I don't own the rights to Final Fantasy VII or XV.
A sigh escaped the Coleman tent, heavy rains pelleting the canvas as the brotherhood holed up inside, cold to the bone and grave as grey as the raging storm outside, sat and waited to know the storm would only get stronger. It was a remarkable sight, not the flash flood that had forced them to take shelter on the haven, but the way the Astrals communicated with humans. Messengers, random acts, and changes in the environment, such as this case. For the raging storm outside, the inside of the tent was far from chaotic. Prompto hummed one knee bent over his other leg balanced on the joint, foot bouncing as he reviewed his snapshots of the day, Ignis sat crossed leg in the far corner, mended Noctis's shirt as the Prince turned King slept in his cocoon of warmth. Gladiolus, vigilant, sighed dropping the tent flap back down.
"It's not letting up out there." The Shield groaned flopping onto his own sleeping bag counting the seconds between the clap of thunder and a flash of lightning. Ten seconds later lighting flashed.
Ignis stilled, holding the fatigue jacket aloft to inspect his handy work on the hole from a branch. Out of all the fiends, they had fought that day, a simple tree branch had torn the jacket in a failed warp that left Noctis stuck in a group of trees as Yellowtooth's attacked in the distance. He came to their aid eventually, his jacket left to hang in the trees. In his sleep, Noctis's face scrunched up, inhalation inhibited for a moment as a ragged breath was pulled in and the boy sneezed, groaned, and turned his head into the fold of the bag. The frown Ignis made as he tied off the line of string settled permanently on his face. They did not need anyone sick on this journey.
"Yes, it is quite a torrential downpour." Ignis lowered the jacket folding it up. "But it is time for sleep." Prompto bit out a sharp whine as his camera was jerked from his hand, tucked safely into his pack. The camp light dimmed before turning off completely casting the tent into a darkness, the only light left was Ignis's mobile phone as he set the alarm. Once satisfied with the wake-up time, the screen dimmed then shut off. Every so often a flash of lightning would illuminate the inside, Noctis at the foot laying horizontal to their vertical positions. Gladiolus shifted beside Prompto trying to find some comfort in the stone beneath them while Ignis found his sweet spot quickly, on his stomach arms under his pillow.
Prompto, oh how he hated camping. In the rain, in the backyard, in the Palace Gardens, at the sporting goods store, he hated it in all shapes. But camping in the rain with no soft bed, no shower no… "Go to sleep." Gladio rolled over onto his side turning his back to the muttering blond. Huffing, Prompto slid into his sack making faces as he went.
"If you don't stop making those faces," Gladiolus left the threat to linger in the air, Prompto knew. They all knew. Prompto did not stop the glare that pulled at his face, directed at the Shield's back. Closing his eyes and sticking his tongue out, Prompto shimmed down tugging the sack up and over his head, hoping to prevent Gladiolus from sensing his facial expression. "If you don't stop it's going to get stuck like that."
"Wha? Whatever, man." Prompto huffed, tongue secure in his mouth as Gladiolus chuckled on the other side of him. Closing his eyes, Prompto drifted, the sounds of thunder and rain lulling him into the secure void of sleep.
It did not feel like a dream at first, the warm sand, a softly kwehing Chocobo behind him as a backrest the ocean front moving in on a gust of wind. It was as if he was right there, he could even feel the heat growing on his skin as the sun began to rise. Noctis sat on the edge of the water waves lapping over his bare feet as he fished. Behind him in the distance Ignis cooked, Gladiolus read having been sucked into another novel and Prompto roamed the beachside, snapping photos of anything he found of interest. A beautiful brunette with the most vibrant green eyes he had ever seen, like grass after rain, in a soft white and blue dress waved from the coast, her feet free of shoes sunk into the sand, she gave him a bright smile. His breath caught, and all Noctis could think was how jealous the sun must have been.
"What's a beautiful girl like that doing by herself?" Gladiolus sets his book down, watching the newcomer as she continued her path her shoes held by the straps behind her back, toward Noctis. Ignis looked up from the camp grill joining his friends in watching the girl. Unarmed she did not pose a threat. Her head turned just slightly towards them, she was dangerous if only for her looks and that warm welcoming smile.
"Hello!" The girl slid into the sand beside Noctis, tucking her skirt under her as she spread the fabric out over her bent legs, hands wrapping around her knees. Noctis jerked, coming back to reality, pole grasped loosely in his hands tightened. He had not been thinking, but then his recollection was off, and he had no idea how he had gotten here.
"Hi." The girl smiled, trying again as she pulled her hair back looking away from the boy towards the Galdin Quay bay. Waking up from his daydream, Noctis blinked, brow drawing together as he turned his attention and looked her over eyes lingering on her face. She could not be much older than Iris. "Do you need something?"
The girl smiled head tipping her head to the side to look at him, "you remind me of someone I know. For a moment, I thought you were him." Her smile only grew, a flash of her white teeth before she looked down, wiggling her toes into the sand. "I had my hopes up, but you're not too bad of a find yourself."
Noctis lifted a brow, clutching the pole tightly as it jerked. "Oh." The girl smiled turning back to the bay, pushing her legs out into the sand.
"You better reel it in. It's a special one." The poll jerked harder, Noctis's grasp tightening before it slid into the bay. Again, it jerked, the fish fighting to get away and forcing Noctis to stand to pull the fish to shore. The girl stood, clapping as he waded into the water. "You got it! You can do this." Thunder rumbled, cracking her voice, but the skies were clear, nay a cloud in sight. Noctis held the fish up smiling at the large silvery green bass. Having fished at Galdin Quay multiple times before, he had never seen a fish like this.
"Yo Noct!" Turning he caught sight of the girl walking away, her sandals dangling from her hands. Prompto rushed into his view, shaking him violently. "Wake up buddy!" The girl stopped, glancing over her shoulder at him, a smile ever presents on her lips the fish dropped back to the water, swimming away as a sudden chill fell over him as Prompto grabbed his shoulder shaking him. The chill grew, Galdin Quay wavering and disappearing, the girl stepping further and further away with each step. Shivering, Noctis realized his clothes where drenched, and he was cold. Prompto's voice ringing in his ears.
"I'm awake!" Prompto fell back, Cataclysm was drawn beside him as the rain that lashed around the pair, intensified. The tent was gone large gashed tore into the canvas, the chairs and cooktop scattered about despite having been secured before their rest. Seeing the campsite destroyed like this raised more questions than they had time for. The time to ask questions would come later, at this moment shelter was more important as the wind howled around them, whipping the trees above into a frenzy of leaves and flying branches, lighting flashing violently around them. "It is Imperials?"
Prompto shook his head, stepping back as Noctis climbed from his sleeping bag, sword forming in a flash of blue. "No, just a bad storm." Ignis and Gladiolus stood by the fire, an odd sense of calm on the haven, while the world around them descended into chaos.
"You're awake." Gladiolus's figure shifted with each strike of lightning. "I think you pissed Ramuh off with your dawdling."
"It's not like we can leave now." Moonlight sucked away by a threatening darkness dissipated behind the clouds, the storm calming to a dull roar. "We must be in the eye now."
Around them the trees swayed gently, leaves and twigs falling with soft patters much like the mist that showered them. The sky groaned, purple rippling over the lake in the distance illuminating the Catoblepas couple, the pair slowly moving from the water onto the distant shore. Suddenly sound ceased to exist, the wind stopped, fiends and other fauna fell silent, the Catoblepas' lifted the heads, stepping further back onto the shore. For a moment, time itself stopped, speeding forward in a blinding rush as the sky groaned, purple rippled through the clouds above. A loud deafening crack dropped the Brotherhood to their knees, hands fixed over their ringing ears.
"Should we investigate?" Noctis shouted, the ringing leaving the group temporarily deaf.
Prompto shook his head, hand on his nose to relieve the built-up pressure. "I don't want cake!" How could Noct think of food at a time like this?
"What about a rake?" Gladio wiggled his finger in his left ear, it itched so bad.
Ignis kept quiet, simply shook his head, they could wait until morning to find out what had forced the pair of Catoblepas from their watery home. For now, they needed to retrieve their camping gear and get some form of sleep, restless as it may be.
When the sun did rise, the world around them illuminated a deep grey, the only consolation was a crushing dull cup of coffee and rain. Noctis stared at the cold blackness in his hands before tossing it behind his back.
"All our supplies were lost in that storm." Ignis stepped beside Noctis, drenched to the bone with rain. Gladio looked to the Hand a frown settling deeply on his face.
"That's a problem then." Noctis sighed from his huddle beside Prompto, the two sharing the last remaining sleeping bag to stay warm.
"Let's go find Ramuh."
"What about the Lake?" In the distance the Catoblepas's wadded in the shallows, a herd of Graulas grazed nearby, staying a fair distance from the lake.
Ignis, diverting the question to Noctis waited as the boy-King weighed his answer. "Let's check the lake first. Then we find the stones." Gladio looked at Ignis, Prompto bouncing out from under the sleeping bag in excitement. As Noctis stood, he caught the shared look of the elder men, "I promise no more dawdling." With a sniff and a clearing of his throat, he jumped off the side of the haven, warping safely to the ground.
"I wish he wouldn't do that."
The exploration was brief. Fiend's hesitant to neat the swamp, fleeing as the group drew close to the lake. Even the fisherman had found the fiends to be oddly silent, leaving him to fish in peace for once.
"Now I did see a young man down here this morning. At first, I thought it was you Noctis, but well, I doubt your friends would let you roam naked as a newborn babe." Navyth chuckled, shaking his head. "He seemed a bit lost, so I directed him towards the Coernix Station up on the hill, gave him some gil and told him to get some clothes. The lad looked lost, think he had too much to drink or got hit too hard on the head. Spoke weird, so maybe you boys could help him."
Noctis, brow raised looked behind him at Ignis, he had promised after all. "Yeah, we'll get right on that."
Navyth smiled walking back to his fishing chair, "good, here, for your trouble, at least get the boy to Lestallum." Jerking forward Noctis caught the golden gil. "Whenever you get a chance lets fish." Looking at the one hundred gil coin Noctis nodded, turning to his friends and wiggled the coin in the air.
The Coernix station was chaos, Sania, having caught sight of the Regalia, darted out from her umbrella rushing to the gas pumps. A crowd had formed around the convenience store, murmurs and whispers filling the air as the four left the Regalia.
"Thank the Six you guys showed up. Some guy is in there ranting." She put herself in between them and the crowd, "They called the Imperials about an hour ago, hoping to get him picked up. A wayward infantryman, but I think there is more to it. His words are jumbled but he understands what we say to him."
Prompto winced as the station door opened a string of word soup flowing forth as a customer hurried out, panicked. "Is he naked?"
"He showed up that way, but Darnel gave him some of his clothing" Sania blushed, "I'm sure whatever he did have on was stolen." With that, she shook her head obviously flustered. Wishing them good luck Sania returned to her umbrella, safe from the growing crowd.
Ignis, glancing at the tinted store windows crossed his arms, "this may be our guy."
"Are you guy's going to fight him?" One onlooker turned to them, his eye red and the skin around it bruised. "I hope you kick his ass. Little bastard clocked me one right here. I swear, if I wasn't on duty, I'd beat him into a pulp."
The four said nothing, their actions would speak for them. Pushing through the crowd, they stepped into the store. It was a hostage situation, customers huddled behind shelves and stacks of potatoes looked at the four, a tense silence falling over the convenience store. Darnel, the store owner, and cashier were huddled in the far corner as a young man stood on his counter yelling. Whether for the sake of hearing his own voice or because he was saying something important no one knew. His words a jumbled mess of sounds.
Darnel, bracing himself against the shelving unit behind him, nervous, looked away from the young man, the boy turning to glare at the four, vibrant blue narrowing on each one.
"Wha-what can I do for you guys today?"
Noctis's attention was fixed firmly on the glaring teen before him. "We need new camping gear. Ours was lost last night in the storm." Darnel nodded, inching away from the shelving unit, out from behind the counter and quickly gathered the items for a standard camping pack.
Prompto whistled leaning against the counter as Noctis stood beside the teen, Ignis, and Gladio on the opposite side of the boy. From the corner of his eye, Noctis caught a small smirk form on the boy's face.
"Ahh," the boy huffed, looking to Gladiolus, who stood beside him, then Ignis before turning his head to Noctis and Prompto. "A fight? You should know better than to mess with a SOLDIER."
Ignis jerked turning away as the glass window of the convenience store shattered, Gladiolus flying into the cement pole outside. The boy shook his head, hopping down from the counter. The boy was fast, rushing their strongest member first, then turning his attention to the strategist. A warning shot flew past the boy's head, cutting a few strands of black hair off. Prompto's whistling had died slowly as the blond stared at the groaning Shield a crack forming in the pillar, Noctis holding the gun at the teens head.
The boy, weaponless, held his hands in front of him, fist clenching. " Come on, this is too easy" His right hand uncurled, motioning for them to come.
"Those stones don't look so bad now do they?" Ignis quipped daggers flying towards the boy. Only one landed, the boy twirling the hilt in his hand having caught it. Behind them Darnel shooed his cashier to the back door, motioning for the customers to follow. While pleased to see the teen being manhandled in a fight, was not pleased with the destruction of his store.
"Take it outside!"
Warping, Noctis landed a kick to the boy which sent him through the shattered window and into the parking lot, rain pattering around them, Noctis shifting into form. Prompto jumped through the window, Ignis having the courtesy to leave through the door.
"Come on big guy." Prompto cheered, breaking a potion over Gladio.
"Kids' fast, got a southpaw I've never seen."
The teen grunted as he glared at the group as Gladio rejoined, broadsword hefted over his shoulder. The dagger flipped in his hand grasping the tip he flung it towards Prompto. Darting to the side with a roll, Prompto squeaked as the teen grabbed his handgun sending him to the ground with an elbow to the face. Gasping, Prompto covered his bleeding nose as he searched for a potion. On the other side, Noctis flung his sword at the teen, ready to take him down when Ignis yelped, the barrel of a gun at his feet.
"We are not here to hurt you." Ignis insisted as Noctis landed on the boy, wrapping his legs with the struggling teen. A sickening crack rang out as forehead and nose connected.
"Fuck!" Noctis only tightened his grab as Gladiolus joined in on attempting to subdue the wiggling teen by securing his legs in a vice-like grip. Prompto, his nose healed, helped Noctis hold the teen's shoulders down.
"Dude stop," the teen glared at the stock of blond hair, the slight upward curve of a tuft of hair. Noctis sighed as the teen stopped, his legs falling limp in Gladiolus's arms. For a few minutes they sat there, Gladiolus holding tight to the boy's legs, Noctis on his stomach legs pinning his arms down, Prompto at his shoulders and Ignis looming overhead, glaring down at the boy with a growing red mark between his eyes.
"We want to help you."
The teen glared at Ignis, then his outstretched hand " Who are you?"
The broadsword dissipated, as for Prompto's handgun, it remained littered around the immediate area. "What did he say, Iggy?" Ignis shook his head, as the three moved away, Noctis holding his hand out. The teen looked from his hand up to the scowling face and the smile that slowly worked its way onto it.
Ignis shrugged, pushing his glasses back up, "I don't know." A crowd had gathered behind them, the boy turning his attention to the people behind the four. "Where are you from?"
The teen stared, a scowl set on his face. Shifting, he began studying the area around them, the Disc of Cauthess in the distance catching his eye. "I am not in Midgar anymore." He turned arms behind his head. Fighting was not going to get him anywhere, he realized as his eyes drifted a crossed the group in front of him. While he could take them, one could disappear, the others had a limitless supply of weapons and he was weaponless. "My name is Zack" He clasped Ignis's hand with both of his, gripping the offer of peace a small smile gracing his face.
"Get him out of here. Teach him some manners" Darnel growled shoving a large pack towards Gladio. "He's a trouble, here pack is free. If you get him out of my sight now. "Darnel waved the crowd away, storming into his shop. "Little Bastard."
Ignis nodded, the sound of a Magitek engine whirling drawing closer. The others noticed the sound as well, "Let's go find those stones."
"Can we get a nice bed tonight? A shower would be great." Prompto smiled following Gladio and Noctis to the Regalia. The boy stood watching them, head cocked as disgruntled customers walked around. Prompto, kneeling on the front seat waved the boy over. "Come on! A warm bed awaits us."
"I didn't say that," Noctis grumbled stepping out of the car to let their newest member in. Prompto, face stricken with horror stared at his best friend.
The Regalia purred to life, Ignis glaring at his blond copilot, "Sit down and buckle up."
A huff and a click, a satisfactory response to the order. In the back, Noctis and Gladio, tense, watching the young teen between them. "What are we going to do with him?"
"Right now, he will just have to come along. Until we get to Lestallum, then we can get him some help there." Ignis muttered, slapping Prompto's hand from the radio. "Stop messing with it."
Hiking was not something Noctis or Prompto enjoyed, Ignis was still out on the ballot for that while Gladiolus and the new kid seemed to be at ease in the rain and rocks. Prompto groaned as he grabbed Noctis's hand, the King pulling his friend up over another slick boulder.
"How can he live this way?"
Noctis shrugged, "inhuman." Walking a crossed the boulder, he felt Prompto grip his shoulder and push him into a gathering of trees.
Once again faced with leaves and branches, Noctis groaned as Prompto shouted over his shoulder for the fifth time that day there where Imperials above them. The tag-along had stopped staring into the air like a turkey as the large ship hovered above. The last few they had outrun, Gladio dragging the boy behind. Sometimes by the arm, once by his foot another time Ignis caught him by the ear.
This time, the Imperials hoovered directly above them, so there was not a chance to outrun the inhuman beings. As a flag barrier dropped the boy jumped back crouching low, a smirk forming on his lips, shoulders rolling. Oh, he wanted to fight, to tear whoever or whatever these things were with their glowing red eyes, barehanded or not.
"Brawling is going to take longer, here." Gladio turned the boy to look at him offering Noctis's old two-handed sword. "It's a bit beat up and you're a bit scrawny, but it's all we got."
The boy stared at the sword, lips parting in awe as he eagerly grasped it. The shock on Gladio's face as the scrawny twig of a thing before him hefted the sword in the air with such ease with one hand wasn't captured on camera, it would have made for a good memory and with Prompto in the midst of a gunfight, flipping and flopping about like an Irish pug that can't run there was no one else with the artistic talent to actually capture the moment. It was a missed moment only to be remembered by one person – that boy with the bright blue eyes and the blackest ebony hair anyone had ever seen. With a thumb up the boy rushed off striking and slashing through the Magitek squad with the ease of a trained warrior, and the grace of a prima ballerina.
The battle was over by the time Gladio realized a charred Noctis was limping by clutching his stomach, Prompto following behind apologizing while Ignis twisted and twitched upon the blackened ground a victim of an ill-timed Thunder spell cast by yours truly. Curiosity got the better of the teen, kneeling beside Ignis and touched him creating a spark between the two. It stung as the boy jumped back waving his hand in the air to help discharge the shock muttering a string of curses that were only understood by the inflection in his voice.
"You alright Iggy?" Gladio squatted beside his friend as the twisting lessened and Ignis's body relaxed.
Ignis twitched, "I've…been better." Rolling to the side, Ignis pushed himself off the ground, waving his hands as the energy running from tip to toe and into the ground. "Where is Noct?"
"Over by that rock." Ignis and Gladio followed his motion to where the boy pointed. Noctis sat beside a boulder, Prompto offering him a potion.
"I didn't mean to throw the cast into the middle of the fray." Prompto scratched the back of his head, "it just sorts of…slipped."
Noctis growled, glaring at the blond, "slipped? It hit me in the head first Prompt."
A soft snort left the blond, lip caught between his teeth to stifle a giggle. "I'm really sorry Noct."
Relenting his displeasure Noctis dipped his head, smiling. "Fine, I accept. Just do not let it happen again. Aim for their head, not mine."
"Well, if it wasn't like a hedgehog it wouldn't be so enticing to hit."
"You hit hedgehogs? What type of person are you?"
Joining the younger pair Gladio rolled his eyes, "yeah, maybe against a rubber duck."
Ignis's lips turned upward, "are you alright Noct?"
Noctis nodded, standing with a bit of help from Prompto, "yeah. Peachy. Let's get this over with before the Imperials show up again."
"Yeah! Hey, can we get a room tonight, my back is killing me!" Prompto shouted as he rushed after the jogging quartet. No one answered, much to the blonde's dismay, he did not want to sleep in the rain again.
It was not to be, the warm bed that is. As Ramuh granted Noctis his support, the rain cleared, and the group was free to once again enjoy the humidity that Duscae was famous for, something the boys had never experienced outside the Crown City.
"Take off the jacket." Noctis groaned, he did not want to carry his jacket, he just wanted it cooler. Gladio had already discarded his sporting a black wife beater top. Even Ignis had decided to exchange his normal dressings for a t-shirt and black pants. Then there was the issue of their tag along and his excessive complaining or whatever it was no one was sure if he was annoyed because of the heat or annoyed because the chocobos had run off; they were stuck by the lake waiting for dinner to be caught.
Noctis leaned back in the camp chair, watching the water as he waited for a fish to bite. Even with a small breeze, it was still hotter than Hade's arse. Cool relief showered upon the King drenching him and his friends as something jumped into the water followed by a grateful cheer of 'woohoo!'
"What is he doing?" Prompto screeched running beside Noctis chair Ignis and Gladio bringing up the rear.
"Scaring away the fish!" Noctis jerked out of the chair, ignoring the clatter of metal as it hit the dock, watching the younger teen dip under the water. In the murky depths, they could not see the black hair that drifted closer till it was too late and with a quick splash, the boy flung water at the glowering gang. The fish were gone, but this boy was still there. "It's not too late to resort to Cannibalism is it?" Prompto, Gladio, and Noctis looked at Ignis, the man coolly pushing his glasses back up with his middle finger, shock painting their faces that he would be the first to suggest something such as that. The teen, not knowing his life was at stake, stood in the middle of the fishing hole calmly staring into the green-brown water, Noctis's pilfered net in one hand a dagger in another.
"We just need to go to Lestallum and leave him with Jared." Noctis waved his hand towards the pond jerking it back as something cold, clammy, and scaly landed on it.
"Some angler you are." The teen smirked looking at the large barramundi hanging from the King's hand. Nodding, the boy stepped away patting his shoulder as if he was consoling him while continuing to Ignis where he returned the fish covered dagger. With mild disgust, Ignis accept this weapon back " you guys didn't grow up in the country."
The boy smiles only grew as he relished their horrified faces, turning away his smile dropped with each step he took to the end of the pier his face hardening, eyes distant as they searched the landscape for answers. "I guess dinner is served."
Prompto looked at the lifeless fish, "he's like Crocodile Dundee."
"I wouldn't go that far." Noctis huffed at the absurd comparison.