Most nights, Prompto dreams of daemons. There is a woman, a snake, with slick blue skin and fish bone teeth, and she's telling him she's his mother and he believes her. Or there's a many-fingered hand made of metal and fire, so huge it blocks out the sun, and it's reaching down to pluck him from the earth and take him home. Or he's looking in a mirror and the person looking back at him has his eyes and his hair and every single one of his freckles, but they're not him and his chest is aching and it's so cold he can feel nothing else. And then he'll wake up in the dark and for a moment he'll be filled with dread, his heart punching through his chest, thinking that it will never be light again, and then he'll fall out of bed and throw the curtains open and watch the sun rise.
It's after one of these dreams that Gladio calls him. He's standing by the window, shaking copper-green metal from his bones, watching the sky get lighter, white and blue, and he's thinking that he's made for the sun, he would've wilted away to nothing if the long night had been much longer, and then his phone clatters across his bedside table behind him and falls onto the floor. He answers it, tucking it between his shoulder and his jaw, stretching up onto his toes.
"Ignis is hurt," says Gladio, in lieu of a greeting.
Prompto drops down onto his heels with a thump. "Hurt? Is he okay? What happened? Is he—"
"Last night. He fell, hurt his foot, can't use his cane with crutches."
"What? But he— is someone with him? Can I—"
"I'm doing some of his shit, his work with Noct, so I wanted to ask if you could stay with him for awhile. He won't ask, but I think he'd appreciate the help."
"Dude, of course," says Prompto, immediately. "I can— are you with him? I can be there pretty soon, I just have to— I mean, can I bring him anything?"
"Right. Sure. Okay. Okay. I'll be there soon."
He ends the call and throws his phone onto his bed. He turns on his toes, turns again, tugs at each of his fingers until the joints click. His heart is beating way too fast and he should honestly probably kill Gladio for starting the call like that, for not giving him instant understanding of the situation through like... a mind meld or something. For making him think for more than a split second that Ignis was dead in a gutter somewhere. He hurt his foot. That could mean anything. That could mean a stubbed toe or it could mean a full plaster cast. They'd need so much plaster for even one of Ignis's legs, he thinks, and then he wonders if they even use plaster or if it's something else, like how pencil leads aren't even lead, and then he shakes his head, scrubs his fingers through his hair.
"Really not the point, pal," he mutters to his empty room, and he tugs once more at his hair and starts to get ready.
He packs as much of his entire apartment into a backpack and duffel as he's able. He has a pretty well-stocked medicine cabinet and his pantry is nowhere near as bare as Noct's and he's just done laundry, so he has something like thirty pairs of socks, including his favourite fluffy house socks, and all of it gets swept into his bags. It can't hurt to be prepared, he reasons. What if Ignis gets sick while his foot is healing? What if he gets the flu and Prompto has to bathe his fevered brow? What if he gets the flu and Prompto has to douse him in ice water and strip off all of his clothes? Or... no. Not that. He's going to go over to Ignis's apartment and he's going to see how he is and help him with what he needs help with and whatever... feelings he has for Ignis will remain in the back of his mind, quiet and constant, where they've been for so long now. A total non-issue.
As he heads through the city, he taps at his steering wheel and flips back and forth between radio stations, unable to listen to anything for too long. It all sounds jarring and harsh against the worry at the tips of his fingers, in his bitten lower lip, and he shifts in his seat, wriggles in place, winds the window all the way down and still doesn't feel settled. His car is nothing like the Regalia, but it gets him around. A vehicle of necessity, not glamour, that he keeps alive by sheer force of will and a new found enthusiasm for the lifespan of machines and also zip-ties, to keep the hood from flying up any time he comes close to the speed limit. Cindy had laughed when he'd asked her for help, but then she'd shown him everything he needed to know, and now he changes spark plugs and serpentine belts and presses engine oil thumbprints into the barcode at his wrist, smudging the edges into nothing. There's a little chocobo air freshener hanging from the mirror, along with a string of wooden beads Gladio had given him a long time ago, and a moogle plushie in the back window, one of Iris's cast-offs. He's still a bad driver, but that doesn't seem all that important, really.
When he arrives, he steps into the elevator, hits the floor button, and shuts his eyes until it reaches the top. Up and up and up.
Gladio answers the door looking more harried than Gladio ever really looks. He usually skips this part, goes straight from calm to angry. But now, here, his brow is pulled down low and his movements are short and sharp. He pulls Prompto inside by the arm.
"Iggy, Prompto's here," he calls out behind him. "I'm gonna head out."
"Prompto?" comes Ignis's voice from further inside, down the hall. "I don't—"
"Don't even try to get him to a hospital," mutters Gladio. "It was hard enough getting him on crutches. Do try to keep him lying down." And he manages a brief fist-bump before disappearing, the door clicking shut behind him.
Prompto fidgets. The apartment is silent. He shrugs his bag up a little higher on his shoulder. He and Ignis aren't often alone together. It's not deliberate, he knows that, it just never really happens. Prompto's begun counting it as a sort of blessing. If they were alone together too often he'd probably start to feel more comfortable staring at Ignis all the time. Because he's easy to stare at. Because of the soft pout of his mouth and the way his hair falls forward sometimes, when he's not using industrial strength super glue to push it back, and because of just... his hands, in general. They're friends. It wouldn't be fair. They've never had much of an excuse to spend time together, without the others, anyway. Ignis hasn't ever hurt his foot and had to be nursed back to health before.
"Are you really there, Prompto?" comes Ignis's voice again, sounding extremely dubious, and then there's the sound of something falling, clattering to the ground, and Prompto hurries further into the apartment.
Ignis is in pajamas, plaid bottoms carefully folded at the cuffs, and a matching shirt, black and grey. His foot is bound up, swollen under the bandage, and he's standing in the centre of the room, holding it gingerly off the ground, leaning heavily on a crutch. He's frowning at the floor, where the other crutch has fallen, clearly because he's refusing to let go of his cane, which is currently held in a white-knuckled grip. He looks... tired and hurt and unhappy. It reminds Prompto terribly of Altissia, Ignis sitting in that chair like a statue for days, and then again at Zegnautus Keep, offering his life for Noct's, burning over and over again for love. Or maybe he's just stubbed his toe.
“Yeah, hey I’m here,” says Prompto, dropping his bags onto an armchair. “Need some help?”
“I am perf—”
“Because it kind of looks like you need some help.”
Ignis stays silent, jaw tight. Prompto can almost see words climbing up through his chest, his throat, and then falling back from his lips as he makes the decision not to voice them. He thinks, sometimes, that Ignis could shatter with the wrong word or the wrong touch, though he has no real reason to. It would be easy for Ignis to give him the cane, take up the other crutch, but Prompto remembers what he’d been like in Altissia, Cartanica, fierce about how losing his eyesight wouldn’t change anything.
“Thank you, Prompto,” he says then, finally. “I would appreciate it if you would help me to the couch.”
“Sure thing, Iggy. Want me to just um... throw you over my shoulder, or...”
“Just a hand will be fine.”
So Prompto steps forward, giving himself just enough time to think about how they used to touch casually, easily, and now they hardly touch at all. But he supposes that’s his fault. Self-preservation. He won’t burst into flame if they touch. He probably won’t burst into flame if they touch. Probably. He takes a breath and he ducks under Ignis’s arm, reaches up to take his wrist, thumb to pulse, slips his other arm around his waist, fingers curled in above his hip, light against the soft flannel of his pajamas. He wonders if Ignis can feel it, how hard he’s trying to hold himself casually, easily, or if he feels brittle and sharp-edged and clumsy against him.
For a moment Ignis is silent and they’re just standing there, in the middle of the living room, and Prompto is holding his breath and both Ignis and the sun through the windows are warm. Prompto doesn’t burst into flames, but he does feel like he might dissolve, split apart, turn to dust. Then Ignis sighs and the rigid line of his shoulders eases and his grip on his cane relaxes.
“Alright,” he says, and Prompto helps him across the room.
As soon as they reach the couch, just a couple of steps really, he carefully eases Ignis down onto it and then steps back. He shakes out his hands and squares his shoulders. His hair has been mussed up by the breadth of Ignis’s arm and he pets it down, more for something to do with his hands than anything else. He picks up the discarded crutches and leans them up against the arm of the couch, within reach if Ignis should want them. He grabs a cushion to prop up Ignis's foot, tries to ignore the way he’s frowning, the way his mouth is tight and turned down at the corners. He checks that the cushion won’t fall, that the crutches won’t fall, checks again, and when he’s satisfied Ignis is as comfortable as he can be, he steps back further.
“You want coffee?” he asks, clapping his hands sharply, looking to the windows, to the sky. “I can definitely make coffee.”
“Please,” says Ignis, offering half a smile, the first of the day, and Prompto decides he'll do anything it takes to get another.
He hasn’t used Ignis’s kitchen since... well, since before, ancient history, and even then it was rare. He’d make popcorn when they were all together, watching a movie, or grilled cheese and extravagant ice cream sundaes, to make Ignis laugh. He's sure the others think he can't cook, maybe because he's so close to Noct, but he's never been bad at it. Not good exactly, either, nowhere close to Ignis, but he'd been forced to learn when he was younger, turning himself into someone else, and it was the part he ended up liking best. Not running in the rain or watching himself shrink in a mirror, but learning what he liked and how to make it. A relationship with food that wasn’t about cutting things out or filling a hole.
“You want something to eat?” he calls out over the bench to Ignis. “I could make eggs or... I brought like... well I brought a lot of stuff, actually, because I thought—” He flips open a cupboard, flips it shut again. “I mean, obviously you have every ingredient known to man, but your snack arsenal is seriously lacking. I could make eggs or I have this like... cinnamon toast snack that is just tiny toasts that you eat like chips, so..."
“Is that not cereal?” asks Ignis, voice mild, and Prompto laughs.
“I mean... isn’t anything cereal if you add milk to it?”
“Coffee is fine, Prompto. No milk.”
“Right, coffee, shout out if you change your mind.”
So Prompto makes coffee. Ignis used to have a fancy coffee machine, an intimidating stainless steel thing with a touch screen and a milk wand and this coffee tamper that looked kind of like a sex toy, but it had been destroyed, like everything else, by the time he got the apartment back. He’d needed something simpler anyway. More tactile, less fiddly. A hand grinder and one of those two-cup plungers, so popular in Accordo. Prompto thinks it’s a little disappointing, honestly, because the sex toy tamper had been heavy in a satisfying sort of way, and he liked both the action of tamping and the word tamp, which you don’t really do with plunger coffee, but he guesses it makes sense. No point in a touch screen if you can't see it.
The coffee beans are in a tin, on a shelf above the sink. Prompto pulls them down and measures out a careful portion and checks and double-checks the coarseness of the grind, calling out exactly what he's doing to Ignis, who tells him it doesn't matter, with a smile in his voice. Prompto is pretty sure it definitely, definitely does matter, so he asks once more, and Ignis laughs, softly, and Prompto forgets about the beans entirely.
When the electric kettle finishes boiling, it plays a jingle, pretty and bright, and Prompto wonders if you can change the song, pick something from the radio, and then he wonders how many other things in Ignis's kitchen sing to him.
"You got a whole band in here, Iggy?" he calls out, picking up the kettle to silence it.
"The appliances keep me company, yes," says Ignis, and Prompto laughs, and sets the kettle boiling again, just to hear it sing.
As the coffee steeps, Prompto leans into the bench to watch it, chin propped up in his hands, the water staining darker and darker. He starts off counting out minutes, but quickly loses track. He's not sure what he should count to anyway. He doesn't really like coffee. When it seems about the right colour, he quickly pushes down the plunger and then he spins in place and grabs a mug from one of the shelves, dusty pink grey ceramic, and fills it.
"Prepare yourself," he calls out. "This may be the finest cup of coffee ever made."
"I have no doubt," says Ignis.
Back at the couch, he takes Ignis's hand and presses the mug into his palm. Ignis takes it and Prompto pulls away, drops onto his butt on the floor, shuffles back to sit against the foot of the couch. He leans forward, resting his arms across his knees, watches Ignis hold the mug up to his face, eyes closed, the steam clinging to him. It makes him look like half a dream, his edges soft, his features indistinct and delicate, and then it clears and he's just Ignis, equally impossible. He makes a pleased sound as he takes his first sip, licks his lips. Prompto looks away, tugs at his fingers, twists at the leather wrapped around his wrist. No glove, not usually, but thin leather bands that cut up the lines of the barcode, without covering it completely.
"I do have furniture," says Ignis, quietly, after a little while. He nudges at Prompto's shoulder with his uninjured foot.
"How'd you hurt yourself, anyway?" Prompto asks, ignoring him.
"I slipped in the shower," says Ignis, voice bitter. "It was a stupid mistake."
"Sounds like an accident to me." He hugs his knees to his chest. "You sure it's not broken?"
"Must suck not being able to do sick backflips all over the apartment all the time."
"Is that how you think I live?"
"That's how I know you live, Iggy."
"My secret is out," murmurs Ignis and Prompto grins and leans back and pats his ankle.
"Don't worry," he says. "I'll take it to my grave."
He leaves Ignis with his coffee and heads to the spare room with his bags. It's small and there are windows on two sides, floor to ceiling, and the curtains are pale grey. Prompto's stayed there before, on the night after the first daybreak. He and Noct had shared the room and a foam mattress and Gladio had stayed with Ignis. It had been beat up, choked with dust and broken glass, windows patched with cardboard and duct tape, no power or running water, but one of the only places they all still recognised. A part of the city that was still theirs, without the cold ruined beauty of the citadel. They'd all ended up dragging their bedding into the living room in the middle of the night anyway, no one staying anything, to sleep there instead. Together. Closer still.
Prompto sighs, drags a hand along one of the curtains, pulling ripples from it. Some parts of the city are still broken. There's something wrong with them, like oil on water, magic residue or daemon blood, something that Prompto doesn't really understand that makes those places bad. Uninhabitable. Noct hasn't been able to purge everything and the Crystal has been... quiet, dim, but he works on it everyday, stretching himself thin and hollow. Prompto wishes he could help more. He works at the food banks most weeks, and the camps, and sometimes the hospitals, which are the hardest. People who had been daemons, clawing their way back to humanity. They can't stand sunlight or they can't stand what they remember or they want it back. Prompto helps and talks and takes photos of the ways the cities and towns are remaking themselves and it all feels a bit like nothing much.
He drops the duffel on the end of the bed, sifts through the pile of junk he seems to have brought with him. Thirty mismatched socks and a half-empty bottle of bubblegum flavoured cough syrup and four bags of these weird sour gummy chocobos he found on the clearance shelf at his local grocery store, that are definitely not official Chocobo Post merch. No sweaters. No toothbrush. Oh well, Ignis probably has spare. He's just that kind of guy. Backflips and impeccable oral hygiene. He sighs and fiddles with the duffel's zip, but doesn't end up unpacking it at all, just extracts the snacks and hauls them back out to the pantry. He narrates the process to Ignis, where he'll put the chocobo gummies and the extra, extra hot noodles and the cinnamon toast chips, all in a box to keep separate, so Ignis doesn't have to learn anything new about his own pantry.
Ignis doesn't say much at all, just drinks his coffee and fusses with his bandage, folding it at the edge and then unfolding it, pressing it flat, running his hand over the swollen curve of his ankle.
Eventually, Prompto does make eggs. An omelette with mushrooms and Leiden peppers and parsley, that they split between them. When Ignis takes his first bite, he makes a noise of pleased surprise, and it's nothing, really, but it kind of makes Prompto want to scream. I've always been able to cook, but no one ever asked me. He stays quiet instead. He eats his meal. He rinses off the dishes and sets the dishwasher running. He wonders if it will sing too, when it's done. His own personal insecurities aren't anyone else's problem. They're not really even his own, just thoughts that keep coming to him, unbidden, because he's still no good at thinking anything but the worst about himself.
They spend the afternoon doing nothing much of anything. Prompto scrolls through Ignis's MP3 player, playing thirty seconds of every song through the stereo, until he finds something that fits the sun that filters through the blinds in stripes, and the way he feels a little bit like he's dreaming. Ignis reads and uses his phone, which has actual physical buttons on it, kind of like phones from a decade ago, and it talks to him just like his appliances do. Prompto is pretty sure he's doing work, which he's pretty sure is illegal, if you're injured, but he can already see the argument it might cause if he tries to stop him, so he doesn't.
Instead, he helps Ignis around the apartment when he asks, usually taking his arm or resting a hand under his elbow. He watches carefully for any sign of discomfort, any bitten lip or hiss of pain. He makes sure he stays hydrated. He brings him ice packs and painkillers and plays at being a Crownsguard drill sergeant, instructing him in careful ankle stretches, and Ignis takes it all with infinite patience. Maybe he used up all his stubbornness on Gladio. If Prompto was laid out like this, he'd probably be half out of his mind in an hour. It had happened to him once, as a teenager. He'd slipped on wet grass and fractured a bone in his foot and then he'd slipped again, trying to hurl himself down some stairs on crutches, and broken his collarbone too, which had rendered him basically imobile. He'd been bed-ridden and stir-crazy for a month and Noct had brought over his homework every week, along with little parcels of coconut cookies, made by Ignis. Prompto had been a little overwhelmed by it. The idea that there were people who might think of you, even when you weren't there. He'd taken a thousand photos of his bedroom ceiling, the different shadows he could cast upon it, and he'd kept the patterned paper the cookies were wrapped in. Ignis is a saint, for taking his injury so well.
Gladio and Noct call each of them separately, which Prompto thinks is kind of funny and which Ignis thinks is tedious. Gladio apologises and complains in equal measure. Noct makes sly comments and innuendos, when he's on the phone to Prompto, and he has to hang up almost immediately, face burning, blowing static down the line while Noct laughs.
It surprises him how fast the day goes, and how suddenly it's dark outside. They order food in and it's... nice. It's nice just to sit with Ignis, even if he's barely speaking. Prompto makes them ice cream sundaes after dinner, salted sesame and caramel and cream, not nearly enough sprinkles or syrup, but that's the fault of Ignis's pantry and not Prompto's skill with frozen desserts. They watch a movie, and Prompto hasn't done that before, watched something with Ignis where what's happening on screen is narrated too, and it's weird and Prompto wonders whether it's better watching movies he'd seen before he lost his sight, because he knows how they look, or if that makes it worse. And then the movie ends and Prompto starts to consider sleep and Ignis starts to talk.
"Under ordinary circumstances, I am able to navigate my apartment without the cane," he says. His voice is careful, clipped, more so that usual. "This... this injury has thrown my confidence, somewhat."
"Oh," says Prompto, not knowing what else to say. "Man, that... that sucks." He feels immediately stupid. He squeezes his eyes shut, rubs feverishly at his cheeks. "I mean—"
"No, you're right, it does suck," says Ignis, dryly. "I feel I'm starting from scratch again."
"Well, I was there the first time too, and I think we... we basically owned it, so. Stick with me, kid." He elbows Ignis gently in the ribs. "You'll live forever."
Ignis smiles. "Easy enough," he says, and something about the way he says it, like he's never been sure of anything but that, makes Prompto breathless.
"I—" He stops, shakes his head, laughs softly. Outside the stars are out and he gets up and crosses the room to look at them, to pick them out from the lights of the city, and then he draws the blinds, and turns back.
"Noct has informed me I'm not to come in until I have fully recovered," says Ignis, as Prompto sits back down beside him. "I must admit, the thought of some time to myself, even as the result of injury, is... not unpleasant."
Prompto turns his hands over in his lap, pulls at one of the leather bands. "Oh," he says. "Right, totally, I... well Gladio told me to come over and stay, but obviously I can fuck off if, um... I mean I did already unpack, so it's like... it's a little rude, but..." He means it as a joke, but something in his voice scratches and it ends up sincere, scared, always always stupid.
"That's not what I meant," says Ignis, after a beat. "I'm glad to have you here. I am... I'm always glad to see you, Prompto."
Prompto laughs again, he can't help it. It's a nervous reaction, something automatic and stupid and young, and he can never really help it. He still feels half a boy sometimes, far more often than he should, just setting out from the city in frayed denim and unlaced boots.
"I know," he says, finally. "I know that."
That night, Prompto lies in bed and stares at the ceiling and tries to pretend he's not imagining what's happening through the wall. Ignis, settling into sleep. Struggling with his foot, maybe. Not used to sleeping on his back, maybe. They've shared so many rooms before, beds too, but Prompto can't really remember ever seeing Ignis sleep. He probably folds himself up like a jack-in-the-box. He probably kicks. No. No, Prompto definitely kicks, Ignis probably sleeps like he's in a coffin, arms crossed over his chest. Or maybe he becomes quickly soft and boneless, curled up and warm in plaid pajamas. Fluffy hair. Easy to fit around, tuck one hand up against his ribs, his stomach, his mouth to the back of his neck.
He screws up his face, rolls onto his stomach and buries his face in his pillow. He's been okay with his crush on Ignis for so long now, sometimes he forgets it even exists. It drifts in and out of his life and will continue to drift in and out of his life. He's never really been one to get over anything. Anyone he's ever loved, he'll always love, in some way. And he'll date other people and love other people and Ignis will always be his friend. He shouldn't be thinking about him like this at all. Not of the way their bodies might fit together or of how soft his mouth might be or of his hands, his palms, those few pale freckles dotted across one cheek.
And then, outside, it starts to rain, sudden and heavy, drowning out everything but the space around his body, and he falls asleep to the sound and feel of it. If he dreams, they are muted and fleeting, and he wakes up feeling better rested than he has in a long time.
In the morning, they walk to the grocery store a couple of blocks away. Prompto has a lifetime supply of sour gummy chocobos and Ignis has every ingredient known to man, but his foot is less swollen and he wants to leave the house and Prompto thinks that's probably a good idea. He talks the whole way, about everything and nothing. About the job he's doing next month, taking photos in Altissia, the new canal lines and the city coming back together, and about the way Insomnia's finally opening up. Ignis is using his crutches, so Prompto keeps a hand at his elbow, steers him gently away from puddles and breaks in the pavement and people who aren't looking where they're going.
There are still curbs that crumble away into dust in some places, and boarded up buildings and broken roads, and they pass one of the bad spots too, held in with concrete bollards and glowing runes. Prompto's hold on Ignis's arm tightens, but Ignis gives no sign that he knows what they're walking past. Prompto knows that he can see light and dark, if they're stark enough, and some movement too, but maybe magic isn't really anything to him anymore. A burn at the edges of his vision. Purple fire in the dark.
At the grocery store Ignis seems a little more at ease, though still uncomfortable without his cane. Prompto carries a basket in the crook of one arm and keeps his palm at Ignis's elbow and recites the different sections of the grocery store, in schoolboy rhyme, until Ignis smiles. Prompto's always found grocery stores kind of nightmarish. So many options and no obvious indication of what the right choice might be. He always finds himself leaving with something completely incomprehensible. Three loose tomatoes and a box of frozen blueberries. Sour gummy chocobos and five bricks of dried green tea, that gather dust in the back of his pantry. It's easier with Ignis, who knows exactly what he wants, and he lets himself relax and just enjoy walking beside him, collecting what he asks for in the basket, imagining he might wrap it all up in coloured paper at the end, like a gift, tied with a bow.
They take their time going back. It's a nice enough day, the night's rain swapped for pale sun, and Ignis's foot isn't troubling him too much. They stop at a park, halfway home, one of the new ones Ignis and Noct had set up, to create jobs and clear rubble. They're dotted across the city, stretching up to the sun alongside skyscrapers and apartment blocks. A cobbled path winds through the grass, lined with spring flowers, yellow and pink, and a community garden sits at one corner, climbing peas and bushy red-green rhubarb. Kids play on a playground across the grass, shrieking out battle cries and stomping through wood chips, and if Prompto squints just right, he can kind of see the city as it was, without scars.
He buys them warm pretzels from a cart, cinnamon and sugar, held in slips of translucent paper, and takes them back to where Ignis is sitting on a bench, crutches stacked carefully next to him.
"Do you ever find it... hard, hearing children again?" Ignis asks, face turned to the playground. He is bathed in sun. Prompto takes his place next to him, gives him his pretzel.
"I have to stop myself from yelling at them," he says. "Like, where are your parents, you're going to die, you know?" He chews at the inside of his cheek. "It's worse at night."
"Yes." Ignis sighs. "I don't know when it will feel safe to go after dark."
"Probably never." Prompto fidgets, tears the paper pretzel slip into tiny pieces that he gathers in his palm. "I... it helps me to just... stop and think about what I'm doing and where I am, like it's a story or something. Once upon a time Prompto Argentum sat in a park with Ignis Scientia, Crown City's most eligible bachelor, and he ate a pretzel and thought about how he was going to go back to Ignis's apartment and put on his favourite fluffy house socks and play King's Knight, the end. You know, something like that. Takes my mind off everything else."
"Once upon a time Ignis Scientia sat in a park with Prompto Argentum, Crown City's best and brightest," says Ignis, quietly.
Prompto blinks, blinded by the sun. He reaches out, like he might be able to hold it, white light, but all he gets is warm air against his fingertips. "Do... do you ever think about leaving?" he asks. "I—I mean, not forever, obviously, just... you haven't really been out since... and—"
"Yes," says Ignis. "I think of it often." He crumples up the paper in his hands. There is sugar at the corners of his mouth. "Perhaps I'll come with you to Accordo, just like old times." He stands up and picks up his crutches. "Shall we?" he asks, and Prompto picks up the grocery bags and takes his arm again.
Back at the apartment, Ignis rests in his bedroom with an ice pack. Prompto puts on his favourite fluffy house socks and plays King's Knight and ignores Noct's suggestive messages and, eventually, he puts some music on and cooks dinner. He finds an apron in a drawer, black and white gingham, and he doesn't imagine Ignis wearing it, because that would kill him instantly, he just puts it on himself, and ties the bow at the back, and sings along badly to the music. He makes chili, because it's easy and because there is still rain left in the air, and he's not precise with measurements or technique, and the onions make him cry, but he ends up with some that looks mostly like it should, and smells better.
They eat together, at the table, and Ignis is surprised once more.
"This is good, Prompto," he says, so earnestly it's hard to take.
"You're confusing me with Noct," Prompto mutters, unable to stop himself. "I can cook, actually."
Ignis is silent for a long moment and then he nods. "I know that," he says, finally. "And I know that you're not Noct."
Prompto wants to laugh, but he pulls at a handful of his hair instead, fumbles with his fork, letting it scratch shrilly against his bowl. I know that you're not Noct. Okay. Okay sure. Obviously. Now what? He presses a closed fist to his thigh, to stop the way his foot is tapping out his nerves. He thinks, sometimes, that he could shatter with the wrong word or the wrong touch, so he tries to keep from saying anything important at all.
"How's your foot feeling?" he asks, voice pitching wrong, scraping at his teeth.
"You think they'll start opening up Chocobo Posts in the city?" he asks. "Like, I know the buses and stuff are mostly up and running, but wouldn't it be cool if we could just like... block traffic for miles on the freeway."
"You'll have to ask Noct," says Ignis, quietly.
"Please, Highness, give me a giant fluffy bird to ride into the sunset."
"I'm sure he would be amenable, he grew quite fond of his."
"Lord Flufflebutt, of the Lucis Caelum Flufflebutts."
"A strong name." Ignis is smiling again. "If you like, I can submit your suggestion formally to the city works office."
Prompto laughs. He feels better. Less stupid. "Thanks Iggy," he says. "We'll get this city up and running still."
That night, Prompto wakes to the sound of someone crying out. Frozen, he tries to see through the dark, like that might make what he's hearing clearer. It's Ignis, sharp words and bitten-off sobs that echo against the walls and come to him quietly, half-there. Prompto holds his breath, squeezes his eyes shut. It might still be a dream. There are no daemons in this dream, he thinks. No mirrors, no metal. It's much worse than that. He opens his eyes and throws back the covers.
Ignis's room is full of moonlight, the curtains left open. He is bathed in it, in bed, curled around his hands and shaking. The light catches on the silver tear tracks that run down his nose to settle at the bow of his lips or the hollow of his throat. He's asleep, Prompto realises, wringing his hands, and he crouches down beside the bed.
"Ignis," he says. "You're dreaming." He hesitates, ghosts one hand over Ignis's curled in shoulder balls his hand into a fist instead of touching him. "Please wake up."
Ignis's eyes move under his lids. The burns that fan up across his temples look grey and ragged in the moonlight, like stone has grown over his skin. His hair is damp with sweat and plastered to his forehead. In the long night, when they would meet and hunt together, he would dream like this as well, and call Noct's name, and wake up and say nothing. Prompto and Gladio would keep the silence too, instead of asking. They had dreams enough of their own.
"Fuck," mutters Prompto. "Shit, Iggy, please don't kill me." He touches Ignis's face, thumb to the high point of his cheek, fingers in his hair. "Wake up," he says, as loud as he is able, surrounded by dark.
Ignis jerks under his hand, his eyes flying open and then quickly fluttering closed again, and he grabs for Prompto's wrist, grip like iron, and his whole body becomes stone. His hand covers the barcode completely, and Prompto wonders if he can feel it, the ink and iron, or if it's all just skin to him.
"It's me," he whispers, urgently. "It's Prompto, Ignis, you were dreaming. You're... It's okay, you're okay."
"Prompto," says Ignis, the name slurred and sticky with sleep, and he sighs and his grip eases on Prompto's wrist, slips free, but only so he can take his hand instead.
"Yeah, yep, I..." He thinks that he should pull away, but Ignis's hand is warm and his expression has turned to something gentle, not grief or fear or pain. "Do you... I should go back, if you're okay, if—"
"No," says Ignis, pulling Prompto's hand to his chest. "Stay."
"Right," whispers Prompto. He bows his head against the bed, touches the floor with his free hand, knock on wood. "Right, okay, I... fuck, shove over then."
Mumbling under his breath, not words, half-air, Ignis gives Prompto space to climb into the bed. He does, awkwardly making sure not to jostle Ignis's foot or elbow him in the chest or make the bed creak under his weight. And when he's settled, on his back, Ignis drapes his arm across his stomach and bows his head against his shoulder, mouth warm against the soft cotton of his t-shirt. Prompto stays frozen for some time, hypnotised by warmth and skin, and when Ignis's breathing evens out, he rolls over, puts a little space between them, and he watches the curtains and the sky beyond until he falls asleep again.
He wakes up with the sun and for a moment he lies still, listening to Ignis breathe beside him. He thinks that he should get up, run back to his room and wrap himself up in bedding and pretend he never left his room. Or go back to sleep here, now, and never leave If he left, Ignis might wake up confused and that would be worse than waking up with Prompto in his bed. Probably. Hopefully. So he stays and he drifts in and out of dreams. He knows exactly when Ignis wakes up, because the line of his body becomes more deliberate, like he's falling back into himself. Prompto turns to him. Ignis licks his lips and his brow furrows and he pinches at the bridge of his nose and comes awake.
"Prompto," he says, after a moment, voice sticking on his name.
"Yep, ah... sorry," says Prompto, automatically.
"No apology necessary," he says, through a yawn, adorably dishevelled, and Prompto laughs and lies back and covers his face with his hands.
"I'm getting up," he says, into his palms. "I'm getting up right now." And he throws back the blankets and lurches to his feet and stumbles from the room.
When Ignis emerges, he's in a grey wool sweater and neat black sweatpants. Prompto looks at his hands, his wrists, where he's carefully folded his sleeves back. He didn't think Ignis even owned sweatpants. He didn't think Ignis even knew jersey knit existed. He's using his crutches, but he has his cane tucked under his arm too, and he pauses every few steps to double-check where he is. His expression is still, grave, and his eyes are firmly closed, and Prompto watches him and chews at the edge of his thumb instead of crossing the room to help. He doesn't think Ignis would allow it. He doesn't think he needs it, either. When he reaches the couch, he eases himself down beside Prompto, who drags a leather ottoman across the floor and helps him raise his foot to rest.
Noct visits them that morning, padding around the apartment like he's looking for evidence of something, expression infuriating smug.
"How's married life?" he asks, looking at Prompto sideways, grinning when he scowls.
"It's not—" starts Prompto, in a strangled voice, but Ignis cuts him off.
"Quite blissful," he says. "You ought to try it, Noct." And Noct makes a face and drops the topic entirely.
Noct is the only person Prompto has told about Ignis, tispy and tangled up in one another, a few months after the sun had started rising again. It had been a new thing then, little more than a crush, and Noct had been extremely surprised and then extremely suspicious and then extremely determined, slapping Prompto across the back and demanding he go for it, why wouldn't he? And Prompto had laughed it off, pushed him back, just glad to be sharing something with his friend, his best friend, who had been gone for so long but was back now.
It's been almost a year since then, and Prompto isn't exactly sure what his crush has turned into, except that it's something else now, and Noct still teases him, in that quiet, half-asleep way he does, like it's never on his mind until it is.
Together, they go out to get coffee, Ignis choosing to stay at the apartment. In the elevator, Noct stares at Prompto, eyebrows raised, and Prompto ignores him with so much determination that when the elevator dings and the doors open he nearly jumps out of his skin. Noct laughs and pushes him out ahead.
"So, is this killing you?" he asks, when they're under the sun.
"Dude, if he keeps lounging around in pajamas, I'm gonna jump out the window," Prompto mutters, but Noct just smirks.
"Liar," he says.
"We... we kind of, sort of, slept together?"
"Shut up, no, like literally slept, not... not anything else. He had a bad dream."
"A dream? I didn't think... I thought those had stopped." Noct looks troubled. He pushes his hair forward, over his face, an old habit, and then shakes it back again. "Well, maybe you can kill two birds with one stone."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Help Specs and... get some."
"Get some?" Prompto groans, pushes Noct away from him, and Noct smiles, tilts his face up into the sun.
They get their coffee from a cart at the corner of the street. It's painted cloudy blue and there are long, tapered flags flying from the corners of the canvas roof, and the girl who serves them tries to give them their drinks on the house. Noct gets embarrassed and close-mouthed and Prompto grins at her and crams all of their change into the tip jar on the counter. There's not a name for what Noct is to the city. To the world. Not one he's comfortable accepting. He's distanced himself from the throne, as much as he is able, but he's put everything he has into rebuilding. He uses the Crystal and he begs help from the Astrals, whatever scraps they'll give him, and they're crawling back, somehow, but it's still slow and hard and painful.
Sometimes Prompto feels like the world stopped during the long night. They lived ten years but didn't grow at all, put on pause while Noct slept, and they'll always be younger than their years. Or maybe that's just Prompto. He can make chili and keep a car from falling apart and he's lived on his own for basically his whole life, but he can't talk about a crush without devolving into pushing and shoving. He can take on any number of daemonic desserts and he knows that fish is a good source of vitamin D, in case the sun stops rising, but he can't even look at Ignis without thinking about what it might feel like to hold his hand or press his lips to his jaw. Instead of coffee, he's ordered a spiced hot chocolate with whipped cream, and he holds the cardboard takeaway cup between his palms and breathes in the scent of cinnamon.
"Bet you can't jump over that bench without spilling the drinks," he says, glancing sidelong at Noct.
"I'm not doing that," says Noct, but when they get over he jumps neatly up and over it, clutching the coffee carrier to his chest, and when he hits the ground and nothing spills he laughs, surprised and delighted, and Prompto seizes his free hand and raises up to the sky in triumph.
They spend the day together and then Gladio joins them in the evening. He eyes Ignis's outfit with undisguised amusement, and cuffs Prompto around the head, like they're still kids and he's still allowed to do that.
"How's married life?" he asks, and Noct looks smug and Ignis sighs and Prompto trips over his outrage and then falls into sullen silence.
Later, he and Ignis work on dinner while Gladio reads and Noct lounges, and it feels... comfortable. Easy. Just like it always did. Prompto closes his eyes for a moment, imagines they're under starlight, shadow puppets across the canvas walls of a tent. Then Ignis passes him by, hand brushing at his waist as he reaches for the bench to steady himself, and Prompto is back in the present again.
They make pizza. Ignis puts on the gingham apron and Prompto doesn't die, but does have to press his palms to his cheeks to cool them down.
"Looking slick, Iggy," he says, to cover his embarrassment, and Ignis smiles.
He'd made the pizza dough while Noct and Prompto were out, and left it to rise under a checkered tea towel in the sun. He takes it out now, pale and puffy, and he holds it up to his face to smell, then presses a finger into the centre and brushes his hand over the indent left behind. He must be satisfied, because he tips the dough out then, onto the floured bench, and starts to knead.
Prompto is in charge of toppings and he makes the sauce first, tomato and garlic and olive oil and sweet basil. He leaves it to simmer and cuts thin slices of red onion, mushrooms, thick slabs of pale cheese, and when he turns back to Ignis, he has flour to his elbows and in his hair and smudged across his cheek. Prompto grins.
"You're dusty," he murmurs, and he reaches across the space between them and brushes the flour from his hair.
Their pizzas come out perfectly, golden where they should be golden, crisped edges and molten cheese. Prompto holds both up over his head, balanced precariously on his hands, wearing thick oven mitts with a floury tea towel over one shoulder. Ignis follows more sedately, back on crutches, his apron tragically abandoned.
"Just call me holy Prompto, patron saint of pizza," says Prompto, sliding the pizzas from their trays onto the wooden boards waiting for them on the table.
"Patron saint of cheese, maybe," says Gladio, putting down his book, carefully marking his place, and then getting up to stretch.
"I take that as the highest compliment," says Prompto, airily. "Now come dig in."
There is garlic bread as well as pizza, and salad, and water with cucumber and mint, and Noct picks the olives off his pizza and puts them on Prompto's plate, and then Gladio reaches over and picks them off Prompto's plate and puts them on his own. It's happened before, in exactly the same way a million times, but somehow, here and now it makes Prompto feel like he might pass out. He's missed them. He's seen at least one of them almost every day since the world woke up, but they're rarely all together like this, and he misses it. Four kids on the road. Four kids going to a wedding. Whatever they are now. Four old men eating pizza. Well. Maybe not quite dead yet. Somehow still stuck with growing pains. Or maybe that's just Prompto.
After dinner, they play cards, betting with change and trinkets. Prompto seems to accumulate weird junk naturally, glass animals and crystal pendants, hoarded in the glove compartment of his car, and Noct likes the sort of vending machines that spit out rubber stamps and tiny cactuar toys, hoarded in the Regalia, and all of it ends up in the pot. Ignis's cards are all picked out in bumps, so he can read them with his hands, but it doesn't make him any better at the game. He has a good poker face, but is so bad at bluffing Prompto isn't sure he actually knows the rules at all. Noct pretends he doesn't care about his cards at all, but his eyes are sharp and fixed on everything he has, and he busts out first, refusing to admit when he has nothing. Prompto can't help laughing every time he gets a good hand, making everyone else fold instantly. He wins once, accidentally, his prize a metal thimble and a piece of rose quartz, both of which he gives to Ignis, who rolls the quartz between his fingers and then puts both pieces in his pocket. Gladio wins everything else, amassing a small fortune in useless junk, and he sweeps his arm across the table, pushing it all into his satchel.
"For Iris," he says, shrugging. "She'll make a shrapnel bomb."
They leave late. Ignis keeps suggesting that he take one more day off and then go back to work, and Noct and Gladio pointedly ignore him. It makes Prompto nervous, because there's still some swelling and because he still can't put his full weight on his foot and because he's been working for his whole life, barely stopping to breathe. It makes Prompto nervous, because he feels like he's running out of time, even though he knows Ignis will always have time for him, no matter what they are to one another.
Gladio winks at Prompto as he leaves, which is completely horrifying. Noct touches Ignis's shoulder, leans into him and says something only he can hear. And then they're gone and Prompto and Ignis are alone again.
"I'll clear up," says Prompto, and he spins in place, tugs at one of the bands at his wrist.
Ignis is silent for a beat, and then he nods. "Thank you," he says.
That night, Ignis has a shower and Prompto lies in bed and does not think about him under water. He thinks about the way his hands had looked, covered in flour, kneading dough. The way they'd moved around each other easily in the kitchen. Best and brightest. And then he thinks about him under water too, the way he might bow his head and let it fall over him, and then he shuts his eyes and calls up chocobos, running through a field, under the sun.
He wakes up, again, to a voice. There is a sliver of moonlight coming through his curtains, falling over his face, and he opens his eyes and Ignis is somewhere else, dreaming again. He must have been waiting for it, he thinks. Half-asleep and listening.
So Prompto goes to him and kneels beside him and wakes him up with a hand on his shoulder. He seems more lucid this time, more acutely aware of Prompto's presence, and he pulls the blankets back and lets him in without a word. Curled up, they face one another, and Ignis reaches over and touches Prompto's face, two fingertips to his cheek and then the pad of his thumb pressed to his lower lip. Prompto closes his eyes, resists the urge to open his mouth, resists the urge to push forward. He falls asleep to the touch, featherlight, and dreams of sunlight filtered through blinds and flour on skin and the dry warmth of an open palm.
In the morning, they wake up together, but don't get up right away. Prompto doesn't want to. Selfishly, he wants to stay as long as Ignis will let him. But Ignis doesn't move either, he curls over his hands, leaning toward Prompto, under sheets.
"Your nightmares..." says Prompto, thinking that he doesn't deserve this, he should offer more. He wants to give Ignis everything he has.
"I haven't had them in a long time," says Ignis. "I imagine it is somehow tied to my injury." His mouth twists. "Muscle memory."
"They're about Noct?"
"They're about... sacrifice," says Ignis. "I'm not confused about what happened then, nor do I regret it, but it is... upsetting to relive."
Prompto doesn't quite know what to say to that, so he offers what he can with a touch. He reaches across the space between them, hesitantly, and touches Ignis's shoulder, then cups his face with his hand, then pushes back his hair. They're dreaming, it's not real, he thinks, absently, and runs his thumb along Ignis's cheek. His expression is blank, but he softens under Prompto's touch, and leans into his hand, and Prompto wonders at how real his dreams have become. Not daemons, not mirrors, just skin on skin.
"You should take some time off," he says, pulling away. "I don't think I've seen you take a break at all since we met, and don't say this counts because it totally doesn't. You should come with me to Altissia."
Ignis smiles. "Perhaps," he says. "I would like that." And Prompto thinks that means he won't at all, he has his duties, and he sighs.
"I have dreams too," he says, quietly. "I mean, it's... it's not the same as what... as what you're going through, but they're better when I'm not totally fucking exhausted."
"What do you dream of?" Ignis asks, which isn't the point at all.
"Niflheim," he says. "Whatever I am. Whatever that means."
"You're you and you're here," says Ignis. "Where you should be."
He finds Prompto's hand in the low light and then presses his wrist to his mouth, so soft and fast that as soon as he pulls away it starts to feel unreal. Then he gets up and leaves the room and Prompto rolls onto his back, stares at the ceiling until his vision blurs, and then follows him.
They make coffee together, in the kitchen. Ignis shows him all the tricks that he's been missing, because he still doesn't really know what he's doing. You rinse the plunger out with hot water before adding the coffee. You let the electric jug sit for a minute, before you pour the water over the grounds, so nothing burns. Ignis gives him a little silver egg timer set to four minutes, the perfect steeping time, but Prompto waves it off and counts himself and loses track almost immediately. He drinks the coffee this time, with milk and sugar, and he supposes it's okay, not terrible, and he watches the steam wreath Ignis's face again and burns his tongue drinking it too fast. His wrist burns too, where Ignis touched it. He turns to the windows, to the sun, to clear some space in his head, but it doesn't work.
Ignis is quiet again that day, but his foot is much better. He's more confident moving, can put most of his weight on it, can navigate the apartment easily on his crutches, without the cane. He leaves it by the door, hanging from a brass hook on a leather loop, ready for when he goes out.
Gladio calls to complain about Noct and Ignis says he'll be fine to go back the next day and Gladio hangs up on him. Prompto skids around the room in socks and pretends he isn't listening in and sends Noct frantic messages that make no sense, just exclamation points and question marks, and Noct ignores him, as he should. He doesn't think Ignis should go back at all. Not yet. He's hurt. He's still so hurt and the whole entire world is broken, but he isn't the only one who has to fix it. They can do it together. They always have. Maybe he would have kissed the wrist of anyone who shared his dreams.
In the early afternoon, together, they swap Ignis's bandage for a thinner one. There is some bruising still, yellow and blue, watercolour blotches over his foot and curling up around his ankle. Most of the swelling has gone down. Prompto is as gentle as he can be, holding his foot in his lap, pulling the bandage carefully up, setting it in place. It feels far more intimate than it should, just an injury, just help, and his hands are shaking when he finally pulls away. He folds them in his lap, to keep from grabbing at air, hooks one ankle around the other, to keep from tapping out a beat.
"How's it feeling, anyway?" he asks. "You need ice?"
"No," says Ignis. "It feels much better."
"I can get you more painkillers if you need, and you should definitely still keep it elevated, I think. What's the C in RICE stand for anyway?" He counts off on his fingers. "Rest, Ice, Elevation, but—"
"Compress," says Ignis, quietly.
"Right, obviously." Prompto laughs, tilts his head back against the back of the couch, so he can see the ceiling. He closes one eye, holds his hand up, covers the window with the end of his finger, throwing splinters of light across his vision. "I don't think you should go back tomorrow," he says. "It's not even... it's not even your foot, it's just— And I'll clear out so you can finally get some actual rest, but—"
"I wish that you could see yourself the way I see you," says Ignis.
Prompto blinks. "I... what?" His hand drops, hitting his stomach, and he winces, and then his thoughts catch up with him, what Ignis had said, and he loses his breath too. His skin hurts. His fingers curl reflexively into his palms. He considers making a bad joke about how Ignis can't actually see at all, and decides against it. He swallows. "I'll be right back," he says, and flees.
In the bathroom, safe and cool, he stares at himself in the mirror. Not a daemon, not anyone but himself, confused about his relationship with another human being. He pokes at his cheeks, pulls down the corners of his mouth, scrubs at his hair until it's sticking out at all angles. There are shadows under his eyes, pink and blue, and his lips are chapped at the centre. I wish you could see yourself the way I see you. He sighs. Maybe it's not so inconceivable that Ignis might want him like he wants Ignis. Maybe it's not so impossible that he could actually be someone's choice. Still. It's easier to consider than to actually do anything about it. He misses Aranea. She was always good at advice. Or... well, she was always good at forcing him to confront the things he didn't necessarily even want to think about. But she's off single-handedly bring Niflheim back into the world, so he's probably on his own. Maybe he should be with her. Maybe he should never even think about going anywhere near Niflheim again.
"Shut up," he mutters, flicking water at the mirror and then furiously scrubbing it clean with a hand towel. Maybe he should go back into the living room and ask Ignis what the fuck he's doing. "Shut up, shut up."
He goes back into the living room, shuffles across the floor in mismatched socks, heads straight for the stereo and turns it on, and then shuffles back to Ignis.
"Dance with me," he says, because it might be a roundabout way of asking the same question.
"I'm injured," Ignis protests, but it's weak and he lets himself be pulled to his feet.
"I won't let you fall," says Prompto, and pulls him closer, wraps one arm around his waist and presses his hand to his lower back. Ignis hesitates, then touches Prompto's chest, slides his hand up and over his shoulder.
It's awkward, mostly. Ignis is much taller and still clumsy on his foot, so they stumble against one another more than anything. A shuffling, swaying waltz. Not a waltz at all. The music is nice, though, dreamy and pretty, and Ignis is smiling and his hands are warm. Their bodies together make shadows in the bright sun cast across the floor. Ignis's fingers curl into Prompto's palm. Prompto wants to press his mouth to Ignis's collar, but he doesn't.
The song ends and a faster one begins, enough beats per minute that it might kill Ignis if he tried to dance to it, but they don't move. Ignis lets go of Prompto's hands, but only so he can put his arms around him, hold him tighter, and Prompto, heart beating hard, does the same. They stand there, in the centre of the room, like they had on the first day, and both Ignis and the sun through the windows are warm.
They make dinner together then. Green curry this time, a recipe that Ignis guides them through. He has a paste made up already, fragrant lemongrass and lime leaves and white peppercorns, kept in his fridge in a container lined in plastic wrap, and homemade stock in frozen cubes in his freezer. Prompto chops up the fresh ingredients, the chickatrice thigh and the bamboo shoots, and he simmers the coconut milk until it thickens and Ignis adds the paste and brings it into life. Ignis sets the rice cooker going and when it's done, it sings, and he sings along with it.
Prompto sets the table nicely, rattan place mats and stainless steel cactuar salt and pepper shakers, a gift from Iris. They eat and talk about anything other than themselves. Ignis has heard that Sania is visiting the city, a rare occurrence, and Prompto remembers that Cindy told him Cid night be coming in too, to take a look at the Kingsglaive armoury, and they really need more rain, the one night wasn't enough to get the city supply up to where it should be before summer. It all feels like nothing, like air.
There is no answer and Prompto can't ask for one, but the evening stretches and he knows he can't go to sleep either. He's practically vibrating with nervous energy that he should be using for conversation, for clarity, but he can't seem to get the words out. Maybe Ignis just wants to fuck him, he thinks, and his chest aches. Maybe he's read it all wrong and Ignis is just being a good friend, because he's like that, because he's fucking nice. He has spare toothbrushes. Maybe Prompto's actually asleep somewhere and all of this is a dream, not real, and he's in his own apartment, alone. He paces the apartment, opens the fridge and closes it, eats so many sour gummy chocobos his tongue starts to feel raw and then takes the bag to Ignis, who picks an orange one, and wrinkles his nose at the taste.
"How do you even—" Prompto laughs, throws the half-finished bag onto the coffee table, turns and tugs on Ignis's sleeve. "How do you pick your clothes?"
Ignis laughs. "You don't believe my sense of style is innate?" he asks.
"Fine, whatever, you're magic, my mistake."
"I sew buttons into the laundry tags," he says, after a moment. He runs a finger along the inside of his collar. "Different buttons mean different colours. I know fabric types by touch."
"Sounds like magic to me,* says Prompto. He feels suddenly exhausted. He curls over on his side to watch Ignis in the half-light. "Are you really going back tomorrow?" he asks.
"Would you prefer Gladio murder Noctis?"
Prompto laughs. "No," he says. "I just like... I like hanging out with you." He feels caught between sleep and panic, his heartbeat ringing dully in his ears.
"I don't have to be injured for you to do that."
"No, I know, it's just... it's nice, is all. Just us." He closes his eyes, leans back, near jumps out of his skin when Ignis touches him. It's gentle though, a hand at his shoulder, drifting up and up until his fingers are pushing through his hair. He guides Prompto's head gently into his lap, pushes his hair back from his face, his touch light, his skin warm. Prompto closes his eyes again.
"Come to bed," says Ignis then, and Prompto struggles upright, startled from his dream.
"Bed," he says. "Right, I... yeah, I'll see you in the morning." He doesn't move. He frowns at his hands, tugs at the leather at his wrist.
“I—” Ignis stops, frowning, and then he sighs and starts again. “Do you remember when we first met?"
"Sure, when me and Noct were in school and you were... I don't know, a high school dropout, I guess."
"Prompto, I was not—"
"Sorry, I know, sorry, carry on."
"I suppose I don't really mean when we first met, but when we first started spending more time together. When you started training to join the Crownsguard." He runs his hands over his thighs, pinches at the fabric at his knees and then smooths it out again. More sweatpants. Fucked up. "Your face," he says. "It... It aggravated me to look at."
For a moment, Prompto doesn't quite know what to say. Then he laughs, nervously. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah, I get that a lot."
"I thought I would grow accustomed to seeing you, eventually. I thought that I was lonely and you were beautiful and it would pass, but it... did not. I watched you grow into someone brave and strong and good and I told myself I was only glad to see you everyday because you were Noct's friend and he needed one so desperately."
"It never occurred to me to ask you how you felt. You spoke often of your crushes and I... I thought that whoever you chose, they would be... the luckiest person in Eos to have your full attention. And then I lost my sight and you became something else to me, though no less vivid. A steadfast companion, endlessly kind, a source of comfort." He licks his lips. "Still beautiful."
"And now?" Prompto asks, breathless.
"And now I am aggravated again," says Ignis.
"Because I know that you reciprocate, at least in some... in some way, and yet you insist on—"
Prompto leans forward and touches Ignis's face and he falls silent. He presses his palm to his jaw, turns his face toward him, and Ignis lets this happen and doesn't say anything. His eyes are closed and he is beautiful and there are stars out, through the window behind them, over the city. Prompto kisses him and he melts. His lips are soft and he is soft. He slides his hand up Prompto's arm to his throat, into his hair, thumb brushing along the line of his jaw. His mouth is warm and he is warm. There is the barest hint of an old scar, a ridged cut across his lower lip, and Prompto kisses it and opens his mouth with his tongue, warmer still, and pushes forward, and lets himself get tangled up and lost.
When Ignis finally pulls away, Prompto whines, sighs, pushes himself up onto his knees, hands on Ignis's shoulders, under his collar, and Ignis's hands fall to his waist. He rests his forehead against Ignis's, licks his own lower lip to taste him again.
"Okay," he says. "Okay, I... okay." He pulls away, falls back onto his heels, falls into silence. He presses the back of his hand to his mouth. "Just so you know, I'm kind of fucked up. Like... personally."
"Oh," says Ignis, quietly. "Well, you're not alone."
"Okay," he says again, and he lunges forward and throws his arms around Ignis's neck and Ignis laughs and his arms slide up his back, keeping him close.
"Come to bed," he says again, voice low, mouth against Prompto's neck. A mouth he kissed. Ignis's pretty mouth that he kissed and will kiss again.
"Yeah," he says. "Yes. Definitely."
Later, in bed, skin and sheets, Prompto traces Ignis's features with a finger. He runs it along his brow first, gently over the scar tissue there, splintered fire, then over and down the line of his cheekbone, the length of his nose to the dip of his top lip. He's smiling. He pouts against Prompto's fingertip, half a kiss.
"I can't believe you hurt your foot just to get me into bed," Prompto says, pulling back, stretching out, wriggling closer again. Ignis smiles, runs a thumb along Prompto's cheek and then kisses that place too.
"Sweetheart," he says.
"Seriously, is your foot even hurt? Did you fake an injury to get me to kiss you?" Ignis kisses him again, the corner of his mouth.
"Darling," he says and Prompto grins, buries his face in Ignis's chest. He wonders if Ignis can feel the way his cheeks are burning. Maybe he'll always blush when Ignis touches him. Maybe he'll be blushing forever.
"My virtue," he mumbles into skin. "I'm ruined." And Ignis starts to laugh, wraps his arms around him, and Prompto leans up and kisses him and pushes his hair back and kisses him again.
In the morning, Ignis calls Noct and tells him he'll be taking the day off after all. They'll survive without him. Prompto definitely doesn't hover by his shoulder and he definitely doesn't punch his fist into the air and spin on his toes and he definitely doesn't push his hands under Ignis's t-shirt to make him wriggle and twist away, laughing. It's all sunshine now, he thinks, as Ignis ends the call and slips his phone into his pocket. It's warm and there is bright light cast across the floor. He kisses Ignis's cheeks and knows that the world is healing and so are they. He kisses Ignis's palm and knows it will be so hard. So hard to make something new with what's left of the world. But it's warm and there is bright light cast across the floor and Ignis is wearing mismatched fluffy house socks and pajamas.
"I'll make breakfast," says Prompto, slipping his arm around Ignis's waist. "The finest gourmet cinnamon toast cereal you've ever tasted."
"Sounds like a two man job," says Ignis, leaning into him, and Prompto laughs and, jostling against each other, they head into the kitchen.
Some nights, Prompto dreams of daemons. There is a man looking at him with a face he knows, because it's so close to his own, but they aren't the same. There is a hallway, a hospital, speckled lino and ten thousand doors, and behind each of them is a daemon trying to be a person again. There is man, burning with purple fire, and Prompto loves him with his whole heart and everything else that's in him. When he wakes from these dreams, he's not alone, and sometimes Ignis has been dreaming too, and they curl up together, touching and touching and touching, and they wait for the sun to rise.