A/N: Okay wow... finished the last chapter I don't know how long ago and only getting back to this one now... I am so sorry! I got distracted and side-tracked with ideas for more stories, which I am working on now, and forgot to even start on this chapter! I was planning on a quick little side story for Valentines, but clearly that has not happened =_=... And Covid hasn't been all that fun either... Hope everyone is safe, healthy, and not put through too many issues with covid going on...

Iris was waiting for them in the lobby of the hotel with a grim expression. They paid for a room and when they were situated, she told them about the Empire coming and killing Jared. It was certainly not glad tidings. Prompto almost wished to cross paths with the Imperial s.o.b that had killed the kind older male. He'd almost be willing to cast a Cruciato or two on the man.

His attention went to the door as it opened to reveal Talcott. His heart went out to the kid. Jared was Talcott's only remaining family, wasn't he? The words spoken barely registered as he watched the kid head off. Prompto found himself standing and tapping Noct on the shoulder before he made his way out of the room to talk to Talcott. He found the boy in the other room they rented, which he was sharing with Iris, and simply sat close-by without being up in his face.

He knew from past experience that that kind of attention made you less wanting to talk, but a silent offer of support was usually not unwelcome. He just didn't want the kid alone right now. He knew from losing Sirius that any support, even just someone willing to listen and not judge, was worth more than noisy 'are you okay' and 'talk to me, Harry!' could ever be. After a long while, he didn't keep track of the time, Talcott spoke up.

"It's my fault." That had his blond head whipping around to finally look at the kid. His eyes weren't judging, merely sympathetic and understanding. "The soldier that killed him... he spoke to me." Prompto had to hold in a growl that wanted to come out at that. The Imperial would pay for... "He knew about our connection to Prince Noctis because I told him about Grandpa!"

Prompto stood from the chair he'd sat down in to crouch in front of Talcott. He gently lifted the kids head so he was looking at him. He offered a small, sad smile.

"That isn't on you. A grown man manipulated his words to get information from you, a kid. He's the one to blame. No one can blame you. You don't have to blame yourself either, I know Jared wouldn't blame you." He then decided to be honest with the boy. "Few know this about me... Just Noct and the guys really, but I remember another life, where due to various circumstances and events, I caused the death of a man very dear to me.

"He had been best friends with my dad at the time, should have been the one to raise me when i was orphaned... but for reasons was unable to. I was thirteen when I first met him and he offered a home to me... But two years after I met him, I was having dreams of him being tortured by a madman and foolishly believed them to be true." He paused here, a small bitter smile tugging at his lips. "I, failing to reach him, went to where I thought he was being held. Four friends of mine from school had come with me despite trying to sneak off alone. It had been a lie, a trap to get me there. Sirius, along with a group that were fighting against the madman, came to rescue us.

"In the fighting that ensued, Sirius was killed in front of me, by his own cousin who was on the madman's side." Talcott was watching him intensely, Prompto smiled again, one of pain and self-loathing. "No one ever told me it wasn't my fault... They all offered petty 'I'm sorry's and all it felt like was acusations, because I was the one to lead my friends into harms way. I was the one too stubborn to go to a teacher about what I'd seen. That was on me. This, you had no way to know what he was planning to do."

Before Talcott could say anything, a familiar voice spoke up behind them from the room's door.

"And you couldn't have known that it was a trap for you." Prompto turned to see Noct standing there in the doorway, familiar expression gracing his face whenever he caught the blond thinking about his past mistakes. Prompto smiled sheepishly, unable to stop himself from blaming himself for past events and mistakes.

Noctis walked forward and ruffled his hair affectionately making him almost whine/purr and lean into the touch. He couldn't help the closing of his eyes as Noct rubbed his scalp comfortingly. They opened again as a whine slipped past his lips as the hand was withdrawn. Noct moved forward to kneel down next to him as he also told Talcott that it wasn't his fault about Jared.

The group spent a few more days in Lestallum, making arrangements to set up a 'base of operations' at Caem. It was decided that they would bring Iris with them in a different route than Dustin and Monica, who were taking Talcott with them. The Regallia was not really meant to take that many people, and even with Gladio in the passenger seat in the front, the three of them in the back were cramped.

Not to mention Iris was sitting in the middle, and he wasn't happy with that particular seating arrangement, even if it made more sense. He wanted to sit next to Noct though! His inner whining was interrupted with another one of those flying Imperial Bases passing them overhead. Prompto's rage at the Empire flared up again as they pulled up to Old Lestallum.

The group decided to split up, Iris would remain behind while the four of them infiltrated the base. The plan was to kidnap the base commander, to interrogate him for information. He'd offer to tear through the man's mind if he had any skill with Legilimency, but he hadn't and it wasn't an area he knew nearly enough about. Ignis' plan was simple in theory. He and Noct would follow the base commander to capture and turn over to the Hunters, while Prompto and Gladio would go look for the energy-beam thing and cause a disturbance/distraction.

Prompto gave Noct a kiss 'for good luck', then left with Gladio. They had to sneak around for a route to the rendezvous point (which was where they were causing a distraction as well). Though he was worried about Noct, he managed to focus and time the distraction perfectly. Noct joined them while Specs was handing over the captured Imperial, and when the fight was done he thought they'd been successful.

Ignis then had to bring them news that the guy had escaped their custody. Prompto let loose a few expletives then as they began heading back out to Old Lestallum. Of course, because things had gone too smoothly (and as though their target escaping wasn't bad enough), they ran into another Imperial. This one female with a bad-ass vibe whom he felt like he didn't want to be on the opposite side of.

Anyway, her ability to fight in the air was incredible and terrifying all at once. Noct was also able to, but not nearly as well as she did, as he relied on warps to get into the air and stay there. She had no such need. On top of that, she could drop down on them like a meteor and it was only quick thinking and reflexes that saved them from being skewered by her lance-spear-thing. It looked to him like a jousting lance, or similar to one, but yet also somewhat like a regular spear as well.

They managed to hold out long enough and she retreated, stating that she doesn't do 'overtime' as there was 'no gil in it' for her. Which, okay then. There were no further interruptions and the group managed to leave the fort and return to Old Lestallum. They stayed there for the day (as it was early morning when they arrived and they weren't really in a rush anyway), before setting out again fully rested and in slightly better spirits from the sound beating they'd unleashed on the base.

Iris spoke about the mountain they could just make out in the distance, how Jared told her about it, The Rock of Ravatogh. He wasn't really interested in climbing a mountain so wasn't really paying attention other than to add his input every now and again. He jerked to attention when they took a turn down a dirt path, though, and found out that the guys, and Iris, wanted to check out the woods they (meaning Iris) heard about in Lestallum.

Prompto was tempted to ask to stay behind to 'guard the Regalia' when he heard what kind of place the rest of them wanted to explore, but instead grudgingly followed along, not really wanting to be left alone for however long this sidetracking would take. He hated the silence more than the thought of all the things they'd run into. Did he mention his dislike of bugs?


Gonna end it here, since it's been at this point for a while and it's long enough of a chapter I suppose. Again sorry for the wait and Happy New Year! My resolution is to write and update stories more consistently so it isn't this long a time in between chapters.

I also have more stories in the works that I plan on posting shortly, so I hope you enjoy them!

Next chapter will be started right away and will, hopefully, get them through to the Vesperpool at the least. I kinda want to go back and edit this so that things aren't as messy with the whole 'this worlds magic and potions don't always work with Prompto and his magic is not very controlled... but I'm lazy and so I'll leave it at that.