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Running Down a Dream

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"Put the top down," Prompto said, for the umpteenth time that morning. "Come on, it's hot."

Ignis sighed. It wasn't as though he was unused to being the only grownup, but that didn't make it any more fun. "No. You need sunscreen and there isn't any."

"Finally we get a reason," Gladiolus grunted from the back seat, and flipped a page of his book. "I just thought you liked stuffy dark places, Ig."

"Pretty stuffy himself," Noct put in, his sleepy murmur still audible over the purr of the engine.

Ignis' gloves tightened on the wheel with the very tiniest creak of leather. "I'm not comfortable either," he hissed, and at the side glance and eyebrow Noct and Gladio shared in the rear-view, added, "and yes you two, I am comfortable sometimes. When we get to the next stop, I'll stock the first-aid kit. We'll all need some sunscreen before we head into the desert anyway."

Prompto, mouth agape, slewed around in the seat to express his disbelief to the backseat. And, from his volume, to everyone within a mile radius of the car, as well. "Wait, wait. You're not putting the top down because of me? We're sitting in this box instead of having the breeze in our hair and it's my fault?"

"Technically, yes." Ignis made an infinitesimal adjustment to the rear-view, as if to remind the two in the back seat that yes, he could see the faces they were making at the back of his head. "Or at least, it's the fault of your genes."

"I'm not that pale." Prompto held out his arms, and they were bright white against the dashboard. "I just... maybe need a little sun."

"Hey, wanna turn those down?" Noctis made a show of shielding his eyes. "I'm trying to sleep back here."

"I've seen moogles with more of a tan," Gladio put in.

Prompto folded his blinding white arms and made a point of looking out the window. "Fine. Fine. We'll all sit in the dark because nobody wants me to get a freckle. Fine."

There was a considering silence over the sound of the car engine.

"You get freckles?" Noct asked, when it was plain someone had to.

"Oh, don't act all interested now."

Gladio actually lowered his book. "I pegged you as the instant flambé type. Like an overripe tomato."

Prompto snorted. "I ran outside every morning every day for like eight years. Trust me. I go maybe a little pink maybe, then boom. Freckles. All over. I have been informed by my female peers," he sat up a little straighter in the seat, as though the opinion of the girls he'd gone to school with was of equal weight to that of the King's council, "that they are cute."

"At least they said part of you was cute," Gladio said.

Prompto turned red in a way that had nothing to do with sunburn. "Hey! All I'm saying is we don't have to sit inside the car on a gorgeous day like this because of me. And I'd like to think that if I did get a sunburn I wouldn't be a big baby about it."

We all have things we'd like to think, Ignis thought, but it was no good. Noctis had lightly punched the back of the driver's seat to get his attention.

"Hey, you heard him. Go ahead and put the top down."

And though they all sometimes pretended otherwise, a prince was a prince and he had no need to say please. Resigned, Ignis leaned over and hit the switch, and the roof of the Regalia folded back to reveal the fathomless blue sky above.

"Yaaaaaaay top down!" Prompto waved his arms above the windshield, and the occupants of the car breathed a sigh of relief as the air washed over them. All of them, that is, but one.

 

The damage was not apparent until they stopped for the evening. Prompto, as promised, had come out in festoons of freckles over his nose and shoulders, while Gladio was utterly unaffected and Noct's skin merely took on a faint gold hue. Ignis, on the other hand...

"Are you red?" Gladio asked, squinting across the campfire.

"Just the light," Ignis said, too quickly, and busied himself with the dinner dishes. "Coffee, anyone? I've got some water on to--"

"Wow, you really are red," Prompto stood up to get a better look. "Like really really--" He hissed in sympathy. "Man, that looks painful."

"Thank you," Ignis said, more crisply than was usual, "it is. Don't poke me."

Prompto retracted, about to do just that. "Do you uh, do you want some ointment, or..."

"I would like," Ignis said, "To clean up dinner. And then I plan to sleep face down in the nearest creek."

"You could have said," Prompto said, as though Ignis could have. But he could not, and all of them knew it.

Noctis had spent the whole exchange silently staring into the fire and occasionally poking the ground with the toe of his boot--both signs of deep concentration. When he rose it was sudden, scooping up his plate with one hand and bringing it over to the camp stove.

"Dinner was good," he said, and brought his hand down on Ignis' shoulder. Ignis flinched in anticipation of pain, but instead a wave of icy cold magic poured from Noct's fingertips. In spite of his best efforts, Ignis could not suppress a gasp, not at the blissful cold or at the sharp tingle of healing magic that followed it. "But next time," Noctis continued, as Ignis reached bewildered fingers to his face, "buy more sunscreen. It's easier than spells."

In the battered metal hood of the camp stove, Ignis could see his reflection, his face no longer red and sore but a soft tan that, on second glance, he found he rather liked. "Yes. ...your highness."

Noctis made a dismissive noise at that, but for the rest of the drive, so long as weather permitted, the Regalia's top stayed down.

~o~