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Life Imitates

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“Noctis,” King Regis says. “May I speak to your friend alone for a moment?”

Prompto swallows, his hand going automatically to cover his barcode. Is meeting a friend’s parents for the first time supposed to be this scary? Maybe it’s easier when your friend’s dad isn’t the King.

Noct glances at Prompto, frowning. “Dad.”

“It’s just some routine questions,” the King says. “Nothing that would interest you.”

Does the King normally get involved personally in asking ‘routine questions’? Prompto reeeeeeally hopes he’s not about to get executed for treason.

“I want to stay,” Noct says.

“You have training with Gladiolus,” the King says, gesturing to the ornate clock in the dining room. “I’ll send Prompto along as soon as I’ve finished with him.”

In a body bag, Prompto’s mind helpfully supplies.

Noct mutters something under his breath, but he shoves his chair away from the table and leaves the room. Prompto is left alone with the King. He is the sole focus of the King’s attention. It’s absolutely terrifying.

“Prompto,” the King says, sitting forward slightly. “I hope you enjoyed the meal?”

Maybe, if he’s really lucky, that’ll be the only question he has. “It was delicious, Your Majesty. Thanks.”

“I’m glad to hear it. I’ll pass the message along to the kitchens.”

There’s a moment’s silence. Prompto squirms in his seat.

“First, there’s the matter of your background check,” the King says. Oh, crap. “You were adopted by the Argentum family at the age of one, correct?”

Prompto nods, probably too rapidly. “Yes, sir. I mean, yes, Your Majesty.”

“Nobody seems to know where you came from before that. Could you shed any light on the matter?”

He can feel himself flushing. “Uh, sorry. I don’t – I don’t really remember much from before I was one, y’know?”

“Understandable,” the King says, with a small smile. “Well, as that’s the only security question we have left unanswered, I am happy for you to... associate with my son.”

Prompto lets out a long whistle of relief. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”

“However, there are some personal matters to address.”

“Personal?”

“I spoke to you before as the king,” the King says, setting his hands on the table in front of him. “I’d like to speak to you now as Noctis’s father. He cares about you a great deal.”

It sends something warm through him. He laughs awkwardly, scratching the back of his neck. “You really think so?”

“You must understand that Noctis is the heir to the throne,” the King says, “and he has certain obligations to the royal bloodline that must take precedence over his personal desires. I will try to find him an... understanding bride, but you must consider now whether you will be prepared to stay by his side even when he must produce an heir.”

“Even when...?” What the hell is he being asked? “I mean, I’ll – I’ll support him, I’ll be... how ‘by his side’ are we talking? I won’t stand there and hand them condoms. Or...” An heir? “Or the opposite of condoms. I don’t—”

It’s around this point that the sensible part of his mind kicks him in the side and hisses that he is babbling about condoms in front of the King.

“I’ll support Noct in anything,” Prompto says, his face blazing red.

“Good,” the King says after slightly too long a pause, sitting back. “I would like to let Noctis follow wherever his heart leads, but, alas, our birth makes prisoners of us all.”

Prompto swallows hard.

“You’ll also be required to keep a low profile,” the King says. “If you are not prepared to conduct your relationship in permanent secrecy, it would be best to end it now, to avoid causing Noctis more pain later.”

“I – I—” He didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to – is he about to be told he can’t ever see Noct again, after finally working up the nerve to talk to him, after all those years of effort? “I’m really sorry. The newspapers have been reporting on it for months.”

The King frowns at him. “On your friendship, yes. The heir to the throne may certainly befriend commoners in the public eye. It makes him seem more approachable.”

“Then – I’m sorry, Your Majesty, I don’t understand.”

The King considers him for a moment longer, and then gives him a smile. “Ah, I see. Thank you. I appreciate your discretion.”

“Discretion about what?

“You’ve made your point admirably, Prompto,” the King says. “Run along and join Noctis, now.”

-

When Prompto tracks Noct down, he’s training with a guy who must be Gladiolus. An enormous guy who must be Gladiolus. Prompto’s heard about this guy, obviously, but somehow Noct failed to mention that he’s the size of two normal men and a dualhorn.

It’s hard not to think of him as ‘Gladio’ when that’s what Noct always calls him. Probably shouldn’t call him that to his face until they’re better acquainted.

Noct dismisses his sword and waves when he spots Prompto. “Hey, there you are.”

“This is the one?” Gladio asks. “This scrawny kid?”

“This is Prompto, if that’s what you mean,” Noct says.

“Prompto.” Gladio looks him over with unsettling intensity. “You ever heard of a workout in your life?”

Prompto feels his shoulders stiffen up. He’s not a kid any more, he reminds himself. “I run. I don’t really do... muscly things.”

“Noct, get us some water,” Gladio says. “Gonna put some muscle on this stick insect.”

“It’s okay,” Prompto says, quickly. “I can get the water.” He’s not great at being left alone with new people at the best of times, and Gladio is... kind of intimidating. “I mean, the crown prince probably shouldn’t be running errands, right?”

“Ship’s sailed on that one,” Gladio says.

Noct shakes his head. “And you just love making me do them. Fine.”

He goes, and, for the second time in an hour, Prompto finds himself alone with an extremely daunting figure. Great.

“Sooooo,” Prompto says.

Gladio picks him up and slams him against the wall.

“Aah!” Prompto kicks his feet, trying unsuccessfully to touch the floor. “Shouldn’t we, shouldn’t we, ah, shouldn’t we be doing some kind of warm-up first?”

“I’m gonna make this quick,” Gladio says. “You stay together, you break up, whatever, I don’t care. But you do it right. You break his heart, I break you in half. You know I can do it.”

“I’m getting that impression,” Prompto squeaks, scrabbling helplessly at Gladio’s arm against his throat.

“Glad we talked.” Gladio backs off, and Prompto falls to his knees, breathing way too fast.

Okay. Prompto’s been rehearsing scenarios in his head for a while now, trying to figure out how he can make a good impression on Noct’s other friends when he finally gets to meet them. Somehow, this scenario isn’t one of the ones he’s run through. He doesn’t really have a script here.

What’s his goal in this conversation? ‘Make a good first impression’ is looking increasingly out of reach. Maybe figuring out what the hell just happened would be a good start.

“Break his heart?” Prompto asks hesitantly, massaging his throat.

“Believe it or not, he has one,” Gladio says. “And it’s obvious he’s in it deep with you. If you’re just trying to cosy up to the royal family, if you think you’re getting cash or influence out of this, if you think he’s just some kind of umbrella stand for your cock—”

“A what?” Prompto tries to ask, but it’s cut off by a coughing fit halfway through. “A what?

“You okay?”

Prompto looks around. Noct is standing with a jug of water in his hands, wide-eyed, and suddenly Prompto is weirdly aware of the polished floor under his own hands and knees, the jarred-loose strands of hair falling into his eyes, his uncontrollable panting. It embarrasses Prompto more than it should, somehow. Noct thinks they’ve been training; it probably makes sense to him that Prompto looks like... like this.

Prompto raises a hand. “Yeah, fine. I, uh, I guess I’m just out of shape.”

The things Gladio said keep flitting across his mind. Stay together, break up, whatever. Don’t break his heart. It’s obvious he’s in it deep with you. And then there’s that weird conversation he had with King Regis...

He staggers to his feet. Tries not to flinch away when Gladio catches his arm to support him. Tries to get his breathing under control.

There’s no way, right? There’s no way.

-

Prompto’s learnt from his mistakes, and he declines when Noct invites him along to his strategy meeting with Ignis. He has definitely met enough people in the prince’s circle for one day. There’s a flash of disappointment in Noct’s eyes, and Prompto feels bad for causing it, but... he really can’t do any more of this right now.

Besides, Noct keeps asking what the King wanted to talk about, and it’s starting to make Prompto feel weird.

“Fine,” Noct says, pressing a button on his bedroom wall. “I’ll get Ignis to escort you out of the palace. He’ll have time.”

“What?” Prompto leaps out of his chair so sharply he overturns it. “No. I’m fine. I – you know, normal people don’t get privately escorted out of buildings, I’ve never had trouble. I’ll make my own way. I’ll be fine.”

“You’ll get questioned,” Noct says. “It’ll be fine once the guards get used to you, but right now you need an escort.”

“It’s okay,” Prompto says, so quickly he’s barely aware of what’s coming out of his mouth. “Questioning, that’s fine, who doesn’t love being questioned? The worst they can do is arrest me, right? I’ll handle that.”

Unless they want to question him about his relationship with Noct. Oh, man, what if they do?

There’s a knock on the door. Prompto feels his stomach plunge through the floor.

“Sorry,” Noct says, with an odd look at Prompto. “Looks like you’ll just have to be arrested next time.”

The guy on the other side of the door is tall and wears glasses and there’s no way he’s not Ignis, is there?

“Hey, Ignis,” Noct says.

It’s Ignis. Crap.

“You required my assistance, Noct?” Ignis asks.

“This is Prompto,” Noct says, clapping a hand on Prompto’s shoulder. Prompto’s far more aware of the gesture than he would have been this morning, in simpler times. “He needs an escort out of the palace.”

Ignis gives Prompto a look that definitely has too much weight behind it. “I would be happy to oblige.”

-

Prompto is unhappily unsurprised when Ignis takes a detour on the way to the exit. Maybe he’ll get out without bruises this time, at least.

He takes the opportunity to look around while Ignis is drawing two seats close together. It’s a room that looks like it’s probably used for meetings of some kind, decked out in ornate and uncomfortable-looking chairs.

It’s too large for a private discussion. There’s nobody else here, but every noise echoes unsettlingly.

Ignis gestures to one of the chairs.

Maybe he can just... run?

Prompto sits down.

“Prompto,” Ignis says, sitting opposite him and folding his hands on his lap. “May I speak to you on a delicate matter?”

“We’re not dating,” Prompto says instantly, feeling the blood rush to his face. What in the name of the Six is happening?

Ignis raises his eyebrows slightly.

“I mean, me and Noct,” Prompto says. “We aren’t dating.” Stop talking. “Not me and you.” Stop talking, stop talking. “I guess I’m not dating you either.”

“I’m grateful for the clarification,” Ignis says. “Well, I’m glad to see you still seem to be on good terms. I suppose we’ve nothing more to discuss.”

Prompto shakes his head. “No, you don’t get it. We didn’t break up. We’ve never dated.”

Ignis gives him a searching look. “Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure. I mean, it seems like something I’d have noticed.”

“You’ve never kissed? You’ve never, ah, spent a night together?”

“No!” Prompto’s face is in serious danger of setting fire to his hair. If he survives this conversation, he’s going to look into less flammable brands of hairspray.

“Forgive me.” Ignis takes a cloth out of his breast pocket and begins cleaning his glasses. “I seem to have misunderstood your relationship.”

“Yeah, well, if it makes you feel any better, you’re not the only one. Why does everyone seem to think I’m... I’m... with Noct?”

“He speaks very fondly of you,” Ignis says.

“I could say the same about you!”

Ignis coughs and focuses with more determination on the cleaning of his glasses. “Yes, well. I apologise for leaping to conclusions.”

There’s an agonising silence.

“If you do choose to pursue anything,” Ignis says, putting his glasses back on, “I’d like you to speak with me about it before things go too far.”

Prompto shifts in his chair. “Is that... likely?”

Ignis cocks his head to one side, smiling slightly. “Are you likely to pursue anything? I would have thought you’d have the answer to that.”

Prompto shakes his head. “That’s not what I mean. Is anything... likely to... happen?”

“That’s much the same question,” Ignis says. “It very much depends on you.”

“Pretty sure Noct has a part in it,” Prompto says. “You’re not asking if I’m gonna... make out with a table leg. He’s a person. If he’s not interested, he’s not gonna...” He tails off, because he can’t possibly make himself finish that sentence.

“His Highness’s part is already decided, I assure you. As I said, it very much depends on you.”

Prompto suddenly has the intense impression that nothing in his life has ever been real, that he’s going to wake in Niflheim and find it was all the strange, precious dream of something no longer human.

“But I do suggest you make a decision soon,” Ignis says. “The uncertainty must be a painful thing for Noct.”

-

Prompto tries not to think about it.

It’s really hard not to think about it. They’re spending more and more time hanging out at the palace, and he’s becoming more and more aware of the looks they’re drawing. Not just from Ignis and Gladio: from the guards, from the cleaners, from the kitchen staff. People hold doors open for Prompto and wink at him.

Gladio seems to have warmed to him slightly; their training sessions are punishing, but he’ll sling an abnormally muscular arm over Prompto’s shoulders afterwards and laugh with him. Ignis seems to have told him the real situation; maybe that’s a factor. Still, though, Gladio occasionally glances at Noct, gives Prompto a pointed look, taps an imaginary watch.

Prompto pretends he’s just asking for the time.

The worst part is that being with Noct feels weird now. They used to just be uncomplicated friends, and now Prompto’s obsessing over how to word things, hyperaware of every little touch, trying really hard not to think about umbrella stands. And it’s ridiculous, because Noct probably isn’t even into him. Why the hell would the prince be interested in some commoner kid? There’s nothing special about Prompto at all. Or, well, nothing good and special.

So it’s all just a misunderstanding. Ignis got the wrong idea about how Noct feels. And so did Gladio, and the King, and... everyone in the palace, and...

It should be easy enough to believe that everyone’s wrong about Noct’s feelings. They were definitely wrong about them dating, after all. It’s just... somehow it’s hard to accept that that misconception was based on nothing.

Okay, so maybe Prompto needs to think about this.

-

PROS:

– everyone seems to think it’ll make Noct happy
– Gladio might beat me up if I don’t go for it
getting laid?? (umbrella stand, umbrella stand, thanks for RUINING SEX BEFORE I EVEN HAD A CHANCE TO HAVE IT, GLADIO)

CONS:

– maybe they’re all wrong, maybe he’ll reject me
– Gladio might beat me up if I go for it
– I don’t want to ruin our friendship

 

Prompto sits back and considers his list. It feels... incomplete, somehow. Something crucial is missing, but he doesn’t know what.

He reads it through eight times before it hits him. What he wants isn’t anywhere on here. He was expecting to see it under ‘cons’, striking the decisive blow: I’m not attracted to Noct.

Because he’s not. Sure, Noct is attractive, in the sense that he’s good-looking; anyone could see that. Prompto’s pretty sure he’d turn heads even if he weren’t the prince. And he’s compelling; there’s a draw about him. It’s the reason Prompto pursued his friendship, rather than giving up all those years ago. It’s the reason Prompto’s able to sit and watch Noct fish for hours without getting bored.

Well, without getting too bored.

But thinking about kissing him? Thinking about (umbrella stand, umbrella stand)... other things? Or just... being close, lying on the couch together, maybe petting Noct’s hair a little?

Prompto’s hands are shaking when he uncaps his pen and adds a new line under ‘pros’: I want this to happen.

-

“What did my dad want to talk to you about?” Noct asks, lounging on his bed. He’s taken to asking at random intervals, like he thinks he can startle Prompto into giving him an answer.

He’s getting an answer today. Prompto grips the arms of his chair, hard. “He, uh, he thought we were dating.”

Definitely not the light, casual tone he was aiming for.

Noct goes very still. “Shit. Really?”

There’s a weird, tense silence. It feels like they’re circling each other carefully, watching for the next move.

“Sorry,” Noct says. “You... want me to tell him it’s not happening? Or did you already...?”

“Can I kiss you?” Prompto blurts out.

Noct stares at him for definitely too long. It’s probably only a few seconds. But it is too long.

“I mean,” Prompto says, feeling panic knifing across his entire body, “that’d probably be a pretty awkward conversation, and it seems like it’d be simpler if we actually... were. Uh. Dating.”

“You want to date me so you don’t have to talk to my dad?” Noct asks.

“Yes,” Prompto says. “No. I – I – I want to date you because I think it would be good, and it’d apparently be pretty politically awkward but your dad seems okay with it, and—”

Noct sits up on the bed. “Is this a joke? Did Gladio put you up to this?”

Prompto shakes his head, firmly. “Definitely not. He wouldn’t joke about this. That guy really cares about your feelings. Like, slightly too much. It’s kind of scary.”

There are a few more seconds of silence so painful Prompto’s tempted to gnaw his own leg off as a conversation starter.

“Okay,” Noct says.

“Okay?” Prompto echoes, feeling slightly dizzy.

“Okay,” Noct says. “You can kiss me.”

There’s no way this is real. Prompto gets out of his chair, carefully, trying to suppress the part of him that’s saying hey, things would probably be a lot easier if you just passed out on the floor right now.

He doesn’t really know a lot about kissing, and he’s terrified that he’s going to screw it up, but Noct takes the lead the second their lips touch, gripping Prompto’s wrist, drawing him closer, tugging him down to sit on the bed next to him. Maybe Noct was waiting for the moment he could be sure Prompto meant it. Prompto can barely focus on the kiss itself in the electricity of just being so close, of actually doing this.

“Crap,” Prompto mumbles against Noct’s mouth.

Noct draws back slightly. “What was that?”

“Nothing,” Prompto says. “It’s just...” He lets his head fall forward against Noct’s shoulder and sighs. How did he not remember to put this on the ‘cons’ list? “I’m gonna have to talk to Ignis.”