“Hey, buddy.“ His voice had gotten more and more harsh, scratchy, as time went on. He’d never completely gotten over that pneumonia, and then there was the way that even a cane wasn’t completely helping him walk. A little too young to look and feel so old, but that didn’t seem to matter much. Still, Prompto’s smile was bright as he approached again. It had been a promise never to stay away for long. A promise that–
Well, he guessed that’d be over soon just because it had to be. He smile faltered a little, as did his steps; but both recovered before the final stair. Mostly.
Things needed to be said, he supposed. But before that. "How’s it goin’?" He knew the answer, the real answer. But he still asked, every time.
It was always his friends visiting that he looked forward to, even if he hardly showed it in ways more than opening his eyes and holding their hands when he could. This life was not life, but it was for them. Even if their visits came less and less. Even if age lined their faces. Even if they shuffled or limped and their voices changed.
Even if they were aging right before his eyes while he remained eternally thirty and his mind remained eternally twenty.
There was something in the air this time, something that made his throat constrict painfully, and when he opened his eyes, they were so oddly crystalline in their clarity despite their glow. There were no tears but there was clear sorrow; more and more lately, Noctis wondered if this would be the last time. They were so old, aging beyond even their actual years.
“Hey,” he croaked out softly. “It’s…goin’.”
“Yeah.” Prompto wheezed a laugh that was hardly genuine. “Yeah, I can see that. Barely, but I can.” He laughed a little more at his own joke. His vision had been going too; darker, blurrier. He hadn’t handled a gun in… a long while. Didn’t need to, he supposed, but also couldn’t.
There were a lot of things he couldn’t do. This, for instance. He thought. He was so sure. But just like way back then, when their tiny little group had to be everything to each other, he pushed himself. He would succeed, no matter how much it hurt. No matter how much of it was at his own expense.
Sighing, Prompto let the smile falter as he limped just a little closer, leaning in. “You know already, huh? Bet you do. I can… kinda feel it.” His body just… it was finally at a point where there was no recovery. No bouncing back. And he could feel it, something deep and horribly instinctive.
Dammit. He didn’t want to cry. It wasn’t fair, crying for himself. And he wasn’t, really, he… didn’t want to let go of life, sure, but more than that–
He didn’t want to let go of Noct. To… to leave him behind… “M-must be… getting sappy i-in my old age.”
Noctis’s head bowed. He wished he could do something, anything, to help his friend. To help all of them, but most of all Prompto. He had always loved him most, loved him through the years they spent together. The nights, the mornings, being able to see him smile…
Bringing back the dawn was enough, wasn’t it? But no, it wasn’t. Not then. Not when he wanted to hold him. So selfish.
It was a small movement. Tiny, compared to how much movement he had once been capable of. It hurt, too, but then even the smallest bit hurt sometimes. It was the price he paid for the world. The price he paid to keep everyone safe and happy. It didn’t matter much whether he was safe and happy, so long as his friends were good.
He turned his hand, curling his fingers to gesture for Prompto to put his hand in his. He wanted to feel him. Needed to feel him, really. He couldn’t speak again, couldn’t move, and the fire in his veins burned brighter and hotter, clear against the skin in cracks of light that flowed along. Raw power that he didn’t even want but was forced to bear.
There was no point in trying to hold the tears back, Prompto sniffing even as he reached for Noct’s hand, his own shaking. Didn’t matter; the contact was important. Nice and good and… he was sure it wasn’t as nice for Noctis when his fingers were old and gnarled.
Still. Still, he just. Couldn’t quite stop crying when he thought about it. He couldn’t squeeze his king’s hand all that hard (his king, his more; words did very little justice at that moment, or really ever) but still firm. Enough. Enough to be there, for as long as he could be, for as long–
“Don’t… don’t wanna leave you.” Prompto couldn’t be sure if he was understood, voice as raspy as it was, wet with sobs he was failing to calm. “I’ve h-had to leave you every single day. We a-all have. Again and again. I can’t– Noct, I can’t.”
What was he saying? What was he even saying? He didn’t know. Maybe his mind was going. He wished he could have laughed at that. It wasn’t so bad; he forgot things sometimes, couldn’t concentrate, but–
He didn’t really realize what he was doing until he felt hot-cold-metal-power under the palm of his free hand. He’d reached for it, the hilt of the sword spearing through Noctis’ chest, that… thing which kept him there. Held. Trapped. No one dared, no one wanted that blood on their hands, but also no one wanted to be responsible for…
The death of the last king. Their king. Their friend. His–
It was a heavy thing. A weight he bore almost without thinking. “Come with me.” Prompto uttered before he’d even thought it through, mind suddenly clear. He squeezed that hand again before letting go, wrapping around the sword’s hilt instead. “Noct, my– Noct, come with me.” They’d taken enough, the Gods. The dawn. Everyone. Everyone.
Tears spilled again, even a grip on the hilt a little bit painful for his hands. Difficult. The words were a plea that meant so much more, things he’d lost or never found the words for. Not the right ones. But the ones he wished he’d said on the road, long ago. A plea to run away with him which remained silent until then. There. “Come with me.”
What Prompto could not do, Noctis did. He squeezed his hand, power in his grip as if he did not want to let go. And he didn’t. He was not a stupid man, not by far. He had an intuition, one that led him to believe that this would be The Last Time. The final time. It was the end. The way Prompto spoke, the way he cried…. He would lose him.
He would lose everyone. Then he would be left all alone in a world of light that he could not enjoy.
Noctis could not even cry. There were no tears. There never had been, not since that last camp he’d shared with his friends and that last night he’d shared with Prompto.
The power in the sword stirred, vibrating through the blade and burning. Noctis raised his head, eyes opening again, and they seemed to glow brighter as if they would warn Prompto not to do what he wanted to do. Do not touch! he should have snapped, but he was tired. He was tired, exhausted, in agony, and…
His eyes fluttered closed for a moment, lips pulling back into a grimace. The ring on his finger burned, the sword burned, his veins burned and crawled, and he felt as though his skin would crack open at any second and so much light would spill out.
“-No…Prom…I…I can’t,” the King managed to whisper, voice thick and breathless and far away. But he wanted to. He wanted to so badly. He wanted to escape this fate, wanted to leave this eternity. Death would welcome him, but he wanted to die in Prompto’s arms, not linger there in agony for untold years, holding back the darkness while the world continued on. Hadn’t he done enough?
At last, there were tears that burned their ways down his cheeks. He could not be that impassive statue that sat upon the throne, unmoving and strong. He tried for so long, but he could no longer.
It was anger. Righteous anger, burning through his veins, flaring with the pain in his hands as he squeezed the sword’s hilt “They’ve gotten enough from you. They’ve gotten enough of you. You did your part already!”
It wasn’t fair. Ignis was right, when he’d first expressed that; little that existed was about fairness. But that didn’t make it right, that didn’t make it okay to just… just… Tears continued freely, Prompto’s voice rougher and louder and powerful despite how frail and powerless he felt. Like everything was leaking out of him, coming in a rush. “The prophecy said you’d die. Not that you’d suffer. It didn’t say anything about this!”
With all of the research they could manage while Noctis was trapped in the crystal, it felt like what they’d wound up with was an incomplete rule book. Of course he only understood why Ignis was so desperate to find information after their king returned to them, telling them he was meant to be the sacrifice for his entire bloodline and bring the light back…
Unfair. Wiping his eyes on his shoulders as best he could, body stiff, neck aching, Prompto supposed he really and truly felt his age in that moment. Crushed beneath time and powers he could never hope to fight against: and the man he loved right in front of him, looking at him, but he couldn’t be saved. “I didn’t want to lose you, but this… this is worse.” He rasped, grip on the hilt faltering.
What a joke. What a cosmic joke. They hadn’t scraped together an incomplete rule book; the rules had been changed in front of them. “Fuck them.” It started as a whisper, choking and harsh; then a yell, loud enough to bounce back from the walls. “Fuck the Gods. Fuck anything that would let this happen! Noct, I–”
The coughing started. Wet and wracking, sending slivers of sharp pain through his chest. He tried to hold on, he tried to keep standing, but his hand slipped and sent him to his knees with a thud and a crack; kneeling before his king with blood on his lips.
It hurt. It hurt so much. And yet in that cloying pain was something like frantic clarity between hacking breaths.
A life for a life, wasn’t that right? Or… something like that. Something about blood and death. Everything was about blood and death. I’ll be the sacrifice. I could be the sacrifice, I could replace him. I could… I could…
Worthless Gods. You worthless Gods. Cruel, petty motherfuckers. Take me instead.
In any other moment, Noctis would have flinched at the anger. Even he knew it was righteous, he who had been raised for this.
No, he had to remind himself. He hadn’t been raised for this, not a single part of it. He had been raised in ignorance, knowing nothing of his fate as the sacrifice to purge the world of its darkness or even as the…whatever he was now. The door securely closed and locked against which the darkness raged. He hadn’t been raised to be a king, either. He hadn’t been raised to be anything.
He did not flinch but he watched it and each word broke his heart. The despair and heartbreak, the tears, and how he railed against the heartless Astrals until he broke down completely–
–Fuck the Gods. Fuck the world, when all it had done was take and take and take without mercy.
And now he was to sit idly and watch someone he loved more than himself die?
“P-Prompto, Prom–” he murmured, and more than anything he wished that his voice was louder. He wished that he could yell as Prompto had yelled, but he’d never really been a very loud person. “Prom, please–Get up!”
In that second, prophecy be damned, the world be damned, the dawn be damned.
“I can’t do it without you…The sword…”
Please, before I change my mind, help me!
And if Prompto couldn’t? Noctis didn’t want to think about that. The tears came faster, hotter, his chest aching with the fear that it was suddenly too late and that Prompto could not rise again. There was the very real terror that the man he loved could not help him this last time and that it was too late to take him up on those pleas.
I can’t. He couldn’t say. Couldn’t speak. He didn’t know why, but there just weren’t any words. He tasted blood. He felt like the world was tilting around him. It hurt. It hurt and he was tired. I can’t. I’m not strong enough, Noct, I can’t do it, I’ve failed you, I failed, I–
No. No. It hurt. Yeah, it hurt; blinding, searing pain in both legs, in his chest, in his throat. And he was tired. He was so tired of so much. Winding down. Like the last ticks of a clock, winding down. But Noctis… Noctis hurt more. Always had. Noctis was more tired. And Prompto wasn’t about to… wasn’t about to give up on him. He’d made a promise.
I’m not leaving you behind. He panted, hands moving blindly to find something to push against, push himself up with. Noct’s legs would do, even if the pain of the first motion made to stand burst like fireworks through his body in time with his pulse, centered on one shattered leg and one badly bruised, radiating outward in bright flares and sparks. He took a bracing breath and coughed blood right onto his king’s knees. No time to apologize. No words to offer.
I promised. I swore. At your side. He must have been hurting Noct, the way he had to push against his legs like that just to raise himself, arms shaking. He didn’t want to hurt Noctis, not even a little, not more; but maybe it didn’t matter anymore. Maybe it wasn’t as important as drawing those agonizing, rattling breaths and pushing, lifting, trying to stand on one battered leg and reach for the sword hilt.
Gladio… Ignis… Luna… Regis… none of them would have wanted this. None of them had known about the suffering, he was sure of it. He was sure. Had to be. There wasn’t much conviction left in him, but of that he was certain; with a renewed flush of anger and an agonized grunt, he reached for the hilt. Missed once with a sound of gagging horror, then grabbed it, reaching up with both hands and clutching, pulling with his weight, trying. Trying so hard because–
He could tell. When his breaths were getting more shallow. When the pain in his useless leg was starting to feel… fuzzy. Not quite right, not quite there.
His last act. His last act on Eos.
A second was spared to be sad about not having brought his camera.
That was fine. Noct was there. Noct was helping. He felt the king’s hands on his own, finally felt the blade start to give– He wasn’t letting go. He wasn’t. If his last act was partly a Godsdamned death grip then so be it. He could feel the unnatural heat of that fucking ring, and if he had any more strength left in him he would have ripped it off Noct’s hand and thrown it as far as he could.
He would have. But he couldn’t. Just trying to tug. Out, down. Using the slackening weight of his body, squeezing every bit of usefulness from it.
Come with me, Noct. Let’s get out of here. Let’s go–
It was all starting to slip. Breath and vision. Just a swirling aura where Noctis was. Warm. Warm light. Warm hands.
Finally, finally, he felt the blade come loose. For one solid fraction of a second, there was the sensation of falling. Just that. Only that.
Like the electrical plug for the whole universe just got pulled. Sound, vision, the tactile feel of anything, everything, it all–
It was a lot to ask of Prompto and he knew it. But it was his last request. It was their last request. A final, desperate act of two men who had been given shit all. It wasn’t fair, none of it, and Noctis didn’t really care how often Ignis had said that life simply wasn’t fair.
Fine. He’d make it fair.
He’d make it fucking fair.
But for several seconds that stretched on like hours, Noctis was afraid that he had been too late. He was afraid that he would be cursed to sit there and watch and listen in absolute horror as the best thing that had ever happened to him in his entire life took his last few breaths on this world. And then he would be alone.
But no, no, he barely dared to breathe a sigh of relief as Prompto moved, and the pain in his knees that his struggle caused was nothing compared to the agony of all of those years of his duty. It would be worth it. They’d always supported each other, anyway; now he was supporting Prompto in his quest to set them both free, that was all. Fair was fair and he’d already paid his dues tenfold. He’d given more than his share.
He choked, he gagged, it was burning and the ring’s light flared, but by the Astrals, he would help. His hands, trembling, the fire in his veins burning brightly, curled around the blond’s. As the sword budged, the fire burned brighter; he gritted his teeth but made no sound even though he could taste ash in the back of his throat.
He was burning from the inside out. It was as if by removing the sword, the fire was being unleashed. But there would be no regrets. He was done.
The blade was jerked free. Noctis gasped as his vision flickered out, hands groping at the gaping hole that bled not blood but heat, and the fire in his veins burned even hotter. His skin began to crack and flake into ash, but he hardly cared and the pain was secondary.
On legs that had not born his weight in years, he surged forward from the throne, his hands reaching and grasping. He caught Prompto and tumbled with him to the marble floor. There was no chance to speak, no chance to check to see if he was alive. Noctis was given no moment to celebrate. His arms wrapped around Prompto tightly.
They burned together as the world ended.