Prompto was rather odd. In an endearing way of course. He talked a little strangely, like he read encyclopedias in his free time. And maybe he did as, like Noctis, it didn't seem like Prompto had any friends until they started hanging out with one another.
The blonde was also sick a lot. Sometimes disappearing for weeks at a time. Noctis and he texted often during such occasions as Prompto preferred not to have company when he was feeling so unwell. Surprisingly, the young man still excelled in school despite his many absences.
Noctis didn't question any of it. It was just Prompto. Gradually, with Noctis's help, he learned to act like a normal teenager. They enjoyed going to the arcade, eating junk food and doing things every other person their age did.
The Prince was grateful for Prompto. Barring Gladio and Ignis, who he met because he was the heir of Lucis, Prompto was the first friend he'd made on his own.
Prompto got sick again, this time for almost a month, right before the treaty signing between Lucis and Niflheim was to happen. It had been a little sudden but Noctis was hoping Prompto would be able to travel with them to Altissia when his wedding to Lunafreya had been announced.
Thankfully, the blonde recovered at the last moment. He'd been so excited to leave with them.
At Galdin, the four of them encountered a weirdly dressed man. Prompto was unusually quiet throughout the confrontation.
As the stranger walked away, Noctis found himself startled. For just a moment, a blink of an eye, the self proclaimed 'man of no consequence' disappeared. The Prince blinked again and the man was back. Noctis surmised his eyes were just playing tricks on him.
Prompto once again became very sick in Lestallum. They'd been about to take the offer of aid from the stranger they'd first met in Galdin. They now knew his name was Ardyn but not much else. They didn't trust him but there was no other option if they wanted to get to the Archaean.
Noctis and his friends had been worried about Prompto's constitution throughout their journey. He had been alright so far, up until Lestallum. They had no choice but to return to the hotel and leave the very apologetic blonde behind.
Afterwards, they met up with Ardyn at the parking lot.
Noctis felt a strange sense of familiarity towards the man as they stopped and rested at a camper later that evening. The way he spoke, the way he moved just seemed… Familiar. The Prince shrugged it off when he couldn't figure out just why he felt that way.
After the whole fiasco with the Archaean and their vehicle, they'd been able to meet up with a recovered Prompto in Lestallum once more.
Noctis's eyes played tricks on him again when they encountered Ardyn on their search for Mythril. For a second time, the man disappeared. But he returned the next moment.
The young man just rubbed his eyes and continued on. He needed to sleep, maybe.
Prompto disappeared in the mayhem that was Altissia and Luna's awakening of Leviathan. They'd found him afterwards, more than a day later. He'd said he'd been buried under some rubble and just managed to free himself.
Despite the despair and sorrow he was feeling at Luna's death, Noctis was grateful his friend was alive.
It was Ardyn's fault. He'd tricked Noctis and made him push Prompto off of the train.
The Prince felt the weight of his guilt crush him as he called Ignis. He wanted to go back for Prompto. He didn't want to leave him behind.
Noctis would do anything to make sure his friend was alright.
Ignis was able to calm Noctis down. They couldn't stop the train, not with all of the passengers on board. He suggested it was likely Ardyn would have taken Prompto as leverage against them anyway.
Noctis realized his Advisor was right. All they could do now was move forward and pray they found their friend safe and sound.
"Where's Prompto?" Noctis demanded when faced with Ardyn. He'd finally found the bastard. He would not fall for his illusions this time.
It took all Noctis's willpower not to stab the Chancellor through the heart right then and there. He had to be patient. Make sure Prompto was alright and then stab the bastard. He would make sure he stayed dead this time.
"You dear friend is right before you," Ardyn chuckled, standing in the middle of one of the many rooms in the facility. The room was dark save for a single light illuminating Ardyn and Noctis at its center.
"Stop messing with me," Noctis snarled. He was done with whatever tricks this man had pulled throughout Zegnautus. "Where. Is. Prompto?"
"Right here," Prompto, now in the place of Ardyn, said with a cheerful smile. He waved, looking and sounding so much like his friend that the Prince's heart ached painfully at the sight.
"Stop whatever that is. I know it's not him!" Noctis shouted furiously. He'd had enough.
"Dude, come on! It's me! You can't tell?" 'Prompto' pouted. "Aww! And I thought we were best friends?"
Noctis raised his blade, despite feeling such a wrongness in his being for pointing a weapon at someone who looked like one of his companions.
"Noct!" 'Prompto' sounded shocked by the threat. "Okay, I get it. You want some proof. How about if I tell you about that promise of friendship we made at the arcade? You said we'd be friends no matter what happened… You remember that, don't you?"
Noctis wracked his brain, trying to remember when he said that. He'd done that... Almost six months ago. He and Prompto had been enjoying their time free of school. They'd just graduated and now had to make plans for the future. They'd been talking about what they would do and if they would remain friends once Noctis became King.
Noctis had assured the blonde that he would remain his friend regardless of what the future had in store for them. He'd made a promise, just like Ardyn said. He recalled that Prompto looked so happy afterwards.
But… How did Ardyn know that? Noctis wondered. Had he hurt Prompto to get him to reveal such things about the two of them?
The Prince found himself even more worried for his friend.
"No?" 'Prompto' sighed, looking a little sad now. He hummed and then continued, "well how about the time we skipped math class to make sure we got a copy of that new Assassin's Creed game? We got in some trouble with Ignis later but we both felt it was worth it. We spent all night playing it at your house."
Noctis felt a chill creep up over him and he shivered. How was Ardyn able to make himself sound so much like this friend? It was uncanny.
"Still don't believe me?" Prompto asked when he received no response. He tilted his head as if he was thinking. He then grinned and clapped his hands when an idea came to him. "Well why don't I just let you ask me questions? Anything you want? That should prove that I'm your friend."
Noctis found himself hesitating a little before he nodded and lowered his blade. It was stupid to play along with this but he was sure Ardyn would not be able to answer his questions anyway.
Sure of himself, Noctis asked Ardyn many questions he was sure no one but Prompto would know the answer to.
Yet... Somehow Ardyn got all of them right.
"How do you know…" Noctis gasped, finally realizing something was very wrong.
It was again Ardyn he faced, the man having finally shed his illusion. The Chancellor waved a hand and the rest of the lights around the room turned on.
Noctis finally saw why Ardyn had allowed himself to be confronted in this place. There were rows of tubes on either side of them. All filled with people. Even bald as they were, all of them looked like…
"Verstael's clones can be rather fragile when not in a controlled environment. It was a miracle that the one stolen away to Insomnia even lasted as long as it did. There were some… Complications right before the semester I approached you," Ardyn revealed with a smirk.
"That can't be. There would have been background checks, visits to his doctor… How would you even know!" Noctis argued. Prompto was sick often and needed notes from his doctors. His friend had even done a little Crownsguard training, which involved even more tests. Someone should have noticed!
"Had so many not been under the control of Niflheim, I might not have even learned of the boy or even bothered to keep up this charade. However, Insomnia's isolationist policy was not well received even among its people. Your father should have been concerned with threats from within his city as much as he was concerned with the threats outside. It's unfortunate he wasn't able to discover such deceptions until it was too late, wouldn't you agree?"
Noctis felt a surge of anger but it quickly faded when the realization set in.
Ardyn was Prompto.
All those nights they spent at each other's houses studying, playing video games or just hanging out. All those conversations. It was all a lie. Just a deception by the deranged man that had a hand in killing his father, his people and even Luna.
The Prince felt sick. He felt violated.
"Why?" Noctis asked, his expression and voice betraying the amount of hurt he felt. Why would this man then take the place of a teenager? What was in it for him? To play with Noctis like this?
Ardyn shrugged and said, "I thought it would be amusing. And I found that it was. It gave me the opportunity to learn more about your fair city, the Citadel and even your father. And I find that the expression on your face right now makes all of the effort I put in very much worth it."
"You son of a bitch," Noctis' voice broke. He refused to cry though his eyes burned with unshed tears.
"Oh, poor Noct. Did you really believe that one of the commoners would just just waltz on up to you to become your friend? One with no ulterior motive in mind? Oh, no. The commoners are not your friends. They all desire to use you. You are nothing but a means to an end, whether that be for fame, fortune or whatever else the status of the Prince's friend could provide."
"Shut up," Noctis demanded. He tightened his grip on his sword's hilt.
"The truth is you have no friends. Your remaining companions are just tied to duty. Their blood dictates that they must serve you. You have no one-"
Noctis leapt at Ardyn with his sword, intending to kill but suddenly his enemy was Prompto. The Prince stopped himself with a cry. He stared at his friend, unable to make himself move.
Prompto just smiled at him.
When the Noctis finally got his body under control again, he turned tail and fled. He heard Ardyn's laughter behind him as he ran.
Some time later, Noctis curled up in one of the bunk beds around the facility. He needed a break, a little time to process everything. Ardyn's words still lingered in his mind despite his attempts to push them away.
This time, Noctis allowed himself to cry. He allowed himself to grieve. For the friend he never really had. For his situation. For all the people he had lost. For everything, really.
This was the first time in his life the young man felt truly alone.
Another quick story. Don't know if this works, but I tried.
Thanks for reading!