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Just Skin and Bones

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Noct gasps—blood bubbles at the corners of his lips and drips down his chin. He lays flat on his back on the cold ground, but out of fear of further irritating his injuries, nobody has moved him. There’s a large gash on his chest, a deep gouge thanks to an unlucky hit from a Red Giant. Gladio’s surprised that Noct’s still conscious and almost wishes he weren’t.

He groans in pain and sweat paints his forehead. Every breath that comes out is strained.

Ignis wastes no time once he gets to Noct’s side. He immediately presses down on Noct’s wound with his jacket, ignoring Noct’s cry of pain. Blood gushes around Ignis’ palms, staining the cloth a deep red. “Prompto, give me an elixir,” Ignis orders, without looking at Prompto. “Prompto, an elixir! Now!”

Prompto flails. “We—We don’t have any!”

“A hi-potion, then. Give me something. Anything.”

Gladio searches through the Armiger himself—he finds nothing. “Iggy,” Gladio says, “we’re all out. We don’t have any potions.”

“What?” Ignis says but sure enough, when he searches himself, he comes up empty. They used their last curative earlier, in their fight against the Red Giants, flans and other daemons Gladio couldn’t care to name. Getting to the last floor of Costlemark had taken everything they had—including all their curatives, it seems.

Noct coughs.

“I only have a Phoenix Down,” Gladio says. He pats his pocket, where he feels the warmth of the Phoenix Down emanating through. It’s an emergency, reserved for Noct and only for Noct. 

“It’s no use.” Ignis puts more pressure on Noct’s wound. The blood still pours freely. “His heart hasn’t stopped; it will do nothing for him.”

“I can—there’s gotta be someone nearby,” Prompto suggests. “I can take one of those teleporting-things and get outta here, look for some help or grab some potions from the Regalia.” His voice raises at the end like he’s asking a question.

Gladio crouches down next to Noct and, after muttering a quick apology, helps Iggy put more pressure on his wound, ignoring his pained scream. “Don’t bother,” he says to Prompto. “Getting out might be easy, but you’d only just get yourself killed by a daemon coming back down here alone.”

“Then what?!” Prompto yells, uncaring about any daemon that might’ve heard his voice. “It’s better me than Noct! We don’t have a choice! What else are we gonna do, just wait around for Noct to die and hope a Phoenix Down works?”

Silence falls over the room, broken only by Noct’s quivering breaths. 

Ignis exhales. “Perhaps—”

No,” Prompto interrupts. “No, no, no, no, no. Iggy, you can’t—you can’t be serious. You’ve gotta be kidding me! This is—what if he dies for real? What if the Phoenix Down doesn’t work? We can’t. We can’t do this! Gladio, say something!”

“Iggy’s right,” Gladio says, avoiding Prompto’s eyes. He ignores his gasp and continues, “This is the only way we’ll be able to help Noct at this point. At this rate, it won’t be long before he bleeds out. Waiting around for help or going to find help ain’t gonna do much here.”

“But—” Prompto’s words die in his throat. His gaze never leaves Noct’s face, growing paler by the second.

“Gladio,” Ignis says. His voice is shaking. “He’s losing too much blood. The Phoenix Down will be able to restore only so much.”

“Yeah,” Gladio says. “I know. Move, I’ll do it.”

Prompto looks from Gladio to Ignis, the colour leaving his cheeks. “W-What are you guys talking about? What are you—”

“Are you sure, Gladio? I am capable enough of doing it myself.”

“Trust me, Iggy, it’s gonna fuck you up.”

“And not you? You are his Shield. You are meant to protect him.”

“I know. But my job also involves keeping him alive, no matter what I have to do.”

“Guys!” Prompto says, but they both ignore him. Gladio stares Ignis down and while he knows Iggy’s stubborn, he’s not about to back down either. He knows Ignis, knows that he wouldn’t even dare give Noct a scratch. This… doing this’ll wreck him. It’s always been Gladio’s job to do the dirty work, whether it’s taking apart a Garula or being the guy to throw himself in the thick of battle to protect the others. He’s used to pushing down his emotions to deal with the ugly parts of life.

Eventually (thankfully), Ignis relents with no further argument. He understands, too, that time is running out and the longer they argue, the more blood Noct loses and the less of a chance he has for the Phoenix Down to be effective. Slowly, he shuffles away from Noct, whose eyes follow him all the way.

Gladio rearranges himself by Noct’s body and summons one of Iggy’s daggers. It’s long, sharp and thin. Should get the job done.

Prompto realizes what he’s doing and cries out. Ignis holds him back and Gladio tunes out Prompto’s panic. His focus is on Noct and only Noct. He pulls the Phoenix Down out of his pocket and sets it aside. Noct’s eyes, wide, lock onto Gladio’s and there’s something like resignation behind them.

“Sorry, Noct,” Gladio says, and he plunges the dagger into Noct’s heart.