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The Vesper Technique

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The feeling of crying unbearable, but always familiar. It shouldn’t leave him oblivious to what he should be doing. He should go into his room in this small apartment he rented and dig out the card his counselor always gives him. Instead, he couldn't find it in himself to move. Prompto was always chastised about reaching out to others. Especially when things returned to rock bottom- hard and unforgiving. 

 

“If you can’t stay grounded, then find a place to sit. A chair is preferable, but any surface besides the ground will do.” The words of his therapist echoed through his mind. However, he was still like a statue. The carpeted floor was a comfort to him. One he received by petting the carpet. It was smooth in some spots from a recent vacuum and rough from dried stains. The stains were some he made, and others simply appeared

 

He felt them all as he carded his fingers through the shagginess. The touch against his fingers anchored him and kept him from drifting away. Away to his vat of toxic hazards. He wouldn’t, and he wouldn't. He stayed seated on the carpet and continued petting the ground. He sat there for a while and blinked at nothing. The wall of his living room was bland. A reminder of how white hospital walls were. He stayed on the ground until he got tired of doing nothing but petting a stupid, ugly, old carpet.

 

In a split decision, tired from restless energy, Prompto stumbled to his feet. He had no one and nothing to keep him grounded. No family, no friends, and no reason to keep still. No reason to stay anchored and finally, he realized. He had no reason to stay here.

Drifting free felt nice, he thought as he mechanically got ready to leave.

 

Grabbing his thin yellow jacket, he threw it over his shoulders and shuffled his shoes on. He grabbed his keys and headed for the door. However, he paused with a hand on the doorknob. With a shrug, he threw his keys over his shoulder and walked out. Let someone rob me, I don’t care. Emotions has finally run him ragged, leaving emptiness behind after scraping him hollow. 

Maybe water could fill him up and soothe the rawness left behind.

A swim to the bottom of a lake sounds nice.  

 


 

 

Vesper Lake was the place to be on a sunny day. It offered a scenic view where on a normal day was perfect for capturing shots, but now the place was desolate.  It was expected on a Friday night in a college town. Most people were either out in places where fun mingled or sleeping. It was midnight and either was a possibility in the town. 

 

He surveyed the area which the lack of trees allowed him to view the entirety of the lake. The lake wasn't too big. Big enough for a paved trail to wrap around it once and still be enough for a mile. When he use to run, he loved the part of the trail where the hills allowed him to work his leg muscles and the incline left him feeling like the wind. Fast and out of breathe, he would finish the mile and rest on one of the benches and people watched.

There were always a few loitering the area- either fishing or running. After he scanned the area once more, he knew he was alone.  He wasn't sure if he was lucky or not. If he could bring himself to smile, he would because the one time to be lucky...  was truly the most unfortunate time.

 

Huffing to dispel the tightening of his chest and throat, he made his decision. It shouldn't be hard, but it was. Everything in life was hard so why should this be any different. With a clenched jaw, he made his body move forward. It was easy when he was in his apartment and now that he was finally here... His body chose now to send him mixed signals. 

Maybe I know that this isn’t really what I want to do? His mind divulged from the usual future after his death to a future of him living. He wasn't able to picture a distant future because he knew life would manage to make him regret his choice.

 

He scoffed at the thought of it being different. If he walked away again, the same empty life would be the first to greet him each morning. Nothing would change. In fact, even if he died, it would still be the same. Unknown student found dead at Vesper Lake. More information to come.

 

“Fuck, no one would even miss me. I have no one and I don’t care anymore.” Prompto felt a swell of emotions erupt out of his snarled mouth. Anger, sadness, relief- all wrapped around a sob like vines. It twisted the sounds escaping his throat into something scratchy and hoarse. Fat, hot tears rolled down his ugly freckled face. He was going to go swimming and hopefully, the water will soothe his cowardliness away.

 

 As he walked towards the lake, he was aware of everything. The first feeling he took notice of was that it was warm. It was as if his mind was urging him to pick something in clarity to latch on to. To focus on anything, but the lake. The warmth of the summer air, the street lamps illuminating the concrete walk way surrounding the lake. However, the lake rippled it pleasantries to the surrounding area and Prompto ignored the rest. He walked to a gravelly sloping bank and stopped at the edge to gaze at his feet. His shoes were scuffed and showed their age, and he shucked them off. His toes wiggled briefly at the feel of the gravel sinking into the bottoms of his feet.

 

That’s right. He forgot to put on socks. What a fucking idiot. Even in the possibility of his impending finality, he couldn’t remember the simplest things. The urge to scream engulfed him again, but he wrapped his arms around his trembling frame. Crouching down, he was faced with the lake’s water. It completely dominated his sight. The inky waters rippled back and forth in a hypnotizing way, beckoning him.

 

Thanks to the streetlamp behind him, he was able to see how dark the lake was. He would swim to the middle and be completely surrounded by ink- the tranquility beckoned him further. The calmness of the scene was the sure reason everything slept beneath the waters, he was sure of it.

 

He stood up and tilted his head back to stare at the moon. The moon was full tonight and gorgeous, begging to have a picture taken of it. He ignored it and took a deep breath as he looked away from the sight. He focused on every sensation- the rocks in his feet and dampness of his skin from the sweat that made its home there.  Even the swath of tears that left behind sticky trails on his cheeks was a comfort.  Comforts that water would wash away and cover him in a new one. Prompto shed all the sensations away like an old skin and walked into the lake. 

 

He walked until he had to tread water and then until his knees no longer scraped the ground. Finally, he was swimming. He swam until he reached the middle of the lake. The only thing that moved in the waters was him and he hoped he wasn't causing too much noise. Instead, he tried to be as quiet as possible and took his surroundings in.  

The water was grossly warm, and it bogged his clothes and stick close to his body. It wasn’t enough to make him sink, sadly. So, he allowed the water to cradle him until it would. He disrobed all the tension encompassing his body and floated on the surface of the lake. 

 

The moon drew his focus and he allowed himself to be. The stars were few in the wake of the city’s lights competing for attention, but he was able to count the bright ones. Grasshoppers and cicadas rang through the air and he pressed his head deeper into the water. Deep enough to where his nose and mouth were the only thing poking out. Apparently, he wasn’t ready yet. Instead, he let his ears greet the world beneath the water. His eyes stared up and he counted the stars while his heart created a steady thudding echoing in his ears and throat. He wanted to hear its beat just a little while longer. 

 

It was oddly calming, and it allowed him to think think. Beneath the enormous sky, he felt tiny, but so were the stars from his perspective. Maybe he wasn't as tiny of a presence as he thought. He could matter to someone someday and if he allowed himself to hope, he could be a star in their life. 

He let his mouth sink beneath the surface and blew bubbles out. Hah, he wasn't special enough to even have that hope.

 

Prompto stared blankly at the sky and continued counting the stars. Counted them until he got to 25 and became bored. Even then, he didn't look away. He couldn't look away and he was content to simply stare at them.

 

“Oh, fuck. Are you alive?” A voice shouted, cutting through the silence.

 

Though it was subdued thanks to his ears being buried beneath the water, Prompto clearly heard it. He yelped and briefly flailed in the water before he managed to gather his bearings. The water sloshed loudly against him and he barely managed to keep his nose above water. He was unlucky enough to swallow some nasty lake water making his splutter the foul tasting liquid out. 

After coughing a few times, he cleared his throat and looked to see who had the unmitigated gall to scare him. Especially someone floating in a lake in the dead of night.

 

There was a person on the bank. The stranger had the glare of a streetlamp giving them full coverage, but Prompto was too far away to make out any features. All he saw was that the person had their hands cupped around their face in what he assumed to be a yelling motion. 

 

He snorted in annoyance before he started swimming towards the shore. He didn't care to talk to the stranger, but he couldn't leave his shoes.  The person happened to be where his shoes were- that's what he told himself anyway. He paddled languidly to the shore until his hands met the gravelly ground. Once on land, he stood up and avoided looking at the person. No need to make awkward eye contact and possibly explain what he was doing. Instead, he focused on grabbing his shoes only to find one was missing. Who would take his-

 

“Looking for this?”

 

Prompto looked up from gazing at the one shoe and looked at the guy holding his other shoe. So, the stranger was the culprit after all.

 

He stepped forward and mumbled thanks, all without meeting the other person’s face. The entire situation was uncomfortable. Prompto had never been great at dealing with strangers. Let alone meeting their eyes. It wasn’t something he did often, so he never practiced that social skill. He was left in the dark and had to rely on peoples’ body language to tell how they were feeling. It often left him floundering in social interactions that he now avoided like the plague.

 

“Thanks.” Grabbing his shoe that was noticeably dirty, he slid it on before stepping back to grab the other. He bent down and awkward yank the last shoe on feeling each sand particle as it shifted against his skin from the rub of the shoe.  Once he was done, he was left with nothing to do to further avoid interacting with the strange guy. The silence between the two intensified the embarrassment he felt at being caught. The only good thing is that now he was able to feel something besides the overwhelming numbness that echoed around his chest.

 

All thanks to the asshole who had stolen his shoe on the bank. Prompto’s eyes flickered to meet the gaze of the other. For some reason, the unwanted savior took this as an opportunity to talk.

 

“Are you okay? Do you need something or need me to call someone?”

 

Prompto frowned at the questions. Why was he worried about him? He was sure he didn’t look that bad to have a stranger inquire about his being. Then again, the stranger did have to fish him out of the lake so late at night. If their roles were reversed, then he might have done the same.

 

He cleared his throat awkwardly and held eye contact all while fighting the urge to look away. “Um, yeah. I just wanted to go for a swim.” That was a lame excuse and Prompto knew the other didn’t believe him. If the incredulous look of concern was anything to go by.

 

“You wanted…” The guy briefly paused as he seemingly struggled to speak concisely. His brows were furrowed and slightly raised as he gave Prompto the strangest look. “You wanted to go for a swim this late at night?”

 

“Yeah, I did. Is there a law against swimming at night?” He was being mean, Prompto knew. He couldn’t help it. The anger from earlier was welling up again and here was a viable target. No one asked this man to stick his nose in other people’s business. With a glare, Prompto sized up the other and dared him to speak against his words.

 

The man didn’t. “Oh, okay. Cool. I usually come out to fish this late, so I was just surprised to see someone else for a change.” With that, he bent down to grab his fishing rod and a box that most likely served as a tackle box. It was silver and has seen better years, but it was definitely loved as well. If the colorful stickers plastered to the sides were anything to go by.

 

Prompto moved away; he was done talking for the night and felt his apartment calling his name. He was able to take a step before the guy called to him.

 

“Hey, would you like to hang with me for a bit?”

 

He turned to stare at the other and watched him walk closer. The man's dark eyes implored him to say and he questioned if he was out of his mind for considering answering yes.  Was he losing his mind for considering the option? Dark lashes prettily framed oval eyes that were perfectly symmetrical and they were staring straight at him. No, he wasn’t.  Good looks like the one the guy had were the type that only models had. Prompto felt envious at the luck that some people received. But that envy didn't deter him from answering. It made him want to join the pretty stranger in hopes of receiving some luck.

 

“No.” However, he would not.  He didn’t know this perfect slack-jawed stranger. He ignored his wants and took a step away from the man who looked slightly alarmed at his dead-panned answer.

 

“I know this is weird, but I swear I’m not a killer or something.” The whole sentence sounded sketchy to Prompto and it seemed the man realized this as he winced. He continued speaking in hopes that Prompto would stay. “My name is Noctis and I never have anyone to talk to while fishing.”

 

Ah. Prompto understood now. Noctis was simply lonely. This was something that he understood and he felt a slight companionship with Noctis now. This made things simpler, but still just as cautious bearing. So with a shaky hand, he ran damp fingers through his wet blond hair and gave a stiff smile. “Sure.”

 

Noctis gave a deep sigh and it could have been relief, but Prompto didn’t try to understand. Without thinking too much into this weird offer, he followed Noctis away to a different part of the lake. But,  as the other led him away to a slightly darker area of the lake, he paused.  Maybe he should have said no, after all.

Once he saw Prompto's look, Noctis rushed to explain. “The dim lights are better to fish since the streetlights cast shadows on the water alerting the fish. I promise I’m not trying to lead you to your doom.”

 

Well, that explains that. Noctis led him to a small dock where a red sign designated it as a prime fishing spot. He watched as the other sat the tackle box down gently and then sat down with legs dangling over the edge. With his feet kicking, Noctis worked on setting up his equipment.  “So, what’s your name?”

 

He sat down next to Noctis quietly and folded his legs underneath his chin. Wrapping his arms around them, he felt enclosed in his own personal comfort. “Prompto.”

 

Noctis nodded but didn’t look away from his fishing rod. “Nice to meet you, Prompto.” He held a look of calm concentration as he hooked a bright red lure on the end of the line. With a satisfied look gracing his features, he checked around him.

 

Probably to make sure he had enough room to wind his arm back, Prompto mind supplied.

 

With a powerful throw of his arm, Noctis set the line flying hard and fast away from them. An audible thunk sounded a few feet away from them. “Perfect throw if I do say so myself.”

 

Prompto snorted softly at the unhidden pride in Noctis’s voice, but he had to admit. It was a nice throw.

 

“Your name means quick in Latin, right?”

 

He narrowed his eyes and turned away to watch the line. “Yeah, and yours mean night in Latin as well.” He heard Noctis huff out a small laugh.

 

“Yeah, my parents tried their best, but others like me would disagree.”

 

“I wish I could say my parents tried their best.”

 

Silence stood between them, stifling easy-going conversation. The crickets sounded louder than ever now that words no longer joined nature’s chorus.

 

He wanted to look to see what Noctis was thinking, but he didn’t. He also wanted to avoid this topic all together and not give the other a reason to implore more about his cryptic reply. He wanted a lot of things and there were things he didn't want. For instance,  he didn’t want to see that concerned look on Noctis's face. Prompto could easily recognize that look and pick it from a crowd of faces. It was the same look his therapist gave him each time he mentioned his home life. Or the fact that he had no home life. Still, instead of getting up and leaving, Prompto stayed seated and waited for the usual spiel of false apologies or nosy invasive questions.

 

“Well, that sucks.”

 

A laughed escaped him and he turned to give Noctis his own incredulous look. All raised brows and parted mouth and all Noctis did was stare at his fishing line. The words were so simple, but Prompto shouldn’t be surprised by them. Noctis seemed exactly like the type to say that line. Socially awkward and in a situation where limited options on how to answer.

 

Prompto knew this because he is exactly the same. Never knowing how to answer so taking the easy cop-out answer was always what he did.

 

His small laughed seemed to have embarrassed Noctis to which he hastily tried to soothe away the red flush taking over the other’s face. “Sorry, I was just surprised. Usually people always ask what I mean by that or apologize for bringing up the topic. I was kinda thrown for a loop.”

 

At the explanation, red faced and shy looking, Noctis cleared his throat and faced him. “I understand. I just…” He struggled with words which seemed to be a natural occurrence. “I don’t respond well to most people so I’m not always the greatest at social interactions.”

 

They stared at each other before looking away simultaneously. 

 

Prompto spoke before the silence returned uninvited. “Yeah, me too. I understand so no worries.” He peeked at Noctis from his peripheral before turned to look at the calm lake. “Do you often fish at night?”

 

That simple question was enough to jolt Noctis from his shy mood and ramble on about fishing. Normally, he would be dying to exit the conversation. But secretly, Prompto was glad to finally have someone to talk to. He was still prepared for this to become a dream, but if it was, he would cherish it. He listened to Noctis and heard the joy in talking about his hobby. That joy was infectious. Soon, he found himself smiling into his knees as Noctis continued talking about fishing trips with his father.

 

They chatted back and forth like that. Never venturing into the other’s business much- simple conversation, but it was enough for Prompto to chase away some loneliness. It was like they were in their own bubble of reality, one he wished was reinforced to stay that way. However, it became apparent that it was made to pop.

 

Noctis was currently in the middle of ranting about some classes he had to take that semester when he stopped mid-sentence. “Oh, shoot. I have to go. I forgot to do some school work and it’s due at 8am.” With a sigh, he reeled in his line which no fish had seemed interested in anyway.

 

Prompto nodded because he understood the feeling of procrastination, but he wished they didn’t have to stop talking. It was nice while it lasted, he thought. He stood up while Noctis continued to pack and dusted his butt off from the dirt sticking to him. “So, um. Nice talking to you.” With a stiff gait he got from sitting for too long, he started walking away from the shocked Noctis.  Figures life would dangle something good in front of him before snatching it away from his grasp.

 

“Wait.” Noctis spoke loudly- too loudly for the serene lake.

 

A hand grabbed his shoulder stopping him and Noctis came around to stand in front of him. “Why don’t you give me your number? That way we can meet up again tomorrow?”

 

Prompto furrowed his brows in confusion because this isn’t how it usually goes with these situations. He meets someone, they get along, then they go their separate ways and never speak again. Did Noctis miss the memo? Why did he want to talk to him again as if they were friends?

 

Still. He agreed. Even if it was the usual chain of actions, he wanted to hold on to something new- a life-line. He knew he shouldn’t because people weren’t meant to be life-lines because he knew people always manage to disappoint one another. He had to try anyway. “Sure, but why?”

 

The hand on his shoulder tightened before it left.

 

“I’d like to talk to you again. I would even say we’re friends.” Noctis looked away briefly, seemingly to feel an ounce of shyness at the bold line. The words were embarrassing to say, but he needed to let Prompto know. He pushed past the feeling and faced the other who always seemed in a hurry to escape. “I mean, not everyone can sit there for hours a listen to me talk about fishing and equally boring classes.” Maybe making Prompto seem like a convenient friend wasn’t the best way to assure the other that he wanted to be his friend.

 

Prompto mulled over the response. Honestly, he didn’t know how to respond. No one ever wanted to be his friend. Especially in such a short amount of time. All he did was sit there and listened to Noctis talk with little input from himself. He was lost and frankly, excited. He couldn’t let this chance of friendship slip from him.

 

“Okay, my number is- “, he watched Noctis pull out a shiny black cellphone before he rattled off his number.

 

Noctis deftly punched in the numbers before typing in ‘Prompto’ and then saved the contact. In that moment, Prompto took in the surreal-ness of the situation. It was almost a scene out of a movie. A pretty man wanting to befriend the sad loser while standing in front of a scenic view. Except, if one looked closer, they could see the algae and bits of trash marring the surface of the lake.

 

He blanched at the site now visible in the breaking dawn.  He actually swam in that. Suddenly, he realized that he swam in a gross lake and Noctis was subjected to his stench of old trash, algae, and stale fish.

 

“Alright. I got you saved. I’ll text you tomorrow.” Noctis sent him a small smile before he frowned when he saw the skittish look Prompto wore. He quickly backtracked, thinking the blond didn’t want to see him so soon. “Or maybe another day?” He let the question hang between them.

 

Snapping out of his inner dilemma filled with chastising inner voice, Prompto held up his hands to placate the other. “N-no!” He took a deep breath to calm himself. “Tomorrow is fine. I’ll text back. Promise!” He sent a smile towards Noctis and stood there unsure of what do next. Should I give a handshake? A hug? No, that’s weird. He settled on a small wave and turned to start his walk back home.

 

Noctis wanted to be his friend. He couldn’t believe it. I mean, it’s normal to make friends, but still! He dared a glance behind him. Noctis was still looking at him!

 

A small wave was sent his way to which he responded by quickly looking away. He took off running. Anything was better than nothing and at that moment, nothing was better than the sheer amount of embarrassment he felt. He couldn’t deal with this night anymore. Day, his mind supplemented.

 

That’s right. He and Noctis stayed out all night talking to one another. I guess… That’s what friends do. A tiny smile painted itself on his face as he continued running home in the empty streets of the sleeping town. He had a friend.