Ep. 1: That one time you reunited with old friends.
The auditorium is packed from wall to wall between the press and the ticket-holders. The air is a little stuffy. The pounding bass from the speakers makes your body slightly vibrate. You push through a small crowd of backstage workers, poke your head out from behind the curtain, and scan the hundreds of faces for one in particular. Hundreds of faces … you feel a little queasy.
“Come on. Please show up … You can’t do this to me. Where are you?” You search the pocket of your robe for your cell phone. You whip it out and dial his number, shouting at him through the speaker before he can even greet you.
“Prompto! Where the hell are you?”
“Ugh. I’m SORRY I’m late… We’re almost there,” he replies apologetically.
“WE!?” Your heart starts racing. “Who else is coming!?
As you try to listen to Promoto’s response over the clamor of the auditorium, a staff member from backstage take you by the shoulder. “(Y/N,) you need to get ready. We’re about to start.”
You nod absentmindedly to the staff member and yell into your phone, “GET YOUR ASS HERE RIGHT NOW! I have to go! …” You soften your voice. Prompto is used to your dramatics, but that doesn’t stop you from feeling a little guilty. “…I miss you, Freckles… See you after the show.”
* * *
Two blondes and a massive brunette enter the auditorium not too long after the phone call. The group consists of Luna, Prompto and Gladio. The usher at the door gives them a hypercritical glare for arriving just as the show is about to begin.
Prompto requests with a nervous chuckle, “d’ya think we could get some seats close to the runway?”
The usher sighs audibly and
after rolling his eyes, leads them down a low-lit aisle way. He adds with
snark; “you’re lucky the Queen is with you…”
The three, Gladio especially, shuffle awkwardly infront of a row of seated people to the only seats left close enough to the runway. As they sit down, Luna addresses the two boys.
“Thank you for letting me come along, Prompto. When I heard you were coming to see your friend, I asked Noctis if it was alright for me to come along too. So I owe you BOTH thanks. Without Gladio as our formal escort, I wouldn’t have been able to come. It’s been such a long time since anything exciting like this happened in Insomnia.”
Gladio squeezes into one of the tiny, fold down auditorium seats. He grunts. “It’s ok, Lady Luna. I’m just not used to all this noise and the …er… cramped space. Anyways, I didn’t know you were into this sort of thing.”
“I always loved fashion,” Luna smiles. “And this is event is to raise money for the children left homeless after the Starscourge. I thought it fitting to attend.”
Prompto sighs with relief. “I’m just glad we were able to get close to the runway. If she doesn’t see me here, I’ll get in real trouble.”
Luna laughs. “Sounds like a darling girl.”
“She’s the only girl that Prompto can be around besides you that doesn’t give him a nosebleed,” teases Gladio.
“Heh … well. We haven’t seen eachother in a while.”
All of the lights cave in on the runway and after a brief introduction on the spirit of the event, models one after another drift out onto the stage. Their attire fills the auditorium with eccentric colors from artful designs. Sleeves like wings lift behind them. Skirts like water flow around them. A frequency of life oscillates with each swift turn. Harmonics with the essence of Eos herself swell from plumes in their hair and the dazzle of lights that splash in reflection off sequined corsets. The crowd sits in silence, soaking in the rays of the artful display like the vegetation of the earth after the first dawn. Insomnia craves what the show is giving off.
The imaginative spectacle continues for 25 minutes or so and a casual after party is prepared for everyone who attended and all who were a part of the show.
* * *
You arrive at the afterparty in a long black dress with gold details. You feel sleek but comfortable, and the details of gold running along the seams lay a dramatic effect to your silhouette. You’ve gotten there a little bit late. Too much work on your hair, probably. You shoulder through the people and once you find an oasis of space you’re able to spot Gladio as if by a mile away towering over the crowd. You make that your focus point. People are trying to compliment you on your performance as you continue on. You say thank you here and there but you have ONE mission: find the Chocobo butt.
“There you are, sunshine!” you spring out from a cluster of people and wrap your arms around Prompto from behind. He’s holding a drink of something and almost flings it across the hall in surprise.
He turns and embraces you. “Hey there! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
“Yes! Because you traded me for the King, you traitor!” you mess with his hair.
“Ohh, come on!” he laments, pulling you out at arms length. “You know it wasn’t like that. You will always be like a big sister to me. You’re one of my best friends.”
Prompto lays one arm casually across the tops of your shoulders and adds, “So let me introduce you. This is the Queen, Lady Luna Nox Caelum. She and Noct got hitched, ya know? And I’m sure you remember Gladio. ”
You attempt to bow while in Prompto’s hold. “Your majesty. I’m (y/n) Valentine. It’s an honor to meet you.”
Luna lets a gentle smile spread. “Thank you. It’s a pleasure, Miss Valentine. Any friend of Prompto’s is a friend of mine.”
Your eyes jump to Gladio. “Hey there. You’re looking as large and in charge as ever.”
Gladio’s holding a beer. He brings the froth to his lips, takes a swig and grins. “The large got larger and the charge got bigger.”
“If you guys will excuse us, I’d like to kidnap Prompt for a bit. We have so much to catch up on!”
You guide Prompto to a corner where a couple of nice chairs are unaccompanied. The two of you laugh, talk and drink for over an hour, sharing the stories of how life brought you both to where you are now. His friendship with you is the epitome of a TRUE friendship; even with time and distance between you, when you’re together, it’s as if none of the ever existed. You’re able to pick right back up where you left off.
You’ve known Prompto since you were very young. You both grew up in Insomnia foster homes and went to the same school. Your young brain took note on how badly Prompto wanted to know the Prince and curiosity brought you close to him. He turned into your best friend with ease. As you grew into a young woman, he was the only one who saw you for more than just a pretty face. Prompto knew all your fears and all of your dreams. He saw you at your worst and at your best. To see him leave with Noctis all those years ago was more painful than any cliché heartbreak could offer. You were torn. He was the brother you never had.
One of the younger models struts past you and Prompto and gives him a little wink. Prompt turns bright red from the tip of both of his ears.
“So…” you giggle, slightly inebriated. “I see you still freak out with girls. How come? You need to get it together, Argentum! Or I will steal you and take you to one of my practice sessions. You’ll be surrounded by all the pretty girls and HAVE to teach yourself to talk properly to them!”
“What!? No! heh heh! N-no! That won’t be necessary,” he chokes a little.
“I’m just joking!” You laugh and then become very serious. “I really missed you. Please don’t go again. … Or I will KILL that King of yours!”
“Aye!” he covers your mouth so no one catches the slander. “OK! Too much to drink I think!”
You shrug innocently. “Yeah… probably better get back to the hotel.”
“Hotel?” Prompto looks confused. “Why are you staying at a hotel? I’d assume you had a nice penthouse or something uptown.”
“Uh …” you let out a sad little exhale. “I was staying with my parents. But they kicked me out.” You swirl around the cocktail you’ve been sipping. The olive has dropped in and it whirls round and round.
“Oh.My.Gods!” Prompto says excitedly out of the blue. “You should TOTALLY come stay with ME!I have an extra room! It’ll be awesome!”
You feel light swim back into your eyes. You move from the chair and tackle him with another hug. “Did I ever tell you how much I love you!? Really? You’d let me stay with you!? Yes! Ok! Ok.” You step back with a massive grin. “How about tomorrow? Is that too soon? Tomorrow? Because I’d really love to move in like … TOMORROW.”
Prompto laughs and says with a nod of his head, “Of course. I’ll text you the address. But I’d better go find Luna and Gladio. It was really great seeing you. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Prompt. You really are my sunshine.” You kiss his cheek and watch as he saunters away.
* * *
The following day, you show up at Prompto’s apartment a little bit earlier than scheduled. …just a little bit. You stand in the early morning sunshine and knock gently. After no response, you knock a little harder. You listen closely for footsteps to approach the other side of the door. Nothing. The only sounds are the birds chittering in the trees and the odd car here and there passing behind you on the street.
You pull out your phone and dial Prompto’s number. You coo out happily as soon as he answers the phone; “Good MORNING, Sunshine! I’m HE-ERE! Wake up and open the door, will you? I’m dying for a cup of coffee!”
Prompto responds a little groggily, “Ah? Wha … what time is it?”
“It’s 8am, sunshine! Let’s go!”
You hear a long groan and the sound of the phone’s speaker brushing up against the pillows. “It’s too early! … Just let me get some pants on.”
You wait with your arms crossed until he opens the door and gives you a huge, somewhat sleepy hug. After stepping away, he gawks at the amount of luggage that’s been sitting like the leaning tower of suitcases in the sun behind you.
“That’s – that’s all YOURS?”
“Hehehe. Yes. Why?” You say coyly
“I don’t know where we’re going to put all that.”
“It’s ok. Don’t worry about it right now!” You reply and grab a couple of suit cases, letting yourself inside. “We will figure it out. But for now; COFFEE.”
After you and Prompto reposition the tower of your things to an unaccompanied corner of the living room, he sets off to the kitchen to start brewing coffee.
“Oh! I forgot!” He calls out to you from the other room. “There’s a party tonight at the palace and you’re coming with me! No excuses, young lady! It’ll be a blast!”
“Ehh …ok. I guess it will be good to see Luna again. Aish! I mean the Queen! I’m really bad with protocol.” You grit your teeth a little and settle into the living room couch. You sweep away some chip crumbs from the cushion. There’s an opened bag of some kind of colorful snack on the coffee table.
“It’s fine!” He reenters the room with a cup of coffee for you. “Just do what you do best; look pretty.”
Prompto’s smile always gave you such comfort. And right now as you sink back into the bachelor’s leather couch, imaging being infront of a bunch of people at a royal party, you need some comfort.
Prompto picks up on your thoughts right away as he hands you your coffee. “Are you still worried about being around a bunch of people? I figured after all the modeling, you’d be good to go!”
You take a little sip. “Every time I go to walk out from backstage, it’s confronting that fear. But I know it’s only for a second. Like I walk out, stare at the furthest thing over all those heads, and turn around. At a party though … totally different story.”
“What about the party yesterday after the show?” he sits down next to you. You hear some mystery wrapper crinkling way down underneath the couch.
“Too many people in a small hall to notice me really,” was the only thing you could say. There was more to it though…
Prompto stretched and kicked his feet up on the table, knocking over an empty soda can. “You’re gonna be fine! You’ll be with me!”
For the rest of the day, you unpack in the spare room, help clean up the place, and talk about anything and everything that comes to mind. You relish in the nostalgia. Your cheeks hurt a little after a while of so much laughing. This is going to be good. A good change. Right?
* * *
For the evening party, you decide to wear a black and silver tulle ballgown with one shoulder strap. The fabric gathers at the waist in jewels. You slip on some pretty but practical heels, they’re hidden under the skirt anyways, and curl your hair until it bounces like springs. When you exit the spare room after hours of meticulous prepping, Prompto is waiting for you in the living room. He’s got a decent suit on, but you notice a few things; the buttons are buttoned unevenly like he missed one, his dress shirt isn’t tucked in, he doesn’t have a tie on, and his hair is a MESS.
He reaches his arms out to you and examines you head to toe, “WOW! Just WOW! I will have the best date of the night!”
He’s so sweet it makes you consider not telling him what you’re about to.
…You do anyways.
“Prompto!” You reach your arms out to him too with a forced smile. “Sunshine. You need to tuck in your shirt, grab a tie, fix your buttons and brush your hair. I’m sorry.”
“Ehh … you really think so?” he scratched his head bashfully.
“Yes.” You say simply and tend to all of those things until he’s all shined up. “MUCH better.”
A royal taxi transports you both to the palace in no time. Prompto escorts you proudly inside with your arm in his. You pass through the corridors and come into a ballroom that is not nearly as crowded as you thought it would be. This was an intimate event.
You squeeze Prompto’s hand. He looks at you with a tender laugh. “You’re going to be FINE. This isn’t your first rodeo. You got this champ!” He lets go of your hand and gives you a little push right through the entrance.
The ballroom expands before your eyes, appearing larger than it looked from the outside. So huge. And yet so few people. They’re all looking at YOU. Your chest tightens. Or maybe the dress needs a little adjusting. You look for the nearest exit since Prompto is blocking the way behind you and find a nearby balcony. You escape quickly with no explanation.
1 2 3 BREATHE… 1 2 3 BREATHE…
“Why am I so frickin nervous?” You ask yourself outloud, pacing on the balcony behind the shelter of a heavy, drawn curtain. “Why!?”
You peek your head out from the curtain and examine the faces quickly. UGH. You retract back to pacing. It doesn’t take long before the taunting negative thoughts that you’ve shoved to the back of your head seep forward.
They’re judging me. Just like mom and dad.
“But I get judged on the walkway for a LIVING!” you fight
with yourself, holding onto the railing of the balcony.
These royals aren’t like the audience. These royals are just like mom and dad. I’m not good enough for them.
“ – Are you ok, miss?” A cultured voice interrupts from behind you. You gasp a little and turn on your heels. You recognize the person vaguely. You know him from somewhere. He’s tall, dressed fine as hell, has tidy dark blonde hair and some nasty -looking scars plaguing the side of his face.
“Oh… yes. I’m fine … I guess.” You stutter out.
“I believe you accompanied Prompto, if I’m not mistaken,” the gentleman remarks, looking in no particular direction. Upon further examination, you discover that he’s blind. “I’m sorry to intrude. It sounded like you were in distress. Shall I fetch Promp for you?”
“No …” You say a little embarrassed. Your heart begins pounding and the anxiety thrusts itself forward in the form of a verbal explosion. “No. You know what!? I don’t need Prompto right now. I don’t need ANYONE. What I need right now is for people to stop judging me for what I do for a living! What’s wrong with being a model? Hm? Tell me.”
The gentleman’s mouth is gaping a little. He nods his head slightly and says, “I didn’t even know you were a model. But I suppose – “
“You suppose NOTHING. What makes me sooo different from someone like … like LUNA! I mean the Queen! Just because she’s a royal means she not superficial? But I am because I’m in the fashion industry?! I’m just as smart as the people out there!” You point to the curtain even though he can’t see you point. “I have a freaking degree in Ancient History! And! And! I know THREE different languages! AND! I know how to cook my own food! GOOD food because I took TWO years of culinary school!”
“That’s – that’s quite impressive miss …?”
“Valentine!” You shout at him. “It’s VALENTINE! And you won’t forget it!” You exhale angrily, pull back the curtain and start walking fast across the ball room floor.
Your heels clap madly beneath you as you go, tears pooling in your eyes. You feel a little insane. You pass through tiny clusters of people as they share drinks. You keep your stare to the floor. It looks like there’s a small corridor up ahead to run too. Run. Run. Run. Always running.
Oof! You run right into the arms of the unexpected.
“Is it really you? No way! Are you ok?”
You fix your hair and lift your gaze from beneath your eye lashes. The person helping you up is Noctis – KING Noctis Lucis Caelum.
“I am SO sorry!” You say, suddenly aware of the tears rolling down your cheeks.
“It’s ok!” He says, helping you to your feet. “I’m just shocked to see you here. I never would’ve expected it. It’s been so long!”
He smiles pleasantly at the small group of people that he was entertaining in discussion. “Please excuse me. We’ll continue this conversation later.”
Noctis takes soft hold of your hand and leads you to the small corridor that you were heading to in the first place. Beyond the noise of the hall, he pulls out a handkerchief for you. Abashedly, you wipe your eyes and see him fully for the first time in over ten years; a mature, sculpted face freshly shaved and looking as smooth as just-whipped butter, crisp blue eyes and hair that LOOKS like it wants to be touched. Whoa.
“Thank you … your Highness …” you say, wishing you could force the blood from rising in your face.
“Ahh, geez,” he scratches the back of his head the same way Prompto does. “That’s too formal coming from you. Just call me Noctis or Noct or whatever. We’re friends, right?”
“Sure … Noct – Noctis,” a smile finds its way to your lips.
“That’s better,” he sets a hand on your bare shoulder. You shiver unintentionally. “Do you want to go back to the party? Or do you need a little more time?”
Noctis smiles gently at you and you feel both relaxed and nervous at the same time. There’s a little fire rumbling eagerly in the pit of your stomach – a tiny new flame that wants you to feed it.
Go. Go with him.
You nod your head and hand him his handkerchief. “Yeah. …Thank you so much. I could really use a drink right now.”
The King offers you his arm and he accompanies you for the rest of the evening. You limit yourself to just a couple of drinks. Prompto sticks close by, taking pictures and prompting (for no better word) old memories of the three of you in high school. The entire ordeal feels like an out of body experience. Is this real life? And … where’s Luna?
To read the story that this one is a spin-off to and other pieces of my works, check out my masterlist. <—