Prompto wished he'd stayed in the car. He wished that he'd claimed acrophobia and curled up in the backseat until the others came back from their trip. That would mean he wouldn't be halfway up the side of a volcano feeling like he was going to pass out at any second. It was so hot, they were so high and he was so thirsty, his throat dry and scratchy and his tongue fat in his mouth. He wanted nothing more than to lie down where he was, but then he would never want to move again and the excruciating heat would never go away.
He stumbled as the loose gravel beneath his feet shifted, and fell heavily to one knee. When he put his hands down to stop himself from going any further, he immediately yelped at the hot rocks against his skin. The heat wafted against his skin, so hot that he was starting to feel lightheaded. He whimpered.
“On your feet, Prompto!” Gladio called over his shoulder, not even stopping to help. It wasn't the first time the blond had fallen, after all. Not the first time any of them had fallen. Ignis and Gladio were doing better at staying upright, years of combat training building up a strong sense of balance, but even they had lost their footing a few times. And they'd taken to keeping Noct at the head of the pack so that if he took a tumble they would be able to catch him.
But Prompto was at the back, no one watching him or trying to keep him on his feet. As a result he'd fallen over many times, and every time he ended up on his knees, it was getting more and more difficult to climb back to his feet. Crouched there now, his arms trembled as he tried to keep himself from collapsing into the gravel.
He groaned and lifted his head, eyes finding Ignis frowning at him from a little higher on the mountainside, looking concerned and irritated at the same time. His glasses were fogged from the steam rising and his hair was plastered to his forehead by the sweat. Prompto absently noted that it didn't make him any less attractive - the sweat gave his skin a nice glisten, unlike Prompto whose face was red and dry. He’d stopped sweating a while back, like his body’s reaction to the heat was in a loop.
“Sorry, Iggy!” he called and pushed himself back to his feet, staggering dangerously close to the edge as a wave of dizziness washed over him. As he caught himself mere inches from the edge he suddenly froze as he caught sight of the ground hundreds of feet below. So high. If he fell, he would die. He'd almost fallen, almost died. He felt sick and shaky, his knees once more threatening to buckle. Unable to tear his eyes away from the ground, a scream built in his throat. He couldn't do this, couldn't go any higher, not when he couldn't even make himself take a single step back from the edge.
A hand grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him backwards with a sharp jerk. The scream which had been forcing his way up his throat escaped as he fell against a muscular chest, shaking and panicking. How could they be so high?
“Come on, Prom, get a grip,” Gladio growled, shaking Prompto violently. “We don't have time for your shit.”
Prompto flinched. If his skin wasn't already flushed with the heat then he was sure he would be blushing. Gladio’s words hurt, they made him feel like a child. But even more than that, they pissed him off. He tore himself out of the other man’s grip, staggering again but mercifully keeping away from the edge this time. “What, you think I'm doing this on purpose?” he snapped.
Gladio muttered something under his breath and once more reached out to grab Prompto, who jerked his arm back. This only succeeded in worsening the dizziness and while he managed to stay on his feet, he found himself frozen to the spot with his eyes closed, hands clenched and his breath fast and heavy as he waited for it to go away. He briefly heard someone call his name but he ignored it. A few seconds later hands tightened around his upper arms and the voice returned, gently calling for him to open his eyes.
“Can’t,” he choked out.
“What’s wrong with him?” he heard someone ask.
“He’s too hot and I don’t think he’s been drinking.”
“Sick,” he mumbled.
“You feel sick?”
Prompto shook his head once, then moaned as the dizziness worsened once more. “No,” he said in irritation. He tried to say more but couldn’t, so instead tried to curl in on himself. The hands on his forearm tightened and he found himself leaning his forehead on someone’s shoulder, suddenly exhausted and confused. Where were they and why was it so hot? He didn’t like it, he wanted to go home and take the longest, coldest shower of his life - probably the first time he would ever be glad for the broken boiler that never gave out any hot water.
“Prompto?” Ignis called worriedly. Was something the matter? Prompto pried his eyelids apart but saw nothing except the soft cloth of the shirt which cushioned him. He lifted his head with difficulty and found the adviser frowning at him. Gladio and Noct hovered nearby, watching him with concerned expressions of their own.
He moaned weakly. “What…” His knees suddenly buckled and he was falling, the grip on his arms holding him barely upright. He felt bad for being unable to support his own weight, but it was a distant sort of guilt which he couldn’t bring himself to do anything about. “Iggy…” he whimpered and closed his eyes once more. It was so hot - too hot - and he so tired. Too tired. Overwhelmed by the heat and the exhaustion and the confusion, he passed out.
As Ignis held Prompto awkwardly above the rocks, he became acutely aware of how dry the other’s skin was. He wasn't soaked with sweat like the others were, there wasn't a single wet patch on his skin. That was when Ignis realised how serious Prompto’s condition was.
He'd known that something was wrong, known that something had been wrong for days. Ever since they'd received the assignment from Vyv a few days ago to get pictures on the Rock of Ravatogh, he'd been quiet and twitchy, barely sleeping and eating slowly and reluctantly. Ignis assumed it to be his acrophobia at play - the night before, he'd awoken to Prompto gasping and wheezing and clinging to the sheets on the bed like he was terrified he would fall if he let go. After that he'd slept soundly, and he hadn't once asked to stay behind.
Of course, he wouldn't. Not when it was an assignment for Vyv where he got to do what he loved. He would put his own life before his pictures.
It seemed like that was exactly what had happened.
Ignis had Prompto hauled halfway over his shoulder before Gladio stepped in. “I’ll take him,” he grunted. Guilt was clear on his face as he pulled Prompto into his own arms, then up and over one shoulder. He kept one arm wrapped around the blond’s legs, holding him steady. As he started to head back down the rocky slope, Prompto’s loose arms and head bounced in a way that would be painful if he was conscious. Ignis winced in sympathy.
“What’s wrong with him?” Noct asked as the two of them followed after. He’d been quiet up until now, too concerned to do anything but watch. Even now he seemed unable to stop looking at his best friend, flinching at every jostle.
“Heat stroke. He hasn’t been drinking like he should have and his body is overheating,” Ignis explained.
Noct nodded. “Is it serious?”
“If we don’t cool him down quickly enough.”
“What happens then?”
Igis hesitated before he spoke. While it was true that Noct was an adult now - and a king, technically - and that he should be treated like one, there was still a part of Ignis that wanted to protect him, to keep the harsh truth of what could happen to Prompto a secret. There was no reason to worry Noct about things that might not come to pass, that part of him reasoned. But he wasn’t about to lie. Not only that but they were still a long walk from the Regalia, then a short drive from a rest stop, and Prompto’s condition could easily worsen before then, and Noct had a right to know what could happen to his best friend. “If his temperature continues to rise, there’s a risk of brain damage, organ failure...and death. The fact that he’s unconscious tells me that his condition is already fairly serious. There’s a chance of -.”
Prompto suddenly moaned - a long, pained noise which came from deep in his throat - and his body stiffened. Every muscle in his body looked tight and uncomfortable.
“Iggy! I don’t think he’s breathing!” Gladio called, his voice uncharacteristically desperate and afraid. He paused mid-step, and looked around for somewhere to lie Prompto down. The ground was still dangerously steep, the rocks too loose and the path too narrow. Ignis knew what was happening and he knew that this was the worst place for it to happen.
“Gladio,” he said steadily, even as his heart began to race and his breathing quickened. “You need to run ahead with him and get him lying down. He’s going to seize.”
Gladio’s eyes widened and he looked ready to argue, but Ignis snapped at him to hurry and then he was off, his grip tighter on Prompto’s still-stiff body. As the bigger man got further ahead, Ignis suddenly heard a choking noise and his heart almost stopped. Gladiolus had to hurry, he had to get Prompto lying down before the seizure was in full swing.
“Iggy..” Noct choked out, his voice thick with tears. Ignis considered stopping to reassure him but he didn’t want to leave Gladio alone with the seizing blond - there were too many things which were instinctive to do and which could seriously hurt Prompto; holding him down or putting something in his mouth to stop him from “swallowing his tongue”. Not only that, he had to know how long the seizure had been going for. Gladio wouldn’t know to count.
“It’s alright,” Ignis tried to reassure Noct even as they ran after Gladio, their feet slipping on loose rocks and almost falling several times. He took Noct by the elbow to keep him close and on his feet, all the while counting seconds in his head.
It only took them a minute to reach the end of the steep path, but it was too long for Ignis. As his eyes found Gladio hunched over Prompto’s seizing form, he dropped his grip on Noct and ran at them. He fell to his knees and pushed Gladio’s hands away, watching as the violent convulsions caused Prompto to knock his arms and legs and head against the rocks. As another hollow thump filled the air, he unbuttoned his shirt with trembling fingers and bundled it up into a makeshift pillow, then tucked it under Prompto’s head just before it hit the ground again.
“How long has he been like this?” he asked Gladio.
Gladio didn’t reply, just stared fearfully at Prompto and flinching at every convulsion. Behind him, Noct had one hand held over his mouth to muffle his sobs. His free arm was wrapped around himself in an attempt to comfort himself.
“Gladio!” Ignis snapped, then regretted it immediately. The others weren’t trained in this, they had no idea what was going on. If Prompto had a broken leg or stab wounds to his chest then Gladio would know what to do, but that was as far as his knowledge went. Ignis softened his voice and expression. “Gladio, I need to know how long he’s been seizing. Did it start as soon as you left us?”
Looking up sharply as if he’d been caught in a trance, Gladio shook his head. “Few seconds after, I think. He started twitching while I was holding him but it wasn’t this bad. I didn’t...I didn’t hurt him, did I?” he asked, his voice thick with emotion.
“I don’t think so, but I’ll check once it’s over. Holding someone down while they’re seizing isn’t a good idea - he might break something while he’s convulsing,” Ignis explained gently. He offered Gladio a small smile and tried to do the same to Noct, but the other seemed entranced by Prompto’s violent movements.
Prompto let out a final choking noise as the convulsions slowed. He sighed as his body fell still, breathing laboured but steadier than it had beenl. His face was still flushed with the heat and his hair had turned light grey with the dust from the rocks. Ignis sat forwards and rolled him gently onto his side, then used his fingers to pry open the blond’s lips and check his airways. He smiled weakly upon finding them clear.
“Gladio…” he started, but found the other man watching him with worried eyes. “He’s alright, the seizure was a complication of his body temperature. As long as we cool him down, it won’t happen again,” he reassured and then added when Gladio failed to react, “you didn’t hurt him, don’t worry.”
Gladio let out a long sigh of relief and then sat forwards, hesitantly placing two fingers on Prompto’s neck to check his pulse. The worry in his expression lessened as he sat back once more. “I’ll carry him to the car,” he said and when Ignis didn’t argue, he once more lifted Prompto; this time holding him against his chest instead of over his shoulder. He set off with long, fast strides, not even waiting for them to follow.
“Iggy,” Noct whispered. Tears streaked his face and he’d lowered the hand over his mouth in order to hug himself more tightly. His eyes were still on Ignis’s bundled shirt as if he could see Prompto still there, the seizure repeating itself over and over in his mind. He was shivering despite the heat, more from shock and fear than cold. Even so, Ignis lifted a hand to his forehead to check for a fever. Noct’s skin was warm and sweaty, not dry like Prompto’s. Satisfied that it was fear causing the extreme reaction and not illness, Ignis pulled him close, one arm tight around his shoulders while the other buried itself in his hair.
“Shhhh, it’s alright. He’s going to be alright,” he soothed. Noct hiccupped and whimpered a few times, his tears soaking Ignis’s bare shoulder. They stood there for several minutes, Noct going quiet as he wore himself out with the sobbing. His body turned limp as exhaustion took hold. He wasn’t quite asleep but he was close to it. Smiling weakly, Ignis adjusted his hold on the other and lifted him, holding him the same way Gladio had been holding Prompto. He glanced mournfully at his discarded shirt, then down at Noct’s barely conscious form, and he walked away, leaving the shirt abandoned halfway up the side of a volcano.
It came as a relief to all of them that there were no further seizures from Prompto. In fact, he didn’t even stir, not during the car journey nor as he was carried gently into the caravan and manhandled out of his clothing. Ignis stripped too, leaving only his pants and vest as he climbed into the shower and held Prompto against him. The narrow space meant that with the two of them in there and with Prompto still totally limp, they couldn’t close the door, which meant that the bathroom was quickly soaked. Ignis ignored that fact as Gladio sprayed the two of them with cool water, aiming mostly for Prompto but still managing to soak Ignis. He didn’t mind, not after the boiling heat from the Rock of Ravatogh.
For the first few minutes in the shower, Prompto barely reacted. He whimpered for the first few seconds of cold, then fell quiet once more. It was only when his temperature started to go down that his reaction became more violent; struggling in Ignis’s grasp and begging for them to stop. Ignis’s chest ached at the desperate words spoken in such a weak voice, and it only got worse as he tried and failed to soothe the younger man.
“Stop, please! ‘s cold, it’s too cold!” Prompto sobbed.
Ignis closed his eyes and took several deep breaths to regain his composure, then looked up at Gladio. The spray caught him full in the face and he spluttered and glared at the bigger man holding the shower head.
“Sorry,” Gladio said, but he was smiling and his eyes were brighter than they had been.
“Of course,” Ignis grumbled. “Would you fetch one of the water bottles, please? We should try and get him hydrated while he’s conscious. I’ll take the shower head for now.”
Gladio nodded firmly and passed the hose over, then disappeared. When he came back a few moments later, Ignis passed it back and took the open bottle, holding it to Prompto’s lips and coaxing him to drink. It was slow going and by the time Ignis was satisfied that the blond had drank as much as he could, Gladio had turned the water off and wrapped Prompto in a large bath towel. He took the younger man from Ignis and sat him up on the toilet seat to dry him, then carried him to the bed closest to the one he’d placed Noct on before.
It wasn’t for several hours that Prompto stirred again. He was barely conscious, narrowed eyes searching the room for a few moments before they landed firstly on Ignis, then on Gladio. He moaned and closed his eyes again, and Ignis was sure that he’d passed out once more. But then he let out another low moan and whispered, “...photos.”
Ignis huffed out a laugh. “We’ll get them another time. And when we do, you are going to drink every single time we do, and if you run out then you tell us and we’ll give you another bottle. I know you were feeling unwell because of your acrophobia but that it no excuse. You could have died,” he scolded in a gentle voice. Prompto groaned and nodded, but it was more instinctive rather than understanding and Ignis didn’t have the heart to repeat himself. Instead he reached out and took one of Prompto’s hands, squeezing it gently. “It’s going to be alright, you’re alright now. You’re alright.”