Actions

Work Header

Things We Fear

Chapter Text

Prompto had just settled into bed when he heard it; the whisper of conversation in the distance. The mine was silent around them, and Noctis had long-since retired for the night. Blankets had been pulled over his face as if it could block out the last few months.

By then, they all knew reality didn’t work that way.

Drawing his own blankets over his face, he attempted to block the voices out. He wasn't part of it. He wasn't meant to hear it. But in the still of the night, the voices found him anyway.

“I am not ‘worse off’ than him, as you so bullheadedly put it. You cannot begin to understand how insulting that is.”

“But it’s true-”

“It is not true. Do you go around telling every blind person you come into contact with that they’re worse off than a man who just lost the love of his life? These wounds may heal. His won’t. I can live with being blind easily enough. For Noctis I imagine just breathing in and out must be hard right now.”

“We’ve tried the kid gloves. They weren’t working.”

“Sandpaper looks appetising next to your idea of ‘kid gloves.’”

“He’s not getting better is my point. We need to try something different.”

“As much as you care for him, how has it not occurred to you that maybe what he needs right now is beyond our expertise?”

“So you won’t back me up on this.”

“While you’re going about realizing things, I’d like to advise you that the next time you think of using my condition to insult Noctis, don’t.”

“Iggy-”

“Go to bed, Gladiolus.”

“What about you?”

“You snore at just the right volume that I imagine I shall never lose track of the encampment’s location.”

Prompto remained frozen in place as the conversation came to its abrupt end, eyes scrunched shut beneath his blanket. It wasn’t long before he forced himself to relax as footsteps fell near the mouth of the tent.

Vinyl rustled as Gladiolus dragged the tent flap open, peering in  with dark eyes. His gaze dragged across the cots, lingering on Noctis and briefly turning on Prompto before he breathed a tired sigh and began to prepare for bed.

It was a long while before Prompto dared to move. The even, predictable lilt of deep snoring had long-since filled the tent, serving as a wonderful ongoing anxiety clock. Pulling his sheets aside, Prompto made his way out of the tent.

The mine was quiet aside from the distant white noise of Daemons pacing their grounds. And when Prompto eventually found Ignis curled into the side of the large rock that was the carved edge of the Haven, Prompto hadn't the chance to speak before blind eyes turned toward him and Ignis spoke.

“You weren’t supposed to hear that.”

Prompto froze. “How did you know it was me?”

Ignis gave the smallest of grins. “You are far too clumsy to be mistaken for those two.”

Heaving a sigh, Prompto muttered a beleaguered, “Thanks,” before taking a seat beside Ignis against the glimmering runes. “I couldn’t sleep, you know?”

“Too wound up?”

“Aren’t I always?” he laughed.

Slowly, Ignis shook his head. It was a calculated movement. Easy and complicated. “I wouldn’t say that.”

Prompto blinked. “How come?”

“Because,” he began, tone almost light, “if you were always wound up that would imply that you would eventually snap. You simply have a lot of energy. That’s all.”

“Sometimes I can’t tell if you’re really wise or if you just spent too much of your childhood memorizing the dictionary.”

“What else would I spend my time doing?”

“I don’t know – maybe playing? Video games…” Prompto trailed off as the lightest of chuckles flitted through the air between them. “You’re… That was a joke.”

“I assure you, I attempted no such feat as to memorize the contents of a dictionary. I am simply well-read.”

“Ah, yes. Fancy literature and the like,” Prompto teased with a droll attempt at Ignis’ accent. Then he paused, hand ghosting over his pocket. “Hey, have Gladio or Noct set up your phone for voice controls yet?”

Ignis frowned. “I didn’t know it had such a function.”

“Well, now you know. Hand it over.” Prompto held his hand open, though he knew Ignis couldn’t see it.

Fumbling into his pocket, Ignis produced it with a flutter of his eyelashes.

As he took the phone, Prompto’s gaze turned curiously to Ignis’ eyes. “Is it dark enough here?”

“What?”

“Your eyes are open.”

“Ah.” Fingers drawing up, Ignis pinched the bridge of his nose, sending his glasses up against his eyebrows. “It’s hard to keep them closed all the time. The pain is a good reminder during the day, but at night… I’ve been slipping.”

“Well…” Prompto paused, lifting the phone in his hand as if the other man could see it. “Things are about to get a little bright, so you might wanna close ‘em.”

“An excellent suggestion,” Ignis agreed, and in the dim light of the glowing runes his eyelashes fluttered against his cheeks.

Turning his attention to the phone, Prompto sighed. “You’ve got such a nice phone,” he whined. “So fast.” He tapped through the menu quickly, peering at the settings as they appeared. “Never pegged you for an Android guy.”

“It’s been modded,” he added. “I was supplied with it after two years of service to His Highness.”

“Two years? Ah, man – I’ve barely been on for one!”

“When this is all over, ask to upgrade.”

Prompto laughed. Then, with a final tap, he pressed the phone into Ignis’ warm hand. “Here; give it a spin.”

“What do I do?”

Pale hands practically began to vibrate. “Do I get to give you a tutorial this time?”

Eyelids flexed beneath sunglasses as Ignis considered to the statement. Eventually, after some consideration, he met this with a thoughtful, “Yes, I suppose you do.”

Punching a hand into the air, Prompto appeared with a muted, “Yes!”

“Good volume control.”

“Why, thank you for noticing,” Prompto oozed gratefully. Then he sobered. “Okay; first thing’s first. To activate voice controls start by saying, ‘Hey Moogle,’ and then tell it to do something.”

“You’ll have to be a bit more specific than ‘something,’ I’m afraid.”

He blinked. “ Okay. How about you call my phone?”

A beat of silence followed.

“Something wrong?”

“Nothing.” Lifting his phone, Ignis said plain and clear, “Okay Moogle; call Sex Bomb.”

“Calling Sex Bomb, mobile.”

“Wait, what?”

True enough, his pocket began to buzz. He reached for it quickly, silencing it with a flick of his thumb. “Did you put me in your phone as ‘Sex Bomb?’”

“It was a reference-”

“Figure skating.”

“What?”

“It’s a figure skating joke. I get it.”

Ignis’ head quirked and his eyelids twitched. “Well…” he muttered, “that went over better than I thought it would.”

“Yeah. Got really into it for a few weeks in middle school. Good exercise, you know? It didn’t stick, but I still keep up with it occasionally on MoogleTube.”

Nodding lightly, Ignis’ expression relaxed. “I didn’t know.”

“You never asked.”

“Does Noctis know?”

“Oh, come on. It’s not that important.”

“I feel honored, then. Thank you for sharing that with me.” Curling his fingers around his phone, Ignis pulled open his jacket with one hand before sliding the device into the inner pocket. “We’d best go to bed soon. Long day tomorrow.”

“True enough,” Prompto agreed lightly. Nudging forward, he pressed his arm into Ignis’ in offering. A warm hand curled about his bicep in reply, and Prompto led them back to camp.

The mine looked much the same when they woke. Dusty. Unused. Abandoned. Sahagins wandered in the distance without reason or aim. They simply laid their bodies through the mud as if they were tanning. And back at camp, Prompto had the strangest urge to watch Ignis get ready.

After pulling all his things together for the day, Prompto took a seat on his cot and watched as Ignis set about smoothing through shirts labeled with bumpy tags and pants labeled with rough stickers.

“You’ve got this down to a science, don’t you?” he asked after a while, watching curiously as Ignis carefully shimmied into a pair of pin-striped slacks.

“It’s been a few weeks,” was the matter-of-fact reply. “I can’t very well wander about in my underthings or – Odin forbid – the nude every time I sullied my shirt, waiting patiently for someone to take pity on my nakedness and devote a good hour to preserving my dignity.”

“What? No – take advantage. Rock the nudity. That’s what I’d do.”

“Then I will take a moment to appreciate that I am not you and then resume my regular schedule,” he announced glibly. Then, true to his word, he stood swiftly, hand slapping over his chest as if to make a pledge. And for all of a second…

… it was silent.

Prompto stared skeptically at his motionless companion, eyebrows raised. As the moment stretched, so did he. His arms twisted above his head, and he groaned as his muscles pulled.

“Moment’s over,” Ignis announced suddenly. Grabbing at the buttons of his night shirt, he undid them swiftly.

Blue eyes watched on, amused. “Are you secretly really weird or something? You can’t be a normal person.”

“Define ‘normal,’ please. Not all of us read the dictionary,” was the teasing reply.

“Ha. Ha.” Prompto snorted. “You know – respectable hobbies. A girlfriend. Hopes of two and a half kids and a beach house on some rocky island that you got on sale that turned out to have termites. That sort of thing.”

“Whatever happened to the other half of that poor child?”

Waving his hands mystically, Prompto adopted a breathy tone as he cryptically answered, “No one knows.”

Much to both their surprise, a laugh burst from Ignis like a breath underwater.

Prompto stared, shocked. “Do you have a dark sense of humor?” he asked.

“It’s not quite something to bring up in polite company,” Ignis drawled, pulling a creme from the depths of the suitcase and squeezing it into his palm. He pressed it into the twisted skin that wrapped around his stomach like a sash.

“Good thing I’m here, then! No polite company to be seen!”

“True enough.”

Prompto watched on as the ointment was spread along pink, rippled skin, easing back and forth at the edge of the cot. “Would you like any help?”

“I’m fine, thank you,” Ignis said, reaching for the small stack of napkins beside the jar to wipe his fingers clean. “How would you like to learn how to cook?” Grabbing the jar of ointment, he placed it neatly in his bag, along with the napkins.

“I think that would be inviting disaster into our lives.”

Another amused, “True enough.”

Turning his eyes back to his hands, he clasped them together. “Hey…”

Ignis waited patiently for the continuation, but when none came he turned to Prompto with a complicated expression, eyelids level with the tent beyond his companion. “Is everything alright?”

“I-”

There was a rustle of a tent flap as Gladiolus stepped in, reaching for the empty cot and folding it quickly.

“It’s not important. Don’t worry about it,” Prompto insisted suddenly, hands waving before his face nervously. He rose from his seat, moving with something akin to desperation to collapse his cot.

After a few minutes, when Gladiolus left, Ignis asked, “Is it something you don’t want Gladio to know?”

“Don’t worry about it,” came the parroted reply.

It would be several days before they spoke again; trapped in the tower in Niflheim.

“If you keep this up I’m going to worry about you constantly,” Ignis snapped as Prompto drew away from the ointment.

Retreating further into the corner of the bunk bed, the younger man whined, “I’m fine, okay?”

“That is precisely why I’m worrying.” Sliding a finger into the jar, tanned fingers reached blindly for the exposed thigh. “You’ve got a second degree burn and we need to treat it before it gets worse.”

“I’ll do it myself, then!”

“I have it on good authority that you’ve been skipping your daily regimen.”

Prompto drew back further. Then, just barely from under his breath, there came a whimper.

And Ignis’ eyebrows raised. Reaching for a napkin, he cleaned up quickly before setting the jar aside. He leaned forward, entering into Prompto’s space. Hand sliding across the mattress, he took Prompto’s in his and whispered, “Squeeze once for yes; twice for no. Are you alright?”

Prompto’s eyes flitted open, landing on the neighboring bed where Noctis and Gladiolus were dealing cards. Hesitantly, his fingers drew tight around Ignis’.

Once.

Twice.

“Does is have to do with your burn?”

Two fast squeezes.

Gently, Ignis nodded. “Do you want to talk about it?”

One squeeze. Then – as if an afterthought – another.

“Would you feel better if you were talking just with me?”

A few seconds later, the squeeze came.

“Alright. I’ll ask Noctis and Gladiolus to head to another barrack. I’ll be back in a bit.”

Prompto didn’t look up as Ignis walked over, fingers drawing along the nearby furniture in lieu of his cane. “Noct, Gladio, would you mind sleeping at a different barrack? There’s something Prompto and I need to talk about, and it’s a private matter.”

The assent came quickly with minimal curious glances. Within mere minutes they had cleared from the room along with their things.

Taking a seat on the bed opposite Prompto, Ignis set his hands firmly on his knees. “Are you good to talk about it, now?”

“Can we talk about something else first?” Prompto asked in a whine. His legs drew up on the mattress against his chest, and his arms wound around them tight.

“That’s fine,” Ignis assured him. “Would you like to choose a topic, or would you rather I led the segway?”

“You.”

“Alright then. In that case, I’d like to thank you for setting up my phone to respond to spoken commands. I’ve managed to download some audiobooks. It’s good to know I haven’t lost that.”

Prompto blinked, looking up curiously. “Oh,” he managed after a second. “You’re – no problem.”

“I think you’d like one of the books, actually. It’s about the end of the world through the point of view of a rabbit.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I assure you I am not.”

“That sounds so silly.”

“It’s quite thought provoking. Very innovative.”

“What’s your favorite part so far?”

“I’ve just started it, so I don’t think that’s a fair question to ask,” Ignis chortled.

Prompto nodded.

“What’s your favorite novel?”

“Me?”

“Yes, you.”

“Uh…” He cleared his throat. “It’s…” He paused, staring at Ignis as if gauging a possible reaction. “It’s Seven Tears at High Tide by C. B. Lee.”

“Good choice.”

Prompto reeled back. “You’ve read it?”

“Of course I’ve read it.”

“‘Of course,’” he repeated, almost bitter. “Why ‘of course?’”

Ignis’ grin, small as it was, fell. “Oh.”

“‘Oh’ what?”

“I’ve just realized I might have never mentioned my bisexuality in your presence.”

Prompto stared.

“You’re being awfully quiet over there,” Ignis pointed out, expression drooping into concern.

“I just…” His mouth clicked shut, then opened again. “You just came out to me. I’ve only read about that in books.”

“Well, life is full of new experiences.”

“I’m gay.”

“Kudos for you,” Ignis replied easily without missing a beat. But as a silence stretched in the wake of his words, his expression scrunched further, bordering on anger. “I’m the first person you’ve ever told.”

Prompto laughed. It was a desperate sound. “You caught that, huh?”

“Noctis isn’t going to hate you because you’re gay.”

“Ten seconds ago I didn’t know you were bisexual,” Prompto reminded him bleakly. “We don’t talk about stuff like this. Ever. We play video games and… and slay daemons and save the world , but we don’t talk relationships or sexuality beyond teasing Noct about Luna. We just don’t. And here I’ve been freaking out these last five years because I’m so far in the closet that I feel like I’m being smothered by coats. And now I’m being told that it’s okay and I’ll be accepted at the drop of a stupid hat and I’m freaking out because I’ve been working myself up for absolutely nothing and it’s bullshit .” His hand slammed into the bed frame, sending a heavy clang through the room before he slapped them to his face and sobbed into his fingers.

Ignis waited a moment before rising from his seat. His hands landed on the cheap fabric of the sheets as he felt his way forward, easing onto the opposite mattress before angling himself toward the dip of weight to his right. It was then, without an instant of hesitation, that his hands rose and he pulled the sobbing mess that was his companion into his arms.

The sobs turned quickly to hiccups. “What are you doing?”

“Comforting you, of course.” He patted a shoulder lightly. “There, there.”

“You suck at comforting.”

“So I’ve been told.”

The next morning dawned bright and early. Prompto’s head still hurt from crying. No one commented on the bags under his eyes. At least that was one victory.

Settling into the barracks that night was almost a light affair. That is, until Ignis stood up in the center of the group and clapped his hands.

“Tonight, we will be doing a mandatory bonding experiment,” he announced grandly. His expression, while neutral, had a hint of a tick, betraying his awareness of the looks he was receiving. “Everyone gather round.”

“Why?” Noctis asked, expression twisting.

“Because it has recently come to my attention that while we’ve spent the last five years in each others’ company, we are still severely lacking when it comes to basic knowledge of one another,” he replied primly.

“I highly doubt that.”

“While I am very sure you would gladly die for each and every one of us, I must ask – what is Gladio’s favorite color?”

Noctis blinked.

“Get in a circle.”

They all obediently shifted into the beds that Ignis stood closest to.

Leaning over toward Noctis, Gladio whispered, “It’s purple.”

Noctis looked up, meeting his eyes firmly. “Thanks. Mine’s gray.”

“Alright, then.” Settling into his seat, Ignis set his cane against the bed frame. “Let us start with the basics, shall we? As a baseline, what does everyone think my favorite kind of music is?”

“Classical,” Prompto insisted immediately.

“Classical,” Noctis and Gladio concurred in unison.

“Wrong,” Ignis announced sharply.

Confused glances were shared.

“What do you like, then?” Noctis asked as the others were comparing mild scowls.

Turning his head in Noctis’ general direction, he replied firmly, “Socially critical rap.”

Gladio snorted. “What?”

“If you’d give it a listen you’d understand the appeal.”

“Why don’t you ever play it in  the car?” Prompto asked, leaning onto his elbows.

“I have the music on my phone, but the auxiliary cord in our possession is for Apple products. As you have no doubt noted, I own an Android. It won’t work with the cord.”

“Then why don’t you play some for us right now?” Noctis suggested.

“That would derail our efforts.”

“Right.”

“Gladiolus, it’s your turn.”

“Okay guys,” Gladiolus cheered. “My turn. Come at me.”

“Heavy metal,” Noctis guessed quickly.

“Punk rock,” Prompto added.

“Video game soundtracks with an emphasis on Japanese compositions ten years or older.” Ignis was on the receiving end of a few odd looks for this.

“Drumroll please?” Gladio requested, turning pointedly to Prompto.

Pale hands quickly slapped the mattress, growing steadily faster before a finale on his knees.

“Ignis wins.”

“No surprise,” Noctis snorted. “That was really specific.”

“My turn!” Prompto shouted. “Guess, guess!”

This time a silence passed through the group. A subtle mutter. Gladio and Noctis leaned together, whispering under their breath. “Techno?”

“Too obvious.”

“Indie music?”

“Too pretentious. Club beats?”

“Also too obvious. Techno.”

“That works. What else could it be?”

“I don’t know. Pop music? Classic rock?”

Prompto stared at them like they were hens fighting rather politely over the same piece of grain; generally perplexed and stuck somewhere between amusement and disappointment. “Ignis?” he prompted, turning to the man in question. “What do you think?”

“I think I’ll hold off on answering. Wouldn’t want my guess to influence the peanut gallery.”

“Very funny,” Gladiolus drawled. “Okay, we’ve got it. I’m guessing techno.”

Noctis raised his hand, eyebrows arched expressively. “Punk rock.”

Turning to their final companion, Prompto looked at him expectantly.

Ignis hesitated before adding, “Screamo.”

Prompto snorted. “And you’ve all been drinking chocobo piss.”

“Excuse me?” Gladiolus drawled.

“It’s an expression, thanks.”

Gladio turned to Noctis, confused, only to be on the receiving end of a confirming nod. “Well.”

“My favorite kind of music –- because he said kind, not genre – is actually a category of production that you guys mentioned earlier. Indie music.”

“Wow.”

“Impressive, Prompto. All these years and you’ve never let on that you’re actually a pretentious asshole,” Noctis teased.

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Either way, it’s my turn.”

Then, as if choreographed, the three replied in flawless unison, “Pop.”

“Wrong. Classic Rock.”

“You say that,” Prompto teased curtly, “but you hate Classic Rock and you’re too ashamed to admit you like sappy love songs. There’s nothing wrong with it. Just own up.”

“Moving on,” Ignis redirected quickly. “Second topic.”

“Can we make a drinking game out of this?” Gladio suggested.

“Probably,” Noctis agreed.

“We’ve got an early morning ahead of us,” Ignis reminded them dryly, adjusting his sunglasses with his middle finger as they threatened to slide down his nose. “Now, second topic. Food.”

“Are we guessing again?”

“Yes, we’re guessing again.”

“Noctis likes fries.”

“But is it my favorite food?”

“Yes,” came the once-more unanimous reply.

“You know, I’m starting to notice a pattern,” Prompto snarked.

Gladio leaned back, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, well – you’re not the only one.”

“We all seem to know Noctis far better than we know each other,” Ignis concurs.

A tanned hand slid along the dusty mattress as laughter bubbled from the group. “That makes sense,” Gladio pointed out. “We are here because of him.”

“And, you know – the saving the world bit,” Prompto put in helpfully. “Not to be rude, but I would never submit myself to these mattresses if it weren’t a life or death matter. Can you say rocks? Because I can say it. All night, if I have to.”

“I think they get the point, Prompto.”

“Yeah, well – it’s true.”

“After this is all done we’ll probably head back to the castle, so you won’t have to deal with it much longer,” Noctis snapped, staring down at the floor meaningfully.

A silence fell in the wake of this, then filled with Ignis asking, “Shall we continue with our game?”

Noctis shook his head. “I’m don’t think I’m in the mood.” And with that he stood, stepping back to the other side of the room.

“Gonna have to side with Noct on this one,” Gladio admitted after a beat. “I’m gonna head to bed.”

“No worries. Sleep well.”

As Gladio rose and left, Prompto fixed Ignis with a look. “This game was about last night, wasn’t it?” he whispered.

Ignis shrugged, face turning to just the right of Prompto. “I won’t say it wasn’t influenced by it,” he admitted, voice equally low. “It wasn’t an attempt to drive you out of the closet, I assure you.”

“Oh.” Pale eyes blinked, and lips parted in a surprised smile. “Then – do you want to keep playing?”

“I would not be averse to it, no.”

Legs curling up on the mattress, Prompto fixed his full attention on Ignis as the others prepared for bed. “Favorite color. Green?”

“Orange, actually. Yellow.”

Baby chocobo yellow.”

“I’m guessing the hints of white make all the difference.”

“Of course! That fluffy down is to die for,” he cooed.

“Of course,” Ignis agreed readily.

“Okay. You pick a topic.”

“Alright. Film. Romance?”

Gore ,” Prompto bragged. “I like me some blood and guts. Let me guess…”

“That’s the point.”

“Whatever! You like the artsy fartsy stuff, don’t you?”

“Define ‘artsy fartsy.’”

“Like, you know. The deep stuff. Stuff that makes you stop and think about the world around you and sends you into a deep and spiralling existential crisis. That stuff. With that ‘foreshadowing’ thing. And insights into ‘modern day life.’”

“You just described an existential writing style, not a genre of film.”

“Yeah, but I’m not wrong, am I?”

Slowly, he nodded. “No,” he admitted. “You aren’t wrong.”

Prompto nodded. “Artsy fartsy.”

“It’s your turn to choose a topic,” Ignis reminded him smoothly. “I recommend preparing a few in advance.”

“Yeah, yeah. Let’s see…” He trailed off, wrapping his arms around his knees as he leaned back into the bed frame. “I don’t know a lot about you,” he admitted after a second. “There’s so much I could ask, but then I’d have to answer it myself.”

“Ask it anyway.”

“But some of it is personal.”

“I’m not going to judge you.”

Prompto gave him a long look at that, arms drawing down to grab at his ankles. Leaning to the side, he peered at Noctis and Gladiolus, settled into bed on the other side of the room. “Think they’re asleep?”

“We’ll find out when they begin to snore.”

A snort met these words. “I highly doubt they’re going to fall asleep that quickly.”

From across the room came a rather snappy, “Not if you keep talking, we won’t.”

“Shut up, party pooper.”

Reaching across the empty edge of the mattress, Noctis turned the lamp out, plunging the room into darkness.

“I think Noct is angry.”

“Is he the one who turned out the light?”

“Yeah.”

A shadow shifted.

Prompto squinted.

Then came a warmth against his knee.

Fingers.

A hand.

Ignis very, very close.

“If we are to continue the game without disturbing the others, we’d best do so as quietly as possible.”

“So…” Blue eyes blinked blindly against the darkness. “Blanket fort?”

A pause.

A sigh.

“I suppose it wouldn’t be remiss,” Ignis admitted. “Just construct it quietly, would you?”

Prompto blindly saluted the blind man before rising carefully from the bed and reaching for the nearby bunks. Within minutes he had constructed a series of makeshift drapes that fell heavily around the bottom bunk, enshrining them in its cozy clutches. Climbing into the makeshift fort, Prompto quietly announced, “All done!”

“Fine work.”

“Thanks.”

Setting his phone in the center of the bed, Prompto set it to play a video before leaving it where it was, sending lights scattering across the fort and illuminating their faces.

“I’ve forgotten whose turn it is.”

Prompto looked up, eyes landing firmly on the man before him. “I think it’s mine,” he admitted.

Ignis nodded in assent. His scar was nearly invisible in the light of the phone. But instead of blending into his face it almost disappeared into the blankets. For a long second the younger man found himself entranced by the sight.

Then the second passed. “Do we have to guess? Or can we just ask questions?”

“That depends on how serious we are about keeping the spirit of the game intact.”

“Not that serious.”

“In that case, ask away.”

From beyond the curtains came a snore.

Ignis grinned, almost ethereal in the ever-shifting light. “Privacy, at last.”

Prompto watched the smile as it grew, faded, then shifted into something resembling curiosity.

“Still thinking?”

“What’s sex like?”

Dark eyebrows arched. “Straight to the point, I see.”

“Did you expect anything else?”

Slowly, his head shook. “I don’t know what I expected.”

“Well?”

Ignis hummed, lips forming a thin, sharp line. “Well, preparation isn’t the most pleasant of events.”

“Preparation?”

“An enema is sometimes necessary, but for the most part preparation means douching, lubricating, and stretching,” Ignis clarified. “Anal sex is anything but a spontaneous event.”

Prompto flushed.

“It’s awkward for a while,” he continued, oblivious. “The sensation is far from pleasant at first. It takes practice. Patience. And, after a while, if you have a good partner, things can get to be enjoyable.”

“Just ‘enjoyable?’”

“I wasn’t finished.”

Lips pursed, embarrassed.

Grabbing at his sunglasses, Ignis slipped them into his jacket before continuing. “You have to figure out what you like and what you don’t like. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a few decades. But when you find it…” He cleared his throat, a faint blush working into his cheeks.

“Is it any different with women?”

“Quite frankly, I’m far more inclined to receive than to give, and have yet to find a woman receptive to the idea of a strap on. I am thus not the best judge of such matters.”

Prompto coughed. “That was honest.”

“You have yet to see honest.”

Silence followed that admission.

Ignis sighed, running a hand nervously through his hair. “I believe you asked two questions.”

Two slow blinks. A gasped, “Oh. You’re right.”

Leg shifting, Ignis leaned back against the bedpost, empty gaze fixed off to Prompto’s side. “First off, when did you first realize you were gay?”

“I always knew,” was the tired reply. “I just didn’t think much of it until I became friends with Noctis.”

“Huh.” A pause; an expression of contemplation. “Have you ever been kissed?”

Prompto laughed, eyes screwed shut. “Sorta,” he admitted. “This girl in high school took a liking to me and asked for my button at the end of the year. Next thing I knew I was being kissed. Never saw her again. Never even learned her name.”

“Interesting story. Is that the only one you’ve had?”

“One what?”

“Kiss.”

“Well, yeah. Closet case, remember?” The video stopped, plunging the fort into darkness once more. Prompto made no move to restart it.

“I believe it’s your turn.”

“Right.” Leaning forward, he asked, “What… is the most romantic thing you’ve ever had done for you?”

Ignis’ expression tightened.

Prompto blinked. “Did I ask something wrong?”

“I was nineteen. We’d just gotten back from a dance by the bay.”

Pale fingers ran nervously through blond hair as he took in complex, somber tone. The almost angry expression.

“It wasn’t a dance, to be honest. It was a fundraiser run by Noctis’ family. His parents had been there, so we couldn’t spend much time together. Not that we could have if they had been gone. It was a doomed relationship from the start. But we wanted to be together, so we tried to be.

“We walked through the park for a while until we got to a gazebo. He’d gone out of his way to string lights around all the beams and had even made a picnic. We danced to some music on his phone before his parents found us. We had been seen, apparently.”

“Shit.”

“He was transferred out of my college soon after. We tried to keep in contact, but eventually the relationship fizzed and we went our separate ways.”

“That,” Ignis enunciated sharply, “is the happiest of my stories.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I have horrendous taste in relationships.”

“No kidding.”

A throat cleared. “What do you imagine would be necessary traits in a partner?”

“Me? Oh, Six. Wow. Necessary, huh…” Prompto leaned back, eyes fixing on the top bunk. “I guess they have to understand that I go at my own pace? I don’t know.” He blew a raspberry before quickly covering his mouth, attention burning through the barrier of blankets.

From the distance there came a snort. Then a snore.

Prompto’s shoulders fell, tension falling quickly from them.

“It’s hard to think of an ideal situation when you’ve never been in one.”

Blue eyes turned back, lingering, before he nodded. “Yeah. Exactly that.”

An answering hum, followed by silence.

“Oh, right.” Leaning forward, Prompto restarted the video on his phone before shifting back. “What do you like most in someone?”

“Honesty.”

“Like, not lying?”

“Not cheating.”

“Well. Shit.”

Socked feet shifted against the bed. “That got dark rather quickly. Let’s segway, shall we? Favorite sport?”

“Track. How did you find out?”

“I walked in and found them in the middle of the act, if you must know. Hobby as a child.”

“Excessive amounts of anime. How many people have you gone out with?”

Sliding his hands into his hair, Ignis blew out a long, stressed breath. “Twelve,” he replied tightly. “What…” He paused, expression slipping somewhere between infuriated and thoughtful. “What do you think about when you masturbate?”

Prompto blinked. Whistled lowly. “Payback’s a bitch.”

“Answer the question.”

He hesitated. “Okay. I’m going to be completely honest here, so I’m gonna ask for that get out of judgement free card you so kindly extended half an hour ago.”

Eyebrows pinched.

“I kind of jerk it to the photos I take of you.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me the first time.”

“How long?”

“Hey – my turn, remember?”

“Ah, yes.”

“What was your first time like?”

“We forgot the lube and I was admitted to the hospital for internal tearing. Now – how long?”

Prompto groaned. “Okay, okay! Like…” He hissed, head slapping back against the wall. “Three years, okay? Back when I was jailbait and just before I joined the Crownsguard. I hope you’re happy with this knowledge.” He paused, head pulling away from the plaster, he looked pointedly at Ignis. “How does that make you feel?”

Ignis waited a long time before he answered. But as he began to speak, the video came to an end. The fort plunged into darkness and left his expression a mystery. “I’m surprised you found me attractive.”

Prompto waited patiently for a follow up. When none came, he scoffed. “That can’t be all you’re thinking.”

A shift. An uncomfortable sigh. “I’m feeling a lot of things right now. I doubt putting them into words would be a brief affair.”

“Come on. We’ve got until we go to sleep. It doesn’t have to be brief,” Prompto urged. “It can’t be more embarrassing than what I just said.”

Shifting against the bed pole, Ignis’ head fell back against the frame with a dull thud . “I’m confused,” he admitted breathlessly. “A little flattered; a little angry; mostly confused. A little violated . It’s as if your part-time hobby of photography has been a ruse, but I know that’s not true. You love your camera.

“There’s a part of me that wants you to delete the photos, but they’re also a chronicle of our journey. I can’t ask you to delete the only evidence of our struggles just because you’ve been using it as… spank bank .” He paused, taking much needed breath. “Though at the same time I understand that it might not have occurred to you to ask permission for what you did. Seeing as you were seventeen when this started it stands to reason that you couldn’t. Through the eyes of the court, it would have been seen as grooming had I answered at all. And I imagine it would be weird to ask such a thing. It might not have even occurred to you.”

“Those are a lot of thoughts for thirty seconds.”

“Then there’s the matter of you and what you think,” Ignis continued immediately after Prompto finished. “Do you think me to be a sexual being, or simply an object to view in seeking your own personal pleasure? Do you harbor feelings or is it simply an awkward arrangement that happened one day? Is your interest purely cosmetic or is there a fetish hiding in this?”

“I-”

“Do you respect me?” he continued sharply. “Do you feel guilt after the fact, or do you think anything of it? Why me? Why photos?”

“I’m-”

“Do you see me the same now?”

The words hung in the air like a mobile, shifting through Prompto’s head in circles until he managed a confused, “What?”

In the darkness, Ignis’ hands fisted in his slacks.

Slowly, realization dawned. “Dude, if anything the appeal has increased. That scar is kind of dashing. And that’s a horrible thing to say, I know, but you’re seriously a nine out of ten. Nine and a half with those suspenders.”

“Now I know you’re lying.”

“What? No! Just- guh!” Burying his face in his hands, Prompto groaned. “Okay,” he began. “... Look. I’m going to do something right now. Try not to freak out. Or read too much into it, okay?”

“What will you be doing?”

Drawing out of his hands, he admitted, “I’m going to grab your suspenders.”

Ignis blinked. Then, slowly, he nodded.

“It’s dark. Was that a nod?”

“Yes.”

Prompto reached forward, more than a little hesitant. He could hardly make out the edges of Ignis’ shirt in the dark. At first his fingers hit a shoulder. Then – with a hint of embarrassment – partially caressed a pectoral. But then they stumbled across the straps that divided his chest into thirds. Slipped beneath the stretchy fabric. Slid up. Then down. Finally, he dragged slowly back to the top, perching on warm shoulders.

Ignis took a deep, measured breath.

“Every time I see you wearing these, I just…” He paused. Pale fingers tugged lightly on the straps, only to fall quickly away. “Never mind.”

“Go ahead.”

Prompto froze, eyes landing firmly on Ignis’ dim figure. “What?”

“Go ahead,” Ignis repeated, voice light. “You’ve gone and piqued my interest.”

The words fell like muffled raindrops; heard but not quite processed until Prompto’s hand began to shake. Then, without another word between them, he reached forward to take hold of the suspenders. “It’s kind of a fantasy,” he admitted softly. His fingers dragged up the straps, gripping them firmly before pulling them back towards him, drawing Ignis closer. He glanced up, gaze caressing the dim line of Ignis’ throat before he leaned forward, pressing his lips feather-light against the tanned curve of a jugular.

A chuckle shook the air. “I expected something a bit more risque.”

Legs rising from the mattress, Prompto crawled quickly atop Ignis’ lap, fingers still tangled in his suspenders. “I never said I was finished,” he said firmly, knees sinking into the sheets on either side of Ignis’ waist. “I just…” His hands twisted the straps around his fingers, bringing his stomach flush with Ignis’ chest. “I just imagine tying myself down with you riding me.”

Ignis’ mouth went dry as lips slipped along his ear, nibbling on the curve where the scar ended. “I must admit,” he began, clearing his throat, “that’s rather specific.”

“It gets more specific.”

“Does it now?”

Prompto gulped. Then, unwinding his fingers from the suspenders, he drew away with a silent sigh. But as he moved to climb off of Ignis’ lap, warm hands caught him around the waist.

“Where do you think you’re going? I thought you were going to describe your fantasy about the suspenders,” he cooed, lips falling partially open in a breathless gasp.

Prompto squirmed, back arching awkwardly in the touch. “I think I’ve reached my limit on bravery for the year.”

“Are you sure?”

Blue eyes shot wide at the tone, fixing on the bottom of the overhead bunk. “Are you teasing me?” he asked, shocked.

“Aren’t you the one grabbing at my clothes and sitting my lap? Nibbling on my ear as you whisper the fantasy that takes me from a nine to a nine and a half?”

“You asked me to.”

“And you’re the one who decided to keep pressing when I was obviously uncomfortable.”

Prompto’s blood ran cold at this, and he pulled forcefully from Ignis’ grip, crawling quickly to the other end of the fort. There he stayed, quiet.

Ignis’ chin lifted, his hands falling to his sides. “Are you angry?”

“No,” came the all too quick, touch too loud reply. “Do you hate me?”

“No.” Legs shifted, crossing atop the mattress as milky eyes shifted just a touch closer to Prompto’s seat. “Do you hate me?”

“Maybe.”

The word hung between them like an accusation.

“Ah,” Ignis breathed.

“Do you have any fantasies of me?”

A prompt, even, “No.”

Prompto shrunk against the sheets near the edge of the bed, hands twisting in the blanket beneath him.

“I take it by your silence that you’re disappointed.”

“A little.”

“Well, you’ll be surprised to learn that not everyone has a fantasy. Some of us are rather vanilla in that sense. And with that to say, I think we should be off to bed.”

Prompto watched him rise, eyes following the long flow of arms as they swept the sheets aside from the corner of the frame before Ignis disappeared from sight.