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Expendable

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When Prompto wakes up, he's alone.

 

The bed beside him is neatly made. The kitchen is clean. There's no sound coming from the bathroom, or outside. No sign of anyone else there.

 

Except for him. He's alone.

 

He sits up and it pulls at his healing wounds but he ignores the pain to stand up on his shaky legs. He double checks the kitchen and the bathroom to make sure there's no one there and he even peeks outside the hotel door, just to see if they were outside and were giving him space.

 

No one.

 

The Regalia's gone.

 

He's alone.

 

~~~

 

He showers and he can't tell if the water's hot or cold because he's so numb and he knows he shouldn't be getting his bandages wet but he can't find it in himself to care. He doesn't even remember washing his hair but he remembers turning off the stream and wrapping himself in a towel.

He dabs at the bandages to dry them, regretting his earlier decision in not protecting them from water, and then puts on his old, dirty clothes.

He finds a backpack filled with everything he'd need: a sleeping bag, flashlight, extra ammo for his gun, some food, water, a map with all the havens marked on it, extra clothing, some medicine and bandages for his wounds. And three potions tucked into the side of the bag.

His camera is sitting on its charger on the desk in the corner of the room so he unplugs it and wraps the charger back up before placing it next to his clothes, so he can keep it safe.

His phone and its charger are gone.

 

Before he leaves, he takes one last look at the hotel room. Brief flashes of last night appear to him and Prompto remembers Noctis saying his name and holding his hand as he lay bleeding on the bed, Ignis wrapping bandages around his wound. The last thing he remembers before he passed out was Ignis and Gladio sharing a look while Noctis called his name again.

 

He knows what he was to the rest of them. He wasn't the strongest, or the smartest, or the fastest, or the bravest. Just a commoner with little to no training who managed to squeeze his way into the royal retinue, where he didn't belong. He knew this would happen sooner or later. And he doesn't fault them for leaving the way they did. He didn't think he would have been strong enough to watch them leave. But he didn't belong with them.

 

He tries not to choke on the lump in his throat as he shuts the door and keeps his head down as he starts walking down the road.

 

~~~

 

Noctis ignores Gladio when he tries to make conversation in the car.

He shoves Ignis' hand off his shoulder after a rough fight and keeps walking, expecting them to follow. (which they do).

He sleeps, or tries to, as far away from them as possible in the tent.

 

He knows he's being an ass, knows he's being an absolute brat but he does not care. Every time he closes his eyes, he sees his best friend lying in a pool of his own blood, clutching at an open wound and gasping for breath. Then he sees him lying on a hotel bed with bandages covering his midsection, face pale and sweaty and contorted into a painful grimace as he sleeps. He can't get that pained looked out of his head, no matter how much he wishes it would go away.

He's angry and hurt and scared and he doesn't care that he's being a jerk.

He remembers the anger and outrage in his voice when he argued with Ignis and Gladio, furious at the thought of leaving him behind in the middle of a war. But they had both stared him down and reminded him of his godsdamned duty to the throne, reminded him that he was stuck dealing with a prophecy he didn't want in the first place and that he was a king (to a fallen city).

 

He'd laid down beside Prompto and held his hand before Ignis told him that they had to leave. He'd taken Prompto's phone off the bedside table, fingers shaking when that damn chocobo charm attached to it bumped against his knuckles, and told Gladio and Ignis to go to the car.

 

He'd sat down carefully next to him, cautious not to wake him, and sucked in a shaky breath before telling him how sorry he was. That he was his best friend and he was so thankful that Prompto made him feel normal, made him feel like a regular teenager with friends. Thanked him for helping him take the daunting weights off his shoulders, even if just for a while.

He looked at his best friend's sickly face and tried not to memorize it too much, knowing that this would most likely be the last time he ever saw him. He only hoped that Prompto would keep fighting, that maybe one day he would find him again.

 

Noctis wiped away his tears before getting into the Regalia and curling up against the window, bringing his knees up to his chest and wrapping his arms around himself.

 

~~~

 

Prompto travels as far as his feet can take him, ignoring the occasional hunger pains to ration his food until he could find an easy hunt for gil. When he reaches an outpost, he always does a quick check to see if he spots the Regalia and even if he doesn't, he keeps moving.

He sleeps outside on the havens, ignoring the cold ground and jagged stones digging into him through the fabric of the sleeping bag. He doesn't think he can afford a night in a hotel (and he doesn't want to risk running into the guys). He stares up at the sky until his eyes slip closed, counting the stars and the constellations and ignoring the chilling wind and deep moans of daemons surrounding him.

 

He knows that this is his fault. That he was the reason why they were so far behind in getting Insomnia back. He was the one who always wanted to stop the car and take photos or beg Noctis to go to the chocobo farm or stop at a diner to eat something when they could have just eaten at a haven. He doesn't blame them for letting him go when they did. He just hopes that they're on their way to collecting another of the royal arms and that Iris and Talcott are okay in Lestallum.

 

He doesn't think he'll survive out in the wilderness for long but he finds himself not caring either. He doesn't care if he'll run out of bullets mid-battle. He doesn't care if his knife might break against something stronger. He doesn't care if a daemon manages to crawl onto the haven and tear him to pieces. He doesn't think he has much to live for anyway.

 

Home is gone. The city is probably still burning and he knows that there's no way his house would still be standing.

Mom and Dad are probably dead. They were on a trip just outside the wall, Niflheim probably got to them first before they even got to the Crown City.

He can't fight on his own for much longer. A pistol and a knife don't work well against a pack of wild animals and he knows that a ceorul or a daemon would shred him before he could even blink.

He'll run out of food sooner or later. He only had enough gil to get by and he'd been giving a portion of it to hotel owners, for the others. If he could at least help them this way, he wouldn't be in the way and they could save their money for better weapons or curatives.

 

His friends are gone. He doesn't want to say that they abandoned him but... each passing day makes it clearer and clearer that he didn't belong. He knew that Ignis and Gladio didn't like him when he first befriended Noctis and he thought that they had warmed up to him and accepted him. But he's not too surprised to find out that he's wrong. He knew he was expendable and apparently they did too. He doesn't blame them, can't find it in him to do so. They were devoted to Noctis and Noctis only, it didn't matter if some outsider got hurt. It only mattered when the prince hurt himself trying to protect said outsider. He knew that had been the final straw. He'd wasted so much of their time and gil trying to recover from so many injuries. He was useless on the battlefield if he couldn't hit anything and took photos instead of helping. He couldn't even drive without his luck catching up to him.

He didn't know why they didn't dump him sooner. Should have left him at Hammerhead once they all realized that this was something bigger than just a wedding in Altissia.

 

And Noctis.

Noctis.

 

He hears Lunafreya's words echoing in his mind.

 

Remain by his side.

 

It's just another reminder of his failure. He couldn't keep Noctis safe, like he'd vowed to do. But he's not mad at Noct; he could never be mad at Noct.

Noctis had been his first friend in such a long time, so long that he couldn't remember ever having friends before him. He'd learned that every tabloid that had ever bad-mouthed him had been wrong. That the prince wasn't rude or snobby or selfish like his peers often whispered to each other in the hallways as he passed. Prince Noctis was kind, friendly, and he was even lonely. Prompto had devoted nearly everything to his friendship to the prince, including his life on the Crownsguard oath.

 

And he'd failed.

 

The thought makes his stomach churn and his eyes burn with unshed tears but he doesn't want to let himself cry. He doesn't deserve it.

 

He rolls over, curls up in his sleeping bag, and tries to sleep before dawn comes.

 

~~~

 

Noctis wakes with a jolt and sits up in his sleeping bag. It's still dark out and Ignis and Gladio are sleeping on the other side of the tent. He sighs, exhausted and aching for more sleep but he knows that those few hours are all he was getting for a while.

He sneaks out of the tent without waking them and sits on the edge of the haven, clad in only his sweatpants and a short sleeved shirt. He can't sleep. Can't close his eyes without seeing Prompto, covered in bloody bandages and shaking from the blood loss and fever.

 

On the worse nights, he closes his eyes and sees the Regalia coming to a halt on the side of the road. He sees himself jumping out of the car before it even stops and running into the woods, running towards a mass of blonde hair and dark clothing and blood. He sees himself bursting into tears over Prompto and wishing that he had gone back and dragged Prompto with them, had argued harder for him, wishing he had screamed and shouted. Wishing that his best friend would come back.

 

He shudders and brings his knees up to his chest, shutting his eyes tight in an attempt to suppress that haunting nightmare before he makes himself sick.

 

A roar of thunder above startles him and a moment later, a drop of water hits his shoulder. Followed by more and more, until a steady rainfall is coming down. He's cold and starting to get wet but he doesn't care about himself, can't think of anything else except Prompto.

 

Prompto, who doesn't have a tent or a blanket. Prompto, who still probably hasn't fully recovered from his injuries. Prompto, who has to sit in the rain all night with daemons surrounding him.

 

He can't tell if he's crying or if there's rain water on his face but it doesn't matter anyway.

 

~~~

 

When the rain starts, it wakes Prompto with a chill running down his spine. He tries to hide himself in the sleeping bag but the rain keeps coming down harder and he knows he's going to get soaked anyway.

He gets up, unzips the bag completely, and drapes it over himself to try and block out the rain and keep himself warm until morning comes.

He spends the night shivering and soaked to the bone but there's nothing he can do except wait for the sun to rise and for the rain to stop.

 

~~~

 

There's something soft and warm against his back when he wakes up a few nights later. In his sleep-hazy mind, he thinks it's Noctis trying to curl up to him in the tent. He groans and reaches back with his hand to shake Noctis and tell him to move over but he stops when he touches something that feels like fur.

He sits up so fast the zipper of the bag hits his knuckle hard but he's stuck looking at the animal curled up into a white ball next to him.

 

Tiny.

No, Pryna.

 

She's gotten so big now.

 

He hesitates before putting his hand out and her head lifts when he touches her ear. He pulls back on instinct, afraid of what the mystical dog might do and wondering what she was doing there in the first place. But she sniffs the tips of his fingers, wags her tail a few times, and then gets up.

He thinks she's going to get up and leave but she walks in circles a few times before flopping down next to him, putting her fluffy head in his lap and heaving a big sigh out of her nose.

 

He doesn't move for a long time. But then he raises his hand again and starts to gently pet her ears, feeling a calming sensation overwhelm him.

For the first time in a while, he feels good. He's still full of loneliness and regret but seeing her makes his heart feel light and warm. He smiles as he pets her head and watches her lift her head for a moment only to yawn and lay back down.

 

For the first time in a while, he feels alright.