The haven campsite had to be tidied before they could finish packing to leave, and naturally, the task fell to Ignis with Prompto as his aid. Gladio and Noctis were off to bring the car a bit closer from the shoulder where it was originally parked, which was just as likely to be an excuse for them to spend time on the rowdier activities they found enjoyable. Gladio would keep him in check and safe, if nothing else.
Ignis did not have to worry, but part of him always would.
To Prompto’s credit, the jumpy blonde was eager to help and followed directions well, provided they were not too complex to remember. He managed organizing the outdoor supplies easily on his own. It was no small feat, either—Ignis wouldn't entrust his camping kitchen tools to just anyone.
The task of cleaning up after Noctis inside the tent was another matter entirely. Yesterday’s clothes sat unfolded in a heap, and Ignis spotted a tear in the sleeve of his jacket as he gathered them up. He sighed, shaking his head to the benefit of no one but himself. Gladio would lecture him for coddling, but Noct would surely forget to mend the sleeve for months if left to his own devices. Ignis would take care of it with the laundry.
As he stood to put the clothing with the rest of the dirty laundry, a poorly folded sheet of paper fell out, writing on display. Even as it fell, Ignis knew the handwriting was not Noctis’, but Prompto’s. Closer examination while he picked it up revealed that the message was incomplete—but the typical saccharine prose made its purpose all too apparent. Just as Ignis expected of a love letter from Prompto.
Parts were scratched out, even unreadable in some cases, but the ones he could read brought a fond smile to Ignis’ face. He did have a way of making any action endearing. Such as having Noctis, of all people, review a love note for any areas of improvement. Ignis’ devotion to Noctis had no limits, but he could be honest about the prince—he was not the kind of individual you would turn to for advice in matters of the heart.
And to think that Ignis suspected Prompto’s motives when he first entered Noctis’ life as the habitually nervous friend from school. Now, Ignis would trust him with that very life.
“Prompto,” he called to his friend, who paused in folding up the camping chairs to wipe some sweat from his forehead onto his wristband.
“Sup?” If he realized he held the note as well as the clothes yet, he was incredibly calm about the matter.
Ignis strode over to him and held the note out. “You ought to be more careful with your correspondence.”
His gaze fell on the note, and he flushed a soft pink. “O-oh, right. That’s, I was just—uh—sorry.” Prompto leaned over to get the paper, one foot firmly planted as he did, and crumpled the paper slightly in his rush to get it into his pocket.
“Do be cautious,” Ignis advised, almost saddened to see such affectionate words handled so indelicately. As if Prompto were ashamed. He had always struggled with self-confidence, but it was precisely that uncertainty that was his undoing in many cases. Not that he had much room to talk. Ignis was well aware that his feelings on Prompto were becoming deeper than mere friendship, but he had told not a soul. “The sentiment was rather sweet, and I’m sure the intended recipient would like to treasure the note.”
“What? You… you really think so?”
“I do indeed.” Ignis had said too much, perhaps. To pass that misstep off as a joke, he added in some light teasing so common among the four of them. ”If you can muster the strength to send it, of course.”
Based on the surprised, almost touched, wide-eyed expression from Prompto, Ignis nearly turned over his shoulder to see what might’ve caught his photographer’s interest. The sheepish smile that followed stopped him at the realization that something he himself had said led to Prompto’s response.
“Aw, shucks, Iggy. Just hearing that gives me courage.” Never one to be still for long, Prompto scuffed at the dirt with his boot and nodded to Ignis.
That appeared to have lifted the blonde’s spirits over his recent embarrassment. Perhaps he truly would send the note off and perhaps this time, he hadn’t set his sights on someone unattainable—such as Cindy, who focused on her work above all other matters. Ignis swore his taste in crushes was deliberately constructed at times. For Prompto’s sake, he hoped that was not the case with his most recent crush. It would be pleasant if he were to enter into a contented relationship, or so Ignis told himself as a vice gradually closed in on his heart.
He smiled, turning his attention to adding the clothes in his hands to the dirty laundry already packed away for cleaning during their next hotel stay. “And who is the lucky lady?”
“Oh, uh. It’s not anyone like that, I mean,” he trailed into an awkward laugh, busying himself similarly with gathering the remaining camping supplies, “I dunno if I’d say lucky, dude.”
That lack of confidence returned swiftly, Ignis noted. Ah, it was likely that the object of his affections was out of his reach, then. Still, it could not hurt to encourage him to put himself out there more often. He could not succeed if he did not make the attempt, after all. And they would all be there to support him in their own ways should she turn him down. “I believe that would be up to her discretion. You ought to give her the chance to decide, Prompto.”
The hypocrisy of the statement was not lost on him. While Noctis was often too immersed in his own conflicted emotions to perceive the feelings of others, he had been giving hints to Ignis regarding Prompto over the past few weeks (though his sentiments on Prompto became more romantic in nature several months prior). It was only the occasional idle comment or hypothetical question on the gunman’s attractiveness or charming qualities, but the message was clear to Ignis, if no one else. And yet he had decided it was best not to act on his feelings for Prompto given their shared service to Noctis.
And in a way, Ignis had still gotten the note first. His petty side was appeased with that notion.
“Yeah?” There was a choked, wavering quality to his normally chipper voice that suggested he had not taken this reassurance to heart. “Guess you’re right. You always are!”
Prompto was consistent, at least: always ready to avoid a subject he did not wish to discuss by offering praise and a ready smile, however uncertain.
Noctis was off for an early morning run with Gladio in an uncharacteristic moment of initiative—before 11:00 am and something for his health, no less. Ignis had no pressing tasks to address in the next hour or so, since they had decided to have breakfast at the Crow’s Nest. A bit of a personal slight to Ignis’ cooking that he had the courtesy to keep to himself, since he knew that was not their intention (or it had best not be). Instead, he had settled down with a book of poetry he’d meant to catch up on for some time now to keep his mind preoccupied.
“Oh, uh, hey, Ignis.” Prompto trotted over and slipped one hand into his pocket, the other giving a restless wave. A lopsided smile suggested this was not a simple greeting but leading up to another matter. Ignis closed his poetry book and stood from his chair in anticipation of what required his assistance.
“Good morning, Prompto. Did you sleep well?”
“Nothing much.” Prompto answered with a shrug, the realization sinking in and drawing a nervous laugh from him. “I mean good. Wait, no, I meant yes.”
Ignis only chuckled, adjusting his glasses out of habit. “Glad to hear.”
“Um. Here.” From his pocket came a note in a cream-colored envelope, neatly labelled in Prompto’s handwriting and a small smile drawn in the corner where it ought to be stamped. His thumb lightly creased it at the center where he held it a bit too tightly. “For you.”
“From?” The question left his mouth without as much thought as he would have normally given it, especially considering he knew the answer already. On the outside, he imagined he looked fairly level-headed, but that was not so in his mind. The very notion that Prompto had gone to the lengths of drafting a love note for him had interfered with his every mental faculty. Now his request that Noctis reviewed it made far more sense, since his taciturn nature made it easy work to conceal the matter from Ignis until Prompto was prepared. Beyond that connection, Ignis’ typically keen attentiveness felt incredibly dulled in the realization that this was indeed a note from Prompto for himself.
If not for the new blush spread across Prompto’s freckled face, Ignis may have rationalized it was just a fond note between friends. But there it was—the fresh rush of warmth to a familiar face, a blossoming red simply begging to be chased a tender touch (or a kiss, if he felt emboldened by such a truly adorable response).
“Ah. I see.” He took the envelope, turning it over to see a small, somewhat misshapen heart at the center where one was meant to open it.
A message in itself: I’m letting you into my heart with this note.
“Hey, I’m just gonna,” he trailed off, thumbing over his shoulder to nowhere in particular.
“I would rather you remain here.”
“Huh?” Crystalline blue eyes locked on his, wide and surprised. Yet trustful, ever so trustful. Ignis’ heart swelled with it. As much as his anxiousness drove him to bounce his foot in place since he could not retreat, likely to disappear for as long as he could get away with, Prompto remained. Because Ignis wanted him to. “Oh. Um. Okay.” His hands found their home back in the pockets, and he stared out over the woods beyond their haven as Ignis began to read.
I don’t know how to say it the way I want it to be, so here it is: I really, really like you. A lot. You’re a solid 11 and I’m more of a rounded-up 4, but what you said got me thinking you deserve to choose for yourself if I get to call you boyfriend.
I just love spending time with you, you know? You always give it everything you’ve got, and you never get tired of all that giving. So, I wanna try hard and be there for you too. I may not be much, but you’ll get my all every day. I promise.
The only approximation of a signature was a cartoon-ish drawing of a blushing chocobo at the bottom. In the end, the second draft of the note had very select elements in common with the first (but markedly fewer apologies). Ignis returned the note to its envelope carefully, tucking the message into his chest pocket and felt a brightness in his heart beneath. He did not believe in lucky charms, but if ever there was one, he was certain it belonged to him now.
“Prompto,” he said levelly. It would do no good to answer his nervousness with more of the same, after all.
“That’s me,” he answered weakly and faced Ignis once more.
And yet there was nothing weak about him. Prompto rarely spoke about his life or experiences, but it was clear in how he carried himself that every accomplishment he achieved was a battle hard won—and yet scarcely rewarded. To Prompto, he was never quite enough, and insecurity tinged under every interaction. Yet he persevered. Never once did his worries, so clear and tangible in his mind, ever stop him from rising to the occasion time and again. It weighed heavily on Ignis to see him shortchanged by his own hand so often when all praise, no matter how nonchalant, moved him so completely. The result was an endless temptation to offer praise too often to go unremarked.
To run a hand gently through his soft, styled blonde hair—rather rare in the Crown City and always a welcome sight because of who it had to be—as unspoken congratulations on a job well done. To take it one step further and kiss him whenever the opportunity arose, because few deserved love like Prompto Argentum and yet, he would never ask for it. One some level, perhaps he did not believe he should or could. Like any grievous misconception, Ignis wanted nothing more than to correct it.
“Kinda killing me here, dude.”
“Ah, I apologize. I was taking a moment to appreciate how far you have come.” He stepped closer to Prompto, hoping against reason that Gladio and Noctis had taken a long route. “Your feelings are returned, of course. I only hope you realize what this means for you.”
“Huh? Me?” A smile overtook Prompto’s expression regardless, nervousness dissolving into a palpable level of excitement that simply radiated off him. The anxiety would return, as it was wont to, but this time, Ignis would be there to chase it away again. It only took the thought to brighten Ignis’ smile in return.
“Indeed. I am not known for doing anything halfway, and my courtship of you will be no different.”
“C-courtship?” His voice broke, a darling squeak to it that Ignis fancied as a hopeful one.
“Of course. And with this love note finally delivered, I must catch up to your romantic gesture, in fact.” He reached for Prompto’s hand at his side, the bare skin of his thumb brushing over the open expanse of skin on the back of his hand. Fingers loosely intertwined as Ignis leaned in to press a kiss to his lips.
Soft, warm, and lightly scarred in some places where he may have bitten it anxiously in his younger days—every inch entirely his own, perfectly Prompto’s. By extension, the sensation of them was special, something to be treasured. Ignis dared not close his eyes and miss the opportunity to thoroughly examine his reaction to their first kiss. While Ignis was inarguably a practical individual, he was just as devoted as a romantic. And this memory was one he would want to endure for an eternity.
Prompto held still, the pink still high on his cheeks but the signature freckles of his face visible all the same. His eyes nearly fluttered shut, fine lashes over a deeper blue in his eyes cast by Ignis’ shadow. “Best be prepared.”
Noctis whistled, making Prompto jump at the interruption. Ignis was graced with his grin alongside Gladio’s when he did turn his attention to them.
“About damn time,” Gladio commented, sharing a knowing look with Noctis.
“I dunno. I might miss them dancing around each other.”
“Noct!” Prompto whined, finding his voice at what amounted to harmless teasing. Unfortunately for Noctis, he was not the only one with a quip at the ready. Ignis smirked before delivering his response as an added effect.
“Hm. On the subject of romance, Noct, how fares Lady Lunafreya? You seemed to be in particularly good spirits after her most recent message.”
“…Not fair, Specs.” It was his turn to blush, however faintly, and Noctis avoided the subject by pulling a water bottle from their stores and having a drink.
“Ha! Good one.” Prompto chimed in, patting Ignis on the back and flashing a bright grin. Interesting, how these little gestures took on new meaning on account of a single sheet of paper in his pocket.
“He got you there.” Gladio joined in the teasing of Noctis now with a gentle shove that nearly spilled water from the bottle down the front of his shirt.
“Whatever. Let’s pack up the car before we miss breakfast at the Crow’s Nest.” His previous plan having failed, Noctis set his sights on diverting them with the promise of food. Predictably, that was a successful strategy.
Before that was set into motion, Prompto rushed to get another kiss in, this one to Ignis’ cheek. Though the kiss was light as a breeze and over almost as soon as Ignis had noticed it was happening, it lingered as if an electric spell had recently dissipated in the shape of his lips on his skin. He would have to thank Noctis for being so careless with the first note when he reminded him once again to place his dirty laundry in the correct basket of his own accord.