Take Heart

Summary

Wake up, try, fail, die, repeat. Will he ever be free of this hell? Will he ever be able to keep all of them alive until the end? (M rating for darker themes, nothing more.)

Genre:
Fantasy / Other
Author:
ScribeOfRhapsody
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Chapter 1

Prompto is twenty-eight the first time he dies.

It happens a lot faster than he ever thought it would, once he’s past the oh-look-there’s-a-sword-in-my-stomach moment. It’s not even the first time he’s been stabbed by a ronin, just the first time it’s happened without him being able to fix it. After all, the world’s been in darkness for eight years – potions aren’t so easy to come by anymore.

He’s not ready – there’s too much at stake, and Noct still isn’t back – but it’s not the worst way to go either. What guy hasn’t made the joke about dying in the arms of a beautiful woman? Looks like he finally caught Cindy’s attention.

His comfort quickly fades, though, because he never realized how terrible that could actually be. Seeing Cindy’s usually optimistic expression so crushed and horrified as her tears fall onto his face isn’t exactly ideal after all.

As he’s choking, he hopes she gets back to Lestallum safely with the guys. That’s why he was with her in the first place. Why they were with her.

Ha. Irony. He always looked forwards to showing Gladio and Ignis – er, letting Ignis hear? – how much he’d improved since last time when they finally got the chance to meet up.

As the warmth of his own blood and Cindy’s tears trail from his face to the ground, he wonders if the guys are even still alive either, or if he just can’t hear the fighting.

As his vision darkens, he wonders who will have to tell Noct when he gets back.

And then he wakes up.

He wakes up in a more comfortable bed than he’s slept in for years, and though it’s a cloudy day, there’s sun on his face. He’s barely had time to process that when he realizes there’s two other people in the room – Gladio… and Noct.

They’re in the hotel at Galdin Quay.

His head is spinning. He’d just died – Gladio and Ignis possibly too – and now here he is.

He trips over his own feet getting out of the bed before he can push out the door, but he can’t escape the confusion. The voice in his head doesn’t help him.

The return must not be fractured.

He has no idea what that means. And that’s it. All the rules he gets. It’s not even Gentiana. He doesn’t recognize the voice.

He laughs later, thinking about how him hearing voices in his head actually gives him less of a chance of having gone crazy.


Prompto has seen more than enough movies and games revolving around the butterfly effect not to be stupid. Small changes. Very small. And no telling anyone else. Things went fine until Altissia before, so all he really needs to do is keep things the same until then.

Honestly, he’s excited. He can fix things. Save Lady Luna, keep Ignis from going blind… the list goes on. But no changes until later.

Problem is… it’s been eight years. How’s he supposed to remember exactly what he said back then? He hopes what he does say is close enough. He knows he’s gonna misstep, but maybe they’ll be small errors. Just as long as he doesn’t really misstep.

He does. Oh, he does.

When he finally missteps for real, it’s big time. It’s bad. No, it’s more than bad – it’s the most horrifying moment of his lives up to this point, including every mind game Ardyn played with him.

He doesn’t give their fight with Aranea even close to his all – or even his all from back in this time. How can he, knowing the friend she’ll be later? Why would he, knowing she hadn’t actually intended to kill any of them here? She wasn’t going to try and really hurt them.

Prompto sees the blow headed for him, and he knows he can handle it easily. He’s sparred with her so many times that her younger self is easy to read.

But Ignis doesn’t know that. All Ignis knows is Prompto’s skill level from this time and that there’s a dangerous woman headed for him. Ignis… does what he always does.

He puts himself between those he cares about and danger.

One second, Prompto’s blinking, about to deflect an easy attack, and the next… the next, he’s staring at the end of Aranea’s lance as it sticks out of Ignis’ back.

Aranea falls back quickly, blinking in surprise, but the damage is already done. Ignis is dead only moments after he hits the ground. Gone by the time Prompto makes it to his side. Prompto almost vomits upon seeing the glassy lifelessness of Ignis’ partially open eyes. It’s so much worse than the blank stare when he was blind.

Prompto sobs. He’d had a chance. He had a damn second try at life, and he’s screwed it up.

The horror in Noct’s voice as he screams Ignis’ name drills into Prompto’s ears like an accusation.

It’s then Prompto realizes his second mistake. He doesn’t know where Aranea went, but Gladio is shoving him away from Ignis.

“What the hell are you doing? You have a damned Phoenix Down!”

An entirely new kind of dread makes Prompto’s blood run cold. He’d gotten so used to the way things were in the world of darkness that he’s forgotten he has that kind of help within reach. And now… now it’s too late.

Gladio shoves the feather into Ignis’ chest, and it closes the wound, but… Ignis doesn’t wake up.

Gladio literally has to pry a hysterical Noct away from the body and drag him off.

They don’t talk about it that night at camp. Gladio seems to be the only one capable of thinking, but all he even does is set up the tent. None of them are up for fixing so much as a Cup Noodle to eat. It doesn’t escape Prompto that Gladio’s giving him the cold shoulder.

And why shouldn’t Gladio be pissed at him? It was his fault. No denying that.

He pretends not to notice. He also pretends not to notice how Noct’s shoulders shake with sobs most of the night because he sure as hell isn’t sleeping either.

The next few days are a blur of tension and misery. Prompto lets the years of experience he shouldn’t have show a little bit as they have to compensate for Ignis’ absence. Gladio and Noct don’t even seem to realize that he’s suddenly more competent in battle and can cook, or at least if they do, they don’t say anything. Not that they say much anyway. Gladio still radiates anger, and while Noct doesn’t say much at all anymore, the cloud of gloom that hovers over him is telling enough.

Everything is worse. Even Ardyn seems grumpier somehow when they run into him, and it takes everything Prompto has not to shoot him in the face right then.

Gladio doesn’t leave for the Blademaster’s trial.

Aranea’s still in Steyliff Grove.

Noctis doesn’t wait for Ardyn to finish introducing them. He’s consumed by blind rage as soon as he sees her, and her men turn on him, opening fire in a flash. Noctis has dodged and blocked hundreds of bullets at this point with his magic, so it’s really just a sheer testament to their horrible luck this time around that one manages to bring him down. And it’s a headshot.

Prompto barely has time to be horrified, because that’s when Ardyn goes ballistic.

The last thing Prompto sees is a red Armiger sword tearing through Gladio before there’s one headed straight for him too, and–

He wakes up. In Galdin Quay.

Ignis seems very confused when Prompto rushes into the hotel’s restaurant in his pajamas and interrupts his morning coffee by almost tackle hugging him.

——————————————————————————————————————————

Okay. Third chance. Trying to stay down the same path didn’t work, so he’s trying something different this time, even if it’s going to suck.

“Noct… I-I just need some time to try and find my family.”

Eight years. He’s gotten a little better at lying, but that’s not what sells it. His shaken act is no act. He can’t even look at Ignis right now without having his lifeless eyes flash into his mind.

Noct’s expression is one of hurt desperation, and Prompto feels like crap. Noct’s just lost his dad at this point, and leaving him is not something Prompto would ever normally do. And how had he ever thought Noct didn’t want him around is a mystery to himself now. Noct definitely wants him around, but… he’s leaving away. Just not to find his parents.

Finding Lady Luna is actually surprisingly easy since he knows everywhere she needs to be. He’s absolutely giddy when he does. Finally, he gets to meet her, and they get along great. He even convinces her to let him take her to Noct.

He texts Noct, setting up a meeting point near where he and Gladio and Ignis will be. He doesn’t tell him he won’t be the only one there. Prompto’s thrilled. This reunion has been a long time coming.

And then everything goes to hell again, because before Noct and Luna even get a chance to fit so much as a word in, there’s an Imperial dropship on them. It’s not just foot soldiers either. Magitek Assassins.

Lady Luna’s exhausted from two recent rites – she doesn’t stand a chance. Hell, Noct and Gladio and Ignis don’t stand a chance. Prompto’s the only one who’s even fought this type of MT before, and he can’t cover all his friends at once.

Ironically, Ignis is the only one he’s able to save.

Prompto’s never seen Ignis as pale and barely responsive as the shock of seeing his friends die makes him, and he never wants to again.

Prompto bursts like a dam when they’re eventually safe. He tells Ignis about the loop. What does it matter anyway, now?

“I-I tried to make things better, but everything I’ve done has just made things worse – twice! I don’t know if I’ll get another chance, or if this was the last one, or even what’s causing it–”

“The library,” Ignis says, sounding absent.

“What?”

“The Citadel library. It… may have some answers.”

Prompto blinks at him. “Iggy, the Niffs have a whole army there.”

“Infiltration. There’s… only two of us. We should be able to go unnoticed. What have we left to lose?”

Prompto agrees. It’s a pretty good way to get themselves killed, but Prompto isn’t sure either of them even really care. What else is there to do at this point?

So they go.

Ignis is silent and driven. He comes up with a plan, but they barely even speak to each other aside from discussing those details. Prompto thinks the chance he might be able to undo this might be the only thing keeping Ignis going, no matter how cold he seems.

It’s only after they’ve snuck into the library that Ignis finally, really talks to him.

“How far did you reach in your original timeline?”

Prompto blinks at the unexpected question. “About eight years from now.”

Ignis nods as though he’s confirmed something. “I could tell you had to be some years older.”

Prompto tilts his head. “You know, you’ve taken this whole time travel thing pretty readily.”

Ignis doesn’t say anything to that. Prompto thinks Ignis would probably be more skeptical if he had anything left to live for, but this is his only shot to save Noct and Gladio.

There’s a few moments of silence while they’re lost in their own research, then, “I was the one that fell in your previous timeline, wasn’t I?”

Prompto freezes, wondering how on Eos Ignis could know that, but then he remembers the start of this try when the first thing he did was give Ignis a hug.

“…Yeah.” He has no reason to lie, and he doubts he can pull off a convincing one currently anyway. “My fault. Again.”

That confession still doesn’t stop Ignis from using himself as a human shield when the Imperials break into the library and open fire.

Prompto knows that normally he could toss a potion and at least go down like a badass against hopeless numbers of enemies.

This isn’t normally. Noct is dead. No potions. No weapons, even.

They didn’t even find anything in the library.

Prompto doesn’t go out like a badass. He clutches the bullet wound in his side and cries at the sight of Ignis flat out giving up and closing his eyes to welcome death as the Imperials close in on them.

And then Prompto cries in relief when he wakes up in Galdin Quay.


Okay… so, this is a thing now. Retries, starting at Gadlin Quay. Not early enough to help Insomnia, but he can make things better. He just has to be really careful. Be helpful, but be careful.

He blames his quietness on the fall of Insomnia and spends their hours in the car mulling over his different options and the mechanics of this… restart button. There have to be rules. The best he can figure out is that he gets reset when all of them are dead, but that only makes sense if Noct had somehow died in the original timeline, or if maybe the rules just apply on the loops. It’s the best he’s got, and it’s what he’s going with.

Really, then, he just needs to keep everyone alive. Surely that can’t be that hard?

Except it is, because Ardyn randomly decides to up and kidnap Noct this time around before they even reach Lestallum. Prompto has no idea how he triggered that, but by the time they track them down, Ardyn’s somehow in a bad enough mood to straight up kill Gladio when he tries to get to Noct’s side.

Prompto doesn’t even try to dodge when a broadsword heads for his face, because screw this timeline, and there’s no stopping Ardyn from killing all three of them if he really wants to.

When he wakes up, he’s more confused than anything, and he really hopes he won’t trigger those events again.

He doesn’t, but there are plenty of others.

As the loops keep cycling, he learns the most dangerous spots. He manages to learn pretty much the right path to take to get everyone to Altissia alive, but it’s almost like Altissia is flat out cursed. He’s yet to save Luna, and more often than not, they lose Ignis too, or he still loses his vision. Despite Prompto doing everything the same leading up to that point, things always shift in ways he can’t predict.

One time he gets to the altar and Ardyn’s already killed Ignis.

One time he gets there earlier and sees Ravus impale Ignis mid-sentence while Ignis is trying to talk to him.

One time he gets there and Ardyn and Ignis are gone. By the time Ravus of all people helps them find him, Ignis is dead again – this time half turning to ash with the Ring of the Lucii on his finger. That one makes Prompto want to throw up more than the others. Ignis had never said how he lost his vision, but the scars on his face and the Ring make it all too clear. Prompto always figured it was something Ardyn did, or that it just happened in battle, but no.

Ignis had sacrificed his vision to save Noct, and he’d never even told them.

It’s the time after that Prompto gets to the altar and gets to see Ignis screaming in agony as the Ring of the Lucii takes his sight.

Prompto realizes that, frankly, Ignis is his biggest problem, because he will always throw himself headfirst into danger to save the rest of them. It’s going to be hardest to keep him alive.

It would help if Ardyn’s actions seemed to have any form of consistency, but it’s almost like he’s constantly changing just to spite Prompto. Prompto’s decided to just forget the evacuation and shadow Ardyn as best he can next round, just to get an idea of what’s going on.

That doesn’t end up happening, because he’s an idiot and a klutz.

He’s bored when they get to Steyliff Grove. There are no real danger points until Altissia, so he’s not on guard and mentally exhausted. Except maybe the spot on the floor that caves in that he wasn’t paying attention to. He doesn’t even realize what’s happened until he wakes up in Galdin Quay with a vague memory of falling and Noct and Ignis screaming his name.

It’s then Prompto finally realizes that the loop resets when he specifically dies. He’s not sure what to do with that information. On the bright side, it means he can reset whenever he wants if something goes wrong and he won’t have to watch everyone die before he can start his next attempt. But on the other hand… he still is going to have to die somehow. He looks at his gun and shudders. Could he ever get that desperate?

He knows the answer to that question.

He tries to push that aside and proceed with his plan from before.

Again, his boredom gets the better of him. He thought he’d memorized the layout of the guards in the bases they take down, but he chalks it up to his faulty memory when one is missing when they go to take back the Regalia. And then there’s another missing. Prompto’s so giddy over an actual stroke of luck that he misses the really obvious sniper MT up ahead.

He flat out sighs when Noctis get shot down and doesn’t move an inch until, big surprise, he’s waking up in Galdin Quay again.

Then he starts screaming.


Stupid, stupid, stupid!

The only being more stupid than him is whoever thought he’d be the right one to pick for this job.

Despite having gotten the path to Altissia memorized, things keep going wrong beforehand again. He loses Cor of all people the next time around. The Marshal. The Immortal. To a battalion of MTs. What the actual hell?

And just when he thinks things can’t get any dumber, the horrifying factor kicks itself up a notch again.

Another freak accident in a fight later and something else finds its way onto Prompto’s top-five-events-to-never-cause-again list – Gladio screaming Iris’ name as she lays dead in his arms. Prompto yanks the stinger out of his arm and tosses it to the ground, pretending there isn’t poison inching its way to his heart. The others are too busy to even notice if he looks pale or sickly. Even if they did, they’d never expect Prompto to ignore the antidotes they have in plenteous supply.

“Take heart, Prompto. I understand that you’re in pain, but we must not lose faith.”

Prompto thinks – not for the first time – about how Ignis should have been the one to get this job as his friend leads him away from the mirror he punched in their hotel bathroom in Galdin Quay. Ignis thinks he’s upset about Insomnia. Of course, Prompto’s well beyond that at this point, but Ignis’ words of reassurance still help calm him down a little.

Well. At least his anger…

Prompto can’t stop the tears when they start to come, and he’s getting really sick of the feeling of the wet tracks of his own tears on his face.

“I can’t do this alone, Iggy. I can’t. I can’t!

Ignis has never been particularly keen on physical contact, but he puts his arms around Prompto anyway and lets him sob into the front of his jacket.

When Ignis asks if there’s anything he can do, Prompto is twenty different types of past keeping this secret and blurts out, “Yeah, you know, if you could stop dying every three minutes, that would be great…”

And so he tells Ignis for the second time. Ignis isn’t as easily convinced this time, but after Prompto names several events that soon come to pass, he pulls Prompto aside to hear more. Prompto feels exhausted, but also relieved at getting to share his burden.

Ignis is quiet during most of Prompto’s jabbering about his past attempts, even when Prompto know he’s badly messing up the order of things. Prompto’s honestly having trouble remembering everything. He thinks Ignis is just absorbing all the info in silence, but then he realizes Ignis has been observing him the whole time.

“Prompto…” Ignis’ voice is soft when he finally speaks. “How long has it been for you?”

Prompto shakes his head weakly. “Kind of hard to keep track of time when it’s looping, y’know? I… I’ve lost count of the number, too.”

Ignis’ hands grip his shoulders, and his friend stares at him with a fiery expression. “Prompto, I want you to promise me something.”

“Hm?”

“I want you to tell someone about this each loop you experience from here on out. You’re right – this burden is not something one should bear alone.”

“But… the butterfly effect…”

Ignis raises his eyebrow. “From what I’ve gathered from your story thus far, I don’t believe sticking to what you’ve been doing is a terribly effective plan.”

“…Good point. So… what do we do? ’Cause if you’ve got a plan, I’ll be thrilled to listen.”

Ignis has a plan. Things still go to hell in Altissia. Ignis knowing about the loop doesn’t really change anything there. Luna dies. Ignis lives, but once again, he’s blind.

“You’re a stupid, selfless idiot,” Prompto mutters as he sits at Ignis’ bedside. Ignis can’t hear him, though. He’s unconscious, the scars on his face at that ashen color stage.

It doesn’t escape Ignis’ notice when he wakes up that Prompto knows everything he needs before he does.

“This is a common event, isn’t it?”

“Yeah… kinda…”

“I see…”

Prompto snorts. “…Sorry.”

Ignis barks out a laugh. “Don’t be. That… was a rather poor choice of words on my part.”

It’s good to have someone to talk to, even if things still suck. And then Gladio starts his fighting with Noct, and Prompto has exactly zero tolerance to put up with it again right now.

“She gave her life so you could do your duty, not–”

“Gladio, dude, shut the hell up. He just lost the love of his life – has the concept of too soon ever entered your mind?”

Prompto has never actually seen anyone win a yelling match with Gladio, but the words seem to shock everyone into silence.

Noct and Gladio still end up storming off in different directions.

“I assume that’s a regular occurrence as well?” Ignis probes.

“Yep. Didn’t feel like hearing it again.” Prompto massages his head. “I will never understand his deal here…”

“Gladio?”

“Yeah.”

Ignis tilts his head in Prompto’s direction. “Can you truly not? It seems rather clear to me, though I can’t say I agree with his methods.”

“Really? Gonna fill me in?”

“We all express pain in different ways, Prompto. Where Noct is sullen, Gladio channels his pain into anger.”

Pain? Gladio? Well… duh he felt pain, but he was always the “tough one” of their group.

Ignis sighs. “It is his duty to help Noct carry on. Noct has, understandably, had difficulty dealing with his father’s death, but Gladio also lost his father. Yet Gladio has not been able to grieve because he must remain a pillar of strength for his King.”

Oh, shoot. Prompto had thought Gladio had just dealt with his dad’s death better or something, not totally pushed it away.

“Yeah, but… Noct just lost Luna too. Shouldn’t Gladio be, like… supporting again?”

Ignis shakes his head. “Place it this way in your mind, Prompto: Gladio is the King’s Shield. He has been raised all his life to protect. Yet he was unable to protect his father, or King Regis. He departed from us for a time to gain strength, and in spite of that, he was still unable to protect Lunafreya or myself. But he has still carried on. His anger carries him forwards. To see Noct sitting there, doing nothing…”

“…It sets him off, because he’s been trying to push on this whole time.”

“Precisely.”

Prompto thinks about that conversation a lot. He doesn’t think about how Noct and Gladio don’t reconcile in Cartanica due to his interruption before. He doesn’t think about how much more emotional Noct is when they get back on the train. It all seems really obvious in hindsight, though, when Noct is staring at him in horror after Ardyn’s illusion fades and shows him the reality of Prompto being the one he just ran through with his sword.


Prompto keeps his promise to Ignis. He tells all of them next time. It’s a disaster in a sense that they think he’s lost his mind, even Ignis. He would too. He told all of them, and that makes them act differently. None of them ware obliviously falling into their normal patterns like they usually did, and barely anything he says actually comes true. Annnnd then Ardyn for some reason doesn’t even show up in Lestallum, which makes him look double crazy after all the warnings Prompto tried to give about him.

“Dude, I’m telling you – it’s Titan,” Prompto says when Noct complains about a headache for about the millionth time.

They decide to humor him. Ardyn’s not there to help them out this time, though, and they all manage to get killed by lava.

Lava is not a nice way to go, for the record. Prompto really doesn’t want to do that again.

Prompto decides Noct isn’t the one to tell, considering how he has to get eaten by the Crystal no matter what. Gladio takes longer to convince than Ignis, but they manage to get a pretty good run in together.

“Just so you know, I’m about to get tossed off the train. I’ll see you again in Gralea.”

Gladio raises an eyebrow at him. “Why?”

Prompto sighs. “Ardyn. He wants to traumatize me by introducing me to my crazy bio-dad.” This is the first time he’s made it this far. Prompto isn’t really sure how things will go. Hopefully he won’t get himself killed.

“Wait, your biological parents are from Niflheim?”

Prompto doesn’t even remember telling Gladio he was adopted in the first place, but he bets Gladio read up on him when he first became Noct’s friend. “Eh. My dad is.”

“And your mom?”

“…I kind of didn’t have one.”

“…Prompto, you kind of have to have a mother to be born.”

Prompto shrugs. Even if he knows how the guys will react now, it’s still not easy to admit what he is. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to.

His fall off the train is even less graceful than the first time, and he makes sure to heal up his limp with a potion before Ardyn cuts his access to the Armiger.

Prompto spends his frigid stroll wondering how he’s going to act as horrified as he was the first time around. Yeah, he’s a little better at playing his younger self than he used to be, but he isn’t sure how well he can act traumatized.

As it turns out, he doesn’t have to worry about acting traumatized. Or horrified. Or scared. Yeaahh, no. No problems there, because Ardyn has definitely upped his game since last time. He almost seems bored when Prompto first sees him. He doesn’t taunt him as much verbally, but then the illusions start and dear Astrals are they vivid.

Prompto thought he’d be ready for anything after repeatedly watching his friends die for Six knows how long on a loop, but wow. Last time it was Noctis, looking like normal while Prompto was the MT. This time… this time he’s facing the MTs, but they’re all crazed and twitchy and their helmets are damaged, leaving Prompto facing himself, but with blank, glowing red eyes. This time, Ignis cuts into the fight, killing the last one before turning on Prompto with words sharper than the daggers he’s carrying.

And then Ignis starts clawing at his own eyes as purple fire begins eating away at the flesh there.

Prompto tries not to let the screams get to him. He tries so hard. He’s heard Ignis’ real screams – why should fake ones be this bad?

Well… because Ignis had never screamed at him for being a traitor and then begged for mercy as he slowly turned to ash.

Prompto’s breath hitches. He knows what caused this. Somehow, Ardyn must have seen him this time around when he’d gotten to Ignis once again too late to keep him from losing his sight. Gladio wasn’t there yet, and Prompto had been frustrated, blurting out words about how he wished his failures wouldn’t keep hurting Ignis.

Ardyn always had liked to prey on his insecurities. He’d taken that moment and gone to town with it.

Prompto just drops to his knees at that point and sobs. He covers his eyes, knowing Ardyn can’t be far. “Why… Why are you doing this? What can you possibly gain from this?

Ardyn doesn’t answer. Prompto waits for the illusions to fade before pulling himself to his feet to go meet Aranea. He hasn’t been moping around this time, and she actually stays at the camp. He’d snuck out to deal with Ardyn’s ghosts on his own before she got caught in the middle.

She’s awake when he gets back, and he can see her bite her tongue when she really looks at him. “What happened to you?”

“Nothing,” he whispers. “Let’s go kill that thing.”

He’s set to get on the snowmobile and let himself get captured by Ardyn when a red spear pierces Aranea’s heart. Prompto can’t even let himself die to reset, because Ardyn knocks him out and hauls him off. There’s no way to die when he’s restrained like he is, so he hangs there about as miserably as the first time.

Noct and Iggy pull him out.

“…Where’s Gladio?”

Noct tries to answer, but then he ducks his head with unshed tears in his eyes.

Ignis’ hand on his cane is shaking. “He… I couldn’t see to help him.”

Prompto trudges with them, watching Ignis as he’s on the verge of shattering with guilt as he leads them to the Crystal jammer.

Prompto says nothing as he unlocks the door.

As soon as they have their weapons in hand, Prompto presses his gun to his temple and pulls the trigger.


Prompto’s decided – no matter how horrible it sounds – that he prefers it when Ignis dies first. As horrifying as watching Noctis and Gladio mourn for him is, nothing is as bad as watching Ignis crumble piece by piece, mentally disintegrating as he pretends he’s not already broken with guilt and grief over his supposed failure.

Noct’s sorrow and Gladio’s anger are always on the surface. Easier to deal with. Ignis’ subtle tells are something he never wanted to learn how to read. But he has… oh, he’s learned, and not having to watch it is a mercy, no matter the alternative.

Of course, the only true mercy in this hellish loop is when Prompto himself dies before any of them.

Every loop now, the others comment on how he’s acting weird. He’s tried to put up an act a few times, but it never works, and it’s not even his subpar acting’s fault – that’s improved over time. He just… doesn’t remember how he used to be well enough to replicate it anymore.

He makes sure to keep his promise to Ignis. He tells at least one person every loop, though he tends to tell them less the more loops pass. Usually Ignis himself. It doesn’t seem to help too much in regards to Altissia. Well… Ignis lives pretty consistently now, but somehow he always manages to go blind.

…Except this one time. Prompto had specifically told him to avoid using the Ring at any cost. He did. He’s alive. He’s not blind.

Instead, they lose Noct.

There’s never been a worse loop. This has happened before, but Ignis never knew about the loops those times.

Ignis is crippled with grief Prompto has never seen before, Gladio doesn’t even seem to know what to do, and Prompto just wants to scream.

Why can’t they all just be okay?

Prompto’s about to go put a bullet in his own head again when Ignis desperately corners him in the hallway of the hotel.

“Why did you tell me not to use the Ring? I could have saved him!”

“Yeah… Usually you do there…” Prompto mutters, voice hushed.

Ignis grips his shoulders. “Then why prevent me?”

“I was trying to save you!” Prompto forces out, willing Ignis to understand. He can’t. There’s no way he possibly can without seeing everything Prompto has. “It’s always you in Altissia, Iggy! Every damn time! You die or you go blind – I can’t find a way to save both of you!

Ignis stares at him for a moment. “Then you will choose him.”

“Ignis–”

“Prompto.” Ignis’ eyes bore into him. “I don’t want you to waste any more time on me. If fate decrees that I lose my sight to preserve Noct’s life, then so be it. I will gladly pay that price.”

Prompto shakes his head vigorously. “No! I can’t accept that–”

He chokes, blood rising in the back of his throat as he looks down to find a letter opener protruding out of his torso.

“You have to,” Ignis says, far too calmly for someone who has just stabbed their friend.

Prompto has to give Ignis credit as his eyes roll back in his head.

The man knows how to stab things to kill them quickly.


The attempts keep racking up. Prompto’s perfected the art of explaining things to Ignis. Most times, they all make it past Altissia except Luna. Ignis’ sight doesn’t.

Prompto’s not sure what he’s doing that’s causing it – maybe just the fact that he’s already so dead inside that Ardyn doesn’t feel the need to try and break him anymore – but Ardyn’s taken to directly nabbing him and taking him to Gralea the last few times. Fine with Prompto. Less effort on his part. Nothing to do but hang around and wait for the others to get there too.

“You truly are rather pathetic.”

Oh. Imagine that. Ardyn’s feeling up to taunting him again.

“Yep. Sure am,” Prompto mumbles, hoping Ardyn will go back to being quiet.

Ardyn makes a noise that Prompto can only describe as disgust. “Yes, your life must truly be terrible – having three friends close enough that they’d give their lives to save yours if you were in danger. You have no idea how fortunate you are.”

Prompto brings his head up a bit. This is new. Ardyn isn’t actually taunting him at all. He’s bitter.

For just a moment, Prompto thinks he sees Ardyn Lucis Caelum instead of Ardyn Izunia. Then Ardyn leaves the room with a huff.

Ardyn’s lack of enthusiasm helps things along this time, really. For the first time since this all started, Prompto makes it to the Years of Darkness. He never thought he’d be so happy about the apocalypse.

Things go well. Years go by.

And then Cor dies in year six.

Prompto nearly puts a bullet in his head then, but he reasons that it might be good to know what to expect in the days after he died originally. After all, Noct still wasn’t back yet. And… if he could just… if he could just live to see one new day this time around…

But he can’t even get that.

It’s about six months until he died the first time when he notices that the skin around his wrist is turning a yellowish-brown. Starscourge. No way he’ll last six months.

He tries to tell himself that it’s okay. That he needs to reset anyway. But he has a little time left, and he doesn’t want to reset yet. He’s too drained. He’ll do it in the morning or something.

With Cor dead, Gladio and Ignis have stayed in Lestallum to run things. Ignis fixes them a nice dinner. Prompto manages to keep it together until Gladio asks him why he’s covering his code again. That question just makes him think about how he’s going to have to go through everything leading up to them finding out what he is again.

He excuses himself to go cry in his own room.

He doesn’t want to do this all again.

Ignis may know something’s wrong, but Gladio’s the one watching him like a hawk after that, particularly his wrist.

It’s been about a week when Gladio shoves into his room without knocking. Prompto doesn’t have the energy to protest. Not only is he mentally exhausted, but his Starscourge has started to hurt.

He stays on his bed, back to Gladio as Gladio tries to get him to talk to him. Finally, Prompto quietly sobs out, “I have the Starscourge.”

It gets quiet in the room. The next thing Prompto hears is something being destroyed behind him.

“Gladio…” His voice is half muffled by his pillow. “I know it’s not fair to ask you, but… I don’t… I don’t want to do it myself.”

He hates taking his own life more than anything. If he can at all avoid it…

Gladio’s voice is raw when he asks, “When?”

“Now. Just get it over with.”

“Whoa, Prompto, hang on a second. You should at least talk to Ignis.”

“Then get him up here.”

Ignis knows the truth. He’ll understand.

And he does. Ignis pulls him into a hug and whispers, “Take heart, Prompto. You’ll find a way to get us all through this.”

Prompto gives him a shaky nod, though he’s pretty low on optimism these days.

Gladio puts a hand on his shoulder. “You ready?”

Prompto nods, and the last thing he feels is Gladio’s tears on his collarbone as the larger man pulls him back into his chest and then snaps his neck.


He feels like he kind of owes Gladio after that, so he tells him the next time around. At this point, Prompto has Ignis’ words of wisdom memorized anyway.

This time is surprisingly easy. Ardyn, like… is almost entirely absent and he acts borderline pissed off every time they do see him. No games at all this time. He helps them like normal.

And then comes Altissia.

Luna still dies, but something unbelievable happens.

When Prompto gets to the altar, Ignis is leaving it, dragging an unconscious Noct with him. Ignis is fine. Noctis is fine.

Prompto claps a hand over his mouth and almost cries.

He doesn’t understand. He didn’t do anything differently.

It doesn’t matter – this is the first time in what feels like a million attempts that this has happened. He has to make the most of it. He knows what to do from here, mostly. Getting Noct to the Crystal shouldn’t be too hard. The Years of Darkness – of which there are at least eight – are far less predictable. He doesn’t even know how he got the scourge last time.

There has to be a way. They’ve all made it this far, for once – maybe they can make it the rest.

Except… except there’s something off about Ignis. All times before, Prompto chalked up Ignis’ lengthy silences in Cartanica to Ignis struggling with his lack of sight. But… Gladio and Noct are bickering, and Ignis is still as reserved and… frankly depressed as before.

The morning he wakes up at their camp in Cartanica, Prompto leaves the tent to find Ignis leaning against his stove with his head in his hands. He straightens his posture instantly when he notices Prompto’s there, but it’s too late.

Prompto knows there’s something up with him, and it’s more than Luna’s death. If it were just Luna and Ignis were healed, Ignis would be right beside Noct, trying to comfort him.

“Ignis, what’s up? Come on, man, you can talk to me.” Astrals, this is the worst. On the surface, it would seem like watching his friends die repeatedly would be the most horrible thing about all of this, but it’s not. It’s the little things.

No matter how close Prompto gets to any of them, their friendships always reset too. This Ignis isn’t the same one that he spent years planning and talking with after confiding in him about the loop. This Ignis doesn’t even know about the loop.

But Prompto knows him. He’s known him for so much longer than Ignis realizes. Well enough to read him and know that something is very, very wrong. All of Ignis’ subtle little tells are showing, and that means he is a wreck. Ignis doesn’t get like this often. Very few things can do this to him.

And then Prompto thinks about how Ignis always reacted if Prompto broke the news to him about Noct’s eventual fate.

No… there was no way he could… Could he have? All these loops?

“You know, don’t you?” Prompto whispers. “You know about Ardyn… about what it’ll take to beat him?”

Ignis’ sharp look of surprise is all the confirmation he needs.

“How?” Prompto wants to throw up. How many loops had he suffered alone with that knowledge? Every time Prompto hadn’t told him himself?

“At the altar in Altissia, I… was given a vision.” Ignis scowled. “How is it that you know? How long have you known?”

Again with trying to keep track of time when everything resets.

Prompto shrugs. “Altissia too. Ran into Gentiana.” Easiest explanation, even if it is a lie. If only Gentiana did know what was going on. He tried asking once. She didn’t have a clue.

Ignis seems to accept that, because he moves on, eyes dropping to the ground. “He shouldn’t have to…”

“No. He shouldn’t,” Prompto agrees. “It really kind of sucks.”

He wonders if he should tell Gladio. Telling them early never seems to go well, but Prompto can never shake that feeling that they all deserve to know.

——————————————————————————————————————————

“Well, you’re certainly chipper today, aren’t you?” Ardyn notes, sounding completely uninterested in the answer to his question.

Prompto stops fidgeting in his bindings. He’s anxious to get out of here right now. They’re finally having a good run, and he doesn’t like being separated from the group.

Yeah, he’s been less down overall this time around, and Ardyn… well, Ardyn has been pretty much the opposite. No mind games. No taunting. Honestly, this is like the first time he’s even really talked to him this time around.

Prompto chooses to just sit tight and try not to antagonize him. Though… Ardyn really doesn’t seem to be in the mood to react to anything anyway.

“I know my friends will come for me,” Prompto supplies as his reason.

Ardyn sighs, dropping his head into his hand to massage his forehead. “Of course they will. It’s what brothers do for each other…”

Prompto stays silent. There he is again – Ardyn Lucis Caelum. Prompto hates it when he shows up, because the absolute last thing he wants is to feel sorry for Ardyn, but… Astrals, sometimes he’s just so human.

Ignis’ research unveiled some of the secrets around Ardyn during his time as a beloved royal. Around him… and his brother.

Prompto can’t even imagine that level of betrayal. That betrayal and thousands of years of life… Prompto swallows. While they aren’t in the same situation, it’s been around twenty years of this hell for him, and he’s already changed so much. What would a thousand do?

Prompto tries to focus on something else. He doesn’t want to admit that he’s actually starting to understand Ardyn’s mindset. Nope. Not going there right now.


This loop has its darker times, but even those don’t compare to what Prompto has seen before. Overall, it’s a great run. By far the best he’s ever seen.

It takes him a while, but he figures out why – Ardyn isn’t trying. He hasn’t been most of this time around. Something’s triggered him into being so tired and apathetic that he hasn’t bothered to do most of his normal meddling.

Prompto doesn’t care why as long as Ardyn isn’t killing anyone. He can stay the hell away from everyone for as long as he likes.

And he does stay away from everyone. For nine years.

Gladio gives Prompto a hug as he sobs with joy. Not even in his original life did he make it this far. He’s seen so many new days, and he doesn’t even care that they still feel like the same ones because they’re still trapped in darkness. All that matters is that they are new. He’s so happy. This loop has gone so far towards making him feel like he used to.

Which of course means it’s time for things to fall flat on their face.

Prompto’s lived in the actual apocalypse for over twenty-five years, but the world really feels like it’s ending when he comes back from a long hunt to find Gladio waiting for him with a very serious expression.

The Shield pulls him away from the busy, refugee-filled streets to talk to him in his room, and there’s a cold dread filling Prompto’s veins.

“Ignis didn’t–”

“No,” Gladio assures. “He’s fine.”

What could it be, then?

Gladio licks his lips in a display of nervousness that doesn’t often show up. He puts his hands on Prompto’s shoulders. “Prompto… I don’t want you to restart the loop. I want you to keep going until Noct shows up and finishes all this.”

Nausea rises in his stomach, and Prompto can feel that horrible drag of hopelessness on his very soul. “…Starscourge?”

Gladio nods. “Yeah. Dunno how long I’ve got, but it doesn’t matter. You need to finish this – you may never get another chance this good.”

Good?” Prompto almost shrieks. “How the hell is you turning into a daemon good?”

“Because everyone else is okay!” Gladio yells back, though his voice isn’t unkind. Just firm. “And I don’t plan on letting it get that far.”

Of course he doesn’t. Prompto knows exactly what it’s like to be there. “I… Um… I’ll help you with that, if you don’t want to… do it yourself.” Prompto sees a flicker of surprise in his friend’s eyes. “You… you did the same for me last time around, so… yeah.”

“…Thanks.”

“I’m still not leaving you dead, though.”

Prompto…

No.

They fight for a while, but in the end, there’s really not much Gladio can do about it if Prompto’s going to restart. He takes Prompto up on his other offer, though.

Prompto wants to cry, but he manages to keep it together for Gladio’s sake. Gladio, who takes a few shaky breaths before nodding to Prompto that he’s ready.

“You sure you don’t want Iggy–”

“No. If you’re gonna reset things anyway, he doesn’t even need to know.”

“Right…”

The cracking sound of Gladio’s neck isn’t one he’ll ever forget.

Even after all these years, Prompto’s never been one for hand-to-hand, and he’s still pretty small. Gladio’s literal dead weight is hard to maneuver, but Prompto manages to get him to the bed and lay him down in a dignified manner, even with the tears clouding his vision.

He barely makes it into Gladio’s small bathroom before he vomits. He summons his gun and shakily brings it to his own head.

A dagger hits the gun, and the weapon jerks at the last second, making it go off, but into the wall instead. Prompto snaps his head around, barely realizing Ignis is there before the Advisor’s fist nails him in the face.

His wakes up in his own room with Ignis sitting beside his bed, head in his hands while his glasses are absent for once.

Prompto has never felt like more of a jerk. He and Gladio had been trying to spare Ignis pain, not cause more.

Ignis doesn’t look up, but he knows Prompto’s awake anyway because he starts talking. “Cor had Gladio’s body examined.” His voice is hoarse in the way it only gets when he’s near his lowest. “I won’t pretend to understand why the two of you didn’t tell me. I won’t even ask for an explanation. I will, however, say this.” He looks up then, eyes red and puffy. “We’ve just lost Gladio, and when Noct returns, we’ll lose him as well – don’t you bloody dare make me have to bury you too.”

Prompto is really, really glad he’s gotten telling Ignis the truth down to such a small amount of time, because he can’t bear to see him like this. He blurts everything he can out in record time, wanting to give his friend some hope. Anything to get that look off his face.

Once Ignis understands that he wasn’t actually trying to kill himself – well, he was, but not like… permanently – and that there’s a chance to get Gladio back, there’s a world of difference in his demeanor. He’s instantly trying to help Prompto figure out how things went right this time around.

It always fascinates Prompto how he’s able to compartmentalize and focus like this.

He waits to restart the loop, talking with Ignis for a week after Gladio’s death until they’re both stressed and direly in need of a break. “Take heart, Prompto. We’ll figure this out.”

“We’re not gonna figure anything out like this. I’ll talk to you when I reset.”

Ignis nods reluctantly. “Very well…”

They’re quiet for a moment, and then Ignis gets a thoughtful look on his face. “Prompto… do you suppose you could wait a bit?”

Something about his tone is weird. “I guess… Why?”

Ignis is clearly still debating something. “Well… if there are to be no consequences for my actions…”

Prompto stares at him. Who the hell is this and what has he done with Ignis? “You got something in particular in mind?”

“I might.” Ignis shrugs, obviously trying to look casual.

“Well, go for it! Cross whatever it is off your bucket list.”

A bucket list. For Ignis. What would even be on that? Something apparently requiring a lot of guts, because Ignis flat out breaks into Gladio’s stash of alcohol and takes a shot before they head out the door.

“You want me to take a hike?” Prompto offers, though he’s really hoping Ignis will say no, because he’s really curious.

Ignis looks… well, ruffled. “Some privacy would be appreciated–”

He stops, looking ahead in the hallway.

Prompto follows his gaze to find Aranea and Monica talking. …Okay, so what’s the big deal with that?

Ignis’ lips press together in a firm line, and he squares his shoulders, adjusting his collar. “To hell with it.”

Prompto’s eyebrows shoot into his hairline as Ignis strolls straight up to Aranea and – in a complete rom-com-worthy fashion that is so Ignis – slides a hand around her waist, dips her, and kisses her before she can get a word in. Once he’s done, he steps back like he’s in a field of landmines.

“Feel free to disembowel me if I’ve crossed a line–”

Ignis gets cut off when she shoves him against the opposite wall and kisses him back.

Prompto and Monica share an awkward look and make themselves scarce.

About five minutes later – because whether Ignis wants to avoid consequences or not, there is no way they aren’t talking about this – Ignis walks out of the building with his hair about as messed up as it usually is in Altissia.

Prompto slides in next to him as he walks. “Sooo, that seems like it went well…”

“Prompto…” Ignis warns, but his glare is ruined by his tousled hair.

“Nope! Too late! I’m totally setting you two up next time around!” Prompto says gleefully, and he doesn’t think he’s had this much fun in years.

“Don’t you bloody dare.”

“Or what?” Prompto grins. “You gonna stab me with a letter opener?”

Ignis goes from looking confused to horrified in seconds. “Has that… happened before?”

“Uh, yeah. Yeah, it did. And speaking of that…” Prompto punches him in the chest just hard enough to earn a grunt. “That hurt, you ass.”

Ignis just keeps looking mortified. “What on Eos would possess me to do that?”

“You really don’t wanna know, dude. Don’t worry about it. So, do you guys have the wedding date set?”

Ignis sighs deeply. “There was talk of dinner later, but I suspect by then you’ll be–”

“Um, I will be right here until you are done with that date, dude.”

Prompto can tell Ignis appreciates him waiting, even if he doesn’t want to hold him back. Prompto decides to go for a walk outside the city limits – something he’s always been too worried about getting killed to do before. There are surprisingly few daemons around tonight. It’s actually peaceful.

And then in that silence, his sorrow starts to smother him again.

“Rather unsafe to be out alone these days, isn’t it?”

…So much for peaceful. Oh well. Not like Prompto has to worry about Ardyn messing anything up. Prompto remembers Ignis’ words – he can talk to Ardyn however he wants without any consequences.

“Where the hell have you been?” Prompto asks lazily, turning to face him.

Ardyn raises an eyebrow. “Now, dear Prompto, don’t tell me you’ve missed me?”

Prompto snorts. “What do you want, dude?”

“Just here to offer my condolences for the King’s Shield.”

Prompto rolls his eyes and starts walking back towards the city. “Save your breath, asshole.”

Ardyn appears in front of him again. “Now, that’s not very nice.”

Prompto huffs out a sigh. “Look, man, if you’re gonna kill me, just do it already – you’ll save me the trouble.”

Ardyn’s face twists into irritation. “Your spirit falls so easy. Drowning in your own sorrows, despite having three friends close enough that they’d give their lives to save yours if you were in danger. You–”

Have no idea how fortunate I am. Yeah, right. Heard it all before, probably will hear it again eventually.”

Ardyn freezes, his expression one of genuine, complete shock. “…What did you say?”

Prompto walks past him, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Nothing. See you next time around, as usual…”

Ardyn snags his arm in a bruising grip, forcing him to face him again. “You’re aware of the time loops, aren’t you?”

Prompto’s lips part in a silent gasp. “You… you’ve been looping too?

“Oh, quite unfortunately, yes.”

Prompto curls his fingers into fists. “You’re the reason that I haven’t been able to get any path to work consistently?

He doesn’t care if it won’t do anything. He punches Ardyn in the face.

All this time, it wasn’t him making mistakes. Ardyn had been the one messing things up.

“I could have ended this ages ago!” he screams.

Ardyn doesn’t seem to care that he got hit. “You know how to end it? You know what triggers the reset?”

Prompto starts laughing, and he realizes he probably sounds more than a little unhinged. “Yeah, figured that one out a looooonnnng time ago. Pretty easy to trigger if I need to.” And by now he’s pretty sure the return must not be fractured means that all of them need to survive until Noct gets back.

Now Ardyn’s angry. “You’ve been resetting intentionally?”

“Well, yeah, I kind of started doing that after someone kept killing my friends! Which – oops – looks like it’s that time again.”

Ardyn’s glare is so furious that Prompto feels he might be incinerated on the spot. “You’ll do no such thing! I have waited longer than you could ever imagine for your precious Noct to fulfill his destiny, and I will not have you standing in the way this close to the end!”

Prompto laughs louder, summoning his gun to hand. “Yeah? You gonna try to stop me? Good luck.”

He relishes the look on Ardyn’s face as he presses the gun to his own jaw and pulls the trigger.


The first night they camp, Prompto shakes off Ignis’ scolding and waits, looking into the fire. Sure enough, Ardyn appears, taking a seat in Gladio’s usual chair. He doesn’t look amused.

Prompto stares at him calmly as the firelight bounces off Ardyn’s eyes, making him look like the unnatural being he truly is.

“They all live. That’s a requirement to ending things.” Prompto doesn’t leave any room in his voice for an argument. “And Ignis keeps his sight.”

A smirk tugs at Ardyn’s lips. “I’ve never forced that Ring onto his hand.”

Prompto scowls. “Pretty sure you know how to avoid what makes him put it on.”

Ardyn shrugs lazily. “Perhaps.”

Prompto’s nails bite into his palms. “Look, I may be a speck to you, but I’m the speck that can forever keep you from what you want. There are rules to this game that you don’t even know.”

“Yes, I’m certain there are.” Ardyn slouches back. “So, you want your friends to be safe. How noble. Though I’m certain you’ve noticed by this point what it takes to get your dear Noctis to step up. How do you suppose you’ll get him around to that?”

“Easy,” Prompto says like it’s no big deal. “You can almost kill any of us as much as you want.” As much as he hates it, he knows Ardyn’s right. Noct isn’t ready. He needs that push.

Astrals, Prompto feels like such a manipulative creep, but there isn’t another way. Not even telling him about the loops would help.

“The Oracle can’t be saved,” Ardyn says.

Prompto stares at him flatly. “Yeah, I’m kind of positive that you can stop yourself from stabbing her.”

Ardyn shakes his head. “Her fate is foreordained. Should she live past the rite of Leviathan, she will only fall in a slower, more painful manner.”

Prompto swallows the lump in his throat. “Well, at least she and Noct would get to see each other again.”

Ardyn chuckles. “Indeed. I imagine Noctis will be elated to have her back… and then even further crushed when he realizes he can do nothing to save her. The slow and painful death of a loved one can take its toll, and I do doubt he’d want to leave her side.” Ardyn’s gaze is cold and unwavering. “I won’t allow that kind of distraction to set him off course.”

“She’s not a distraction!” Prompto snaps, forgetting to keep his voice down. “She’s a person! She even tried to help you!”

“That doesn’t change the fact that she’s dying all the same. Her death in Altissia is nearly a mercy.”

“The hell it is!”

“Prompto?” Ignis calls from the tent before slipping out.

Ardyn tips his hat to him. “Good evening. Lovely to see you again.”

Prompto makes a noise of disgust.

Ignis raises an eyebrow. “Is that intended to be a jab at my future ailment, Accursed?”

“Ahhh, so you’ve told him the truth. A wise move, considering he’s a fair bit more of a planner than you, hmm?”

Prompto rolls his eyes. “Dude, I’m, like, almost fifty – your potshots at my self-worth have lost their effect.”

Ignis looks at him sharply. “Fifty?

Prompto shrugs. “Kind of hard to keep track, but yeah. Somewhere around there.” He gives Ardyn a look. “You aren’t the only one who wants rest, you know.”

“Indeed. Shall we return to business?”


Prompto gets some very strange looks from Gladio and even Ignis when he bursts out laughing after Noct manages to slip and break his neck while they’re in the icy dungeon behind the waterfall.

He’s so done. They even have Ardyn helping them with a plan right now, and things still manage to go wrong.

The next time around is better, but Ardyn corners him the night they stay at the caravan.

“Dare I ask what happened last time?”

Prompto can’t do anything but laugh. “Don’t look at me, man. Noct slipped and broke his neck.”

Ardyn sighs. “Of course he did…”

Things go fine until – big surprise – Altissia. Ignis goes rogue, using what Prompto’s told him as a guide. He straight-up ditches his evacuation duty and tries to drag Luna away from the altar. When Ardyn tries to stop him, he puts on the Ring. Things aren’t like they usually are, though.

Somehow, Ignis manages to fight Ardyn off. Prompto shows up in time to see Ardyn dissolving into that weird purple energy of his.

For the first time, Luna’s alive. But that really doesn’t seem to matter when the Ring takes Ignis’ life as payment instead of just his sight.

When Noct wakes up, he’s overjoyed about seeing Luna. Prompto leaves the room before she can break the news to him about Ignis. No need to see that.

He’s about to summon his gun when Ardyn appears around the next corner and runs him through with his sword.

“Keep your friends in line,” he hisses as Prompto’s vision goes dark.


There’s no getting around what has to happen. Prompto forces himself to accept that. He decides to just try and better what he can. Noct and Luna may never be able to get happy endings, but maybe he can do something for Gladio and Ignis. If anyone deserves happiness, it’s Ignis. He’s died and suffered so many times for the rest of them. And Gladio… in all these times, Prompto doesn’t think he’s ever properly grieved for his father.

So this time when Noct mutters, “Who the hell was she?” after the fight with Aranea, Prompto grins at Ignis.

He passes by the other man and whispers, “Definitely not someone’s future girlfriend.” The look on Ignis’ face when Prompto winks at him is priceless.

When they camp with Aranea while waiting for night to fall for Steyliff Grove, Prompto places a chair just a little closer to the grill than normal and offers it to Aranea. Maybe it won’t do anything, but it’s worth a shot.

The glare Ignis sends him is confirmation that he knows exactly what he’s doing, but Prompto just sends him a double thumbs-up.

When they get to Cartanica, it’s up to Prompto to hold things together again. Noct is grieving over Luna, Gladio’s anger is radiating, and Ignis is trying to put up a front that everything’s fine with him, but Prompto knows better by now.

So Prompto sits with Noct and tells him the story about Pryna and Luna that led to him trying to befriend Noct in the first place. Then he talks to Ignis about the full extent of the prophecy. And then, lastly, he corners Gladio once they’re back aboard the train.

“You know, just because you have a duty doesn’t mean you can’t be human too.”

Gladio tries to shake him off. Prompto persists. He pushes and pushes, knowing exactly what buttons to hit after probably around thirty years of friendship. In all those years, Prompto thinks he’s maybe seen Gladio cry a handful of times. He sees it again now as the dam finally collapses and Gladio finally, finally gets to mourn for his father and everything else that’s been happening.

Ardyn gets him knocked off the train again, but just for the effect on the others. They go through the motions of Prompto meeting and taking out his messed-up bio-dad. He breaks script just a little with Aranea, though.

“You should stick around with us more. I think Ignis wanted to ask you about your lance work, but he didn’t want to bother you.”

Then Ardyn officially kidnaps him again, but this time he doesn’t restrain him – he freaking offers him a chair and asks if he’d prefer tea or coffee.

“Are you kidding me right now?”

Ardyn shrugs. “It will be some while before your friends show up. Would you rather spend that time imprisoned, as before?”

Prompto reluctantly takes the seat and accepts some coffee, wondering if they’re just going to sit here awkwardly.

Then Ardyn brings out a chessboard.

“…Seriously, dude?”

“Just something to pass the time.”

“…Fine. Whatever.” He’s not holding on to any hope that he might win, but Prompto’s played his fair share of chess with Ignis over the years.

“Tell me, dear boy, what do you intend to do with your life once this is over?”

Prompto pauses before he makes his move. “Dunno. Help rebuild, I guess. Since, you know, somebody trashed the world.”

Ardyn chuckles. “You act as though we’re so different, yet you’ve fallen prey to the same fiend as I.”

“Oh yeah?” Prompto knocks over Ardyn’s knight with a little more force than necessary. “And what’s that?”

“Time, of course.” Ardyn doesn’t even seem like he’s paying attention to the game. “If you live long enough, time seems to be repeating itself even when it’s not. And, as you well know, things start to matter less.”

“They do not.”

Ardyn arches an eyebrow. “Oh, no? How many times have you lost your friends? Does it still hurt as much as the first? Were there not times when you abandoned the citizens of Altissia on the mere chance that you could save dear Ignis? You wouldn’t have done that at the start of all this. Time dulls emotions.”

Prompto pinches the bridge of his nose. He knows Ardyn’s right. He hates that Ardyn’s right, but even that anger is dulled by his exhaustion, which just proves Ardyn’s more right. “Guess there’s not really a question why you went so mental…”

Ardyn laughs loudly at that. “Indeed.” He moves his next piece. “It’s frightening, is it not? How you’re coming to understand the monster you’ve labeled me as?”

It’s not frightening. It’s terrifying.

“Oh, don’t look so glum. Soon we’ll both be out of this mess.”

Prompto’s afraid he still hasn’t been alive long enough for a decade to be soon.

Ardyn leads Noct to “saving” him. Noct gets eaten by the Crystal. Then starts the long haul.

Prompto’s never let the guys get as distant as they were the first time around, but they’re still all pretty busy. Prompto especially. If this is gonna be the world he gets to keep, he wants it in the best shape as possible.

The months and years go on, pretty much the same as before. …Except when he runs into Ignis after not seeing him for a while.

Prompto has to double blink, because it takes him a second to realize it actually is Ignis – just Ignis with his hair un-gelled and swept slightly to one side.

That’s new…

Prompto narrows his eyes and crosses his arms as he walks up to him. “What is this?”

Ignis raises an eyebrow. “Good to see you as well, Prompto.”

“Seriously, man – what’s the deal?”

Ignis scowls. “Why are you so concerned with what I do with my hair?”

“Because in, like, thirty years you’ve never had it like that. So, what’s the deal?

Ignis sighs, adjusting his glasses as his cheeks warm to a nice dusty red.

Oh. Ooooh. “Oh em gee…” Prompto grins. “Ignis, does Aranea like your hair like that?” The further reddening of Ignis’ skin is all the confirmation Prompto needs. Prompto slaps him on the shoulder. “Now, aren’t you glad I gave you two a nudge?”

Okay, so… flustered, embarrassed Iggy is never not going to be fun to see. That’s just a fact.

Iggy! Prompto!” Gladio greets them as he jogs over. “How you guys been?”

“Oh, I’d say Ignis has been great!”

“Prompto, I swear–”

“He has a girlfriend – he changed his hair for her!” Prompto raises his voice, making sure he gets the attention of everyone on the street. “Love! The signs of true love!

Ignis buries his face in one hand. “I hate you.”

Gladio laughs loudly. “Well, congrats, Iggy! Who’s the lucky lady?” He pats Ignis on the back, making him jerk forwards.

Ignis pushes his glasses back up indignantly, looking very much like he’d rather be anywhere else.

“Araneaaaaaa.” Prompto wags his eyebrows.

“Please stop…”

Prompto has mercy and does stop. For today. There’s plenty more teasing in the years to come. Prompto really is happy for Ignis, though. He deserves something nice in his life, and he’s finally got it.

Gladio has someone too, though Prompto has yet to meet her.

Prompto honestly hasn’t even thought about a relationship for himself in so long. He decided a lot of loops back that it was a terrible idea to try and start one and then have it ripped away. So he keeps on, single as ever for ten long years.

Ardyn visits sometimes. At first, Prompto thinks he’s up to something, but then he realizes that Ardyn is legit just bored and wants some company.

Prompto really hates how human the guy seems after a while. His story really does suck. Who would have thought that he used to be like Luna?

Prompto actually find his anger turning somewhat towards Ardyn’s brother instead of him. Of course, not, like, totally excusing Ardyn or anything.

“Do you know the true irony of this long tale?” Ardyn asks.

“What?”

Ardyn’s smile lacks its usual mirth. “Had I only had a group like yours, all this could have been avoided.”

“Yeah… especially if they were like Ignis.”

Ardyn chuckles. “You know, in all the years I’ve been alive, I’ve never come across loyalty as strong as his. I’ve had a rather difficult time deciding if it’s commendable, or if he’s a fool. The number of times he’s thrown his own life away to save you all…”

Prompto snorts. “You’re telling me. He’s died almost as many times as I have.”

“Indeed so…”

“Ardyn.” Prompto levels him with an inquisitive stare. “Are you gonna kill all of us once we get out of this loop?”

Ardyn looks at him sharply, clearly not expecting the question. There’s a measurable pause, then, “No. I care not about the rest of you. Noctis is the only one I need.”

Lucky them.

Yeah, no. None of them are lucky. Ignis comes down with the Starscourge. Prompto wants to shoot something – wants to go demand answers from Ardyn. He doesn’t get a chance to, though, because Ignis is nothing if not practical. He refuses to wait on the chance that he might turn sooner than expected and hurt someone.

He’s completely collected. Honestly, he seems more sorry to Prompto than anything, but then he awkwardly requests if Prompto would be willing to give him and Aranea that extra nudge next time around as well. That at least gets Prompto to crack a slight smile.

The four of them gather in Ignis’ room. The conversation of who’s going to do the deed is underway when Prompto blinks and Ignis is suddenly standing there with wide eyes and unblemished skin, a soft golden glow in the air fading.

“The hell?” Gladio demands.

Of course. Ardyn doesn’t want another loop any more than Prompto does.


The day eventually comes. The day that’s not like any before it. The day Noct comes back.

The night they spend around the campfire almost doesn’t feel real. They’re all okay, this many years later. Except that’s ruined by the fact that they won’t be for long.

For a brief moment, Prompto considers resetting again, but then he pushes that thought away. Noct is so at peace with what he has to do. He’s ready.

Prompto isn’t. Prompto wants to scream and rage to the skies about the unfairness of it all. He’d been given a million chances to save them, but he can’t save Noct. Nothing he can do will prevent his death.

He has to keep it together, though. For Noct’s sake.

They walk into Insomnia together.

The return is whole.

Prompto gasps as the mystery voice fills his head.

He’s done it. The loop is finished. He’s elated. And then he’s terrified.

Anyone who dies from this point on stays dead. He has to be careful.

His heart nearly stops when Cor almost dies taking a hit for Noct, but he turns out to be okay.

And then they fight the Infernian himself. The Infernian, who focuses on Prompto and gives him a nod.

You have done well. Now set me free.

Prompto has so many questions – ones he knows will never get answered – but at least now he knows who was responsible. Ha. The Astral of fire is the one that put him through hell. Wasn’t that fitting?

But it wasn’t meant to be hell. Ifrit gave him the chance to save at least two of his friends, and Prompto knows why.

The return must not be fractured.

Ifrit is strong. Without all of them, Noct might not have done so well.

But they win.

They win, and they climb the steps of the Citadel. They get to the throne room.

Even while he speaks to Noctis, Ardyn’s gaze strays over to Prompto. A faint smirk pulls at the corner of the older man’s lips.

Prompto’s lost the ability to be angry at him. Ardyn deserves to rest.

Dark purple power flies from Ardyn at them, and for a horrifying moment Prompto thinks Ardyn was lying and that he really is just gonna off them right here and now.

But then he wakes up to Ignis’ gentle hand on his shoulder, and they go find Noctis.

Prompto’s glad it’s raining. It covers his tears as the three of them bow and Noct leaves them behind.

He fights harder than he ever has. He refuses to lose Ignis or Gladio now.

They win. They hold the daemons off until there suddenly aren’t any more.

Prompto’s gun falls from his hand, clattering to the ground because there’s no way for it to return to the Armiger. Prompto follows it, sinking to his knees and shaking.

Ignis’ hand grasps his shoulder firmly for the second time tonight, and then Gladio’s hand falls on the opposite side. The two of them stand there, offering their silent support as the dawn sun begins to wash over them.

“Take heart, Prompto,” Ignis whispers rawly. “We’ll find our place in this new world.”


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