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Words of Affirmation

Chapter Text

"Holy shit, Noct!"

"Language," Iggy said from across their swanky hotel room.

Prompto ignored him, jabbing at his phone. He took advantage of the opening Noct had created, launching an attack against the boss they were fighting. It had them on the ropes, but Noct's sweet combo had given them the chance to make one last push. "C'mon, c'mon ..." They were so close, but if the thing got in one good attack ...

The screen went blue, and triumphant music played.

"Yes!" Prompto launched himself out of his chair, pumping his fist in the air. Then he whirled on Noctis. "Dude, that was incredible! You saved our butts. Snatched victory from the jaws of defeat."

Noct shrugged. "It was just a limit break."

"Your timing was perfect, and you absolutely sniped him! Noct, buddy ... you are the MVP. You're my King's Knight hero."

Noct shook his head, but he also blessed Prompto with a small smile. Prompto beamed back at him. He'd just hit his quota.

Noct was super stressed out by their trip and his impending wedding – which, you know, relatable - so Prompto had made it his personal mission to extract three smiles from Noct each day of their journey. He had a perfect record so far, and tomorrow they were going to get on the boat for Altissia.

He was gonna run the table.


Of course, Prompto hadn't planned on Insomnia falling. Obviously.

And everything was terrible, for reasons way more important than some stupid game he'd made up in his head. But Prompto would always remember that one of the casualties of the fall of Insomnia was Noct's smile streak.

---------

After a full night and day of plundering tombs - because apparently that's what they did now - and creeping through a creepy mine and fighting giant creepy-crawlies that had definitely not been on the Crownsguard recruitment pamphlet, they were finally at camp. Ignis was cooking something that smelled awesome - that was an unexpected perk of having to sleep on the ground - and Gladio was chatting with Ignis while doing one-armed pushups. He wasn't even breathing hard. The jerk.

Prompto was curled up in a camp chair with a blanket and the warmth of the fire wrapped around him. He'd spent the last fifteen minutes trying to decide if he could get away with a quick nap in the tent or if he'd end up falling asleep-asleep and missing dinner. He was trying to doze in the camp chair, but it wasn't working. Sometimes he envied Noct his ability to conk out literally anywhere.

He cracked one eyelid, seeking out Noct's chair to feed his jealousy in real-time … but it was empty.

Prompto opened both eyes, squirmed into a fully-upright position, and scanned the campsite. Noct was at the very edge of the campfire's light, his dark clothes blending into the darkness that surrounded them. He was sitting with his legs hanging over the edge of the haven, facing out over the desert.

The magic of the haven would protect Noct from any daemons prowling in the night, and Prompto was so warm ... but he shrugged off blanket and got to his feet. It had been a weird few days for all of them, but probably especially for Noct. After his outburst to Cor at the first tomb, he hadn't really said much ... but Noct never said much when something was actually bothering him. That was kind of his thing.

Prompto made sure his boots made noise against the ground as he approached. "What's shakin'?" He lowered himself to sit beside Noct. Not quite close enough that they were touching, but close enough that maybe they could if they both leaned in. Once he'd gotten settled enough that it wouldn't be conspicuous, he snatched a look at Noct's face.

It was frowny. "Nothing," Noct answered.

As if Prompto didn't know him better than that.

“It’s kind of a trip, huh? All your ancestors … and they all had these sick weapons, and now they’re all … gonna be yours. That’s pretty sweet, having that much history and magic behind you. Having your great-great-greats in your corner.” Prompto guessed he was kind of rambling, so he forced his mouth shut.

Noct sighed. “Guess so.”

Wow, Prompto. Real smooth. "Y'know, you never did show off your cool new axe," Prompto said.

Noct kicked his leg idly. "Dunno why you'd want to stare at an old lump of metal."

"It's a freaking magic weapon, Noct, who wouldn't want to stare at it?" Prompto tugged nervously at his wristband. "I mean, only if you don't mind ..."

There was a fwish of blue light and Noct was holding the Axe of the Conqueror, its curved blades reflecting the faint aura of the haven. It looked even bigger than it had in the dead king's hands.

Too big for Noctis.

That was a stupid thing to think. Prompto had seen Noct swing Gladio's greatswords around like they were cardboard.

"I should have been there," Noct said.

Prompto knew what he was talking about. The Citadel. The signing. Prompto was so stupidly glad Noct hadn't been there. "But then who’d be around to carry this wicked axe? It looks way too heavy for me."

Noct didn’t bite. His grip tightened on his ancestor's weapon. "What if I could have made a difference?"

Prompto looked up at the sky, like he was searching for divine guidance or something equally corny. The light from their campfire kind of washed out some of the bajillion stars. "You're going to make a difference. You know, find the royal arms, protect the people, take down the Empire. Be the king. All that stuff Cor said. But ... you saw those huge ships, Noct. You saw the photos in the paper. If you'd been there ... you wouldn't be here. And everyone needs you to be here. That's why he did it."

The Axe of the Conqueror flashed back into the armiger, and Noct leaned his head forward on his hands. Crap. Prompto was making it worse instead of better. He bumped his shoulder into Noct's. "I mean, I get that it's totally unfair. It seems like ... too much for one person, and it's all on your shoulders. But Noct ... if there's one person who could do it, it's you." Prompto flexed his fingers. He tried to gauge whether Noct was in position for a reassuring hand-hold. Answer: no. “You know you're, like ... my actual hero, right?"

Noct looked at him straight-on, then, showed him both of those clear blue eyes. They stirred something small and fragile in Prompto's soul. They always had.

And maybe that something was dangerous, too, because it made the words keep tumbling out of Prompto’s mouth. "I believe in you, Noct, and ... I'll help you. However I can. Which isn't very much, but Ignis and Gladio-"

Noct's hand moved like lightning, grabbing Prompto's tightly. "Prompto."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"I'm really glad you're here."

"Oh." Prompto lay his other hand over Noct's. "Uh, me too. I mean, I'm really glad you're here, too. I mean, not that I'm not glad that I'm ..."

"Gods, Prompto." Noct laughed, actually laughed at him, and that made Prompto laugh too. But Noct didn’t pull his hand away, so Prompto didn’t either. And in ten minutes, when Iggy called them for dinner, Noct sprung to his feet like everything was actually all right.

Maybe it wasn't much, but if that was all Prompto could do ... he’d keep doing it until Noct got sick of him. Or until something put him in the ground.

“Dude,” Noct said, elbowing Prompto. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. Like, seriously, please never mention this conversation again, I’m so awkward.”

That made Noct smile again. Again. Twice in one sitting. Prompto could practically taste the combo score multiplier.

Chapter Text

Prompto leveled the lens of his camera toward Ignis. "Just a few shots," he promised. "Gotta document every part of our epic journey."

"I can't imagine why anyone in the future will want to look at photos of me cooking," Ignis replied. But that wasn't really a no, so Prompto depressed the button. The shutter flicked, catching Iggy mid-chop.

He was making some kind of vegetable rice broth thing. Prompto hadn't really listened when he'd described it since everything Iggy made was incredible. He'd been too focused on Iggy’s posture, on the way his knife flashed efficiently against the board. It had set the photography gears in his brain turning, and he'd whipped out his camera.

"What are you talking about? You cooking is way more important that Gladio reading or Noct napping. I have to document it for posterity."

Ignis moved the cutting board over and scraped the ingredients into the pot, and Prompto's shutter flicked again.

"Besides, with the firelight and the stars and your sleeves rolled up, you look really ... striking."

Ignis paused. "Striking?"

"Yeah, striking."

"Did you just say you think Iggy's hot?" Gladio asked.

Prompto twisted the camera his way. Gladio wasn't even looking at them. His nose was buried in his book. Jerk. Prompto snapped a shot of him, then turned back to Ignis. "No, Gladio. I said he looked striking. Like, you know, a great subject for a photograph. Perfectly innocent. Just a comment between. Uh. Friends." Prompto thought he and Iggy were friends. Hopefully.

Gladio snorted. "Yeah, okay."

"Don't listen to him, Ignis, he's got a dirty mind. I'm a very serious photographer, and I know striking when I see it."

Ignis was stirring. Steam rose from the pot, and Iggy's lip was kind of almost turning up at the edges. Prompto held down the shutter button, grabbing a burst of shots. He wanted to make sure he got a good one of that.

"Well, I'm flattered regardless," Ignis said, and Prompto grinned in triumph.

---------

There was a cut on Ignis' lip. Prompto hadn't noticed it before, in all the action, but now that they were sitting at the plastic table outside the caravan at the Chocobo post, Iggy with his glasses off and his arms crossed and his head tilted slightly back, Prompto couldn't stop thinking about it. Hadn't Ignis taken a potion?

Maybe he’d been too injured for the potion to heal everything.

Then why hadn't he taken another one?

The whole thing was a mess, though. Gladio and Noct were in the caravan sleeping off their phoenix downs. Ignis had seemed kind of freaked out by the whole thing – which, like, same - so he probably hadn't noticed he was still scraped up.

"Ignis."

Ignis' whole body tensed up, and his eyes snapped open. Prompto hadn't meant to startle him.

"Sorry. To disturb you. I just noticed ... do you need another potion?" Prompto reached into the strange magic space he shared with his friends and pulled one out.

Ignis was staring at him like he was some freaky new kind of daemon.

"You're still hurt," Prompto said, gesturing halfheartedly at his own lip.

Ignis raised his hand to his mouth, mirroring Prompto's gesture. He flinched when his finger brushed the cut, so subtle Prompto would have missed it if he wasn't looking for it. "Ah. I assure you, I'm quite fine, Prompto."

Prompto didn't banish the potion. Was he being annoying? He hoped not. "Sure. But ... why settle for 'quite fine' when you can be perfect?"

Slowly, slowly, Ignis extended his arm and took the potion out of Prompto's fingers. He activated it, and the glow of Noct's magic lit the night air for a second, as beautiful as always. Prompto had always kind of wanted to take some shots of a potion in action, but it would be pretty gross to ask one of his friends to wait, to stand there in pain a moment longer, so he could get out his camera.

Iggy's cut vanished, and the flecks of magic in the air burned out like firework sparks. "Thank you," he said. He sat back in his chair, almost slumped, his mouth tight. Clearly whatever was eating him wasn't something a potion could fix.

"Uh," Prompto began. He rubbed his hands over his knees. Now he was definitely being annoying. "You know it was a good plan, right?"

Ignis scoffed. "It was a dangerously inadequate plan. You were present for the ensuing battle, Prompto, so I know you are aware of what transpired."

"Yeah," Prompto said. "Everything went sideways and you got us out of there."

Ignis' lips tightened. He didn't respond, but he clearly didn't agree with Prompto's take. Which was no good.

"Your original plan was great. You know, considering what we knew. How could you predict an iron giant was going to rise from the ground at the worst possible second." Ignis took a sharp breath, like he wanted to cut in, but Prompto barreled ahead. He wanted to get through it. "You know what Cor's always saying. No plan survives contact with the enemy, or whatever. But when everything went wrong, you made up a new plan. Just like you always do."

"You're kind," Iggy said, "but Noctis and Gladio nearly died. No engagement with that result is acceptable."

"I mean, sure, no one wants that to happen ever. But Ignis ... who pestered Noct into buying those phoenix downs two weeks ago?"

Ignis was staring at Prompto again, but this time it was less like Prompto was a freaky daemon and more like Prompto was an extra dish thrown into a takeout bag by mistake. Surprising, but not unwelcome.

"You're always planning and tracking and counting and doing a million things to make sure everything goes smoothly and safely and ... well. We all ... notice it, you know? We appreciate it." Prompto kind of wanted to look away, this was the realest conversation he'd ever had with Ignis, but he found he couldn't. "Between all the fighting and the driving and keeping us stocked up on potions and figuring out how to kill things without them killing us first ... not to mention the fact that Noct by default refuses to eat anything of nutritional value ..."

Ignis huffed at that, a quiet, indignant laugh that made Prompto's heart jump.

"What I'm trying to say is ... seriously, Ignis. If it wasn't for you, we'd all be dead a dozen times over. You're, uh ... doing a really good job."

Iggy closed his eyes and let his head rest in his hand, but Prompto could still see his mouth and he wasn't frowning and his posture was relaxed. That had to be a good sign.

"Prompto," Ignis said, and his voice was deliciously warm. Which was maybe a weird thing to think. "Thank you. For ... your indefatigable kindness."

"Sure, dude." It kind of seemed like the moment was over, so Prompto levered himself to his feet. "I'm, uh, gonna go watch the chocobos fall asleep." He almost just walked away, but didn't. "In case you want to come."

Ignis shifted so one of his eyes could look at Prompto. "You’re going to watch the chocobos fall asleep?"

"It's ... relaxing, you know, their feathers are soft and you can sit next to one and pet it while it nods off if you're calm. They make little noises, and you can hear their breathing ... but it's kind of dumb, I guess, so don't worry about it."

"No," Ignis said, rising smoothly to his feet. "It's hardly 'dumb'. As you describe it, it sounds ... soothing. I'd be happy to join you."

"Great," Prompto managed, even though it felt like his heart was trying to escape from his chest. Ignis fell into step beside him, the slant of his shoulders catching the moonlight as they stepped out from under the umbrella.

Definitely striking. Too bad Prompto's camera was in the caravan.

Chapter Text

Prompto laughed. Was he being too loud? His ears were kind of ringing from the loud music they'd had on at the bar, but now he was out in the dark streets of Lestallum with Noctis and Gladio.

Ignis had gone to the market instead to, like, shop for weird spices or something. What a grandpa.

"Easy there, kid," Gladio said, and Gladio's hand was suddenly under Prompto's arm, tugging him away from a passing woman clad in silver who was suddenly a lot closer than Prompto had realized. "Even a twerp like you should know that knocking a woman to the ground in a drunken stupor isn't going to get you her phone number."

Prompto laughed again. "Wow, Gladio. I always suspected you'd give great dating advice."

Gladio snorted. "Yeah, that was a real gem."

"Don’t listen to him, Prompto," Noct said from behind them. "He thinks he’s some Casanova, but if I had abs like that I could get a bunch of dates, too. Gladio's playing on easy mode."

"You're royalty, princess. If there's one person on Eos with a better cheat code than my glorious abs, it's you."

"But still," Prompto said, jabbing vaguely at Gladio's arm, "You're a super cool dude and you're always reading those, like, sexy books. I figure you know a thing or two."

Gladio chuckled. "I suppose I do know a thing or two. Hey, now-"

Prompto had kind of stepped weird on the cobblestone street, and his leg had kind of decided that maybe he should sit down right there, but Gladio had grabbed him under his arms and held him up long enough for Prompto's leg to change its mind.

"We're almost at the Leville, kid. Try to keep your feet until we get there."

"Sure, sure. No problem."

It turned out to be a minor problem, but between the three of them Prompto got himself up the stairs to their room. Noct grumbled the whole time, but Gladio kept laughing. It was a big, friendly sound, and even if he was laughing at Prompto, Prompto didn't mind.

Noct abandoned Prompto at the door of the room and flopped onto their bed. Prompto eyed the open distance between himself and his pillow and decided he could probably make it, but Gladio was already steering him the wrong way. He pressed Prompto down into one of the padded chairs in the corner of the room and started doing something in the kitchenette.

"Can't sleep here," Prompto said. That sounded kind of pathetic, he guessed. Prompto braced his arms against the chair, but they felt all noodley. Gladio had marooned him.

"You can sleep in a minute," Gladio said. He wrapped Prompto's fingers around a glass of water and placed two pills in his other hand. "First, take these with this."

Prompto obediently popped the pills in his mouth and swallowed them with a drink.

"Now finish the glass," Gladio instructed.

It was a lot of water, and Prompto had had a lot to drink already. But he couldn't argue with Gladio. Gladio could murder him with one hand. Prompto set to work.

"What about me?" Noct said from the bed.

"Oh, did you want a glass of water?"

"Yeah."

Gladio turned and looked him dead in the eye. "Get it yourself."

Prompto almost choked on the water. He had to pull the glass away from his lips to keep himself from drowning. Gladio put a hand on his shoulder.

"Ugh." Noct dragged himself off the bed. "Why are you being nice to Prompto and mean to me?"

"You aren't falling down drunk. Keep drinking, Prompto."

After he was done with the water thing, Gladio lifted Prompto to his feet and escorted him to the bed and made him take off his shoes. Then he let Prompto lie down. It was spectacular.

"His Highness will make sure you don't choke and die in your sleep. Right, Noct?"

"Mph."

"Don't worry. I'll keep an eye on you, too."

Prompto lay bonelessly in the soft fancy bed. Nothing had ever felt so good. "You're wise, you know," he said, just as Gladio started to turn away. "The water ... that was wise."

Gladio chuckled. "Go to sleep, Prompto. In the morning, when you remember that I bought half your drinks, you might not feel so charitable."

---------

Prompto had never needed to lie down more in his life.

They had needed gil, and they had met this farmer in southern Duscae who needed a bunch of work done on her land, and Ignis ... Ignis had agreed. He'd taken the job. They'd spent the last ten hours carrying fence posts and digging ditches and whacking bushes and Prompto was pretty sure he'd never been so physically exhausted in his entire twenty years of existence.

The farmer had an old camper parked behind her barn that she was generously letting them sleep in for free, and the old camper had four steps between the ground and the door, and Prompto was genuinely uncertain whether or not he could make it up them.

"I could just sleep here on the ground," Prompto said.

"You'd regret that in the morning," Gladio said. "Go on." And he gave Prompto a little nudge.

Prompto made it.

Noct was already in the shower. His bag was on the pullout that Ignis had already pulled out. Prompto made a beeline for the fixed bed in the back of the camper.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"One big per bed," Prompto said, quoting the rule they'd come up with. Early on in their journey they'd all agreed it was unfair for Gladio and Ignis to have to share one of the single-and-a-half beds they put in these caravans.

"Can't go to bed yet," Gladio said. "Shower first."

"Gladioooo ..."

"I'm not sleeping with your grungy self." Gladio pounded on the shower door. "Time's up, Noct."

Prompto stumbled through a speed-shower. He even skipped conditioner. But he had to admit, when he got out and toweled off and pulled on his clean, soft pajamas, it felt amazing.

When he squeezed out of the tiny bathroom, he was surprised to find Noct still awake, sitting up on the edge of his bed. His hair was all damp and rumpled and he was blinking moodily at the wall.

"What's going on?"

"Gladio's torturing me," Noct said.

As if on cue, Gladio came through the camper door - clearly the man was superhuman, voluntarily ascending those four steps again - carrying two glasses of cloudy liquid.

"What's that?" Noct said skeptically.

"Recovery formula. Tried and true. Water, electrolytes, potassium, and a smashed up aspirin. It'll make you feel less like you got hit by a truck tomorrow."

Noct wrinkled his nose. Prompto reached out for one of the cups and started drinking.

"At least one of you has half a brain," Gladio said. He nudged Noct's cheek with the other glass. Eventually Noct took it from him.

Prompto finished his drink as fast as he could and was under the covers in the other bed approximately half a second later. He stretched out and it felt so good he actually made a wimpy noise. He felt briefly embarrassed, and then he was asleep.

Then he was awake again. The lights in the camper were off, so some time must have elapsed, but Gladio was just getting into the bed, so it couldn't have been too long.

Maybe it was the exhaustion, but Prompto was speaking before he realized he'd opened his mouth. "You really are wise, you know."

Gladio laughed. "I'm kind of impressed you even remember that."

"I remember." Prompto was tired, and he was sure Gladio was, too. Gladio probably just wanted to go to sleep. But for some reason Prompto kept talking. "Seriously, Gladio. Not just the, you know, the recovery stuff or whatever. You, like ... know how to build a fence, and track stuff, and ... not die."

"That one's wired into everyone."

"You know what I mean. And you're also, I dunno ... you're good with Noct. With all of us, really. Getting us to do what we have to do, to be better. To be our best. You're, like I said, wise. Or ... down to earth."

Gladio lay there in the dark. "Thanks, Prompto." There was a rustle, and Prompto could practically see his grin. "You'd better be careful, though. If you keep going, I might get a big head."

"Bigger than he already has," Ignis said from the other end of the camper.

"Then I guess I'm done," Prompto said. He turned over, pulling the covers close around him. Sleep was already pulling him back down. "Except ... you're also really, really warm. That’s nice, too."

Gladio snorted. "Happy to be of service."

Chapter Text

Prompto's heart had never gone from zero to one hundred so quickly.

They were looping back to Galdin Quay to return some hunk of rock to Dino. They'd been driving for hours through the green emptiness of Duscae, and they’d come to another tunnel. A long tunnel. With nothing to look at, Prompto had kind of started to doze off.

Then Ignis had stomped on the brakes, the Regalia had swerved to a screeching halt, and Prompto had opened his eyes to find a pack of reapers not two feet from their front bumper. So, yeah, he'd been a little startled.

Gladio and Noct were going to town with their ridiculous swords. Prompto hung back and took shots where he could. Honestly, the things weren't that bad. They’d be done with this fight in no time.

Noct was getting mobbed by a trio of imps, though. Prompto edged forward to lay down some crowd control. He landed a few rounds in each of them, and Noct finished them off with a sweep of his blade. Problem solved. Prompto turned to find his next target, and he looked up ... and up. One of the reapers was right on top of him. Prompto hadn't really realized how tall they were until that moment. Usually he was standing farther back.

Its scythe was already swinging, a flash in the Regalia's headlights.

It didn't really hurt, the way breaking your arm was kind of just odd at first and then excruciating only after you'd had a chance to figure out what happened. Prompto immediately knew it was serious, though, because instead of stumbling or staggering he just kind of went down onto his knees. It was like his body wasn't listening to him anymore.

There was a shout. Gladio was there. His sword sent the reaper's bones scattering, and then his arm was underneath Prompto's back, because Prompto had been going the rest of the way down and Gladio had caught him.

"Prompto!" Noct shouted from somewhere.

"Gladio!" That was Ignis. "He needs a phoenix down!"

"Like I don't know that!" Gladio bellowed.

Prompto tried to say something, and he managed to open his mouth, but it was full of something hot and sticky so he couldn't speak. Maybe he couldn't even breathe. It was hard to tell. He reached out for ... something, he didn't know what, and his hand clumsily collided with Gladio's chest. But it was too heavy, and it was getting heavier. He couldn't feel Gladio's arm around him anymore. He couldn't feel his face anymore.

Then his whole body, from his toes to the tips of his swoopy hair, caught on fire. But, like, good fire. Prompto took the deepest breath he'd taken in his whole life. He sat bolt upright. Gladio was staring at him grimly.

An imp was diving at him from behind.

Prompto raised his arm over Gladio's shoulder, pulling his gun from the armiger, and shot the thing clean through the head.

The battle wasn't over yet.

Prompto leaped to his feet and put out his hand to help Gladio up. Gladio accepted.

"Be careful out there," Gladio said. Then he summoned his greatsword and leapt back into the fray.

Prompto had never used a phoenix down before, and it was wild. Energy burned through his body. It was like he'd drunk six cans of Ebony and someone had set his blood on fire. He took aim and fired, again and again. It was like the whole world was moving just a little bit slower than usual. Or Prompto was moving a little bit faster.

Then it was over. Noct took out the last reaper, and the tunnel fell still and quiet. Prompto's heart pounded loud in his ears.

"Dude," Noct said, jogging over to where Prompto was standing. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm okay. I feel amazing! I feel like I could go ten rounds with the Titan."

"That would be the lingering effects of the phoenix down," Ignis said. His face looked kind of tight, and he was hovering, too. "You are aware, having witnessed others use them, that these effects will wear off shortly."

"Oh. Yeah." Prompto was aware, he'd seen Gladio crawl into bed and sleep for fourteen hours straight after using one, but it was impossible to line that up with the way he felt.

"The first one's a doozy," Gladio said. "It's the same with everyone. Why don't we all hop back in the car?"

"A splendid idea," Ignis said. He put his hand on the small of Prompto's back to guide him toward the Regalia.

"Sure, sure, but seriously, I'm-" It was like a turning off a light switch. It was like cutting the power cord off a TV. The smoldering energy holding Prompto up vanished. He staggered, and if he was honest, he probably would have fallen face-first onto the asphalt if Ignis hadn't grabbed one arm and Gladio grabbed the other. "Woah," Prompto said. It came out kind of strangled.

"Uh, yeah," Noct said. He gave a halfhearted chuckle, but didn't really seem very amused. “Turns out basically dying is kind of rough."

Ignis and Gladio drag-carried Prompto to the car, and he collapsed gratefully into the passenger seat. He curled over and leaned his head on his arm on the car door while the others got in. Ignis started the car, eased it back into their lane, and then they were back on the road like nothing had ever happened.

Well. Not quite like nothing had ever happened. Prompto was knock-flat exhausted, and nobody else was talking. Not like 'riding in companionable silence' not-talking. Like ... 'we're all upset' not-talking. Prompto had seen the words 'stony silence' in a book, once, and he imagined this was something like that.

When they came out of the tunnel and the radio started playing music again, Ignis immediately switched it off.

Prompto levered himself up into a semi-seated position. He could never sleep in the car, no matter how badly he wanted to right then. Maybe he could defuse the tension. "Uh ... sorry for all the fuss. Guess I'll try to shoot straighter next time."

Gladio growled. "You shoot plenty straight. You're a gods-damned sharpshooter, Prompto."

"And saving your life is hardly a fuss," Ignis said. "It's ... something we are all quite invested in. Committed to. It's our pleasure."

"Do you know how scary it was, seeing you like that?" Noct's voice was so quiet that, despite the objection of every inch of his body, Prompto twisted around in his seat to look at him. He was staring at his knees.

Prompto swallowed hard. He did know, actually. He'd seen Noct and Ignis and Gladio all get smashed up pretty bad before. It sucked.

"There are times I hate being me," Noct said. "Being of the line of Lucis. Being ... king. But today. And days like it. I." Noct squared his shoulders. "It's all worth it, because if something happens to you I have magic that can put you back together again. It's like Specs said, it's no fuss. Because. You're really important to me."

"Oh." Prompto let his eyes close and his forehead rest against the back of the seat. He was pretty sure he was about to cry, and he didn't really want Noct and Gladio to see, but he also wasn't jazzed about the effort of turning back around.

"To echo Noct's sentiment," Iggy said slowly, "I ... would be much aggrieved if anything were to happen to you, Prompto."

"Oh," Prompto whispered. He was definitely about to cry. He blamed it on the exhaustion. He was too tired to handle this right now.

He felt a touch on his forehead. Gladio used his knuckles to lift Prompto's head until Prompto was looking at Gladio's face. "If you die, I'll kill you," he said seriously. Then his mouth spread into a wide grin.

Even though a couple tears slid down Prompto's face, he couldn't help but grin back. "Iggy, he's threatening me. When I just almost died."

"What a brute."

Noct didn't say anything - he'd probably expended his word-quota for the day on his heartfelt speech - but Prompto could tell he was trying not to smile.

Prompto slowly twisted himself back around and kind of curled up with his head on the armrest. "Thanks, guys."

No one responded, but the silence between them was definitely companionable now, so Prompto didn't worry about it. Something came to rest on his head. Iggy's right hand, gloved fingers settling into his hair.

Prompto couldn't sleep just anywhere, and he could never sleep in the car. But right then, between the exhaustion from the phoenix down and the warm ache glowing in his chest, he managed it.