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Prompto's pretty sure he's gaping as Noct leads him through the Citadel. Because it’s the Citadel. There’s a handful of pictures of the interior in any given history book, and there was that one eighth grade field trip where the class saw the parts of the ground floor accessible to the public, but this… this is not public. Noct was waiting for him in the lobby, sure, but they haven’t been public since Prompto’s slumber bag got examined by a bored-looking Crownsguard.

Even though Noct weaves them through hallways and different elevators, Prompto is amazed.

They’ve got plans for basically the entire three-day weekend and Noct is providing a running commentary on it, likely fully aware of the fact Prompto isn’t really paying attention. Noct’s really good at picking up on small things, including the fact that Prompto would feel super awkward if they were walking in silence. In the month and a half since they became insta-best friends, Noct hasn’t really talked about prince things too often, and so being on the way to private living quarters deep in the Citadel is kind of overwhelming. He’s about to ask if there’s any point where he can start taking pictures without looking like a creep when–

"Noctis."

Noct groans. "Damnit," he mutters.

"I was informed by Ignis that you had postponed your community hours tomorrow.”

Prompto turns.

Walking towards them is the king.

King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII.

If Prompto wasn’t gaping before, he definitely is now.

"Yeah, I just figured they’d need more help on an administrative holiday than on the first day of a long weekend. Can we talk about it later?"

Prompto turns to look at Noct, whose voice has gone bored and petulant as if he were any other teenage boy talking to his dad. Not the prince. Talking to the king of Lucis.

The king of Lucis.

Who is now staring at Prompto.

Who is now staring at Prompto expectantly.

Noct runs his hand through his hair. "Dad, this is my friend. Prompto, this is my dad."

Prompto has done his due diligence, he's done his research, he absolutely knows how to refer to King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII in a way other than holy crap you're the king please don't kill me. He opens his mouth, and he knows what to say but he freezes like this were any other test. But he needs to say something, so he blurts out the first thing to come to mind: "Hi, Noct's dad."

There’s a ripple of amusement behind the king – his entourage, oh gods there are like two dozen people circled around the king – but King Regis Lucis Caelum looks on him kindly. "Hello, Noctis's friend. It is very nice to meet you."

"Yeah,” he says dumbly. “You too."

Noct hooks his hand around Prompto’s elbow and unceremoniously starts tugging Prompto away.

The words pop into Prompto’s head: It is an honor to meet you, Your Royal Majesty.

"Bye," Noct calls over his shoulder.

In the elevator, Prompto turns to an amused Noct. "Say nothing," he says, quietly.

Noct’s eyes crinkle with a repressed smile, but he says nothing.

*

He says nothing of Prompto’s meeting with the king.

Says nothing of the king at all.

He only brings up the Citadel during an idle discussion of a full-week sleepover once it’s winter vacation, but that’s still two weeks away.

Noct had opened up about small parts of his princely duties. The most important part of it being he sometimes does community service after school at a center for training service dogs. Professionals deal with all the formal elements of training, but before that, the puppies need plenty of time to socialize with humans.

Prompto all but demanded that Noct take him with him next time.

When the rain starts tapping against the classroom windows at the beginning of six period, Prompto holds out hope that maybe the rain’ll pass and he can still spend an afternoon playing with puppies (and Noct) in a park.

By the time class ends, the rain has turned into a downpour.

"No puppies in the park?" Prompto asks, as they stand shivering beneath the school awning with a few other clumps of classmates.

"Not today," Noct says, sounding put-out himself. The infliction is subtle, but it’s there.

"No walking, right?"

“So…”

“Back to my place and hanging out?”

“Do we have to walk there?”

Noct pulls out his phone. "I'm texting to get a ride."

Some students act weird about Noct being a prince with servants and power and stuff like that. Prompto wishes they could see he was just another teenage boy. Who is royalty, sure, but it’s more fun to tease him about that than be intimidated by it. "Asking your butler?"

Noct sighs. "He's not my butler, he's my advisor."

"Any way you can ask your not-a-butler to bring umbrellas?"

Noct shrugs. "I can ask, but as soon as the car pulls up, I'm making a run for it."

"You hate running."

"I hate being caught in the rain more. Umbrellas don’t help that much when it’s raining this hard." After a beat, he adds, “Race you.”

"I dunno, buddy, isn't it treason to beat the prince?"

Noct gives him a lukewarm glare. Then he looks over Prompto’s shoulder, and deadpans, "Oh look, a baby chocobo."

“There’s not a baby chocobo behind me,” Prompto says, even as part of hin wonders oh em gee what if there is a baby chocobo behind him.

Noct struggles to keep a straight face as he asks, “Are you sure?”

Prompto has a good idea of what Noct is doing… but he looks over his shoulder, on the off-chance there are actually baby chocobos, and this isn't just a diversion tactic. There aren't. He still lets out a loud groan. "You are the absolute wor–"

But he turns to see that Noct is already running to a nondescript black car, school bag held over his head.

As Prompto approaches, he hears the peals of laughter. Prompto jostles him in the side as he passes, eliciting a sharp “Hey!” and he makes a show of tapping the car first.

“Yeah, yeah,” Noct says, opening the door and gesturing Prompto in first.”

“Sorry for getting your car wet,” Prompto says, even though he was barely in the rain for ten seconds.

Noct closes the door, and then goes stiff, his expression completely blank. "Is everything alright?" he asks, voice quieter and more intense than Prompto has ever heard.

"There is no need to be concerned, Your Highness," says the man behind the wheel. It’s not the not-a-butler Prompto had seen for years. "Ignis is in the middle of a round of exams, and asked me to chauffeur you – and your friend – back to the Citadel on his behalf."

"Oh.” Noct relaxes back into his seat. “By the way, this is Prompto. Prompto, this is Clarus Amicitia. My dad's shield, and Gladio's father."

"Hi, Gladio's dad."

"Are you gonna greet everyone like that?"

Noct,” Prompto whines. “I thought we weren’t gonna bring that up. Like, ever.”

“I wasn’t, until you did.”

“I didn’t bring it up,” Prompto insists, even though he kind of did. “So do I get to meet not-a-butler’s dad?”

Noct – by merit of being prince and taking various etiquette classes and political classes and just being caring a guy – is really good at reading people.

But Prompto is slowly catching up, learning to read Noct. He continues, “Or is his dad also a super rude person who would promise chocobos that aren’t there?”

“You didn’t actually think there was a chocobo, did you?”

“No, but c’mon, it’s so not cool to say there are chocobos where there aren’t. Like, you wounded me, bro. Wounded me.”

“I’ll make it up to you.”

“How?”

Half an hour later, in the dry comfort of Noct’s room, they’ve got a dozen tabs open on chocobo ranches and another dozen tabs about how to run one.

*

HRH NOCTO: stop whatever you’re doing and get here now
HRH NOCTO: royal decree
HRH NOCTO: I’ll have a car pick you up
PROMPTO: if you give me 5 min I can get shoes n start walking
HRH NOCTO: no time
HRH NOCTO: too important
HRH NOCTO: Cal Spinum just dropped the threequel
PROMPTO: WHAT??????
PROMPTO: HE SAID HE CANCELLED IT
HRH NOCTO: CAR ON ITS WAY
HRH NOCTO: EVEN THE TITLE SEQUENCE IS CREEPY AS F
PROMPTO: YOU’VE GOT THE GAME LOADED?
HRH NOCTO: YES BUT WAITING FOR YOU
PROMPTO: CAR HERE NOW THANK YOU I LOVE YOU

*

“I hate you.”

Noct doesn’t reply, hands white-knuckled on his controller, focused solely on the game on the TV.

“I hate you and I hate this game and I don’t know why I’m here.”

“Shhh…” he hisses.

Like, a horror game where the player can’t move and can only look between three observation rooms and the hallway behind them to not die by killer mannequins is pretty cool. But also terrifying. Especially with Noct’s apartment having a super-rad surround-sound stereo system that helps amplify the creepy atmospheric music.

And creepy sound effects.

Like that scratching noises that is getting louder and louder and–

An alarm blares.

Noct startles so hard he nearly drops the controller.

Prompto may or may not give out a yelp.

Noct shoves the controller to Prompto and starts fumbling with his phone.

“That’s a ringtone?”

Noct waves him off as he takes the call. “Hi, Dad.”

Before Prompto can comment on why is that a ringtone, the game pulls his attention back. Being unable to pause the game is a pretty cool and immersive feature, but also terrifying. Also a relief because Noct’s dad – the King of Lucis – had started walking with a cane last year, and it was… tense for a while. They’re a month away from the end of their junior year, and things have mellowed out a bit, but Noct still doesn’t really talk about his dad all that much. And Prompto doesn’t want to eavesdrop.

But at the same time, he can’t help but listen to Noct’s end of the conversation. “Just… at my apartment… Not really… me and Prompto are playing a game… yes, Dad, a video game…”

A great video game, Prompto thinks, as he checks each room. Room to the left, room in front, room to the right, hallway behind. There’s an in-game week to get through, though Prompto hasn’t made it through a night on his own.

Room to the left, room in front– killer mannequin.

Prompto screams.

Noct lets out a yell.

The screen goes red and declares GAME OVER.

A long second later, Noct says, “No, Dad, we’re fine, it’s just–”

“This is not fine, Noct!” Prompto yells. “This game is unbeatable and we’re gonna die!”

Noct shoots him a look. “I’m on the phone–”

Prompto’s heart is still racing from adrenaline and enough fear has ebbed away to make him giddy enough to yell out, “Save us, Noct’s dad!”

Noct rolls his eyes, but the corner of his mouth flickers into a smile. “Dad, we can catch up later–
I don’t know, I’ll come over for dinner tomorrow if you want, but I’ve gotta save Prompto from killer mannequins. Bye.” He tosses his phone back onto the couch. “C’mon, give me the controller back.”

“My hero,” Prompto says, handing it over.

*

Hours later, the coffee table has been moved away and there’s a nest of blankets and pillows in its place. Noct sits against the couch, while Prompto is sitting between his legs, laying back against his chest as Noct plays. Noct’s chin rests on the top of Prompto’s head, and it’s a lot comfier than he thought it’d be.

Noct’s phone rings.

And keeps ringing.

Noct doesn’t cease in his looking between rooms. “Prom, mind getting it?”

The caller ID reads ‘DAD.’

The spooky music helps reinforce that that the innocent word holds a much graver meaning. He stares down, and asks, “You still taking the call?”

Noct nods jerks.

Prompto swipes the call to answer, and then reaches behind himself to hold it up to Noct’s ear.

“Yeah? – Yeah, I’m – I’m gonna do my homework, I don’t need–”

It’s a really uncomfortable position and Prompto is kinda impressed with himself. His free hand reaches for his own phone from where it’s half-buried in the blankets next to him. Switching to selfie mode, the frame shows Noct’s hands on the controller, Prompto’s smiling face, his right arm reaching up, and Noct’s concerned face with his phone pressed inexpertly against his cheek.

He takes the picture right as a mannequin jump-scares them and they both scream.

A few silent moments pass.

“We’re fine, Dad,” Noct says weakly, phone somehow still in Prompto’s hand.

Prompto nestles in closer to Noct, staring at the still-super-creepy menu screen. “We are not fine. I’m not turning the lights off for a week.”

This close, Prompto can hear:

“Noctis, it is eleven on a school night. Stop playing whatever video game you are terrorizing yourself and Prompto with, do your homework, and go to bed.”

Noct takes his phone from Prompto and slips off into another room.

Prompto takes the controller, makes sure Noct’s previous progress had been saved, and turns the console off.

He shuffles back into the living room, schoolbag in his arms. “Homework?” he asks, sheepish.

“Homework,” Prompto agrees.

And Prompto didn’t bring any of his school supplies, but he and Noct share most of their classes. Prompto commandeers a notebook Noct hasn’t used too much of, and they slowly settle into their nest of blankets, algebra textbook between them.

“Does your dad check in on you?” Noct asks, a few minutes in, and it doesn’t come out as casual as he probably wanted it to.

“Nah, not really.”

“Lucky.”

Prompto can’t help but shift awkwardly. “Yeah.”

Noct frowns. “Prom?”

He gives a sheepish smile. After all these years, he’s all but perfected how to change the subject on the things that Noct doesn’t want to talk about. But but they haven’t skirted enough issues on what Prompto doesn’t want to talk about enough to have a well-worn system for this. So Prompto changes the subject himself. “Are there any more lights we can turn on?”

*

Midterms are the worst.

Especially now in senior year.

Prompto’s biggest issue is that he’s not great with tests.

Noct, though… he’s always kept certain things from Prompto, but Prompto knows that his princely duties and obligations have been getting more and more… consuming is the only word for it. It’s exhausting to even look at him some days, and Prompto can’t imagine how it feels.

And so Noct is up on the couch, half-asleep, while Prompto keeps an eye on the clock.

The bright side of all of this is that, since their ill-advised horror game session a few months back that turned into an all-night study session, they’ve developed a pretty good routine.
The coffee table has been scooted back a bit, allowing them to sit in front of it. Pillows and blankets circle around the coffee table, where their notes and textbooks are haphazardly organized.

Noct's phone beeps with a message from its resting place facedown at Prompto’s side. It was discovered pretty quickly that they both benefited from trading custody of their phones.

"You want me to grab your phone for you?" Prompto asks, twisting to look up at where Noct is curled in towards the couch.

Noct grumbles. "It can wait."

Another minute passes, and another beep from the phone.

And another after that.

"You sure you don't want to deal with that?"

He gives a grunt, curling further into himself.

Another beep.

"Noct are you really–"

"You can look at the messages and tell me if there's anything important. Passcode's one-zero-two-five-nine-four.”

Prompto stares at him, bewildered at the fact he has the passcode to Noct's phone. “Uh…”

"Unless it's anything urgent, I don't want to know about it."

"You okay, buddy?"

"Just give me a few more minutes," he mumbles, turning his head in towards the couch.

Prompto finally reaches for Noct’s phone as a new message pops up.

DAD: Please answer me, son.

Prompto does his best to skim the messages, hoping it’s not treason, or a gross violation of his bestie’s trust. It just seems to be a checking in, nothing urgent. And Noct really isn't in the mood to talk to his father it seems like. So Prompto takes a deep breath, unlocks the phone, and goes to the chat window.

NOCTIS: Noct is taking a break right now. He'll text you in a few minutes. He's fine! Just tired.
DAD: I see. This is Prompto, I take it?
NOCTIS: Yep!
NOCTIS: And I feel weird talking on Noct's phone, so if you want to ask anything else, I’ll send you my contract info.

He finds he’s in Noct’s phone as ‘PROM’ with a picture Noct snapped of him a few weeks back. It’s a pretty good picture, even if Prompto thinks his smile looks a bit too goofy. He’s almost tempted to change it, but the sanctity of contact photos is too private to alter.

After a long moment he reaches to get his phone from where it had been sitting next to Noct.

PROMPTO: ok so HRM was texting noct and noct's In A Mood and told me to answer and I gave HRM my number am I going to die
IGGY: You are not going to die, Prompto.
IGGY: What is wrong with Noctis?
PROMPTO: midterms

UNKNOWN NUMBER: I appreciate you giving me your number, Prompto.

He lowkey feels like flipping out. He runs a hand through his hair.

UNKNOWN NUMBER: I will admit to being concerned about my son's well-being at the time. From what Ignis has said, he has a number of exams for tomorrow, and I know his royal duties have kept him from a degree of class time and studying.

A long silence passes, and Prompto announces, "I'm texting your dad.” He twists to look at Noct. “Is that okay?”

Noct pushes himself to sitting and peers down at Prompto. He opens his mouth, closes it. Prompto holds his phone out, and he takes it, reading Prompto's proxy texting. "What’s he asking?"

"Uh, he’s just said that he’s concerned about your well-being, he hasn’t really asked anything yet. I can tell him not to? If you want?"

Noct runs his hand through his hair. "If it means I don't have to talk to him…" he mutters. "I can't believe that you gave him your number." After a moment, he adds, "You know he probably already had it, right?"

Prompto stares at him.

"In case of emergency. Or needing to check in on me. Or anything like that."

"That's not alarming at all," Prompto says. He pushes himself up to the couch, and rubs Noct’s back. "And seriously, though, buddy, you're starting to… I don't know, you just seem off. How do we get you back on?"

Noct shrugs. "It's just a lot."

"Your grades are pretty good though, right? I mean, you know me, I go into every exam knowing what the lowest score I need to pass is gonna be. You ever done one of those? Because I'd guess that your lowest-to-pass score will be a bit lower than mine."

“I’m expected to do more than just pass,” Noct says, head bowed. It’s quiet, and… vulnerable. Scared.

Prompto pulls him into a hug.

After a long moment, Noct relaxes.

"Hey, Noct?"

"Yeah, Prompto?"

"Can I do something?"

"Yeah. Prompto."

Prompto huffs a laugh and takes out his phone. He gives the selfie-screen a thumbs up as he snaps a picture, then starts texting.

PROMPTO: He just needs a hug.
PROMPTO: [IMG_0877.JPG]

Noct goes tense. "Did you just send a selfie of yourself hugging me to my dad?"

"Yeah…"

Noct shakes his head.

“Though now…” He tosses his phone onto the couch, then reaches up to card his fingers through Noct’s hair. “…I’m just gonna keep hugging you because you need it.”

Noct melts into his embrace.

It’s not the most comfortable position, both of their torsos twisting. Prompto considers if he were to pull Noct onto his lap. It makes his cheeks warm up – as does Noct shifting to wrap an arm around Prompto’s back. There’s still a lot of studying to do, but Prompto’s not going to be the first to move.

*

The week of midterms goes as well as it could.

Noct has some princely duty to attend to, leaving Prompto celebrate the end of exams by himself. In their weekly catch-up texts, his mom congratulated him and sent him some extra money so to treat himself to a special dinner.

There’s a curry place that Prompto likes that’s open late hours. And yeah it’s better to eat an early dinner, and he’ll have to do a few extra miles in the next few days to compensate for it, but he’s kinda really enjoying the night he has planned: gaming session, snacking, more gaming, then curry, then a King’s Knight round or two whenever Noct gets done with his prince things can manage it.

And since he’s home alone – and the delivery girl once assured him he’d never be the weirdest customer – he’s dressed for maximum comfort.

There’s a knock at the door, and Prompto pauses his game before all but skipping to the door. He’s beaming as he opens the door – aw yis, green curry – and then freezes.

It takes a moment to blink.

“Good evening, Prompto,” says King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII, King of Lucis. “Am I interrupting?”

Prompto becomes acutely aware of the fact he is wearing a chocobo onesie. “Hi, Noct’s dad,” he says, distantly. It takes a few seconds, but the question registers, as does the fact that it’s cold and the King of Lucis is patiently waiting on his doorstep. “No, you’re not interrupting. Come in? If you’d like?” He stumbles back, leading them in to his apartment. “It’s kind of messy, I’ve been studying a lot more than cleaning, I was going to clean it tomorrow, really, but I’m so sorry–”

“Having had seen the state of my son’s apartment, I would not consider this to be messy.”

Prompto stares. His mortification is fading, but only slightly.

“And this is my Shield, Clarus Amicitia.”

His mortification returns as he realizes that there is a person other than King Regis Lucis Caelum in his living room. “Hi, Gladio’s dad,” Prompto says.

It gets a flicker of a smile. “Hello, my son’s friend’s friend.”

Prompto hovers as they settle on the couch. “Can I get you anything? Water? Tea? Coffee? Wait, I don’t have any coffee– wait no, I got a pack of Ebony for exams if–”

King Regis – King of Lucis – raises a hand.

Prompto goes quiet.

“I only wish to spend a few minutes speaking candidly.”

Prompto nods.

“My son takes great care to not say too much about you. But after so many years, I feel as though I should know some details of my son’s best friend.”

Prompto stares.

The room is quiet but for the gentle pause screen music.

“You like video games.”

Prompto nods again.

“A common interest between you and two. Do you care for fishing as well?”

The oh em gee the king is in my living room what do I do starts settling into holy shit the King of Lucis wants to talk to me. He makes himself let out a laugh. “No, I think it’s super boring. I haven’t told him – I mean, I kinda hinted that it’s not my fave thing to do and he’s really good at picking up on hints, but I also made it clear that I was glad to tag along with him when he wanted. I know it’s his time to just sit and think and chill, and I’m glad he likes me there with him. And I’ve got some good pics of him while fishing. I can send you a few?”

“That would be nice,” he says, the same kind smile on his face from the first time they met.

“What else do you want to know?”

King Regis – King of Lucis – clears his throat. “This is not something to be nervous about. I am not quizzing you, nor meaning to intimidate you, nor anything of the sort.”

There’s no way that Prompto could not be nervous or intimidated. But he takes a breath and gives King Regis a weak smile. “After midterms, I guess I’m still nervous? I’m not the best at tests. I asked Noct a few times to ban exams, but…” It occurs to him that he’s telling the King of Lucis that he’s tried to take advantage of Noct’s position as Prince of Lucis. “Um. I mean…”

“I believe Gladiolus has made the same request of Prince Noctis once or twice,” Clarus says.

King Regis nods. “You like video games. You do not care for fishing, or exams. You are fond of chocobos.”

Prompto lets out a groan. His chocobo onesie is made from the softest fleece and it’s super comfortable and it’s his absolute favorite thing he owns – but he wishes he were in anything else. "I was hoping you wouldn't comment on that. If I had known you'd be stopping by, I would have put on something… not… this."

"Then I am glad you had not known. If nothing else, I have an idea for what to get Iris for her birthday."

Clarus huffs a laugh. "I was thinking the same.” After a moment, he adds, "My daughter."

"Do they come in pink?"

"They come in every color that chocobos can be." A deep breath. "And yeah, chocobos are pretty great. Me and Noct have been joking about seeing some since freshman year, but he’s been talking about taking me out to really see some for a graduation gift. I have no idea what to get him for graduation."

"You and I share that concern. But he was thrilled with the gift you gave him for his birthday. Though he declined to reveal what it was."

Prompto feels himself heat up. "It was just a convenience store bag full of junk food."

Clarus laughs. "I’ll refrain from informing Gladiolus or Ignis of this."

King Regis – King of Lucis – gives him an indulgent smile. "You know him well."

Prompto’s face burns, and he doesn’t know how to reply. Yes? After four years, Prompto has become a near-expert on Noct? No? There’s still so much to learn about him and Prompto wants to be there for years to come to become familiar with all the small nuances that make Noct the amazing person he is?

He’s saved from answering by a knock at the door.

King Regis stands – leaning heavy on his cane to do so. "I will let you resume your evening."

Prompto remember his manners and starts to show them back to the door.

At the door, the delivery girl starts a “Good evening, it’ll be–” before catching sight of King Regis.

King Regis holds his hand out, and Clarus hands over a wallet. He pulls out a bill, hands the wallet back to Clarus, then hands the money to the delivery girl. “I believe this should cover the charge.”

She stares.

King Regis turns back to Prompto. “Enjoy the rest of your evening, Prompto. Thank you for your time.” He sets his hand on Prompto’s shoulder for a long three seconds, then starts down the walkway.

The delivery girl watches King Regis and Clarus as they leave, then looks down at the bill in her hand. She hands over the plastic bag and exchanges a look with Prompto. “Still not the weirdest,” she says, slowly, “but maybe top five.”

Prompto lets out a strangled laugh. “Thanks?”

She just nods, too dazed to say anything more.

Back inside, Prompto goes through the motions of unpacking his food. And then he grabs his phone.

PROMPTO: your dad just left my place??? I think? I may have been imagining it. like he came over. we talked. he paid for my curry. he wants a pic of you fishing if that's alright???
PROMPTO: how was your thing btw?
PROMPTO: also like im gonna shove this food into my face but wanna ignor everything that just happened and play KK?

And then he starts to shove food into his face.

HRH NOCTO: Yeah.
PROMPTO: to what part
HRH NOCTO: Yeah.
PROMPTO: helpful
HRH NOCTO: Yeah.
HRH NOCTO: I'll let you know when I'm ready to rumble.
PROMPTO: rumble or ruuuuuuuuuumble?
HRH NOCTO: dork
PROMPTO: no u

Here he takes a minute. He portions his food onto a plate, rather than eating out of the carton. It allows him to eat slower, which allows him to savor the taste of the food.

He thumbs through his phone to the text log from last week, and goes to the ‘UNKNOWN NUMBER’ contact page. He changes it to ‘HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM.’ It’s a bit long, but he can find a way to shorter it later.

HRH NOCTO: and I trust you
HRH NOCTO: about texting my dad and sending him stuff
PROMPTO: I am sending him the dumbest pic I have
PROMPTO: (¬‿¬)
HRH NOCTO: (ง'̀-'́)ง
PROMPTO: ready for KK then?
HRH NOCTO: (ಠ_ಠ)
HRH NOCTO: still a bit out

Prompto goes to his phone gallery, trying to find a dumb pic, but there really aren’t any. Noct looks great basically always. He can pull off that broody look really well, but in a lot of picture he’s smiling at the camera. At Prompto. It makes his heart flutter in his chest. It’s been a few weeks since the last fishing adventure, and the pictures alternate between a contemplative stare at the lake and wide smiles at the camera. (At Prompto.)

Aware that he’s probably spending too long staring at pictures of his bestie, he finds the rare picture of Noct having a silly expression on his face – looking surprised and alarmed and overjoyed as he reels in a fish – and pulls it up in a chat.

PROMPTO: here's the dumbest pic of this loser I have
PROMPTO: [IMG_0796.jpg]
PROMPTO: And thanks for paying for my curry! I really appreciate it!!!

HRH NOCTO: let’s ruuuuuuuuuumble
PROMPTO: doooork (~˘▾˘)~

*

His birthday arrives on a chilly Wednesday morning. Given the fact Iggy is both cooking dinner and making dessert, he doesn’t let himself sleep in and skip his morning jog. He goes through his warm-up stretches, wondering if he could ditch fourth and sleep in the library, or maybe nap on the lawn if it warms up towards lunch.

Stepping outside, he enjoys the faintest rays of sun warming his face despite the crisp air. He’s smiling to himself as he steps to the sidewalk, and sees–

Noct is waiting for him on the sidewalk.

Prompto stares.

“Happy birthday,” Noct says, sheepish, after a few long seconds.

“What are you doing up this early?”

Noct runs his hand through his hair. “You’ve said you’ve wanted to go jogging together…”

Prompto all but tackles him, and pulls him into a fierce hug. It gets a surprised huff of breath, but then Noct is hugging him back. Prompto just squeezes him harder. “Awesome present, best bro.”

Noct lets out a small laugh, his breath warm against the sensitive skin of Prompto’s neck. “This is a gesture. The presents are for later tonight.”

*

Growing up with his parents mostly out of the house, his birthday was never a big deal.

His first birthday with Noct, he hadn’t even mentioned it, just enjoyed spending the afternoon in the arcade. When Noct found out, months afterwards, he swore he would make it up next year, and each birthday has been better than the last.

And it’s been amazing. Sure, no one likes to have class on their birthday, but there’s no quizzes or any papers due, and a few other students have chimed in their well-wishes. Then everything is a blur of arcade-hopping and back to Noct’s and amazing food, and as Gladio clears away dishes and Ignis tends to the cake and Noct slips away to retrieve presents, Prompto’s phone buzzes.

HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM: Happy Birthday, Prompto.

Prompto’s heart aches with emotions he can’t name, his hand shaking too hard to reply.

*

And then… then Prompto’s kinda casually texting the king.

…and the king is texting back.

Prompto sends a picture of Noct dozing in first period algebra –

HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM: Are you in a history class?
HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM: If that were the case, he knows more of Lucian history than all but the most dedicated scholars. For any other subject, he should be paying attention to the lesson.
PROMPTO: do you know how hard he is to wake up
PROMPTO: most of the options I know would get the teacher’s attention
HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM: As it were, I do know how difficult it is to wake him up.

A few days later in class –

PROMPTO: now we’re in history class
PROMPTO: and this section of is kinda like a soap opera
HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM: I found that to be the case with most of our history.

On his home the week after –

PROMPTO: is it blasphemy to say this cat looks like Ramuh?
PROMPTO: [IMG_0919.JPG]
HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM: Given the remarkable likeness, I would say not.

*

It’s a somber, rainy day when Noct doesn’t meet Prompto outside the school. Which is not rare, with Noct’s prince duties sometimes necessitating him to skip class, but usually he’ll give Prompto a heads-up.

PROMPTO: I am waiting at the gate for you and you’re not here (;_;)
PROMPTO: Noo~ooct don’t leave me aloo~oone (;~;)

While part of Prompto would be okay waiting for Noct until he showed up, he makes himself go to first period. Though under the desk –

PROMPTO: heyo if you overslept I hope you’re havin some pretty sweet dreams because algebra is a draaaaag

After algebra –

PROMPTO: hey buddy you doin alright?

During second period bio –

PROMPTO: lmk if I can do anything for you buddy (づ ̄ ³ ̄)づ

His phone buzzes a few minutes later, and Prompto eagerly looks under his desk at his phone.

HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM: Do you happen to know why my son isn’t in school today?
PROMPTO: I’ve been texting him but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

*

The commute from school to Noct’s apartment is far shorter than the commute to Prompto’s apartment.

Noct’s apartment is on the thirty-fourth floor, which requires a special keycard to access. Prompto has yet to receive one, and likely never will, but the lobby attendants know him well enough that one meets him at the elevator bank and grants him access.

He knocks at the door. “Kweh?” he calls, softly. He knocks again. “Kweh?”

PROMPTO: Kweh?
PROMPTO: Kweh?
PROMPTO: Kwehhh?

He doesn’t want to annoy any neighbors, but he wants to see his bestie. He risks knocking a little louder, raising his voice a little. “Kweh?”

It pays off with the shuffling noises of approaching footsteps.

Noct looks like shit when he opens the door, but forces a smile. “Hey.”

“You look like shit.”

He grimaces. “Feel like shit.” He takes a step back, letting Prompto in.

“What’s up?” Prompto asks, starting to toe off his shoes.

“My back,” he explains.

“Yikes.”

“Yeah.”

“So… what do you do when you feel like shit?”

Noct shrugs. “Not… usually too up for doing most things. Moving hurts.”

Prompto winces. “Sorry for making you get up.”

He nods tersely. “I’m just gonna lay back down while you get dry.” He’s limping heavily as he retreats back, and Prompto feels even more guilty.

Prompto drops his bag and takes off his raincoat. When he gets to the living room, Noct is lying on the couch, looking thoroughly miserable. Prompto asks, “You want a heating pad or anything?”

“Think there’s one… somewhere. Just toss it in the microwave for about ten seconds.”

After all these years, Prompto is pretty good at navigating the kitchen, and a minute later he’s passing over a heating pad to Noct.

Noct’s shirt rides up as he settles the heating pad against his lower back, a sliver of skin showing. A rush of heat goes through Prompto, and he hurriedly goes to the console. It’s not dark enough to properly enjoy a horror game, so he suggests, “I could start up that Assassin’s Creed memory file I started a few months ago? And you can sit and judge me for not being able to do jumps as well as you do.”

It gets half a smile. “Sounds great.”

Prompto sits down on the couch just by Noct’s head. “You’re supposed to say that you won’t judge me.”

Noct shrugs. “No promises.” He shuffles up so that his head rests on Prompto’s leg. A silent few moments later, he grumbles, “You have really bony legs.”

“Here…” Prompto pulls a pillow onto his lap. It’s mostly for Noct’s comfort, but also a bit in case his stupid teenage hormones decide to act up over the idea of his super hot friend’s face in his lap.

They’ve gamed more times than Prompto can remember, but something is wrong. He keeps looking between the game and Noct, and finally he goes to the save screen. “Maybe something quieter?”

Noct lets out a long sigh, his body going lax. “Thanks.”

He switches to online and navigates to the channel of a streaming LPers with a mellow voice.
Tension leaks away. They begin the shuffling game, then. Prompto puts his feet up on the coffee table. Scoots forward, leaning farther back against the couch. Noct turns onto his other side, forehead against Prompto’s stomach. Prompto starts running his fingers through Noct’s hair.

It gets a contented noise. “I like it when you do that.”

Prompto feels his face heat up. “Well, I like doing it, so win-win.”

The morning turns into the afternoon. Prompto is only half-paying attention to the stream, the dreary patter of rain and the gentle cadence of the streamer’s voice lulling him into a contended doze. Noct is half-asleep as well, only really awake when making noises of annoyance when Prompto pulls his hand away.

Prompto stops pulling his hand away. Just enjoys the feather-soft of Noct’s hair, the peaceful curl of of Noct’s smile, and doesn’t let himself think too much about it.

The door opens. Noct groans. Prompto’s hand stills in Noct’s hair as the visitor enters the living room.

Noct sighs. “Fuck off, Iggy.”

It takes Prompto a moment to find his voice. “It’s not Iggy.”

“Fuck off, Gladio.”

“Not Gladio.”

Noct tenses. “Go away, Dad.”

“Bingo.”

“Don’t you mean binog?”

Prompto groans. “That was one time, dude.”

“Still funny.”

Meanwhile, King Regis has sat down on the chair facing them. “Noctis…”

Noct sighs out and extricates himself from Prompto’s hold, pushing himself to sitting. “You can hide out in my room while my dad yells at me.”

“I have no intention to yell at you,” his father says. “Yes, I believe that you should communicate better on the instances when you are unwell and cannot attend to your duties. But if you are feeling unwell, I just wish to… talk.”

“About what?”

“To start, what is ailing you?”

“My back.”

A shadow passes over King Regis’s face.

Yeah, there’s a lot of things Noct doesn’t talk about, but Prompto still knows that something happened when Noct was younger.

“There are a number of specialists enrolled through the Citadel. I could see if one of your physical therapists might be available for an in-house appointment.”

“No. I don’t need a specialist, or therapist, or anything. This just happens sometimes, and I just need to lie down for the day and do nothing and hopes it goes away.”

“How often does it happen?”

Noct doesn’t reply.

Regis’s hands clench on his knees. “Is there any reason why you could not inform either Ignis nor myself of this?”

“Yes.”

“Do you care to disclose this reason?”

“No.”

His jaw tightens. His gaze flicks to Prompto for a second.

“Prompto doesn’t know it either. And he knocked.”

“I apologize for not knocking, but I was concerned when you weren’t answering my texts.”

Noct doesn’t reply.

“Is there anything that either myself or Ignis might do to help?”

“No. I just want to be alone.”

Prompto feels oddly hurt at that.

It must occur to Noct a moment after, because his gaze flits to Prompto – but he doesn’t take it back or rephrase. And there’s something in the air, like the charge before a lightning strike. Noct had given Prompto an out, and Prompto’s beginning to wish he took it.

He stands up, and gives Noct a soft smile. “Text me if you need anything.” And he lets himself out.

*

Two hours later –

HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM: I apologize for any discomfort you may have felt.

Prompto doesn’t feel comfortable with the idea of lying to royalty, so he doesn’t reply.

*

The flu and cold make their rounds during the end of November, and, as always, Prompto doesn’t so much as sniffle.

…until an early December morning when he wakes up and immediately regrets it.

Everything is awful. his head pounds, his nose is stuffed, his throat raw, every muscle aches, and he’s burning up and sweating and miserably cold at the same time. He can barely pull his phone from his nightstand next to his pillow, and his finger shakes as he pecks out a message.

PROMPTO: not school today
HRH NOCTO: I feel that

Prompto nods to himself and nods off.

HRH NOCTO: wait
HRH NOCTO: are you not coming in today
PROMPTO: am dead and dun wan zombie to class
HRH NOCTO: what’s wrong?
PROMPTO: dead

His phone rings. Maybe it’s the school and he can properly call out. “‘lo?”

“Astrals,” Noct says. “You sound awful.”

“Feel worse,” he croaks. “Can go back to sleep?”

“You need anything?”

“Sleep.”

“Other than sleep.”

Shakes his head.

Only realizes Noct can’t see it when asked, “Prompto?”

“Just sleep.”

And then he does.

*

A series of kwehs keeps him from falling into too deep of a sleep. Which he would like. Sleep seems nice. Really nice. But to do that he would need to put his phone on silent. He blinks himself awake enough to squint at his phone.

HRH NOCTO: class is so boring without out.
HRH NOCTO: you’ve like never been sick before?
HRH NOCTO: even when the flu has made rounds you’ve been fine

IGGY: Noct has informed me that you are feeling unwell. Do let me know if there is anything I may do to be of assistance.

MOM: Not gonna make it home this week. I’ll call you after school today or tomorrow to catch-up.

HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM: Are you quite alright?
PROMPTO: jist suck. itll pass

Then he uses the last of his strength to mute his phone before he passes out.

*

There’s noise in the kitchen. Prompto spends a long few minutes wondering which would hurt less – raising his voice to ask who’s there, or getting out of bed to check it out. At some point in the debate he falls back asleep.

There’s still noise in the kitchen as he wakes up again. Just breathing through his mouth makes his throat feel raw, and so he pushes himself to sitting, and forces himself to standing, to shuffling out of his room.

A familiar-ish guy is at the stove top stirring something.

It smells delicious – but also sends Prompto to the bathroom. There’s nothing in his stomach and he just dry heaves. It somehow makes him feel worse. And then stumbling out of his blissfully dark bathroom into the brightly-lit hallway makes him feel worse still.

Returning to the kitchen, his eyes finally start adjusting to the light, and he shuffles to stand beside the half-stranger before he recognizes–

“Going by the last time you texted Prince Noctis,” says Cor the Immortal, “you’ve been asleep for over a day.”

“I don’t feel very good.” And he lags against the man.

“Shouldn’t your parents be here?”

“No. Out of town.”

Cor makes a displeased noise. “Prince Noctis asked me to check in on you. And Ignis gave me a soup recipe. A couple boxes of tea, too, if you don’t think you can handle food. When was the last time you ate?”

“D’no,” Prompto slurs. He feels weak and shaky and shouldn’t be standing – but he doesn’t have the energy to do anything but slump against Cor.

Until Cor takes a step away, to get a bowl or something, and gravity takes over. But he takes a quick step back to stop Prompto from falling over. He wraps an arm around Prompto and carefully shepherds him along to get a bowl, a spoon.

“Can you make it to the table?”

“I can make it to the floor.” And he starts sliding down to meet the kitchen floor.

“Can you eat?”

Prompto shrugs. Everything is kind of blurry, and he feels a few seconds behind his body, and there’s something cold against his forehead. The soup feels warm in his hands. The ceramic bowl holding the soup. Actually holding soup would be a bad idea. He gets about five spoonfuls in before his body tells him he should probably stop. He holds it out to Cor.

Cor gently pushes it back. “You should eat some more.”

It’s a very big bowl of soup, and a very minor battle of wills as Prompto takes scarce spoonfuls and Cor keeps encouraging him to take a few more. Halfway through the bowl, he’s able to successfully push it over to Cor.

“If I stand to put this away, will you fall over?”

“…yeah.” The room won’t stop swaying, and dizziness crashes over him in waves, along with something like longing. He takes out his phone and tries to take a picture. Each snap gets his shoulder, or the top of his forehead, or his gross sweat-soaked t-shirt. He hands it to Cor.

“I don’t take selfies.”

“You’re not taking it, ‘m taking it and directing you.” And as Cor opens up the selfie screen, he touches Cor’s really cold hand to get the best angle that he can. All angles are really bad angles though. Not in general, he’s worked to get good angles and to like them. But right now his face is a feverish red and his eyes are bloodshot. He looks awful.

He’s still pretty sure he’s sent worse selfies.

And sending selfies to Noct is something he’s done often enough he could do it in his sleep, and he can do it without looking at the screen.

The phone buzzes with texts, and the light makes Prompto feel worse. Calls Noct. “Screen’s too bright for texting.”

“Sorry. How are you?”

“On the ground. Good soup, but I feel like I’m gonna throw up. I’m gonna…” He drops his phone as he lurches to the bathroom. He’s never enjoyed this, but after a few miserable weeks in eighth grade when he induced it, he’s enjoyed it even less. He stumbles to his feet, dreading the idea of going back to the kitchen, but Cor is in the hallway with his phone. “Is it okay if I don’t stand?”

Cor nods, and joins him when he slides down to the floor.

The phone is still on the call. “Sorry.”

“I’m just glad Cor’s there with you.”

“Yeah.” He lists against Cor, who wraps a tentative arm around him. “Glad you’re here too. Sorta. Almost. I can look at your face in my photos. You’ve got a nice face. Can’t take a bad photo with it. I feel awful though. Don’t want to make your face sick. I am sick. It is awful.”

“Anything I can do for you? I can do your homework. Or at least have Specs tutor you through what you miss, or–”

“I miss you.”

Noct is quiet for a long moment before he says, “Yeah. Same.”

“I’m gonna fall back asleep. Cuddled by Cor the Immortal.”

The call ends – and Prompto catches the screen right before he passes out.

HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM: Feel better, Prompto.

*

The rest of the week passes in a blur. Prompto has settled himself on the rug before the couch – the couch and his bed are both too soft and he feels like he can never settle. There’s something comforting about the hard wood of the ground, and it’s nicely softened by some chocobo-printed fleece he didn’t know he had. He sees Iggy and Gladio and Clarus and a teenage girl who may be Gladio’s sister. Noct doesn’t come, and Iggy says things like I’m sure you understand and the concern for his health and don’t want him catching it but Noct calls him between classes even though Prompto can’t manage much of a conversation.

When Prompto’s eyes don’t hurt, he sees the texts:

HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM: I hope you are recovering.
HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM: Make sure you drink plenty of fluids.
PROMPTO: royal decree???????
HRM REGIS LUCIS CAELUM: If it need be.

“King Regis has declared I need to drink plenty of fluids,” Prompto announces.

“I’ll see if there’s any more orange juice,” Cor says – because for the first time, Prompto isn’t alone when he’s sick. And it’s weird. Prompto’s only gotten sick two or three times in his life, which is also weird. But in shows there’s always a doting parent staying home from work. His parents were always away when he was sick, maybe didn’t even know if he was sick. He can’t remember that – only remembers being sniffly and miserable, and having Cor here, sitting on the floor next to him, pushing a glass of orange juice into his hands, makes his chest hurt in a different way than it has been the past few days.

“Drink,” Cor says.

“My parents don’t love me,” Prompto says.

It gets a sharp look from Cor.

“No, ‘sokay.” He makes a hand gesture, and watches as Cor moves in closer to keep the glass from tipping over. “I… my mom told me once. She didn’t say it like that, didn’t say ‘Prompto I don’t love you’… but she apologized. She didn’t know how to be a good mother. Didn’t really want to be a mother. She an’ my dad thought me and them, that it was a temporary placement, that… and when it wasn’t, they tried. They did what they could. They do like me. They care about me. And it’s okay.”

“It’s not okay,” Cor says, voice rough with more emotions than Prompto can understand.

Prompto shakes his head. “No, no,” he says. It takes a few seconds for the dizziness to stop, and a few seconds more to remember what he was saying. “It is. The only time it’s not… Regis loves Noct. And it’s hard. I wish they could be happy. Better at talking. Better at knowing how lucky they are.”

“Drink,” Cor says, after a few long hiccuping seconds. “It’s important to stay hydrated.”

“‘n to rehydrate,” Prompto says, wiping a clumsy hand against his wet cheek. He doesn’t know why he’s crying or when he started. For the first time it feels like there’s a weight off his chest, that he’s been able to say those words even though it’s one of the few things he’s always worked to keep completely guarded. Thinking of the other words makes him feel small, though, and his heart speeds up, fear drawing out a few whimpers. He drinks the orange juice – it tastes different than the kind he usually gets, but there’s still no pulp – and falls against Cor. “Am I not-sick yet?”

Cor’s hand is cool against his forehead. “Not yet. Go back to sleep.”

He closes his eyes, and he tries. Something lurks in the back of his mind, ink black and menacing, and Prompto can’t stop shaking. “I…” He chokes on too many things he can’t say.

There’s the quiet tapping of thumbs against a touchscreen, and Prompto looks to see that Cor is on his phone. A frown is etched on his face, though it softens when he looks down at Prompto. He puts his phone away and clears his throat. “I never learned any fairy tales, or anything like that, but…”

Cor has a soothing voice.

Prompto listens as Cor starts to tell the story of an epic road trip, with asides to a beautiful princess, misunderstandings in Duscae, and so much more. It all blurs together, as Prompto starts to doze off, a rich tapestry that he can’t make out the entirety of but is comforting to lie his cheek against.

*

Prompto wakes up on Sunday morning to find that his fever finally broke, and that his body is no longer trying to burn itself. There’s a note from Cor on the table – I put my number in your phone, text if you ever need anything – as well as a large glass of water and a few ibuprofen. He spends the day cleaning and doing laundry and showering off a week of sweat.

Monday morning comes, and he has a spring in his step as enters the school grounds. Possibly a first for a Monday. But the idle smile on his face grows as waves at Noct. “Ignis says we should probably refrain from being tactile for some time to make sure I don’t–”

Noct cuts him off with a hug.

Prompto laughs. “That works too.”

*

PROMPTO: so Cor the Immortal babysat me while I was sick and I may have misheard something at one point but
PROMPTO: is it true that being prince means Noct can’t actually trespass?
HRM REGIS LU'CAELUM: That is correct.
HRM REGIS LU'CAELUM: Please encourage Noctis to use more caution with this knowledge than I did.
PROMPTO: wait what did you do?
PROMPTO: you can’t stop there
PROMPTO: I mean you’re the King of Lucis of course you Can
PROMPTO: but also cmon
PROMPTO: d e e t s
HRM REGIS LU'CAELUM: If you insist…

*

It’s a vital piece of information, possibly the most important piece of information he will ever receive. But with it comes a quandary – what to do with it?

For the present, nothing – Prompto got sick right before finals and there’s a lot of studying to make up and multiple exams to suffer through, but it stays in the back of his mind through it all.

And after, as with all great questions, Prompto turns to the internet for answers.

*

PROMPTO: clear your sched tonight
PROMPTO: we’re going out
HRH NOCTO: k
HRH NOCTO: where we going?
PROMPTO: it’s a surprise
PROMPTO: meet me by that ramen place gladio really likes at 8

*

“Ramen isn’t a surprise if we meet at a ramen place,” Noct says.

Prompto sticks out his tongue. “C’mon, we’ve got an adventure to start.”

“We’re not getting ramen?” Noct asks, put out.

“…did you want to get ramen?”

"Well when you said we were meeting at a ramen place... have you eaten?"

Prompto doesn't always handle horror well on a full stomach. "Uh..."

"C'mon," Noct says, tilting his head towards the stand. "I'm buying."

And really, it would be best for their adventure to start as late as possible, so this works out well. "I was the one that brought you out here, I should really be the one buying. Or I can at least pay for my own.”

Noct shrugs, cheeks pink from the cold. “My treat.”

They end up spending two hours at the ramen place. At first eating, then Noct insisting on dessert and Prompto relenting to sharing, and then they're just sitting around talking. Noct is more touchy than normal, elbows and shoulders knocking, fingers brushing, and his smile seems even brighter. There's butterflies in Prompto's stomach at it, and he snaps maybe more pictures of Noct than normal.

And watches as Noct gets more texts than normal.

“Ignis,” Noct says, in answer to his questioning look.

“Why does Iggy keep texting you?”

“He wants to know why I didn’t give him more of a heads-up.”

“For…?”

“The stuff I dropped?”

“What? What did you–?”

“You said drop everything,” Noct says, defensively.

“You could have said ‘no, Prompto, I have important prince things.’”

“Yeah, but ramen.”

A long second passes, and they burst out laughing.

The place closes at ten, and then there's only two hours until the proper start of what Prompto imagines the adventure to be.

Noct rolls his shoulders back, arms going above his head to stretch.

For a moment, Prompto hates the stupid puffy vest Noct is wearing, that it doesn't ride up as Noct moves. His face flushes, and he looks away, pretending to stretch his own neck. "Alright," he says, voice a bit loud. "Shall we?"

Noct raises an eyebrow.

"The surprise?"

"You mean there's an actual surprise?"

Prompto stares. "Do you think that I would tell you to meet at a ramen place for a surprise, and have the ramen be that surprise?"

"Are you telling me that's not something you would do?"

"…point."

Noct gives him a bright grin.

"But anyways," at this point he lurches forward, wraps his arm around Noct's, "we're going on an adventure. C'mon."

Noct goes with him easily. They talk and laugh and chat as Prompto maneuvers them around – they could take the subway, but it doesn't seem worth it for just two stops – and sure it's pretty damn cold, but the air is dry, and the warmth of Noct at his side is doing well at keeping him warm. But it occurs to him–

"This isn't hurting your back, is it?"

"What isn't?"

"Being out in the cold."

"Nah, you're doing a pretty good job at keeping me warm."

Noct always flushes a pretty pink, and Prompto hates him a bit for that– Prompto himself just goes a blotchy red, and he lets out a strangled laugh. "Okay, then, good."

The maybe-awkward silence is broken by Noct spotting a cat and tugging Prompto over to visit it. Prompto snaps a series of pictures as Crown Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum crouches before and makes kissy-faces at a disinterested fluffy orange cat.

The cat finally reaches forward to butt its head against Noct’s palm, and then strides off.

Noct stares down at his hand, then turns to Prompto. “This is the best day of my life.”

“And I got it all on camera,” Prompto replies, beaming. He makes a show of looking down at his phone. “And you look like a dork in all of them.”

“You like when I’m a dork,” Noct says, giving him a crooked smile.

Prompto doesn’t argue, and doesn’t argue when Noct takes his hand. He just smiles, perhaps a little bit goofily, feeling warm all over. He almost wishes he had taken a more circuitous route to enjoy the gentle companionship, but as he leads them down an alley, his excitement starts to stir.

“We’re here,” Prompto announces, stopping them in front of a chain link fence before a cramped medical office.

Noct looks the place up and down. "I think this place is closed for the night, Prom."

"It's undergoing a change of management. The project has stalled for a few years now." He takes a deep breath. "And we're going in there."

"The surprise is trespassing into an abandoned building?"

“So you know how I kinda text your dad?”

“Yeah?”

“Well in the course of it, I found out that, as part of the Lucis Caelum family, and with all being part of the royalty that rules over Lucis involves… you can’t trespass.”

"But you'll be trespassing."

Prompto finger-guns. "Then I'm the one that needs to hope that we don't get caught."

It makes Noct laugh. "So you’re trespassing and we're both breaking and entering."

"Well, you're warping and gently letting yourself in and then gently opening a door for me. No breaking involved for either of us. Which just leaves me as the one that's trespassing, and I’m okay with that."

“Why are we doing this?”

“You’ll see.”

"You know Ignis thinks you're a bad influence on me sometimes."

"Sometimes," Prompto sagely agrees. "But you're a bad influence on me more often."

"You wound me." But it’s said with a smile, and then there’s only the blue crystalline outline of his bestie. Noct doesn’t warp in front of Prompto often, and does it in public even less, but every time he does, it takes Prompto’s breath away.

So much so that it takes him a moment to remember he needs to scale the chain link fence. But he’s still waiting at the door by the time that Noct – gently, with no breaking involved – lets him in.

“At what point will you tell me what’s this about?” Noct asks, taking a flashlight Prompto hands to him.

Prompto moves past him to start up the stairs. “You’ll see. It’s on the second floor.”

“What is?” Noct asks, but follows him – up the stairs, then down a hallway, and into a room with windows showing three observation rooms. “What… This is…”

Prompto rocks on the balls of his feet. “Yep.”

"You found the location?”

"Well, I didn't find it myself, people online have been speculating."

Noct holds a hand up. Voice quiet and grave, he announces, "This is awesome."

Prompto beams. “I’m glad you enjoy it.”

Noct shakes his head. “No, you don’t get it. Being the prince, people try really hard to try and impress me, get me fancy stuff. But for you to do this… this is one of the most thoughtful things anyone has done for me. Thank you.”

“Anything for you, Noct,” he says, matching Noct’s soft tone. He feels like he’s said it a lot recently, and vice versa.

And he wants more than anything to keep it like this between the two of them.

But at the same time, Prompto feels like he’s gonna burst at the way Noct is looking at him. He turns to look around the room. “There’s no swirly chair, but c’mon,” he says, moving to sit against the far wall. After a moment, he says, “It’s still a bit terrifying.”

Noct wraps an arm around him. “I’ll keep you safe,” he teases.

Prompto lays his head against Noct’s shoulder. “My hero.”

*

The adventure was too short-notice for Noct to be able to stay the entire night at the facility, and tomorrow Noct is busy doing all the things he put off tonight. Which Prompto thinks is a good thing, because it might give him time to get his chest from feeling all tight and fluttery, get some space away from his bestie–

“I’m busy all of tomorrow, but do you wanna go out for lunch the next day?”

“I’d love to,” Prompto replies, instantly, before he can stop himself.

The pleased smile Noct shoots him does not do anything to help the fluttery feelings.

*

Noct is still in his pajamas when he opens the door. “Sorry,” he says, sheepishly. “I overslept.”

“Dude, when have you ever apologized for oversleeping?” Prompto asks, trying to not look at the fact that Noct looks so sleep-soft and comfortable.

“When I was supposed to be ready to go to lunch with you when you got here?”

Prompto shrugs, and starts toeing off his shoes. “It’s fine.”

"It's fine," Prompto says, and he settles himself down onto the couch.

Ignis arrives a few minutes later, and raises his eyebrows when he sees Prompto. "Good morning," he greets. "I was not expecting to see you. Did you stay the night?"

Prompto feels his cheeks heat up, but he shakes his head. "Nah, just got here. Me and Noct are getting lunch."

Ignis frowns. "Is that so?"

He mirrors the frown. "Is that… not okay?"

"While there is no reason why you and Noctis getting lunch would not be okay, it just so happens that Noctis already has lunch plans with His Majesty."

"Oh." Prompto tells himself he doesn't need to feel so disappointed. "I'll… I guess I'll get going, then." He doesn't move. "You think Noct would mind if I stayed to see him off?"

"I think he would rather enjoy it.”

Before Prompto can ask what that’s supposed to mean, or flush any harder, Noct appears in the doorway, freshly showered and unfairly gorgeous. He looks between Ignis and Prompto, and swears under his breath.

"I see you've realized your scheduling error, then," Ignis says, dryly.

"Sorry, Prompto," Noct mumbles, pulling out his phone and tapping away.

"Nah, man, it's okay. We can get lunch tomorrow or any other day during break. I told you, I don't really have any plans, I don't mind having to plan around your princely things.” Prompto may be babbling. He takes a deep breath. “We can plan for later?"

Noct's phone buzzes, and he lets out a sigh, then smiles shyly Prompto. "Or we could get lunch with my dad together? I just asked him, he wouldn't mind if you joined us. That way I'm not bailing on my plans with him, and I still get to go out with you."

Prompto flushes.

Noct flushes.

"A very diplomatic approach, Noctis," Ignis says, and if he were anyone else, Prompto would think that he sounded like he was containing a laugh. "Shall we?"

*

Lunch – lunch with the King of Lucis – goes well.

King Regis has a list of all the invitations he and Noct have been extended during the winter break, they start an informal discussion on which events Noct does and does not need to attend. Which events Prompto are welcome to attend, should he desire.

Prompto very carefully doesn't spill his water when King Regis says as much.

And sure, he does get a glob of ketchup on his shirt halfway through lunch, and only makes it worse when he tries to wipe it with his napkin – to which Noct snickers at him, and Prompto kicks his ankle – but other than that… Noct seems more at ease with his dad than he was the last time Prompto saw them together, and it…

It goes well.

*

They text after lunch, and through the afternoon, and through the evening, and into the night. Something feels different, but Prompto can’t tell what. He tells himself he’s just imagining it, nothing’s really all that different, he doesn’t have it bad for his bestie, not at all. They’re just texting into the small hours of the night chatting about nothing, and it’s great, but there’s no reason for Prompto’s heart to be beating out of his chest.

HRH NOCTO: ugh I should have gone to sleep hours ago
HRH NOCTO: I feel like I’m gonna drop my phone on me any sec
PROMPTO: haha same
PROMPTO: sweet dreams

Noct sends a selfie of himself, a sleepy smile on his face.

HRH NOCTO: night prom ♡

Prompto stares at the heart, stares at the selfie, then stares at the heart some more. He shoves his phone under his pillow and tells himself to go to bed. Tells his own heart to stop.

But within a few minutes he’s staring at the text again, because he has it so, so bad.

And yeah, idly, every now and then, not at all more frequently lately, Prompto’s maybe thought about what it would be like. And it’s late at night, and maybe… maybe he’s not…

But even in his idle daydreams, where things were happy and requited and Prompto wasn’t just reading too much into things, there’s always been one potential roadblock. And it’s late enough at night that he switches to another chat log.

PROMPTO: can I ask Noct out?
PROMPTO: or may I ask him out?
PROMPTO: and like I’m only like
PROMPTO: uh
PROMPTO: lets go w 45% certain he would even agree to it, and idk im still working up the courage to ask him out. but wanted to run it by you??? bcuz if he said yes but it weren’t okay w you that would be a disaster and I don’t know what we’d do, so I figured it was easiest to make sure you were okay with it first, in case you aren’t so that way we can prevent any heartbreak
PROMPTO: I mean im the only one really facing heartbreak because there’s a 50/50 chance I could hypothetically date him bcuz he’s the prince and I’m a plebe and then only 45% certain he’d say yes so my chances are pretty grim
PROMPTO: which I already knew but
PROMPTO: have you seen the way he smiles?
PROMPTO: look at his smile
PROMPTO: [IMG_986.JPG]
PROMPTO: it makes me forget that I don’t have a chance
PROMPTO: it makes me forget everything bad in the world
PROMPTO: he smiles and I just see him
PROMPTO: and I

He stops himself from texting those next two words.

And then it occurs to him what he’d just sent.

And then the panic sets in.

He spends a long few minutes staring up at the ceiling. Every single of one of his insecurities is yelling at him, picking apart the dozens of ways he just messed up everything, telling him how stupid what he just did was. He wonders if Ignis could sneak him out of Insomnia. If he could get Gladio to teach him about living outside the city. He wonders if either would end his misery, or if he would have to go to Cor or–

Cor.

Text if you ever need anything.

PROMPTO: hey so it’s 4 and I just sent HRM a dozen texts if I could ask Noct out and talking about how much I liked him and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna die and I don’t know what to do
COR LEONIS: Let’s get breakfast. I can be at your place in ten.

*

Prompto is quiet as a car pulls alongside him. As he slides into the passenger seat next to Cor. As Cor drives him around Insomnia, as they arrive at an all-night diner.

Cor orders himself a coffee, and Prompto mumbles an order for a small salad.

They wait in silence for a while-- Cor perfectly content to wait for Prompto to start speaking.

"Did I wake you up?" he asks, finally, after the salad has been put down in front of him.

"I get up around this time. You were only five or ten minutes earlier than my alarm."

Prompto nods. Pushes the lettuce around his plate. Finally nibbles on one. "Why do you wake up so early?"

"Meditation."

"I'm sorry for interrupting that."

Cor shrugs. "It's nothing that can't be done later in the day as well."

Prompto continues moving his lettuce around. He sees a carrot, and it makes him think of Noct. He buries his face in his hands.

"You alright?" Cor asks, a note of alarm to his voice.

"I am so stupid," Prompto says, and he has to fight to keep it from coming out as a wail.

"For what?"

Prompto spreads open his fingers to look at Cor. "I spammed the King of Lucis asking if I could ask out Noct."

"What's so stupid about that?"

Prompto opens his mouth to start on the litany of what's so stupid about it when his phone buzzes. “I can’t look at it,” he says, pushing his phone at Cor.

Cor frowns at the screen for a long time, and Prompto’s stomach drops. “You have King Regis in your phone as His Royal Majesty Reggie.

“…it was funny at the time.”

“What time was that?”

Prompto shrugs helplessly. “And wait, it’s him? He replied?” He sits up straighter in his seat. “What’s he doing up at this hour? Did I wake him up?”

“He’s an early-riser. And,” Cor adds, “it’s not a reply to be afraid of.” He slides the phone back over.

Prompto looks between his phone and Cor a few times before he gathers his courage and looks at the screen.

HRM REGGIE: What and how Noctis replies is not for me to say, but you will not meet any objection from me.

Prompto feels… a lot.

He sets his head down on the table. There's a part of him that wishes he'd gotten a "No, you cannot date my son" reply, because then he'd know what to do. Now… now he's just stuck tearing up in a diner at an ungodly hour of the morning because now he needs to be brave enough to ask his best friend out and he doesn't know if he can do that.

"So," Cor says. “I’m just about done with my coffee.”

Prompto turns his head to look over at him.

“You should probably get some rest. Talk to Prince Noctis after you've gotten a few hours of sleep. Things will work out from there." He clears his throat. “You want to finish your salad here, or take it home?”

Prompto lets out a very long breath. “I’ll take it home.”

*

Prompto invites him out for ramen for dinner – at Gladio’s second favorite ramen shack – because he doesn’t want to associate any negative memories at either of their apartments. Noct insists on paying, and then they’re sitting at a booth in the back, talking like it’s any other time they’re hanging out together. Prompto picks at his noodles, but holds as much of a conversation as he can manage.

Noct sends him a few curious looks when he doesn’t talk much, but doesn’t bring it up. Not until he’s done with his ramen, and pushing his empty bowl to the side. “Everything alright, Prom?”

The nickname makes Prompto’s heart skip a beat. He tells himself Noct’s used for far too long for it to be signal of anything. But before he can chicken out of it, he makes himself say, “Yeah. Mostly. I’ve just… got something on my mind I’d like to talk about?”

Noct lays his hand on Prompto’s. “Of course. Whatever you want.”

“Doyouwannagooutwithme?”

Noct stares. “What?”

Prompto’s heart hurts from how fast it’s beating. “Do you… wanna… go out… with me…?” He looks away for a second, losing his nerves, his hands going down to fiddle in his lap for a second. A deep breath and then another, and he makes himself look up at Noct, hopes he’s not as red in the face as he feels. “I… I really like you, Noct, and…”

Noct stares, eyes wide in surprise. “I–” he starts, but cuts himself off.

Prompto tries not to cringe. “Don’t feel that way? ‘Cause it’s cool if you don’t. I mean, it’ll be awkward for a bit but we’ll still be–”

“I thought we were already dating.”

Prompto stares.

Noct stares back. “You…” He goes for his phone. “You told me to clear my schedule, ‘we’re going out.’ And you were there when I told Specs we were going out for lunch.”

Prompto’s gaze goes to his half-finished ramen. He’d prepared himself for if Noct said yes. He’d prepared himself for if Noct said no. He didn’t think that the reply would have been… it doesn’t make sense that…

…except that it does…?

“So…” Prompto starts, slowly, “when I took you on that surprise adventure that involved me trespassing…” After a few more moments, Prompto’s face splits into a brilliant grin. “What a great first date.”

Noct lets out a laugh, bright and relieved. “I thought so too.”

Prompto runs his hand through his hair a few times. “You, uh, want to hit the arcade after this for a third date?”

Noct gives Prompto a very patient look.

“…are we already on our third date?”

“Finish your ramen.”

*

They’re in Noct’s apartment – casually gaming, which they’ve always done, but now with bonus cuddling – when a thought occurs to him. He scrambles for his phone.

PROMPTO: wait
PROMPTO: you knew we were already dating but you didn’t say anything?
PROMPTO: rude
HRM REG: You just insulted the King of Lucis.
HRM REG: I believe that you are the one that is being rude.

Prompto freezes. Noct tucks his chin on Prompto’s shoulder and reads the message, frowning. He plucks Prompto’s phone out of his hands and takes a selfie of them – Prompto looking stricken, Noct sticking his tongue out.

PROMPTO: not funny, dad
HRM REG: rude

They burst out laughing.