Disclaimer: not mine

Chapter 6

Merlin frowned as Prompto sat in front of the window, staring out at the courtyard. It was all the child had done since waking. Merlin blamed himself, he had been too late to save Aqua from whatever Dark Force she had faced near the Castle. If he had been closer….if he could have saved her….then the poor child would have had one member of his family left.

He could not spend his life in front of the window, staring….what was that? He saw Prompto straighten, frowning.

"Merlin?" the boy pointed, and Merlin moved to the window to see magic, unknown magic, swirling outside.

"Stay here," he told him, before leaving the house, ready for anything. The magic surged and then vanished, a crumpled pile of black on the stones….and a growing puddle of red. He moved swiftly and then knelt down, shocked, a child, it was a child. He scooped the still body up and rushed back to find Prompto had gotten up and cleared off the bed in the corner. "Very good," he smiled, gently setting the other child down. He removed the expensive black clothing and gasped at the massive damage done.

How was the child even alive? He wasn't surprised when Prompto began assisting, he'd likely picked up a few things from Eraqus and Aqua since his own rescue.

"Prince Noctis," he whispered.

"Prompto?" he glanced at the blond as he cleaned the wounds, using magic to hold back the bleeding so that he could get a good look.

"Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum of Lucis," he reached out and touched the blood soaked black hair. He then looked down at the wounds and grimaced. "Daemon attack….I…I can smell it, the Scourge."

"Scourge?" Merlin asked as he worked to stabilise the poor child's spine.

"What was in me, before."

Ah, that explained why the wounds weren't responding to his attempts at healing then. "Prompto, I need you to find a woman for me. She was involved in your own healing. Can you do that?" he asked, and was happy when Prompto nodded. He gave him instructions on where they lived and he was off like a shot. "It's alright young Prince, you are safe here," he murmured when the child whimpered, thankfully unconscious.

He gave him potions to combat the blood already lost, to promote healing and good health but it was a relief when Ifalna showed up, her young daughter Aerith with her. "The same ailment that afflicted young Prompto, this time within rather grievous wounds dear Lady."

She nodded and moved to look the boy over.

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Aerith too the boys hand and gently drew him outside to let her Mother work in peace. "Mother will do everything she can to save your friend," she promised, able to feel his grief.

To her surprise, he shook his head. "Not my friend."

"Oh?" She drew him to sit on the low stone wall with her.

He hesitated and she frowned before realising why he might be.

"I know about other Worlds," she told him, swinging her feet.

"Oh… we're from the same one but I never met him…he's the Lucian Prince and….and I'm….I'm just."

"Just what," she asked gently, able to sense his pain.

"A Niff experiment," he whispered.

She turned and hugged him, felling him stiffen but then he slowly relaxed, sniffling. "You're a boy, not an experiment," she told him firmly. He shook his head against her shoulder but she just kept hugging him.

When her Mother emerged from the house she looked exhausted but she was smiling softly. Aerith nudged him and he looked up, wiping his eyes.

"He'll be alright Prompto, he isn't infected. The wounds are very bad and it will take some time for him to heal and be able to walk again, but he should make a full recovery. If there are any problems at all, you come and get me, no matter the time. Alright?" she asked, and he nodded.

She smiled and gently ruffled messy blond hair.

Aerith hugged him again. "And you can come to play too!" She called as they left.

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Prompto sat beside the bed, reading one of Merlin's magic books, waiting for the Prince to wake up. He'd been with them for a week but hadn't woken up at all. They'd moved him upstairs to a proper bedroom and it was a nice room, with a magical window showing a forest. His own bedroom was right across the hallway so he was close by. He hadn't woken up yet but Merlin promised that was alright, that he had a lot to recover from.

He'd thought he'd never have to deal with Eos again, how was the Prince here? It didn't make any sense. Magic had somehow brought him to Radiant Garden, was it because of him? He was the only link back to that World. The Prince had survived a horrendous Daemon attack but if he had remained where he'd been, then he would have died.

At least it gave him something to think of instead of waiting for his family to come back for him. Merlin didn't think Aqua was dead, but she had vanished from the main courtyard in a fight. Ven…Ventus knew where he was so why hadn't he come back for him? He wasn't sure if he wanted Master Eraqus to come, he didn't know what had been going on, but he'd been so scared. And Terra….no, he'd done what he did to protect them. He just wanted things to be like they were.

He nearly jumped when he heard the soft whimper from the bed, saw the Prince's head moving restlessly. He took a deep breath, he was just Prompto Argentum, Merlin's temporary ward, there was no reason for the Prince to suspect his origins. Dark blue eyes slowly opened, not really focused.

"It's okay," he said softly, putting the book away. "You're okay."

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He hurt! He…he couldn't move…couldn't feel his legs…whimpering in pain and distress. Everything was confused…too quiet….Dad? Specs? He struggled to open his eyes, scared.

"It's okay," a voice called softly. "You're okay." Young…too young…

He blinked, struggling to focus, slowly making out bright blond hair, clothing that looked weird, shy smile…violet eyes. He'd never seen him before, had he? He opened his mouth but no sound came out.

"Here," the other picked up a glass and then put a hand under his head, lifting it for him to sip. "You're going to be okay, you were really badly hurt when we found you, but you'll be okay."

"D…ad?" he forced out. Where was his Dad? Where was he?

"Shh, lie still. Your spine was damaged so you need to keep still."

His spine? He couldn't feel his legs… "Legs?" he asked, barely able to hear himself even after the water. He was so tired.

"Can you feel them?" the other boy asked.

"No," he blinked slowly. "Who…"

"My name's Prompto. You'll feel better, you just need to rest and give it some time." A gentle hand stroked his forehead.

So….tired…

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Prompto watched him fall asleep, amazed the spell had worked for him, then again he'd been pretty tired even without the help. He knew Ven had used the spell on him so that he wouldn't try and follow him. He'd learnt the spell from Merlin's book, he was learning a lot from him.

He watched the Prince sleep peacefully, the pain dulled by the medicine laced into the water he'd given him. He'd called for his Dad and Prompto wished he could bring the King to him. Would the Prince be stuck, lost from Eos, like he was? What would Lucis do without its Prince? Then again, maybe the King had remarried and had more children. It wasn't like he had any idea what had happened there since he'd been saved.

Should he tell the Prince they were from the same world? His name sounded Lucian enough, why though he didn't know. Apparently Master Yen Sid had learnt his name from the stars or something. How that was possible when he was meant to have been an MT unit; no name, no personality, anything. Unless his name came from the Marshal's attempt to get to him, had they really been trying to save him? Why? He doubted the Prince would know anything, too young.

"Come along Prompto, you need sunshine," Merlin called, opening the door.

"He woke up," he told him.

"Did he? That is marvellous news."

"He can't feel his legs and he wants his Dad."

"The legs we are healing, his Father…" Merlin shook his head. "Come now, let him sleep."

Prompto hesitated but then stood up and left the room, Merlin pushing him outside where he blinked in the sun. He went and sat on the wall where he'd sat waiting for new on the Prince's condition. What was he meant to do?

"Hey!" a voice called, startling him, and he turned to see an older boy with red hair.

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Merlin nodded as he saw two local boys approaching Prompto. The child needed to make friends his own age, the young Prince looked like he'd be a good start if they could get passed being born to waring nations. He saw those two boys around, knew they had met young Ventus the first time he'd come. They were older than Prompto, closer in age to Ventus, but he could use older kids to look out for him and teach him to be a child and not a trainee.

He wasn't worried about the young Prince's health, his spine would heal and he would be up and about in a few weeks. He'd be left with scars and perhaps some small side effect of what Prompto had called the Scourge, much like Prompto himself with his odd violet eyes and small sun sensitivity, but it was nothing that would cause him real trouble. The child had magic too, giving Prompto a training partner, although…there was something strange about his magic. It was almost as if not all of it came from him somehow. It was a puzzle…as was how to return him to his World. It was one thing for Prompto to never return, considering where he'd been found, but a Prince? His disappearance could throw his home into turmoil.

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Isa watched as Lea coaxed the younger boy into talking, he was a stranger, just like that other blond boy had been. They hadn't seen him since but this boy…maybe they were brothers? He didn't like sharing Lea, he was his friend, and they had a mission, to get into the Castle. Still….there was something…sad about the boy, out of place. Maybe it would be alright if they talked with him now and then.

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He struggled to open his eyes, head feeling stuffed with wool, body heavy.

"That's it young man, take your time," a voice spoke softly nearby.

Noctis finally managed to open his eyes, staring up at a stone ceiling. He blinked blearily and managed to turn his head, staring in confusion. Who had a beard that long?

"Can you hear me?" the man asked.

"Y…es," he croaked.

"Very good. You've had Prompto very worried."

Prompto…who…the boy, he'd been there when he woke up before. "Wh're?" he asked, trying to move but he couldn't.

"Stay still, you're still healing. You are in my home in Radiant Garden. Prompto is currently my ward. We found you in the courtyard, near death, and brought you here for help. My name is Merlin, and who might you be?"

He stared at the man, confused. Radiant Garden? He'd never heard of a place called that. Prompto…sounded Lucian but he looked more Tenebraean or even…. But Merlin? What kind of name was that? Could he tell them his name? His Dad kept him out of the news as much as possible so maybe they didn't recognise him.

"Noct," he told him, he knew his training, never give his name if they didn't recognise him. Noct was a name itself, and a nickname for names other than Noctis.

"Welcome to my home Noct. Do you feel up to eating something, need to keep up your strength."

His stomach made a noise and he felt his face warm, Merlin chuckling.

"I think that's my answer then. I shall return in a moment."

Noctis stared at the ceiling after the man left, scared and worried. Where was his Dad? How had he gotten here?

"Hi," a hesitant voice called, and he turned his head to see Prompto in the doorway. "You're awake again…do you want company?"

Noctis thought about it, thought about saying no, but… "'kay."

Prompto walked over to sit beside the bed. "How do you feel?"

"Tired," he admitted. "Ca't move," even speaking was a massive effort.

"Yeah, you're immobilised to keep you from jarring your spine before it can finish healing. If you moved then it might heal wrong." A hesitant hand touched his, the skin warm but calloused. "Can you feel that?"

"Yes."

"And this?" he felt pressure on his leg through the blanket.

"Yes," he was relieved to be able to say yes, he couldn't move but he could feel. That had to be good, right?

"And here we are! Ah, Prompto, good. I have a nice meat and vegetable broth for Noct," Merlin announced as he entered.

Prompto moved to sit on the bed, lifting his head for him. "Let us do all the work, you just swallow."

It was embarrassing to need so much help to eat…but he didn't want to end up unable to walk or something…if they were telling the truth. He couldn't remember what had happened… maybe they'd kidnapped him? No…that didn't feel right. Something bad had happened, something…why couldn't he remember?

The broth tasted wonderful, made him feel nice and warm, sleepy…no, he didn't want to sleep more…

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Merlin watched the young Prince succumb to his body's need to sleep to heal. The magic that had ensured his spine would heal drained a lot of energy which was why he was sleeping all the time. He was pale and had lost weight, all things that could be corrected once he'd finished healing. Obviously the boy had already been taught to hide his identity if not immediately recognised, that was sad, he was just a child. Then again, Prompto was the same age and he was being trained to one day wield a Keyblade, hardly a peaceful endeavour.

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Xehanort paused in his walk across the town, seeing the three boys across the way. The younger boy, there was something…familiar? He shook it off and continued on his way. His memory would either return or it wouldn't. He doubted he actually knew such a young child, likely he merely looked like someone he had known before being found by Master Ansem.

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Noctis listened in awe to Prompto's magic lesson, it was nothing like his own back home. With his blond hair, Prom had to be related to the Oracle otherwise how could he have magic? Then how did Merlin? Something was very weird but he wasn't scared of them, how could he be scared of the weird old man and Prompto. They were having the lessons in his room to keep him company and Merlin said he could learn too.

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Aqua sat in the Darkness, staring up at the dark sky. She'd failed, Ventus was…she didn't know where Prom was, and she could only hope that Terra was okay. She still didn't know what Ventus had been trying to tell her before his heart fell asleep. He at least was safe in the maze that their home had become. She had to find a way out, a way home, she had to save Ven and Prompto.

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Prompto grinned at the startled Noct as he floated from the bed and through the house. He cautiously took his hand, squeezing it gently, walking by his side as Merlin guided Noct through the house and then outside where a lounge had been set up. He was surprised to feel him cling back to his hand even as he was gently lowered onto the cushions, dark blue eyes taking everything in.

"There we are, comfortable?" Merlin asked, and Noct nodded.

He'd been given that much movement back and could even move his arms a bit now, but from the lower chest down he was still being kept paralysed. Merlin went back inside and Prompto sat beside him.

"Where am I?" Noct whispered, and Prompto bit his lip. It had to be obvious he was nowhere on Eos now that he was outdoors and could see the town and the sky.

"You're safe," he hesitated. "No Daemons or Empire here."

Noct started, eyes widening. "I…"

"You're Prince Noctis," Prompto whispered. "I recognised you pretty quick," he admitted. "This…isn't Eos, you're on another World."

"What?" he asked shakily, so Prompto did his best to explain. Noct was staring at him when he finished, obviously not sure what to think. "Then how do you know me, know about Eos?"

"Because…that's where I'm from," Prompto stared out at the courtyard, watching some birds. "Master Eraqus found me, rescued me, but someone else was there trying the same thing. The Immortal, the Marshal."

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"Cor?" Noct asked, and Prompto nodded. "What did you need saving from?" he asked, seeing him flinch slightly. Cor only left the city for the hardest missions so what could have happened? "Prompto?" he asked.

"I…" the other boy lifted his arm and removed the strap around his wrist, taking it off. He held his wrist up, revealing a weird tattoo….a barcode. "A lab," he whispered. "They were all trying to save me from…from the First Magitek Production Facility."

Noctis froze even further than the spell on him. Magitek? That was…that was Niflheim. He stared at Prompto, he'd thought he looked like a Niff. He felt Prompto hesitantly take his hand but didn't know what to do.

"You're safe here Noct," Prompto told him, eyes begging. "Master Eraqus saved me from the Empire, saved me from the program."

"Are you…human?" he asked shakily.

"Mostly," Prompto shifted on his chair. "The same Lady who healed the Scourge in your wounds, healed me from it. it's why my eyes are this colour, they would have been blue. And…" he shifted nervously but then carefully tugged Noct's arm up and then under his shirt.

"What?" he asked in confusion, feeling cold…metal? Prompto let go and lifted his shirt enough to show him what he'd been feeling. Noct stared with wide eyes at the sight of metal in his skin. "What did they…"

"Part of the MT process."

"How old were you?" he asked, feeling sick.

"I was four," he shrugged slightly, "lived my whole life in a tube or on a table."

"I'm sorry," he lifted his arms sluggishly, trying to hug him, and he saw violet eyes widen before Prompto leant in and hugged him.

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"Can you wriggle your toes?" Merlin asked, and Noctis clung to Prompto's hand, focusing.

Prompto laughed as his toes moved. "You did it!"

"Very good," Merlin praised. "We'll give it a day or two before trying to get you on your feet, let everything settle first. Gentle stretches and exercises in bed or sitting."

"Thank you," Noctis whispered, and Merlin smiled, reaching out to ruffle his hair.

"No problem at all dear boy."

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Prompto grinned as Noct took his first shaky steps, his arm around his waist to keep him steady. "You're doing great!"

They made it across the room where Noctis collapsed into a chair, grinning tiredly. "Thanks."

"For what?" he asked curiously.

"Everything," Noctis shrugged, looking away. "I…I can't go home, can I?" he asked, and Prompto froze. "Prom?"

"I…uh…I don't know," he finally said. "Master Eraqus was never able to find Eos again, not that he was looking really hard since I didn't want to go back."

"Oh," Noctis sighed.

"If there's a way to get you home, I'm sure Merlin can find it." he didn't miss Eos…but Noct had a family.

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"Ready…set….go!" Lea called, grinning as the four of them took off running down the street, all of them keeping half an eye on Noct as they ran. He liked the two younger boys and he didn't mind helping Noct with his exercises. Poor kid being hurt like that. It'd been six months though, and he was able to run now, not as fast as the rest of them, but he was getting better every day. The time spent with the younger boys took away from their search for her, but they were no closer to finding anything so it was okay.

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"MERLIN!"

Prompto's scream had him running, but he'd already been moving towards the children, sensing something incredibly powerful near them, the bright day suddenly clouded over.

"No! Noct!" Prompto was yelling as Merlin rushed around the corner, his eyes widening at the sight of a massive dragon-like being in the air.

It was no mere dragon though, it was very powerful and….it's magic felt like Noctis'…it was of Eos.

Prompto was clinging to a light pole and reaching for Noct with his other hand. Noctis' own grip was slipping, dark blue eyes wide with terror. And then the creature spoke and the Prince gasped, hands going slack on the pole, eyes falling closed, limp body lifting into the air. Merlin threw up a barrier as others approached, including several of the castle guard.

"NOCT!" Prompto screamed in denial as Noctis was drawn away by the being who caught the boy in one massive hand before vanishing, everything going still, Prompto tumbling to the ground, tears in his eyes. "Noct," he whimpered.

Merlin dropped the barrier and the two boys who played with them rushed passed him to get to Prompto. The poor boy, first he lost his chosen family and now he'd had a friend torn from his right before his eyes.

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Prompto clung to Lea, sobbing, it wasn't fair. Noctis! He'd recognised the dragon…Bahamut. The Draconian had found Noct and taken him away. Why did everyone leave him?

TBC…