You loved them all. You loved those four men. You loved them all differently but equally. You bathed in this moment of closeness and comradery. Only the Gods knew when the next moment like this would be offered to you all again. Breathe it in, soak it in, engrave it in your memory.
You loved Gladiolus. You didn’t remember how you met him but neither did he. It happened a long time ago. You were the same age and lived not far from each other. So, being the same age you bonded over child play. You do remember, however, how happy the boy was when his sister was born. And how proud and excited he was to become an older brother. The glinting of his ember eyes as he was talking about all the things he would do with his little sister. He promised to teach her to read. He promised to teach her to fight. He kept his promises. Gladiolus was an example for you, someone to admire. He was also very caring and protective of you. You could tell him anything without being judged. Scolded, perhaps, but never judged. Plus, he’d always try to make things better for you. Dropped your ice cream cone? Here, have another. You’d owe him, no doubt. Need someone to motivate you to finish your things? Give him a call. He was Iris’s older brother but he became an older brother to you too. You loved Gladio like an older brother.
“Ready to be the Shield of the Prince?” you asked teasingly.
“I was born ready,” he replied with a grin.
“Out in the open world there will be many dangers to protect His Highness from. Like splinters!” An unamused groan was heard from Noctis.
You loved Noctis Lucis Caelum, the future King of Lucis. You have met him some years back. His Highness had a habit of running away from his royal chambers until he got his own apartment outside of the Citadel. You joined Gladiolus Amicitia in one of his search-and-rescue missions because he didn’t wish to waste his precious time on arguing with you. You stubbornly followed him. He trusted you enough. You remember that young boy with immense pain behind his midnight-blue eyes. There was such loneliness and aguish. He still had in him but much, much less. He wasn’t as lonely as he used to be. He had found some true friendship. That’s why you loved Noctis the way you loved him. You loved him like a younger brother. He was always someone you wanted to help and protect. You only hoped to understand the position he was born into. An heir to the throne, the only child of royalty. So much responsibility and great expectations must rest heavy on his shoulders.
“I can take care of myself, ya know,” Noct huffed.
“Sure, that’s why you have Ignis cooking for you,” you smiled.
You loved Ignis Scientia too. He was the truest friend to you. You met him the same day you’d met the prince. Ignis looked a bit different then. Just like Gladio. They both had changed quite a lot since that day but only for the best. Well, maybe only Gladio’s flexing was a tad bit much at times but that’s all. Ignis was always there, knowing more about you than you did. Keen on observation, there was no way to deceive him that you were fine when you weren’t. He took care of you just like Gladio did. But he wasn’t as patronizing, though. You saw Gladiolus as someone to look up too. You saw Ignis as an equal. An admirable equal, however. There was wisdom and solicitude behind his green eyes. You often sought his advice. And there was so much you wished to learn from him. There was just as much you wanted to share with him as well. He was a friend. You loved him like a friend.
“Don’t worry, Noct, I have packed everything that would be of help to remove a splinter,” Ignis tactfully supported your teasing. The five of you laughed. Even Noctis let himself have a small laugh. It was important to have a laugh this evening. Soon, Noct was to be married to Lady Lunafreya Nox Fleuret of Tenebrae. The Prince would soon become the King. But before that, four men have to go to Altissia for the wedding. You wouldn’t be there with them. But Prompto promised to bring you lots of photos.
You loved Prompto. He was the bond that tied you all together stronger. He was funny, he was carefree, he was easy to get along with. You also knew that he was a bit insecure, a bit anxious, a bit more like you. He was simple. Prompto wasn’t an Amicitia, he wasn’t born into a family sworn to the Crown. He wasn’t like Ignis either; a special child who was assigned to young Prince. He was a common Insomnian just as you were. Plebs. You were able to understand each other without words. A look into each other’s eyes was enough to tell everything that bothered you. Prompto was very similar to you and you loved him for it. His deep and vivid blue eyes that told you his troubles. His ability to take most heart-warming pictures of the gang. The seriousness that he rarely showed. The concern for everyone’s feelings that was ever-present. You loved him as you loved yourself.
“I wish you’d come with us,” the blonde-haired boy whined.
“I wish so too, Prom, but we’ll have to deal with the unfairness of life,” you sighed in defeat. No, there was no way you could come with them on their trip. Therefore, this evening of being together around a campfire would have to be enough. It could never be enough.
“Can’t believe you will be married soon,” you sighed again. This time because of a sudden heavy realization that life goes on. It seemed to have accelerated its speed. Noctis would be married soon. He would be crowned king. He would be your liege, your leader. His words would become laws, his decisions would shape Lucis.
“It’s nothing special,” said Noctis, hiding his face.
“I bet next one is Gladio,” you decided to leave Noct alone. He had enough for this evening. And the wedding was most likely bothering him more than he wished to disclose.
“Me?” Amicitia asked in surprise.
“Yeah, you,” you nodded.
“I consider that a safe bet,” Scientia chimed in.
“After that, I bet it’s going to be Prompto’s turn.”
“The boy wears his heart on his sleeve,” Gladio pointed at the photographer.
“That’s why it’s easy for him to catch feelings,” you cooed, teasing.
“Heeeeeyyyy,” Prompto pouted.
“And then?” Gladiolus asked.
“Ignis?" you asked.
“I have not yet considered the possibility of marriage,” he interrupted.
“Yet, Iggy. But when you propose, you’ll already have the date, the venue, the menu,” you counted on your fingers.
“Y/N has a point, Specs,” Noctis decided to join in now that the conversation wasn’t about him. “Talk planning to us,” he almost whispered.
“And the guest list is getting shorter and shorter,” Ignis sighed in disappointment.
“You cannot uninvite the Prince,” Noct protested. "Hell, I'll be King by that time!"
“But I can forget to mention that to him,” tactician smiled.
“Brrrrr,” you wrapped your hands around you, “that’s cold.”
“What about you?” Gladio got everyone back on track. The only one whose wedding plans were not discussed: you. You didn't like to talk about yourself this evening. You wanted to focus on them. Focus on the people you will miss, and the things that bind you. They will have each other on the road. You would be left behind. They would experience more things that would bind them together, they would spend time bonding. You would be left behind, alone, lonesome.
“Well, I won’t get married before you do, I promise,” a hand placed over your heart.
“That’s it?” Gladio raised a brow.
“And my spouse is gonna be so much hotter than yours,” a smug grin appeared on your face.
“Brrrr,” Prompto pretended to shiver, “that’s cold.”
And everyone laughed once again. And the picture Prompto took that evening was the best picture he has ever taken. The lighting wasn’t the best. The positioning could be better. But everyone was smiling in the picture. The always gloomy Noctis was smiling. It wasn't a happy wide grin but a content shadow of a smile. The ever stoic Ignis was smiling too. His smile was wider but didn't show teeth. Serene and grateful, he was taking in the moment. Gladio’s smug grin was replaced by that of happiness. His white teeth slightly visible, eyes soft and grateful. Prompto was smiling sincerely, without holding back, almost laughing gleefully. It was the picture of friends having fun together around the campfire one last time.