A/N: So... I have no idea what happened with this fic. It started out as a harmless crackfic of a plotbunny, and then I started listening to the soundtrack for the game, and before I knew it it was 14 pages long and full of feels as well as humor and I am both proud and ashamed of the result, lol.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this - it is one of the better pieces I've written in a while, in my opinion, even though the ending was completely unplanned.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________"Maybe Prompto's hatred of caves isn't so unreasonable after all,"
Noctis thought miserably to himself as he and his three companions slogged through yet another pool of murky, stagnant water inside the Greyshire Glacial Grotto.
They had been there for nearly two days now, chasing down a horde of monsters for what was honestly an unfairly small bounty, and by this point all of them were tired, sore, and ready to leave this frozen wasteland behind for the rest of their lives. Most of the daemons on the list had already been dealt with – primarily a large horde of Imps with some Arachne and Tarantulas thrown in just to make things even more 'fun' – and now they were closing in on their last target: a group of Flan, supposedly numbering close to four or five.
"Noct," Ignis whispered from his right, putting out an arm to prevent him from moving any farther forward. "Do you see that, up ahead?"
Noctis narrowed his eyes, trying to see through the dark to what his advisor was pointing to, and then he finally noticed the unnatural shine on the stone ceiling.
"Looks like that's probably them," he whispered back, drawing his favorite blade from the Armiger and preparing to launch himself toward the area. "And there are definitely more than five. Prompto, give 'em a few shots to wake them up and cover me once they're down here; Ignis, you and Gladio got my back?"
"Always," Ignis answered, his daggers held at the ready while Gladio shouldered his enormous broadsword.
"Alright, let's go!" Noctis threw his sword forward and warped after it, reappearing just beneath the shining mass of gelatinous monsters as Prompto hit them with a spray of bullets, careful not to aim too high and risk a ricocheting bullet hitting Noct. The ceiling above instantly began to writhe, undulating like waves in a storm as the Flan woke and began detaching themselves from their nesting spot. With several loud, splattering plops, they dropped to the ground, glowing yellow eyes trained on Noctis and sticky mouths gaping open and dripping with viscous drool.
"Let us be done with this," Ignis said tiredly, using a bottled Fira spell on his daggers before slashing through the head of one of the monsters, leaving it shrieking in pain as its flesh sizzled and smoked before knitting itself back together. "Prompto!"
"One step ahead of ya!" Prompto called from the rear, shooting a Star Shell into the air and filling the area with light that left the Flan shrinking back toward whatever shadows they could hope to find. He opened fire on as many of them as he could safely hit, hoping to overwhelm them with the sheer number of bullets since physical attacks did so much less damage to Flan than magical ones. "Gladio, you're up!"
"Uryaaah!" Gladio roared, bringing his blade down hard enough to crack the stone and slicing one of the Flan cleanly in half. It gave a burbling growl of anger before pulling its two halves back together, rounding on Gladio and launching its enormous bulk toward him in an attempt to engulf him inside its slimy body. "Oh hell no, you don't!" the Shield shouted, following Ignis's example and retrieving one of their bottled potions from the Armiger, this time a Thundara. Just as the ugly mass of jelly opened its maw to try to swallow him whole, he lobbed the bottle into its mouth, using the blunt of his blade to smash the glass and smirking in satisfaction when the spell electrocuted the monster from the inside out, leaving nothing but a slick of slime on the floor where it had once stood.
On the other side of the tunnel, Noctis felt his strength beginning to flag, his magic quickly depleting as he warped back and forth between three or four Flan who had all decided he should be their prime target. "Come on, die already!" he spat as he executed yet another Warp Strike on the nearest one, his magic-enhanced Royal Arms doing a little more damage than a standard weapon but still not as much as he would have liked. He shook a glob of blue sludge off the end of his sword and thrust it through the eye of the closest monster, switching to his polearm and leaping into the air to pierce it down into the head of another before the first could even react.
"Noct!" he heard Prompto cry out from somewhere behind him, and before he could react he found himself flying through the air, colliding with the wall of the cave hard enough that he saw stars when one of the Flan decided to use its enormous bulk to full-body tackle him. He coughed, trying to bring the air back into his lungs and groaning when pain shot through his hips and back, and looked up blearily just in time to see one of the monsters slithering toward him from a few feet away, mouth gaping and eyes glinting menacingly.
He tried to call another weapon from the Armiger but failed, his magic too depleted and the knock to the head making it difficult to focus. Just when he thought he was destined to become dinner for a mutated dessert, he heard a soft squelching sound and then a squeal of pain from the Flan, and looked up to see Ignis's polearm jutting out of the creature's back, blazing with red-hot flames. He wrinkled his nose and tried not to gag at the smell of melting monster, breathing a sigh of relief when a few more shots from Prompto and a deep slice from Gladio's electrified blade finally ended its struggles.
"Are you alright, Noct?" Ignis asked as he dropped to his knees beside him, fingers gently prodding a lump on the back of his head that Noctis hadn't known was there and drawing a grunt of discomfort from him.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Noctis sighed, taking Gladio's hand and standing shakily while he caught his breath and tried to ignore the way the room seemed to be rocking slightly. He realized he must have been right on the cusp of stasis, so he was glad his friends had stepped in when they did. "Just a few cuts and bruises, nothing a potion won't cure."
As if he'd already been expecting to hear that, Prompto handed him a potion and he crushed it in his hand, relishing the feeling of cool relief as the lump on his head shrank to a nearly imperceptible size and the cuts on his arms knitted themselves back together. He stretched until he heard his spine pop, sighing in relief as the pain receded back to the normal, mostly tolerable level that never truly went away. "That should be the last of them, right?"
Ignis retrieved the bounty sheet from his jacket pocket, reading over the list and placing a small check mark next to the line that listed four to five Flan. "According to this list, yes."
"Then I say we get the hell out of here and find a place to sleep tonight that isn't a cave floor."
"I'm sure we can manage to find some suitable accommodations with what remains of the reward money."
"Woohoo! Bath, bed, and breakfast, in that order!" Prompto cheered, running ahead in the direction the cave entrance was supposed to be. "Especially you, big guy. Hate to break it to you, but you kinda reek."
Gladio snorted and crossed his arms. "Like you smell any better."
"Compared to you? I smell like a rose."
"Keep it up and you'll be pushing up daisies," the Shield growled menacingly, but Prompto was unfazed, already aware that Gladio's bark was worse than his bite when it came to his friends.
Noctis walked ahead and tuned them both out as the half-hearted bickering continued, too interested in getting out of this frozen nightmare and into a real bed to care about anything else. He felt so drained he was practically staggering up the incline that led to the cavern entrance, Ignis a constant presence at his back in case his legs actually were to give out on him. Before long he glimpsed the first traces of daylight, just barely visible as glistening streaks running through the moisture on the icy stones.
He picked up the pace, salvation just a few hundred meters away, but then slowed as he suddenly heard a strange sound from a pile of rocks to his right. It was soft, a barely noticeable low-pitched purring noise, and against his better judgment he found himself peering over the mound of stones to try to find the source.
Before he even had time to process what happened, he saw something dart forward and then felt it grab his leg, and he stumbled back with a startled shout, losing his footing and falling gracelessly down on his ass. Instinctively he kicked out and tried to detach whatever it was, but it held fast, and by the time he thought to slow down and actually take a look at the thing he felt Ignis's hand on his shoulder, Prompto and Gladio's footsteps clomping up the slope close behind him.
"Your Highness? What's wrong?" Ignis asked, following Noctis's gaze to his left leg and narrowing his eyes at the dark mass that had seemingly engulfed his foot. He grabbed hold of the flashlight on his jacket and pointed it toward the creature, and Noctis heard Prompto draw a surprised breath as he and Gladio reached them and finally saw what Ignis and Noctis were seeing.
"Is that… a baby Flan?" Prompto asked, creeping closer to the blue-green mass of glistening goo that was squirming around Noct's leg.
"Kinda looks like it," Gladio answered when Prompto poked it and a pair of deep yellow eyes opened to blink slowly at him. "But Flan are daemons, right? I didn't think they could have babies."
"They can't," Ignis cut in as he carefully pried the creature away from Noct's foot and dropped it onto the floor with a wet plop
. "At least not in the way we humans use the term. They are dark spirits, and as such the form they take when they are created is the form in which they'll remain. However, some species do go through a 'maturation' process of sorts, not reaching full size and power for several years or even decades after their creation. In this state, it is relatively harmless, unable to do much except bide its time under the protection of larger Flan and wait to grow stronger."
Noctis grimaced, taking one step back and then another as the gooey creature made a soft "gloop"
sound and attempted to slither along after him and reattach itself to his leg. "Well I don't care how much 'maturation' it still has to do, it's already disgusting."
"Hahahaha! Dude, it's following you around like the world's ugliest Chocobo chick!" Prompto giggled.
"This isn't funny!" Noctis grumbled. He tried to shake the gelatinous thing off of his foot and cringed when all it did was slip its way deeper into his boot. "Ugh, gross! Just help me get it off, would you?"
"It does seem quite determined to remain with you, Noct," Ignis remarked, prying the blunt end of his polearm between the creature and Noctis's boot again and lifting an eyebrow in puzzlement when it simply separated itself into two halves and reconvened on the inside of the prince's leg instead. "And I doubt any kind of blunt force would do anything but cost you a leg. It will simply move out of the way before you can strike," he warned with a glance at Gladio, who was approaching with his sword drawn and ready to slice the thing off.
"So what are we supposed to do, then?" the Shield asked, crossing his arms and glaring daggers at the glistening mass of goo, which had finally decided to remove itself from Noctis on its own and was now slithering in circles around him as it made some kind of low, almost affectionate purring noise.
"Flan and their ilk mature quickly in comparison to most other daemons," Ignis answered, reaching down to prod at the area where he assumed the creature's head would be and smirking when it gave a burbling growl and shrank back against Noctis for protection. "I would expect it to reach its full size within the month. Until that time it poses no threat to any of us, and there is likely little we can do to dissuade it from remaining with us, aside from killing it outright."
"But we can't kill it!" Prompto exclaimed, placing himself protectively between the baby Flan and the other two Crownsguard. "It's not like it's done anything to hurt anyone – who knows, it might even protect Noct once it's bigger since it thinks he's its mother!"
"You do realize it's not actually a Chocobo, right?" Gladio asked. "Just because those things imprint on the first living creature they see doesn't mean these things do. It's not even an actual baby, it's just small."
Prompto gave an offended huff. "First of all, I'm gonna let it slide just this once that you called Chocobos 'things.' Second of all, Ignis just said it isn't fully grown, and that Flan who aren't grown have to depend on bigger ones for protection. We just killed all the bigger ones. See what I'm getting at here?"
Noctis curled his lip, stepping away from the blue blob and sighing when it rolled across the ground and nudged against his foot again. "So, what, we're just gonna keep it like a pet and hope it turns into my 'guard blob' once it's older?"
"The idea isn't entirely without merit," Ignis said thoughtfully. "The Empire is able to utilize daemons in their army as protection for their troops, so it stands to reason that one brought up under the right conditions might provide the same protection for us."
"And you did always say you wanted a pet growing up," Prompto oh-so-helpfully reminded him. "Maybe he – she? Do daemons have genders? Whatever. Maybe he isn't a kitten, but you can call him Squishy, and he shall yours, and he shall be your Squishy."
"Alright, fine," Noctis sighed, defeated. "Welcome to the team… Squishy."
The newly-dubbed Squishy oozed his way across Noctis's feet again with a contended "blurp."
Noctis groaned. "Specs, I'm leaving it up to you to figure out what these things eat, since you were the one who gave Prompto this brilliant
Ignis nodded, pushing up his glasses as he sorted through his mental inventory of recipes to decide what might be suitable fare for a Flan. "Of course, Your Highness."~~FFXV~~
They didn't see Squishy again for several nights after leaving the Grotto, Lestallum's well-lit paths acting as a repellant for the photophobic daemon and preventing him from following them into the Leville, which Noctis was not ashamed to say was a relief. It would have been pretty difficult to explain to the hotel's owner why they were letting a daemon follow them around in a public place, especially given their group's reputation as daemon hunters in the local area.
It wasn't until they had set up camp at a Haven just inside the Rock of Ravatogh, where they had traveled on a hunt to take out a nest of Killer Wasps, that Noctis heard the familiar sloshy purring the little blue Flan had been making when they first discovered him. He peered around the back of their tent, where the ground was cast in shadow and shielded from the light of the fire, and there sat Squishy, his burbling growing louder and a slightly unnerving facsimile of a smile pulling up the corners of his mouth when he saw that his adopted "mother" had returned.
"Hey, is that Squishy?" Prompto asked from behind Noctis, eyes brightening as he approached the bluish blob. "Long time no see, Squish-Man! Looks like you've already grown a little!""Blurp."
"So what've you been doing all this time? Must've been a lot of work to follow us this far.""Blorrrup gloop."
"Ya don't say. Sounds like a busy week!"
Noctis rolled his eyes, giving Squishy a half-hearted pat on the head-region and wincing when his hand came back wet and sticky.
"Come on Prom, I think Specs just finished dinner. Unless you'd rather stay here and keep talking to the dessert?"
"That's just cold, dude.""Glooooup."
Noctis ignored them both, making his way over to a chair near the fire and nodding appreciatively when Ignis handed him a plate and utensils. After a long day of hiking through the near-boiling volcanic mountain, which was only marginally more tolerable at night, he was feeling ravenous.
"So, how's our pet blob doing?" Gladio asked through a mouthful of food, half his plate already clean.
"Fine, I think," Noctis said with a shrug, pushing the pieces of carrot in his stew off to the side with disdain. "I guess he's a little bigger than he was at the Grotto."
"That's to be expected," Ignis said matter-of-factly, handing Prompto a plate as well before finally sitting down to eat his own. "Though I do wonder what he's been eating in our absence, given there are no other Flan in the area to provide for him. Perhaps I should prepare something for him, lest he fail to grow to his full potential…"
"Hold your horses there, Iggy," Gladio cut in, grabbing Ignis's arm as he moved to stand up and return to the camp stove. "Why don't you finish eating your own dinner first, before you worry about the pet food?"
Ignis hesitated a moment longer but eventually gave in, settling himself back down in the chair with perfect posture while he took small, delicate bites of the stew and rice. "Avoiding your vegetables again tonight, Noct?" he asked with a glance over the rims of his glasses, and Noctis shrugged and continued pushing the bits of carrot out of the way of the more palatable beef and potatoes.
"S'not my fault you chose to put carrots in there again. You know how I feel about them," he muttered.
Ignis just sighed, not bothering to scold Prompto when he reached onto Noctis's plate and stabbed a couple of the carrots with his own fork. "If you aren't going to eat them, perhaps you should give them to Squishy. Flan aren't typically picky about their meal choices, and vitamin A is beneficial for night vision. Seems to be something a daemon could put to good use."
"Works for me," Noctis said with another shrug, finishing off the last few bites of his dinner, sans carrots, and bringing his plate over to the shadowy area behind the tent where he knew the Flan was waiting. Squishy crept closer to the dish and seemed to take a moment to smell it, although Noctis wasn't sure he actually had a nose. Then he used part of his slimy body to fling the plate away into the grass, oozing his way past it and over to a fist-sized rock which he sucked up and left floating in the middle of his viscous body.
Ignis pinched the bridge of his nose and gave a put-upon sigh, striding over and picking up the now dirt-encrusted dish. "And just like his master, even with a healthy meal prepared for him he chooses to eat junk food."
"I'm beginning to like him more and more," Noctis remarked with a laugh as Squishy slimed his way through the shadows, slurping up a few more rocks and even going for an empty potato chip bag before Ignis snatched it out of his reach and disposed of it properly. He, Prompto, and Gladio played with Squishy a bit more while Ignis did the dishes, letting him chase after them in the shadows around the campsite and finding him surprisingly fast in spite of his boneless body. He actually caught up to Noctis after about ten minutes of their little tag game, shooting out a pseudopod of slime that wrapped around the prince's leg and sent him sprawling onto the hard ground with a breathless laugh.
"Alright, alright, get off. You're too heavy," he wheezed, pushing against the blob of jelly that was now trying to crawl on top of his chest until he gave up and rolled back onto the ground. "You know, you're not half bad after all, Squishy.""Bloooruuup."
"Uhh... you're welcome?""Glooooo-bruup!"
Squishy growled, louder and more insistent this time.
"Something the matter?" Prompto asked, noticing the Flan's eyes narrowing as his body started almost vibrating with the noises it was making.
"I don't know," said Gladio, watching as Squishy bounced in place and continued making those strange, agitated noises. "Think he ate too many rocks?" His tone was casual, but his body was tense, poised to move quickly to protect his king if the daemon suddenly decided its loyalties had shifted.
Prompto moved a little closer, concerned for the juvenile Flan. "Maybe he's just getting tired, or… Hang on. I hear buzzing."
"Noct, get down!" Gladio suddenly shouted, and Noctis hit the deck, feeling more than seeing the yellow- and black-striped thorax of the Killer Wasp as it passed overhead and nearly grazed the back of his neck. He could see Gladio leaping toward him as if in slow-motion, knowing in his heart the Shield would be too late as the deadly insect turned and hurtled back in direction, stinger poised to stab him directly in the chest. He lifted his arms up in front of him, knowing they would have a better chance of saving him with an Antidote if the paralytic venom entered farther from his heart, and then jerked back in surprise as a mass of deep blue-green suddenly shot across his field of vision, slamming into the Killer Wasp and yanking it out of the air.
Before he even had time to process what had just happened, Squishy made quick work of the Wasp, spreading his gelatinous bulk out until it had fully engulfed the winged beast and then sucking it up into his body, condensing himself down as small as possible in order to suffocate it faster. Once it had finally stopped struggling, the Flan relaxed and made his way over to his group of human friends, including Ignis who had come running the instant he heard Gladio shout Noct's name.
"I believe we owe you a debt of gratitude," the chamberlain said to the Flan, face pale as he noticed the small, narrow rip in Noctis's sleeve and realized how incredibly close the Wasp had actually come to harming his king.
Squishy jiggled in place and burped, casting his gaze over to Noctis before making his way over toward him."Floorp?"
"I'm okay. Thanks," Noctis said quietly, stunned to realize that this creature, a daemon, had actually just saved his life."Glorp."
"We really ought to give him a treat or something," Prompto chimed in, giving Squishy a pat on the head and smiling when it earned him the first purr the Flan had ever given anyone but Noctis.
"Yeah, but what would he even consider a treat?" Noctis asked, feeling a little guilty for not giving it more thought before today. "I mean, he passed up human food for rocks and a giant bug. I don't know that we have anything he'd even want."
Squishy suddenly blooped
and turned his gaze toward Gladio, glowing eyes darting between him and an empty Cup Noodle container lying just inside the circle of firelight.
"What? That?" Gladio asked, confused. "That's from lunch, there aren't even any noodles left in it."
Squishy blinked at the big man and flicked his eyes toward it again.
Gladio shrugged, stepping over to the campsite and picking up the garbage. "I mean, okay. If you say so…"
The words had barely left his mouth when Squishy lurched forward, slurping the Styrofoam cup right out of Gladio's hand before settling down in place again, the garbage floating around and bumping against the dead Wasp inside his jellylike body.
"Huh," the Shield grunted, using his pants to wipe the slime off of his hand. "Whatever works, I guess. Saves us the trouble of keeping our trash in the Armiger until we hit the next town."
"Indeed. It appears this Flan is willing to earn his keep in more ways than one."
"Well I've got no problem with the arrangement," Prompto added with a lazy stretch and a yawn. "But, uh, can we go to bed and work out the details with Mr. Trash Compactor tomorrow night? I'm beat."
"Me too," Noctis agreed, standing and groaning as his body reminded him that he had reached the point of exhaustion hours ago. He spun on his heel and made his way back toward the tent, turning around and waving to Squishy, who was still lingering in the shadows just outside the ring of light. "Catch you tomorrow night, right?""Blooru-glop."
"You got it."</i>~~FFXV~~
After proving he was willing to protect Noctis, it didn't take long for Squishy to become integrated as a sort of "fifth member" of their group. On the nights they stayed in a hotel or caravan, he would wait a safe distance from the settlement, seeming to instinctively realize that other humans wouldn't have tolerated him in the same way his four comrades did. Whenever they camped outdoors, though, he appeared like clockwork the moment the sun went down, keeping far enough away from the light to avoid damaging himself but close enough to catch and gobble up the used Cup Noodle containers, chip bags, and other refuse that the four humans were happy to toss his way.
Once they went to bed, he would quietly stand guard at the perimeter, saving them the hassle of more than one would-be skirmish by eating the smaller, dumber daemons – and even some woodland creatures – who otherwise would have braved the firelight to try to raid their supplies in the night. He always vanished by the time the sun rose the next morning, though, departing before even Ignis arose for whatever plane of existence daemons used to hide from the light.
As Ignis had predicted, it took approximately one lunar cycle for Squishy to reach the size of a normal Flan. Once this happened, he began assisting them in other, more obvious ways, helping them on nocturnal hunts and either eating or smothering a lot of the smaller monsters that tried to attack them. They had been a little concerned about this at first, since many of their bounties required proof of their kills to be brought back and this would be impossible if Squishy ate the evidence, but the Flan seemed unusually intelligent for his species and was always more than willing to return whichever parts they needed in once piece, if a little more slippery than they had been before.
Squishy also started keeping himself close to Noctis in battle without ever having been asked and saved the prince more than one fall-related injury as a result, using his soft body to break the fall when Noctis's Warp Strikes failed and left him plummeting through empty air toward the hard ground below. He had definitely become an invaluable asset, and everyone found themselves able to relax a lot more knowing he was around; no daemon would ever be able to sneak up on them in the night with one of their own standing guard, ready and waiting to take them down.
However, it wasn't until nearly two months after the events at the Grotto that Squishy showed them exactly how worthy he was of being their "fifth member."
Noctis and his entourage were on their way to Cape Caem, having made their final preparations to board the vessel that would carry them to Altissia. They were just five miles from the Cape, the Regalia sailing along the empty highway with Ignis at the wheel and the Mythril needed for the ship repairs stored safely in the trunk, when the advisor suddenly slammed on the brakes, tires squealing as they skidded to a halt in the center of the road.
"W-whoa, Iggy, what was that about?" Prompto stammered, arms still flung out to his sides where he had braced himself against the dash. Behind him, Gladio fumbled to retrieve his novel from the floor of the car, and Noctis groaned at the sudden awakening, rubbing his eyes as he looked around for the cause of the disturbance.
"Up ahead," Ignis whispered, eyes trained on a few dark spots in the bright blue sky that seemed to grow larger with each passing second. "Imperial dropships, and I believe they've spotted us. We cannot run and risk leading them to the port – we'll have to fight."
"Figures they'd drop by to give us one final farewell before we set sail," Noctis grumbled, summoning a blade from the Armiger.
"I'd have been okay with a 'We'll Miss You' card," Prompto quipped, pistols already drawn and trained expertly on the metal pods as the four of them ran out onto the rocky cliffs to meet them.
In what seemed like seconds the Magitech-powered airships were roaring overhead, hatches screeching open as hordes of MTs jumped out and landed in formation below. Noctis wasted no time, trusting Prompto to cover him as he threw his Engine Blade and warped after it to meet the cyber-enhanced humanoids head-on. He stabbed and hacked at their metallic bodies as he warped his way between them, gritting his teeth when the screech of metal on metal grated in his ears.
Not to be outdone, Ignis and Gladio seemed kept pace with him on the opposite side of the battlefield, his advisor's daggers flying through the air to pierce through the MTs' daemonic cores while Gladio's enormous broadsword separated their heads from their bodies. One after another the Magitech Troops fell, Prompto's sharpshooting clearing a path for the other two Crownsguard and putting an end to any stragglers who thought they could sneak up on Noctis and ambush him from behind.
Noctis breathed a sigh of relief as he squared off against the last MT, the Engine Blade dirty and dull after cutting through so many mechanical bodies. The battlefield around him was littered with metal and oil, and it saturated his clothes and made the rocks beneath his feet slick and treacherous. He nodded to his comrades, who were now drawing closer after finishing off their own opponents, and braced himself to counter a strike from the trooper's axe.
Instead of swinging at him, though, the MT took him by surprise when it dove forward, metallic arms clamping tight around his legs as it used its weight to propel them both toward the edge of the cliff. Noctis's hands scrabbled for purchase on the oil-covered ground, but it was futile, the momentum from the tackle carrying him across the rock like some sick parody of a waterslide.
He heard his teammates screaming his name, and a second later he was airborne, plummeting headfirst toward the sharp rocks and churning water that lined the base of the cliff. He could have sworn he felt his heart stop as the MT let go of his legs and in one fluid motion wrapped its arms around his own, pinning them against his sides preventing him from summoning one of the Royal Arms and warping his way to safety. He stared numbly at the water two hundred feet below, the wind causing his eyes to water as it whipped past him and a hysterical chuckle bubbling its way up his throat when he realized that after all he'd been through, all the ordeals and attempts on his life he'd survived before, this
was how he was going to die.
He closed his eyes, no longer wishing to watch as his doom drew closer and closer, and prayed to the Six to at least make it fast, if they couldn't make it painless. He drew one last deep breath, bracing himself for impact –
And then found the air forced from his lungs when instead of feeling his body breaking against glistening fangs of rock at terminal velocity, he collided with what felt like a gigantic marshmallow, bouncing several feet into the air before landing with a gentle "plop" on top of whatever it was. He reluctantly opened his eyes, and they immediately widened to double their normal size when he saw exactly what it was that had saved him.
Beneath him, seemingly ignoring the fact that they were in broad daylight, sat Squishy, his gelatinous body stretched out between several of the rocks like a two-ton trampoline with Noctis safely perched in the center. As the Prince of Lucis watched in awe, the Flan extended a portion of its body like an arm, wrapping it around the Magitech Trooper and flinging it away from them, where it collided with the cliff face and exploded in a shower of oil and metallic parts. Once he had made certain his adopted "mother" was safe, the enormous blue blob pulled Noctis's hands and feet into its body, carefully crawling across the jagged stones with Noctis resting against his back and his golden eyes trained upward toward the top of the cliff.
"Nooooct!" Prompto screamed from above, his voice shrill with fear. "Are you okay?"
"Fine!" Noctis shouted back as loudly as he could, unable to wave or give a thumbs-up with his limbs held inside Squishy's bulk.
Gladio's voice floated down to them next, even gruffer than usual with the amount of adrenaline that was surging through him. "Squishy, there isn't any kind of path we can use to get down there. Are you able to carry him up?"
To Noctis's amazement, the Flan actually gave some semblance of a nod, making his way over the remainder of the rocks and then slapping the underside of his body against the face of the cliff and beginning to slowly creep his way up. The wind was fierce, and he felt Squishy shudder more than once as it buffeted against them. He knew the sunlight had to be painful for the Flan – it was dangerous for all daemons, hence the reason they only ever came out at night – but he never faltered, keeping Noctis pulled tightly against him almost as if he were giving him a piggyback ride while they made the slow, painstaking journey back up the thousand-foot-high cliff.
It took almost half an hour, Squishy struggling more and more to heave his enormous, slimy body up the vertical cliff the higher up they got, but finally they reached the edge and Squishy released his hands, letting go of his feet only once Gladio had grabbed hold of Noctis's arms and told the Flan it was alright. Shaking with exhaustion and residual adrenaline, Noctis allowed himself to be pulled onto solid ground and then fell to his knees, too tired and grateful to be alive to complain when Prompto and Ignis fussed over him like mother hens. He turned around, ready to thank the fifth member of their group for saving his life yet again, but stopped short when he saw Gladio trying to help Squishy heave himself over the lip of the cliff and saw the state that he was in.
The Flan's normal blue-green color was dull, muted, more like the dark blue-gray of some other species than those that lived in the Glacial Grotto. He was very still, save for the jiggling shudders wracking his entire form, and as they watched he slowly flattened himself out on the ground, his form losing shape until it was almost a puddle while purple-gray smoke began rising from his flesh.
"Squishy?!" Prompto cried, dashing over to the Flan's side with Noctis and Ignis close behind.
Gladio knelt down beside him, his features hard and grim as he voiced what all of them already knew to be true. "He's dying."
"No, that can't – he can't –" Noctis choked out, feeling the threat of tears beginning to prickle in his eyes.
"Hurry, get out of the light!" Prompto cried, pushing hard against Squishy in an effort to encourage him to leave.
Squishy ignored him, though, reaching out instead to gently wrap a tendril of its body around Noctis's hand. As the prince stared at him in stunned silence, the Flan opened its mouth in its odd impression of a smile, giving one last bubbling purr before fading away into a cloud of dark smoke.
" Prompto shouted, now openly sobbing as he sank to his knees beside Noctis and covered his face with his hands.
"Sunlight is deadly for daemons," Ignis said softly, even his mask of calm unable to completely mask the sadness he felt. "Not even the very strongest would have been able to carry Noct up the cliff without lasting damage. The moment he chose to aid us, his fate was sealed."
"So he sacrificed himself for me?" Noctis whispered. "Why? Why would a daemon…?"
"Most creatures possess some kind of moral code, even though it seldom aligns with ours. He likely recognized that you had made a choice to spare his life when first we met, and felt some instinctive need to return the favor when your own was in jeopardy."
Noctis wiped his eyes, a tearful laugh escaping him as he stared at the spot where the friendly Flan had stood just moments before. "Never thought I'd be able to say I owe my life to a daemon," he said softly. "Or that I'd feel sorry once he was gone."
"It's sure as hell been a wild ride," Gladio agreed after a few moments, pulling Prompto to his feet and putting an arm around his shoulders to guide him back toward the Regalia. "But we can't let this chance he gave us go to waste by standing here moping. We need to get back on the road while we still can – where there's one batch of MTs, you can bet another one's close on their heels."
"But we – we can't just leave," Prompto hiccupped, ducking under Gladio's arm and glaring angrily at the Shield. "Even if it was just for a couple of months, he was part of our team! I mean, shouldn't we at least leave a marker or something, since we can't give him a burial?"
"Yes, I think we should," Ignis said softly, trudging slowly among the scattered MT remains nearby as he began to formulate an idea. "I believe I can create something suitable relatively quickly. You three wait by the Regalia – I'll return shortly."
Numbly, Noctis did as instructed, Prompto and Gladio close behind, and true to his word Ignis arrived to join them less than ten minutes later, wiping the oil from his hands with a kerchief before opening the driver side door and starting the engine. The four said nothing for several minutes; Noctis and Prompto too stunned for conversation and Gladio trying to let Ignis concentrate as he maneuvered the Regalia around the bodies of the dozens of MTs and finally got her back onto the road.
Finally, it was Prompto who found the courage to ask what exactly Ignis had decided to make in honor of the fallen Flan.
"Something I believe he would have appreciated," the advisor answered vaguely, and as Noctis looked over to the edge of the cliff he saw exactly what Ignis meant. There, held upside-down by a metal rod from an MT that had been driven into the rocky ground, was an empty Cup Noodle container.
"I think it's perfect," he said, smiling in spite of himself, and Ignis returned it with a pleased smirk of his own.
"I thought you might. Now, difficult as it may be, let us turn our attention back to the task at hand. By tomorrow afternoon we should be in Altissia and you will need to be prepared for the worst – earning the Hydraean's favor will likely prove a much greater challenge than Ramuh or even Titan has been."
Noctis took a deep breath, his heart a bit lighter when he thought of the prospect of meeting Luna again after such a long time apart. "Yeah, you're right," he said with a hesitant smile, sitting up straighter in the seat as Ignis brought them closer and closer to the port where Cid and Cindy were waiting for them. "You guys have my back if things go sideways?"
The three Crownsguard exchanged a knowing look, and Prompto turned around to give Noctis a smile, his cheerful demeanor unable to stay suppressed for long.
"Always, my dude."
Later, as the sun set over the horizon, Cid and Cindy ducked inside the engine of Regis's old yacht and set to work on what would likely be an all-night repair job, trusting that Talcott and Iris would be able to get the royal retinue settled in without their assistance.
And that night, had a traveler happened by the edge of a narrow cliff overlooking the sea, they might have been surprised to see a tiny, white memorial marker made of an empty Cup Noodle container disappear in a puff of purple smoke.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________ Yeah, I know, the ending, I'm sorry. Please leave a review if you have time, I love hearing from you guys! *hides in the corner to write Promptis fluff*
Also, I realize this note may only make sense to a couple of the people who follow me, but for some reason, halfway through writing this I think I started unconsciously trying to channel a little bit, especially in the way I wrote Squishy - I feel like he kind of takes after the Fair family's "Ralph." Not a bad thing, just an interesting realization. Maybe I'm completely crazy and it's not like her writing at all, but either way it made me think of it. Love ya, Rattie!