bed until he’s at Noct’s side, bracing a firm hand on his shoulder, gentle and reassuring - Noct relaxes at the familiar touch. "But that does not invalidate how you feel. You’re bearing a lot of things right now, but you don’t bear them alone.”

Noct nods, eyes downcast, and Ignis retracts his hand to sit beside him, hands in his lap. “You should still talk to Prompto.”

Noct goes rigid. “I…don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

“Let me guess,” Ignis raises his eyebrows. “you don’t want to talk to him because you feel like it would be a waste of time if you two can’t be together anyway?”

Noct stares at him in surprise, running a hand through his hair as he looks away. “Well, I-I mean, that’s part of it, I guess,” Noct meets Ignis’s eyes again. “What gave you that idea?”

Ignis gives him a look, before understanding flashes in Noct’s blue eyes, before they widen.

“You talked to him?” Noct asks, and when Ignis nods Noct sighs in frustration. “Why? Why did you do that?”

“Because I care about Prompto’s well being just as much as yours – he’s grown on me.”

Noct is silent for a moment. “…How was he?”

Ignis pushes his glasses further up on the bridge of his nose, a hint of a sad smile on his face. “Heartbroken. He misses you.”

“…Did he say anything about me?”

“How is giving up on something that has no hope to work anyway a mistake?”

Ignis presses his lips together tightly, nodding. “Yes – he wondered if you hated him for what he did.”

Noct inhales heavily. "I don't hate him. It's just. I dunno."

Ignis hums thoughtfully. “Maybe you should tell him that yourself.”

Noct is quiet.

“Noct,” Ignis says. “do you wish to fix things with Prompto?”

“I…I don’t know. I wish it were that simple."

Ignis watches sadly as Noct curls in on himself, shutting himself away again, and it hurts Ignis as well – to see Noct like this. Fleetingly, he wonders if he’s doing the right thing, by pouring all of his time into helping Noct with this situation, or if he’s hindering him from learning from his own mistakes.

Perhaps, the way that Noct is feeling is enough for him to learn from this? Perhaps Ignis really should just stop and let bygones be bygones?

“I wish to apologize.”

Noct blinks, boggled as he jerks his head up. “Apologize?”

“When we were children, I swore to your father that I would stand by you – protect you. Treat you as if you were my own brother.”

"Hey-"

“I’ve…failed you Noct, and I apologize. I had the feeling that things would turn out like this, and yet, I let my own selfish desires to see you happy get in the way of what I was supposed to do – protect you. Now, seeing you this way, I have to make things right. So, I apologize – I’m afraid I’m going to have to decline.”

“Decline?”

“Yes. I won’t let you go through this alone.”

Chapter Text

In all of Prompto’s twenty-something years of his life, he’s never struggled so much with something. Anxiety? He can deal with that. The occasional self-deprecating joke? That's normal. But this - this constant emptiness that's hanging over him and the constant reminders about...

It’s the way some guy brushes his hair out of his face when he hands Prompto his coffee. It’s the almost exact shade of blue of some girl’s eyes as she looks past him with a smile and a wave at a friend. It’s the warm point of contact with some stranger that brushes past him on the sidewalk in the park- all of it is just a constant reminder that he’s running out of time to decide what the hell he wants to do.

A week has passed, and it’s only gotten harder to press on. Why does it feel like it's been longer than a week? Why is he feeling this way? This is just a crush. That's all it is.

He wants to do what’s right and go and talk to Noct. He wants to believe that everything Ignis said is true. He wants to believe that Noct doesn’t hate him for what he did, that he doesn’t hate him for lying straight to his face for weeks and then having to find out in front of all of those people – but doesn't it just seem too good to be true? Things never work out that way for him.

Even Ignis had come all the way to his uncle’s house (which Prompto has no idea how Ignis knew the address) to talk to him about what happened. But Prompto can’t help but feel that Ignis didn’t even come for him, but for Noct. And that got Prompto to thinking, is Noct just as affected as he is? Or is Ignis just trying to work things out between them in order to salvage the company’s reputation?

It made him feel worse - so worse, in fact, that’s he couldn’t bring himself to contact Noct. And Noct hadn’t contacted him either, so does that mean Prompto’s suspicions were right?

That background check that Ignis had brought him sits on his nightstand in his room in his uncle's house. Untouched. 

He likes to think that when (if) they talk it out, maybe it won’t hurt as much as he thought it would. Maybe there won’t be any tears or anger. Prompto can just go back to his feeble attempts at living again. Maybe if he’s lucky, Noct will even let him tell him goodbye.


He hears the footsteps even before he catches who it is in peripheral vision. He adjusts the earmuffs over his ears, before sliding them down around his neck and setting the gun on the wooden counter next to him. Cor leans against the wooden railing, clad in a thick sweater with an unreadable expression on his face.

It’s an awkward silence for a few moments out in the back yard of his uncle’s house, where his uncle had built his own little shooting range, and Prompto doesn’t know how long he’s been out here. Eventually, Cor shuffles a little, before sighing, tipping his head in Prompto’s direction.

“Let’s see what you got, hm?”

With a nod, he adjusts his earmuffs over his ears and grabs the gun back into his grip. After a quick glance behind him to make sure Cor has his own headgear on, he faces the targets once again, little cans of soda lining the top the fence.

He fires once, twice, three times. The first three soda cans fly off the fence, and Prompto releases the breath he’d been holding, and when he turns his head, Cor is pursing his lips, nodding as he pulls his headgear around his neck.

“Not bad,” Prompto reads Cor's lips, and Prompto gives a little smile in return as he pulls off his own headgear. “You’re still a good shot.”

“Thanks. I think all those times you made me practice really paid off.”

“Well, how else was I going to protect you from shooting yourself in the foot?” 

Prompto shrugs, and Cor looks away across the open field.

Prompto has always liked it out here. His uncle has always had this large plot of land behind the house that Prompto liked to play in when he was a kid. Even though he was mostly alone, it was still nice to think that this was his own personal playground. He could be anyone he wanted to be.

From the look on his uncle’s face, he’s about to start talking about it. The elephant in the room. Well, the elephant in the backyard. Again. As if Prompto doesn’t have the same fucking conversation with himself in his own head every day.

Cor eyes him up and down in a way that makes him feel three inches tall. “You don’t really want to have this conversation again, do you?”

Prompto blinks, before slowly shaking his head, and Cor continues to stare at him intently, before closing his eyes briefly. He runs a hand across his thinning hair.

“It’s been one week, Prompto.”

“I know.”

“Then why aren’t you doing anything about it? Don’t you remember what Ignis-”

“I thought we weren’t having this conversation again,” Prompto's grip on the wooden railing tightening. For the past week, his uncle’s been nothing but kind and understanding, letting Prompto mope around for a week straight. Even if he did give him a look from time to time, more than once had brought up the same conversation that they’re starting to have now, Prompto’s really grateful to him. So he’s really trying his hardest right now not to snap right now, say something that he might regret - again.

Cor sighs, the frown melting from his features as he gives Prompto a pitying look. There's still the faint signs of the healing bruising colored on his face near his ear. “I don’t know what to say to anymore, son. I’ve repeated the same thing over and over, but you’re still moping around. What am I supposed to do?”

Prompto bites his lip, looking away, willing the stinging of his eyes to fade. He sees Cor move from his peripheral, moving to stand closer to him.

"Your mother would’ve liked him.”

Prompto’s breath hitches quietly, but he doesn't say anything. 

“Yeah.” Cor picks at the fabric of his sweater as his expression hardens. “She deserved better.”

Prompto’s hands tighten against the railing of the wood even more, and the wood groans. He turns his hand over, blinking at the redness of his palm.

He doesn’t want the thought to pass through his mind, but it does anyway – that Verstael, the bastard, he plays a part of this too, doesn’t he? It’s his fault that Prompto was born to be some pawn for power over a company, it’s his fault that Prompto’s going through this right now, it’s his fault that his mother is dead.

Or is he simply trying to put the blame on someone else to lift the burden from his own shoulders? It wouldn’t be the first time. It sounds a little dramatic. He's been thinking that about himself a lot lately.

Cor speaks then, interrupting Prompto’s inner monologue. “You can’t leave things like this.”

Prompto swallows his words.

“I can’t see you like this anymore. I can’t lose you, too. Jesus Prompto, just talk to him. I know that he’s hurting just as much as you are. He needs closure, and so do you.”

Prompto’s hands are starting to shake, and he shoves them in his jacket pockets, eyes on the wooden floor. Strangely, his eyes are dry as he blinks quickly, but his gut is tightening. His mind wanders, flashes of Noct’s smiling face filtering through, and wills the image away. With another blink, he can see Noct’s face again, crumpled and hurt. His chest throbs in response.

Behind him though, an old man standing not too far away with an unreadable expression on his face.

Prompto can't bring himself to respond, but luckily Cor doesn't seem to care. There are warm arms around his shoulders. Cor squeezes him, their shoulders bumping warmly before Cor pulls him into an awkward side embrace. They don’t hug long – they never do, anyways.

Cor pulls away, and Prompto still has his hands in his pockets. Cor begins to say something else, but Prompto can’t focus. His mind is rushing again, and he clenches his hands into fists in his pockets.

“I gotta go,” Prompto says suddenly, turning and quickly stepping down the stairs. Cor startles before he follows. 

“Where?” Cor asks breathlessly, and Prompto cringes, pausing, before turning to look back at his uncle from over his shoulder.

“I…I’m going to talk to Noct.”

Cor’s expression shifts into surprise before he becomes serious and nods firmly. Prompto gives him a little wave, before going inside quickly to his room to snatch up the letter from his mom that she had left him, and shoving it in his pants pocket.


Maybe he should’ve thought this through. He has no idea where he’s going.

He’s walking down the busy streets of the city, bustling with people as he maneuvers his way around them. The weather is quite brisk, with a gentle yet cold breeze blowing through the air and the people around huddle into their sweaters and scarves. Prompto’s blonde hair is tucked into his black beanie, a few pieces of it blowing slightly with the breeze, as he walks.

There’s a couple in front of him, holding hands as they sip coffee and gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes, and Prompto wants to gag as he speeds up and walks in front of them. He’s pretending to be annoyed, but deep down his chest is aching again. Deep down, he's always wanted to be like them.

He stops then, once he gets to a little coffee shop. They’re having specials for couples since the weather is getting a little colder, and Prompto feels his stomach growl a little. He bites his lip, thinking about how nice a cup of hot chocolate would be-

“You aren’t…developing a fondness towards him?”

Prompto’s jaw goes slack, his chin almost hitting the table as he tightens his grip around the handle of the mug in his hands. “…are you implying that I'm getting a crush?”

Fuck, where had that come from? 

“Excuse me." Prompto blinks, eyes coming into focus of a guy about his age, clad in an apron and a smile on his face. In his hands, he holds a tray with little white cups sitting on top, and he angles it towards Prompto. “Would you like to have a sample?”

Prompto almost forgets how his mouth works, before he’s shaking his head. “Ah, no thanks.”

The guy frowns. “Why not? You don’t like hot chocolate?”

“N-no, actually.”

“It’s just a sample.” The guy pressures him, and then he winks after looking him up and down. “If you say yes, I’ll give you my number and a date. How’s that sound?”

“Y’know what we should do?” Noct slurs, and Prompto sighs before blinking at him.

“Hm?”

“We should go on a date.”

“No thanks.” Prompto scowls at him, before pushing past the guy roughly, and he doesn’t turn back.

He keeps walking until he’s far away from that guy and the memories, and he takes a few deep breaths. He…hasn't ever been asked on a date before. Ever. By anyone. He’s always been the one to ask girls, and when he found out that he liked guys, he was the one to ask them out. It was never the other way around no matter how much he wished it, and now all of a sudden when he’s at his lowest point...?

He shakes his head. This isn't what he signed up for. This hurts.

He should've turned on his heel and left that beach when Noct asked for him to be in a fake relationship with him. It would've been better for both of them. Noct wouldn't have been lied to. Prompto wouldn't have ever found out the truth about himself. Prompto wouldn't have spent so much time with him, wouldn't have found out what a caring and thoughtful guy he is, or how his nose scrunches up when he laughs, or how much he enjoys fishing that it's almost ridiculous, or how much he hates fruits and vegetables that his own advisor has to cut them up small and hide them in his food–

He stops and covers his face with a groan.

Should he just call Noct right now and hope that Noct will at least let him tell him goodbye before it’s too late?

He pulls his phone from his pocket, still walking and not watching where he’s going, and he turns, heading down a dark street where fewer cars and people are around, but he doesn’t notice. He doesn’t notice anything except the phone in his hand and contact name on the screen, and he doesn’t notice that someone has been following him for the past three blocks.

His thumb hovers over the name before he presses the screen and yanks the phone up to his ear. It goes to voicemail. Huh, he didn’t know Noct ever turned the thing off, but he waits until he hears the robotic voice to leave a message.

“N-Noct,” Prompto begins once the message begins, clearing his throat. “It’s Prompto. I know you probably don’t want to hear from me after all that’s happened, but I really need to talk to you. We need to talk. Please call me back.”

He takes a deep breath and pockets his phone after hanging up, before running a hand through his hair. Well, at least he tried. Now the hard part, waiting for a response.

His phone vibrates and he snatches it up to look at it, but it’s just a message from his uncle, with a gif of someone giving him a thumbs-up, and Prompto sighs. He feels awful, for lying to his uncle again – the look on his face when he’d said that he was going to talk to Noct almost made him give up on what he was planning to do. Which was to go to Niflheim.

He pauses again, in thought. What was he gonna do, once he got to Niflheim? Punch the old dude in the face and demand answers as to why he would do something like this to his mother? Threaten him with the gun that he has in his pocket-

Oh shit, when did this get here? Has he been walking around this busy street this entire time with a loaded gun in his pocket? He pulls the gun out, looking over it and checking the magazine to see that it still has a few bullets left. He unloads it, piling the bullets into his pocket and shoving the gun into the waistband of his pants.

He glances up then, confused. He has no idea where he is, having walked to some part of the city he’s never been to. He rolls his eyes then, taking out his phone again to open up his GPS when a sound has his head turning towards it. There’s no one there, and there’s no one around but him, but he has a bad feeling in his gut. The hair on the back of his neck stands on end.

Suddenly, a black SUV passes by. The windows are tinted almost pitch black, but he can see the outline of a person facing him. It's oddly suspicious because the make and model of the car aren't typically the kind that anyone drives around this area - its black rims somewhat shimmer as it drives by slowly. Prompto’s skin crawls.

He glances back down at his phone, scratching at his scalp underneath his beanie as he tries to navigate the direction of his uncle's house. The SUV passes by again. Its headlights are on. This time, Prompto notices the license plate. 5OMN509. Weird. It almost looks like a name.

He doesn't have much time to ponder as the SUV comes to a stop.

He needs to leave. Right now. Where there are people around. Witnesses. He closes his GPS app, turning around and half running while thumbing open his notes and typing in the plate, trying not to look too suspicious. He can't let that SUV know that he knows - 

Suddenly, he's yanked by the back of the hood, and his phone flies out of his hand. A huge hand, holding a thick white cloth, covers his mouth and nose. A strong smell wafts into his nose, and Prompto starts fighting. He twisting, trying to jerk out of the hold as a strong arm is wrapped around his torso and he's being lifted off the ground - he shoves his elbow back, but it's no use. It's like trying to fight against a damn dualhorn. 

The gun. Where the fuck is the gun? He can’t feel it anywhere on him.

He can't breathe with this cloth over his face. He can't see, and he suddenly hates himself for not caring how he looks nowadays and just letting his hair hang in his face because now it's obscuring his vision. The fight is starting to bleed out of him. 

His eyes are darting all over the place, searching. But there’s no one. No one knows what's happening to him.

Noct isn't here. But does Prompto sure wish he was.

His limbs are heavy, but he keeps kicking, although it's sluggish. He feels his foot hit something solid, and he vaguely sees his phone skid across the concrete.

The last thing he sees is amber.

Chapter Text

The first sign that something is wrong, is the sudden feeling in his chest.

It has him stopping in his tracks. He rubs at the material of his sweater over his chest between his fingers, lost in thought, and he turns his head towards the window, where the sun is peeking out from behind the setting clouds, giving the sky a lovely glow of pink – yet, it almost looks ominous. Like something bad has happened.

The feeling is definitely different. Maybe for anyone else, it’d be subtle enough to slip by unnoticed - but for the past week or so, there’s been a constant painful, yet somehow numb, throb in his chest. He’s still been having trouble bearing through it daily, and today was no different, but suddenly there’s another feeling. Is he getting better? Is he getting worse?

He can’t pinpoint the feeling.

“Ignis,” Noct says to his advisor - who’s currently in the kitchen whipping up some of those tarts that Noct had had in Tenebrae all those years ago but could never remember what the hell kind of berries or filling they were made of – and Ignis hums in response as he peers inside the oven to check on them.

When Noct doesn’t reply, the feeling in his chest becoming heavier, Ignis turns around completely after setting down the hot pan of pastries on the stove, removing his oven gloves.

“What’s wrong?” He asks, and Noct’s fingers tighten against the material of his sweater.

“I don’t know.”

“Do you have chest pains?”

Noct shakes his head quickly, letting his hand drop and dangle back at his side. He turns his head, and Ignis is looking at him with a look of relief on his face -  but there’s also noticeable dark circles underneath his eyes, his hair slightly unkept, and Noct swallows thickly.

He still feels guilty, and lowkey mad, about the fact that Ignis is still here, dealing with his nonsense. Noct makes his way over, leaning over the counter with his chin in his hand – he sniffs.

“You’re making those tarts again?”

Ignis nods, and he starts to turn, his hand reaching behind him blindly. “Yes. I was hoping that they would help you feel better, and help you to finally pull yourself together enough to – Augh!” Ignis hisses suddenly, so loud and unexpected that Noct nearly jumps out of his skin.

“Damn,” Ignis says lowly as he shoves his hand underneath the cool water running from the faucet. Noct’s shoulders bump against his after he skirts around the countertop to watch the water cascade down the length of Ignis’ hand and wrist.

When he turns off the water and pats his hand dry with a paper towel, Noct’s eyes widen at the sight – right at the bottom of his middle finger of his left hand, there’s an angry, dark red burn. It looks painful, and Noct frowns.

“You okay?” He asks, and Ignis hesitates, before nodding and kneeling to grab the first aid kit from underneath the sink that Noct didn’t even know was there, setting it on the countertop. The burn on his finger stands out starkly against Ignis’ pale skin, and it looks strange, the way it’s wrapped around his finger like he burned the skin with a ring or something.

“It’s merely a first-degree burn,” Ignis assures him as he takes non-adhesive bandage and wraps it around his finger. “just affecting the top layer of the skin - nothing too serious.”

Ignis’ tone is somewhat strained, like he doesn’t want to be talking about it. Noct looks over at the stove, looking at the tarts sitting on the baking pan cooling, at Ignis’ oven gloves tossed neatly to the side. Noct clicks his tongue against his teeth, shaking his head. “It is serious – Specs, you’re never like this.”

“…like what?”

He wonders if Ignis is making fun of him. Surely, he sees it too, right? Noct runs a hand through his hair, harshly. “I’ve known you basically my entire life, and not once have you ever burned yourself while cooking …or slept less than eight hours, or eat less than three meals a day, or-”

“Noct,” Ignis interrupts, and Noct stops, taking a breath. “What are you on about?”

“You’re trying too hard. You’re not sleeping enough, you’re not eating enough, and I know that you said that you’re trying to help me, but I don’t like it.”

“…ah. This again, hm?”

“I just – I don’t want you to get sick, or hurt, because of me.”

Ignis gives him a small smile. “I appreciate your concern, but I’m fine. I promise to be more careful.”

“It’s not about that.”

“Then what is it?”

Noct opens his mouth to answer, but he can’t seem to find the words. He can’t seem to articulate that he’s full of guilt and shame from the fact that Ignis is pushing aside important things like sleeping and eating regularly to help his sorry ass, and it’s obvious that Ignis just needs some rest. Ignis putting Noct before himself has never really bothered him, until now.

He’s known Ignis since he was basically born – Ignis has seen him at his worst, and at his best, so why is it so hard to show Ignis that he cares and worries about him too? Why is it so hard let others know that he cares for them?

Noct can feel his cheeks flushing, when suddenly, there’s a knock at the door. He and Ignis share a glance, before Ignis makes his way over to the door while Noct runs a hand through his hair again and stares at his feet. He hears Ignis mumbling quietly to whoever is at the door, not really thinking much of it.

“Noctis?”

The second sign that something is wrong, is that Prompto’s uncle is at the door.

Cor’s face is red, covered with a sheen of sweat as he pants for breath, his eyebrows furrowed together in worry. He clothes look like they were thrown on in a hurry, his sweatshirt on backwards and his shoes mismatched.

Noct’s frozen in place, staring into Cor’s blue eyes, and Cor walks right in, not bothering with his shoes. He marches right up to Noct, until he’s towering over him and Noct stares up at him, unblinking.

“Have you seen Prompto?”

Noct blinks, quickly, and it takes him a second. “N-No.” He shakes his head, and Cor lets out a frustrated sigh as he steps back, raking a hand down his face as he eyes shift quickly around the room, before landing back on Noct’s.

“You’re sure?” He asks, out of breath still, and Noct can see Ignis closing the door and stepping beside him out of the corner of his eye. “He didn’t come here? He didn’t contact you?”

For a split second, Noct wonders how Cor even found out where he lived, but he can feel his heart in his throat, his hands starting to tremble. Prompto’s uncle is here, looking for him, and he’s starting to get scared. “Is…is Prompto okay?”

“I don’t know.” Cor moves towards the kitchen table and taking a seat weakly. "I don't know, I don't know where he is."

Noct follows, and so does Ignis, all of them around the table. “What do you mean?" Noct's fingers grip the edge of the table. "Is - is he missing?"

"I don’t know if he’s missing, or if he’s off somewhere or what.”

Noct’s breath hitches, and that sudden feeling from earlier expands.

“He hasn’t been himself lately.” Cor continues. “Walking around like the dead, staring at nothing and getting these looks on his face. I’m afraid of what he’ll do out there.”

There’s a pause, before Ignis clears his throat softly. “Forgive me for suggesting something like this, but are you implying that he…?”

Cor stares at him a moment, before his eyes widen and he shakes his head. “No! No, no he wouldn’t do that. I mean, I know that he’s felt awful this past week, from what happened at that party. From what I’ve told him about his mom.”

“I...my parents…they were killed in that accident…but they weren’t my parents, at least my dad wasn’t. My mom was tricked…into thinking that he loved her.”

It's blurry, but Noct can remember Prompto saying something about his mom the evening of the event. It had gone right over his head though, since he was a little busy trying to understand how Prompto could have - he shakes his head. He leans towards Cor, interested. “His mom?”

“Yeah. I thought I had done the right thing, not telling him about his mom. My sister." Cor hesitates, biting at his lip. "What had happened between her and Verstael -  I didn't want Prompto to think badly of her."

Noct blinks. Prompto's mom and-?

"Then he confronted me about it, and...I couldn't keep it from him anymore."

Noct holds up a hand, eyes darting between Ignis and Cor. “Wait. What do you mean?"

"You didn't know?" Cor's eyes shift, as if he doesn't really believe it. Noct lets his hand fall back to his lap. "Your dad is the one who told him. I would've thought that you knew, too."

"My dad?" Noct asks incredulously. He thinks back to conversation he and his dad had the night everything happened - but he can't remember his dad saying that he was the one who broke the news to Prompto. "He didn't tell me...he didn't say he was the one who told him."

Ignis clears his throat, gently. "Your father ordered a background check for him. That's how he found out. He assumed that Prompto knew about his origins."

"But he didn't," Cor adds. "And it was probably a horrible shock. Goddamn. I tried to keep him safe, but I just ended up hurting him."

Noct's mind starts racing. His dad ordered a background check on Prompto. A background check, and even Ignis knew about it. And Noct didn't. Prompto probably -

Prompto. Oh, no. No, no. He didn't know. He didn't know either. He hadn't been lying to Noct this entire time. He just found out about everything, and by then he was probably in too deep with everything that was going on. Fuck. How could he not even consider that before?

The heartbreak had done so well to keep his mind and his heart from behaving rationally. Had made him reluctant to go after him, and now Prompto is missing. He can’t even imagine how Prompto must feel. Finding out the he was related to Verstael, that he was the heir, and then having to continue to deal with Noct and all his nonsense, it’s no wonder that he had been acting so weird the day of – wait.

 “Why couldn't he just tell me that he couldn’t pretend anymore?” Noct asks, and for a second he panics because Prompto’s uncle is here and they were supposed to be lying to him, but Cor’s expression doesn’t change. Merely, he just gives him an exasperated look.

“Because he wanted to stay with you.” Cor tells him, and Noct's chest throbs in response. So...so that confession? Was-

“Well, I mean yeah, I am sad about it.”

“You are?”

“Yeah. I'm..." Prompto takes a deep breath, laughing breathlessly. "Gonna miss that nice apartment."

Maybe not.

Cor's eyes narrow when Noct takes too long to respond. “Did you think that he knew the entire time? Was some sort of secret spy or some shit?”

Noct shakes his head quickly. “No! No, that’s not what I-”

“You think Prompto would be the type of person who would do such a thing like that?" Cor's voice escalates, and Noct's eyes widen as Cor's face starts to darken in color. "He cares about you so much, y'know. Now he’s missing, and I don’t know where the fuck he is!”

Ignis’ hand on Cor’s shoulder calms him down, and he takes a few deep breaths, reaching a hand up to rub behind his neck, and the mannerism is so much like Prompto that Noct’s heart hurts.

“I’m sorry,” Cor says softly. “I didn’t mean to yell at you, because I know you care about him too. I’m just – so worried about him. I hope he’s okay, wherever he is, and that we find him soon.”

Noct can’t make himself reply, and there’s a long stretch of silence, until Ignis clears his throat quietly.

“Have you tried calling him?” Ignis asks calmly, and Cor nods, quickly.

“Yeah, yeah I did. It just keeps ringing, no one picks up,” Cor says, and then his eyes are back on Noct again. “He told me he was going to call you, work it out with you. But that was this morning, around ten or so, and he hasn’t contacted me since.”

Cor starts to say something else, and so does Ignis, but all Noct can hear is his own heartbeat in his ears. Prompto tried contacting him? He was going to work things out?

Noct’s up and down the hall before he even realizes it, barging into Prompto’s room and ripping back the covers, pushing aside all the sheets before he finds his phone, buried deep at the foot of the bed. It’s dead, and he plugs it into the wall, until some little light blinks at him to show that it’s charging.

His hands are trembling so badly that he can hardly unlock his phone, and immediately missed calls show up, along with a dozen or so unread messages, until one from Prompto shows up, along with a voicemail. Noct holds it up to his ear carefully, the cord still connected into the wall.

“N-Noct,” Prompto’s voice is weak, and he clears his throat. Noct’s heart skips a beat in his chest. It’s been so long since he heard this voice.“It’s Prompto. I know you probably don’t want to hear from me, after all that’s happened, but I really need to talk to you. We need to talk. Please call me back.”

The message ends, and Noct listens to it again, and again, but that’s it. There’s nothing else. Noct leans back against the wall, knees up to his chest, phone beside him on the floor, plugged in. The feeling in his chest throbs again, and with a start, he realizes – it’s dread.

The past week or so hasn’t been easy for him, or for anyone around him. He’s been a complete mess. Hasn’t felt like himself. Hasn’t been able to go back to living normally. Sure, he and Prompto had been apart, not for that long, but long enough that it’s really starting to make a difference.

The dread in his chest is deep and feels like it’s somehow become a part of him – because before, although he felt like shit, he was heartbroken and couldn’t even keep his mind off of him, he knew that Prompto was out there. Living, breathing, going through the motions of his daily life. But now, he doesn’t even know that. And it’s a thousand times worse.

Cor is still sitting at the table with Ignis, when Noct wanders back in. He had stayed against the wall in the room with his phone plugged into the wall long enough for his battery to recharge, and he drops it on the table as he takes his seat. Ignis looks at the phone, before his eyes focus on Noct.

“Did he leave you a message?” He asks, and Noct nods weakly, unlocking his phone and playing the voicemail over, on speaker. Prompto’s voice echoes off the walls, all small and weak. Cor and Ignis listen intently.

“That’s it?” Cor says after Noct pockets his phone. “He didn’t text you or anything?”

“Just the voicemail,” Noct replies, biting at his lip. “I missed the call – my phone was dead.”

“Your phone was dead? Jesus, I can hardly believe that, with this generation of kids. Usually I walk around and see people’s faces just glued to their phones.”

“Yeah…I uh, I dunno.”

Cor presses his lips together, and Noct looks away. Ignis hums, thoughtfully.

“I think our first step is to split up, and start searching,” Ignis says, and both Cor and Noct look over at him, in interest. Ignis is leaning back in his chair, one leg crossed over the other, a calculated look on his face. “If we can find his phone, that might give us a clue as to where he is.”

“I don’t know where he went, if he didn’t come here,” Cor replies. “and I can’t really think of any place he might be.”

“Then we’d best make with the haste and start searching all of his usual hangouts – I’ll ask Gladio to help.”


It’s gotten to be dark, by the time Noct and everyone starts searching. Ignis and Gladio search near the beach, Cor searches some places that he used to take Prompto when he was a kid, and Noct just walks down the center of the city.

The moon is glowing brightly, illuminating the stars above him as he walks with his phone clutched tight in his grip in his pocket. There a lot of people hustling about, couples holding hands, a guy walking a dog, a woman talking loudly on the phone. Everyone’s busy, living their lives, and things around him seem to move in slow motion – almost as if he’s being mocked by the way life goes on, no matter what happens.

People are starting to notice him now, while he’s standing there glowering in the middle of a busy sidewalk, but he can’t seem to wipe the expression off of his face. He shouldn’t be thinking like this – he’s being a hypocrite, but he’s so scared and he can't help that panic that's bubbling in his gut.

He sighs, running a hand through his hair as he passes by another shop and heads inside, looking. It’s a little antique shop, with little trinkets and books and just full of things that Prompto would have probably liked.

Noct pauses then, shaking his head – no, he’s not going to speak in past tense. Noct’s going to save him, and he’s going to tell him how much he means to him, and he’s going to apologize that something as dangerous as Prompto being missing made him have his fucking epiphany about how he feels.

He runs up to the cashier, showing her the picture of Prompto that he’d secretly took, and frowns as the woman shakes her head. He heads back outside, and tries another shop. Then another, another, none of them have seen Prompto, and when the next shop tells him that they haven’t seen him, he almost loses it. When he brushes past a vase and it wobbles and shatters onto the floor, his shoes crunch against the glass as he marches outside.

The cold night air stings, and with a start he realizes that a few tears have dropped down his cheeks, and he wipes them away. His heart is pounding against his ribs as he stomps his way down the street, crossing the road and continuing onto the next block.

His mind is racing again, with all the possibilities of him finding Prompto – being held against his will, lying hurt and broken under a bridge, or finding him dead…he’s never felt so scared. And that’s really fucking saying something.

“Excuse me,” A voice says, interrupting his thoughts, and he jerks to a stop, nearly colliding with the voice he hadn’t realized he had been stomping towards. The man smiles at him, with green eyes and dimples, and he holds out a tray adorned with little red cups. Hot steam floats above them, and Noct can feel his breath hitch.

“Would you like to try a sample?”

Noct’s voice shakes. “No, no I’m good. Thanks.”

The man sighs agitatedly. “Great, someone else doesn’t like hot chocolate – do you know how long I’ve been standing out here?”

Noct blinks, mind whirring. “How long?”

“Since this morning - and it gets super cold out here, too.”

“Did anyone with blonde hair pass by here?”

“Uh, I dunno? A lot of people walk past me – I’m just supposed to promote the hot chocolate.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” The man sighs, getting irritated. Then, his expression lifts as he wiggles his eyebrows, extending the tray again. “You sure I can’t give you a sample? It’s free, and it comes with a free date.”

Noct resists the urge to clock the dude right in the face, instead scoffing and brushing past him, causing the man to hold on tightly to the tray of little cups full of hot liquid.

“Hey!” The man yells, and Noct doesn’t look back. “The least you could do is say no thank you, asshole! Don’t think just because you and some other guy rejected me today that I’ll lose all hope of finding true love!”

Noct stops in his tracks, the man’s voice ringing in his head. Him and some other guy…could it be? Did Prompto reject the guy, too? The guy seems pushy enough, and Noct knows that Prompto could easily be hit on, especially in this part of town. He's desperate enough to try anything to get even a hint of where Prompto could be.

He turns quickly, heading back, and the man pouts as he comes closer. “It’s too late now-”

“Someone else rejected you?” 

The man frowns at him before shushing him, looking around. “You don’t have to rub it in.”

“Which way did he go? Can you remember?”

The man stares at him a moment, eyes shifting, before he nods and points. “He went that way. I’m sure.”

Noct takes off without a thank you, nearly running down the street and pushing past the public. The hustle and bustle of the city starts to quiet and spread out as he gets further and further into the outskirts, until there’s barely anyone on the streets. Noct slows down, breathing heavily against his knees as he takes in his surroundings. He pulls out his phone, swiping it open and quickly calling Ignis.

“Ignis,” Noct pants. “Anything?”

“Nothing as of yet.” Ignis replies, and Noct can hear Gladio beside him, murmuring quietly. “We’re asking around the beach. No one has seen him, but we’ll keep looking, Noct.”

“Okay, sounds good. I’m not sure, but some guy at a coffee shop old me that he was rejected by some other guy earlier this morning – he doesn’t know what he looked like, but I think it could’ve been Prompto.”

“It’s definitely worth looking into. Once we’re finished up here, I’ll contact Cor, and we’ll all rendezvous to your location.”

“Got it.”

Noct hangs up, and moves his finger to lock his phone, when he pauses. He opens his voicemail again, listening, and Prompto’s weak voice fills his ears. Noct walks, not really paying attention to anything except the voice emitting from the phone, and he turns. He listens again, still walking.

Then he starts running. Turning corners and probably in circles, and when he finally comes up an alleyway, he sees it. Tire marks, hardened into the mud on the ground, and more mud on the sidewalk and into the street, like someone had been dragged. Noct follows the tracks, and there gleaming in the moonlight, is Prompto’s phone.

Maybe fate isn't so bad, after all?

Noct takes off, almost tripping into the hard mud, before scooping up the phone. It’s dirty and a little scratched up, but when Noct powers it on the screen is bright. He swipes past the default wallpaper, only to be met with a passcode. He growls at the fact that he can’t open it yet, but at least he has it. He shoves it in his pocket, and whips out his own.

“Ignis – get here, now."


All of four of them, including Gladio, sit in a late night diner with Prompto's phone in the middle of them. Noct had explained what he found to Ignis and Gladio, including the streaks in the dried, hardened mud and the mud dragged out over the sidewalk and into the street, where they abruptly stop. Cor had arrived then, and suggested they all get somewhere warm and try to figure some things out.

Cor breaks the silence, looking small in his hoodie that he had finally put on correctly. "So, based off what Noctis found...Prompto was taken."

Noct's fingers grip the table tightly, and Ignis hums again, thoughtful. 

"Yes, it would appear so - but by whom?"

"I think we all know the question to that." Gladio takes a sip of his milkshake. Noct watches as Gladio moves it to the side then, the only one out of the four of them who has an appetite. Although Noct was initially ticked off that Gladio was thinking about drinking a milkshake of all the times, the fact that Gladio is drinking a milkshake is enough for Noct to realize that Gladio is worried, too. 

After a few helpless glances, Gladio raises his eyebrows at Noct and Ignis. "Don't you two remember what Verstael said at the event? There's no doubt in my mind that he's the one who took him."

"Verstael was there?" Cor grits his jaw in frustration. "Son of a bitch, I swear if he has Prompto..."

"If he has Prompto, we'd need to make sure." Ignis's voice is calm. Gladio scoffs, Cor looks away, and Noct picks at the paint of the table. "We don't want any unnecessary scuffle between us and the Empire.

"I could take 'em," Gladio announces, taking another long sip of the thick, chocoately drink topped with whipped cream and a cherry. "I've been wanting to get my hands on those bastards for years."

"Yes, well." Ignis pushes his glasses further up his nose. "While I do understand and share your feelings towards the Empire, I would rather figure out if Prompto is even under their control. But first, we would need to unlock his phone - it's quite probable that he left us a clue as to where to find him."

The four of them stare at Prompto's phone again, no one making a move to pick it up. Slowly, Cor's hand reaches across the table to grasp the phone, before he taps it open and types in four numbers - incorrect. Cor sighs, dejected.

"What numbers did you use?" Ignis asks, and Cor runs a hand down his face.

"His birthday."

Everyone hums thoughtfully. Another moment passes, and then Gladio is reaching forward, typing in some numbers - incorrect. Gladio frowns.

"I just used the release date of that new chocobo movie that just came out," Gladio shrugs.

Ignis picks it up with his gloved hands, staring at the screen. His gaze shifts over to Noct, who has been silent the entire time. Noct doesn't notice his gaze, his mind going places that it hasn't gone for a long time.

Ignis stares at Noct a moment longer, before placing the phone back onto the table for the others to see as he types in the numbers - and it unlocks. Gladio and Cor gasp in surprise, and it's loud enough that Noct is pulled out of his thoughts to look around, then at the unlocked phone. His eyebrows raise.

"You unlocked it?" He says incredulously, looking over at Ignis. "You knew his passcode?"

Ignis shakes his head, eyes scanning across Prompto's apps and screensavers. "Not at all - merely a guess."

"There's no way that you could've guessed the right passcode, out of all the different permutations," Gladio muses as he leans scoots closer to Ignis to glance at the screen, and Ignis chuckles softly.

"What was it?" Noct asks across the table, and Ignis looks up at him from underneath his lashes, head still facing down towards Prompto's phone.

"Your birthday."

Noct's not sure if he responds or not, but he's pretty sure some sort of noise escapes his throat as Ignis taps away at the phone. He even goes through Prompto's photos, and the brief flash of a selfie that Prompto took has Noct swallowing roughly. Ignis searches for a while, until he pauses, and everyone leans closer. There, typed into Prompto's notes, are a few numbers, along with a few letters.

There's a brief pause.

5OMN509.

"Is that a license plate?" Cor asks, leaning closer, and Ignis nods after a while.

"It would appear that Prompto had a feeling that something bad was going to happen." Ignis looks up, eyes bright. "He's left us a clue."

"Thank God," Cor rests his head in his arms. Gladio takes another huge gulp of his milkshake, Ignis screenshots the note to send to himself, and Noct lets out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. He knows that they haven't found Prompto yet - and there's no guarantee that Prompto...but the thought that they know who took Prompto releases the hold that the dread had taken from Noct's heart, just by a little.

"Can you look up the numbers?" Gladio asks, and Cor whips out his phone then, and Ignis angles Prompto's phone towards him.

"I can - a buddy of mine can look them up for me, then send them my way," Cor flips open and taps through his phone quickly, and Noct forces himself to scoot closer, looking over his shoulder. Minutes pass, and then Cor gets a call. Cor speaks quickly, and then there's low murmuring over the phone, before he hangs up.

"Well?" Gladio asks, and Cor sets his phone down in the middle for them all to see.

"We just have to wait."

They wait - maybe thirty seconds, and then Gladio is ordering another milkshake. Finally though, Cor's phone dings, and he swipes it open quickly, thumbing through it. There, right on the screen of his phone, along with the license plate and photo of the owner.

Ardyn Izunia.

Chapter Text

He drifts in and out of it rhythmically, far too disoriented and lethargic to really take in his surroundings in the short seconds that his eyes are open. He can feel warmth on his back, the sound of something rumbling quietly and then gentle movement, as he breathes slowly, calmly. In the back of his mind, he knows that he should probably try harder to open his eyes, try harder to struggle, but he can’t seem to move. Oddly, he’s the most relaxed he’s been in a long time.

He can hear sounds at least, although he can’t really bring himself to care. He hears a door open near his head as the cold air tickles his skin, voices mumbling lowly, and then something firm and hard being shoved underneath his body to drag him, before it disappears and something somewhat round and bony is digging into his ribcage. He opens his eyes slowly, only managing to see his arms dangling limply in front of him and feel the gait of someone walking, before he’s out of it again.

It’s the severe throbbing of his head that wakes him, the pain allowing his brain to clear from the haze in his mind. He groans, tightening his eyes in pain before weakly trying to move. His cheek is lying against something cold and hard, and the old, stagnant smell of the room wafting into his nose has it wrinkling in disgust. Weakly, he opens his eyes, blinking quickly to clear his vision, and the faint blinking of the luminescent light above him doesn’t help. He struggles to get his arms underneath himself to push off of the cold floor, his limbs feeling heavy and shaky. Eventually, he gets on all fours, his hair hanging limply in his face as his eyes dart around the unfamiliar room.

The room that he’s in seems to be abandoned – old, rotten desks that look ready to fall apart any moment shoved against the wall, filing cabinets that are stuffed to the brim with papers, office chairs coated in dust…it’s like something out of a horror movie. He barely gets on his two feet, and even then, the headache intensifies and he hisses, holding his head in his hands. He can’t really remember how he got here; wherever ‘here’ was, and it’s obvious that he’s alone. It’s also kinda cold, and he looks down at himself to realize that his jacket is missing, and he shivers when the wind blows in from the open window across the room, scattering a few loose papers over the ground.

Wait. Open window? He blinks, trying to clear his mind, and ambles his way over to it, taking his time in order to make sure that he gets one foot in front of the other. When he finally makes it, he peers outside, squinting against the wind, but it’s too dark out – which is odd, considering that it seemed like it was mid-morning not that long ago. His eyes scan outside, but there’s nothing familiar about where he is…that’s really not good.

He takes a step back, still a little disoriented as he runs his hands up and down his arms. Without his jacket, he’s starting to get goosebumps littered across his freckled arms and shoulders as the wind blows easily through his thin red tank top. When his elbow brushes past a lump in his right pocket, his eyes widen as he dips his hand inside and a few bullets spill into his palm.

That’s right, he’d unloaded the gun he’d accidentally brought with him earlier and piled them into his pockets…but the gun is gone, he realizes as he finds the waistband of his pants gun free. Prompto runs a hand through his tousled blonde hair, still a little dizzy as he looks around the room. He needs to find a way out of here, but he can’t really seem to find a door, and the window is the only way out of the –

Suddenly, the low, creaking sound of a door being pushed against the floor grabs his attention, and he whips around quickly. A little too fast actually, and he stumbles, bracing himself on the wall near him as his eyes glance around the room. Footsteps echo into his ears, and then he sees the dark figure, looming towards him. Immediately, sweat prickles underneath his arms and his breathing gets shallow. He can’t remember much after having that weird smelling rag smashed over his mouth, but somehow that figure coming closer has his heart racing a mile a minute.

The figure comes into view, a smirk on its face as its amber eyes glow beneath the brim of the hat resting upon its head.

“Hello there, Prompto. Long time no see, hm?”

Prompto swallows heavily, pushing off of the wall in order to stand up straight and make it seem like he’s not afraid, but a heavy rush of vertigo hits him and he sways, catching himself. The headache continues to pound against his skull, making it difficult to think, and Ardyn hums.

“What did you do to me?” Prompto seethes through clenched teeth, and Ardyn chuckles lowly.

“I’ve done nothing to you – merely the effects of the chloroform, I’m afraid. I’ve heard they may last a while,” Ardyn takes off his hat, fanning himself with it, a smirk still on his face. “Hmm. Well, it’s not like you’re going anywhere, at least.”

“Where am I?”

Ardyn feigns hurt, raising a hand up to place it against his chest, fingers splayed. “Oh, how quickly they forget…although it has been a long time.” His voice is thick and somehow melodic at the same time, causing Prompto’s skin to crawl as Ardyn’s amber eyes seem to glow. Slowly, Prompto moves his hand to his back pocket, trying to locate his phone – and he comes up empty. Blinking, Prompto starts patting his pockets quickly, all of them, and a few bullets slip from his grasp and fall to the floor near his feet.

“Hey, where the hell is my-”

“We can’t have you spilling blood here,” Ardyn says, and Prompto looks up to see his uncle’s gun, gleaming in Ardyn’s hand. Prompto’s breath hitches – no phone and Ardyn has his gun. Fuck. “Although to most, this building is known only as Niflheim’s well-renowned Empire Incorporation…but to you, this place should have some sentimental value. After all, is it your home sweet home.”

Ardyn’s words ring through his mind. Niflheim’s well-renowned Empire Incorporation. He’s in Niflheim. Well, then. This is where he wanted to go in the first place, isn’t it? Maybe he should be glad that he’s here, glad that he can finally figure some things out for himself that he’s been questioning for a while…but he’s afraid, if he’s being honest. He’s afraid because he’s here in Niflheim miles away from home, alone, and no one knows where he is. Maybe even more terrifying, is the thought that he’s probably in some kind of danger – but as the heir, surely nothing would happen to him. Right?

As soon as that thought crosses his mind, a curl of nausea sneaks up on him, and the thought that he’ll never get to see anyone he loves ever again has his breath growing shallow again.

Ardyn hums then, his voice sickly sweet even when his lips are closed, and the tune of echoes throughout the room. “…where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day…” Ardyn’s voice, almost a whisper, has the air in the room shifting, and Prompto clenches his fists. This place is not his home.

“Shut up!”

Ardyn stops, abruptly, his smirk curling. “Why are you so upset? I’m not the one who blames you for everything that went wrong.”

Prompto’s gut nearly drops to the floor, and he can feel his cheeks heating up as his eyes prick with tears. Surely, Noct can’t blame him for everything…right? Who is he kidding though – who else is Noct supposed to blame? Prompto tries to square his shoulders, stand up straight, but he’s still so disoriented that he can only manage to bring his shoulders up to his ears. “You’re wrong!”

Ardyn walks closer to him then, the smirk still present on his lips. Prompto tries to step back, lean away from him, but he’s so off balance that he nearly trips onto the floor, if it weren’t for Ardyn’s fingers digging harshly into his elbow. His amber eyes seem to stare right into Prompto’s soul, as the smirk fades. “Perhaps the estimable Besithia can help heal this broken heart of yours.”

At the mention of that name, Prompto yanks his elbow back, and in his haste ends up on the floor. He’s breathing quickly, staring up at the man looming over him. “Quit the crap – why did you take me?”

“What’s a company without an heir to the take in the reins, hm?” Ardyn’s eyes narrow as he sneers the words, looking down at him before he moves to bend down to Prompto’s level, kneeling on the floor in front of him. “Allow me to regale you with a tale.”

“In an age, long past, an exigent dilemma ravaged between two very important companies. A tiny problem, that twisted the future and the reputation of the companies, the likes of which you’ve seen,” Ardyn says, gesturing around the room, and Prompto can only stare in disbelief as Ardyn regards him, expressionless. “In Niflheim lived…a savior, if I must put it that way, that conjured up a deal. A contract. His idea would come to save both companies, that countless jobs and futures be spared. In order to ensure the future of both companies, the third sons down the line, would marry.”

Ardyn pauses, probably letting it all sink in, and Prompto’s mouth suddenly feels extremely dry. “I’m sure you know all of this already – forgive me if I’m boring you.”

Prompto can’t respond, can’t think clearly, still somewhat disoriented and the throbbing of his head still messing with him. Ardyn leans forward then, to drag his fingers gently underneath Prompto’s chin, leaving a burn in their wake, before they tighten around him.

“But there was always that hope out there, that the forgotten heir of the Empire would return someday, to take his rightful place…and here you are, to take what’s rightfully mine.”

Prompto blinks. “W-what?”

Ardyn’s lets go of his chin forcefully, causing a new wave of dizziness to fog Prompto’s mind as he slumps over, trying to gather his bearings. When he looks up, Ardyn is staring at him again, from beneath the fedora perched on top of his head – the smirk is back.

“Although I had placed a deadline for myself to come up with something before the birth of the third sons down the line to inherit, it was well worth the wait to make sure it would not fail – and after all this time, I won’t allow it. I won’t allow some twenty something year old fools to come and make a mess of my plan that I’ve worked so hard for.” Ardyn’s voice is still sweet, melodic…creepy, but it’s obvious that he’s becoming angry as his eyes seem to harden more and more. Prompto rubs a hand over his chin where there’s no doubt a few red indentations in his skin, before scowling up at him – at least he tries to, Ardyn’s image slightly blurry around the edges as he blinks blearily.

“What makes you think I’d want to interfere with your plan, anyway?”

“Why, because it involves your dear Noctis, of course.”

Absolute panic grips him, even through the hazy fog that his mind is clouded in. “What? How? Why?

Ardyn chuckles. “One question at a time, my boy.”

Prompto grits his teeth, getting to his feet steadily this time, Ardyn’s words seeming to have ignited a fire within him that allows his legs to support his body and his mind to sharpen. “How? How is Noct a part of your plan?”

Ardyn’s eyes seem to simmer. “By using you as bait, of course.”

“Bait?”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he knows of your absence, by now, and when he comes to rescue you,” Ardyn looks off into the distance wistful, clasping his hands together near his chest and attempting to look lovesick. “Oh, it just makes my heart flutter at the thought…that once both heirs are gone…there will be no one left to take the reins. Except I.”

Prompto takes a step back, disbelief and terror on his face as Ardyn stares at him, watching his every move. “Are you…you’re planning to get rid of us?”

Ardyn purses his lips. “If it comes down to that, I suppose. I just need the two of you gone.”

It’s too much information, piling into his brain, and he’s overwhelmed. The thought that Ardyn made up that contract, to help ensure the futures of the companies…only for it to be an evil plan to take control all along is like some big climax from a movie or something. Ardyn was so power-crazed back then and power-crazed now, that he gave himself just enough time between the deal and the birth of the third sons to inherit to think of a way to take all the power for himself – and he doesn’t want anyone to stand in his way.

It's not like Prompto wanted to be a part of this company anyway, or wanted any part of whatever power comes along with it. He could just leave this all behind, tell Ardyn “Hey, you don’t have to hurt anyone – I don’t want a part of all this anyway,” and that would be that. Unless…Ardyn still went after Noct regardless. If Ardyn gets full control, there’s no telling what he’ll do, to the city, to the people working here – to Noct. Everyone has lives, families, and from the look in Ardyn’s eyes it looks like that is the least of his concerns.

Fleetingly, Prompto wonders if anyone even knows that he’s gone – if Noct knows that he’s gone. He wonders if Noct got his message, called him back or texted him or something, and Prompto doesn’t have his phone, having dropped it when he was grabbed. He wonders if Noct thinks that Prompto doesn’t want anything to do with him anymore, and if he wonders if Noct even cares.

“What if Noct doesn’t come to save me,” Prompto says, and Ardyn’s expression shifts. “What’s your plan then, huh?”

Ardyn smiles, pulling out the gun again and letting it dangle from his fingers. “Oh, I’ve no doubt that he will. But just in case, I’ve been to his apartment before, haven’t I?”

The thought of that, Ardyn breaking into Noct’s apartment and hurting him has Prompto seeing red, and he watches as the barrel of the gun is aimed at him. The gun…has no bullets in it. They’re with him, in his pocket, and when he shuffles a little he can feel them brush up against his thigh. There are some on the floor too, where he had accidentally dropped them, but Ardyn hasn’t made a move to pick them up, and it just makes Prompto sweat even more.

If by some miracle Noct knows that he’s missing and really is coming for him, Prompto can’t let anything happen to him. He needs to contact Noct, tell him to stay away, to keep him safe – but he has no way of contacting him. So what is he gonna do?

He needs to get out of here, maybe run to the nearest phone in the building, maybe a store or shop, and ask them to help. Screw his original plan, of confronting his father – there’s more important things to worry about, and he can’t let Ardyn win. How selfless that would be of him, to say that he can’t let Ardyn win, can’t let him have all the power at his fingertips and watch him ruin things – and although that’s in his mind too, his main concern is Noct. Because even thinking about Noct being hurt or gone because of him is painful to even think about. But first, he needs to get Ardyn to leave. Prompto glares at him, clenching his fists against his sides and taking a deep breath. Here we go – hopefully he doesn’t fuck it up.

“What makes you think that your plan will work?”

Ardyn’s facial expression shifts again, but before he can say anything Prompto takes a step forward.

“Let’s say that you get rid of Noct and I – fine. But can you really be sure that you’re good enough to ‘take the reins’ of this company?”

He’s struck a nerve – the corner of Ardyn’s mouth twitches, near his lips that are still curled into a smile. Ardyn lowers the gun, letting it dangle near his side, and Prompto’s eyes follow it. When he looks back up though, Ardyn’s eyes have darkened, his face has gone almost a deathly pale, and for second Prompto almost recoils, but he stands firm.

“There’s no one else more fit,” Ardyn replies, his voice deeper. “I deserve what’s rightfully mine. I’ve stood by and let that incompetent fool of a father of yours treat me like dirt for years – to gain his trust.”

Prompto’s breathing fast from the adrenaline coursing through him, but he manages to shrug his shoulders, hoping to seem unimpressed. “So, what? You think trust is enough for him to shift it all over to you?”

Ardyn scowls at him, taking a step forward until he towers over him, and it takes everything in Prompto’s soul to not cower back and tuck himself into a corner. “He can, and he will.”

“Maybe that’s what he said, at some point. But now that he knows about me, you think that he’s still gonna go through with it?”

Ardyn clicks his tongue against his teeth, shaking his head. “Hence, the plan, Prompto. With no heirs to inherit, the Empire will finally be mine…and Insomnia will be no more.”

Prompto swallows, closing his eyes briefly as he forces out a laugh, short and bitter. “You keep telling yourself that, pal.”

There’s silence for a long stretch of time, before Ardyn smiles. Then, he starts chuckling, before he’s outright laughing hysterically, wiping at his eyes, and Prompto bites his lips anxiously, waiting. Finally, Ardyn calms down enough to meet his eyes.

“Oh, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that hard before,” He sighs, and his fingers shift on the gun in his hold, Prompto watching as he does so. “You’re such a tease.”

Prompto’s hands are starting to tremble from fear, from the look of utter enjoyment on Ardyn’s face, and all the terror and dread just starts racing back at him, in his mind. Did he fuck up? Did he ruin everything, again?

He really hopes that Noct doesn’t know that he’s gone. He really hopes that Noct isn’t formulating some sort of plan to find him, or to save him. That Noct doesn’t figure anything out, and that Noct doesn’t make his way here. Please don’t let Noct bust through the door with the police or something, only to find Prompto’s dead and battered corpse lying in a heap on the ground in the corner of a room.

He really hopes that Noct will just be content enough to keep the memories they shared – Prompto knows that he will.

“You really ought to take a rest.”

When Prompto looks up, the gun gleams as it swings towards him, and pain erupts against the left side of his head.

Chapter Text

The drive towards Niflheim seems unbearably long, and does nothing to quiet his intrusive thoughts. He drives almost aimlessly, the sky dark and ominous as the last few leaves fall from the gangly branches of the trees that seem to go on for miles ahead of him. He’d always hated this part of the drive.

Looking in his rearview mirror, he sees no cars behind him. Actually, he hasn’t really seen any people or cars around for the last five miles or so, and while strange, it’s not surprising. No one really comes down this street anyway, it having been blocked off by a barricade not that long ago. It certainly explains the eerie feeling it gives off, the chills it gives. He tightens his hands on the wheel, and in response his foot presses harder against the gas.

Ignis would surely scold him if he were here – tell him to slow down, to be careful, but it’s not like Noct would listen to him anyway. Not when there’s so much at stake right now. Gladio would probably just bitch and whine, probably snap at him, something along the lines of “Jesus I wanna get there as much as you do, but I wanna get there alive,” and Noct snorts a little. He’s not sure what Cor would say or do – maybe he’d even encourage Noct to go even faster.

None of that matters, though. He’s alone.

After driving for what seems like forever, he sees the telltale sign of the tall building up ahead. He grits his teeth, and the tires screech against the suddenly wet, dark street. When he pulls into the lot, it’s unusually quiet. There are no other cars, no other signs of life, and it makes him feel uneasy. Nevertheless, he presses on, slamming the car door shut behind him and running down the path, towards the entrance.

The building looming over him seems…different, somehow. He can’t really put his finger on it as he runs, staring up at the colossal, brick building as a few drops of rain splatter against his face, but he doesn’t have the time for it, anyways. The front entrance is unlocked, when he finally gets there, and he’s cautions as he steps inside quietly.

There’s no one. He looks around, puzzled – it still looks the same, the same as when he went in his father’s place that one time a few weeks ago or something. He’d been expected to be jumped on immediately, his face being known throughout the entire building, but nothing happens. The only sound is the sound of his feet against the marble floor, and there’s knot coiling in his gut.

He walks across the floor, towards the door that is hidden behind some pillar in the corner of the room, and pushes it open. The door swings shut slowly behind him, and he stands there a moment as the sound echoes against the white walls of the stairwell – he pants softly, eyes flicking around because he doesn’t know where he should be going. He doesn’t know where Prompto is, and if he doesn’t hurry the fuck up

Suddenly, there’s a noise above him…almost like the sound of something, or someone, banging against a wall.

“Prompto?” Noct calls out, his voice oscillating off the walls, and there’s a pause, before the sound comes again.

Without a second thought, Noct’s racing up the stairs.

He’s out of breath and slightly red in the face not long after, bracing a hand on his hip as his leg aches from the effort and exertion, and he wipes a hand across his forehead as he looks around. The numbers on the walls have faded, and he hasn’t heard anything for a long time – only the sound of the blood rushing in his ears.

“Prompto!” Noct huffs, doubling over as his leg throbs in pain, and he breathes harshly as a few strands of his hair make his way into his eyes. “Where are you?”

The pounding sounds again, so close that he can hear it coming from the floor above him, and he makes his way up as fast as he can, grimacing through the pain.

It’s gone silent again by the time he reaches the floor, and the door in front of him and he jiggles the doorknob of the door, but it’s locked. Frustrated, exhausted and outright terrified at the thought the Prompto could be behind this door and barely alive, and he kicks at it with his good leg, nearly losing his balance. The door wavers, but doesn’t give, and Noct leans against it, the coolness of the metal feeling nice on his feverish skin.

“Prompto, are you in there?”

There’s a muffled response, but Noct can’t quite hear through the thickness of the door, and he jiggles the doorknob again, but it still won’t budge. With a growl, he kicks at it again with his good leg, and this time the door slams open, hitting the wall behind it loudly. Noct’s only stunned for a moment, before he’s rushing in.

Prompto’s facing away from him, barely sitting on the metal chair in the middle of the room, his body limp. Noct’s nearly frozen in his spot, forcing his legs to move towards him, his heart in his throat. He reaches out, his hand trembling from something other than fear – trepidation? Don’t those words mean the same thing?

Whatever he’s feeling, it expands tenfold when his fingers come in contact with Prompto’s skin, which is cold to the touch. It’s expands up into his chest, in his throat, until he inhales deeply, and he feels whole. Complete. The fact that Prompto is here, with him, and he’s touching his freckled skin, makes all the difference. It’s so strange, but makes sense, at the same time.

His fingers gently press against his shoulder, but Prompto doesn’t respond. His breathing is ragged, shallow, and Noct kneels down in front of him to get a good look at his face – because if he doesn’t, he worries that he’ll disappear.

Prompto’s face is exactly how he remembers it. Freckles are dotted across the bridge of his nose and across the apples of his cheeks, his lips parted as he breathes softly, his eyelashes dusting against his skin. His heart-shaped face is a little obscured by his blonde hair that hangs limply in his face, and Noct reaches up to tuck it behind his ear, his hand moving gently over the curve of his jaw.

Suddenly, Prompto’s breathing stutters, and his eyes tighten before he blinks, his eyebrows furrowing. Noct’s breath hitches as Prompto’s blue eyes open, noticing him before they focus, and his pupils dilate. Prompto’s lips quiver as his eyes dart around Noct’s face as if he can’t believe that Noct is really here, in front of him.

Noct can feel his hands shaking, his heart hammering against his ribs, he wishes that he knew what Prompto was thinking. Is Prompto happy to see him, or is he just reminded of all the bad things that happened between them, all the words that he said? Does he still feel the same?

God, just listening to the sound of Prompto’s labored breathing and the speed of his pulse against his fingers is enough, because he’d been so terrified. What if he hadn’t gotten here in time, and missed out on his chance? He has no idea what Prompto’s been through and he can’t help but feel that it’s all his fault.

He realizes belatedly, that he’s been staring at Prompto’s lips – slightly chapped and pale, and he lets his thumb tug down on a plush lower lip softly, dragging fingertips along his pale, freckled skin, and Prompto exhales shakily.

He wants to kiss him. He wants to kiss him all over his face, kiss every single freckle, and whisper how sorry he is. Tell him that he's sure they can work something out, and that all that other shit doesn't matter.

Prompto blinks at him, and Noct swallows, roughly, pulling his hand away.

“Are you okay?”

Prompto doesn’t reply at first, before gently nodding his head. He winces then, and Noct notices the puffy, red swollen cut near his left temple, and he grits his teeth, from picturing Ardyn hurting him and putting his hands on him. But he has other things to worry about as Prompto shifts, trying to get into an upright position, and Noct reaches out, his fingers gripping his hips, and Prompto freezes. Noct retracts his hands in response as Prompto maneuvers himself until he’s sitting straight.

There’s an awkward silence between the two of them for a second, before Noct clears his throat softly, his knees starting to ache as he looks around. He finds it strange that no one is here, no one here to thwart his plan of rescuing Prompto – even Ardyn isn’t here. It’s a little unsettling, but that doesn’t matter now anyway.

“Um, we should, get out of here. Get you some help.” Noct stands, the blood rushing back down to his feet, when Prompto’s hand shoots out and grabs ahold of his wrist. Noct looks down at him, at Prompto’s violet eyes.

"Noct?” He gets out, his voice weak and music to Noct’s ears. His shoulders start to shake a little bit as he blinks quickly, and Noct knows that means he’s trying to find the right words to say and to say them calmly. “How did - what -”

“It’s okay,” Noct says softly, gently removing Prompto’s fingers from his wrist to twine their fingers together, and Prompto takes a deep breath. “We can talk about it later.”

Noct tugs their hands, but Prompto doesn’t budge. His fingers seem to tighten around Noct’s almost painfully, and Noct’s eyebrows furrow as Prompto stares up at him, his expression unreadable. Suddenly, there’s a sound in the distance, one that Noct can’t quite place. It sounds familiar, the voice, but he can’t strain his ears enough to figure out exactly whose voice it is as he looks around the room quickly.

Noct looks back, ready to just drag Prompto by the hand if he had to, when he freezes, his heart beating rapidly. His fingers grasp at the empty air as he stares above him, at the blood-splattered against Prompto’s temple and trailing down his neck, his head lolled to the side as his arms and legs are held by some metal restraints around his wrists and ankles by some huge and complicated looking apparatus. The voice sounds again, louder, and Noct feels his breathing picking up.

He feels the nausea creep up his throat as he takes a step back. The voice gets louder and louder, and he claps his hands over his ears as his chest starts to rattle, and suddenly he can’t stop shaking, and everything is happening too fast –

“Noct!”

He bolts upright, eyes flying open to see both Ignis and Gladio’s faces staring at him in alarm, before he turns away to open the car door and vomit in the street.


He stirs, feeling heavy and stiff as he groans. When he blinks open his eyes, it’s to a sight of worried green eyes behind a set of concave lenses. Noct blinks, not really remembering when or how he fell asleep, and he feels a warm hand ghosting across his forehead, underneath his hair.

“Are you alright, Noct?” Ignis’s voice is quiet and comforting, and Noct swallows, his throat dry and somewhat burning. Ignis pulls his hand away, before reaching over to turn on the soft light. As he does so, Noct notices movement from the corner of his eye, seeing a large figure moving towards him. Gladio sits near him, worrying his lip between his teeth.

“You ok?” Gladio asks as leans forward a little. “You kinda scared us earlier.”

Noct swallows again, wincing momentarily before moving to sit up, and Gladio shifts forward to help, helping him lean against the pillow stacked behind him. His eyes feel heavy and he blinks owlishly - how long has he been asleep?

Ignis produces a glass of water in front of him. “Here, drink this.”

Noct takes the glass, letting the water seep between his lips, the burning in his throat subsiding. When he finishes, he leans back heavily, taking a deep breath. Ignis pushes his glasses further over his nose while Gladio absentmindedly runs his fingers over the dark ink adorning his forearm before Noct speaks up.

“What time is it?” His voice is a little scratchy, noticing the odd lighting around him. Ignis and Gladio give each other a look. Noct looks between the two of them. 

"A little after 5:30," Ignis replies, and Noct furrows his eyebrows in confusion as he notices the tired look on his friend's face. "You've been asleep for a while - Gladio and I wanted to make sure you were alright."

"Why?" Noct asks, trying to blink away the sleep in his eyes. "What happened?"

“Nothin’ too serious,” Gladio slugs his arm playfully, but there’s a look in his eyes. “You just got sick, is all.”

“Sick?” He doesn’t remember feeling sick.

“Yeah. Well I mean, at first you weren’t – you just fell asleep in the car. Then you started twitching and stuff until you were trembling like a leaf. I tried waking you up, but you couldn’t hear me.”

That must've been the voice he heard, and now that he thinks back on it, it could have been Gladio. Or someone else.

“Iggy pulled over once you started looking really pale,” Gladio continues, and Noct tries to force down the nausea in his gut. “and I kept trying to wake you up, but your breathing just kept getting faster until you finally woke up and then barfed all over the street.”

“Gladio,” Ignis warns, and Gladio snorts.

“What? If anyone should be sick around here it should be me. Do you know how many calories I consumed?” He shudders while Ignis rolls his eyes.

Noct closes his eyes briefly, remembering. Remembering driving to Niflheim, of walking into that empty building to climb all of those stairs, and then finding Prom –

Noct sits up fully, swaying a little as he feels Ignis’s hand on his shoulder to steady him, and he looks around frantically. “Wait. Am I at home?”

Ignis hesitates. “Yes.”

“Why?” Noct asks, turning towards him. “Why did you take me home? How could you let me sleep for so long?”

“Noct, you're obviously exhausted, and you looked as if you were-”

“What about Prompto,” The flashes from the nightmare play in his mind. “He’s still out there, with Ardyn, we have to go save him, I have to-”

“What you need to do,” Ignis interrupts, pushing Noct’s shoulder until he’s lying down again. “Is to get some rest, and let the police handle it.”

Noct’s eyes go wide. “What? The police?”

“…Yes. It’s the safest step to take, and in your condition-”

Fuck that,” Noct growls, sitting up, and Ignis’s hands reach out again, but Noct swats them away. He throws his legs over the side of the bed, standing dizzily. It takes him a moment, but he stands steadily. “I’m not going to wait around all day while they do some stupid investigation when we already know where Prompto is!”

“Hey now,” Gladio says, standing himself and holding his hands up, palms out. “We just figured out who took him, not where he was taken.”

Noct turns towards him, eyes blazing. “What are you talking about? Where else would Ardyn take him but Niflheim?”

There’s a silence between the three of them for a moment, a calculated look on Ignis’s face, and a frown on Gladio’s. After a while, Ignis shakes his head.

“As I said before, we cannot afford a scuffle between the Empire and Insomnia right now, and barging inside accusing them of an abduction will surely not go over well,” Ignis says calmly, and Noct scoffs, running a hand through his hair and turning away. “The best option is to let the police handle it – I’m sure Niflheim is the first place they’ll look.”

Noct bites at his lip, feeling his chest tighten with each passing breath because he can’t get the image of Prompto’s bloodied body hanging in front of him, the feel of his skin beneath his fingertips. It had all felt so real – Prompto had been so close to him, and now the thought of letting some police officer find Prompto instead of himself…if they even find him in the first place… has his stomach rolling and his fingernails digging into his palms.

A hand touches his shoulder again, gentle and reassuring. “I’m just as concerned for Prompto as you are,” Ignis says, and Noct scoffs, wiping at his nose with the back of his hand. “This is all we can do, for now.”

Ignis is right – like usual. Noct really does need to think before he acts, and he can’t be causing any more trouble than he’s already caused. It hurts like hell, that he can’t do anything right now, that he can’t be sure where Prompto is, or if he’s even alive. There’s that feeling in his chest again, and he can’t help but feel that his gut instinct is right.

He shakes off Ignis’s hand on him, and Ignis slowly retracts. He sniffs, noticing one less person. “Where – Where’s Cor?”

“He went out,” Gladio replies, and Noct looks over at him to see that he’s leaned against the wall of the room, a conflicted look on his face with his arms crossed. “Said he was gonna talk to that buddy of his at the police station.”

Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door, and the three of them share a look before Noct mumbles something under his breath about answering it, needing to get away from the stuffiness of the bedroom and the looks on his friend’s faces.

He’s staring at the ground while he walks to the door, and when he opens it, he nearly stumbles onto the floor in surprise when two slim arms wrap around his neck, before they tighten. Noct blinks, the feeling of fine hair tickling his cheek and the warm body in his arms causing him to embrace them in return.

“Luna?”


Luna rubs soothing circles into his back as they sit on the sofa, alone.

After Luna had reluctantly released her hold from around Noct’s neck, the look she’d given him nearly had him in tears. She’d silently led him towards the sofa, where’d he sat looking down at the floor while she and Ignis talked quietly. He doesn’t really know what they talked about – but it has Ignis telling him softly to call or message him if he needs anything, a gentle pat on the back from Gladio, and then they’re gone.

“Noctis,” Luna says softly, and Noct tenses, before hesitating.

“Noct.”

“Hmm?” Luna tilts her head as her hand pauses on his back, and Noct gives her a little smile.

“Call me Noct. Only old people call me Noctis.”

Luna giggles softly, her voice causing the tension in his shoulders to relax a little, and her hand starts moving again.

“Well, I’m glad to know that you don’t think I’m old,” She teases him, and Noct allows himself another smile in return. If feels foreign to his cheeks, nevertheless.

“Four years older,” Noct replies, sitting up and leaning back against the sofa as she pulls her hand back to her lap. “So, you’re kinda pushing it.”

She smirks shaking her head as she follows his example, leaning against the back of the couch, and he eyes her from his peripheral. Her blond hair is twisted into a French braid over her shoulder, her soft white sweater brushing against his arm, a blue scarf around her neck matching the color of her eyes, which stare up at the ceiling, before sliding over to his with a small smile.

Noct swallows then, looking away as his breathing stutters, and she immediately scoots closer, her warmth comforting. She’s always been like this, ever since they were kids – incredibly intuitive, comforting, friendly. Even though she was older than him, she never treated him like he was some dumb kid, and at first, he’d kind of had a crush on her.

After he’d left Tenebrae though, they grew apart. He forgot the sound of her voice, the smooth touch of her skin, the smell of her hair. He’d promised that he’d come visit her often, and her the same, but life happened, and…well.

At least they’d still kept in contact with each other. They’d started off writing letters to each other before they switched to messaging through a third party app. She always knew the right thing to say, the right thing to do. She was the one who had initially voiced her suspicion of their ‘engagement’, and they had both decided to refuse it. Right now though, he can’t even remember what he’d said to her in his last message – or if he even replied.

“What are you doing here? It's pretty early,” He asks her, trying to ignore what he really wants to tell her about.

“I’ve grown used to your irregular messages,” Luna replies, her eyes flickering over his face which is undoubtedly red and puffy. “but this time, too much time had passed. I had to make sure you were alright."

“You could’ve just called me.”

 “We haven’t seen each other in years – maybe I just wanted to see you?” Luna raises an eyebrow. “Unless, you’d rather I not be here?”

“Not what I meant,” Noct says, and Luna lets her lips quirk into a little half-smile after a moment of silence. “Don’t be like that.”

“I’m just teasing you. I just wanted to be here in person in case you needed a hug.”

Her words make his heart throb, and there must be some expression on his face because she’s leaning forward, concerned.

“Noct,” Luna says, her voice gentle. “Really, is there something wrong?”

Noct bites his lip, before nodding. “Um, yeah. There is.”

“What is it? You know you can talk to me about anything.”

He knows that, he really does. But it’s more difficult than it should be, to tell her – maybe, he just doesn’t want to disappoint someone else he cares about.

He tells her. Everything. Well, sorta – he skips past all the dumb shit he said, all the shit he didn’t say, and at the end of it he’s pretty sure that he looks as pathetic as he feels. Luna had listened intently, nodded encouragingly when he’d hesitated, and hadn’t interrupted him once.

“I realize now that what I did was stupid,” He says. “I should’ve just ended it when I had the chance before I…before everything went downhill. I’m such an idiot.”

Luna hums thoughtfully. “I don’t think you’re an idiot. You’re young. Be gentle with yourself, Noct – you’re doing the best you can, and life doesn’t come with instructions.”

He wants to believe that, but it seems a little impossible when he’s been beaten down so much in the past week or so. He sniffs, blinking away the wetness in his eyes and Luna hums again, quietly.

“You really care about Prompto,” She notes as she rubs a stray tear off his chin with her thumb with a small smile. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you cry.”

“I...” Noct hesitates, before looking into her eyes. “what if I don't get the chance to tell him that myself?”

Luna’s eyes glimmer with unshed tears as she stares at him. “Don’t think that way. I don’t know why terrible things like this happen to us sometimes, but you have to believe that something good is going to come out of this.”

“Like what?” Noct's voice is suddenly sharp in response to her optimism. “What good could possibly come out of this?”

She pauses, before her face shifts, expression changing. “Your serendipity.”

“Seren..what?”

Luna gives him a sad smile. “Something you weren’t looking for; something you weren’t expecting. But something that you’re very lucky to have found.”

It’s a strange word, and definitely something he’s never heard of before. But it makes sense. He wasn’t looking or expecting to feel anything for the nerdy blonde-haired and freckled guy he’d blackmailed into a sham relationship with him. Prompto was supposed to be a touch and go, someone who was going to scratch his back for him while he scratched his. If he lets the police do whatever they’re gonna do, and let them take their sweet ass time, then he’ll regret everything. Out of all the dumb shit he’s done and said, he’ll regret this one thing the most.

He stands suddenly, and Luna jumps a little, blinking up at him. Noct reaches into his pocket to fumble for his keys, pulling them out and running his thumb along the tacky looking fish that hangs from them, and he takes a deep breath. He bends down, pressing a quick kiss on her head and giving her a lopsided smile.

“Thanks,” He says, and she stares, a little shocked from his lips against her hair. “I…really appreciate you, Luna. I’m sorry I haven’t shown it before, but I promise I’ll be better.”

He moves, jogging towards the front door to where his shoes lay kicked into the corner and starts pulling them on. Luna stands then, her small feet padding over to him quickly.

“For what?” She asks as he slips his shoes on and tugs a hoodie over his head quickly, brushing down his hair. “Where are you going at this hour?”

Noct pauses, hand on the door, looking over at her. “To get my serendipity.”

Chapter Text

There's a ringing in his ears.

Dull, yet somewhat sharp, throbbing on the left side of his head where flakes of dried blood stick to his skin. A drop of something wet trickles down the side of his nose slowly – although at the moment, he’s not particularly sure what it is. Blood, sweat, tears. Probably all three.

He rubs a fist across his nose, only for him to whimper quietly in pain as his hand comes away wet and his nose tingling from the fresh wound – definitely blood, then. He tightens his hold around his knees that are shoved up against his chest as he tries to mold himself into the wall behind him, but it’s no use – he’s alone, in the dark, and he has no idea where he is.

Maybe being holed up in some closet in the dark isn’t the best of ideas, but each time he tries to man up and leave, all he can think about is the bright amber color of that man’s eyes. The way they’d seethed at him, the way they had darted all over his face and then smiled - and for some reason, he had felt the need to run. So, he had, and in his haste had nearly broken his face on the concrete steps he’d raced down. Straight into a closet, and not out an exit, like an idiot. But he’s scared.

He needs to get out of here. He needs to leave, before he starts thinking too much.

How did he get here? Where is he? Does his uncle know where he is? Why is there this strange, nagging sensation in the pit of his stomach?

Fuck – too late.

He doesn’t even know how long he’s been here, in this closet, or in this unfamiliar place. It could be minutes, hours, days, even. If anything, it’s better knowing that he’s safer now than he was when he woke up in that creepy abandoned room on the floor.

That creepy, abandoned room that just so happened to have the door propped wide open. As if someone, or something, had known that he was in that room, and tried to coax him into doing something really stupid.

Like wander the halls, trying to find his way out, and conveniently finding himself somewhere he obviously wasn’t supposed to be.

The voice, although faint, had been real – and the first sign of human life he’d heard in a while. He didn’t think it through, couldn’t help himself, and it had been enough to distract the logical part of his brain from the fact that he needed to be careful.

“My friend, we’ve been by each other’s side for a long time now – a little over twenty years?” The voice was deep, yet somehow smooth as melting honey, and Prompto had found himself pausing – and it sounds oddly familiar, making an uneasy feeling quiver in his throat. His head tilts towards the voice that had come from the thick heavy door behind him that he had just walked past – it was slightly open. “Oh, it feels just like yesterday.”

A snort is heard then, and Prompto tiptoes towards the door, peering inside. A tall, broad shouldered man with many layers of weird clothing stands, his back facing Prompto. The man takes off the fedora resting upon his burgundy hair and runs his fingers through it. Beyond him, there’s someone else – broad shouldered, long wavy white hair, sporting some type of complex looking outfit. Prompto doesn’t have long to ponder on that though, as the man speaks.

“I’ve had enough of this idle chit chat,” He says, and Prompto feels his blood run cold. “What brings you here, Izunia?”

At the mention of the name, there’s another flash of recognition, but it’s too fast for Prompto to process, and in the response the man with the burgundy colored hair, Izunia he supposes, chuckles softly. He turns his head slightly to the side, and Prompto ducks back a little farther behind the door, staring at the man’s soft profile. An almost evil looking smirk graces the man’s lips.

“Permit me to make a suggestion,” Izunia shrugs his shoulders for a quick moment. “Rather than allow that flotsam of a son of yours to help you gain control while it’s probable that he’ll fail, why not give it to me?”

The other man is silent. Izunia waits patiently, keeping a constant grin on his face at least where Prompto can see, but he can also see his hands behind his back, clenching together as the minutes tick by in silence. Prompto swallows, trying to stay quiet as he grips the door tighter. He’s not entirely sure what all this talk of power and control have to do with him.

Eventually, the man speaks, and when he does, his voice is sour. “That’s what you’ve been after all this time, isn’t it?”

Prompto’s eyes flicker over to Izunia, who’s facial expression shifts for a moment, before he composes himself. “I beg your pardon?”

“I know,” The man says, and he angles his head towards the other, not particularly making eye contact – at least not from where Prompto can see. “I know all about you, Ardyn Izunia. The deal you made, the contract, the marriages between the companies – your plan.”

The man laughs then, short and bitter, his cackle echoing throughout the room, and Prompto can see Izunia’s shoulders start to tighten. Yet, his voice is still light. “My friend, do tell me of this so called plan that you seem to know so much about, hm?”

“Do you believe me to be a fool? An idiot? Do you really think that I would be so foolish as to hand everything over to you?”

The guy is seriously getting pissed now, his voice starting to raise, and he still hasn’t looked Izunia in the face yet. Fleetingly, Prompto wonders what in the hell happened that it all came down to this, this fight between these two men over the apparent control over companies. What about having control is so captivating to them? Were they both so power – crazed that that’s why they’ve apparently turned against each other?

Obviously, this has been a long time coming, from the tension in the room. They talk about power, about some sort of deal and marriage between the companies, and Izunia’s plan. Prompto tilts his head – not that he should care (because what he really should be doing is getting the fuck out of here), but he wonders what Izunia’s done, what type of plan he concocted that was apparently kept a secret.

From what he’s heard, it’s the son they need – but where is he?

There’s a beat of silence, before Izunia is stepping forward. “My friend, are you alright? I’ve never heard you speak like this before.”

“Don’t you ridicule me!” The other man snarls the words, and distantly Prompto wonders if he should continue to stay here and listen or to just get the hell out of here, but his legs don’t seem to work – he’s entranced by these two strange men, by the conversation their having. It’s almost like he’s meant to hear this, that hearing this somehow fits the pieces of some strange puzzle, but he still has no clue what it is.

“It’s been over twenty years,” The man croaks, clenching his fists at his sides, but Izunia continues to stand near him, regarding him with a constant small smile on his face. “That woman has caused me so much trouble – had I known things would come to this, I would have never set my advances upon her.”

He starts walking farther into the room, Izunia trailing along behind him, and Prompto takes a breath, and slips inside, to press himself against a pillar connecting to wall – he’s still hidden. He doesn’t know why, but there’s some tugging in his gut that says he has to stay. The logical part of his brain is telling him to leave while also keeping him rooted in his spot behind this pillar as he peeks out.

“For years I’ve let Insomnia thrive with the power that should have been mine,” Prompto peers out slowly, watching as the two men continue to converse, the man still speaking lowly. “and now he’s back, and he’s just in time. I don’t have the time nor the patience to be discussing this with you.”

Izunia shrugs. “This ceasefire is getting us nowhere,” He gracefully lays a hand on the other man’s shoulder, fingers gripping firmly, holding up his closed fist. The other man takes notice, glancing up at him for a moment before holding his hand open – something small falls into his palm. The man spends a few seconds staring at it, before taking it in between his fingers and holding it up into the air as if to see it better in the light. Prompto squints then, tilting his head slightly as he focuses on the small object in between the man’s fingers – it’s a bullet.

“What is this?” The man asks, letting his arm drop, and Prompto takes a step back. “Some sort of souvenir?”

Izunia smiles then, releasing his grip and taking a step back, arms crossed behind his back. His hands disappear behind his weird looking coat then, and what he pulls out of it nearly has Prompto choke in fear, because it’s a fucking gun.  

“Consider it your allowance,” He says, and the other man scoffs before balling the bullet in his fist and shoving it back. Prompto’s releases a breath, pressing himself against the wall harder.

“Is that so?” The man’s voice is clipped and also somewhat monotone, and from his position Prompto can see the hint of a scowl creeping up on the side of the man’s face. “Who’s ‘allowing’ me?”

 “A man of no consequence.”

Fingers tighten around the gun, and now it hangs freely, beside his hip. The gun catches the light, gleaming, and for a split second, Prompto sees it – the familiar shape of it, the scratch it has right on the slide of it from when he dropped it after firing it for the first time when he was a kid and had taken it without asking – where the fuck did the guy get his uncle’s gun?

Was that bullet from the gun, too?

The gun sways in Izunia’s grip, almost as if he’s debating on whether or not to pull the trigger, and Prompto can’t help it – he lets out a weak, startled whimper, clapping his hands over his mouth firmly and shutting his eyes. He presses himself against the wall, hoping they can’t see him trembling.

There’s a beat of silence – actually, it’s more than a beat. It stretches out, probably longer than a minute, and Prompto still has his hands over his mouth. His eyes open slowly, his breathing stuttering as he angles his head. He can’t see anything, can’t hear anything, and it only makes his panic worse.

Eventually though, his ears pick up the sound of soft whispering and the sound of footsteps leaving the room quickly. He lets his hands fall from his mouth, standing upright and leaning back against the wall with a sigh. That was too close. If he had been seen, there’s no question that –

“You can come out now!”

His gut drops, his eyes widen, and he’s pretty sure that he starts breaking out into a sweat as the melodic voice he can decipher as Izunia – the same guy who literally had a gun in his hand a moment ago - calls out to him. Prompto’s fists are clenched at his sides, eyes flickering between the exit and behind him where the voice is emitting from.

He could leave, make a run for it. He should leave, because if he doesn’t, then he just knows he won’t get another chance to be able to.

He apparently takes too long, because the sound of footsteps is looming closer to him, and he panics even more, stepping out from behind the pillar connected to the wall and dashes for the exit – only to barrel into the side of something warm and firm. He nearly falls backward, if not for the hand that catches him around his forearm – the contact throbs, and he yanks his arm back harder than he means to, heart pounding against his ribs and eyes glued to the floor.

Izunia chuckles softly, clicking his tongue against his teeth. The gun is still hanging between his fingers, and Prompto watches as it looms back and forth, seemingly mocking him. His mouth is dry. “Really now, there’s no need to be so afraid.”

Prompto can’t speak, and whenever he even thinks about opening his mouth to reply, a shiver runs down his back and clamps his jaw tightly.

Is this it? Is he going to die, right here, without even knowing how he got here, or why he’s here? Is he never going to see anyone he loves ever again? Prompto’s chest throbs in response, harsh and almost painfully, and he reaches up to rub at the fabric of his shirt.

Sure, there’s been plenty of times he’s joked about death - unironically - but when you’re this close to it, it makes everything else seem really tiny and insignificant. All he can see, all he can feel, is the pressure behind his eyes.

He watches as the large pair feet beside him pause, before they step away. Prompto closes his eyes – he shouldn’t let his guard down so easily like this, especially since the guy has a gun, but being so close to death really took a lot out of him in the few minutes he’d been staring at the floor.

“I’ve been wondering when you would wake up,” Izunia murmurs, his voice a little farther away, and Prompto jerks his head up. Another burst of recognition slices right through him, and it’s enough to distract him from the fact that the guy literally had a gun pointed at the back of someone’s head not even two minutes ago, to distract him from the obvious choice of fucking bolting out of this place and making a run for it while he has the chance – and he takes a step forward.

“Did – did you bring me here?” His voice is weak, rough around the edges, like he hasn’t used it for a long time, and he clears his throat. Izunia pauses then, his stillness changing the entire atmosphere of the room, before he nods slowly. He angles his head, and from where he’s standing, Prompto can see that his cheek his lifted, as if he was smiling.

“Ah.” He says, coolly. “I see. I suppose I was a bit harsh, wasn’t I?”

Prompto frowns. “I don’t know what you want from me, but I don’t have anything. I swear, if you just tell me the way out, I won’t come back.”

Izunia chuckles then, short and bitter. He turns his head, eyes meeting Prompto’s, and Prompto staggers back a step. His eyes. His fucking eyes. Amber. Amber – pain – what is this?

Prompto staggers back another step, eyes still wide, as Ardyn tilts his head, lips quirked into a smile. “Oh Prompto, if only it were that easy.”

He can’t control it, can help the flashes of darkness that flicker across his vision, the tightness of his chest, the shallowness of his breathing. This was wrong. He shouldn’t have stayed. Had he just minded his own business, he could’ve been out of this by now, but now he’s here, and he can barely –

“You look a bit shaken. Are you alright?”

Prompto turns and runs.

He doesn’t know how long he had run for; didn’t know how long he was followed, or if he even was in the first place. He runs too fast, turns corners sharply, catching his elbow, sometimes his shoulder, but he just runs faster – and misses a step as he races down the stairwell.

He hears a crunch as his face hits the concrete, and pain explodes all over his face. His legs ache, his arms are shaky as he heaves himself from up off the ground. Blood drips down his lips and off his chin, puddling quickly onto the floor, but he just rubs a hand across his mouth, takes a deep breath, and hobbles down the rest of the flight of stairs. He nearly collapses against the heavy door at the bottom, and it slams against the wall loudly – and then sounds, all around him. Maybe it’s the ringing in his ears, maybe it’s those amber eyes coming for him again, he doesn’t know, but he’s heading for a door and yanking it open, slamming it shut behind him.

He’s engulfed in black, and he trips over a few things on the floor, but he’s still breathing heavily as he leans against the wall. He sinks down, slowly. He closes his eyes, heart racing, and that little sliver of ‘you’re safe, for now. You’re okay’, races through him. Along with it though, comes the feeling, and he hisses through his teeth as pain radiates throughout his entire body – it’s the strongest on his face, the bridge of his nose.

He doesn’t move for the longest time, head tilted back against the wall, heart rate slowing, breathing slowing.

So that’s how he ended up here. Alone, scared, with a dim flashlight that he’d found that barely works inside a room that’s a bit bigger than the average broom closet. It’s been probably around five minutes, but it feels like he’s only been in here for a few seconds.

Quite the pickle he’s gotten himself into. Although he can’t really remember how, he has a feeling that it’s his fault.

Now that he thinks about it though, it’s strange. He can’t remember why or how he even got here, but Izunia clearly has something to do with it. That reaction earlier, to the color of his eyes, that meant something, didn’t it? Prompto knows he didn’t just freak out over nothing –  Izunia had done something to him, something bad. Fuck, did he cause all of this? Waking up in a strange place, not knowing where he was?

Prompto reaches up to the cut near his temple, still bumpy with old blood, but he can’t remember how he even got this cut. Surely, he’d remember something like that, right?

Is he going crazy? Is this soft, tingly feeling that throbs around the edges really necessary right now?

He scratches at his face, the dried blood irritating him, and he absentmindedly rubs at his chest. This has to all be a mistake. He has no idea how he has anything to do with…power or gaining control of a company or whatever the hell he heard earlier. He needs to remember, but every time he thinks he grasps onto something, it fades, it adjusts, and it conforms into what he thinks he remembers but he knows isn’t the truth.

Why him, of all people?

He sniffs, shifting on the cold hard floor, before he hears it. The soft, quiet sound of something rustling. It seems to be near him, and shifts again, harder, and the noise sounds once more, louder. With a frown, he realizes it’s the sound of rustling paper, and he reaches into his back pocket, and pulls out an envelope.

It’s rather old, by the looks of it, the envelope having grayed over time with permanent creases folded into it. Yet, that’s not that strangest thing he notices; his name, written in swirly handwriting, across the front.

He aims the dimming flashlight at the letter, staring at it, and there’s a brief tug of recognition. The letter, although clearly addressed to him, has him hesitating. The envelope in his hand has this ominous feel to it, and somehow it had gotten into his back pocket. Maybe…maybe he should just open it? Could it possible explain everything?

He runs his thumb along the seam, ripping it open. Inside, there’s a worn letter.

My Dearest Prompto,

I am going to be honest with you.

I’m writing this to you from my deathbed. I can’t feel the left half of my body, and my fingers are losing the grip on this pen I’m holding. I don’t want you to see me like this when you ask to see me. I don’t want you seeing me clinging to life to be your last memory of me.  Forgive me for the horrible handwriting, I have to write quickly.

I’m so sorry, but the father you’ve grown up with isn’t your father. He does love you, cares for you, and is worthy to be called your father.

He passed away on the scene of the accident, that he was killed on impact – yet, it does bring me some sort of comfort that I’m going to be joining him soon. I just wish I wasn’t leaving you behind.

It had been raining. It was dark, I could barely see, and I was driving too fast. I hit a little boy in the street.

Seeing the crestfallen expression on that man’s face, whom I assumed to be the father, of that little boy as he kneels in the wet street. The glimmer of the intricate, dark ring that adorned his finger that had a crystal in the middle. It was so pretty. For some reason, all I could think about in that moment was that black ring.

That little boy and your father didn’t deserve this. They didn’t deserve me coming in to ruin everything – deep down, I think you don’t deserve me as a mother, either.

I’ve kept you hidden away, for years. To keep you safe, everything I did was for you. Your biological father is Verstael Besithia, and he fooled me into believing that he cared for me and was going to love you. He lied. He lied, and I barely escaped with you. He broke my heart.

I don’t know the exact details, but he needed an heir to be able to gain control of both of the well-known companies, the Empire and Insomnia, because of some deal that was made. I wasn’t about to let him use you like he used me, so I took you and fled.

Prompto, I don’t want my story to affect you to the point where you feel that love is something that isn’t worth the time, or something to be afraid of. When you least expect it, you’ll find something or someone you weren’t even looking for, and they’re going to change your life. Whether or not it’s for the best, is up to you.

They’re going to make you see things in an entirely different way. And they might hurt you. They might make you cry, might make your heart feel like it’s broken in half, but it’ll be okay.  At the end of day, if you can still look at that person and can’t imagine anyone else in their place, then it’s worth it.

I don’t want you to hesitate. Be bold, fearless. Go for what you want, love all you want. You are your own person, and not what anyone else wants you to be. No one can define you except yourself. You are destined for more than you can possibly imagine.

I love you.  Don’t you worry about me or try to get even with anyone. Just be yourself and stay safe. If that little boy is okay, maybe you could even be friends. He’d probably be around the same age as you are now.

Don’t forget me, please.

Love always,

Your Mother

The handwriting is scrawled and smudged, like it was written in a hurry - she must've really been in pain to write something so long and heartbreaking. He can barely read it. It takes him a while, but eventually he deciphers the words before the letters started to swim before his eyes, blurring together into a bunch of squiggles. He’s gripping the paper tightly, too tight, and his hands are shaking. His face is hot, his chest is tight, and there’s a strange feeling in his throat.

He would probably have little to no memory of his mom, if not for all the stories and photos that his uncle tells him. He can barely remember the sound of her voice, the blue of her eyes. Now, receiving this letter from her…what the fuck. What the fuck –

“What the fuck,” Prompto breathes shakily, and hot tears run down his face. The letter crumples in his fist, and he makes some sort of noise before shoving it into his back pocket. He drops the flashlight, and it lights up the dark room eerily.

This is insane, there’s no way that any of this is true. The letter was a lie. It’s too much. Everything. The secrets, the lies…that little boy. Prompto shakes his head, the motion causing his head to throb, but he can’t focus. There’s no way that he’s an heir to anything, and to think that he’s unknowingly been hidden away from his own father is -

“That woman has caused me so much trouble – had I known things would come to this, I would have never set my advances upon her… and now he’s back, and he’s just in time.”

Then…that man had been his father, hadn’t he? The one Izunia had been talking to. He had been right there, literal feet from the man and -

It…has to be a lie. It can’t be real. There’s no way anyone could be that malevolent, that heinous. No way anyone could manipulate someone into thinking that they cared about them, when their goal was just to gain control through something as vulnerable and feeble as a baby. Control over companies, of all things, which is fucking ridiculous. Prompto scoffs. Maybe not that ridiculous, if someone is willing to go through everything to try to do so.

He’s just Prompto. Ordinary, okay looking and somewhat adultish Prompto, who literally hasn’t done anything special. There are literally thousands of people out there better than him, who are better looking, know what they want out of life, who don’t have a constant battle in their minds everyday about why they don’t have their shit together already – so why him?

He raises his head up from his hands and runs them through his hair, feeling the sweat and stickiness of the blood near his hairline soaked into the strands. This is all so fucked up. He doesn’t want this. He doesn’t want to be the heir of anything, and from the words said earlier, it seems that Izunia doesn’t want him to either. After all the trouble he went through, with that deal or whatever, all the lies and secrecy, maybe Prompto should just let him have it. It’s not his fault.

Right? Not this time. He didn’t choose to be born. No one does, and he especially didn’t choose to be…this. Whatever this is, covered in sweat and dried blood, huddled into a corner of a suffocating broom closet in a company building that he’s the heir apparent to. He didn’t want this, to be given something he didn’t have a say in and end up expected to live a life designed by someone else. He doesn’t want this. It’s not fair.

Suddenly, an alarm blares to life, shrieking loudly and startling Prompto right out of his skin. It’s high pitched and shrill, echoing off the walls and pounds against his skull. His claps his hands over his ears as the building rumbles from the noise, the ground vibrating, and he closes his eyes. This is it. They’re looking for him now, and they’re going to find him. Drag him out by his throat, toss him in front of…his father, and force him to do what they say.

“Please stop,” Prompto says quietly to himself and to the loud sound of the alarm, eyes tearing up again. He has no idea how long the alarm sounds for, only focusing on the low vibration beneath his feet. It’s soothing though, when he’s able to press his hands hard enough over his ears so that the alarm is dull. For a second, it’s almost like there’s no sound at all, except for the loud whirring of this thoughts.

Hold on. It’s quiet. His ears are still ringing as he lowers his hands from his ears, looking around the dimly lit room. Maybe they’ve given up the search?

He takes a breath, before his ears pick up the sound. It’s someone racing down the steps of the stairwell – had he left the door open? Fleetingly, he wonders how he could even hear anything after that loud ass alarm, but then the footsteps are closing in on where he’s hiding. Whoever it is, they’re about to come around the corner.

He acts fast. He grabs a crowbar that he’d noticed lying behind an abandoned shelf, grabs the flashlight, and presses himself against the wall near the door. He hears the footsteps not far away, can hear the sound of doors opening and closing. The person is obviously looking for something…or someone.

His fingers tighten around the crowbar – if he can get the person down on the ground, then he can force them to get him to an exit. A stupid plan, but after all the shit in that letter and having an anxiety attack on the floor, he’s literally got nothing else to lose.

The footsteps loom closer, and Prompto can feel his heart in his throat. The footsteps are outside the door, and he braces himself. The doorknob turns.

He’s swinging before the door is even all the way open, and he thinks that he connects the crowbar to something. Could be the person’s head, a torso – maybe he missed and hit the wall. However, there’s a grunt followed by something firm hitting the floor. Prompto steps out of the closet, crowbar raised ready to bring it down, when a pale hand shoots up.

“Wait!”

The voice cries out, and Prompto stops. He lowers his arms to his sides, staring at azure blue eyes that stare back at him, framed by thick, dark ebony hair. They’re on their back, leaning up on their elbows with their knees drawn up, arm outstretched, before they retract it. Their facial expression is that of surprise, before it shifts to sorrow, then pure relief.

Prompto stares, heart picking up speed and thumping wildly against his chest. That soft tingly feeling is back, except this time, it’s burning and thrumming in his veins.

Azure eyes glisten with unshed tears. “Prompto?”

Prompto blinks, wary. “Do…do I know you?”

Chapter Text

“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.

“Wait!”

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!”

“Get what?”

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?”

“Yeah.”

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?”

“…Prompto’s…”

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.”

“Shock? Seriously?”

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.”

“Where?”

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.

"I do."

“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.

“After you.”