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Prompto is pleasantly surprised that his parents almost never come up when he's talking to Noct.

Recent years have prepared him with a long list of white lies and useful conversational redirects. Elaborate deceit usually comes back to bite him in the butt — and it’s exhausting to remember all of the lies — so he’s learned to gloss things over, slip falsehoods inside of truths, and keep his story straight by ensuring it mostly resembles his life. Just, you know, with parents around more than somewhat occasionally.

So when he successfully talks to Noct and they somehow seem to be friends, and he has a little moment of panic realizing that he somehow just has to maintain this friendship indefinitely, he wonders if that means not lying.

He's pretty sure real friends don't lie to each other? About like, big things? And he's already going to be hiding . . . well. That. But he's also pretty sure he'll seem like a weird hanger-on if it casually slips out that he sees his parents maybe a few times a year, for a few weeks at a time.

Sometimes, he catches himself practicing a studiously cool facial expression while he walks home from school, imagining the moment when Noct will fix him with a bewildered stare and say something like, “Wait, weren’t your parents gone last week, too?” or “Why do you have to miss class to be home to let the plumber in?” or “Why does the takeout place just deliver a single sandwich and salad to your doorstep every evening,  rotating based on the days of the week, even though you no longer bother to call and ask for the 'Wednesday' anymore?”

Well. Maybe not that last one. He’s pretty sure the Prince of Lucis couldn’t just like, come read comic books on his couch. He imagines one of those black-suited Crownsguards he sometimes glimpses outside the school’s perimeter hovering in his kitchen, speaking lowly into an earpiece, and stifles a giggle to himself. 

But no. Noctis never asks. Never comments. It just seems to . . . magically never come up, and Prompto doesn't know how long his luck will hold, but he's definitely cool with it for as long as it does.

 


 

Noctis is pleasantly surprised to find that his new friend almost never asks about all the Prince stuff.

He’s used to prying. He’s prepared to give bland, noncommittal answers and end the conversation. Long practice has taught him that there is no end to the questions people have about his dad, and being a prince, and does he have a hundred servants, and where’s his bodyguard, and does the Citadel really have gold toilets, and do you have to call your dad His Majesty, and blah blah blah. Answer one question, get a million more.

He’s also noticed that curiosity in his home life has an inverse correlation (as Ms. Martin would say, which reminds him, test tomorrow) with the likelihood that someone will turn out to be some kind of opportunist. When he was in like, kindergarten, he didn’t mind chattering away or being in the spotlight, but . . .

Well. You learn some things the hard way.

Anyway, Prompto doesn’t seem to care at all about the whole (hand wave) prince thing. He’s not weird about it; it just doesn’t come up much. 

“Happy birthday!” Prompto says when he sees him the Monday after his Sunday birthday. He's lounging against the bike racks where Ignis drops Noctis off every morning to catch Prompto before class. “How’s it feel to be 16?”

“Exceedingly wise. Insufferably mature. You’ll understand . . . someday.”

Prompto groans. “This is how the next two months are gonna be, huh? Oh, hey, are you gonna take your drivers’ test today?”

“Nah, I have to finish up the hours. But it’s okay, I’m now blessed with the infinite patience of the elders.”

Prompto flicks him upside the head and runs off to class laughing.

It’s halfway through first period by the time Noctis realizes the relief in his chest. He’d been dreading “How was your birthday?” and trying to decide the best way to avoid saying, “Shit, actually. I watched a movie on my phone at the Citadel while waiting for my dad to deal with a diplomatic crisis. Eventually, his bodyguard came out to give me a present my dad’s personal assistant picked out — though in all fairness, his assistant has great taste in wristwatches I will never wear.”

But no. Somehow, it never comes up, and he never has to talk about it, and he is more than okay with that.

 


 


“Mr. Argentum,” Ms. Martin says, stopping by his desk while everyone is working on the group project, “a moment?”

“Sure,” he says, palms instantly breaking into a gross sweat. He glances towards Noct and Leila, the third member of their stats project group; their desks are pushed together so they can work.

Leila is staring with open curiosity. She’s never been awesome at social cues.

Noct is bent over his notebook, writing. “Hey, Leila, can you put these numbers in your calculator?”

She reluctantly slides her eyes away from Ms. Martin to sum up the survey responses Noctis is reading out.

Meanwhile, Ms. Martin has started talking in what she probably believes is a quiet voice. “I’ve been trying to call your parents to do your spring conference for three weeks now, and they have yet to return my messages."

“Ah,” says Prompto, wanting to die. He can feel Leila staring again, even though Noct is still reading out numbers. “They’ve been on a business trip — maybe the reception—”

“. . . or my emails,” Ms. Martin interrupts firmly.

Dangit. That stings. Usually they handle his school stuff . . . eventually.

“I’ll talk to them tonight so they can call you back and give you a, uh, better number to reach them at,” Prompto says quickly. He doesn’t really know how he’ll manage that, but he is in full-on Say-Whatever-Will-End-This-Conversation mode.

Thank Astrals it seems to satisfy her; she nods and walks away, and Prompto forces himself to look up.

Leila is looking at him like he has three heads, and when she starts talking, the people around them start to look up, too. “Your parents have been gone for three weeks?! Do they just leave you alone or do you have a babysitter or—”

“I knew it!” Noctis yells in triumph, punching the air with a fist in a way Promtpo's only see him do at the arcade. “There is a direct correlation between IQ and appreciation for the Robot/Alien Fight Society movies!”

“No way!” bursts out Ellyn from across the room, running over and snatching up the sheet of calculations. “Let me see that, I bet you fudged the numbers.”

There’s a scuffle of activity, and laughter, and protestations over their group’s method of survey-taking, and impassioned arguments about whether aliens or robots are best, until Ms. Martin has to calm everyone down and send them back to their seats to resume her lecture. Prompto is not sure how luck could be so on his side.

After class, though, it’s just him and Noct walking in the hallway. And there’s no pretending Noct didn’t hear. “So, uh,” he starts.

But Noct is handing him a piece of ripped-out notebook paper with a phone number scribbled on it. “Ignis,” he says. “For Ms. Martin. Hey, do you wanna go see that sequel—”

“Wait,” Prompto says. He doesn't know why he doesn't take the out (shit, it is an out, and you don't give an out unless you're . . . in?) but he feels like he’s fallen off the script here entirely. “Isn’t she going to realize she’s talking to like, not-my-mom?”

“Ignis will handle it,” Noct says smoothly. “I already texted him.”

Half of Prompto wants to just abandon this and move on, but the other half . . . "You think Ms. Martin is gonna have my parent-teacher conference with Ignis?”

Noct throws him a look. “Who do you think she does mine with?”

Oh. Oh. Yeah.

Probably not the King of all Lucis.

“Thanks,” Prompto says. And then, “But no thanks, the original was awful and the sequel looks like trash.”

Noct groans and shoves him lightly with one shoulder. “Please don’t tell me you wanted to see that rom-com.”

“Hey, I’m just there for the comedy!” Prompto protests, then confides in a dreamy voice, “And that actress."

They fall into their usual banter, and Prompto feels an odd kind of relief. A relief from something that’s been sitting on his chest for so long, he barely even noticed it any longer, and now the whole world feels lighter.

 


 


Noctis doesn’t usually go weeks without seeing his dad. Not like Prompto with his parents. Ever since he moved out at the start of high school, they’ve had a weekly dinner on their calendars, and it is sacred against all other scheduling conflicts short of urgent war crises or state-threatening diplomatic disasters.

For the past four weeks, there has been an urgent war crisis or state-threatening diplomatic disaster. Or, on one memorable occasion, both.

Thankfully, he only actually went to the Citadel for two of them; the other two got canceled soon enough that he didn't have to mope around like a sad puppy. He could have have made other plans, in theory.

Except, he has a pretty limited (ha) social circle, and Prompto knows he’s never free on Thursday nights. Ignis has that night to himself, since Noctis is supposed to be busy, and he refuses to make Ignis feel guilty for not spending even more time acting as his de facto family. He could probably see if Gladio’s up for an extra training session, but frankly, he doesn’t hate himself.

He could just do what he’s done for the past month of Thursdays and watch movies on the couch, or get caught up on schoolwork. He can't log into any of the games he and Prompto both play because then there might be questions.

'Cause he gets it. His dad is the King. It comes with the territory. He doesn’t want people thinking Regis is a bad father. He’s not.

He’s just . . . not really there, anymore. And apparently he could still use a dad, even at 16.

Eventually, he realizes he’s just been laying on the couch throwing a pity party ever since school ended an hour ago, and it’s just so pathetic that even he can’t stand it.

So he calls Prompto.

“Hey,” Prompto says, answering on the first ring. “Is someone dead?”

Oh. Right. He could have just texted. It’s just that it’s nice to hear someone else’s voice, and even if Prompto isn’t free . . . there’s that. “You, in Tekken, if you can come over," he improvises.

There’s a juuuuuust-too-long pause, and Noct imagines the pieces falling into place for Prompto. But Prompto just hisses in an indignant voice, “You are gonna live to regret those words,” and hangs up immediately.

Thirty minutes later, Prompto is indeed handing him his ass when his phone buzzes.

It’s his dad’s assistant. HMKR should be available at 7 for dinner after all. I will send a driver.

For a single moment he feels elation so strong, so pathetic, that he absolutely cannot allow it to stand. He channels his inner Ignis and texts back: Unfortunately, I have made alternate plans. Please relay my regrets to the King.

He and Prompto are in the middle of another round when the phone vibrates to life with a phone call, and it’s his Dad on the call screen.

Prompto glances down, allowing Noctis to cleanly KO him. “Aren’t you gonna — get that?” he asks, but Noctis is already starting the next round.

“No,” he says tersely. His dad can do with a dose of disappointment. He’s done waiting around. Then again, if he calls again, he’ll consider picking up . . .

But after an hour, he still hasn't, and he doesn’t leave a message for him to definitely not return, either.

As Prompto's getting his stuff together to head home before it gets dark, Noct leans against the wall with his arms crossed and asks, "Next Thursday?"

Prompto looks at him for a steady moment, and Noct knows he’s guessed a lot more than Noct has ever told him.

“Sure,” he says, and then he’s gone.

 


 


So, it took him long enough, but Prompto gets it now. Why the subject of home life doesn’t come up much with Noct. It’s not magic.

It’s a little thing called mutual avoidance.

And while he doesn’t wanna pretend like he gets what Noct’s going through, ‘cause it’s really not the same at all, he kinda . . . does. If that makes sense.

In any case, as time goes on, they both seem to drop the pretense. They’re not having deep convos about their father wounds or anything like that, but things change.

Such as, Noct and Ignis throw him a surprise birthday party on his actual birthday, without bothering to check if his parents were planning to be home or do anything (they weren’t).

And Prompto doesn’t protest when Ignis brings two actual bouquets of flowers to their class’s choir performance, where they are the only two students who don’t have their parents there, and he doesn't pretend he has anywhere else to be when Gladio joins them at the cheesy all-night diner for milkshakes afterwards.

When there's a field trip, Prompto just hands Noct his own forms to get signed by one Ignis Scientia, too.

For his part, Noct starts bitching.

Not a lot. But a little. Like, Prompto will actually ask him why he looks like someone just kicked a baby moogle on a Monday morning. And then Noct might scowl and say something like, “My dad keeps canceling warp practice,” Or “I got chewed out in front of the entire Council for falling asleep during the meeting.” Or even just, “Long weekend.”

And then they move on.

But Noct doesn't seem to be pretending anymore. Or, like, he’s clearly still pretending to himself that it doesn’t hurt (and heyyyyy that’s a little too close to home) but he’s not avoiding any and all mention of it, or pretending he’s 100% un-bothered always.

They don’t have to talk about it. Just not not-talking about it goes a long way.

To Prompto, it feels like an achievement. Trophy unlocked. Friendship leveled up. Let the victory fanfare play.

 


 

Two years after graduation, when Prompto is officially cleared to join his retinue (ugh, and what a weird word, it sounds like harem) and starts his makeshift Crownsguard training, Noctis takes him around the Citadel for the first time.

He watches his friend's wide eyes, the way his fingers twitch for the camera that got checked in at security. He grins when Prompto opens a drawer in the dining room and says, "Holy motherlode of grapefruit spoons." He points out the places where he and Ignis used to hide when they'd sneak out, and an especially ugly bust of one of his forefathers that makes Prompto clap his hands over his mouth to stifle irreverent laughter.

It's fun to share this part of his life with his best friend. And it makes him sad, that he hasn't been able to before. That Prompto will only ever see his dad on a throne, and won't ever hear the terrible puns he's capable of after a couple glasses of wine at a party.

When they head out onto the Citadel steps to meet their ride back to Noct's apartment, it's sunset, and he suddenly gets that old ache. Darkness was always his cue to give up waiting on the steps, hoping his dad would be home for dinner.  He watched a lot of sunsets out here, as a kid.

Prompto's looking at him. "Everything okay?" he asks.

"Yeah," he says, and Prompto nudges him with one shoulder, and they walk to the waiting car in silence.

Together.