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Double Beds

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"Just so you know," said Prompto, with the excruciatingly deliberate speech of a man trying to sound casual, "I'm cool with taking the bed with Noctis tonight."

That actually got Ignis to look up from the little stove where he'd been browning grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches for supper. The camper stoves were well and good enough, but they were electric, meaning Ignis had come not to trust them for anything that took more finesse than a griddle.

"I mean," Prompto continued, jamming his hands into the pockets of his tight jeans, "I get it! I get why it's always either you or Gladio. Since you're the real Crownsguard and I was just sort of along for the ride here. But I can take care of him too, you know."

Ignis sighed, though not unkindly. The campers were pleasant enough lodgings, to the point where Ignis had come to be quite grateful for them on rainy nights, such as the one they were living through at the moment. However, they had a curious logistical dilemma: two bedrooms, each large enough to sleep two grown men, at opposite ends of the unit. When they camped out, the tent by necessity held all four of them, in varying arrangements. When they splurged on a hotel, all four stayed similarly in the same two-bed room, with no one much caring where they fell, so long as some mattress landed beneath them.

Only the campers required some organization, and in that, some decision-making. And in that, the decision had always come down one of two ways: either Ignis would take half of Noctis' bed, leaving Prompto and Gladio to the other, or Gladio would sleep at his prince's side, giving Ignis and Prompto the far room. If there was some obvious disparity in the arrangement, Noctis had never mentioned it, and as such, it had never before been worth mentioning at all.

When Ignis' reply was not immediately forthcoming, Prompto's confidence visibly crumbled. His shoulders slumped, and he stared down at his feet. "I mean ... you know I can, right? By this point?"

"Of course," Ignis said. He sighed again and placed a comforting hand on Prompto's bare shoulder. Despite the chill the rainy night had brought in, Prompto was still so warm, an eager little furnace. "I'd say you've proven that a hundred times over, in situations far more perilous than a camper."

"Then...?" Prompto looked up at him, eyebrows raised hopefully.

Ignis knew, perhaps better than most, just how thin the ice beneath their feet was here. That Prompto was nursing a crush on Noctis was a truth visible from space, and as such, Prompto surely thought it was invisible. To others, perhaps, it might have been. But Prompto was still young in so many ways, and as such did not know yet when he was being seen by someone who recognized him for what he was.

Of course, Ignis knew Prompto would not do a single untoward thing the whole evening, should he indeed be left to sleep at Noctis' side. If anything, he worried more for Prompto's health than Noctis', as Ignis had no difficulty picturing him up the whole night, staring at Noctis in the dim glow of the streetlights outside, paralyzed by the push and pull of desire and duty. It was a sensation Ignis knew far more intimately than he ever would have admitted.

That, however, was not the whole of it. Perhaps the most Ignis could do to balance the scales here would be to let Prompto see him as well. Sensing that this conversation would go better were it not strictly face to face, Ignis turned to the stack of bread on the counter and began to butter another piece. "It isn't about you," he said, his voice soft despite how Gladio and Noctis were far from the camper at the moment, performing feats of strength or some other nonsense Gladio had invented as bonding time under the guise of toughening the young prince up. "It's about what would become of the other bedroom."

"The oth--" Mid-word, a lightbulb clicked on in Prompto's head. His cheeks flushed to match the tomatoes Ignis had sliced earlier. He bit his lower lip, and Ignis did his best not to chuckle at the thought of what images must be playing in that blond head at the moment. "Ohh."

"No," Ignis said, gentle yet firm, as he continued assembling the sandwich. "That is ... not yet, anyway."

Prompto frowned. "Not ... yet?" 

Ignis pressed his lips together for a moment. It was one thing to have this go on for years between himself and Gladio as an unspoken matter, a conversation had only by reading between lines between lines. That they were attracted to one another had been a truth without question for some time now, long before the trip had ever begun. But it had been a truth honored in distance and patience. They had seemed to come to a quiet agreement that they would someday fall into bed with one another, perhaps both drunk or on a dare, but that there was no rush in bringing that someday forward. Would it have been at the reception following Noctis and Lady Lunafreya's wedding? More likely than not, once they had safely placed their charge into the arms of his intended. But that thought belonged to a world that no longer existed. What now would pass between them, between any of them, once they reached Altissia was no longer a matter of any certainty.

"Now is not the time," Ignis said at last. "We all have so much to deal with now, so many dangers and complexities. Noctis needs us now, and we need each other. Speaking only for myself, I cannot afford self-indulgence or distraction. And that would be exactly what that would mean."

Prompto nodded, a bit chagrined. "Oh." He quirked his mouth to one side, then stepped closer, handing Ignis another slice of cheese. "Hey, if you ever want to talk about it, you know ... I'm here to listen."

Ignis nearly laughed outright at that. No, he didn't want to talk about it. He didn't even want to be having anything in his head worth talking about. His own feelings were the least relevant part of the world at large at the moment. He wanted to scoop them out of his own chest, bury them in a hole, and drive away, unburdened and much more capable of doing his job. If he could just disappear into being needed, and not into needing, everything would proceed much more smoothly.

But Prompto had made the offer in good faith, and as such, laughing would have been unkind in the extreme. Ignis may have been a bitch, as Gladio had once put it, but he'd learned to keep most of those impulses to himself. "And the same goes for you," Ignis said.

"Oh," Prompto said again. He shuffled his feet a little. "So I, um, didn't know Gladio was into guys."

Ignis exhaled through clenched teeth and flipped over the sandwich on the griddle. "He has given indication that he is ... flexible." With one of his knuckles, he pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "Really," he muttered, as though they might be overheard at any greater volume, "he is filthy and ill-mannered and has no business being so attractive."

"I know, right?" Prompto laughed. "Like, put on a shirt, dude, you're making it tough out here for the rest of us."

Chuckling, Ignis shook his head, then looked back over his shoulder at Prompto. Ignis couldn't remember ever having been that young or carefree, and he supposed he envied Prompto for that -- if not for how Prompto had yet to learn just how much neither of those could last. Best not to disabuse him of those notions while he still held them dear. "I must apologize," Ignis said, "that you ever doubted yourself on account of my embarrassingly poor taste in men."

"Apology not needed, but accepted." From outside the camper walls, even through the rain, they heard the sounds of Noctis' and Gladio's voices, no doubt showing their affection for one another through hysterical rudeness. Prompto glanced out the window to see them coming, then looked back to Ignis. "So, how about we make the two guys who probably smell like wet dog now bunk together tonight, and you and me continue this conversation later?"

Ignis found a smile curling the corners of his mouth. "I'd like that," he said, and meant it.