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Flower, gleam and glow
Let your power shine
Make the clock reverse
Bring back what once was mine

Heal what has been hurt
Change the fates' design
Save what has been lost
Bring back what once was mine…

What once was mine


1.

Prompto huffed as he stared himself in the body length mirror. He didn't think pink was his color, but alas, that's what Rapunzel wore, so he had to. He liked Rapunzel, she took care that she could move around in those dresses that she wore, so at least he didn't feel all that awkward in it.

What was annoying though was the wig. It was long and he couldn't wait until they exchanged it for the one with the braids towards the end of this awful theater piece so that he could move around better, but this would have to do for now. At least he got to swing around on the ropes that doubled as extensions for Rapunzel's hair.

"Run by me again why I have to play Rapunzel?" he huffed as he saw Noctis lounging against the door frame behind him, all dressed up in his own Flynn Rider costume.

"You're the only one with blond hair around here," the prince shrugged, looking into the blond's eyes through the mirror. "Plus, I'm a prince."

"That's what I'm saying! You're the prince, shouldn't you, like, play the princess or something?" Prompto huffed as he plucked a stray hair out of his face, feeling it stick to the painted lashes. "Ugh."

"...Well, it seems like the director of this play likes you much better in a dress than anyone else," Noctis tried to reason, although he looked to the side with that awkward blush on his cheeks that Prompto found weirdly adorable. The one that made his heart beat just a little faster. "Besides, your singing voice is much better than mine."

Prompto was close to ripping the wig off his head because of that one annoying hair, only to be stopped by Noctis complimenting his voice.

"You... you really think so?" he asked, suddenly starting to feel excited about this whole theater piece.

"Um... yeah?" Noctis replied, and although it sounded more like a question, Prompto knew that Noctis was simply too embarrassed to speak his mind freely.

Nevertheless, it made him blush and giggle and he smiled. "W-well, I guess it can't be helped then. Also, it would be a waste if we went through all the trouble of learning the text and such and just... ditched the whole thing before the big moment, right?"

"Yeah, I was... actually here to get you so we could get on stage. 'Knock on wood,' or whatever the saying is," Noctis replied and pushed himself off the door frame. "Let's go."

"Uh-huh!"

The good thing was, both Prompto and Noctis knew all the words to Tangled by heart before their classmates started planning this theater piece for the annual school festival. So the actual practice had gone easy, and both their combat training worked in favor to what the director had planned, so that the whole thing turned into more of an acrobatic stunt show than a classic play, but the audience seemed to love it.

It was fun, really. Prompto liked the singing, he was amazed that he even liked playing the lead role, singing and moving around the stage all on his own. He liked swinging around on the ropes masked with 'his' hair, knocking out Rider as soon as he found refuge in his tower. He absolutely loved manhandling Noctis on stage, getting his kicks out of throwing him around, tying him to a chair and threatening him with a frying pan as they followed along the script of the play. Somewhere towards the end of it, Prompto caught himself having so much fun that he forgot that he was even on a stage, because only he and Noctis mattered for a moment. Ironically, it was also the moment that the lights were sent off from the castle and he was supposed to be watching them, but he was so happy that turned around to see if Noctis was just as happy.

What he hadn't counted on was the fact that Noctis was looking at him. It was just like it was in the script, but there was just something about the way that Noctis was looking at him that told Prompto that this wasn't some extraordinary acting skill on the prince's part, no, this was Noctis looking at Prompto enjoying himself. And he had the most gentle expression that he had ever seen on the prince's face.

His heart beat faster and his mouth fell open and suddenly, he wasn't really acting anymore. He just spoke his lines, a part of him glad that he had memorized them so well that he didn't even have to think about what he was saying.

And then, at the big climax, Prompto felt every ounce of desperation, every moment of pain that Rapunzel must have felt to see Eugene die in her arms to protect her, to make her magic useless by cutting off her hair as Noctis was playing his part. There were real tears when he sang the song, when Rapunzel tried to heal Eugene, even as the witch was dying dramatically in the foreground.

The special effects team had done great. Prompto's hair had glowed with a collection of strings of fairy lights all over the place every time and then, the moment Eugene had cut Rapunzel's hair they had managed to use another wig on top of the brunette one that he was wearing now. They had practiced this so many times that Prompto had grown annoyed by it and it had shown. Every practice run before he had rolled his eyes, laughed or fucked up in any other way until the director had decided that they would just have to do with what they had.

But this time, it ran smoothly. Noctis pulled and 'cut' his wig and Prompto cried real tears as he said that he had always liked brunettes better and then he died in Prompto's arms and Prompto sang - or rather sobbed - the song.

Noctis didn't move. No, wait, it was Eugene that didn't move. And Rapunzel who cried her eyes out. Not Prompto, no.

So, Rapunzel tried again, sang the song again. And with a flash of 'magic', the rest of her hair lit up again, healing the wound on Eugene's chest and Rapunzel hugged him tight and pressed her lips to his as he laid his eyes back on her.

Wait.

They hadn't practiced that.

But Prompto was kissing Noctis as if their life depended on it and tried to argue that this was just acting, but in reality, he enjoyed it way too much.

And then Noctis was kissing back. His fingers carding into the short brown hair on the back of Prompto's head and they kissed and - oh god! - there was tongue and soon they were almost making out on the stage even as the curtain fell.

The loud applause brought Prompto back and he stared at Noctis, who's night sky eyes looked at him intensely once again. His hand was still in the hair, and although it was a wig, Prompto could feel every move of the prince's fingers in them.

"Noct..." Prompto started, but startled backwards as he heard clapping behind him, which caused him to fall onto his ass.

"Wonderful show, you two!" The director beamed at them. "You moved the audience to tears! You moved me to tears! Prompto, why didn't you show how much you were into it before?"

"I, uh..."

"And Prince Noctis, that was the most convincing performance I've ever seen from you. I thought your feelings for Rapunzel real! Great work!" the director praised Noctis as he looked to the side and there it was again: that awkward blush that made Prompto's heart beat a little faster.

"Thanks," Noctis mumbled, even as he glanced back over at Prompto.

Prompto looked right back at him and they both knew that the moment they were alone, they would have to talk about this.

"Guys, get ready again, you're up for the last scene," the director hissed as all the hair-slash-ropes had been tidied off the stage, Rapunzel's parents ready to go and meet their daughter again.

"Ah, yes!" Prompto gasped and jumped to his feet, swaying after after he lost that much weight on his head with the much shorter wig now. He huffed, but straightened his back, ready for the next scene.

"Prom, wait," Noctis said as he caught his hand. "I... That kiss. I... I meant that," he said softly, the blush still high on his cheeks as he rubbed the back of his neck. His eyes darted here and there and maybe this was the worst moment to ask someone out, but Noctis had never been that great with his timing. "Let's... talk about it... later?"

Even as his feelings were still in a turmoil, Prompto registered the fact that Noctis wanted to go out with him somewhere in his brain and he grinned from ear to ear.

"Sure!" he beamed, just as the curtain was raised again and he had to go and greet his parents. Which was weird, because he had never felt strongly for his adoptive parents, nor had he ever known who his real parents were. Maybe he was a long-lost prince after all, but the chances were pretty slim. And time and time again he tried to forget that he needed to know his origins, that all that mattered was who he was now. But the thoughts remained.

The last scenes were over quicker than he thought, but at the end, he kissed Noctis again and it was great. They talked afterwards as they got undressed and by the end of the day, they were dating.

It was the best day in Prompto's life.

2.

This god awful war had broken out and Prompto found himself camping and fighting along his friends and, well, his boyfriend. Although he didn't really know if they were still going out, with that engagement to Luna going on and them on the way to see that damn marriage through to end this war. There were too many other things going on than to really think about romance and holding hand when they could be attacked by some rogue animals at any time. Or something worse.

Something worse had happened now, a bunch of Stonshears had kicked their asses to oblivion, and then had quickly singled out Noctis and now he was so badly injured that they needed a Pheonix Down to prevent the worst from happening.

This time, it was Prompto who was the closest, so he summoned the feather into his hand and just for the heck of it, he started singing the song from Tangled as he lifted Noctis up to rest his head in his lap while he pressed the feather to his chest.

They all had been stressed and Prompto thought that something silly might just pull them out of their foul moods.

There was a moment of stunned silence while he sang the first line and then, as the down started to glow with the words, he heard a snort behind him that was unmistakably Gladio's. Prompto grinned and sang a little louder, until he heard another snort, this time from Ignis.

"Dude..." Noctis groaned as the life returned to him. "You're a nerd, you know that?" Her turned his head and smiled up at the other.

"I know," Prompto grinned, feeling giddier than he had in weeks. Noctis' smile at him definitely helped to lift his mood. "I have a few potions for you to get you back on track as well, my prince."

Noctis blushed and turned his head away, just to glance up at Prompto through his bangs. "I told you not to call me that..."

"It would be king, after all," Ignis chimed in, making Prompto jerk up in surprise.

"Uh... yeah. My king, then," he corrected himself, but it only made Noctis blush harder before he sat up forcibly.

"Just 'Noct' is fine," he murmured as he helped himself to the potions that he had been given.

"Come on, you lovebirds. Let's go and set up the tent, you don't want to be too far away from the haven when the real bad guys are coming in," Gladio said with an eyeroll before he leaned down and helped Noctis to his feet, much gentler than his words might let on.

"I thought this was pretty bad," Prompto piped up as he jumped to his own feet, stretching his legs and his back as he did.

"Wait till you see a real life Ariadne, kid," Gladio laughed as he threw an arm around the blond's shoulders, making Prompto groan under the weight of it as he doubled over.

That was when Gladio was hit by the attack of another Stoneshears from the back. Given how he was pretty much in need of a potion himself, that attack took him down, just for Noctis to take down the Stoneshears afterwards with an angry growl.

"Here," Noctis said and tossed him something that Prompto caught wide-eyed.

It turned out to be another Pheonix Down and with a grin, Prompto lifted Gladio's head onto his lap and pressed the feather to his chest as he sang.

3.

What had started out as a messy but fun trip around Eos - like a bachelor party, really, no matter how much it hurt Prompto's heart to see his boyfriend off to meet his future wife - quickly turned downhill.

First they lost their homes, their king, Noctis lost his father and now their only hope to restore peace as they knew it had been to go to Altissia, meet Lady Lunafreya and have Noctis marry her. That had been the plan, but they were ambushed and separated, Noctis had been sent off on his own and then Luna had summoned Leviathan?

Before Prompto had managed to wrap his mind around the fact, he had hijacked one of Niflheim's weapons and steered it towards where Leviathan was wreaking havoc in the beautiful city of Altissia. And Noctis was right in the middle of it. So, it was Prompto's duty to come to his rescue with flying colors, no matter if he had stolen them from the enemy.

Noctis managed to defeat Leviathan, to calm her and add her to his summons along with Luna's spear.

However, there was no way to save Luna. Not with a Phoenix Down or whatever because she had already passed over to the other side. They retrieved Noctis lying next to her, more dead than alive himself and even as Prompto had tried to revive Luna with a Phoenix Down and hummed the song from Tangled, it didn't work. The feather didn't glow and nothing happened.

Noctis, on the other hand, just slept. Gladio - once they had met up again - told him about the sickness the prince had had as a child and how he had slept for days until he woke up suddenly. They still didn't know what had been the cause then, the king just happy to see his son on the road of recovery.

Sometimes, when it was Prompto's turn to sit at Noctis' side and wait for him to wake up, he would sing the stupid old song, and some other times, he wouldn't even notice he was singing that. It had become ingrained to his mind like second nature thanks to all the times recently they had to revive one or the other.

He even tried singing it for Ignis when they used the healing potion on him, and while Ignis accepted it the first few times, he raised his hand for Prompto to stop after he felt that there was no improvement on his condition anyway.

After Noctis had woken up again, Prompto caught him looking at the Ring of the Lucii longingly as he hummed the melody of the old movie. Not just once, but every once in a while when he wanted to check up on the prince's recovery.

Prompto never told him that he had caught him do it. It just added to his heartbreak.

4.

Cold...

So cold...

Not even that coat and the heavy boots Prompto had found somewhere were really able to help him against the cold.

And all of that just because he had not been good enough.

As if that had ever been anything new.

A part of him was almost sure that Noctis hadn't meant to push him off that train. Was almost sure that Noctis didn't hate him. Was almost sure that he had seen someone else during their fight on the train, on top of that train to Gralea...

Another part of him blamed himself for everything that happened. Noctis had been right to push him off that train, he was worthless anyway. They didn't need him, he would just hold them back.

He didn't even dare to think back to happier days spent in the cozy warmth of the prince's apartment.

Now Prompto was lost in the icy plains of Niflheim, in the middle of a blizzard and after days without food and nothing but snow for water, he could feel his energy fading.

"What a way to go," he huffed before he stumbled again and fell first into the deep snow. He tried to pushed himself up for a few more steps, even as the storm picked up, coming harsher and colder, making Prompto shiver and feel numb where the tips of his hair, eyelashes and nose were frozen already. His lips had been chapped pretty quickly anyway.

He knew it, he was too weak to get up. In his delirium, he saw some ships from the Niffs floating above him, several troopers coming for him.

This was the end. Finally.

~*~

It seemed as if destiny wasn't done with him yet. He woke, still cold, but not as cold as before, feeling stronger than he remembered. As his eyes opened slowly, he found himself lying on the metal floor of some facility, probably in the heart of Niflheim. Because seriously, where else could he be? His wristband was gone and he was both upset because it revealed the barcode tattoo on his right wrist and because he had really liked that wristband.

He pushed himself up onto his feet and took a closer look at his surroundings, finding nothing of interest there, but a door that was locked and a panel right next to it. He lifted his hand to examine it, but he didn't even touch it before it went off.

A disembodied voice sounded metallic through the room, scaring the shit out of Prompto as he tried to find the source for it.

"Scanning production code. Unit 05953234 confirmed. Warning: This unit has been compromised."

Well, at least the door opened. Prompto had so many questions, but at least there was a way now.

"Aw... she still remembers you after all these years," he heard how a painfully familiar voice drawled behind him, in the middle of that godforsaken room.

"What the hell-?" Prompto wanted to say, but the words got caught in his throat. Just the sight of Ardyn made him want to back off, draw his gun and shoot him.

But alas, he couldn't. No matter how he tried to draw his guns out with magic, he couldn't.

So maybe Noctis had severed all ties with him already. Not that he could blame him.

And then there was Ardyn with one of his guns in his hands, the one he remembered last seeing... On top of that train. While he was fighting with Noctis.

Then, Ardyn kept rambling on and on about how this was his 'home sweet home' and frankly, he had no idea what the hell he was thinking, this wasn't his home, he was from Lucis.

He was so flabbergasted that he didn't even think off shooting the bastard in the face before it was too late and he had disappeared, leaving Prompto to his own devices to shoot his way out of this 'First Magitek Production Facility' or whatever Ardyn had called his place.

Whenever he had to steal a rifle, a bazooka or anything else, he cursed the fact that he couldn't draw anything from Noctis' magic anymore. Instead, he had to carry everything around, all the heavy arms and he was sure that he would have been so much faster without them.

Every in a while he came across a vending machine that he could rest against and when he did, he tried to convince himself that not all was lost. That he was fighting to meet up again with Noctis and the others to make sure that they didn't hate him. Or that they hated him. Whatever, but he needed to know for sure and once and for all.

When the silence became too unbearable, he started humming that old familiar tune from Tangled.

5.

What a rollercoaster ride. Prompto was sure that if it hadn't been for Aranea, he would be dead by now, crushed or killed by some MT... or worse.

The flight from the factory alone with the snowmobile that he had gotten from the captain had been quite something, nothing like in the video games he and Noctis had played. Well, at least he didn't have to slide down the mountains with an inflatable boat or anything like that.

He had found the rendezvous-point easily and started up a campfire hidden in a sheltered almost cave where he waited for Aranea to come.

Now that he was alone with no imminent danger left and right, he started to think again. His mind was still a bad place, he realized, but all this new information was just... overwhelming. To think that he was the same as the MTs that they had battled so very often, clones of a madman, infused with Starscrouge to become controllable demons, in a lightproof armor so that they could walk around in broad daylight...

And then there was Verstael Besithia himself, the madman responsible for all of this. Prompto remembered exactly how he felt shooting the man in the face, seeing his lifeless form collapse backwards and then there was this creepy metallic voice again, speaking of "project Immortalis" and Prompto hadn't liked the sound of that one bit.

As he was waiting for the can of food to heat up against the fire, he thought about what Noctis and the others were doing right now. Were they looking for him? Had they arrived at Gralea? Why was Areanea there in the first place anyway? Why would she come to save him?

If any of them found out what he really was, they would surely abandon him. He couldn't even hate them for it. He would abandon himself if he could. He was the enemy, and he had killed so many of them himself during the past hours so easily. Shot them, sliced their throats so easily... It was like something out of a video game. 'Assassin's Creed - First Magitek Production Facility' or something. Noctis would love that game, now if only Prompto had one of those fancy hooded costumes, that would have been even better.

Snorting a dry laugh, Prompto picked up the food and deemed it ready, so he stirred it with his fork and took a bite to silence his growling stomach. Even though he shouldn't be bothered by the taste, he felt his stomach repulse the food almost immediately.

"Almost as good as what Iggy used to make," he sighed and then remembered that Ignis had - on top of everything - lost his eyesight. All while Prompto had been flying around with one of Niflheim's vehicles. And then there was Noctis fighting and winning, but Luna had died and what had Prompto himself done? Nothing.

He was useless.

A useless clone, a compromised unit, a failure, thrown away to be found by someone who brought him to Lucis, the son to adoptive parents who couldn't care enough about him to be by his side. Even Noctis had seen his father more often!

But no, he had no one to blame but himself. He was the one that was a mistake, the failure and all just because he couldn't be who everyone thought he was.

Maybe, just maybe, if that weird bar code on his arm was gone, he could be someone again, could be who he needed to be. It would be easy, he could just burn his wrist and then, the lines would be gone, would be at least turned into something unreadable.

The log was in his hands before he knew it and even though he hesitated, all that he could hear in his head were the lines of "Bring back what once was mine… What once was mine..." on repeat. They even managed to drown out the pain at once, but then it was bad. He's had worse, he knew it, but inflicting that kind of pain on himself was something else.

But it didn't help. The bar code was still there, etched into his now burnt skin, blisters all over the dark lines, even if they did nothing to conceal those black lines. Despite the pain, Prompto laughed, a dry sound over the broken record sound in his head.

"Oh dear, did you really think that would work?" Aranea asked, walking over with a potion ready in her hands that she broke over his wrist. As the pain disappeared instantly, Prompto was left to wondering where she had appeared from or why she was there.

They talked, or rather, Aranea told him to stop moping and then she told him she wanted to go back and attack whatever monstrosity they had built in that Magitek factory. But Prompto could care less. As much as he wanted to stop the danger from those MT soldiers and 'Immortalis', he could only think of what the others thought of him. That Aranea told him that Noctis had been so worried about him that he could hardly speak came as a surprise... One that warmed him up from the inside and made him remember happier times, warmer times, days spent lazing around on a large couch rather than in this icy cold on the ground... and yet, it threw him back to the point where he knew that he was the enemy, that he was nothing more than one of those MTs that they had slaughtered on each and every occasion.

He spilled his thoughts and Aranea shoved him and he let her. There was no need to get angry at her. She was right. All that he was thinking about was the others and he never cared about what he wanted. He fell in love with Noctis, but where had that gotten him? To a place where Noctis hated him so much that he had shoved him off a train, thinking that he was Ardyn.

"Think about what you're really after here!" she told him as she shoved him back on the cold hard ground and left.

Prompto stared up at the stars above and sang to himself.

6.

The next morning he awoke and everything hurt. At least he had come to the decision that he would at least try to help Noctis and the others before he faced them and the best thing to do that would be to eliminate whatever Immortalis was. He remembered the rendezvous-point with Aranea, so he drove towards it, just to find a Garulet that was under attack of a few Sabertusks, so he hurried to fight them off. Sure, Garulas were big and scary, but there was no reason to let one of their babies be attacked to uselessly. They just wanted to live their lives as much as anything!

"Hey, little guy. You're safe now, okay?" Prompto cooed at the young animal, which was still terrified. On a whim, he offered one of his ratio bars and after the beast had almost bitten off his arm, he was still glad to see that it seemed to have calmed down somewhat.

"Go back to your family! I'm sure they miss you!" he called after it before he remounted the snowmobile and drove back to his planned route.

However, there was something a little further up the hill that he couldn't quite ignore, so he parked his drive again and got up, finding one lone MT lying on the ground in the snow. It was obviously dead, or at least not dangerous anymore, so Prompto stared at it, wondering what he would see if he took off its mask. Would he see a face that looked like his? Much like those other clones in the tubes back at the facility?

He blinked and suddenly the scene changed, and he sensed danger before he could see it. There was Noctis, effortlessly drawing weapons out of thin air, coming at him with murder in his eyes.

"No..." Prompto protested and raised his hand, trying to stop Noctis. But then he saw that he was wearing one of the MT's armors, claw-like gloves to stop the sunlight from touching his skin. There was no way that Noctis would know it was him. All that he saw was an MT, something that he thought was a lifeless robot, mass-constructed in Nifelheim. And while that was technically not wrong, he wasn't a robot. He was a person. Human.

A failure because the Starscrouge didn't turn him into a daemon.

Prompto turned and ran. Ran until he heard a dog barking. Intrigued, he followed the sound of those barks, just to come across Pryna, all grown up.

She led him through the snow, to what he hoped was safety. But there were only more MTs, all of them dead. Except for one.

Instinctively, Prompto reached for his gun and shot it, even as he saw a vision of himself reaching out, but he couldn't stop. The MTs were the enemy and he had to kill them. As the MT fell, he found his younger self sitting there in the snow, curled up with his hands on his ears, trying to shield himself from everything and everyone.

And suddenly Prompto realized how far he had come. He wasn't this poor, heavy, little round guy anymore. He was tall, he had survived all on his own for so long, he had worked really hard to become the person that he was now and - if what Aranea had said was true - he now had people who wanted him back. And he would do everything to stay at their side. Staring at the pictures on his phone of Ignis, Gladio, Noctis and him, he wondered just how blind he had been not to see that their affection was genuine. To see that he was an important part in their lives. How had he forgotten that they were his friends? And friends didn't leave their friends alone.

With that new resolve, he pushed himself up, dusted the snow off his back and then found the snowmobile that he used to find Aranea. And just in time, too!

She smiled, and something told Prompto that she had been waiting for him.

They got onto the snowmobile together and Prompto was surprised that Aranea let him drive. But he felt as rejuvenated as never before, brimming with the kind of energy that he had rarely felt recently.

And thus, as they neared the entrance of the factory, he found himself singing with much more vigor and not in minor anymore.

They would take Immortalis down. For Noctis.

For his friends.

7.

Prompto remembered that he was still humming that one particular tune on his way to Gralea, Niflheim's capital. On the snow mobile. Wearing warm and pretty comfortable clothes and a beanie and...

Now he wasn't.

There must have been another accident, he must have misjudged the distance the snowmobile could take, what else could explain the pain he felt everywhere?

He was warm though, no icy wind biting at his nose, at his lips or any other spot of his exposed skin. It wasn't really comfortable, but at least it was one worry less.

There were, however, other things that were more than just a little uncomfortable. The shackles on his wrists for example, keeping him upright against a metal frame. The bar just at the back of his neck that had him in a constant bowing position or in a hell lot of pain from where the metal cut into his neck.

He struggled, naturally. His arms were strong, maybe there was a way to get out of those shackles. He would find a way out. He had survived so much, he would survive even more, he could do this because he needed to see Noctis again, needed to see that he was okay, that he could get to the Crystal because he couldn't take this anymore. The world needed saving and if Noctis was the one who could save it, then he would be by his side.

Just like he had promised Lady Lunafreya.

"Your mind... It's an interesting place," he heard Ardyn's voice, suddenly next to his ear and he would have jumped, if not for the fact that he was still shackled to that metal frame.

"Just like this place! Really, after you acquainted yourself with your old home sweet home the First Magitek Production Facility, isn't it nice of me to bring you here? Where your brothers are kept before they are deployed onto this world? This is Zegnautus Keep and, oh! Guess what? This is where we brought this godforsaken Crystal. Your friends should be here soon."

Ardyn's voice was like honey coating a cactus, Prompto thought. Soft and smooth on the outside, but his words aimed to prick you until you bled. No surprise that everyone fell for his traps.

"I wonder... What do you think they come for first? A lousy party member or the one thing you've been looking for ever since the poor oracle found her unsightly end?"

Prompto growled and glared at the man.

How was he supposed to answer that? There was no answer to something like this! The Crystal was important, they could find it, take it and then come looking for him, or maybe he had already freed himself by then and could join them on their own devices.

"You've still not given up hope, huh?" Ardyn purred, sending a shiver of the not-so-pleasant kind down his spine.

"Never!" Prompto spat, although he regretted falling for the chancellor's schemes.

"Oh? Well, I guess we'll see about that," the man drawled, the honey side of his voice turning into something rotten and disgusting that had Prompto shiver again. His eyes widened with fear as he saw something in Ardyn's hand appear, out of thin air, just like Noctis summoning his weapons.

All words got caught in his throat as Ardyn lifted a small, sharp dagger to his neck and pressed on. Prompto screwed his eyes shut and prayed that his end would come quickly, that he wouldn't have to suffer too much.

And then he was gone. Not just the dagger, Ardyn, everything. He was alone, strapped to a metal frame, already beat and battered.

Alone.

Before his thoughts could consume him, he started singing. His voice was weak, but it filled the silence and drowned out his fears and worries, at least for a bit.

~*~

The days blurred together with Prompto falling in and out of consciousness, sometimes with Ardyn there, sometimes with an eternity without him. Really, the blond had no idea whatsoever how long he had been there, strapped and suspended on this metal thing. Hours, days, weeks, months, maybe even years.

And his only hope was Noctis. Somehow he held onto the hope that Noctis would come to save him. Even if Ardyn kept torturing him - more mentally than physically - he knew he had to hold out until Noctis came for him.

One time, Prompto awoke from his delirium to the sound of Ardyn humming a tune.

The weird part was, it was a tune that Prompto was familiar with.

"Trust me, pet, mother knows best... mother knows best, listen to your mother... Oh! I forgot. You do not have a mother," Ardyn smirked and Prompto just so managed to glare at the man out of that swollen eye of his.

All the things that Ardyn did to him mostly managed to keep the wounds he already had open. His neck was raw already, just like his wrists. What little moving Prompto could do, hurt so much that he would rather not move and all. But not moving hurt even more, so Prompto continued to struggle every now and then.

"Tremendous movie, if you ask me. Don't look so surprised! When I heard you singing that tune, it sounded familiar, so I looked it up. Well. Not the song itself, but the story it told... Yes, I've been listening to you. All this time! I know you sing to silence your thoughts when I'm not here, but is it helping? Is it stopping you from giving in to the despair that your prince will never come? Or well, he is king already, isn't he?"

"Fuck... you..." Prompto spat, feeling anger boil his blood and he pulled harder on his restraints. This time, he felt them budge and a hot wave of hope flared up in him, making him struggle even more until Ardyn fixed his restraints again.

"Well, well... can't have you break free prematurely. How is he supposed to come in as you prince in shining armor when the princess managed to free herself? Trust me, there is nothing behind this door for you yet," Ardyn said as if he was talking about the weather.

Prompto wanted to do something, anything, but he couldn't even spit at him because his mouth was so dry. There was no saliva whatsoever left in his mouth and he was glad that he could still talk.

"Mother knows best, take it from your mumsy, on your own, you won't survive. Sloppy, underdressed, immature, clumsy... Please, they'll eat you up alive. Gullible, naÎve, positively grubby, ditzy and a bit, well, hmm vague. Plus, I believe, gettin' kinda chubby..."

Prompto closed his eyes and tried to drown out the man's voice.

If only Gothel didn't fit Ardyn so well...

8.

Everything had happened so fast. One moment, he was still hanging suspended, fighting off nightmares of Ardyn as mother Gothel, killing Noctis as Eugene in front of his eyes and no matter how much he tried to revive him with the Healing Incantation, he wouldn't come back to life. And in the next moment, the doors in front of him opened, Noctis storming inside, his face a mask of concern and worry and Prompto felt warmth spreading through him.

But then he quenched it quickly.

It had happened before.

He had thought Noctis had come to rescue him. And then it had been Ardyn all along.

He had screamed as Ardyn had laughed.

So, right now, he was sure that it was Ardyn again. Or at least he didn't want to let his hopes get too high.

But when Noctis pulled on his restraints and tried to get them loose with sheer force, Gladio right behind him and Ignis, still blind, was there as well.

Prompto wanted to cry.

They had come for him.

His friends had come for him.

He all but collapsed on the ground once he was free, Noctis coming down with him. It was nice to see that he was worried, but then again, you never knew for sure if you didn't ask, did you?

"Tell me... were you worried about me?" he asked as soon as he felt like speaking again.

"Of course I was... What kind of question is that?" Noctis replied, sounding a little suspicious, but at least Prompto was willing to accept this as the truth.

Breathing a dry laugh, Prompto managed to say, "Of course... that's why you came, like I believed you would," he said, doing his best to smile even though his whole body hurt, his face probably the most. Not to mention the many, many times that Ardyn hat told him his friends had abandoned him. Because he was useless, a failure, nothing.

"Prompto..."

"That's why I told myself I couldn't die!" Not here, not in the tundra of Niflheim. "Not until I could see you and hear you tell me I'm not a fake... That I'm the real me."

He could see that his words were hitting right home and he was sorry for saying them. Of course Noctis didn't hate him. They were friends and had been lovers once. Even though that felt like an entirely different life.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Prompto said quickly, managing a smile. "Everything is alright now."

Or at least he hoped it would be. Having his friends back was a good starting point, wasn't?

~*~

Things went downhill from there. In search of the device that jammed Noctis' magic so that none of them could draw their weapons nearby, they went on and on until they found a room that was locked where they couldn't get any further. Even when Noctis had upgraded his key card it wasn't enough. However, Prompto saw the console in front of that door and wanted to laugh.

Or cry.

Because he knew a way to open that door.

He stepped forward, lifted his right arm so that the console could read his barcode and the door opened with a low, metallic screech.

At the incredulous looks from his friends, he told them what he was. Not a human, but a clone, a failure. An MT, on top of that, born in Niflheim, the enemy.

It all happened so quickly even as Prompto expected his friends to abandon him. Noctis smirked at him and asked him what it mattered where he came from. Who cared that these MT got the same kind of bar code than him? Prompto was a royal citizen. Also, wasn't he the one who had never treated Noctis like a prince anyway?

Prompto could only gape. Sure, he had never treated Noctis like someone out of his world when he was after all, there had always been the fact that they were from different classes. He opened his mouth to protest, but when Ignis said, "Really, I don't see you betraying us now or any time in the future," he was rendered speechless.

And as everyone stepped past that previously closed door, Gladio leading Ignis gently, he found himself on the receiving end of one of Gladio's pats that didn't even make him budge anymore.

That was...

Wow.

The rest they had in one of these rooms with metallic bunk beds was the first real one Prompto had had in what felt like an eternity. Still, he couldn't sleep. Not yet. Ignis and Gladio were getting ressources somehow, from one of those vending machines they had seen on their way here and then there was Noctis, sitting down on the bed behind him.

He apologized for falling into Ardyn's trap. For hurting him.

It must have eaten him up alive, despite his earlier words.

So Prompto teased him for it, but his words and his tone didn't even convince himself. Noctis wasn't one to blame. They had both fallen into Ardyn's traps so easily, because that was just the kind of person the chancelor was.

"Once this is all over, I say we break down the borders... come together as one nation," Noctis said then, emphasizing his earlier words to Prompto by expanding them to everyone. "I mean, what does it matter where you're from anyway?"

Prompto stared at him over his shoulder in surprise, before he pushed himself to his feet, feeling his chest swell with pride and his heart flutter with his newfound affection.

"Y'know, I never thought I'd say this, but you sounded like a real king for a second," he said, his heart beating so fast he feared that it would jump out of his chest.

"Better late than never," Noctis shot back and Prompto's heart skipped a beat.

Ardyn wouldn't have been able to copy that. Noctis' awkwardness, the underlying determination, his effortless grace, hidden underneath the layers of a lanky teenager...

This was the man he had fallen in love with. The man he was so madly in love with still, whom he would protect with his life even if he hadn't been sworn to do it.

"I'm gonna make this world a better place. You with me?" Noctis asked then, turning his gaze at him and Prompto knew immediately what his answer would be, even if he was momentarily stunned into silence by the intense look in those grey eyes that Prompto didn't feel worthy to hold.

"Ever at your side," he said, his own eyes flickering left and right and that was that. He knew that Noctis was becoming the king his father had seen in him, and not matter what happened from then on, Prompto would be glad to have fought at his side.

Their last moment of peace and quiet was rather short-lived before they ran into the demonified version of Ravus. Defeating him was hard, but Prompto felt so much sympathy when the poor creature asked them to kill him. Had he been turned a daemon, he would have wanted his friends to kill him, too.

But that wasn't the end of it. Hordes and hordes of daemons followed, and Ignis' plan sounded so logical. They would hold back the hordes and Noctis would go on alone to find the Crystal, claim its power and save the world from the darkness.

Naturally, Noctis was reluctant to leave them alone, but what would it be? A few minutes? They could do that on their own, so Prompto had absolutely no regret when he told Noctis to go forth.

Gladio, Ignis and he fought and fought and then, suddenly, the monsters stopped coming, they were gone, so they hurried after Noctis. They found the Crystal, but there was Ardyn, Noctis was nowhere in sight. No matter how much Prompto looked, left and right and behind the suspended Crystal, Noctis wasn't there.

Ardyn told them that Noctis was inside. Inside the Crystal. Absorbing its power to come back - maybe - and defeat him.

So Gladio and Prompto did the only thing they could think of, they tried to kill Ardyn. By the Six, he deserved it! And damn, did it feel good to plant a bullet right into the back of the chancellor's head after all that Prompto had been through.

The chancellor fell face first, landing right next to the once perfectly polished shoes of Ignis, who turned his head only a little to regard the other man.

Somehow, Prompto had known it, but seeing Ardyn get back up, his face a grotesque mask marked by the Starscrouge and once he was gone, off the bridge, Prompto turned back to the Crystal. He tried to look inside, tried to do anything to get the Crystal down. But when he tried to break it with sustained fire, Ignis put a steady hand on his shoulder to make him stop.

That's when a dam broke in Prompto and he started crying, bawled his eyes out right there, he screamed and shouted, cursed Ardyn because he couldn't bear it anymore and then, when he felt almost numb to the world and could hear the daemons coming to them, he started singing on top of his lungs.

"Come on, kid, this isn't the time for games. We gotta get outta here!"

"Fuck you, Gladio, I know!" Prompto snapped and continued to sing.

"Prompto..."

"-CHANGE THE FATES' DESIGN, SAVE WHAT HAS BEEN LOST... BRING BACK WHAT ONCE WAS MINE!"

"You may hate me all you want, kid, but you're not gonna get yourself killed here!"

Gladio picked him up like he weighed nothing and while Prompto struggled, cried and sang, he could do absolutely nothing to get back.

9.

Prompto was angry.

No, he was entirely pissed off. If not to say he was royally pissed off.

How could they leave him like that? How could they have left Noctis behind, right in the middle of enemy territory, with his only protection being some ancient Crystal?

He was moping on the whole way back to Lucis in their captured airship, angry that he couldn't do anything, angry that he hadn't been able to stay by Noctis' side. It felt like some weird kind of deja-vu, the three of them sitting in silence, Gladio glaring daggers at him while Prompto glared right back at him. Just that the last time this had happened, it had been Noctis who had been moping instead of Prompto. And they had been on a train, not flying high up in the sky and just...

Prompto wanted to go home.

At least until he realized that he only place or people that he called home where these two guys and they were probably the last people on Earth that he wanted to see.

Thus, it wasn't all that surprising to none of them that Prompto ended up staying somewhere else than Gladio and Ignis. Especially Gladio, with his upfront and challenging personality was one of the reasons why Prompto couldn't stay with them. Of course, Ignis had done some research, told them it could take Noctis years to get out of that cursed Crystal. And no matter how hard Prompto tried to stay positive, he just couldn't. Hanging out with Talcott was good for him, Iris was nice as well, but with the sunlight gone they had to work on setting up light generators to save whatever they could of the crops and the animals.

Prompto went out to help Wiz with the chocobos, because he couldn't bear to see the large birds suffer. Plus, there was this little black baby chocobo that reminded him so much of Noctis and for a while, it helped to keep the pain at bay.

When it was sleeping time for the animals, he would sing for them. He was sure that they didn't understand the words of an old movie's fictional healing incantation, but they sure seemed like they calmed down and fell asleep easier when he did it. And Prompto certainly found sleep easier himself surrounded by the big birds.

Still, he had frequent nightmares that had him waking up with a scream, drenched in cold sweat, but most of the time, he didn't remember what it was. Was it endless fields of snow that slowly ate him up alive? Was it hordes of clones with his own face? Was it Noctis, coming after him with murder in his eyes? Was it his biological father, turned into a demon, trying to convince him that he should become his successor? Or was it anything with Ardyn, who tortured him, his friends, everyone he knew...

His nightmares were as manifold as his real tortures had been. He knew that he should see someone about it, but who cared about someone like him? Everyone had bigger problems than just one guy with one hell of a back story.

If only Noctis was there... At least they could have talked, could have shared their pain and maybe consult Ignis to help them overcome it.

But Prompto was stuck in a world where Noctis was caught in a Crystal, with no sunlight, no moonlight, no stars, just a vast, pitch-black sky and daemons running havoc on the lands.

Those who survived became hunters. Those who didn't become hunters stayed within certain cities, fighting off the hordes of daemons so that more of them had a chance of surviving, even if life didn't really seem like it was worth living anymore.

Sure, there were good things happening. Like Talcott growing up into a fine young man, brave, but kind. People were still falling in love, too, there were a few weddings, babies were born. Prompto tried to remember these things first and foremost, but sometimes it was hard to stay positive.

Many of the hunters he befriended in Hammerhead died a quick death or disappeared, just for someone to run into their remains on another hunt. That happened so often that Prompto decided to stay in Hammerhead for good while Gladio and Ignis went to Lestallum with Cid.

He tried not to think too much, because thinking meant despairing, wondering when Noctis would return was going to drive him mad, so whenever he found himself on the brink of doing any of these things, he drowned out his thoughts by singing a by now painfully familiar song. Sometimes louder, sometimes just a hum, sometimes he liked to punctuate his rhythm with gunshots as he was taking out daemon after daemon.

It were bad times. But when Talcott finally called him one day and said that he was back, Prompto felt like no time at all had past. Ten years had gone so fast, had caused him to grow up, to grow broader with every soiled life that he ended, yet in the end, he was still no match for Gladio.

All differences aside, they were still a team, sworn on protecting the future king and as long as Noctis was involved, they all got along great. It was just that they fell apart on their own.

10.

They all knew that Noctis wouldn't stay for good.

The ominous words from Ardyn in front of the Crystal ten years ago had been enough to make them realize as much, but of course Noctis had to tell them exactly what was going to happen during their last camp just in front of the former wall of Insomnia.

But this wasn't for them, this was for everyone. This was to bring the sun back and if they all had to go, then be it. It wasn't like Prompto hadn't thought of ending his misery life before. However, he had never been able to see it through, mostly because he needed to see Noctis again. Just one more time, just to make sure that he was alright, that everything would be going just as they had planned it.

Still, knowing that Noctis would have to sacrifice his life and his bloodline for all those who had sacrificed themselves for him... That was harsh. Harsh and unfair and all that anger that Prompto had directed at Gladio for saying the wrong thing at the right time came back to him, just that this time, he knew who was to blame.

So they fought their way to the citadel, fighting daemons eye for eye and tooth for tooth, until they found Ardyn sitting on the throne, several corpses hanging around him from from the ceiling. Luna, King Regis...

For once, Prompto was glad that he couldn't really react anymore after having seen so many bad things in his life, because he really felt like throwing up. But Noctis, who looked so much like his father with his beard, but still like himself, he held his head high and said, "Off my chair, usurper," and holy shit, if Prompto hadn't been so numb right now, he was sure that he would have gotten a massive hard-on.

And maybe, maybe, if he hadn't been so caught up in that thought, he might have seen it coming that Ardyn knocked them out, leaving Noctis to fight the man alone. When he came back to, Prompto briefly thought about how they hadn't really talked about personal things in private, but then again, it didn't matter anyway. What did it matter to bother with painful thoughts when all that they wanted was to stay close and in each other's company as long as they could. And Prompto wasn't selfish enough to take Noctis away from Gladio and Ignis and keep him to himself when they deserved just as much time together.

They woke up when Noctis told them that Ardyn was waiting for him to fulfill his destiny.

Prompto didn't like it.

But he said nothing.

Instead, they said their goodbyes at the foot of the staircase leading back up to the throne room.

It was all so eerily familiar, the day that king Regis had seen them off, saying those exact same words that Noctis was saying to them, and Prompto hated it.

He had set off as a young man who hadn't yet known his place in the world and now he knew exactly what he wanted, yet he wasn't allowed to do just that. He wanted to stay by Noctis' side, but there were daemons to fight, to be kept off Noctis' back as he went to see his destiny and that wish bubbled up in a few words to hold the other back.

But he couldn't do it. He couldn't be so selfish to risk the fate of the whole world for one private moment, so he just wished Noctis all the luck that he could before they all turned around.

And they fought. Fought harder than ever before in their lives, not really caring how the outcome would be. They just had to hold up until the first sunrise.

When it came and the daemons died and disappeared with inhuman screeches, Prompto collapsed, laughing as he dropped his weapons to his side without them disappearing again.

It was over.

Everything was over.

After so long.

And he was alone again.

His laughter died down and he bit his lip to stop the tears from coming. Instead, he got up and turned around, hurried up the steps to see if they could to the impossible after all and get Noctis back.

Not for the people of Eos, not even really for themselves, no, just for Noctis. So that he could see that he hadn't sacrificed his life in vain. Prompto was clutching a Pheonix Down in his coat's pockets, the one he had saved just for this day, just because. There was an Hi-Potion in his other pocket and while he was sure that neither of them would work after his weapons hadn't disappeared anymore, there was this spectre of hope that he had to cling to.

His muscles screamed in exhaustion as he hurried up the stairs and held his breath until he saw the body of Noctis sitting on the throne. He was slumped forward against the hilt of the sword of his father, which was lodged deeply into his chest, as if something had pushed it in there with a lot of force.

Prompto stumbled and fell over his own two feet, then hurried up the stairs, to lift Noctis' head against his shoulder. Then he broke the potion against Noctis chest and prayed that it wasn't too late.

His first indicator should have been the fact that the vial didn't glow anymore. But Noctis' didn't move at all, so Prompto realized that it didn't work and thus pulled out the Phoenix Down and held it against Noctis' chest, singing that stupid incantation out of a stupid reflex.

"Do you really think that's gonna work?!" Gladio yelled at him, but Prompto ignored him. He knew the big guy was in just as much pain as he was, he just showed it differently. Prompto liked to think that this would work, so he pressed the feather against Noctis' chest and sang. Vaguely, he was aware of Ignis on the other side of the throne, calling Gladio over to discuss something. He was sure that he also talked to him, but Prompto had shut down. He wasn't able to function. All he could think about was to focus all of his energy and his own life force to bring Noctis back to life, so he was glad that Ignis didn't really bother with him.

Then he felt it. The slow rise and fall of the other's chest, a sure indication that Noctis was - after all - still alive.

It was like a rock had been lifted off his chest and Prompto leaned in to press his lips to Noctis' hoping to share his breath through the gesture, so unbelievably happy that the other was still alive. He didn't even stop and bother as to why, he was just happy that he was still there.

"Hey..." Noctis said then, his hand cold on Prompto's wet cheek.

Prompto couldn't help it anymore. He hugged Noctis tight around his neck, just as Ignis said, "Gladio, now."

There was movement, a grunt, and suddenly Noctis was free and fell against Prompto's chest just to pass out again.

But he was alive.

Barely, and there was a hole gaping right in the middle of his chest, but Noctis Lucis Caelum, the King of Light, was still alive.

Prompto swore that he would never leave his side, so when Gladio lifted him up and carried him into the nearby chambers to put him on the bed. Ignis called on Gladio to bring him all the medkits that he could find while he told Prompto to stop the bleeding on most of Noctis external wounds.

Suddenly focused, Prompto asked what had happened, so Ignis explained it to him.

The Hi-Potion that he had thought he had wasted had restored at least some of Noctis' health, but that wouldn't have been possible of the sword that had been right inside of Noctis hadn't missed his heart by a hair's breadth. Of course, it had cut a few veins and arteries, but his heart had been unharmed, but the sword had pierced his lung, however, that's what the potion had healed. The rest, however, would be harder. The medkits Ignis had sent Gladio for were for taking care that Noctis' inner bleeding would be stopped as well, and Ignis needed Prompto's help for that. He needed him to be his eyes and hands, and just the thought alone made Prompto's hands shake.

Through some miracle though, he managed. Despite the feeling that his hands were shaking badly, Ignis and Gladio talked him through an operation to save Noctis' life - again - and Prompto wanted to see not one more drop of blood ever in his life again. At least no one had said anything when he had been humming the incantation again. He had stitched Noctis back together, sounding like a broken record, the operation a full success. However, it wasn't like Noctis woke up immediately, and Ignis had said that all that they could do from then on was to wait and let Noctis' body do the healing.

Prompto stayed by his side. He watched him sleep, for seven days and for seven nights, he didn't move from his side. He read him his favorite stories, his favorite fairy tales, told him about the progress Ignis and Gladio worked hard for to rebuild Insomnia. People were coming back to the city, tidying up where they could and news traveled fast. All over Eos, people celebrated each rise of the sun like it was a national holiday all over again, every single day. Even Prompto found himself looking out of the window, watching the sunrise each day, just a few minutes when his eyes would leave Noctis' sleeping face.

He completely forgot to eat on day 5.

It wasn't like he was planning on it, but watching Noctis had distracted him from the passing hours, from Ignis coming and going with full plates, until it was night again and Gladio all but forced some soup down his throat.

"We get you're looking after your weight, but you gotta eat anyway. Ignis is pretty pissed off, you know?"

"Sorry," Prompto mumbled around spoonful, his eyes flickering back to Noctis face and then the IV-infusion. They had to make sure that his body received enough nutrition. During the first few days, Prompto had also donated some of his own blood for Noctis in a direct transfusion which had left them both weak, but at least Prompto had been able to eat. With Noctis asleep however, he didn't have the luxury to eat Ignis great cooking, so they had to do something else. Thankfully, a real doctor had come over after two days, congratulating Ignis and Prompto of their great handiwork, which left the king with great chances to survive. He told them what else they had to do, how to make the right infusion, and helped them make an ointment to speed up the healing of the wounds on Noctis' chest.

Prompto had told Noctis about that, which felt good, although he had absolutely no chance of knowing whether or not his words reached the other's ears.

It was the eighth day after Gladio had lifted Noctis from the throne, the eighth day after the long night and Prompto had one of those moments where he started to lose hope. Luckily, it was also the moment Ignis chose to bring him food, so he was distracted for at least a few moments.

"You have to eat, you know?" the former advisor prodded him gently, and Prompto tried to smile.

"I'll eat later. Just leave it here, I... will eat it," he answered, because although he was really hungry, he knew he wouldn't be able to stomach anything in his current state.

"Just... do it, okay? Not like the other day," Ignis said, taking a moment longer to see how Prompto nodded before he took his leave.

There was movement on the bed, and Prompto's eyes widened comically as he realized that Noctis was waking up. Then he tried to speak, but since he hadn't had anything to drink recently, it sounded like a can being dragged over the sand of the desert. Prompto winced, but one moment later, he found himself sobbing into the king's shoulder, crying and laughing at the same time, even as Noctis managed a small, "Hey."

"You're alive!"

It seemed like this one last time, Rapunzel's incantation had worked. And no matter that Prompto knew how silly that thought was, he wanted to believe that just this once, his fairy tale became true.