“So… you really don’t know how to change a tire?” Prompto asked.
Ignis tried to hide his flush by adjusting his glasses, and he turned away slightly. “Our vehicles were all part of the Citadel fleet,” he said. “They were maintained by the Citadel fleet mechanics, and I never had a hand in that end of things.”
“But you know everything!” Prompto said, and continued his search through the Regalia’s trunk for the hidden panel that should hold the jack. Behind them both, Gladio and Noctis watched with curiosity.
It was almost by chance that Prompto’s hand grazed over a small knob, and with a little “Oh!” he gave it a half-turn and pulled the panel out. It was a lot sturdier than most of the “secret panels” he’d encountered in cars, but he’d never had access to a vehicle as luxurious as the Regalia. With the panel out of the way, Prompto was able to free the practically-unused jack with a flip of a lever.
He bounced to the rear passenger side where the sad tire was and positioned the jack under the car’s frame, then connected the handle. (It was super fancy, with a rubber grip and everything!) He started turning the jack -- and then realized that shadow had fallen over him. He craned his neck to look up and saw… all three of his companions, just watching him.
He laughed shakily. “Seriously, guys, this isn’t a big deal!”
Ignis cleared his throat and backed away; Gladio tried to play it cool and act like he hadn’t been watching at all, but Noctis leaned in closer. “I’ve never seen anyone do this before.”
“Pffft,” Prompto said. “Not actually surprised by that, dude.” He gave the jack some hearty cranks, and lifted the Regalia’s frame enough that the rear tire lifted off the surface of the road. He grabbed the lug wrench -- a fancy, shiny cross-wheel affair like nothing he’d seen before -- from the trunk. One branch of it was a flat-edged wedge, which he used to pry off the fancy Royal hub cap. Then he went to work on the lug nuts.
They were pretty tight. Loosening the first one took more effort than he expected. When it finally budged, he sat back on his heels with a “whew!” and wiped an arm across his forehead. “Man, those Citadel power wrenches pack a punch,” he whined. “Bet they never expected someone to have to do this by hand.”
Noctis snorted. “You got that right,” he said.
“Here,” Gladio said, and held a hand out. Prompto looked at it for a moment before handing over the lug wrench and scooting back to give Gladio some space. It took the big guy a lot less time to loosen the rest of the bolts, and Prompto gave a little cheer.
“‘Kay,” he said. “See if you can get the spare out while I get this off.”
“Spare?” Noctis said.
Prompto stared. “Uh… yeah. Spare tire?”
Noctis stared at him blankly.
Gladio snorted. “I’ll see if I can find it.”
Prompto whistled while he twisted all the loosened lug nuts off and put them in a little pile by his knee. Then he lifted the tire off. It made a little bounce when he dropped it on the road, but then he tipped it over and it spun to a stop.
Then he realized that, instead of having a spare tire handy to put on the car right away, the guys were squabbling with each other over the trunk. They were being quiet about it, their hushed tones buzzing, barely audible, but… they weren’t finding the tire.
Prompto made a quiet “pffft” sound and scrambled to his feet to help them.
When he rounded the back of the Regalia, he found Gladio and Noctis arguing with each other over Ignis’s back. Ignis almost looked as though he was climbing into the trunk, he had ducked so far inside. “Uh… guys?” Prompto said.
Ignis jolted up so quickly that he knocked into both Noctis and Gladio’s faces (Gladio had leaned down that much to argue with Noct) but while Gladio cursed and Noctis groaned, both of them holding their noses, Ignis just gave the back of his head a quick rub.
“Prompto,” he said. “We, err…”
“Can’t find it?” Prompto smiled.
Prompto really didn't have too many opportunities to look truly competent on this trip, especially with Ignis “master of practically EVERYTHING” Scientia there showing him up, so it was hard not to, you know, pose and dust his shoulders off and stuff to show how confident he was. He settled for swaggering to the trunk, and waving Ignis and the others back with a flick of his fingers. They all stepped away.
Then he dusted his hands together, and reached in to pull up the carpeted plywood panel in the bottom of the trunk to reveal the secret cubby with the spare tire nestled inside and omigosh, that was a FULL spare in there; just as spiffy and perfect as all the other tires!
Except the busted one with the hole in it.
“Man, you guys have the good stuff!” he said. “We don’t have to drive on a donut until we get the tire fixed!”
“Donut?” Noctis said.
“Yeah,” Prompto said. “You know. Those little pint-sized spares that are smaller than…” Noct’s puzzled look made it clear; he’d never noticed those before. He certainly had never been in a car that had one on. “You know what, nevermind,” Prompto laughed.
Prompto loosened the bolt holding the spare in, then lifted the tire from its spot and rolled it over to where the flat lay on the ground. He lifted it and shifted it into place against the rotor, and then put all the lug nuts back on with a quick twist. He stood and handed the lug wrench to Gladio. “Wanna tighten those while I put this away?” He kicked the flat tire.
“Sure thing,” Gladio said, with a half smile.
So Prompto rolled the flat to the trunk and Noctis helped lift it up and bolt it into place, and Ignis helped him shift the plywood trunk floor back into place, with a bemused expression. “It never occurred to me to look under there,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gladio gave all the lug nuts a firm twist with the wrench, and Ignis wound the jack back down and helped store it away in its little cubby too.
Noctis peered into the trunk. “How many more secret compartments does this thing have?” he said with some flavor of awe in his voice.
“Dunno, dude,” Prompto said. “I haven’t seen the user’s manual. Have you?”
Noctis shook his head, and Prompto laughed at him. “Maybe you should,” he said. “Someday you might need to know that stuff.”
“Some day, like today,” Ignis said, now flipping through said manual that he must have just pulled out of the glove compartment. “Noct, could I trouble you to drive back to Hammerhead while I peruse this? It seems we might need this information sooner rather than later, so I’d best be on top of it.”
“Sure thing, Specs,” Noctis said with a wave. “Back to Hammerhead it is.”
“Yeah,” Prompto said. “We’d better get that tire fixed before we get another tire shot out. Right?”
Gladio laughed his big belly laugh and clapped Prompto on the shoulder. “Way to show us all up, Blondie,” he said.
And Prompto couldn’t lie… he felt a swell of pride at that. “It’s nice to be useful,” he said.