The boy was small and unnaturally pale, dark tracks down the sides of his face. He was dressed in hospital green, head bowed and pressed against his knees, arms stick thin and looped around them. Decidedly not what one thought of when they pictured the working cure for a formerly incurable illness, discovered through the child’s panic and fostered through the rejection of the parent he had saved. Their only tool against Starscorge, Atreol had told him.
He still knew the little face though, knew that tiny frame better than anyone in the world. "Prompto?"
The boy shifted, tilting his head to acknowledge that he was being addressed, leaving black smudges on his knees from the fluid that was leaking from his eyes.
He watched the boy, trying not to flinch at the new red rim around his Iris. Gods. "Dr. Atreol said you have been helping her." He started, for lack of a better conversation starter.
The little arms tightened around the knees, face crumpling in misery.
He stepped forward on reflex, sinking to a knee and putting a hand on the slender shoulder.
The teeth that sunk into his arm were a surprise, but the way the kid jerked back guiltily, tongue darting out to remove all trace of blood from his lips wasn't. "You're not sick."
"I'm not." He made no effort to pull away, more curious than alarmed.
Prompto eyed the wound, licking his lips a bit, clearly hungry.
"Does it help?" He asked, careful to keep his tone neutral. He had heard that Atreol had been giving him blood, but he had thought that meant intravenously. Clearly not, judging by the look on the kids face.
"Dr. Atreol gives me bagged blood." Prompto admitted quietly. "But it's cold."
He shifted his arm, offering a better angle. "I have enough to spare if you think it will help."
Prompto's gaze darted to his face, eyes leaking more of that terrible black sludge - it stank from this close, but Prompto barely seemed to notice it was happening at all.
One of the hands unwound, wrapping delicately around his wrist, watching him the entire time. "I'm very strong." The boy warned.
"So am I." He responded, meeting the gaze levelly. "Eating the sickness has made you sick."
The boy whined softly. "No. The doctor says I am immune. What I eat is stored in my tissue. It's why I'm strong."
He reached up, brushing the dirty tears from his face, running tender fingers through his hair. The kid needed a bath and a nap, not to be stored in a cell - he wasn't charitable enough to call the glass cube a "room" as Dr. Atreol had - until he was needed.
Prompto watched him through weary eyes.
He pressed his wrist gently to those pale lips.
Whatever reservations Prompto had wouldn't prevent him from taking the offer, the eyes fell closed, hand tightening around as his lips sealed over the wound, body giving a convulsive shudder as he started to suck.
It was a decidedly odd feeling, a burning sort of pain he had no category for. The kid was strong for his size and clearly had not been well tended.
He kept stroking his hair, crooning soothingly as Prompto ate. His jaw loosened briefly to change his bite, throat trembling as he made that same uncanny whining noise in the back of it, muffles by the mouthful of skin.
Eventually, the tears thinned and ran as greyish liquid down his cheeks. That was when he pulled away.
Prompto fought him for a second before he seemed to catch himself, sitting back and rubbing at how face. "Sorry."
"I offered. And see." He twisted his wrist, using a bit of magic to seal the wound. He hoped there was no bacteria he should have worried about, but as far as he heard there had been no secondary infections. "We're both fine."
Prompto watched him, a little color back in his cheeks, shoulders still slumped, smile flickering faintly on his lips. “Yeah.”
He had not really intended to feed the kid. But if it worked it worked. He had some people to talk to before he could get the kid out of here, and until then it would do as a stopgap.
“Let’s go get you cleaned up.” He offered the kid his hand again, and this time Prompto took it. “You look like you could use a bath.”
“Shower.” Prompto corrected softly. “I am not permitted to take baths, and showers must be no longer than four minutes else the residue can stain the tile.”
He had to take a moment to force his jaw to unclench. “Is that so?”
Prompto nodded, gripping his hand.
He had come here expecting to be angry for all of the wrong reasons, clearly.
He crouched down again, still holding Prompto’s hand, voice soft and careful. “Well. As far as I am concerned you are far more important than any stained tiles. Ok? And around here, I’m a pretty big deal.”
There was the shadow of a smile on Prompto’s face just for a moment.
Noctis liked to be picked up and hauled around when he was feeling unsure. He stood again and offered his hands.
Prompto took it in his, looking confused.
“I can pick you up?” He suggested, tilting his head a bit. Prompto hadn’t known how to be held when he’d found him as a baby either, but surely someone around here had carried the kid when he was tired?
Shock was the first expression, and then tears that welled up and cascaded down his cheeks, washing through the dirty tracks. “I-“
“It’s ok.” He tried, keeping his voice gentle. The anger was there, but he didn’t want to scare an already terrified kid.
“Everyone’s scared.” Prompto burst out, bringing one hand to his face. “I don’t bite unless they tell me to. I won’t.” The kid started to sob, shoulders shaking. “I won’t, mister.”
He picked the kid up under the shoulders, reaching or not, settling him against his shoulder and rocking his body a bit to try to comfort him. “I know, kiddo. I know.”
Little arms wrapped securely around his neck and shoulders, tiny face burrowing against him, sobs rattling through the skinny, emaciated frame.
It probably wasn’t a good time to start composing a list of people he was going to kill, but he found himself doing it as he rocked the little boy in his arms, trying to let him cry it out.
Someone was going to die for this.