Chapter 1: Empty Space Inside
The last time Prompto got sick he was eight years old and had some kind of chest infection. His mom stayed up late changing his sweaty pyjamas and reading to him. His dad made him soup the next day.
That was kind of his special talent after that. He never got sick. Noctis got wiped out three times by colds that went around school. He got food poisoning twice in the time Prompto knew him. He was apparently one of those people who just got sick. Prompto would come visit him and lie on the couch and help Ignis clean up dirty tissues. He never caught anything. He started to get this sense that maybe he was immune to illness, which is, in retrospect, probably not a great thing to be convinced of.
It was raining gently, but Prompto hunched deeper into Gladio’s jacket, and the longer he spent outside, the more he felt like the chill faded. Still, he felt sorry that the soup he was making (well, heating up) would be muddied with rainwater--but there wasn’t much he could do about that. A small noise from the tent caught his attention, and he quickly covered the pot and ducked through the open flap.
Gladio and Ignis were still dead to the world--no, uh, not that metaphor. They were still sleeping. But Noct was stirring, face scrunched up pitifully. Prompto crept over to him, careful not to disturb the other two.
“Noct? Hey buddy, how you feeling?” he asked softly. Noctis cracked open one eye.
“Mm cold. Urgh.”
This statement, based on a quick feel of his forehead, was factually inaccurate. Big time. But Prompto nodded.
“I know, don’t worry, I’m bringing you some soup soon.”
“Mmmrgh. No trick vegetables Iggy. M’serious this time.” Noctis already had his eyes shut again. Prompto brushed back the sweaty hair on his forehead.
“You got it, Noct.”
The air was bracing when he slipped back out of the tent, but at least the rain was letting up. He spooned soup into three bowls and carefully balanced them on a tray. Back inside the tent, Gladio was kicking off his blankets and Ignis was mumbling something about needing to “have a quick look at the map.” Prompto rearranged the blankets and carefully coaxed Gladio into drinking some soup, offering him sips of water.
When enough of the bowl was empty he moved onto the others, first Noct since he seemed momentarily more lucid (or at least compliant) and then Ignis. He was just backing up the bowls when he heard the familiar low rumble of a dropship passing overhead. Just passing, maybe. Headed with a destination in mind maybe. He shut his eyes and prayed to all the Astrals. The sound only got closer.
Time to quit wasting time. He shrugged off the jacket and exited the tent. The dropship was over the Southest treeline, but it was swinging back around--no doubt about it, they’d spotted the camp and were coming in. Prompto jogged out away from the haven before summoning his gun and chucking a grenade idly towards the trees. The sound and light from the explosion had the desired effect: it drew all the MTs to his location. Which was great, mission accomplished but then...he had to actually dispatch those MTs. He fired off three perfect headshots before one of them clocked him in the side of the head, and he had to turn a fall into a roll to escape being cleaved in two.
He had to fire three times to take out the nearest MT before it could swing its sword again, and there were more coming. It dawned on Prompto that there would be no Ignis shouting out which to target next, no Gladio taking out three enemies in one swing of his sword, and no Noctis warping across the battlefield to sheathe his knife into the chest of an MT before it had the chance to cut Prompto’s head off.
And that scared him a little, or a lot, but when he was in battle he was pretty much always operating on peak scared, so it was easy enough to shelve that fear into the back parts of his brain where it belonged, along with all the other muck he actively did not think about.
He focussed. Skidded and ducked and at moments ran for his life, working desperately to put enough difference between him and his enemies so he’s have time to take aim. He shot one of the MT’s point blank and felt metal shards dig into his cheek.
But there were two left now, so he shut one eye and fired, and then there was a single MT, charing at him. He fired four times. The recoil from this many successive shots felt like it was tearing his shoulder apart. Empty armor hit the ground.
Okay. The rest was easy. He trudged back to the haven, slapped a few bandages over the sluggishly bleeding cuts on his face and arms--he didn’t even remember getting most of them. Pulling the metal shards out of his face wasn’t particularly fun, and he thought of fishing a potion out of the trunk. But they could be ambushed again, and the others were much more likely to get hurt in there state. It was too much to risk over some small cuts and bruises.
He checked on the three again, pressed a damp cloth to Ignis’ face to try to bring his fever down. He fixed Noct’s blankets.
It was spitting outside, but not raining. Prompto tucked his legs up to his chest. The sleeping bag kept out most of the chill from the ground, and Gladio’s jacket was big enough that he could hide his hands in the sleeves easily.
It was certainly warm inside the tent with three fevered bodies sleeping in there. But his added body heat was just one of the reasons he couldn’t risk sleeping inside. Someone had to be on watch. And if he got sick too, what use would he be? Their whole party would be defenseless.
Prompto drifted off while the moon was setting and woke up before the sun rose. The sky was the boldest blue he’d ever seen, an ethereal color that made him feel infinitely small. He crawled back into the tent quickly to check on the others. Noct and Gladio were fast asleep but Ignis was tossing and turning again. Prompto retrieved his cold water from outside and replaced the bowl he was using for damp cloths. Ignis opened his eyes while Prompto was dabbing his forehead and cheeks, and there was recognition there which stilled Prompto’s pounding heart and quieted some of the terror thrumming in the back of his mind.
He made soup again, this time from scratch. It probably tasted nothing close to Iggy’s recipe, but it was at least hot. The rain had finally let up, hopefully for good. He ladelled out three bowls with stiff fingers, but the sun was warming up the haven. He stifled a yawn for the third time. The bandages itched where the adhesive clung to his skin, but changing them seemed like too much of a hassle. Instead, he retreated into the comfort of the tent to make sure his friends were fed and comfortable.
Ignis opened his eyes to the ceiling of the tent. There were water droplets clinging to it, as if a soft rain had fallen, but he didn’t hear anything besides Noctis and Gladio’s breathing. He squinted at the ceiling for a minute before rolling onto his stomach to pat around for his glasses. Once he’d located them, and felt steady, he exited the tent, hoping to find out where Prompto was. For the last… however long, he’d been drifting in a thick haze, drowned in heat or chilled to the bone, and his throat was raw and his head packed with cotton. But the cool air hit his face and he felt instantly cleaner, more open, ready to stretch and clear his throat and move.
He found Prompto immediately. He was sitting outside the tent with his knees to his chest, drowning in Gladio’s jacket. Ignis put a hand on his shoulder, still working to blink sleep from his eyes.
“Prompto,” he said hoarsly.
“Iggy! You’re up!” Even through the blur, Ignis could see a wide grin spread over Prompto’s face. That wasn’t all Prompto was wearing though. Ignis cupped his jaw and tilted his head so he could get a better look.
“Oh! You wouldn’t believe--a dropship came down so I chucked this grenade right into the woods, and it was like: blaaaamf , and then I was like, come get me, suckers!” Prompto launched into a slightly meandering recount of what happened, but the gist of it (rather distressingly) seemed to be that he took on a whole dropship of MTs and then marched back up to the haven without even using any curatives.
“Why didn’t you use a potion?” Ignis asked, getting up to see what the food stores were like, and whether he felt up to cooking or not. Prompto just shrugged easily.
“One of you guys might have needed it.”
Ignis surveyed the mess of the folding table. He frowned.
“Prompto, what is this?”
“Oh, shit, sorry about the dishes. I was gonna do them, but since the sun came up I thought I would nap for a bit.”
Ignis fixed him with what he hoped was a stern no-nonsense look (hoped, because he was guessing his hair was pretty greasy and he couldn’t bear to think of the state his ensemble was in).
“No, I was--why are there only three bowls?”
Prompto actually looked bewildered for a second, like Ignis had spoken another language. He blinked.
“Because there’s--oh!” He let out a half-laugh and rubbed the back of his head like he was embarrassed. “I totally forgot to eat.”
Ignis looked down at the bowls, and then spared a glance back at the tent, where he could see Gladio and Noct stumbling through the open flap. Prompto nudged him almost painfully gently in the ribs.
“Probably tasted like crap, haha. I wouldn’t wanna eat my cooking anyways. Lucky for you guys you weren’t exactly lucid.”
“Hey, Specs, you feeling better?” Noctis called, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his palm.
“Very much. If you’re up to packing up camp, I’d propose breakfast, and then we can finally turn in this hunt and perhaps splurge on a hotel room for the night.”
“Uh, yeah, sleeping in a bed for humans sounds very good,” Noct said.
“I second that,” Prompto put in.
“Normally I’d say you two aren't enjoying camping, which builds character, but I honestly need a shower.”
“Uh, yeah you do, big guy,” Noctis scoffed. Gladio grabbed him in a lazy headlock and when he squawked Ignis had to turn away to disguise his laugh.
Prompto dropped into a chair by the dwindling fire, looking flushed and satisfied. Noctis came over to ruffle his hair.
“Hope we weren’t too much hassle for you,” he said, as Prompto was batting him away.
“What? Naaah, I had it totally under control.”
Ignis glanced his way out of the corner of his eye, but didn’t say anything. It was true, anyways. Prompto had performed more than admirably. It was possible that they had underestimated him, what felt like a thousand years ago, when Noctis first proposed he join the crownsguard.
The regalia hummed along the road and Ignis hummed gently along to the song quietly drifting from the speakers. Noctis was asleep in the back last he checked, and Gladio was reading. Prompto was curled up against the door with his head pillowed on his arms. He didn’t stir once the whole ride into town.
Chapter 2: Ugly Notions Within
A soft spoken “Excuse me,” from behind him alerts Prompto to the fact that the cashier is waving him up to the counter, and has been doing so for an unclear amount of time.
“Shit, sorry.” He gives the elderly woman behind him a smile he hopes is grateful and apologetic.
“Just the potions?” the guy asks, taking out a plastic bag.
“Yeah, that’s it.” Prompto drums his fingers on the counter and slides over his gil as soon as the total flashes up.
It’s raining harder when he gets outside, hard enough that he has to squint to see the regalia where it’s parked on the other side of the road. He wraps one arm around him and clenches the plastic bag tighter in his grip. He left his vest in the Regalia, and he knows it wouldn’t provide much warmth, but fuck, he’s cold. And he can’t seem to keep the world straight--probably because his head’s been pounding all day.
It takes a few minutes for a gap in the traffic to appear, just long enough for him to get soaked all the way down to his boxers. Nice . He skids over the wet pavement and heaves open the back door, sliding in beside Noct and shaking his hair out.
“Fuck, Prompto! You’re wet as shit!”
“Did you get them?” Gladio asks, twisting around in the driver’s seat. Guilt coils and squirms in Prompto’s guts, but he bites it back and forces a neutral expression.
“Yeah, they had lots.” He plucks two out for Noctis and then passes the bag over and watches Ignis try not to squirm as Gladio pours first the elixir, and then the potion over his injured leg. Noctis crushes the bottle immediately and flexes his hand where the wound is healed--he cut himself on his own blade, distracted by Ignis’ cry of pain.
“Urgh, thank the Astrals, I was seriously tired.”
Prompto chews his lip. It’s one thing to fuck up and get yourself hurt. He knew they’d been worried about that before setting out, that he wouldn’t be able to handle himself in a fight. But this was a new low. Ignis got shot because Prompto missed.
He fucking missed. When you’re the prince of Lucis, you can take a swing and fuck up. When you’re the king’s advisor, with inhuman strategy abilities, you can miss (although Ignis never did). When you’re built like a brick shithouse and you could roundhouse kick a daemon to death on a good day, you can miss, on occasion. But Prompto is just a guy with a gun. That and his witty repartee are literally all he has to offer. So he doesn't miss. Ever.
Except that he does, apparently. Apparently he wakes up in the hotel with Noct drooling on his shirt and a splitting headache. Apparently he spits foul tasting mucus into the sink. Apparently he falls asleep in the car (somehow) on their way out to the hunt. And apparently, when Ignis cries out: “Prompto, now!” in the middle of battle, and he is supposed to blow the head off the MT before it can apply its sword to any part of Ignis, he misses.
He wants to disintegrate in the car and be whooshed out onto the rain-slick street when Ignis cracks one eye open and sighs.
“Well that was less than pleasant,” he says. Prompto wants to speak up, now is the moment, but he doesn’t know what to say. He can’t even think how to begin to phrase it.
“How’s it feel now?” Gladio asks.
“It’s fine. I can walk on it.”
“We’re driving anyways,” Noct says. He has his face buried in his phone, and his brows are pulled together. Prompto knows stressed Noctis when he sees him. Probably watching his advisor get shot hasn’t helped. Cutting his hand definitely didn’t. Running out of curatives because of Prompto’s stupidity? Oh yeah, that was up there too.
“I’m sorry. I thought I had that shot,” Prompto manages to get out. He’s silenced almost immediately by the look Ignis turns to give him.
“Yes, well. Next time let’s all work on our communication a little better, shall we?”
“Communication? He needs to work on his aim,” Gladio scoffed. Prompto feels like his organs are pinned to the back seat of the Regalia, like a butterfly on a corkboard. Yeah, that’s how he feels. Vivisected.
“Nobody can hit every shot. That’s impossible,” Noctis says. Presumably he misses the look that Gladio and Ignis exchange. Prompto doesn’t. In fact, he recognizes it. He saw Clarus give the King that look. He saw his mother give his father that look. He’s even seen it on Gladio and Ignis before, when Noctis was grinning at them, rambling about how great it would be if Prompto was on the crownsguard.
“Just drive please, Gladio,” Ignis says. Gladio starts the car. The guilty feeling twisting Prompto’s stomach doesn’t go away, but instead grows stronger as they pull away from the lonely gas station. Rain streams down the windows. Noctis falls asleep within minutes. It gets hot in the car, so hot that Prompto wants to ask Ignis or Gladio if they would turn off the heat. But at the moment, if he sees that look again, he feels like he’s gonna puke. So instead he leans his head against the cool glass of the window and tries to tone out the headache as it gets stronger.
After what feels like a thousand hours, he actually clears his throat to say something, but Ignis beats him to it.
“It almost seems a waste of money, doesn’t it?” Ignis’ expression is distant, half-absent. Gladio snorts, but Prompto sees his knuckles go white.
“You gotta be kidding me. As if we could set up the tent in this. And we deserve a break. You deserve a break.” Gladio’s eyes flick up to the rearview mirror when he says this. They meet Prompto’s, and instantly he feels his words slide back down his throat like hastily swallowed bile.
“Y-yeah, Iggy. You deserve a break.” He wants to throw another apology out there. But he just--just can’t. Plus he feels like any more talking and the carpets of the Regalia may be in real danger. So he stays silent for the rest of the drive.
Tensions remain about as strained when they get back to the hotel, so Prompto volunteers himself to go pick up food (Ignis isn’t cooking, obviously). The idea of food is less than exciting to him, but the idea of getting out of the room, not having to feel the others specifically not looking at him and carefully not talking about what a fuck-up he is--well shit, that’s extremely attractive.
It’s still raining, but he never dried off in the first place, so it doesn’t feel like the insult getting soaked usually seems like.
He spends a long moment staring down a display of individually-wrapped sandwiches. The world shifts uncomfortably on its axis. His vision greys out at the edges. Okay, time to go. He picks a few randomly, pays and ducks back into the rain.
Noctis is lounging on one of the beds when Prompto comes in looking like a cat that got sprayed with the hose. Eyes wide, cheeks flushed, expression like a shaken etch-a-sketch. Noctis can’t help but laugh. The mood’s been tense all day--heck, it’s always tense lately. Watching Prompto struggling out of his soaking boots just makes an easy laugh rise up in Noctis’ chest. It’s like they’re back in high school. Like there’s nothing to worry about except what Ignis will say about the state of the carpet.
“It’s coming down out there, huh?”
“Yeah. Big time.” He shakes his hair out just like he did in the car--see, this is why Noctis can’t stop comparing him to cuddly animals. Then he drops the food on the table and makes a beeline for the bathroom.
“Anyone mind if I shower?” he says.
“Ignis was about to get in,” Gladio says. Ignis, who is on the bed peeling off a sock that is slightly damp with blood, grimaces. Prompto’s expression flickers for a second, for a moment he’s devoid of any emotion. And then it’s back to the casual, if somewhat sheepish, expression he’s had on since he first got back to the car with the potions.
“Oh, okay then!”
“If you’d like to go ahead of me--” Ignis begins wearily, but Prompto cuts him off.
“No, no, I’m totally good. Just didn’t wanna get anything dirty, but it’s not like there’s blood I need to… wash off or anything so… yeah.”
Noctis finally heaves himself up off the bed and wanders over to dig through the sandwiches Prompto has procured for one without any veggies. He finds it relatively easily (chickatrice and cheese). It’s sort of soggy, in the way all pre-packaged sandwiches are. Gladio devours one and then goes back to doing push-ups. Trying to beat his training record or something else equally over-the-top.
Prompto sits at the table with his knees tucked up to his chest and chews on his thumbnail, tapping idly through shots on his camera.
“Get anything good?”
“Not today,” he says, and Noctis notes that his voice sounds odd--almost thicker, or raspier. Almost like he’s sick, which would make sense considering the nightmare virus that knocked the rest of them flat for three days. But for one thing, if he was going to catch it, wouldn’t he be sick already? And for another thing, it was Prompto. Prompto straight up didn’t get sick. Sure, he was a sympathy puker, and he had fainted at least once in the time that Noctis had known him, but he didn’t get sick. He just didn’t. He spent a whole week at Noct’s apartment when he was laid up with the plague from hell that went around school, and he never so much as sneezed.
So Noctis concludes that Prompto was probably torn up about something else, which is much harder because he knows at least the bare minimum about taking care of sick people (fluids were involved, almost certainly) but he always feels like he knows less than nothing when it came to trying to communicate with people about problems.
And while being friends with Prompto had helped him get over a lot of his social hangups, it hadn’t really helped with conflict-resolution because he and Prompto essentially never fought, except for the odd feud over the nicknames in the group chat or Prompto teaming up with Ignis to trick Noct into eating vegetables.
So he eats the damp sandwich and then escapes by going to bed early. He thinks he probably won’t be able to sleep with all the lights on and people moving around the room as Ignis is emerging from the bathroom, and then he conks out.
When he wakes up, he’s drenched. It feels like he lay down in a puddle from how soaked the back of his shirt is. For a second, he’s bewildered. He thinks that there’s a hole in the tent. But then he remembers they aren’t in the tent. They’re sleeping in a hotel room. He shifts a little and his shirt almost audibly peels away from his back. He’s sweating, he realizes, and he’s incredibly warm. Or rather, he’s pressed up to Prompto, who is radiating heat like a dying star.
He rolls over so they are face to face, and presses a hand to Prompto’s burning cheek, and then his forehead. His hair is damp with sweat.
“Prom,” Noctis whispers. Prompto doesn’t stir. Noct can feel his heart crawling up towards his throat, so he extricates himself from the covers and flicks on the light. At a second thought, he tugs the covers off of Prompto too, who finally stirs, curling in on himself. His face is screwed up like he’s in pain. For a second Noctis is stalled, frozen part way to reaching for Prompto, trying to think what he should do next.
Then there’s a groan from the next bed.
“What the fuck, Noctis?” Gladio hisses.
“We got a problem,” Noct says. He watches Gladio crack open an eye, and then haul himself out of bed with a scowl.
“We got lots of problems.” But when he lays eyes on Prompto’s flushed face, the scowl drops away.
“Yeah, we got bad fucking problems,” Noctis says.
It was supposed to be a two-shot but guess what, i got really sick and i was too tired to write the comfort. so the comfort is later, please forgive me.
Noctis steals another glance at Prompto before his eyes slip back to his screen.
“Hey, whatever you’re moogling is going to be less helpful than getting him to an actual doctor,” Gladio says, leaning over the back seat. Noctis stows his phone but gives Gladio a pained look.
“I was looking up how to check someone’s temperature.”
“You’ll find that human sense of touch is woefully inaccurate when it comes to estimating the severity of fevers,” Ignis chimes in. There’s a chastened silence.
“But it’s not good, huh?” Noctis says. Ignis steals a glance in the rearview mirror, but Noctis sees him do it--he’s strictly checking for cars before switching lanes.
“Probably not good,” Gladio says. Noct presses first his palm and then the back of his hand to Prompto’s cheek. Whether he’s any better or not is absolutely opaque. But his breathing sounds like each breath has to run through a soaked sponge, and even in the dim moonlight Noctis can see how flushed he is.
“Should we be looking for a hospital instead? What if the clinic can’t do anything?”
“I don’t think Prompto is in mortal danger, Noctis. But I also think it would be unwise to wait until morning to get him to a doctor.”
“Noctis I hope the next words out of your mouth are not going to be ‘there yet’ because forgive me, but I will lose my composure.” Ignis keeps his eyes fixed on the road. Gladio makes a sound suspiciously close to a laugh. Noctis snaps his mouth shut. Prompto stirs in his lap.
“Ngh. Five more minutes.”
“Prompto,” Gladio says, in his not-asking tone. Prompto cracks an eye open. It looks like a monstrous effort.
“Prom, how do you feel?”
In lieu of a response, Prompto lets his eyes slip closed and flashes a weak thumbs-up. Noctis doesn’t grind his teeth, because he does not do that anymore but he sure thinks about how good it would feel about now.
“I’ll be right there just give me a minute,” Prompto mumbles, and Noctis snorts. It’s almost funny, and then it’s also...well, it feels like there’s ice in his guts, like his chest can no longer contain all the organs inside it with the same ease it generally does.
“Hey. Try to wake him up properly,” Gladio says. Noctis give Prompto’s shoulder a shake, and then his eyes are open again. He takes a breath that makes it sound like his lungs went through a cheese grater. Noctis winces.
“Hey buddy,” he says. “Do you know where we are right now?”
Prompto glances up.
“We’re in the car?”
“Wha’ happened to the hotel?”
“We had to leave because you’re sick.” Prompto’s eyes widen, and Noctis actually has to pull back fast so their foreheads don’t crack together, because suddenly Prompto is very invested in sitting up.
“Whoa buddy,” Gladio says.
“We--I--no, I’m fine,” Prompto says.
“I beg to differ,” Ignis counters without hesitation. But Prompto is making a face like someone just kicked his puppy and his hands are balled into fists in his lap, but he’s shivering all over, and hiss arms are trembling.
“Ignis aren’t-aren’t you tired? We don’t have time for this,” Prompto says. This time the look in the rearview mirror is for Noctis. It’s one raised eyebrow. He tries not to cringe.
“Prom. You’re sick.”
“I’m fine, dude you’re overreacting.”
“You’re like really fucking sick.”
“Yeah but I…” Prompto sags in on himself a little. “I’m slowing us down,” he says, really softly, so soft Noctis almost can’t make it out over the sound of the engine. And he knows that Ignis and Gladio couldn’t hear it, because neither of them turn, and neither of them speak. Prompto is still sagging, so Noctis puts his hands on his shoulders.
“Were you sick the whole time? Since me and Iggy and Gladio?” Noctis whispers.
Then Ignis makes a sharp intake of breath and Gladio says: “Oh fuck.”
Noctis looks up the second before Ignis slams on the brakes and Noctis’ face smacks into the back of the headrest in front of him, but he manages to throw out an arm to keep Prompto from slamming face-first into the center console. There’s a red giant rising out of the shadows just beyond the reach of the headlights. In a moment, its flaming sword throws the trees around them into stark relief and draws shadows where before there was soft empty night.
Noctis has his fingers clenched in the fabric of Prompto’s shirt. He doesn’t realize it until Gladio is hopping out of the car and Ignis is pulling his weapon from the Armiger and they both look back to him.
Right. Because he’s leading the fight.
“Prom sit tight, okay?” he says, but he can’t stick around to wait for acknowledgement, he has to warp out into the space between the impending daemon and the Regalia.
The fight is longer without Prompto. It’s harder without him, and then Noctis is dodging the sword as it comes down and Gladio takes his swing. This is the moment. But he realizes too late there will be no one to take the shot, and when the thing rears back up they’re all dead, because there’s no time and then.
Then the shot rings out in the dark and the giant staggers just like it was supposed to and Noctis makes the warp strike, and the thing goes down, but he doesn’t wait to see it. He turns back to find Prompto leaning on the hood of the car, gun still in hand and one eye still shut.
He’s sagging, like his knees are giving out under him.
“Noctis,” Ignis calls sharply, but Noct is already warping, and he catches Prompto before he can topple forward into the dirt.
“I got you,” he says. In a minute Gladio is there and the two of them help Prompto back into the car. He’s really flagging now, almost as limp as he was when Noctis woke up in the hotel. That was maybe an hour ago, but it felt like a week. This time Noctis takes the front, but he twists around in his seat while they’re waiting for Ignis to jog back over.
“Can’t believe we pulled that off,” Prompto says. Noctis watches Gladio press a hand to his forehead, and his frown deepens.
“Pretty hot there buddy,” he says.
“Hey you don’t look so bad yourself, big guy,” Prompto shoots back, but he says it with none of his usual enthusiasm.
“For the record, don’t think you’re not in shit. You were definitely supposed to stay in the car.”
“Ooo sorry for saving your asses.” Prompto takes a wheezing breath and then coughs. Gladio gives Noctis a look that he would call panic if he didn’t know that the big guy never panics.
“Yes, that was quite a shot,” Ignis says, ever the diplomat.
“You still awake?” Noctis hears Gladio asks softly. Prompto hums in response.
“Iggy can we go?” Noctis says, which is pointless because it’s not like Ignis can start the car faster, and it’s probably a good thing he’s not driving because, well, he speeds a little on good days.
As it turns out (although Noct might have guessed this) there are situations in which Ignis Scientia will break the speed limit.
Despite his efforts though, the sky is beginning to lighten by the time they arrive at the clinic. The doctor, clearly coming off a night shift, gives Prompto little more than a once-over.
“He’s dehydrated, exhausted, I’d say even a little malnourished. But besides fluids there’s not much we can do here. I’d recommend a hospital but...his fever’s already down, it should keep dropping. Obviously if it doesn’t we’ll keep him longer, but like I said...” She gives Ignis an almost pained look--maybe just exhausted. Before Noctis can open his mouth to say that doesn’t matter, Ignis nods.
“You may as well discharge him into our care then,” he says.
“Fluids and then take him home, provided he perks up,” she says. Noctis is already abandoning that conversation to retake his seat in an incredibly uncomfortable chair beside the curtain partitioning Prompto off from the rest of the clinic.
Prompto’s passed out on his side, still in his clothes, blanket slipping down off his shoulder. Gladio wanders back over to tug it back up before Noctis can get up, and then he gives Noctis a nod and says he’s going outside to get some air.
Noctis waves him off. His eyes are slipping shut almost, but he doesn’t want to sleep. In a few minutes a nurse comes in to hang an IV bag.
“I’m gonna get you out of here by six, okay? If we’re lucky,” he says. Noctis nods. Ignis comes over and then leaves to find Gladio. Noct rests his chin in his hand.
“Hey, Noct?” he hears from the bed. He’s on his feet so fast it almost makes him dizzy.
“You mad at me?” Prompto’s face is still flushed, but he looks a little better already. Noctis wants to touch his cheek, but he can’t--he doesn’t know how to make himself reach out, and it seems so awkward .
“No? Why would I be mad?”
“Just… I’ve been kinda useless lately,” Prompto mumbles, like he’s saying it to the paper sheet beneath him. Noctis blinks. It’s like getting slapped in the face.
“Is that what you call taking care of me and Specs and Gladio? Useless?”
“Fighting off MTs on your own?”
“I didn’t know you knew about that, actually.”
“Yeah, well, Specs told me.” Noctis goes back to grab the chair and drags it up so he can sit next to Prom instead of towering over him. “Not to mention the red giant. I honestly thought we were toast for a second there.”
“Huh, if Cor could see me now. Well, maybe not right now.” Prompto rubs one eye.
“You should sleep if you’re tired,” Noctis says.
“Do you tell yourself that every time you get in the car?”
“Not every time.”
“Most times,” Prompto mumbles. He’s smiling. His hair is falling across his face, a little sweep of gold. But as they sit in silence, the smile slips, and Prompto glances behind him at the machines, the IV, the water-stained ceiling. “I hope this isn’t costing us a whole day. What time is it?” he asks. Noctis has to take a calming breath (advice from Ignis he is following for the first time in his life).
“You should have said something.”
“All this… this could have been way worse. Ignis, or-or you…” Noctis can’t put that into words, not quite. Not now anyways. Prompto gazes up at the ceiling.
“I know. I fucked up.”
“I’m not mad at you.”
“You could be. You should be.”
Noctis glares down at the paper sheet, and the plastic underneath, and the off-pink linoleum floor.
“You really scared the shit out of me, you know that?” Noctis says. Suddenly it’s easy to reach out, and he brushes Prom’s hair out of his eyes. Prompto presses up into the touch like a kitten, so Noctis just leaves his hand there, feeling a little awkward. It’s worth it when Prompto reaches up to grab his hand and sighs.
“Don’t worry, you can’t kill me. I never get sick.”
“Yeah, clearly,” Noctis snorts, and then a shaky laugh bubbles out of his chest, and he’s so flooded with relief he’d have to sit down if he wasn’t already sitting.
In three minutes Gladio comes back with Ignis in tow. In an hour, true to his word, the nurse unhooks Prompto’s IV and they discharge him.
It’s six am when they get out, and the sun is coming up proper. Ignis puts the top up before they get in, and Noctis assumes it’s so the ride will be quieter, but as they’re pulling out onto the road the first raindrop begin to fall. Prompto leans on Noctis’ shoulder, and Noctis presses his forehead to the window. It feels almost like they are going home after a long trip, and the notion makes Noct so sad it almost physically hurts him.
But in another second, as more drops cut sharp little lines across the window, he feels better by an inch, and it’s another inch after that.
[obligatory comedic apology for taking a long time]
here we arrive at the end, friends. Huge thank you to everyone who commented and of course to my beta, Avarii without whom this chapter would be 500 words
thanks for seeing the paint trilogy to the end
if you'd like to hear me complaining about tinnitus and the frequency with which i hit my knees on my desk, come on down to my tumblr, which is here