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Things We Fear

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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.

Chapter Text

The next morning dawned with a phone blaring at the ceiling and a groggy, “Is that a blanket fort?”

“Pretty sure that's a blanket fort.” With an aborted grunt that ended in an angry sigh, Noctis threw an arm over the edge of the mattress. He staggered from the bed, drunk on sleep as he eyed the hanging sheets with something that would resemble amusement had he been given a few hours. “What the hell were you guys doing last night, Iggy?”

An easy reply floated from the adjacent bunk in the form of gentle scolding. “You would know had you participated.”

From the top level of the bed, Prompto watched their exchange unfold, eyes open in slits as he peered beneath his eyelashes. He watched Noctis pull on his shirt like it owed him something, pressing at the wrinkles and scrunching his nose before shrugging it off. Observed as Gladio forwent his shirt altogether to shrug on his jacket after applying a generous amount of deodorant. But as Ignis came into view, sliding his pants over the deep V of his hip bones, his eyes fell shut. He turned away. Shifted until he faced opposite the group of men dressing below him.

Away from the man whose suspenders fastened in place with a gentle click .

Click.

Click.

Click.

Something soft smacked Prompto’s head.

“Get up,” came Gladio’s dry demand.

“Is Prompto being difficult?” Ignis asked, smooth voice carrying all too easily to ears bracketed by pillows.

Shifting back to the edge of the railing, blue eyes peered beneath the boards to fall upon a head bobbing slightly as an undershirt was pulled over a trim, lightly muscled chest. Pale arms drew tight around himself. Guilt budded in his stomach as eyes closed against what he knew would follow.

A spare application of hair gel to pull it away from closed eyes.

Medication; once taken with a syringe, replaced by three pills – blue, yellow, white – since their fight with Leviathan.

Shirt, fitted expertly to emphasize the long, elegant line of a torso.

Buttons done up with years of practice.

Even with his eyes closed, Prompto could see it. Fingers and buttons. Scars that dotted an otherwise smooth clavicle. But now he could practically feel the shift of air beneath a broad chest; the give of the suspenders as they were tugged over broad shoulders. How they stretched. Pulled.

“I think he went back to sleep,” Noctis said. “Throw something harder.”

“I’m awake,” he groaned lowly. “Stop throwing things.”

“He lives.”

“Shut up, Noctis.”

“Why? So you can go to sleep?”

“Yes.” His eyes opened, only for him to scoot back sharply as Gladio and Noctis stood firmly at the side of the bunk, staring at him furtively over the edge of the railing. “What the hell, guys?”

And they just kept…

… staring.

With a put upon groan, Prompto rose with a muttered, “I’m up. You win. Stop creeping me out.”

“Crap. We can’t use it,” Noctis whispered.

“Yes we can,” Gladio replied quickly, arm shifting as he tossed a small black blob towards Prompto’s knee.

His reaction came naturally, jerking back with an inhuman screech as the spider plopped casually against the blankets. “ What the hell ?!” he shrieked, eyes wide as he plastered himself to the wall and ceiling. “Gross! Get it off!”

“I don’t know,” the big man drawled. “I think she looks pretty cozy.”

“You guys are the worst .” Pale hands grabbed at the railing, legs curling and easing carefully over the edge. Throwing the spider a spare dirty glance, Prompto lowered himself off the bed.

“Seriously though,” Noctis drawled, watching as Gladio retrieved the spider from between the sheets, “how late were you guys up last night? I didn’t even hear you. You look really tired.”

“We didn’t dwell long. Prompto was kind enough to construct the fort as a sort of sound barrier,” Ignis explained evenly. “Can’t have His Highness missing out on his beauty sleep.”

“Beauty sleep, huh? Did it work? Am I a pretty princess this morning?”

“The prettiest.”

“Damn right.”

Prompto paused as he stepped from the lower bunk to the ground, shifting his weight carefully as he turned to look at his companions. There was a lump in his throat. A weight in his chest. A rock in his stomach. He turned to his bag, pulling out his clothes for the day. But as he pulled them on, each breath of air feeling like it was kicking up a pile of ash in his chest, it got worse.

His pants were sandpaper. Shirt was jagged glass. His socks were the worst. They slid over his feet: too soft; too slick. Might as well be shoving his foot into a joke-box of Jell-o at a carnival. Clingy, room temperature slime. It felt wrong. Sick. By the time they had slid over his ankles, Noctis stood beside him, Prompto’s bag hanging from one lightly tanned hand in offering.

“You were taking a while, so we packed your stuff. Ready to go?”

Glancing up, Prompto’s eyes landed on the bag that dangled before him like a carrot. For a second he simply stood there. Staring. Befuddled by the offering.

With a surprisingly complicated shrug, Noctis bent forward to set the bag at their feet before he motioned to the door again. “You almost ready?”

Prompto wobbled. “Yeah. Yeah, let’s go.” Snatching up the bag, he threw it over his shoulder before rising to look his friend in the eye. “I’m ready.”

“Forgetting something?”

“Uh… Like what?”

“Shoes.”

Glancing down, Prompto stared at the brightly colored socks that stood as beacons against the dark drab flooring. Then, wobbling slightly, he stepped stepped into the boots propped against the side of the bed.

Nervously, Noctis leaned forward, whispering a somewhat confused, “Did something happen between you and Ignis?”

A snort. A laugh. Before Prompto even knew what he was doing, the words, “What? No,” were falling out of his mouth like the ash was spilling from his lungs. “He’s all prim and perfect. What issue could we have?”

Dark eyes narrowed.

A flush worked its way between freckles.

“You’re lying.”

“I don’t lie .”

“You lie a lot.”

“This isn’t a ‘do you know me’ game, Noct.”

“I may not know your favorite color, but I know that when you’re scared and don’t feel safe, you hide. You joke and redirect until the problem goes away.”

“Noct-”

“We’re talking about this later,” he insists, tone clipped; sharp; serious in a way that left the room echoing with an emptiness that resonated deep in their chests.

Nervous fingers gently swept beneath bright bangs, pushing them away from eyes that fixed on the floor.

“Next camp we make,” came the promise.

“Sure,” Prompto agreed quietly. “Next camp.” His eyes slid open; gaze flicking to Ignis across the way as he left the room with the back and forth snap of his cane playing in Prompto’s ears over and over like a record too deep in its own grooves.

Snap.

Tap.

Snap.

Hiss.

Tap.

Hiss.

“You coming?” Gladio asked as he stepped up to the doors, bag strapped his shoulder.

“Yeah,” Noctis agreed. He turned to Prompto quickly, motioning with a hand to follow before he turned and walked briskly out of the room.

Prompto remained where he was for a few long seconds, gaze shifting to the other end of the room even as he took a seat at the edge of the messy bunk bed. He reached down, grabbing at the laces of his boots and tying them leisurely even as his attention remained fixed on the blankets that hung from the seams of the bunk bed before him. As the lump in his stomach gave an angry kick, he reached for the abandoned case on the floor. The velcro hissed as the top-most flaps were pulled apart, lenses clicking in their padded slots. Fingers wrapped firmly around the smooth curve – matte finish worn away by gaunt hands into a sharp shine – along the right-most edge of the camera. He turned; snapped a shot of the fort. Climbed inside. Took a shot of the sheets that rippled where Ignis had sat. Settled into his own and set the timer.

When he retrieved the camera after the flash had faded, he stepped out of the fort just in time for the door to beep and fly open.

“What are you dawdling for?” Gladio asked, striding through the doors with a casual tilt to his stance. “Get your butt out here and let’s get going.”

Prompto glanced up, hands stilled against his camera.

Gladiolus’ eyes slipped to the camera, then back up to meet Prompto's gaze. “You're taking pictures now ?”

“Uh, yeah,” he replied nervously. “I mean, no. I was checking a setting. The, uh… Some of the files have been… corrupted… lately… and I just wanted to, you know, see if I could uh… fix it. Before we got attacked or something.”

“Okay, well, hurry it up.”

“I will.”

With Ravus defeated and more questions in his head than ever, Prompto would have liked a moment to himself before, say, an army of daemons descended.

But then they did.

And it was chaos.

And when the doors started to close, they all began to panic.

Time was of the essence. They split up. And when the doors closed behind Noctis as he raced to the elevator, Prompto felt the iron in his stomach drop. Painfully. “Guys,” he called, “I have a really bad feeling about this.”

“Tell me something I don’t know!” Gladio shouted back.

Leaping over the wide arc of an Iron Giant’s sword, Prompto tried not to shriek as he flew into a set of handrails that encircled the hangar. Head snapping forward, his hands grabbed at the metal piping. But in the split second that followed – as he realized his chest was going to crash against the unforgiving rails – he propelled himself as best he could into the air.

“Parkour!” he shouted with surprising clarity as he launched over the divide. His momentum carried him clear over the rails, sending him away from the platform and down, down, down onto a long catwalk between the platforms. And there, at the end…

… was a door.

“Is it me, or is this hallway even creepier than the rest of this damn facility?”

Sprinting around a corner, Prompto’s gloves creaked as his fingers drew a touch too tight around his gun. As he peered into the next thankfully empty hall, he forced himself to take a breath. Slowly, his fingers slackened around the hilt. “Yeah,” he agreed breathily. “Really creepy.”

“How creepy are we talking?” Ignis asked, cane sweeping steadily from side to side as he stepped with confidence around a mop bucket.

“Like a hospital supply closet, but it’s really long, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, there are no towels, and the lights are flickering.”

“Janitor Chic.”

“Can't wait to get out of this place,” Gladio moaned, slowing and bracing himself against the wall to catch his breath. Beads of sweat slipped from his forehead and fell the ground in a misshapen tempo. “Go home. Take a long, luxurious bubble bath . I'm sick of lukewarm showers.”

“Stop. You're making me feel tired,” Prompto whined in reply. “ Bubbles .”

“It should be easy to arrange when this is all over,” Ignis pointed out dryly.

“Arrange? I'll probably just walk into a hot spring and drop a bottle of shampoo into the bath.”

“You wouldn't dare,” Ignis warned.

“Watch me.”

“You'd destroy a perfectly good onsen.”

The hall came to an abrupt end around the next corner, fixed with a sturdy metal door.

Ignis drew to a pause, head tilting curiously. “Is there a reason we've stopped?”

“Locked door,” Gladio provided quickly. “I think I'm going to pry it open.”

“It's, like, solid steel,” Prompto pointed out grimly. “Why don't we just slide something into the keyhole and break the lock?”

Then, with an amazing lack of communication or emotion, Ignis strode forward, felt along the door, grabbed the handle, and pulled it quickly open. He shifted away from the door, leg swinging around and settling gracefully against the floor as he drew himself aside as if a hinge had him hung on the knob.  Chin a touch too high, he levelled what would have once been the line of his gaze between them. “Shall we?”

Beyond the frame of the door came a screech. A hiss of swords slicing through the air. Between them and the swirled architecture of the elevator stood a veritable army of daemons.

Prompto managed a lightly panicked, “ Shit.

“Is something wrong?”

“It's the elevator room alright, but it's pretty much swamped with monsters,” Gladio informed him softly.

“Well, that won't do,” Ignis muttered. Then, louder, he asked, “Do you see a set of stairs?”

Stepping up to the door, the larger man carefully leaned into the room. The leather of his jacket squealed in protest. “I say we make a run for it.”

“What?” Prompto found himself squeaking. “But there's so many .”

“I don't see you coming up with any ideas.”

“We could look for a set of stairs,” Ignis suggested a bit louder.

“There haven’t been any stairs in this damn building as it is. Why would there be some now?” Gladio snapped, turning to face eyes that didn’t quite find him.

“Fire codes,” was the curt reply. “Emergency escape routes.”

“Yeah, well, this place isn’t really to code. There hasn’t been a single exit sign as far as I could tell. Just resting rooms and monitoring stations. It’s not your average building.”

“How about we just run for it?” Prompto suggested, freezing as attention turned on him like a blinding spotlight. He resisted the urge to twiddle his thumbs.

“He gets it,” Gladio burst, turning back to Ignis with his hands on his hips. “Look, I’ll lead. Prompto can be your guide and get you both through the monsters as I move ‘em aside, okay?”

Lips pursed, but even as Ignis opened his mouth to reply, Gladio took off. He sprinted out the door and out onto the catwalk without warning, sword shimmering into his hands as his boots sent echoes of clattering metal through the mostly silent hall filled with Yojimbo.

Taking off after him, Prompto attempted to grab Ignis by the hand as he passed, only for it to slide from his grip. He turned, gaze slipping from his friend’s shy posture – arms drawn against a broad chest and shoulders slumped – to the angry twist of lips. “C’mon! We’re going to lose him!”

“Sure you’re not just going to lose me?”

The words stuck something in Prompto, but he pushed it down as he snapped a half assed, “Sorry,” before reaching forward and bracketing his hands on either side of Ignis’ chest. His fingers slid up and under, gripping the man by his armpits. And with a grunt he surged forward, throwing the tactician over his shoulder. His hands fell as the body above him thrashed, rising uneasily to his feet.

“Unhand me!” Ignis shouted predictably.

“Nope!” Prompto shouted back, turning to the door and sprinting out, knees locked with each too-quick step on the already cleared catwalk.

Gladio stood at the end, shield shifting as a Yojimbo attempted to slide its katana past his guard.

“Took you long enough,” he growled back at them as they approached. Shoving his shield forward, he drew his sword and struck, sending the Yojimbo staggering back before kicking it aside. He held his sword at the ready as he charged past, hilt drawn up in preparation to sweep at any of the other daemons that stood around.

But none of them responded in time to strike.

Prompto stepped quickly across the few meters that separated the catwalk from the elevator, sprinting between the doors before dropping Ignis to his feet, metal echoing as their shoes slapped the floor. The door closed automatically in their wake. Hissing hydraulics echoed through the small space, flirting with the whizz of wires and the huff of heavy breathing. “So…” he found himself whispering uneasily. “That was easier than I thought it would be.”

“You didn’t have to grab me.”

Glancing over, Prompto looked from Ignis, then to Gladio, before facing the doors. “It was either that or leave you behind,” he replied with as much warmth as he could muster. “I’d rather not leave you behind.”

Ignis was quiet. A lip twitched. Gloved hands drew tight around the hilt of his cane. But as he opened his mouth, presumably to answer, the doors slid open.

And there was Noctis.

Prompto sprinted out of the elevator the moment it registered, lit by bright lights for the first time in days. The lights hurt. Blinded him after so long in relative darkness. But he could still make out movement in the distance.

A familiar arm reaching for the brilliant crystal as it shone brighter and brighter. And as Prompto emerged from the bright hall and into a dark catwalk, he gasped. His balance fell away from him as vertigo hit, sending him sprawling against the railing.

Then came the scream.

Pushing himself away from the edge, Prompto paused as Gladio ran ahead, following close behind. With large sections of grate stretching out between them, he watched as Noctis was swallowed by the crystal.

Gladio’s sword caught Ardyn by the shoulder, and Prompto raised his gun.

It felt like an eternity before he finally fired, though. Before he brought it up. Before the sights were level with a dark shoulder. Before his finger pulled back against the suddenly heavy trigger and the gun kicked in his hand like it was going to fly away.

As Ardyn hit the ground, he felt something like shock.

He was down.

He was dead.

It was over.

Except it wasn’t .

As Ardyn rose from the grate, placing his hat back on his head with eyes shining and face a twisted mess of oozing dark fluid, Prompto watched him with a growing sense of dread in the pit of his stomach.

Ardyn laughed. And, without bothering to spare them a single glance, he walked away, disappearing from sight as he bypassed the elevator entirely in favor of just… vanishing.

In an instant, Prompto had turned back toward the crystal and grabbed at the nearest stone in an attempt to haul himself up. Instead he fell back, sturdy fingers wrapping around his bicep.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Gladio snapped.

“Going after Noct.”

“What’s going on?”

“Prompto’s trying to climb into the crystal.”

“Why is Prompto trying to climb into the crystal?”

“Because Noctis is in there!”

Why is Noctis inside the crystal?

Because it ate him.”

“Since when does the crystal eat people ?”

“I don't know, okay? I don't dictate what magical daemon repelling rocks that bestow powers upon mortals and summon gods can and cannot do.”

“The sarcasm isn't helping, Prompto.”

“Look , let's just…” Gladio sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. He took a step back, hand falling away from Prompto's arm. “Let's just think for a second, okay?”

“Think? So…” Making an aborted motion with his hands, Prompto waved angrily to the crystal. “Are we just going to stand around while Noctis is trapped in a giant stupid rock? Ardyn wanted this. He led Noct right to it. How do we know he’s not in some… Hell Dimension while we sit around doing nothing?”

“We don’t.”

All attention shot to Ignis as his voice cut through their argument.

“We don’t know where he is. We don’t know how to find him. We don’t even know how he’s there in the first place,” he laid out dryly. “Now would be a good time to take stock of what we do know.”

Prompto turned his gaze to the crystal, eyeing it critically. “We know Ardyn wanted Noctis inside,” he mutters.

“We also know it has a mind of its own,” Ignis said, drawing his cane back to cross his hands casually atop it. “No one – Ardyn included – has the power to sway it. Whatever it’s doing now, it’s in our best interest.”

“Best…” Pale lips parted, disbelieving. He hopped down from the railing, the grate beneath his feet sending a clacking complaint through the entire room as he landed. Suddenly he didn’t know what to do with himself. He couldn’t gesture. Couldn’t make a face. Couldn’t point or motion or generally make any movement along with his words that would have any impact. So in the end he leaned back against the rail, fingers sliding around the metal to grip it until his knuckles turned white. “It literally just ate him. He’s just gone .”

A bare nod in ascent. “I realize that, but we still have our powers, do we not?”

Prompto stared.

“We do,” Gladio agreed, arms crossing his chest as he shifted his weight onto one leg “If we have our powers, he’s not dead.”

Ignis’ lips quirked. “And if he’s not dead, you can be sure he’ll be coming back.”

“Prompto, there’s a difference between crystal sitting and crystal seating.”

Gaze shifting from the shining display on his phone, Prompto turned to face Gladio as he strode up. “I know.”

A chuckle escaped the bigger man as he approached, clasping his hands around the railing before the crystal. Inching forward, he stared up at the pale body curled up between sharp protrusions. “If Noctis comes back while you’re on shift, his first experience back in the real world would be touching your ass. Pretty sure he doesn’t swing that way.”

“You never know. Have you ever asked him if he did?”

“There’d be no point and you know it.”

Breathing out a sigh, Prompto shifted again.

“That can’t be comfortable.”

“It’s not.”

Gladio snorted, raising one arm to jab a thumb in the direction of the elevator. “Then hurry and get your damn ass outta there. It’s my turn to watch the crystal until it wants to play whack-a-mole.”

“And what if it doesn’t?” he asked.

Silence.

Eyes turned on Gladiolus as his feet shifted higher against the jagged wall of crystal. “What happens if he doesn’t come out?”

Gladio shook his head. “We stick to the plan,” he said firmly, as if to remind the both of them. “After a week I go to Hammerhead for some gear and we take Noctis somewhere safe.”

“Right. ‘Safe.’ Sure.” Tossing his legs over the edge of the crystal, Prompto leaned back on his hands before shimmying off and over the rail. He fell to the floor with a lazy grunt. “Guess I’ll head back, then.”

“Yeah. And watch out; Iggy’s in one of those moods.”

Waving him off, Prompto offered a lazy, “Thanks,” before making his way down the catwalk. He grabbed at the railing as he staggered suddenly, a pounding whoosh of air and blood in his ears that knocked his eyes askew.

“Need any help getting to the elevator?”

It was a few seconds before the words registered. One at a time, then all at once. Prompto laughed. “It’s only a few feet. I can handle a little vertigo.”

“You sure?”

“I’m sure.”

The suspension of empty air was bad, but the elevator was fine.

Prompto leaned against the far wall with a sigh, sagging against the steel that made no attempt to hold him up as he slid to the floor.  Around him the elevator hummed as it descended. Reaching into his pocket, his fingers gripped the edges of his phone before pulling it out, eyes going to the display of icons at the top of the screen as it lit in response.

No service.

Head falling back against the wall, he slid his finger up across the glass, lock screen flying up to reveal a handful of icons that read “Moogletube,” “Chocobo Go,” and “Tanning Spray.” He swiped again. Then again. Finally, he tapped at the icon “Gallery” sandwiched between “MoogleMaps” and “Instakilo.” But as the screen flooded with images, his hand hesitated over the page.

Gladio shooting Noctis a grin.

A selfie half inside a tree.

Ignis. Smiling.

Something inside him stirred low in his stomach. But even as he bit his lip, face flushing, he locked his phone and stuffed it back inside his pocket. He threw his arms around his legs.

He stayed like this long after the elevator doors opened.

Getting back to the room is a race against himself. A very slow one. Prompto takes as many twists and turns as he can without actively running into any daemons. By the time he’s gotten back to the wide opening doors of the barracks, it’s been half an hour.

He doesn’t go in.

For fifteen long minutes he just stood there. Stared at the light high above the door. Squinted against the the flickering lights. Strained to hear daemons shuffling in the distance. It wasn’t until the steady click, click, click of metal footsteps began to grow closer that he turned, striding through the doors that quickly beeped and slid open.

And there’s Ignis.

Just sitting.

Quietly. Not really moving.

Driven by habit, Prompto stepped quickly over to his things, pulling open his bag and retrieving his camera. Stepping as quietly as he can back to the front of the room, he lines up the shot.

Through the lens, Ignis is bathed in fluorescent light, washing the tan from his skin. His freckles shine like beacons against his suddenly pale face. And as the camera shutter sounds his right eye flutters open.

Pulling away from the camera, Prompto glanced down at the screen. His bottom lip curled beneath his teeth as he found one milky eye turned on him. The lighting was better in the photo, throwing Ignis’ scar in sharp relief against the smooth lines of his cheek.

“More for the gallery?”

Pale hands froze against the camera. He glanced up, eyes wide.

Straightening in his seat, Ignis’ fingers curled around the book previously askew across his lap.

With as much courage as he could muster, Prompto spat a heated, “Suck a dick, Iggy.”

“Not yours, I assure you.”

The silence to follow was palpable, filled only by the gentle hum of the fluorescent lights above their heads. But even as Prompto turned away, storing his camera and straightening his things, he didn’t speak. All that remained of his courage was the anxiety that held his chest with straps. Flooded his stomach with iron shavings. And with a conviction bordering on mania, Prompto climbed into the bed where their blanket fort remained erect, and attempted to breathe.

Half an hour later, he passed out.

Gladio, with his legs wedged against the top bunk and sweat dripping onto the floor, did sit ups outside the blanket fort while Prompto woke up. For a while, he found himself staring. Arm still holding the blanket aside. Eyes fixed on the shifting view of the tattoo stretched across the broad torso before him.

Eagle butt.

Eagle face.

Eagle butt.

Eagle face.

“Gotta keep up on that six-hundred-pack, huh?”

“You gonna keep… staring… or are you… going… to join me?”

“Think that’s a good idea?”

With a snort, Gladio paused in his sit ups, motioning for Prompto to join him. “Come on. Get up here.”

Scrambling up onto the bed, Prompto stared at the way Gladio’s legs crossed over each other, catching onto the railing.

“You wanna sit on the railing and curl in on yourself. Then you want to slide down, using your hands to keep it going slow, until your knees are against the top of the rail. From there you hook your feet however you feel comfortable and uncurl.”

Within seconds, Prompto was carefully uncurling beside Gladio, grabbing his head as it began to pound. “Is this supposed to hurt?”

“That’s the head rush. You’ve got an ear infection, right? Once you start moving it should stop hurting.”

“Promise?”

“Yeah. Just get your blood pumping.”

Prompto groaned, eyes falling closed. “If you say so,” he whispered. Then, crossing his arms across his chest, fingers twisting in the shoulder straps of his tank, he gritted his teeth and clenched his stomach, attempting to pull himself up.

At his side, Gladio resumed his own.

Thirty seconds later, Prompto held the railing firmly in his hands, attempting to pull his legs down from the top bunk. “How can you even do those?”

“Sheer will… and vanity. Like you said, I’ve got… to keep up my… six-hundred-pack.”

Dropping to the floor, pale hands wiped at a forehead beaded with sweat. “Gotta work up to those. Wow.”

Gladio snorted.

Snatching up his camera bag, Prompto settled it on his lap, opening it and pulling the top-most velcro pads apart. “How long have you been doing these?”

“Three years. Maybe four.”

Blond lashes fluttered as he glanced up, admiring the angle. The lighting. The shape of Gladio’s naked chest as he rose and fell, legs clenching against the railing. But as he dug out his camera, holding it at the ready, his hands stuttered and he went still as a wave of something like guilt hit him.

More for the gallery?

Dark eyes followed the motion, flicking from the camera to the expression that dragged at the corners of pale lips. He drew still against the railing. For a brief second, his mouth opened. But just as quickly, it closed. Then, with no other warning, he struck a pose.

Prompto stared. “What are you doing?”

“Take it,” Gladio told him before puckering his lips, arms held at the ready like a Sentai Warrior.

“What?”

“Take the picture. This is hard to hold.”

With a startled laugh, he lifted the camera and took the shot. As he lowered the camera, he watched as Gladio lifted himself back onto the bed. “All done?”

Sliding back over the railing, the large man fell to the floor, knees buckling to take the weight before he collapsed back onto the bottom bunk. “Something’s going on between you and Iggy.”

Pale lips pursed.

Running a hand nervously through his hair, Gladio groaned. “Look, I know we don’t have much in common, but you and I? We’re comrades. Even if it’s only been about a year. Me and Iggy have known each other for a decade, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to take his side. He’s an ass.”

“He’s not an ass.” The words are out of Prompto’s mouth before he can stop them, hanging in the air between them like a burst of gas.

“He’s the biggest ass I’ve met and the longer you know him the worse he gets. He’s always nagging. Always has to be on the right side of everything.”

“That’s his job. That’s not him.”

“He is his job.”

Leaning back onto his hands, Prompto allowed the blanket to shift before him as he slid further onto the bed. It fell like a curtain, catching on his leg and sending him mostly out of view. “It never occurred to me that you guys might not get along.”

A snort. “That’s a laugh.” Shifting over on the bed, Gladio grabbed up a towel from the floor, mopping at his chest with it. “I would give my life for that asshole, but that doesn’t mean I have to like him.”

“Then why give your life?”

“Because Noctis needs him more than me. I’m just a sword. I can be replaced.”

“Replace you? What? No!”

“I am. I couldn't even help him when Luna died. I just…” He fell back with a groan, fingers twisting in the towel between his hands. “I needed him to be more than he was, and I was breaking him down. I needed him to be a king and he's not, okay? He's just... He's just a kid.”

“We’re all kids.”

A laugh followed this; bitter and sharp. “Yeah. I guess we are.”

The end of the week found Prompto pacing before the Crystal, hands in his hair. But as the familiar hum of the elevator echoed through the room, he turned sharply, eyes on the doors in the distance.

Striding out on the catwalk, Gladio lugged a pallet jack behind him, a series of straps draped over his shoulder. He looked Prompto in the eye, nodding firmly as he announced, “Ignis is on his way. Help me get Noct loaded.”

Chapter Text

As the truck jumped beneath Prompto’s seat, he recalled with startling clarity the day they left Insomnia for Altissia; the last time he had been behind the wheel of a car. The quiet hum of the Regalia. The crisp leather seats. The smell of clean leather. Ignis’ quiet insistences that he keep his eyes on the road, growing steadily louder as his patience wore thin. The brief, relieved grin he sported when Prompto remained focused for more than five minutes.

“Are you even awake?”

Jerking suddenly on the wheel, Prompto pulled them back over to the right side of the road before glancing briefly at the man beside him. “Of course I am!”

An aborted, concerned, “What just-” burst from the back seat, followed by a groan.

“Prompto was driving on the wrong side of the road.”

“Splendid.”

“Why don’t you drive then, Gladio?” Prompto offered cheerfully. “You driving would be a gift sent by the Six! Seriously; why am I driving right now?”

“Because my depth perception is a piece of shit; that’s why.”

“What?”

“He doesn’t have his licence,” Ignis put in helpfully.

“What? But he’s old . Like, thirty .”

“I’m twenty-three .”

“Oh? And how long have you been twenty-three? Ballpark. C’mon. Ten? Twenty years?”

“Six months.”

“Thirty isn’t old,” Ignis added in dryly. “And stop messing around. You know very well how old we are.”

“Well if you guys could stop being so mature for thirty seconds I might believe that.” Snorting, Prompto leaned forward, peering up at the sky as it shifted from a deep blue to a shock of pink. “Little early for a sunset, don’t you think?”

If Ignis had rolled his eyes, no one could tell. “It’s been setting earlier for months now,” he announced informatively. As a particularly sharp jolt shook the truck, gloved hands reached protectively for sunglasses as they attempted to jump from his nose. “It isn’t that much of a surprise.”

Prompto’s eyes flicked to the rear view mirror. Watched as Ignis’ expression shifted. Lips twisted. Eyebrows furrowed. But as straight, bright teeth took hold of a plump bottom lip, Prompto turned his attention back on the road, knuckles going white against the steering wheel as he brought them through a turn. “Hey, Gladio, how are the birds doing?”

“Just as well as they can,” he drawled in reply. He rolled down his window, sending a brisk, salty breeze swimming through the truck. “What’s the name of the red one, again?”

“Camille. Yellow one is Maizie.”

“Right; because she likes corn.” Leaning further out the window, he squinted around the side of the truck. “How you doing back there, Camille?”

A happy kweh sounded from the truck bed.

Pulling back inside, Gladio grabbed the handle by his knees and wound the glass back up with a satisfied grin. “They’re good. Maizie’s enjoying the breeze.”

“Thanks, Glady.” Tapping idly at the steering wheel, he glanced once more through the rear view mirror. Watched as Ignis sat perfectly still – deathly silent – in the back seat. “Getting bored back there, Specs?”

“With your driving? Hardly.”

“Rude.” Prompto extended his lips for the words, attempting to imitate a garula. “Hey, maybe we should document this. For Noct, you know?”

“As long as you aren’t the one recording,” Ignis agrees, half a joke in his voice.

“I’ll get my phone ready. Video, right?” Gladio asked, reaching into his jacket to retrieve his phone. “What should we say?”

“Probably something along the lines of what we’re doing.”

“We could mention the sun or something.”

“I’m gonna record, now.”

“Don’t like giving us much time to prepare, do you?”

“Hi Noct,” Gladio greeted the phone, holding it lengthwise to get a shot of them all. “We’re currently lugging your cryst-o-mogrified ass to an island in the middle of nowhere.”

“Yeah, ‘cause that’s what happens when you sleep in,” Prompto cut in teasingly, leaning over Gladio – one hand on the wheel – to look straight into the camera. “You get dragged out of the tent on a freaking air mattress and-”

Eyes on the road ,” Gladio shouted, lunging for the wheel with both hands. His phone tumbled to the floor, clattering against his shoes as he jerked the semi away from the protective guard rail.

The truck groaned. Sparks flew as the side scraped the rails, dragging against them for a few tense seconds before they were back on the road.

Grabbing up his phone, Gladio fixed Prompto – who was then white-knuckling the steering wheel – with a stern, “Eyes on the damn road.”

“Got it, got it!” was the squeaked reply.

Turning back to his phone, Gladio sighed. “Okay. Noct, we’re still alive. Not dead. Iggy, we’re not dead, right?” He angled the camera towards the back seat.

Clutching his seatbelt, sweat dripping down his forehead, Ignis spat a sharp, “Speak for yourself.”

“You heard him. We’re alive.” Shifting the phone between his hands, the large man anxiously dragged sweaty palms along the thighs of the jeans. “The sun’s setting. It’s only one in the afternoon. It’s been getting earlier and earlier, lately, just like it was before you left. You can almost watch it move in the sky. I don’t know if this has anything to do with us, or with you being in that crystal, but I do know that we’re going to need you soon. We miss you.” Turning, he held the phone between the seats, angling back at the rear seats. “You got anything to add, Specs?”

Ignis’ lips twitched into a smile. “Come back soon.”

“Can I say something?”

“Eyes on the road, Prompto.”

“It’s a ghost town.”

“At least the beach is clear of daemons. Lots of rocks, though.”

“Hope Coctura is okay.” Driving onto the sand of Galdin Quay, Prompto pulled a quick, sloppy U-turn before collapsing into his seat. “Hey, Gladio, get out and tell me when to stop backing up.”

“Just promise not to hit me.”

“Like I could dent your six-hundred-pack.”

Wrenching open the car door, Gladio slipped out with a drawled, “Tell that to your driving.”

Prompto sighed, turning to watch through the crooked side view mirror as the larger man jogged through the sand. Watched as dark hair whipped in the wind as it turned from side to side, assessing the beach before reaching down to grab a rock.

“How are you?”

He jumped, shifting to face Ignis, sitting coolly in the back seat. “What do you mean?”

Fingers twitched against the cane collapsed upon dirty slacks. “Are you… good?”

“With what?”

He sighed. Shifted. Head pointing briefly to the floor, then back up – level with Prompto’s. “About our disagreement.”

“I don’t know. Give me a baseline. How do you feel about all this?”

“I don’t regret what I said.”

“That doesn’t answer the question.”

Despite himself, Ignis laughed. “I feel terrible. And you?”

Glancing back out the side mirror to see the glare of Gladio’s flashlight sweeping along the beach, flickering between the tires and along the sand, Prompto admitted, “I feel like I shouldn’t have pushed you with my questions. I was being childish. But you were just as bad when you pushed back, and I said something neither of us could take back and you took advantage of that to make me feel like shit. We shouldn’t have built that fort. We shouldn’t have played alone.”

“Do you regret coming out to me?”

Blue eyes shifted quickly from the beach to the back seat. Took in the dirt that clung to lightly freckled cheeks. To the otherwise neat suit. The shirt collar that peeled slightly away to reveal the long lines of Ignis’ neck. The chain that hung at his throat. But as they lit upon his lips – open, questioning, insecure – Prompto found himself confessing, “I think I’ve always needed to tell you that. I think I should have told you sooner.” It came out as a whisper; halfway to a promise. “I don’t regret a lot about these last few weeks.

“I don’t regret telling you about the photos. Or crawling into your lap. Not even grabbing your suspenders. I can’t regret that. I’ve been thinking about it for years , and it finally came out and I’m happy someone else knows because before that it felt kind of like… kind of exactly like indigestion.”

Ready to go! Back up slow! ” came Gladio’s shout from the beach.

“Okay!” Reaching for the stick, Prompto stepped on the clutch, shifting into reverse before beginning to ease them down the beach, eyes on the rear view mirror as he eased onto the gas with his right foot.

To the left a bit!

“Thank you,” Ignis told him softly. “For telling me.”

Five minutes later, the boat hitched to the back of the truck was in the water, bobbing happily with the crystal strapped to its deck.

“I can’t believe it didn’t just capsize,” Prompto marvelled when they both stepped out of the semi.

“Why do you think that boat isn’t already in the water?” Gladio pointed out. “I had to bring it to Cindy’s for a full work-up so it wouldn’t .”

“That was kind of her,” Ignis said, stepping up to the boat with his cane sweeping the sand. He paused as the tip slapped water. “Now that I think on it – Prompto, since when can you drive a stick shift?”

“You should ask Gladio who dropped it off for him, seeing as he can’t drive. That’s the real mystery here.”

Gladiolus snorted. “Let’s not bother with plot holes,” he suggested. “No one cares how the semi got to Insomnia. It’s fanfiction.”

The island had high walls that arched around its sides. It looked poignant against the quietly churning ocean – even as the weather began to kick after an hour of smooth sailing.

“Why here?” Prompto found himself asking.

Gladio spared him a look even as he added another knot to the rope, fastening the boat to the small dock. “Daemons don’t spawn here. Cid says this was a good camping spot when he was a kid. He thinks there’s a rune system underwater somewhere, but I don’t feel like swimming today. Do you?”

“We’ll have to make trips,” Ignis announced suddenly. “Leave food for when he wakes. Maybe a few notes as to our location. Refresh the gas if she sits too long.”

“That’s for later,” Gladio sighed. “For now we should make camp. Rest while we can.”

Ignis’ lips twisted. “I was under the impression that we would be leaving immediately.”

“We don’t exactly have anywhere to be,” came the chortled reply.

“I wouldn’t, but if you’ll remember correctly we had to leave our things behind in the truck.”

“And what’s so important that you have to get back to it right now?”

“We’re fifteen miles out from shore,” Ignis began to explain. “Provided the good weather keeps – which it sounds like it isn’t – it’ll take us at least six hours to get back on the birds. In order for me to get back to shore in time to take my medication, we’d have to leave at midnight. It is simply more convenient if we leave now.”

Gladio snorted. “Your perfect medication schedule can wait a day.”

“Fine,” he snapped. “Then you can hold my hair when I begin to vomit.”

“It can’t be that serious.”

“Try me.”

“You’re exaggerating.

“Again; try me .”

“We’re not going back tonight. We’ve been on the road all day. We need to rest,” Gladio insisted sharply. “We can’t just dive out in the water because you have some stupid schedule!”

“Then I guess I’ll have to take a bird and go out on my own, won’t I?”

“Whoa, whoa!” Stepping between them, Prompto held his hands high. “Chill, okay?”

“What are you even taking them for?” Gladio snapped. “You’re healthier than a damn horse !”

“It’s none of your concern.”

“It’s all of my concern if you’re telling me to cross the ocean in the middle of the night on a chocobo because your schedule can’t wait for a damn second.”

“It’s private.”

“So private your closest friends don’t know?”

It was then that anger rose like a struck flare within Prompto, bubbling out of his throat and hanging in the air like a threat. “You’re the one who walked out when we were getting to know each other.” As Gladio’s eyes turned to him, shocked, the ocean seemed to fall silent around them. “You didn’t know what kind of music he liked until last week. None of us did. It’s basic knowledge and none of us knew. He’s a private guy, okay? We’ve been watching him medicate for months . First with a syringe; now with pills. If you really wanted to know if something was wrong with your so-called friend – and fuck that word right now – you would have asked before it was inconvenient to you.

“Instead, you’re trying to use it against him in an argument. It’s been happening a lot lately and I’m sick of it. We’ve been fighting nonstop since Noctis got sucked into this stupid crystal and it needs to stop. And this is where it needs to stop. Right here. This is medication. It’s not firewood or gas for the car or who gets to spend our gil on books. This is his health, and if we’ve never had a say in it before we don’t get a say now just because we feel like it.

“If Iggy says it’s important, then it’s important. You need to trust him on that. If he doesn’t want to tell you something don’t trap him in it. Don’t use it against him. This rule applies to all of us starting right now so grab your crap and get on that chocobo or so help me I will take Iggy myself and leave you here on your own. But if I have to do that, just know that you will have taken that step to divide us. And if we’re not all together when Noctis wakes up I will personally blame you.”

Shocked silence fell in the wake of his words. But before the echo of his voice died within the confines of the island walls Gladio gave a short nod and went to load up his chocobo.

A few minutes later – with Ignis’ arms around Prompto’s waist as he led Maizie off the dock and into the ocean – the edges of glasses brushed blond hair as a single, “Thank you,” hung between a pale cheek and the rushing whistle of the wind. “Again.”

“Don’t thank me,” Prompto muttered back. “That was more for you than him.”

“I know.”

“And it was for me, too.”

They set up camp at the Haven on the beach, looking out at the daemons that shifted along the docks.

Just before Gladio turned in, Umbra made an appearance at the edge of their camp. It was then that they clustered together, decided to head to Hammerhead, and wrote a letter for Noctis.

The moment Prompto handed the envelope over and Umbra bounded away, he wondered if anything was  going to go as planned.

“Well if it ain’t the crew,” Cindy greeted warmly.

Closing the door carefully behind him, Prompto watched as Gladio and Ignis walked confidently up to the counter; the latter pausing as his cane slapped the base.

“Hey Cindy,” the larger man greeted.

“Good to have you back. I’m assuming you’re here for those beds we were talking about. We have quite a few open.”

He shrugged, leaning against the counter to look her in the eye. “Pretty much.”

“Great. All the good help keeps running off to Lestallum. Just after you left they started up half a dozen programs to keep their borders protected. I hear they’re even setting up greenhouses with grow lights. At this rate, Hammerhead is going to be the only outpost left functioning outside the city.”

Prompto blinked. “What do you mean? What’s going on?”

Cindy turned, eyebrows drawn tight as she faced him. “Haven’t you heard? With the sun showin’ its face less and less, the daemons have pretty much taken over. Border walls are being smashed. We’ve managed to arrange for a large battery allowance in exchange for some of their dirty work. They need meat and materials, you see? And we’re at a good spot for that. So if you wanna stay – that means beds, access to medication, and three square meals a day – you’ll have to work.”

“You had me at bed.”

“I hope the food isn’t this bad.”

The makeshift barracks were in the garage. Appropriately, they smelled like laundry detergent and sweat. It was an unfamiliar scent to Prompto, usually so meticulous about his hygiene. It was foreign and sharp. But before he could open his mouth to comment, Gladiolus stepped up beside him and summarized his thoughts with nonchalant precision.

“Smells like balls.”

“Come now; testicles smell better than this.”

“I’ll have to take your word for it. I’ve never been up close and personal with any. Not with my face, anyways.”

“I hate to say this,” Prompto began, voice tight, “and I should be the last person to suggest this, but could we just set up a permanent camp site nearby or something? This is…” He coughed as he got a good whiff on a breeze. “This is a bit much, you know?” He looked out at the lake of mattresses covered in socks, blankets, and discarded underwear. “Looks like there’s not much in the way of privacy, either.”

“I imagine we’ll get used to the smell,” Ignis offered lightly. “Horrendous as it is.”

“I’d rather not.”

“Well, I’m voting we camp,” Gladiolus announced.

“Why am I not surprised?” Adjusting his glasses, he turned vaguely to his right. “My vote is for a proper mattress. Prompto?”

“I wouldn’t sit on those mattresses if you paid me. Camping.”

“And there you have it – we’re camping.” Gladio clapped his hands, grinning amusedly. “There’s a Haven about a mile from here. Provided no one’s already there, we can set up.”

Nodding slowly, Prompto turned, only to freeze in place.

Directly behind him stood a tall, curvy woman with more muscle in one bicep than his entire body. Coiled black hair drew away from her head like rays of light from the sun, dark and beautiful. He stared, taking in the strict folds of her fatigues and the severe line of her thick lips.

“Prompto, right?”

Fingers drawing to the strap of his camera bag, he stared at up her, surprised. “Uh, yeah. That’s me.”

She took a firm step back, barking with laughter. “Sorry! Didn’t mean to startle you. I’m Pamela. I work with Road Maintenance, doing surveys. Part of a group that keeps everyone here in the know about daemon rates along the highways. Basically, we’re scouts for baddies and road damage. And I hear you’re a mean shot with a camera.”

“I’ve been here literally five minutes.”

“It’s a small outpost. Word here travels fast.”

“Light speed,” Prompto agreed nervously.

Tucking a coil behind one dark ear, Pamela laughed again. “Look, we need someone who can go into danger zones and snap shots of potholes and the like. We’re setting out in ten minutes for our next job. If you want to join us, meet me in the parking lot around then, okay? Using a trade to earn your keep is a lot easier around here than border patrol.”

“I’ll uh… I’ll think about it.”

“Well, think fast. It’s either this or mindless, unending hours walking along the edge of that there electric fence squinting at daemons.” Raising a hand in farewell, she stepped away from the group. But before she walked away, her eyes locked firmly on Gladio. “Mm-mm. Aren’t you a beautiful mountain.”

“Land’s not for sale,” he countered humorously.

“Good thing. I’ll bet no one here has the capital to own that majesty.” Then, with a hop in her step, she walked away like the world was supported by the tips of her toes.

Gladio snorted. “Well.”

“I’m, uh…” Prompto licked his lips, head racing. He glanced around. “I’m gonna go work with her. You guys good on your own?”

A large hand waved him off. “Yeah, yeah. Skip out on the setup. See if I care.”

“Cool. Thanks.” Without much else in farewells, he rushed after Pamela, shoes slapping the pavement with a specific brand of urgency. But as he drew up to her he paused, eyes fixed on the truck she’d climbed into. There, relaxing in the bed, was a familiar set of glasses crowned by black hair. “Sania!” he greeted.

Pushing the frames up her nose, the woman grinned at him warmly. “If it ain’t my little frog hunter.”

“No way,” Pamela cooed. “Is this the Frog Prince?”

“No, no. This is his best friend. How are you doing? Still as skinny as always, I see.”

“Uh… good.” He shifted, gravel crunching beneath his feet as his gaze turned to meet Pamela’s. “Do I get in the car?”

“Yeah, yeah. Climb on in. Didn’t think you’d be coming!” she said, motioning with one dark hand for him to crawl into the back of the truck. As the bed shifted beneath them, she smiled widely. “You’re fightin’ with your boys, aren’t you?”

Settling against the back of the bed, Prompto snorted, attempting a nonchalant shrug. “What makes you say that?” he asked, grabbing protectively at the camera bag in his lap.

“That look smack dab on your face, that’s what.” Turning in her seat, she smacked the cab window.

Inside, a man jumped.

“Let’s go, José!”

“Don’t scare me, bitch!”

“Oh, I’ll show you a bitch,” she laughed. Then, as the engine rumbled and the truck began to back out of the spot, she pointed through the glass with one finger. “That’s my husband, José.”

“Hi José,” Prompto shouted over the rattling roar.

“I’d grab onto something if I were you,” Sania advised him loudly. “It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Keep your head and your camera safe. I suggest changing how you sit every few minutes. Saddle sores don’t have much on a bumpy car down an abandoned road.”

“Uh, thanks.”

“Welcome to the Wednesday detail,” Pamela told him as the truck bounced suddenly, jerking them all into the left side of the bed. “Don’t get killed now, skinny.”

They pulled out of the gate, gravel flying, and Prompto’s fingers clamped around the edge of the truck – his new, rusty lifeline – as he managed an unsure, “Will do.”

“That was one nasty pothole,” Sania noted, chin resting on Prompto’s shoulder to peer at the camera in his hands. “I wonder how long it’ll take them to patch it up.”

“Within the week, knowing Lestallum. That’s the main road.”

Prompto glanced between them – Sania on his left, Pamela on his right – and suddenly asked, “You guys seem like you’ve been doing this for months. Hasn’t it only been a week since the sun stopped rising?”

“We’ve been doing this route nearly a month,” Pamela informed him sweetly. “And this was my job before the sun started its disappearing act.”

The truck jumped, and they all shifted with it.

“We should be close to Hammerhead, now,” Sania said. “Would you like to get some food with us?”

Prompto bit his lip as he moved away from his shoulder. “I don’t know. Does it smell as bad as the barracks?”

“Oh, the men’s barracks are the worst,” Pamela groaned. “Like cornchips and moldy semen.”

It has character ,” José argued loudly from inside the cab.

“Yeah. Shitty character,” she retorted loudly.

“We could see about getting you into the women’s dorm if you like,” Sania offered suddenly. “They’re more names than anything. It’s not really split by gender – there are too many genders around here to do that. It’s more along the lines of who smells and who doesn’t.”

“Thanks for the offer, but the guys and I have already settled on camping at the closest Haven.”

“That’s a lot of back and forth. Charging your phone is going to get tedious.”

Another bump shook the truck.

Sania grinned. “Not far, now.”

They sat quietly as the outpost came into view, and before long they were pulling up to the gate. It opened quickly for them,  guards waving them in with their guns.

“I wouldn’t want their jobs,” Pamela murmured. “Hour and hours of standing around.”

José parked them near the wall, then crawled out of the cab and into the floodlights. He was a petite man. When Pamela hopped out of the car, throwing an arm affectionately around him, he almost disappeared from view.

“Come on,” Sania said, hand patting the top of Prompto’s shoulder gently. “Coctura said she’ll whip something up for us special.”

Prompto nodded, following her out of the truck and into the old diner. He’d seen it only a few hours before, but he took it in this time. Looked closely at the boarded up windows. The piles of boxes. Bags labeled “emergency rations” stacked haphazardly on the counter.

The familiar woman behind it, seen so often behind a round counter by the ocean.

“Prompto?” Coctura gasped. “You’re okay. That’s good to know.”

He nodded, stepping up to the counter. “Good to see you’re okay, too.”

Her grin was infectious. “Go ahead and take a seat at the booth. I’ll start pulling your food together.”

“You’re an angel,” José cooed, kissing his fingers animatedly even as they gravitated toward one of the booths.

Sliding across the cushion, Prompto watched, amused, as José settled naturally beneath the curve of Pamela’s arm as they took the seat opposite.

“Your photos are good,” Sania said suddenly, moving gracefully to sit in the booth.

“Thanks.”

“You could work for Lestallum if you like. They’re always looking for good help. Better incentives, too.”

Prompto shrugged, arms folding atop the cold table. “Nah. I gotta stick with my guys. We’re kind of waiting for something.”

A firm nod. Dark hair brushed against her white shirt as she shrugged nonchalantly. “Makes sense. I think everyone here at Hammerhead is waiting for something.”

“Yeah,” Pamela agreed. “We’re all just too Hammerheaded to figure it out so we can leave.”

“Never say that again.”

“Hammer. Headed.”

“Stop.”

You can’t stop the puns!

Leaves – dry and brown, dying – crumbled beneath Prompto’s feet as he jogged quickly through the brush towards the glimmering runes of the Haven. But as he approached the camp, eyes on the wood piled around the dying fire, he found his attention locked on the man seated beside it.

Posture ramrod straight, Ignis’ attention shifted towards him, face pointed in the general direction of his chest. “Prompto – hello.”

“Where’s Gladio?”

“He left a few hours ago to look for work. I can only assume he found some.”

“Oh,” Prompto murmured. He glanced around nervously. Took in the tent. Cooking gear wrapped with tarps. Wrinkled fold-up chairs that sat around a fire that slowly died into embers. Fingers nervously drawing up to poke at his bangs, he took the chair furthest from Ignis.

“How was the job.”

“It was cool. Sure as hell beats standing around for eight hours staring into the darkness.”

“Good to hear.”

Prompto swallowed, then shifted back into the chair. His arms fell atop the rests at his sides. The familiar texture of canvas sunk into his elbows as he sagged into the seat. “I met the cook,” he informed Ignis, attempting warmth even as his eyes focused on the embers. “Believe it or not, Coctura from Galdin Quay is here. Remember her?”

“Yes, I do,” came the surprised reply. “The tart she’d made in honor of Noctis’ marriage was quite delectable.” His lip curled, then he shifted. Sighed. Shoes extended toward the fire, enfolding from beneath the chair. “It’s good to know she made it.”

“Yeah. Good.”

“Do you think I could ask her for…” As his voice grew it suddenly cut out, giving way to the whistle of the wind and the call of a bird overhead. Eyebrows drew together. Lips pursed.

“Ask her…” Prompto prompted slowly. His hands slid onto his knees, weight shifting forward to send the chair creaking beneath him. Hesitantly he offered, “For a job?”

“It’s silly.”

“It’s survival,” he snapped back.

“I’m going to sleep,” Ignis announced suddenly, twisting the cane in his grip until it sat firmly in his hand. Rising from his seat, he swept his arm about, the tip guiding him around the edge of the fire.

Prompto watched him stumble toward the tent. His gaze was intent, following the motions of lightly tanned hands as they slid along the vinyl with a hiss. Fingers pinched the zipper. Shoes were discarded, revealing tight fitted socks that hugged long, elegant ankles. “I have an idea.”

Hand on the flap, pulling it open, Ignis paused. “Good for you.”

“Let’s play checkers.”

“... Why?”

“Okay, pawn to E-3.”

“This is checkers. Not chess.”

Reaching for the board, Prompto snorted. “So? We’re playing with chess pieces.”

You’re playing with chess pieces,” Ignis corrected. But even as he reached for the piece, feeling out the board – fingers smoothing across the flat checker pieces and caressing the sides of a rook – his voice was impossibly gentle. A wide grin had fixed upon his lips. In the apple of his cheek a dimple had taken root. And when he spoke again, the affection was plain. “You’re terrible at this. You aren’t letting me win, are you?”

“If I knew enough about checkers that I could let you win, I probably wouldn’t be losing right now.”

Lips pursed amusedly before a laugh burst through the tent; startled and honest.

In the base of Prompto’s stomach, a butterfly fluttered. Warmth spread from its wings. Rushed down his arms. Blossomed in his chest. Bloomed in his cheeks and down his neck until his freckles stood out like gaps in a rose bush.

Dark eyelashes batted beneath wide sunglasses. “Why did you suggest this game?” Ignis asked softly, grabbing up a piece to carry it over the pawn. He snatched up the defeated enemy, dropping it in the steadily growing pile at his feet.

Pale lips parted, earnestly replying, “Because it was something we could do together.”

The smile that followed these words was a touch dulled. “You don't have to do that.”

“But I want to,” Prompto clarified. “We haven't done anything fun in weeks. I missed playing games with you.”

“And is losing as fun as you remember?”

“Are you kidding?” Prompto snorted. “Dude, you're smiling .”

Ignis hummed. “Is that all this is for, then? My smile?”

“Well, it was nice to spend some time with you where we aren't at each others’ throats.”

“Yes, that is quite a relief.”

Prompto snorted, leaning back to bracket his hands against the bars of the cot. His legs hung over the edge, socked feet trailing across the floor in long whispers. “You have some lint in your hair, by the way.”

“Is that a distraction tactic?” Ignis drawled, fingers closing around the pawn once more as his grin grew mischievous. “I'm afraid it isn't going to work.”

“No, I'm serious,” Prompto insisted. “It's been in your bangs for, like, an hour. At the least. I think it was there when I arrived.”

“Excellent.” Reaching for his bangs, Ignis combed his fingers into the roots, sweeping back towards the tips. But as he neared the lint it shifted further in, delving between the strands. “Did I get it?”

“Almost. Give it another go.”

Obediently, fingers threaded through long bangs once more, flicking back in an attempt to dislodge the fuzzy obstruction.

The lint burrowed in protest.

Prompto laughed. “You just made it worse.”

“Then stop making fun of me and help,” Ignis snorted, leaning over the checkerboard to offer his hair.

“Such trust,” he cooed, reaching forward with a grin. “I hope I don't repay it with messing your hair up .”

“You wouldn't.”

“I didn't know you bleached your hair.”

Ignis’ head turned up on instinct, attempting to look Prompto in the eye.

“Don't move; it's in there pretty deep.”

Obediently, Ignis stilled.

Pinching the lint between his thumb and forefinger, Prompto carefully dragged it up, up, up. And when it finally slid off the end of the strands, he paused. Stared at the head still bowed to him. His hands stuttered before he reached, carefully correcting stray hairs. A shiver raced up his spine. Echoed in his chest. But even as the butterfly in his stomach took to the air he drew back, clearing his throat. “Got it.”

“My thanks.”

“Your, uh… roots are growing out. I can cut it for you if you want. We might not be able to get a hold of hair bleach for a while.”

“We'll see.”

“I didn't know you lightened your hair.”

“We can't all be natural blonds,” came the amused retort.

“I mean, I guess you're right?” Prompto teased. “But imagine how much happier everyone would be if they were. I mean, it's been scientifically proven in fancy medical journals that blonds have more fun, you know? Think of the world , Iggy.”

Hands drew up to stifle a sharp burst of laughter.

“Seriously, though – I think Gladio has some scissors in his bag.” Sliding off the cot, Prompto weaved between them to approach the pile of bags that had been discarded in the corner.

“Have you ever cut hair before?”

Prompto shrugged somewhat uselessly, unzipping a narrow duffel and peering inside. “Yeah – I cut my own all the time.”

“That is reassuring.”

“Okay, I can't find the scissors, but if worse comes to worse I could probably use your knives. It would be close to a razor cut, but I have a feeling that would suit you anyways.” Pulling his hand from the depths of the bag, he produced a comb. He turned, brandishing it in Ignis’ direction. “Knives it is!”

“We're doing this now ?”

Twirling the comb expertly, Prompto strode over to the cot with a cheerful hop in his step. “Why not?” he asked. “We have time. And we already know you're going to kick my ass in this game. You've practically already won.”

Ignis seemed to consider this, his right eye fluttering open beneath his glasses for a brief moment before it slowly, hesitantly, closed. He leaned away from the checker board with a curious hum. A hand drew up to slide through his hair, crackling through the gel. “How much grow out do I have?”

Grabbing up a water bottle and a trash bag from the floor, Prompto set them beside the cot. Snatching up another bag, he gave it a good shake beside Ignis’ head. “A good inch, easy. Lean forward, will you?” He watched as the man rose onto his knees, then placed the bag beneath him. “You can sit down now,” he informed him swiftly, pulling away to snatch up the second bag. “I'm gonna leave some of the dyed hair in so it looks intentional – that way I don't give you a buzz cut. Anything in particular you want done?”

“A mohawk.”

Prompto snorted, wrapping the second bag around broad shoulders. “Really?”

“I’ve always wanted a mohawk.”

Blond lashes batted as freckles dotted disbelief. “F’er serious?” he gaped, mouth falling open.

Ignis chortled. “Is that so hard to believe?”

“A little. Knife?”

A hum. Then long fingers twisted, summoning a single long dagger into his hands.

Taking hold of the hilt, Prompto offered a short, “Thanks.”

“The royal family has certain expectations,” Ignis explained softly as the comb began to work through the tips of his hair, breaking the gel apart. “One cannot run around with their hair sticking straight up.”

“You’re a surprise from every angle, Iggy,” Prompto cooed, flicking the comb back artfully before setting it further up his scalp and carefully dragging it from side to side. He reached for the water bottle, splashing a bit onto his hands before carefully applying it to the thickest of the gel.

“Thank you,” came the amused reply. Then, he added a stern, “Whatever you do, don’t cut me.”

“Do you trust me?”

“With my life.”

The butterflies took off at this, twisting en-mass through a narrow chest and bubbling down long arms that struggled not to shake. “Then…” He paused, clearing his throat. “Then trust me with your hair.”

This was met with a smile; the barest twist on one side of plump lips.

For a while it was quiet. It wasn’t until Prompto had worked through all the gel and began to measure the hair off in his hands – making that first cut – that Ignis spoke.

“It's strange.”

Prompto paused – gaze flicking from the hair to the visible curve of forehead not inches from it – before asking, “What is?”

“You, using a knife to trim my hair,” Ignis replied dryly.

A snort. “How is that strange?”

“I was under the impression that you didn't like knives.”

“How did you come up with that?”

“You don't like being too close to anything that could hurt you.”

Prompto drew back, crossing his arms animatedly. “Wrong. Beep beep. 100% inaccuracy. Ten points from Ravenclaw.” Uncrossing his arms, he reached once more for the hair that hung just below tanned ears.

“What? Raven Claw?”

He snorted. “I cannot believe you right now.”

A few minutes passed before Ignis asked, “It's a TV show, isn't it?”

“Alright, you’ve been demoted to Hufflepuff. Which…” He paused, taking a moment to scrape at the hair between his fingers. The knife moved easily through them, leaving a smooth, clean line. “I guess that isn't a demotion cause I'm in Hufflepuff. We already share a dorm. But that would make Gladio a Hufflepuff…”

“What in the name of the Six is a Hufflepuff?”

Prompto shrugged. The haircut was shaping up nicely, having already trimmed the right side near down to the root, leaving the top a good two inches longer. He moved around to the left side. “Actually you're probably a Slytherin.”

“I'm giving up,” Ignis muttered, tilting his head with the hand that pressed suddenly to his ear, nudging him over.

Sliding his fingers back been the strands, Prompto held them out to cut. “Anyways, as I was saying, I don't avoid things that hurt me.”

“Oh? Do you now?”

“Well yeah,” came the affectionate reply. But as he went to say more, he stuttered. A deep, calming breath whistled between his teeth. Then, with the last bit of courage he had, he managed a half fumbled, “I- I'm talking to you, aren't I?”

Ignis’ eyebrows drew sharply together as his mouth twisted. “I was under the impression that we were going to stop-” He shifted on instinct to face the body beside him. But as he turned the knife stuttered, sliding across his cheek before pulling quickly away.

“Crap, sorry,” Prompto sputtered. His gaze fixed on the small, even slice sitting atop the apple of Ignis’ cheek, cutting neatly into the bottom of the scar. It welled quickly, blood spilling out and dripping down to an angular chin. “I should probably hurry up and kiss it better,” he joked.

No .”

Pale fingers drew tight around the hilt of the knife.

Long fingers tangled in uneven hair, combing it away from the small gash. “ Don’t ,” Ignis hissed. “Just get the first aid kit and finish the job, already.”

After a long, tense moment, Prompto found himself whispering, “Okay.” He set the knife down, striding across the room and digging through the bags. It was in a small red duffel, stocked with energy drinks. He stared down at them, breathing a sigh. “Think we can convert these into Potions any more?”

Ignis’ head twitched toward him. “The drinks? Not likely.”

“Great. So we have, like… fifty energy drinks for no reason.”

“Sounds about right.”

Pushing past the cans – wincing as they clattered like an angry set of drums thrown down a drunk set of stairs – Prompto squeezed his hands through the angry aluminum sphincter to retrieve the battered, unused First Aid Kit. He pulled it out, settling back onto the cot with a groan. Snapping it open, he brought out a bottle of disinfectant and a small square of cotton. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, bringing the pad to Ignis’ cheek.  “I brought it up when I said I wouldn’t.”

It was a while before a milky white eye fluttered open, then closed. Lips parted in a guilty sigh. “I should be the one apologizing.”

Two years passed.

Noctis didn't wake up.

Chapter Text

It was like a game of CLUE.

Prompto, in the back of a pickup truck at the end of the world with a camera in his hand.

Except no one had been murdered. Key difference.

“Time for a haircut.”

Glancing over curiously, Prompto brushed blond fringe away from his eyes as the wind shuffled it out from behind his ears. At his side, a woman sat, braced against the bed wall. “Maybe,” he agreed hesitantly. “Gotta admit, I’m getting tired of playing fifty-two pickup around my eyes.”

She stared.

“Anyways, know anyone who can give me a trim?”

Red hair fluttered as she shook her head no. “Sorry, I’m pretty new.”

Prompto nodded firmly. “Yeah, I didn’t recognize you. Welcome to the Wednesday detail.”

She blinked. “It’s Wednesday?”

A shrug. A snort. “I mean – it could be?”

Leaning back in her seat, the woman combed thin fingers through dyed red hair, playing with the roots. “I think I’ll need a trim soon, myself.”

“I could cut your hair,” Prompto offered, shifting forward to wrap his arms around his knees. “I mean, we’re on the same team, now. We might as well get to know each other.”

Beneath them, the truck shook.

Cinching the strap of his camera bag, he turned an eye out on the dark scenery. “We should be getting close to Hammerhead, now.”

“Assuming a daemon doesn’t show its face.”

Prompto turned back with a snort, eyebrows raised. “Hey, hey – don’t jinx it!” he warned.

“Oh, come on. That’s not-”

“Holy shit!”

“Get out!”

It was raining by the time Prompto climbed back into the truck, fingers working numbly against each other in an attempt to keep warm. Before long the wheels squealed and the truck pulled away. The seat beside Prompto remained empty, and from his wrist hung a set of shiny new dog tags.

It turned out to be a game of CLUE, in the end.

Daemons, on the road at the end of the world.

Hammerhead was a mess of lights. It felt almost like a beach, only it was negative six celsius and there wasn’t enough moisture in the air for anything to freeze.

Prompto breathed out long and hard, watching in amusement as the light tangled with his breath.

The truck pulled up to the gates, pausing as they pulled wide open with the angry squeal of gears. Gravel kicked behind the wheels, icy pebbles flying into the air before pelting the ground in a shower of hail. Within seconds they were parked, and the small crew filed out of the bed in a neatly disordered crowd.

It was a touch warmer beneath the lights of the outpost, and Prompto’s shoulders paused in their shaking for a brief second as he stood beneath them, soaking in the warmth. But as a breeze passed, dragging at his frozen hair and grating at his chapped lips, he scrunched his shoulders further inside his vest and strode with purpose up to the cafeteria doors. A half-frozen hand slapped his back as he went, a tired “Good work,” floating over his shoulder.

Creaking open on rusty hinges, the cafeteria doors opened on a bustling kitchen. Behind the counter, Coctura eagerly flapped her hands. “Prompto! Come in, come in! You’re just in time to try something for me.”

Stepping up to the bar, he reached for his wrist, unwinding the dog tags with a sigh. He leaned against the counter elbows first. Then, pulling his hands apart, he allowed them to fall without a word.

Coctura snapped them up with a nonchalant, “Wanna talk?”

“Nah,” he denied softly. “I think I’m getting used to it.” Reaching into his pocket, he produced a handful of Gil, slapping them down on the counter. “For the booze fund tonight. What am I trying?”

She grinned, grabbing up the Gil with a lighthearted, “You’re going to like this.” Slipping the coins into her apron, she ducked beneath the counter, only to rise quickly to produce a small plate. “Stuffed Angel’s Food Cake!” she announced proudly. Long fingers nudged the plate forward, setting a fork at its side. “Give it a go and tell me what you think. I’m thinking of serving this to the people who donated the most Gil to the booze fund.”

“Really? Then how did I earn this honor?” Prompto snorted, grabbing up the fork. “I certainly didn’t donate that much. That honor probably belongs to Gladio.”

“You’re special.”

“Special, huh?” he asked, cutting gently into the side of the confection. It gave quickly beneath the edge, spongy cake splitting open to spill hot, steaming jam onto the plate. Peering out beneath his steadily melting bangs, he groaned, “How did you even manage this?”

“Very, very carefully.”

“How long did it take?”

“Two hours, give or take ten minutes.”

“You didn’t make just one , did you?”

Her head bobbed in the direction of the door directly behind the counter sloppily labeled “Spices.” “I made ten more. They’re cooling in the pantry in a locked box to keep any wandering mouths at bay.”

“Cool, cool,” he replied. Cutting away at more of the cake, he speared it on the fork. “Well, here goes!”

Coctura watched on eagerly, eyes wide, as the pale fingers drew up and Prompto took a bite. “Well?”

He paused, chewing thoughtfully. “Did you put something illegal in this?”

“No; mostly just jam and some Ulwaat berries that Gladio brought in.”

“Okay, but are you sure?” he asked around the bite. Pointedly, he swallowed. As her face screwed up in confusion he added, “Because I’m already experiencing withdrawal.”

Lips parting wide, she buried her face in a hand and snorted loudly in amusement.

Throwing his arms up, Prompto declared, “I got her to snort! Ten points! The crowd goes awkwardly silent!”

“Stop it,” she managed around a laugh. “You’re making a scene.”

“Hey, hey! This ain’t a scene,” he insisted. Brandishing his plate suddenly, he held it aloft with a bold and unashamed, “It’s a cutlery race!” before taking an unnecessarily large bite.

“You’re ridiculous.”

“And you’re an excellent chef,” he retorted warmly around the cake. He set it back on the counter, fingers curled affectionately about the edges. “For cereal, though; this is really good.”

Coctura flushed, fingers twiddling before her apron. “Thanks, Prompto.”

“You deserve it.”

“Are you hanging around for the Fireworks tonight?”

“Probably. I-”

“You’re back.”

Prompto’s head shot up, gaze falling on a pale apron and wide sunglasses. “Iggy,” he greeted. “Didn’t, uh… Didn’t think you were still on shift. It’s a little late.”

“Who do you think helped me with the cake?” Coctura laughed.

“I just kind of assumed you did it yourself,” he replied lowly.

“Prompto, could I have a word?”

Thick boots scuffed nervously at the tiles as pale fingers combed at long, damp bangs. “Yeah.”

Motioning for Prompto to follow, Ignis slid his hand along the edge of the counter, following it around the curve of the bar. He approached a door off to the side marked “Dried Goods,” pushing it open and holding wide.

Ducking beneath the divider, Prompto’s hands slipped into his pockets as he slid past, brushing against the warm shirt that woke the butterfly in his stomach. His shoulders hunched. “What’s up?” he asked. His voice shook.

Closing the door firmly in his wake, Ignis turned to his general direction before announcing, “Coctura is planning on kissing you at midnight.”

“Ah. You’re jealous ,” Prompto teased. But even as his words left him, hanging playfully in the air, his expression shifted quickly into panic.

Ignis’ lips twisted sourly before he squared his shoulders. “I’m just giving you a warning; one queer to another.”

“Yeah, I…” Prompto cleared his throat, attempting to shrink further into his vest. “Thanks.”

“Coctura is a good cook,” came a cold reminder. “Don’t scare her off to the city. We need her.”

“I know,” was Prompto’s reply, sharp and scared. He slipped his hands out of his pockets, running clammy fingers along soaked pants in an attempt to wipe the sweat beading at his palms. But as he began to reach back into his pockets, he paused.

Ignis’ hand hovered before him, searching.

Carefully – as if  the sight would shatter before him – Prompto reached out, threading their fingers together. The butterfly was back, hyperactive and hot and there . His eyelashes fluttered as he fought to take a normal breath.

Ignis frowned. “That’s not what I had intended to do.”

“Oh?” It sounded far more hopeful than he intended.

“I was attempting to touch your shoulder,” he clarified dryly. “Also, your hands are very cold.”

“I literally just fought a daemon in freezing rain.”

“That makes sense.”

Ever plaint, Prompto drew the hand in his forward. He felt bold as his feet carried him forward; closed the space between them. And as Ignis’ fingers brushed the thick denim of his vest, pale lips parted almost in disbelief as the butterfly went crazy. “What were you going to do?”

“The moment is gone, now,” Ignis complained.

“Moment’s still here,” was the rushed rebuttal. “What is it?”

Fingers drew tight against the pale shoulder, and with eyebrows arched dramatically, a warning was breathed. “Be careful.”

“I will,” Prompto promised. He bit his lip as the hand slipped away from his vest; shoulder suddenly feeling much, much colder than it had been not seconds before. But that’s what happens when you feel warmth after so long – the cold feels that much worse.

“I’m heading back to camp.”

Blue eyes watched, transfixed, as the man turned and left, door swinging closed in his wake. Hands ran nervously through blond fringe, pulling them back away from his face with a long, encumbered groan. “What do I do?”

Air brisk and hair once more frozen to his forehead, Prompto’s arms drew tighter around Maizie’s neck, earning an uncomfortable, “ Kweh!

“Sorry, girl,” he cooed, petting at her feathers lovingly. “We just have to make it to camp.”

Kweh .”

Burrowing his face into her neck, he squinted into the distance. There, atop the familiar glowing runes of the Haven, a fire burned. “Last stretch, girl,” he prompted, legs kicking eagerly into the saddle to urge her into a gallow. It wasn’t long before Maizie climbed the rock, depositing him beside the fire before kneeling at Camille’s side.

“Decided not to attend the event altogether, did you?”

He turned, hands all but diving into the fire. He glanced about the camp. Took in the extra tarp atop the tent. The blankets piled a safe distance from the fire. Gladio and Ignis sat in their usual chairs, limbs swathed in comforters. Prompto shrugged. “Figured this is one of those things I could ignore until it went away.”

Gladiolus snorted, looking between them curiously. “Am I missing something?”

“A mutual friend has her eye on him. He, obviously, does not reciprocate the affections,” Ignis explained easily.

“Ah,” the big man laughed. “Those are always awkward.” His gaze shifted; first to the fire, then to Prompto. Wide lips drooped, grin falling away. “Something wrong?”

Pale lashes fluttered, confused. “What?”

“You look like you want to say something.”

“I do?”

Hand emerging suddenly from his blankets, Ignis held out a large Solo cup. “I could use a bit of a top off,” he interrupted, voice a touch louder than usual.

“Sure thing,” Gladio replied. His arm slid from beneath his blankets like a sea monster, slinking out, then back beneath his chair. The creature emerged with its trophy shining in the firelight – much like any true trophy should.

“Is that vodka?”

“Snagged it from the shipment,” came the all-too-obvious answer. “Figured I put in enough of my own Gil to get my own bottle.”

“While I don’t usually advocate theft, I must admit,” Ignis added, pausing to smirk, “he got us a few bottles extra.”

Gladio poured a generous amount of vodka into the cup, motioning with his hand. “Gimme another glass, oh cup-keeper. For the commoner.”

“Are you sure the commoner can handle the mettle of this brew?” Lithe arms casually reached down, cup remaining balanced to snatch another red Solo from beneath the Coleman chair. It was then filled and held like an offering, lit by the light of the fire.

With a snort, Prompto took the glass.

“That’s a good chap.” Ignis said this like a poem, resting on the ends of words with an extra sharp bout of enunciation.

Pale eyebrows furrowed. “Are you already drunk?”

“Pretty sure Specs was pre-gaming with cooking wine or something,” Gladio noted with a chuckle. “Either way, let’s toast.” He raised his glass aloft, glancing expectantly from Prompto to Ignis. “Come on, guys – get ‘em up there.”

Obediently, Prompto raised his glass, watching as Ignis did the same.

“To the new year,” Gladio began. “We’ve been camping here for a little over a year and a half. Noctis still hasn’t woken up, but we’re still here. Still got our faith.”

“Still haven’t killed each other,” Ignis added.

To not killing each other!

Prompto stared. “ That’s what we’re toasting to?”

“I honestly can’t think of anything more appropriate,” Ignis put in bleakly.

“It is pretty good.”

Glancing between his companions, Prompto felt something warm in his chest as it began to twist. “How about…” He cleared his throat. “How about we toast to being alive?”

Silence followed his comment.

“Look…” He sighed, running a hand through his hair, peeling damp strands away from his face. “You guys… How many dog tags have you picked up? I’ve stopped counting. I’ve stopped caring . This little girl just got smashed to literal pieces in front of me today and I’m just used to it. We live in a violent world, and the only reason we’re alive is because we were trained to protect Noctis. He’s the reason we’re alive right now. So…” He trailed off, breath stuttering in his chest.

A glass rose once more in the air.

Prompto glanced up, surprised.

“To Noctis,” Ignis toasted, voice slurred.

“I’ll toast to that,” Gladio agreed, raising his glass with a somber grin.

Slowly, Prompto lifted his own. Stared at it. Really gave it a long hard look in the light of the fire. By the time his arm fell, the others had already begun on their glasses. His gaze fixed on the inside of the cup. “Are we getting smashed tonight?”

“Pretty much,” the big man agreed, letting out a long belch, punctuated at the end by a snap and a flash of light. “Oh, hey, the fireworks are starting.”

“Are they decent?”

“Well, they’re pretty damn visible at the very least. That one looked like it was made entirely of smoke, though.”

Snatching up a blanket from the ground, Prompto laid it over Maizie, receiving a heartfelt “ Kweh ,” for his troubles. Bending down once more, he grabbed up one of the thicker comforters for himself, carefully winding it around his shoulders as his other hand held the Solo cup aloft. He trudged over to one of the two free chairs. Twisted as he sat. Settled into place with a wan shiver before drawing his feet – shoes and all – up inside the blanket with him.

“You’re being awfully quiet,” Ignis slurred.

Prompto glanced up, eyes landing on the complex twist of thin lips. “Long day,” he explained softly.

“You don’t have to feel guilty for avoiding her.”

“She’s one of my closest friends,” he snapped. With a dark look thrown into the depths of the fire, Prompto took a long, angry drink from his cup. It tasted how acetone smelled; sharp and hollow and nauseating. But through sheer force of will he threw it back like water. Lifting the empty glass from his lips, he opened his mouth to speak, only for Gladio to cut him off.

“Whoa, whoa – pace yourself!” the big man shouted. “You don’t just chug vodka!”

“They chug all the time in movies.”

“They sure as hell aren’t chugging vodka ,” he snapped. Hand diving once more beneath his chair, he withdrew a canteen, tossing it with pinpoint accuracy into the soft pile of fabric that was Prompto’s lap. “Drink up. You’re not getting any more booze until you finish that.”

“Why?”

“Because we are too far from camp for you to get alcohol poisoning,” he replied darkly. “Drink.”

“I’m not even feeling it.”

“Have you even had alcohol before?”

Prompto blinked, shrinking back into his chair.

“Give yourself five minutes,” Gladio spat. He pointed a finger at the canteen with a sharp, “And drink that.”

Leaning over, Prompto set the Solo cup on the ground before reaching for the canteen. It was soft; little bits of fur lining the shell with a strip of well-loved leather circling its waist. And as his finger drew over the fuzz, enjoying the sweet softness against his skin, he realized the alcohol had already begun to hit. Fingers tingled. His head swung up as Gladio began to speak. But as he turned his visit took a moment to adjust. It was like his was peering through a camera that was hyper-focussed on everything at once, but everything you viewed through the glass was delayed.

“Sometimes,” came a nostalgic sigh, “I dream he woke up and we’re all together. Just… beating Ardyn’s face in with sticks. Really, really big sticks.”

“If only,” came Ignis’ wistful reply.

Lifting his cup for a long overdue drink, Gladio set it beside his chair with a groan. He emerged from his blanket. Peeled it away from sweaty arms and legs. “Can’t put it off any longer,” he groaned. “I’m getting firewood, guys.”

“Good luck with your drunken scavenging.”

“Y- yeah,” Prompto managed to slur around his suddenly heavy tongue.

Gladio stomped off the Haven, disappearing over the edge with a crash and a hasty shout of, “I’m okay!” A beat of silence followed as his footsteps faded into the distance.

“So what really brought you out here?” Ignis’ voice was soft; barely breathed loud enough to be heard over the fire.

Pale fingers grabbed at the lid of the canteen, screwing it open. “You know why,” he muttered, taking a long, slow drink.

“You could have told her you weren’t interested. I let her know in advance that I would tell you.”

Pale eyes snapped away from the fire to stare intently at the man across the fire. “You’re a dick, you know that?”

“You deserved warning and so did she.”

“Don’t pretend you did this out of the goodness of your heart,” he spat. “Stop watching out for me. It’s not your place.”

Lips pursed. Ignis leaned forward, setting his glass on the ground. “If I’ve crossed a line, I apologize.”

“You didn’t have to tell me. You didn’t have to tell her . We would have been perfectly fine if I had just gone to the party that I’m missing right now and we could have just dealt with it. Because that’s what friends do when things go south; they deal.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I just…” Capping the canteen and dropping it to the ground, Prompto buried his face in his hands as the world swam around him. “I’m… I’m not even angry about it,” he admitted.

“You’re drunk.” The words were a warning more than anything else.

They were quiet for a while, silence occasionally broken by a crackle of the dying fire or a sigh from the birds. And after a bare three minutes ticked by, punctuated by the pop of fireworks in the distance, Prompto rose from his seat, allowing the comforter to fall into the chair. His feet carried him unsteadily around the fire. Hands dug at thick blankets, pulling them open to reveal a familiar striped dress shirt and suspenders.

“What are you doing?”

Prompto dropped into his lap heavily, drawing the blanket back around them both. It closed above their heads, blocking out the world like a curtain hanging from the top level of a bunk bed. The air was warm between them; still a touch brisk from the winter breeze. It grew stuffier with each all-too-audible breath. “What would you say if I wanted to kiss you at midnight?”

“Is this a hypothetical question?” Ignis slurred.

“Depends. Is that your hypothetical answer?” he snapped, squinting against the darkness.

A breath, long and contemplative, hissed through the space before any form of an answer came. “I thought you hated me.”

A laugh. A sigh. A gentle squirm as Prompto allowed his body to sag, arms drawing in and leaning forward to press his damp forehead to short, well cared for fringe. “Remember? I could never hate you.”

“Oh?” It was a surprised sound. A nice sound.

“Would it be okay to kiss you at midnight?”

There was a moment of silence before Ignis breathed an almost desperate, “Yes.”

“But…” Prompto cleared his throat. In his stomach the butterfly took flight, slamming into the sides of his chest and throat in a last-ditch attempt to get out. “How is this any different from masturbating to your photos? We’re drunk. I don’t actually have your consent.”

“What? Those don’t even…” Clean, soft fringe slid away. “Let’s not get into this again.”

“Get into what? That I’m attracted to you? That you just agreed you wanted to kiss me? Or that you think you have the right to censor what I’m allowed to fantasize about because it makes you uncomfortable?”

“It’s been two years. You’ve been dwelling on this too long.”

“You said I made you feel objectified,” Prompto continued. “But I don’t think you realize that in my fantasy the thing that turns me on the most is that you want it. That you want me . But even then, it’s in my head. Who cares if I think-” He choked, hands falling from where they held the blankets above their heads to smooth across the warm plane of the chest before him, grabbing hold of the suspenders that stretched over broad shoulders. His fingers slid up them, caressing the warm shirt beneath with the backs of his hands. “For the love of the Six .”

“You’re drunk.”

“But I’m right ,” he choked back. “I’m right and… And I want you, and I think you might want me too. And I...” Words failed him suddenly as warm, dry hands found his cheeks with minimal fumbling, holding his face like it were shaped from glass.

In the distance, several pops made themselves known, echoing across the desert.

A moment passed before anything else happened. A moment where breath held the sharp tang of alcohol more bitterly than it had before. Where the blanket finally gave above them and collapsed, forming a tunnel between their faces. Where the butterfly in Prompto’s stomach split in two and writhed as there was a whisper of fabric and a shifting of bodies.

Beneath the thick comforter, beside the dwindling campfire – chocobos quiet even as fireworks loudly celebrated the arrival of a new year in the distance – Ignis’ lips tasted like alcohol and regret. They were chapped from the cold, with a thick coat of lip balm that smudged across the dry mess that was Prompto’s mouth. An angular nose stuttered out a breath against a pale cheek. From where they gripped suspenders like a lifeline, narrow fingers fell slack.

As the fireworks paused to breathe in the distance, they parted; chapped lips sticking briefly before they parted with a satisfied gasp.

“You kissed me.” The words hung in the air; an accusation more than anything else.

“Yes,” Ignis admitted. He cleared his throat. “Yes I did.”

“But you’re drunk,” he continued as hands slipped into his hair.

“Yes. I- I’m drunk.”

“We shouldn’t-”

“I want-”

Lips ascended sharply, and the butterflies in Prompto’s stomach began to smolder. Long fingers gripped him by the ears. Pulled him close. Slid back to tangle in his hair and grip the strands like a vise as their mouths opened desperately. A shiver scraped up Prompto’s spine as a dry tongue dragged against his lower lip before slowly working its way into his mouth.

Pale hands drew away from suspenders, sliding up to twist in a neat collar. He shifted, threading his legs beneath the arms of the chair. But as his feet brushed the ground, fingers twisted in his hair almost to the point of pain. Narrow hips rose suddenly, bucking desperately against Prompto’s stomach as he settled into place. The fingers in his hair tugged him down as the tongue invading his mouth swirled around his, tasting strongly of vodka.

That was when the butterflies began to curdle.

Reaching up, Prompto grabbed at the hands that threaded into his hair, prying them from his scalp and bringing them down between their chests. Slowly, he drew out of the kiss.

Ignis moved to follow, lips chasing contact even as they pulled away. He landed somewhere on a cheek. Pressed quick, affectionate kisses back around a pale ear before the insistent press of their hands against his chest pushed him back into the chair.

“We’re drunk,” Prompto muttered this time, words slurring. “Gladio could come back any moment. We need to stop.”

“Do we?”

The answer fought to his lips. A sharp, insistent yes that was hastily swallowed back as a finger caressed his palm.

Ignis didn’t initiate the kiss that time.

Letting go of the large hands in his, Prompto pressed his lips desperately against a chapped, pliant mouth. His fingers tangled in neat, short cropped hair as he pushed forward, opening his mouth wide and sliding his tongue out as far as it would go.

Their hands reached blindly, grabbing at shirt collars and buttons before scrambling along backs. Long fingers found their way beneath a vest. Knees drew up and legs wound clumsily behind a lithe, muscled back.

Sliding his hands back around Prompto’s ass, Ignis gripped it, then shifted suddenly forward, rocking onto his feet.

Pale fingers clutched at broad shoulders in an attempt at balance as their mouths broke apart. “What-”

“Tent,” was the hasty explanation.

Prompto allowed himself to be carried the few steps away from the chairs, the blanket falling from around them to puddle on the ground. And as Ignis set him down, he reached quickly for the flap. The zipper was cold. For the first few tugs it remained stubborn, unmoving for a few tense seconds before it gave way and allowed him to drag it up and around. “It’s open,” he announced, stumbling hastily over the entrance. He stepped quickly up to the nearest cot before turning to watch Ignis.

His eyes were open as he felt for the zipper, eyebrows drawn together in concentration as he slipped his hand along the damp vinyl. But as he stumbled across it, his eyes crinkled at the edges. Within seconds the tent was closed, and he turned away from the flap, chest drawing in and out with each quick breath.

The space was dark; the light of what remained of the fire not quite reaching them. A breeze shook the tent. Above them, the tarp shuddered ominously.

Prompto watched, frozen in place by the butterflies that warped and grew and burned in his chest and stomach and hands and down to his very toes as Ignis dropped to his knees.

Long fingers slipped beneath the leather of his belt, undoing it clumsily.

“Here, I can-” he began to offer.

It was open in an instant, hands diving for the button of his jeans. It popped open without resistance. Within an instant his fly had been dealt with and Ignis tugged his pants sharply down, allowing them to sag past pale, knobbly knees. His mouth opened wide.

“What-” Prompto managed before he gasped, “ Careful .” He stuttered backwards, landing awkwardly on the cot behind him. He grabbed suddenly at its sides, throwing his weight back as it attempted to pitch beneath him. A hand slipped between his balls, caressing them as Ignis’ warm, wet mouth slipped along the long arch in the front of his boxer-briefs. He fought the urge to thrust, hips stuttering against an angular jaw.

“You don’t have to hold back.”

“Huh?” Prompto replied smartly.

Fingers dipping into the flap of Prompto’s underwear, Ignis pulled him out with a sigh of, “Haven’t you ever fucked someone’s face?”

Pale lips stuttered an embarrassed, “I’m a virgin.”

“I know. It was rhetorical,” he whispered. Then, dropping his mouth open, he fit his lips over the wide tip of Prompto’s dick. His tongue swirled experimentally, earning a gasp and a shallow thrust. He pulled away, lips twitching amusedly. “You’re circumcised.”

“Y- yeah…” Prompto managed weakly. “I mean… Is that bad?”

“I person… personal…” Ignis licked his lips, blinking owlishly. “I like cut cocks.” He leaned back in, pressing his tongue to the slit head before him, laving the flushed skin with careful attentions.

A sharp wind shook the tent. Goosebumps erupted across pale arms and thighs. “Isn’t it, uh… a bit cold for this?”

Running his hands up and under the hem of Prompto’s shirt, Ignis dipped his head down, sliding the entirety of the dick before him down his wide, relaxed throat.

A broken whine filled the tent.

Ignis slid off the cock with a casual grin, teeth shining in the darkness. “Keep your voice down,” he slurred. “And fuck my face already.”

“Fuck… Fuck your-”

“Face, yes. I know what I said. Are you going to do it or aren’t you?”

“Shouldn’t you ask if… if I’m clean first? Or get a condom?”

“I know you’re clean,” came the easy reply. Ignis bent forward, pressing a line of kisses up the throbbing vein along the underside of Prompto’s cock. His tongue flicked out, flattening against the kink in the center of the flushed length. He admired this for a bit before pulling away. Then, sheathing his teeth with his lips, he leaned forward to take it back down his throat.

“How-” Just as it began, the question was aborted. Prompto bit his lip as a breath stuttered unevenly from his nose. There was pressure – godly, wondrous pressure – that started halfway down his dick, then squeezed him slowly down to his tip in a wet, sloppy grip that sent the butterflies rushing into his brain like an overloaded subway.

Ignis swallowed again before pulling away. He choked for a second as the head bumped the back of his throat. Eyebrows furrowed at the sound; wet suction and the hollow echo of the cock sliding out of the gape of his throat filling the tent. “You need to finish before Gladio comes back,” he warned. “You won’t hurt me. Just…” Large hands slipped from narrow hips, grabbing at the fingers that clutched at the edge of the cot. “Stand up and grab my hair.”

Obediently, Prompto carefully rose back to his feet, bracing his feet on either side of Ignis’ knees. He allowed his hands to be manipulated. Attempted to take long, even breaths as they were slid into short, dark hair. “Now?”

“Now you do what you want as fast as you like. As hard as you like.”

Blue eyes widened with shock, attempting to take in the sight of chapped lips once more wrapping around the length of his dick. They slid down, passing the kink and taking him to the root. It was only then that his hips gave an awkward thrust.

The hands around his tightened.

Prompto’s tongue darted out to wet dry lips. He took a moment to breathe. To take in the fingers that laced with his in short brown hair. Admire the sheen of spit that slipped down Ignis’ mouth, making it shine in the low light. Cheeks no doubt flushed, freckles nearly disappearing among the reddish tones. Eyes that would sit, partially open and bare of the sunglasses that so often obscured them. And as Prompto slipped a hand from beneath long fingers, he found himself reaching for the rippled skin that curved around the side of Ignis’ face, admiring it quietly. “You’re so beautiful.”

Ignis’ chin jerked at this, as if to reply.

None came.

Twisting his fingers better into the soft, neat strands, Prompto gave an experimental thrust. He pulled out slowly. Felt himself drag against the back of Ignis’ throat before popping against the roof of his mouth. But as fingers tightened around his and the mouth drew back down to engulf him, he gasped. “Okay,” he muttered, realization dawning quickly. “Okay.” Then, sliding his hands further down the scalp – pausing for a moment to appreciate a small divot near the back of Ignis’ head – he grabbed and pulled .

The sound was horrendous.

The sensation of hot, wet heat sliding quickly up his cock left him gasping wetly.

Prompto dragged Ignis’ mouth forcefully onto his dick, snapping him down to the base and pulling him sharply away. It wasn’t long before he began to push his hips into it. He humped desperately at the warm face before him, shoving as deep as he could go before grinding his balls gently against a cleft chin. “I’m close,” he warned.

Hands came around, grabbing him by the ass and drawing him closer.

“Want me to come in you?”

A muffled noise. A squeeze of his ass.

Hips stuttered as Prompto came. It made him stupid for a moment, pushing all thoughts from his mind before he shuddered and felt himself pulse. Leaning carefully to stuff a hand in his pocket, feeling blindly about his knees, he retrieved his phone, flicking it twice. The flashlight popped on, flooding the room. He held it up to Ignis’ face with a gasp. Slowed his pace to admire the slide of his cock between red, abused lips that sucked him down so readily. The tongue that lapped up the come that coated the flushed skin of his dick. “You’re so beautiful,” he said again.

Pulling off his cock, Ignis swallowed once, twice. He turned his face up, mouth shining in the flashlight. Saliva smeared his chin. Eyelashes fluttered before he muttered a tired, “Would you mind helping me to the edge of the Haven? I need to vomit.”

It took a few seconds for the words to register. But as large hands tucked him back into his underwear, Prompto reached once more for his pants.

They took a second to wipe at their faces and make themselves half presentable before Prompto led them out of the tent. Their footsteps were almost too loud against the Haven. But as they stumbled off the rock and into the dirt, sound melted away as Ignis grabbed onto the branches of a bush and heaved. Vodka propelled out of his mouth like a spigot, splashing the dirt and roots before running off down the hill in the foulest of streams. It subsided for a moment, giving way to a cough.

Prompto approached cautiously, hands rubbing small circles just to the right of suspenders as the older man began to hack. “Doing okay?”

Suddenly, Ignis spat up a wad of phlegm that wasn’t phlegm. “You can stop clinging. I’m fine.”

“What if I want to cling?”

“Stop acting like a goddamn teenager.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Prompto snapped.

Ignis retched, bending back over the bush as vomit propelled itself violently from his throat. A tremble began in his hands. It spread quickly up his arms and shook his chest.

Pale eyes softened as fingers resumed their rubbing. “You cold?”

“It went up my nose.”

“You guys okay?”

Prompto’s head shot up, panicked. “Hey, Gladio!” he greeted nervously.

Dark eyebrows furrowed, glancing between them before settling firmly on the man bent over the bush. “What happened to you? You usually hold your alcohol better than this.”

“I was fed something that decided it disagreed with the alcohol and myself,” came the half coughed explanation. Then, rising cautiously to his feet, Ignis shrugged out of Prompto’s grip. “Camp is this way, yes?” he asked. He didn’t wait for any kind of answer before stepping away, tottering toward the Haven on unsteady legs.

A snort. “I knew you guys were on bad terms, but I didn’t think you’d poison him.”

I didn’t poison him .”

Prompto didn’t know how they got to bed after Ignis vomited into the bush. Didn’t know who stoked the fire or restacked the blankets. Didn’t know who took off his shoes. All he knew was that they went back to the Haven, someone initiated a game of checkers with chess pieces, and then he was waking up to find long fingers tangled in bedhead doubled over at the end of a cot. “You alright?”

“I am never drinking that much again.”

The butterflies were back in an instant, sour and curdling and swarming in his chest with a vengeance. Pale hands threw blankets off in a rush, stuffing his feet into boots and grabbing up his vest.

Ignis turned, mouth quirking amusedly. “Eager to get back to Hammerhead?”

Prompto’s mouth opened, then shut as his gaze fell upon the third cot.

Nose twitching, Gladio gave a long, well-timed snore.

“Whatever,” the younger man whispered. “We’ll talk about this later.”

“What’s there to talk about? Last night was rather straightforward.”

“We have to talk about it.”

“Nothing’s changed.”

Dropping his vest to the floor, Prompto stepped quickly up to the end of the other cot and lifted his hand, bringing it sharply down across the apple of a flushed cheek with a sharp smack .

Head snapping to the side, Ignis cupped a hand over his mouth as his entire body shuddered. “That…” He groaned. “That was torture.”

“Well, you’re a callous bastard, so I guess we’re even.”

“We were drunk . Things happen. It’s not a big deal.”

“It is a big deal,” Prompto spat. “To me, it’s a huge deal. Massive. Life changing . Twelve hours ago I was…” He paused, glancing nervously over to Gladio before bringing his voice down to an angry whisper. “Twelve hours ago I was a virgin and you know that.”

“Should have thought about that when you came on to me.”

“We are arguing!”

“That was foreplay.”

“That was not foreplay.”

“You crawled into my lap and asked if you could kiss me,” Ignis stated, matter-of-fact.

Prompto groaned. “Yeah,” he admitted softly, “to highlight the fact that you’re an ass .”

“Why are you pitching such a fit? I thought you wanted to sleep with me.”

Not like this! ” It came out as a shout, tearing through Prompto’s throat like the butterflies had turned to razors, flying out of his mouth and hanging in the air, unseen.

In his cot, Gladio shot awake, blinking blearily at them.

“Prompto-”

“Just shut up,” he snapped. Grabbing up his vest, he hastily unzipped the tent and stormed off into the pitch-black desert.

There were more crates in the old diner at Hammerhead than there had been the night before, piled high around the bar like towers. Prompto had to navigate them carefully before he could find a chair, settling into place with a nervous sigh before reaching for the bell atop the counter. But even as he flicked it as gently as he could, he winced at the sound.

Stepping out from the dry goods pantry, Coctura fixed him with a wan smile. She approached the counter, reaching beneath the bar. The sound of a small fridge opening cut through the room. “We missed you last night.”

“I had plans,” he managed weakly.

“Really? But you donated to the booze fund so religiously.”

A nervous laugh was his reply.

Coctura straightened, setting a small bowl of fruit on the counter as her eyebrows scrunched. “Is something wrong?”

“Everything’s fine.”

“Liar.”

Prompto looked up, gaze sliding over her brown eyes, and the dark hair he recalled with vivid clarity was once bleached by the sun. “Are you sure you want to know?” he asked.

Slowly, she nodded.

Reaching for the bowl of fruit, Prompto pinched the plastic cover, peeling it back inch by inch. He turned his attention back up after a second, fixing it on the woman before him. “I lost my virginity last night.” He watched her expression shift at this. Watched it twitch. Watched it fall for a brief second. Yet it never crumbled. There was no betrayal or disappointment; none of what he expected from a woman who had every intention to kiss him at midnight the evening prior.

A slow smile spread across her face. Somehow knowing. “I’ve still got some of that cake if you want some comfort food.”

“What?”

“I’ve seen that look too many times.” Her voice was soft as she said this. Comforting in a way that melted the tension from his shoulders. “Are you okay?”

“I’m not sure if you’re the best person to talk to about this.”

“Look, I know Ignis told you about the New Years thing,” she groaned, hands gripping the counter as her face flushed with embarrassment. “But I was going to ask you first. Obviously you would have said no if you hadn’t literally screwed off.”

Prompto snorted.

“I’m good with staying friends. It isn’t the end of the world,” she insisted. “I mean… it is ? But it’s not. Literally it is. Metaphorically, it isn’t.”

He laughed, leaning onto the bar elbows first.

“Would you like to talk about it? You don’t have to tell me specifics if you don’t want to.”

For a second, Prompto considered it. But before he could stop himself he was talking, spilling an angry, “I’ve known them for years,” and sliding a hand nervously into his hair. “Way before it went all dark outside and the daemons went crazy, you know? They watched out for me. Took care of me. Made sure I was healthy and fed and safe. It’s kind of natural to fall for someone like that, right?

“So I worked up my courage at what must have been the worst time to work up courage, and I told them how I felt. But, like… It was never the same after that. We were fighting like crazy. Everything kept coming back to what I had said. It was like I’d personally destroyed our friendship, and we were both getting really petty and bringing it up every time we were alone. He…” His lips pursed, voice cutting out sharply. “I mean-”

“It’s fine,” Coctura assured him sweetly. “If you like, I’ll pretend I never heard any pronouns. I’m not going to out you.”

He swallowed around the lump in his throat. “I… They always made it feel like I was some kind of burden for liking them. That they felt objectified. Like – it was just a fantasy. Is that really so bad?”

“Fantasies are a gray area,” she told him coolly. “But you lost your virginity to them, right? They must find you attractive.”

“We were drunk.”

“Fuck me with a cactuar.”

Prompto glanced up, surprised, then turned back to his fruit with a sigh. “Yeah; that about sums it up.”

“The only thing I can suggest is talking to them.”

“They don’t want to talk.”

“Then give them shit for it,” she advised glibly. “It happened. You can’t pretend it didn’t. There’s a mess of boundaries you’re going to have to wade through, whether you – both of you – like it or not. Relationships need rules and boundaries to function, romantic or platonic. That’s just how things work. If they can’t respect that, there’s a good chance they won’t respect you.” Coctura paused, biting her lip briefly before adding a sheepish, “And as preachy as that sounded, it’s true.”

“So he’s full of shit, then,” Prompto snorted, leaning back away from his fruit.

“Are you okay using pronouns, now?”

Slowly, he nodded. “Yeah. I think I am.”

“It’s Gladio, isn’t it?”

Excuse me ?”

“Gladio. Did you sleep with Gladio.”

“No way! Like… no. I’m pretty sure Gladio doesn’t swing in any direction.”

“Who else could be that blindly rude, though?”

“Ignis.”

Coctura made a face. “Right,” she drawled. “Was it Jamie?”

“It was Ignis.”

“Ignis is smarter than to pull that shit.”

“He can and did pull that shit.”

She went quiet for a bit, and it wasn’t before he was halfway through his fruit cup that she muttered a shocked, “Wow. I’m seeing it now.”

“Congratulations. You caught on faster than I did.”

Chapter Text

Hammerhead was knee deep in ball sweat.

Prompto arrived at the outpost somewhere between asleep and dead, covering his nose with his entire shirt as a last ditch effort to block out the distinct scent of corn chips and chill. He managed to stomp his way to the retrofitted diner with minimal heaving, throwing the doors open before stomping up to a booth. As he collapsed into the seat, Gladio gave him a look.

“Thought you were still asleep,” he marveled dryly, eyebrows arching in amusement.

“I was,” Prompto replied quietly. He heaved a yawn, hand rising before his face to cover his mouth.

A plate settled before him, piled with scrambled eggs.

Coctura waved cheerily down at him before walking off.

Gladio stared at them, unamused. “Did she give  you the best eggs, again?”

“She did.”

Glancing up, Prompto watched Ignis as he slid cautiously into the stall, cane snapping against the edge of the table before it was settled carefully between two thin legs. “Morning,” he offered weakly.

Gaunt fingers adjusted wide shades. “Good morning.”

Prompto grabbed up his fork and stabbed ineffectively at the eggs. “How long until we move out?”

“About an hour, “Gladio replied easily. “Some of the guys are already loaded up.”

A spare nod. “Cool. Do we know what the final game plan is?”

Shifting uneasily in his seat, Ignis’ lips pursed. It was only as the silence began to set in that he spoke. “Gladiolus is on duty at the Power Plant. You are in the ground forces. I am to go to the hospital for a checkup.”

“You know, for weeks of planning that was a bit brief.”

“We meet up where we were dropped off,” Gladio added, prodding at his own plate of eggs. They were nowhere near the quality of Prompto's, slopping over the edge of his fork like a pile of slime. “If we can't meet there… we meet up at the… Leville. Guys, I think Coctura is trying to kill me.”

“Of course she is.”

“Iggy, you work in the kitchen. You shouldn't say that. I'll take you seriously.”

“She’s under the impression that you like your eggs runny.”

“Oh? And who gave her that impression?”

Ignis sips his tea.

For a moment, Prompto felt like he was leaning out the passenger-side window. Wind whipped around his face as sun passed through the trees, dappling Prompto’s arms as he watched the hillside pass.

But he was in the bed of a truck. One of a train that slid neatly into the mouth of a tunnel. The lights overhead were blinding. They zipped past, leaving everything a stark, brilliant orange.

Leaning over a map fixed to the truck bed with large magnets, a woman motioned to circled sections with one tanned finger. “There are three locations in particular that you need to protect,” she shouted cooly over the rush of the wind. Her eyes turned to the veritable crowd shoved into the cramped truck bed, taking the time to look them each in the eye before moving on. “The post office, the hospice, and the Ration Distribution Center. A lot of equipment couldn’t be moved in time for the repairs, and almost no one from the hospice could be moved. The other two groups will be covering them, with very few exceptions.

“It’s up to you guys to disperse and cover Rations and the post office. You’ll need to arrange yourselves as needed. Make good calls, guys. Don’t put someone with a big-ass sword in a narrow hallway. A trigger happy bomb-user should not be in charge of the mail room. If so much as a flash bomb goes off in there, I will personally track down whoever set it off and rip their dick out through their ass. You hear me?”

Leaning over two pairs of shoulders, Prompto peered down at the map critically. His gaze drew along the edges of the city.

“If you need backup, there’s a team in the Bazaar that is standing by. They’ll have emergency lights running on batteries. Word is they’ve only got enough juice for half an hour so it’ll be a good forty minutes before any of them turn on. But it’s only a few blocks away, so if you have any civilians in your care, it’s best to just take them there.

“If your area isn’t hit by the outage, don’t just stand around. Look for where the lights are out and try to get civilians moved quick. We can’t afford to lose anyone. Everyone in Lestallum – from members of the hospice to some little boy in a wheelchair – needs to be alive at the end of this. We’re prepared. We’re ready. We’ve done what we can; now we need help, and I just need to remind you that if you run from a fight because you’re scared of getting hurt and someone else dies as a result, I will kill you. You’re all professional Hunters from the only surviving outpost in Duscae; we need you at your best.”

The light fell away like a sheet as the line of trucks emerged from the tunnel. They shuddered along over hasty patches that dotted the road as they drew up to the City of Light. A wide fence circled the city, flanked with blinding lights that flickered ominously as the line of cars drew up to the gates.

- have… open it manually…

“Looks like the gate’s stuck, again.”

Prompto shifted, pushing himself tighter against the edge of the bed in an attempt to put some space between himself and the next body. He looked up at the city skeptically. It hadn’t changed much since he had last seen it. Bags of trash spilled out the edges of alleys and lined the walls. Buildings of stone and pale brick towered over the streets, built for footsteps in lieu of wheels. Small and large staircases littered the city. The vendors were gone. It was strange to see.

Granted, it was the end of the world.

“You know, I just realized this place isn’t very wheelchair friendly,” Prompto muttered to himself.

No one commented on his astute observation.

Before long the gate had been thrown open, and the trucks were filing through the fence. They parked one by one just inside the barbed wire, lining up along what used to be a strip of stores.

Leaping out of the car, the Woman In Charge gave a series of loud claps. “Okay, everyone. It’s time to pull your weight. Gather ‘round.” Her eyes scanned the crowd as they all emerged from the beds, watching them closely.

Filing quickly out behind the others, Prompto allowed his eyes to wander. To fall on Gladio and Ignis as they pulled in on a fourth truck, only to hop out of the back and head up the hill. Gladio paused for a moment, offering Prompto a bare wave before continuing forward.

“If you’re here, you don’t know enough about not electrocuting yourself to be considered necessary personnel at the plant,” the woman shouted, gaining Prompto’s attention. “You’re here for one thing and one thing only; your use as pointy meat shields!”

A round of disgruntled murmurs spread through the crowd followed by one very awkward laugh.

Prompto was not the one laughing.

You know you were going to ask. Don’t deny it.

“Now, as you all no doubt know from the sign up sheet and the ride up here, we’re replacing a part of the Power Plant. What we didn’t tell most of you is the fact that the replacement will not actually take half an hour. Shortly after we set off from Hammerhead, they changed that estimate to an hour. And that is why you are all getting an extra cool 20k each.”

This time, the rumble that came was of agreement.

Prompto watched a few of the Hunters climb back into the beds of the trucks.

“Those who didn’t just opt out, come with me,” she shouted, motioning for the group to follow. She immediately jogged up the wide steps leading into the city.

As he followed, Prompto allowed his eyes to wander. For a second he paused, gaze flickering over the sidewalk to take in a section a touch darker than the rest. The memory came in the form of a smell; of roasting meat and sharp spices as a tall, handsome vendor handed off a skewer to Noctis.

It made his chest hurt.

Around the corner and past a few streets, the group was led to the Leville Hotel.

Irony.

“Lights out in ten,” the Woman In Charge called. “Literally.” And with that she spun on her heel and jogged down the alley.

“Okay, we need to get organized,” an older woman announced, drawing the eyes of those in the square. “Who here does long range?”

A blond man snorted. “Like hell I’m taking orders from a woman.”

“How about you take orders from a daemon’s sword through your face, since you seem so eager?” she snapped back with a salty grin.

Prompto raised a hand, feeling his lips twitch in amusement. “I’m long range.”

“You don’t have to answer to her.”

For a second, Prompto pursed his lips. Then, turning to the man before him, he attempted a casual, “First off, we’re all trying to stay alive right now. Mutual needs. Two, I’ve taken orders from literal kings, and I’m pretty sure she’s got enough charisma to carry this boat. So, like… knock it off, okay? I answer to who I answer to.”

It was half an hour before the lights flickered and the square plunged out of sight before they switched back on. Shifting his weight from foot to foot, Prompto glanced between the alleys nervously.

“Calm down,” a smooth voice insisted.

He spun, facing the woman who had come up on his side with a startled, “Gah!”

She laughed. Barely looked older than fourteen. “Didn’t mean to startle you. Sorry. I’m from the Lestallum branch of Hunters. I’m doing a supply run. I hear you have guns. Will you be needing ammo?”

Waving her off, Prompto made a face. “I’m fine. These things don’t exactly fire ammo, you know?”

Slowly, she nodded. “I’ll take your word for it.” Reaching into a bag on her side, she produced a small box. She handed it over with a half fumbled, “Don’t bleed to death,” and raced around the edge of the square as the lights overhead gave a long, ominous flicker.

Prompto braced himself, guns drawn and feet apart. But even as the ground began to seethe, dark clouds shifting across the sidewalk in the beam of the flashlight hanging from his jacket, the lamps overhead switched back on. The darkness was gone as soon as it came, fading through the cracks.

A sigh of relief rattled his chest as he strode up to the fountain, collapsing at its rim. It was dry. The water that had once cascaded into its basin had no doubt been repurposed; used for crops or a sponge bath.

But even as he sat there, waiting for the power to go out and the daemons to descend, Prompto felt all at once transported. It was a strange sensation in the pit of his stomach. Urged him to head down the street. To take that left turn into the market. He could already smell the spices. The memory of late nights in Lestallum played across his senses so vividly he was almost lost.

The warmth of the air was the same. The starless sky was black – by light pollution, not daemon particles. Music sang through the air. Any second, Noctis would come striding out of the Leville, complaining about waking up so early before stopping to listen to a street musician; tossing a few Gil into their case before moving on.

Overhead, the lights flickered out.

Prompto leapt to his feet. Drew his guns with a practiced twirl.

“How’d you do that?”

He jumped, turning sharply. His eyes landed on one of the Hunters as they approached. Their hair shone in the beam of Prompto’s flashlight. “Oh. Hey, dick juice.”

The man paused. Then, with a sharp sneer, he snapped, “You know what? Fuck you.”

“Go eat a dick,” Prompto replied cheerily, waving a happy goodbye as the man walked off.

The square was quiet after that. Eerily still as the Hunters shifted at their stations.

Settling back onto the lip of the fountain, Prompto attempted to slow the suddenly insistent stream of breath that fired from him like a canon. His heart beat against his ribs. Attempted to jump out of his chest to spill onto the pavement.

It was several minutes before anything happened. A door flew open on the other end of the square, a tall man lugging crates beneath his arms and attempting to remain upright as he kicked it closed behind him. The man bolted toward the fountain, eyes fixing on Prompto as the sharp splinter of wood sounded through the square. A slew of Imps spilled out of the building. They slunk away from the wide beam of Prompto’s flashlight for barely a second before lunging for the dark-skinned man.

Prompto moved forward instinctively. Slung his arm around the stranger’s shoulders as he approached, drawing his gun up and firing point blank at the nearest Imp. It reeled back with a high screech. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“J- Jabari,” came the stuttered reply. His voice was deep; a bass that echoed in his chest and filled the air.

Hand growing tight against Jabari’s shoulder, Prompto grinned and turned his head to look the man in his dark, wide eyes. “Nice to meet you, Jabari,” he greeted warmly. “Now get behind me!”

The Imps were short work; low levels that could barely stand the flashlight. And when they dissipated into mist, Prompto jogged back to his charge, stepping between the hunters that had congregated. “What’s your name again?”

“Jabari.” His accent was thick; almost like Ignis’, but deeper and wider with longer vowels.

“Well, Jaba-ri,” he began, tongue catching on the ‘r’ before he corrected himself with a sharper, “ Jabari .” He paused, glancing up. “Was that right?”

“It was closer than most people get.”

“I’ll take what I can get, then,” Prompto snorted, eyebrows arching as he nodded nervously. He shifted, glancing from Jabari’s slack expression to the crates in his arms. “Civilian, right?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Well, stick with me. I’ll take you to the civilian zone, okay?”

Jabari nodded.

They got as far as the alley before Prompto slapped an arm over Jabari’s throat as a tonberry waddled past. As it drew around a corner and out of sight, he whispered an apology. “Sorry, man.”

“No problem,” he coughed in reply, forehead scrunching as his eyebrows rose sharply.

Pale hands motioned to the crates. “What’s, uh… What’s in those that’s so important?”

White teeth shone in the light of the flashlight as plump lips parted in a grin. “Music,” came the deep, almost melodic reply.

Prompto frowned.

Bending at the knees, Jabari set the crates gently onto the ground, popping one open to reveal several spherical discs padded with tattered shirts. “It took three hours to uninstall them,” he admitted in a whisper, fingers running along a smooth edge before snapping the lid back into place. He glanced up, brown eyes glittering in the light. “They are speakers for the club I run; Haven.”

“Can’t you just…” Thin lips pursed, and he turned. Fixed his attention around the corner before pulling sharply back as a lantern swung around. He flattened himself to the wall, eyes drawing nervously to the man at his side. “I mean, they should be fine in the club, right? You shouldn’t have to risk your life to get them out. Even if some of them get destroyed, this is your life we’re talking about.”

“I cannot take that risk. Speakers are very hard to come by.” The words were smooth. Even and cool and calming. “Getting these was hard enough, and I’ll need to get the club running as soon as possible.”

“If it’s the paycheck, why don’t you just join the border patrol?”

A tense sigh. It was small – almost imperceptible – but it budded in Jabari’s chest before easing out his nose. “Haven is more than a club,” he began, tone cautious and slow. “Haven is the only exclusively Queer establishment in Lestallum. We are the only place you can go to get advice about personal identity and group counseling for HIV. It was a place to recharge away from prying eyes. To eat and drink with friends without worrying about the daemons outside.”

The words hung in the air for a long time. Prompto’s expression was lax, and his attention was fixed on the man at his side, blinking slowly. Then, with a twitch of a grin, he flipped a gun in his hand, gripping it by the front to offer up the hilt.

Dark eyes turned up, confused. “What is this for?”

“Take it,” Prompto insisted. “It’s to keep yourself safe so you can keep others safe.”

“I’ve never fired a gun.”

“Let’s hope you don’t need to.”

Slowly, Jabari’s arm rose. His fingers slid around the handle of the gun. It was small compared to the length of his fingers.

As soon as his companion had taken the gun, Prompto swept forward, snatching up one of the crates with his left arm. “Come on; we’ll move faster this way.”

They did move faster.

They also stopped a lot, waiting for larger, slower daemons to pass.

With his back to a window, crouched in some trash, Prompto found himself asking, “So why queer and HIV counseling? Any particular reason?”

Jabari snorted. It was an amused sound. “Because I am queer,” he answered dryly. Then, with just as much conviction, but a touch of humor tinged with caution, he followed up with a light, “And I have HIV.”

“Cool.”

Laughter was poorly muffled behind one large arm.

“Keep it down, man,” Prompto hissed, peering hastily around the corner.

“Cool?” Jabari repeated, eyes crinkling as his lips split in a wide, disbelieving grin.

A long, low-key groan. “ You know what I mean .”

Another laugh. “Are you?”

“Am I what?”

“Queer.”

The word was ice. It froze the air. Froze Prompto’s lungs.

Pale eyes narrowed, peering around the corner with renewed determination. Weight shifted – away from Jabari – and boots creaked. “I’m…” He hesitated. Twisted back to look at Jabari, then turned back to peer around the corner as the tonberry waddled out of sight. Stepping out from behind the corner, he motioned for his companion to follow.

“You’re closeted.”

Silence.

“I’m not going to push,” Jabari told him warmly. “You’re entitled to your privacy.”

That was when what had once been the market came into view, spotlights rigged along the rooftops to set the ground alight with fluorescents.

“Thanks,” Prompto muttered.

Drawing up to his side, Jabari offered the gun, butt first. It shone in the light like a beacon; blinding.

A pale arm carefully dropped the crate to the ground, then reached. But as he twisted his fingers around the hilt and pulled, it didn’t move.

“Hammerhead isn’t a good place for people like us.” That tone was back; warm and cold and hot all at once. “If you need to talk, I can find you a safe space here in Lestallum.”

Two buildings were destroyed, but no civilians died. Half an hour after Prompto dropped Jabari off at what remained of the market, the lights flickered back on.

“If you need to talk,” Prompto found himself whispering as he stared at the familiar line of trucks by the gate.

His pay was heavy in his pocket, growing heavier with each Hunter that stepped up to the distribution window by the gate and received their Gil.

Half an hour passed. Hunters loaded into the trucks.

The trucks pulled away.

Gladio and Ignis didn’t show.

“If you need to talk,” Prompto repeated.

“I’m, uh… I’m looking for Jabari?”

...

“Hey.”

Prompto’s gaze shifted, head lifting away from the dull granite of the fountain to peer at a large man as he approached. His eyes squinted against the overhead lamps. “Gladio, hey,” he greeted. He rose, hands slapping against the rock to push himself up. He watched as the man approached, slowing to a stop before him. “Where’s Ignis?”

“If you would have waited at the drop-off point like we agreed, you’d already know. He’s gonna be a little late.”

Blond eyebrows arched. “Late? Really?” he snorted. “It’s been three hours since the lights came on.”

Gladio collapsed onto the side of the fountain with a bitter laugh. “I think you’re ignoring the part where you’re not at the drop-off point,” he spat. “I went to get him, but he was still in the appointment. Apparently they’re doing a full workup or something. Then I had to check with our ride, and it turned out they already left. On the upside, there’s going to be a shuttle to Hammerhead later tonight. We’ll just have to wait a few extra hours.”

“That’s good,” Prompto murmured. “That’s good.” He shifted, bringing his hands back up onto the fountain. He laid back across it, crossing his legs atop the granite to kick one foot up in the air.

Dark eyes peered down at him. Brown and familiar, but not calming. Not calming at all. “What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking I’d like a moment to myself.”

“And if we assumed you were dead and just left without you?”

“You’re the one who didn’t show. For the love of the Six, I thought you’d finally gotten yourselves killed. Poof – bye bye problems.”

Gladio went quiet at this. His expression was tight. Fists clenched at the edge of the fountain. “What…” he began in a whisper. “What the fuck ?”

“I’m going to stay in Lestallum,” Prompto announced softly. “I already put in a request for an apartment with the housing department. I even have a place to crash in the meantime.”

In the distance came footsteps. The steady click, click of a cane on stone.

“Sounds like you’re doing a lot more than just thinking,” Gladio snapped. “So… what? You’re giving up on Noctis?”

“I’m done giving up on myself.”

As soon as it came, the sound stopped.

“Lestallum isn’t that far from Hammerhead,” Prompto replied somewhat belatedly. Sliding his legs back over the edge of the fountain, he rose quickly to his feet, attempting to ignore the slim figure in a pressed leopard-print dress shirt at the mouth of the alley. “You can tell him where I am.”

“You can tell him yourself.”

“Pick a new card, Gladio.”

Gladio blinked. “Excuse me?”

“That's…” Prompto groaned, running a hand nervously through his hair, mussing it. “That's the only ultimatum you have, isn't it? Noctis. Noctis is the only reason I’ve got for staying in Hammerhead. I have a few friends, but I can make friends here. Ignis and I haven't been on good terms for years. You and I…” He cut off with a sigh, turning away from the alley – from the sight of Ignis stock still and well within hearing range – to look Gladiolus in the eye.

His mouth had twisted into something close to nausea.

“We're not friends, Gladio.” The words came out as a whisper. One last bit of effort for privacy.

“I thought we were.”

“But we're not,” he snapped quietly. “Not without Noctis.” A bitter glance was thrown toward the alley, and for a tense second Prompto watched Ignis’ cane lift from the ground. But before the scuffed, pointy boots could move to take a step, Prompto strode towards the street, making for the fence. He rounded the corner quickly, flattening himself to the white brick as his heart pounded sharply in his ears.

“That little bitch.”

“Are we name-calling, now?” Ignis, smooth and even.

“Did you not hear that?” Irate. Bitter.

“Yes, I did.”

“And – what? You're okay with that?” Disbelief.

“Prompto is an adult. He is capable of making his own decisions.”

“If Noctis wakes up-”

“Then we'll call or write Prompto a letter. It's been three years, Gladio. Surely the world can wait a day after Noctis wakes to be saved.”

“How can you be so calm about this?”

“Just because I am collected does not mean I am calm.”

A sigh. The clump of boots. “What's in the bag?”

The distinct rustle of paper. “Medication.”

With a hand on his chest, taking slow, easy breaths, Prompto followed the line of the fence. He passed the stairs. Passed the string of closed shops. Finally, he stepped into an alley cluttered with trash and sat against the wall carved out of the earth, dirt and brick littering the ground. There he sat until the gates parted, and he watched as trucks were let into the street, carrying two familiar passengers away from Lestallum and into the darkness.

Chapter Text

In the center of the road, there sat a pothole large enough for Prompto to stand in comfortably. The sides were a crumbling mess. His flashlight shone across the middle of it, setting the dark line of shattered pavement at contrast with the soil beneath. Hoisting his camera higher, he snapped a shot of the divide with an amused, “This is why you need lube.”

“I don't think this has anything to do with lube.”

Prompto glanced up and grinned at the woman before him; round and smiling and beautiful. “What do you think it was?”

Pamela shifted, hip popping as she surveyed the damage. It wasn't long before she clicked her tongue, head shaking. “My money's on them blue little bombs. If it were a red one we'd be sweeping away ash. The blue ones leave a residue that fades pretty quickly.”

“You’re probably right,” he agreed lightly. Pale fingers reached for the pavement, dragging along the dark, jagged line before coming back clean. “Can’t have been a plain ol’ bomb.”

“Lick it.”

“What?”

“Either start giving me a show or get out of that hole. Your pictures are done, aren’t they?”

Prompto snorted. “Yeah, yeah. Ever eager.”

“Honey,” she began sassily, “we have been on this road surveying this string of potholes for the last nine hours. Meanwhile, José is in that basement of his distilling the next batch potatoes. I want me some vodka.”

Blond lashes fluttered, blue eyes widening in surprise. “He finished?”

“Burned the midnight oil for the last week, but yeah. He bottled. Now move your skinny little ass before I jump down there and crush your skinny little bones.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he snorted. Reaching for the street, he hoisted himself carefully out of the hole. The pavement was cold against his stomach. The jagged edge grabbed at his shoelaces as he swung his legs out. But before long he seated himself against the road, watching in amusement as Pamela jumped into the hole with her arms straight up.

“BANZAI, BITCHES.”

A grin touched at Prompto’s lips as he watched, amused, as she landed without a hint of grace against the dirt floor, limbs sprawled. “I can’t believe Pamela died,” he shouted.

“Oh no!” someone shouted sarcastically behind him.

“May your rectum fill with cactuar,” Pamela groaned up at him, flailing back up to fix him with a steady middle finger.

Pale hands dove into a dark jacket pocket, retrieving a small box and beating it against his palm.

“Again?” The word came as a snap. “I thought you just quit!”

Prompto shrugged, retrieving a cigarette from the page before producing a slip lighter. He shoved the carton out of sight, placing the filter between his lips. “Silas forgot them.”

“You are literally lust personified.”

“Does that make you envy?”

“Bitch, I’m every sin.”

“Wouldn’t have you any other way, Pamela.” He flicked the lighter. Pressed the flame into the tip of the cigarette. Then, with a deep drag, he pulled it away as the stick lit. Holding his breath for a bit, he glanced around nervously. Eyed the truck in the distance and the woman milling around the gear in the back. Smoke eased between his lips. “So Silas was over last night, and we did our thing. When he was done he forgot his smokes. I went down the hall to give them back, but then he thought I was chasing him. After we were done with that , he forgot them again. Figured it was a sign.”

“Slut.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“Boy, you are getting laid on the regular by beautiful men. That is a bitter as shit compliment .” Reaching into her pocket, Pamela retrieved a small plastic bag and a knife. She scraped at the pavement, gaze focused. “It’s Tuesday. Haven should be open tonight.

He laughed, smoke stuttering out between his teeth. “And here I was looking for a quiet night.”

Memory card twirling between his fingers, Prompto stepped up to the distribution window as Pamela walked away with a wave.

Hey , Prompto.”

He gently slapped the card against the counter, winking salaciously. “Silas.”

Dark eyebrows arching dramatically, Silas fluttered his eyelashes in reply. His wide lips drew up in a flirtatious smile; hooded eyes crinkled at the edges. “You, uh…” He glanced behind Prompto, eyeing the now empty line before continuing in a whisper. “You headed to Haven tonight?”

“Probably,” he replied, voice just as soft. “What time do you get off? Maybe we can meet up.”

“I don’t know if I can. Two trucks still haven’t come in.”

“Harsh.”

“I hear José pulled together some vodka.”

“Pamela told you already?”

“Ten seconds ago.” Snatching up the memory card at last, Silas smiled a lopsided grin that made his eyes scrunch up into thin lines.

He should want this.

Prompto’s smile faded a touch as his heart failed to beat faster. As butterflies remained still in his stomach.

He should want this .

“Camera footage between what points?” Silas asked, suddenly all business as he retrieved a case from beneath the counter, opening it up and placing the memory card inside.

“B24 through 48.”

“That’s not very far for nine hours.”

“Take a look at some of those shots and you’ll realize why it took us so long,” Prompto retorted warmly. “Also, you, uh… You left your cigs at my place last night.”

“Crap. Hand them over!”

“Get ‘em yourself,” he teased, stepping away from the counter. He turned up the street, striding quickly up the city steps.

“You-!” The aborted shout followed awkwardly.

Prompto could imagine the word “tease” hanging in the air, and he flushed as he raced up the stairs.

At the crest of the hill, a new set of apartments sat like a crown. They were tall; standing above the square, dark brick stark against the pale stone that built the city. The front doors aren't locked. They swung wide beneath Prompto's hands, revealing a long, narrow hallway that branched off into a dozen doors. At the end stood a spiral staircase.

It was mere seconds before he was racing up the stairs. Second floor. Third floor. Finally, on the fourth, he stepped out into the hall that branched in two directions. He set off toward the end of the North side, walking quickly to the end of the hall before reaching into his pocket to produce a key. Pausing before the last door on the left, he unlocked it quickly and let himself inside.

Prompto’s apartment was a small studio. A kitchen stood off to the left, divided from the rest of the room by a counter. Off to the right was a bathroom; the door hanging open to reveal a mess of supplies heaped around the sink. In the center of the room was a futon, draped by a thin line of light that slipped through the crack of the thick wooden shutters in the windows.

He headed straight for the bathroom, pulling off his clothes and hopping into the shower. His hand snapped to the faucet, turning it up until a bare stream of water dribbled out over his head before he twisted it quickly off. The bar of soap in the corner was heavy in his hands; rough against his skin as he scraped it along his arms and legs. Goosebumps rose in its wake.

Before long the water was turned back on, but only for another quick second. This one moved over his body, rinsing away what little soap clung to the sharp angle of his sunken collar bone and the silver-white stretch marks that laid – old and faded, nearly invisible – across his stomach, glutes, and thighs. Pale fingers swatted away the remainder of the soap before grabbing at a towel and running it quickly over his skin, wiping away what little moisture remained. His hair stood on end as he stepped over to the sink. Fingers wrapped around a small rubber head, capped with a short section of tubing. Then, setting it at the edge of the counter, he draped the towel over the shower wall and lifted the lid on the toilet.

When he left the room, pulling on an overly short vest and some cropped pants, Prompto popped a pill from a small packet before stepping out and maneuvering the building in sandals.

On the streets, he might as well have be a local. He greeted people at every turn, winding through the city until he stepped up to a wide door. Inside, music thumped to an even, almost desperate beat.

Beside the door, a large man greeted Prompto with a smile.

With a grin of his own, Prompto leaned in and pressed a five-hundred gil coin into the waiting hand with a wink. And with that he stepped away, pushing open the doors and moving into the powerful flex of music that filled the warehouse. It pulsed like a living thing, crashing between bodies that swung and slid across the dance floor around him. He quickly made for the bar, settling onto a stool.

Jabari turned, eyeing him warmly before setting a drink on the counter before a young woman. Then, with a cautious glance around the bar, he moved quickly over to Prompto. He leaned attractively against the stretch of wood between them. “You’re early,” he shouted over the music.

“Got some stuff on my mind,” he admitted loudly in reply. “Figured I could use a little exercise.” Reaching for a small wicker bucket, Prompto dragged it closer with a wry smile. A small paper sign stuck out of the wood, suspended by wire.

Don’t forget to PrEP!

Reaching into the depths of the basket, pushing packets of pills and dental dams aside, he retrieved a string of three condoms from the wicker. He played with them for a second. Passed them between his fingers before tucking them into a fold inside his vest. “I’m out,” he offered dryly.

“Take some lube, just in case you’re low,” Jabari advised quickly, reaching beneath the counter and producing a few small one-use tubes. They rolled back and forth, flat sides bouncing against the counter before settling against their seams.

Prompto grabbed them up, stuffing them in his vest. “Thanks, man.”

“What’s your poison today, friend?”

“Depends. What did you get a shipment of this morning?”

Jabari snorted. “Nothing gets past you.”

“One shot, please.”

“Alright, but nothing straight after this; only mixes,” he scolded even as he turned, reaching into a small cupboard to retrieve a clear glass bottle.

“I couldn't be straight if you paid me.”

“True enough.” Jabari poured the shot expertly, twisting the bottle as he drew away. “Pay up.”

Prompto slapped the gil down with a loud, “Yes,” snatching up the shot and downing it in one go.

“Is there a reason you like vodka so much? You never did say.”

A shrug. A sigh. “Not really,” was the muttered reply. “Just… It marks a turning point, I guess.”

“Must be one hell of a turning point to down rubbing alcohol.”

Prompto laughed. It was an uneven sound. “Would you believe I lost my virginity on this stuff?”

Jabari froze for a brief second as he tucked the vodka back in its cupboard. But after a second he turned, meeting Prompto's eyes with his own. “You already know what I'm going to say,” he whispered, leaning across the bar, voice barely heard over the pulse of the music.

“Drunk consent is not consent.”

“Exactly.”

Peering into the glass, Prompto shifted it between his hands before pushing it forward. “I don’t regret it,” he admitted softly. “I don’t regret a single second.”

Dark eyes remained fixed on him for a while – the color of the night sky, flecked with yellows and browns – before they turned away. “But do you resent it?”

“I just said I don't.”

“Resent and regret are two very different emotions,” was the easy reply, words flowing with long practice. “Just because you don’t wish something didn’t happen doesn’t mean you aren’t bitter. A horrendous experience can change your life for the better. A beautiful memory can grow painful over time.”

Prompto shrunk into his seat, cradling the shot between his fingers.

Long arms crossed atop the bar. “If you need to talk,” Jabari whispered, voice deep and even, “I'm right here.”

At the other end of the bar, a woman lifted a hand with a tentative, “Barkeep?”

Pulling away from the counter, Jabari fixed him with a calm smile. “Think about it.”

Prompto’s hands twitched against the counter. His stomach burned from the bottom up, warm and intense, joined by a sensation. A dull memory. Strands of hair thick with gel crackling between his fingers, a mouth – warm and desperate – drawing away.

“We're drunk.”

“How'd you manage to get the straight stuff?”

Reality was sharp, dragging Prompto out of the memory like sharp whispers at the edge of a Haven. He turned, eyes dragging across flushed cheeks and tan skin. It took a second for the question to sink in. For the readily offered grin to slip across pale lips in a coy quirk. “Nothing straight about this place,” he snorted, amused. Shifting to the side, he rest his arm against the bar as his eyes dragged up along the man’s figure.

“True enough,” he laughed. His smile was warm. Open. Black stubble dotted his chin and upper lip, messy and rough. His face turned down, and he continued to grin nervously at the floor.

Prompto lifted his glass to him. “It’s been a while, Ojas.”

“I’ve been out of town.”

Setting the glass back on the bar, Prompto turned. Watched Jabari as he capped a tumbler; the quick, practiced back and forth of dark hands around stainless steel. It wasn’t long before the chair at his side squealed, leather creaking ominously. His gaze drew up and down stubbled cheeks before settling on deep…

… green eyes.

A single butterfly stirred. Just for a moment.

Ojas smiled the way he usually did – lopsided, one eye crinkling warmly – and the butterfly stilled. “Would you like to dance?”

Ojas used a lot of tongue.

Prompto pushed him up against the wall when they got to his apartment, kissing with his eyes shut tight before practically tearing their pants off.

Ojas’ dick was halfway up his ass when a knock at the door came. It was Silas; asking for his cigarettes back. It was an hour before he got them, mouth too busy wrapped around Prompto’s dick as Ojas reamed into his ass.

Prompto woke to whispers. Quiet gasps and the gentle shiver of the futon beneath him. Arm numb, mouth dry, he smacked his lips lazily as he woke, shifting to eye the bodies at his side.

Beneath the thin strip of light that filtered between the shutters, Silas and Ojas remained transfixed. Their hands tangled in each others’ hair as they kissed. Slow. Eyes wide open. A tongue traced the seam of plump lips as they pulled apart, laving lovingly at a split in the bottom lip. Teeth nabbed it quickly, holding the muscle delicately before moving forward to press their mouths flush.

Tanned arms circled a trim, pale waist. Hairy legs tangled. Fingers drew across a wide, furry chest and settled above a wide collarbone. Sweet. Affectionate. Green eyes fluttered shut, then open, crinkling in a way that sent a single butterfly screaming through the air.

Blue eyes swung away from the sight, suddenly nervous. Snatching up the discarded box of cigarettes, Prompto quickly grabbed and lit one, dropping the carton to the floor before jumping to his feet. He dragged his shorts on. Practically ran to the window. Threw the shutters open with something like desperation. The sill was filthy and rough, leaving streaks of dirt against Prompto’s arms as he propped himself against the window. Smoke curled from the tip of the cigarette. It dangled from his lips, held precariously between his fingers.

Outside, Lestallum was in a suspended state. Not quite asleep. Not quite awake.

Never quite awake.

Pale arms fell around his shoulders; lips slipped along the edge of his ear. “Hey,” Silas murmured. “You’re up.”

“Yeah,” Prompto replied. It felt hollow. “Yeah, I’m up.”

“Do you have work?”

“Not today.”

“We’ve got one more condom.” It was a whisper in his ear. A sultry promise that sent iron into his stomach. “You can fuck my face if you want. I know you like that.”

Blue eyes shifted, looking curiously down at the man wrapped around his shoulders. “Really?” he asked. “Last night you didn’t seem to be very open about it.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t get to come, either,” he shot back warmly. “Come on – it’s the first thing you ever asked me to do. I’ve never seen you get off. I’m starting to think it’s a fetish, not a kink.”

Prompto swallowed.

Outside, there came a flash of black hair.

Fingers drew toward his hip, caressing the line of his cock before Prompto pulled away sharply.

Sprinting to the door, he snatched up his pants on the way.

Silas frowned. “What-”

“Sorry!” he shouted in his wake, quickly unlocking the front door and pulling on the pants with one hand. “I just… need you guys gone, okay?”

“What-” Ojas sputtered.

“Got it,” Silas replied quickly.

In an instant, Prompto was out the door. He sprinted down the spiral staircase, skipping steps in an attempt to fly to the ground floor. Bare feet slapped the packed dirt outside. Pale hands cupped around his lips as he turned from side to side, shouting, “Iris!”

People turned to stare.

“Iris!” He raced down the street. “Iris!” He rounded a corner. Scanned the meager crowd. “Iris!”

“-mpto?” The voice was faint. Surprised.

Prompto rushed forward, shouting, “Iris, where are you?!”

She emerged from the street as if through fog. Her boots slapped the ground in a desperate beat as she sprinted through the meager crowd, eyes wide and hair flying. It’s long; tied up in the back, so similar to Gladio’s.

When she slammed into his chest, Prompto wrapped his arms around her. Held her tight. “Hey, hey,” he said as a sob slammed into his collarbone, “It’s okay, we’re okay. Are you okay? Is Talcott okay? Where’s Monica?”

“Monica’s been recruited for the wall. She’s fine. Talcott’s… Talcott’s in the hospital,” she sobbed.

“What happened?”

Iris pulled away, wiping at her eyes. “I…” she began softly, then bit her lip. She glanced around, eyeing the crowd, then Prompto’s bare chest and feet. “We should… probably go inside.”

“Oh. Right.” He blinked. Stepped away. Motioning with one hand down the street, he managed a strained, “Follow me.” The street was rough against his feet as he turned, gaze sweeping the ground for rocks as he padded along the stone. It soon gave way to packed dirt. Then linoleum.

“Is this where you live?”

Prompto paused, hand poised atop the bottom of the stair rail, and faced Iris. She looked small in the entryway. Dwarfed by close walls and chipped paint. “Yeah,” he replied lightly.

The tea was warm.

Iris’ voice emerged from the dark in a whisper. “I stayed in the house while I could. We were able to grow food for a while. Lestallum was granting us a battery ration since the soil was good.”

Outside, wind whistled past the shutters.

“For a while we just grew food for people here. Vegetables and fruits that wouldn’t grow around the capitol. I kept… ” A sigh. “I kept wondering if Gladio was alright. I knew he was. He’s Gladio. But I just don’t know anymore.”

“He’s in Hammerhead,” Prompto said. His voice felt far away, even as it shook his throat.

“Why are you here?”

I-” fell in love with someone I shouldn’t. “It’s just not the same, you know? Noctis is… He’s off doing his own thing . Why are you here?

“Isn’t it obvious?

A hand fell in his. Squinting in the dim light, Prompto tried not to flinch when Iris guided him to lift her shirt. There, an angry mess of bandages wrapped clear up to her chest.

“We were attacked.”

He pulled his hand back. Took a bite of the bar in his free hand.

The rations were stale.

“Can you take me to him?”

“Who?”

“Gladio.”

“... Yeah. Yeah, I’ll take you to him.”

They were quiet for a long time before she spoke again, fingers twining in his against the scratchy futon at their backs. “I didn’t interrupt anything, did I?”

“What do you mean?”

“You weren’t really dressed, and I saw the condoms in the trash.”

“It was nothing important.”

Silence came.

“Is something wrong?” Prompto found himself asking against his better judgement. The words filled the room in all the wrong ways.

“I just never figured you for the casual sex kind of guy. Everything...” He imagined her face screwing up. Eyebrows scrunching and fingers curling against her stomach. “Everything had its own weight with you. Everything was important.”

“I’m still like that.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I’m a complicated person.”

“You? Complicated?”

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”

It was nearly three in the morning when Prompto woke to a light filling the room from the face of his phone. It buzzed beside him. Then again. Three messages came in before he groaned, slapping ineffectively at the side of the bed before eventually giving in and rolling over with a sigh. He snatched up the phone, peering blearily at the screen before rubbing at his eyes with one hand. There were a slew of messages in his inbox. Mostly questions about where he was. Why he was skipping out on The Night of Insomnia event that Jabari took so long to put together. But crowning them all were a long line of messages from Silas.

You’re missing Insomnia Night. This isn’t like you.

You’re probably hanging out with whoever you saw outside the window. I should leave you to it.

They’re playing your song. You’d have a good time tonight.

How’d it go with your friend?

Speaking of which, are they a friend or a ‘friend?’ Have I been kicked to the curb? :’(

You know, I’ve been trying to figure out why Jabari looked so different tonight. I think I just noticed why.

Prompto scrolled down with a lazy finger, eyes lighting on Jabari’s dark skin shining beneath familiar LED lights. His chest was gripped tight by a shirt. Sleeveless, black, with white lines zigzagging across the fabric. He looked too big for it. Too wide and too muscular.

Pale lips parted nervously as he turned back, eyeing the young girl on the other side of his futon.

Iris was quiet. She laid peacefully beneath the thin blanket, chest rising and falling with each deep, even breath. Her dark hair fluttered; the breeze that filtered through the slats in the window shutters caressing her cheeks as her lips laid parted. A light snore echoed through the room, both deafening and silent.

Another vibration. Prompto turned back to his phone.

How and when did you land Jabari? A+ for your efforts.

Tapping to reply, he smirked around a yawn.

You woke me up.

The response was quick.

Good.  Payback for all those times you kept me awake for upwards of two hours. Your stamina should be a legend. Like dragons and magical plagues.

Prompto snorted.

You like it .

Setting his phone down, he carefully lifted the sheet. His feet drew out from beneath it, sliding against the light fabric with a long, gentle hiss before they landed on the wood floors. He rose quickly. Padded over to the bathroom door and closing it in his wake. He scrubbed himself with the bar of soap, wiping himself down with a cloth before racing back into the room. A bag was opened. Shirt and sandals were acquired. A cursory glance was thrown towards Iris, eyeing her critically in the dark as she turned in her sleep. But when she went still he reached for the door.

The run down to the club was a brisk one. The late night air had a bite to it that the day – dark and bleak as it was – didn’t have. Dodging garbage and the occasional pedestrian, Prompto was there within minutes, waving to the bouncer and offering him a five-hundred gil coin.

From the moment he stepped through the doors, familiar music swam into his ears in a pulsing, familiar rhythm. A crowd surged. Prompto carefully maneuvered to the bar, eyeing Jabari as he passed a drink to a tall woman. He waited until the man turned to speak, leveling a, “You stole my shirt,” at the man with a dry smirk.

Jabari laughed. “I was wondering how long it would take one of your little birds to let you know I was wearing it.”

“I’ve been looking for it forever.”

“You left it at my apartment in quite the hurry last week. Rushed out in a vest that you stole from my closet, which you have yet to return.”

“It fits me better.”

“Stop lying to yourself.”

Prompto snorted. His eyes turned to the counter, gazing down at the grain of the wood before he glanced up meaningfully. “You look good,” he said at last. “I need that shirt back, though.”

A meek, embarrassed smile followed. “Alright,” Jabari acquiesced just loud enough to be heard over the music. “My break is in a few minutes. Go ahead and head up to my room. I’ll meet you there in a bit.” Reaching into his pocket, he produced a set of keys before pressing them into pale hands.

Long arms drew off of the counter, and he gave a firm nod before glancing about. The club was more packed than usual, sporting a sea of dark hair that stretched nearly from wall to wall. He passed quickly through. Slid between the bodies that surged across the floor toward the back of the club. The door was sandwiched between the DJ and a water station littered with discarded cups. Prompto covered his ears as he passed, shoving his shoulder against his right ear as he fumbled to get the keys into the lock. The door was heavy; thick and cold, laden with concrete.

On the other side it was shockingly quiet.

The sound of the club seemed almost distant, but the beat still thrummed through Prompto’s feet and up into his chest, rattling his lungs. At his side, a stairwell ran up the wall. It wasn’t a hasty addition, like his apartment. Cracks ran through the plaster. Scuffs littered the well-loved steps. But as Prompto moved to take a seat the door cracked open, filling the room with sound.

And then it closed.

Jabari smiled down at him, teeth blindingly white in the dim light. “We’ve got ten minutes.”

“You own the club,” Prompto pointed out dryly.

“That doesn’t put me above the rules,” he replied glibly, siding his phone out of his pocket. He tapped at the screen for a bit before tucking it back in his pocket. “Ten minutes.”

Thick boots slapped the floor as Prompto turned on his heel and raced up the stairs.

“So much energy ,” Jabari teased.

“You could stand to hurry up, yourself. We’ve only got ten minutes.”

Within seconds they were at the top of the stairs, unlocking the door and practically falling into a small apartment. Prompto pushed him against the wall as soon as it closed, pressing his lips to a soft, wide mouth. Pale fingers stole beneath the shirt.

Jabari jerked away as the other hand went lower. “I’ve only got ten minutes, remember?”

"Bet I can finish you in five,” was the daring reply as his fingers gripped the larger man’s groin through his pants. “That okay with you?”

Large hands plunged into blond hair with a gasped, “Yes,” as the grip on his cock tightened. “There’s… There’s a condom in my back pocket. Have you taken your PrEP pill?”

“If I could take extra and be with you full time, I would.”

Jabari smiled. “We would be great together, Prompto,” he whispered, “but I don’t think you’re ready to move on just yet.”

“I am .” The insistence was sharp. Almost a plead.

A gentle shake of the head. A hand skating along a pale cheek. “If that were true, you would already be over whoever it is you’re trying to forget. You like me, and I like you. But I can’t be sure about this until I know you won’t go running off the moment you see this man of yours.” Lips descended like a gentle rain against bright hair, pressing into the strands over and over again until the man before him grabbed the condom from a deep back pocket, dropped to his knees, and reached into Jabari’s pants.

Prompto pulled the cock out like he was worshipping something. Rolled the condom on with his mouth. Then, teeth sheathed beneath his lips, he sucked Jabari down.

Eight minutes later, Prompto – shirt in hand – pulled the door open.

“You never told me,” Jabari called after him, bringing him to a pause. “Why is that shirt so important?”

“It’s a uniform,” was the laughed reply. “You technically don’t have the clearance to wear it.”

“Clearance? What kind of uniform is it?”

Prompto pursed his lips.

“More past stuff?”

“Yeah,” he admitted. “More past stuff.”

In the club, leaning against the wall, was Iris.

“You forgot your phone,” she said, gaze lingering on the mussed state of his hair and lips red with abuse. She held the device out for him to take, eyes shooting suddenly away to watch Jabari as he stepped around him.

Prompto snatched it up, staring at the screen in shock as the messages displayed themselves freely on his lock screen.

Hell yeah, I like that.

I see you.

Wow, you work fast.

How do I get into Jabari’s pants? You’re like a dick charmer.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I’d do bad things to have your mouth full time.

His face reddened.

“Is something wrong?” Jabari asked, ever helpful.

“I just… Don't worry about it,” Prompto told him firmly, turning away from Iris with a hand running through his hair.

“I didn’t mean to read them,” Iris confessed, voice catching as Jabari strode quickly away into the club. “I just- I was wondering if someone was texting your phone for you. Trying to find it.”

“How did you find me?”

“I followed you,” she admitted coldly. “Called out a few times, too. You run fast, you know?” She frowned as a new song came on, thundering through the club. Despite her discomfort, her lips began to move with the lyrics.

“You're…” Prompto cleared his throat. “You're taking this really well.”

“If this meets your standards of support…” Dark eyes drew away from the dance floor, landing firmly on pale cheeks that flushed with shame. Her gaze was firm; lips twisted in some complicated emotion somewhere between anger, surprise, and epiphany. “Let's… Let's get a drink,” she said after a while, as if trying out the words on her tongue. “My treat.”

“Yeah,” he agreed softly. He watched her head into the crowd. Watched her stumble through the mass of moving bodies like she’d never been in a club before.

She'd been sixteen when the sky went dark. She likely hadn't.

They arrived at the bar with twin expressions of confusion. Prompto raised a hand, signalling Jabari as he tied his smock. A single finger was raised in reply.

Small hands picked at the wicker basket on the counter, grabbing a dental dam from the depths before tapping at the small paper suspended by a wire. “Don't forget to PrEP,” Iris read.

“It's a pun.”

She wrinkled her nose. “How is it a pun?”

Jabari stepped up to the counter, grinning warmly. “You use the lube to prep, and the pills are PrEP,” he told her succinctly. “They're a Pre-Exposure Prevention medication for HIV. Pretty much everyone takes them, here."

Iris’ attention turned to the bartender, wide with shock.

“The usual for me and a cider for the lady,” Prompto interjected loudly. “She's paying.”

A dark gaze leveled on her curiously as large hands produced two glasses. “New face. You got a name?”

“Iris.”

Jabari nodded toward Prompto before turning to grab at two bottles high on the shelves at his back. “How do you know sunshine here?”

“Oh, we go way back. Years. I knew him when he was a closet case.” Her tone had a sharp edge.

Jabari frowned. Stared her down even as he placed a glass before Prompto.

“No. That…” She sighed. “I'm sorry. I should be supportive but instead I'm just being bitter. Asking myself why you didn't tell me before. But you don't owe me that. You don't owe anyone that, and I can't expect that from you.”

“That is a very informed statement.”

Prompto glanced up, staring at Jabari as he reached for another glass, curious.

Iris nodded. “They aren't entirely my words,” she admitted lowly. “Prompto isn't the first member of the Crownsguard to come out. Gladio used to read the paperwork that they gave him aloud to me since he didn't really get it at first. Stuff about what he was and wasn't allowed to say, and what was offensive. Pronoun training. When Ignis came out he kind of just… got it, I guess.”

“I wasn't aware that Prompto was a member of the Crownsguard.”

“I'm not.”

“Did you leave?” Iris asked. “What happened? Noctis didn’t...” She trailed off, gaze trailing to the cider that clacked onto the bar before her.

“Nine-hundred gil total,” Jabari told her lowly.

She reached into her pockets, retrieving a few coins and dropping them in the open palm.

Prompto took a swig of his drink, lips pursing as it slid over his tongue sweetly before he swallowed. Hard. “Noctis is inside the crystal. He’s been there since the sky got filled with…” He trailed off, motioning with his hand vaguely. “... whatever they found out it was. Darkness particles. Skin flakes. Daemon shit.”

“You strike me as the kind of guy who would stick around for him,” Iris noted darkly. “So what really happened?”

He laughed. Took another drink. “You really want to know?” His gaze turned on dark eyes set beneath freshly trimmed eyebrows.

For a second there came no reply. Iris turned, glanced up at Jabari. Glanced at the room around them. Stared at the cider before her. Then, grabbing up the glass, she took a cautionary sip.

Then another.

She set the glass down. A pink tongue came out, running along pert lips. Then, almost imperceptibly, she nodded.

The reply was almost a laugh. Something desperate and angry and scared all at once, hanging in the air between them and souring their lungs.

“I fell in love with Ignis.”

...

It wasn’t more than five seconds after they stumbled into the apartment that Prompto staggered forward, collapsing onto the futon as Iris closed the door behind them and began to pace.

“Okay,” she began wetly. “Okay, okay, okay. So, I’m still trying to make sense of all this,” she slurred, kicking off her shoes to pad back and forth in her socks, feet silent against the hardwood. “In order: Luna died, Niflheim accidentally turned their Emperor into a daemon – along with half their population, – some dude was using time travel somehow for no discernable or clear reason in any capacity , and then Noctis got… Noctis was…” Her voice broke. “Noctis was actually, literally sucked into a crystal,” she half sobbed. She turned to face him sharply, staring down at his prone form on the futon. “Am I getting this right?”

“Yup.”

“Okay,” she whined. “Okay, okay. Cool. So after that you guys moved the Crystal to the Island in Galdin Quay so he would be safe from daemons when he woke up. And you all went back to Hammerhead after leaving a message with… Noctis’ dog .”

“Long story.”

“After time travel, it seems kind of mild.”

“I mean. I guess.”

“And then... During all this I’m guessing you had a chance to come out to Ignis, but not a chance to come out to literally anyone else, and eventually you just left them in Hammerhead to fuck half the population of Lestallum."

“What the hell? I maybe sleep with, like… four guys.”

“I didn’t need to know that.”

“Well you were criticising it, so deal.”

Stepping into the kitchen, she pulled open a cupboard, staring at the contents bleakly. “Have you even talked to anyone professional about this? You obviously have some issues you have to work through.”

Prompto sighed, shrugging against the futon with a nervous hum. “Haven’t really had a chance. Or felt the urge.”

She snorted. Stepping over to the futon, she held out a ration bar. “Well, I'm here right now. Talk to me.”

Pale hands reached for the bar, only to be caged by smaller fingers. For a moment, everything was calm. Light filtered through the shutters, sending streaks across the ceiling. Air twirled above him, dancing in the bright lines. And before he knew it he was sitting up, looking her in the eye as he admitted, “Ignis didn't want to talk.”

Iris grinned, surrendering the ration bar before taking a seat.

“I told him I was gay before Noctis was sucked into the Crystal," he confessed further. "He asked me what I thought of him. I told him. And he told me how that made him feel, and that was it for talking. All our chats after that weren't really the same. But even though he was being distant and a jerk and I was being a passive aggressive asshole, I fell in love with him anyway, because Ignis is a classy son of a bitch and… And even though he and I weren't getting along sometimes, I still trust him with my life, and he trusts me with his.”

“So you left.”

“Yeah. So I left.”

Chapter Text

Stepping through the narrow frame of the apartment complex door, Prompto nervously shoved his hands deep into his pockets. His lips pursed. Blue eyes skated anxiously along the ground.

Beneath the bright lights of the Lestallum street lamps at the edge of the sidewalk, Iris eyed him almost cautiously. Her lashes fluttered. Feet shifted from side to side. “Are you ready?” she asked as he approached, edging closer to the brightly colored bag inches from her ankle.

The smile in reply was strained.

Their walk to the gates was silent. Silas greeted Prompto warmly at the window, informing him that the truck was just heading through the tunnel, and would refuel before leaving again fifteen minutes later. It wasn’t long before a yellow truck pulled through the gates. They opened wide to admit it, flashlights shining and hunters yelling. The truck parked, and the passengers hopped quickly out, lining up before Silas’ window even as Iris and Prompto climbed into the back.

“Do you think they'll ask you to stay?”

Freckled shoulders shifted against the peeling paint. “Who?”

“The boys,” she replied, voice light. “Who else?”

Slouching into the side of the truck, Prompto turned his eyes on the buildings in the distance. He stared at the high roofs. The stone walls streaked with dirt. “I don't know,” he admitted, voice just as soft. “I was planning to just drop you off and spend the rest of my day there hanging out with Coctura.”

“You can't be serious.”

“She's my friend and I haven't seen her in a year.”

“You haven't seen them in a year, either.”

“Yeah, well, I didn't get to say goodbye to her.”

“I'm starting to think you didn't say goodbye to anyone.”

“I said goodbye to Gladio.”

“How'd he react?”

He laughed. It came out far more bitter than he intended. “How do you think he reacted?”

“Not that well?”

“Yeah. That's one way to put it.”

“He didn't say anything really bad, did he? I mean… He's my brother and I shouldn't be saying this, but some of the stuff that comes out of his mouth is insensitive.”

“I'm pretty sure nothing will top him telling Noctis that he wasn't allowed to grieve for Luna because Ignis was blind.”

“He didn't.”

“In way more words. I mean, yeah, it had been a few weeks by then, and Noctis didn't seem to be getting any better, but that was just... not cool. Iggy chewed Gladio out that night. It was…” Incredible. Inspiring. Beautiful. “... kind of weird for a while. I mean, Gladio apologized before long, in his own indirect way, but everyone pretended it was forgotten after that. I felt like I was the only person who still had a problem with it. Like… what made him think he could say that? What could possibly make him think it was okay to say that?”

“That's Gladio,” Iris sighed. “Speaks before he thinks every time. I'm sorry.”

“Don't apologize for him. Just… I've known him for years, but that was kind of like the moment where I realized he has no idea what he's doing, just as much as the rest…” He trailed off abruptly as his eyes drew to the figure stepping up to the back of the truck.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” he managed weakly in reply.

Brushing long, platinum blonde hair away from dark blue eyes, Aranea Highwind stepped easily up and into the truck bed, a plain white tee shirt and long jeans settling against the peeling paint. “Imagine running into you here.”

“Uh… Yeah.” Prompto felt a chill rush up his spine. A reminder more than anything. A ghost. “What are you doing here?”

“Same as you, I'm guessing; headed to Hammerhead.”

“It’s, uh… It's been a while.”

“Same here, bucko, but you don’t see me inviting you to get up close and personal with my tonsils. Close your goddamn mouth.”

Jaw snapping shut, Prompto turned uncomfortably towards Iris. “So, uh… What are your plans once you get to Hammerhead?”

Dark eyes flicked casually between Prompto and Aranea before settling on Silas in the distance, eyeing the man as he sorted through memory cards. “Well, I’ll probably train with Gladio.”

He snorted. “You make it sound so bad.”

“Well, yeah. I mean, for one he’s my brother. After that, he fights with a sword. I don’t use swords.”

“True.”

“I've gotten to train with him a few times, though, and I didn't like it. He's hard headed and I'm stubborn. We don't mesh well, and our fighting styles have almost nothing to contribute to one another during spars. It's not like a lot of enemies wield enormous swords. Iron Giants have a very specific style, and Gladio is too small for that to be useful. I can almost guarantee you that we're going to spend most of that time arguing semantics.”

“Then why train with him?”

“Because I want to fight,” she replied sharply. “There are other settlements out there, just like Cape Caem. Someone needs to watch out for them, too. Besides, who else would train me?”

“Depends who's asking.”

Iris looked up sharply, eyeing the woman across the truck with poorly veiled skepticism. “Depends who wants to know,” she retorted softly.

Prompto sighed. “Iris Amicitia,” he began, motioning between the two women, “Meet Aranea Highwind.”

As the truck engine turned over, Iris fell into her hands in utter and complete joy. “You're Aranea Highwind?”

Experiencing Iris in full fangirl mode was a treat Prompto never expected.

Seeing Aranea fan her flames of adoration was confusing.

As the two inched closer and closer together in the back of the truck as Aranea regaled Iris with stories of monster hunting – what it was like to default from the Imperial Army to slay the daemons they had once spread – Prompto felt like he was watching something that should be private. So he turned his eyes away. Fixed his gaze on the horizon and the daemons that glimmered and shifted at the edge of the road.

It was a few hours before they arrived at Hammerhead. Before the truck pulled through wire gates that had begun to rust and parked in a mess of gravel.

Vaulting himself over the side, Prompto stared down at the gravel, surprised.

“I thought this place was paved,” Iris muttered, sliding out of the truck after Aranea. “Why is there gravel if it’s paved?”

“I… don't know,” Prompto admitted after a beat of silence. His attention turned to the ground; to the little rocks that littered the pavement. “I never really thought about it.”

“It's to mark parking spots,” Aranea volunteered with surprising warmth.

The steady slap of shoes on pavement served as an early warning. In an instant, large arms wrapped tight around Iris, dragging her away from the car.

“Gladio?!” she gasped, arms pinwheeling as tanned hands lifted her into the air, swinging her in a wide, enthusiastic circle.

"You brat ,” he hissed, dragging her tight against his chest. “I missed you.”

Prompto watched the display with a detached grin, bordering on a grimace.

“Disgusting, isn’t it?” Aranea muttered.

He glanced to his left, eyeing the woman curiously. “Uh…”

“Seeing people who still have blood related family. It’s so… strange.”

Turning back to the display, bright blue eyes took it in critically. On the warm arms wrapped around a trim waist. Matching grins and matching eyes, with hair drawn up in slightly rumpled pony tails. “Yeah,” he admitted softly, thoughts on the lines long-dead since the assault on Insomnia. “Yeah, it’s really weird.”

With a huff, the mercenary moved to step past him, only to pause. Her hand settled suddenly on his shoulder. Plump lips whispered at the curve of his ear as she breathed, “You know, you’re actually a pretty cool guy when you’re not pretending to drool over me.”

Prompto looked up sharply, eyes falling on the woman in open surprise. She was gone in seconds, disappearing into the old diner with a sway to her hips.

Soon an arm was around him, as well.

“Who do you think you are, showing your face around here?”  Gladio teased, free hand rubbing sharply into blond hair. “You goddamn chocobo.”

Pale arms flailed, attempting futilely to break from the hold. “Let me go, man.”

A grunt. A deep, “Not until you apologize for leaving!”

Prompto coughed, grabbing uselessly at the arm, fingers scrambling to loosen the grip. “I’m not staying,” he insisted.

“What was that?” Gladio asked loudly. “You’re sorry?”

I’m not staying! ” he repeated, voice near a shout.

“You’re not?”

It was like everything froze. The arm around his neck slipped quickly away, dropping him to the ground. But even as he hit the pavement it was like time had stopped. That voice…

That voice.

Shaky legs stumbled to their feet. Running a hand nervously through his hair, Prompto turned his gaze up to eye the familiar man who drew to a pause before their party, cane still against the ground and chin pointed between Gladio and Iris.

“Specs, guess who’s back?”

“I’m not sure ‘back’ is quite the right word,” Ignis corrected softly, tone thoughtful. “My shift finishes in about ten minutes. Perhaps we should take this conversation somewhere more appropriate?”

Prompto brushed the dirt from his shirt with a skeptical glance Ignis’ way. But even as he opened his mouth to reply, Gladio had taken the initiative.

“Sorry, guys, but I got a shift,” he declined softly. “I'll be back in about nine hours. I'm bringing spitfire here with me.”

Blue eyes turned on Iris in accusation.

She smiled at him, though it didn't quite reach her eyes. Something like an apology. Something like encouragement.

Prompto fought the sudden urge to vomit as his stomach abruptly flipped .

Ignis’ expression twisted for a moment. Foxed at the edges like an old, well loved playing card that had seen too much careful use. “Well?” he offered, voice low. “Do you think you’re up for a chat?”

No.

No .

Six, he was going to puke.

“How’ve you been?” It came out as a squeak. A broken set of words that tumbled heavily from him to crash on the ground in a piece of performance art reflecting the inner turmoil of the brain.

Who better to interpret ourselves than our selves?

Maybe he was just overthinking things.

Ignis’ lips twitched again; this time into a warm, affectionate smile. “No big questions just yet,” he said cooly. His cane rose, waved in the general direction of the gate. “There should be a few birds over there; two are hot pink. They're Gladio's and my mounts. You should get to know Celeste – she's the lady without a lantern. She's mine, and can find her way to the camp. Just do me a favor and wait a few minutes so that I might join you.”

“Uh, sure.”

“She likes being scratched behind the scruffy part of her neck.” He turned on his heel, then. Strode quickly back up to the diner and disappeared into the doorway.

Prompto made for the birds, pavement almost too firm beneath his feet as he approached the lady in question. He rounded her quickly, peering at the feathers that stuck out at odd angles. Not for lack of brushing; the skin underneath was rippled with scars. They twined up her neck like vines, twisting around her throat in a makeshift collar. But as she released a pleased noise beneath his attentions, Prompto's gaze caught instead on her eyes, milky and bright.

Celeste butted into his chest, giving a warm, affectionate Wark . Her beak nibbled at his shirt. At his hair. At his ear. It was a gentle pressure. Careful and considerate. And as his hands drew down to the scruff of her neck and rubbed, her entire body gave a pleased shake.

“You're beautiful,” he found himself saying. “You're a good girl, aren't you? Very nice.” Bending in half, he grabbed at some of the gysahl greens in the trough at his side, he pressed it gently to her beak.

With a gentle nibble, it was gone.

“Beautiful girl.”

“She is, yes.”

Prompto glanced up, eyes dragging along familiar tight pants and well loved suspenders. “That was fast,” he noted, surprised.

“It was. Ready to head to camp?”

No. “Yeah. Sure.”

“How was Lestallum?”

Prompto shifted his feet in the stirrups. His eyes drew along the exposed nape of the man before him. Took in the hair that had grown out just past the length of a wide jaw. It was uneven; haphazardly cut. “It was, uh…” He took a long, anxious breath. “It was great. City Life, you know?”

There was a pause. A tilt of the head. Then, almost as if startled, Ignis muttered a quick, “You were missed.”

In the distance, the Haven came into view. Prompto's tongue snuck out to wet dry lips as it began to draw closer. “That’s nice.”

“Cindy is still married to her work,” Ignis segwayed without preamble. For the smallest of moments his voice had wobbled. “Some of the men can’t seem to get it through their heads that she isn’t on the market.”

“That’s-”

“Gladiolus has been running himself ragged with work. I suspect he doesn’t sleep most nights.”

Celeste dove up the side of the Haven, racing to the fire pit and giving a pleased Wark as scarred hands found their way into her messy feather mane.

“You’re a good girl,” Ignis crooned sweetly. “Very good girl.”

Sliding his boots out of the stirrups, Prompto slid carefully over the back of the bird, careful of her tail feathers. “How’d you manage to train her so well?” he found himself asking.

Hands twisted in reins. Legs bent back and forth. “We regularly oil the camp,” he answered shortly, boot catching on one stirrup. “No matter what, Celeste will always be able to find it.” Rising up in the saddle, he gracefully swung his free leg over, perfectly perpendicular before settling gracefully on the ground.

“You’ve leveled up.”

Eyebrows furrowed. “Pardon?”

“You’ve gotten really good at dismounting,” he clarified quietly.

“You said…” Ignis paused, shifting further to face Prompto, even as his sunglasses pointed off to his right. “You said I leveled up.”

“Well yeah. You know. Like in a game.”

Leather gloves creaked as hands clenched tight.

Prompto turned away, taking an aborted step toward the tent in the distance. “Sorry,” he attempted warmly. “You’re filling me in on what I’ve missed and I’m just joking around.”

“I’m glad you left.”

Shock. Surprise. Anger . “What?” He spins on his heel, watching in open contempt as Ignis rounded the firepit with years of practice, collapsing neatly in one of two clean chairs.

Settling in with a groan, Ignis rest his cane between his knees. “I haven’t heard you joke like that in years,” he clarified softly. “Lestallum was good for you. I’m glad you decided to leave.”

Stepping quickly over to the other relatively clean Coleman chair, Prompto collapsed into the seat. He tried not to stare at Ignis. At the dark sky. At the two other empty, filthy chairs. Instead he fixed his attention on the firepit. Empty. Cold.

“I’ve been an ass.”

“Oh? And how long did it take you to figure that one out?”

“I wanted to apologize.”

“Oh yeah? Then why didn’t you?”

Ignis’ jaw drew tight.

Prompto fought back a sigh. “Iggy,” he began softly, then paused. His gaze drew up, falling on Celeste as she curled up beside the ashes, soot smearing her wings as she settled into place. “Ignis,” he corrected, just as quiet. “If you wanted to apologize, you should have just done it. You knew I was in Lestallum. If you really wanted to fix this you would have just hopped on a truck and visited. They’re twice a week. But you didn’t, so just stop pretending I’m a priority to you.”

“You are a priority.”

“You don’t act like it.”

A breath, long and weary. Almost angry.

Hands motioning weakly towards the ground, Prompto manages a weak, “Look-”

“I have HIV.”

Narrow shoulders shrugged as he sunk further into his chair. “Yeah, I figured.”

Silence. Then, “What?” It was an incredulous sound.

"I realized after I left. You’re not the only person I know with HIV. Things happen. Heck, I’m on a PrEP regimen. Have been for months.” Leaning back in his chair, Prompto attempted a nonchalant air; fingers tapping idly at the arm rests. “I mean, it’s just been a hunch until now. It explains a lot about you, like the scheduling and the cooking and the manic attention to ingredients. Can’t do your job if you’re dropping from anemia.”

Anemia .” Confusion. Almost anger. “How do you know about the anemia ?”

"I lived with a guy who had HIV for a while in Lestallum. We’re pretty good friends, now. I’ve learned a lot from him. I’m learning a lot from him.”

Ignis laughed. It shook him from head to toe, shivering in his chair in a manic panic. “Of course you did,” he drawled. “Let me guess; you’re best friends, aren’t you?”

“He won’t go out with me because he thinks I’m not ready for a relationship. Not that it matters,” he snapped. Rising quickly, he glanced around the camp. “Where does Gladio put the fire… wood…?”

A hand, warm and insistent, against his.

Prompto felt his stomach churn . “Can you not ?” he spat.

Retreating quickly, the hand dove into a jacket pocket. “My apologies.”

Stepping up to the edge of the Haven, Prompto found the pile of firewood quickly. He hopped down, piling as much in his arms as he could before racing back up the rock. They tumbled into the fire pit, sending a cloud ash into the air. He waved it away.  “Still got some of that Sagefire in you?”

Ignis rose slowly to his feet, tentatively moving toward the pit before settling his hands on the firewood. “In my defense, I had no way of knowing how you’d respond.”

“To what?”

Another moment of silence passed between them.

"You thought I was gonna flip,” Prompto realized, eyes fixed on tanned hands littered with scars as they began to glitter.

“I did.”

“Do people usually flip?”

“Yes.”

The fire lit.

Ignis went back to his seat.

Prompto remained before the pit for a while, eyeing the flames as they slowly consumed the first bit of wood. It was a while before he moved away. Before he settled into his chair and managed a nervous, “That’s fair.” And then he turned and Looked.

They were alone. He could look all he wanted.

Ignis’ jaw was long and wide, sharp at the edges. Almost severe. The cleft in his chin was slight; nearly hidden by stubble that dotted his face and throat like sparse freckles. Not for the first time that night, Prompto’s hands clenched against the arm rests. Even after all that time, Ignis couldn't grow a beard.

It wasn’t something he should have been getting worked up over.

“I should have told you sooner.”

“What would it have changed?” he asked, the bitter edge to his words an open accusation. “Go on. I want to hear it.”

An uncomfortable shift followed this. Pale lips twisted in a grimace. “I would not have pushed you away so…” He seemed to flail for a word, but after a second his expression relaxed and he settled further into his chair. “I might have acted differently.”

“Differently how ?”

“I would not have rejected you.”

Prompto snorted, turning to look into the fire, but as the silence wore on he buried his face in his hands, rubbing his cheeks and forehead angrily. “That's…” He trailed off. “You can't just…” He groaned. “You're a jerk, you know that?”

“I’m sorry.”

He jumped out of his seat, pale hands raking through hair held precariously into place by gel that slowly broke to pieces. “You can't just… dump that on a guy.”

"I cannot apologize enough.”

"You really fucking can’t ,” he hissed. He ran his hands sharply through his hair once more before they dropped to his side, hanging uselessly until they suddenly jumped from motion to motion. “You... You said a lot of stuff that was not okay.” His voice had become a warble, hanging on a sharp precipice between baritone and tenor that squealed and shook. “To start with, you manipulated me into physically crossing my boundaries – and yeah, I know, I wheedled some stuff out of you, too. That doesn't make it okay.

“But you found out when I liked and then you… shamed me for it. And yeah, when we dropped Noctis off on the island we had our talk – I had that talk – but nothing really changed. For a long time I felt like you had made it your sole purpose in life to rub salt in the wound with each and every word you said to me. Sometimes it wasn’t just you being a dick. Sometimes, out of the blue, after a mission or during dinner or whenever Gladio would forget to brush his teeth, you were suddenly nice. You would channel that dark humor of yours, which you only use with me, and crack jokes about monster corpses and veal and then you would give me this smile like we were the only two people in the world. I thought I was imagining that. That I was going insane.

“I sound like a whiny little jerk who's been friendzoned, and I feel like it. I felt like it back then, too. I felt gross and wrong. Like every time I tried to talk to you about it I was being a creep. But I realized after spending some time away that you owe me that conversation. You owe me this. All that stuff hurt, okay? It really hurt, and I was not okay. You knew this.

“You kept it up because... what? Because you wanted to drive me away? Because you didn't want me to flip on you like some judgemental asshole deathly afraid of some virus that you can easily stop from spreading? You know me, Ignis. You know I'm not a goddamn idiot, but you couldn't stop being so afraid of your own shadow for thirty seconds that it didn't occur to you that I would never do that to you. Your HIV didn't make me leave; you did. Your fear twisted you into some angry bitch boy who couldn’t bear to have someone like you. All in all, you made me feel guilty for being in love with you.

“Congratulations; I left. Now I’m probably not going to be here when Noctis wakes up because you’re an asshole with him gone and I’m still in love with you like some stupid sap who can’t get over themselves.”  The confession was acid on his tongue, burning down his throat and throwing his stomach into a tangled mess.

Ignis was utterly silent.

“Look, I’m just here to drop Iris off,” he continued, tone growing soft at the woman’s name. “I said I’d get her to Gladio, and I just want to make sure she’s all settled before I catch the truck out of here. I’m not staying. I have a life, now. I have a job. A social circle where no one shames me because I think they’re attractive.”

“You came out?”

Prompto glanced up, taking in the curious tilt to Ignis’ head. The familiar twist of something in those pale lips – pride, relief – made him turn quickly away. “No,” he managed, springing back into motion. He was pacing again, hands still against his sides. “It’s complicated. Whatever. Forget camping; we’ve talked enough. I’m gonna walk back to Hammerhead.”

It came as a whisper. A gentle insistence that stood out against the eternal night sky like a sun that rose too quickly, so incredibly blinding. “I’m in love with you.”

“Don’t you…” He stomped back, barely contained rage in his chest as a pale hand waved uselessly before wide sunglasses. “A confession isn’t going to fix anything,” he snapped, hands clenched against the sudden tremble that gripped them. He stood above Ignis, blocking him into the chair, but he felt as if he’d been cornered. “You started pulling shit… what, two minutes after I came out to you? You were the first person I trusted that with and you made me feel dirty for it because you were scared I would judge you. I don’t care that you can get sick. That’s never been the problem. And yeah, I get that you’re scared, and you feel alone, and isolated, and downright terrified, but that’s no excuse to make me feel the same. You have no right to tell me you love me.”

A breath hissed sharply from between Ignis’ teeth, almost deafening in the wake of Prompto’s exclamation.

Blue eyes followed the bare trembling of a bottom lip before he turned resolutely away, hands drawing up to his face. “Look,” he began, shoulders tense and blond eyebrows furrowed sharply, “I know the HIV thing was… I’ve heard some shit about what went down in Insomnia. What happened to people who had it. But the fact is you should have just told me. You know me. The worst I could have done was flip out and leave. I’ve…” He broke off with a sigh, hands carding almost forcefully through his hair. “I’ve already done that.”

There was a murmur. Something low and docile.

Prompto turned, a bitter, “What?” on his lips before he took in the wet tracks carving down Ignis’ face.

“I had no idea anyone was still distributing PrEP pills,” he repeated solemnly.

It was a second before it clicked. Before realization crashed, sending butterflies screaming up and out into the air as a heart struggled to beat. Before Prompto knew what was going on he had pulled Ignis out of the chair and into his arms, those few inches difference in their heights were nothing as the taller man tucked himself into the narrow curve of a clavicle. Pale fingers drew along a wide back, soothing the man as he struggled to breathe between wet sobs.

Prompto couldn’t believe it.

“You’ve never cried like this around me before.”

A laugh bubbled up between gasps. “I don’t think I’ve cried like this in years.”

Prompto snorted, grinning wide. The rumble against his throat as Ignis chuckled was somehow warm. Comforting. It felt like he’d swallowed something, and he was finally satisfied. Finally full.

Someone shifted. Neither knew who. But suddenly their foreheads were flush, breath fanning out over their cheeks in a wash of sensation.

The tears had stopped.

Noses dragged slowly against one another.

Time, it seemed, had deigned to stand still.

“I’m going back to Lestallum tomorrow,” Prompto reminded him in a whisper, afraid speaking too loud might shatter the moment.

“I know.” The response was immediate, Ignis’ chin inching forward, nose dragging up along the soft skin of Prompto’s cheek.

“You can’t…” His voice broke, shattering in his throat for a starting second before he managed a sad, “You can't convince me to stay.”

It was then that the older man paused. That his hands clenched in Prompto's shirt collar. A wet sigh stuttered from between pale lips as he managed another tense, “I know.”

Neither of them moved.

Neither of them breathed.

Then, Ignis sputtered a watery, “I missed our chats.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Volatile as they are.”

The small, tight ball of anger in Prompto’s chest twisted, unravelling into his stomach. “What are we doing?”

“What do you mean?”

“Right now,” Prompto whispered. “What… What are we doing right now?”

Ignis’ smile against his neck was almost contagious as he managed a light, “We’re dancing.”

“Dancing?”

“Yes.”

Prompto’s mouth fell open, but even as he went to speak his lips fell shut at the sensation of Ignis’ hands sliding up his chest, winding around his neck.

“Dancing.” The word felt heavier than it was supposed to.

Slowly, they began to sway.

The fire popped.

“We don’t have any music,” Prompto pointed out breathlessly.

“If you insist; Okay Moogle, play Stand By Me.”

Playing .”

As the first notes of a harp, pale hands fell nervously to cup Ignis’ waist. “Is this a metaphor?”

“I’d say this is at least two metaphors. Three if you want to be cheesy.”

Prompto felt like he was moving too fast, and the world was still around him, as the first words of the song hit the air like a brick. Every breath was filled with sand. Every step a weight on his feet that grew greater with each shift of his hips until he drew still.

Pale lips parted in a concerned, “Is something wrong?”

“This is so weird.”

Scarred hands unwound from behind a long neck, tanned fingers slipping through blond hair before settling just beneath ears chilled by the cool breeze.

“What?” Prompto asked, voice heavy.

Ignis’ lips pursed before he admitted, “I forgot what I was going to say.”

After a while – as Florence crooned a gentle, “I won’t cry, no I won’t shed a tear,” – Prompto took one of Ignis’ hands in his. Cradled it between his fingers. And with a moment’s hesitation he pressed it to his lips.

Silence reigned, even as the woman continued with a gentle, “Stand by me.”

Pert lips found the other hand quickly. Followed with wrists and a trail left along the tendon leading up the arm, bunching dark sleeves at the elbows. They started as chaste presses, but dissolved quickly into warm, partially open kisses that lead with the brush of a nose and ended with a flick of a tongue.

Ignis breathed a long, shaky breath. “What are you doing?” he managed.

“Dancing,” Prompto replied against the curve of his elbow, tonguing at the crease, mouth squelching against the soft skin. “It’s a metaphor.”

“That is not dancing, and it most certainly isn’t a metaphor.”

“Maybe not,” he whispered, pressing one last kiss to the smooth skin of Ignis’ inner elbow. He allowed the arms to drop, falling on either side of his neck. “It's probably a symbol, though.”

“You've become quite the…” He trailed off, voice weak. “Quite something.”

“I’m just not afraid to ask for what I want.”

Ignis was suddenly nervous, mouth falling open before he managed an almost choked, “And what do you want?”

“I want you to tell me what you want,” Prompto whispered. He took a bold step forward, sliding his leg between Ignis’ until they were flush. His hands fell, then skittered up a broad, muscular chest. “I want you to figure out how you want this to go. If you want something with me. If you want something just for tonight. If you wanna stop here or keep going. I want what you want, because that's where we're at. I'll take whatever you're willing to give me, because what I want means nothing without your consent.”

“I…”

“If you can’t tell me, show me. Take the lead. Just for tonight… what do you want?”

The music stopped.

“Why?”

“It's just a hunch,” Prompto breathed, “but I'm pretty sure someone fucked with your ability to trust anyone in bed.”

“What is that supposed to imply? My manner simply screams ‘abuse survivor?’ Is that it?” he snapped.

“I'm just saying that the last time you did this you lead the way without much input on my part when I figured you'd slow down and ask my opinion. Instead you got bossy. You rushed things, and that's just not like you. You haven’t been yourself at all. Around Gladio you put on this face to keep things going, but every time we talk you’re this big angry mess.”

“You’re…”

Prompto glanced up, taking in the thoughtful expression that furrowed a tan forehead.

“You’re very perceptive,” he finished after a while.

“Will you tell me about it someday?”

A smile. Gentle. Hesitant. Small. “Maybe.”

Something in Prompto’s chest cracked at the sight, and he found himself pressing lips to the wind-chilled curve of of tanned cheek.

And that, apparently, was that.

The sound of Ignis’ will cracking was like a firework in the distance. Like a murmured insistence that they keep quiet for the others. Like a gentle scolding in the middle of the night at the edge of a Haven deep in the mines.

Prompto gasped as hands gripped him suddenly by the hips, tugging him forward as lips descended. But even as his stomach flipped – pleasant and warm; a far cry from the waves of nervous nausea that had piled like bricks not minutes before – it grew sour as a kiss was pressed to the corner of his mouth. Sweet. Tender. It set the tight ball of something that boiled beneath his ribs aflame.

I'm in love with you, Ignis had said.

I'm in love with you , his lips gently insisted as hands grew lax at narrow hips, dragging up Prompto's sides to settle against the dip of a narrow back.

I'm in love with you , it echoed, over and over in Prompto's head like a record needle trapped by a scratch in the vinyl, twisting and twisting and twisting in place faster and faster, keeping time with a heart that beat like the wings of a wild bird inside a cage.

There was no rush to get at his dick. No hasty fingers grabbing for the hem of his shirt. No one fell to their knees, jaw lax and waiting. And as Ignis’ mouth finally fell into place and his tongue lapped at a plump bottom lip, Prompto's opened quickly to him – too eager, maybe , he found himself thinking for a terrifying moment. Fingers dove into blond hair. With a hum in his throat, Ignis took a steadying step away, breaking the kiss.

It was when his expression softened – when white eyes fluttered open, then closed, and pale lips puffy with use fell open in a breathless gasp – that Prompto realized he was out of his depth.

“You’re hesitating.”

“No I’m not.”

“You are.”

“I’m not,” he insisted again. “I’m nervous.”

Ignis’ grip grew tight around his waist before leaning forward once more, mouth searching for plump lips before kissing him half so sweet Prompto thought he might melt. It was a second before he pulled away. Before his jaw fell slack and he breathed a beleaguered gasp.

That was when Prompto dove in; pressed his lips flush to Ignis’, earning a half sigh. The fingers in his hair twisted as tongues drew against each other, soft and wet and eager. His head jerked to the side as scarred hands tugged, setting their faces at an angle. Tongues moved forward. They stretched as deep as they could into mouths as far open as they would go.

Then large hands fell from yellow hair to a leopard print ass and suddenly they were desperate.

Legs wrapping firmly around Ignis’ waist, Prompto grunted as he was lifted bodily into strong arms. He clung desperately to broad shoulders in an attempt to remain upright. But as his hands scrambled over slick shirt and a smooth collar, he fell back at an angle. His gaze landed on the cane that swept over the ground before slapping into the tent. He watched in awe as it slid smoothly between the gap beneath the zipper, wedging it open and drawing it up sharply. The vinyl flap fell open with a violent slap .

Prompto flailed as he was dropped onto the edge of a cot, one hand pinwheeling through the air for balance as the other gripped the back of Ignis’ neck. He bent back as Ignis bore down on him, pushing him into the cot.

Then they were flush, an erection pressing against the line of his thigh.

With a wet pop , Ignis pulled away from the kiss. “How far is this going?”

Prompto sputtered. He could feel something twitch in his stomach. Something warm that branched through him as he shot back an almost desperate, “As far as you want.”

“Alright…” He bit his lip, eyelids fluttering open for a brief second before closing. “Give me fifteen minutes,” he muttered. “I'm going to go prepare. Would you mind clearing the cots to the side and making up something more appropriate?”

“Yeah,” Prompto said quickly, head bobbing in a desperate yes, yes, yesyesyes . “Definitely.” He waited for Ignis to step away, then hopped to his feet. Flipped on the lantern hanging above their heads. Grabbed up the blankets from both cots, then the ones piled in the corner before snatching up the pillows within reach. For a second he paused; watched Ignis dig deep into a duffel off to the side before pulling out a box.

Turning in Prompto’s general direction, Ignis gave a curt nod. “I’ll be back.” And with that he strode out through the tent flap.

As soon as Ignis was outside, Prompto threw the bedding to the floor, collapsed the cots, and arranged things as best he could before reaching into his pants and pulling his cock out to jerk it desperately. “You can do this in under an hour,” he whispered to himself. “This is Ignis. Don't fuck this up for me, dick.”

It was a while before the telltale slap of shoes on stone echoed through the tent, and Prompto carefully tucked himself away. He watched as a cane came into view. As shoes were toed off and once neat socks stepped over the threshold, riddled with small holes and spots of discoloration. The air in his throat caught at the sight. What emerged, half a beat later, was a breathy, affectionate, “Hey.”

“Hey,” came the reply. Just as soft. Just as sweet. “How do you propose we begin?”

Prompto wasted no time reaching beneath a tailored jacket and grabbing at suspenders, reeling Ignis forward. He hovered for a bit. Pressed short, needy kisses to the length of neck before him and working up to a wide jaw.

“Would you mind terribly if we got into bed first?”

“Not too terribly,” he joked sweetly, attempting a poor accent. Prompto felt like Ignis was rolling his eyes. He took a step away as a wide grin stole across his face, climbing into the mess of bedding that now made up the bulk of the tent floor. Reclining on his back against a particularly large, threadbare body pillow, he watched in amusement as Ignis zipped the tent flap closed. “Come hither,” he teased, waving his hands uselessly.

A snort burst through the room. “I don't need you to vocalize what I already know is on your face.”

“Really? Guess I don't need to tell you about the warts. Or the giant herpe covering three quarters of my bottom lip.”

“Interesting. Are there boil pustules?”

“Oh, extensively. But they're not on my face – they’re all over my back. Careful not to pop any.”

“You're disgusting.”

“You love it.”

“Yes, I do.”

For a moment, despite the winter chill, Prompto felt warm all over.

Dropping to his knees, Ignis crawled onto the bedding.

“How'd you know it was on the floor?”

“Context clues,” was the glib reply as Ignis slowly crawled over leopard print jeans.

Prompto watched as he drew closer, hardly able to catch his breath at the sight of the older man inching up his body on his hands and knees. A kiss was pressed to just one side of his knee. Then his hip. Another to his stomach. And as the distance between them began to close, pale hands hovered over sunglasses. “Can I?”

May I.”

May I, mommy?”

Clearing his throat, Ignis managed a rather high pitched, “You may.”

It took all Prompto had not to spit all over the glasses as laughter bubbled up uncontrollably, shaking him from knees to wrists. But as the worst of it passed, he grabbed at the frames. Twisted them between his fingers. Carefully placed them off to the side as a hand slipped along his cheek.

“No more jokes tonight.” The words came as a whisper. A promise that hovered between their lips.

Prompto grinned. “Really?” he cooed, inching closer. “Are you sure that’s what you want?”

“Pretty sure,” he replied warmly, teeth shining beneath the bright light of the lantern.

“Done,” Prompto hummed sweetly, pushing their foreheads together. “So what else would you like? Be very specific.”

“How specific?”

“As specific as you can get without both of us passing out dead tired with blue balls.”

“Then...”

“Yes?”

Pale lips parted before a tongue flicked out to wet them.

Prompto followed the movement like a laser pointer.

“I want you inside me.”

“And?”

“I… hadn’t thought much further than that.”

Head falling back with a dramatic groan, Prompto wiggled further into the pillows. “Right. Mr. Vanilla. Mr. I Don’t Have Fantasies.”

“I don’t.”

“I know . And it’s… It’s fine.”

Ignis’ eyebrows pinched together for a brief second. “What would you have us do, then?”

“What?” he sputtered weakly. “Right now?”

“You've already made it clear that you’ve had fantasies about us. It’s not as if I’m putting you on the spot.”

“So if I asked you to tie me up with your suspenders and ride me, that’d be in the realm of possibilities?”

“That cannot be your only fantasy.”

“I mean, yeah, but like… that’s number one. Wrap those babies around my wrists and hop on my dick and I will be the happiest man alive.”

“You must be kidding.”

“I am so far from kidding.”

“My suspenders?”

“Look, I’m not having a kink discussion with you right now. You’re on top of me. I’m harder than granite. You don’t have to do it, but I would like to fuck at some point tonight. I mean, you already took a shit and douched yourself. That shit is messy. Literally. On two counts. So, like… We should do it. With or without your suspenders.”

“I was only inquiring about the possibility of-”

“For the love of the Six, just please shut your mouth and kiss me already.”

“If you insist.”

Prompto grabbed his suspenders and pulled .

About goddamn time.

Their mouths caught at the edges, bottom lips scraping before Ignis nudged up. He allowed himself to be dragged down by his suspenders with a surprised groan as fingers played with elastic. As hands moved up and down his chest. Jaw dropping wide, he pushed in closer, legs spreading across the blankets even as his arms began to sag against the pillows.

Pale fingers worked desperately at dark buttons, undoing the collar quickly before moving quickly down. They pushed the shirt apart as they went. Lovingly caressed the undershirt that slowly became exposed. “Six,” Prompto hissed as the final button was undone, tugging it desperately out from beneath the tight hem of the jeans. Pulled at the undershirt that bore holes from overuse, patched too many times.

As the fabric is tucked beneath suspenders – drawn over shoulders and discarded without a second thought – Prompto’s hands moved over skin paler than he remembered as it was revealed. Admired the seam between scar and clean, smooth skin. He jerked out of the kiss, fingers dragging down the stark outline of ribs.

“Is something wrong?

Glancing up, blue eyes met with a milky blank gaze, half shuttered against the light of the lantern. “I just…” Prompto cleared his throat. “You’ve been keeping up on your pills, right?”

“Of course. What makes you ask?”

“You just look a little thinner than you used to,” he clarified softly. “That’s all.”

A grin, gentle and affectionate, met his words. “I imagine we’re all a little thinner than we used to be.”

With a wan sigh, Prompto eased forward to press a kiss to the flesh above the collarbone on display. His lips were insistent, sucking at the skin almost as if to drag it out from where it had sunk.

Before long, Ignis pulled away.

“Something wrong?”

Ignis’ lips pursed. “No,” he replied quickly. “No, just… Relax. And keep still.”

“Oh,” he murmured slowly, followed by a brief nod. Pulling away, he fell back against the pillows. “Okay.”

Scarred fingers found the hem of a dark tank, pushing it up a pale stomach.

Clenching his abs, Prompto lifted himself from the blankets to facilitate the motion.

Soon the shirt was gone, and Ignis reached down to unclip his suspenders.

Lips parted as a mouth went suddenly dry.

“Hands?”

Prompto readied a swift and crackling, “Yes.” His voice broke twice over the single word. Might have done three times if the word were any longer.  Slapping his wrists firmly together, he offered them palm-up to Ignis, knuckles tapping at the man’s chest. “Yes please.” The entirety of these words came out as a rough squeak.

A smirk. “Eager?”

Blond eyebrows arched skeptically. “Are you really going to ask me that or are you going to immobilize me with your skinny jean support system?”

“Since when do I wear skinny jeans?”

With a dramatic raspberry, Prompto tapped the bare chest once again with his knuckles, dragging appreciatively along the twisted seam of flesh where gnarled scarring tore into Ignis’ torso. “Come on, come on!”

With a sly grin, Ignis drew his hands down to Prompto's and laid the strap across his wrists. “Say please.”

“We're using suspenders as restraints. I'm not about to call you Master.”

“That'll do.” Gripping the strap firmly between his fingers, Ignis began to wind them firmly around the offered wrists. “Do we need a safe word?”

“Pretty sure ‘stop’ should do the job with us.”

“'Stop’ it is.” With a quick jerk of his fingers, Ignis secured the suspenders in a loose knot before shifting back on his knees. “There we go,” he said proudly, expression appraising, as if admiring his work. He was miraculously calm. Collected.

Prompto was calm, too. Calm in a way that could have sent his heart crashing out through his ribs. It beat against his chest insistently. Let me out , it screamed. Let me out . He kept his lips firmly shut.

“Might as well get things moving.”

Blue eyes followed the twist of scars and smooth skin as Ignis rose to his feet. Watched in utter disbelief as fingers worked quickly at a fly, and slacks were pushed to the floor. The underwear that followed.

Six, his heart was going to stop.

Ignis’ dick was long and thin, curving off to the left. The tip was sheathed. Uncircumcised, and far more narrow than the base. It bobbed beside his leg as he fumbled with his socks, wagging back and forth as if to shame Prompto as every atom of his being narrowed down to a fixed point.

He jumped as hands found his hips.

“Best take these off if we want to go anywhere,” Ignis suggested.

Leopard print pants hit the tent wall with an angry slap not a second later. They were followed by socks and a pair of underwear.

Let me out , his heart demanded.

They were naked. They were both naked.

Let me out .

Ignis reached back and slid a hand into the pocket of his slacks, producing a single foil condom packet. “Shall we?” he whispered.

Let me out .

A bare grunt was managed as latex slid over the head of a flushed cock, rolled down over the kink and pressed into the unruly curl of blond pubic hair. Tanned fingers combed through the strands for a moment. Played with them as a smile lit on pale lips.

Prompto couldn’t breathe as hips settled against his, and Ignis’ arms wound beneath his shoulders. His cock was pressed into the seam of a lightly freckled ass. “I-” It came out choked. Watery. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

Lips cut him off.

Let me out .

The kiss grew heated, mouths opening wide against each other. Ignis rocked back against Prompto’s cock. Broke the kiss with a satisfied sigh as pale wrists strained against elastic. “I’m already prepared,” he whispered. “Go ahead.”

“Put it in yourself,” Prompto shot back, breathless. His eyes were wide. Jaw was slack. “I’m all tied up at the moment.” A gasp stuttered out of him as scarred hands pushed at pillows, drawing the body atop him away before reaching down to grab at his dick. The fingers pushed the sheathed head against a puckered ass, swiping the tip of the condom twice with a thumb before hips began to sink. “F… uck.”

“Almost,” came the downright cheerful reply, hissed out between two hitched breaths. Shifting his hips further back, Ignis rose up until he was nearly sitting. Then, holding himself on his knees, he pulled his ass open with one hand while the other held Prompto’s dick in place. Slowly, he began to bear down.

Prompto almost choked on his own saliva as the rim fluttered against the kink in his cock. As he was squeezed by tight, warm heat a little at a time before the body above him stilled, only halfway down. “Hey, hey,” he whispered, arms lifting, then flopping back uselessly against the pillows. “You okay?”

A groan. An insistent, “ Fantastic .” Jaw slack and hands shaking, Ignis sunk the rest of the way in one go.

You ...” Prompto hissed. “You’re so…” Warm. Tight. Close. Perfect.

Let me out .

Blond lashes fluttered against a sudden moisture.

Let me out .

Allowing himself to fall forward, Ignis carefully bracketed his arms on either side of pale shoulders before pressing sharp kisses to Prompto's neck. “Thank the Six.”

Jaw slack, Prompto managed a choked, “What… What is it?”

“You’re small.”

“I am?”

“Yes.”

“Is that good?”

“It means we can go crazy,” came the weak reply, hissed out between pale lips that dragged against the exposed length of neck before him. “And I won’t be bedridden tomorrow from being sore.”

“What?”

Ignis turned his face up for a kiss, mouthing up a pale cheek before finding lips.

As hips drew up, Prompto could barely respond to the tongue twining with his as the mushroom head of his cock caught at Ignis’ rim before the man eased slowly down. “Aah,” he managed as a sort of response, breaking away from the warm mouth on his.

“In my experience, cocks on the larger side are more trouble than they're worth,” the man continued in his ear. “I'm rather sensitive. You can't ram into my ass all night without overworking my poor bum. But if you're small enough, the stretch is minimal. We could fuck for hours and I'd wake up bright and early with a smile on my face.”

“This is the weirdest dirty talk I've ever heard.”

“You're welcome.”

“You are seriously weird.”

“Thank you for noticing,” he groaned, pushing back at Prompto’s chest to sit straight up. For a moment he paused, tanned hips flush to pale. His head was thrown back; throat on full display. Each breath heaved through his chest like a chore. Sweat glistened in the light of the lantern, beading at his forehead and dripping down his neck. His eyes were slits, barely visible beneath dark lashes that fluttered lightly. As his mouth dropped open, he took a sharp breath before rocking his hips forward.

There was almost no sensation. The angle did nothing for Prompto, but he found himself thrusting gently up into the warm body above him, gaze dragging hungrily along the tanned, twitching body before him. Tongue sneaking out to wet his lips, his mouth fell open, as if to catch the sudden moan that floated through the tent.

Ignis was falling to pieces. His expression had twisted into something like anger, jaw slack and arms taught. Hands were braced against pale thighs. Breath stuttered out in long, desperate moans. Then, with no other stimulation, he shuddered suddenly, cock pulsing against Prompto’s stomach, spilling semen lazily against faint abs and a shallow navel. A single whimper broke the air.

Prompto watched it all, disbelief and awe firm on his face. “Wow,” he whispered. “ Wow .”

Arm falling to the side, Ignis weakly grabbed at the discarded box at the edge of the makeshift bed, retrieving a single cloth. He patted carefully at Prompto’s stomach. Wiped up the mess with smooth motions. “How are the suspenders?” he asked, voice sleepy. “Not too tight?”

“They’re great, but could you remove them?”

“Oh?” Curious. Amused. A grin settled on pale lips. “But you wanted them so badly.”

“I want to touch you.”

Mouth twitching into a smile, Ignis snorted. “Oh?” he repeated lightly. “I don’t recall tying your hands to anything.”

Pale legs flailed as Prompto shot up. His arms flew forward, elbows sliding on either side of tanned cheeks. He hooked the suspenders at the back of Ignis’ head, dragging him down into a sharp, closed-mouthed, needy kiss.

Fingers stole into blond hair. Twisted in the strands as dark eyebrows furrowed. A breath, quick and needy, hissed between them.

Let me out .

“You’re crying.”

Prompto blinked. “Oh.”

He was.

Ignis’ lips parted, tongue darting out to slide nervously over his bottom lip. “Is everything alright?”

“Everything’s perfect,” he replied quickly. Maybe a touch too fast. Maybe a touch too warm. Too honest.

Hips eased forward.

A shiver raced up a pale back.

“Would you like to finish?” Ignis asked, voice low.

Prompto shook his head slowly. “I’ll give you a few minutes first, so you won’t be oversensitized. I’m good like this.”

Eyebrows arched. “Really? Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I’m… I’ve…” He cleared his throat.

Time slowed.

Butterflies danced.

Noses brushed, dimly lit by the lantern swinging back and forth as a sudden gust of wind whipped around the haven.

“I’ve never…” Prompto attempted again, voice nearly lost in the the deafening slap of vinyl. “I’ve never felt this close to you before.”

The smile that followed was warm. A punch in the gut. A lock in the gate.

“I love you.”

It fell like a tower.

“No, no, no,” Prompto whispered, desperate. His arms drew tight around a stocky neck, pressing his forehead nervously to a warm cheek. “Don’t stop smiling at me like that. Please don’t stop.”

Slowly, Ignis began to tremble.

“No,” he continued, voice high. “No, no. Don’t-”

Scarred hands cupped cheeks flushed with cold. Fingers dove into messy hair. Lips parted in a brief gasp before dipping forward to swallow the words hanging between them.

The quiet press of mouths. Soft. Sweet. Understated.

Ignis pulled away with a gentle, “I think I’m ready, now.”

“But-”

He silenced Prompto with another kiss.

And another.

And another, until they were both breathless and still in the tent that shivered in the wind.

Drawing away, delight quirking in the base of his stomach at the sight of the string of saliva between them, Prompto sputtered a weak, “You said you loved me, remember?”

“I did.” He reached behind him, undoing the suspenders that wrapped around slender wrists.

A lip was bitten. Arms sagged against broad shoulders. Lashes fluttered nervously as his hands were freed. “Can you say it again?”

Ignis turned, pressing the lightest of kisses at the pale tendons that strained against pale wrists, wrapped with deep red lines that slowly faded. “I shouldn’t have… We shouldn’t make this harder than it already is.”

Silence sunk into the tent like a seed in the ground.

The wrist was lowered. Dropped between their shared laps. “Where do you want me?”

Prompto flipped them easily, expression tight as he grabbed boxy hips and dropped Ignis into the bed of pillows before falling onto him. He took his dick in hand, guiding it back between the lubed ass cheeks to press suddenly in. “You’re so beautiful,” he hissed, shoving deep. He paused as legs locked around his back. Froze as shins dragged along his back.

“Am I?” It was an honest question. Ignis’ expression was open; curious.

Dropping forward, Prompto opened his mouth wide, tongue flying out to drag up the seam of Ignis’ chest where the scars were still a bright, shiny pink. He stopped just below a dusky brown nipple. Lapped at the parts that had turned brown; the parts that in and out in even lines where stitches had held the man together. “To me.”

“Oh.”

“Is that okay?”

“That’s perfect.”

Perfect .

The legs around his back loosened.

Prompto carefully eased back before pushing back in, watching Ignis’ face carefully. Once fully sheathed he moved his hips in a circle. Shifted back and forth until the legs bracketing him began to tremble. Then, lips pursed, eyebrows furrowed, he grabbed at a knee. He eased onto the balls of his feet, slid carefully out, then thrust sharply in.

Long hair tossed against the pillows as a broad back arched, sweat glistening beneath the light as the wind outside kicked up once more. His mouth split, words lost in the din of vinyl and the distant scream of a daemon.

“Good?” Prompto could barely hear himself.

Lips moved.

Outside, thunder cracked.

A hiss of rain.

Ignis nodded, hair flopping over his face. He quickly brushed it away.

Gaze dragging down the man’s torso, Prompto turned his attention on their hips as he pulled out. Watched his cock as it slid free of the tight clench of Ignis’ ass. Watched the kink expand as he pulled free. Then, slowly, he slammed back in.

Pale lips split in an angry scream that tore through the tent.

Prompto froze .

Ignis laid against the bedding, limp, chest heaving.

“Did you just scream?” he shouted over the torrent of rain that began to pelt the tent like a million angry drums.

“Yes,” came an embarrassed reply, just barely heard.

“Did I hurt you?”

Hands slapped over a swiftly reddening face. “No.” Mortified and muffled, Ignis’ voice squeaked at the edges.

Maybe, Prompto found himself thinking, he needs some oil .

He reached for the box, fingers quickly taking hold of the lube. Fitting his thumb beneath the lid, he popped it open. “Are you a screamer?”

Hands balled before closed eyes as a flush spread down a broad chest.

Outside, the rain seemed to let up a bit.

Easing out of Ignis, Prompto slicked the condom with a bit more lube before pressing the tip back to the tight ring of his ass. He rubbed it up against the perineum, a nervous sigh slipping past his lips. “I really didn’t hurt you?”

“Only my pride,” came the sheepish reply.

The lube was snapped closed. Tossed to the side. Grabbing Ignis’ thigh, smearing fluid up to his knee, Prompto drew up back up to his waist before pushing the tip of his cock through. He threw himself down, bracketing his arm against Ignis’ as his clean hand rest against the pillows. “It’s fine,” he whispered, teeth dragging against the curve of an ear. “Be as loud as you like. No one can hear us.” And with that he snapped his hips forward.

Scarred hands fell from blank eyes to scramble up a pale back as an aborted scream hung between them. Nails bit into flesh, dragging from shoulder to hip before digging desperate crescents into a bony ass. “Yes,” he groans, voice weak. “ Yes .”

Fuck ,” Prompto hissed, feeling moisture begin to bud in his eyes as he felt his balls grow tight. A sob burst through him. He dove for a kiss, capturing pale lips with his in an attempt to keep the butterflies in his stomach at bay as they swirled, sour and sharp. “I love you,” he gasped as the kiss fell to pieces, Ignis twitching beneath him as his dick began to drool, precum spilling between their sandwiched stomachs. Prompto fucked him through it, thighs tensing as tears began to fall from his cheeks. But as he felt something slip – something thick and soft and slick against the kink of his dick – Prompto drew to an abrupt stop.

Ignis pushed back against him, hips snapping up and down against him.

“Stop. Stop, stop-”

What?

“I think the condom broke,” he explained quickly, pulling out quickly and groaning at the sight of the latex that suddenly hung from his cock. “ Fuck .”

Dark eyebrows furrowed. “Is it broken?”

“Oh, yeah. It’s broken. Goddamn…” Sliding it off with his lubed up hand, Prompto spun and unzipped the tent flap for a short second, lobbing the condom into the remains of the fire before closing it. “Shit. Do you have another?”

“I’m afraid I don’t. Do you?”

“I didn’t bring any,” he admitted.

Ignis – taking a long breath, breathing it out – motioned for Prompto to move forward. “Lay down,” he said simply, shifting over.

Moving forward on his knees, Prompto collapsed at his side. Watched, amused, as Ignis turned to face him. Watched brown hair darker than he’d ever seen it fall loose around an angular face. Fingers draw up, then down. Watched as they wrapped firmly around his cock.

“Okay?”

“Yeah.”

Slowly, the hand began to move. Slid up and down his length. Quickly approached a feverish pace. “Good?”

“Yeah.”

It was a while before Ignis thought to ask, “Are you getting close?”

Prompto bit his lip. Turned his face nervously away. “Sorry. I mean… No. I’m… You could probably do this for a few hours, but I just- It’s hard to get me off, you know?”

“I don’t,” he replied flatly.

Silence settled between them.

Blue eyes turned on the ceiling. On the lantern that swung back and forth. On the tent walls that grew darker as the rain began to fall, heavier and heavier.

“We could…” Ignis cleared his throat. “We could keep going.”

Prompto’s eyes slipped shut, eyebrows furrowed, annoyed. “We don’t have any-”

“We’ll go without, if you’re amenable.”

It was as if he’d suddenly shot awake. Prompto practically rolled onto Ignis, settling them face to face. His hands drew into tight balls, attempting to withhold the urge to reach. To touch . “You’re not kidding, are you?”

“I am not.”

“You literally pushed me away for…” He gaped. “This is… This is a big step.”

“I know.”

“And you’re okay with that? Like… totally okay?”

“I’m going to be okay. We’re going to be okay,” he replied softly. His lips had pulled into something like a smile; nervous and weak. But there was something in his eyes – slightly open, shuttered against the bright light of the lantern – that made the butterflies settle. “I have to stop being afraid some day.”

“You don’t have to stop today.”

“I likely won’t,” he shot back lightly.

The butterflies swirled. “Okay,” Prompto whispered. He leaned forward. Stole a kiss. Then, pressing a hand to Ignis’ shoulder, he pushed him back onto the pillows, following quietly with a leg thrown over to bracket boxy hips. He snatched up the lube, slicking himself quickly before sliding his fingers behind Ignis’ balls, slipping along the perineum before pushing at the tight ring of muscle. His expression tightened as he circled the hole. “You’re tense.”

Ignis gasped. A hiccup caught in his throat. A shaky hand fell to shield his quickly softening cock from view. “I’m rather nervous.”

“Want me to eat you out?”

“No, just…” Scarred hands rose, fingers folding around slim elbows. “Kiss me.”

Prompto did. He dove down, mouth closed, to pepper a long neck and jaw with quick pecks and an overexcited tongue until lips found his. Until Ignis’ face cut his off and opened up to him. They could hardly breathe, air stuttering out through their noses until a finger slipped inside Ignis’ ass. Smooth.

In an instant, Ignis was hard again.

Before long, Prompto had up to the webbing of his thumb buried. It was wet and sloppy around his hand, squelching at each and every pull. He pulled his hand out, wiping it on the discarded rag before settling his hips in place. “Ready?” he asked around the insistent thrum of his heart.

“Quite ready,” came the all-too-put-together reply.

Grabbing at his dick, Prompto gave it a few cursory strokes before pushing it back against the coil of muscle.

He blinked and he was in.

Ignis was warmer, now. Softer. The bare touch of flesh electric. Prompto had never been much of a texture person; never cared much about the softness of mouths or the rough pull of callouses. In that moment, he began to realize he should have been paying a bit more attention. “You’re… You’re so soft.”

Wide hips squirmed. “You act as if you’ve never had sex without a condom,” came the glib, breathy comment.

“I haven’t.” Pale hands gripped thick thighs, stilling them. “ Fuck . Is it usually this good?”

“For some, yes.”

Carefully, Prompto slid out, then back in. “ Six .”

Head falling back, Ignis managed a soft, “That is quite nice, yes.”

Again, the rain began to kick up.

Prompto set a bruising pace, snapping his hips up into Ignis, fingers smearing lube along their skin until Ignis’ thighs, groin, and stomach glowed beneath the quivering light of the lamp. It was a few minutes before the rhythm began to stutter. Before pale hips drew quickly away and Prompto desperately jerked his cock over Ignis’ stomach.

Scarred hands fell on shoulders, then slid down to the long cock. “Come inside me.”

Shit ,” Prompto snapped. He glanced into milky white eyes, wide open and focused intently on his chest. “ Shit ,” he said again. Guiding his dick back inside, he gave a few quick thrusts before hauling himself up on his arms. He grabbed at sturdy knees, hiking them over his shoulders before slamming indelicately in.

Ignis’ voice came as broken cries. A series of shattered, “Ah, ah, ah ,” with each slam forward.

Blue eyes watched, intense, as his dick slid in and out of Ignis’ pale, freckled ass. He pushed the knees to the side; dropped back down, mouth wide open. Their lips fit together like a puzzle. Their tongues slid together, smooth, almost practiced, as narrow hips stuttered and a heady groan was swallowed between them.

Fingers clutched at narrow shoulders, as if to stop one of them from flying away.

It was only a few seconds before Prompto was curled in Ignis’ embrace, soft hiccups sounding through the tent as his face flushed and tears marked his cheeks. “ I love you .”

“So. You came out.”

“Sort of.”

“Sort of?”

“I’ve never really come out to anyone who lives there, Jabari aside. I just went to the right place and people assumed. It’s nice, being surrounded by people in an environment where they don’t assume you’re straight. Iris was an accident.”

“Am I an accident?”

“No. Am I?”

“You’ll never be an accident.”

“How long have you loved me?”

“Are we playing the question game again?”

“Maybe.”

“Alright, then. Remember when you changed my phone settings to work for voice controls?”

“That was three years ago, Ignis.”

“Yes, and at no point during that day did you make me feel like a burden. You made me feel welcome. Wanted. Useful, even.”

“...”

“And how did that warrant a kiss?”

“You and your stubble are really cute.”

“My apologies. I forewent shaving this morning.”

“Of course you did.”

“You’re not leaving, are you?”

“I just… I feel like we should stop talking. You kept saying we should make this easier on ourselves.”

“We’ve already passed that. You should stay.”

“I can’t.”

“Just for tonight.”

“Ignis-”

“Please.”

“... Okay.”

When an insistent alarm sounded through the tent in the bleak and unchanging early hours of the morning, wind still whipping around the tent in insistent gusts, Prompto woke at first slowly, then all at once.

He was warm.

He was comfortable.

He was…

… inside Ignis.

He was… inside . Just as he woke up, his head felt heavy. Loopy, almost. Suddenly awake and painfully hard.

Beneath him, Ignis gave a small groan, thrusting down against his cock.

Grabbing desperately for his phone, Prompto silenced it. Swiped his thumb across the screen – leftmost middle to top center; difficult in the sense that no one would consider a password so simple – and tapped insistently at the camera icon. It popped up after a moment that felt like eternity. Then, easing carefully up, Prompto took a few select photos of where his dick remained buried in Ignis’ ass. Of Ignis passed out against the pillows. Then, setting his phone to record, he propped it up against the box of supplies off to the left. The blankets shifted as he moved back on his knuckles. As he slid from Ignis’ side to sliding back between his thick thighs. He pushed their hips flush together with a soft groan before leaning forward, pressing an insistent kiss to pale lips.

Dark lashes fluttered open on habit before falling once more. A sharp jaw fell open, meeting the needy kiss with tongue and hands that wrapped around narrow shoulders. As their faces drew apart, he gasped a pleased, “This is by far the best way I’ve ever been woken up.”

Prompto rocked into him carefully. “The lube was absorbed a while ago, so I’m trying to not move too much,” he noted, all business.

“Has someone done this before?” Ignis teased. “Last I checked, you were a virgin.”

“I haven’t had my virginity since you took it.” Thin fingers slipped beneath boxy knees, rocking into Ignis’ ass gently before easing up and down in a mindless grind.

Long hair pooled around a gaunt face as Ignis threw his head back to release a hoarse, throaty moan.

“I’m filming this. I…” Prompto cleared his throat. “Is that okay? I can just delete it if it’s not.”

Neither of them saw the dick jump between their stomachs.

“So long as it’s for personal use, that should be fine,” came an all-too-practiced line.

Prompto continued to rock into him, gasping wetly, until scarred hands fell to his. Gripped his wrists; guided them to press down instead of hold his thighs in place. Legs fell backwards, sending the younger man forward until his forehead pressed to Ignis’, strong ankles braced against his shoulders. “Since when are you flexible?” he gaped.

“I’ve been bored.”

“I uh…” He cleared his throat. “I think we need lube, now.”

“If we must.”

Shifting back, Prompto’s hands went to the globes of Ignis’ ass, pulling them apart before slowly drawing out of the tight, dry hole. “You’re kind of a freak, you know that? Like, sexually.”

A dark eyebrow arched. “How so?”

“Well, you woke up to me fucking you and you didn’t flip out, for one,” he drawled, reaching for the lube. He twisted it between his fingers grandly. Then, fitting his thumb beneath the cap, he flipped it open and poured a generous amount into his hand.

“We fell asleep with you inside me.”

“Still, very chill,” he replied dryly, warming the gel between his fingers before tossing the lube away. “And just now? That lube comment? Kinda scary. I don’t want to hurt you.”

Prompto didn’t imagine it this time; eyes rolled. “You are far too gentle for that.”

He snorted. “Gentle? Right. I’ll show you ‘gentle.’” Then, with no other warning, he ran his lubed hand over his dick in two short strokes before lining up and slamming into Ignis. He grabbed at the cloth at the edge of the bed, wiping his hand ineffectively along it before slapping both hands on the man’s hips and rocketing into him.

Immediately Ignis shouted, voice cracking with each aborted scream that pierced the tent and hung in the air. His cock hardened quickly, filling against his stomach before spilling prematurely.

“You’ve got no stamina,” Prompto noted, lifting wide hips a bit further before snapping in at an angle.

“I haven’t- ah!” He hissed. “I haven’t had… sex since… we last…” A long, broken groan. “Right there, yes, right there.”

Prompto slowed, easing back and forth against the smallest of bumps deep inside.

The breath to follow was long and stuttered.

“You were saying?”

Abs fluttered. A single eye slid open, sending his scars into sharp relief with the milkiness of his eyes. “Not since I sucked you off.”

“I can’t be your only option.”

“You aren’t.”

Blond eyebrows scrunched. “Then why?”

“You know why.”

Prompto pursed his lips. “Yeah, I do.”

“Look at me.”

“I am.” Was he.

Ignis’ expression was tense, yet somehow soft. A furrowed forehead offset by the gentle downward swoop of lips. Long hair spilling nearly down to his shoulders, uneven and beautiful, dark even in the light of the lantern. His skin shone with the beginnings of sweat, catching in the creases of his stomach and shining across his neck. “I trust you with my life, Prompto.”

At the words, a shiver ran up Prompto, and he hooked Ignis’ knees over his shoulders before rising up onto his own, drawing his hips back, and snapping them forward with an aborted grunt.

The scream that came was half choked.

“Good scream?” he asked, even as he pulled his hips back for another thrust.

Strong legs shook as scarred fingers twisted in the blankets beneath them. “Yes,” he shouted. Desperate. Needy. Broken. As his hips slammed back in, Ignis’ hips snapped down to meet him as pale lips dropped open and strong arms scrambled across pillows in an attempt to hold himself up. His long, curved cock jumped against his stomach, and from his chest burst a long, almost angry moan. His face flushed. It rushed into his cheeks and down his neck until his entire chest practically glowed.

Prompto shifted against the blankets and slid one of Ignis’ legs closer to his neck. He felt ankles brush the back of his neck as they linked, and it’s a bit uncomfortable, the way it’s pushing at the back of his head. But as he moved his hands to grip a round ass, he stopped caring as the tent suddenly went quiet. His gaze flew to the man beneath him, concerned.

He looked like rapture. Limp. Sated. Cock limp in a smear of its own fluids.

“Are you okay?”

“Please keep going.”

It was a moment before Prompto grunted a yes. Just as long before he cautiously pushed back in. He watched as fingers fell lax against the pillows, untangling from the fabric as pale lips parted in ecstasy for deep, even breaths. “You’re soft,” he noted after a while.

“And you’ve never gone soft with something up your ass?”

“I’m usually soft with something up my ass. From what I’ve seen, you aren’t.”

“I’m perfectly alright,” he replied, accent more plain than ever. “I’ve just entered into a very odd head space. It’s rather pleasant.” His abs flexed.

Prompto gasped. Pushed mindlessly into the pressure.

“Just like that.”

He pushed in again, groaning wantonly. “U- Usually people go numb by this point.”

“I don’t go numb unless there are vibrations.”

Prompto’s mouth went dry. He eased forward again, feeling all too close.

Ignis breathed out.

“What are you thinking about?”

“I’m a little light headed,” came the airy reply. “It’s as if everything has narrowed to a point and there’s only sensation. Thinking is a bit difficult. How are you doing?”

“I think I’m trying not to cry,” he admitted.

“I’m sorry.”

“You’re so beautiful right now,” he found himself whispering around the sudden lump that freefell into his stomach. “You’re… You’re so beautiful . And fuck , that word doesn’t even feel right.”

“Then use a different word.”

“Excuse me,” Prompto drawled, snapping his hips forward once more in the beginnings of a swifter pace. “In case you didn’t notice, I didn’t have some fancy private school education.”

“You went to the same school as Noctis.”

“Case in point.”

Ignis laughed.

They’d all but stopped moving.

Prompto pulled out, sliding beside Ignis and moving into a kiss. His tongue dipped in immediately, sliding into a dry mouth with a sandpaper tongue. He drew down, caressing the base of Ignis’ mouth and feeling the scrape of teeth. Drew along the sides before licking the uneven roof as another curious touch probed at his teeth. He shifted forward, tilting his head and feeling the shift in return until they were at a sharp angle, mouths open as far as they could go until he felt spit begin to leak down their cheeks.

Scarred hands traced up narrow hips.

A giggle broke the kiss. Pulling away, Prompto fixed his eyes on Ignis, gazing at the wet line of saliva that trailed from his mouth and along his jaw.

“Do you want to come on my face?”

Blue eyes blinked. “I don't think I'm getting there, tonight.”

“... Oh.”

“I’m fine not coming. This happens a lot. I’d rather…” He trailed off nervously before continuing, voice a touch lower. “I’d like to kiss you a bit more.”

A smile. Warm. Soft. “That sounds rather nice.”

Prompto thought his heart was going to stop.

Then Ignis was on top, mouth chapped and eager against his. His hair hung around their faces; a dark sheet that blocked out the light of the hanging lantern. It was just the two of them beneath it. Together.

Like blankets hanging from the sides of a bunk bed, lit by a video as they shared their darkest secrets.

At no point did Ignis pull away from the kiss as he fell flush against Prompto's chest, sandwiching the sticky results of his orgasm and their soft dicks between them in a slimy, lukewarm mess.

It felt, to Prompto, like the most beautiful thing in the world.

“Sure you don't want to stay a little while longer?” Iris asked, leaning up against the side of the truck.

Prompto shrugged, throwing an arm over the side. He fingers picked at the peeling paint. “I've literally got a job, Iris,” he reminded her dryly. “It's not even an at will job. It's a job. I couldn’t stay if I wanted to.”

At her side, Gladio snorted.

Blue eyes fixed on him, expression dirty. “Look,” he snapped, “just call me when Noctis wakes up, okay? I’m willing to drop it for him, not you.”

“You don’t have to leave.” His voice was surprisingly even. No bite. More of a suggestion than anything. It was the calmest he’d ever been about it.

“Yeah, I do,” and apparently this sounded regretful enough that Gladio let it drop.

From inside the cab of the truck came a clang. “Hey, you guys done?”

Prompto banged back. “Fine!” he shouted, giving it an extra smack. “Go ahead!”

“Write me letters!” Iris shouted over the roar of the engine, backing away from the truck.

“Duh!”

She waved him off, both arms high in the air as the truck pulled around and headed through the wide open gate.

Prompto scanned the outpost as it fell away before him. His gaze dragged from the diner to the garage and back again, but came up empty in the search for well tailored slacks and a pair of sunglasses. As it grew smaller in the distance a lump formed in his throat. He allowed his head to fall into the curve of his arm, and as the outpost disappeared behind a sea of brush he breathed a long, disparaging sigh.

Chapter Text

“You look like a funeral.”

Prompto glanced up, staring at the dark, bald man behind the bar with something like regret. “You cut your hair.”

Jabari grinned. “It was getting a little hot for the curls.”

“You look good with both.”

“You’re biased.”

“I’m very biased.”

“The usual?”

Prompto shrugged, easing away from the bar, arms sliding across the wood. “No thanks,” he declined just loud enough to be heard over the thrumming music. “I’ll just have some juice.”

“Juice, huh?” he repeated. The warm smile seemed to falter. “A night to be sober for?”

“More like… I figure I shouldn’t kill myself looking for the glass that might solve this problem.” He bit his lip, leaning back until the stool creaked between his legs. The glass pushed between his fingers was cold. Almost sharp against the warm twist in the air that drug sweat from his neck, pouring down his collar.

“Does this have anything to do with that trip you took to Hammerhead?”

Prompto pursed his lips before taking a quick swig of the juice, bright orange and overly tart. “You heard about that, huh?”

“Silas told me when he came in. You’re back fast, though.”

“I didn’t want to stay any longer than I had to.”

“Is Iris glad to be back with her brother?”

“She’s fine.”

“How was the rest of the visit?”

Another sip. Another sigh. “Okay, no, maybe I do need alcohol.”

Bottle glinting in a wayward spotlight, Jabari flashed a label above the counter before stowing it quickly beneath the bar along with Prompto’s glass.

“You-”

“Don’t tell anyone I saved you your own bottle,” he warned softly, voice just barely loud enough to be heard.

Pale elbows rested against the counter, sliding eagerly forward. “Did you really save me-”

Lips met his.

Pale lashes didn’t flutter. A heart failed to beat any faster.

“Before I give you any of this,” Jabari began softly, “would you be up for a round of cheer-up sex? I get off in half an hour.”

Butterflies remained firmly in place.

“Sorry.” The word was out before he knew what he was saying. “I think I’m ruined.”

“Ruined?” A dark eyebrow arched. “Did your dick fall off?”

Prompto snorted. “No,” he replied softly. He glanced around, eyes nervously scanning the room before he eased further forward, forehead nearly flush with Jabari’s. “I’m, uh… I’m gonna head up to your room, okay? I have something to show you when you get off.”

The keys were in his hands in seconds.

…  

“Just… don’t tell anyone about this, okay?

“Is it dirty?”

“You have no idea .”

“I’ve slept with you. I have some idea.”

Reaching awkwardly into his pocket, Prompto produced his phone with a hushed, “Just don’t tell anyone.”

Jabari smiled. “My lips are sealed.”

Pale fingers tapped through the menu, bringing up the gallery and selecting the first video, circle spinning on the screen. “Just… Don’t freak out about the lack of condoms.”

Jabari’s lips pursed.

“We know each other’s medical history pretty extensively, and I’m on PrEP so-”

“PrEP doesn’t stop all sexually transmitted-”

“I know, I know , I’m just… I knew we took a risk, but…” He trailed off, voice cracking as it gave way to silence.

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to criticise you,” Jabari whispered. “It was your risk to take, not mine. I need to respect that.”

“Right, just…” Prompto blinked as the video finally loaded.

The blankets shifted as he moved back on his knuckles. As he slid from Ignis’ side to sliding back between his thick thighs. He pushed their hips flush together with a soft groan before leaning forward, pressing an insistent kiss to pale lips.

“Is he asleep?” Jabari asked.

Dark lashes fluttered open on habit before falling once more. A sharp jaw fell open, meeting the needy kiss with tongue and hands that wrapped around narrow shoulders. As their faces drew apart, he gasped a pleased, “This is by far the best way I’ve ever been woken up.”

Wide lips parted in disbelief. “Shit. He’s absolutely gorgeous.”

“That’s Ignis,” Prompto found himself admitting.

Prompto rocked into him carefully. “The lube was absorbed a while ago, so I’m trying to not move too much,” he noted, all business.

“Fuck me. He’s Ignis?”

“Yup.”

“Do those scars have a story?”

“Has someone done this before?” Ignis teased. “Last I checked, you were a virgin.”

“Leviathan.”

“I haven’t had my virginity since you took it.” Thin fingers slipped beneath boxy knees, rocking into Ignis’ ass gently before easing up and down in a mindless grind.

“Mother of Shiva, he is gorgeous.”

“It’s almost unfair,” Prompto groaned. “Like, I can guarantee you that if I got part of my face burned off I wouldn’t look nearly that good. Dude’s always been stylish.”

Long hair pooled around a gaunt face as Ignis threw his head back to release a hoarse, throaty moan.

“I’m filming this. I…” Prompto cleared his throat. “Is that okay? I can just delete it if it’s not.”

His dick jumped between their stomachs.

“So long as it’s for personal use, that should be fine,” came an all-too-practiced line.

Jabari’s expression shifted to something a touch more conflicted. “It looks like you’re just topping in this. Did you top the entire time?”

“Uh… yeah.”

“How’s your hypertension?”

“I came the night before. It’s fine.”

“You did? Did you do anything special?”

Prompto tapped the screen furtively, shifting a touch away from Jabari. “Not really. I mean, it was a bit of a surprise. But yeah, I did.”

“That’s great, Prompto.”

“Jabari…”

Silence settled between them as their eyes fixed on the screen. They occasionally shifted uncomfortably against the couch.

“Look at me.”

“I am.”

“I trust you with my life, Prompto.”

A few seconds later a scream crackled through the phone speakers. It nearly drowned out the music that filtered through the floorboards.

As the video came to an end, Jabari leaned back against the couch, breathing out a long, tense breath.

Prompto opened his mouth, words forming on his tongue before they were swallowed back.

When dark lips moved, the voice that followed was bitter with a tone caught between jealousy and envy. “Why did you sleep with him?”

The excuse came quickly. It filled the room with something like anger. Something like regret.

Resent.

“Closure.”

When Prompto arrived home at the end of a long shift, dirt smeared across his cheeks and sweat staining his clothes, he didn’t move for a while. The door creaked as he shuffled back; as he pressed it closed with his shoulders. And as his toes pointed in and his hands dug in his pocket, his head cracked back against the wood.

“Fuck,” he whispered.

Metal clinking on metal, his phone’s gentle click filled the room as he set it on the counter.

His shirt hit the floor.

Pants unzipped, pushed past his glutes.

Prompto peeled the rest off once he was in the bathroom. The tile was warm beneath his feet. Hot air swirled around him as he pulled open the shower door, stepping into the stall before his fingers found the knobs.

As soon as the water hit him, he was lost.

He imagined a knock at the door. Answering in nothing but a towel. And there he was.

Ignis.

Hands, warm and large and firm against his cheeks, pulling him in.

“I missed you,” Ignis could say, voice reverent, knees inching forward. “I love you.”

“Me too.” Prompto’s voice would be a whisper. A promise. A vow. Something out of a dirty book with ripped bodices and raging emotions, because that’s how he would feel. He would feel like he was standing at the edge of a precipice, heart thundering in his chest like sledgehammer launched down a flight of steel stairs.

Ignis would push him against the counter.

Prompto would fumble for their pants, shoving them down and pulling them each through their underwear, jerking them off together.

Pale fingers found the faucet handle; twisted it firmly to the left before narrow shoulders fell against the shower walls.

“No,” Prompto muttered to himself. He glanced to the small meter that hung just below the nozzle, eyeing it sharply as the little arrow pointed firmly to “3G,” hovering so close to 0. “Great,” he spat. “Burn through an entire week’s worth of water rations jerking off to some asshole. Hope you enjoy sponge baths, dickface.”

Stepping out of the stall, he looked about the small bathroom, snatching up a towel before venturing back out into the rest of the apartment. He snatched up his phone. Navigated quickly through the menu. Sifted through his contacts before pressing it firmly to his ear.

It rang twice before the line clicked.

“Hey.” Jabari was winded, voice breathless as air whistled past the microphone.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Just moving some stuff around in storage. We’re going to have to keep better charters; we’ve nearly run out of rum.”

“That’s encouraging.”

“I’ll start Jose on a couple barrels in the morning.”

“So… are you free?”

“Depends on what I’m free for.”

“You, uh…” Prompto cleared his throat. “You still want that rebound sex?”

“... Sure.” There came a creak, like he was leaning against a crate. “Who’s topping?”

“You are. I’ll start getting ready now.”

“I’ll be over in ten.”

“Cool. See you then.”

“See you.”

Ending the call, Prompto stalked back into the bathroom, tugging open the only drawer in the room to snatch out a long douche. “Closure is a fucking joke.”

A week passed.

A very busy week.

Prompto woke to the gentle press of lips to his neck. To soft fingers dragging down the inside of his thighs, tracing patterns into the pale skin.

“Good morning,” Jabari greeted, voice low and smooth.

Hand slipping beneath the sheets, Prompto snagged the wandering digits, guiding them to the still lubed hole between his legs. “Mm…” he hummed as they worked against the muscle. “Very good morning.”

“You don’t have work today, right?” Lips parted, drawing along the curve of a pale ear.

A gasp. A soft groan. “J- Just a doctor’s visit, later in the afternoon.”

“Stay in bed with me?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

A chuckle. “How many condoms do you have left?” Fingers twisted deftly beneath the sheets.

Prompto pushed back against the sensation, a wet gasp slipping between his lips. “F- Five.”

“Want to grab one?”

He took a moment to buck back against the fingers before sliding away. Pale feet padded along into the kitchen, where he yanked open a drawer. “Sorry,” he called. “I only have two.”

Jabari laughed. “I’ll have to hook you up.”

Prompto snorted, grabbing up a condom before sliding the drawer closed. “You talk like they’re drugs,” he joked, rounding the counter and collapsing back on the futon.

Thick arms circled him warmly. “ You are the drug.”

Blankets were thrown aside. Hands fumbled with the foil wrapper of the condom. Dark hands wrapped around pale fingers, bringing them to a halt.

Bright eyes narrowed curiously. “What is it?”

“How long has it been since you got off?”

Prompto’s expression twisted, and he turned sharply away.

“Prompto-”

“Since Ignis, okay?”

“That was over a week ago.”

“I know, okay? I just-”

“This is why you insisted on the blanket, isn’t it? You’re turning blue.”

“Look, it doesn’t even hurt that much yet.”

“But it will in a few days. You need to get off.”

“I tried, but I can’t focus on it after a while, okay? You know I can’t focus on that.”

“Turn over.”

“Can’t- Can’t you just fuck me instead?”

“You’re literally blue, Prompto. I’m not fucking you like this.”

“But Jabari-

“This is not up for discussion. I’m not fucking someone with blue balls.”

“There are no serious side effects for blue balls!”

“We both know your case is not normal, Prompto. We’re milking your prostate first, but-”

“But I hate having my prostate milked.”

“Stop whining.”

“Never,” Prompto breathed, crawling onto the futon. His hands slid up Jabari’s chest, ashen compared to the deep, rich tone of the larger man’s pecs and shoulders. Their bodies slid flush together as his knees dropped to the futon.

Jabari’s mouth was wide and welcoming even as his fingers slipped casually down a narrow back to play with the seam of a petite ass.

“I’ll suck you off this time, too. You’ll see. It’s not that bad.”

“It feels like being punched,” Prompto bit out dryly. “It is that bad.”

From the door came three knocks, neat and even. They echoed through the room, hanging in the air like a gentle reminder.

“Great timing,” Prompto whispered. He rocketed to his feet, but as he moved to take a step a bit of sheet shot out from beneath him, sending him to the floor in a pile of limbs and an inhuman scream.

A snort followed. “Are you okay?”

“No. Owe.”

Through the door, there came a muffled, “Okay, Moogle… Call Sex Bomb.”

Prompto froze.

No.

Atop the counter, his phone gave an audible buzz.

“Well my heart has fallen down,” it sang.

He struggled to rise, hand slapping along the floor for grip before slipping unceremoniously on a tube of lube. The contents burst from the cap, oozing out the top and onto the floorboards.

“But I talked myself around.”

“Need help?”

“No,” he insisted again.

“But to be myself completely-”

Staggering upwards, Prompto attained vertical orbit with a hissed, “Oh fuck.”

“- I’ve just got to let you down.”

“Do you want me to get the door?”

No, just-”

“Well I knew I’d say goodbye.”

“You should probably answer that.”

“But he’s at the door .”

“You’re ‘Sex Bomb?’ I mean, I guess that makes sense.”

“Though it’s not my time to cry.”

“You’re a bomb in bed.”

“That’s not what it means. It’s a long story. Look-”

The phone fell silent.

Through the door came a shout; an even and familiar voice that called, “I guess there’s no point in asking if you’re home.”

“We should put some pants on,” Jabari insisted quietly, glancing nervously between Prompto and the door.

“Hello?”

“Where have I heard that voice before? If that’s Silas, he can probably join. The more the merrier.”

“No, it’s not Silas,” Prompto shot back weakly. The counter was suddenly a mountain as he attempted to round it, hand dragging against its edge. His feet were iron; lungs were glass. And as he drew close to the door, fingers perching cautiously against the brass knob, his voice suddenly fled.

Dark hands dragged carefully across blankets as the larger man sat up, watching the journey with interest as long toes curled and uncurled at the edge of the divider.

The voice through the wood was gentle. Smooth. So impossibly warm. “Hello Prompto.”

Lungs shattered with a soft, “Hey.”

“Let me in?”

Prompto couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t answer. His fingers flipped the lock without a moment’s hesitation, then gripped the knob to pull the door open.

And there he was.

Ignis.

In the moment that followed – tanned hands finding pale cheeks and lips falling together like gravity – Prompto noticed a lot. Dirt flecked lightly freckled cheeks. Pale lips were almost pallid. Fingers hung from hands like puppets with strings just a touch too long.

Their kiss was chaste as Prompto pulled away, awkwardly glancing Jabari’s way. Hands fell to his shoulders.

Dark eyes had gone wide, fixed on the display as hands nervously dragged the previously discarded blankets over strong thighs.

“You’re not wearing a shirt,” Ignis noted, curious.

“I’m not wearing clothes,” Prompto admitted.

The door creaked closed.

Rising to his feet, Jabari grabbed for his pants, pulling them on sharply.

Choppy hair swayed over a shoulder as Ignis took a step toward the sound.  “There’s someone else here.”

His jeans zipped, Jabari offered a weak, “Hello.”

“Hello,” came the measured reply before he shifted back in Prompto’s general direction. “Have I interrupted something?”

“Yes.”

“No.”

Prompto wasn’t sure who said what. For a lack of anything better to do, he grabbed up his underwear, sliding them nervously over his legs.

“My apologies,” Ignis offered.

“You could have called first.”

“I didn’t know what to say.”

“How about, I don’t know, ‘Hey, I’m dropping by. Don’t be in the middle of fucking anyone.’ I mean, I’m no expert on social interactions and shit, but I’m pretty sure that would work,” Prompto joked, glancing nervously behind him.

Jabari stuffed his feet into his shoes, lips drawn up in a sharp, awkward grimace.

With a blatant snort, Prompto noted, “You look like you have diarrhea.”

“I’m trying not to smile.”

“Smile?”

“I’m embarrassed. I smile when I’m embarrassed.”

Prompto blinked. “That’s really fuckin’ cute.”

“I can come back another time,” Ignis put in, drawing their attention back.

“No, no!” It was out of his mouth before he could think. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Jabari flinch. Something twinged sharply in his chest in reply. Guilt . “I mean…” He groaned. “... Fuck.”

“Don’t worry about it; I’m already leaving,” Jabari informed him solemnly, straightening slowly.

“You shouldn’t have to.” Prompto said this with a touch too much enthusiasm.

No one replied.

Stepping up to Ignis, the remainder of his clothes tucked under one arm, Jabari offered a stilted, “It was nice meeting you.”

Ignis shifted his cane between his hands to offer one amicably. “Likewise, Mr…”

“Just Jabari is fine,” he replied warmly, taking the hand and shaking it in good form.

A grin, wide and amused. “The infamous Jabari.”

“And you’re Ignis.”

“Good to know we’re aware of each other.”

“Yes, it is.”

Their hands dropped. Jabari threw one last look at Prompto before reaching for the door. The ensuing creak was too loud. Too long. Too sharp.

Prompto followed him out, attempting in vain to ignore the sudden weight in his stomach. “I’m seriously sorry about this,” he whispered as the door closed behind them. The barren halls were the only other witness to his words, each apartment on the floor firmly shut and bare of any human decorations. “I had no idea he was going to show up.”

“Look, you told me you were on the rebound,” Jabari shot back. His voice was strange. Sharp. Bitter. Aggravated .

“I’m-”

“I know. You’re sorry. Just stop saying it, okay? I don’t even…” The laugh that followed was worse. Hollow and angry, but when he spoke his voice was warm. Apologetic. “I don't know what I expected to happen.”

“You can’t-”

“This isn't the time or place. We’ll talk later.”

Prompto wasn’t about to argue. “When?”

“Tonight. Stop by the club. We’ll talk upstairs.”

“Okay. I'll be there,” he promised softly.

Jabari raised a hand in farewell. Something felt final about it. Something that fell down Prompto's throat and lodged there.

Life, as it tends to do, can get messy with the best of people.

Stepping back toward the door, Prompto rested his forehead against the wood for a spare few seconds that, brief as they were, stretched longer than the hall and down the stairs. His breathing grew steady. His eyes fell closed. It was only then, once his chest rose and fell in an even beat, that he opened the door.

Ignis, perched at the edge of the counter, didn’t turn to face him. “My apologies,” he opened quietly. “I've made quite the mess.”

“It's fine.”

“Don't lie to me, Prompto. It obviously isn't.”

Striding across the short distance to his futon, Prompto collapsed carelessly against the pillows. He turned to face the ceiling, fingers twisted with the blankets. For a second he thought it was weird; laying at floor level while Ignis was standing against the counter. But at the same time it made a bit of sense. Ignis was blind. There was no pressure to make eye contact. No obligation to make the right facial expression as he talked or posture in certain ways.

“You showed him the video, didn’t you?”

There it was. “He’s my friend.”

“Did you show your other friends?”

“I only showed Jabari.”

“Does he know you’re in love with me?”

“Yes.

“Does he know I’m in love with you?”

There it was.

The lump in Prompto’s throat.

“No,” he admitted around the sudden mass.

A hum. “Is he in love with you?”

“I think he wants to be.”

“And are you in love with him?”

“It would be nice.”

A sigh. A shuffle. “Ah.”

The apartment the size of a crackbox felt too big.

Shifting onto his side, Prompto fixed his gaze on the bathroom door. “Why are you here, Ignis?”

“Why do you think I’m here?”

Easing back onto his shoulder, a pale neck craned to get a look at the older man across the room. At the cane that rested casually against the floor between two long legs. At the face angled toward the far wall instead of making any vague attempt at eye contact. “Don’t I get to ask any questions?”

“This is the last one,” Ignis replied easily, lips moving around the words smoothly. “I promise.”

It was a long time before Prompto answered; before he turned his face back into the pillows beside him and admitted, “I feel like you’re just trying to lead me by my dick back to Hammerhead.”

There was a creak; the hiss of leather on leather as gloved hands drew taut around the handle of a cane. “That’s a fair assumption to make, considering the circumstances,” came the heavy admission.

Pale hands ran nervously along a thin face, dragging across firmly closed eyes and tugging at blond fringe before he shot to his feet. An energy raced beneath his skin; restlessness. “Why are you here?” he asked once more in earnest, gaze turning sharply on the man before him.

Ignis’ mouth fell open for a brief moment, closed, then parted again. “I had to have some rather extensive blood work done and figured now would be as good a time as ever to pay you a visit.” His voice was soft, like the gentle mewl of a stray cat that allowed itself to be touched. Then, with a snort, his lips turned up warmly. “Now I’m just wondering if I should have just dug a hole and laid in it.”

Despite himself, Prompto laughed.

“Maybe I should move to an island,” Ignis continued, finger tapping his chin in mock thought. “Live off the ocean. Eat fish and drink my own piss.”

Before Prompto could stop himself, he admitted, “You know, I used to imagine that.”

Ignis froze. “What.” It wasn’t a question.

Stepping up to the counter, Prompto settled in beside Ignis. “Not the ‘oh, I’m stranded on an island, better drink my own urine’ part,” he clarified. “I used to imagine you moving to the island and just staying there.”

The island?” he quoted, tone scandalized. “Is it a special island, now? The only island? Am I living alone with the ghosts of my past, subsisting entirely on dirt and, apparently, my own piss?”

“I used to wonder why you didn’t just move to Galdin Quay and live with the crystal.”

Silence followed the words. Words seeped through the walls; an argument from the next apartment over taking form.

“Remember that first night on the beach?” Prompto asked quietly. “While we were on the island you were pretty set on going back for your medication, but there was this little voice in the back of my head that kept saying if you didn’t need to stick to your schedule you probably would have stayed.”

A grin, small and sad, followed the words. “You’re not that far from the truth?”

“Really?”

“You’re not.” Slipping the strap of his cane over his wrist, Ignis grabbed at the counter, lifting himself carefully onto the surface. His head bowed as he slouched. It was a strange sight to behold. “I used to think, ‘Any day now he’ll wake up.’ I would tell myself that every time my alarm went off. ‘Any day now.’ But as time went on it became, ‘Any week now,’ and ‘Any month.’

“I wanted to move to Galdin Quay. Wanted to clear out the daemons along the beach and the dock. I wanted to cross the ocean regularly; to keep the crystal clean and under proper cover. To make sure Noctis had a clean set of clothes to change into when he woke up. Every day I spent in Hammerhead felt like an excuse, and on New Years when…” His lips pursed, eyebrows furrowed as his hands drew tight against the edge of the counter.

Prompto couldn’t look away.

“I felt like I was indulging myself too much. That I had crossed a line. When you started to rub my back it was just… I felt nothing but regret. You were being warm and soothing and affectionate. You were – you are – everything I want. You made me want to stay and enjoy myself. I was scared.”

“And if you hadn’t been scared?”

A laugh. Bitter. Sharp. “We would have screwed it up either way.”

Attention turning to the far wall, Prompto stared bitterly at the plaster. “Is that it, then?” he whispered. “We’ll never work out?”

“Probably.”

“Do you want to try?”

Ignis had no reply.

Prompto closed his eyes. Swallowed the lump in his throat. Took a long, deep breath.  “What if you came here?” he suggested softly, voice foreign even to his own ears. “We could share this shitty apartment and you could work on the border with me. We could… We could go out and dance every other night and hold hands without worrying about looking both ways so some asshole doesn’t throw a fit.”

“I can’t leave Hammerhead.”

Lips pursed.

“What do you think of commuting?”

The question struck them both in the chest like a hammer.

Pale eyebrows arched. Blue eyes fluttered open, shocked. “A long-distance relationship?”

Broad shoulders lifted in an attempt at something casual. “Why not? We’re certainly stubborn enough.” His voice shook. Nerves.

The lump was back in Prompto’s throat. “I mean… You have a point?”

“You sound doubtful.”

“Nothing but doubt on this end; not gonna lie,” Prompto managed dryly, attempting – failing – to ignore the brick that dropped through his stomach as Ignis’ expression twisted. He turned his eyes away, attempting to keep his voice even as he continued. “Is anything really going to change if we make this official? Are we going to keep avoiding harder topics until we’ve gotten in one fight after the other?

“I’m not fond of fighting.”

“You’re even less fond of talking, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“Whether I’m fond of talking or not, communication is essential in a relationship and it will happen regardless of my desire for it.”

“And if the fighting happens ‘regardless?’”

“Then we end the relationship,” came the easy rebuttal. “No use breaking each other into pieces just because we’re in love with each other.”

Slowly, Prompto turned his eyes to the ceiling. “We’re gonna do this,” he muttered. “We’re really gonna do this.”

“We should set up a schedule for phone calls so we don’t interrupt each other during shifts. I’ll see about getting a regular rotation of days off in the kitchens. You might want to look into doing the same.”

“You visit me, then I visit you.”

“Precisely.”

“What if we can’t get the time off?”

“Then we call.”

“... Phone sex?”

“I was simply suggesting healthy communication, but if you insist -”

“An alarm? Do you have work today?”

“Doctor’s appointment, actually.”

“Ah.”

“Would you… like to come with?”

The hospital was a series of houses on a block on the east side of the town, refitted from old houses. It was one of the smaller houses that Prompto led them to. He filled out the paperwork quickly before they were ushered into a small room. It was only a few minutes before a woman entered, smiling fondly at Prompto, white teeth stark against her tanned skin.

“Good to see you, Prompto,” she greeted. “And who’s your friend?”

“This is Ignis.”

“And he is your…?”

“Um... “ Prompto floundered. “I mean… Labels, man?”

“Partner,” Ignis replied softly. “In this case, I supposed I’m your partner.”

Parvana grinned. Then, flipping through some sheets, she began with a light, “Your sample from two weeks ago is clean, as are your two from last month. Let’s get some blood drawn, shall we?”

“Should we head back to apartment?”

“I’m… There’s something I have to do. Do you mind if I drop you off real quick?”

“Was my timing that good?”

Jabari snorted, dragging the door open wide to admit the shorter man. “Aren’t you always saying, ‘You’re the owner?’”

Prompto shrugged, stepping into the room with a laugh. “Yeah,” he admitted softly. “Yeah, I guess I am.” He moved further into the room, eyes dragging across the windows, shutters dusted immaculately. The curtains that hung at their sides, neatly tied back to display the square below, cobblestones and pedestrians like ants.

The door slammed shut. “Is he staying?”

For a second, Prompto thought he had been punched. The world seemed to swim as he turned, gaze landing on the door, the couch, and the man who had – before that moment – always been so understanding. Quiet. Calm. “Who-”

“You know who I’m talking about.” It was almost a snap; angry and sharp and bitter.

Bright eyes blinked nervously. “I…” He trailed off. Pale fingers carded through his hair nervously. “He’ll be here about a week. He… We’ve decided on a long-term relationship.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Because you’re my friend and I want to make sure we’re okay.”

“You’re here to tell me there’s no competition.”

“Jabari-”

“No, I get it. He knows you. Knows what you like and where you come from. I feel like I barely know your name, some days.”

“He only ‘ knows’ me because we used to work together.”

“As Crownsguard, right? Protector of the chosen king? Destined to bring the-”

“Don’t you start,” Prompto snapped. “Don’t you even start . This is exactly why I didn’t tell you. You’re just like Ignis; all about the duty. About the history books. Well you know what? I don’t give a fuck, okay? They’re going to drag my name through the mud because I’m gay, anyways. Who gives half a shit about staying unproblematic in the eyes of history?”

Silence.

Pursing his lips, Prompto shook his head. “Look, I’m… I’m gonna go,” he began, voice low. “In a few days I’m gonna bring Ignis to the club, and we’re probably gonna dance, and I want us – you and me – to not hate each other because you are probably the closest friend I’ve ever had and I don’t want to lose you just because the last week has been… amazing. The last year has been amazing.”

Jabari remained silent.

Steeling himself, Prompto strode to the door, tugged it open, and stepped out.

“I’m sorry.”

The words followed him out the door, quickly drowned by the pulsing beat of the club below.

“Tell me we can make it work.”

“We can make it work, Prompto.”

Beneath the light that filtered through the shutters in long slats, boiling in the hot summer heat of Lestallum, Ignis slept through the sweat and the shouts that floated in from the sidewalk.

Kicking the blankets further away, Prompto watched the gentle rise and fall of the broad chest before him, feeling his own lungs catch on every other breath.

Outside, kids raced down the street, their voices indistinct.

Pale fingers brushed dark hair away from a tanned cheek. They dragged up along the angry ridges of a scar, tracing the jagged line of what was probably supposed to be bangs at some point. “Ball’s in your court, now.”

Chapter Text

Every breeze in Prompto’s apartment was a moist, heady breath against the skin. The still city air fell through the window as wide hands pushed it open, sluicing between the thick slats of the shutters Ignis had pushed back into place to keep their privacy. Lestallum was the same blistering heat he remembered it as when the sun still shone. (And oh, isn’t that a novel concept? The world losing its light just as he lost his sight. It was almost poetic.) The snaps hadn’t made much sense at first, but he figured them out after a few minutes of fumbling, setting the third window open to invite inane chatter up from the sidewalks.

A step to the left, then, and Ignis held his hand out. The surface of the counter was familiar and smooth. It was cool even in the boiling stiffness of the air. He strode forward, sliding his hand along the subtle divots in the island before reaching one of the horizontal cracks. He pushed a foot forward, toes catching lightly against the rough edge of the futon. Letting go of the counter, he eased down into a crouch, fingertips splaying out over the mess of sheets until they stumbled across a warm, solid leg.

“Mmm…” Prompto hummed.

The leg shifted – first away, then into Ignis’ hand, dragging affectionately against his palm.

A gasp. A groan. A warm and affectionate, “Morning.”

“Good morning,” Ignis greeted in reply. He dragged his hands along the futon before crawling in beside the warm lump of boyfriend beneath the blankets.

The lump shifted. From the futon came a dry kiss of skin on tatami, and cold hands began to trace warm wrists. Skin, dry and calloused where it had once been soft and smooth, dragged against Ignis’ shoulders as Prompto draped himself over the man, breath dragging across his collarbone.

Lips. Chapped, cold; soothing beside the room that burned like a sauna.

Ignis’ mouth fell open as a wet tongue traced his bottom lip. It dragged against his soft palate, then his teeth, before pulling away. Cool fingers slid down a hot chest and bare thighs.

Everything was so still.

“Hungry?” Prompto’s voice was a whisper, barely louder than the chatter fluttering up from the street.

Leaning forward, Ignis pressed his nose into soft, forgiving flesh – the familiar curve of a cheek, a flutter of eyelashes against his forehead – and gave it a kiss. “A bit.”

A sigh fluttered across collar bones and an exposed throat. “Just warning you,” Prompto whispered, voice tentative, “the food here sucks.”

“Is that because you’re horrendous at cooking or because the resources are stretched thin?”

The creak of hardwood; feet padding away and around the island. “We don’t have any actual food here in the city. Just ration bars and reconstitutable meals.”

Eyebrows arched. Ignis reached up, pushing the smooth bridge of his sunglasses that slid minutely down his nose back up. “You’re quite right; that doesn’t sound particularly appetising.”

“Gotta admit; that’s one thing I miss about Hammerhead. Food , man. You and Coctura worked miracles.” Two clicks, followed by the distinctive tear of paper.

“The only miracle we worked was the vorebeast toenail soup.”

“Okay, no, that wasn’t a miracle. That was disgusting. Like snails. I don’t care how good it tastes. That shouldn’t have existed.”

A chuckle worked its way from Ignis’ chest, and he rolled onto his back on the futon. Beneath him, the blanket twisted tight. He grimaced. Arching his back – feet planted, shoulders braced – he tugged it carefully from beneath him with a grunt before shaking the offending sheet out straight. “I’ll admit, that was a bit of a stretch. At the very least it was pleasantly palatable.”

“Yeah, so long as you don’t know where it’s coming from. Toenail soup? Really? What were you guys thinking?”

“We were thinking the vegetable stores were low and the toenail I accidentally chopped in place of a potato dissolved quite well at boiling temperatures.”

“You’re disgusting.”

“I was under the impression that was your department.”

“Just because I’m disgusting doesn’t mean you’re not disgusting.”

“Touche.”

Heavy and hollow, the hiss of a cast iron skillet sliding along a twisting burner fell through the room like an alarm. Something was poured; something powdery. Then came the burble of a rarely used faucet.

A few minutes later, as the heady scent of something not quite oatmeal hovered in the air, Ignis found it in himself to ask, “On a scale of toenail soup to green curry, what am I about to eat?”

“Umm…” A groan. A hum. “You ever had traditional Niflheim foods?”

“Depends what you classify as ‘traditional.’”

“You know how the really authentic Niff restaurants cook their pork with no seasonings and then slap it on your plate with the insistence that salt is too spicy?”

Ignis remained bitterly silent.

“Like two steps above that.”

“You had me worried.”

“Okay, it’s done.”

“I’m worried again.”

“Relax. It’s just, like… Oatmeal. And dehydrated and rehydrated prunes.”

“You mean plums?”

“No. I mean prunes.”

“If they’re rehydrated-”

“Dude, if you could see these things you would not call them plums. Ever. Like, even as a joke.”

“Toenail soup, Prompto.”

“Ignis, let’s get this out of the way, okay? The toenail soup was gourmet shit compared to any of the rations you’ll find within ten miles of Lestallum.”

Beside his head came a feather-light whisper as something light and hollow settled against hardwood. Fingers reached, dragging along the gentle slope of a paper bowl. Something tapped his arm; smooth and long.

“Take ‘em. Chopsticks.”

“Wouldn’t a spoon be better?” Ignis asked, shifting forward to right himself on the futon. He snatched up the chopsticks, settling them into his hand. “You said it was like oatmeal.”

Prompto grunted a negative. “No spoons in Lestallum.”

“Pardon?”

“No spoons. Forks either. Chopsticks require less water to clean. Saves us a couple hundred gallons of water a day, turns out.”

Sending his hand out carefully, Ignis dragged it along the floor, sweeping from side to side until his fingers lightly caressed the edge of a paper bowl. Taking it in hand, he brought it to his face. Whatever the contents were, they gave little resistance as he pushed his chopsticks from side to side.

From behind came the thump of feet on hardwood. Of footsteps leading away into the kitchen. “After you finish that, you might want to get dressed.”

Ignis resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Come now; the weather is downright sultry.”

A snort. “Sultry, huh?”

“Yes.”

“Want to wear one of my ‘sultry’ shirts, then?” His words were accompanied by a mental image of him shaking his ass.

“Pardon?” Ignis’ voice cracked.

“Tank top, dude.”

“A vest, huh?”

“Yeah. Right. You call them vests. Wanna wear one?”

“Depends. Where’s my motivation?”

“You need motivation? Alright; how long has it been since you’ve had coffee?”

“When did the sun go down?”

Prompto laughed. “I know a place.”

⠠⠽⠗⠎

Getting out of the apartment was easier than getting in. The walls lead straight into the stairs, and there was even braille on the exit sign. Ignis felt like there was some sort of oversight; having braille on the exit, but not on any of the room plates. Four flights later they were on the ground. Prompto’s arm was cool under Ignis’ hand, even as the heat persisted like a particularly small, especially angry dog.

Prompto’s arm tugged at his hand regularly, paired with small whispers of, “Watch out; there’s some trash there,” and, “Careful. Steps.”

They headed up the uneven streets without incident. The cobblestone wasn’t the most comfortable thing, cutting through Ignis’ shoes as though he weren’t wearing them, but before long the arm in his came to an abrupt pause.

“We’re heading through a door,” Prompto said, untangling their limbs before taking Ignis’ hand. Their fingers tangled. “The walls are narrow, so watch out.”

Ignis followed close behind as they moved cautiously forward. The bustle of the city grew dim as they went. Walls whispered against one shoulder, and he followed it carefully until Prompto paused before him.

“Hey Prompto.” The voice was light and airy. Feminine, possibly.

“Hey Mi Sun. Table for two?”

“Yeah, just take the one in the corner. Anything special today?”

“The usual for me, and some coffee for my…” He paused, and Ignis felt him shift. “Some coffee for my boyfriend.”

Mi Sun laughed. It was a sweet sound. Soothing. “Settling down at last? Silas is gonna cry.”

“Nah,” Prompto denied softly, easing a touch toward Ignis, the whisper of his exhale brushing bare shoulders. “Besides, from what I’ve heard, he and Ojas have been getting along. Really well.”

“Ojas. God. Don’t remind me,” came an almost pained groan. “I’ll get your tea. Go take a seat.”

The arm in his hand tugged, and Ignis allowed himself to be weaved between the tall backs of chairs that brushed his hips and free arm. After a few seconds, their joined hands settled on a chair. With a nod in thanks as fingers unwound from his, Ignis dragged the chair out and carefully took a seat. “I thought you weren’t out.”

Prompto hummed, and the table jumped. “I’m not. I just go to the club a lot. Mi Sun’s brother, Silas, is a regular.”

“A regular at the club or a regular in your bed?”

“Full disclosure? Both.”

Before him came a clatter.

“It’s by your right hand,” Mi Sun said, a smile in their voice.

Ignis shifted, pointing his face in what he guessed was their direction before nodding. “My thanks.”

As Mi Sun left, he could barely make out a whispered, “He’s a cutie,” before their footsteps faded in the distance.

He reached for the cup. Blew gently on the surface before taking a cautious sip. His lips twitched. “Good beans for the end of the world,” he noted appreciatively. “Do you think they would give me the name of their supplier?”

“It wouldn’t be very hard,” Prompto snorted, “seeing as they’re the supplier.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. This place grows their own crop and everything. LED grow lights. Self watering tent system. The whole shebang. About nine months ago I got commissioned to help them retrieve some coffee plants before they died, and then I stuck around to help build the basement.”

Ignis took another slow sip; savored the familiar bitter tang. “Sounds like you’ve been busy.”

“I get a discount,” Prompto added proudly.

A laugh bubbled up from his chest. Relaxing into the back of his chair – enjoying the pleasant curve of the wood that cradled his shoulders just right – Ignis settled his wrists atop the table. Then there was pressure. Something not quite cold; not quite warm. It slipped up the back of his hand, then twisted around to cradle it.

Fingers.

Prompto was holding his hand.

Suddenly, Ignis felt full.

⠠⠽⠗⠎

They spent the day hopping from street to street, Prompto bringing Ignis to the heights to listen to the energy plant hum. Traipsing around the market, which had somehow multiplied in size since the proverbial end of the world. They spent nearly three hours there, picking through sparse ingredients and woven bags before Ignis came away with some lightweight tank tops and a thin pair of pants, insisting he simply couldn’t wear Prompto’s clothes every time he paid a visit.

He was pulled into an alley and kissed soundly for this.

They dropped the clothes off at Prompto’s apartment before continuing their traipse around town.

⠠⠽⠗⠎

As the evening began to wind down, Ignis’ phone announcing a gentle “8:42PM,” Prompto insisted on one final stop before they made the climb up the cobblestone hill to his apartment complex.

The ‘stop’ was filled with a pulsing beat that could be felt a block away.

When the door opened and Ignis was lead inside, his hand slid up Prompto’s arm, gripping it sharply; tugged until he could only assume they were face to face. “Is this a club?”

“What?”

Is this a club ?” he half shouted, incredulous.

It was a moment before Prompto replied, a hesitant, “Yes,” falling from his lips like a regret.

“This is Jabari’s club, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“Has it occurred to you that this might be awkward?”

“Jabari is better than that.”

“Oh – Jabari is?”

“Look, just… It’s like ripping off a band-aid!”

“Are you whining ?”

“Whining or not, you should come in. Meet Jabari in the flesh. I mean, not to the degree as before, but yeah. Charm his pants off. But… But not literally.”

“Running out of idioms?”

“Look, he’s one of my best friends, and if we’re going to date you’re going to be running into each other a lot, okay? The longer we wait, the more awkward it’ll get.”

He wasn’t wrong.

The arm in Ignis’ grasp began to tug, but it was nothing insistent. It was no more than a gentle pull further into the club; barely a pressure on the calloused fingers wrapped around his bicep. While Prompto seemed to insist, the decision remained firmly in Ignis’ hand.

So, with a resigned sigh, he half shouted a, “Let’s get this over with, then,” and took a brave step forward. Or, at least, it felt brave.

Before he could quite catch up, Prompto had shown him to a bar stool, then scrambled onto his own with a loud grace. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Deep. Sultry. Jabari had a voice Ignis wasn’t likely to ever forget. “Your usual then?” A beat. “Alright. Ignis, what’s your drink?”

“What kind of cocktails do you have?” He hadn’t had one in years; only the bitter nightmare of straight vodka to keep him company.

A nightmare of insistent lips.

Cold hands.

A blanket, warm and all encompassing.

The far off burst of fireworks.

Ignis mentally shook himself, coming back just in time to catch a reply that set him on edge.

A deep, humorous, “Like cock, do you?”

Running entirely off a sudden inexplicable rush of adrenaline, he replied with a glib, “Like sucking a mother’s teat.”

There was no immediate reply.

After a few seconds, Prompto asked, “Are you okay?”

Ignis had opened his mouth to respond when a wheeze stuttered from beneath the overbearing music.

“Fine,” Jabari gasped. “T- That’s one hell of a mental image.”

A snort followed, uniquely Prompto’s. “Yeah; Iggy does that.”

After a few strained chuckles, Jabari managed a rough, “What’s your cock preference?”

“Up my ass with minimal fuss. If we’re talking about drinks, I’m quite partial to anything with vodka. I’ll let you decide on the particulars.”

“Vodka. I should have known.”

“Should have known what?” Ignis asked. When no answer came, he turned to Prompto. “Prompto, do you know-”

“I’m gonna run to the restroom,” came the poor excuse for a segway before Prompto clattered loudly off of his stool.

A brief, tense silence followed until a long stem of glass dragged against the tips of Ignis’ fingers. “How much do I owe you?”

“Prompto’s got it covered. Don’t worry about it.”

“Oh? And what makes you think that?”

“Aside from the gil he already slipped me? Prompto’s job is taking photos of road damage. That means risk assessment, survey, and comprehensive photography in the middle of a warzone. He’s got a pretty good paycheck. He tends to pay for his dates.”

Ignis couldn’t help the smile that spread at this. “It’s good to know he’s still doing photography.”

Jabari didn’t reply immediately. But when it did, it was a solemn, “Did you get to see any of his photography before…”

The laugh that burst from Ignis was unexpected, but seemed to lighten the tension in the air. “I’ve been on a first name basis with Prompto since he was fourteen. I’ve most definitely see his photography.”

“Oh.”

“You sound surprised.”

“Prompto just made it sound like you just knew each other from work.”

“Seeing as I was always working, I’m not surprised he would phrase it that way.”

“What?”

“I’m the personal attendant of Prince Noctis.”

“Wait… If you’ve been his attendant for ten years -”

“Twenty years,” Ignis corrected quickly.

“- how old are you?”

Lips quirked, amused. “Is it difficult to tell?”

“To be honest, you look ageless.”

“That’s quite nice. How about this; why don’t you guess?”

“Forty-five?”

Ignis flinched. “Alright,” he drawled, taking a sip of his cocktail with an appreciative hum. It was sweet . “That’s enough of a blow to my ego. I’m twenty-six.”

“You’ve been working since you were six?”

“In the royal court there is little room for childhood.”

“That’s pretty harsh.”

“It was what it was.”

Another short silence followed. Someone down the bar called for a beer, and Jabari filled it quickly before returning. His voice was almost too quiet to be heard, words somehow nervous and soothing as he asked, “Are there any questions you have for me?”

It was a long time before Ignis spoke. Before his lips parted with a slight tremor as his voice bubbled up from his chest. “It’s been brought to my attention that you and I have the same… condition.”

For a second, there was only the pervasive beat of the music between them; bar jumping slightly with each thrum of the bass.

There was a shift. A clack . Then, with more conviction than Ignis thought he had in his body, Jabari said with startling clarity, “You can say it out loud. There’s no shame. HIV.”

Ignis flinched. Shifting back on the stool, he attempted a nonchalant shrug. “Yes. Right. How, uh…” He cleared his throat. “How long have you been positive?”

“Positive?”

“Do they call it something else, now?”

“Depends what you mean by ‘positive.’”

“When did you find out?” Ignis clarified, voice as loud as he dared.

Jabari hummed. It was a deep, rumbling sound. “About the HIV? A few years ago. Two, I think. And you?”

“Ten.”

“Months?”

“Years.”

There was no mistaking the pause that followed: shock; alarm. “That’s a very bad time to have HIV. How-”

“I was very privileged,” Ignis cut in sharply.

That, it seemed, was that.

“How old were you?”

“About fifteen.”

Jabari blew out a sigh. Then, as a voice rose some distance down the way, he said, “Looks like a group’s here.”

“Don’t let me take you away from your job.”

“Be good to him.”

Ignis gave a slow nod. “I have every intention.”

A hum followed – a skeptical sound – and then there was only the music.

When the song came to an end, giving way to a different set of mindless beats, a body thumped against the bar. The chair at Ignis’ side gave an angry squeal. “Did you fall in?”

“I just really needed to go.”

Ignis eased forward on his chair. Lifting the glass to his lips, he took a cursory sip.

Sweet.

Callouses slipped against his as a finger hooked over the edge of his hand. Drawing away from the glass, Ignis wrapped his hand around the digit, earning a chuckle.

“You’re cute,” Prompto cooed, leaning in close. There was a shuffle. A grunt. Their shoulders were flush, then, pressed clear down to their wrists.

Their fingers twined.

Heat rose insistently to Ignis’ face, and he had a sudden, intense urge to look. To make sure no one could see.

“No one’s watching.” Prompto’s nose brushed the prone shell of an ear as he whispered, lips – chapped, light – dragging along a jaw.

His chest felt like it was going to burst. “How did you do that?”

“What?”

“Read my mind,” he clarified softly.

“Can I kiss you?”

Goosebumps sprang forward as Prompto’s heady breath fanned out over Ignis’ cheeks. Lips falling open, he managed a nervous, “No.”

“Okay.” The breath retreated, and the clink of ice against glass hovered at the edge of the music.

Ignis was nearly done with his drink before Prompto drew close again, lips dragging against the cup of his ear.

“Let’s dance.”

Ignis was quiet at first. His fingers curled around the empty cocktail glass. He'd been about to decline – mouth open and ready for a dull “I'd rather not” that would sour the air between them and set an unspoken precedent for all future requests. But as the first word left his lips a familiar few notes broke through the air. He fell contemplatively silent before nodding his assent, sliding off the chair and holding a hand out for Prompto.

Prompto pressed in close to brush his arm against Ignis’ fingers. He chuckled as they curled around his bicep, gripping the curve of muscle – once so thin – carefully. “Shall we?”

Ignis could hear his smile. Inside him, something clicked. A realization. Something so simple, yet to him in that moment seemed so incredibly vast and unfathomable.

The dance floor, so distant yet so close.

Prompto, at his side, eager.

Ignis’ own indifference – the distaste for the crowd, for the stench of sweat and semen, the pulse of bodies that managed to be both distant and there – hanging over him like an insult.

And there Prompto was, probably smiling.

Ignis felt like he’d passed some invisible test. Like he’d crossed a finish line some steps back when they’d left the bar and but instead of stopping they just kept going. It didn’t make sense… But then, it did. Why would they stop?

Why?

They were in a relationship.

They were in a relationship .

Why would they ever stop when they could just keep going ?

Breath was suddenly scarce as Prompto’s fingers fell over Ignis’, drawing them close as the music grew louder around them. Lips brushed the curve of a warm ear.

“What’s the smile for?” Prompto asked, amused.

“My right,” Ignis instructed instead. He eased forward to rest his chin against a smooth forehead. “Your left.”

His chuckle echoed through them both. “Okay.”

Their arms wound around each other – one on a bony shoulder, two embraced, another on a waist a bit too trim.

“When the night has come…”

“I love you so much,” Ignis whispered, shifting to press his still-moving lips to the messy line of Prompto’s fringe. It fluttered beneath his breath, tickling his nose and cheek.

They took an easy step to the side in time to the slow beat.

“… and the land is dark…”

“We won’t have this in Hammerhead.”

“Then we should enjoy it while we can.”

“Kiss me?”

“… and the moon is the only light we see…”

Something heavy echoed in Ignis’ chest. Then, despite the tremor that suddenly built in his hands, the sweat that burst from his upper lip, and an all encompassing Fear that held his stomach in a vice – this can’t work; he can’t really love you; you’re going to fuck this up; he’s going to leave when you get sick; you’re going to die; you’re going to kill him – he pulled away. Nudged forward.

As Prompto’s lips met his, Ignis attempted to ignore a distant maternal voice spitting from the back of his memories.

Scum .”

⠠⠽⠗⠎

“This feels like a sleepover.”

“Oh? How so?”

“Because it is. Grab your toothbrush.”

Ignis laughed. The room felt much cooler than it had when he’d arrived the evening before. The night air swept through as if to cleanse the room. It seemed to be a completely different place. It certainly smelled like one.

“You should get some candles,” Ignis suggested, fingers diving into his bag to sort carefully through each compartment, brushing past plastic bags. “Liven up the place.”

“You think?”

“I’m quite partial to cinnamon,” he hinted. His fingers dragged against a small plastic tag. ⠚⠑⠺⠑⠇⠗⠽. He shook his head, fingers moving to the next. ⠍⠫⠊⠉⠁⠰⠝. “Already took you,” he muttered. ⠙⠢⠞⠁⠇. With a slow grin, he reached in, fingers sliding around the handle of a long stem. Rising to his feet, he held his hand out carefully until he found the wall.

“Bathroom’s this way!”

“My thanks,” Ignis replied quietly, taking careful, measured steps toward the burble of running water.

On, off. It came in quick bursts, followed by insistent scrubbing.

The room was small. He bumped into glass – the shower, perhaps – before fingers drew against his bicep. They traced a gentle, soothing line up to his shoulder before sliding along the hem of the tank top.

“You wearing my clothes is weird.”

“Is it?”

“Yeah. It’s so… weird seeing you in anything but a dress shirt or that one you wore while golfing. The white and blue one.”

“You’ve seen me golf?”

“Yes and no – you would occasionally wear it during the journey, remember? I recognized it from the photos that were in the paper sometimes. ‘King Regis Takes Five with Son and Entourage.’ You know, I always wanted to go on one of those trips. Noctis kept saying they were boring, so I would volunteer to go as a joke. I really did want to go, though.”

“You would have found yourself a bit more alone than you would think. Regis and Noctis would get very competitive,” Ignis began softly, fond, only to cut off as something cold brushed his nose. “What did you just-”

“Sorry. I couldn’t resist. You’re so cute when you’re reminiscing.”

Ignis snorted. “Would you mind wiping it off?”

A laugh followed before a rough towel dabbed at his nose. “Better?”

“Much, thank you.” Hand easing carefully out, Ignis reached for the faucet. “Do you have any toothpaste? I forgot to grab mine.”

“You? Forget? Yes. Yes I have toothpaste. Hold out your brush.”

Offering his toothbrush, Ignis grinned as it wiggled in his hand. “My thanks.”

“You’re so formal. It’s so cute.”

“Oh? I’m cute, am I?”

“So cute.”

Reaching for the counter, Ignis patted along the basin until the smooth handle of the faucet rested between his fingers. “You have water rations, yes?”

“Uh… yeah.”

“I’ll try to use very little, then.” He felt along the faucet before he found the mouth. Then, holding the head of his toothbrush beneath it, he briefly tugged at the handle – it gave a gentle hiss – before pushing it back. “Did I get it?”

“Yup.”

“Excellent,” he muttered before shoving it firmly into his mouth.

They brushed in silence for a bit before Prompto gave a gurgled, “I’ve been meaning to ask – do you have your wisdom teeth?”

Tugging his toothbrush out, Ignis felt for the basin, bent, and spat. “Can’t say I do, no.”

“Wow.”

“Have you gotten them?”

“I got them when I was sixteen, actually.”

“Did you have them removed?”

“Nah. My mouth was big enough.”

“I’ll have to test that out.”

Silence followed.

Ignis continued to brush his teeth. It was only when he spat that Prompto moved, working the faucet with something like desperation before spitting himself. As soon as Ignis’ toothbrush hit the counter, Prompto was on him. Chapped lips scraped. The wall was frigid next to the rest of the room; cold and sharp against Ignis’ back as he opened his mouth to the man bearing down upon him. A tongue slipped between his lips without hesitation, sliding between his teeth in a convincing bid for attention. Long fingers worked into short hair, only for Prompto to pull away.

“Want to put that to the test right now?” he suggested, eagerness filling the room like a moan.

“D- Do you have a condom?”

“One – it's flavored. Mind kissing an ulwaat man for the rest of the evening?”

“As long as it isn't the cola flavor, I'm not opposed.”

“They don't make the cola one any more.”

“What do you know? The end of the world is good for something, after all.”

Prompto snorted. “Don't make me laugh – I'm about to have your dick in my mouth!”

“Yes, please; don't let me stop you.”

Fingers hitched beneath the hem of the tank, and Ignis quickly lifted it above his head. Calloused hands were on him in a second. They slid up his sides. Dragged along the divoted skin of his stomach. Caught against the folds of scar tissue and the dips of a body ill fed for too long.

“You have gotten thin.” The words were hollow. Worried.

Ignis’ hands caught his. “I’m fine.”

“Your meds-”

“Let me worry about that.”

It was quiet for a while before the reply came. “Okay.”

It didn’t sound like it.

“You don’t have to do this,” Ignis insisted as the distinctive thump of knees on linoleum fell through the room.

“I want to. Stop ruining the mood.”

Fingers traced the hem of his pants.

The clatter of a belt.

Pressure, light and fleeting.

A hand .

Ignis gasped as a hand gripped him firmly, sliding roughly over his cock until it was a turgid, hot length.

Foil tore in the distance. Then, with a whispered, “You good?” Prompto pressed the latex to his tip.

“I already gave my consent.”

“Your consent is a yoyo; it’s never mine to keep.”

“Did Jabari teach you that?”

“Health class taught me that.”

Snorting, Ignis’ head thumped against the wall. He felt a grin tug at his cheeks. He waved a hand dismissively. “You have my consent.”

“Yes sir.”

He could imagine the mock salute.

The condom was rolled on quickly, and a mouth descended.

Pulling away, Prompto hummed.

“What is it?”

“You’re delicious ,” he teased.

“It’s a flavored condom, Prompto.”

“I’m gonna eat you up.”

“What did these people teach you, Prompto?”

“You wanna know?”

“Do I?”

“How to Give the Best Blowjob In the Apocalypse 101.”

“What-”

Prompto fell over him like a force of nature: mouth loose, throat tight, and tongue flat against the vein along the underside. His nose brushed the sparse bush at the base, thin and wiry. Their fingers found each other before long. Ignis would never know who reached first. One moment his fingers were scrambling at the wall; the next their hands were clumsily twined, braced against the door frame as Ignis locked his knees.

Head flush with the wall, Ignis gasped. His eyes had fallen open, blankly staring into the dim room. He made no attempt to shift his gaze towards the general direction of the floor. No attempt to fix Prompto with his line of ‘sight.’ His chin remained level, even as the throat around him fluttered, swallowed, and twisted .

Hair brushed his navel. The insistent squelches died. “God, you’re beautiful,” came the hoarse gasp as the condom was slid off. “I can’t… I can’t believe you’re mine .”

“That was fast ,” Ignis fought not to say. Instead he dropped his chin down to welcome the mouth that dragged gently against his jaw. Their lips met gently; just a few pecks followed by a sultry drag of tongue before they parted. Finally, he draped his arms around Prompto’s shoulders, dragging him into a clumsy embrace. “I’m yours,” he found himself grunting. “All yours.”

⠠⠽⠗⠎

“We're planning on bringing some food and gas out to the boat next month. Would you like to join us?”

Chapter Text

Chocobo down is a singularly unique experience. The shaft is a consistent stiffness with silky vanes that arch up and away from the center. Adult chocobo down is not ideal for bedding or jackets due to this shaft. It is, however, ideal for pens and jabbing someone insistently in the throat.

“Ignis.”

“Stop poking me, Gladio.”

Ignis .”

“I’ve responded to you several times; now stop stabbing my jugular with a feather and ask your bloody question .”

The assault ceased.

“So, what’s the deal? You promised you’d tell me how you got Prompto so eager to visit. This is the fifth visit . This is the second time he’s helping bring stuff to Noctis.”

“I promised I’d tell you. I never specified when,” he shot back dryly, hand reaching out to gently brush the stiff down at his back.

At his side, Celeste gave a soft Wark .

“Is it drugs?”

“I’m not giving Prompto drugs.”

“Camera equipment?”

“No.”

A silence settled between them. It filled with the far off rumble of a truck; of air hissing past an electrified fence that hummed in every direction.

“It’s drugs, isn’t it?”

Ignis heaved an exasperated sigh, pointedly ignoring the way it made his lips itch. “Have you considered he might have missed us?”

“He might miss Noctis , but Revenge of the Bodybuilder and Mr. Mom? No – Prompto's the energetic type.”

“What has that to do with anything?”

Gravel crunched. “Ignis, would you in a million years be within ten miles of me right now if we hadn’t literally been forced together by royalty and obligated to save each others’ lives on the regular for several months, followed by a quest to wait for the Chosen King to wake up to end the apocalypse?”

It was without hesitation that the word broke between Ignis’ lips, hanging in the air like a sharp accusation. “No.”

“Feeling's mutual,” Gladio shot back blandly. “Now, think about Prompto's point of view for a second. Why would he come back?”

“Weren't you the one who was so vehemently protesting his departure?”

“Well yeah, but that doesn't mean I don't see why he left. I don't know the actual reason , but I get it. I just don't see why he doesn't just come back. He spends all his free time here.”

“Rationalize and question all you like; you won’t find the answer on your own. The important thing is that he’s here at all. Who are we to question why he commutes from Lestallum?”

Speaking of Lestallum, you gonna ever tell me who the lucky whoever is? You come back from Lestallum looking like a ladybug.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’m talking about hickeys .”

For a moment Ignis froze. Teeth scrambled over his upper lip, suddenly damp with perspiration that itched like a feather. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Gladio snorted. “Come on,” he whined. “Who do you spend so much time with in Lestallum? And don’t tell me Prompto just to avoid the question.”

“I’ll have you know one of Prompto’s friends has the same condition I do. We bonded,” he half explained as gravel shifted and kicked, growing closer with each passing second.

“You guys are so romantic; meeting me at the gates with your birds and the gear all packed.”

Ignis shifted, easing away from the Chocobo at his back, earning an uncomfortable Kweh! Gravel crunched beneath his feet, biting into his shoes. “Prompto, he greeted. “Hello.”

“Heya heya yourself, Specs.”

⠠⠥⠝⠑⠧⠑⠝⠀⠠⠛⠗⠨⠙

They’d gotten nearly an hour into riding before it came up again; before the leather of Gladio’s saddle creaked and his voice crawled into Ignis’ ears just above the steady thump, thump, thump of the Chocobos’ hoofs.

“Hey, Prompto, Iggy says he’s gotten close with one of your friends. Someone with the same condition as him. Any clue?”

Prompto’s voice was uneasy at first. It shook like the breeze, wavering in the air like a question. “Uh, yeah. That’s Jabari.”

Finally, a name ,” Gladio exclaimed sharply. There came a ruffle; the squeal of leather and the furious beating of hooves. Suddenly, his voice was much louder. Closer. “Now, Ignis, what is the condition ? I’m dying to know.”

A snort. A shrug. “It’s funnier if you don’t know.”

What? Funnier? ” He scoffed. “What’s with you Iggy? So out of character.”

“You've been offscreen for most of the major events dealing with character development and lifestyle self-actualization. Of course you think I'm out of character.”

Ignis’ comment fell on inattentive ears as Gladio’s voice shifted back and away, fading into the distance. “Prompto– Prompto, what’s wrong with Iggy?”

“‘Wrong?’” It was a warm question, half hidden in a laugh. “I mean… He’s a Nymphomaniac, but like… wrong?”

“You cannot be in on this, too.”

“In on what?”

What is Ignis’ condition?”

“If you wanna know, just ask him.”

“That's just the thing; he won't tell me. All his meds are in braille now, too, so it's not like I can snoop.”

“They’re in braille for me; you’re not supposed to understand them,” Ignis muttered.

“Well if he's not telling you then I'm not gonna.”

“Oh, so you’re on his side, now?”

“Is that a surprise? When have I ever taken your side? Literally. Give me one time .”

“So this is it, now? The two of you against me? Is that where we stand?”

“I wouldn’t quite phrase it that way,” Ignis cut in sharply, “but if you continue prying into something I’ve specifically told you not to pry into I might do so.”

“Harsh, Iggy,” Gladio snorted. “I barely know anything about you guys any more. Weren't you the one all insistent about us getting to know each other?”

“That was years ago.”

“This is getting kinda heavy,” Prompto noted from the rear.

“Yeah, well, maybe you were right.”

“You can't guilt me into this, Gladio.”

“Oh, really? Well…” His voice trailed off. “Hey, Prompto, what are you-”

“Parkour!”

“What-”

“Prompto, what the hell?”

“I’m gonna try it.”

What are you doing?

“He’s standing on the Chocobo.”

“That’s not Parkour,” Ignis put in sharply.

“I’m doing it!”

“He’s actually doing pretty- shit.”

Prompto.

⠠⠥⠝⠑⠧⠑⠝⠀⠠⠛⠗⠨⠙

One moment Ignis was sitting calmly atop Celeste – the bird shifting eagerly beneath him in the wake of heavy steps – the next the wind was grabbing at his coat and hair with cold, fingerless hands as her steps crested some sort of hill.

“Ready to cross the ocean?” Gladio’s voice was deeper than usual, somewhere just behind Ignis’ right ear. It cracked, overused and tired .

Ignis met this with a slow nod. “How’s Prompto’s head? Has the bleeding stopped?”

“For the most part. That duct tape is doing its job.”

“Don’t you mean medical tape?”

“No, I mean duct tape.”

“So when you said you were taping him up, you weren’t using the first aid kit?”

“First aid kit ran out of proper tape last year.”

“So you’ve just been using-”

“Duct tape, yeah.”

Ignis turned his face pointedly away. “Incredible.”

⠠⠥⠝⠑⠧⠑⠝⠀⠠⠛⠗⠨⠙

Feathers fluttering up and around her passenger, Celeste crowed lightly as she lurched forward. Ignis shuddered as the water sloshing up to his ankles fell away, droplets flying as the sky overhead gave an ominous groan.

“That doesn’t sound good,” he noted over the wind.

A chuckle – Gladio, coming up close as his own bird wark ed loudly. “I’ll set up the tent. Doesn’t look like we’ll be able to make the trip back tonight. You took your meds, right?”

“Before we left.”

“Good.”

Wark!

“What’s with leaving me behind like that, guys?” Prompto whined.

“You’re slow,” Gladio shot back dryly.

“You’re a dick.”

“I am.”

“Go eat yourself.”

“Did you just-”

“Shall we set up camp before the heavens drench us?” Ignis suggested sharply, fingers stealing into Celeste’s down. Rippled, warped skin met his hand like a warm welcome. The bird cooed beneath him, clicking happily.

A sigh, long and deep, followed the words. “I’ll get the tent up,” Gladio insisted, voice low. “Go take your turn with Noctis, okay? You didn’t get one last time. We’ll take ours in the morning.”

Eyebrows furrowed close. Lips twisted. “Are you sure?” Large and cold, a hand smacked his shoulder suddenly, sending Ignis lurching forward, arms winding around Celeste’s neck.

“Go ahead, man.”

“Oh? Not going to hold my hand and walk me there this time?”

“Nah. I’m…” Gladio cleared his throat. There was a squeal of leather. A cough. “You can handle yourself, man.”

“Did I miss something?” Prompto asked.

Stirrups clung to Ignis’ shoes, tugged at his toes as he attempted to quickly dismount. Metal brushed leather as he fell quickly to the ground. Knees knocked  sharply and a cane was dragged from a tight pocket, falling away from his fingers as they drew around the handle.

Click, click, click .

“Don’t die in my absence,” he offered warmly, setting quickly off, swinging the cane from side to side.

“Seriously, did I miss something?”

Angelgard Island was large but simple, with high cliffs surrounding it on all sides, all leading to a single stone building practically propped between the rock like a doll house wedged into a garden wall.

Noctis’ doll house was narrow at the front; doorway claustrophobic at best. Ignis eased both arms out after he passed into the room, touching both walls with casual ease before easing his left hand forward. The edges of the crystal were crisp and cool. Moisture beaded along its sides, and as Ignis settled against the ground it uttered beneath the wind a gentle pulse of heat.

A greeting, Ignis liked to think.

“Good evening, Noctis,” he whispered in reply. The ground was bitter against his legs. Wind whistled as if from the distance from the mouth of a cave; rain hissed above and around and below yet far away. He’d seen the old prison in textbooks years before. Seen the crumbled stone and the poor excuse for windows. Windows Noctis would wake to. The grin to rose in him then felt like a grimace. “I seem to have drawn the long stick this time. Gladiolus and Prompto want their time with you in the morning, so you’re all mine tonight.”

Gladio’s voice echoed in between the rushing wind. It was barely more than a whisper from the distance, a broken fragment at best. “... firewood by the…

Ignis was quiet a while before he eased back, fabric clutching his arm as his jacket drew taut against the smooth edge of the crystal. “It’s nice to get you to myself for a change.”

“... try not… isn’t charcoal…”

“Is it… I hope you don’t mind…” A lump settled deep in his throat; a nauseating pressure that echoed into his stomach. He coughed, legs drawing up against his chest. Fingers played over the curve of his knee cap. Traced the cold line in the denim. “I wanted to tell you last we visited, but I seem to have fallen for Prompto.”

“... doing great…”

“You always told me there wasn’t much to say about your relationship with Prompto, but I knew better than to believe that. He was the only person in your life you chose, and when you wake up we’ll… I almost feel guilty for this. He was the only person who was yours, and now… Now he’s mine .” An ache spread through his cheeks, echoing up into his jaw as a chapped lip split in a wide grin. “He’s mine, Noctis. And I’m his.

“I almost can’t believe it, sometimes. I’ve always admired him, to be sure. He was a peculiar boy when you both met. Full of a warmth… of sorts. A very willfully happy boy. That’s… That’s almost gone, now. He’s a bit darker these days, but when he’s happy… When he’s happy, it isn’t some act he’s putting on for others. There’s no long-standing play he’s performing for an audience of three any more.

“When you left, I think you broke him. Sometimes I wonder if that was a good thing. He’s so much more honest about what he wants and who he is, and all it took was a little anger and a proper support system – something we could never provide – to become a more honest version of who he was. I just hope I can be what he needs, like you were.” He grins. “Alright, maybe not like you were. We have very different roles, you and I.”

“How about you put… stupid… stick…”

“I think I’m happy, Noctis,” he admitted under his breath. “I haven’t been this happy in a long time. I’m still… I‘m still worried. About you. About Prompto. About Gladio. I’m still worried about myself, too. I’m worried I’ll get worse. That I’ll relapse. Prompto keeps telling me I’m worried over nothing.”

A yelp rose in the distance. “You gonna-”

“Watch my shoes!”

“From what?”

“Gladio is his usual problematic self,” Ignis continued. He pursed his lips, arms drawing tight around himself as a breeze cut through the room. “Maybe you could mention a little thing called ‘tact’ to him tomorrow. You know he and I have never gotten along. Our personalities simply don’t mesh. I bring out the worst in him when we’re alone together, and he in me. I feel like I'm always nagging him with life lessons.”

“You can’t be ser…”

“I’d like your blessing, Noct. Some kind of sign that it’s okay to have this, enjoy this, with Prompto. I know it’s asking a bit much, but any kind of sign you could send would be appreciated. I want to know if I can just…”

“Prompto, you-”

“ I'd like to take a break from waiting.”

“Kawabunga!”

Slap, slap.

Splash.

“Holy shit !”

“Is everything alright out there?”

Footsteps, then nothing.

A splash.

“Gladio-?”

No response.

Gladio!

Nothing.

The first few steps were agony. Something in his chest drew tight with each clumsy, rushed step that brought him through the door. And as Ignis stepped out into the wind – into the rain that beat against his skin like a song gone wrong – his mouth moved to form words that were strangled by thunder. And so the agony continued. Rushing out of the stone prison, Ignis stumbled into the sand, cane sweeping with ironic certainty along the surface as he stumbled in uneven lines. It was as if he’d never gotten used to the blindness; his equilibrium gone, swaying around him like a vindictive ship. “Gladio?” His voice shattered around the word; between his lips as they began to shape it. “ Gladio.

From not quite his right came the steady, familiar sound of water rushing around legs that dragged through the current. Wet footsteps. Wet clothes trailing along sand.

Coughing.

Heaving.

“We’re over here.”

Uneven sand grew firm as Ignis lurched forward. The gasps and wet, bubbling coughs grew louder as he went, until they were nearly upon him. He froze as water rushed up to his ankles, swimming around inside his shoes before retreating quickly. “What’s happened?”

This idiot,” Gladio snapped, “somehow got in in his head that it was a good idea to cliff dive with a head injury.”

Another watery heave followed.

“That doesn’t sound good.”

“Didn’t sound good when he landed that belly flop, either. He swallowed a lot of water.”

“We should get a fire going,” Ignis suggested weakly as if, overhead, the sky hadn’t given one more tentative rumble before the torrent of rain turned suddenly to hail.

“We won’t get a fire going tonight,” Gladio shot back. “Take baby here over to Noct; get him under cover and try to keep him warm. I’ll get the tent set up. We’ll camp until the rain stops.”

Within seconds Ignis was on his knees, moving carefully forward until icy hands found his chest; stiff fingers tangling with his collar. Ignis’ lips fell open, ready with a bitter, “What were you thinking?” But before the words could slip between his teeth, Gladio’s footsteps fading into the distance, Prompto cut him off with a whine.

“I’m sorry.”

Ignis let the arms twist around him, feeling the cocktail of worry die in his chest as the words shook against his throat as Prompto scrambled to hold him.

I’m sorry ,” he whispered again.

“Don’t be.”

⠠⠥⠝⠑⠧⠑⠝⠀⠠⠛⠗⠨⠙

Clinging to his stomach and chest like an octopus, Ignis’ shirt fought him every step of the way as he attempted to wrangle it from around his neck. The shirt, so it appeared, was having none of it.

“You look like a pole dancer fighting with their costume.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Ignis managed from beneath the fabric twisted about his face. “I don’t look like one; I am a pole dancer fighting with my costume. My costume is Ignis. Would you mind helping me with the zipper down my back so I can peel off his skin?”

Wet chuckles met this, followed by a low, hacked cough.

In the distance, beyond the walls of the tent, Gladio sneezed.

Sliding carefully out of the sopping article of torture, Ignis threw it quickly to the floor. It made a strange, horrendous sound much like slapping a duck with a dildo.

“Not gonna fold it?”

“Gladio said he’d take care of the laundry, did he not?”

“Yeah, but you’re Ignis, Attendant of Noctis, Lord of Folding.”

The button of his pants was practically frozen. For a long second it refused to come undone, clinging to the rigid fabric of his slacks with metallic determination. But as Ignis slipped it carefully through the hole, he grinned amusedly. “Can you blame me? Honestly, what feels better against the skin than a nice, clean shirt?”

Your skin,” Prompto said without missing a beat.

Ignis grinned. “Yes, the Ignis flesh costume I’ve crawled inside is quite comfortable.” Shucking the pants quickly, he toed carefully out of his socks.

“Must be warm in there. Can I crawl inside, too?”

Warmth budded in high cheekbones as he held a finger to his lips. As his lips parted in a nervous, “Shh,” there came a thump, followed by the steady slap of wet feet on a tarp. Then hands – cold, wrinkled – found his shoulders. “Your hands are ice.”

“Good thing you’re a human fireplace.”

“You should be resting. Your core temperature is too low...” Ignis’ voice trailed off as his lips slowly pursed; as his attention narrowed to the breath that brushed the tip of his ear as arms slipped around his shoulders.

Prompto’s voice was low; barely more than a whisper as he gasped, “Then how about you warm me up?”

Footsteps, then, followed by the flap of the tent cover. “You two look comfy.”

For a panicked second, Ignis was sure his boner had a spotlight on it.

“Wanna join?” Prompto joked with surprising confidence. “There’s room for three.”

A groan, nearly drowned out by the shuddering of the tent as a new torrent of hail fell over them. “With your clammy ass?” Gladio drawled. “I think I’ll pass.”

“That is the point of our endeavor, Gladio; hypothermia prevention comes with a degree of clammy asses,” Ignis found himself adding. It sounded far less nervous than he felt.

“Look, that was a bad joke. I’m gonna go for a run around the island. I’ll be warmer after that. We can switch off when I’m done so you don’t get hypothermia, okay Iggy?”

“Sounds like a plan,” he agreed lightly. “Enjoy your run.”

“Enjoy the clingy little spoon.”

“I will.”

“Weirdo.”

The tent gave a shudder as another gust of wind whistled, and a breeze kicked into the tent before it cut suddenly off, the heavy thunk of Gladio’s boots headed away.

With little in the way of warning, the body at his front was much closer. “Hey,” Prompto whispered. “Hey, think we could do a little something?”

Ignis flushed. “You should preserve your energy,” he denied softly. Despite his words he shifted forward, pressing a light kiss to the cold cheek before him. “Besides, Gladio could interrupt at any moment.”

Lips found his, hands drawing him to the side until their ankles brushed the pads nestled together atop the tarp.

They made a successful attempt to keep it chaste, hands firm on shoulders even as their legs tangled beneath the blankets. Kisses were plentiful. A smile was pressed into Ignis’ shoulder after a while. A whispered, “Sorry I’m such a nervous wreck,” hung between them.

⠠⠥⠝⠑⠧⠑⠝⠀⠠⠛⠗⠨⠙

Ignis was awake.

As the night set in, the rain and hail gave way to a peaceful moment of relative silence. The occasional bolt of thunder sounded in the distance. With no flash it was difficult to tell how far away it was, but unlike how it had been a few hours prior, there was no tinge of ozone to the air; no brisk, electrifying scent as dirt rose and scattered through the air.

For that moment, the only scent was musk and sweat and salt.

Prompto’s skin smelled like the ocean. His hair smelled like the ocean. Whether or not they liked it, even his breath smelled like the ocean; like salt and brisk air and wetness.

Somewhere at Ignis’ back, Gladio’s snores shook the tent. The vinyl, he guessed by the strange chchchch following each bout, vibrated with the noise. Usually he’d have no problem falling asleep to the near-perfect rhythm of the rather-imperfect breathing, but that night was an exception.

That night, despite the tentative warmth that met his fingers, Ignis couldn’t help but feel the chill that sat like a memory deep in his hands. Of a cold, clammy chest. Icy hands. As long fingers drew over the exposed skin – once smooth – peppered with callouses quickly growing familiar. He traced a scar down along the bumps of Prompto’s spine, only to pause as the man gave a low groan.

Lips smacked, and the body beneath his hand shifted into his touch.

Slowly, Ignis resumed his ministrations.

“Is it morning?” Prompto asked, voice cracking like a teenager.

“Morning is relative,” was the lazy reply. “My apologies for waking you; I couldn’t sleep.”

Prompto shifted, the flesh of his back dragging against knuckles that remained against his skin. Heaving a long yawn, he wiggled a bit in place. “I… I didn’t freak you out too much today, did I?”

A lip twitched, forming a bare half smile. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t perturbed by it all,” he admitted softly.

There came the whisper of skin. A shift.

Against his cheek came the gentle touch of fingers; callouses that grazed their way along his jaw before dragging sensually across his lips.

“Do you want to go on a walk with me?”

Ignis felt the flush high in his face at the words. It’s a small island , his first thought insisted. Gladio’s asleep , the second suggested. “That sounds nice.” He rose to his feet in Prompto’s wake, following the rustle of the tarp beneath him and trying not to squeak as cold, damp clothes were pressed to his arm.

“Here.”

He took them quickly. They were almost worse than being naked; just damp enough to feel each breeze like a complete stranger had crawled up your shirt and had begun to mock-sensually rub a handful of ice that had fallen in the dirt against your skin, but not wet enough to own a satisfying cling. Why hadn’t they brought spares? Honestly, why?

The underwear was worse.

The pants were nightmare fuel.

But as an arm gently nudged his, the touch cold and warm all at once, Ignis felt the familiar warmth in his chest. The churning-like flutter in his stomach as his heart began to pound. His hand lifted, dragging up from a thin wrist to a bony elbow before settling against a pleasantly round bicep.

Prompto led him out of the tent, the flap dragging over Ignis’ head until he slipped through and it flopped shut in their wake. “I feel like you’ve changed, lately.”

“So have you,” Ignis replied dryly.

A laugh. Warm. Affectionate.

Ignis felt like a teenager.

“I hope that’s a good thing.”

Fingers drew momentarily tighter over the bicep in his hand. Ears perked for the distant crow of seagulls. For the roar of the ocean that grew louder with each step. For the snores that faded beneath each push and pull of the tide.  “Change is neutral,” he found himself admitting as the fading memory of the sight of Galdin Quay’s coast grew fondly to mind. Of the sand that sparkled when you caught it at the right angle; the water so blue it looked like the sky had poured into it. “I still love you.”

“I love you, too,” Prompto replied, voice somehow choked and warm and soft and sweet. It sounded for a moment like it would overflow. “Think, uh…” He cleared his throat. “Think Gladio will wake up while we’re gone?”

“Perhaps.”

“He’ll probably look around and be like, ‘Did they die?’ or something.”

“Brilliant,” Ignis noted, excitement bleeding through. “I’ve always wanted to fake my death.”

“Um… What?”

“Should we have brought some red paint? Splashed it about the site?”

“What the fuck? Like… What the fuck, Ignis?” Prompto snorted, arm tugging at the hand around his bicep before vibrating softly with each burst of laughter beaten back by sheer will. “I mean, literally – what ?”

“Have I taken the joke too far?”

“No, just… For a second there I thought you were serious.”

Ignis felt a grin take over his face, then, cheeks warming as they passed from dirt to sand. The loose grains were warm against his skin. Not hot, like before, when the sun shone on them for hours; simply pleasantly warm, like the air without the breeze. For a moment Ignis imagined laying in it; sliding into the beach like it were his sleeping bag. “Then I guess we’ll have to spend more time together until you know from my tone.”

A mock gasp followed his words. “Mr. Scientia, you cannot mean…” Another gasp. “A date ? Us ? Surely we must consult our chaperone, first.”

“What will he say,” Ignis added playfully, tone flat, “when he learns we’ve already buggered? The scandal. What will the neighbors say?”

Another scandalized gasp. “My goodness ! Long walks on the beach without a chaperone, dates , and even buggering . Goodness me-”

“You quite enjoy saying ‘goodness,’ don’t you?”

“- what’s gotten into me? Goodness. My goodness.

“Good golly gracious,” Ignis added in complete seriousness.

“I’ll have to resign myself to the life of a spinster. No one aught want to marry me, now.”

“Did you just use ‘aught’ correctly?”

“I honestly don’t know. Thee. Thine. Bugger.”

They fell into companionable silence as Prompto turned, bringing them down a long bank of warm sand that shifted pleasantly between their toes.

It was when they came across rocks – when the ground grew hard and his free hand strayed to find the island wall at his side – that Ignis spoke again. “I was worried about you today.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m not going to tell you what to do, but… could you possibly tone down how many risks you take?”

“I’ll try.”

And so the story came to an awkward impasse, in which nothing was written for several weeks. It was with a Will that the writer returned, laden with cheap soda and spicy pizza. There was a Determination to finish what had been started in a Timely Manner, and thus it is with this grain of salt that after three weeks you will have no choice but to accept the fact that this is a transition and our boys are in a cave, now.

The walls were cold; slick with water and what Ignis hoped was plant matter. His hand fell back to his side, curling in on itself beside his thigh as the warm arm guided him further into the gentle whisper of trapped wind.

“Think it’s got a good echo?”

“Only one way to find out,” Ignis replied.

Arm drawing out from the grip on his bicep, Prompto called a tentative, “I hope there are no daemons in here.”

“Don’t risk a jinx on our lives.”

“O-kay,” came the sing-songed reply. It was followed by a hum. The low whisper of a song under his breath. It fluttered through the air, low and bare and sad. Only a few snatches could be made out from the gentle drip of water and the rush of the waves, the one line truly heard hanging between them as it echoed through the cave; a somber and off key, “With my face head down just staring at the brown formica.”

He trailed off after a while, voice seeming to grow softer with each rush of water that hissed through their ears.

“Don’t know all the words?”

“Nah. I just can’t sing.”

“Ah.”

“Are there any songs you know all the words to?”

Ignis could feel the grin rising in his cheeks long before he answered. Long before the words, “My ringtone,” broke between them.

“Oh?”

Ignis bobbed his head dramatically.

“You-”

“Aw, aw, baby,” Ignis began, voice cracking.

“Oh my god.”

Hand sliding through the air, Ignis carefully grabbed at Prompto’s hand, drawing him in and using his hand like a microphone. “Listen to this,” he breathed.

“Oh my god,” Prompto squeaked.

“Spy on me, baby; use satellite.” Fingers slid together; laced with hands chilled by the wind. “Infrared to see me move through the night.”

“You’re just as bad at singing as I am.”

“A’im gonna fire, shoot me right. I'm gonna like the way you fight.”

Prompto’s hair tickled his chest as the man breathed a laugh. Their toes brushed, sand clinging to the skin. “You’re worse .”

“Now you found the secret code I use to wash away my lonely blues. So I can’t deny or lie ‘cause you’re a…” Free hand sliding forward, Ignis’ fingers slipped against a waist too trim, feeling the curve of bare ribs through the rough fabric. An urge rose in him: to protect, to embrace, to warm. “Sex bomb, sex bomb. You’re a sexbomb.” His head gave another quick bob. Basilisk, was the thought. Like a basilisk.

“What.”

“You can give it to me when I need to come-”

Prompto collapsed against him, face buried in the line of Ignis’ neck.

Releasing his makeshift microphone, Ignis’ arms tangled around Prompto as a sigh was breathed against his chest, and thin hands slid up to his neck. “Is everything alright?”

“Thanks.”

“What for?”

“I’ve just… My head’s been full for a while. I needed that.”

Ignis laughed. “Glad to be of service.”

⠠⠥⠝⠑⠧⠑⠝⠀⠠⠛⠗⠨⠙

It was only after the rain cleared and the thunder faded into the distance that Gladio woke. When the wind smelled sweet with salt instead of dry with ozone and rising dirt that they mounted their birds and embarked into the sea.

Several hours later, Cindy’s familiar voice shouted over the roar of engines and wheels pulling through gravel. “Hey!” she called. “Good timing!”

When they arrived, her conversation with Gladio was rushed. Almost breathless.

“What do you mean the power went out?” Gladio snorted. “They look bright enough to me.”

“In Niflheim,” she repeated dryly. “Listen before you cut a girl off.”

Ignis could feel something like dread building in his stomach. “They’re all leaving to pick up the refugees, aren’t they?”

Cindy laughed. “Nothing gets past you, specs,” she teased before continuing with an attempt at lightness, “Everyone who can drive is being called to Lestallum to fuel up and transport who they can.”

“How much of Hammerhead consists of ‘everyone who can drive?’” he asked again, curious.

A pause came.

A tense shift of gravel.

“It’s just me, Pawpaw, and Coctura on shift now. Iris and Aranea joined the procession, too.”

Prompto sighed. “Well, I guess that settles that.”

Ignis frowned. “Settles what?”

“I’m staying here, of course.”

⠠⠥⠝⠑⠧⠑⠝⠀⠠⠛⠗⠨⠙

Ignis still dreamed in color.

Sometimes of Prompto.

Occasionally of Noctis and Insomnia.

Rarely of Gladio.

Mostly of fire.

⠠⠥⠝⠑⠧⠑⠝⠀⠠⠛⠗⠨⠙

It was finally warm.

Fingers traced the line of cheekbones; followed the curve of a square jaw before drawing along a thin mouth.

“Good morning,” Ignis muttered against the digits as they poked at the scab in his his bottom lip.

“Good morning,” Prompto replied, voice warm. His fingers drew away. “You slept for quite a while. Gladio left on a job a few minutes ago.”

A grimace spread chapped lips, and his head shifted. There was the flap of the tent in the wind. The crack of the fire. The whisper of Prompto’s breath. “Ah,” he muttered. Carefully folding the blankets over, he threw his feet over the edge of the cot. But as he stood, taking the first unaided step to the left his foot hit a pile of leather, sending his leg shooting out from beneath him.

The ground came up far too quickly.

“Shit,” Prompto hissed. “Sorry, sorry. I- I left my shoes-”

“Of course you did.”

It came out as a snap.

A sharp, bitter snap.

Prompto didn’t reply.

Ignis clutched his ankle as warmth rose up his chest and into his neck. Anger boiled somewhere in his stomach; somewhere he couldn’t focus it.

“How much does it bother you?” Prompto asked after a while. His voice was almost clear across the tent – or maybe it was just weak? Ignis couldn’t tell. “Really, how much?”

“My ankle?”

“Your eyes.”

“They burn some days.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about.”

Silence.

“Don’t shut me out again.”

The anger seemed to melt at the tone, falling out the bottom of Ignis’ stomach and replaced with a radiant, echoing regret. His mouth fell open, ready with a light, I wouldn’t do that . But instead what came out was, “The cane is bulky and braille is difficult to read,” he found himself admitting. “I read it so rarely, and have so little access to it… And I’d like to be able to instigate more kisses with you.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Ignis breathed slowly. In. Out. In. “I…” He paused.

“Gah,” Prompto snapped, followed quickly by the insistent swish, crunch of cotton against the tent’s tarp floor.

“Why are you pacing?”

“Because you’re an idiot?”

Eyebrows furrowed. “You say that like it’s a question,” Ignis pointed out dryly.

“Don’t…” A long groan pierced the sentence, mingling with the pitch of a scream. “Don’t you pull your little ‘segue with humor’ routine here, okay?”

“Sorry.”

“Just… You were about to say ‘I didn’t think you would understand’ again, weren’t you?”

Ignis didn’t reply.

“For the love of the six , Ignis. We’ve been going out for eight months. You’ve been blind for four years. We’ve known each other for literally ten years .”

“Time.”

Stop .”

“Stopping.”

Another sigh. Another groan. There came a creak; the settling of fabric and metal and the groan of Prompto settling into a cot. “How am I supposed to understand if I don’t even know what’s going on? You never want to talk .”

“How,” he muttered, “do you suggest I broach the topic, then?”

“You tell me you wanna learn to do something. I stand by, awkwardly, and give equally awkward feedback.”

“So you think you could help me with braille?”

“No, but you certainly can’t figure out how to kiss me by yourself without practice , now, can you?”

“And how do you suppose we go about that? An excessively long game of Marco Polo?”

“I don’t know, honestly. You’re the blind one.”

He wasn’t wrong.

Another moment of silence passed, and Ignis listened to Prompto’s loud, even breathing.

Loud.

Carefully, Ignis eased forward, sliding his legs up to his chest before rising slowly to his feet.

“What-”

Turning sharply, Ignis rested his hands on the bars of the cot and leaned forward, lips landing on a-

“That’s my eye.”

“Brilliant,” he snapped, drawing quickly away.

“Come on,” Prompto encouraged brightly. “That’s really good for a first try! Practice makes perfect!”

Ignis snorted.

“Come on ,” he whined again. “Let’s go. Kiss me. Lots and lots.”

The anxiety that had twisted in Ignis’ chest shrunk at the words; at the playful edges that chipped at his sour mood. “You know what?” he murmured. “I plan on doing just that.” And so he leaned in.

And missed.

Tried again.

A few goes later, their foreheads collided awkwardly.

“Ow!”

“Apologies,” he murmured. Ignis imagined Prompto rubbing his forehead, cheeks flushed, lips nervously turned down. Then there it was – the gentle, even hiss of air. He eased down, felt their noses drag together for a brief instant… and silenced the man’s frown.

Prompto’s hands were there immediately. They cupped his face. Slid down his neck. Took hold of naked shoulders. And when they pulled apart, his voice was half a whisper. “See?” he cooed. “Practice.”

“I hate braille.”

“Your phone has a voice feature.”

“The labels on my clothes do not. I cannot wander about in the nude.”

“Nude?”

“You suggested it. Years ago.”

“Sounds like me. Either way, I could… I could always dress you.”

“My suspenders would break before the end of the year.”

“True. But once all this ‘apocalypse’ stuff is over with, we can probably see someone about getting you some good books or something.”

Leaning forward once more, Ignis pecked Prompto warmly on the lips before pulling back, feeling the smile drag at his mouth. “Would you like to cuddle for a bit?”

“Yeah.”

Turning back to his cot, Ignis slid his legs cautiously beneath the covers.

From behind came a whine and a thump.

“Is everything alright?”

“Yeah. Just tripped on my shoes.”

“You are incredible.”

Neither of them spoke again until Prompto was cuddled up behind him, arms thrown affectionately over Ignis’ stomach.  “I’ve been trying to figure this out,” he began, voice soft, “but that’s what you fear the most, isn’t it? Being unable to function when Noctis comes back.”

Ignis let loose a long breath. Managed a whispered, “What makes you say that?”

“He’s been the focus of most of your life. You taught him. Guided him. Protected him. And when you went blind, instead of leaving you left the decision up to Noct about whether or not you would leave until you realized he wouldn’t make that decision.

“You could barely walk when we brought you to the mine. You got the hang of it quickly, but we had no way of knowing it would turn out that way. The only reason Noctis had for bringing you before we knew you would hold your own was because he wanted you there. And that conversation I overheard between you and Gladio – that was part of it, too. It’s always been Noctis.”

Ignis remained quiet as the words lit something like dread in his chest.

“I mean, I get it. Noctis was my everything, too. I literally transformed myself for him. Spent years doing it. All so I could have the courage to be his friend. I didn’t realize until after I lost the weight that I didn’t need to – he wouldn’t have cared – but I kept it up anyways. It made me feel good about myself. In the meantime, Noctis was always there. My only friend. My everything. And now he’s not, and I… I don’t know how to deal with that, sometimes.”

“You are my everything.”

Prompto’s body went suddenly rigid.

Lifting himself, Ignis spun and placed a sudden kiss to lax lips. It was clumsy. Messy. Fast.

Prompto cleared his throat. “You’re, uh… You’re getting good at that.”

“You breathe through your mouth,” he answered shortly before a mouth descended, silencing him thoroughly.

⠠⠥⠝⠑⠧⠑⠝⠀⠠⠛⠗⠨⠙

“Hey, Iggy?”

“What is it?”

“What do you fear most?”

“What?”

“You know mine, so I might as well know yours.”

“I’d think that’s obvious.”

“Humor me.”

“Promise not to laugh?”

“Gladio’s asleep. Do I have a choice?”

“Leaving you behind.”

“... After this…”

“... Yes?”

“Once we’re sure Hammerhead is properly staffed, I’m thinking of moving to Lestallum.”

“... Are… Are you sure?”

“We’ll have Cindy call us if she sees Noctis.”

“... Thank you.”

Chapter Text

Edges worn down from use, the braille label creaked as Ignis eased it back into place. It protested for the barest moment. But as the plastic eased against the glue at its back, it began to cooperate. He held it in place, lips moving in a light, “... six, seven, eight…”

Thump .

A door.

“Hey.”

Prompto.

“... eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.” Releasing the label, Ignis settled the paprika against the counter with a warm, “You’re back early. How was the job?”

A steady slap slap followed his words, Prompto’s shoes bringing him quickly to the side of the counter and then a warm body was there , cold hands sliding around boxy hips. Chapped lips found his neck with deadly accuracy.

“Do you have a moment?” The words were a plea, voice high and tongue whispering against warm skin.

“Depends,” Ignis replied, tone low. “How would you like to use that moment?”

Fingers tangled.

Ignis chuckled as the body against his pulled away and their twined hands tugged. He followed, grinning wide. Each step felt like a note in a song, and as hinges creaked and they stepped into the familiar dry heat of the spice closet – door closing loudly in their wake – Ignis opened his mouth eagerly as lips descended.

Fingers, confident and flirty, lingered over bony hips. Thumbs nudged up beneath the thin fabric of his shirt, tracing the V that tapered into his pants. A tongue drove forward. It slid against its partner, then drew back, teasing.

“Kiss me properly,” Ignis demanded softly, hands lifting to press insistently against the narrow chest before him. They slid up, pausing for a brief instant against sharp collarbones, before drifting down to bracket a small waist. “Kiss me like you mean it.”

“Sure you want that?” Prompto gasped. “Here?”

Inching down, Ignis dragged his nose against the soft skin of a cheek, tracing the line of freckles he could so sharply recall.  “I always want you.”

“Nymphomaniac.”

“Much as I love the comparison, I identify as male. The proper term is satyriasis.”

“Is… Is nymphomania just for women?”

“We could simply call me hypersexual and skip the whole debacle of gendered language.”

“This is not the conversation I expected to have with you while making out in a spice closet.”

“If that’s a complaint, you could always keep kissing me.”

“Do you want me to?”

“I thought we’d already covered this.” Hand sliding up along Prompto’s stomach, dragging along ribs and a pec, brushing the subtle peak of a nipple, Ignis caressed the smooth neck before him. “I always want you.”

And Prompto was back, hands warm and insistent. They slid up his chest, down his hips, before gently cupping the curve of his elbows, guiding him into the kiss. Gentle. Sweet.

Yearning.

A whisper, low and desperate against Ignis’ ear. “I missed you.”

“I love you,” he murmured back between kisses before their mouths slid open, lips slotted against his. They shifted to the side, angling them until their tongues twisted as far back as they would go.

Ignis wanted to crawl inside and never leave. To follow his tongue and curl up somewhere in Prompto’s chest; to fall asleep listening to the steady beat of his lover’s heart.

It thundered beneath his hands as they drew apart, Prompto gasping wetly at his ear as he managed a half-squeaked, “I love you so much.”

As lips found his throat, Ignis felt his lips twitch in fondness. “How was the job?” he asked as cold fingers drew away from his elbows and slid deftly between the hems of his shirt and slacks.

“So gross,” was the tired reply. “It was so gross, you have no idea. All the guys from Lestallum were like… all into chew and they were spitting everywhere. The ladies were okay. The ones who chewed all had spitters.”

“You're one to talk, smoking the way you do.”

“I only smoke when I'm really stressed, and I don't throw my bodily fluids around.”

“Do you, now?”

“Look, can't we make out without a running conversation for once?”

“I think that depends on how busy you can keep my mouth.”

“Is that a challenge?”

Ignis groaned, arching his neck as a tongue drew across the side of his throat. “Six, yes. Yes, it is.”

“And what if I don’t rise to it?” Prompto breathed, the tip of his nose dragging gently up to tease the base of a jaw. His lips drew across the shell of Ignis’ ear, warm and moist. “What if I just want to kiss you as much as I can before I get sent on another job? What if I want you in my hand, trembling beneath me as I pull you apart?”

Dry lips were hastily licked. “You’d be rather good at phone sex.”

The response was fired back without reservation; a soft but bitter, “I’d rather not have to find out.”

“We might find out eventually. I don’t necessarily want to sit around twiddling my thumbs when you return to Lestallum.”

Prompto stilled against him as the words settled between them. “I thought you were coming with me.” The words are shocked. Scared. “You said after Hammerhead got some proper help you would join me in Lestallum.”

“I will, but it’s highly unlikely I’ll be able to make the transition quickly. I’d have to go into town and look for a position. People in the city aren’t as eager to put a blind man to work as they are out here.”

“Iggy, you don’t even need to work at first. You can take your time – I’ll take care of you.”

“I don’t want to be taken care of. I’ll come into town-”

“You can’t just get a job in a day-”

“I’ll come to Lestallum on my days off, like I did before all this happened-”

“Ignis, don’t-”

“It’s my decision-”

“- can’t believe you right now!” Prompto snapped.

“It’s my decision,” Ignis spat back.

“And you already made it!” Prompto’s voice was near a shout, filling the air like a drum. “We even talked about it. You said you’d move with me to Lestallum and I’d get my old job back because they’re still holding it for me, and that you’d see about joining the border patrol staff before looking for a more convenient position. You promised .”

Lips pursed. “I don’t want to be a burden.”

You think I don’t know that? ” It came out as a yell, this time.

Silence broke between them.

Ignis’ chest roiled. He drew back against the door, untangling himself from Prompto. His hands shook at his sides. His stomach twisted and burned. “Let’s talk about this later, when we’re not in a spice closet.”

“I’ve only got a few hours before I head back out,” Prompto muttered. Suddenly he was close, again. “I just… I need to know that this won’t just be like before. When we were heading back and forth to see each other once every two weeks for maybe a day. I want to have my job back and come home and see you every night like clockwork. I want to hold you and kiss you.” His arms wound around a thin waist. But as his nose brushed against a warm cheek, Ignis turned his face away. “I want you to be the last thing I see before I go to sleep and the first thing I see when I wake up.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that I want to find a job first.”

“You already promised you’d move and then find a job. You can’t just do whatever you want,” Prompto whispered, lips brushing along the line of a warm neck. “We’re a team. I was under the impression that the point of this relationship was to be together as much as possible.”

“When do you think we’ll have more time together? When I’m waiting to join you in the city to find a job or when you take it upon yourself to sign up for ten day missions that send you back to our bed for a handful of hours before you leave again? I have a life, and if I can I’d like to spend it with you without feeling like I’m just a convenient fuck.”

The lips drew away, breath hissing through the air in a low, “Ignis-”

“You don’t want to come out, you don’t want to tell Gladio, you don’t want me to find my independence from you before we move to Lestallum, you insist on taking care of me… I am not your kept man, Prompto. It seems like every time I want something for myself, there’s a line of yours that I can’t cross. I am a person and I am allowed to want things for myself . And what I want is to know that if something happens to you – if you die, or we break up – I’ll be self sufficient.”

“For the love of the Six . Can’t you just trust that I’m not gonna get myself killed or leave you? We’re partners . We’re lovers .”

“I could afford such blind loyalties before; I cannot now.”

And with that note, their conversation came to a sharp end.

Prompto drew quickly away, and there came for a moment the jiggling of the knob. But as the door fell open there was no move made to step past him.

Sliding his hand back along the door, Ignis stepped out of the closet with a bitter determination. He washed his hands, running his fingers quickly beneath the stream before turning to the counter he’d been using before.

Prompto’s heavy steps filled the room before long – his “we just had a fight and I’m not done” gait that he got whenever he was angry, just a few decibels away from a stomp – and it almost felt like a threat. “I’m going to nap at the camp,” he called back, as if in afterthought, before the door's bell jingled.

It sounded a bit aborted.

“Is something wrong?” Ignis asked, hands still against the counter.

“Shit.”

“What’s wrong?”

“The door’s locked.”

Ignis’ lips twisted. “You didn’t lock it, did you?”

“No,” Prompto replied softly. “No, I didn’t.”

“Then-”

“Aranea’s outside.”

Ignis took a long, shaky breath at this, arms going limp against the counter.

After a while, there came a click. Then the bell gave another ring. Finally, the heavy click, click of Aranea’s boots against the floor met the air.

“How much did you hear?” Ignis requested softly, hands fisting together against the counter.

“More than I thought I would,” came the drawled reply. There was a shift of fabric. The squeal of a stool being moved. “You guys have managed to keep this little thing between you under wraps quite nicely. Color me impressed.”

Prompto’s voice was high. Nervous. “You’re not going to tell anyone, are you?”

She hummed. It was a curious sound. A confused sound. “Why would I do that?”

For a while, only silence followed. Outside, the wind howled.

“Look,” she continued lowly, “you guys obviously need time to talk about this. I’ll get Coctura – tell her Ignis wasn’t feeling well. You guys should head back to your camp and talk this out, alright?”

“I have work,” Ignis pointed out dryly.

“Then finish your shift and get your ass to the camp,” she snapped. “Also, when’s breakfast?”

⠏⠁⠛⠑⠀⠃⠗⠂⠅

They were barely off the chocobos before Prompto’s arms wound around Ignis’ waist and lips found the shell of an ear.

“I’m not in the mood,” Ignis snapped, pushing the arms away to feel his way from chair to chair until he reached the tent. But as he pushed between the flaps, magnets parting with a gentle click, click , the arms were back.

“We need to talk about this,” Prompto murmured against his cheek. “And you never wanna talk unless you’ve been loosened up.”

“Well that’s a shame because I’m not in the mood to be ‘loosened up,’ so you can keep your hands to yourself.” Sliding his hands beneath the arms at his waist, Ignis broke out of the grip to step further into the tent. He unbuttoned his shirt quickly, folding it neatly before settling it off to his right.

“Ignis, we need to talk about this-”

Hands clenched, fighting against the urge to throw something. “That’s just the thing,” came the spat accusation. “I’ve told you what I want. I’ve told you what I need to be comfortable with this transition and you brushed me off . We’re not going to come to a compromise on this. You’re not going to get what you want. We’re not going to find even ground that will please us both. The fact is that I want to be able to stand for myself without you , which doesn’t in the least break the promise I made, and you don’t want to respect that. So please fuck off and let me stew in my own anger for once.”

“I’m sorry, I just-”

“No more excuses!” The shout pierced the air, silencing the man at his back. For a second Ignis’ breath came in labored pants. His hands eventually went to the button of his slacks. He toed out of his shoes, then divested the last of his clothes before climbing into the cot with his boxers limply hugging his hips.

It was a long while before Prompto began to shuffle. As the telltale sound of fabric hitting the floor filled the room.

Cold fingers settled against a shoulder. “Can I join you?”

The cot was rough and stiff, squealing as Ignis shifted forward and grabbed at the edge for balance. Skin slid against skin, and cold toes dragged against warm calves.

“May I hold you?”

“Do what you want.”

The huff of breath that followed was heavy; deafening in the relative silence. But where voices were absent, fingers were bold. Hands stole across a broad chest. An arm slid between the gap of a neck and the cot, and lips drew against the curve of an ear. “I miss you,” Prompto whispered. “I love you.”

They remained in silence for a long while after that. A gentle breeze ruffled the edges of the tent. Outside, Celeste squawked. It was only when a distant crack of thunder sounded, chased by a whip of wind against the walls and the gentle pit-pat of rain that Ignis turned.

Warm hand settled against bare, cold shoulders. A finger traced the raised edge of a scar. Easing forward until Prompto’s breath fanned over his cheeks, Ignis pressed their foreheads together with a sigh. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m being difficult again.”

Lips descended; chapped and affectionate, before pulling away. “You’re fine. I love you. I’m being difficult, too. I’m sorry. You’re allowed to find your independence and I shouldn’t step on that.”

Legs twisted, and fingers stole into short, wind-tossed hair. “I love you,” Ignis whispered. “I shouldn’t have held the fact that we’re in the closet against you. I agreed. That should be the end of it.”

A laugh; amused and affectionate. “Look at us, talking. And I didn’t even have to loosen you up.”

Cheek twitching, Ignis cooed a sultry, “Oh? But didn’t you?” before his hand pressed against a firm chest. Trailing down the long length of an arm, he twined his fingers with Prompto's, bringing his hand back and around.

Even as his hand closed around the curve of his boyfriend's ass, Prompto managed a weak, “You know, I'm actually really tired right now. Mind if we just cuddle and go to sleep?”

Grinning softly, Ignis eased forward until his nose brushed against the cool skin of Prompto’s cheek. “Yeah,” he whispered. “I’d like that.”

⠏⠁⠛⠑⠀⠃⠗⠂⠅

A brush of skin. Lips, chapped and affectionate, pressed to the sensitive skin beneath Ignis’ ear before retreating.

Throwing an arm over, Ignis felt at the empty expanse of the cot, touch lingering at the poles strung beneath the coarse fabric. “Prompto?”

“Sorry. Didn’t want to wake you.”

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“Work,” came the tired reply. “My alarm went off and everything. You’ve been sleeping okay, right?”

“I’ve been sleeping just fine,” Ignis argued quietly. “Aren’t you the one who insisted on a nap?”

“Touche.”

“I miss you.” The words were in the air and hanging between them before Ignis could really process what he’d said. But as cold hands gripped his shoulders tight and a tongue dove between his lips, the best he could do is open his mouth wide and fumble for the man before him. His fingers gripped the lapels of the thick coat for leverage as a shiver raced through him; as the muscle between his teeth traced a line from his soft palate to the flesh beneath his tongue before drawing slowly away.

“I miss you, too,” Prompto admitted under his breath, fingernails digging softly into bare shoulders. “You’re so goddamn perfect.”

“I am not,” Ignis snorted. “I’m a stubborn asshole.”

“And I love you for it.”

“You love me in spite of it.”

“Shut up.”

“You shut up.” Smiling softly, Ignis eased his head back against the pillow, offering his neck. “Sure you don’t want a nibble before you go?”

A nervous laugh followed, hands retreating from wide shoulders. “Dude, if I take a nibble I’ll want the whole cake.” The complaint was a high whine. There was the shuffle of the tarp, the hiss of shoelaces being drawn tight, and then the scuff of boots tapping the floor. “I’ll be back in a few days, okay? If Gladio isn’t here we’ll do something. We’ll take our time. And then we’ll talk. Properly. Without… Without yelling, okay?”

A second passed before the answer came; a soft and tentative, “That sounds good.”

“... Okay.”

Ignis could only lay in place as another silence settled between them, broken only by a quiet sigh and the click, click of the tent flap magnets parting. He bit his lip softly. Then, with grim determination, he announced, “I’ll join you in Lestallum when you go.”

The breath of air to follow was nearly lost in the breeze that swept through the tent.

It was cold.

“Do you really mean that?” Prompto asked.

Hands gripping the poles of the cot, Ignis rose up to face the breeze that swept across his bare chest. “Yes, I do.”

“I… have to get to work.”

“We’ll talk about this when you get back.”

“We will.”

⠏⠁⠛⠑⠀⠃⠗⠂⠅

The alarm was loud and insistent, and Ignis slapped his hand across the cot in an angry attempt to silence it. But as his fingers brushed empty air, he groaned. It was a chore, climbing out of bed. The sheets were warm and soft, and as they fell away the sharp sting of musty air bit at his skin like small, angry fish.

Sliding his hands over the surface of the side table, Ignis’ fingers brushed the edge of his phone case. Bringing it to his ear, he found the small buttons on the side of the device before casually dragging his thumb right across the screen. “Ignis speaking.”

“Hey, Ignis. This is Coctura.”

“Coctura,” he greeted sleepily. “Hello.”

“Good morning. I was wondering if you might want to drop by first thing tomorrow morning, and pick up some meat on the way. You’d be a lifesaver.”

“Did something happen to the stores?” he asked, sending his hands skittering to the end of the cot to collect his clothes.

“A road block happened. That job Prompto was heading out on got cancelled because of an almost literal wall of daemons stretching about four miles long. They’re trying to get reinforcements in from Lestallum, but it’s slow going. The diner is packed. I haven’t seen this many people in the outpost since before we were an active hunting station.”

“If you need help with the crowds-”

“No, no. Enjoy your day off as much as you can. You did the same for me last week; it’s the least I can do. Bring the meat by tomorrow if you get the chance. I just didn’t want to call you too early in the morning.”

“Kind of you.” Allowing his clothes to slip back to the cot, Ignis eased back against the pillows. “So you mentioned Prompto. Is he with you?”

“He’s headed back to camp, actually. The birds are already gone. I’d say you’ve got about ten minutes of privacy.”

“Ten minutes,” Ignis repeated, voice brisk. “Yes, you have my thanks. I’ll get the meat first thing tomorrow morning.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s not problem at all. I’ll see you in the morning, Coctura.”

“Have a good one, Ignis.”

“Have a good day, and good luck with the crowds.” Dropping the phone to his side, Ignis ended the call with a practiced hand before allowing it to slip from his fingers into the blankets. He wasted no time, rising quickly to his feet and taking two measured steps forward, fingers dragging against the damp tent walls with a light hiss before he dropped to his knees. The ground was uneven and a bitter cold that made his legs ache. As he reached into a corner his hands met a pile of blankets. They were soft and heavy. He ignored them, pushing them off to the side until his hands fell upon the smooth, worn edges of a wooden box. His fingers danced along the front, pressing a button on the far right, then two in the center before a gentle click sounded through the room.

He lifted the lid carefully, reaching first for a long tube that twisted around his hand before his fingers dragged it up his wrist. His hand closed around a smooth, large bottle that sloshed and wobbled, half the contents long gone. Gathering everything up, he rose with an impatient groan before stalking out of the tent, throwing the flap aside. Making his way out of camp, he felt for the stick barrier around the latrine with his feet.

⠏⠁⠛⠑⠀⠃⠗⠂⠅

It was a while before he made the trek back to camp. Before he settled on the cot – knees down, ass in the air – and rubbed at his perineum experimentally with a gloved, lubed finger. The lube was thick, and as he pushed the digit past the ring of muscle, he shuddered. He laid like this for a while, shoving his fingers deeper until his cock was hard and throbbing against his thigh. Then, and only then, did he pull his hand away and grab at a long, flared plug.

Lubing it quickly, he pressed it against his ass. Slowly, surely, it sunk inside him. Stretched him. Filled him. That’s when he heard the voice in the distance. Tugging off the gloves, he grabbed at the small bag hanging from his cot before stuffing them inside. His pants were yanked up over his legs. The box was quickly packed. But as he stepped out of the tent, magnets clicking in his wake, the wind died and the voice in the distance began to make sense.

“- got to be kidding me.” Gladiolus.

It was Gladiolus .

“I’m so not,” Prompto fired back smartly. “It was all kinds of gross. Like, dude had a literal boner. If we hadn’t killed it… Just… I swear, he was gonna start humping its sword. Who knew people could have a kink for Humbabas, am I right?”

“You meet the weirdest people on your jobs.”

Turning sharply, Ignis stepped back inside the tent with a hint of panic. “Oh gods,” he whispered, fingers roving over the sheets. His finger brushed over the corner of a foil packet, and he quickly stuffed it in his back pocket. In an instant his hands were back, sweeping to and fro across the sheets in an attempt to find errant stragglers. When he found none he hid the box back under the blankets in the corner. He grabbed up his shirt and threw it on.

He was buttoning the throat when Gladiolus’ thick boots slapped the ground outside the tent with a heavy clunk and the flap noisily announced his arrival. “Hey, Iggy,” he greeted lowly. “We brought some breakfast.”

With an honest attempt not to straighten too quickly, Ignis replied with a stiff, “Ah, yes. My thanks.”

Birds , he recalled suddenly. Not bird.

⠏⠁⠛⠑⠀⠃⠗⠂⠅

The wind was quiet that night. There was no distant crack of thunder, or whisper of mist against the skin. Ignis sat before the fire, lost in thought, when the crinkling of the tent flack and click of magnets sounded through the Haven like a horn, followed by a trumpet of a snore.

A scratch of footsteps. Scuffing from behind. Then, hands slipped over Ignis’ eyes.

“Guess who,” Prompto teased.

“Prompto, I’m blind,” Ignis managed around a laugh that threatened to burst out of his chest.

“Well, I know , but that doesn’t mean you can’t guess .”

A sigh slipped between lips twisted in amusement. “Evgeni Plushenko.”

Prompto imitated a buzzer, and his hands fell away. “Close, man. I can’t skate.” There came a rustle, then a scrape, and before long a sign as a chair launched a small protext. “It was nice hanging with Gladio again. It’s been a while, you know? It was cool to eat a whole meal together again. Two, really.”

Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, Ignis rested his head against the back of his chair.

“What?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You’re making the face. That ‘I don’t agree but I’m keeping my mouth shut’ face. What’s up?”

A snort. A shift. “It’s nothing. Just a bit… frustrated with Gladio’s… presence .”

Prompto laughed, chair squealing. “Dude, just admit you want me all to yourself.”

“I believe I just did,” Ignis fired back, hand drawing away from the rest at his side in search of the cold hands that met him halfway. Twining their fingers, Ignis rose slowly from his seat. Taking careful steps forward, he eased closer to heavy, anticipating breaths until his knees knocked the lip of the chair. He slipped between spread legs, lifting one of his own and cautiously finding the gap between armrest and seat. The body beneath him remained still as he carefully straddled hips that pressed nervously up into his own. With the position came a rush of power. It flooded his chest and bubbled into his stomach.

“Horny?” Prompto croaked as Ignis’ fingers fell away to pick at the buttons of his slacks.

Shoving his pants down over the curve of his ass, Ignis savored the hungry gasp that hung in the air. Reaching for the arm that brushed against his leg, he dragged his fingers down until they met a hand that twisted eagerly around his.

Another trumpeting snore shook the camp.

The chair groaned, and then Prompto’s mouth was playing with a shirt button.

Ignis drew the cold fingers in his grasp to the split of his ass.

Prompto froze.

Then he drew quickly away, fingers playing with the edge of the plug. “Oh Gods,” he gasped, voice breaking. “You’ve had this in this whole time, haven’t you?”

“It’s been a sort of torture,” Ignis admitted weakly. “I was under the impression – or, at least, I have assumed – that you would be returning on your own when Coctura informed me of the road block. I had hoped you would make good on that promise to take your time.”

A squeak followed. Then a gasp. “Shit. I don’t think I’ve gotten this hard this fast before.”

Another heavy snore.

Prompto shifted uneasily, leg jumping against Ignis’ thigh. “Do you want to try a quickie? It sounds like he’s pretty far gone.”

Lips pursed. “Right here?”

Breath hitched before Prompto managed a low, “Yeah. Yeah, right here.”

“If we get caught – if he wakes – we won’t be able to go back,” he said softly, fingers slipping up from a bare wrist to grip an elbow. “He’ll see and he’ll know.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time this week.” The joke fell to the weight in Prompto’s voice. A resignation. A surrender. And as he laughed, the amusement was absent. There was something else in its place. Desire. Affection. Hope, even.

Hope that Gladiolus would wake up.

Hope that Gladiolus would catch them.

Hope that they could be out and maybe he would be okay with that.

Ignis swallowed hard, then leveraged himself against Prompto and the chair to slip his free leg beneath the second arm rest. “Are you sure?” he asked.

Fingers had already grasped the end of the plug as the words hit the air, and Prompto replied with a breathed, “Positive,” before easing it carefully out.

Ignis gasped, spine arching as he felt himself stretch around the toy. The pleasant pressure of being filled followed it, and as the largest part of the plug slipped past the ring of his hole, he twitched back against it.

“Gods, you’re perfect,” Prompto whispered before the plug was gone and the cry of a zipper sounded between them. A stroke of flesh followed. “Can’t believe you’re mine.”

“I’ve been yours for three years,” Ignis pointed out as the head of Prompto’s cock slid against the crack of his ass. “Have you been good about taking your PrEP?”

A breath of silence passed  between them as their bodies stilled.

“Shit, I missed yesterday’s dose,” Prompto admitted softly.

“Back pocket. Condom.”

Cold hands pawed about thick thighs as they fumbled for the slacks’ pockets. Within seconds there was the sound of foil tearing. “Okay, okay,” came the distressed whisper. “It’s on. It’s on, so let’s go!”

As soon as Ignis felt the head of his partner’s cock against him, he began to slip down. Eager hands scrabbled at his hip and hair as their bodies slowly, surely, grew flush.

“Oh Gods,” Prompto gasped, tugging Ignis forward to pepper his throat with kisses. “I love you so much. I’ve missed you. I’ve wanted you since I left on that stupid job. You’re so perfect.”

Following the desperate wheeze of breath, Ignis silenced him with a wet peck.

Prompto practically latched onto his face, tongue prying at lips even as they pulled away.

“Make love to me,” Ignis whispered before carefully lifting his hips. His head lolled to the side, chasing the fingers that tangled in his hair.

“I love you so much,” Prompto insisted again before his hips snapped up and his hands flew to a slack mouth, catching a surprised gasp in his palm.

Ignis’ voice echoed in his throat as he attempted to silence himself. His flesh sung as the smooth length in his ass dragged against the bulge of his prostate. Legs trembling, lashes fluttering, he leaned further forward to rest his upper arms on the narrow shoulders before him. Fingers at his hip dragged him closer, and then Prompto pushed in…

… slow.

Hard.

Ignis’ breath caught as warmth spread through him and his entire body tingled. His mouth fell open in a silent groan. A hand cupped the end of his cock, leaving his lips unattended as he pulsed against his belly.

“My millisecond man,” Prompto cooed. “You’re so…” His hands fell away for a second, and then they came back clean and moist.  “Think we found a new favorite angle?”

“Maybe,” came the tired reply. “Do you like it?”

“I like any angle that lets me look at you.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I do, and I stand by what I said,” he shot back before his fingers drew tight against narrow hips. “Think I can get you off twice tonight?”

Ignis felt a grin tug at his lips, and he slowly leaned forward in a sleepy attempt at a kiss, only to smear his lips across the cool apple of a cheek. “You’re welcome to try.”

“Cool,” was the only reply before hips snapped up and Prompto’s cock sharply grazed the arch of Ignis’ prostate.

A choked cry bubbled into the air.

“You good?”

“Yes, yes,” Ignis insisted swiftly, hands balled into fists. “Keep going.” It was a demand at best. The pleasure was like a burn, tingling up his stomach and into his face. His head was heavy, but light, and as his partner began to move beneath him he felt himself begin to grow limp.

The hands grew tight against his ass as all movement ceased.

“Keep going, please ,” Ignis begged, thrusting down against the turgid flesh inside him.

Prompto’s hands stilled him. “Get up,” he whispered, “and be quiet.”

“Darling-”

He stopped snoring.”

Ignis’ eyebrows arched almost painfully, and then he was up and out of the chair. “The-”

“Focus on yourself. Look natural.”

Bending nearly in half, he did just that. His hands grabbed at the hem of his boxers, dragging them quickly up around his hips. He frowned as the lube began to ooze out of him, slipping along the fabric.

He was just reaching for his slacks when a heavy, sleeping groan sounded from inside the tent.

Jerking the waist up, he zipped the pants and practically launched himself in the general direction of the other chair. He fell into it quickly, one hand falling to cover his unbuttoned groin as a precaution.

The tent flapped.

Magnets clinked.

Footsteps, one after the other…

Receding.

Fading.

The fire popped.

“He didn’t even open his eyes,” Prompto breathed, incredulous.

Ignis sagged into the chair, tension draining almost painfully out of him. “Splendid.”

“Yeah, really, because, like… that butt plug is right by the fire.”

A snort followed; amused and loud.

“Dude, not the time – he might hear you. I still have to hide it!”

Ignis threw his head back and laughed.

⠏⠁⠛⠑⠀⠃⠗⠂⠅

Celeste gave a gentle wark beneath him as she began to slow, and from a distance there came the call, “Open up! It’s Ignis!”

A gate screamed, and Celeste happily trotted forward. Behind them came a series of angry squeals and clacks that protested with every step.

“Time to oil the damn thing,” Ignis noted to himself as she drew to a pause, and for the first time in nearly an hour his ears knew silence. Feeling for the seat horn, Ignis carefully dismounted before following the straps that wrapped around the bird with his gloves, undoing them quickly. “Good girl,” he cooed as she stilled under his hands. She remained still as they dropped to the ground. “You’re such a good girl.”

There was a brush of feathers, and then a hard beak combed carefully through his hair.

A smile spread across his lips. “Someone deserves a thorough brushing in the morning. What do you think?”

She ran her beak against the apple of his cheek, and a soft purr sounded by his ear.

“Yes, I quite agree,” he said before giving her one last pat and stepping away. He walked carefully along the straps on the ground until his leg nudged a length of wood. Bending down, he felt along the small trailer before his fingers found a series of straps, untying them from the sides before tossing them aside. He reached inside the cart, then, grabbing at the plastic bag that sloshed and shifted in his grip. Bending, he carefully threw it over his shoulder before moving away from the trailer.

The gravel crunched beneath his feet as he stepped heavily forward, free hand held out to brush a petrol station as he passed. A handful of steps later, he found the diner’s pillars. As he pushed through the door, a warm voice cut the air.

“Ignis! Good timing!” Coctura greeted warmly. There were a few light footsteps, and then a hand brushed his shoulder. “Set it down behind the counter. I’ve got the tools all laid out.”

Rounding the corner quickly, he dragged his shoes across the floor until there came the tell-tale crinkle of plastic sheeting. Bending at the knees, he dropped the Sabertusk carcass onto the floor with a low grunt. “It’s a bit scrawny, but I can head out tomorrow and get another if we need.”

“Thank you,” she said. There was the clatter of wood on wood, then footsteps on plastic. “Your prep clothes are in the restroom, as usual.”

“I’ll go get changed, then,” he confirmed. The bathroom was just around the corner, and it was quick work to change into the spare, somewhat tight clothing. When he emerged, Coctura called him over.

“There’s actually something I want to talk to you about today.”

“Oh? Are we changing the meal plan?”

She was quiet for a second before a strand of her wispy hair brushed his shoulder – likely from a shake of the head.

“Is your hair tied?”

“Huh? Oh- Yeah, it is. It’s just really frizzy today.”

“Ah. My apologies.”

“Um. Yeah… Anyways… I was just wondering if…” She trailed off. With a huff and the slap of a knife, she placed a round bit of flesh in his hand. “Liver. Salt’s off to your left.”

He nodded, reaching forward until the tips of his medical gloves met a plastic bin.

“I’ve been offered a position in Lestallum.”

A silence settled between them, and only when Ignis finished coating the liver did he speak. “You’re leaving.”

“They’re sending replacements. They want to establish this as a Hunter Outpost again, and will be shipping out proper rations. Officials made the call that they want me in the city preparing food for people who medically can’t live on the rations. I told them I had one condition for working there, and they said yes.”

Ignis nodded again, softly. “I’m assuming you want me to ask you about it.”

“I’ve requested you as my assistant,” she informed him softly, placing another few organs in his hands. “Kidneys. Now, if you choose to accept you’ll be working with a team. You’ll train them yourself, and they’ll help you track down and hunt on a larger scale than you do now. You’ll transport and clean the carcasses before processing them to hand off to my department.

“It’s not much different from what you do now, and you’d be paid well. It also comes with housing. Actual stand-alone houses in the old part of town. I might have pushed a little for that. I know you value your privacy.”

Ignis grinned as her small pitch came to an end. “Privacy, you say?” he drawled.

A relieved laugh broke the air. “I was worried I’d have to go alone.”

“You’re a good superior, Coctura. I’d love to join you in Lestallum.”

“I’m glad you think that.”

“When do we start?”

Chapter Text

A whoosh of air.

The creak of boards.

Strong, affectionate arms and lips.

“That was a good one,” Prompto said sweetly, mouth peppering Ignis’ exposed throat with kisses. Hands slipped beneath a loose dress shirt to paw at warm skin.

Ignis batted the hands away, stepping back with an arm outstretched. The wall was cool; a pleasant relief from the summer heat as he leaned against it. “Oh no. We are not having sex tonight,” he scolded. “I’ve got work first thing in the morning. Now slide down that hallway.”

“But you look so hot like this,” Prompto whined. His fingers slipped over the high arch of a cheekbone, dragging back into the strands.

“We specifically cleared the hallway for this,” Ignis protested even as he leaned into the touch. He shivered as the hand fell down. As knuckles dragged sensuously along his throat. “We shouldn’t allow our efforts to go to waste.”

“If I could make love to you right here,” came the breathed suggestion, “then it wouldn’t go to waste.”

“Prompto.”

“Yes?”

“Slide down that hall.”

“Yes Mom .”

“How is your mother?”

For a second there was no reply – only the hiss of fabric on waxed wood and a thump of a body against the wall; a sound growing all too familiar. “Mom’s good,” he said after a while. His voice was further away; across the room. “She sends her love, by the way.”

“Has she accepted our offer of dinner yet?”

A scoff. “I’d tell you if she did. Nah. She’s still getting used to the idea of me ‘with a man’ so she said she’s going to keep her distance a bit longer.”

“It would be rather easy to accept something you’ve seen , don’t you think?”

“Ignis, she doesn’t want to hurt me or drive me away by accidentally saying something, like… excessively homophobic to you. Let it go.”

“She’s your family. She’s sticking ‘round whether I like it or not.”

“Dude, she’s right and you know it.”

Ignis’ lips pursed.

“Look, whatever. It’s your turn. Enjoy the waxed floors; they’re not going to be this slippery for long.”

With a put upon sigh, Ignis drawled a sarcastic, “All right,” before launching himself down the hallway with a whoop.

⠠⠁⠀⠠⠎⠷⠞⠀⠠⠇

Ignis woke in a haze. His eyes blinked for a moment before slipping shut. There was an ache in his legs; sharp in some places, dull in others. His head felt heavy. His body, weak.

Worst of all, a pulsing nausea rose from his stomach into his throat.

Hand flying to his side, he found a lump beneath the blanket. “Prompto,” he demanded softly. Then, more insistent, “ Prompto!

“Wha’?” A snort. A dry cough. “Wha’s up, Iggy?”

Ignis answered by rolling onto the floor and dry heaving against the hardwood.

“Shit!” Prompto was at his side in an instant, scooping Ignis up into his arms and half-sprinting to the bathroom.

Every step felt like a freefall.

“Okay, you’re okay,” Prompto insisted, slowly lowering him to the floor. “Toilet’s on your right. Lid’s up.”

Managing a bare nod, Ignis turned, gripped the porcelain, hooked his chin over the edge, and spat. “My saliva is sweet,” he noted nervously.

“Is that… bad?”

Lips fell open to answer, but all that came out was a hollow clicking as his stomach heaved and upended itself into the bowl.

“I’ll call the med center and let them know we’re coming,” Prompto announced softly. “You just… stay here. When I’m done with that I’ll call Talcott so him and the rest of the team will know you’re sick, okay?”

“Much appreciated,” Ignis groaned in thanks.

⠠⠁⠀⠠⠎⠷⠞⠀⠠⠇

The walk to the medical center was one they made often. One Ignis could make on his own with the help of his cane on busier days. One he could make without on slower ones. But as the footsteps around him multiplied to a fever pace, it was all he could do to arch his arm around Prompto’s shoulders and keep his mouth firmly closed.

“You doin’ okay?”

“How much further?”

“Like, six blocks. Do you need to sit down?”

“I’d rather not, thanks,” he whispered. “Let’s just get there as quickly as we can.”

They manage to trek up the hill with minimal vomiting, and before long a door slid open and a woman greeted them with a warm, “East Medical. How may I help you?”

“Scientia. We called,” Prompto replied. His voice was a touch curt; a touch confused.

Ignis could feel the palms against his arms begin to sweat.

There was the shuffle of papers, and then a soft, “Ah,” before there came a gentle scrape . A pen. “I’ll call a nurse in. Do you need a wheelchair?”

“That would be helpful, yes,” he admitted. “And maybe… a vomit bag.”

“It’ll be just a second.”

Before long Prompto dragged his hand to a stiff leather arm, and Ignis carefully lowered himself into the wheelchair. Then they were off. “Slower, please,” he requested as his stomach lurched.

The nurse slowed. “I’m going to take your temperature,” they said, and ran a bit of plastic across his forehead. “Can you stand? We’re going to take your weight.” He stood, and they thanked him. After a while the tests began to blur together, but after a good three minutes that felt like an hour he was wheeled into a room, and the screech of curtains being pulled sounded at his back. “The doctor will be with you shortly.”

Then a door shut.

Silence settled.

A clock ticked, gentle and deafening.

Off to the side, there came a series of beeps.

“What is that?” Ignis asked, perplexed. “The beeping. I don’t remember being hooked up to anything.”

“It’s the monitor, I think,” came the soft, equally confused reply. “It’s on this weird screen and, like… Yeah, it’s weird.”

A click – louder, a door – and then a squeak.

“Ignis?”

“Hello Dr. Rand.”

A pause. The door closed, followed by another squeak. Wheels. A chair, maybe. “May I ask what your companion’s connection to you is?”

“Uh-” Prompto said smartly.

“We live together,” Ignis clarified.

“Are you comfortable with him knowing the contents of this appointment?”

A short nod, slow but sure. “Yes, I am.”

There came a whisper of something soft – possibly hair dragging across fabric. “May I ask your name?”

“Uh, yeah. Prompto Argentum.”

Pen scritching, she continued with a dry, “Pronouns?”

“He/Him.”

“Mr. Argentum, are you comfortable with remaining here and possibly giving accounts that Mr. Scientia cannot give due to his condition?”

“Yeah. No problem. I mean… Yeah, whatever I can do to help.”

“In that case, we’ll begin.” She cleared her throat, and suddenly her voice seemed louder. Closer. Maybe facing toward him. “I’ve read the report, Ignis, but I’d like to hear the reasons for your visit today in your own words.”

“I woke up this morning with severe nausea and body weakness. This has persisted for the last hour.”

“Shakes or fever?”

“None.”

The woman hummed. There was a flip of paper, and more scratching. “Is the cocktail for the HIV treatment the same as it was the last I saw you? Same question for supplements.”

“Those remain unchanged.”

“Good, good. But if I remember right, you were on injections in place of an oral cocktail shortly before I was assigned to you. Do you think you've been experiencing side effects since you made the switch?”

“None that I’ve noticed, aside from a medication we tried at first that did not agree with me.”

“Have you considered switching back to injections and having your par- roomate administer them?”

Slowly, Ignis shook his head. “That would not be sustainable,” he admitted softly. “Prompto’s work can keep him from Lestallum for days, as can mine. Monthly injections also do not agree with me.”

Her pen raced for a bit, the hollow sound against what could only be a clipboard filling the room like a horror game before she spoke again. “Has your diet or level of exercise changed, recently?”

“My diet hasn’t changed,” he began evenly, eyebrows furrowed. “Basic rations don’t tend to shift. Exercise tends to very, however. The last week has been particularly strenuous.”

“Have you increased your intake of food to compensate?”

“I eat what I am given, Dr. Rand.”

“Ah. Yes. Of course. I’m sorry.” A note was written. Then a pause, and another. “I’m going to have a tech come in and take some blood. It’ll take about an hour to get the results. Do you have a history of Lactic Acidosis at all?”

Nodding slowly, he replied with a low, “Briefly, about nine years ago. I don’t recall enough of the experience to tell if that’s what’s currently happening.”

“Well, we’ll find out soon enough. We’ll work from there,” she informed him, voice suddenly warm. Her voice had a touch of chipperness as she continued. “While we’re at it, we might as well check your T-cell count. You haven’t missed any doses, have you?”

“Not in eight years.”

“I thought not.” The grin could be heard in her voice. “I’m going to ask your roommate some questions now, if that’s alright. Go ahead and lay down, if you like. The bed’s to your right.”

“My thanks.” Easing himself out of the chair, he staggered to his right. The paper wailed in protest as he settled against the bed.

Something squeaked. A chair screamed.

“Mr. Argentum, have you noticed if Mr. Scientia has gotten paler at all? Or if he’s visibly losing weight?”

“Uh… No?” he began, unsure. “He’s the same as usual. I mean, he’s lost weight? But it’s in the same way we’ve all lost weight, you know?”

“Has his skin been noticeably clammy lately? Any rashes?”

“Just this morning, and no rashes.”

“Good. Back to Mr. Scientia, now. Ignis, are you currently sexually active?”

“Yes.”

“How many partners?”

“Just one.”

“Same partner as last time you came in?”

“Yes.”

A note was made. “And how often would you say you have sex?”

“A minimum of four times a week.”

“And the average?”

“Nine.”

She tried to hide her laughter, like she always did.

He heard it anyway.

He smiled.

“How safe have you been since I last saw you?”

His lips pursed.

Ignis .”

“Not as safe as we should have been.”

She sighed. “Alright, how many times did your partner penetrate you without using a condom in the last month?”

“Sixteen.”

“You kept count ?” Prompto squeaked.

Dr. Rand cleared her throat.

Ignis sighed. “My partner is on PrEP, and they never miss a dose.”

“PrEP works better in conjunction with condoms.”

“Unfortunately, they do not and they’ve impressed upon me that they’re willing to take the risk.”

“Ignis-”

“It’s a sensitivity issue.”

“Well, after this appointment is through your roommate and I can have a little chat about some options to help your partner with sensitivity that don’t include excluding protection from intercourse. Now , how long have you been exclusive?”

“Five and a half years,” Prompto squeaked.

Dr. Rand snorted. “Are we done pretending, then?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I’m going to have a technician in with you shortly. I must insist that Mr. Argentum be screened for HIV as well, if he hasn’t already been tested in the last four weeks. Is that alright?”

“Yeah.” Prompto’s voice was small. He was probably shrinking in his chair.

Ignis couldn’t see Dr. Rand, but he imagined a tiny woman staring his partner down with a look that explicitly stated, “HIV medication doesn’t work for everyone you little shit .”

“They’ll be with you in a bit. Please wait here in the meantime.”

A hiss of a hydraulic seat. The squeal of rusty bolts. A curtain shoved to the side, then back. Then, finally the door opened and closed.

“So we’re alone, then?” Ignis asked.

“Yup,” Prompto replied briskly, voice high. “What’s up?”

He took a breath; long and pensive. For a moment there was just the beep of the machine and the tick, tick, tick of the clock.

“Something wrong?”

“I think,” Ignis began, voice weak, “this is as good a time as any to discuss the possibility of my progression from HIV to AIDs.”

An inhale of breath. “Y-”

From the side came the door, once more. The turning of gears; the squeal of the handle; the click of metal on metal. Next came the clatter of wheels, and a deep voice requesting for him to get comfortable. It sounded muffled.

“I’ll just join him on the bed. Thanks, though,” Prompto said, and oh. That made more sense.

Prompto’s hands were warmer than usual, and Ignis couldn't quite figure out why that was. Not at first. But as his arm was swabbed and a needle was pressed into the inside of his elbow, he realized he’s been cold since he woke up. They were pressed together from ankle to hip, and Ignis wanted to crawl inside his lover’s skin in the best of ways.

Eventually, after they’d finished sticking both himself and Prompto, removed the needles, and shuffled enough plastic to make Ignis nervous, the door closed behind the tech.

“If I progress, our lives would irrevocably change. AIDs is a full time occupation.”

“I know,” Prompto replied, tense.

“I’ll get sick more often than not. It’ll be more difficult to deal with me. We might have to stop having sex so regularly – possibly at all. I’ll be more contagious-”

“I’m not going to leave you.”

Ignis’ lips pursed.

“I’m not ,” Prompto insisted, voice suddenly sharp. “Gods, I’m not. Even if you get AIDs. Even if I get HIV. Even if I have HIV.”

Slowly, a clammy hand found warm fingers against the crinkly hospital paper.

“Look, I’m a ride or die kind of guy, okay? You, me, and Gladio – that’s who we are. And we’ve had our bumps, but Noctis has always been our main priority and I think that says a lot about us.”

As fingers wound carefully with Ignis’, he smiled.

“Besides, don’t you think you’re jumping the gun a little?” Prompto put in teasingly. “This could just be a bug from gutting monsters so much. Or, like, E Coli from maybe missing a spot when washing your hands after.”

“E Coli doesn’t present like this,” Ignis corrected with a soft chuckle.

“Yeah, but it could be something like E Coli. It’s just a little nausea. It’s not like you’ve got pneumonia. You’ll kick back in no time; just watch. You’re careful with your meds, super careful with your food, and you’re just generally careful. You’re going to be fine .  What comes will come, and we’ll handle it. And I’ll be here every step of the way.”

Shifting onto his side, Ignis slid an arm across the soft fabric of Prompto’s shirt before his hand settled against his stomach. “Have I told you I love you lately?”

“Once or twice.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too, babe.”

⠠⠁⠀⠠⠎⠷⠞⠀⠠⠇

Two IVs and a nausea pill later, Ignis felt his way out the hospital. He grinned as an arm brushed his, and he reached casually for a slight wrist before dragging his hand up to a smooth bicep.

“Hey, Jabari!”

Ignis head shifted, chin lifting just a touch.

“Prompto, hello!” Jabari’s voice was tired and strained, but the hint of warmth was still there. “And Ignis, as well.”

“What brings you to the Med Center, man?”

A sigh. “Another checkup. That cold last week knocked me out longer than it should, so we’re being cautious with my T-cell count. How about you two?”

“Lactic Acidosis,” Ignis replied dryly. “A new side effect I have to watch for whenever I overextend myself.”

“Ah,” Jabari huffed softly. “So you’ll have it constantly, then.”

Prompto laughed.

Despite himself, Ignis snorted.

“I’ve got to get in. Good luck with recovery.”

“And the same to you.”

Footsteps pointed away from them, and Prompto slid his arm out of Ignis’ grip. “I’ll be right back. I gotta ask Jabari about something real quick.”

“Take your time.”

“I’ll just be a second.”

He was back in ten.

⠠⠁⠀⠠⠎⠷⠞⠀⠠⠇

The air had begun to heat by the time they made it back through town. By the time Ignis’ hand fell against the door knob, feeling for the keyhole, Prompto suggested a late lunch.

“What time is it?” Ignis asked, perplexed.

“Nearly noon. Want to eat in or see what some stalls have to offer?”

With a slight shake of his head, Ignis pressed the key into the hole slowly, twisting it deftly and pushing the door open with one smooth movement. “I’ve got something else in mind, if you’re amenable.” As he stepped through the door, he felt along the hall until he found the slope of an arch, the wall giving way to another room. “Are the curtains pulled?”

Off to his side, the door thumped firmly shut, followed by the click of a deadbolt falling into place. Footsteps fell evenly, passing around him and into the other room. “Yeah,” Prompto replied softly, voice close. “What’s up?”

Hands stretching toward the sound, Ignis grinned as his fingers brushed against a bare shoulder. Then they fell down, moving to a narrow, gaunt chest. “We’ve both got the rest of the day free now,” he began under his breath, taking a resolute step forward. “It’ll be a few hours before those results come in. Do you want to try out one of those pointers Dr. Rand gave you?”

Lips brushed a cheek bare of clammy sweat. “They weren’t the kind of tips you think they are,” he breathed dryly, “and are you sure? You’re not still feeling gross?”

“I’m feeling much better, yes,” Ignis said eagerly, dragging his hands down the baggy tank before fiddling with the hem. “I’d like to make love if you’re in the mood.”

Prompto didn’t reply at first. Didn’t seem to move. But as the silence stretched between them a hand descended into hair shorn short, carding gently through the strands. “I love when you say that,” he murmured warmly, voice just a hair’s breadth away. Eyelashes brushed a warm cheek, fluttering as the empty space between them shrunk to nothing. “I love when you ask me to make love to you.”

Leaning into the touch, Ignis arched. The hands were gentle against his scalp, throwing his body into a mess of tingles. “Touch me more, please,” he begged softly, hands slipping beneath the shirt, only to stumble forward as Prompto stepped suddenly away.

In an instant he was back, chest bare soft against Ignis and fingers pressed firm against his chest, working at the buttons. It seemed to be agony, waiting for him to finish. But as he reached the final button his fingers slid up. Dragged along firm skin. Then, finally, eased beneath the fabric to help it fall from broad shoulders.

And again that space was gone.

Hands grappled at hips and zippers, shucking the rest of their clothes until Prompto’s cock was nestled against Ignis’ equally bare thigh. “I love you,” he gasped as his touch drifted up a warm chest and a thumb pressed between thin lips.

Opening his mouth wide, Ignis dragged his tongue along the underside of the calloused digit as his right hand reached for the hot length against his leg. “Are we going to move this along or are you going to tease me all night?” he asked around the flesh that tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Because both sound fantastic.”

“I want to finger you,” Prompto rasped.

Easing forward, Ignis dragged his lips against the first bit of skin he found – a high forehead, salty with sweat – and murmured a low, “Grab yourself a glove and I’ll meet you in the kitchen.” He eased away slowly, though paused to make a teasing grab for a thin waist. The walls were smooth and cool on the way to the kitchen. There was a photo frame mid-way that he felt for a moment, fingers admiring the round, sanded corners.

As his hip grazed the countertop, his head perked to the side as hurried footsteps charged back and forth through the house. He turned, mouth opening in a greeting before it was sealed shut by eager lips and an overtly enthusiastic tongue. There was a brush of calloused hands between thick thighs, and as he widened his stance in accommodation a finger deftly flicked against his anus. “So we are teasing, then?” he asked amusedly before the slick, lubed finger slipped carefully past the rim and curved inside until Ignis grappled for the counter as his legs began to quake.

“No teasing tonight,” Prompto whispered at that, voice husky with intent as his finger dragged against the arch of Ignis’ prostate.

Hands drew away from the counter to scrabble for purchase against lithe shoulders. “P- Prompto ,” he wheezed out. “You-”

The finger twisted.

Ignis shuddered as his cock pulsed, shooting down his thigh.

A laugh shook the air.

“What could...  could you possibly find amusing right now?” he gasped as his legs wobbled.

Lips descended quickly, peppering the length of Ignis’ throat with soft kisses. “I was just thinking of the face you’d make if I pulled away before you came.”

“Heathen.”

“Yup.”

Heresy .”

“Double yup.”

Stance growing sure, Ignis shifted his hands down, ghosting over his lover’s stomach. “Mind if I suck you off?”

“Be my guest,” Prompto breathed.

The floor was pleasantly warm against knees that shook with the effort to drop. “Be gentle with me,” he advised softly as he eased forward. His nose brushed a hard length nestled against the curve of a sunken hip. The skin was soft and ridged. For a moment he followed them with his lips; traced the stretch marks that carved into Prompto’s skin. His kisses brought him down the deep V of his hips. As his lips found the curve of his lover’s cock he opened wide, drawing it onto his tongue with steady hands.

Prompto tasted of salty sweat and a touch of lube. Ignis shuddered at the mental image of Prompto giving himself a few good firm strokes in the confines of the bedroom before he’d stepped into the kitchen. With a sharp suck, he sunk to the base, swallowing around the lubed length and reveling in the gasp that followed.

“I still can’t believe you can do that, sometimes,” he groaned, hand falling to caress the length of exposed neck. “Seeing is believing, but Gods .”

Lips curving in amusement around the cock in his mouth, Ignis twisted his head to the side as his nose dragged against a bed of coarse curls. He felt Prompto shudder beneath the movement. Felt the jump of a dick against the walls of his throat. Slowly, he eased back until the head filled the insides of his lips, gave it an eager suck, and then slid back down. With each push forward he picked up the pace. Each pass grew more and more fervent as a hand slipped back into his hair, easing him away even as eager hips gave shallow, rabbity thrusts.

“You said to be gentle,” Prompto mused softly, “but you’re taking me pretty well.”

Ignis drew off the dick for a deep, desperate breath before his hands fell to the cock that flopped against his cheek. He gave it a wet jerk, thick saliva sliding between his fingers. “Fuck my face,” he demanded.

“With pleasure.”

Dropping his mouth wide open, Ignis relaxed his throat as flesh slid tentatively against his lips. Along his tongue. Then, with a cautious press, it slid back down his throat.

“You’re so beautiful like this,” Prompto gasped. His hands drew out of greasy hair and off the curve of a warm neck. “Can I film this?”

Ignis choked as he pulled off, wiping spit quickly from where it cascaded down his chin between coughs that shook his entire body. Clearing his throat after the worst had passed, he swallowed hard and managed a small, “Yes; go right ahead.”

In sections Prompto’s hands were back, sliding along bare shoulders before drawing away, only for the head of his cock to press against the flat of Ignis’ offered tongue. “Yeah, babe. Hold your mouth open for me just like that. Gods, you’re so beautiful.”

Ignis shivered at the praise. It raced up his spine and into his toes, back and forth until it felt like his hair was standing on end. Saliva spilled over from the corner of his lips once more as the fleshy head of Prompto’s cock pressed deeper into his mouth – into his throat – before sliding back out. The length drew a line against his cheek before returning. Then it pushed in without remorse.

Ignis fought to keep his throat relaxed as Prompto thrust brutally inside him; cockhead grazing his uvula on the way down. Thin fingers wound back in his hair, holding him still as hips moved quickly against his face. Soft, wobbly balls smacked his chin in an attempt at a steady rhythm before it changed. Before the angle changed and Prompto was bearing down on him, practically bending Ignis’ head back as if in an attempt to climb directly into his throat.

With a desperate swat at Prompto’s hip, Ignis waited for the man to withdraw before taking a sharp, labored breath.

“Are you okay?”

“Throat…” he managed to cough out after a second, hands coming up to beat ineffectively at his chest even as he grinned. “Choked.”

“Can I fuck you instead?” Prompto’s voice was a mix of desperation and confusion; a hint of a squeak at the edge taking over his words entirely.

Ignis bared his teeth in a tired grin. “Do you have any lube?”

A cap popped.

“Of course you do.”

Eager hands were on him in an instant, lifting him from the floor and corralling him against the counter. Fingers poked and prodded at thick thighs until the message was received. When Ignis finally settled onto the counter belly-first, he tried not to whine as a lubed cock was pressed impatiently into the split of his ass. He laughed as the smooth head pushed at his entrance. “That was pretty quick for getting a condom on. Is it a new record?”

“Maybe for wanting to be inside you,” Prompto fired back before the head of his cock popped through.

Scrambling for purchase against the counter, Ignis gripped the edge with grim determination. “Are you in a bad mood?” he gasped. “This-” He cut off as his ass began to ache, the rigid cock pressing inside. He attempted to ignore the sharp burn that came with it. “I’ve had minimal preparation, might I remind you.”

“Right, fuck ,” came the nervous gasp. There was a fumbling of something solid – his phone? – followed by a sharp breath and a whimper. Then, with a gentleness that had been absent until that moment, his hips grew slowly away until only the head remained ensconced within Ignis’ ass. But even then, his flesh jumped and shivered, hot and swollen.

“Are… Are you jerking yourself off inside me?”

“Just t- trying something,” he whined. “Not sure if it’s working. Just… tell me when you’re ready. Please.”

“I will,” Ignis promised, voice high. The sensation was strange. He could feel the movement travel up inside him, echoing in his balls and stomach. He found himself leaning into it. Found himself easing back on the counter to accommodate the angle. Within minutes he began to gently thrust his cock against the counter, desperate to find friction in his partial hardness. “I’m ready for you,” he announced.

Prompto slammed into him an instant after the words hit the air, punching inside with a desperate half-scream the shook the air.

He was not ready, it turned out, but that made little difference. The stretch was brutal, but quickly forgotten as Prompto grazed his prostate. It was all Ignis could do to stop the scream that tore through his chest, catching it in his throat with an almost manic attempt at silence. Fingers curled into a fist, and he slipped them between his teeth and bit down as the onslaught began. As each and every push sent his body spasming against the cold countertop until he wound tight and burst.

The second orgasm was nothing like the first. It wasn’t easily coaxed or sweetly given. It was a fire in his groin that neared pain as it burned, mounting even as his cock was spent.

By the time his third orgasm hit – dry, painful, sharp, and heavy – he was so oversensitized he could barely move. He’d lost track of time. Of matter. Of sensation other than pain. But even as he reveled in it – even as  his chest soared and his head swam with endorphins – he reached back to smack the nearest bit of skin he could with a broken, “Stop, stop!” as the friction rubbed him raw.

Prompto was out before the words were done. There was the snap of a condom being quickly removed. The gentle hiss of flesh working against flesh. A gentle sob broke the relative silence.

Dragging himself limply off the counter, Ignis slid carefully to the hardwood. “Come here,” he said. His fingers motioned toward himself even as his knees gave and he fell to the floor. He tried not to flinch as a cold bottle was pressed to his cheek. As bony ankles pressed to either side of his thighs. Taking hold of the bottle, Ignis flipped the cap open with the aid of practice before squeezing out a bit of lube. “Are you ready?”

Prompto’s whine was high, but he still replied with a confident, “Go ahead.”

Reaching up, Ignis followed Prompto’s thigh up between his legs, probed his entrance with a finger, and then carefully eased one inside.

It was five long, anxious minutes before Prompto sobbed and finished against Ignis’ cheek.

For a while after they could only curl on the floor, not bothering with cleanup. It was half an hour before Prompto dragged them to their feet, cleaning them with a damp rag before tucking Ignis into bed. “I’m going to run some errands,” he whispered, pressing a kiss to his forehead. “Call me if you need me, honey.”

“Safe travels,” Ignis muttered, drowsing.

⠠⠁⠀⠠⠎⠷⠞⠀⠠⠇

The air was cool when Ignis woke again. There came the creak of floorboards. Footsteps. Then the mattress at his back dipped, creaking with the weight.

“Hey, Iggy. I dropped by the hospital on the way back and picked up the full workup. Wanna hear?”

He grinned. Shifting beneath the blankets, Ignis pushed himself up to lean against the headboard. “You know, I still can’t get used to the idea of HIV workups only taking a few hours.”

“How long did it used to take?”

“Months,” he replied softly. “And you were lucky if they caught it.”

“Wow…” Prompto’s reply felt heavy, the weight of the implications not lost on him. But instead of a silence settling between them there came instead the shuffling of papers. “Do you want your results first or mine?”

“Yours, please.”

The mattress squealed, and Prompto’s lips pressed to his cheek before he eased slowly away. “Okay, then.” The sheets hissed, and the papers shifted once more. “Blah, blah, iron levels, sugar levels… Here we go.” He cleared his throat. “HIV screen is…”

Ignis waited, but as the silence stretched he asked, “Is something wrong?”

“No. Just… a little disappointed, I guess.”

“You-”

“I don’t have HIV, Iggy.”

The headboard felt all too solid in that moment, digging into Ignis’ back like an Iron Maiden. “If that’s the case, then what do you mean by ‘disappointed?’”

A sigh. The hollow thump of a head meeting the wall. “I just… I just figured it would be easier if I had it, you know? Then we could stop being so careful all the time. I could just fuck you and you could fuck me. We could make love without worrying about condoms and dental dams and cleaning regimens and those giant PrEP pills. It’d be like ripping off a band-aid.”

It was a while before a lump could be swallowed down; before the silence that stretched between them was broken with a rough, “HIV prevention is not a band-aid, Prompto.” Even after the insistence, the air felt heavy. “The only thing that would change from our daily regimen is what medication you would be taking. The trips to the med center would increase. You might not respond well to medication. You might not respond at all.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I know.”

“I don’t want you to have this, Prompto. We can’t take that risk.”

“I know.”

Ignis sighed, bringing his legs up to his chest. Everything hurt. Each shift was a hammer into false bruises that lined every inch of his body. His glutes screamed. His stomach roiled. His arms and feet were ice; the heat of the IV that had burned his skin long gone. “What else does the sheet say?”

Then Prompto was there; warm, solid Prompto cuddled up to his side. “They’re going to have you come in a few times over the next week to make sure your Lactic Acidosis is getting better, and that it’s a result from overworking yourself instead of a side effect of your medication. And… we also need to lay off sex for the next five months.”

Despite himself, Ignis’ head shot to the side, as if to look at his partner. “Excuse me? Does it really say five months?”

“It’s not the sheet.”

“If you’re implying we crossed a line this morning-”

“We didn’t cross any lines! When I was talking to Dr. Rand we went on this kind of… spiral of topics when I was mentioning my lack of sensitivity. And she made a few recommendations about medications that she didn’t want to assign me because she felt that would be jumping the gun, so instead she recommended a… a thing and I… I asked Jabari for help getting it and…”

“You needed Jabari’s help for something Dr. Rand recommended?” Ignis balked. “It’s not drugs , is it?”

“What the fuck Iggy? Of course it’s not drugs! What kind of drug would make me unable to have sex for five months ?”

“Am I going to hate you for it?”

“I don’t know! You’re being kind of a dick right now, so I have yet to find out!”

“And I’m supposed to be fine with the mystery of whatever you’ve gotten to get off? You just told me Dr. Rand suggested something for you, but instead of going to her to get it you went to the owner of a night club. What am I supposed to think?”

“I don’t know. Maybe that Jabari doesn’t deal drugs ? Or maybe you should think about letting me say what it is on my own time ? Just let me have,  like, a moment to fathom this, okay? It’s still sinking in.”

“You’ve already taken it, haven’t you?”

“It’s not drugs!”

“But you’ve already done whatever it is.”

“Well, yeah-”

“Is it reversible?”

“You know what? I’m calling for space,” Prompto snapped.

As the arm at his side drew away, Ignis struggled to remain sitting, arm flying to the headboard for balance as the mattress dipped.

“I’m going on a walk.”

“I’m sorry.” The words were in the air, sincere and too late to matter.

“I’ll be back in half an hour, and when that happens you better be ready to listen to me.”

“I’m sorry,” he insisted again as the footsteps receded.

They creaked out of the room. Down the hall. Then, in the distance, the front door slammed.

Sliding carefully out of bed, Ignis dragged his hand along the bed, across the chest at the foot, and along the wall before making his way out into the hall. It was only a few seconds before he fell before the toilet, pushing up the seat and retching.

⠠⠁⠀⠠⠎⠷⠞⠀⠠⠇

The moment he heard the footsteps, Ignis miserably began to mumble into the toilet. “I’m sorry,” he moaned. “I’m so sorry.”

“I know you are,” Prompto replied dryly, voice distant.

“I jumped on you. I always fucking jump on you,” he hissed. Sliding his hand up the back of the toilet, he clumsily grabbed the handle and flushed before easing back carefully until he was flush to the edge of the bath. “Not that acknowledging that does anything.”

“You’re working on it.”

“Not hard enough.”

“Can’t disagree with you there.”

An all-too-common silence stretched between them until Ignis weakly asked, “Do I want to know what it is?”

“I don’t know,” came the flat reply.

He sighed. “Do I need to?”

“Not really, but you’re going to find out eventually either way.”

“How-”

“I got my dick pierced.”

Silence.

“You what ?”

Chapter Text

Celeste was quiet beneath Ignis’ hands as he cinched straps tight against her flank. His fingers slipped up and along fabric bags that shifted with her every step.

From behind him came the crunch of gravel and a high laugh. “Well, if it isn’t Ignis Scientia.”

Ignis paused, allowing his hands to drop. He turned to face the new arrival with a grin. “Aranea,” he greeted warmly. “It’s good to see you.”

“Little early in the morning for puns, don’t you think?”

His lip twitched in amusement. “Pun not intended, but it’s never too early for jokes.”

“You morning people are so weird. Anyways, what are the two loaded chocobos for? Last I checked you had that sweet little place in old town. You’re not thinking of moving back to Hammerhead, are you?”

“Nothing of the sort,” he said, amused. “Prompto and I are going camping.”

“Oh, right – Prompto mentioned something about your anniversary in his chat with Iris last week. Is this it?”

“The very same. How is Iris?”

A snort. “A force of nature, as always. Can Gladio know if he asks? Or is he still out of the loop?”

“Very much so. At this rate, we’re likely to get married before he knows anything about us,” he drawled. His arm stretched out as Celeste warked at his back, smoothing his hand over the feathers of her flank.

“Did someone propose?” Aranea gasped, shock plain as her voice went high. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Ignis shook his head, waving her off. “No one proposed; it was simply a comparison,” he explained.

A small hand swatted at his arm, calloused and strong. “Don’t give me a heart attack like that!” The accusation was loud, but her next words were low; secretive. “You have to tell me if you’re going to propose. I need to be there. Don’t taunt me like that.”

“My apologies,” he laughed, drawing his arm away. “I’ll be sure to tell you.”

“Good. And Ignis?”

“Yes?”

“Hold out your hand.”

Ignis did, and a small box was pressed into his palm.

“Iris and I got that for you guys a while back. Don’t open it until you get to camp, okay? It’s a gift for your anniversary.”

“Kind of you to think of us.”

“Not really kind. More like we couldn’t help but think of you when we saw this.”

“How did you know to have it on you?” he asked, turning to tuck the box into the first pocket his fingers touched. The button was stiff as he worked at it, but after the cardboard fell behind the wall of canvas, it snapped back together easily enough.

A shift. Boots against gravel. “We’re planning to meet in a few minutes. She asked me to bring it with, just in case we ran into you.” A laugh. Soft. Feminine. Affectionate. “That girl has a sixth sense, I swear.”

“Yes, she certainly does,” he agreed lightly, turning back toward Aranea’s voice. “I do hope I’ll be able to thank her before we leave. My thanks.”

She scoffed. It was a gruff sound, burying the warmth from her previous words. “It’s nothing. So, camping, huh? Whereabouts are you two heading for this auspicious occasion?”

Arm drawing back up, he slowly reached for the bird at his side, grinning as Celeste nudged into his hand. “We’re hoping to blindfold Maizie and hike up to the peak of Ravatogh,” he informed her. “The camp will be warm through the night, and there’s a nice little Haven near the top that affords quite the view, given a bit of sunlight.”

“Which is distinctly lacking.”

“I won’t be missing much.”

“Still; Ravatogh. You’re pretty spry for an old man.”

“I’m hardly old,” he fired back, amused.

A hum followed; high and dry. “You’re… what? Thirty-five?”

“Thirty-one.”

She laughed, and gravel crunched. “Practically dust.”

“If I remember correctly,” he began bitterly, “you’re nearly fourty.”

“Women like me don’t age, honey.”

“Does that mean you’ll humor Iris and go on that date with her?”

“Not until she’s thirty.”

“That’s only five years away.”

“Five years is a long time, Ignis.”

Gravel crunched, footsteps approaching their party at a happy jaunt. “Aranea! Hey!”

“Hello, Prompto,” she greeted, smile in her voice.

“Hug. C’mon – I get a hug.”

There was a scoff, and an almost palpable sense of rolling eyes. “If you insist .”

A rattle of armor, then a laugh filled the air. “Well, hate to greet and run, but our phones will only last so long.”

“Call me when you boys get back. I’ll bring some meat over from Hammerhead and we’ll all have barbecue.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Ignis promised softly. “I assume I’ll be the one cooking.”

“Obviously.”

⠠⠁⠝⠝⠊⠧⠻⠎⠜⠽

Ravatogh was warm and the air was sour until they got to the top, slipping Maizie’s blindfold off. Celeste was calm beneath Ignis’ hand, as usual. It seemed nothing would startle the bird. After hammering their tents in place, they unsaddled the birds and turned them loose.

“I’m going to read a book,” Ignis announced after they’d spent a good half hour manually inflating the air mattress.

Prompto laughed breathlessly before replying with a low, “I’ll go check on the birds, then. Maizie might start freaking out about the cliff and while I’m pretty sure she can handle herself, I’m still convinced something’s gonna happen.”

It was half an hour later when Ignis brought his hand away from the braille novel, strode out of the tent, and announced a perplexed, “Alright, just what is going on?”

From the distance came a muffled, “Hide and seek.”

A long moment passed before Ignis spoke again, eyebrows furrowed. “Hide… Hide and seek?”

“Um… Yeah. With the chocobos.”

“You… How ?”

“I taught them.”

“To play hide and seek?”

“It wasn’t the easiest thing, but yeah.”

Another silence settled between them before Ignis asked, “May I join you?”

“Dude. Dude, yes . Of course you can join us! I’ll, like, put some rocks around the edge of the cliff just in case the breeze dies down or something.”

Ignis felt a grin follow in the wake of a heat that rose in his chest. “My thanks.”

“Should I wear a blindfold for the heck of it?” he added dryly. “I mean, like, it wouldn’t really change your chances so it’d be moot. And we can’t blindfold… the… Actually, Celeste is better at this than Maizie, but it’s probably a good idea not to blindfold Maizie.”

“Blindfolding birds at the edge of a cliff on top of a volcano. That, uh…” Prompto laughed nervously at this, voice squealing. “ Yeah .”

“How far are we allowed to hide?”

There came the click of rocks and footsteps. “Just keep the cliff climbing to a minimum.”

“Alright then,” he agreed amusedly. As the boots clunked about the camp, he attempted to keep in a beat of laughter that stuck in his throat. “You’re arranging the rocks in a circle around me, aren’t you?”

“You could have at least pretended to run into them,” Prompto whined. “Like, come on!”

“Prompto?”

“Yes, my sweets?”

“Your sense of humor could use some work.”

“Okay – the video can’t end like that.”

“You’re filming this?”

“Come on – tell the camera you love me. For science.”

“Your death will be slow and tragic.”

“I love you too, sweetums.”

⠠⠁⠝⠝⠊⠧⠻⠎⠜⠽

Ignis was happily sandwiched between two large boulders when a finger prodded sharply into his knee. “I’d begun to think you had forgotten about me.”

“I gave up and took off the blindfold.”

“Pity.”

“Say that when I fall off a cliff.”

“I will.” Rising up out of his makeshift seat, Ignis carefully extracted himself from the rocks, hands sliding across the rough, warm surface. “Have you had any luck finding the birds, yet?”

“I’m about to,” Prompto announced before he took a sharp breath and bellowed, “Olly, olly, oxen free!”

Ignis’ expression twisted with surprise as two happy wark s followed. Heavy footsteps, then the rustle of wings. “Prompto,” he began loudly, curious, “how long did it take you to train the birds?”

“Um… Three years? That… That sounds about right. I exchanged some favors with someone in the agricultural center. Traded some beast claws for a few bushels of Gysahl Greens every time I could get some. Maizie and Celeste don’t like corn, you know?”

A smile split curious lips. “You’re quite dedicated to our birds.”

“Well, yeah.” For all that Prompto’s voice was light, there was a weight to it. He took another deep breath and – a few seconds later – posed a nervous, “They’re… They’re kind of like… our kids.”

A smooth beak slipped beneath Ignis’ hand as he contemplated a reply. Celeste’s distinct coo sounded, and her feathers shook in pleasure as he massaged back and away from her nose, fingers lavishing attention on the swirl of scars at the base of her throat. “Do you want children?”

No immediate reply came; Maizie no doubt demanding the same attention as footsteps stumbled and the bird gave a gentle wark . Finally, as the girls settled and a breeze whipped across the camp, Prompto admitted a soft, “No. No, I don’t want kids. Maizie and Celeste are enough.”

“Chocobos over children?”

Prompto snorted. “That’d make a good sitcom.”

“I imagine it would run for a single season before getting cancelled.”

“But would it get a cult following?”

“No.”

“Ha!” There came slow, purposeful clapping before Prompto suggested, “But the reviewers were kind, at least?”

“Of course not. They were particularly brutal to the main lead; a woman of minor renown who has a history of bad films. The leading man started as a mime, and still hasn’t gotten the hang of line delivery.”

“Ignis, what the hell?”

“The director was mysteriously killed six months after filming in a drive-by shooting.”

“Ignis.”

“Speaking of odd topics, Iris and Aranea got us an anniversary gift,” he added cheerfully.

“Are we ignoring the fact that you just segued from the drive-by shooting of an imaginary director to an anniversary gift?”

“I’m in an odd mood today.”

“You can say that again.”

Offering his hand, Ignis warmly asked, “Take me back to camp, love?” He smiled as an arm slipped against his fingers, grabbing at the offered bicep. It tugged and they were off. A sharp breeze shook the camp, and the flap of the tent walls grew steadily closer. “This tent sounds so much different,” he found himself noting. “It’s going to take some getting used to.”

“It is a lot smaller,” Prompto agreed. “It’s a good thing we brought an air mattress instead of those cots. I don’t think they would’ve fit. Chair on your left. Where’s the gift?”

Reaching out, Ignis’ fingers brushed the arm of a foldup camp chair before he announced, “My packs, left hand side. It’s the box in the smaller pocket.” Stepping to the side, he braced himself against the arm rests before easing into the seat.

Buttons snapped, and then something rattled. “Got it!” Prompto announced with enthusiasm. “The wrapping paper is chocobo print. Definitely Iris’ work.”

Ignis snorted.

Footsteps grew close, and then came the creak and whine of the other fabric chair as Prompto flopped down into it. “Should we open it now? I mean, our anniversary technically isn’t until tomorrow.”

“Opening it now seems good,” he suggested, slouching further into the canvas chair. “We’ve already gotten it out.”

“Oh. Right.” Paper tore. A heavy cardboard box popped open, hollow and high. Then…

Silence.

Leaning forward in his chair, Ignis posed a softly impatient, “What is it?”

“It’s…” Prompto’s voice squeaked, colored with embarrassment.

Then the box was being slid against his knee, settled to balance on his lower calf.

“See for yourself.”

Ignis hesitated for a moment before doing so; sliding his hands over the open box and reaching into the shallow depths with open apprehension. But as his fingers brushed the first bit of silicone, he sputtered. “This…” he coughed weakly, breath heavy as he brought the ring into his hands and squeezed it experimentally. It gave easily beneath his fingers, silky and firm. “I don’t believe I’ll be able to speak to Iris after this.”

Prompto cleared his throat.

“Let’s hope it’s the right size.”

“You can’t be thinking of using it.”

“Yes, I am,” he replied dryly. “I have every intention of using this cockring.”

⠠⠁⠝⠝⠊⠧⠻⠎⠜⠽

Prompto’s hands were slick with oil when he first made the suggestion, hands working over the coiled knots and smooth scar tissue that made up Ignis’ back. “You know,” he started, sounding just a touch disappointed, “it’s too bad we couldn’t do this at Galdin Quay.”

Ignis sighed. “The bombs would ambush us the moment we stepped off the Haven.”

“Red Giants, too. It seems they love the beach.”

“You say that like it’s news. I think they’re eclectic, really. They love any scenery as long as they can slaughter us by the tens.”

The hands drew away, and there instead came the steady slap of skin on skin. “Fee-fi-fo-fum. I smell the blood of a small person,” Prompto mocked lowly.

Ignis practically vibrated at this, laughter bubbling out from between lips that peeled back in a grin.

“I think my impersonation could use some work.”

“The next time I hear a Red Giant speak, I’ll make sure to record it for research purposes,” he drawled.

“We should go.”

“What?”

“Galdin Quay,” Prompto replied, voice soft and low as his hands fell back to bare shoulders. “Once Noctis comes back and the sun comes up. We can all go to the beach.” His fingers drifted, sliding from arched shoulders to the taut muscle trimming Ignis’ waist. “We’ll lay in the sand. Get some proper sun time in, you know? I can just imagine it.”

Ignis hummed in agreement, mouth falling shut as his face nuzzled further into the pillow.

“Right? The powdery sand getting everywhere, the warmth of the sun on our faces, getting sunburns for the first time in ten years… It’ll be great. You, me, Gladio, and Noctis on the beach. And maybe…” He paused, calloused hands stilling against the rounded glutes of a firm ass. “Maybe, before we bring the others, we should head there the moment the sun comes out,” he breathed. “Get there before anyone else.”

“Oh? And why would we do that?”

There came a soft tone – Prompto’s phone beginning to record.

Then a mouth was on his rim, nipping at the skin and dragging the flat of his tongue along the hole. Ignis shuddered. “You haven’t answered my question.”

Mouth pulling away, Prompto rasped, “The moment the sun comes up, I want to make love to you right there on the beach,” he confessed as his fingers traced the taut muscle before one began to prod. “Right there in the sand, out in the open.”

Ignis couldn’t help the twitch that rolled through him. The shift of his hips against the finger prying at his ass. “You’d certainly love to film it, wouldn’t you?”

Gods , yes.”

Easing out of Prompto’s grip, Ignis carefully extracted his legs from between knobby knees. He rolled onto his back with a sigh. The inflatable mattress groaned in protest before he stilled. “Are you intending to take this further or do you just plan on teasing me?”

A scoff broke through the air. “I don’t tease.”

Lips split in reply. “No,” he agreed lowly. “No, you don’t.”

Boney hands found strong thighs in an instant, dragging through the thick forest of hair. “Do you want to try out that cock ring?” The suggestion came across as a promise more than anything else. An affectionate endearment that one might whisper in a church.

Ignis groaned. “I wouldn’t be opposed,” he said softly. His arms arched forward, reaching for the body before him, which eased into his touch. Struggling to sit up, Ignis moved forward to plant his lips against a scar-speckled shoulder. The angle was awkward, but temporary. He leaned back against the bed, hands falling on either side of his head in mock surrender as he sweetly requested, “Would you mind grabbing it for me?”

“Yes, I would!” Prompto declared with a mock gasp. “Dear me; whatever shall I do? He asked me to do something! He doesn’t appreciate me! I’m nothing more than an indentured servant-”

“Prompto-”

“No, dearest – I cannot allow this farce to continue any longer!” he moaned. “Nay, I must know. Did you ever truly love me?”

“Prompto-”

“Relax, man, I already got it.”

Ignis jumped as a floppy round of silicone plopped onto his stomach. “My thanks.”

“My boyfriend’s gettin’ kinky ,” Prompto popped out, drumming a beat against Ignis’ hips.

“Hold your tongue or I’ll show you kinky,” Ignis promised, reaching for the ring.

“Ooh. You gonna follow through on that or just leave me hanging?”

“Some other time, maybe,” he said. Pinching the ring between his fingers, he brought it low, then felt for his dick. “It’s a good thing I’m not hard yet.”

“Uh…” A pause. “Why?”

Ignis blew out a breath as he grabbed at his balls, drawing them one at a time through the ring before reaching for his cock. Stuffing it carefully through the remaining space, he pulled it flush to his body.

“... Oh.”

“That’d be a touch difficult with a hardon, don’t you think?”

“Good to know.” His voice was high. Nervous. “That, uh… Yeah. What do cock rings even do?”

Shifting against the bed, Ignis allowed his hands to fall back beside his head. In seconds he was rewarded with oily fingers twining with his, heat radiating from a body that eased above, and lips that pressed into the hollow beneath his collarbone. “It differs from person to person. It’s been a long while since I used one, however, so I’m not sure what to expect at the moment.” He gasped as a hard cock pressed into his thigh, so close to proper friction. “They’re… good for remaining hard for a longer period of time, and for staving off orgasm.”

“Then… why didn’t we do this earlier?”

Ignis pursed his lips. Wiggled atop the mattress for a more comfortable position. Then he made a face. “Prompto,” he began, voice soft and calming. “When was the last time you just happened to see a cockring for sale?”

Silence settled between them.

“Besides, we need to set a timer. I shouldn’t wear this for longer than thirty minutes.”

“That’s… disappointing.”

Ignis motioned to his groin, his face growing blank as he announced, “I very literally have a silicone ring choking my dangles so they can get a nice rosy flush and you’re disappointed there’s a time limit?”

“It’ll be a miracle if I get off in fourty-five minutes.”

“I’m not letting my cock turn purple and risk chopping it because you can’t get your orgasm under half an hour.”

“Fair enough. I’ll set a timer.”

Ignis grinned as the hands fell away, and foil tore. “You’ve set the timer?”

“Yeah. Twenty-five minutes, just to be safe. I’m not wearing a glove. I’m not reaching into no-man’s land, am I?”

“I douched.”

“Sweet.”

The finger pressed in, and Ignis’ breath caught. Shoulders pushing back against the mattress, he hitched his hips up, rocking down against the digit with a low keen.

A laugh followed. “Eager?” Prompto asked huskily.

“I’m always eager.”

“You’re getting hard.”

“How’s it look?” Ignis asked, voice dry. He sighed as the finger in his ass twisted in as Prompto’s other hand fell away.

A rattle sounded – the shift of Prompto’s phone case – and then his lover was sighing, finger pushing in and out of his ass before carefully prodding with a second. The familiar stretch was paired with a, “Fuck, you’re so beautiful. Giving you a close up right now.”

As an ache began to bud in the base of his neck, Ignis dug his elbows into the mattress and adjusted his head. “What color is the ring?”

“Orange, dude. Neon orange.”

“That must be quite shocking.”

“Oh yeah,” came the laughed reply before Prompto pushed a third finger into him.

A shiver raced up Ignis’ spine as he felt himself being pried open; as he was pushed apart until Prompto could no doubt see inside him. “I’m more than ready.”

“Yeah?” A gasp. A breathy whisper as the fingers drew away, dragging against his rim before there came the slick sound of lube over latex. “Want me inside you?”

Easing his legs further apart, Ignis pushed against the bed with his shoulders once more as he brought his legs up, bending them at the knee until he was no doubt presenting himself to his lover.

Prompto groaned.

And then the flesh was there.

At his entrance.

Pushing.

Sliding past.

Inside .

The head popped past the rim and Ignis found himself pushing against it; desperately seeking fullness and pleasure as his lover took it slow. But even in his eagerness, he managed to pause as slick fingers took hold of his hips. As cold hands gripped him and carefully, meticulously, drew him back to spear him effectively against a warm, hard cock. Ignis could feel every motion; every push and drag of the balls of Prompto’s piercing as he moved in. The angle was not his ideal. The angle was far from his prostate, pushing up against his stomach until Ignis reached down in impatience and pressed at the bulge just above his groin that shifted with each shallow thrust inside him. “I want to come,” he gasped.

“So impatient,” Prompto teased, only for his grip to tighten and his legs to brush Ignis’. “Just a sec; I’m gonna change positions, okay?”

“Which position?”

“Gonna grab your leg and do it sideways.”

Ignis frowned. “Can I make a request?”

“Depends on the request.”

Reaching out, Ignis’ fingers stumbled across chilled shoulders, then paused. “You can’t be this cold. We’re on top of a volcano.”

“I’m not cold; you’re just a human heater.”

Ignis groaned, then dragged Prompto up by his shoulders until breath washed over his face and lips dragged against his cheek.

A sigh followed as hands fell away from hips, dragging up the warm expanse of a soft stomach. “Making this as intimate as possible, huh?”

“Is that a complaint?”

“Never.”

Lips slipping into a grin, Ignis drew his hands away from sharp shoulders to grip his thighs as his legs lifted into the air. They dragged against hips; the dip of a waist; smooth biceps. Then, as he let them go they fell against narrow shoulders. He shivered as thin arms drew back, then around his legs until bony fingers gripped his knees. “The first time we try this, I want to be kissing you.”

A gasp sounded between them. Lips descended, hot and eager. And as they pulled away, the words, “You’re going to be sore after this,” hung in the air.

“Make love to me,” Ignis insisted.

Wet kisses fell against a cheek, trailing non-too-subtly towards a mouth. Prompto’s tongue was insistent as they met, twining and dragging and rubbing against everything he could find as their jaws stretched open to accommodate the kiss.

For a long minute, Prompto’s hips stilled. A quiet moment passed between them as their fervor cooled to a slow tenderness.

Fingers slipping against a chest slightly damp with a fine layer of sweat, Ignis slid his arms up to loop around a long neck. “I love you,” he whispered as their mouths fell apart, panting for breath.

“I love you, too,” Prompto breathed. Then, as his nose dragged along the length of a cheek and trailed a line into the curve of his lover’s neck, he slowly began to shift his hips.

Ignis felt himself tense. Felt his body fight against the intrusion before he took a deep, even breath. There was something different. Was is the ring? There was no way to be sure. But as the crown of Prompto’s cock grazed his prostate he felt his cock jump against his stomach through the wave of sweet heat that pulsed through him. Yet nothing else came. There was no rush of orgasm. No mind numbing flood of endorphins to blindside him. Another push into him and it was the same; a low, burning heat that rolled through him with each tender thrust.

Prompto drew away, arms bracketing the thin waist beneath him before falling to his elbows. “Wanna be close to you,” he mumbled into Ignis’ neck as their chests pressed flush together and Ignis’ legs collapsed between them, knees up by his ears. “This okay?”

“The stretch might be helping,” came the half moaned reply as hips snapped together. “I think you can go a bit faster. Do you want to try?”

“Like you even need to ask,” Prompto drawled back, popping his hips back away from Ignis’ before driving himself deep.

Head pushing back against the pillows, Ignis’ mouth fell open in a grunt.

“My millisecond man, getting some mileage.”

The words were breathed into his ear like a promise. Praise, low and wet against his skin as Prompto peppered kisses against his jaw between each sweat-slick slide of their bodies.

Ignis had issues focusing as the desperate rut shifted them. As the balls of the ampallang piercing dragged inside him. As they grazed his prostate with each push.

And then everything stopped.

Hands were on him, moving his face and patting his cheeks.

“Why… did you stop?” he managed, voice hoarse.

“Because you, uh…. You stopped breathing?” Prompto sounded unsure. Scared.

Eyebrows screwing up, Ignis mumbled a confused, “Did I?”

“Yeah. You did. I was…” Terrified. “... just wondering if you were okay. That was… This isn’t normal. For us.”

“I… It was good,” came the weak explanation.

“Good?”

“Phenomenal.”

“Okay. Okay, I’m gonna… I’m gonna keep going,” Prompto murmured. His hands drew up, gripping shoulders firmly as he whispered, “Let me know if it’s bad.”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Ignis managed under his breath. And then…

Then.

Lips, hot and affectionate.

Hands, slowly warming.

Chests, flush and shifting against each other with the new rhythm.

Hips, pushing into his with something resembling urgency.

“I love you,” Prompto gasped as his hips began to buck with increasing fervor. “I love you.”

Ignis came with a shout; an aborted, broken noise that tore from him as his body wound and wound and finally snapped. Semen spattered up his stomach, warm and slick. As their bodies clashed – as Ignis arched against the mattress and Prompto moved a hand beneath his ass to prop him up – the mess smeared between them.

Prompto began to slow. Then, he stilled.

Ignis’ hands drew up to tangle with short hair. “Do you think you’ll be able to finish?” His voice was weak; hardly heard over his own heavy pants. A smile split his lips as the head between his fingers fell forward, diving into the curve of his neck.

“I don’t know,” came the gentle admission.

A moment passed; hardly a minute. Turning his head to the side, Ignis pressed a kiss to a narrow, sweaty forehead. “You can move, now. I’m not going to be overstimulated. I’ll help you along. Just go at your own pace.”

Hair dragging against Ignis’ nose as he nodded, Prompto drew away. His hands took hold of thick thighs, holding them against him as he gently began to rut into the body beneath him.

“Come on, darling. We want to get you off, not be here for six hours,” Ignis teased.

A grunt. Then, hands sliding up the legs propped over his shoulders, Prompto guided one over his head before he placed it flush to the other. “Gods, you’re so much tighter this way,” he moaned, hips snapping forward. Their skin slapped together over and over as he pushed, and the rhythm stretched.  “So close. I just… Gods.” A half sob broke the air.

“Do you think you can come?”

“I- I don’t know .”

“What can I do?”

“Just…” He groaned, hips slowing, then snapping forward. “Talk to me, I guess? I like it when you talk.”

A flush took hold of Ignis’ cheek at the words. “As in… talking dirty?”

“I don’t care. You could just, like… do quotes or something. I just love your voice.”

Lips pursed in embarrassment as a silence settled between them. The tent was willed with the slap of skin on skin. The sick sound of lube moving between them. Prompto’s desperate, whining gasps. And yet it seemed so quiet. “I…” he began, only to trail off. His voice seemed so loud. Too loud.

“Stuck?”

“Embarrassed.”

“You don’t have to do it,” he insisted, voice cracking.

Ignis squirmed. “You… feel good.”

Prompto groaned.

The sound sent the heat in Ignis’ cheeks flooding into his chest, filling him with something else. Maybe something shameless. Maybe something brave. “You never take me from behind,” he observed, voice low. “You like watching my face, don’t you?”

“Y- Yeah.”

“If I could see you’d probably hold me down and fuck me while staring into my eyes.”

Gods .”

“You’ve got so many videos of us fucking that I want to build a museum. I want everyone to know you can get me off in five seconds with just a finger.”

Prompto groaned, and the hand beneath his ass shifted, grabbing his hip to adjust the angle. “I love you,” he gasped.

“I adore you,” Ignis replied quickly, voice filling the room as boldness gripped him. “You are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Prompto shuddered. It shook the bed, mattress quieting as his hips finally stilled, flush to Ignis’. And then he fell. The legs thrown over his shoulder slid off to the side. Collapsing beside his lover, his arms wound happily around broad shoulders.

“Did you come?” Ignis asked sweetly.

A bare nod against his arm was the reply.

“We should clean up.”

“We should nap,” Prompto suggested instead just as the timer sounded.

Reaching for the cockring, Ignis rugged at it with another, more insistent, “We should clean up.”

Prompto whined in protest.

⠠⠁⠝⠝⠊⠧⠻⠎⠜⠽

The air had begun to cool by the time either of them woke from their nap. Ignis had woken first, running his fingers across his clean stomach before combing them through Prompto’s hair. It was a while before his lover woke. Before lips found his and their hands tangled against a warm chest.

“That was one for the record books,” Prompto announced after a while, pressing an appreciative kiss to a shoulder. “We should use that ring more often.”

Ignis laughed, nodding quickly. “Most definitely. I don’t think you’ve come that fast since our first time.”

A groan shook the air, nearly lost as a sharp breeze rustled the tent walls. “Gods, don’t remind me,” he whined, hands and lips retreating. The mattress dipped as he fell away. “That was a disaster. We were a disaster. We were drunk and it was not okay.”

“Vodka still turns you on.”

“Only ‘cause it turns you on.”

“Too right,” he agreed softly as the wind suddenly died. The tent took a moment to settle, and in the distance came a wark from Maizie. “Though as horrendous a start it was, it is still ours.”

Prompto laughed. It was a bitter sound.

“Something wrong?”

“I don’t know. Like… I was just a little disappointed when it happened. It’s not how I imagined my first time.”

“Oh?” Ignis shifted, rolling onto his side and easing his hand across the mattress until his fingers danced across his lover’s chest. “How did you imagine it?”

Prompto’s hand fell against his, twining their fingers together. “A proper bed,” he began, voice soft. “Some rose petals. Candles. Maybe a bath beforehand with those salts Iris used to talk about. Epsom? There’d be back rubs and like… soft kisses. I wanted it to be romantic. Special. Instead we just… got drunk, I fucked your face in a tent while Gladio was off getting firewood, and then you threw up and didn’t want me touching you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize. We were both there. I could have stopped it, but I didn’t want to.”

“Doesn’t mean I don’t feel like a right awful twat.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“It is,” Ignis insisted, gripping Prompto’s hand a touch tighter. “I messed up. You deserve a better first.”

“I’m happy it was you.”

“I’m not.”

“So who do you think it should have been? Jabari?”

Lips pursed.

Prompto sighed. “Face it. If that night hadn’t happened, I’d probably be with Jabari right now.”

Shifting onto his back, Ignis yanked his hand away.

“C’mon,” came the immediate whine as hands fell upon a broad chest. “Don’t be like this.”

“You didn’t need to say it out loud.”

“Ignis, that night was a piece of shit, and consent was hazy. I hated you for a long time, but I don’t regret it. I love you and I want you in my life.”

“You still deserved a better first.”

“Okay. Fine. I do.”

“Good.”

“Good.”

Good .”

It was a while before either of them spoke. Before Prompto climbed half on top of Ignis and started dragging his fingers through long, unruly hair. “Hey,” he began softly, lips brushing against a high cheekbone. “Who was your first? I’ve never asked.”

Lips pursed.

“Touchy subject?”

Ignis shrugged, eyebrows furrowing as he crossed his ankles, then uncrossed them. He turned back on his side, scooting forward until his forehead was flush with Prompto’s. “Do you really want to know?”

“Yeah, I do,” came the gentle admission, cold hand petting down a gaunt arm. “But if it’s hard to talk about, don’t worry about it.”

“I was fifteen.”

The hand stilled.

Ignis cleared his throat, taking in everything for a short second – the breath that washed over his face, the tent that shivered off and on in the dull breeze, the occasional clump of heavy chocobo footsteps in the distance – before he began to speak. “I was fifteen when I realized I was attracted to people society didn’t want me wanting.”

The hand fell to his ribs, fingers beginning to trace shapes into his bare skin.

“I’ve always known I liked men,” he continued dryly. “It was a part of me from the moment I was born. However, I didn’t realize that it was… taboo – at least in Lucis – to be attracted to your own gender. And while I do like women, and enjoy them, the desire is far from equal. It’s difficult to become emotionally attracted to them. They’re certainly physically attractive. Goodness knows I was raised around enough beautiful women in the Crownsguard that I took notice early.” He paused, breathing a sigh. The air was heavy in his chest. Each breath felt like it was too much.

“You talking about Crowe?”

Ignis snorted. “In part, yes. We had a brief fling before everything went down, though it didn’t go anywhere. Being bisexual is hard enough without sloppily throwing homoromanticism together with demiromanticism to the point where every gender identity and sexuality subset has a different difficulty level than the next.”

“Sounds complicated.”

“It is.”

Heaving a deep breath, the mattress creaked as Prompto eased closer, settling his forehead against the sharp curve of a clavicle. “Difficulty levels, though, huh? Who’s hard mode?”

Ignis felt the groan before he heard it, bubbling out of his chest with a beleaguered, “Straight cis women.”

“Easy mode?”

“Genderfluid,” he admitted softly. Then, under his breath, he added,  “with a tendency toward femininity in the bedroom.”

Prompto shot up, and Ignis could imagine his wide eyes pointing directly at him. “Oh?” he drawled, amused. “Should I invest in a dress?”

Hands slapping over his face, Ignis sighed. “Maybe…” He cleared his throat. “Perhaps not a dress , but…”

“But?” his lover parrotted sharply. “But, but, but ?”

“Perhaps some… lingerie?”

“You’ve got this blush that is so goddamn precious right now. I’m going to die. This is great.”

“You can stop teasing me,” Ignis squeaked.

“Um, what? Teasing? Little old me? Of course not. I’m doing no such thing,” Prompto teased, fingers grabbing at large hands and attempting to pull them away. “What’s your stance on lace?”

Sucking in a sharp breath, Ignis gave up pretenses and allowed Prompto to tug his hands from his face, mouth trembling softly as he confessed a weak, “I... quite enjoy lace.”

“Done.”

Ignis bit his lip.

Settling back at his side, Prompto ran his hands along the exposed stomach before him, pressing a soft kiss to a shoulder. “So… your first,” he segued. “Where’d you meet them?”

Arm arching up, Ignis ran a nervous hand through his hair. “I met him…” he began, face screwing up. “I don’t remember where I met him, actually. It’s been seventeen years.”

“Long time.”

“Yes, it is.”

Scooting up, Prompto dropped a kiss on the split of his chin before dropping back to the mattress.

Allowing his arm to fall back to the mattress, Ignis took a long, even breath before continuing. “I don’t recall much, and you’re not going to like what I do.”

“You don’t have to tell me.”

“I lied about my age.”

“You didn’t.”

“I told him I was seventeen,” he admitted, voice growing bold. “I think I was testing him. I was underage, but he figured it wouldn’t be for long. I was off limits, literally and figuratively. If he really liked me he would have to hold off for a few months before anything could happen, but I didn’t actually want to wait to be legal to have sex. I wanted to know that he cared for me, but I didn’t really give half a fuck about what could happen to him. That’s the real kicker, looking back.”

Prompto’s hand settled on his arm, almost cautious.

“He was nineteen. At least he said he was.” Ignis blew out a breath, eyebrows screwing up. “The longer I think on it, the less likely that seems. He could have been in his mid to lower twenties. There was very little truth in our relationship; mostly hormones running wild with vague references to feelings.”

The hand against his arm squeezed.

“He would park his car a few blocks from my cram school, just in case anyone would remember seeing me get in his car. We did a rotating pattern, changing the location every time. We were cautious. We’d drive to the edge of Insomnia and park in some batch of trees. I didn’t have any experience with being kissed or touched before him. I was drowning. I was young and naive and I wanted to give him the world, even if I didn’t want to give him the truth.

“He told me he had HIV a few weeks before my birthday. What I told him would be my eighteenth birthday, but in reality I would be turning fifteen. We hadn’t had sex yet, obviously. He was being respectful of that. Refused to push. I was the one pushing, really. I wanted to give him blowjobs, and get them in return, seeing as that wasn’t against Insomnia law. But he always said no, and I finally understood why. I researched it for days. HIV, that is. I wanted to know everything I could so I could be prepared.

“HIV medication has changed over the years, but back then it was a spiraling nightmare. There were no PrEP or PEP pills. At least, not that anyone knew of. They had just discovered that spreading HIV to your partner during sex was a one in six-thousand chance. What they failed to mention was that those slim chances were due in large part to treatment and condom use. So when we finally had sex in the back of his car three days later, we decided not to use a condom.”

A sudden, sharp intake of breath sounded, and Prompto’s hand slid from Ignis’ arm to his chest.

Boldly, Ignis continued. “I found out a few days later that he wasn't on any kind of medication regimen for his HIV.  Found out several months after that that insurance only covers the cost of the medication once you're down to a 100 count. That's when you start getting sick. When you're starting to cross into AIDs. They'll only help you when you start to die.

“I only learned that because a few months later I got a call back about a regular checkup I'd had three months before. They told me to come in, and I found out that I was HIV positive. That my insurance and political position and my relation to the crown -- all of those combined -- made me eligible to start, as they put it, 'the good stuff.' And by that I mean the medication that doesn't kill you.” Ignis paused as lips found his clavicle, pressing gentle kisses to the dip in his skin. Gently, he placed a hand on Prompto’s head to still him.

He paused, then settled back against Ignis’ side.

“I learned a lot that day,” he continued, tone soft. “I learned that the majority of the medication the industry had for HIV was similar to chemotherapy. It destroyed everything in its wake. The 'good stuff' -- experimental medication that blocked the reproduction of HIV cells -- were still tens of thousands of yen a bottle, and if the doctor didn't like you or thought you were gay, you would never get your hands on it.”

“That's messed up.”

“It is.”

Prompto’s arms wound around a thin waist, cool against skin that burned hot with something between regret and anger.

Ignis took a long, deep breath before he continued. “I told him I had HIV the next day. We were in the back of his car, and we had been kissing for awhile. He immediately suggested that we run off to Niflheim. That people were better about it, there. That you were allowed to start this new medication -- my medication -- much sooner, and that it actually worked. Or so the word on the street went.

“That was when I told him I couldn't. He asked me why I wouldn’t just leave my rich family and be with him. That I was eighteen and I was able to make my own choices. That was when I told him that I was fifteen and being groomed to be the advisor to the next king. He dropped me off at a café near my cram school. I never saw him after that.”

A sob broke the air, and Prompto pulled away. “Sorry,” he gasped.

Ignis reached for him, dragging him close.

Prompto laughed. “Aren’t I supposed to be comforting you?” he asked wetly, amused.

“It's been a long time. I've had a chance to grieve,” was the deadpan reply. “The longer I think on it, the more it makes sense. He'd just found out his boyfriend, who'd just contracted his condition, was underage. Not to mention that I was a titled arm of royalty who was being groomed for a high position in government. It was hardly a week before my guardian requested my blood tests and they scoured the database for my specific strain of HIV to find him. I can only assume he fled the country. I was never informed of his disposal so I can only assume he's living somewhere happily, now. Or dead.”

Lips find his, and at last Ignis pressed into it. But just as his jaw dropped open, tongue searching, the mouth fell away.

“I really think you should go to the meetings,” Prompto insisted.

Ignis’ expression twisted. “What meetings?”

“You know what meetings. Jabari’s meetings. The support group.”

“I don’t need a support group.”

“I don’t think you need it,” Prompto drawled back, hand smacking against his chest playfully. “I think they’re nice. I think you’d like it. I think other people who go would like it if you went and, like… shared stuff.”

A silence fell between them at this, hanging awkwardly in the air even as Ignis pressed sharp kisses to his lover’s lips until Prompto began to doze. But even as he fell asleep against his chest, Ignis remained awake, thinking.

Chapter Text

Ignis had a second skin.

The second skin was dirt.

It cracked and flaked with each step forward. Every smack of a boot against the floor made a new crack form in his dried mud shell. Scraping at it with one hand, he held the other before him, sweeping from side to side until he found the hard outline of a door. Digging into his pocket, he produced a key before feeling for the lock; opening it with little in the way of trouble.

“- can’t just do whatever you want!” Prompto.

“Listen to you; finally taking an interest!” Gladio bellowed. “It’s almost like you haven’t been hiding in Lestallum for the last three years.”

Stepping through the door, allowing it to slide shut behind him, Ignis felt around the foyer wall before announcing, “It’s good to know you two aren’t fighting over anything horrendously petty in my absence.”

Silence settled through the room at his words, air almost seeming to still.

After a long moment, there came a surprised gasp. “Ignis,” Prompto breathed. Footsteps followed; heavy boots with light steps. “You’re back.”

He nodded slowly, eyebrows screwing up. “I am.”

Gladiolus’ voice was as gentle as sandpaper as he demanded, “What did you find?”

For a long second Ignis didn’t reply. He shifted, turning his body in the general direction of his old companion before his lips twisted. “I’ll tell you when I’ve bathed, thanks. I imagine you can wait that long.” He turned on his heel. Hand flush to the wall, he felt his way away from the two men in the living room who quickly began to argue. The bathroom door was only a few feet away. A dozen steps, at most. But as their voices rose it felt like he was sprinting.

When he stepped into the shower, the first thing he set about was removing his clothes. He could feel the mud peeling away as he moved. Could hear it fall to the tiles in sheets that shattered as they dropped. As the last of his clothes fell away, he reached forward. There was the shower head, then a small caddy hanging from it. His fingers closed around a wide wooden handle. There were no bristles; only a gently curved wedge that he dragged against his skin at a sharp angle, pushing beneath the mud that broke away from his skin and rained upon the shower floor in an angry clatter.

It was a long time before the last of it fell away. He carefully swept the chunks up with a broom from outside the shower, then placed his head beneath the faucet. Twisting the handle deftly, he only allowed the water to run for a brief moment before switching it back off. Then, carefully, meticulously, he snatched up a comb from the caddy and began to work the mud out of his hair.

It was nearly an hour before he emerged from the bathroom. Before he wrapped a towel around his neck and felt his way to the bedroom.

The dresser had a new nick on its smooth, worn corner. Ignis paused for a second when he felt it. His hands roved over the drawers for a bit before he reached into the second drawer from the right, feeling along the compartments until he found one labeled with a braille, “Underwear,” before pulling out a pair. He did the same with pants and a shirt before turning in place and feeling his way back out the door.

As the hall fell away from his fingers, giving way to the foyer and living room, there came the clatter of chairs.

“What did you find?” Prompto asked, voice urgent.

Dragging his hand across the length of the couch arm, Ignis took a careful seat. “The rumors were true,” he announced. Reaching up he adjusted the towel around his hair until it wrapped around his neck. “It appears that Ardyn has taken to wandering the streets of Insomnia.”

“Did he have anything to say for himself?” Gladio asked gruffly. He sounded tense. Ready to jump.

A slow shake of the head was the initial reply. “Talcott and I could never seem to get close.”

A chair creaked.

Someone blew out a long, tense breath.

“How was the crystal?”

Gladio scoffed. “It’s gotten smaller.”

“It… what?” Ignis asked.

“I couldn’t believe it at first,” Gladio began, voice low. “But the… It’s obvious. I could even pick it up. It had fallen over, so I put him in that little shelter in the corner. You know the one. That way, if he wakes up while it’s raining, he’ll at least start dry.”

“That was very considerate of you,” Ignis praised softly. “Very strange, however, that he’s gotten… smaller.” He frowned.

“Do you think Noctis got out?” Prompto suggested. His words were high and nervous. “Maybe it’s smaller because he’s not inside it any more.”

“If he did, he drowned. Nothing’s touched that boat aside from us in years.”

Silence broke through the air. Heavy. Sharp.

When Ignis finally spoke, it was with more conviction than he felt. “It’s been ten years,” he started solemnly. “We must consider that Noctis might not be coming back.”

A squeal of a chair.

A harried, “Gladio-?!”

Footsteps, quick and angry.

Hands, large and sweaty, gripped Ignis’ shirt collar and shoved him into the couch. “Don’t you dare ,” he spat, saliva spraying an unsuspecting face as his grip gave him a sharp throttle. “Don’t you even think that he’s not coming back.”

“It’s been ten years,” Ignis ground out. “We have to consider that our hands are tied. This didn’t come with a manual, Gladio, and we certainly weren’t trained for this.”

“It’s our duty to wait for him.”

“It was our duty to care for him. But that is beside the point.”

“What point? That you think he’s dead ?”

“It’s been ten years, Gladio ,” he hissed.

Ignis expected the punch that came. The sting of his cheek, though, was nothing compared to the nauseous roiling of his stomach when the hands fell away. Boots stomped into the other room, and the front door slammed with a note of finality that burned his ears.

Prompto’s voice was weak when he spoke, whispering in the air and nearly fading away beneath a nonexistent breeze.  “You don’t really think he’s not coming back, do you?”

Slowly, Ignis shook his head. “I refuse to believe it.”

“Then why bring it up?”

“Because,” he replied weakly, voice breaking, “I’m scared.”

⠏⠁⠛⠑⠀⠃⠗⠂⠅

When Ignis and Prompto finally settled into bed that night, the air was moist and musty. At one point they curled against each other. Hands twined. Legs tangled.

“Should we open the window?” Prompto asked. “It smells kind of gross.”

“I don’t believe I aired out the bathroom after my shower,” Ignis pointed out. “My apologies.”

Prompto laughed. “Well, I would have pointed it out if I weren’t trying so hard to keep Gladio from giving himself a tour of the house. Like, we only have one bed. Cat would have been out of the bag pretty much immediately.”

“He wanted a tour of the house?”

“Of course he wanted a tour of the house. Dude’s got more PTSD than an overglorified soldier flick. I mean, he handles it really well, but he just about exploded when I told him there was no back door.”

“Gladiolus has PTSD?”

“Yeah. We talked about it while you were in the shower. He’s seeing a therapist. He’s gone on some pretty bad missions these last few years. Hammerhead depends on him a lot, you know? He’s on border patrol the days he’s not going out and doing harder marks. He can’t sleep if there are walls any more.”

Ignis grunted. “It’s a good thing he likes camping.”

Prompto sighed. “Yeah, man. I’m pretty sure that’s the only thing keeping him going any more.”

Throwing an arm over his lover, Ignis cuddled close with a groan.

“What’s up?”

“I was just thinking,” he began under his breath, “that I’m really tired, and if we’re going to use energy talking about Gladiolus’ PTSD, which I can just ask him about myself, then we can use that time to do far more enjoyable things.”

“That’s a pretty direct redirect.”

“How’s this for direct; I want you in my ass ,” Ignis hissed. “I’m tired and want to get fucked.”

“Iggy?”

“Yes?”

“Are you high or something”

“I’ve just spent the last week in a warzone and you want to talk about Gladiolus. I’m too tired to bother hinting.”

“Yeah. Just… You didn’t answer the question?”

“I’m sober.”

“Cool. That’s… That’s cool.”

“So?”

“... So?”

“So do you want to fuck me or not?”

“Stupid question, man. Go douche and I’ll get stuff ready here.”

Ignis grinned, pulling away from his lover to peel off the blankets. “I do love it when you take charge.”

“Go before I change my mind, sleepyhead,” Prompto teased.

Ignis snorted a low, “Like you would,” before sliding off the bed. The hardwood floors were icy against his feet, chilling his toes and sending a shiver up his spine. Hopping quickly forward, he held his hand up, feeling for the door frame before heading down the hall.

The bathroom tiles were worse. Hands bracketing the counter, Ignis carefully dragged the rug over to the sink with his toes before standing on it for a second. Then, lifting his right foot, he grabbed it in both hands and rubbed. As the feeling came back to his toes, he placed it back on the floor and did the same with the left.

When he stood normally, he felt along the front of the counter before pulling back on a drawer handle. It slid open with a long squeak. He winced. “Time to oil you,” he murmured. Then, reaching far inside, he knocked away a false back before his fingers curved along tubing.

He sat on the toilet for a while after that, clutching the tubes in one hand and a glove in the other. He’d just stood up when there came a knock at the bathroom door.

“Done yet?” Prompto asked warmly.

“Almost,” he replied brightly. “Just have to lube myself up and I’ll be ready to go.”

“Cool. Cool.”

“Is something wrong?”

There was a pause. A laugh. “Nah. I’m just… trying something new, I guess. I’ve got… I’ve got a plug in.”

Eyebrows arched. “Do you, now?”

“Y- Yeah. Figured I’d give it a try. You know… double stimulation. It couldn’t hurt.”

“It’s an excellent idea,” Ignis concurred softly. Dropping the tubes on the counter, he slid the medical glove on before reaching out, fingers closing around a small bottle on the counter. “How about you wait on the bed for me?” he offered. Popping the cap open, he smeared a generous amount of cold lube into his palm before reaching between his legs.

“Kinda wanted to talk positions, first,” came the amused insistence. “You said you were tired, right? How about you lay on your stomach and let me do all the work tonight?”

A hum, then a gasp as fingers breached a tight ring of muscle. “Excellent suggestion,” he managed after a moment, body sagging to the side to rest against the counter.

“Cool! I’ll get your ring, okay? Don’t rush.”

“When have I ever rushed?” he fired back, voice tired.

Prompto had already walked away.

Eventually, Ignis slipped the glove off and dropped it in the trash before heading back into the hall. He barely opened his mouth before hands were on him, carefully slipping his balls through a silicone ring as a mouth silenced him. As soon as the ring was snug over his cock, the hands drew out to his hips, tugging him into the room. Ignis broke the kiss with a gasp. “Didn’t know you were so eager tonight.”

“Dude, this plug is great. I can’t believe we’ve never done this before.”

“There’s a time for everything,” Ignis replied softly before stepping towards the bed. There was already a towel laid across the blankets. He flopped atop it with little in the way of grace, shivering in the cool air until a warm body settled onto the mattress, curving atop him. He hummed, content, as an eager pair of lips began to draw a map along the bones of his shoulders.

Prompto’s mouth fell open against his skin, insistent and wet. His tongue lapped at moles and scars. His teeth nipped at the odd dip of soft, unblemished skin. Then, as he dragged his sheathed cock against the seam of Ignis’ ass, he started to suck at the junction of a warm neck.

“You are a villain ,” Ignis gasped, arching into the mattress.

The head of Prompto’s cock popped through the first ring of muscle with ease before sliding halfway in. “You’re so relaxed like this,” he gasped, drawing away from Ignis’ neck. “Just wish I could see your face.”

“Every position is a trade off,” was the low reply. “Now stop talking and give me a proper fuck before I fall asleep, would you?”

“Ooh. Someone's on edge. Still angry about Gladio?”

“I don’t want to talk a-h!” Ignis’ words cut off with a half shout as Prompto drew his hips back and slammed deep inside him. “Nng.”

“Too much?”

“H…” He choked. Cleared his throat. “H-Hurts.”

Hands found his shoulder, insistent and worried. “Shit,” he murmured. “ Shit . Are you okay? Do you think I tore anything?”

“No. No, just… blunt pressure directly on my prostate.”

“I’m so sorry.”

Ignis sighed. They laid still for a while after this. Minutes passed before he gave an experimental roll of his hips. When no discomfort came, he nodded. “It’s passed. You can move again.”

“Okay. I’ll… I’ll be gentle.”

“You’d better,” Ignis warned.

A slow nod was pressed into his shoulder before Prompto’s arms fell around them, lifting himself from atop his lover. Then, with his knees bracketing Ignis’ thighs and his hands planted firm on either side of his neck, his hips rocked slowly into him.

Ignis grunted. The angle kept Prompto’s cock far from his prostate, dragging along his inner walls until he felt he was going to go mad. Head budded and built, but with each shift it felt like not enough . There was no initial rush of an orgasm to bring him down; only the half-satisfying drag of an ampallang far from anything that could get him off. Hips canting, he attempted to grind against the blankets for some relief, only for Prompto’s dick to slide from his ass.

“Fuck,” Prompto hissed. But in place of pushing immediately back in, he yanked at Ignis’ hips, rising onto his knees to shove a pillow between the curved line of a hard cock and the mattress. “Let’s try this,” he suggested. And then he pushed in.

Ignis gripped the blankets as his jaw clenched and a low, pleasured whine escaped him. “Yes,” he whimpered as Prompto gave another deep thrust, grazing the edge of his prostate. “Yes, please.”

“Shit,” Prompto groaned as his thrusts quickly grew desperate. “Shit. Fuck . Gods, Iggy. I can’t-” He broke off with a half choked moan, hips snapping forward with all sense of pace abandoned. “Touch yourself.” It came as a squeak. A desperate demand that broke the air.

Bracing his arms against the headboard, Ignis managed a half coherent, “What?”

“Touch yourself,” he repeated urgently. “I’m… I’m not gonna last long.”

What ?”

“I’m… nng…” Suddenly Prompto fell to his elbows, placing wet, open-mouthed kisses along every bit of skin he could reach as his hips kicked up into Ignis desperately.

Wedging a hand between his hip and the pillow, Ignis managed a few sloppy strokes before his body tensed. Before he felt himself clamp around his lover’s cock like a vice.

Above him, Prompto shuddered.

Then, they stilled.

Wet, desperate breaths fanned over Ignis’ shoulder. Lips pressed needly to his neck. The words against his skin were borderline alarmed. “I can’t believe that just happened,” Prompto marvelled softly. “Like… Six years later, we finally get a simultaneous orgasm.”

“It had to happen sometime,” came the warm reply. Shifting onto his side, Ignis eased forward until their foreheads were flush together. “All that practice had to be for something.”

“Practice? Are you saying I’m bad in bed?”

Ignis snorted. “Practice can be fun, darling. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got somewhere to be in a few hours. I’m going to sleep for as long as I can before that.”

A groan. A kiss. A gentle, “Night, babe.”

Then they were out like a light.

⠏⠁⠛⠑⠀⠃⠗⠂⠅

As his alarm began to sound, Ignis rose slowly from his bed to silence it. He pulled on his clothes. Felt across the bed. Bent to give his sleeping lover a kiss. Then he left. He strode down the hallway. Stepped into the foyer. But as he yanked the front door open, he paused.

Reaching to his side, his hands settled over the smooth length of his cane, and he carefully lifted it from a hook.

⠏⠁⠛⠑⠀⠃⠗⠂⠅

The seat was hard and not made for good posture. Ignis found himself shifting every other second to spare his ass. Any longer and it might simply flatten.

“I’m Mina, twenty-five,” a feminine voice stated. She was closer than the last; not far from his left. “I’ve had HIV for almost six months, now. It’s still sinking in, but my medication is starting to even out so I’m trying not to dwell on it.”

A clatter of a chair not quite settling right sounded through the room, and then Jabari’s smooth voice came, light and airy. “Thank you, Mina. Ignis, it’s your turn. Name, age, length of time you’ve had HIV, and how you feel about it right now.”

Grabbing the back of his chair, Ignis slowly drew to his feet. He felt awkward, knowing everyone’s attention was on him. Focused. Intent. Or maybe they didn’t care. “Ignis, thirty-two. I’ve been HIV positive for seventeen years, now.” There was a gasp, and more than a few nervous shifts.

“And how does that make you feel?” Jabari prompted. His voice was gentle. Low. There was no mistaking the affection; patience. “And do you have anything to say about how your life has changed since your diagnosis?”

Shoulders squared. A beat of silence passed. Then, fingers growing tight around the handle of his cane, poised carefully between his feet, he began with a firm, “I’m not sick, and I live with the man I love.” A nervous pause followed as his mind raced, lips twitching both up and down. “I’d like to say my life hasn’t changed much; that after so many years tip-toeing around my own diet and taking my medication on time that I don’t think about it any more, but I do.

“I think about it when I check the time. Every minute of my day is instantly weighed and compared against the moment my phone goes off to tell me to take my cocktail of pills. Every scheduled work exercise. Every social event. Every time I eat I have to worry if the nutrients will balance out and I won’t have a slew of side effects from my medication. Generally, I’m bitter.” He paused, lips pursing as his hand grew lax against the handle of his cane. “But,” he continued softly, “this morning I woke up next to my lover of six years and got up and came here, so it’s important to remember sometimes that HIV can’t take that away.”

“AIDs can,” someone put in darkly.

Ignis grinned. “It’s been seventeen years. At this point, I doubt it’ll progress until I’m much older.” And with that, he sat.

“Thank you, Ignis. Noel, it’s your turn. And Jay?”

“Yeah?”

“AIDs comments to a minimum, okay? That’s a different meeting.”

⠏⠁⠛⠑⠀⠃⠗⠂⠅

Two days later, a cold weight that dragged down Ignis’ ring finger startled him awake. His right hand flew to meet it. To cup the offending article with skepticism. It was smooth; a simple ring that circled his finger and sent his heart flying into his throat. “What-” he choked out, unsure.

Prompto’s voice was soft – nervous, shaky – as he stated simply, “They’re made of glass.”

“Glass?” Ignis breathed as fingers twined awkwardly with his.

On Prompto’s hand, wedged between Ignis’ fingers, was another ring.

“There’s…” Prompto cleared his throat. “See, there’s this thing about glass being fragile. It doesn’t break easy because it’s glass; it’s because in order to bring down the melting point of sand you add things like Lime and stuff, and that makes Soda-Lime glass. That’s the stuff we use for windows. For everything, really. But if you make it the hard way, it’s pretty indestructible.

“When lightning strikes sand, you usually end up with fulgurite, which can shatter if you grab it in the wrong spot. But… But the thing is…” A breath. A sigh. The gentle smack of wetting lips. “But the thing about magic is that it’s far more concentrated than the average natural strike. So when you hit the beach with, say, one of Noctis’ old spells you end up with a few hundred pounds of straight-up, heavy duty, old fashioned glass.”

Ignis’ fingers grew tight around the ring as the hand in his fell away. “I didn’t know you still had any spells left.”

“I’ve been saving it.”

“It can’t have been for this.”

Silence met his words.

“Prompto?”

“What if it was?” he replied, voice soft. “I grabbed it one morning and didn’t really think about it until later. Remember that time I helped you set your phone up for voice commands?”

“That was ten years ago.”

“Yeah, and it was just a pipe dream. I kept it just in case.”

“We got in a fight after that,” Ignis pointed out. “We were in a fight for years .”

Prompto draped his arm across a thin waist, easing against a warm side. “I would have dropped everything to be with you back then, if I thought it would work,” he admitted softly. “Even when I left, I figured I’d keep it around just in case. After we figured things out, I thought about what time would be right, then decided to just get them made from the clearest part of the fulgurite and wing it.”

Slowly, Ignis twisted the ring. “The glass is a metaphor, isn’t it?”

A scoff. “Dude. It’s, like, three . Figure ‘em out on your own time, though.”

The beginnings of a grin split his lips. “I feel the need to ask; is this a proposal?”

“It doesn’t have to be one,” Prompto replied, voice uncharacteristically even as the words slid through the air. “It can be, if you want.”

Shifting up against the body at his ledge, Ignis felt the ring once more, processing. “Men can’t get married in Lucis,” he pointed out lowly.

“I don’t care. We can be engaged forever if you say yes.”

A wider grin split chatted slips, and Ignis winced before whispering a gentle, “Yes,” under his breath.

Prompto held him tight all day.

⠏⠁⠛⠑⠀⠃⠗⠂⠅

They went to the club later that night, after sharing a warm meal. The winter air had a bitter nip at the edges, and they’d bundled up in warmer coats; Ignis wrapped in a long scarf that fell over his shoulders and waggled against his chest.

“I feel like wearing a sweater,” he announced, surprising even himself as they slowly approached the steady, distant pulse of a bass.

Prompto made a noise. “A sweater?” he asked. “You’re not turning into a father of four with a summer home and a boat on me, are you?”

“No, no. I just want the sweater. I don’t intend to father any children.”

“What about the summer home?”

“We can stay at hotels if they disturb you that much.”

“They do.”

“What’s your stance on boats?”

“We’re not getting a boat, Ignis.”

He was readying for a joke when an arm pressed to his. Hand drawing up on habit, he gripped the offered bicep as the music grew to near deafening. There was a hiss of air, the brush of a door frame against his shoulder, and then there was just the music.

The club pulsed with an all-too-familiar beat; a song used and reused to fill a place that burst at the seams in the wake of the apocalypse. Voices rose over the music. They shouted lyrics and drink orders and the occasional dirty joke. But as they stepped through the mass of bodies that spilled off the dance floor –  a packed night –  the music seemed to lessen, and the sound of people eased between the riot.

It wasn’t long before a thin, calloused hand was guiding his forward until his fingertips brushed the smooth back of a stool. Ignis climbed upon it without question. He shifted, carefully leaning forward until his arms brushed the edge of the counter. There was a moment where something clattered at his side. A stool, most likely. Prompto trying to climb into it. And for that moment – for that moment that seemed heavier than it should, and sweeter than he thought it would be – Ignis dragged a thumb across the glass band around his left ring finger.

Callouses dragged against his knuckles.

Ignis grinned. “Hey,” he muttered, voice drowned out by the music.

A nose pressed against his cheek, followed by a pair of cold lips. “Hey,” came Prompto’s reply, low and crackly and warm. “So, just so you know, Jabari’s a bit distracted right now, but he might get a bit… excited when he notices the rings.”

“Oh?” he snorted, turning until their noses brushed, foreheads pressed flush together. “How excited?”

Bordel de putain de merde ,” came an angry, accented spew. “You piece of shit . Fucking bastard . Fuck . You didn’t tell me you weren’t going to fucking do it to-fucking-day you fucking twat .”

Ignis’ eyebrow arched, impressed.

“Hey, Jabari,” Prompto greeted warmly. “And tone it down a little. You’re the first person we’ve told.”

“You haven’t even told me yet, fuck . What’s the situation? Considering? Ignis- Ignis , what did you say ?”

“I said yes, obviously,” he retorted dryly, hand closing protectively over the ring. “Though we’ll have to settle for being engaged for eternity, seeing as we cannot legally marry.”

Jabari laughed. “”Who cares ? You’re together! You’re promising to be together for the rest of your lives . That’s pretty damn incredible.”

Ignis would have laughed, but something stopped him. A subtle tone. An almost palpable envy that clung to the air and made his lungs heavy. He almost spoke; almost managed a gentle, “I hope you find someone,” but it died with the pulsing beat of the music.

“Would either of you mind if I made an announcement?” came the sudden insistence. “It’s not often people propose around here.”

There was a shift; a creak of leather in the sudden near-silence that fell through the club. “I’m fine,” Prompto admitted, a hint of a squeak at the edge of his voice. “Iggy, what do you think? Want Jabari to say a few words?”

“I’m far from opposed,” was the slow reply.

“Excellent,” Jabari cheered. “I’ve already got a speech prepared. I’ll just be a minute. At the end of this song I’ll try to get a spot cleared for you two on the dance floor. I’ve got your song on my phone.”

There was the clack of wood, and the thump of footsteps before the beat slowly rose and drowned them out.

Shifting back towards his lover, Ignis muttered a low, “We have a song, now?”

“Uh… yeah?” was the unsure reply. “I mean, if Jabari thinks it’s our song, it’s probably our song.”

“I’m starting to think he wants our relationship more than we do.”

“Oh, come on. Dude cannot wait to meet someone who carries his heart over the moon so he can adopt as many kids as he can get his hands on. Remember; this is the dude who wants to be domestic like nothing else. There would be at least four cats in that lineup.”

“Six,” Ignis corrected dryly. “And three dogs.”

“Ranch-style house?”

“With an acre, at least. His partner would be beside themselves otherwise.”

“Three hamsters.”

“Two hamsters and a snake.”

“A corn snake.”

“Named Jo-Jo,” Ignis suggested, entirely serious.

“Yes, Jo-Jo the snake,” Prompto replied, also entirely serious. “Jabari would bring the hamsters to school in his pockets to pick the kids up.”

“He would be a fantastic father.”

“The best.”

Ignis fought the silly grin that pinched at his insides, but before long it plucked at the corners of his lips and took hold. Through a sharp laugh, he eased forward until skin met skin, and after a bit of shifting their foreheads were flush once more. “How did we get on this topic?”

“Jabari knows more about our relationship than we do.”

He hummed. “How many kids would he have?”

“Twelve.”

“No.”

Twelve ,” Prompto insisted again, louder. “At least twelve.”

“Who has that much time?”

“Don’t underestimate Jabari.”

“I’m not underestimating Jabari. I’ve simply underestimated how incredible this conversation could get despite out piteous lack of alcohol.”

It was then that the music faded away. Then that a confused murmur went through the crowd as the distinctive tap of a mic was heard.

“Good evening, everyone.” Jabari’s voice twisted through the warehouse, just the slight edge of an echo to his words.

“Shit, we should get to the dance floor,” Prompto noted sharply.

Ignis slid from the chair, then extended an arm, grinning softly as a soft bicep nudged his fingers. He took the arm quickly.

Slowly, Prompto moved forward.

“Many of you know my good friend Prompto Argentum – here he comes. Make way – he’s the blond with the man wearing sunglasses. Can we get room for them?”

Ignis fought back a grin as their steps suddenly quickened. The room was eerily quiet; as if the crowd had left and the club had closed for the night. It wasn’t long before they came to a pause. Before Prompto’s arm drew away from his hand to replace it with his fingers. They twined together, falling to their sides as Jabari continued once more.

“As I was saying, many of you may already know Prompto. He’s been a constant fixture in this club for the last seven years. Some years more than others. Some of you may have noticed that for a while now those visits haven’t been alone. That man at his side, Ignis, has been his boyfriend for the last six years.” A pause. “It is six, right?”

Prompto shifted, arm brushing against Ignis’ as he shouted a laughed, “Yeah, six years.”

Ignis almost startled at the noise to follow. The cheers, shouts, and claps of encouragement rising to break the palpable silence. A flush rose high in his cheeks. How many people were watching?

As the noise died, Jabari’s voice cut through once more. “ Prompto here works over the walls. His job is to document road hazards and daemon populations.

There came an answering stomp of feet, scattered claps, and some cheers.

“You’d think he was making a best man speech,” Ignis noted, mostly to himself.

Prompto cleared his throat, shifting as Jabari began to describe Ignis. “He’s practicing.”

Eyebrows arched. “Oh?”

“He’s, uh, my best man. I promised.”

“What about Noctis?” he asked, voice low. “I figured you would want him by your side.”

“Well, yeah ,” came the soft reply. “But we can’t both have Noctis. Teleportation or not, he can’t be in two places at once.  Think of the photo blur.”

“Earlier today, Prompto proposed and Ignis said yes.”

The sound was deafening.

With a warmth in his chest, Ignis mouthed a silent, “Thank you,” and hoped Prompto saw.

“If we could all take it down a notch, I’ll be putting on a slower song for the happy couple to dance to. Feel free to join in.”

“I wonder what our ‘song’ is,” Ignis barely caught Prompto mutter before the gentle strum of a harp filled the club.

He laughed.

Fingers twisting against Ignis’, Prompto slid his free hand into the curve of his lover’s wrist. “May I have this dance?” he whispered, lips close.

Stepping into the embrace, Ignis settled his hand against a thin shoulder with a breathed, “Of course you may.”

“When the night has come,” Florence crooned over the club as they took their first step, “and the land is dark…”

“He really does know us,” Ignis noted lightly. “We might have established this as ‘our song’ at some point, but I honestly can’t remember.”

“It’s been a while,” Prompto whispered, amused. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he has his Best Man speech all prepared, to be honest. He’s been waiting for this for years.”

“Is he expecting a large wedding?”

“I don’t think he cares.”

Easing closer, Ignis sighed as his unscarred cheek dragged against a smooth temple. “I love you,” he whispered.

There came a chuckle. The whisper of a laugh against his ear. Then, Prompto mumbled a soft, “I love you, too… betrothed.”

A snort broke from Ignis as his face twisted.

“What?” Prompto asked. “Too weird?”

“It’s a bit formal.”

“You like formal.”

“Yes, I…” He trailed off. His lips pursed for a short moment before he continued, voice an intimate rumble in his chest. “You’re the person I’m engaged to; not some lady of the court.”

There was a laugh, small and shy, that followed his words. “What should I call you, then?” The words were almost joking, with a hint of affection that warmed the air. “Sweetie? Dear? Darling?”

Ignis’ lips twitched. “I’m quite partial to ‘Darling,’” he admitted, earning himself a quick brush of lips against his cheek as the music grew soft and sweet, Florence crooning gentle ‘oohs’ over the crowd.

Pulling away, Prompto laid his temple back against the curve of his lover’s cheek before murmuring, “Then what will you call me?”

A hum. A shift of hips, stepping into the violins that rose through the room.

“Darling, darling, stand by me. Oh, stand by me.”

“How about,” he began softly, hand drawing his fiance closer against his chest before he half-gasped the words into a waiting ear. “How about ‘My Love?’”

The arm at his waist drew around him, pulling them flush together as Prompto managed a croaked, “I’d like that.”

⠏⠁⠛⠑⠀⠃⠗⠂⠅

Ignis almost didn’t feel the wall when Prompto pushed him up against it. As eager, chapped lips pressed into his. The door slammed shut in their wake, the sound briefly echoing through the foyer before Prompto grunted, hands falling to the top buttons of a dress shirt.

“I need you naked,” Prompto grunted as he fumbled. “Like, now .”

“Easy now, love. We’ve got all night.”

Gods .”

Easing forward, Ignis kissed what he could find until lips drove against his, forcing him back against the wall. As hands pushed his shirt open, working beneath the hem of his tank top to feel along his chest, he reached down, earning a broken gasp that broke the kiss as he grasped the bulge beneath rough denim.

“Wait, wait.”

Quickly, he withdrew his hand. “Is everything alright?”

There was another kiss – a quick peck – before Prompto eased away. “I just… I had this weird thought?”

Eyebrows arched, confused.

“We’re engaged now. Shouldn’t our first time be, like… special? Slow and sweet and that sort of thing. Rose petals. Feeding each other dessert. I don’t know.”

“I wouldn’t object to dessert,” Ignis said plainly, “but whatever happens, happens. If we make love on the bed, or if you push me up right against this very wall and do this quick and dirty, I don’t care. I’m-”

It was at that moment that his phone went off.

“My apologies,” he murmured. Reaching into his pocket, he palmed his phone and tapped at the screen with his thumb before pressing it to his ear. “Ignis speaking.”

“Noctis is awake.”

Ignis’ jaw dropped. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m sure,” came Gladiolus’ slow reply. His voice was low. Tired. “Talcott’s giving him a ride to Hammerhead. They’re coming from Galdin Quay. I’ve got a car waiting at the gate. If you get here in the next few minutes, we should get there before Noctis does.”

Lips forming something similar to words, Ignis could only manage a squeak before he cleared his throat. “That’s spectacular news.”

“You’re telling me,” came the laughed reply. “Get here as soon as you can. I’m going to call Prompto next.”

“No need; he’s right here.”

Prompto shifted closer, nose dragging against the length of a scar.

“Alright. I’ll see you soon.”

“See you soon, Gladio.” Pulling the phone away from his face, he breathed a long sigh.

“What’s up?”

Taking a long, slow breath, Ignis managed a quiet, “Let’s get dressed. Noctis is awake.”

Chapter Text

He should have felt relieved.

That was Ignis’ first thought as he stepped out of the car. There was no gravel, like he was used to. There was no slipping beneath his feet. Had they moved other things as well? How much had changed?

How much had changed.

The question of the hour.

“Looks like he’s not here, yet,” Gladiolus noted, sounding a touch miffed. “Think Talcott is taking the long route?”

“Hopefully they didn’t run into any daemons,” Prompto added.

“Talcott drives slow. It’s not something to overly worry about,” Ignis insisted dryly. “Even if our Prince isn’t quite up for battle, Talcott can handle himself.”

Gladio’s snort was amused, at best. “Still the calm one.”

“Yes, well, someone has to be.”

Ha ha .”

He should have felt relieved as Prompto’s arm brushed his. “C’mon. Let’s go wait in the old pit stop. See if Takka’s running things right now. Iris mentioned him in her last letter.”

Ignis took the offered arm without a word.

“I’ll join you guys in a minute,” Gladiolus called from behind them. “I’m going to wait outside a bit longer.”

“Suit yourself!” Prompto called back.

The stairs were steeper than Ignis remembered, but it had been a few years. There was a chance they had been rebuilt, or he simply remembered wrong.

What if he remembered Noctis wrong?

What if he wasn’t the Ignis Noctis remembered?

“You’re nervous,” Prompto said when they settled into a booth.

Something slid beneath his boots. Straw? “Just a touch. Ten years is a long time.”

“Prompto?”

Ignis perked at the voice. High. Familiar.

“Sania! Hey!”

There came the clatter of feet; the low groan that Prompto reserved for tight hugs.

“It’s been far too long, boy.”

“It has. I hear you’re behind all those research papers.”

“Oh yeah. And it wasn’t easy, either. Had to hike Ravatogh every day for a year before we had enough material to study. My escorts weren’t very talkative. Always clammed up after a few words.”

“Hunters.”

“Enough about me. How are you? And have you seen Pamela lately?”

“I’m good. I haven’t seen Pamela in a while, though. José got sick a while back and she’s been taking care of him. Apparently breathing moist air for too long does damage.”

“That doesn’t sound fun.” An alarm sounded, high and insistent, and was quickly silenced. “Well, that’s my cue. Call me later, would you? I need Pamela’s number.”

Prompto laughed. “I’ll just text it to you. Might be busy for a while.”

“You? Busy?” A laugh cracked the air. “The world really has come to an end.”

“Bye Sania.”

“Bye Prompto.”

Leather creaked, and then a hand found Ignis’ on the table. “What’s got you so nervous though? I figured you’d be the most excited out of all of us.”

Slouching back into his seat, Ignis sighed.

Oh ,” Prompto breathed. “It’s a slouching conversation. This is serious.”

Eyebrows furrowed. “What?”

“You slouch when a thought tires you out.”

“I do not.”

“Yes you do.”

Holding his hands up in surrender, Ignis corrected his posture with a tired, “We’ll agree to disagree.”

“I get a hand motion, too.”

“Prompto.”

“You’re just upset I noticed your slouching habit.”

“I’m rolling my eyes at you.”

“I’ll bet you are. Now spill.”

Pulling his hands away from Prompto’s, Ignis breathed another sigh. “What if we’ve changed too much?”

“He won’t care,” was the immediate reply.

Slowly, Ignis felt a grin spread into his cheeks.

“What? Was that everything?”

“You know exactly what to say to a man,” he drawled, once more reaching across the table. But as a creak sounded at his back he withdrew, resting his wrists against one another politely on his lap.

“He’s not here, yet,” Gladio grunted. “Guess we just have to wait.”

“Wonder how long it’ll take him to get here,” Prompto mused, excitement plain.

“Hopefully not another decade,” Ignis put in lightly, shifting against the booth cushions. The leather squealed, protesting the movement. “I have hopes for my fourties.”

“Oh?” came his lover’s eager coo. “This is the first time I’ve heard of them.”

“I’m not surprised,” Gladio drawled. “Go on, Iggy; what are these ‘hopes’ of yours? Spill. We’ve got time. Probably.” The last word was an afterthought. A joke, at best, that made the air between them light.

Lips pursed uncomfortably. “I assure you it’s nothing so specific to warrant a sit-down. I simply aspire to…” He paused for a moment, head tilting back. “... a social life, of sorts. One that doesn’t revolve entirely around work and our immediate company. I’d also love a chance to go to a concert again. It’s been far too long.”

Right . Our man, the rap connoisseur,” Gladio laughed. “Man, I almost forgot you liked that stuff. I mean, easy to do, seeing how much time we’ve been spending together lately. I swear, I only see you once a year.”

Ignis held his tongue.

Then, beyond the building, there came the rumble of a motor.

The table jerked. “Think that’s him?” Prompto gasped. He sounded young. As if the last decade hadn’t passed like a kidney stone.

The table knocked against Ignis’ knees as he rose, sliding out of the booth. But as an arm brushed his, he shook his head. “I’d like to make my own way. At least for today. Thank you, though.”

“If you’re sure, man.” The youth was gone, replaced instead by gravel. Deeper. As if it had been used too much. “I’ll head out, then.”

Ignis nodded, waited for the footsteps to work away from him, then followed. They were barely outside when a hand was shaking his arm. Excited. Enthused. Definitely Prompto.

And then it came; a soft, airy, “Hey.”

Noctis.

Ignis realized belatedly that a smile had crept over his face.

“‘Hey?’ That’s all you have to say for yourself after all this time?” Gladio asked. It’s a softer sound than Ignis expected.

Someone laughed. He couldn’t be sure who.

“Noctis, it’s you!” Prompto managed. His voice was shot; dry and nervous and rough. “It’s really you!”

“It is? I hadn’t noticed,” Noctis fired back like it hadn’t been ten years.

Ten years.

“Well, well. You kept us waiting.” The words were out before he could stop them. Before he realized they made no sense .

But then a hand settled on his shoulder.

A wiry hand.

A distantly familiar hand.

It receded, and Noctis spoke, low and purposeful. “Not like I wanted to.” A breath, shaky and nervous, followed. “We’ve got some catching up to do.”

Ignis agreed with a firm, “Let’s head inside.”

⠠⠹⠬⠎⠀⠠⠺⠑⠀⠠⠋⠑⠜

They didn’t get through much before making a game plan.

Insomnia, as soon as possible.

⠠⠹⠬⠎⠀⠠⠺⠑⠀⠠⠋⠑⠜

Noctis and Prompto traded off, driving for hours before they pulled over at a haven. There wasn’t much to say as they set up camp.

Ignis could feel a warmth in him as he set up the grill. It’d been so long.

“Talcott said you guys don’t stick together anymore,” Noctis said.

Ignis was the first to reply. “We’ve all got our own lives. We couldn’t be on a road trip forever, now, could we?”

“Yeah,” Prompto pitched in quickly. “We’ve all got our own thing going on. Gladio does border patrol, I do road maintenance, and Ignis works with food distribution. He hunts monsters and brings ‘em in for people to eat.”

“Speaking of food, what would we like for dinner?” Ignis finally segued. He prayed the subject wouldn’t come up again.

⠠⠹⠬⠎⠀⠠⠺⠑⠀⠠⠋⠑⠜

They settled into bed after an hour or so. It didn’t come up.

⠠⠹⠬⠎⠀⠠⠺⠑⠀⠠⠋⠑⠜

Hands woke Ignis hours later. There was a heavy, tense breath that fanned over his face as fingers drew back, unsure. A pop sounded from outside the tent – a campfire. Vinyl rustled in the breeze. “Wha-” he groaned.

“It’s me,” Prompto whispered.

Ignis leaned into the hands that pressed to his forehead, smoothing his hair away from his face. “Hello,” he cooed.

“Noctis says he can’t sleep.”

“Oh?”

“I…” With a light cough to clear his throat, he managed a soft, “I want to tell him.”

“... Oh.” Rising carefully, Ignis pushed himself up from the cot before throwing his legs over the side. “Guess I better join you, then.” Sliding his hand along the edge of the cot, he stumbled upon a small pouch, reached in, and retrieved his glasses. They were wider than his usual fare, and took a bit of adjusting once he got them on his nose.

The walk out to the chairs was a short affair. Shorter than Ignis had hoped for. Shorter than he needed to mentally prepare himself for what was to come. But all too soon his hand brushed against the all-too-familiar arm of the foldup camping chair. He collapsed into it with an ease of long practice, legs crossed and hands folded neatly in his lap.

“So this is serious, then,” Noctis said as the crackle of the fire filled the camp. “I mean, it has been ten years. I’ve missed a lot. But… why isn’t Gladio out here with us?”

“Because Gladio doesn’t know.” The reply was surprisingly even; Prompto’s voice firm as the words left him. “We – I – wanted to tell you first.”

“No one’s dying , right?” Noctis’ words were a mess in comparison, trembling with each nervous syllable. “ Please don’t tell me you’re dying.”

Slouching back into his chair, Ignis waved at the air with his hand, blowing out a scoff. “Nothing so serious as that.”

There came a whisper of breath against his ear, followed by a low, “You’re slouching.”

He quickly straightened, eyebrows furrowed.

After a moment of silence, Noctis prompted them with a soft, “So… what is it?”

Clearing his throat, Prompto announced clear, loud, and with proud conviction, “We’re engaged.”

“Oh. Cool. Do I know them?”

Ignis lurched forward as a surprised gasp made him choke on his own saliva, coughs aimed between his knees.

“You okay, Specs?”

“Fine,” he managed after the worst had passed, wiping the spittle from his cheeks with his cuffs.

It was a while after this that Prompto spoke again. “Yeah, you know them,” he began softly. “I’m engaged to Ignis and Ignis is engaged to me.”

“Oh.” It was a breathless sort of word. A shocked awe that made the air thick with tension.

Ignis moved to stand, bracing his hands against the chair. “This was a mistake,” he deadpanned, fighting against the sudden, demanding urge to vomit that rose in his chest.

“No! No, no, it’s not . I just – I’m sorry . Congratulations. I just… I’m being stupid. It’s like… deja vu or something? For some reason I just… I thought you guys were already together, but I guess… I don’t know. You’re engaged . That’s amazing .”

For a moment Ignis remained in limbo, half out of his seat. He was tempted to get up. Tempted to walk right off the haven and maybe fight a few monsters. But as a hand settled on his – cold and solid and every bit the man he loved asking him to stay, please stay – he eased back into his seat.

“I’d like your blessing, Noct. Some kind of sign that it’s okay to have this, enjoy this, with Prompto. I know it’s asking a bit much, but any kind of sign you could send would be appreciated.”

“You’re slouching again,” Prompto pointed out, amused.

He huffed in reply before once more adjusting his posture. For a moment he opened his mouth, prepared to argue, before ultimately deciding against it. Despite this, a secret smile stole across his lips.

“I’m sorry I made all those comments about Aranea and Cindy,” Noctis said after a while. “I guess I should have paid more attention. You’re my best friend. I should have been the first to know, but instead I didn’t even know you’re into guys.”

“Oh, come on, man. Give yourself more credit,” Prompto argued wetly. His voice cracked before he gave a long, ugly sniff. “Don’t let the waterworks fool you. I’m serious . There was always something going on. And I wanted to tell you. I really, really did. But every time a good moment came up I was just… I would freak out and all my hangups came out full force. And I kind of just… didn’t tell you.”

The air settled between them. The tent gave a round of rustles in the whistling breeze, and the fire popped twice before seeming to settle. Then, from the silence, a whisper broke the air.

“I’m just as bad, I guess.”

Ignis felt something in him jerk at the words. Making a point to turn his face in the general direction of his Prince’s – his King’s – voice, he carefully asked, “And what is that to be taken as?”

“Noct, are you Queer?” Disbelief. Confusion.

“I don’t know,” came the quiet admission, barely heard over the snap of a log on the fire. “I just never really figured it out. I never wanted those things . The… intimate stuff. I just figured I’d wait for it. Assumed it was stress, or my depression meds. But I don’t think it was any of that.

“I had a lot of time to think in the crystal. I thought about you guys a lot. About Insomnia and Lucis and that road trip. I also thought about Luna, and what might have happened if everything had gone to plan. She’s… Luna was very… She was…”

Ignis’ hands grew tight against the chair.

Noctis’ breath was loud, rasping through the camp before he eventually spoke. “I thought I was broken. That she could fix me, you know? But there’s nothing to fix. It took me a long time to realize it, but there’s nothing to fix.”

Slowly, the fingers gripping the chair relaxed, and Ignis found a smile spreading into his cheeks. “I’ve always had my doubts, but it’s good to hear it from you. I apologize if I ever made you feel as if you couldn’t come to me with questions.”

“... Thanks, Specs.” Clearing his throat, Noctis lowly asked, “So how long has this been going on? You two, I mean.”

Ignis nearly jumped when the hand on his shifted and something brushed his leg. “Is that you, Prompto?”

“Yeah, sorry – should have warned you. There was a bug. Do you want to answer or me?”

Lips pursed before he breathed a long, nervous sigh. “It began shortly before you left,” he admitted, tone even but raspy. “However, we’ve only been dating for six years.”

“‘ Only ?’” Noctis scoffed. “Dude, I’m surprised you let someone get this close, and for this long. Last I check you flinched every time your HIV came up, and now you’re engaged .”

“I…” Prompto’s voice cracked. “You know about the HIV?”

A snort. “Of course I know, Prom. He’s my royal attendant . Emergency blood transfusion is a thing. I need to know who a viable donor is.”

“Um… Okay, yeah, that makes sense.”

It was then that Noctis’ voice was softer than Ignis had ever heard it, whispering gently through the camp to fill his ears and warm his chest. “I’m glad you’re doing better, Ignis.”

“Well, we’re just a bundle of secrets today, aren’t we?” Prompto noted after a beat. “And here I thought we knew everything about you.”

A laugh followed, and the squeal of a chair, before the response came. “I thought you did, too, man. But like… even a… like… It’s like when you reread your favorite book and notice stuff you didn’t the first time you read it. There are these secrets that aren’t really secrets because there are hints or context that imply them, but like… I can explain this, I swear.

“Okay. Okay, like… We all have secrets, but some of them aren’t intentional. They’re things built into us that we aren’t comfortable sharing so it doesn’t occur to us to share them. Things we think aren’t right or might be untrue. Things we fear. If that makes sense.”

Ignis waited until silence had settled before speaking. “It makes perfect sense,” he announced softly. “You’ve spent a long time thinking about this, haven’t you?”

“I mean, yeah. Ten years is a long… time…”

“What is it?” Prompto asked.

There was a shift. A grunt. “It’s just… we’re thirty.”

A scoff. “ Yeah , man.”

“We’re thirty though.”

Yeah . It’s called aging , dude.”

“But it’s weird . We’re proper adult age, now. This rarely happens in video games. I mean, the anime started us at, what? Sixteen? You were, like, eleven or something. Now we’re in our thirties.”

“Huh…” Prompto huffed, amused. “Y’know, when you put it that way, it’s kinda funny.”

“It’s hilarious.”

“It’s almost as if the video game industry is catching on to the fact that their fanbase is aging,” Ignis put in with a wry grin.

They broke into low, amused laughter at that. After a while they petered off, lapsing into a comfortable silence until a gentle noise broke the air.

“You look so much like your dad. You know that?”

“Thanks, Prompto.”

⠠⠹⠬⠎⠀⠠⠺⠑⠀⠠⠋⠑⠜

They’re not quite to Insomnia when Noctis called for a break. “We gotta stretch our legs. Wouldn’t do to have a cramp the moment a daemon attacked,” he demanded to a series of groaned, “We’re nearly there,” and, “Cramps?”

A bitter chill nipped at Ignis’ face as he stepped from the car. There came a groan; the distinctive screech of an Iron Giant rising from the ground. It was a good distance away. Probably a few dozen yards. Not nearly close enough to pose a threat.

Ignis felt calm.

Even.

There was a warmth budding in his chest that spread into his limbs. His arms were loose; his legs were wound; he was ready to head out at a moment’s notice.

Noctis was back.

Noctis was back .

But… for how long?

The thought caught him at the edge of the road, hands on the railing as he eased to sit against them. Sharp balloons of rust dug into the skin of his palms as he settled. It was a heavy thought.

“Hey, Iggy.”

Speak of the devil. There came a creak, and a small vibration in the railing that echoed in Ignis’ hands. “Hello, Noctis,” he greeted softly. “I assume we’ve arrived at the true purpose of our stop?”

“Yeah.” His voice cracked at the edges. He sounded older, but not quite. There was a boom to his voice that he didn’t remember being there. But here he was, all grown up. “I just… I wanted to talk to everyone one-on-one before everything started. Get some stuff off my chest.”

Ignis nodded. “What sort of stuff?”

“I want to make sure you guys are gonna… be okay, I guess.”

Lips pursed at this. Then, he managed a small, “In what way?”

“Guys aren’t allowed to marry in Lucis,” came the soft words that felt like a sentence, “so I guess I’m just worried that, like, you guy’s’ll be in limbo forever.”

“It’s legal in Tenebrae.”

“Yeah, but you won’t go to Tenebrae, will you?”

Ignis’ mouth fell open to reply. To retort with a sharp, “Who says I won’t?” only for his breath to freeze in his chest.

Would he?

No. He wouldn’t.

There was a sigh. A shift. Shoes scraping the ground before Noctis continued with a low, “I know you, Ignis. You’re the all or nothing kind of person. You won’t want to leave Lucis; you’ll want to rebuild it. I may not know your favorite music, or what your favorite food is, but I know that much. Prompto’s good moving along at a snail’s pace, but you take big steps. Anything that needs to be done, you do. So I think I need to remind you that even though we both know it’s going to take generations to legalize marriage between anyone who isn’t a man and a woman, you shouldn’t give up. Just, like… adopt him into your family name. Something distant. Like a second cousin, sixth removed or something.”

“You could just make it legal,” Ignis pointed out dryly. “You would be king.”

“We both know that’s not gonna happen, Ignis.”

“... Pardon?” The words are hardly out of his mouth when something hard and round is pressed against his hand. Drawing up from the railing, he took it carefully, and the spell beneath his fingers gave an answering whine. “Noctis-”

“It’s a Firaga Quint Cast; 500 strength.”

“You’re…” His voice cracked. He cleared his throat and gave another attempt. “You're usually so spare with the powerful spells.”

“I’m trusting you to carry this for me.”

“Interesting choice of words.”

“Yeah. Don't send it away. Keep it on you, physically. When…” Again, a twist of the voice. A squeak. A sigh. A sad, cracked, “When it's time, give it to Prompto. I want him to do it.”

“It?”

“You’ll know.”

The rail vibrates, and then shoes scrape the pavement once more before Noctis’ footsteps fade away.

Ignis reached into his jacket, carefully storing the spell in one of the lower, zippered pockets in the coat. It brushed his leg as he stood, turning toward a voice that rose above the distant screams of daemons.

“Alright, everyone. Time to head out.”

⠠⠹⠬⠎⠀⠠⠺⠑⠀⠠⠋⠑⠜

It took everything in Ignis not to drop to his knees and scream when they get to Insomnia at last. The camaraderie felt forced from himself and Gladiolus. Or maybe it was just him. To anyone else, they’d possibly just look like a group of friends.

But Ignis knew.

⠠⠹⠬⠎⠀⠠⠺⠑⠀⠠⠋⠑⠜

They faced a god.

Ardyn made an appearance.

They covered Noctis’ back.

⠠⠹⠬⠎⠀⠠⠺⠑⠀⠠⠋⠑⠜

When the battle ended, Noctis didn’t answer his phone.

⠠⠹⠬⠎⠀⠠⠺⠑⠀⠠⠋⠑⠜

They searched the castle. The wings were empty. Large sections had been destroyed, and dust coated everything they touched. They were filthy by the time Ignis heard it, head perking and shifting in the direction of the noise.

“What’s up, Iggy?” Gladio asked, curious.

“I heard something,” he replied softly. “It sounded like a bark.”

“Guys!” Prompto shouted suddenly, voice filling the room. “Guys, it’s Umbra .”

⠠⠹⠬⠎⠀⠠⠺⠑⠀⠠⠋⠑⠜

Ignis knew the castle well enough to know they were in the throne room. To know they were approaching stairs. Still, he lagged behind the others as he listened to their footsteps ascend. There was a squawk.

A scream.

An angry shout.

“With his own goddamn sword ,” Gladiolus choked out after a while.

“Did Ardyn do this?” Prompto hissed.

“No.” Ignis’ voice seemed to clear the air as it left him, bubbling up from his chest, so even it hurt. “This daemons are gone. That’s proof enough that Ardyn is dead. We need to burn Noctis’ body.”

What ?”

A creak, followed by a sick rush of fluids.

“Gladio, what are you doing?!”

“He’s right. We need to burn the body.”

Ignis turned, starting down the stairs. “We need a wide area for this. The entrance to the castle should make do.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Out of the way, Prompto.”

⠠⠹⠬⠎⠀⠠⠺⠑⠀⠠⠋⠑⠜

They’d made it out to the courtyard, but Prompto had yet to quiet his protests. “We need to bury him!” he argued sharply. “It’s tradition. All Lucian Kings are buried in the gardens.”

Slowly, Ignis reached for the inside pocket low in his jacket. “He knew this would happen,” he argued softly.

“Oh? And he told you… what exactly?” came the snapped retort. “That he was going to be skewered by his own sword ?”

All but tearing the spell from his pocket, he spat back a low, “We cannot allow his body to remain, only to be gutted by some scientist who wishes to unravel the secrets of magic.”

Ignis stepped back as a hand shoved roughly at his shoulder, then the other. “No one would do that,” Prompto hissed. “No one would fucking do that.”

“They would.”

“They wouldn’t .”

Prompto .”

“They wouldn’t .” His voice was barely more than a breath as his hand slipped against Ignis’ chest, then stilled.

Lips pursing, Ignis held the spell out in offering. “He wanted you to do it.” He expected denial. Expected a sharp shout. But all that came was a cold hand meeting his, snatching up the spell. There was the sharp sound of footsteps just a touch heavier than usual, stomping across the pavement.

A hiccup.

Then a strong, surprisingly even, “Okay, guys. Step back.”

Ignis does, backing away from his lover’s voice until his outstretched hands brushed the curve of a high barrier.

“He’s hesitating,” Gladio said after a while of silence, boots squeaking over.

“Shh,” Ignis shushed softly, straining to hear.

“- deserve better than this, man. You deserve those ten years. You deserve to be here, alive, you know?” Another soft, heartbreaking hiccup. “You deserve everything and I’m…” A proper sob broke the air.

Ignis slouched against the barrier, pinching his trembling bottom lip between his teeth.

“I’m going to miss you. Properly, this time.”

A whistle. A shout. Five distinct explosions.

A scream.

Before Ignis knew it he was rushing forward, but a hand gripped his arm, holding him back as the ringing in his ears began to fade.

“-e’s… ine…”

“I need to be there.”

“Ig… h… ourn… ne.”

“Gladio-”

“Ignis. Ignis . He’s just mourning; he’s fine,” Gladio shouted, finally breaking through the tinny echo. “He’s fine .”

It didn’t assuage him, but he stilled. Time stopped until a cold hand found his shoulder and a voice whispered a low, broken, “It’s done.”

They stood in silence for a long time, unsure, before Prompto spoke again. “Well, that was a trip,” he choked. “What will you do, Gladio?”

A scoff. “I don’t know, honestly. No royal family to guard any more.” Scratching. A shift. A groan. “I’ll probably touch base with Iris and play it by ear for now.” He hummed, then. “What about you, Prompto? Any plans lined up for what comes after the end of the world?”

“Sort of,” was the half laughed reply. It sounded wet. “I have a promise with Iggy to fulfill, I guess. We’ll have to siphon a little gas out of the car and give one of the babies around here a jump, but we can head out that way, I guess.”

“Anything I want to know about?”

“Probably not.”

“Then I won’t ask.”

⠠⠹⠬⠎⠀⠠⠺⠑⠀⠠⠋⠑⠜

They had been driving for hours, it seemed. The car rumbled beneath their feet. The wind was salty through the open window. The seat was a comfortable leather; obviously one of the nicer cars that had been on the side of the road.  The car slowed, and then a hand was on his shoulder.

“Iggy, darling. Wake up.”

He groaned. “I’m already awake.”

“Open your eyes.”

He was about to complain. About to protest and insist he wanted to sleep , but instead he did as he was asked without verbal complaint and there…

… was light.

A subtle whisper of red against the black. “Is that…” he began softly, unsure.

“Yeah, Iggy. It is. That’s…” A laugh, high and hopeful and warmer than Ignis had heard in hours. “That’s the sun .”

“Oh.” He turned with the hands on his shoulders, dragging him over the center console for lips to find his. Feverish. Wet. He opened his mouth to the assault, groaning as a hand slipped into his lap. As they broke apart, he gasped a high, “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” Prompto whispered back. “Want to make good on that promise?”

⠠⠹⠬⠎⠀⠠⠺⠑⠀⠠⠋⠑⠜

The Quay was empty. The beach was empty. There were a few monsters off by the rocks, but no people or daemons to bother with. No eyes to worry about as Prompto grabbed him by the collar and dragged him into the sand, peeling off their clothes one by one until they laid on the sand, bare skin flush.

“I want to be inside you,” Ignis gasped into skin quickly warming beneath the sun’s blistering light. “I want to be so far inside you that I forget we’re two people.”

“How…” Prompto cleared his throat, nervous. “Look, I know I grabbed you first and all, but…” His voice squeaked. “I just don’t-” It broke.

Ignis paused, drawing back a touch before running his hands along the skin he could find in soothing strokes. “Hey,” he whispered. “Love, it’s alright.”

“I don’t know if I can do this right now. I know we promised and everything, but I’m just not in the mood , I guess.”

“That’s fine, sweetheart,” he assuaged him softly. Rolling off to the side, he breathed a relaxed sigh. “We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”

“Thanks.”

Head lolling to the side, Ignis peered at the slightly darker shadow to his right. His lover.

His fiance.

“I’m glad I have you,” Prompto whispered, fingers walking along the gaunt expanse of his lover’s bare stomach. “I don’t… I don’t think I could keep it together right now if I didn’t.”

Nudging his leg to the right, flush against Prompto’s, Ignis murmured a low, “You don’t have to keep it together if you don’t wish.”

A breath, sharp and fast. “Yeah,” he breathed softly. “Yeah, I know.”

“I miss him, too.”

Gods ,” Prompto groaned, hand falling away. There was a thump against sand, then a sighed, “You know what? I don’t even… I don’t really… It’s hard to explain. But I just… I wish we had more time , you know?”

“We all did,” Ignis admitted softly. “Why else do you think King Regis raised him to be a boy and not a prince?”

The confused blink that followed may as well have been audible. “... Is… Is that why he went to public school?”

Ignis shrugged, easing back onto the sand and closing his eyes against the warmth of the sun. “He was fated to die young; the chosen King. We’d been preparing for this since the moment the crystal reacted to him.”

“So that’s why you were so calm!”

“It’s my job.”

“You’re not your job, Iggy.”

Ignis scoffed, then asked, “Speaking of jobs, what do you plan to do now that the world is righting itself?”

A laugh followed; light and relaxed. “Photographer, dummy. It’s my dream. I can do that anywhere, though. Doesn’t matter where. So, where are we going for that?”

Ignis was slow to reply. Slow to process the words. Slow to open his mouth and slow to speak; his tones were low and even as he admitted, “I want to go back to Insomnia and help rebuild the city.”

“Insomnia it is, then,” Prompto cooed.

Ignis grinned as lips gently dragged against his sandy cheek. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Epilogue | ⠠⠑⠏⠊⠇⠕⠛⠥⠑
Four Years Later | ⠠⠋⠳⠗⠀⠠⠽⠑⠜⠎⠀⠠⠇⠁⠞⠻

“You have arrived at your destination, kupo!”

As his boots came to a crunching halt in the thick snow that built around him up to his knees, Gladiolus Amicitia glanced up from his phone to peer at the small house before him. It was a cottage more than anything, with a modest wooden fence and a large garden blanketed with snow. He could see herbs growing through the windows, sandwiched between the curtains and the glass and lit by the room at their backs.

Reaching for the small gate latch, he grinned nervously as it undid itself easily, allowing him into the yard. He closed it carefully before turning back to the path. Stones lined the way to the front door. They were flat and dry; obviously recently swept going by the lines in the snow.

He glanced back at his phone, unsure, before stepping up to the door. Then, raising a hand, he prodded the buzzer by the door.

A buzz sounded a moment later, followed by a tinny, “Scientia residence.”

Giving a small cough, Gladiolus reached up to rub at his leaking nose with a gruff, “It’s me.”

“Sweet!”

Gladiolus blinked at the reply, surprised.

In seconds the door was thrown open. Sporting a full beard, metal that twinkled at his ears, and more meat on his bones than Gladiolus had ever seen him with, Prompto waved him in with a grin. “Come on in, man. It’s freezing out there!”

“I don’t understand how it can snow,” Gladiolus huffed, stepping past the man and into the foyer. “It’s already March.”

“Perhaps,” a familiar, accented voice began, “it saw our little reunion worthy of its blessing.”

Gladiolus scoffed. “Not likely,” he replied dryly, turning to look toward the voice.

Stepping from the bottom of a staircase, Ignis strode forward and quickly opened his arms wide.

Gladiolus didn’t hesitate, wrapping his arms around the shorter man in a brief but tight hug. “You guys are looking good,” he noted warmly, stepping back to admire the pair.

Sliding his arm within his lover’s, Prompto had gained back the weight, and then some. His arms were corded with muscle, and his stomach protruded a bit over his belt just enough that Gladiolus couldn’t help but think back to all those days he’d watched a much younger man pick at his food and complain about calories. With his ears pierced at least a dozen times each, and clad entirely in black, Prompto seemed both the same and very different from the person who’d been on that journey. Stronger. More confident.

Ignis was wrapped in a large sweater, suspenders swinging about his legs as if they had been worn and then slid off his shoulders. A dress shirt peeked from beneath the woolen mass. His hair was longer than Gladiolus remembered. It braided around his neck, hanging over his shoulder and looking very feminine. He was still thin – he’d never quite bounced back from the ten years – but his cheeks had a healthy rosy tinge and his skin was a deep tan from days spent sunbathing, even in the dead of winter.

“Your look has changed,” Gladiolus noted, amused.

A laugh met his comment, and Ignis’ eyebrows crinkled as a smile took him over. “Of course. I’m nearly fourty, now. I can’t go about wearing leopard print forever.”

His eyes shifted to Prompto, lingering on the ring in a blond eyebrow. “Doesn’t stop Prompto.”

“Prompto is a photographer.”

Hands clapped, and the man of the moment announced dryly, “How about some food? Gladio, I’ll take your jacket. Iggy, go take a seat.”

WIth a shrug, Gladiolus handed over his jacket before following Ignis through the foyer and into a hall. He watched in amusement as tanned fingers felt along the walls, around a door frame, and then went straight for a chair as they emerged into a larger dining room. Collapsing in one of the chairs, his gaze slid across the room, eyeing Prompto through a small window into the kitchen before turning back to Ignis. “So. Ignis Scientia and Prompto Argentum. I’m still getting used to it.”

Lips pursed in amusement before a swift correction came. “It’s Prompto Scientia, now.”

Gladiolus stared as tanned cheeks reddened sharply. “No shit?” he gasped.

The flush deepened.

“Congratulations,” Gladiolus managed after a moment of silence. “Why wasn’t I invited to the wedding?”

“We didn’t have one.”

A pause.

Gladiolus felt his eyebrows arch at this, skeptical. “You,” he began softly. “ You didn’t have a wedding. Mr. Prim and Proper didn’t seal his vows.”

The rebuttal was bitter, at best. A low and clipped, “Marriage between two men is hardly legal.”

“Then…”

A sigh. A smile. “I’ve adopted him into my family line,” Ignis admitted softly. “That way, in the event of an emergency we can make decisions about the others’ welfare without too much red tape.”

Prompto wandered in with food a short while later, placing plates before them carefully piled with beans, pork, and potatoes. Before he got around to sitting, however, he dragged his nose against his lover’s ear, earning a quick shift and a sharp kiss that betrayed… a tongue stud? “Eat up, guys.”

It wasn’t long into dinner that Ignis’ phone blared, and he retreated into another room to take the call.

Gladiolus accepted a flute of champagne from Prompto, sipping carefully from it as he watched Prompto follow Ignis into the other room, then return.

“Ignis has to do a work thing, so it’s just us for the rest of the evening.”

From the distance there came the thunk of shoes and the closing of a door.

“You want to watch a movie, and when it’s done I can give you a tour of the house?”

With a shrug, Gladiolus agreed with an almost bored, “Sure. Why not?”

Motioning for him to follow, Prompto stepped into the next room. A large fire greeted them, crackling warmly in the hearth. His arm motioned to a shelf across the room, topped by a television. “Take your pick, man. I’ll grab us some snacks.”

Gladiolus was slow to step up to the shelf. But eventually he did so, peering at the films in the glass case first, staring at the titles with open confusion.

Hammerhead '18. Lestallum 3/19, Lestallum 4/19. Then, lower down, Ravatogh 6 Years Part 1, Ravatogh 6 Years Part 2, Ravatogh 6 Years Part 3.

When Prompto stepped back into the room, he pointed to the case with a curious look. “What are these?”

A laugh followed, light and nervous. “You don’t wanna know. Trust me.”

“Then what should we watch?”

“Have you seen Non-Linear? That one’s good.”

It was good, if a little strange. It was mostly narration until the main character went back in time. It was a little dry until he went to his first protest, swinging his phone around to film as much as he could before his camera settled on a familiar side character.

Main character?

“Hey, man. You didn't tell me you were coming,” the side character said, obviously happy.

The main character shrugged like it was nothing.

Side character laughed. “I'm getting the best footage. This is gonna make a sweet MoogleTube compilation.”

A slow nod is his reply as a chant built in the background.

“You here alone?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Sweet. So am I. Wanna hang out?”

A twinge. A pause. “I'm a bit tired.”

“And I'm hungry. Let's hit up some coffee or something.”

Gladiolus made a face at the screen, “You know, I just realized the main characters look a lot like you and Ignis in your twenties.”

“Do they?” Prompto hummed, curious. “I think you’re imagining it.”

“I’m not imagining it,” he insisted again a few scenes later after side character shook main character awake.

“Dude, I've never seen snow before. I HAVE to go and check it out.”

Main character blinked blearily and grabbed his glasses. “You've never seen snow?”

Side character groaned. “I'm from KANSAS, man! Too hot for snow.”

Gladiolus frowned. “Wait, wait – they showed us a map earlier. Kansas is at a latitude that should be easy to get snow.”

“Shh. Don’t spoil the dramatic reveal?”

“What? That he lives in a basement ?”

“Shh.”

“Prompto, is this a romantic movie?”

“Yes.”

“Why did you feel the need to show me a romantic movie that so obviously going to be unnecessarily sad ?”

“You don’t know it’s going to be unnecessarily sad,” Prompto replied humorously. “You haven’t seen it.”

A large hand motioned angrily to the screen. “A time traveler is falling in love with a boy from the past.”

“Just watch the movie.”

So he did. And when the credits rolled Gladiolus announced a sharp, “You know, you get points for the quasi-happy ending, but-”

“That was a happy ending!” Prompto defended dryly.

“- it was still unnecessarily sad.”

“Shh. The sadness makes the joy shine.”

Gladiolus rolled his eyes.

Rising to his feet, Prompto shut off the TV, then motioned for his companion to follow.

“Tour time?”

“Yup yup.”

The first place they went was the kitchen. It was… really nice. The counters were clean and well cared for. They were wood, like the rest of the house, but coated in a thick resin that was hard to the touch. After this he was shown the downstairs bathroom, the closet, and finally they took the stairs up to the second level.

Prompto tapped on the door at the end of the hall before anything else. “This is the master bedroom. It’s probably best you don’t step in here. Ever.”

WIth a nervous nod, Gladiolus agreed with a low, “Duly noted.”

They headed back the way they came. Prompto opened doors to show off the office, guest bathroom, laundry,  and eventually the guest bedroom. “This’ll be your room for the night.”

Gladiolus eyed the wicker bed and matching furniture skeptically. “You’ve really settled in, haven’t you?” he asked as he stepped forward, running a hand along the covers to hide his nerves. He frowned as he spotted something in the center of the blanket. A grommet?  “What’s this for?”

Laughing cheerfully, Prompto strode over to the bed and pointed to a hook on the ceiling. “It was Ignis’ idea,” he explained amusedly. “You have issues sleeping unless you’re in a tent, right?”

“Uh… yeah.”

“Well…” Taking hold of the grommet, Prompto stood up by the pillows and lifted the blanket until he could hang it from the hook, creating a tent. “Ta-dah!” he cheered before his hand snapped to the side, jabbing at a small boom box on the side table.

Crickets.

“This one was my idea.”

Gladiolus couldn’t help the smile that came to him, then. Couldn’t deny the warmth that rose in his chest and warmed his cheeks. “You two really are great together.”

“Thanks.”

He turned to face the younger man, curious. “When did you two… start? I feel like I missed something big.”

A light shrug is the answer at first, but as Prompto hopped to the floor, he opened his mouth with a nervous twitch. “Sometime between me taking endless photos of Ignis and…” He licked his lips. “After he went blind, I helped him set up his phone for voice activation.”

Eyebrows shot up, shocked. “That soon?”

“You know when Iggy and I first started fighting, after Noctis went into the Crystal?”

Slowly, he nodded.

“That was about when it really began. It took Iggy years to get his head out of his ass about it.”

“Iggy?” he choked out, shocked. “Really?”

“Right? I was gung-ho about everything from the get-go. I wanted to be together. It made sense. I wanted it. He wanted it. But… he had a block. It took me a while to figure it out, and I respect it. Heck, I don’t think I started to understand why it was such a block until after we started dating.” Stepping over to the wall, Prompto reclined against it, expression wistful. “He’s a private guy, and for good reasons.”

“You’re private, too,” Gladiolus put in.

A smile was his response. “Yeah, I am. We both have our own baggage.”

“What kind of baggage could you possibly have?”

“The kind that doesn’t meet airline restrictions?”

They both paused after the joke, appreciating it for a good moment, before Gladiolus laughed openly.

“But you know, I should have known everything was going to be alright. We’ve been tagged ‘Happy Ending’ since, like, the fourth chapter. I don’t know why I was so worried.”

“You were worried?”

“Yeah. The writer kept promising sweaters, too. I mean, we got them. Ignis looks great, doesn’t he?”

“He does. And, uh… is his tongue pierced?”

“Yes,” Prompto replied proudly. “Yes it is.”

“Okay,” Gladiolus squeaked.

Standing free of the wall, Prompto strode to the door with a yawn. “Well, feel free to settle into bed,” he began sleepily. “Ignis should be home soo-”

Downstairs there came the light slam of a door, and they both jumped. In an instant Prompto was out the door, heading down the stairs. Gladiolus followed, pausing at the top of the stairs, arms on the rails.

Ignis was greeted with a warm kiss, arms immediately wrapping about his husband before they drew back, noses brushing warmly. “It’s late, my love,” he whispered, barely audible from the top of the stairs. “Don’t you have a shoot in the morning?”

“I was just showing Gladiolus his room. I was planning to sleep soon.”

Retreating back through the door, Gladiolus closed it behind him and approached the bed. But just as he’d prepared to slide beneath the makeshift tent, there came a knock. He turned. “Yes?”

As the door opened, Ignis appeared, sheepish. “Will you be requiring any extra pillows or blankets during your stay?”

Gladiolus shrugged, eyeing the bed, then the blankets piled on a small chest at the end. “I think I’m good. Thanks, Iggy.”

A grin followed his words, chased by a more confident, “If you need anything, you’ve only to knock.”

“Will do,” Gladiolus said firmly, but as Ignis moved to leave the room, he called a gentle, “Why didn’t you guys tell me?”

Ignis paused in the doorway, then slowly turned in Gladiolus’ direction. It was a while before he gave an answer. “It felt wrong to tell you before we told Noctis.”

“How many people knew?”

“A handful, at best, along with the regulars of a small queer club in Lestallum.”

“Huh…” Gladiolus breathed. “Did you want to tell me?”

“It would have made things easier.”

“You didn’t think I’d be a dick about it, did you?”

Lips twitched in amusement. “Of course not. It never occurred to me.”

“Well…” He sighed. “I’m sorry you couldn’t tell me. For whatever reason.”

“Thank you. Good night, Gladiolus.”

“Night, Iggy.”

Ignis went to close the door, but again Gladiolus found himself calling out. “Hey.”

“Do you need something?”

“No,” he managed weakly before clearing his throat. “Just…”

“... Yes?”

“You… You did good, Iggy.”

The smile that came upon Ignis’ face then was ecstatic. “Yes,” he agreed, voice sweeter than anything Gladiolus had heard. “Yes, I do believe I did.”

The door shut, and Gladiolus climbed into bed at that point, curling beneath the sheets with his eyes on the grommet far above. Crickets chirped at him from the boombox, and there was a moment where the sound cut out for a second before resuming. Helistenedas Ignis greeted Prompto from the other room, the paper-thin walls doing nothing to disguise their words. He didn’t want to listen in, but there seemed to be no avoiding it. Thankfully, their words were nothing more than gentle pleasantries and questions about shifts, followed by soft “Good night”s and twin, affectionate “I love you”s before all was quiet in his little tent.

And with that, Gladiolus fell asleep.