Stand By Me

BY : Mr. Benzedrine & MistahRoi
Category: Final Fantasy Games > Final Fantasy XV
Dragon prints: 2325
Disclaimer: We do not own Final Fantasy, and we will not make a profit from this story.

The Misters are back and better than ever! Sorry we took so long to get this chapter out. It's a lengthy one (12,000 words) so we hope that more than makes up for our absense. We love each and every one of you, and we've seen a few of you write in about making fanart! Please show us! We would love to see. (hearts and hugs and all that jazz)
~The Misters~

All I got (I'm yours)

I'll give it to you (be mine)

You're in my brain (I'm yours)

And my heart too (be mine)

Because I am yours

If you want me too

Tell me you want me too

'Cause I'll give it all to you

"I Feel Everything" by Cara Delevingne

Chapter Seven: What the Heart Wants

The Prince stirred, the usual warmth by his side missing when he reached his arms out. A crystal blue eye blinked open to search the cramped lodgings void of his best friend. Where was Prompto? Did he not come to bed last night? Noctis rolled onto his back and pulled the window shades forward slightly to peer outside - still dark. He let the blinds fall back against the wall and stared up at the ceiling. Prompto had been acting weird the entire day before, avoiding him, refusing to be alone with him, barely talking to him. He wouldn't even look Noctis in the eye.

Prompto's distance made Noct feel slightly unnerved, though he would never outwardly show it. Since the fall of Insomnia, he became accustomed to always having Prompto at his side, and Prompto seemed all too happy to be there for Noctis.

Did I go too far when he was with those girls? What was that even about? He didn't quite understand it himself. However, when he saw the one with her hand on Prompto's knee, the prince could've sworn his skin caught on fire. It was a new sensation, and he couldn't control the things that came out of his mouth when he decided to approach the four. Why did it irk me so much to see him with those chicks? It's not like I haven't seen it before… Maybe Prompto was actually upset by it, but he just didn't want Noct to see?

No, that wasn't it. In the back of his mind, he had his suspicions about why Prompto was really avoiding him. Noctis brought his hand to his temples and rubbed them as he remembered his dream from two nights ago. What was with that dream anyway?

He could only remember bits and pieces of it.

Prompto stood in front of Noctis, shouting at the top of his lungs. His eyebrows were drawn together, moving with almost comical animation. Why was he angry? No matter how much Noctis struggled to hear him, the sound couldn't catch his ears. All the prince could do was stare at the blond's lips, his attention peaked.

Noctis wasn't sure why he couldn't remember what was said in his dream; was it even all that important? He closed his eyes, struggling to remember...

He had had shoved Prompto against the wall, and -oh yeah, they had kissed. Noct's lips moved fervently as their hands fumbled with each other's clothing. Somewhere in the mix, shoes were shucked off and belts were undone. "Prompto…"

If Noctis had any doubt about how he felt before, it was gone now. He definitely wanted Prompto, dreaming about him the way he had…

There had been a bed...where it came from, Noctis could scarcely remember. What he did know was that he had climbed on top of Prompto, placing soft kisses up his spine as he moved. The way his skin tasted on his tongue...the way Prompto sighed beneath him...He couldn't deny it any longer, not to himself. Noct thrust into him, delighting in every sound, every sensation.

The real Noctis shuddered, because he remembered feeling so good in the dream, like being with Prompto was something as natural as breathing. And then there was that moment - when Noctis had woken up halfway through the dream to hear Prompto's voice clear in his head, despite the grogginess. 'Mmm...Noct…' It woke Noctis from his sleep, though at the time he thought he was still dreaming. In his dream, he was buried inside Prompto to the hilt of his cock, but in reality he'd been grinding against a warm, complacent body - Prompto's. Rubbing against him had felt so damn good, and he'd been desperate for release. It wasn't until the next morning that he realized that he wasn't dreaming when he used Prompto to get off. He'd actually...

Noctis covered his face with his hands and muffled a groan as his suspicions seemed more plausible than not. Was he awake during that? Noct wanted to believe that Prompto slept through his shenanigans, but if he hadn't…Was this Prompto's way of telling Noct he wasn't interested? That he didn't think of the prince that way? Did Prompto feel violated by the prince's advances?

Noctis flung the covers off and rolled out of the bed quietly. He needed to find Prompto and just straight up ask him. It didn't matter how embarrassing it was, or how it made him feel if he didn't get a favorable answer. It was something he had to know.

He slipped his feet into his boots and crept to the door, opening it slowly to avoid waking the other two up. All of the chairs were empty; Prompto wasn't here either. Noct's eyes scanned the dark parking lot until he caught sight of the Regalia, windows down. Did they forget to close them when they arrived? Or was that where his friend decided to crash? He trekked across the dampened concrete and peered in the window. Sure enough, Prompto was conked out in the back seat.

Noctis eased into the passenger seat, guiding the door slowly so it wouldn't slam shut and wake Prompto. He leaned over and watched the blond sleep for the moment, taking the time to appreciate every curve and line in Prompto's face. Noct's heart fluttered when a sigh escaped his unconscious friend. All of his resolve melted into a puddle that boiled in the pit of his stomach. If he asked about their last night in Lestallum, or about his feelings, everything would change. Was he really prepared for that? Did he want things to change? Because while times weren't the best, moments like this one gave the prince some nuance of relief.

Reaching his arm into the back, Noctis flicked Prompto's nose and asked, "The Hell are you doing out here? The camper not good enough for you now?" He kept his tone lighthearted.

Prompto groaned as he rubbed his reddened nose, his eyes popping open to meet the prince's. A look of embarrassment filtered across his features. "Sorry, guess I fell asleep playing King's Knight." He yawned groggily.

"Why were you playing it in the car?" Noctis arched a brow at him, not entirely convinced.

"I…" Prompto looked as if he was struggling for an excuse. "-Didn't wanna wake everyone else up. Besides, that Ardyn guy gives me the creeps."

Noctis guessed he could understand that. "Luckily he'll be gone after he gets us in to see Titan. After that, we'll never have to see his ugly mug again."

Prompto sat up and there was a pause, the blond not looking fully convinced by Noctis' words. "Y-yeah, you're right," he said as he scooted as far from the prince as possible.

Noctis' heart sank as he watched Prompto. He was definitely avoiding Noct. He wouldn't even look at him. What was the tight feeling in Noct's chest? It was a dull ache that throbbed every time his mind wandered to Prompto. "So…is King's Knight the only reason you slept out here?"

Prompto was silent for a brief moment before being quick to wear his usual, fun loving facade. "Yeah, dude. Why else would I want to wake up sweating my ass off in a hot car?"

"Well, if those girls were here, I bet you'd find a reason," Noct said with a forced laugh.

"Nah, they really weren't my type anyway." Was Prompto serious? The women were definitely attractive. So then, what did he mean?

"You got a type? What? I thought it was anything that moves," Noctis said with a sly smirk.

"Hey, I got standards, man." Prompto finally met his gaze, a real, genuine smile on his face at last. Noctis felt his tension letting up, knowing that he managed to make Prompto smile for real, instead of the fake smile he had been wearing since their time in Lestallum.

"What? Like two legs?" Their normal back and forth comforted Noctis, and a wave of relief washed over him.

"Well, it's a start," his friend said, playing along with Noctis' joke.

Noctis pondered a worthier comeback. "I knew you liked chocobos just a little too much…"

The prince couldn't hold in the laugh when Prompto's eyebrows nearly leaped off his face at the remark. "Dude!"

"See? Can't even deny it."

It took the blond a moment to recover, but when he did, it was Prompto's turn to smirk, a bit of smugness taking over. "Says the dude whose hair looks straight up like a black-feathered chocobo. I gotta say, it's doin' it for me." He gave Noct an obvious wink. Noctis knew that Prompto was only pretending to flirt with him for the sake of making the prince laugh, but it made his heart flutter all the same. This could be a dangerous move: it could end badly and make things even more awkward between the two, but Noctis wanted to do it. He wanted to flirt back, if for no other reason than to sate the curiosity he had.

"Yeah? I'll be sure to keep stylin' it this way, then." Noctis leaned the seat back and crawled into the back with Prompto. Noct wanted to be near Prompto, and being in the front seat just wasn't cutting it for him. He wasn't quite sure what drove him to move, or to be so forward in this moment.

"Dude, what are you doing?" Prompto asked.

"What? Don't you wanna pet your chocobo?" Noct chuckled and tried to play at innocent with his friend. "Come on, you tellin' me I styled my hair like this for nothing?"

Prompto snorted in laughter. A pang of excitement ignited in Noctis' stomach at the sight of Prompto's smile. "Yeah, I guess you just don't do it for me like before. Sorry, I've moved on," he said, crossing his arms while still smiling.

"Psh, yeah right. You know you want this sexy body." Noct inched closer to Prompto and trailed a fingertip down his bicep, noticing a slight shiver. He was unsure of why he did it, but he loved the reaction. Did he really just respond to that?

"Ha. You call that flirting? No wonder you never score with the ladies." Prompto sounded rather intrepid in his statement.

His pride damaged only a little, Noctis scooted even closer to Prompto, leaving only a few inches between their bodies. His face burned, and his blood rushed through his veins. Even if he was the one making the move, it was still new to him, and it was one of the rare moments that he wasn't completely sure of his actions. "Then why doesn't the master show me how it's done?" He blew softly into his friend's ear, pretending to tease but knowing that deep down, it was much more to him.

Prompto muted a small squeak with a quick cough. "Weak." He chuckled, trying to act casual. "Just about as weak as you getting the courage to pet a chocobo." There was a silly but confident gleam in his eye as he reached up and brushed Noct's bangs out of his eyes, tracing his fingers down the strong jawline. He tipped it up and made Noctis look at him, moving close enough so that their noses touched. Noctis swallowed hard, falling silent when he couldn't come up with a decent quip. He felt as though his heart would leap from his chest at the delicate touch. Having Prompto's face so close to his damn near made his brain short circuit. "What's the matter, Noct? You gettin' shy on me, buddy?" Prompto sniggered a little under his breath.

The prince tried to hide the hitch in his breathing by saying, "Is this where you usually feed the girl some cheesy pick up line?" He arched an onyx brow as his lip curled into a smug smirk. On the outside he was all suave and self-assured, but on the inside his heart raced, and his stomach tied in knots.

Prompto's grin set Noctis' heart aflutter. "Oh, you mean like, 'Be my chocobo so I can ride you all night long'?"

Did he just… and earlier he called me… are we still…? His cheeks were probably as bright as the soles of their shoes by now. "I mean, if you wanna put in the work, I like being ridden." Noctis gave a slight shrug, feigning calmness. Did I really just say that?

Prompto's eyes went wide, and he took a beat to recover before coming back with, "Lazy as always, huh? I mean, in that case..." Prompto all out laughed as he climbed into Noct's lap and straddled him, careful to keep their pelvises from touching but still getting into Noctis' personal space. The prince faltered slightly, the wrong neurons firing away in his head, leaving him without response. "And anyway, I think I've been ridden more times than you, if memory serves," Prompto continued before sticking out his tongue. "Something wrong, Noct? I thought you liked being ridden." The mirth in Prompto's voice convinced Noctis that his friend only saw this as a joke, pretend flirting, but it was very real to him.

Noctis shifted underneath Prompto as he tried to move his quickly hardening erection in hopes that his friend wouldn't notice. He could hear his heart pounding, felt it in his fingertips as he hooked his thumps through the belt loops on Prompto's pants. Finally, he thought of something decent to come back with. "I'm not always lazy." His fingers dug into the denim as he jerked Prompto's hips toward him.

"Nice try, Noct." Prompto reached down and pried Noctis' hands from his jeans, pinning them against the leather seat. "I'm a classy lay, I'll have you know."

Noctis chuckled, adrenaline racing. "Wouldn't expect any less of you, chocobutt." The prince struggled to get out of Prompto's grip, bucking his hips up and causing the blond's head to hit the ceiling with a solid thunk. Noct stared up at the grimace. Shit. Talk about a mood ruiner.

"Owwww." Prompto released Noctis' hands and rubbed the top of his head. "It's a good thing we're not actually getting busy. Seriously, dude. No tact. Would ruin the ambiance in a heartbeat."

"Well, doing it in a car's probably not the best idea anyway - not unless we put the top down." He spoke without stopping to think, only realizing what he said after the fact. It was out there now, too late to take it back.

"W-we?" Prompto's nervous laughter was adorably precious. "Yeah, sure dude. 'Cause I'm totally your type."

Well… "I do have a thing for blonds." Noctis took a chance and twirled a finger in Prompto's golden locks. He wasn't sure exactly what it was, but there was something about the way Prompto looked down at him that had enticement written all over it. Having him in his lap, the closeness of their bodies - it made his imagination run rampant, and he didn't want to reign it in.

Prompto stilled, almost rigid, as his eyes trailed to Noct's hand. "Okay, dude. You proved your point. You're not half bad at the flirting thing." He swatted Noctis' hand away.

"Yeah?" Noctis didn't want to stop, not in the least. How far could he take it? His hand fell to Prompto's thigh, thumb edging toward the inside in search of the spot that he knew was ticklish. "I'd say I'm pretty damn good at it." And then he seized his moment.

Prompto snorted a laugh. "C-come on, man!" Noctis kept tickling him, drawing out more laughter and causing Prompto to lean forward. "Cut it out!" The blond's hand clamped down over Noct's, trying to make him stop. Prompto's body surged forward, and he buried his face in the crook of the prince's neck, muffling his laughter. "St-stop!" He forced Noct's hand to stop moving.

Noctis couldn't help but to chuckle in response to Prompto's squeals and struggles. He relished the moment, the feeling of Prompto's hot breath on his neck. It tickled in the slightest of ways as it caused the prince's hair to move against his skin. When he saw his best friend smiling and enjoying himself again, it gave him a sense of accomplishment in lightening Prompto's mood. "Say I'm the best, and I'll stop. Otherwise…" He snaked his free hand between Prompto's legs and started in on the other thigh, thumb digging into the flesh just right to make his friend's hips jerk.

"This is so not fair," Prompto said between pants, one of his hands tangled in Noct's shirt, gripping it while the other held onto Noctis' wrist.

"Why would it be?" Noctis' fingers caressed up Prompto's thigh as he slid his wrist free of Prompto's hand while he was distracted. The prince wrapped his arm around his friend's hips and pulled him closer, keeping him from escaping the tickle assault.

"N-Noct! Seriously!" The way Prompto wiggled in Noct's lap made his breath hitch; it felt delectable, and he wanted more of it. The blond sniggered against Noctis' throat and managed to scoot back enough to get his own hand on the prince's thigh in the same way, threatening. "Two can play at this game." He tried to tickle Noctis, but it didn't work.

"How's that goin' for ya?" Noct asked as his movement stilled, hand resting on Prompto's inner thigh. Even if it didn't tickle, the proximity of Prompto's hand to his crotch sent a tingle dancing up his spine.

"I remember you being more ticklish than this." Prompto's whine nearly made Noctis want to give in and let the blond tickle him, but he had his pride. The breath on his neck compelled Noctis to pull Prompto closer to him, to hold his body against his own, but he resisted the urge.

"Ignis taught me a secret to control it. All in the mind - kings shouldn't be ticklish, ya know." Noctis pressed his thumb into Prompto's thigh again, resuming his assault on his best friend. It was all he could think to do to stop himself from tilting Prompto's head up and… I can't do that.

"Hahahaha! D-Damn it! Guess I gotta kick…ahaha…Ignis' ass now…fuck!" Prompto tightened his hold on Noct's thigh in retaliation, digging his fingers into the muscle with authority. "I mean it, Noct! Cut it out!"

Noctis froze when Prompto's grip squeezed his leg. The strength, mixed with the commanding tone, triggered something in the back of Noct's mind, and he obeyed the blond. "Fine, I'll stop."

Prompto paused momentarily, a befuddled expression etched on his face. "Really? You tellin' me it was that easy?" He leaned up, hand still holding still on Noctis' thigh, as if he thought letting up meant Noct would tickle him again. "Not much of a king to give up so quick."

The prince gazed up at Prompto, a playful sparkle in his eye as he fell for Prompto's goading. "Did you think I was giving up? It's called strategy, Prom." The look on his face said 'what will you do now?' as his grip on Prompto stayed firm. When Prompto started squirming on Noct's lap, he tightened his grip on the blond, hand inching further up Prompto's thigh.

Prompto's eyes fluttered closed for a moment at Noct's touch, and the split second of blissfulness was something Noctis wanted to see more of. I could really…It'd just be so easy right now. His eyes trailed down to Prompto's slightly parted lips. Prompto took advantage of Noctis being swept up in the moment and tried to retaliate by gripping Noct's thigh harder, but the prince just wiggled his fingers a little, turning the tension into humor with a sly tickle. Prompto, caught somewhere between laughter and something else, fell forward, tucking his face into Noct's shoulder. "Dick move."

"Is it?" Noctis whispered in Prompto's ear, fingers shimmying slightly north of their current position, testing the waters. "You're not getting all shy on me now, oh 'master of flirting'?"

"N-no…" Prompto stumbled over the word.

"You sure? I think you're blushing, Prom," Noctis said with a smug smile edging up the corners of his mouth.


"And now the silent treatment. Is that any way to treat your King?" Noct scooted his hand further still until it was so close to Prompto's crotch that, if he twitched, he'd graze him.

"Noct…" Prompto whimpered, and something overcame the prince. Something authoritative and primal.

"I'm sorry. That didn't sound like a 'your highness' to me." Just how far could he take this? Would Prompto even stop him? The blond seemed all too willing to comply with every wish he had, but was this going too far? Half of him wanted to resist, but the other half…it wanted to dive in and explore this feeling.

Prompto's entire body shook against Noctis, lost in the sensations. The prince had never seen his friend so unravelled. It meant something, right? He was reacting this way because of the things Noctis was doing, wasn't he? He wanted to know for sure.

"Come on, say it with me. Your…" Noct's thumb drew gentle circles against Prompto's inner thigh.

Prompto chewed his bottom lip before saying, "-An asshole. You're an asshole."

"No. That's not right." Noctis leaned his cheek against the side of Prompto's neck, the stubble on his face scratching at the skin. "Say it right."

"Sorry. You're a royal asshole."

"Heh. Well, at least you admit to the royalty part." Noctis spoke softly, trying to hide the undertone of lust.

"Hard to forget it when you parade around like one all the time." Noct could feel the vibrations of Prompto's vocal cords in his cheek.

The prince slipped his whole hand to Prompto's inner thigh; this was the moment. It needed to happen now. Would Prompto accept this, or reject him? He hoped for the latter, because otherwise, things were going to get very awkward on their trip.

"Noct…come on…that's really close to my…" Prompto's voice wavered.

"Yeah, it is." Noctis' other hand slipped up Prompto's back, giving him no means to escape now. He pulled back and stared into the baby blue eyes of his best friend. His arm tightened around Prompto, nudging him forward…

Suddenly, searing pain shot through his skull. "Ah!"

The car shuddered slightly as another earthquake erupted, jostling the two in the backseat.

"Noct?" Prompto immediately straightened and scanned his eyes over the prince's face.

"Damn it." Noctis reached for his head, needing some kind of relief from the splitting sensation in his skull.

Prompto cupped Noctis' face. "Shit. You're okay." He rubbed gentle circles with his fingers along Noct's temples. "Shh, I got you, buddy."

Noctis stared up at Prompto, seeing the concern in his best friend's eyes. His eyelids closed, and he let Prompto work him down until the earth stopped shaking beneath the Regalia. When it ended, Prompto sighed with relief and cupped Noct's face once again. "Had me worried there."

"Worried? About me?" Noctis tried to laugh it off. "That's funny." And just like that, the moment was gone. Dashed by the infernal headaches that kept coming in ever-increasing intensity. But, even if it was just for a moment, he could have sworn Prompto would have let the prince kiss him.

"Is it?" Prompto's thumb brushed down Noct's jaw. "Guess that's why I'm the comedic relief…"

Thunk, thunk. Knuckles rapped on the door, and a smug looking Gladio leaned down into the open window. "Well, if it isn't two chocobutts in their natural habitat." He glanced between the two as Prompto squeaked. "Don't let Iggy catch ya, or you'll be cleaning out the back seat all morning. - Food's on."

Prompto, in a small, mortified voice said, "You're never gonna forget you saw this, are you?"

Noct's head fell back on the seat as his hands fell away from Prompto. "Perfect. More for him to tease about."

Prompto slipped off of Noctis and into the seat next to him as Gladio tapped the top of the car and walked away. There was a timid look in Prompto's eye as he watched Gladio leave before turning and glancing at Noctis, flustered. "Way to go, Noct." He groaned, leaning his head back, cheeks as red as the Regalia's current paint job.

"This isn't all on me, buddy." At least, Noctis hoped not. "You were going along with it just as much as I was." He nudged Prompto's shoulder with his elbow. "We should probably go, or you know what Gladio will do."

"Agreed." Prompto reached for the door and paused. "Well, um…ten outta ten for your game skills...the ladies won't know what hit 'em." He slid out of the car and shut the door, tucking his hands into his pockets and refusing to look at Noct as he walked away.

What in the name of the Six just happened? Noctis damn near fondled his best friend, and he liked it. He loved having Prompto in his lap, wiggling, squirming, having his body so close. He groaned as he rubbed his sweaty palms down his pants. Would he really have groped Prompto? Would Prompto have let him? That didn't feel fake to him. In fact, it felt very real. The rumble in his stomach drew his attention. Best go eat before it's gone. Noctis scooted across the back seat and stepped out of the Regalia.

Prompto was not okay.

Shit, shit shit, he was not okay at all.

But he was thankful for Ignis' humming in the backseat as Noctis drove, allowing Prompto to escape into his thoughts as he chewed the inside of his cheek, staring out the passenger side of the Regalia. He tried his best not to look over beside him, avoiding Noctis at all costs. It wasn't that he was mad - far from it. However, the nervousness he felt in proximity to the prince had grown tenfold by this morning's activities.

What the Hell was Noctis thinking, flirting with Prompto like that? Could Prompto even dare think it was sincere? Or was this all another mind-fuck and some wishful thinking thrown into Noctis' carefree attitude and love of teasing his best friend?

"Shit," Prompto said aloud to no one but himself.

"Something on your mind, Prompto?" asked Noctis, reaching over to turn down the dial on the car radio. Prompto fidgeted nervously in his seat, wondering if Gladio or Ignis had heard his random outburst.

"Just nervous about this trip, is all," Prompto managed, scratching the tip of his nose to appear nonchalant. It wasn't like he could talk about anything that happened between them with the others in the car. "Do we really think this Ardyn guy is okay?" Not after last night. Prompto got the feeling he knew what kind of man Ardyn was - the term 'bad touch uncle' came to mind.

"We've got no choice," said Gladio from behind Prompto as he leaned over and moved his face closer to Prompto's headrest. "If he's our way to the Disc, we gotta take it."

"He's just a creepy, old man," Noctis chimed in, and for the first time since breakfast, Prompto met Noctis' gaze. A flush of heat traveled across the bridge of Prompto's nose, but he remained neutral in his expression, determined not to give himself away. It didn't help that Noctis was smiling at him with confidence as he added, "If he tries anything, the four of us will take him head on."

"As much as I admire your showmanship, Noct, the best approach perhaps would be to swing a sword only when all other options have presented themselves and been found futile." Ignis pushed his glasses up the tip of his nose. "That being said, it would be very foolish of him to attempt a mutiny." The gleam in his eyes was frightening.

"Geez, Iggy. You can be really scary when you wanna be, you know that?" Prompto laughed nervously. "Like a mother garula."

"More like a coeurl," Noctis announced, giving a lengthy yawn and cat-like stretch that had Prompto reaching over and grabbing the wheel.

"Whatd'ya think you're doin'?" snapped Gladio. Ignis looked pale white, too stunned to speak.

Noctis grabbed the steering wheel and batted Prompto's hand away. "Just stretchin'. Get off my back."

"What? An entire night's beauty rest ain't enough for our princess?"

"Shut up. I didn't even sleep that well." And with that, Noctis resumed his driving with his eyes on the road and two hands on the wheel, eyebrows crinkled together in concentration.

Prompto turned forward in his seat, wondering...did Noctis not get enough sleep because Prompto hadn't been there to latch onto like some dakimakura? Or was it the headaches? All of this seemed so...overwhelming. What happened to the simple days of video games and Prompto's heart not jamming inside of his ribcage every time Noctis looked at him? Ugh.

He's just being Noct. Stop looking too much into things. But that hand this morning had been so close to Prompto's groin, if it had just flexed a little...Knock it off. Noctis doesn't see you that way.

Oh yeah? Then why was he flirting this morning?

It was a joke.

'Just like my love life,' Prompto thought irritably, resting his chin against his shoulder and staring out at the vacant scenery of fields and rolling hills.

He got a bad vibe the moment the Regalia came to a halt in front of the Imperial blockade.

"We're here," announced Ardyn from his car, glancing back over his shoulder at the four. His eyes scanned each of them thoughtfully, but when they landed on Prompto, it was almost predatory. The blond felt less like a gunslinger and more like a choco-chick by the second.

"Better not be a setup," said Noctis loud enough so that even Ardyn could hear.

"Have I given you reason to doubt me?" Ardyn oozed finesse, raking his eyes over the prince.

"You don't really inspire confidence," said Prompto. He'd do anything to pry Ardyn's gaze off of his best friend, even if that meant putting himself in the line of fire.

Gladio, to his credit, backed Prompto up. "Yeah, not very straight forward."

With a shrug, Ardyn turned back around in his seat and waved to the wall, calling out, "Hello! It's me! Be so kind as to open up!" The sound of twisting gears echoed against the rocky terrain surrounding them, and a few moments later, the concrete gate separating them from the Disc began to split, revealing a dirt path in which to continue on their adventure.

"Wow. That worked?" Prompto gasped. He hadn't expected such an immediate reaction - especially by the Imperial blockade.

"I may not look like much, but I do have some influence. Aren't you glad we came together?" Ardyn peered his head back around once more, this time locking eyes with Prompto without a moment's hesitation. "Your audience with divinity lies ahead." Though he spoke to Noctis, his gaze never strayed from the smallest of their bunch, making Prompto's stomach twist in unnatural ways.

"You're leaving?" Prompto blurted out, relieved.

Ardyn tipped his head as a nod. "I drop you at the Archaean's open door, and with that, bid you farewell."

"Fine by me," muttered Noctis, putting the car into gear and putting his foot on the gas. He sent Ardyn a friendly enough wave and accelerated the car. As they passed by Ardyn and his antique automobile, Prompto swore he could have heard Ardyn humming.

When they were past the blockade and out of earshot, Gladio called above the whipping wind, "I've met some weirdos…"

"I hope we never meet that one again," said Ignis in agreement.

Prompto was a tad bit surprised by the others' reactions - but, then again, the term 'weirdo' had always been a trigger for Prompto, as he'd been called that most of his life by the kids on the playground. "Whoa. Little harsh, don't you think?" Now, if someone wanted to call Ardyn a creep, that might have been a better term…

He glanced around at the carved pathway and thought about how they were mere miles from the legendary Titan. "Guy really knew his stuff about nursery rhymes." And what seemed to be going on with Noctis. Whoever this Ardyn guy was, he certainly knew more than he let on.

"Yeah, nothing creepy about that," Noctis sneered sarcastically, a small smirk on his face as he looked over at his friend. If the prince was thinking about what happened between them this morning, he didn't let on. But for Prompto, it was all he could think about.

They continued to drive until the road ended at the edge of a narrow path surrounded by ancient stone ruins. Noctis turned off the engine and wasted no time in prying open his door. "So, we keep going this way."

"Then we'll find out what the empire's up to," agreed Gladio, hopping out the back of the Regalia, anxious as Noctis. Prompto and Ignis took the scenery more cautiously, eyeing for any potential threats as they opened their doors and shuffled out. Noctis headed toward the path, stopping only to pick up a stray item in his way.

"Wait up!" Prompto called out, jogging to keep up with him. He exchanged glances of irritation with the others; yeah, they were in a hurry, but even Prompto knew rushing headfirst into unknown territory was risky. Where was Noctis' head at?

"These ruins..." muttered Ignis, pulling up the rear. If there was something he thought about sharing with the class, he must have thought better of it, because he fell silent once more.

This was creepy. Almost as creepy as that Ardyn dude.

Up ahead, large columns surrounded a massive path like a ribcage, and at the end, like a fragile, beating heart, was a tomb. "Is that what I think it is?" Prompto gasped.

"Didn't expect to find a royal tomb here," Ignis concurred, thoroughly astounded.

"Would be a shame not to grab that power, eh Highness?" encouraged Gladio.

Noctis stopped at the edge of the tomb, staring down at it with wonder in his eyes. Wonder and something Prompto couldn't quite place. "Let's grab it and go." He thrust his right hand out over the sword; almost immediately, it began to glow a shimmering cobalt blue before rising from its stone owner and hovering above them.

Prompto didn't reckon he'd ever get used to this. He crossed his arms and watched in awe as the sword tilted ever so slightly and, with a jerk, soared through the air and into Noctis. Shimmering beams of cyan blasted out from the prince with one final burst before turning into the infamous armiger of deadly, godly weapons. Noctis held his hand over his heart, seemingly overcome by the raw power of the newest weapon. With a final second of contemplation, the power diminished, and Noctis was himself again, albeit with a foreboding look in his eye.

Great. That was easier than expected-

The ground around them began to tremor at an alarming rate, and Prompto felt his knees kick out from under him from the sheer force. "Great, here we go again!" he exclaimed, falling backwards on his ass.

Even Gladio was knocked down to a crouching position. "This one's huge!"

"Get away! Quickly!" Ignis shouted as rocks and boulders began hurdling in their direction. Noctis fell to his knees, gripping his forehead in pain. To Prompto's horror, all he could do was sit back and watch as the terrain in front of him began to cave in on itself, quicker and quicker, swallowing everything in its path.


Noctis clambered to his feet just in time to dodge the collapsing bit of ground beneath him, scrambling back toward his friends. But the ground was determined and, like watching a horror scene in a movie play out in slow motion, Prompto was forced to watch the earth beneath Noctis' feet crumble and fall away.

No! Prompto's eyes went wide. It felt like his whole world was tumbling down that crater - because it was. His body could barely move, barely comprehend, even as Gladio threw himself down that crumbled ravine, disappearing from view.

"Prompto." It was Ignis' hand wrapping around Prompto's forearm to force him back to reality. He let himself be jerked up to his feet, though his legs barely had any feeling. All of his blood was pumping straight to his head, giving him a splitting headache. "Prompto!" Ignis said more insistently.

Prompto blinked. "Huh?"

"I asked are you alright? Are you hurt?"

Man, was that a subjective question or what? "Er...I...y-yeah." Something moved off in the distance - no, not something...someone. A giant-ass someone made of stone. "Is that…?"

"Titan," Ignis finished. "Come on." He led Prompto to the edge of the crumbled plateau, and when Prompto peeked over the edge, his heart kickstarted in his chest again. There, at the bottom of the ravine, stood Gladio and Noctis, staring up at the Archaean giant.

"Noct! You okay!?"

Their eyes met, and Prompto was sure there was just as much relief to Noctis' expression as there was in his own. Prompto fought the urge to slide down the side of the mountain to get to him.

"Thank heavens you're safe!" called out Ignis. "Is there a way back up?"

"No, but there's a path! Gonna see where it leads!" Noctis began waving his arm, and Prompto couldn't resist waving back, a smile breaching his face. Noctis was safe...

"You two try to get down!" Gladio instructed.

"Very well. We'll look for a way!" Ignis said. "Be careful, now!"

"You, too!" Noctis smiled, a calmness in his voice that Prompto envied.

"Come along, Prompto." Ignis nudged Prompto in the shoulder. "We need to find a way to get closer to Titan."

"What? We're going where!?"

Noctis could barely concentrate. The pounding in his head, offset by the gibberish Titan was shouting, made his vision blur and forced his body down in the dirt like a pressurized vacuum. Even still, Gladio helped him to his feet and shoved him forward down the beaten path, shouting orders. Noct could only hear them through muffled eardrums, but he made out enough.

"Keep moving" and "Watch out" were Gladio's bread and butter in this rough terrain.

"Noct, up ahead."

Narrowing his eyes, Noctis caught sight of a pair of Dynoaevis flying above them. With a quick jump-step, he phased directly up to the cliff beside them, kicked off the edge with his heel, and summoned his blade just in time to slash it into the bird's throat with a shuddering shink. It's partner dived for Gladio in retaliation, but the Shield was prepared, already waving his broadsword over his head before colliding the blade across the monster's belly.

Noctis landed almost-gracefully to the ground, but he stumbled as Titan shouted within his mind and skinned his palms in the process. "Dammit." Quickly, he used a potion and jerked himself upright. "I'm fine," he snapped, noticing Gladio's concerned glance.

"Right. Let's keep movin'."

Noctis sighed, gripping his head. All of this damned heat was making him exhausted, and it didn't help that he was in so much pain. His mind kept straying back to Prompto and those gentle eyes of his staring down at him from the top of the cliff.

They made it to a ravine overlooking a canyon that looked frighteningly deep. "Damn."

"Hey, over here," Gladio said, already side shimming over a ledge. Noctis felt his stomach plummet, letting Gladio take point. "No room for error here."

"No time to chill, either. Make it quick."

How could Gladio look so freaking calm under so much pressure? Yeah, he knew the guy was strong, but this was grueling. Gladio didn't so much as look like he was breaking a sweat. Noctis followed him along the ledge, muttering, "Just want this to be over." He tried taking step by careful step at a time, but then -

"Tremors!" Gladio shouted as the ledge began to crumble beneath them. "Hang on!"

" head…"

"Again? Of all the times. Let's hurry the Hell across."

Noctis heard ringing in his ears, could feel his skull compressing in on itself. He nearly lost his footing twice, but he kept thinking, I can't die here. I have to get back to the others. He knew Prompto would never forgive Noctis if he died some lame death like falling.

Just when he thought he was safe, the mountain across from them burst apart, shattering boulders and dirt every which way. A hand larger than a house thrust forward - Titan's hand, feeling for Noctis through the rubble. Shit.

"Hey! Titan!" Noctis gritted his teeth. "What's the big idea!?" Why was Titan trying to kill him? Just what the Hell was he trying to say? Wasn't Noctis worthy of his favor?

"Save it!" Gladio growled. "Get to solid ground first!"

"Faster!" The prince was desperate - to get off of this ledge, to fall to his knees and vomit. This pain - it was too much…

"Calm down! I'm goin' as fast as I can!"

Noctis paused, closing his eyes. When he opened them, fingertips the size of his head were mere inches from his face. Panic threatened to seize up his body like a vice grip. No. Push through it.

Noctis kept going.

"Almost there…" Gladio encouraged.


Noct's knees gave out from under him. He felt himself falling, hurdling off the edge of the cliff. Something jerked on his wrist - Gladio's hand, swinging him up and over the ledge. Noctis landed on hard rock against his elbow before rolling onto his back. Moments later, Gladio landed beside him and pulled Noctis up to his feet. "If that's his welcome, I hate to see how he treats intruders."

"You wanna talk?" Noctis shouted up at Titan. "So do I!"

"Glad the feeling's mutual. Let's move."

Tensions were high as Noctis brushed Gladio off of him and took point. Embarrassment, littered with resentment, trickled into the prince, filling him with self-doubt. He nearly died just now. How could he be so reckless? He was supposed to be Insomnia's hope for a future - and he couldn't even stand to balance himself on a ledge? Why hadn't he thought to phase out?

I've been too cocky, he scolded himself. This is me under pressure? What the Hell?

"I'm sick of this endless walking…" he groaned, his head pulsing and nerves on edge. "I hope the others...are alright." His mind kept straying back to one individual in particular. "Prompto sounded stressed back there...if anything happens-"

To the prince's shock, a hand reached out and grabbed him by the front of his jacket, whirling him around. Gladio's gritted teeth were intimidating as he growled, "And I'm sick of your endless whining. Calm the Hell down."

"Get off my back." Noctis tried to shake him off.

"Are you a man of royal blood or aren't you!?"

The tension between them snapped like a rubber band wound too tight. Fatigued, stressed, and overexerted, the prince ducked his head. "Above all else, I'm just a man." He couldn't even think under the pressure, couldn't protect anyone, couldn't-

"Just a man?" Gladio grabbed Noctis by the collar of his shirt and shook him like a ragdoll. "The kingdom's fate is in your hands!" He shoved Noctis away, pointing an accusatory finger at him. "Your life ain't yours alone! You have to live for others! Not only yourself!"

"Myself? Since when have I done anything for myself?" Noctis growled. "You think it's easy holding the weight of everyone else's burdens? Waking up, knowing you don't have a say in where your life is going?"

"I think you're forgettin' where your head's at." Gladio swung his hand through the air - not at Noctis, but definitely out of frustration. "We're all on edge." He paused. "But that doesn't mean you gotta go gettin' distracted every five minutes."

"I'm not distracted."

"Yeah? So when I found you in the car with Prompto, that wasn't a distraction? That ain't been on your mind all morning, fillin' you with doubt?"

That caught Noctis off guard. Since when was Prompto a broachable subject? "Don't know what you're going on about."

Gladio scoffed. "You like him."

"What's not to like?" The prince tried to play it cool. "He's a good friend."

"You know that's not what I mean. I saw the way you two were gettin' comfy in that back seat." The stubborn giant in front of him crossed his arms.

"...We were just joking around."

"That warrants him to be in your lap? You hate being touched."

Noctis tsk'd. "Do not." He'd had enough; he pushed past his counterpart, attempting to continue on down the pathway, but Gladio stepped in front of him, blocking his way.

"Admit it."

"Admit what?"

"Admit there's somethin' there."

Could it really be that obvious to everyone? "There's about to be a boot between your legs if you don't shut up and get out of my way." Noctis attempted his best scathing expression, but it did little in the way of intimidation.

"Ha. All bark, no bite." Gladio shoved Noctis in the shoulder. "When are you gonna stop fooling yourself?"

"Would you shut up? You're making more of a racket than Titan's voice in my head."

How could Noctis admit anything out loud when he himself didn't understand his emotions? Admit to liking Prompto as more than a friend? Could he really do that? And what about Luna? Noctis had been so close to giving into temptation this morning…was it really affecting him now, like Gladio said?

"Look," said Gladio, "I'm tryin' to look out for you. We Amicita are the King's sworn Shields. Guard the King with our lives - that's the way it's always been. I've embraced my duty. And I take pride in it. I don't need you messin' it up by gettin' your head screwed on backwards."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"When you can't focus, I focus for you. It's my job. So let me do it, alright?"

Noctis was stunned and humbled. "Alright."

"Noct." Gladio grew gravely serious. "Somethin's gotta give."

"Is it gonna be you giving me a break?" Noctis tried easing the tension with a joke but knew it fell flat.

Gladio remained stoic. "This ain't healthy, bottlin' it all up the way you are. The way both of you-"

"There's nothing between us-"

A thick eyebrow arched over Gladio's chiseled features. "Noct, you like him-"

Maybe it was the headaches, or the heat, or the constant ringing in his ears, but finally, Noctis broke under the pressure, giving in. "Of course, I like him! Now get off my ass, geez!" He rubbed at his forehead, exasperated.

Gladio smirked. "Like - like him? Or like him, like him?"

Noctis glared in Gladio's direction. "What are we? In middle school?"

"Noct, I ain't judging you." Gladio's expression softened. "You know that's not what I'm doin'. But you gotta realize that your duty as King comes first, above everything else. Just like my duty as your Shield. Sometimes, what we want to do and what we need just don't mesh. I know I give you a bunch'a shit, but you gotta keep your eye on the prize, you get me?"

Gladio's words cemented in Noctis' mind, and he gave a silent nod before muttering, "Can we not talk about this now?"

"Sure. But when we get out of need to sit down and think this through. What goin' down this path means. Alright?"

Noctis didn't know how to respond, so he gave a complacent shrug, replying, "If it gets you off my ass…"

"I ain't the one tryin' to be on your ass, Highness."

"Gladio, shut up!"

Fucking balls, it was hot as Hell. Prompto's bangs stuck to his forehead as he and Ignis forced their way down makeshift paths, keeping an eye out for beasts. It was hard enough with the group being separated, but things were harder on Prompto being paired with Ignis. While he enjoyed the Adviser's company, he didn't know much else about the guy aside from his mad cooking skills and snarky sense of humor. Since Noctis spent the majority of his time with Ignis and Gladio in the Citadel away from Prompto, it was often difficult to get a read on the other two members. At least Gladio was simple enough. Ignis, on the other hand…

"Gil for your thoughts?" Ignis wiped his brow with the back of his gloved hand, removing his outer jacket, no doubt because of the temperature. Shimmering waves of heat fanned up from the bottom of the Disc like a sauna they couldn't escape.

"My legs hurt," Prompto admitted, plopping down on a nearby rock and immediately jumping back up. "Shit! That's hot!"

"Did you expect it to be cold?" Ignis quipped back, a soft smirk playing at the corner of his lips.

"So much for wishful thinking."

"Indeed. That's usually the first step to getting yourself killed." Removing his glasses, Ignis pulled a small handkerchief from his back pocket and began to wipe away ash residue from the lenses. "You appear tense."

"Do I? Huh. Crazy how being near a god will do that to someone."

Ignis quirked a cool eyebrow. "And that's all that's on your mind?" He contemplated. "Perhaps this isn't the best time to bring this up…"

"What'dya mean?" Prompto was almost thankful for the sweltering heat to cover up the subtle blush along his cheeks. "Bring what up?"

"Yourself and Noctis."

Eyes widening, Prompto choked a little on his own saliva and slammed his hand on his chest to clear his throat. "W-What about me and Noct?"

Ignis finished cleaning his glasses and slipped them back up his nose, peering over them as if he was a concerned mother inspecting a child with their hands caught in the cookie jar. A mix of knowing and sternness glinted in his eyes as he said, "I know that the news of this betrothal to Lady Luna side-swept us all, but you especially-"

"-Hey," Prompto tried, throwing his palms up, "Noctis is his own man. I don't have much of a say in royal affairs."

Ignis nodded once. "But if you did…? Would you still be as apt to encourage him?"

Prompto's hands fell down to his sides, and then he crossed his arms, defensive. "I'm not his Advisor. You are. So why don't you tell me what you'd say?" He tried to keep his chipper attitude in his voice, but he was sure the way his eyebrows knitted together gave him away. Ignis was really good at reading body language. "What? You lookin' for advice, now?"

"Quite the opposite, really. I'm more in the lines to offer it."

"No offence, Iggy, but I wasn't asking for any."

"And neither does Noctis, on most occasions." Ignis stood stubbornly, mirroring Prompto by crossing his arms as well. "Will you hear me out?"

Nervously, Prompto shifted in place. "We really got time for this? Shouldn't we be finding a way down the-"

"-Gladiolus informed me of the incident in the car this morning." Ignis' expression was stubborn and stern.

"Incident? You make it sound way worse than two guys goofing off."

"If that was all, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

Prompto swallowed, his mouth bone-dry. " you want me to say? That I think Noct is great? 'Cause, I mean, he is."


"But it's not like that." Even when Prompto said it, he knew he was lying - at least, for himself, anyway. "Noct and I are just friends. I know Gladio gives us a bunch of shit, and that might come off some other way, but-"

"-I'm not here to judge, Prompto. We all have our vices. If the prince of Insomnia was one of yours, no one would hold it against you."

Damn, when had Iggy gotten so cool? How could he stand there so calmly and tell Prompto things like that without so much as a scathing glance? "It's not like I'm Noct's type, anyhow," he managed, rubbing the back of his neck, where a thick coating of sweat waited for him.

"Are we sure Noct even has a type? In all my years of service to the royal family, I've only ever seen Noctis attempt anything flirtatious once. That is...until this road trip went awry." Prompto opened his mouth to deny it, but Ignis cut him off. "I'm fairly certain that Noct has never been given the opportunity to derive his own personal preferences, one way or the other."

"And now?" Prompto whispered.

Ignis paused, considering his next words. "I believe you and Noctis are overdue for a heart to heart."

Definitely not what Prompto wanted to hear. "No point. He's getting married, remember?"

"Which is precisely why you two should sit down." Ignis' voice grew tense. "I thought nothing of it when it was harmless, but as it is, the both of you are distracted. Distractions cause casualties. If either one of you don't have your full attention on the danger we find ourselves in-"

"-You think we don't know what kind of pressure cooker we're in?" Prompto snapped, amazed he found the courage to do so. He was just so...fed up with all of it. "I get it. Empire's on our back day and night. Noctis is precious cargo, blah, blah, blah. I'm not gonna screw that up, Ignis. Noct's safety comes before any of my feelings."

Slowly, Ignis raised both of his eyebrows. "Spoken like a true Crownsguard."

"Yeah, well…" Prompto grew quieter, his courage wavering. "When you care about someone, you put them first, right? Any of us would die for him. That's just the way it is. I'm not gonna's hard to deal with sometimes, but…I'm not that weak."

A hand clapped down on his shoulder, and Ignis genuinely smiled. "No, I dare say you're not weak at all, Prompto. Still, consider talking to Noctis, yes? Keeping secrets buried inside of us can only sate our sanity for so long." He released Prompto's shoulder and took point. "And I'd remind you that while Noctis has his own variables to work through, he isn't the only one with a say in the matter. - Now then, come along. We still have a ways to travel."

Prompto released a jagged breath and rubbed his hands down his cheeks. His mind kept traveling back to this morning, in the car. The fake flirting. The way Noctis' face felt cupped in his hands like a cup of tea that might spill over if he wasn't careful. Damn… "Right...yeah, right behind you."

Noctis stared up at the enormous being in front of him, fighting his basic instincts that screamed at him to tuck tail and run from something so dangerous. "Hey! I'm here!" he shouted, trying not to sound as intimidated as he felt. This was the reason he came to the meteor after all, to confront the giant and find out just what he wanted with the Prince of Lucis.

When the Archaean's mouth opened, all Noct could hear was a jumbled mess of gibberish. He couldn't make out a single thing the mammoth deity said to him. Wracked with an intense migraine, he grabbed for his head, fingers digging into his hair as the ground felt as though it was disappearing from underneath him. He crouched low, afraid that it might crumble yet again. Noctis dropped a hand to his side, determined to look Titan in the eye when he spoke. "What the Hell is it you want? Quit screwing with my head!" His eyes caught movement to the side. "You gotta be kidding me."

The only thing Noctis saw was the Archaean's massive fist coming straight at him, scraping across the ground, breaking apart the once solid bedrock as it hurled broken pieces everywhere. Titan's knuckles connected with Noct's side and knocked him from the cliff.

The prince quickly thrust his arm out and summoned his weapon, throwing it to the rapidly approaching ground and warped to it before he plummeted to his death. He turned his head back up to the God and shouted, "You serious?"

Whether or not Titan understood Noctis, or if he just didn't care, Noct didn't know. All the raven-haired prince could do was fend off the attacks. Why did the God summon him to the meteor site if he just wanted to squash him like a bug? Did he have something against Noctis? There was no time to dwell on the matter as the Archaean lifted his leg, knee damn near touching his chest before bringing it back down. "Looks like I got no choice," Noct said as he prepared himself to battle one of the Six.

Noctis summoned the Blade of the Mystic from his royal armament and used the ancient blade to block Titan's foot as he stomped it down on him. The strength was insurmountable, and Noct thought he would be flattened, but the sword never wavered. He heaved it over his shoulder and pushed back the blow from the Archaean.

Titan brought his leg up once again, presumably attempting the same attack. He thrust his foot down toward the prince once more, and Noctis prepared to block, readying himself for that immense strength. Before the attack connected, Gladio tackled Noct out from under the enormous foot, shouting, "Noct!"

Rocks flew every which way as the dirt stirred up into a cloud of dust and obscured their vision when Titan struck the ground.

"Are you alright?" Gladio asked, extending a hand to the prince.

"I owe you one." Noct latched onto Gladio's wrist and his Shield pulled him to his feet.

"This ain't gonna work. We gotta run." Gladio summoned his own sword to protect Noctis from the rampaging giant.

"Best advice you've given all day." Noct scanned the cliffside for a means of escape until he spotted a path leading up.

"Well, I can't have you dying here. C'mon." Gladio took the lead, sprinting up the winding opening as Noctis followed close behind. Titan was hellbent on keeping them from fleeing, striking his fist into the rock around them over and over, leaving Gladio and Noctis barely able to dodge.

"We're sitting ducks here. Hurry!" Gladio shouted back to the prince as he stopped at a corner.

"Yeah, don't need to tell me!" Noctis dashed past his friend and dropped into a small enclave in the rock. He glanced around for a way out before Gladio leaned against the opposite ledge, cupping his hands between his knees.

"Over here!" Gladio called out and Noct stepped in his hands, getting a boost up the wall.

The prince crawled along the ground as pain seized his head again, more intense than anything he felt before. "Dammit." Why did the headaches have to persist now? He was no use in a fight if he couldn't focus. He turned to the ledge to help Gladio up. I can't leave him behind. But the behemoth of a man was already climbing up the wall on his own.

The Archaean smashed his hand into the ground, sending the two men flying through the air and landing flat on their faces.

Gladio shoved himself up, sprinting along the path. "Don't stop! Run!" He shouted back at Noctis, who just barely made it to his feet.

Noctis glanced back, heart racing, stomach in his chest. What was going to happen? Was it a mistake to bring everyone here? Were they all going to be killed by Titan? Where the Hell were Prompto and Ignis? "He just won't quit." Noctis started after Gladiolus.

The Archaean swept his hand up the path right on the prince's heels, sending crumbling rocks flying into the air and a dirt cloud chasing them uphill.

"I'll hold him! Get clear!" Gladio summoned his giant sword and swung it at the approaching threat, skimming over Noct's chest as he slid underneath the blade to dodge it.

"Gladio!" Noctis eyed the cliff edge behind him. Where could he go? It was the end of the line. He couldn't just jump.

"Hurry! I can't keep this up!" Gladio pushed with all of his might against the ridiculous strength of Titan.

Noctis scanned the rocks across from them and summoned his sword, chucking the blade into the stone opposite him before disappearing in a blue haze. Titan's hand shattered the cliff he just stood on. Where was Gladio? What happened to him? He didn't have the time to think as the Archaean greeted him with another onslaught of attacks.

The God swung his arm back into Noctis, but he blocked the assault with his royal arm and redirected it. Titan wasn't giving up so easily, arm coming back at the prince from the opposite direction, but with the heel of the hand this time. Sparks fell around Noctis as the sword in his hands clashed with the stone skin.

The Archaean rose his arm high, but Noctis threw his sword into Titan's fist and warped to it, a ring of cyan crystal exploding behind him as he connected and pushed the blade deeper into the hardened flesh. The force of the impact drove Noctis back into the ground, knocking the wind from him. He rolled to his side, taking a ragged gasp in and forcing himself to his knees, gripping his shoulder tight. Fuck, I can't let an injury slow me down now. Shrug it off, Noct.

Titan's gibberish filled Noct's ears again as the God tried to speak. Noctis worked a leg underneath himself and said, "I'm not gonna take any more of this crap!" as he finally managed to get to his feet.

The Archaean slammed his palm down flat on Noctis, but he blocked and parried it. He was getting exhausted; it took everything he had just to block, let alone attack. Titan swept the entirety of the ground with his arm, and Noct was only able to phase through it at the last second. How much longer could he keep this up on his own? Titan brought his fist down again and Noctis leapt out from under it just in the nick of time.

Gun shots rang out over the rambunctious God, drawing his attention away from the prince if but a moment.

"Did you miss us?" Prompto's voice came from behind Noctis and he spun around to see the blond, guns popping off round after round at the stone giant.

"Apologies." Ignis was right behind him, breaking a potion bottle over Noct's injured shoulder.

Relief flooded the prince at the sight of Prompto and Ignis. They were safe, and it was one less thing he had to worry about in their current predicament. More importantly, he was glad to have Prompto back at his side; it gave him a renewed sense of determination.

Titan's arm fell motionless on the ground, giving the guys ample time to take advantage of the vulnerability. Noctis hacked and slashed at the flesh made of rock, but it did little damage. It was too damn hard.

The arm jerked up and slammed back into the ground, a cloud of dust stirring up and bellowing out over the battlefield.

"Think those imperial soldiers just wanna say 'hi'?" Prompto asked.

When the sky cleared, Noct saw ships dropping off soldiers on the ground. They were hauling some kind of harpoon-like devices and shot them at Titan. Were they trying to help Noct and the others? That was impossible - they had only hindered their journey the entire time. Why were they attacking the God now?

Noctis warped to a meteor shard to get a better look at what was transpiring, but the Archaean gave him no time. He vanished and appeared again at Titan's knuckles, unleashing his own fury of attacks, sparks flying off the stone with every strike.

Noctis landed with a roll, and Gladio grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and yanked him to his feet. "Gladio!" He was relieved to see the man safe, but for how long was anyone's guess.

While distracted by Gladio's return, Noctis took a direct punch from the Archaean that sent him skidding across the ground. He quickly reached for a potion and broke it open, the wounds quickly stitching themselves together. His entire side was numb from the blow, but he wasn't going to let it slow him down - not now. He's friends were depending on him to pull his weight in this fight.

The enormous stone giant slumped down under the weight of his own body, as well as the meteor on his back, finally allowing the four an advantage. Noctis felt power overcome him as he summoned all four of the royal arms he had collected as of now, each floating around him in their crystalline state. "Come on, guys!" Gladio, Prompto, and Ignis each took a crystal weapon in hand, and all four attacked at once.

Noctis ducked under Gladio's axe as he chopped it into the stone flesh, burying the entire side of the blade of his sword into Titan. Prompto shot crystalline arrows from the crossbow as Ignis buried two short swords hilt deep into the God.

Titan pushed himself up and swung his arm wildly into the guys. Noctis phased through it as Gladio and Ignis jumped aside, but Prompto caught the assault full force in his left side.


His heart leapt into his throat when Prompto's body flew past Noctis, his breath catching in his airway at the pained look on the blond's face as he passed him. A feeling of powerlessness crept up the prince's spine as he watched his friend crash to the ground, unmoving.

"Prompto!" Noctis wanted to run to him, but the Archaean followed up with another assault, trapping Noct between his fist and the bedrock underneath him. Fright and panic gripped him, dulling his senses. Was Prompto still alive after taking a hit like that? There was nothing he could do. He couldn't even go to him, not in the midst of a fight like this, not when his very worth was seemingly being tested by one of the Six. Even fending off the Archaean's attack, he still felt helpless to aid the one person that meant the most to him.

Ignis hurried to Prompto's side, shattering their last potion over the blond's wounds and helping him up.

Noctis breathed a small sigh of relief before pushing back on his sword and shoving Titan's hand aside. The hit Prompto took looked like a nasty one, and he wasn't sure how his friend managed to stay on his feet after it. Even with the potion, he had to be in a lot of pain right now. The only thing that Noct could think of was the adrenaline rush that all of them were having in this very moment. Fighting a God - who did that? Apparently Noct and his buddies.

"Noct!" Gladio shouted. "Get your head outta your ass!"

Shit. Noctis narrowly missed another swing of Titan's hand, landing hard on his side.

Prompto, Gladio, and Ignis fished in their pockets and pulled out magic spheres, cyan blue light glowing around the joints.

Ignis was the first to hurl his sphere at the Archaean. "The game's up!" Gladio followed suit, chunking his seconds after Ignis, and Prompto threw his last.

"You're out!" Prompto shouted as the sphere left his hand.

The magic spheres exploded on impact and released the ice magic inside, freezing the stone flesh of Titan's arm all the way up to his elbow.

Noctis summoned the largest broadsword he had in his collection, bringing it over his shoulder. "It's over!" The sword swung through the air and smashed Titan's arm into pieces. Frozen chunks of rock fell to the ground as the giant crumpled under the meteor.

"Hey, we all still here?" The prince asked as he approached the others, checking out their wounds from the battle.

"Yep, still here." Gladio said.

"If a little battered." Ignis added.

"Does this mean it's over?" Prompto held his side, and it was obvious to Noct that he was starting to feel the pain from his injuries. The blond's skin was pale and clammy, and his entire body trembled. The adrenaline must be wearing off. He's feeling the extent of the pain. Noctis wanted to save Prompto from that pain, but there was no way he could.

Before Noctis could even begin to show his concern, the ground shook violently once more as the Archaean spoke. "What - what is it now?"

"What is he doing?" Ignis asked, staring up at the God as he managed to pushed himself back up again.

"He's winding up!" Prompto's voice wavered in what Noct assumed was both pain and fear.

"For the big one!" Gladio's grip on his sword's hilt tightened, preparing to continue the battle.

However, the Archaean didn't attack - he screamed out. Was he in pain? Did the Six feel pain like regular humans did? Yellow lights buzzed around the god like tiny fireflies.

The same lights circle Noctis as he watched Titan. He stared down at his hands upon realizing this, then back up at the Archaean before being forced to squeeze his eyes shut because of a blindingly white flash. In his head, he saw a vision of Luna standing before the God. Was she talking to him?

When Noct came to, he was on his knees with his head in his hands. "That was…" He tilted his head up. "...Luna. You spoke with her?" He pushed himself up on wobbly legs. "That's why…" The ground shuddered, forcing Noctis to brace himself, raising his arms in front of his face.

Titan emitted the same warm, golden light and exploded into millions of golden light particles, vanishing from the crater, along with the meteor.

The engines on the imperial ships surrounding them blew and all crashed to the ground around the site.

As Noctis and the others retreated from the battle sight, lava spewed from the bedrock in front of them.

"Doesn't get much worse than this," Gladio said, shielding his face from the scorching heat.

Magma exploded from the ground all around, preventing them from escaping the quickly crumbling crater. A lone imperial ship descended, the ramp expanding out as it lowered.

"The Empire! Now?" Ignis asked, his voice mirroring exactly how Noctis felt. Exhausted, and damn near hopeless in the current situation.

As the ship hovered above the ground, Ardyn sauntered into their view, only coming as far as the top edge of the ship's ramp. "Fancy meeting you here!" he called.

What was he doing here? Didn't he leave after dropping them off at the entrance? Is he playing some kind of game with us? The prince stepped in front of Prompto on pure instinct, nothing more going through his head aside from wanting to shield him from whatever was to come. Noctis forced himself to remain as calm as possible in the situation, even though his gut told him otherwise.

"It occurs to me, I never formally introduced myself." The old man paused briefly, as if expecting a reaction from them. "Izunia. Ardyn Izunia."

"Imperial Chancellor Izunia?" Noct noticed the hitch in Ignis' breath as he asked.

"At your service. And more importantly, to your aid." Ardyn spread his arms wide, and Noctis felt his stomach tying in knots.

Imperial Chancellor Izunia? That meant this man was with the Empire. The same Empire that attacked his home, destroyed his city, and killed his father. There was no way he could trust him or accept help from him. Noctis' jaw tightened. This man was as much responsible for what happened as the emperor himself!

"I guarantee your safe passage. Though, you're always welcome to take your chances down there." Ardyn's voice, his cadence, his look - everything about him rubbed Noct the wrong way now. Not that it didn't before, but with the knowledge of who this Ardyn was, it really didn't sit well with him to rely on such a man.

No way. I'd rather be sucked into the ground here than let him help me. Noct's nails dug into his palms as he fought every urge to warp up there and throw Ardyn into a lava pit.

"Buried among the rubble, is it?" How was it that the bastard was in Noct's head?

"Dying here is not an option. We have no choice, Noct." Ignis gave Noct a pleading look, begging him to accept the help, just this once. Noctis glanced back at Prompto, who tried to hide the fact that he was a quivering mess about ready to pass out, and the prince knew they needed to get out of here and take care of him.

He didn't want to get on that ship, didn't want to be near that man. But what other choice was there? In order to get his friends to safety, he had to swallow every bit of pride he had and do just that. "I know," Noctis said through clenched teeth.

We really hope you enjoyed this chapter! Please leave your thoughts! It really does motivate us. 
The Misters

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