“That tomb better really be in here, and close,” Prompto groaned, “I’m freezing.”
“We all are,” Gladio replied, “Don’t see the rest of us complaining.”
“Noct did, earlier.”
“Yeah, once, and then I shut up about it,” the Prince teased. Prompto huffed a cloud of white breath, hugging his arms to his chest. “We’ve been down here for a while now, so it oughta be close at this point.”
“I can’t wait to be back in the sun…”
“Remember saying that the next time you complain about it being too hot out,” Ignus warned with a slight smile. Prompto groaned. They rounded a corner into a wider cavern.
“I think I see it,” Noct said, “through there-” he was cut off when more daemons spawned.
“Oh come on,” Prompto whined, summoning his gun.
“Let’s get this over with,” Gladio growled as the cavern was flooded with imps. Prompto gave a startled yelp as an Arachne fell in front of him. Noct point-warped into her with an attack so the ranger could gain some distance.
“T-thanks,” the blond stuttered, firing at it.
“Just keep your eyes peeled,” Noct replied before warping up and attacking the thing from above.
“Mindflayer, watch out,” Gladio barked from where he was fighting with Ignis.
“Be right with you,” Prompto called.
“Give us some light, see if you can weaken it,” Noct told him.
“Will do, your Majesty,” Prompto winked. Noct rolled his eyes, not hiding his smile.
Gladio didn’t see the growing cracks in the ice beneath the beast until there was light, and he was already on the downswing.
“Away from the wall,” he yelled, startling Noct and throwing off his part of the attack. The prince was about to retreat to rockier ground when he was graced with another piercing headache and vision of the Archean. The flayer took the opportunity to attack him with all its might, right where the ice was weakest. The three men screamed his name, all but deafened by the echoing crack and splash as their friend was plunged into the freezing underground lake.
“How do we get by this thing?!” Prompto demanded, firing angrily at the culprit and kicking a pestering imp in the face for the insult of begging his attention at a time like this.
“We must kill it,” Ignis replied, “We can’t save Noct and guard ourselves at the same time without risking someone further.”
“Let me push it where we know the ground is stable,” Gladio yelled, getting behind it. The two backed off slightly so it would move forward, Ignis casting a glance to the dark water. He couldn’t see bubbles, which mean Noct had either managed to hold his breath thus far, or….
He didn’t allow the thought to finish.
Noct felt as though he were on fire. The splitting throb at the back of his head wasn’t helping, either. Dazed from the impact with the ice, he focussed on suppressing the urge to cough out the amount of water he had taken in by surprise so he wouldn’t lose the breath he was holding. He dismissed his sword to keep from sinking further and opened his eyes a crack, looking for any sign of light. He couldn’t tell if it was the water that was hazy, or his vision. He found what he figured to be the hole in the ice and started swimming towards it, lungs burning.
His progress was hampered by a sharp tug on his leg. He looked down, startled to see some sort of tentacle wrapped around his ankle. He hadn't even felt it grab him. He tried to kick it off, but his movements were too sluggish. It was pulling him down, the light was getting farther away and he wasn’t going to be able fight his body’s impulse to breathe much longer. He summoned his sword again and slashed clumsily at the appendage until it cut through. He didn’t realize he was trying to breathe until water was already filling his lungs. His vision was blacking out, but he could still see the shapes of more arms reaching for him in the dark water. He wouldn’t be able to swim away. The others wouldn’t be able to reach him.
In a fit of desperation he threw his sword towards the patch of light and warped after it, but he still wasn’t close enough, even after the second warp. He knew a third warp would put him in stasis, but it was that, or drowning. The darkness filled his vision before he could see how close he was.
The moment the room was clear all three of them were at the ice’s edge.
“I’m going after him,” Gladio stated, taking off his jacket and whatever else he thought would weigh him down.
“Wait,” Ignis barked, blocking Gladio from jumping in with his arm. “I think I saw something.”
“There’s no time for ‘I think’s,” Gladio retorted angrily, “I’m goi-
“-He’s warping!” Prompto shouted, seeing another flash of blue light from under the water.
“The light’s getting closer, he may warp past you if you jump in,” Ignis warned. “Just be ready to grab him.”
“Okay.” They watched the water anxiously. Prompto didn’t even have time to yell again before Gladio reached in and hauled Noct out by his jacket. “He’s unconscious,” he stated, laying him down where it was stone so Ignis could check him.
“Where does he keep the tomb key I can run ahead and open this one,” Prompto said, dropping to his knee next to the man.
“Don’t distract him,” Gladio reprimanded, pulling him back by the shoulder.
“The tombs all have torches, it should be warmer in there!”
“Prompto’s right, and he’s hypothermic. Search his pockets while I administer CPR.”
Gladio went through Noct’s soaked jacket and tossed the key to Prompto, who sprinted ahead, skidding into the door of the tomb on account of all the ice. When he ran back, carefully this time, Noct was on his side coughing his lungs out. When he stilled Ignis helped him sit up. Gladio tossed his jacket at the advisor.
“Hold on,” he replied softly, taking his own off first and wranging the fairly uncoordinated Noct into it before layering Gladio’s on top. Prompto started to take off his own as well but Gladio waved him to leave it on.
“Do you think you can claim the weapon?” Gladio asked.
“I think the bigger question is if he can walk,” Ignis noted with a slight glare.
“I-I’ll be fine,” Noct bit out through clenched teeth.
“Not without help you won’t be,” Gladio said, slinging one of Noct’s arms around his shoulder and helping him stand. If it weren’t for the circumstances, Noct being dwarfed by the shield's coat would have made for a good picture. Prompto shook his head.
“Do we recuperate in the tomb or do we get the weapon and get out asap?” he asked Ignis softly, trailing slightly behind the other two.
“If he’s able to claim the weapon, we will leave, if he isn’t… we’ll see.”
“Would suck to go back empty handed after all we went through to get to it,” Gladio called back before adjusting the arm he had around Noct’s waist. “I’m gonna have to carry you outta’ here, huh princess?” Noct was listing into him and still somehow tripping over his own feet. His only response was an embarrassed groan.
Luckily, though no one knew any specific reason that the weapon wouldn’t be able to be claimed, it was able to be done, and so Gladio picked up the Prince so he wouldn’t hurt himself, and retraced their steps.
“How is he?” Ignis asked after a few minutes of silence. Gladio looked down at the trembling form in his arms. Noct’s lips were still a worrying shade of purple, and his face was half buried in the man’s shoulder.
“He’s shivering now, at least.”
“That is an improvement I suppose.” Ignis fell back so he was walking next to Gladio and swept Noct’s stiff, wet bangs out of his eyes. “Stay awake now, you can sleep when your temperature rises.” Tired looking blue peered back at him before turning further into Gladio’s warmth, muttering something about Ignis acting like a mom, as usual.
“Hey guys?” Prompto called, a yard or two ahead. “I think I can hear the waterfall, I’m gonna see if I can reach Iris so we don’t catch them by surprise if he’s still in rough shape when we get back.”
The hike back up to the road was a little strenuous, but it got them to the car.
“I suppose it’s good we parked in the sun, hm?” Ignis mused.
“Nice and toasty,” Prompto agreed. Ignis place a hand on Nocts forehead when Gladio finished setting him into the seat.
“He’s still too cold,” the man confirmed.
“Is he asleep?” Prompto asked, turning around and kneeling in his seat.
“He shouldn’t be…”
“You should cuddle him, keep him warm,” the blond said, looking at Gladio, who sighed and pulled the prince over to him. Noct didn't object, nearly sprawling over the man. Gladio rolled the long sleeves of his jacket up to he could hold Noct’s blue hands in his own, hoping they would stop being such a worrying color by the time they were back at the hotel.
“Stay awake, Noct,” Ignis said sternly, getting into the front seat and starting the car.
“Why can’t I sleep?” the prince groaned, voice muffled from having his face pressed against Gladio’s shoulder.
“Sleeping lowers the body’s production of heat, which is the last thing you need to be doing right now.”
“Gladi can keep me warm…”
“What, you gonna lay all over me when we get back to our room, too?” Gladio chuckled.
“Like you’d stop me?” came Noct’s quieted retort. Prompto snorted when Gladio failed to reply and quietly took a picture before turning around and sitting properly in his seat.
“He does seem to be getting warmer,” Gladio said, looking at Ignis through the rearview mirror. The advisor sighed.
“Hey,” Gladio said softly, ruffling Noct’s hair, “time to wake up princess, we’re here.” Noct groaned, the noise quickly turning into a pained hiss as he sat up. “Are you alright?”
“I-it’ll pass,” the man grimaced.
“Is it your leg?” Ignis asked, opening the car door.
“Is he alright?” Iris asked, jogging out of the hotel with Prompto, who had gone in ahead of the three, behind her.
“The hasty decompression seems to have aggravated his chronic pain,” Ignis informed.
“It’ll be fine,” Noct added quickly.
“How bad is it?” Prompto asked, watching warily as he got out of the Regalia.
“Manageable.” Everyone noticed that his limp was even worse than it usually was on his bad days, but collectively agreed not to say anything.
“You should shower and put on a dry change of clothes,” Gladio told him when they got into the room. The prince nodded, finally getting to taking off the jackets they had put on him. He paused when he got to unzipping Ignis’.
“Where’d my shirt go?” he asked slowly.
“It’s harmful to leave wet clothes on someone with hypothermia,” Ignis informed, coming in late and walking into the bathroom. “You’re lucky I still valued your decency.” The other two had to hold back their laughter as Noct stared vacantly at the floor.
“You good dude?” Prompto chuckled.
“Could you do me a favor, actually?”
“Kill me next time Iggy’s about to say something like that.”
“That’s the opposite of what we’re here for, princess,” Gladio laughed.
“Ugh.” He dug through his bag for fresh clothes.
“You should take a hot shower,” Ignis suggested when he was out of the bathroom.
“Said that already,” Gladio stated.
“Ah, my apologies.”
Noct shook his head fondly and closed the bathroom door behind him. Putting his fresh clothes in a haphazard pile on the counter he was startled by a shadow behind the shower curtain. Peeking behind it, he sighed slowly. It was a plastic chair. He must be really out of it if he hadn’t noticed Ignis come in with it, but the others hadn’t given any indication that they had, either. He stared at it.
“Probably just didn’t say anything,” he muttered. Leave it to Iggy to know he’d never ask for help like this, after all the years they’d known each other as kids….
He’d thank him later, quietly.
The shower shook the sharp chill from his bones, but not the painful ache.
“Well you’re looking better already,” Prompto said with a smile when he came out. He was sat in the bed, looking through his camera. “Still gonna’ force Gladio to cuddle you?”
“Why not cuddle him yourself, you’re in bed as it is,” the man responded from the couch where he was reading a book.
“I don’t know, Prom’s a little boney,” Noct teased.
“That’s never deterred you in the past,” Ignis replied with a sly grin.
“Well now his color’s back for sure!” Gladio laughed as Noct’s face reddened with embarrassment at Ignis’ comment. Just then Noct was assaulted with another searing headache, doubling over. His friends’ cries of alarm were drowned out by the Archean’s warped speech, and next thing he knew he was on his knees, leaning against the bed. Prompto grabbed him by the arm and hauled him up so he was sitting on it instead.
“The Archean’s getting real impatient,” Noct growled iritibly, head in his hands.
“We can afford to rest until morning, but no longer than that,” Ignis stated, crossing his arms, “not with the Empire present.”
“Think I can give him a raincheck? I mean, if any of the six are gonna understand chronic pain it’s gotta be the one being crushed by a meteor,” Noct joked half-heartedly, getting a few chuckles.
“I’m not sure we would be so fortunate,” Ignis sighed. “I did pack your brace in case of a particularly awful flare-up, so that should help tomorrow, even if only slightly.”
“You really do think of everything…”
“It is part of my job description, yes.” They lapsed into a silence, so Prompto wrapped his arms around Noct’s shoulders from behind.
“Nap time?” the blond suggested.
“Yeah, sure.” Noct smiled softly as he and Prompto snuggled down under the bedding. “You want in on this Gladio?” The shield put his book down with a mock-defeated sigh.
“Iggy?” Prompto asked, peaking up above the covers at the man with an innocent grin as they shifted over to give Gladio room.
“I doubt there’s room for all four of us there.”
“Not with that attitude there isn’t,” Gladio grunted. Ignis didn’t move. “Come on Igg, you’ve made it a challenge now, get over here and prove me wrong.” The other two laughed. The man sighed and got up from his chair.
“I don’t see how I am supposed to fit here,” he stated, standing at the side of the bed.
“Well, allow me to make room.” Gladio turned onto his side and wrapped an arm around Noct, wedging himself until his charge was nearly on top of him. Noct sputtered at the sudden change of position. “Oh shut up, you were laying all over me in the car anyway.”
“Yeah Noct, no reason to be so bashful now,” Prompto teased, pressing himself against Noct’s back and snaking his arms around the other man’s middle, spooning him.
“Fine, but don’t complain when your arms all fall asleep and I’m not moving,” he chuckled.
“Like I can’t move you myself,” Gladio grumbled, closing his eyes. Noct peaked over Gladio’s chest at his advisor.
“Are you gonna join us or just watch?”
“Join us join us join us,” Prompto chanted, whispering loudly. Ignis sighed, taking off his glasses and shoes. The other two ducked their heads back down into the sheets, giggling.
“We win,” Prompto whispered as Ignis slid into bed next to Gladio.
“Don’t breathe in my ear like that,” Noct squeaked.
“Like what? This?” Prompto asked cheekily, before blowing directly into the prince’s ear. Noct made an inhuman gurgling noise and elbowed him. Prompto let out a pained gasp.
“You hit my dick ,” he exclaimed, hushed, sounding like he’d never been so offended in his life.
“Please no rough housing in the bed,” Ignis stated tiredly.
“I don’t know, I think they’re into that,” Gladio mumbled, resting his chin on top of Noct’s head. Prompto wheezed, pressing his forehead into Noct’s shoulder.
“That was hardly appropriate, Gladio.”
Noct felt Gladio shrug. After a moment of silence, the prince spoke up again.
“So we can all say the Archean probably deals with chronic pain, right?” he asked, receiving a few grunts of agreement. “Maybe I can trade some tylenol for a blessing.”
“I don’t think there’s enough tylenol in the Empire, even if we could afford it,” Ignis remarked, amusement in his voice.
“I think he’d appreciate it though,” Prompto mumbled sleepily. Noct chuckled, finally letting his eyes fall shut with a contented sigh; grateful for the current lul, no matter how temporary it may be.