Noct was actually trying this time. It may or may not have had something to do with one too many snide remarks from Gladio questioning his clock-reading abilities. Regardless, for once he was going to be ready for one of these damn state functions before his advisors arrived to assist and/or mock him.
Or he would be, if he could just find all the damn accessories meant to adorn the ridiculous get-up. There was supposed to be an ornamental pin broach thingy and maybe some matching cufflinks, if he recalled correctly. Heirlooms from one of the Altissian noble families, gifted for some big occasion or other several generations back. But seeing as two of the descendants of said family would be in attendance tonight, he knew it was one of those pesky details he couldn’t overlook.
It wasn’t until the majority of the contents of both the closet and dresser were strewn across his floor that the memory hit him. A few weeks back, while he and Prompto had been rummaging for a misplaced King’s Knight bonus pack, they’d upended one of his numerous stashes of Crown-related baubles.
Prompto had been instantly distracted, captivated by the play of light over gemstone and precious metal. A quick check for permission and then he’d been snapping pictures right and left, clamoring about the perfect shots for an upcoming assignment. Noct had soon grown bored, told Prompto to just take the whole lot home with him to photograph at his leisure.
Which, after some convincing, was exactly what Prompto had done, and Noct had promptly forgotten all about it. Thinking back, he thought—hoped—prayed—the Accordo trinkets had been with that bunch. Otherwise he was back to square one, with—glanced to his nightstand clock—just over an hour until Ignis and Gladio would be pounding down his door.
Diving for his phone, Noct absently started pawing through rest of the outfit's accoutrements as he listened to it ring. Getting more worried as the seconds ticked by, until Prompto finally answered, breathless, just as Noct was about to give it up as a lost cause.
“Sorry, dude, dozed off on chem homework. What’s up?”
Noct took a deep breath. “So, that whole collection of pendants and rings and junk you took home with you—”
“Shit—I knew it, that was breaking some law, wasn’t it? Misuse of royal regalia or some crap…okay, look I can delete all the photos, shred the prints…maybe burning would be better? And I can—”
“Prom? Oi, no, look, stop—PROMPTO!”
“You’re not in trouble. I told you already, it’s fine. It still is. But was there a broach kinda thing—large, intricate platinum work inlaid with fire opals? Matching set of cufflinks, Altissian-design?”
“Uh,” There was the sound of movement, then rattling, metal clinking against metal. “I think…yes! This?” A moment later Noct's phone pinged with a text, photo attached.
“Yup, those are them.” Relief warred with panic: items successfully found—yay; on the other side of the city—shit.
“…Altissian...wait, you have that thing tonight with the Accordian delegation. Astrals, you need these—” the rest was garbled by sudden background noise.
“Uh, yeah. Look, I hate to—”
“When?” Prompto’s voice came back clearer again.
“When do you need them by. How long do I have?” The sound of feet pounding down stairs was audible.
“Like…just under an hour? I'll get Specs to—”
He was cut off by the slam of a door, overlaid with a disbelieving snort. “At this time of day, against rush-hour traffic? Even Iggy’s mad driving skills are no match. I’ll grab the train; if I jog, I can do it in twenty-five, half hour, tops. Catch you on the flip side!”
And he hung up, before Noct could voice another protest.
Noct's finger hovered over the call button. Knowing the way Prompto ran, he’d probably manage to shave a few minutes from his estimate. Noct felt a burst of guilt, knowing he should have checked earlier…but desperate times.
Grimacing, Noct headed for the bathroom for a quick shower followed by hurriedly donning the unnecessarily complex formal attire. He began the arduous task of affixing all the odd adornments in between drying and styling his hair.
The ding of an incoming text arrived just as he was finishing the last touches on both. Ignis, informing him he’d just picked up Gladio and if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, could he be ready and down in fifteen minutes. Which meant, unsurprisingly, they were early. Prompto hadn’t even arrived yet—
Except no, a quick glance at his call history confirmed that it had in fact been almost fifty minutes since they’d talked. Which was…odd.
Though Prom was notorious for getting sidetracked, when it mattered his focus had always been akin to a laser's. And he’d sounded awful sure. Noct tried to ignore the inkling of worry. It was rush hour and he might have missed the train…though at this time of day they were running every few minutes.
Noct hesitated, fiddling with his phone. Prompto was already doing a favor; prodding him to hurry up about it would be dickish…though, if Noct knew where he was, maybe they could meet at the station. That would save Prom the jog.
Shooting his friend a “Where r u at?” text, Noct began his final prep, collecting the last of his belongings and heading for the door. When he got there and found no answering text, he sighed, dialed Prompto. Growled when it went straight to voicemail.
Maybe Prompto had declined the call because he was right outside. Noct hauled the door open, peeked down the hall. After a moment of glaring at the unmoving elevator, he checked his phone again. Nothing from Prompto; there was, however, an oh-so-helpful text from Gladio telling him to get his butt down here, they’d be pulling up in just a moment.
Sighing, Noct pocketed his keys and headed down the hall.
Only to have the elevator doors slide open halfway there, lone figure tumbling out. Emphasis on the tumble.
Moving before the doors were fully open, said figure careened through the gap, clipping Noct's shoulder before stumbling into the wall. Noct froze, mouth falling open in surprise.
Prompto. A much worse-for-wear Prompto than the one Noct had waved good-bye to after school a few hours ago. His hair was in disarray, with what looked an awful lot like blood matting it near his temple. Both knees of his trousers were ripped, more blood oozing from the rents. He had an accompanying scrape starting at the elbow and halting only when it reached his wristband. His other arm was clutched close to his chest, the swelling around the wrist already apparent.
Pushing himself off the wall, Prompto looked up, smiled lopsidedly when he caught sight of Noct. “Oh...uh, hey. Sorry I’m late.” He slid the backpack Noct had only just noticed off his shoulder, held it out. “Don’t worry, I checked, they’re all fine. Bag musta cushioned the impact.”
Noctis’ hand reflexively closed around the bag as it was thrust at him; otherwise he remained motionless, continuing to stare. “What in the Six happened?”
Prompto bit an already abused lip as Noct’s eyes roved once more from head to foot, trying to catalog all the damage.
“Ah, see, there was this bike…”
“It hit you?”
Prompto offered an almost sheepish laugh. It was hard to see the humor, however, over all the bleeding.
“More like I hit it? Biker whizzed past just as the walk signal went green, apparently didn’t realize cars always run reds at that intersection. So I sorta…rushed the bike? To try'n halt it. Which, lemme tell you, bad plan. Bikes are a lot less squishy then people. So many pointy bits. And then the car still clipped the bike…I think? That’s what a couple onlookers said, but the driver definitely didn’t stop to find out. And it kinda all happened so fast. The way the bicycle’s front was squished, I’d believe it. Would also explain that extra spin we got…uh Noct?”
Noct had dropped the bag in favor of scrambling around for his key, blanking on which pocket he’d stuck it in. It had been like one minute ago, where in The Six could it have gone? What about a first aid kit, Ignis definitely had stocked one of those for his apartment, right? There was no way he’d overlook something like that—
“Dude?” Prompto was staring at him, gesturing to the dropped backpack with his good arm—less-damaged arm. “Don’t you need those? Aren’t you already running late? Don’t actually know what time it is, my phone didn’t fare so well, but I was sure I was gonna miss you...”
Noct was distracted momentarily by a drop of blood as it made its way down Prompt's extended arm, finally falling to the carpet. The plop it made on impact jolted him back. “Didn’t anyone call the police? Or an ambulance?!” he demanded.
Prompto started to shrug, the motion ending in a sway. Noct abandoned his quest for the key, jumping forward to aid his friend. Only to halt a handbreadth away, unsure where to grab that wasn’t bleeding, scraped, bruised or broken.
“I think the police were on their way? ” Prompto said. “George—the biker—said he was gonna file a report against the driver 'cause someone got the plate. And I think maybe wait for an ambulance, 'cause his leg was kinda messed up. Good thing he'd been wearing a helmet! He didn’t want me to run off…might have blamed me too? Shit…hope he’s not gonna press charges again me for jumping him…cause that’d, like…suck. I promised I’d return, though, after I dropped off your stuff…But I gave him my number…and my student ID, so he’d have my address…huh…gonna need that back…”
“Prom…PROM, what about you?”
“What about me?”
Noct fought the urge to ground his teeth. Or shake his friend like a baby rattle. The former his dentist kept warning him about; the latter would almost certainly be the opposite of helpful considering how dazed Prompto was already looking, his swaying growing steadily more pronounced. “Why didn’t anyone call an ambulance for you?” he bit out, just as Prompto sagged.
Jumping forward, Noctis eased him back against the wall, slowing his descent. He didn’t fail to miss his friend's wince as his arms closed around Prom’s chest.
“Oh…uh…I think someone offered? But, y’know…you were waiting. Know this whole banquet thing’s important. Had to make it on time…so you wouldn’t be late…aren’t you going to be late?” Prompto blinked up at him owlishly, brow furrowed. His words had begun to slur and his gaze had taken on a decidedly glazed look, a rival to even the very best dipped donuts.
“Oh, that ship is definitely sailing.” Considering the repeated buzz of incoming texts Noct had been hearing on and off for the last few minutes, Prompto was not the only one worried about tardiness. Guess they’d all have to wallow in their disappointment together.
“Ship? Is the party on a boat?” Yeah, the growing confusion could be added to the list of blaring warning signs. “Don’t you need to get going? It can’t sail without you, right?”
As if on cue, the elevator pinged behind him. The sliding doors revealed an impatient Gladio, eyes on his phone, voice pitched loud enough that were Noct still in his apartment, he’d be able to hear it. “Oi, highness! Get that royal heinie out here—what in the Six…?” His shield trailed off. “Noct?...shit, is that Prompto?”
“Great timing. You can carry him.” Prompto’s eyes had fallen shut, head slumping forward to rest in the crook of Noct’s neck.
“Noct…don’t feel s’good,” Prompto mumbled, words barely decipherable.
“Understatement.” Noct braced himself as Prompto’s full weight came to rest on him, mindful of the injured limb between them.
Gladio crouched beside them, voice hard. “What happened?”
“An accident, with a car…or a bike, or both? It was kinda muddled.” At Gladio’s nod, Noct began to shift Prompto gently into his waiting arms. “But he thought he was going to be late to bring something to me, so like the dumbass he is, he didn’t wait around for the cops or to get checked out or anything!” He wasn’t losing it by the end, really. Even if Gladio's look said otherwise.
With a sigh, Gladio pushed to his feet. Noct hovered close by, adjusting Prompto's swollen wrist to rest carefully once Gladio had him in position, then darted ahead to summon the elevator.
“Where’d it happen? Didn’t see any cops or anything when we pulled up…”
“Not sure…” Noct considered what Prom said about running reds, was pretty sure he knew what intersection he meant, having faced a few close calls himself. “Down by the station, I think.”
Stepping aboard the lift, Gladio gave a slow whistle. “Really—he came that many blocks like this?”
“He’s tougher than he looks,” Noct shot back defensively. “Twisted his ankle once, halfway through a run. Walked back home almost five miles on it. He didn’t get medical attention that time, either.” Noct grimaced. He’d only found out about it because Prompto had texted him when it happened, wondering if he could get a ride. Only it had been five in the morning on a Saturday, so like any sane person, Noct had been asleep.
Hours later, when Noct asked him what that had been about, Prompto had finally confessed (the fact that he’d been limping for the next week was also a big clue). He said he hadn’t wanted to call in case he woke Noct.
Shifting restlessly in Gladio’s arms, Prompto whimpered slightly, eyes still closed. Noct leaned over, smoothed back his friend's tangled hair. “Idiot,” he chastised softly.
Ignis was leaning on the car and glaring as they stepped out into the parking garage, one finger idly tapping his watch. One look at the bundle Gladio carried and his expression changed, brows drawn in concern.
As they drew closer, Noct could see him scanning over the injuries, calculating. “Hospital?”
“Hospital,” Gladio affirmed grimly.
"And fast," Noct gritted out.
Waking had never been something Prompto found particularly difficult. So he would have expected more panic upon facing the current struggle, worse than cresting a long steep hill on a chilled, damp morning.
Instead, all he felt was…kinda floaty.
As he drifted along, mostly untethered, details slowly started to sink in, drawing him back. Like the soft beep that sounded nothing like his phone or clock. Or the fact that the ceiling blurrily coming into focus wasn’t one he’d ever woken to before. Not his bedroom, living room or the rapidly growing familiar trim at Noct’s apartment.
Or what felt almost like…tape wrapped around his arm. His right arm, not far from—
Ah, right, there was the panic. Gasping, he flailed with his other arm, reaching desperately for the comforting presence of his wristband. He ignored the sluggish, resistant limbs and strangely stiff fingers . It was only after the reassuring touch of the familiar cloth registered that the pain hit, halting any further movement in its tracks.
Given the ache radiating from his left wrist, the reduced immobility of his hand made sense, considering the cast encasing his arm from mid-palm up to his elbow. As soon as the broken limb made itself known, a myriad of other hurts all started clamoring for attention.
It was a voice from the side of the bed that claimed it, though.
“Yeah…you kinda flipped out when the nurse tried to remove it, so I convinced them to leave it, work around.”
He knew that voice. Noct.
“Oh…um…” Prompto searched his memory until a few images floated up. Strange hands on him, weird sounds and someone trying to take the bracelet off, which he reacted to even less well than usual. And the result had hurt, that moment seared into his recollection.
But Noct had been there…had been shouting at someone? And maybe the calmer, deeper rumble had been Gladio…? But everything was jumbled together in a pain-filled, hazy jigsaw. Prompto attempted to wet his too-dry mouth. “Ah..thanks?” he managed to croak.
A moment later a cup appeared before him, the straw pushed to his lip. He gulped the water gratefully. After a few sips the cup was removed, placed once more on a nearby nightstand.
Turning his head slightly—and who knew just that could be such a challenge?—Prompto followed Noct’s progress as he returned to the chair pulled up alongside his bed. Eyes glittered in the room’s dim light as the prince regarded Prompto silently, offering nothing further.
“…so…um…hospital?” Had to be, right? What with all the machinery and propped up bed with the rails, and he was pretty sure that was an IV in his arm—and oh shit, this seemed like a private room, did his insurance even cover—
“Medical wing, at the Citadel.”
Prompto’s breath hitched—he couldn’t decide if that was better or worse.
Noct went on before he came to a decision, “I voted for the nearest hospital, but Ignis pushed for here. Probably the right call in the end. Doctors at a normal hospital might not have listened to me.” There was something off about Noct, his voice strangely flat, detached. “Or not let me stay for the past two days.”
Prompto blinked, took a moment to process, then couldn't hold back a squawk. “Two days!? But…"
Two days…it had just been a small accident…hadn't it? Not that serious, certainly not worth two days of hospital time. Two days of Noct's time, time which he must have had more important things to do, like the—
"The banquet! Tell me I didn't make you miss—" Prompto went to sit up, panic returned two-fold, only to discover halfway up what an incredibly bad plan that was. If he had thought it had hurt before, that was a candle to the flames of agony blooming in his chest, down his legs, hip to knee. The steady beep was suddenly a rapid staccato, a nice match to his pounding pulse.
Someone was shouting…maybe it was actually himself? Only no, he was too busy sucking desperately for air to be making that racket. No, that was Noct…not detached now, so that was something.
Only now he sounded upset, not really the direction Prompto had been hoping for. More voices joined the fray, and the lights went bright and everything went fuzzy for a bit.
As the pain faded back to an almost manageable level, the forms around him resolved into what he was pretty sure were medical staff—the white coats were a dead giveaway. He fumbled his way through a few questions, a brief check of his numerous bandages—way more than seemed right—tried to process the stern admonishments, promised he would most definitely not try getting up again—not a hard guarantee to make, when the thought of any motion made him nauseous—and breathed a quiet sigh of relief as they retreated under Noct's steady stare.
As soon as the door clicked shut, that gaze transferred back to Prompto, pinning him in place even as he attempted to shift into a more comfortable position. The doctor had assured him the drugs were kicking in already; not fast enough apparently.
"You heard them, no moving around."
"Uh, yeah, dude, don't need to tell me twice. But…hey—"
"And you should probably get some more rest," Noct finished over him, once more throwing himself into the bedside chair.
"Uh…sounds good. Just…" Prompto hesitated, worried about the answer but needing to know. "The…the Accordo banquet thing, tell me I didn't mess that up?"
"You didn't mess it up." The flat tone was back.
"Okay..but…I mean, you said two days, and if you missed it, I know how big a deal it was and—"
Noct sighed. "I didn't miss it. Was barely late, even…Ignis has started lying about starting times, apparently. After they checked you out and realized there might be internal bleeding, they carted you off to surgery, said it might be a while. Ignis and Gladio convinced me to attend the ceremony in the meantime. We arrived alongside the hors d'oeuvres."
"Oh thank Astrals for that." Prompto murmured, tension releasing. Or maybe it was the painkillers finally doing their stuff. He found himself overwhelmingly relieved someone had been on the ball, considering how much he potentially could have screwed things up. Relieved enough so to let his heavy lids start to droop, ready to figure the rest out later. Except…
"They said that's how you'd probably feel…after pushing to get there like that."
Except Noct's voice was still that too-level tone, the one that he usually reserved for being extra-pissed off, and if anything his frown had grown, and...Prompto had missed something else, clearly. He waded through the molasses his thoughts were becoming, fishing for the remaining problem. "…the biker…George. Is he okay? He wasn't too badly hurt, was he? Shit, is he mad, maybe I should've—"
"He's fine. And just the opposite, he's insisting you saved his life. The video someone caught of the whole thing makes it pretty clear. "
"They got the driver, too. He was arrested—reckless endangerment and fleeing the scene."
"Replaced your phone, too. It was a total goner." Noctis nodded over to the bedside table.
Prompto dazedly followed his indication, squinted at the shiny new phone—which looked suspiciously like a significant upgrade to his last model—and tried to process. "T-thanks…" It was too much coming at once for his sluggish brain. Even so, it all sounded like good news; none of it explained the look on his friend's face, the dead tone.
Maybe he was imagining it? He gave up, too muddled for anything except the direct approach. "Um…are you mad?"
"No." Which should be a relief, except for the clipped harshness of it. Even drugged up, injured and out of it, Prompto knew Noct well enough to hear the lie. And sure enough, after a minute came the quiet: "Yes."
Stomach churning, Prompto finally ventured a hesitantly, "At me?"
The heavy silence spoke volumes. Suddenly Noctis exploded out of his chair, pacing the room. "Yes, dammit!"
Prompto swallowed, mind racing—or attempting to; barely managing a limping stumble. "S-sorry? I—"
Noctis' inarticulate growl cut him off. The piercing glare kept him from starting again. "You realize I mentioned surgery, and internal fucking bleeding—and you didn't even ask!"
"Um…I…" The cast and numerous other injuries made hunching down and burrowing himself under the covers a difficulty, but it was still an appealing notion when faced with the full, unexpected force of Noct's anger.
"You probably don't remember, you were so out of it, but this is the third time you've woken up. Both other times, all you did was keep insisting I don't be late for that damn dinner. "
"…well it was important—"
"It was just a stupid state banquet! You—"
"Dude!" Prompto broke in, indignantly. "You might be able to completely ignore Ignis, but I have yet to master that skill, and he's been going on and on to you at every opportunity, for weeks now, about how important this thing was going to be. Sure sounded like Lucis' entire trade arrangements with Accordo hinged on the thing!" Prompto thumped the blanket for emphasis with his good arm. Only apparently even that gesture was too much, as another stab of dulled pain shot up his arm and across his torso. Dammit. Arguing impaired sucked.
Noctis was unimpressed, if the continued glower was anything to go by. "Your life was at stake!"
Prompto couldn't help but scoff. "Oh, c'mon, that's—"
"You had ruptured your spleen. Docs said if we'd brought you in much later, you would have bled out."
Prompto quashed the sudden wave of fear. That was…a lot scarier than he was currently up for processing. He packed it away for a nice anxiety session at some later date.
Only apparently he was less successful than he'd hoped, the way Noct suddenly stopped, concern replacing the anger radiating off him. "Shit. Breathe!" Noct was abruptly in front of him, dropping onto the edge of the bed, grabbing for his hand. "You're gonna be fine, though, we got you here in time, docs patched you up, you'll be as good as new. Just breathe."
Oh, right, that would probably help. Noct reached up, started rubbing his shoulder. "You're fine, you're fine. C'mon, please, you gotta calm down. If they have to come back in here so soon, there's no way they'll let me stay. The nurses' have already threatened to kick me out a couple times, don't want them yelling at me again."
Prompto couldn't help the small laugh that bubbled up, breaking through the threat of hyperventilation. That familiar petulant whine was such a welcome contrast to the anger of minutes before.
"Can't…can't have that." He managed a half-wheezed chuckle.
"No." The hand on his shoulder suddenly clenched, tight enough to be just this side of painful. "No, we really can't."
The rubbing resumed, slower now. Prompto let his eyes drop closed as he breathed, focused on the sensation. Neither of them spoke, not until Noct's quiet: "Just…don't do it again. Please."
Prompto cracked one eye open. “What, jumping a bike? Prioritizing the good of the nation?”
Noct was back to glaring. “Almost dying!"
Prompto tried to hide the wince; definitely still unnerving when it was put so bluntly.
"Sorry," he whispered, genuine. That had really not been the plan. "Guess I just hadn't been…y'know, thinking clearly at the time?"
"There are times you think clearly?" Noct's smile was maybe a bit forced, but it was there.
"Prince Asshole to you. So we're agreed, not again. I forbid it. Royal decree.”
“Doesn’t the king need to make those?”
“Is that what it’ll take? I can call him if you’d like—”
“Nooononon—” He’d only met Noct’s father on one occasion, and that had been intimidating to the point of ulcer-inducing already. Facing him when he felt like death warmed over and could have almost helped cause an international incident? Nooo thank you, he’d pass.
"Well, then you've got no choice." The look Noct threw Prompto was mostly smug, but the hint of intensity still lurked in his eyes.
Prom summoned up a smirk, expended the last of his energy on the most cheeky salute he could manage. "As you command, your royal highness."
"Don't make me beat you with your own pillow."
"Don't make me call the nurse to chase you—"a yawn cut him off, "—out." His eyes had slipped closed again without his permission.
The warmth of Noct's hand, fingers interwoven with his own was grounding. "You wouldn't."
"Nope," he agreed sleepily. Noct wasn't going anywhere, and everything else…everything else would keep until later. "Never."