From his spot at the edge of the haven, Noctis looks out at the bridge. It’s dark and deceptively peaceful. On the other side, he can see faint points of light scattered across the downtown skyline. That’s where they’re headed tomorrow.
He looks over his shoulder when he hears Prompto’s footsteps behind him and throws him a gentle smile.
“Hey,” Prompto sighs, crouching and wrapping his arms around Noctis. He holds his camera in one hand and presses the other to Noctis’s chest.
For a few breaths they quietly look out into the night, to their city in the distance. Earlier in the evening, Noctis told his friends that he has to sacrifice himself to save the world. The weight of that revelation hangs between them now.
Prompto rests his chin on Noctis’s shoulder and pulls him closer. Noctis runs a thumb over the back of the hand holding the camera.
“You still have this.”
“Yeah, it’s tough. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.” He laughs softly and adds, “Don’t make cameras anymore, period.”
“Yeah. I thought maybe you’d wanna look at some old photos.”
Noctis twists his head to kiss Prompto’s cheek. “I’d like that.”
Prompto turns the camera on and holds it up in front of Noctis so they can both see the viewscreen. He quickly scrolls to the beginning of the photo roll. It’s a shot of the four of them posing in front of the Regalia, at Hammerhead.
“There she is,” Noctis breathes. “I do miss that car.”
Noctis doesn’t mention the last time he saw her—smashed up in Gralea just outside Zegnautus Keep. They were on their way to rescue Prompto from unknown horrors, after Noctis had fallen for Ardyn’s trick and pushed his best friend off of a moving train. He’d hurt the person he loved the most in the world, in probably the worst way possible—with words. They still haven’t had a chance to talk about any of that, and now doesn’t really seem like a good time.
The next shot is of Noctis and Umbra. His younger self is reading the notebook he shared with Luna, and Umbra is gazing up at him with the look of a dog who knows he’s doing a good job.
“Where’d Umbra go, anyway?” Prompto asks.
“Not sure. He came with me to Hammerhead . . .”
“Magical dogs, man. Always taking off without warning.”
Noctis laughs. “You can’t pin a divine dog down.”
They scroll to a group shot at Galdin Quay, with the hotel in the background—blue sky above and sunlight sparkling on the water. They all look happy. It was before they heard the news about Insomnia’s fall.
Noctis tries to remember what it was like when his only problems were the crush he had on his best friend, his impending arranged marriage and his strained relationship with his father. The Noctis in the photo didn’t yet realize that he and his dad would never see each other again. Since then, he’s given a lot of thought to what he might say or do differently if he could go back to the Citadel steps, when they said goodbye for the last time. Soon, he’ll finally get the chance to tell him how he feels.
The early days of their journey flicker by as Prompto scrolls through pictures of Cor leading them to the first of many royal tombs, Monica at the hunter outpost near Keycatrich, Gladio pumping his fist in a motel room after winning a hand of five stud, and Noctis jumping back from the explosion of a flask he lobbed at a pack of vortooths.
Among the mostly-very-cool action shots are more than one of Noctis in some sort of un-graceful, embarrassing position on the ground. After the third photo of himself face-planting from a poorly-timed warp-strike, Noctis turns and squints at Prompto.
“Good thing you got this, instead of, you know, helping.”
“Hey! You know I was fighting too! I’m good at multitasking.”
There are group shots at every single scenic overlook and landmark they’d passed. Noctis feels a rush of warmth, remembering how they could never refuse Prompto’s requests to stop for a picture. Then his heart breaks as they pause to look at a photo of Talcott and Jared.
“He looks so different now,” Noctis says. “I didn’t recognize him at first.”
“Yeah. He grew up really fast. Too fast. That kid has seen some shit.”
“You all have, I’m sure.”
Prompto just nods into his shoulder.
Noctis can feel his best friend’s weariness as he slumps into his back. He can’t imagine what they’ve all been through these past ten years. At least he can bring it to an end now.
“But—” Prompto’s words seem to catch in his throat.
“Hmm?” Noctis turns to face him, setting the camera to the side.
Sniffing and quickly shaking his head, Prompto says, “It’s not all bad, you know. We made it sound really bad maybe, but we’re surviving, Noct.”
“I know you are. What you’ve all accomplished together is amazing.” He smiles.
“I mean—fuck.” Prompto shakes his head again, as he starts to cry.
Noctis reaches both hands to Prompto’s face to wipe the tears away and lightly runs a thumb over his goatee. His best friend looks different now. He has too many new scars. He’s stronger, and somehow even hotter than the twenty-year-old from Noctis’s memory.
After a shaky breath, Prompto continues, “I mean that we can keep going. There’s still a bunch of places in Jared’s notebook that Talcott and Iggy haven’t checked out yet. Sania’s already found out so much stuff about the Scourge. Not as many people are getting infected these days—”
Noctis furrows his brow. “Prompto, I’m telling you—”
“No! Maybe it’s not the only way! We have to try at least. Can’t we just try? If you stay a little longer, it—it’ll be like old times. We can go back to how it was— the four of us. We can—we can go to these other tombs, and maybe—”
They’ve had this conversation already, earlier in the evening. Now, Noctis can’t think of anything to do but kiss him. Prompto’s face is wet and his lips are salty and his mouth moves against Noctis’s with a kind of desperation he’s never felt before. When Prompto breaks away, sobbing, Noctis pulls his best friend’s head to his chest.
The Chosen King has had so much time—nothing but time—to think about this and prepare himself. Prompto hasn’t had that. Maybe Noctis should have told them all right away, but he’s still glad he waited. At least they had one nice dinner together before the end.
He strokes his beloved’s hair and holds him while he cries.
“I can’t stay,” he whispers. “I’m sorry.”
He hopes they’ll be able to get some sleep. They both need to be ready for what’s coming.