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What Would Happen

Chapter Text

It was uncanny how easily one day bled into another, Ignis mused as he tidied up Noct’s apartment. Weekday, weekend, workday, birthday - all were over-scheduled to the point of insanity. It had been Ignis’s reality for years, and it wasn’t likely to change any time soon.

Heaving an uncharacteristic sigh as he entered the Prince’s bedroom and saw clothing, food wrappers, and food-crusted dishes piled everywhere, Ignis thought it was a good thing tomorrow was the one day a month he allowed himself some scheduled downtime.

Perhaps he’d go to the farmer’s market and look for new and intriguing ingredients to try in his cooking, or he’d while away a few hours with a book at that quiet little coffee shop a few streets away from the city center. Ignis had plans for the evening, but he wasn’t one to spend a day idle, even if it was his day off. While he fully intended to pass the hours selfishly indulging in his hobbies instead of working, Ignis certainly wouldn’t just laze about his apartment.

Another sigh escaped his control when he saw that there were even dirty dishes under the gods-forsaken bed. Maybe he should just laze about his apartment, just this once - sleep in, read on his sofa, take a long bath…

No. He’d go stir crazy from inactivity.

Ignis was forced admit to himself that perhaps he should begin scheduling more than one day a month for recreation. He was so incredibly weary, and such never-ending fatigue would eventually lead him to make mistakes he could ill afford. The problem was finding the time. Between the endless list of duties he performed for the Prince, his work with the Council, his own studies towards completing his degree, and all the random bits and bobs that seemed to plague him on a daily basis, Ignis already barely managed six hours of sleep a night and one unscheduled day a month.

And now he’d have to add combat training to the list. His Majesty had decided it was time for Ignis to hone his body as well as his mind, and set him the task of studying the arts of war and attaining a position in the Crownsguard. Ignis was in great shape. He prided himself on keeping fit and trim, and practiced yoga in an effort to gain some stress relief. But beyond what he’d read, the young tactician knew nothing at all about the mechanics of fighting.

The King had thoughtfully suggested that perhaps the Prince’s Shield could train Ignis, since it was reasonable to presume the three would be working together closely over the years. Who better to take on the task?

Ignis winced as he realized he’d gripped the soda-stained glass he’d picked up so forcefully, he’d actually broken it. Such was the power of Gladiolus Amicitia to vex him, even from across the city limits.

Oh, well. One less dish to wash, he supposed.

Ignis filled the sink and attacked the moldering bits caked onto plates and bowls with a vengeance. The problem with house chores, he thought, was that they were mindless drudgery and gave him far too much time to think.

The past few months, Ignis’s thoughts had centered around Gladiolus more often than he’d care to admit.

He’d known Gladiolus for years. How not, when they both orbited the Prince so closely in their duties? It was only in recent months, however, that they’d begun socializing. Noctis moving into his own apartment had caused His Highness to want his people around him every possible moment, though Ignis still couldn’t fathom why Noctis needed spectators for those blasted video games he and Prompto were obsessed with. A wry chuckle mixed with the sounds of scrubbing and rinsing. Ignis was almost certainly ‘invited’ because he provided the food.

Gladiolus, however, dove into the games with the same immature jubilation as the younger men, and Ignis had spent many an evening just like this, cleaning up in the kitchen, while listening to the three other men exchange trash talk and high-fives with equal fervor as they worked their way through the latest hot new release.

But sometimes, Ignis wasn’t alone in the kitchen. Gladiolus would pop in and ask if he needed any help tidying up. At first when Ignis demurred, Gladiolus would go back out to the others, but lately he’d been lingering in the kitchen and chatting. He’d talk about books, about Iris, about the people watching he’d done on his morning run - the Astrals had truly blessed Gladiolus with the gift of gab.

At first, it made Ignis uncomfortable to have someone else encroaching on the closest thing he had to private time. He was the first to admit that he wasn’t a terribly social creature, and Gladiolus was so intensely outgoing that it could be a struggle to keep up with his conversational tangents.

But now, he welcomed the cheerful company. Looked forward to those loquacious ramblings framed by beaming smiles, all white teeth and tawny eyes.

Ignis liked Gladiolus, Six take him.

Ignis wanted him.

But, he knew better than to pursue such a thankless course. He’d observed Gladiolus flit in and out of many casual relationships over the last few years, and they were all with women. Ignis wasn’t about to waste his time chasing after someone who simply couldn’t ever find him to be a viable option.

No matter how ruggedly handsome, well-read, and bloody wonderful he might be.

Ignis peered down at his watch and winced. He’d have to finish the dishes later. If he left in the next ten minutes, he should still be on time for his first combat training lesson.

It was pushing it, but he thought there might be time for a cold shower first. Gracious knew, he’d need one if he was about to engage in hand-to-hand combat with the Shield.


“Again!” Gladio barked, wooden practice greatsword balanced on one broad shoulder as he watched Noctis struggle to move through the most basic of forms and stances, struggling under the not-inconsiderable weight of his own.

At least Prince Charmless was too out of breath to bitch about the rigorous session, Gladio thought a bit uncharitably.

He was in a truly shitty mood. After being pulled into a meeting that dragged on for hours, and resolved nothing - why the fuck did some mid-level functionary who knew nothing about Crownsguard rotations think they needed to try and rearrange the training schedules, anyway? - Gladio had gone to combat drills with the Marshal, taken Iris to her piano lesson, and now was back for Noctis’s daily dose of ass-whoopin’. Typically, this would be the end of Gladio’s work day, and he could go out and spend the rest of his Friday night unwinding, but the King had given him another student.

Ignis Scientia.

Gladio liked Ignis, he really did. He still thought the advisor-in-training coddled Noctis and needed to spend less time playing nursemaid and more time teaching the Prince to fend for himself. They’d agreed to disagree on that point for now, but Gladio was nothing if not persistent.

He was more upset at Ignis having yet another task added to his unending to-do list than at giving up an hour of his Friday relaxation, truth be told. Gladio had started getting to know the quiet man outside of work hours, and fuck, if anyone needed a gods-damned vacation, it was Ignis.

The man had probably read every book in the impressive Citadel library about combat he could get his hands on in preparation for this appointment. Gladio shook his head ruefully. Maybe you could learn strategy and history from books, he wouldn’t argue that, but you couldn’t learn to fight by reading about it.

“Gladio? Gladio!”

A flush darkened sun-bronzed cheeks as Gladio realized he’d completely zoned out, and fuck only knew how long Noctis had been trying to get his attention. He had to laugh at the way the Prince jumped and waved his arms. If only Sleeping Beauty could bring that kinda energy to the sparring ring, he’d make a swordsman of him, yet.

“We’re done for today,” Gladio announced.

Noctis’s expression was dubious. “We’re scheduled for another twenty minutes. You never let me leave early.” Disbelief melded into slyness. “You got a hot date?” Noctis snickered at his own insinuation.

“Yeah. With your advisor.” Gladio deadpanned, crossing his arms.

Noct’s face was worth it.

“The fuck?”

“Language, Highness.”

Well, if it wasn’t the man of the hour. Well, the next hour, but Gladio wasn’t at all surprised Ignis had shown up so ridiculously early.

“Don’t mind me,” Ignis said in that silky baritone, heading towards the locker room. “I shan’t interfere in the rest of your session.”

After Ignis disappeared behind closed doors, Noctis stared at Gladio with a melodramatic expression of betrayal on his elfin features. “Don’t scare me like that. You and Specs, dating?” He laughed so hard Gladio was surprised the little shit didn’t wet himself.

“Bite me,” Gladio said eloquently.

What was so crazy about the idea of him and Ignis? Other than the fact that he’d never known Ignis to go out with anyone, ever, and he certainly wouldn’t want someone like Gladio. Where Gladio was cheap beer, Ignis was a fine wine.

Damn if Gladio wouldn’t like to take a good, deep drink.

Fucking savor that ‘wine’ the way a man like Ignis should be enjoyed, using his hands and mouth to wreck the meticulous perfection the tactician used to hold himself apart from everyone around him.

Gladio forced himself to put the idea out of his mind. It wasn’t the first time it had occurred, probably wouldn’t be the last, but he wasn’t one to force his attentions where they weren’t wanted.

Besides, he still had a Prince to get rid of, and an advisor to train. Get your head in the game, Amicitia.

“I figure you’ve got maybe two minutes before Ignis comes out and wonders why you’re standing around instead of training,” Gladio said with a significant raise of one eyebrow.

Noctis needed no further encouragement. He ran out of the gymnasium so quickly, Gladio half expected to see the tell-tale azure flash of his warping magic.

The sound of a tongue clucking chidingly behind him was Gladio’s only indication that Ignis had come out from the locker room. How did he move so fucking silently, like a cat crossing the courtyard?

He turned and grinned at Ignis cockily, and when he spoke his words were all challenge. “It’s Friday. Give the kid a break.”

“I hardly need do so,” Ignis drawled, “when you give him more than enough for the both of us.”

Ignis’s smirk was cutting, and Gladio really didn’t think it was fair for any one person to be so fucking hot while being so annoyingly condescending.

“Just doing my part to help you shoulder the load,” Gladio teased.

Ignis’s eye roll was unexpected and expressive. “I know I’m rather early, but as you’ve apparently already finished with His Highness, shall we begin?”

“Sure.” Gladio figured the sooner they started, the sooner he’d be off for the day. Not that he was in a hurry to blow off Ignis, but it had been a long week and he was ready for some R&R. “Why don’t you start by telling me your current fitness regime?”

Ignis listed off what Gladio had to admit was a pretty well-rounded program, balancing cardio and strength, with an added focus on flexibility.

“That’s pretty much on point,” Gladio admitted. “Though you might want to up the strength work a bit, especially if you want to specialize in heavier weapons. I see you doing well with a more devious style than my head-on charge-with-the-biggest-sword method, though.”

Ignis’s wry snort of laughter was music to Gladio’s ears.

“Hey, it works for me. But you’re not built like me.” Titan’s balls, had Gladio noticed. “I’ve probably got fifty pounds of muscle on you. I’m taller, broader, and built like the Shield I’m destined to be. But you? You’re wiry, and brilliant. A deadly combination once you’ve trained it up properly.”

“And you can help me to properly hone those traits to work in tandem effectively?”

Gladio couldn’t really blame Ignis for sounding so disbelieving. But he did have his pride, and it was stinging a bit.

“Yeah.” Gladio lifted his chin a bit belligerently. “I can.” He grinned. “Besides, you won’t only work with me. I’m sure Cor will set up a full rotation for you, make sure you’re as well-rounded here as you are in everything else.”


“Very well,” Ignis acceded, adjusting his glasses to rest a bit higher on the bridge of his nose. “Shall we begin?”

He saw Gladiolus nod, and waited expectantly to be shown, perhaps, how to stand, or punch, or kick. Imagine Ignis’s surprise when Gladiolus led him over to a stack of mats, seating himself and indicating Ignis should join him.

Ignis perched obediently on the edge of the pile, wondering what in the name of the Six chatting as they would in Noctis’s kitchen had to do with combat exercises?

As Gladiolus began to speak, Ignis found himself irritatingly distracted by the bass rumble of the other man’s voice, and reminded himself to focus on the words being spoken. When he realized Gladiolus was actually giving what sounded to be a most helpful lecture, explaining some of the basics, Ignis pulled out his phone and began tapping out notes in shorthand for later review.

Having something to do with his hands seemed to help Ignis apply himself to the lesson, instead of focusing on the rich light shining in Gladiolus’s eyes as he earnestly explained the importance of wrapping your fingers with the thumb outside your fist before throwing a punch. But, it was soon apparent that Gladiolus lacked the experience he himself had in verbal instruction. Gladiolus’s words were circling, and he went on frequent tangents - traits that were charming when they were simply talking, but frustrating when Ignis was trying to learn.

When he spoke up to that effect, Gladiolus’s brows drew down in a way that, truthfully, shouldn’t be so damnably attractive.

But, it was.

“You teach your way. I teach mine.” The words were growled impatiently.

“As an instructor, shouldn’t you strive to connect with your pupil’s learning style?” Ignis realized his voice was coated in superiority, but he couldn’t help it. Ignis had three options at this point: make an excuse and leave, lunge forward and press his lips against the Shield’s, or throw out enough barbs that the other man ended the session, enabling him to beat a hasty retreat without being perceived as weakly requiring the respite.

This was a bad idea. No matter that it hadn’t been of his own conception - there was no way Ignis could go through weeks, months, of one-on-one sparring sessions with Gladiolus without either tipping his hand or going completely mad.

“How about you save the nagging for Noct and let me do my thing, yeah?”

Oh, yes. That was temper flaring in those sunset eyes.

Astrals save him, that made Gladiolus even more arousing to behold.

Ignis arched a perfectly manicured eyebrow, not even trying to stop the smirk that twisted full lips and glinted in mossy eyes. “I would, if you were doing a proper job at it.”

To give credit where due, Ignis hadn’t expected Gladiolus to rein in his temper so thoroughly, nor so efficiently. After taking two deep, calming breaths, the Shield resumed his lecture as if Ignis had never interjected a single word.

Well, that simply wouldn’t do.

“Enough talking,” Ignis interrupted, uncharacteristically rude. He stood up from his precarious seat and balled one fist on an out-cocked hip, raising his chin in a challenge that was ultimately aimed more at himself than his instructor.

“Were we going to spar, or just discuss the theory behind it? I assure you, I researched such things thoroughly in anticipation. I require only to be shown the actual practice, as still pictures in books are hardly a sufficient substitution for an actual demonstration.” Ignis made sure to wrap the words in so much supercilious derision that Gladiolus would be goaded into action.

He succeeded.

“You wanna go?” Gladiolus stalked forward, predatory and surprisingly graceful given his massive size. He walked past Ignis without a glance, not stopping until he reached the center of the sparring ring. “Let’s go, then.”

Ignis affected a confident grin and sauntered out to join Gladiolus. It was hard to appear arrogant when Ignis was beyond certain he was about to ‘get his ass handed to him’ as the Prince would so crassly put it, but, he had to try. Appearances must be kept up, and Ignis Scientia was not a man to back down from a challenge.

Gladiolus hardly waited for Ignis to get a foot within the confines of the ring before he lunged forward. It was only Ignis’s natural reflexes that kept things from being over then and there.

Ignis leapt to the side and spun around, warily watching to see what the Shield would do next. He wasn’t foolish enough to try and attack Gladiolus. Ignis would focus on defense, and pray to the Astrals he gave a good enough showing not to make a complete fool of himself.

When Gladiolus aimed a blatantly telegraphed punch at Igins’s face, the advisor-in-training was able to block it easily. Now, his ire was eclipsing his hormones. Gladiolus was quite obviously going easy on him. Even Ignis knew enough to ascertain that. No matter the fact that Gladiolus was correctly gauging Ignis’s total lack of skill in this arena, he didn’t appreciate being coddled under any circumstance.

Ignis changed tactics, going on the offensive, and succeeding in not only completely missing his target (Gladiolus’s smirking face) but landing quite soundly on his ass.

Outside the confines of the ring.

“Guess I win,” Gladiolus purred, eyes glinting with restrained laughter. “Though I can hardly count it as a win when you gave it to me so nicely.”

Ignis seethed. He imagined how quickly Gladiolus’s cocky grin would drop if Ignis manifested the fire magic he’d begun studying. The image was enough to coax a truly terrifying smile from Ignis, replacing the pout that had nearly shaped a moment before.

“Consider it an early Solstice gift,” Ignis retorted sardonically as he rose from the floor. Ignis forced himself to meet that laughing visage, marveling anew at how a living person could have eyes the color of sweet, aged honey, and a voice to match.

Gods, he had it bad.

And it had to stop. It had to.

“I really should be off, if that’s all right?” Ignis said. “Noctis will be wanting dinner soon.”

Gladiolus rolled his eyes. “Go take care of the kid. I’ll probably see you later. Twerps invited me for gaming.”

“Very well. I’ll make enough for four then, shall I?”

This time, Gladiolus’s smile looked sincere, all the snark from their spar forgotten. “Sounds good.”


Gladio watched Ignis leave the room, all calm and collected and looking nothing like the man who’d just tripped over his own fucking feet in the sparring ring. Now that had been something to see. Gladio wished Prompto’d been there to capture the moment, but knew he’d never forget that look of offended incredulity on Ignis’s finely-chiseled features as he hit the floor.

Heh. Classic.

It didn’t take Gladio long to shut the gym down for the night. He and Ignis hadn’t gotten out anything to use for their session, so he just had to put away the practice swords from Noctis’s lesson and grab a quick shower.

He thought about that indignant flash of emerald and very nearly started to stroke himself off under the shower spray, but that would be asking for Cor to walk in, so Gladio restrained himself.

Huh. Objectively, Gladio had always found Ignis attractive, but this was the first time he’d felt the urge to do something about it, even if that ‘something’ was taking himself into his own hands.

Maybe these mandatory sparring sessions would be more interesting than he thought.

Well, at least for him. Ignis would probably be furious if he knew Gladio’s thoughts were on anything other than helping him perfect his fledgling fighting skills. Fortunately, Ignis couldn’t read minds, so Gladio was free to fantasize all he wanted. He’d still get the job done. Hell, he had Noctis swinging a greatsword that weighed half what the Prince himself did, surely he could teach Ignis the basic rudiments of combat.

Shutting off the shower, Gladio walked over to his locker and quickly dried off and dressed. If his instincts were right, he should arrive at Noct’s just in time for dinner. He’d put in an appearance, game with the younger men a bit, and then he had a hot date at home with a new novel and a six pack of his favorite cider.

It didn’t take him long to drive across town. Most of the traffic would be in the entertainment district, and Gladio was able to steer clear of that area with a couple extra turns. He waved to the doorman as he went upstairs, then frowned as he tried to open the door and failed.

Huh. Maybe Noct did listen to his talk about security.

Gladio raised a large fist to pound on the door, but it opened before he could so much as rap a single time.

“Hey, big guy!” Prompto’s sunny smile greeted him, and Gladio felt an answering one curve his lips reflexively.

“Hey,” he said as he walked in. “How’s it goin’?”

“Oh, you know,” Prompto chirped. “It’s Friday! Two whole days of sweet, sweet freedom!” Violet-blue eyes dancing with mirth, he walked with Gladio into the living room where Noctis was intently staring at the television, fingers mashing the game controller so hard Gladio wondered if the Prince would injure himself.

“I see you guys started without me.” Gladio dropped down onto the couch, stretching his long arms along the back comfortably, effectively hogging the entire piece of furniture.

Not that it mattered. The younger men would sit on the floor to be as close to the electronic action as possible, and Ignis wasn’t likely to leave the kitchen.

In fact, now that Gladio thought of it, the kitchen was surprisingly quiet given Ignis should be in the middle of making dinner. He leaned forward to peer in that direction and blinked in surprise.

The kitchen was empty. What the fuck?

“Hey. Where’s Ignis?” Gladio asked.

“He went home already,” Noctis said absently, still intent on his game.

“The Igster let us order pizza!” Prompto enthused. “Said he had a lot of work to do and it was okay since it was Friday!”

“Huh,” was Gladio’s witty response.

Ignis had told him he was leaving the sparring session to go tend to Noct, and then he went home instead?

If Gladio didn’t know better, he’d say Ignis was avoiding him. But that was silly. What reason would Ignis have to do that? More likely, Princess had whined and whined until Ignis caved in and let the younger men have their treat.

“Cool,” he added, figuring he should use an actual word.

“We ordered your usual,” Prompto continued talking, not seeming to notice how distracted Gladio had grown by the revelation that they were a party of three this evening.

“Great. Thanks.”

Suddenly, Gladio wasn’t much in the mood for gaming or pizza. He was ready for that drink, now please, though he suspected his book would be left untouched.

How do you solve a mystery like Ignis Scientia?

Gladio didn’t know… but he was starting to want to try.

He resolved to do a better job of putting the other man at ease. They should be friends, Six take him - they were both oath-bound to the prince, it wasn’t right that they still had such distance between them.

Gladio decided he’d stop staring at the way Ignis’s perfectly pressed trousers hugged his tight ass, and focus instead on building the foundation of what he hoped would be a life-long friendship.

Chapter Text

Every man deserved a break. Perhaps Ignis was harder on himself than many, but even the advisor-in-training scheduled himself some down-time. And today was his day off.

He’d spent most the day in what many would perhaps consider rather pedestrian pursuits, but Ignis had enjoyed wandering the farmer’s market, haggling over the prices for the sheer joy of the bargain and not out of any real necessity. Once he was sufficiently laden with a plethora of vegetables His Highness would never deign to touch, Ignis had returned to his home and made himself a delightful risotto.

His afternoon was largely spent at that new coffee-shop he’d been meaning to check out, reading and indulging in fresh brewed Ebony. Ignis found himself too restless to linger over his book long, though, and he took a long walk, delighting in the colors dappling the trees and the crisp autumn air.

After he returned home, Ignis showered and dressed with his usual ruthless efficiency, and headed out for a rare night on the town.

Once a month, he attended a VIP ‘by invitation only’ party at a local club, the Coeurl’s Meow. It had taken him months to get on the list, and it was worth the wait - their security was airtight, anonymity confirmed, and undesirables failed to make it through the screening process.

Ignis knew if his co-workers could see him now, they probably wouldn’t recognize him. He wore a suit as was his norm, but it was off the rack rather than precisely tailored to his specifications. He was garbed in black from head to toe, save for the brilliant crimson of his tie - an aberration from his preferred palette, an intentional choice meant to further send people off their mark should they try and guess his identity.

Tonight rather than his spectacles, a mask fashioned in the likeness of a hawk concealed most of his face, only the curve of his lips and slope of his chin evident beneath the fierceness of the carved visage. The brilliant emerald of his eyes was highlighted by the darkness of the bird of prey’s proud image, and real feathers raised in an iridescent crest over the top of hair he’d left laying flat.
He opted to walk to the club, since anyone seeing his car would immediately place it as Crown property. Ignis was pleased he had managed to attend this event for nearly a year without being recognized, and he intended to continue his charade as long as possible.

Sweet Shiva, he needed this.

After showing his credentials to the doorman - the club issued simple laminated cards with the name patrons chose to use within, and the club’s logo - Ignis walked in and immediately found his senses assailed by all manner of sights, sounds, and smells.

He saw people, so many people, some dressed rather like himself, some dressed not at all, and every variation in between. You wouldn’t find party-goers dressed in jeans and t-shirts, but anything else was typical.

The loud bass of some heavy, rhythmic music was offset by the crack of a single-tail and the screams of the woman enjoying its kiss. Conversation rose from knots all around the space, intermingled with the slap of skin on skin, some from spanking and some from more intimate activities.

There was always a pervasive scent of sweat when you had such a loud crowd in a comparatively small space, and this was no exception, especially as many of those people were engaged in strenuous physical activity, but Ignis didn’t find it distasteful in this setting. The heady scent of leather rode on the air, and that was enough to have his breath coming a bit quicker as he pushed farther into the club.

There were strict rules at the Coeurl’s Meow. Consent was law, and anyone found to be violating that tenet would find themselves not only ejected from the club, but turned into the appropriate law enforcement agency. Anonymity was key, and those who broke the trust extended by their membership would be shunned from the entire Insomnian kink community.

A cursory glance confirmed that none of Ignis’s preferred play partners were present as of yet. No matter. He did like to watch, after all. Stopping by the bar, he obtained a club soda - no alcohol was served, and anyone intoxicated was barred entry - and then made his way to an empty armchair sitting along one wall. A few who recognized him said hello, and he nodded back silently. He’d gathered a reputation for not speaking, and his fellow regulars knew not to take offense to his quiet demeanor.

Several inventive sadists had tried to coax sound from him.

None had succeeded.

A smirk twisted his full lips at that thought. Ignis looked around the room lingeringly, evaluating the in-progress scenes and mentally crossing off each player he saw. The tops currently working had some measure of skill, but lacked creativity. Additionally, there seemed to be a shortage of male masochists that evening, and Ignis had no interest in focusing his attentions on a woman.


Who was that, in the far corner there?

Ignis set his drink down on a nearby table as he rose to his feet, wanting to get a closer look. This particular top was a large man - not unusual, here, but he seemed to know how to use that size to good effect, currently towering over a woman who was bent nearly double. He wielded an anak-hide flogger against her with the skill and precision Ignis knew to expect from most players here, but, there was something more in the way the stranger was working. He not only fell the lash to the beat of the music, he would alter and go with the counterpoint. Gods, his entire body had an energy to it; he moved as if he was dancing despite having feet planted firmly and a bound partner.

When Ignis grew close enough to see clearly despite the dimmed lighting he gasped, the loudest sound he’d ever uttered in this place. Making a hasty retreat, he tried to slow his breathing, to quiet the sudden pounding of his heart.

He hadn’t expected to find Gladiolus Amicitia at an elite BDSM party delivering what looked to be a truly exceptional beating.

Gods-damn it, this was his place, his refuge. It was bad enough he had to spend half his days staring at that magnificent man, knowing that he’d never return Ignis’s attraction. How could he? While Ignis could be many things depending on the circumstance, he couldn’t be a woman.

After taking a few steadying breaths, Ignis forced his inappropriate anger down. It wasn’t Gladiolus’s fault he was straight, or so damnably handsome. Another deep breath. It wasn’t the Shield’s fault Ignis could think of little else yesterday but pinning him to the mats after sparring and riding him until he had to tap out. A few more breaths, and he felt comparatively calm.

Well. Ignis was nothing if not pragmatic. He may as well make the most of this situation. He cautiously walked closer, knowing he was playing with fire - if anyone could see through his masquerade, it would be Gladiolus - but like the proverbial moth he was drawn ever closer to that brightly burning flame.

He drew near enough to get a good visual on the scene in progress, but not so close that he’d be easily glimpsed from Gladiolus’s position. Ignis unabashedly drank in the sight of Gladiolus flogging the unknown woman. Safely hidden behind his mask, he could finally stare at the ridiculously well-built man as much as he desired.

Oh, how he desired.

It took Ignis a while to realize that he was shaking, literally trembling where he stood, his jaw hanging inelegantly open as he gaped at the scene before him. Astrals, he hadn’t been this wonder-struck since his first visit to the club.

No. If he was honest, he’d never felt like this watching anyone before tonight.

Ignis decided he needed to take a step back, get some air. Exerting more force of will than it took to drag his Prince out of bed in the morning for school, Ignis walked across the club, getting a tall glass of water and drinking deeply.

Six take him. This night had not turned out as he’d planned.

He forced himself to linger by the bar, eating something light to tide him over. Ignis was determined not to let this… anomaly… throw him off his planned itinerary. This party only occurred once a month, and he’d be damned if he’d leave early.

“Hey, gorgeous,” a voice interrupted his reverie, and he felt a hand clasp his shoulder gently.

Turning, Ignis saw a familiar smiling face. Well, familiar lips at least, as this man’s mask covered nearly as much as Ignis’s own. Dark hair fell back loosely behind the guise of a stag, silver antlers majestically crowning off what was truly a work of art. Physically, he was everything Ignis preferred in his lovers - tall and well-built. And mentally…

Well. He was Ignis’s favorite top to play with for many reasons.

After a momentary hesitation borne by the fact Ignis knew Gladiolus was just across the room, he swallowed down his nerves and curved his lips in a welcoming smile. Ignis reached out to coil his fingers around the newcomer’s wrist, twisting those fingers in a provocative manner that had the other man chuckling low in his throat.

“You’re eager tonight, Hawk,” words shaped by a sultry purr proved Ignis wasn’t the only one who was thirsty.

Ignis readily followed as the other man led, relieved that they moved to a corner far from where Gladiolus still wielded that flogger. As was the routine they established, the Stag laid out those implements he was interested in using, and Ignis touched the ones he wanted to feel plied against his body.

“You know what to do.” Succinct words, perhaps, but what use was eloquence when Ignis wouldn’t respond?

Ignis shed his clothing, neatly folding it and setting it to one side, face burning behind his mask as he wondered - was Gladiolus looking this way?

Would he like what he saw?

His partner noticed the blush and laughed softly. “Nothing I haven’t seen before, beautiful.”

It was clearly meant to be reassuring, and Ignis allowed himself to kiss the fingers that stroked his chin, grateful that his months of wordlessness gave him an easy out on explaining the true reason for the crimson splash that painted down his neck and chest.

He leaned himself against the solid wooden frame, holding on at the points where cuffs could be attached. One hard limit he’d established early on was he’d accept no bondage save that of a command to hold position. Despite the safety protocols in place, he couldn’t see giving over to such a precarious situation without establishing far more trust than he was willing to build with any of his fellow patrons.
When his partner brushed the heavy, thick-cut tails of the voluminous flogger over his naked back, Ignis shuddered. Astrals, he needed this.

Craved this.

The first blow caused him to inhale sharply, and his exhale coincided with the second. He knew what to expect, since he’d only touched this one magnificent implement - the Stag’s heaviest piece, a flogger that delivered such a solid thud it could knock a man off his feet were he not prepared for the strike.

As the leather continued to redden his back and ass, Ignis lost himself in the sensation of such delicious, solid, comforting pain. In this time, in this place, he didn’t have to speak, he didn’t have to act, he didn’t have to do a bloody thing but revel in the beating so willingly given.

Time slowed to a crawl, eons spanning between one lash and the next, all sound fading until all he heard was the rhythmic thud of his own heart, the ragged steadiness of his breathing, the strike of the lash on his skin. In and out. Crack. In and out. Crack. It was a brutal cadence, and one he relished.

Ignis’s eyes were open, but sightless, their verdant depths blurred, unfocused, turned inward. In his mind’s eye he saw the Stag’s graceful motions, muscles bunching in his arms as he moved. This flogger had enough weight to it that it could not be wielded by weaker men.

And then, the kaleidoscope of his waking dream shifted, and he saw nothing but Gladiolus.

Unexpectedly - embarrassingly - Ignis came, sudden and hard, the trace of a moan escaping his control as he slumped against the smooth wooden frame.

Six. He’d never spent himself in this place. Ignis always kept his desires in check until he got home, and could take care of such things privately.

After a long moment of utter stillness, the Stag resumed lashing him, but Ignis could feel the other man bringing it down quickly, correctly surmising that the endorphins would wane quickly now that he’d reached his peak.

He gratefully accepted the help his partner offered, easing him away from the frame and offering him a towel. Ignis made use of it, as well as the cleaning supplies the Coeurl’s impeccable staff kept at handy locations. A quick scrub ensured no trace of bodily fluids were left behind, and they moved away to free up the equipment for someone else’s use.

“Well, that was… different.” While he was garbed as a Stag, the way he cocked his head reminded Ignis of a curious cat.

For Ignis’s part, he gave a small shrug before beginning to tug his clothing back into place.

“I’m not complaining, mind you. And if you ever wanted to take our scenes further…”

The offer was clear, and while Ignis knew he’d never take him up on it, he was flattered.

Leaning forward, Ignis brushed a chaste kiss to the sloping cheek of the man’s mask, before offering a conciliatory smile.

“All right, well, if you change your mind,” white teeth flashed in a broad grin. “You know where to find me.”

Ignis watched him walk away for a moment, before his gaze was drawn inexorably towards the corner where Gladiolus had been earlier.

When he saw that familiar molten amber visage staring at him with what could only be interpreted as raw, unadulterated lust, Ignis felt a prickle of hope. Perhaps Gladiolus wasn’t as straight as he acted.
Ignis decided he would find out. Definitively.

But, not tonight. He’d gotten what he came for - and then some - so Ignis left the club, nodding politely to the doorman as he excited.

My, what an interesting evening this had turned out to be.

Gladio slung his flogger over one shoulder as he caught his breath. The woman he’d beaten had gone to her friends for aftercare, so he was left in the unenviable position many tops found themselves pigeonholed into - he could use a little aftercare himself, but had no one to give it to him.

Oh, well. He’d learned not to expect more very quickly this evening. Gladio had enjoyed some truly fun scenes, and made a couple favorable connections, but since so many of the attendees preferred anonymity, he hadn’t really made any true friends, let alone engaged in any play with psychological depth. That wasn’t really unexpected on this first visit, though, and he had hopes things might change for the better once he had attended often enough to be trusted.

After quickly spraying and wiping down the bench he’d had the random woman bent over for her beating, Gladio wandered towards the bar, thinking a bite to eat might help him ground himself.

On the short walk he tactfully fended off requests from four more women who’d seen him playing and were interested. Hey, Gladio liked people and didn’t mind his apparent popularity here. But even he needed a fucking break, and he wasn’t feeling in the best head space to basically serve as a human kink dispenser for any more women in a growing line of one-time play partners who just wanted the badge of honor of saying they were topped by the Shield.

Gladio was one of the few party goers who didn’t bother with a mask. Why even try to hide, when his massive height and wide frame were so well known throughout Insomnia? Besides, they had rules in place that were strictly enforced, and Gladio knew the women who bragged about their ‘conquest’ would only do so within the confines of these events.

Leaning on one end of the bar, Gladio ate a burger and washed it down with some water. He wasn’t sure if he should stick around, since he wasn’t in the mood to top anyone else. But, this party only happened once a month, and Gladio was hesitant to leave this early into the night.

Maybe he’d watch for a while. The voyeurism would either inspire him to jump back into the fray, or be enough to tide him over until next month.

Decided on his course of action, Gladio eased his bulk carefully through the crowd until he reached the corner he’d been stationed in earlier, finding it a good position to survey the entire packed room. At least this time he was able to walk uninterrupted. Leaning back against the wall, he crossed his arms over his broad chest and scanned for anything interesting.

Holy shit, he didn’t think he’d ever seen a flogger that dense with thick falls, and the dude wearing the Stag mask was wielding it like a pro. Gladio felt something akin to professional curiosity regarding the implement, and resolved to approach the man later to see if he could try it out.

And the person receiving that beating, fuck. Gladio was surprised such a slim man could stand up to that onslaught. He was forced to re-evaluate his initial impression of the man’s body when a closer look revealed lithe muscles that bunched and shifted as he moved beneath the top’s attentions.

Now, he would be interesting to play with. Far more so than the interchangeable women who wanted just a little slap and tickle.

Gladio realized he’d taken a couple steps forward unintentionally, so entranced was he in watching the heavy beating unfold. Thankfully, he hadn’t crossed into anyone’s personal space, so he shrugged and took another few steps closer, making sure to keep back far enough that he wouldn’t get caught in the back-swing of that vicious looking toy, or come off as creepily staring rather than observing with interest.

Shiva’s tits, that masochist could take some serious punishment. Gladio watched with rapt attention, thick eyebrows winging high when he realized the man had come from the flogging alone, no other stimulation provided.

That was just so fucking hot, it should be illegal.

Gladio continued to regard the pair as their scene wound down, pleased to note the two players parting on friendly terms after taking proper care of the equipment and having a short conversation that Gladio assumed was them ascertaining a mutual lack of need for any aftercare. He saw the top move off into the crowd, and made a mental note to follow him after he’d had a few minutes to unwind after his scene. For now, Gladio turned his golden gaze on the bottom. Now that the man was no longer facing away from the room, Gladio could admire the detailed cast of the mask he wore. He thought the feathers were an especially nice touch.

And while Gladio hadn’t been with a man in a very long time, he couldn’t deny he was very interested. Gladio could feel his cock pulse, half-hard where it was trapped beneath his garments, and knew he was probably staring at the stranger a bit longer than was socially acceptable.

But, after what Gladio’d just seen… fuck, he couldn’t help himself.

Gladio could swear the Hawk-guised man met his eyes for a moment, caught the briefest flash of mossy green, and then the other man was gone, lost in the crowd.

His thoughts cast back to the indignant flash of another pair of green eyes the day before, and he shook his head, chuckling to himself as he tried to picture Ignis Freakin’ Scientia in a place like this.
Gladio exhaled raggedly when the image of Ignis writhing under his whip popped into his head. Yeah, that ain’t happening. Fuck, Gladio wanted a drink. Ah, well. Later. For now, he’d go find that top and see if he’d like to show off that ridiculous flogger of his.

Gladio waded back into the crush of people, and it didn’t take him long to find the patron he sought. Those flashy silver antlers made it easy to pick him out a crowd. He walked over to introduce himself, but was cut short before the start of a word could leave his mouth.

“Amicitia,” the Stag’s voice was a familiar one. “I’m glad you took me up on my invitation.”

Gladio’s eyes widened in surprise. He knew Ulric attended this gathering; the Glaive had been the one to help Gladio get his name on the approved list to attend. But he hadn’t expected to see him delivering such a solid beating.

Nyx continued as if Gladio wasn’t goggling at him like a schoolboy. “I go by ‘Stag’ here, okay?”

“Yeah,” Gladio said, still reeling a bit at this revelation.

Recovering, he pushed forth, “Didn’t recognize ya, but I saw your last scene and I wanted to check out that crazy heavy flogger you were usin’. You mind?”

“Not at all.” Nyx passed over the implement. “Go ahead, give it a swing.” Lips twisted into a wicked smirk. “I don’t mind receiving if you’ve a mind to try it on a living target.”

Gladio shook his head. “Maybe another time. I’d definitely want to practice before using this on a person. Titan’s balls, man, this must be intense.” Gladio experimentally swung the flogger against a vacant cross, and watched as the wooden frame shuddered beneath the force of the lash.

“You’re not wrong.” Nyx took back his toy and put it into its case. “Hawk’s the only one who likes it.”

“Hawk?” Gladio knew exactly who he meant, of course, but maybe he could get some intel on the first man apart from the uninterested royal chamberlain to capture his attention in years.

“Mhm,” the Glaive nodded. “I don’t know who he is, but he’s been coming here for a long time. Never speaks, prefers to bottom, though I’ve watched him do some truly terrifying knife work on rare occasion.” Nyx grinned, the expression cheerfully debauched. “I keep hoping he’ll be open to more than just pain, but, alas! I’ve actually never seen him do anything sexual here. He seems to be a pretty private person, and I respect that.”

Gladio nodded as he listened, filing all this information away for later. “Think he’d be open to playing with a relative newcomer to the community like me?” He cocked an eyebrow inquisitively, shifting his weight from foot to foot as he gestured with both hands to emphasize his words.

Nyx rubbed his stubbly chin. “If I recommended you, he might.” Cerulean eyes framed by silver-painted plaster were serious. “He doesn’t speak, he doesn’t do bondage, and he doesn’t do ‘light’.” The severe expression faded into one of arrogant challenge. “Sure you’re up for it?”

Fuck yes.”

It was hard to say which of them laughed more loudly. Gladio enjoyed the camaraderie of knowing he had at least one friend at this exclusive club, but he didn’t want to keep Nyx from the woman who’d been making eyes at the Glaive in a very suggestive manner.

“Listen, thanks for everything.” Gladio’s voice was sincere. “I’ll see ya around.”

“Have fun, handsome.” Nyx’s voice was still bright with humor.

Gladio shook his head, chuckling to himself as he walked away. Now he felt ready to go home. He had a lot to think about until next month’s party, that was for sure.

It didn’t take him long to get home. The night was pleasant, the air crisp and clear, so the walk was enjoyable. Gladio had the day off tomorrow too, so he wasn’t worried about the hour. Grabbing a beer, he headed into the bathroom, discarding his clothing haphazardly as he went. He turned on the shower and took a deep swig of his drink while he waited for the water to heat up.

He couldn’t fucking get Hawk out of his head.

Gladio stepped into the shower, balancing his bottle on the ledge next to his shampoo. First order of business was taking the edge off the lust that had been coiling in his gut since he first started to watch Nyx beat the stranger so soundly. One large hand wrapped around his engorged cock, and he stroked himself roughly, quickly. Gladio braced himself against the wall with his other hand, eyes falling shut as he thought back to earlier in the evening.

That flash of green. That splash of come.

With a surprised cry, Gladio came all over the shower wall. Fuck. Fuck.

He had to see Hawk again. Needed to play with him. Wanted to take him apart and break through his silent facade.

Gladio wasn’t stupid and knew that was probably a fantasy that would stay unfulfilled, based off how Nyx had described the other man. But, Gladio figured, there was no harm in hoping. At least this man was a far more appropriate focus for his fantasies than his newest combat trainee.

After finishing his beer, Gladio scrubbed himself - and the shower wall - clean. He wasn’t quite ready to go to sleep yet, so he chose one of his favorite books from his overstuffed shelf, the corners careworn and the spine long since cracked from innumerable re-reads. He stretched out on the couch, ready to dive into the familiar, favorite tale.

But Gladio couldn’t stop daydreaming about two pairs of green eyes.

Chapter Text

When his alarm blared promptly at 5:00am, Ignis swore under his breath despite the fact he’d been lying awake for well over an hour. He swiped the alarm off and fell back against his pillows with a sigh.

Just because Ignis was a habitually early riser didn’t mean he enjoyed it.

Truth be told, he’d not gotten much rest. Once he’d arrived home from the party, Ignis had enjoyed an Ebony and caught up on his emails the best he could while still so distracted by the information he’d gleaned at the club. Minutes melted into hours, and when he noticed it was already midnight Ignis reluctantly hooked his phone to the charger and made himself go to bed, only to spend the night tossing and turning, haunted by the twin memories of tawny eyes and his own loss of self-control.

With a grimace of distaste, Ignis forced himself out of bed, padding first to the kitchen to start his coffee brewing, then down the hall to shower while the coffeepot percolated.

The shower helped bring truer wakefulness, washing away the cobwebs cluttering Ignis’s sleepy mind. He reveled in the way the spray pounded against the bruises on his back, even as the painful throb reminded him that he really should use a potion before too long. Ignis was scheduled for more combat training, and the last thing he needed was Gladiolus concernedly asking where he got his bruises.

What a pity. Typically Ignis let his marks heal on their own over time, savoring the fade from blue to purple to yellow to gone. Sometimes, after a particularly powerful scene, the marks would just have cleared when it would be time for the next month’s gathering.

Ignis shut off the shower and dried off with his usual efficiency. He dressed casually, as he had no plans to leave his residence until he went over to Noctis’s apartment in the evening to prepare dinner and run through Monday’s schedule with the Prince. Sunday was the day he caught up on all his own housework, so he had a relatively simple day ahead of him.

As was his eternal misfortune, however, the chores were mindless and gave him ample time to ruminate over the events that had unfolded at the club the preceding night.

Ignis set about his weekly routine giving only a fraction on his attention to the way he fastidiously dusted his bookshelves and vacuumed the floors. His mind was filled with the glint of molten amber eyes locking onto his across the sparring ring, the way the Shield’s powerful muscles tensed and moved beneath the sun-kissed skin of his biceps and shoulders as he swung the flogger at the club.

With a ragged exhalation, Ignis counted his blessings at having this one full day to get his thoughts in order before facing Gladiolus at the Citadel on the morrow. Astrals knew he needed it. He decided to take a moment with his third cup of coffee and consider how he would proceed, for Ignis was determined to make some sort of salvo now that he’d seen Gladiolus regard him so intently at the club. He had to get a strategy in place, however. Ignis couldn’t just dive in blind and hope for the best. Getting out a notepad and pen, he began scrawling out ideas and thoughts as they occurred to him. In the margins, he made a list of pros and cons and had to admit, the pros were pretty scant in number.

But, this was about quality, not quantity. Risk versus reward was the real decision to be made here, and Ignis felt the potential reward would be quite thoroughly worth the negligible risk.

The worst that could happen would be that he’d ask Gladiolus out, and get turned down. Ignis had confidence they could both continue to work together well and not let a simple invitation get in the way of their burgeoning friendship.

The best thing that could happen… Ignis felt his heart flutter in his chest, his body tensing and breath coming more quickly as he considered the possibilities.

Ignis hadn’t really dated much at all due to the hectic nature of his schedule and the strain of his responsibilities. Romance was a true challenge when he could be summoned at any moment to tend to the Prince. In his albeit limited experience, most average people didn’t appreciate dates being cut short by the shrill of a phone. He’d never truly been able to enter into a serious relationship because it never took long for his schedule to wear on the person he’d be courting.

Better, to Ignis’s mind, to weed out potential partners early with the reality of his calendar rather than spend months building towards something that could never work.

But, with Gladiolus… he was in the exact same predicament as Ignis. His hours of obligation were perhaps not so onerous, no, but he could still be summoned to his post any time, any day, without any advance notice. Surely with Gladiolus, Ignis would never have to explain that Noctis would always come first. It would bypass nearly every issue Ignis had run into romantically and make for far less stressful dating than he was accustomed to coping with.

There was only one other stumbling block Ignis had encountered, and he thought it might not be as much an issue this time, either.

His joy in submitting himself to his partners.

Well, theoretically. He’d never yet had the true experience he desired.

While Ignis certainly enjoyed bottoming for scenes at the club, what he truly wished to find was a dominant partner he could give himself over to completely within the confines they would develop together as their relationship built over time. He craved so much more than just a once a month beating. Ignis felt embarrassment stain the planes of his face with crimson even keeping the notions confided to his own private thoughts, but Astrals, how he longed for someone to want Ignis to be theirs, to take care of him, to cherish and protect him, to let him give over control.

To love him.

His heart thudded traitorously loud in his quiet apartment; the song it sang was one of hope when his thoughts grew wrapped up in that notion that maybe… just maybe… he could find that with Gladiolus.

Given the Shield’s activities at the Coeurl, he wasn’t likely to be put off by discovering Ignis’s proclivities for such things. But, Ignis knew he’d have to tread carefully. He’d gotten badly burned in the past when broaching the notion of more than just a spicy spanking, and he grew weary of battling the misrepresentation that being submissive meant being weak, mindless, defenseless. It was one reason Ignis presented himself as he did at the club, and made sure he did his fair share of topping.

Completely giving up on the notion of productivity for now, Ignis let his thoughts progress to the next natural consideration: If Gladiolus would be interested in not only dating him, nor simply topping him, but being his dominant, would he be the type of dominant to be over-controlling? To jealously forbid Ignis from playing with other partners at the parties? To insist certain things weren’t ‘appropriate submissive behavior’? To grow cross if Ignis wished to top once in a while?

Ignis couldn’t see Gladiolus being unreasonable, but this course of thinking was proving one thing thoroughly: how little Ignis had gotten to know the sworn Shield outside the confines of their duties, despite the tentative friendship that had begin to grow from those conversations in Noctis's kitchen.

He needed to ask Gladiolus Amicitia out on a date. Sooner rather than later, before he got even more invested in these fanciful notions than he already had.

Ignis chuckled ruefully as he realized that moment had already passed. Against all logic, he was already in this too deep to emerge unscathed, should Gladiolus reject him. However, Ignis would be nothing if not prepared for every possible outcome. Perhaps he would give himself two days off this month, and ask Gladiolus out the day before the next. That way, if things didn’t go as he hoped, he’d have a day to work through his disappointment before resuming working in tandem with the man. And if things went well, hm…

Ignis decided to schedule that day for one of Gladiolus’s days off, just in case.

When he picked up his phone to check the shared calendar used by all of His Highness’s staff, Ignis frowned when he realized he’d missed hearing the notification from a text from Noctis. His frown deepened when he read the message. Apparently Noctis had invited Prompto and Gladiolus over for an afternoon of gaming, and wondered if Ignis would mind cooking enough for the lot of them.

As Ignis typed out an appropriately accommodating response, he pursed his lips in irritation. He always cooked more than enough, that wasn’t an issue. Neither Prompto nor Gladiolus were picky eaters, especially compared to his charge.

But, Six take him, he had wanted just one bloody day without Gladiolus’s intoxicating presence, and apparently that just wasn’t in the cards.

Well. The afternoon marched ever on, and Ignis knew he should get to the market, especially now that he was cooking for four. If he indulged himself by taking the time to change into nicer clothes, to re-comb his hair, he figured he deserved the fortifying boost to his confidence that being well groomed would lend him.

Shopping went as efficiently as ever, and it wasn’t long before he found himself parking underneath Noctis’s apartment building. After taking a couple deep breaths, he squared his shoulders, and marched resolutely into the complex.

“Noctis. Prompto. Gladiolus.”

It took an effort, but Ignis managed to maintain his typical smooth timbre, and not heat the syllables of Gladiolus’s name with the flames of his attraction.

“Hey, Specs.” Noct’s tone was distracted, and Ignis was frankly surprised the Prince noticed his arrival while caught up in his game.

“Iggy! Hi!” Prompto’s never-ending cheer was welcome, and brought a smile to Ignis’s face.

“Hey, Ignis.” Gods above, that velvety purr should be illegal.

The Royal Chamberlain flashed a look towards the cluster of men that could only be described as consternated panic masquerading beneath the thin veneer of a smile. Ignis retreated to his safe haven with alacrity, setting out what he needed to prepare dinner.

Okay, that was weird.

Friday night had been strange enough, with Ignis promising a home-cooked meal and then giving in to the younger men’s pleas for pizza. Strange, but not entirely out of character, since the advisor could be a giant softie when it came to their charge.

But why the fuck would Ignis look so troubled by saying hello?

Something was wrong. Gladio knew he might not be Ignis’s closest confidant or anything, but he decided to try and see if he could help.

He tossed his controller to Prompto. “Take over for me, yeah?”

“You got it, big guy!”

Gladio gave the blonde a friendly fist bump before standing and walking into the kitchen. He was completely unsurprised to see Ignis already hard at work. It was already starting to smell amazing.

“Need any help?” Gladio offered, staying out the way the best he could given his bulk and the comparative smallness of the kitchen compared to the rest of the apartment’s layout.

The look Ignis shot in his direction seemed… cranky? What the fuck was bothering him?

“What’s bothering you?” Gladio was nothing if not direct.

“Nothing,” Ignis replied succinctly, turning away from Gladio and focusing on his recipe.

“I don’t buy it,” Gladio said, folding his arms and aiming a level look at the back of Ignis’s head. He noticed Ignis’s posture grew even straighter, as if he could feel Gladio’s eyes boring into his skull.

“I know we’re not that close, Iggy,” he decided to try out one of Prompto’s nicknames for the other man. Nicknames helped build closer ties, right? “But I’m here if you need to talk, okay?”

After a not inconsiderable pause, Ignis responded. “My thanks, Gladiolus.”

Gladio waited a bit to see if Ignis would take him up on his offer. When it became obvious that wasn’t gonna happen, he shrugged and leaned up against the wall. “Have a good day off yesterday?”

Ignis peered back at him, and Gladio noticed his fair cheeks were charmingly pink.

“Yes,” was Ignis’s terse reply.

Okay. He didn’t wanna talk about whatever the fuck was bothering him, and he ain’t in a hurry to elaborate on how he spent his day off. Gladio was starting to feel frustrated. How was he supposed to build a deeper friendship with the guy if he wasn’t gonna talk?

Well, to be fair, everyone was allowed to have off days. Maybe Ignis had been up late or something. Gladio wasn’t gonna pry if the man didn’t wanna talk. He’d do one of the things he did best and fill the silence instead.

While Ignis chopped and fried and stirred, Gladio talked about his morning. He’d taken Iris out to breakfast and then shopping, which with a pre-teen girl could be more harrowing than facing down a squad of Niffs. They’d eventually made it out of the mall, Gladio so laden down with bags he was grateful he was used to hefting greatswords.

It was all worth it to see Iris’s happy smile, though. Gladio wished he had more time to dote on his sister, and tried to at least take one day a week to spend quality time with her. Even better when their father was able to make time to join them, but he was tied up at the Citadel today despite it being the weekend.

Gladio was pleased that his rambling storytelling seemed to have the desired effect. Gradually Ignis’s posture relaxed - well, as much as it ever did - and Gladio heard the other man laugh a couple times at humorous points in his narrative.

“If you wouldn’t mind,” Ignis’s voice was tentative, trailing off as if he was about to ask something he felt might be a huge inconvenience.

Gladio leaned forward a bit, his body language open and encouraging.

“Would you please get out the plates and cutlery? This is about finished.”

The large man couldn’t help but roll his eyes, laughing at the melodrama of the moment. “No problem.”

Gladio was rewarded with the first genuine smile he’d seen on Ignis’s face that evening, and grinned back happily as he got out the dishes.

He stepped back to give Ignis room to dish up the food. When Ignis picked up two plates and turned towards the living room, Gladio stepped in front of him, blocking his path.

“They have legs, Iggy.”

“Yes, but—”

“Hey! Food’s ready!” Gladio bellowed in his best drill-sergeant voice.

He took the plates from Ignis’s grasp and set them down on the table. While he wasn’t really shocked when it was Prompto who showed up to collect their dinners, Gladio was at least glad it was one less thing for Ignis to do.

With that thought in mind, Gladio snagged the other two plates and set them out on the table, going a step further and snagging himself a beer and Ignis a can of Ebony. With a playfully flourished bow towards one chair, Gladio seated himself in the other, inordinately pleased when Ignis accepted his invitation and actually got off his damn feet for a change.

Since the twerps were opting to eat on the floor while still feverishly mashing at their controllers, Gladio thought it would give him more time to try and get Ignis to open up a little.

“I hear you start actual magic training tomorrow.” Gladio figured work talk was safe, if nothing else. “Excited?”

“Indeed. I’ve managed to manifest a bit of fire on my own, but I’m eager to see what I can accomplish with proper guidance and practice.” Ignis’s voice was actually enthusiastic, and Gladio found it a welcome change from his typical placid demeanor.

“That’s awesome!” Gladio grinned. “Try not to set me on fire when we spar though, yeah?”

Ignis smirked, and those verdant eyes looked downright devilish. “Don’t tempt me.”

Gladio swallowed harder than the mouthful of stir fry required. Fuck. Those eyes. He could drown in them, happily, willingly. He wondered what they’d look like without the glasses in the way, pupils blown out with lust, and….

Okay, so Gladio wouldn’t be standing up anytime soon. Adjusting himself surreptitiously, he tried to think of something, anything, to talk about.

“Read any good books lately?” He inwardly winced at the cheesy nature of the line, but fuck, books were a topic they could probably spend hours chatting about.

“Indeed,” Ignis said. “I just finished reading an architectural accounting of the construction of Altissia.”

“Cool,” Gladio replied. He’d never seen the famed city of canals, but it was on his bucket list, assuming he ever had the chance to take any real vacations.

“Quite ‘cool’,” Ignis said, grinning as he affected Gladio’s tone. “The photographs in the book were lovely, but I’d love to see it in person someday.”

“Yeah? Where else you wanna go?”

“Everywhere,” Ignis admitted. “If I had the chance, I’d like to see the world.”

And I’d like to give it to you.

Fuck, did he say that out loud? Nahh, Ignis would have said something back. Whew.

“I’ve never been far from the City,” Gladio said. “Couple camping trips with Dad and Iris to nearby havens when I was younger, but I haven’t even stepped outside the Wall in years.”

“I’ve never been camping,” Ignis said thoughtfully. “What’s it like?”

“It’s the best!” Now it was Gladio’s turn to be enthusiastic. “Nature all around. The air is so clear and fresh when you get away from civilization.” He paused to take another mouthful of dinner. “And at night, without the city lights and the Wall obscuring it, you see so many stars! More than you could ever count.” Gladio smiled fondly as he reminisced. “We’d roast hot dogs over the fire and chop ‘em into Cup Noodles. Dad would tell scary stories until Iris went to bed, and then he and I would talk, just the two of us. It was great.”

“It sounds truly wondrous.”

“It’s the best,” Gladio said. “We haven’t gone in years, but I keep hoping Dad will get a weekend off and we can do it again sometime.”

“I hope you manage it,” Ignis said. “You’re lucky to have such a close bond with your family.”

Gladio frowned. He didn’t really know anything about Ignis’s family. Had he unintentionally touched on a sore spot? “You see yours often?”

“No,” Ignis said.

Gladio watched the familiar sight of Ignis removing and cleaning his glasses fussily, and he knew it for the stalling tactic it was. If Ignis didn’t want to talk about this, Gladio wasn’t gonna force the issue. He was about to speak up about something completely unrelated, when Noctis called out from the living room.

“We’re done.”

“It was great, thanks Igster!”

As Ignis started to stand, Gladio felt a surge of anger. How damned lazy were these kids? They were about to graduate high school and start their adult lives for fuck’s sake, couldn’t they do a single thing for themselves? To be fair, it was a problem Ignis had largely created for himself by being so gods-damned accommodating, but tonight Gladio wasn’t having it.

He reached out and grabbed Ignis’s wrist, halting the other man halfway out of his chair.

Gladio stood up and headed into the living room. Reaching down, he plucked Noct’s controller out of his hand and tossed it aside.

“Hey!” Noctis glared up at him petulantly.

“Clean up your own damn dishes, Prince Charmless. You can pause your damn game for five minutes.”

“S-sorry!” Prompto stammered as he bolted into the kitchen with his own plate.

Noctis stood slowly, azure eyes locked to those of gold. As Gladio watched, the rebellion faded from Noct’s gaze, being replaced by shame.

“Sorry,” the Prince muttered before he took his plate into the kitchen.

Gladio was pleased when he heard both of the younger men stop and actually thank Ignis for dinner, as well as apologize for being so caught up in their game.

Well, his work here was done. Gladio headed back to the table, scooping up Ignis’s plate as well as his own, and went to fill up the sink. Iggy had cooked, he’d clean up, and the advisor could actually relax.

“Gladiolus, that’s really not necessary,” Ignis protested, trying to nudge Gladio away from the dishwater.

“Yeah. It really is.” His voice was firm, and he grinned sidelong at Ignis. “You cooked, I clean up. It’s the Amicitia way. Expect it from now on. I’m only sorry it took me this long to start pitchin’ in.”

Ignis’s mossy eyes were wide in surprise, and Gladio was waiting for further argument. Much to his pleasure, none came. Ignis went and sat back down at the table, pulling out his phone and tapping at it, probably checking his email or something.

“Noctis,” Ignis called out. “When you have a moment, we need to review tomorrow’s schedule.”

“Is it loaded in the shared calendar?” Noctis asked from across the apartment.

“Of course.”

“Then what’s there to review?”

Gladio heard the frustration in Ignis’s sigh and was tempted to go drag Princess to the table by his royal ear, but he decided that might be a bit much.

“A valid point, Highness.” Ignis’s accent asserted itself more strongly, his words crisp and his tone almost too polite. “Please, enjoy your game.”

Wait, was that Ignis speak for ‘fuck you’? Gladio thought it might be, and noticed the sardonic subtext seemed totally lost on Noctis.

Gladio finished washing the last dish and started to dry them. When Ignis began putting them away, Gladio didn’t argue, since he really didn’t know where stuff went anyway. But he watched, and made sure he’d know for next time.

“Think they’re gonna stop anytime soon?”

“I hope so,” Ignis said. “They do have school tomorrow morning.”

“And I’ve got early morning Crownsguard training,” Gladio said ruefully. “So I should probably turn in myself.” He smiled at Ignis. “Thanks for dinner.”

“My pleasure, Gladiolus.” The smile that went with those words warmed Gladio’s heart.

“See ya for training tomorrow, Noct! Later, Prompto!” Gladio waved to the chucklefucks and let himself out.

The next morning dawned all too soon, and Ignis prepared himself efficiently. He dressed in the clothes he wore to yoga class, not really sure what would be the best garb for magic training, but assuming gym clothes should suffice. After making sure he had everything he’d need for the day, Ignis left his home.

His first stop was to pick up the Prince. Ignis assumed Noctis had ignored his suggestion that he go to sleep at a reasonable hour, and the way his charge snarled oaths at him while he got ready for school confirmed Ignis’s assessment. Before terribly long, Noctis was safely delivered to school, and Ignis on his way to the Citadel to start what would be a typically busy day. When he arrived, he stopped by his office to drop off his belongings, and headed down to the training wing.

Ignis walked into the training room, a carefully designed facility created with arcane novices in mind. The walls were enforced with spells to prevent any errant magic from harming anyone without. It was trusted that the instructors would prevent harm befalling those within.

He saw a tall, dark-haired man awaiting him, and assumed this was the infamous Nyx Ulric of the Kingsglaive, whom Ignis had been informed would be his magical tutor. Ignis had heard much about this man, but never had the opportunity to meet him, so he welcomed this opportunity.

“So… I hear you like to play with fire?” Teasing words, spoken in a voice Ignis was intimately familiar with.

Astrals preserve him. Nyx Ulric was Stag?

Ignis turned and left the room without a word.

Chapter Text

Almost two weeks had passed since the last group dinner at Noctis’s place, and Gladio was starting to get frustrated. Operation: Befriend Ignis Scientia was going slow. Outside of their thrice a week combat training sessions and a few Council meetings, he hadn’t seen Ignis at all.

At least this time it didn’t feel like Ignis was avoiding him. Each time Gladio saw the chamberlain-in-training he seemed even more exhausted than usual, walking from one appointment to the next as quickly as one could and still call it walking.

Well, it was Friday, and that meant Gladio finished his day training with Iggy. They had progressed to actual sparring matches already, not the farcical kind they had engaged in at their first session. It should have come as no surprise to Gladio that when Ignis took on a task, he applied himself and excelled. But Gladio was impressed by Ignis’s rapid progress.

He had a new challenge in mind for Ignis today, though.

Arriving at the gym first, Gladio set up what he wanted. He pulled out several racks of wooden training weapons of all kinds, from greatswords to rapiers, polearms to battle-axes.

Today, Ignis would start weapons training.

Finding himself with a bit of time to kill, Gladio pulled out his phone and checked for messages.

He had two. With a smile, he opened Iris’s first, a snort of laughter escaping him at the nearly incomprehensible string of emoji littered text speak. Thankfully, he’d been getting better at deciphering this nonsense between the active efforts of his sister as well as Prompto, and he was able to type an appropriately colorful response.

The second message was from Nyx and made Gladio frown. The Glaive had come to Gladio a little over a week ago, expressing his confusion at how Ignis had walked out on magical training that Ignis himself had applied for. Damned if Gladio knew what to tell him. Most likely, Ignis had thought of something he’d forgotten, like doing Noctis’s laundry or annotating the council meeting records from the day. Ignis wasn’t the type of man to just rudely walk out with no explanation.

But that seems to have been exactly what he’d done to Nyx, and Gladio had no fucking clue how to even bring it up. It wasn’t really his business anyway.

Well… if they were friends, though, did that make it his business?

Ugh. Gladio had no patience for this guessing-game shit. He liked to keep things upfront. Got a problem, say it. Happy about something, say it. Wondering about something, ask it.

He shot off a quick reply to Nyx, confirming their plans to go out after work for a couple beers.

Gladio was looking forward to a chill evening after a hectic work week. All he had to do was get through what should be a pretty simple sparring session. Unlike Noctis, Ignis had proven to be an apt pupil. The argumentative demeanor he’d presented at their first training class had been replaced with respect and intense focus.

Again, exactly what Gladio should have expected.

Gladio put his phone away as Ignis walked into the room. “Hey, Iggy.”

“Gladiolus.” A small smile creased Ignis’s face and lit up green eyes that kept haunting Gladio’s thoughts.

Gladio watched as Ignis noticed the assembled selection of training weapons, inspecting them from a distance before turning to regard the Shield with uplifted brows. “I presume we’re doing something a bit different this evening.”

“Yep.” Gladio crossed the room to stand next to Ignis, gesturing at the racks. “Any idea what kinda weapon you might want to try?”

Ignis paced slowly from rack to rack, occasionally running fingertips over one of the weapons, until he stopped about three quarters the way through the selection Gladio had arrayed. When he turned to face Gladio, Ignis was holding a matched set of daggers, and Gladio was surprised that Ignis seemed to handle the mock-blades with surprising confidence and familiarity. Huh.

Well, Ignis did use a lot of knives in the kitchen.

“I believe I could do well with daggers,” Ignis offered by way of explanation.

It took Gladio a moment to respond, transfixed by they way those clever fingers coiled around the hilts. “Only one way to find out.”

Gladio took his usual training sword and moved towards the sparring ring. “C’mon.”

When they entered the ring, Gladio figured it was only prudent to ask. “Do you know anything about wielding those? I mean, your grip looks good, but beyond that it’s not really my area of expertise.”

“I believe I can hold my own,” Ignis murmured, a delicate flush warming his cheekbones. Eyes that had been cast modestly low flashed up to meet Gladio’s for an instant so charged with something that Gladio nearly dropped his greatsword.

Gladio cleared his throat. “Okay. Then come at me.”

And he did.

Gladio supposed he shouldn’t have been as taken aback as he was. He knew Ignis was in peak physical shape, knew he studied yoga and took other cardio classes, the combination making him quick and flexible.

He wasn’t prepared for the way the young tactician sprang at him with such a wicked smirk, bringing his daggers to bear so quickly Gladio barely was able to block in time.

When Ignis backflipped away - fucking backflipped - Gladio had to laugh.

“You’re just full of surprises,” Gladio said, readying his stance for Ignis’s next attack.

“Am I?” Ignis wore a self-deprecating smile, and when he launched his next salvo it was almost too telegraphed, enabling Gladio to counter it easily, knocking Ignis back a good few paces.

“Gladiolus?” Ignis asked, as he slowly circled the edge of the sparring ring, eyes intent as they focused on the Shield.

“Yeah?” Gladio’s regard was just as intense. Ignis had caught him off guard once - he wouldn’t underestimate him again.

What was that saying? Make plans, and the Astrals laugh?

“I was wondering,” Ignis threw a dagger and Gladio nearly got hit, so distracted was he by the honeyed tone coating Ignis’s words. He managed to duck just in time and resumed watching Ignis warily.

“Have you ever been with a man?”

Ignis’s second thrown dagger caught Gladio right between the eyes, and Gladio was so fucking shocked by the frank question that he didn’t even really register the strike.

“Gladiolus? Are you quite alright?” Ignis retrieved the wooden daggers and moved to stand before the numb-struck man.

“Uh, yeah.” Why the fuck would Ignis ask him that during training, or ever really? Was Iggy fucking with him? Was this a way to to distract him? What in Bahamut’s name?

“Terribly sorry if that was… untoward,” Ignis apologized, ducking his head slightly, though those verdant eyes stayed honed to Gladio’s. “Tactics 101: keep your opponent unsettled.”

An oddly disappointed flutter unfurled in Gladio’s gut. “Oh. Of course. Good one.” His words were nearly as wooden as his greatsword.

“Of course,” Ignis continued in that silken tone of his. “I was utilizing the strategy to glean pertinent information.”


“Huh?” Gladio went and sat on a stack of mats. This match was over, as far as he was concerned. His head was so far from focused on training that it would be foolhardy to continue.

Ignis followed him, and sat a little closer than was comfortable. Gladio could feel the heat pouring off the other man’s body, and it was taking everything in his power not to push flush up against him.

“There are times it behooves one to know the answer before asking the question.”

Okay, if this was Ignis’s way of explaining something, it was going straight over Gladio’s head.

“Iggy, cut the cryptic shit, please.” His words were gruff with frustration.

“I’m sorry, Gladiolus,” Ignis said as he adjusted his glasses. “This isn’t easy for me, but I suppose there’s no need to be so dramatic.”

Gladio waited impatiently, and was rewarded when Ignis resumed speaking after a lengthy pause.

“I was wondering if you’d like to get a cup of coffee with me?”

Gladio blinked. He debated pinching himself. Surely he had to be dreaming, because he coulda sworn Iggy just asked him out. Him. Gladiolus Amicitia. On a date.

Apparently he delayed too long in responding, because Ignis’s eyes darkened and his body language become more closed off, drawing his limbs towards himself and away from Gladio’s body. “It’s just coffee, Gladiolus, not your hand in marriage. But I’m sorry if my offer was… unwelcome.” Ignis stood. “No harm done, yes? I’ll see you Monday.” He hastened towards the door.

“Wait!” Gladio called out, standing. “Fuck, Iggy, give a guy a minute to wrap his head around being asked out by the last person he thought would be interested, yeah?” He laughed, scrubbing fingers through his sweaty hair.

“Then… you’re not uninterested?”

“Hell no,” Gladio confirmed, walking over to meet Ignis halfway and grinning. “I’m very interested.” He cocked his head to one side curiously. “But, why now? What changed?”

“Those,” Ignis’s diction was precise, almost over-enunciated. “Are very personal questions that I’m not prepared to answer at present.” He gave Gladio what could only be interpreted as a pleading look, cheekbones dusted with pink. “So… will you? Or won’t you?”

“I’d love to,” Gladio said. “When?”

“I know it’s short notice, but since we’re both off tomorrow…”

“Tomorrow’s perfect.”

“Wonderful,” Ignis said. Gladio melted seeing how happy the other man looked, the way joy lit up those brilliant eyes and pinked the planes of his cheeks. “I’ll text you the details. I really must be off.”

“Sounds good,” Gladio agreed. “See ya soon.”

“And Gladiolus?”


“Perhaps we should keep this to ourselves.” The regret in Ignis’s tone was the only thing that kept the request from raising Gladio’s hackles. He understood after a moment’s thought that this wasn’t Ignis wanting to hide anything so much as using that tactical mind of his to pre-emptively avoid the shitstorm that would erupt as soon as others on staff learned of their date.

“Good thinking, Iggy.” Gladio waved. “Night.”

“So, we’re going out tomorrow.” Gladio finished telling Nyx the story of today’s training session and took a large gulp of his beer.

Nyx let out a low, sustained whistle, shaking his head. “I’m not sure whether to congratulate you, or wish you luck.” He chuckled. “I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive, so, consider this me saying both.”

Gladio chuckled. “Thanks, man.” He tapped thick fingers against this glass idly. “It’s been a while since I’ve gone on a date. Longer still since having one with a dude.”

“I didn’t know you swung that way,” Nyx smirked. “Or I’d’ve asked you out ages ago.”

Gladio snorted, shaking his head. “Is there anyone other than me in Guard or Glaive you haven’t hit on?”

“Few new recruits,” Nyx said. “Only so many hours in the day.”

They fell into a companionable silence, enjoying their drinks and people-watching for a time. Gladio’s foot tapped against the leg of his barstool in time with a particularly good song. The vibration of his phone got his attention, and Gladio pulled it from his pocket.

1 New Text from Ignis Scientia the display informed him. He swiped the phone unlocked and poked at the screen to bring up the message. Gladio couldn’t help the grin that grew as he read and re-read the succinct text. 10am, Carpe Librum. Ignis was all business, even arranging a date. Gladio fired off a thumbs up emoji to confirm before tucking his phone away and glancing at his companion to find Ulric smirking at him.

“Why, Gladio, you’re blushing like a schoolboy,” Nyx teased, brushing a fingertip down the planes of Gladio’s right cheek. “That must’ve been sweet nothings from our friendly resident tactician.”

“Somethin’ like that,” Gladio muttered, eyeing Nyx balefully. He shoulda known better than to give the Glaive this kinda ammo.

“Do me a favor,” Nyx’s tone shifted like quicksilver into something more serious. “See if you can find out why he ran out of training the other week? I’ve tried to ask, but when he sees me coming he makes tracks like a pack of daemons is on his heels.”

“That’s just how he walks,” Gladio said with a shrug. “Always in a hurry.”

“I can tell when I’m being avoided,” Nyx informed him flatly. “And I have no idea what I did to earn it this time.”

“I can ask, but I ain’t making any promises.” Gladio didn’t really want to get in the middle of this, but he was pretty curious about Iggy’s uncharacteristic behavior.

“That’s fair.” Nyx tipped his glass in Gladio’s direction before draining it and setting it back on the bar. “We don’t all have the day off tomorrow, so I’m out.”

“Later,” Gladio bumped the fist Nyx held up before he passed by.

With a signal to the bartender, Gladio ordered another drink. While he waited for it to be delivered, he thought back to the very unexpected developments at today’s sparring session.

Generally, Gladio was pretty good at telling when someone was into him. Six knew he’d gotten a lot of practice over the last few years, more so once he’d packed so much muscle onto his already impressive frame, and it had grown nearly annoying in its frequency after his tattoo had taken flight across his torso.

Not that he was upset in the slightest. It was just that despite his noticing how attractive Ignis had grown, he’d always assumed the man unattainable, too busy to dally with romance when he had studies and duties and a myriad other more important things filing his hours to bursting.

And let’s be real, here. The fact Ignis made the first move? Hot.

The way Iggy blushed while waiting for Gladio’s answer? Adorable.

Gladio adopted an expression that would have Noctis mocking him for months if he saw the dreamy way his Shield’s eyes unfocused, heard the lingering sigh that escaped from his smiling lips.

He had a date with Ignis Scientia.

It had ultimately been futile, but Ignis had generously set his alarm for seven rather than his customary five o’clock wake-up. Alas, his body was too conditioned, and he found himself awake and staring in vexation at his ceiling. It was his bloody day off, for Astrals’ sake.

And goodness knew he needed the sleep. The extra training classes he’d signed up for with other prospective Crownsguard recruits combined with his solo sessions with Gladiolus had eroded his six hours of sleep to an average of four.

Well. He was awake, so there was no point in lying abed and wasting precious moments that once spent could never be recouped. Ignis had five hours until his date with Gladiolus. The coffee shop he had proposed was a combination cafe and bookstore, so he knew if nothing else, he and his companion could bond over their shared joy in the written word.

Ignis rose and showered efficiently, wrapping himself in an old tattered robe that was simply too comfortable to replace. He went into the kitchen to fill his largest mug with coffee, and spared a moment to praise his foresight in setting the timer the night before. He indulged himself in a small grin as he waited for the brew to cool enough to sip without burning his tongue.

Apparently, Friday Night Ignis had realized Saturday Morning Ignis would be unable to sleep in, and had planned accordingly.

While he gingerly sipped at the life-giving elixir, Ignis fixed himself a simple breakfast of oatmeal and fresh fruit, sprinkling a little cinnamon and nutmeg into the oats to add flavor. When he’d finished his meal and moved onto his second cup of coffee, Ignis noted that between his morning ablutions, meal prep, and eating, he’d only killed an hour.

Drat his efficiency. How was he to pass the time until he needed to head out? Ignis calculated he didn’t need to start getting ready until 8:30, so he still had over two hours to spare.

It was his day off, but…well, there was always work to be done.

Nodding to himself decisively, Ignis reseated himself at his small kitchen table after collecting his phone, planning to check his emails. He opened up his texting application and fired off a quick reminder to Noctis that a healthy breakfast did not consist of Cocoa Puffs alone, then switched to his email app.

Amidst the deluge of unread mail he expected, he found one decidedly unexpected message. Ignis frowned, delicate lines marring the porcelain perfection of his sharp features, lips pursing as he read the short missive.

What did I do to offend you? Why are you avoiding me?

My door’s open. Use it sometime.

- Nyx Ulric

Ignis sighed and rubbed a hand against his forehead as he considered a response. It would be impolite not to send one, and yet…

Oh, Ifrit’s fiery balls, how could he respond while avoiding both falsehood and the truth?

He couldn’t. So he didn’t. Ignis deleted the email, hoping Nyx would drop it, even as he knew the Glaive would persist until he got to the bottom of it. Ulric did have a reputation for being quite… tenacious.

The rest of his emails were unremarkable and dealt with efficiently. Ignis checked the shared calendar used by himself and Noctis’s other staff and made a few annotations he was certain the Prince would ignore. At least no one could accuse Ignis of shirking his duty.

Exhaling slowly, Ignis set his phone down. Was he shirking his duty today? Two days off in a month might seem perfectly reasonable, but it would set him back immensely. And if the date went well, there would undoubtedly be a second date, a third…

If this became an actual honest-to-Gods relationship, how would he find the time?

A growing sense of panic unfurled in Ignis’s gut. What had he been thinking? Had he even been thinking at all?

That was just the problem. He’d been doing naught but thinking about Gladiolus since that night at the Club, unable to get the damnably handsome man out of his head.

Maybe this date would go poorly and Ignis would be able to focus again, maintaining his hard-earned reputation as the keenest mind the Citadel had seen in decades.

Maybe this date would go superbly and Ignis would lose what dignity he’d held on to around Gladiolus, engulfed by the exquisitely heady rush of new love.

Ignis finished his second cup of coffee and washed the dishes absently. Glancing at the clock, he saw it was 8:20. Close enough. He’d prepare himself for the rendezvous and head over to the shop early. It would be pleasant to spend a bit of time browsing over the new arrivals.

If Ignis took greater pains with his appearance on this morning than he did before going into an audience with the King and full Council, well, who could blame him? It was his first date in far too long, and more importantly - his first date with Gladiolus.

Ignis selected what he termed casual wear, meaning he’d likely be overdressed compared to the other patrons, but Ignis didn’t particularly care. He regarded himself in the mirror once he was dressed, wearing simple gray trousers and a violet polo shirt that caused the brilliant jade of his eyes to stand out in contrast. Ignis combed his ash-blonde hair until it gleamed. Perhaps he ought to experiment with a trendier hair style, but for now the elegant simplicity suited him.

In short order, Ignis had gathered his wallet, phone, and keys. After sliding his feet into a pair of comfortable brown loafers, Ignis was out the door and walking down the Insomnian sidewalks.

It was a beautiful autumn morning, and Ignis relished the opportunity to savor it, drinking in the crisp air and taking in the sights of trees dressed in colorful foliage. The sidewalks weren’t empty - it was far too beautiful a day for that - but it was still early enough that he didn’t have to share them with too many other people. He offered polite smiles to the few that met his eyes. Kindness cost Ignis nothing, and he knew the effect even a stranger’s smile could have on someone having a bad day from personal experience.

When he reached the store, it was only 9:40. Twenty minutes early wasn’t too bad by his standards. Ignis walked in, prepared to go while away the minutes in the comforting presence of books, but stopped in his tracks when he saw a familiar large frame unfolding from a seat in the cafe.

“Iggy!” he heard Gladiolus call out. When Ignis saw the enthusiastic way Gladiolus waved, as if the gesture was necessary when he already had Ignis’s full attention, he couldn’t help but smile.

Well, Ignis supposed he could look at books some other time. And wasn’t it flattering - and endearing - that Gladiolus had arrived so early for their appointment?

“Good morning, Gladiolus,” Ignis said, seating himself opposite the other man.

“It is, isn’t it?” Gladiolus said agreeably. He’d no sooner sat down, than the barista called his name. “Gimme a sec.”

Ignis watched Gladiolus walk up to the counter and figured he’d go place his own order once Gladiolus had returned to the table. But when Gladiolus turned around to head back, Ignis saw he was holding two beverages.

Oh. How thoughtful. Ignis’s breath hitched in his throat as he bit back the dreamy sigh that threatened to escape his control.

“It’s just black,” Gladio explained as he passed Ignis a cup. “I know you prefer it plain.” He flashed an easy grin. “How’s that you put it?”

“Coffee flavored,” Ignis supplied the requested quip with another smile, taking a sip of the brew. “My thanks, Gladiolus.”


Ignis quirked a brow inquisitively.

“Come on, Iggy,” Gladio said. “We work together, we train together, we hang out at Noct’s together,” he scrubbed a hand through his hair a bit self-consciously, and Ignis thought it was charmingly mussed after he finished. “Now we’re here together. I think you can drop the full name formality.”

“All right,” Ignis did his best to maintain a mellow timbre, his heart racing with excitement. He was actually here. On a date. With Gladiolus.


“What are you drinking?” Ignis asked politely, thinking it was at least an incrementally better topic than the weather.

“Don’t laugh,” Gladio warned him, but the twinkle in his topaz eyes belied the severity of his tone.

“I would never,” Ignis said gravely, his own gaze alight with similar mirth.

“Pumpkin spice latte,” Gladio admitted. “Iris made me try it when I took her shopping the other week and… dammit, Iggy, it’s good, okay?” He took a deep drinking, smacking his lips in over-exaggerated enjoyment. “It fucking tastes like fall.”

Ignis swallowed the laughter that threatened to bubble forth. “I’m sure it does… Gladio,” he tried out. When he saw the pleased light in Gladio’s eyes at his use of the diminutive, Ignis felt his cheeks heat with pleasure.

“You want somethin’ to eat?” Gladio offered.

Ignis shook his head. “I already had breakfast, thank you. But please, get something for yourself if you wish.”

“Nah, I’m good,” Gladio said before taking another sip of his latte.

They spent an hour chatting idly about books - unsurprising, given the venue - about Iris, about a new recipe Ignis was working on perfecting. When they finished their beverages, Ignis made a suggestion.

“Care to talk a walk? It’s far too beautiful to stay cooped up indoors.” Ignis toyed with his empty cup as he awaited Gladio’s response, trying not to get his hopes up. Just because he himself had left the entire day open aside from this date, didn’t mean Gladio hadn’t any other plans to attend to.

“Sounds great!” Gladio said and stood.

Ignis rose as well and collected both their empty mugs to drop off at the counter on their way out. He fought back a smile when Gladio held the door for him - and let that smile flourish when Gladio enfolded one of Ignis’s hands in his, entwining their fingers as they began to meander down the sidewalk.

The moment was short lived, however. Suppressing a pang of regret, Ignis untangled his fingers from Gladio’s calloused digits, shooting him an apologetic look. “We’re in public,” he said by way of explanation.

“Shit, I wasn’t thinking. Sorry, Iggy.” Gladio shoved his hands in his pockets, and Ignis liked to imagine it was Gladio’s way of avoiding temptation.

Ignis quite liked the thought that holding his hand was so enticing to the wonderful man walking at his side.

“So, what are your plans the rest of the day?” Ignis asked. While he didn’t mind the quiet, he supposed people were expected to make conversation on dates, so he’d do his best to talk despite the intoxicating effect of Gladio’s presence.

“Dinner with Iris, and hopefully my dad, if he can get home in time.” Gladio shot a sidelong glance at Ignis. “Otherwise, you’re my only plan.”

Ignis internally mapped the steps of an ancient Galahdian folk dance he’d studied during an elective course at university. “I do hope your father is able to join you and Iris,” he settled on saying.

“Me too,” Gladio agreed. “What about you?”

Ignis studied a large oak tree they were approaching, admiring the way the leaves bled between russet and gold. “I imagine I’ll read a book, or take in a film,” Ignis said. “Truthfully, I hadn’t come up with much else to fill this day. I suppose I could stop by Noctis’s later, see if he needs anything.”

“Not if it’s your day off,” Gladio said firmly. “And don’t think I haven’t noticed how seldom you take them. You should enjoy it.”

“Yes, well...” Ignis stammered, trailing off and continuing to survey the fall foliage.

“Yes, well,” Gladio repeated, his timbre playfully reproachful. He reached out and grasped Ignis’s bicep, causing him to stop walking.

Ignis turned to glance at Gladio curiously, feeling the heat of those fingers through the cotton of his shirt and praying he looked more composed than he felt in response to the casual touch.

“Iggy,” Gladio said, humor sparking in those honey-brown eyes. “Do I have to spend the whole day with you to make sure you don’t work?”

“Perhaps,” Ignis said flirtatiously, eyes half-lidded as he gazed at the larger man. “How else could you truly be sure?”

Gladio laughed, squeezed his arm briefly, let go and then resumed walking.

Ignis matched his pace and was a bit relieved that for a time, silence reigned. He was a bit overwhelmed at the thought of spending hours more with Gladio and truthfully had no idea how to fill them. They could certainly walk for quite a while -  it was a lovely day. Lunch would be good, though Ignis wasn’t certain if it would be appropriate to invite Gladio to his place to prepare them something. But it would certainly be more relaxing to be out of the public eye.

Maybe Gladio would hold his hand again.

Before he could second guess himself, Ignis proposed his plan to Gladio and was met with immediate enthusiasm.

“Like I’d ever turn down a chance to eat your cooking,” Gladio bumped his shoulder against Ignis’s companionably. “Way better than most restaurants in town.”

Unaccustomed to such lofty praise, Ignis decided to move past it with alacrity. “Then perhaps we should circle around to the market. It lets out soon, but we may still be able to find a few things I could use to fix lunch.”

“Sure,” Gladio agreed. “Lead on.”

Ignis was glad they got to the small open-air market when they did. Several merchants had already begun packing up their wares, but he moved with efficiency and was able to find sufficient fresh herbs, vegetables, and even some wild daggerquill. Small tart yellow apples would make for a simple, refreshing dessert.

Ignis noticed Gladio just stood back and watched as Ignis haggled and deliberated over his purchases, but since the other man spoke no words of protest or impatience, Ignis figured he must not mind the time it was taking.

After all, Ignis would settle for nothing less than perfection if he was to cook for Gladio. Sure, he’d fed the man before - at Noct’s apartment, in a group setting.

This was different.

“Shall we?” Ignis said, a bit at a loss for words. Fortunately, Gladio didn’t seem to notice his awkwardness, or if he did, he made no comment.

It didn’t take long for them to walk back to Ignis’s apartment, and as they walked up the stairs Ignis spared a moment to consider how good it was he maintained such strict housekeeping habits. Not that he expected Gladio would be the type to fuss over a bit of dust or clutter - he hung out at Noct’s, for Shiva’s sake, and that place was generally a disaster - but it was a matter of pride.

“Make yourself at home,” Ignis invited as he toed off his shoes and carried the groceries into the kitchen.

When Gladio removed his sneakers and followed him, Ignis quirked a brow. How to say this tactfully? “I don’t have a very large kitchen,” Ignis decided on.

Gladio loomed closer. “I don’t see a problem.” He grinned, crossing his arms. “I won’t get in your way. Promise.”

Ignis turned his back on Gladio under the premise of getting out his cookware. Astrals, give him strength. He was not going to get distracted and ruin this meal. He was Ignis Scientia, Royal Advisor Apparent to the Prince, and he could cook this meal blindfolded.

Oh, Six, don’t think about blindfolds.

“Nice place you got here,” Gladio said conversationally as Ignis put the meat in the oven to bake, chopping the veggies with practiced skill.

“Thank you,” Ignis replied. “I know it’s not much, but I’m not here all that often, and I rarely entertain.”

They chatted - well, Gladio chatted and Ignis made the correctly responsive sounds while busy with his task, and time flowed easily. When the meal was ready, Ignis plated it and gestured towards the table.

It was with a mixture of relief and dismay that Ignis realized how quickly the hours had flown by. At least this answered the question of if it would be awkward for Gladio and him to spend time together one-on-one that wasn’t engaged in training exercises. The conversation flowed well, and the pauses were comfortable rather than strained. Gladio had stayed true to his promise, managing to keep Ignis company in his cramped kitchen without impeding his efforts.

And now, having finished the simple lunch, they’d headed into Ignis’s simply furnished living room to watch a movie. Gladio filled two thirds of Ignis’s tiny couch, but Ignis didn’t mind in the slightest the way that their legs were pressed together. When Gladio entwined their fingers, laying their clasped hands on the firm muscle of Gladio’s thigh, Ignis forgot what movie they were supposed to be watching.

Ignis felt like the teenager he hadn’t truly been able to be, and found it simultaneously amusing and frustrating. His body knew what it wanted, but this was a real date, not a precursor to a meaningless shag, and he knew well the rewards that could come from being patient. So he contented himself with laying his head on Gladio’s broad shoulder and ignoring the movie. Ignis suspected, given the frequency at which his stolen glances caught Gladio peeking in his direction, that his companion had equal disinterest in the cinematic presentation.

When the movie ended, Gladio glanced at his phone and frowned. Ignis felt a surge of anxiety, hoping he hadn’t selfishly kept Gladio occupied too long.

“I gotta get home,” Gladio said, standing. Since he didn’t relinquish Ignis’s hand, Ignis found himself rising along with him.

“Of course,” Ignis replied with a smile. “Have a wonderful time with Iris and your father.”

They walked towards the door slowly, making the most of these last moments of their first date, gazing at each other with similarly twitterpated expressions.

“Today was great,” Gladio said.

“Indeed. Thanks for helping me not work.”

“Heh. Anytime.”

And then Gladio’s lips pressed to his, and Ignis forgot everything but the heady taste of Gladiolus Amicitia, the way that large, strong body pressed against his, the warmth of the calloused hand still holding onto his.

Another moment, and Gladio was gone. Ignis stood there with his back pressed against his door, face flushed and eyes bright. He lifted his hand to ghost fingertips across the memory of that kiss. Ignis had been kissed before, many times - he hadn’t been celibate, after all.

But he’d never been kissed by Gladio.

As far as first kisses went… it was exquisite.

Chapter Text

Gentle sunbeams filtered through the curtains and warmed Ignis’s face until he woke up marveling at his ability to actually stay asleep past five for once. Of course, Gladio probably had a good deal to do with that. Their Friday evening training session had been… intense.

Over the fortnight since their first official date, Ignis had been exceedingly vexed at his inability to carve out enough time for another. The little free time he was able to wrangle seemed to unerringly fall when Gladio was busy, but Ignis knew he truly didn’t have reason to complain.

They were both busy men, and this would likely be a common state of affairs should their fledgling bond flourish.

Despite this, they saw each other often - meetings, briefings, dinners at Noctis’s apartment with the Prince and Prompto, and those now flirtatiously-charged training sessions.

And every morning for the last two weeks, when Ignis arrived at his office, he found a takeaway cup of coffee from Carpe Librum waiting on his desk. Some days it had a simple smiley face drawn on it, other days it would have a more custom message ranging from See you at training - G to Don’t work too hard, okay? -G.

Gladio was as thoughtful as he was handsome, and Ignis was falling fast.

Ignis stretched languorously, allowing himself a moment to replay some of the highlights from the previous night before arising from his bed. They’d sparred without weapons since Gladio insisted Ignis needed to work on the fundamentals of hand-to-hand combat, citing the importance of having a solid foundation in the basics before getting into more advanced tactics. The hint of a smirk appeared on Ignis’s sleepy face as he mulled over the obvious logical fallacy: Gladio had been the one to begin his weapons training. Ignis suspected Gladio’s insistence the day before had less to do with his grasp of the rudiments of hand-to-hand and more to do with Gladio’s desire to get physical with Ignis.

And Ignis certainly wasn’t complaining.

At such close quarters, Gladio tended to easily overpower Ignis by virtue of brute strength alone. It decidedly did not help Ignis’s chances at winning when he had to admit he preferred losing. Being pinned under that walking muscle of a man, seeing the cocky smirk of triumph light up those topaz eyes, feeling Gladio’s breath huff out against his face with a laugh of victory…

Definitely not complaining.

However, if Ignis was honest with himself, his favorite moment from their sparring session had been when he turned the tables on Gladio and managed to incapacitate the larger man.

He wished he could say it had been an exercise in cunning strategy, but really, all he’d had to do was give Gladio a slightly exaggerated pout, catch his lower lip in his teeth a moment before licking it, and slowly blink up at Gladio from where he stood before him, mere inches away. When Gladio’s eyes had widened and his breath hitched in his throat, Ignis had struck, kicking Gladio’s legs out from under him and springing atop him, straddling his waist and pinning his impressive biceps against the mats.

Ignis felt his cheeks heat as he remembered the way Gladio had rutted up against him for an instant, big and hard and wonderful against the curve of his ass.

This time when he bit his lip, it wasn’t in any effort to throw Gladio off balance - he wasn’t there, after all - but in an attempt to regain his own.

A glance at the clock on his bedside table showed Ignis he still had hours until he was to meet Gladio, but perhaps he should make better use of that time than just lazing about in bed.

With that thought Ignis left the comfort of cotton sheets and padded out into his kitchen, performing the requisite morning ritual of brewing Ebony. He waited until enough had percolated that he could sneak a few blessed sips, and then headed off to shower while the pot worked its magic.

Ignis was having trouble thinking about anything but Gladio, which was perhaps understandable since he was preparing himself for their second date. But rather than ruminating on the day’s plan of coffee and a movie, Ignis kept thinking back to that maddening sparring session, that warm body pressed against his, those strong arms pinning him down.

That bulge grinding against his ass.

With a groan, Ignis took himself in hand, knowing it would be prudent to take the edge off before his date so that he conducted himself appropriately. Images of molten amber eyes and victorious smirks collided with thoughts of that body over his, under his, and it didn’t take long for Ignis to reach his peak. As Ignis came, it was Gladio’s name on his lips, and when his thoughts resumed normalcy he was able to focus on the plan for the day with considerably less distraction.

It didn’t take Ignis long to ready himself despite his frequent coffee breaks. In short order he was out the door and walking to the coffee shop to meet Gladio. Perhaps he’d manage to arrive before the other man this time; he could treat Gladio to one of those pumpkin drinks he favored, though one cup was hardly sufficient recompense for two weeks of considerateness.

The bell tinkled melodically as Ignis pushed open the door. A quick scan of piercing green eyes confirmed that he had managed to get the jump on Gladio this time. With a small, satisfied smile, Ignis got in line to order their drinks. The customer in front of him seemed to have a frightfully complicated order, however, so Ignis had a bit of time to wool-gather while he awaited his turn.

Naturally, his thoughts turned to Gladiolus. How could he possibly think of anything else, when he’d be seeing Gladio again so soon?

So lost was Ignis in his daydreams about strong hands and amber eyes, that he failed to notice the very behemoth of a man he was fantasizing about approach. Ignis was startled out of his reverie when one of those large hands clasped his shoulder companionably, squeezing lightly before falling away.

With a blush that Ignis found embarrassing - and Gladio seemed to find charming, from the way his lips canted in a delighted smile - Ignis turned to look at him. “Good morning.”

“Hey, Iggy,” Gladio rumbled, shoving his hands in his pockets while they waited. “Been here long?”

“Not terribly.”

They passed the time in idle conversation, though Ignis was growing quite impatient and frustrated by the continued complaints of the customer ahead of them. He quite understood wanting your drink a certain way, but by the Six, did coffee have to be so complicated?

At long last, it was their turn, and Ignis stepped up, half blocking Gladio as the other man moved to do the same. After sparing Gladio a brief smirk, Ignis spoke politely to the harried barista.

“Ebony, large, black. And a pumpkin spice latte, large, please.”

The transaction was concluded efficiently, and Ignis passed Gladio his drink with a smile. “I fancied it was my turn to treat you, after how well you’ve kept me caffeinated these past weeks.”

“I didn’t do it for anything in return, but I ain’t gonna argue,” Gladio grinned, sipping at the festive fall drink. “Thanks.”

“Shall we walk to the theater while we enjoy our drinks?” Ignis suggested. “I try to make the most of these temperate fall days since all too soon winter’s chill will make walking unpleasant.”

“Sure,” Gladio said.

As they walked out of the shop and began meandering down the sidewalk, Ignis felt a momentary pang of anxiety. He was so bloody loquacious about even such a simple thing as suggesting a walk. Maybe he should try to dial it back a bit, lest he put off Gladio with his verbosity.

“Iggy?” Gladio’s voice was a welcome break in Ignis’s internal self-flagellation.

“Yes, Gladio?”

“What’s goin’ on in that brain of yours?” Trust Gladio to notice how tense Ignis had grown. It was easy for Ignis to forget that Gladio was equally as trained as he himself to pay keen attention to his surroundings, and those people residing therein.

Ignis was torn. He abhorred revealing even the slightest weakness, but perhaps if he was to properly nourish this attraction into something long-lasting, honesty and openness was more important than maintaining the walls built by his propriety.

At least on some matters.

“I was over-thinking,” Ignis decided on. “Wondering if I talk too much.”

Gladio barked a short laugh, slinging a friendly arm around Ignis’s broad shoulders in a brief gesture that their fellow Insomnians would surely read nothing into beyond friendship. “Iggy, that voice of yours? I’d listen to you talk all day. Hell, we can skip the movie, go back to your place, and you can read the fucking phone book to me.” The look he slanted at Ignis, all molten eyes and quirked lips, would never be interpreted as simply friendly. “I’d be a captive audience.”

Ignis had to admit, he was sorely tempted to take Gladio up on his ridiculous suggestion, though he imaged very little reading would occur. Taking a deep, grounding breath, Ignis reminded his hormones that this wasn’t to be a passing tryst to fill simple carnal needs, and such matters weren’t to be rushed.

“Flattery, Gladiolus,” Ignis rasped with a sidelong look so far from innocent that he half expected a Glaive to arrest him, “will get you everywhere.”

“Yeah?” Gladio purred. “So… your place?” Clearly Ignis wasn’t the only one struggling against his base urges.

“The movie, please,” Ignis said. Verdant eyes gave Gladio’s face the caress his hands could not, here in the public eye. “I don’t want to rush this.” His tone shifted like quicksilver from flirtation to seriousness.

“Agreed,” Gladio said.

The remainder of the walk was unremarkable, but Ignis treasured every little anecdote, the music of Gladio’s laughter, the challenge of arguing over what movie to see. All the silly little things that Ignis imagined most people took for granted were so inordinately precious to him.

Ignis’s life didn’t give him much occasion to behave like a normal young man, and he valued every last moment he could eke out, no matter how pedestrian a stroll through Insomnia’s commercial district might be.

Two hours later, if you’d asked Ignis what movie he’d just seen, he would have to admit to being completely in the dark. Once they’d taken their seats and endured the requisite adverts and trailers, the lights had dimmed, and Gladio had taken Ignis’s hand in his and not let go until the end credits rolled.

Ignis did his best to memorize the feel of that callused palm mashed against his, those large fingers intertwined with his slimmer digits. Every time Gladio brushed his thumb over the delicate skin of Ignis’s inner wrist, Ignis trembled, praying Gladio didn’t notice the effect such a simple touch was having on him.

Judging by the frequency with which Gladio repeated that caress, he noticed. And he liked it.

As they left the theater, Ignis consulted his watch. “I need to go prepare Noct’s dinner.”

Gladio scoffed. “It’s your day off.”

“Please, Gladio,” Ignis implored. “Just this one time, I insist you let me do this small bit of work despite that fact.” As evening approached, Ignis desperately needed any distraction he could come up with, any way to keep busy and fill the hours. Tonight was the night he’d typically be going to the Coeurl’s VIP party, but he wasn’t allowing himself that pleasure this month.

He was still too shaken by his discovery that Nyx Ulric was Stag. Nyx had been the man giving Ignis all those amazing beatings, the only player at the parties that Ignis had trusted to delve into minor bits of psychological play.

The only one who’d seen Ignis come undone, no matter how accidental that orgasm had been.

No. Ignis couldn’t face him. If he went, Stag would want to scene with Hawk, and Ignis just couldn’t do it, not now that he knew the truth of Stag’s secret identity.

Instead Ignis had done what he’d learned over the years could help when he was feeling lost, alone, confused - he made himself busy.

To be fair, rare was the day Ignis wasn’t busy, but he knew if he didn’t fill up this unscheduled time with something, anything to distract himself from the knowledge the party was going on, and he was missing it, and why he was missing it… he’d go mad.

“I could come along,” Gladio offered instead of arguing further. “Help you out? Or at least, keep you company?”

Ignis’s eyes crinkled in the hint of a smile as he fought not to show how overjoyed he was by that suggestion. “You’re more than welcome to do so if you wish. Prompto will be there as well. I’ve already stocked Noctis’s kitchen with everything I need, so we can head there directly if you like.”

“Maybe we should drive?” Gladio asked. “It’s gonna get chilly when the sun sets.”

“Indeed,” Ignis agreed.

“I’ll go home and get my truck,” Gladio offered. “Pick you up at your place in an hour?”

“Perfect. Thank you, Gladio.”

One last heated look and they parted ways.

The walk back to his apartment gave Ignis more time to obsess over how differently this evening would be spent than his typical plan. For a year now, the third Saturday of the month was spent self-indulgently, relaxing and enjoying his hobbies by daylight, and assuming his alter-ego to satiate himself in the welcome embrace of consensual pain by starlight.

Ignis resolved that he’d find a way to move past his discomfort with Stag’s identity before the following month’s gathering, as he was loathe to go so long without getting his fix. Perhaps something was wrong with him. Undoubtedly it would shock his colleagues to know that Ignis craved pain like a starving man yearned for food. Once a month was far less than he’d prefer, but it was just enough to help him stay sane amidst his never-ending list of duties, to keep him grounded and centered when life kept throwing new challenges and responsibilities his way.

Porcelain features were suffused with pink as his thoughts went again, inexorably, unrelentingly, to Gladiolus.

If things continued with Gladio… if they could build the trust and the love necessary for such things… then dreams Ignis had assumed would ever stay as flights of fancy could be realized.

It was a heady rush of realization, and one that had him literally staggering he let himself into his apartment.

It was exciting and terrifying to contemplate, but now that the seeds had been sown they’d taken root. Ignis knew any hope he had of thinking about aught else this evening was lost.

Thank the Six that Ignis had years of training which enabled him to perform his tasks expertly despite any mental distraction.

He snorted a laugh. Imagine, considering this - Gladio, their potential - a simple distraction.

Ignis couldn’t think of a word that would accurately capture what it was, and in truth, he was too enraptured with letting his mind spin out fantasies like spiderwebs, speckled with the dewdrops of hope and desire.

Ignis made himself go through the motions of freshening up. He brushed his teeth, combed his hair, puttered around his kitchen, and set the coffeepot for tomorrow morning’s brew. When his phone chirped with a text notification, Ignis smiled. A quick glance at the display showed it was Gladio letting him know he had arrived, and as the parking situation by Ignis’s building wasn’t ideal, Gladio was waiting in the car for him.

Ignis nodded to himself, simultaneously pleased and irritated that insufficient parking caused Gladio to stay downstairs. Ramuh knew, if Gladio had come up to Ignis’s apartment, they’d have never left.

He locked up and made haste down the stairs and out the front door, locating Gladio’s vehicle without difficulty. Ignis walked over and felt himself melt all over again when Gladio popped out and strode around the front of the truck to open the passenger side door. Who would have ever thought the Shield would turn out to be such a gentleman?

Ignis kept his eyes low, fearing what Gladio would be able to read if Ignis met that topaz gaze. He wasn’t ready to be so vulnerable. Not yet.

Once they were both seated, Gladio skillfully navigated the Insomnian streets while they made idle conversation about the food Ignis was going to prepare, the video game the younger men were undoubtedly already lost within, the traffic and crazy pedestrians who made the drive far more challenging than it needed to be.

After Gladio parked, he grinned at Ignis in a way that made Ignis fervently wish they had the privacy to map each other’s bodies with their tongues.

Ignis looked at him inquisitively when he neither moved nor spoke. “Gladio…?”


They leaned towards each other, giving into that urge, that need, that magnetic pull they’d fought for hours. When they kissed, it was too short - they lacked the privacy to do it properly. But Ignis savored the brief taste of Gladio’s mouth, the roughness of the stubble against his smooth cheek, the teasing little flick of tongue Ignis felt against his lips before drawing back.

Ignis and Gladio shared a small smile, then got out of the truck and headed into Noct’s building.

When they reached the penthouse apartment, they were unsurprised to hear the mingled clamor of video game music and Noctis’s and Prompto’s trash talk. As they headed in, their paths diverged - Gladio went off to the living room, and Ignis to his personal haven.

While Ignis pulled out the pans and utensils he’d need, lined up all his ingredients in the order they’d be required, he internally chanted don’t think, don’t think, don’t think. But every time he caught sight of the clock on the wall, drawing inexorably closer to the appointed hour, he’d feel a tightening in his chest.

Once he’d actually started cooking, Ignis was able to lose himself in the familiar rhythms of chopping and stirring, of mixing and sautéeing. The fragrances of the different herbs and spices mingled delightfully, overlaying the scent of roasting meat quite nicely. Ignis paused to grab himself an Ebony from the fridge but startled noticeably when he turned and saw Gladio standing there, massive arms folded across his wide chest, watching Ignis work with a fond smile.

“I didn’t hear you come in,” Ignis explained, taking a step back and stirring the vegetables even though they didn’t need it.

“Figured,” Gladio replied. “You were in the zone.”

Gladio was blocking his path to the refrigerator. “Pass me an Ebony, won’t you?”

“You got it.” Gladio handed one over, and grabbed himself a bottled water. “Don’t suppose you need any help?”

“No,” Ignis said a bit absently as he checked on the meat. “Thank you, Gladio. Dinner should be ready in about a half hour.”

He saw Gladio’s amber eyes dart to the clock, and noted the other man’s frown. It was as if Gladio was calculating the hours, as if he had somewhere to be…


Was Gladio still planning to attend the party?

Ignis turned away from Gladio, lest his eyes betray his churning emotions. He focused on tidying up what he could, the food well enough on its own for now.

It was certainly Gladio’s right to go if he wished. They’d been on two dates and were hardly exclusive.

And Ignis couldn’t exactly bring it up, since he wasn’t supposed to know Gladio had been there.

Just as Gladio didn’t know Ignis had been there, didn’t know they had locked eyes mere minutes after Ignis came undone during a flogging by Nyx bloody Ulric.

Ignis wasn’t ready to reveal his secret. This was too new, too fragile. Despite the growing evidence that Gladio wouldn’t mind Ignis’s proclivities in the slightest, he’d been burned too many times to trust this quickly.

“I have somewhere to be later,” Gladio said a bit awkwardly. “Sorry to eat and run.”

“Of course,” Ignis said smoothly, the calm timbre of his rich baritone a stark contrast to the roiling in his guts. “I shan’t keep you from your plans.” If his voice was a bit colder than before, well, he was only human.

Conversation fell silent after that exchange, a tension building that neither man seemed able - or willing - to address. Thankfully, they weren’t alone, and as the minutes ticked ever onward, the cheerful laughter of Prompto and the delighted taunting of Noctis combined to break the pall that had been cast over the kitchen.

When Ignis plated the food, Gladio considerately took portions out to the living room for the younger men without being asked. Ignis made himself smile when Gladio returned, offering him a laden plate before seating himself at the small table.

Gladio accepted his tacit invitation and sat across from Ignis, the two eating in a companionable silence.

Ignis decided to test the waters. “Are you expected back home tonight?”

“Nope. Going out with some friends.”

“That sounds nice,” Ignis murmured. “Anyone I know?”

Gladio scratched the back of his head, eyes darting around as he seemed to debate how to respond. “Nyx and some other people. Nothin’ special. Sorry I didn’t mention sooner.”

Ignis managed to keep his face smooth at the mention of Ulric’s name. So. Gladio knew Nyx attended. Interesting. Ignis filed that bit of knowledge away for later and refocused himself on being a good host, the fact this wasn’t his house notwithstanding.

“You owe me no apologies, Gladio,” he drawled, quirking one manicured eyebrow sardonically. Lowering his volume, Ignis continued, “We’ve been on two dates. I hardly own you.”

“Yeah, well…” Gladio shoveled more food in his mouth, but his eyes stayed honed to Ignis’s. After he swallowed he spoke, voice pitched softly, “I had a great time today. Hope we can do it again soon.”

“Me too,” Ignis breathed the words, a genuine smile melting through the artifice of his anxiety.

Gladio finished his meal and rose, rinsing his plate. “See ya at training on Monday?”

“Indeed.” Ignis stood as well, wishing he could do more than just accept the fistbump Gladio offered him. “Until then.”

Ignis listened to Gladio exchange playful goodbyes with the younger men, and then Gladio was gone, and Ignis was left to bore holes into the clock with the intensity of his gaze, counting the minutes until Gladio would arrive at the Coeurl, would find himself a willing partner, and…

No. He was not going to obsess about this. He was a fully grown, highly educated man, and not prone to fits of jealousy over a situation which truthfully was of his own creation. Had he but spoken up, Ignis suspected Gladio would have blown off the party. Had he been braver still, they could have gone together.

Ignis rolled up his shirtsleeves and prepared to clean Noctis’s kitchen so thoroughly that when he was through the appliances would look brand new.

Gladio felt a bit guilty as he left Noctis’s apartment, but he’d promised to catch up with Nyx at the Coeurl, so he hadn’t been outright lying to Ignis. He just chose not to tell the man he’d only just begun to date that he was on his way to a kink party, and thought that was a pretty reasonable decision given the newness of what was building between them.

Not that Gladio was ashamed in the slightest. He liked what he liked, he only played with willing and enthusiastic partners, and he figured it was a topic better broached sooner rather than later. Just not ‘second date soon’. Gladio couldn’t really see Iggy being down for much beyond a little light bondage, but hey, he’d been wrong before.

His mind’s eye was filled with the image of Ignis’s lanky limbs restrained by leather cuffs, those full lips stretched around a gag, Gladio’s hands and teeth and tongue working over his trembling body, unmaking him inch by inch. Gladio tried to imagine how that impeccably accented voice would sound, crispness melted away by passion as Ignis came undone beneath him, and he had to fucking pull his truck over and take a few deep breaths.

After adjusting himself the best he could while sitting in a car seat, Gladio merged back onto the highway and continued on his way to the club.

It was a short drive, and Gladio was grateful. He didn’t need to stew in his own thoughts any longer than necessary. Better to just focus on what a great day it’d been. He’d had a blast out with Iggy, didn’t mind dinner with the twerps, and the whole day had been pretty awesome aside from that momentary awkwardness in the kitchen.

Now he’d get to catch up with Nyx, something they didn’t manage nearly as often as Gladio would like. Having decided he wasn’t in the mood to be a human flogging dispenser this evening, Gladio had left his toys at home. He figured he’d just chat with Nyx, maybe watch a few scenes, and make an early night of it.

After showing his membership card to the doorman, Gladio walked in and experienced the same culture shock he had a month ago when he looked around at all the unconventionally dressed - and undressed - people, heard the thrilling sounds of whips and paddles and people, so many people doing those things Gladio loved, and not judging each other for it but Gods-damned celebrating it. At least this time he was a little more prepared for the onslaught of sights and sounds, adjusting quickly to the dimmer lighting and raucous din.

It wasn’t hard for him to find his friend, with that spectacularly ostentatious mask Nyx hid himself behind. And speaking of masks…

Gladio cast his eyes around, but didn’t catch sight of man he knew only as Hawk. Pity. Maybe he’d show up later.

Maybe Nyx could introduce them.

Another flare of guilt was mercilessly squashed. Two dates, no talk about exclusivity - Gladio was doing nothing wrong by being interested.

Besides, he didn’t exactly want to romance Hawk. Heh.

Sauntering up behind Nyx, Gladio tapped his friend’s shoulder. “Hey.”

Nyx turned, offering Gladio a sunny smile, sparkling blue eyes seeming bluer, surrounded as they were by the silver of his mask. “You made it!” Nyx clapped a friendly hand on Gladio’s shoulder and steered him towards an unoccupied couch, seating himself and gesturing for Gladio to join him.

Gladio sat, and grinned at his friend. “How’s it goin’?”

“Slowly,” Nyx sighed melodramatically. “But the night is young. You?”

“Pretty good day. Saw Ignis again.” Gladio was aware of the sappy smile that blossomed on his face and he couldn’t care less.

“You get Scientia to come clean on why he’s avoiding me?”

“Shit, man, I totally forgot,” Gladio admitted.

Nyx looked a bit perturbed, but it was so fleeting Gladio couldn’t be sure he’d seen the cross expression. “I suppose that’s fair.” His grin was teasing and unrepentant as he sing-songed out, “Ah, to be young and in love!”

Gladio blinked. “Dude, it’s been two dates.”

“Yeah, but ‘to be young and in like’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it,” Nyx chuckled.

Gladio laughed. All his earlier tension had melted away, and he settled back as comfortably as a man of his size could against the couch.

“Anything planned for tonight?” Gladio asked with what he hoped was the appropriate amount of casualness.

“Nahh,” Nyx replied. “I don’t tend to over plan these parties, I see who shows up and looks interesting.” He made a show of eyeing Gladio, giving him such a thorough once-over it left Gladio squirming. “Right now, that’s you, gorgeous,” he purred, laying a hand on Gladio’s knee.

Gladio had to admit, he wasn’t entirely sure how to take Nyx’s flirtation. Sure, the other man was hot, Gladio wasn’t blind. But he thought they’d already established not being into each other in that way.

Of course, that was before Gladio had seen Nyx working that ridiculously heavy anak-hide flogger in all its glory…

“Yeah?” Gladio rumbled lazily, shooting Nyx a look from half-lidded eyes. “Keep talkin’.”

Nyx’s eyes lit up like it was fucking Solstice morning. “You like it when people talk, Amicitia?” Those cerulean eyes narrowed, his trademark grin shifting into a devious smirk. “I can talk about all sorts of things. But I had something a little more hands-on in mind.”

“Enough pretty words, Ulric,” Gladio said, sitting up straighter. He enjoyed wordplay as much as the next bibliophile, but in this atmosphere, with the way the air was charged between them - he wanted things to be spoken plainly and clearly.

Nyx laughed, the sound soft as velvet and rich as dark chocolate, practically a caress in itself.

“Okay, okay; sorry, handsome.” Standing fluidly, Nyx hefted a black case Gladio had completely ignored up to this point. Nyx set it on the couch in the seat he’d vacated, and opened the latches, revealing the tools of his trade, as it were, to Gladio’s keen visage.

Gladio felt a little bit like a kid in a candy store, if he was being honest with himself - which he generally was. When Nyx lifted a simple brown leather flogger and shot Gladio a look of challenge, Gladio’s breath caught in his throat. He suspected he knew what Nyx was about to offer, and his thoughts were racing so fast he could hardly keep up.

“What do you say, Gladio? Want to give me the beating you’ve never managed when we spar?”

“Actually…” Gladio made a quick choice, feeling momentarily amused at how years of training to make snap decisions on the field of battle could come in handy in the most unlikely of situations.

He jutted his chin up, prepared for a reaction ranging from judgemental laughter to flat disbelief. “I’d rather you beat me.”

To Ulric’s credit, a widening of those sapphire eyes was his only outward reaction. The Glaive seemed to need a minute to mull over the unexpected counteroffer. Gladio wasn’t very comfortable with the stretching silence, and decided to fill it.

“I know, I know. People look at me, they see the height and the muscles and the bitchin’ tattoo, and they assume I’m all dom all the time.” He lifted his hands, using them for emphasis, bouncing them in time with his words. “But fuck, Nyx, sometimes I want a break, yeah? It’s hard work always being the one dishin’ it out, especially with how little thanks it seems like most people here give.” His words were as bitter as Ignis’s beloved Ebony.

Nyx nodded slowly as Gladio spoke. “I can understand that. I’m about as switchy as they come, but I don’t look like you so no one’s ever been surprised.” His eyes glittered with amusement. “I’m all for fucking with people’s expectations, so, yeah… I’m down.”

“Cool,” Gladio said, feeling a bit surreal as this interaction continued. It’d been years since his last date with a man, before Ignis. It had been even longer since his last beating. Fuck, aside from some light spanking from women who giggled the whole way through it, he’d never really had a proper beating.

Probably best to tell Nyx. “So, uh… I’ve never actually been flogged or anything.”

Nyx leaned forward, eyes intent. “What have you done?”

Gladio explained the little bit of slap and tickle he’d received over the years. “Really though, I have a pretty good idea of what I might like and dislike, just from being on the top side so often. I know it’s not the same, but I test my shit out on my arm to get an idea of what it might feel like on my partner.”

“That’s smart,” Nyx complimented him. “And more than a lot of novices bother with.”

“Heh. Fair point.”

“Why don’t you tell me what you’d like to try?”

“Um,” Gladio felt a tiny flare of embarrassment. “Everything?”

Nyx laughed. “My, my, aren’t we greedy?”

“Fuck you,” Gladio grinned. “I haven’t gotten to try much so I’m curious.”

Nyx nodded, eyes still twinkling with mirth. “Limits?”

“Don’t cut me. Don’t leave marks in places people at work can see. Nothing sexual.” He considered everything Nyx had at his disposal. “Don’t light me on fire.”

That caused Nyx to laugh so hard he doubled over. “Oh Gods, I’ve never considered using the Lucian magic to that end. Though now that you mention it…”

"No thanks,” Gladio said drily.

“Okay, I think I have a pretty good idea of where to go with this,” Nyx said, offering a hand to Gladio. When Gladio clasped it, Nyx tugged him to his feet, and looked up at the taller man with a crooked smile. “What’s your safeword?”

“Cup Noodles.”

Nyx snickered. “Oh, Gladio. Never change, friend.” He hefted his case and scanned the room. “Do you have a preference on how I position you?”

“Nah,” Gladio said. “You’re the one who has to reach all this. You pick.” He was aware that his height could make some positions problematic, and figured the least he could do was be considerate of that fact.

“Fair enough. Let’s go.”

Nyx started walking across the crowded room, and Gladio carefully picked his way through the throng in his wake. Nyx led him to a bench he’d used last month with some of the women he’d flogged, so he wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with it.

“Don’t kneel down on it, that’ll lower you too far. Stand, and brace your hands here,” Nyx indicated the cushion the bench where typically a bottom would rest their chest. “Go for not quite shoulder width spacing, it’ll make the position easier to hold.”

Gladio paid close attention to the directions. “Gotcha. Anything else?”

"I don’t think so.” Another flash of white teeth bared in a wide smile. “Strip down as far as you’re comfortable with, get in position, and just leave the rest to me, beautiful.”

“Heh. I ain’t shy.” Gladio’s only allowance for modesty was keeping his black boxer-briefs in place, and truth be told, that was more a reminder that this interaction was nonsexual in nature. He’d spent too many years in communal locker rooms and barracks to care about displaying his muscular body.

Nyx whistled lowly. “Ah, what a canvas to work with.” He brushed his fingertips down Gladio’s spine from neck to tailbone as Gladio bent himself into the directed position, planting his hands firmly and taking a grounding breath.

His pulse was pounding and they hadn’t even begun. Gladio couldn’t deny his thrill at getting to sate his curiosity at long last. Trust Nyx to have no issues looking past his exterior and rolling with the tables being turned. Gladio made a mental note to buy the man a fucking beer next time they went out.

Then he felt the delicate caress of leather sweeping over his back in warning, and Gladio’s entire body tensed.

“Relax,” Nyx whispered, breath tickling the shell of Gladio’s ear. “I’ve got you.”

Gladio inhaled deeply, and released the breath with a shudder. “I’m ready.”

And Nyx began using that flogger, gently at first, testing the waters.

Gladio was astounded at the depth of sensation, ranging from the teasing sweeps of the falls against his broad back, to sharp little biting flicks against his cloth-covered ass. He suspected it had more to do with Nyx’s skill than the implement itself, but either way he wasn’t complaining.

“I’m gonna switch it up a bit,” Nyx cautioned him, and Gladio took heed, preparing himself for… well, fuck, he didn’t know.

And that was hotter than it should be.

Something long and thin struck against the firm curve of his ass with precision, and for a moment Gladio was unimpressed.

Then the second stroke fell, and a third, in rapid succession and spaced closely together, and Gladio was muttering invocations to the Six under his breath.

“Need me to stop?” Nyx asked, concern evident in his timbre.

“Maybe… no more of that one,” Gladio conceded.

He felt strong hands knead his glutes, and while at first it caused the cane marks to throb harder, after a few moments it seemed to help the worst of the sting abate.

“Up for more?” Nyx checked.


“You’re doing really well, you know,” Nyx’s voice was light, conversational, an intriguing counterpoint to the sharp smack of what felt like a wooden paddle against Gladio’s rear.

Gladio tried to respond, but the paddle landed again, harder this time, and the breath was expelled from his lungs in a whoosh.

He was grateful for the stability granted him by leaning against the bench, because Sweet Shiva, this was fucking intense.

He loved it.

Well, maybe not that really slim, stingy implement. But the rest? Awesome.

Gladio’s endorphins had kicked in, and with them a fading awareness of the noisy crowd, his world narrowing to just Nyx, himself, and the dance they were caught up in.

If Gladio could see Nyx from his position, he’d see the Glaive had a matched set of floggers in his nimble hands, and he wielded them with same easy grace as his kukris. Gladio could feel from the way they struck against him in such a beautiful pattern that Nyx was using the Florentine style of flogging, and the man was Gods-damned good at it.

Nyx started him off with gentle strokes, mere whispers of leather against already sensitized skin, and expertly dialed up the intensity until Gladio was just at the edge of his tolerance. The rhythm of the blows was hypnotic, a steady, unrelenting cadence that had Gladio’s mind completely devoid of rational thought beyond the knowledge he needed to stay standing, try and keep still. Strikes fell close together in tight figure-eight spirals, so rapidly that Gladio was impressed by Nyx’s endurance. If Gladio had been more coherent, he’d have admired the way Nyx seemed to work over his entire back while managing to stay away from the spine and kidneys - clearly Ulric had gotten his fair share of practice. Gladio could learn a thing or two, and he was no slouch.

Gladio’s breath was a ragged counterpoint to the thundering of his heart, his body slick with sweat, eyes wide and unfocused, unseeing. It was almost too much. He was supposed to say something. Shit. A safeword, right? Gladio was proud of himself for remembering, and opened his mouth to speak, but Nyx seemed to sense the issue before Gladio could vocalize it and eased off the force of his blows, starting to slow the speed of each strike until Gladio was able to think again.


Gladio focused on his breathing, and on drinking in the continued sensations wrought on his powerful frame by the deceptively delicate leather lashes. He’d truly had no idea, and this would add an extra dimension to his topping in the future now that he had first hand knowledge.

Fingers twisted in his hair and yanked his head back roughly, bringing Gladio back into the moment. “The fuck?” he growled, meeting Nyx’s piercing gaze.

“Just checking in, gorgeous.” Nyx grinned and released his hold with a wink. “I’m gonna wind things down, and then we can talk, okay?”

Gladio contented himself with a nod. He felt more sympathy now for how nonverbal many of the bottoms he played with got while caught up in the thick of things.

Dual-wielding changed to a solo flogger, and both intensity and tempo continued to gradually ease off until Gladio felt the kiss of the leather no more. Nyx’s hands ran gently over Gladio’s back, caressing, assessing, helping to ground Gladio and bring him further back into himself.

“Can you stand?” Nyx asked, not a hint of teasing in his tone.

“I think so.” Gladio uncurled a bit stiffly from holding the position for so long.

“Gimme a sec to clean up, okay?” Nyx smiled, patting Gladio’s bicep affectionately.

On some level, Gladio thought that he should offer to help, but shit, he figured he deserved an award for standing upright when all he wanted to do was curl up on something soft with someone warm and stay that way for a few years.

He put his clothes back on and watched absently as Nyx wiped down the equipment and packed up his toys. When the Glaive crooked a finger, Gladio was content to follow, and they made their way back to the same couch they’d sat on earlier.

Gladio sat on the edge of the cushions, folding his hands awkwardly in his lap. He knew what he wanted, what he needed, but had no fucking clue what Nyx would be comfortable with.

When Nyx sat beside him and looked at him with open arms, Gladio could have wept from relief.

The two men cuddled closely against each other, powerful arms entwining in a much needed mutual embrace.

“You need any water? Something to eat?” Nyx asked solicitously.

“Nah,” Gladio replied a bit breathily. “Just this. You?”

“Same,” Nyx agreed, resting his cheek against Gladio’s broad shoulder.

Gladio lay his cheek on the crown of Nyx’s head and drank in the feeling of connection, of togetherness, of friendly affection.

“This is nice,” Nyx murmured, stroking a hand idly along Gladio’s back. Every so often he’d touch a particularly sore spot, but Gladio found the reminder welcome.

"Yeah,” he agreed.

When Nyx chuckled, Gladio cracked one amber eye open to regard the other man curiously.

“Sorry, I’m not laughing at you,” Nyx explained. “I’d just forgotten how much easier this all is with someone who’ll talk.”

“Oh, right… Hawk,” Gladio put two and two together despite the sluggishness of his thoughts.

“Don’t get me wrong, the dude’s amazing to scene with, but it can be challenge to communicate effectively with gestures alone.”

“I can only imagine,” Gladio said, shaking his head.

Nyx lifted his head from Gladio’s shoulder and glanced around with a frown. “And speaking of, I still don’t see him. Hawk’s usually here by now. I hope he’s okay.”

Gladio shrugged, not really knowing what to say, but able to see Nyx’s disappointment clearly painted on the other man’s face. “Maybe he’s just not feeling well? Sorry, man.”

Nyx waved a hand in dismissal. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a blast tonight.” He grinned, somehow making the expression equally joyful and lecherous. “We should really do it again sometime.”

Gladio rumbled a laugh. “Yeah, maybe. Thanks, by the way.”

“Oh, believe me, it was my pleasure.”

Chapter Text

Gladio’s mouth was agape in shock as he watched Ignis stalk out of the gym. He blinked in confusion, as if closing and reopening his eyes would somehow clear up whatever the fuck had just happened.

It didn’t.

As seemed to be the norm during the work week, the only one-on-one time Gladio’d been able to carve out with Iggy since their date last Saturday had been their evening sparring sessions. Monday’s went well enough, though Ignis had seemed a bit quiet. Gladio had chalked it up to a long day. Shit, weren’t Mondays rough on everyone?

But tonight, Titan could have shown up and shaken the Citadel to the ground and Gladio would have been less surprised than he was by Ignis’s attitude.

From the moment the Advisor had walked in he’d has his back up, and Gladio couldn’t fucking figure out why. He’d never known Iggy to take out a bad mood on someone undeserving, but Gladio hadn’t done anything, dammit. He’d watched Ignis smile through unctuous tirades by aging nobles in Council, seen Ignis deal with the worst of Noct’s crabby days by just ignoring it and moving on with his work.

When Gladio had called the session early on account of actual concern that Ignis would hurt himself with how he was gracelessly flinging himself headlong on the offensive, it seemed to piss him off further. Ignis hadn’t even bothered to say goodbye, he’d just stormed out.

Shaking his head, Gladio put away the training weapons and went to take a shower and change into his street clothes. He knew that if Ignis didn’t want to talk about whatever the fuck had him so aggravated, there was little Gladio could do to force the issue.

As he was walking down towards the quarters assigned to him for when he bunked overnight, Gladio’s phone buzzed in his pocket. He grabbed the Gods-damned thing so quickly that he had to laugh at himself. The laughter faded as quickly as it’d begun when Gladio saw not a message from Ignis, but rather from Noctis inviting him to come over and game.

Gladio considered. It was a school night, so shouldn’t go too late. And to be honest, shooting electronic aliens sounded as good an idea as any other Gladio could come up with for a little stress relief. He sent a brief text confirming that he was on his way, and then headed out into the crisp fall evening, figuring the walk would not only be enjoyable - it had rained earlier, and even in the heart of the city, you could smell that comforting scent of damp earth - but also give him time to settle down a bit before hanging with the Princess and his loyal Chocobo.

He made pretty good time; the damp sidewalks seemed to cut down on the usual foot traffic. Gladio waved at the doorman before pounding up the stairs. Who said he couldn’t squeeze in an extra leg day? Heh.

He knocked on the door, since Noctis had finally begun reliably locking his door. Gladio figured Prompto’s bubbly smile would greet him, but he was met by Ignis’s flat stare. Those emerald eyes were as cold and hard as the gemstones they resembled, full lips compressed into a thin line.

“Gladiolus.” So. They were back to formalities?

Nope. Not doin’ it.

“The fuck is wrong with you today, Iggy?”

Ignis sneered at him, turned, and walked away.


Gladio stepped inside and locked the door behind him, toeing off his shoes and leaving them in the foyer between the tumbled pile of Noctis’s and Prompto’s sneakers and the neatly arranged pair of Ignis’s loafers.

Moving deeper into the apartment, he goggled at the sight of Noctis and Prompto sitting on the floor at the coffee table, quietly doing their homework.

A glance towards the kitchen revealed that Ignis was tapping away at his phone at the table. Gladio could see a timer was set for whatever was in the oven.

How in the twenty minutes since Noctis invited him over had it gone from gaming marathon to ‘let’s pretend Noct’s place is a fucking library’?

Gladio shrugged, and decided to go with it. It was probably for the best that homework take precedence over gaming, after all. He went and sat on the couch, pulling a careworn paperback out of his back pocket and flipping it open.

After he’d managed to read two chapters, the timer buzzed, and Gladio figured he’d go see if he could help get stuff set up.

He moved towards the kitchen a bit warily, not really wanting to deal with more crabby Iggy. Gladio was motivated by the knowledge no one else would offer to help.

Gladio decided not to ask, just to take action. He knew where stuff was kept by now, so he got out the plates and flatware, grabbed a roll of paper towels, and figured everyone could get their own damn drinks. Gladio’s eyebrows climbed his forehead when Noctis and Prompto came without summons to collect their plates.

Iggy must have truly lost his shit in an impressive manner for the younger men to be so well behaved. It was eerie not hearing the usual trash talk and arguments.

Dinner was a silent affair, which Gladio figured was better than more of the snarky comments he’d been treated to during training. He was happy to hear Noct and Prompto start to chatter happily in the living room, though. As had become his custom the past few weeks, Gladio washed the dishes and tidied up the kitchen, then he headed out to join in on the gaming that had finally begun. Maybe Iggy just needed a little time to himself - well, as ‘to himself’ as he’d get with three men loudly playing video games in the next room.

Gladio grinned as his pixelated avatar blew up another spaceship. Yeah, this was the perfect way to unwind after a weird work day, for sure.

In the next room, Ignis gave every appearance of being hard at work on his smartphone, tapping away at the screen industriously, his face the very image of concentration.

In truth, his phone’s lock screen was engaged, and Ignis was frantically trying to calm his increasingly troubled thoughts.

Ignis knew he’d conducted himself appallingly today. He’d snapped at a colleague during a meeting, his behavior at training had been beyond unacceptable, and to cap it off he’d raised his voice at Noctis and Prompto uncharacteristically enough that His Highness had voiced no objections to postponing his game and finishing his schoolwork. While that in itself was enough of a miracle that Ignis was tempted to recall the tactic for later usage, he knew he’d vastly overstepped his place as retainer. Furthermore, it was no way to treat his friends.

Ignis sighed as quietly as he could manage, lifting a hand to press against his forehead. It had been a rough week. Saturday night had really thrown him for a loop. The combination of missing out on the monthly gathering combined with the knowledge that Gladio had not - had he played with anyone? had he met someone more interesting, more attractive? - continued to churn in his mind no matter how hard Ignis tried to focus his full attention on his tasks.

The hint of a wry smile bowed Ignis’s full lips. His behavior was remarkably similarly to that on those rare occasions he was unable to make time for his morning coffee. It would be amusing if it wasn’t so infernally agitating.

Ignis was a junkie acting out for want of his fix.

That is no excuse, he reprimanded himself sternly. Ignis owed each of his friends an apology. Perhaps it would not be amiss for him to head home early - goodness knew Noctis would spend the rest the evening playing his game, and Ignis didn’t need to supervise that.

It only took a couple minutes for Ignis to get his things together and slide on his shoes. He walked into the living room to bid the others good night, but found himself lingering in the threshold, not wanting to inflict himself on their revelry.

Instead, Ignis turned and left, trying to be so silent that not even the click of the door would interrupt the fun. Six only knew, he’d done enough of that for one night. His earlier irritation had been completely subsumed by self-loathing and feelings of failure. Ignis got out his key, but before he could lock up, the door opened and Gladio stepped into the hall.

Gladio shut the door and leaned against it, jamming his hands in his pockets, locking that sunset gaze on Ignis’s pale face.

Ignis crossed his arms loosely, as a preventative measure - the last thing he needed to do was reach out to Gladio as he so craved. They weren’t alone, and Ignis had hardly earned the comfort of that enveloping embrace with how he’d treated the man earlier.

Panic flared in verdant eyes as Ignis considered that perhaps he’d pushed so far that Gladio was following him to break off what they’d just barely begun. Ignis's fingers dug into his forearms so hard he scratched himself with the blunt edges of his nails, but he paid the small flare of pain no mind. He opened his mouth to apologize, to try and explain, to plead for another chance, but Gladio’s voice cut him off.

“Iggy,” Gladio’s timbre was gentle, more understanding and kind than Ignis felt he deserved, even as he took heart in the tender way the other man shaped his nickname. “Talk to me. Please.”

Ignis faltered. Their charge and his friend might be behind closed doors, but anyone could wander into the hallway at any time. “Not here,” Ignis managed. “Not now.”

“Then when? Where?” Gladio leaned forward, voice insistent.

“I’m heading home directly,” Ignis said quietly. “You’re welcome to follow, when you finish your game.”

Fuck the game,” Gladio growled, an edge of disbelief sharpening his tone.

“No,” Ignis cautioned him, his volume decreasing until he spoke just above a whisper. “We have to be careful. What possible reason would the Prince’s Shield have to rush after the Royal Chamberlain?”

Gladio cursed under his breath, faintly enough that Ignis couldn’t make out the words. The intent was easy enough to glean from Gladio’s facial expression and body language, however, and Ignis’s mood plummeted further from causing this wonderful man more hurt, regardless of how necessary it might be.

“Okay, you’re not wrong,” Gladio muttered. “But I ain’t gonna be long.”

“Fair enough, Gladio.” Ignis tried to imbue the other man’s name with even a fraction of the affection he felt, mingled with sorrow over the circumstances, and apology for everything that had passed that day.

Gladio nodded and went back inside.

Ignis took a few moments to breathe, counting his heartbeats with every inhale, each exhale, until he felt calm enough to drive. Then he headed home and put on a pot of tea with a grimace. He didn’t enjoy it much, but the hour was growing late, and Ignis’s system probably didn’t need any more coffee.

After that, there was nothing to do but wait. Ignis perched on the edge of one of the chairs around his small kitchen table, and laid his phone out in front of him so he could see the instant any communication came through.

Despite the very real necessity of the delay, with every minute that marched onward, Ignis’s anxiety ratcheted higher as he awaited Gladio’s arrival. He truly had no idea how he was going to explain himself to Gladio - he wasn’t ready to reveal his secret, and it would be nigh on impossible to explain his horrid mood without doing so. Hopefully fervent apologies would suffice.

Gladio threw the game. He wasn’t too proud to admit it, at least to himself.

All his desire to blast pixelated spaceships had left with Ignis, but he recognized the intelligence of the Advisor’s warning and made sure to at least give a good showing for a little while. As soon as he ran out of lives, though, he stood - slowly, don’t rush, don’t hurry - and gave the younger men a grin.

“Guess I’m more tired than I thought.”

“That was lamesauce,” Prompto shrilled out mockingly. “I don’t believe you missed that sniper!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Gladio muttered. “Gonna go home and crash. Don’t stay up too late, dorks.”

“Whatever.” Noctis waved a hand absently in farewell, most of his attention riveted to the screen.

Gladio rolled his eyes, but truthfully was glad they were so absorbed in the electronic action. He pulled on his shoes and jacket, and was out the door at last. Glaio paid no heed to the beauty of the night - unseasonably warm air and full moon hanging large in the sky - focused on completing the walk from Noct's to Iggy's as quickly as possible.

He was hoping he’d get a real explanation and not just a pile of apologies and half-truths, but he knew how guarded Ignis was and wasn’t holding his breath. Gladio was trying not to be hurt by the clear lack of trust Ignis continued to display, but despite the fact they’d only been dating a few weeks, they’d known each other and worked together for years. So why act like everything between them was so brand new, when really it was just the one facet of their interactions that had changed?

Okay, to be fair, it was a big fucking change. An amazing one.

But Gladio felt his point was valid and figured tonight was as good a time as any to bring it up.

Fuck, now he was wishing the walk took longer so he could get his thoughts sorted out before having this conversation. But he was already there, so no sense in putting it off further. Gladio went inside, padding up the stairs with light feet so as not to offend the neighbors with his usual thunderous footfalls.

Squaring his shoulders, Gladio rapped his knuckles against the door. A moment later he heard the click of the lock coming undone, then the door was swinging open.

“Hey, Iggy,” Gladio murmured out of habit more than anything else.

Ignis simply shifted to the side, making space for Gladio to walk inside.

Gladio walked in and considerately took off his shoes, leaving them by the door. He removed his jacket, hardly needing it in the warmth of Ignis’s home, but he wasn’t sure what to do with it so he just hung it over his arm.

Well wasn’t this fucking awkward? Gladio sighed, shifting his weight restlessly.

“My apologies, Gladio, where are my manners?” Like a cloak, Ignis’s years of training seemed to fall around him, and Gladio couldn’t help but marvel at how quickly Ignis went from looking like a lost young man to an impeccably professional host.

“Please, let me take your coat, and go have a seat. Would you care for some tea?”

Gladio handed Ignis his jacket and shrugged. “Sure. Sounds nice. Thanks, Iggy.”

He ambled over to Ignis’s couch and sat down. A memory of the last time he’d sat here surfaced and Gladio couldn’t stop the smile that briefly flared to life on his face. That had been an amazing day. Hopefully, they could share another like it soon.

Fuck, he’d settle for ten minutes alone with Ignis outside of the training hall or the conversation that was about to begin.

When Ignis walked over holding two cups of tea, all serious eyes and smooth face, Gladio’s grin faded away. He accepted the drink with a murmur of thanks. Ignis merely nodded in response.

Okay. Enough was enough.

“For someone who promised to talk, you’re sure bein’ quiet,” Gladio observed, taking a sip of the tea.

As Gladio watched, Ignis’s face crumpled from serenity to shame. “I’m so sorry, Gladio. There aren’t words strong enough to express the depth of remorse I feel for my actions today.”

“Apology accepted,” Gladio tried not to sound too impatient, and hoped he was succeeding. “Gonna tell me what’s wrong now that we’re alone?”

“It’s nothing,” Ignis spoke with such haste that his words bled together. “I’ve not been getting as much sleep with the addition of both the Crownsguard prep classes and our private training sessions.”

It was true that fatigue could lead to irritability, Gladio had to admit. But he knew while this might be one contributing factor, it was hardly the whole story.

Gladio contented himself with giving Ignis a level look, waiting to see what else he’d say.

Ignis met Gladio’s regard for several long, silent minutes before lowering mossy eyes to stare at the reflection he cast in his teacup. “There are some things I’m not ready to share, Gladio. This is one. Please don’t push me, not tonight.”

In the best of times, Gladio found it hard to deny any rare thing the hardworking man sitting beside him might ask for. It was hard to fight back the impulse to grant Ignis’s request. Gladio decided on a compromise: he’d say his piece, and then he’d drop it with the hopes that it wouldn’t take much longer for Iggy to really let him in.

“I don’t understand why you can’t trust me more,” Gladio’s voice was raw and open. “You’ve known me for years. Have I ever given you reason to doubt me?”

Fuck this distance shit. Gladio set his cup on the coffee table then leaned forward and folded his large hands around Ignis’s. Their joined hands placed Ignis’s cup next to Gladio’s, and then fingers entwined so tightly it was just this side of painful.

“It’s not you, Gladio,” Ignis murmured, eyes still staring down into the tea which had surely begun to grow cold.

“I don’t understand,” Gladio rumbled the words in frustration, wishing Iggy’d fucking look at him so Gladio could at least try and get context clues from the other man’s facial expression, from those beautifully expressive pools of green.

In answer to Gladio’s unspoken plea, Ignis finally lifted his chin, those fathomless eyes wet with unshed tears. “I may not have a terribly vivacious social life, but I’ve dated before. And been hurt. Badly.”

The way Ignis’s words fragmented was almost more telling than they silent sobs that shook his slender shoulders.

“But I’m me,” Gladio insisted. “There is nothing - fucking nothing, Iggy - you could tell me that would make me lash out at you.” He forced a grin, trying to lighten things up a bit. “Well, unless you tried to get me to quit Cup Noodles. That’s a dealbreaker.”

“I know,” Ignis’s voice was barely audible, reedy and blurred with the crying he refused to let consume him completely. “But I need time. Give me a little more time, Gladio, please?” He offered a tremulous smile, a hint of sparkle glinting in those damp eyes. “This is all so new to me, I’m still getting used to it.”

“That’s fair,” Gladio agreed. He reached out and softly slid his fingers over Ignis’s cheeks, wiping away the tears. “At least try and get more sleep, yeah? And when you're ready to really talk… well, you know how to find me.”

“Thank you, Gladio,” Ignis squeezed his hands even harder.

They sat that way for a while, lost in each other’s gaze and taking solace in the fleeting gift of privacy.

Ignis broke the silence, his tone steeped in reluctance. “I suppose you ought to be going.”

“Iggy, I get we have to be careful, but who could possibly know I’m here?”

An ash-blonde brow quirked. “You drove here, yes? So, your vehicle is parked nearby.”

Gladio shook his head. This was reaching levels of paranoia he hadn’t imagined.

Relenting, Ignis continued, “I’m trying to make a joke, Gladio. I’m not worried our visit will be discovered.” He smiled, the first truly genuine expression of happiness Gladio had seen on his face all day, and it was wonderful to see. “I had simply thought to take your suggestion and get some much needed rest.”

“Oh!” Gladio grinned. “Well don’t let me keep ya.”

Fingers untangled, and both pushed to their feet. Ignis brought Gladio his jacket while he put on his shoes, and Gladio shrugged into it absently, refusing to take his eyes off Ignis before he lost actual line of sight.

“See you tomorrow, probably,” Gladio said. “Otherwise, training Friday.” He chuckled. “I think we should make it a double to compensate for today.”

“Indeed,” Ignis acceded to his suggestion without argument. “That’s only logical.”

“Fuck logic,” Gladio declared, and yanked Ignis up against him with one tattooed arm, capturing his lips in a deep kiss.

When they parted, both were flushed and breathing a bit faster than before. One final smile, and Gladio was on his way.

Thursday had gone much better, Ignis mused. He hadn’t lost his temper a single time. He’d been pleasant when faced with additional challenges piled on top of his already insurmountable workload. To make up for the previous day’s temper, he’d even splurged and made Noctis pizza for dinner. A soft chuckle bubbled forth from the Royal Chamberlain as he recalled how excited both his charge and young Prompto had been at the unexpected treat.

Now he was back at the Citadel, in his office, attempting to chip away at his backlog a bit prior to heading home for a few hours asleep before renewing the cycle the next day.

As the hour grew later, his attentiveness to detail waned.

The week was almost over. Only three more weeks until his next opportunity to go to the Coeurl. His next day off, the next party.

A bitter laugh rasped out in the silence of the chamber. Or he could stop hiding behind the Wall of cowardice built by past experiences, and open to up to Gladio.

Then he could get what he craved now.

And again and again, not needing to wait for a monthly event.

Ignis packed away his paperwork and shut down his computer. Clearly work was a lost cause tonight. He gathered his things and began making his way down the labyrinthine corridors. A passing fancy occurred that he thought might have merit - perhaps some time in the gymnasium would help calm his mind so he could get to sleep at a reasonable hour?

When Ignis walked into the gym, however, it wasn’t as empty as he’d assumed it would be this close to tomorrow.

Nyx Ulric was sparring an invisible partner with his kukris, his lithe body a graceful blur even when he wasn’t engaged in warp-strikes.

Ignis’s instinct was to meld back into the shadows, slip out the door sight unseen, but he found himself pausing in consideration.

Eventually, he’d have to address the faux pas he’d committed with Ulric. Why not tonight?

Furthermore, perhaps Gladio wasn’t Ignis’s only option to get a taste of what he’d missed the Saturday before.

The thought was as seductive as those molten amber eyes he adored, and equally enticing. Ignis remained rooted to the spot in the doorway, watching Nyx train.

He could tell the exact moment Nyx spotted him. The Glaive continued in his deadly dance, but those cerulean eyes locked on to Ignis as he finished his routine.

Ignis made leaden feet stride forward with the appearance of confidence, simultaneously looking forward to and dreading this conversation.

It had to happen. Rip off the bandage. Get it over with.

Cool jade eyes watched as Nyx sheathed his kukris in a cunning holster hanging from his belt. Ignis couldn’t entirely bite back a smile at the Glaive’s odd appearance - gym shorts and tank top with his formal Kingsglaive uniform belt - but he gave it his best shot.

“Scientia,” Nyx called out, timbre falling somewhere between teasing and disbelief. “Here for that lesson? Or just gonna turn tail and run again?”

Ignis continued to walk onward. “I don’t run, as a rule. That day… I was caught off guard.”

“By what?” Gods, that voice, that Astrals-blessed voice that Ignis had heard say the sweetest, filthiest things for months.

“You.” If Ignis was going to be truthful, the time to start was now. He wouldn’t hide behind eloquent words, not tonight.

Nyx arched an eyebrow and smirked. “Re-ally?” he extended the syllables of the world in a lazy drawl, eyes falling half-shut as he halted a couple paces away from Ignis. “And how did I catch you off guard, pray tell, when we had an appointment?”

“I hadn’t realized who you were,” Ignis stammered. All right, perhaps he wasn’t entirely finished with obfuscation.

Nyx cocked his head at Ignis in a nearly identical gesture to the one Ignis had seen a month ago, when he and Nyx spoke after their scene.

When Hawk and Stag spoke.

Shiva take him, how was he to broach this?

Perhaps, Ignis could take a page from Hawk’s book and let his actions speak for him.

Wordlessly, Ignis reached out, wrapping elegant fingers around Nyx’s wrist and twisting in a gesture that had become as familiar as breathing.

From the way Nyx’s eyes shot wide, that sinful mouth falling open, he recognized it as easily as Ignis had suspected he might.

“Hawk?” Nyx blurted out artlessly.

Ignis nodded, somehow managing to continue standing upright, the hand not clasped around Nyx’s forearm hanging loosely at his side as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

On the inside, Ignis was screaming in terror, his inner daemons clamoring for their due. This was foolish. What was he thinking? He worked with Nyx. He was supposed to train with Nyx. He needed Nyx to respect him, not see him as less, just another sub to abuse and discard when someone more interesting came along.

Ignis had entertained the ridiculous hope he and Ulric could be friends, and now he’d certainly ruined all that with his silent confession.

“Well… you are just fucking full of surprises, gorgeous,” Nyx grinned. With that sign of good humor, Ignis’s anxiety began to abate.

“You’ll understand my desire for privacy,” Ignis said drolly. “It simply wouldn’t do for the Prince’s Advisor to be outed as… well,” he trailed off, unsure of the right word.

“Nah, I get it,” Nyx agreed. “I wear a mask there too, remember?”

“How could I forget?” Ignis breathed the words without thinking.

The Glaive’s grin deepened, a flirtatious gleam in the sapphire of his gaze. “Like my mask, do you? Well, that’s fair. I like yours too.” He ghosted a fingertip along Ignis’s cheekbone, eliciting a gasp from the younger man. “The face is far more beautiful than the disguise, though.”

“You’ll keep my secret?” Ignis asked. As loathe as he was to cut against the energy charging between them, that crackle of electricity he’d been wanting so badly, Ignis needed to make sure he was safe.

“Of course,” Nyx seemed affronted. “As I assume you’ll keep mine.”

“Indeed.” Ignis was relieved. This had been easier than he expected.

The moment stretched, comfortably silent, both men’s eyes staying locked on the other. Ignis knew he’d win this particular contest - Astrals knew he’d had practice at holding his tongue. The hint of a smirk curled his full lips as he stared down Ulric.

“At least now I understand why you never talk at parties,” Nyx realized. “You’d give yourself away for sure. Well, at least you would around anyone like me who’d encountered you. Truthfully, I’m not sure how many others from the Citadel go to the Coeurl apart from us, Crowe, and Amici——fuck,” Nyx’s statement bled out into the expletive fluidly. “Does Gladio know? You guys are… tight, yeah, working together for the Prince?”

Ignis hazarded that since he was already trusting Nyx with his darkest secret, it wasn’t much of a stretch to also grant him the one which gave Ignis life. “He doesn’t know. Gladio and I have begun dating,” he admitted softly. “But it’s still so new.”

“But you saw him last month, didn’t you? He was gawking at our scene like a tourist at an art gallery.”

“I did,” Ignis said shortly. “As he didn’t take pains to hide his identity, I assume it’s not something he’d mind me knowing.” Pain clouded verdant eyes like decay eating away at spring leaves. “I disguise myself for several reasons, and all of them preclude me from letting Gladio know this particular truth.”

“If you’re dating, isn’t it better to be honest?” Nyx’s voice held no judgement, and Ignis was grateful.

“Indeed. And I shall,” Ignis took a deep breath. “Just not yet.”

“That’s your business,” Nyx conceded. “But Gladio’s my friend, so don’t fuck with him, okay?”

“I give you my word.”

“Good.” Nyx nodded. “I’d like to think you’re my friend too, now that I know who you really are.” He smiled. “Don’t fuck with yourself, either, Ignis. Give a little trust, it might go a long way.”

“I’ll take your advice under consideration.”

“You do that,” Nyx laughed. “It’s kinda late at night for spellwork, but maybe we can set up a time to actually start your magic lessons?”

“That sounds reasonable,” Ignis agreed. “But, that’s not what I’d hoped to do tonight.”

“Oh?” Nyx’s voice was sly and knowing. “What’s on your agenda, handsome?”

Ignis felt the scarlet blush flood the pristine alabaster of his cheeks, pouring down his neck. He knew if not for his pinstriped dress shirt, Nyx would see the flush extend down his chest.

“Well?” Nyx prodded.

Ignis belatedly drew his hand back from where it had been clasping Nyx’s wrist throughout this entire exchange and folded his lean arms around himself protectively.

“I didn’t go to the party last week.”

“I know,” Nyx said dramatically. “You were missed, believe me!”

“I…” Ignis trailed off, taking a deep breath. He forced himself to keep his eyes trained on Nyx’s as he spoke. If he was truly going to ask for this, he could at least meet the other man’s eyes while he did so. “I don’t want to wait another three weeks.”

Nyx blinked, somehow making the gesture languid and catlike. “Do you think I bring my floggers to training?”

The challenging moment past, Ignis felt himself relax. He affected a taunting smirk, eyes sharp. “The infamous Nyx Ulric, so unimaginative he can’t make do without his bag of tricks?” Ignis’s voice was cast in a purr as dark as the finest Altissian chocolates, rich with meaning and coated in longing.

Nyx tapped a finger against his chin contemplatively, a slow grin bowing his eloquent lips. “We can’t do anything here, though.”

“My office,” Ignis suggested without a thought. It locked, after all, and no one else was likely to be in a admin wing at this hour.

“You’ve always got a plan, don’tcha?”

“Truthfully, I’m making this up as I go.”

“That’s fair.” Nyx started to walk towards the door. “Give me ten, and I’ll meet you there.”

“You… know where my office is?”

A smirk eclipsed Nyx’s grin. “You were avoiding me. Eventually I was gonna track you down and find out why.”

Ignis wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so he didn’t. He followed Nyx out of the gym and then their paths diverged. It didn’t take Ignis long to retrace his steps, returning to his office. A quick glance around the room proved it was immaculate as ever. He really had nothing else to do but wait, so Ignis pulled out his phone.

1 New Message from Gladiolus Amicitia

Ignis swiped it open and smiled as he read the simple text. Hope you’re having a good evening.

With a small smile, Ignis typed back a response returning the well-wishes before opening his email app and catching up on a bit of correspondence while he awaited Nyx’s arrival.

When he arrived, Nyx didn’t bother with knocking. He let himself in and locked the door behind him.

Ignis noted with curiosity that Nyx carried his gym bag. He supposed that was logical; Nyx would likely go home directly after they were finished. While the Glaive hadn’t bothered to change from his gym clothes, he no longer wore the belt which held his kukris.

Ignis decided not to overthink the flare of disappointment that observation brought him.

“So, I had a few ideas,” Nyx began without preamble.

“I’m listening.” Ignis sat up straighter, giving the other man his full attention.

A wicked glint shone in cerulean eyes. “This might not be what you had in mind, but… why don’t we combine your education with a little fun?”

Blinking in confusion, Ignis tried to parse those words into something that made sense and failed. “I’m sorry?”

Nyx’s grin widened, and he sauntered closer with a predatory grace. “Just trust me.”

Ignis eyed him warily, but said nothing. He stood as Nyx approached, and it galled as never before that he had to lift his eyes to meet those of the taller man.

“Lose the jacket. And the tie.” Nyx eyed Ignis critically. “To be honest, probably best to lose any clothes you don’t want ruined. I don’t suppose you have any training gear stashed somewhere?”

“Actually, I do,” Ignis replied.

“Great! Get changed, I’m gonna set some stuff up.”

Try as Ignis might, he had no inkling of what Ulric had in mind.

Astrals blast him if that wasn’t as arousing as it was infuriating.

Ignis obtained the gym clothes he kept on hand and turned his back to give himself a semblance of modesty as he stripped off his suit. Gracious knew Nyx had seen it all before - Stag had seen it all before - but here and now, the illusion of privacy was welcome. After he finished changing, Ignis turned to see what Nyx had accomplished in those few minutes.

Quite a bit, apparently. Ash-blonde eyebrows winged high as Ignis surveyed Nyx’s set up. On the desk, he’d laid out a couple towels, water bottles, and a can of styling mousse.

“You’re going to give me a make-over?” Ignis asked dubiously.

“Baby, I’d make you so beautiful half the Citadel would chase you,” Nyx winked. “But, no.”

Ignis folded his arms and waited for an explanation.

Nyx smiled slowly and lifted a hand, palm up and fingers splayed in mid-air. Sapphire eyes fell shut a moment, and when they reopened a flame danced over Nyx’s fingertips.

“I thought we could still have a bit of a lesson tonight,” Nyx purred. “Gladio tells me you’ve managed to manifest flame before. Try now.”

Ignis nodded, and closed his eyes to focus. He visualized that inner part of himself, his soul, that resonated with the arcane. As if he was unlocking a door, perhaps, and letting the energy out. Or maybe he was akin to a tightly sealed bud, needing only to unfurl its petals to feel the warmth of the light.

When Ignis felt mentally prepared, he focused his verdant gaze on Nyx, and lifted his hand in a mirror of the Glaive’s posture. One breath more and fire undulated over his palm.

“Good!” Nyx praised. “Can you direct it? Or just create it?”

“I’ve had limited success with getting it to do what I wish,” Ignis admitted. “But in truth, I haven’t practiced much.”

“We’re changing that tonight,” Nyx informed him. He banished the flame from his fingers and turned to the supplies he’d assembled. One towel, he left folded. The other he let dangle over one arm as he poured an entire bottle of water over it before setting it back down on top of the stack. “Doesn’t hurt to be prepared… just in case.”

With another cocky smirk, he uncapped the mousse and shook it. Extending one arm, Nyx sprayed a thick line of the white foam from wrist to elbow.

“You’re going to try and touch it with just a hint of flame. You don’t need much. And I know you have potions stashed in here, so try not to worry too much, okay?”

“Show me,” Ignis rasped, stretching an arm towards Nyx.

A knowing smile on his lips, Nyx sprayed a spiral down the underside of Ignis’s forearm.

“Just a touch,” Nyx repeated, and he held a hand suspended over Ignis’s arm, grin fading into a focused expression.

Then Ignis felt a wave of heat lance along the trail of the mousse, and he understood. The foam served as a conductor, allowing you to see - and feel - the ephemeral effects of the flame without actually burning yourself directly.

“Now you try,” Nyx invited him.

Ignis caught his lower lip between his teeth a moment. Well, this was as safe an environment as any, he supposed, and Nyx had taken enough precautions to set Ignis’s mind at ease - at least enough to go through with this exercise.

He reached out towards Nyx and focused inward. Jade eyes glinted when the small flame shot along the white path drawn on Nyx’s arm.

Oh, yes. This was quite interesting.

“You’re a natural!” Nyx said encouragingly. “Suppose with a name like yours, it’d be wrong for you to not be able to do this.”

“I’ve certainly never heard that comparison before,” Ignis murmured sardonically. He sent more tiny flames skittering along Nyx’s arm until the Glaive held up his other hand in a halting gesture.

“Do you want more?” Nyx purred, and Ignis felt himself mentally slide a half-step away from Ignis and towards his alter-ego, so accustomed was he to amazing things following that question from this man.

“Yes,” he breathed, either unaware or uncaring of how wide his eyes had grown.

“Take off your shirt.” Nyx tugged off his tank and chucked it aside.

Ignis removed the garment without asking why, tossing it to land atop Nyx’s.

He stood still as Nyx circled him, spraying patterns over Ignis’s shoulders, his back, his arms. When Nyx offered him the can, Ignis followed suit, drawing neat lines over the planes of the Glaive’s back and shoulders, making sure to only draw over those parts of the other man’s body that Nyx had targeted on Ignis.

After the can was set aside, Ignis looked to Nyx for direction.

Nyx smiled brilliantly before speaking. “This… is gonna be hot.”

Oh, here was a playing field on which Ignis could acquit himself most favorably. “I’m stoked.”

“Let’s light up the night.”

“Perhaps we should rekindle this lesson.”

They shared a moment of laughter, and it was just the thing to dissipate the last little vestige of tension that had clung after Ignis’s confession.

Lifting his chin in challenge, Nyx crooked a finger.

Ignis gasped, feeling warmth sweep across his back, leaving the skin tingling in its wake.

Then he narrowed keen eyes and gestured gracefully, watching enraptured as an arc of flame swept along Nyx’s shoulders.

“Good,” Nyx complimented as he reached out with both hands as if to grasp Ignis’s wrists, touching just short of contact.

A soft sound escaped between Ignis’s parted lips as heat seared along his slender arms.

Another elegant motion of Ignis’s hand, and he watched the fire lick up both Nyx’s arms simultaneously, utterly mesmerized.

Cobalt melded to sage, and no more words were spoken. They circumnavigated each other languidly, flames flickering back and forth in a soundless duet, the music no less real despite the lack of auricular melody. This was a dance unlike any other. This was a connection the like of which Ignis had never experienced.

Ignis felt his self-awareness fading. He vaguely remembered they were in his office at the Citadel, but that seemed unimportant now. All that mattered were the beckoning flames, those approving cerulean eyes, and the heady rush of magic feeling like it coursed through his veins along with his life’s blood.

He heard a voice whisper, “Catch me,” and when Ignis staggered, he realized it was his own.

“Whoa, gorgeous,” Nyx’s arms were around him in an instant, helping him ease down to sit on the floor. “Too much?”

“Never enough,” Ignis keened the words raggedly, uncertain if he spoke of the arcane energies they’d channeled, or of more primal things, darker things.

“Are you still… you?”

To anyone else, the question might seem odd, but Ignis knew exactly what Nyx meant.

“I’m me,” he said, vaguely aware of how punch-drunk he sounded, and not caring one single iota. “The real me.”

“Hawk,” Nyx whispered, breath hot against the sensitized skin of Ignis’s shoulder, causing the shorter man to tremble in Nyx’s arms.

A cold, wet sensation confused him until Ignis realized it was the towel. Nyx wiped away the remnants of the styling product from them both, following up with the dry towel.

The rough cotton weave of the towel wrenched a gasp from Ignis and he tried to squirm away.

“None of that; let me get you dry,” Nyx insisted, holding him in place. “There, all done.”

“No,” Ignis whimpered desperately, twisting around to recapture Nyx’s gaze. “Please don’t be done. Not yet.”

“Well,” Nyx vacillated. “I really don’t think we should push your magical endurance any further. You seem pretty wiped.”

Ignis blushed, thought he wasn’t sure why he was embarrassed. “I’m not… tired. Well, no more than usual.” Having to explain brought him back into his right mind a touch more. “It’s just that I rather enjoyed the sensations.”

“Oh,” Nyx’s voice was delighted. “I’ll keep that in mind. But, truthfully, we’ve probably used enough magic for one night. I’m sorry.”

Why were words so challenging? All he need to was open his mouth, shape the syllables, and speak his desires. At worst, Nyx would demur. At best…

“Hurt me,” Ignis pleaded softly, managing to maintain eye contact somehow, the blush having deepened to a becoming shade of crimson.

“Goodness, Hawk.” Ignis didn’t bother correcting him. That name was appropriate enough given the context. “You really need this, don’t you?”

“Badly,” Ignis stared up at Nyx. “Please.”

“I don’t have anything with me.”

“You have hands,” Ignis hadn’t thought his blush could intensify further. He’d been wrong.

“Fair point,” Nyx breathed the words almost reverently. “All right. Let’s get up off the floor.” He unwrapped himself from the protective hug and stood, offering Ignis a hand up.

Ignis accepted the assistance gratefully, although he was feeling a bit steadier on his feet now that he’d had a few moments of being grounded by that embrace. Despite being in nearly full control of his faculties, Ignis was still completely shocked when Nyx’s gentle hold on his hand shifted to a harsh clench on his arm. When the Glaive slammed Ignis’s back against the office wall, Ignis bit back a startled shout.

“What’s your safe word? I’ve never heard it.”

“I don’t have one,” Ignis realized. “I’ll use my established signal if necessary.”

He assumed Nyx heard and accepted his response when he felt the crack of Nyx’x palm landing sharply against the side of his face. When a second slap warmed Ignis’s other cheek, he felt the hazy beginnings of the exquisite fall away from self that had been ignited by dancing among the flames.

Firm hands closed around Ignis’s biceps and drew him forward, spun him around.

“Put your hands on the desk and brace yourself,” Nyx ordered.

Ignis complied with alacrity, leaning over the indicated piece of furniture, spacing his feet shoulder-width apart and making sure not to lock his knees. He stared at the mahogany of his desk, following the whorls in the grain of the wood.

Nails raked down his back and Ignis hissed each time they encountered a patch of skin that had felt the kiss of the fire. It didn’t hurt, not truly - but it definitely heightened the sensation.

Nyx’s hand came down on his cloth-covered ass sharply and Ignis thrust his hips backward wantonly, wanting more, needing more.

More blows mercifully fell, raining steadily down until the endorphins started to kick in and Ignis’s brain had switched off. Ignis wasn’t aware of the slow, dreamlike way he swayed, as if he was again hearing that earlier inaudible song.

Then slaps changed to punches, sharp jabs landing on the globes of Ignis’s ass, and he bit his lip so hard he nearly bled.

A voice seemed to whisper in the depths of his unfocused mind - he knows.

Ignis didn’t have to fight back the urge to vocalize.

When fingers dug into the sore flesh of his rear, Ignis let the moan escape, a drawn-out, wrecked cry that caused Nyx’s hands to still a moment.

“You okay, handsome?” Nyx leaned down to meet Ignis’s wide, unseeing eyes.

“Yes,” Ignis hissed.

“I can’t get over how weird it is to hear you,” Nyx commented. “In the most amazing of ways.”

Ignis didn’t respond, but shot him a pleading look.

A moment later and Nyx was behind him again and Ignis was lost, utterly and truly lost in the rush of sensations which threatened to overwhelm him.

A slap on his ass. A pull on his hair. A scratch down his back. A hand at his throat.

Nyx moved quickly, wickedly, shifting his actions, combining them in new and unexpected ways, keeping Ignis on his proverbial toes.

Ignis turned his head and bit his own bicep to muffle the worst of the scream that threatened to deafen them both when he felt Nyx punch the same spot on his right asscheek five times in rapid succession, each strike more intense than the last. He felt tears sliding down his flushed face and could hear the ragged sound of his labored breathing.

Two hands scratched their way from Ignis’s clothed hips to his broad shoulders before climbing farther to coil in the ruined mess of his formerly immaculate hair, yanking his head back sharply.
Ignis rolled his eyes to the side, trying to catch sight of Nyx in an effort to guess would would happen next and utterly failing.

As such, he was completely unprepared when Nyx’s mouth crashed against his in an intoxicating kiss.

He returned the kiss longer than he’d care to admit, but panic flared as Ignis was forced abruptly back into his own head. Jerking his head away from those lips, Ignis broke position and took a step back, then another.


Nyx cocked his head curiously. “I can bruise you, but I can’t kiss you?”

“I don’t mix BDSM and sex,” Ignis explained as best he could despite the lingering haze hanging over him. “Furthermore… as I told you earlier, I’m involved with someone.”

“Ah,” Nyx said knowingly. “Saving yourself for Amicitia?”

“Something like that,” Ignis agreed.

Nyx grinned, the gesture allaying Ignis’s small concern that his rejection might have offended the other man. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”

Ignis laughed. “Indeed.”

They sat companionably beside each other on the floor, sipping water and taking comfort in each others presence. Conversation flowed easily, and Ignis was thrilled with the realization that he truly had another friend. And how freeing to have one person in his life who knew all of Ignis’s secrets. They compared notes about previous scenes at the Coeurl, and made plans to get together at the next party. Ignis allowed himself to gush about Gladio, telling Nyx about their dates so far, and was pleasantly surprised when rather than the playful jibes he expected Nyx simply congratulated him.

It was good to have a friend.

They walked out together, and parted ways in the parking lot. Ignis smiled as he drove home, knowing tonight, at least, he’d sleep deeply and well.

Gladio would have freely admitted to being a bit apprehensive about his scheduled training session with Ignis, if anyone had known to ask.

He hadn’t managed to see Ignis at all on Thursday aside from a fleeting glimpse as the Advisor made haste towards whatever appointment was next on his schedule. While they had left things amiably enough Wednesday night, Gladio still recalled how harsh the man had behaved at their last training session, and sincerely hoped tonight wouldn’t be a repeat performance. If Ignis wasn’t willing to talk with him about whatever was bothering him, hopefully he’d managed to work through it.

Gladio laid out mats and brought out the practice weapons he and Ignis preferred. Truth be told, there wasn’t much for him to do to prepare. It was probably silly that he had arrived so early, but fuck, he couldn’t help it.

He was really looking forward to seeing Iggy.

Gladio glanced idly at his phone and saw it was still fifteen minutes from their scheduled time. He idly opened an e-book app and read, though he wasn’t really absorbing the story. Gladio was too caught up in thinking about the fact he was about to not only get a sparring session with Ignis - but true to his word, Gladio had in fact booked time for a double to make up for Wednesday’s aborted time.

Ignis’s arrival was welcome, and Gladio shoved his phone in his pocket without a second thought the moment the Royal Chamberlain walked into the gym.

Gladio stood and smiled. “Hey, Iggy."

“Gladio.” How the fuck did Ignis made his name sound so decadent, wrapped up in that pristine accent and impeccable diction?

And that melodious voice was nothing compared to the sheer beauty which was Ignis Scientia’s face.

Gladio noted the subtle curve of Ignis’s smile, the faint dusting of pink on those high cheekbones. Emerald eyes were alight with understated joy, and there was an honest-to-Six bounce in other other man’s step. Clearly whatever had been bothering him had been resolved. Hell, maybe their talk had helped a bit. Gladio liked to think so.

“You look good,” Gladio observed candidly, folding arms across his wide chest.

Ignis’s blush darkened. “Thank you.” His smile brightened. “I feel good.”

“Sleeping better?”


“Okay,” Gladio grinned. “Now that we’ve gotten the pleasantries outta the way, grab your weapons.” He hefted the wooden greatsword, laying it over one broad shoulder. “Let’s go!”

He watched as Ignis collected the training daggers and entered the sparring ring, casting a flirtatious glance over the slope of one shoulder back towards Gladio who fucking followed him with zero hesitation.

They danced, for it couldn’t be called anything else. One thing Gladio loved about sparring with Iggy was how it challenged his style, forced him to grow beyond his typical ‘charge in and overpower with my huge fucking sword’ method. Ignis was poetry in motion, all backflips and somersaults and rapid tosses of those dull mock-blades, and Gladio had to stay constantly alert lest he lost the fight before it truly had begun.

Gladio growled when Ignis flitted in and had the audacity to tap the tip of one dagger lightly against Gladio’s chest, not even bothering to attack him properly.

A self-satisfied smirk curled those full, kissable lips, and Ignis was backpedaling out of range again, calling out merrily, “That’s one point for me.”

Swearing under his breath, Gladio tried to think of a way to up his game. Ignis was so fucking distracting, limbs usually hidden beneath immaculate suits naked to his sight, highlighted by the gym shorts and t-shirt Ignis wore for training. When Iggy spun just right, the collar of the shirt slipped to give Gladio a delectable view of his clavicle, and fuck if he wouldn’t like to tackle the other man and lick the sweat off those collarbones at length.

Gladio wasn’t stupid. He knew Ignis was well aware of just how he affected Gladio. The clever tactician used Gladio’s attraction to his full advantage in the sparring ring.

Perhaps Gladio should take a page from Ignis’s book. Amber eyes glinted with the thought. It wasn’t the way he preferred to fight, but in honesty, it was Friday night, it had been a long fucking week, and Gladio figured enough actual sparring had taken place to make the session count towards Ignis’s education.

Those gilded eyes fell half closed, latching on to Ignis’s verdant gaze as Gladio slid the tip of his tongue over his bottom lip suggestively.

A chuckle rumbled low in Gladio’s throat when he saw Ignis’s intricate footwork falter a pace.

It was a start.

“Gimme a sec,” Gladio lifted his hands in a ‘time out’ signal and stepped towards the edge of the ring. Not taking his eyes off Iggy, he pulled his tank top over his head, tossing it aside. The necessary break in their gaze was unwelcome, but when Gladio refocused on that mossy visage, he was rewarded with the sight of Ignis’s elegant mouth hanging open, his pupils beginning to edge away the green.

Gladio laid his greatsword outside the ring and smirked in challenge. “You can keep those toys if you need ‘em.” He jutted his chin towards Ignis’s paired daggers. “Me, I think I can take you down with nothing but my own self.”

Ignis appeared almost offended, and Gladio managed to keep his smirk from edging into an utterly amused grin by the skin of his teeth. When Ignis set his daggers aside, Gladio knew he’d won.

He sauntered towards Iggy, head held high, well aware of how good he looked - shirtless, defined muscles bunching with each motion, glistening with sweat.

Gladio thought he saw Ignis swallow, hard, but surely he hadn’t upset the other man’s equilibrium that badly?

Had he? Heh. Neat.

As Gladio drew near, Ignis fell back into a defensive stance; one, in fact, that Gladio had taught him.

Gladio’d be proud of his posture if he wasn’t too busy leaning in and kissing Ignis, strong arms drawing him near for an all too short embrace before Ignis pushed back, staring up at Gladio with blissed-out eyes.

“Gladio,” Ignis breathed. “We can’t. Not here.”

“I know,” Gladio muttered, running a hand through his hair in frustration. “But I couldn’t help myself.”

He saw Ignis’s lips bow in the hint of a smile, and knew the other man wasn’t mad.

“I’m sorry I’ve been so busy,” Ignis said. “Perhaps we can find some time this weekend? Not a full day, I fear, but perhaps a few hours.”

“That sounds great,” Gladio agreed. “I’m off, and my plans are divided between hangin’ with Iris and reading a book. I know your schedule tends to be much crazier, so, text me when you’re free?”

“All right.” Another smile, and then Ignis was collecting his training weapons and handing them to Gladio. “I should really be off. I need to swing by His Highness’s apartment and make sure he’s settled for the night.”

“I’ll walk you out,” Gladio suggested, and he couldn’t stop the frown when Ignis shakes his head in negation.

Stepping into Gladio’s personal space, Ignis lowered his voice, enough heat glinting in seafoam eyes to make up for the lack of volume. “If you leave with me, I’ll get nothing done.”

“...fair point,” Gladio had to concede. “So… tomorrow, then.”

“Tomorrow,” Ignis concurred, turning to leave.

Golden eyes followed Ignis’s graceful movements, and widened when Gladio noticed a dark bruise on Ignis’s thigh, peaking out beneath the hem of his shorts. Gladio reached out and gripped Ignis’s shoulder, stopping him before he could start to walk away.

“That’s a nasty bruise on your leg,” Gladio asked, tone awash with concern. “What happened?”

“I’m fine, Gladio,” Ignis murmured, expressive eyes veiled by lowered lashes. “Please don’t worry about it.”

With a shrug, Gladio let it go. Iggy had probably tripped, been too distracted by the thousand thoughts running through his brain at any given moment and ran right into something; the embarrassment of it was probably why Ignis wasn’t quick to explain. “If you say so. Night, Iggy.”

“Farewell, Gladio.”

Gladio set things to rights quickly and locked up behind him. Maybe he’d see if any of the Glaive wanted to meet for a beer. He wasn’t ready to go home just yet.

Chapter Text

Gladio was disappointed that he and Iggy had not, in fact, been able to find any time the rest of the weekend after their brief talk at Ignis’s apartment. But the following week, their training sessions went well - Ignis was making remarkable progress in his combat skills, and Gladio knew it wouldn’t be long before he could pass the Crownsguard entrance exams.

And since their sessions were the last slot of the night, they had been alone, which allowed them to flirt a little in between dagger throws and greatsword sweeps.

Gladio continued to fuel Ignis’s coffee addiction, sentimentally leaving a cup on his desk each morning from the site of their first date.

Ignis had begun reciprocating, but rather than Ebony - which Gladio detested - he’d been making lunches for the Shield.

While Gladio always had the option of Cup Noodles or Jared’s cooking, he couldn’t deny the thrill of eating Ignis’s home cooked meals every day. Even when they couldn’t find time in a day for more than a meeting of eyes as they rushed in opposite directions, Gladio liked to think they still shared these moments despite being physically apart. He was with Ignis for his first work coffee of the day, and Ignis was with Gladio for his lunch.

It was sappy as fuck, and Gladio couldn’t care less.

He was also pleased to note that Ignis seemed to have solved his problem with Nyx, and his magic training was well and truly underway. At their last training session, Ignis had excitedly told Gladio how he’d managed to tap into ice magic, though lightning still eluded him. It sounded like Nyx was a pretty good teacher.

Ignis still hadn’t told Gladio why he’d initially run out on the arcane lessons, and Gladio hadn’t pried. He maintained his hope that before much longer, Ignis would stop being so defensive and start letting him in.

In the meantime, Gladio was content to share the evening sparring sessions, the morning coffee, and the boxed lunches.

The work week went quickly, and another weekend was upon them. Gladio had some mandatory Crownsguard training exercises Saturday morning, and Iris had a piano recital that afternoon, but he was otherwise free to spend it how he chose. Unfortunately, Ignis was tied up at Noctis’s, helping the Prince prepare for the upcoming winter exams. Sure, they were months away, but Ignis was nothing if not thorough.

Gladio decided to get outside and enjoy the crisp fall air a bit. Winter’s chill had begun to descend over Insomnia, and he wanted to make the most of what time outdoors he could get before it grew too cold to really enjoy it. He found himself wandering through the farmer’s market Ignis favored. While Gladio couldn’t claim cooking skill beyond boiling water or making toast, he had a good memory and thought maybe he could surprise Ignis with some fresh ingredients.

And okay, he wanted Ignis to cook for him again, so it wasn’t entirely altruistic. Honestly, Gladio’d be fine eating takeaway pizza if it meant he could spend a few minutes in the other man’s company, outside of the sparring ring. Alone.

Gladio pulled his phone out of his pocket and fired off a text to Ignis, asking how his day was going. To his immense surprise, Ignis replied almost immediately.

Ignis: Noctis wanted a break. I’m at the market obtaining ingredients for lunch.

Amber eyes scanned the crowd eagerly. Shit, Ignis could mean he was at the grocery store, but maybe… maybe…

He grinned in triumph when he spotted the back of Ignis’s head, ash-blonde tresses immaculate, not a hair out of place. Looked like Iggy was haggling over some garula steak. Yum.

Gladio was not well suited to stealth - how the fuck could he be, at his size? - but the market was crowded and he used it to his advantage, slowly sneaking up on Ignis.

When he laid a large hand on Ignis’s shoulder, Gladio didn’t bother fighting back the laugh that burst forth when the other man spun around wide-eyed.

“Hey, Iggy.”

“Gladio!” It was a rare treat to catch Ignis this much off-guard. Gladio decided to try and do it more often. Damn, Ignis was a lovely sight; cheeks pink from the cool air, mouth hanging slightly agape from shock, those mossy eyes sparkling as surprise faded to pleasure. “What are you doing here?”

Gladio grinned, holding up a half-full cloth bag. “Same as you, I expect. Findin’ anything good?”

“Indeed,” Ignis replied. “This market always has a fantastic selection. If you’ll excuse me but a moment.”

Gladio stepped back to watch the master at work, loving the confident way Ignis’s voice sharpened as he bartered over the price of the meat.

When Ignis cast his verdant gaze back towards Gladio mid-sentence, Gladio felt his heart skip a beat.

Astrals. The man was so fucking beautiful.

Damned if he knew why Iggy liked him so much, but Gladio wasn’t gonna question it. He was gonna enjoy the hell out of it.

Sure, it hadn’t been long, but long enough that Gladio had slid headlong into what he figured had to be love. It was certainly something he’d never felt before, and it wasn’t really like the way it was described in his books, but what else could this warmth be? Similar to the affection he felt for his father, his sister, but with a very different nuance. Kinda like the enjoyment he got hanging out with his friends, but so much deeper.

Yep. Gladiolus Amicitia was in love with Ignis Scientia.

He figured he’d keep it to himself for now. If Ignis was still too cautious to open up about his fluctuating moods and conflict with Nyx, he probably didn’t need to add Gladio’s declarations of love to the list of things to stress out about.

But damned if he didn’t want to shout it from the rooftops. Gladio still didn’t know what prompted Ignis to ask him to coffee that day and he didn’t really care at this point, he was just grateful that they’d begun walking this path together, and he hoped they continued to do so for a very long time.

While Gladio was lost in romantic thoughts, Ignis made his purchases. When he rejoined Gladio, his lips were quirked in victory.

“I bought enough for four,” Ignis murmured. “In case you’re able to join us for dinner.”

Gladio grinned. “I gotta go to Iris’s recital this afternoon, but I’ll be there after. Anything I can bring?”

A flirtatious light glinted in emerald eyes as Ignis rasped simple words in his impeccable accent. “Just bring yourself.”

“That I can do,” Gladio rumbled, leaning closer.

They stood that way for an ephemeral moment, a heart’s beat apart, before simultaneously turning and walking in opposite directions, Ignis presumably heading back to Noct’s apartment, and Gladio going home for a cold shower.

Ignis couldn’t stop smiling after encountering Gladio at the market. It was an unexpected delight, and one he treasured, not having expected to see Gladio again until Monday at the Citadel.

He walked back to Noctis’s apartment with a bounce in his step. Things were going so well, it was hard to remember he wasn’t dreaming. Gladio continued to be solicitous and understanding, and Ignis only hoped he was adequately reciprocating half the joy and attention Gladio heaped upon him on a near daily basis.

Ignis’s phone vibrated in his pocket, pulling him out of his reverie. Pulling it out, he saw the notification: 1 New Message - Nyx Ulric. Swiping it open, Ignis’s smile broadened as he read it. Hey, Ignis. I know we touched base at training, but I wanted to check in again and make sure you’re doing okay.

Not only had Ignis made a true friend, Nyx had proved to be far more considerate than his flirtatious reputation might indicate. But then, it didn’t surprise Ignis - he already knew Stag was a thoughtful and caring top.

Ignis moved to the side of the path so he wouldn’t block any foot traffic, and sat his bags down at his feet to type back a response. I’m quite well, thank you. I hope your day is going well. See you Tuesday.

Tucking the phone back in his pocket, Ignis resumed his walk, well aware that he couldn’t stop smiling and not caring in the slightest. Noctis was doing well with his studies, being less fractious than usual. The council meetings had gone smoother lately. Ignis’s magical studies were progressing well, and from Gladio’s highfives he inferred his combat lessons were also proceeding apace.

And he’d made a friend.

And he had a boyfriend, he thought. He and Gladio hadn’t exactly sat down and defined the relationship, but what else could it be with all the sweet gestures they exchanged, the stolen kisses?

Perhaps it was time to have a conversation, verbally affirming exactly what this was, and where they wanted it to go.

But, that would mean Ignis would need to come clean with his secret. And he didn’t know if he could do that yet.

Truth be told, part of his reticence was self-created. He’d made it into such a big deal that actually broaching and getting it over with seemed insurmountable. The most likely outcome was Gladio would be understanding, unfazed, and perhaps interested in adding a new dimension to their interactions.

Astrals, it was overwhelming.

No. Not yet.

When he arrived at Noctis’s apartment, Ignis could hear the chattering before he even opened the door. Prompto had arrived early, it seemed.

No matter. His Highness had worked hard all morning, and Ignis was in the mood to grant the Prince a reprieve. After all, the King had continually stressed his desire for Noct to have as much of a childhood as he could while being the heir apparent.

“Highness. Prompto.” Ignis set his bags down on the table and began to unload perishables into the fridge.

“Hey, Igs!” Prompto was a ray of sunshine, voice as effervescent as his brilliant violet eyes.

“Specs,” Noctis’s voice was more guarded, probably assuming now that Ignis had returned his fun was at an end.

“I’ll start lunch, shall I?” Ignis said with a smile, a surge of fraternal affection warming his heart when Noctis smiled back before resuming his conversation with Prompto.

Lunch was a simple affair - sandwiches and fresh fruit, which Noctis actually ate without much more than a token fuss. When the younger men started up one of their video games, Ignis began doing pre-prep for dinner, chopping the veggies, peeling the potatoes, and marinating the steaks. Then he found himself with precious little to do, so he began idly cleaning the apartment, which thankfully hadn’t been trashed too badly since his last visit.

“Wanna play?” Noct offered unexpectedly.

Ignis blinked in surprise. Video games weren’t really his thing, but he was touched by the offer. Furthermore, it could be a good bonding opportunity. “I’d be delighted,” he said, going to sit on the floor by the younger men.

He focused intently as they explained which button served which function, and the premise of the game. It was a co-op, thankfully - Ignis’s lack of skill hopefully wouldn’t hold the others back. The goal seemed to be to just clear out as many pixelated monsters as possible before the time limit expired.

Ignis was surprised by how enmeshed he became by the action, doing his best to slay the electronic daemons and keep his avatar in tempo with Noctis and Prompto. So involved was he that he didn’t even register the door opening until he heard a voice speak from directly behind them on the sofa.

“How did you dorks get Iggy to play? Is this the real Ignis, or a Niff imposter?”

“Very funny,” Ignis said drily. “I assure you I am me.” He shot a look of Gladio that promised to back up his assertions later, when they were alone, and had to smirk at the blush that blossomed along sun-bronzed cheeks.

“I want in when you finish this level.”

“You can take over my character,” Ignis offered. “I just noticed the time, and I really should get dinner started.”

Ignis excused himself as soon as the victory fanfare played, signaling they’d cleared the stage. He allowed his fingertips to graze against Gladio’s when passing him the controller, eyes melding in a brief, intense look before Ignis walked into the kitchen to start working.

He got the potatoes and vegetables roasting, as they’d require far more time than the steaks. Finding an unexpected packet of fresh herbs in the fridge, he chopped some and sprinkled them over the veggies to add extra flavor. Using fresh over powdered was always a treat.

There wasn’t really that much to do since he’d gotten the grunt work out of the way before joining the game, so Ignis contented himself with observing the other three. They were a cohesive team, he noted. Ignis would need to practice the game to match their level of synergistic skill. Perhaps he could purchase a copy to keep at his apartment so he could work on it on his own time.

But for now he was happy to watch while he monitored the food. Ignis actually felt like he was truly included - today he felt more like a friend than a retainer, and it was a good feeling.

He had four friends. Ignis smiled at the realization.

Gladio couldn’t even find the words to express how overjoyed he was to see Ignis fucking relaxing and playing with the others instead of doing something like polishing light fixtures or dusting the baseboards. He was even more happy when he managed to slip in unnoticed, relishing the way Ignis’s back went ramrod straight at the sound of Gladio’s voice.

And that small ghosting of fingertips along his hand, that flash of vibrant green before Ignis walked away…

Suffice to say, Gladio was having trouble focusing on the game.

He gave it his best shot, though, and had a genuinely good time massacring the mobs with Noctis and Prompto. The tantalizing scents of dinner wafted out, full of promise.

It was shaping up to be a damn good evening.

“Dinner in five minutes,” Ignis called out.

Gladio dropped his controller and stood, stretching out the kinks in his back from folding his massive frame down onto the floor to play. “Why don’tcha put on a movie or somethin’? I’m gonna help Iggy get everything set.”

In short order some ridiculous action movie was blaring on the television, Noctis and Prompto sitting so close to the screen Gladio was amazed when Ignis didn’t nag them to back off. He and Iggy shared the couch, and Gladio paid far more attention to the long, lean thigh pressed against his than to the show.

Gladio turned his head to speak softly to Ignis, leaning in closely enough that his lips could brush the other man’s ear. “Dinner’s amazing.”

He noted the adorable way Ignis’s cheeks colored at the praise, and resolved to do it more often. “Thank you."

“You’re amazing,” Gladio added, bumping his knee against Ignis’s.

He saw the blush darken and grinned. “Ah… thank you.”

“Whatcha doin’ after this?” Gladio asked quietly.

“I’ll probably do some work from home.”

“Want company?”

“Oh, yes,” Ignis breathed, slanting a heated glance at Gladio that went straight to his cock.

Down, boy.

Gladio looked at the younger men and saw them both totally absorbed in the movie. Perhaps it was reckless, but he snuck a chaste kiss on Ignis’s cheek before drawing back to a more respectable distance and finishing his dinner.

It didn’t take long to do the dishes since Ignis was a ‘clean as you go’ sort of cook. Gladio appreciated the fact that Ignis was again included in the post-dinner gaming session, and called out suggestions to all three of his friends as they engaged in a boss battle.

They emerged from electronic combat triumphant, and while Noct and Prompto wanted to immediately move on to the next level, Ignis demurred.

“If it’s all right with you, Highness, I believe I’ll head home.”

“Sure, Specs,” Noct turned to smile at his Advisor. “Don’t work too hard. See ya tomorrow.”

“Yeah, night, Igs!” Prompto added before resuming button-mashing.

Gladio considered his options and shrugged. “I’m gonna take off too. Have fun, twerps.”

He followed Ignis out of the apartment after collecting his things, waiting while he locked the door behind them.

“I drove over. Want a lift?” Gladio offered.

“Certainly,” Ignis accepted, lowering those verdant eyes to hide behind the curtain of eyelashes.

Since the hallway was empty, Gladio crooked a finger beneath Ignis’s chin, raising his head until their eyes met again. He watched in fascination as Ignis’s pupils contracted before dilating, heard the way the other man’s breath hitched in his throat at the simple touch. Pink dusted those sharp cheekbones, and Ignis’s entire face seemed… softer, somehow. Open, happy, affectionate.

Okay, Amicitia, you’re in a fucking hallway.

“Let’s go,” Gladio suggested, shoving his hands in his pockets to resist further temptation as they walked out of the building and over to his truck.

The drive took longer than Gladio would have preferred. It was Saturday night, and traffic was ridiculous. But eventually they made it the short distance from Noct’s building to Ignis’s apartment, and Gladio only ended up having to park a block away. Score.

No words were spoken as they climbed out of the vehicle and entered the building. Gladio gave himself credit for waiting until Ignis had unlocked the door, they stepped inside, and locked it behind them before tugging the other man close to claim a heated kiss from those full lips.

“Gladio,” Ignis breathed out against Gladio’s mouth, the syllables breaking up on a sigh when Gladio’s lips found the pulse point in his throat.

“Ignis,” Gladio rumbled against the side of his neck, grinning appreciatively against the delicate skin when he felt the shudder pass through Ignis’s lithe frame. After laying a line of tender kisses from chin to collarbone, Gladio straightened and smiled.

Ignis’s eyes were glassy, his face flushed; Gladio could only assume he looked similarly debauched.

And just from a few kisses… Gladio fought back a groan as he considered again how gorgeous Ignis would look when he came undone.

When nothing lay between them but sweat, and their heartbeats sounded the same cadence, mingled breaths sighing the same song.

Not tonight, though. That would be worth waiting for.

Gladio took of his shoes and slung his jacket over the back of one of Ignis’s dining room chairs, amber eyes keen on the other man’s graceful movements as Ignis also toed off his loafers, hanging his coat in the hall closet.

“Would you care for a drink?” Ignis asked, corners of his lips upturned in a small smile.

“Sounds good.”

“Why don’t you make yourself comfortable in the living room? I’ll be along directly.”

Gladio nodded and walked the scant distance from foyer to the sofa, taking his ease with a soft sigh. His eyes stayed trained on Ignis’s precise motions as he prepared their drinks.

“I didn’t mention earlier, but thank you for your contributions to dinner,” Ignis called out.

“Happy to help,” Gladio replied. “I’m glad I remembered the right stuff.”

“My dear Gladiolus…” Gladio could hear the smirk in Ignis’s voice. “I’m sure I’d’ve managed with whatever you’d procured. But yes, you did well, and you have my thanks.”

Gladio managed to mutter something he hoped passed for a response. He was too caught up in the way Ignis’s raspy baritone had caressed the full length of his given name, shaping it with long vowels and crisp consonants.

Why was that so fucking hot? Damned if Gladio knew, but he knew he liked it. A lot.

And Ignis calling him ‘dear’ was just icing on the cake.

“I hope I chose the right brand,” that silky voice interrupted Gladio’s reverie as he held out a bottle of Hammerhead Hard Cider, one of Gladio’s favorites.

“This is great! Thanks, Iggy.”

A small quirk of those full lips, and Ignis was sitting beside him, opening a bottle of his own.

Gladio took an appreciative pull from the bottle before leaning back, laying one tattooed arm along the back of the couch and crossing his legs at the ankles. He balanced the cider on his thigh with his other hand, angling his body slightly towards Ignis. “So, what’s on tap for you tomorrow?”

“Typical Sunday,” Ignis murmured after taking a sip of his own drink. “My primary task will be reviewing the upcoming week’s schedule with Noctis. Aside from that… some shopping, house chores, catching up on correspondence.” He smiled self-deprecatingly. “Nothing terribly special, I’m afraid. And you?”

“Taking Iris to the movies,” Gladio said. “I have no idea which one. I think she said it was about dancing? Or vampires. Maybe dancing vampires?” He shrugged massive shoulders, trying - and failing - to bite back a delighted grin when Ignis laid his head against the arm stretched along the backrest. Those intelligent eyes were focused so intently on Gladio, paying such close attention as if it were a Council address or something - fuck, anything - more important than Gladio’s lazy Sunday plans.

“That sounds nice,” Ignis said. “It’s good you’re able to spend so much time with your sister.”

“She’s the best,” Gladio agreed. “We’ve had to count on each other, you know? With Mom dying so young, and Dad being so busy… most the time it’s just me and Iris. And Jared and Talcott, of course.”

“I envy you your familial bonds.” The words were so faint, Gladio wasn’t entirely sure he’d heard them. He stayed quiet, hoping his silence encouraged Ignis to open up further.

“My parents died when I was very young. Before I came to Insomnia,” Ignis said as if calmly as if he were relaying the day’s weather forecast, or the cost of Caem carrots. “My uncle always ensured I had a roof over my head, clothes to wear, but…” His words trailed off into a sigh, and Ignis’s eyes lowered to stare at the label on the cider bottle he idly spun between nimble fingers. “Well. He did his best, but had hadn’t had children for a reason, and wasn’t best pleased to be saddled with one so late in life.”

“I’m sorry,” Gladio said simply, not really knowing what he could possibly say. “Hey, you should come over sometime,” he added, as inspiration struck. “Join us for a family dinner. It’d be fun. Iris loves having guests.”

“I’m not sure that would be appropriate,” Ignis hedged, lifting his head from the pillow of Gladio’s bicep to look at him directly.

“Fuck, Iggy,” Gladio shook his head. “You can come over as my friend. I can keep my hands off you for an evening, you know, especially with Ir—-”

“Pity,” Ignis drawled. “I rather enjoy your hands on me.”

And there went Gladio’s coherent thought process.  He took a deep drink of his cider before setting the bottle on the coffee table. “Do you now?”

“Oh, yes,” Ignis purred, setting his drink aside and leaning closer. “Haven’t you noticed?”

“Might have,” Gladio breathed, scooting over on the couch until they were pressed together from hip to knee. He lowered his arm from the back of the couch to wrap around Ignis’s shoulders, tugging him closer.



“Kiss me.”

Gladio lowered his mouth to Ignis’s without hesitation. They were alone, and this time, he could do this properly - no stolen, clandestine liplock in the hall or behind their friends’ backs.

Ignis tasted like Ebony - shocker, that - and wintergreen, as if he’d chased away the aftertaste of dinner with a mint. His lips were full and soft, simultaneously yielding and strong against Gladio’s, taking everything that Gladio offered him and giving back equally.

Gladio traced his tongue against Ignis’s lower lip and was rewarded by the opening of that sweet mouth, enabling their tongues to join in the dance. He wasn’t sure when Ignis’s fingers had found his hair, but Gods those fingertips felt amazing dragging along his scalp.

His other arm wrapped around Ignis now, drawing the man into his lap. Gladio moaned into his paramour’s mouth when Ignis straddled him, those long, lean thighs resting against Gladio’s and an unmistakable bulge grinding down against Gladio’s core.

“Fuck… Iggy…” Gladio managed to gasp between kisses, bucking his hips up in an effort to get closer, get that delicious friction, ease some of this sensual tension.

When Ignis lowered his mouth to graze teeth along Gladio’s collarbone, all Gladio could do was hang on for dear life and pray he wasn’t hurting Ignis with the force of his grip, fingertips digging into Ignis’s ass.

“You,” his tongue lathed over the hollow of Gladio’s throat, “seem,” teeth scraped the side of his neck, “to,” an open mouthed kiss pressed to the upper pectoral muscle revealed by Gladio’s tank top, “like this.” Ignis hissed the final words against the juncture of shoulder and neck before teeth sank in firmly.

Gladio’s eyes rolled back in his head and he simultaneously thrust his pelvis up and used his hands on Iggy’s hips to pull him down. The way their cocks ground together behind layers of clothing was hotter than anything Gladio had ever imagined. Fucking shit, he was close, so close, and just from making out.

Well. Not just making out.

Making out with Ignis.

The man he loved.

“Iggy,” Gladio said, voice full of desperation. “We either need to stop… or I might not be able to stop.”

One more hot, deep kiss, and then Ignis slowly slid off Gladio’s lap, retreating to his side of the couch. Gladio could read reluctance and frustration in that verdant gaze, brilliant emerald of the irises nearly completely eclipsed by pupils blown out with passion.

“My apologies, Gladio.”

Gladio’s jaw dropped. “The fuck you apologizing for?” He grabbed his bottle and took another long pull of cider, willing his dick to settle the hell down so he could continue winning his struggle against throwing Iggy down right then and there.

“I pushed you,” Ignis murmured, the heat in his cheeks colored by shame now, rather than lust.

Gladio’s loud laughter broke up the tension before it could truly coalesce. “Iggy, did I sound like I was complainin’?” He slung a companionable arm around the other man and grinned. “I’m a big boy. I ain’t gonna do anything I don’t want to.” Eyes nearly the same hue as the crisp cider narrowed, focused intently on Ignis. “And believe me, I want to do you.”

“My. Such poetry.”

Gladio made a face. “I can be plenty poetic if I try. Shut up.”

Ignis’s laughter was music to his ears, and when he lay his head against Gladio’s arm again, the Shield realized this was quite possibly the best evening he’d ever had.

Chapter Text

Ignis paced through his apartment restlessly. Day off it might be, but he was too wound up to spend it doing anything other than over-thinking his evening agenda.

Tonight he’d resume his attendance at the Coeurl, and he had a plan with Nyx.

He hoped to see Gladio there, though Ignis wasn’t prepared to reveal himself yet.

Uncharacteristically swearing, Ignis turned on his television and sat on the couch, staring at the screen without seeing the program.

The past three weeks had been… interesting.

He’d continued his sparring sessions with Gladio, and attending the mandatory Crownsguard training classes. But now he’d also added biweekly magic training with Nyx into the mix.

Despite all that had passed between them at the Club - and in Ignis’s office - Nyx’s conduct was beyond reproach, and he proved to be an able tutor. Ignis was able to summon ice as well as fire now, and could usually hit his intended targets.

Even more miraculous than his arcane acumen was the deep friendship which had sprung up seemingly overnight with the Glaive. To be fair, they’d known each other for months, even if they hadn’t known each others true identities. But Ignis hadn’t realized how wonderful it would be to have a friend like Nyx until the relationship took flight. Nyx knew all his secrets - his personal secrets, at least, not those Ignis was bound to keep confidential as part of his service to the Crown. It was amazing having someone to talk with about his relationship with Gladio, someone to speak with about his activities as Hawk, someone who just accepted every part of him and never judged. Nyx challenged him, oh yes - but never cast aspersions on Ignis’s decisions.

It occurred to Ignis, as it did more and more frequently as of late, that if he’d just open up and trust, he could have all this - and so very much more - with Gladio.

Gods, how he wanted that.

But he was so scared. Petrified that Gladio would be like the others, either appalled by Ignis’s proclivities, or taking advantage of them. That fear made no bloody sense, since Ignis had seen Gladio’s conduct at the party two months past. Why would Gladio judge Ignis when they enjoyed the same things? Why would Gladio mistreat him when he’d behaved appropriately with those he’d topped at the club?

Emotions were rarely rational, and seldom made sense. Betimes Ignis wished he could script them like a carefully worded missive, directing them as he’d prefer.

But that wasn’t human nature, and not even Ignis Scientia could overwrite basic neurology.

He knew enough from these past weeks - nearly two months, now - to know he wanted Gladio. To be fair, anyone with eyes could determine they wanted the man on a basic carnal level. But Ignis knew Gladio - his loyalty, his intellect, his honor.

He wanted the man who baked cookies with his little sister. Dreamed of the man who drilled new recruits in the ethics of honorable combat. Desired the man whose smile burned like the sun, whose eyes cut through Ignis’s immaculate pretenses like butter, seeing straight into his core.

Really seeing him.

Except for the part Ignis carefully held in reserve. He wished he could quell his fears with a thought, but that wasn’t to be.

But... he had devised a strategy.

Ignis had asked Nyx to introduce Hawk to Gladio tonight at the club. With Nyx to facilitate, Ignis could truly take a measure of Gladio as a top, get an inkling of what he’d be like a dominant, how he’d react to a submissive.

And oh, the dreams Ignis had of how that could work out, were his fears lain to rest, and Gladio amenable to the notion…

Ignis craved the pain. He never denied it. He was a true sadomasochist, taking delight in giving as well as taking. But when it came to the psychological aspect, he was strictly submissive. Ignis already spent so much of his life organizing things, ordering people around, making sure everything went according to plan - he hardly needed to take on the responsibilities of a dominant.

In the deepest depths of his secret heart, Ignis longed to turn over control to someone he trusted, at least within certain times and specific parameters.

He desperately hoped Gladio could fill that role in his life.

The thought made his pulse pound and his breath come more quickly. Ignis palmed himself through his pajamas, grinding wantonly against his hand as he grew erect.

Well. Unless he wanted a repeat of last time’s accidental emission, best to take care of this before he left for the party.

Granted, he had hours until he needed to depart - but that meant he could take his time.

Ignis went back to his bedroom and shut the door, sprawling lazily on his bed and sliding a hand under his shirt.

What would it feel like if Gladio were to touch him so intimately? All Ignis had to work with were those delectable kisses and warm embraces, those rare times they rutted against each other fully clothed. While it was important to Ignis to not rush things - not with Gladio, whom he hoped to keep in his orbit indefinitely - he was still a healthy young man with an appetite, and if he had to feed it himself, so be it.

Trailing fingertips over the planes of his chest, Ignis tweaked a nipple with a sigh. Would Gladio be slow and gentle? Rough and fast? Perhaps as a lover, his tastes would vary with his moods, as fleeting and changeable as the wind.

That would suit Ignis splendidly. While he enjoyed the harsher side of lovemaking, he also treasured the tender - and in truth, in his brief explorations, couldn’t say he’d ever truly made love with anyone. His trysts had been fleeting and largely emotionless. No one he’d dated had ever tolerated his idiosyncrasies and schedule long enough to make it into his bed, and his one-night-stands were strictly there for a quick fuck, which didn’t exactly lend itself to the sorts of things Ignis dreamt of. The only thing he’d ever been in that resembled a relationship… no. He couldn’t count that as love-making, either.

He thought Gladio would be an attentive and thorough lover. Ignis slid his other hand in his pants, teasing nimble fingertips over the aching length of his erection. Gladio was so considerate in everything else, it was only logical to presume that would extend to the bedroom.

Oh, the things Ignis would like to do with Gladio in his bedroom.

His hand fisted around his cock and began to slowly pump as he pondered what it would be like to feel those calloused palms against his most intimate flesh. Or those kissable lips wrapped around his girth.

Ignis imagined that best of all would be Gladio’s cock buried balls-deep inside Ignis, joining their bodies so completely they would be akin to one being, two halves comprising one whole, mated and unbreakable.

Ignis moaned, uncaring how desperate the noise sounded. After all, no one was there to hear him. The subsequent thought of Gladio hearing his keens and cries - perhaps offering verbal encouragement for Ignis to be louder still, or playfully chastising him for being such a lascivious little creature - was enough to cause his eyes to roll back in his head as his hips arched off the bed, straining towards someone who wasn’t there.

The hand he’d wrapped around his dick began to work more insistently. Perhaps Gladio would let Ignis fuck him, too? Had the other man ever been properly fucked? Ignis honestly had no inkling. He’d never sat down and had a detailed talk with Gladio about their past lovers.

The idea that Ignis might be the claimant of that virginity was enough to make him orgasm, thick ropes of come shooting over his belly.

Taking several deep breaths, Ignis tried to calm his thundering heartbeat, attempted to bring his trembling body back under his control, but all he could do was lay there and gasp Gladio’s name as the aftershocks coursed through his slender frame.

How long did he truly need to wait to experience Gladio fully? Ignis wasn’t sure.

The one thing he knew without question was that Gladio had to know his secret - had to know all of him - before they took that irrevocable step in their relationship.

Ignis needed to find his courage and open himself up more completely than he’d ever dared to do before. And that thought was so terrifying that he rolled on his side and clung to his pillow, desperately wishing he had someone nearby to give him a hug.

Perhaps he wouldn’t allow himself to admit to such weakness typically, but this was far from an ordinary situation.

Ignis passed the rest of the day quite mundanely - he ran errands, stopped by Carpe Librum and browsed a couple hours, picking up a book he thought Gladio might enjoy, and cooked himself a fine dinner of roast daggerquil and fresh Caem carrots he’d found at the farmer’s market.

Then it was time to prepare himself, and surely the way he pampered himself was acceptable, this one time in so many years.

Ignis took a lingering shower, during which he not only thoroughly cleansed himself - inside and out - he also shaped his eyebrows, shaved away his five o’clock shadow, and coaxed another orgasm from his needy cock with the simple thought of Gladio’s powerful, tattooed arms.

When he dressed it was with his usual attention to detail, but Ignis found himself desiring to trade in his disguise of off the rack, shapeless suits for something more appealing.

He wore black skinny jeans and a fitted tee coupled with a black sport coat. Adding a silver tie that Noct had possibly meant well by purchasing - though Ignis suspected was a gag gift - Ignis also decided to try out a new accessory he had purchased: silver-dyed leather driving gloves that encased most of his fingers, leaving only his thumbs and hints of his knuckles viewable to the passing eye.

Ignis quite enjoyed the way the gloves felt, the way the leather smelled, and he thought they would serve him well both as an adjunct to his disguise, and an addition to any scenes if he chose to top. With that thought, he packed his knives; maybe Nyx would enjoy something sharper than usual.

In a fit of vanity, Ignis labored over his hairstyle for nearly an hour, trying out several different looks until he settled on something he found quite bold, but not unattractive. He gelled up the front of his hair in what he whimsically thought of as a crest - suitable to the bird of prey his mask articulated. He pulled his hawk mask out from its box in his closet, and when he removed his glasses and put on the mask he looked at himself in the mirror.

Oh, yes. That hairdo worked smashingly with the spray of feathers around the avian facade.

Quite appealing indeed.

He prayed Gladio felt the same way.

Ignis gave himself a final once-over: black jeans, wrinkle free; tight black tee, showing off his slender musculature; silver tie and gloves, jarring accents to the monochromatic, colorless uniform; and topped off by his fierce mask.

That would do.

Ignis packed the case with his knives in a small tote bag, along with his mask, phone, wallet, and a few other odds and ends. Then he was out the door and on the way to the club.

He arrived at the Coeurl about a half hour after the party had started. It was part of his carefully cultivated image not to appear too eager, but in truth, he couldn’t force himself to arrive any later. After confirming there we no passers-by, Ignis slid his mask into place and pushed open the door.

It had been three weeks since the entrancing mixture of magic and pain he’d shared with Nyx, and Ignis was ready for more - albeit more conventional play, in this place, with this audience.

And he desperately wanted to see Gladio tonight. Wanted to take his measure as a top, wanted to gauge his reactions to Hawk’s proclivities.

If all went well, Ignis decided he’d tell Gladio the next time they had more than a moment alone outside of their sparring sessions. What was the point of drawing it out longer? Better to find out now. If Gladio didn’t take it well, at least Ignis would have only invested a couple months into the relationship.

He’d get over it. Eventually. Perhaps.

Astrals take him, Ignis couldn’t fathom ever being over Gladiolus Amicitia.

Shaking off such dismal thoughts, Ignis strolled through the club with a careful, measured step. He offered his typical silent nods to the people he recognized, and saw a couple sets of eyes alight when they saw the bag he carried.

While Ignis typically preferred to bottom, he had garnered a bit of reputation for his knife work.

Nyx found him before Ignis had completed his first circuit of the room.

“Hey, gorgeous,” Nyx, resplendent in his guise of the Stag, practically cooed the greeting in Ignis’s ear.

Ignis nodded back, cloaked in silence.

“You still up for what we talked about?”

Another nod, fervent and crisp.

Nyx’s voice softened, tinged with concern. “You’re sure this is a good idea? I still think you should just tell him.”

Ignis shook his head in negation. No. He had to see first hand. He had to have more data before confiding in Gladio. Perhaps it was weak of him, but it was what it was.

"Your choice,” Nyx murmured, and Ignis was grateful for the lack of censure in the other man’s voice. “I haven’t seen him yet, but why don’t we stake out some equipment. Anything you’re in the mood for tonight?”

Ignis shrugged eloquently. He didn’t really care about the specifics for this scene, truth be told. Nyx knew what he liked, and Ignis trusted the other man to orchestrate something appropriate.

Nyx chuckled ruefully. “It really is easier when you talk. But I understand. C’mon, I have an idea.”

Ignis followed the Glaive to a wooden frame that had attachment points at various heights along its beams, suitable for a multitude of positions.

But here his feet faltered, because Ignis had never allowed anyone to bind him. He certainly didn’t intend to start now.

Turning incredulous green eyes to Nyx, he asked a silent question with his stare.

“I know, I know - no bondage, right?” Nyx said conversationally. “If you can trust me, I have a compromise. I’ll use leather cuffs - but I won’t lock them. You can let yourself out at any time.”

Ignis shook his head in negation. That was just too much.

“Okay, sorry,” Nyx said, raking a hand through the spill of hair behind his mask. “How about this? You can hold the ropes in your hands. Nothing will actually be attached to you, but the rope can be your guide in keeping position.”

Ignis considered. That should work. All he’d have to do is release his hold and walk away if something was too much. He nodded at Nyx - at Stag - and deliberately slowed his breathing, trying to slide into a calmer headspace before they began.

“You know what to do,” Nyx said teasingly, and Ignis felt himself flush behind the veil of his mask.

He didn’t think he could strip down. Not tonight, not if Gladio came as he expected. Not completely. So he compromised, removing everything but his boxer-briefs.

Nyx clucked his tongue in disappointment. “I understand, but it's a shame,” he lamented. “You’ve got a nice butt.”

Ignis allowed himself to smirk at the other man before he set his folded clothing to one side. He looked to Nyx for direction, and waited as the other man attached a couple ropes to the wooden frame.

“Okay, stand here,” Nyx physically maneuvered Ignis into place, and Ignis reveled in being manhandled. “And hold on to these.” Ropes were placed by Ignis’s hands. After he grasped them, Nyx wrapped them around the frame before securing them tightly. The end result was Ignis standing with feet shoulder width apart for balance, his arms uplifted to the sky like he was invoking the Astrals, hands wrapped tightly around the rope, but unbound.

“Look who’s coming,” Nyx purred in Ignis’s ear, and Ignis snapped his head from side to side in an effort to see.

Sure enough, Gladio was walking through the club, honed in on their position.

Ignis’s attention was drawn back to Nyx by the hand beneath his chin, turning his head none too gently to meet the Stag’s sapphire gaze.

Ah, yes. Nyx remembered Ignis’s additional request.

Opening his mouth unseemingly wide, Ignis stood still as Nyx slid the ball-gag in place, biting into the rubber firmly.

Ignis despised gags. He hated the messy way drool pooled around them and fell down his chin, the undignified way they contorted his face.

But Hawk loved them. He delighted in the obscene way they stretched his mouth, took solace in the way they helped him to maintain his necessary silence.

Once it was in place, he faced forward and lowered his head. He didn’t really want to observe anyone else - he wanted to stay absorbed in this safe bubble of space that Nyx was creating with him.

That Gladio was about to hopefully join.

The Coeurl was as loud and lively as ever, but this month it wasn’t as jarring now that Gladio had attended the party a couple of times. He’d elected to bring along a few things on the off chance he was able to get that introduction to Hawk that Nyx had promised to try and arrange. Gladio wasn’t terribly interested in topping anyone else, though if Hawk wasn’t game, Gladio wasn’t opposed to the idea of returning the favor for Nyx.

Amber eyes lit up with delight when he saw the two subjects of his thoughts setting up for a scene. At first he was surprised, because it looked like Hawk was bound, and Gladio recalled Nyx mentioning that bondage was a hard limit for the mysterious man. But when he drew nearer, he could see that Hawk merely held the ropes in slim fingers, bound in place only by the word of his top and the obedience of his heart.

Then Gladio’s eyes lifted and he noticed the gag stretching pink lips in an exaggerated ‘o’ below that fierce mask, and he felt his cock swell beneath the leather of his pants.


Nyx spotted Gladio and waved him closer, and Gladio hardly needed the encouragement to join the other two.

“Gladio, this is my friend Hawk,” Nyx’s voice was flirtatious and teasing. “He’d say hello himself, but his mouth’s a bit busy.”

“Nice to meet ya,” Gladio said, circling around to meet those eyes, see if they were as striking as he remembered.

Yep. They were.

His thoughts fractured a moment, thinking of the green eyes he held most dear, and for a moment he questioned his decision to attend this gathering tonight. Gladio decided this would be his last party before having a conversation with Ignis about his proclivities; if they were going to continue dating - which seemed joyfully obvious at this point - Gladio really needed to make sure Ignis wasn’t offended by Gladio’s extra-curricular activities.

Hell, maybe he’d be willing to try a few things.

With that thought, Gladio slid out of visual range of Hawk, subtly adjusting himself as best he could while dressed in such tight clothing.

Nyx stepped up to Gladio and gave him a challenging grin. “If you’re up for it, we thought you could help me.”

Gladio’s mouth went dry. “With what?”

“Why, topping this gorgeous specimen of a man!” Nyx purred, stroking a hand down the length of Hawk’s spine.

Gladio saw the way the touch made Hawk shiver and felt his pulse pound. Gods, he seemed so responsive. And this seemed like a great way to break the ice; since the other man wouldn’t speak, Gladio hadn’t figured out how he’d manage to negotiate any sort of scene with him.

“I’m in,” Gladio agreed, trying not to sound over-eager. “What d’ya have in mind?”

Nyx continued to pet the man who stood perfectly in place, clinging to those ropes like they were lifelines. “I’m thinking you stick to impact play - don’t be afraid to go hard, he’ll signal if it’s too much - and I’ll throw in a few surprises here and there.”

Another tremor coursed along the avian-guised stranger, and Gladio wished it wasn’t so damned hot in here. Fuck.

“Works for me.” Gladio began to unpack his bag. It didn’t take long; he hadn’t brought much. “What’s the signal?”

Hawk snapped his fingers twice in rapid succession.

“Got it.”

Nyx passed closely enough to Gladio to whisper out of earshot of the third person in their group. “Don’t embarrass me, Amicitia.” Cerulean eyes were unexpectedly serious, and stayed honed to his golden gaze until Gladio nodded in understanding.

He’d step up his game. This was a unique opportunity.

Gladio chose his lightest flogger, the one he preferred for warm ups or gentle sensation play. Seeing Nyx nod, he began by running the soft falls over Hawk’s back, giving him an inkling of what was coming. When he saw Hawk deliberately brace his posture, Gladio couldn’t stop the fierce grin that tugged at his lips.

Oh, yeah. This was gonna be fun.

Gladio started with a slow, steady cadence, careful to rain the blows equally over Hawk’s entire back until the creamy skin had turned rosy pink.

He saw Nyx circle around to Hawk’s front, leaning close to whisper something in the other man’s ears that had Hawk shaking in his voluntary bonds.

Then Nyx gripped Hawk’s hair, yanking his head back and laying the edge of a knife at his throat.

Gladio thought he heard a small muffled sound try and emerge around the gag. He stopped what he was doing, causing Nyx to take the knife and draw it along his own arm, demonstrating to Gladio that it was entirely dull.

Okay, that helped to know, because Gladio wasn’t going to fucking beat someone when jostling them too hard could slice their throat.

He resumed flogging Hawk, keeping an eye on Nyx’s movements as his co-top used that mock blade to full effect. It seemed that Hawk had no idea it was dull from the way tension tightened his delicious body. When Nyx ran the knife down the front of Hawk’s boxers, Gladio definitely heard a muted moan suppressed by that gag.

He wanted to hear more; what hint he was getting of that voice sounded damn good.

Gladio changed things up, switching to a mid-weight flogger with wider, thicker tails. He continued to work the leather against the reddened planes of Hawk’s back while Nyx alternately teased the will-bound man with the cool steel and purred verbal taunts in his ears.

After a few more minutes of the same, Nyx walked to his pack, setting aside the knife and pulling out a small mesh-weave bag. He spilled something sparkly into his palm that Gladio couldn’t quite make out. As he watched, Nyx slid small lacquered metal claws over the fingertips of his left hand.

Those looked interesting. Gladio would have to get a closer look later, if he remembered.

Nyx held up a hand in a silent request for Gladio to halt, and Gladio complied, eager to see what was going to happen next.

Nyx slid his bare hand slowly along the column of Hawk’s spine, back and forth in a reassuring caress.

Then he darted in with this left hand, scratching those claws up the man’s side so sharply he literally jumped.

“Too much?” Nyx murmured, and Gladio saw Hawk shake his head in negation.


Gladio knew he was supposed to be taking an active role in this scene, but fuck if he wasn’t enjoying the show. Nyx’s claws left thin, white lines against the flushed skin of Hawk’s back, delicate spiderweb patterns delineating his torment.

And Hawk? He was unable to stand still, constantly shifting and jerking away from the claws - or leaning closer when they hit an especially enjoyable spot.

When Nyx carefully carded his metal-sheathed fingertips along Hawk’s scalp, the man’s body finally lost the bulk of its rigidity, hanging limply against the ropes he clung to with both hands. Hawk’s head canted to one side, and Gladio circled around to confirm what he suspected - those emerald eyes were wide and sightless, now. Hawk had gone away to a happy place.

Gladio was feeling at a loss since he didn’t really know what all Hawk enjoyed, so he did his best to follow Nyx’s lead. Gently, oh so gently, he pressed his hands against the small of Hawk’s back, fanning his fingers wide before sweeping them up the length of that broad expanse.

He could feel Hawk’s muscles twitch and shift beneath his hands, and it was fucking amazing.

When he reached Hawk’s shoulders, Gladio gave in to the impulse to sink his hands in that disheveled hair, careful not to dislodge the private man’s mask. One brief tug, and Gladio’s hands were running back down from shoulders to hips, culminating with a heavy smack against the man’s cloth-covered ass.

It was a nice ass, Gladio had to admit, before turning back to his bag.

He held up a crop with a questioning look at Nyx, who nodded in approval.

Gladio began flicking the tip of the crop in a syncopated rhythm, darting it from here to there between Hawk’s back and rear, occasionally lashing his upper thighs. Two rapid smacks would be followed with a long, promising pause before he’d strike again, trying to keep the masked man off balance.

Nyx still teased with those clever claws, working his way over Hawk’s chest and abs, tracing one single metal-capped finger over the slender column of his throat with painstaking slowness.

Gladio would have had to be blind to miss the way Hawk's hips rocked wantonly in response to the threat of that touch, the sharpness scraping over the delicate skin covering his pulse point.

He began to move more quickly, the leather tip of the crop kissing Hawk’s skin again and again as Gladio alternated his attention between his target area and his co-top. He caught Nyx’s eyes and made a ‘slow down’ gesture, lifting his eyebrows in question.

Nyx nodded, and Gladio began to decrease his tempo, lowering the force of his blows.

He saw Nyx remove the claws from his fingertips and slip the bag in his pocket, his hands going back to Hawk’s skin gently now, soothing over the stripes and welts, stroking sweat-slicked hair.

Gladio tossed his crop to land beside their other implements and began to mirror Nyx’s motions, running his hands over Hawk’s back carefully, trying to help ease the stranger back into the here and now, bring him back into the present and out of the dreamscape he’d been soaring in.

Slowly, Hawk’s posture straightened, and when he let go of the ropes, Gladio correctly guessed that was his ‘end scene’ signal, because Nyx moved with alacrity to take the gag out of his mouth.

Gladio grabbed a bottle of water while Hawk massaged his sore jaw, and the small smile Gladio received when he passed the mysterious man the beverage warmed his heart.

Nyx stepped next to Gladio and said, “I’ll take care of him. You need anything?”

Gladio hesitated. He could really go for a cuddle right now, but he didn’t want to intrude.

Figuring this was one of the rare times he could ask for such a thing without getting teased, Gladio lifted his voice quietly, “Can I have a hug?”

Nyx wrapped wiry arms around the bulky man and squeezed firmly. Gladio sighed in contentment, embracing the smaller man in relief.


“Anytime, my friend.” Nyx smiled. “I’ll catch up with you later, okay?”

“Sounds good.” Reluctantly, Gladio walked away. One last stolen glance showed Nyx had cocooned Hawk in a blanket, and was helping him sip from the water bottle.

Gladio made his way over to the bar and ordered a burger. He needed to fucking ground himself a bit after that scene -  he was still flying high. Food could help. So could fresh air. When his sandwich was ready, Gladio took it outside to soak up the crisp clear breeze as he ate.

This night was far from over, and he needed to pace himself.

Ignis leaned against Nyx limply, grateful for the other man’s assistance with the maddeningly difficult water bottle. He shot Nyx a thankful look, hoping he conveyed his gratitude for how well his friend took care of him.

Nyx met his verdant gaze levelly, and his cerulean eyes were serious.

“I still think this was a bad idea,” he said softly, a hint of remonstrance in his tone.

Ignis just looked at him. He wasn’t going to have this conversation now, obviously - but he worried that his friend was correct.

It was too late to change his mind. Ignis could summon flame and ice, but not travel in time.

Regret would serve no purpose. Ignis resolved to enjoy the rest of the evening, though perhaps he’d make an early night of it.

After lingering with Nyx long enough that he started to feel bad about monopolizing his friend’s time, Ignis smiled and gave him a companionable hug before standing. He took the blanket and folded it, putting it with Nyx’s things, and got redressed. Ignis vainly wished he had a mirror, but hoped his tie was straight enough. Once he’d slipped on the gloves, he gave Nyx one last smile and turned away, thinking he’d get something to eat.

Ignis sat himself at one end of the polished mahogany bar where he had a good view of the room. The ebb and flow of the crowd was constant, people swirling in streams and jetties as if caught up by an invisible tide. He lost sight of Nyx almost immediately, and couldn’t even locate Gladio’s massive bulk in the pulsing throng of humanity.

When his food arrived, Ignis gave the volunteer a smile of gratitude before eating neatly as he continued to survey the room. In truth, he had little interest in any of the scenes going on, no matter how unique the play might be.

He only had eyes for Gladiolus.

At least, he would when he could locate the dratted man.

Someone Ignis didn’t recognize walked over and sat beside him, despite the fact there were plenty of open seats. Ignis tried to brush off the feeling of annoyance at having his personal space invaded by a stranger, though his posture stiffened and he leaned away subconsciously.

When the man had the audacity to clasp a hand - hard - on Ignis’s shoulder, he put the full weight of his displeasure into cold jade eyes focused on the interloper, mouth drawn down in an unimpressed line below the bottom edge of his mask.

“Saw you with those two guys earlier,” the stranger commented. His voice fell midway between a tenor and baritone, and was filled with such intimacy it made nausea roil in Ignis’s belly. No one should direct that tone to a veritable stranger. It was… unsettling.

The hand on his shoulder dug in harder and Ignis’s lips curled back from his teeth in a silent snarl. The other man seemed oblivious to his growing ire, though, and continued his inappropriate spiel.

“Thought we could play together when you’re done eating. I guarantee you everything they did, I can do better.”

In the words of dear Gladio: fuck this shit.

Ignis stood, food forgotten. The light flashing in those piercing eyes should have been sufficient warning, but still the fingers dug painfully into his shoulder.

Reaching out, Ignis grasped the other man’s forearm and twisted, hard. He glanced around until he met the eyes of one of the Dungeon Monitors, waving a hand in the air to get her attention.

She strode over with alacrity, her face showing zero tolerance for bullshit. Ignis startled to realize it was none other than Crowe Altius of the Kingsglaive. While Nyx had mentioned she attended these gatherings, Ignis hadn’t realized she volunteered in the running of them.

“What’s going on here, boys?” she asked in a flat tone.

“This guy nearly broke my arm,” the stranger spat angrily, glaring at Ignis.

Ignis contented himself with a sardonic smirk.

“And what were you doing to provoke him, buddy?” Crowe asked, arching one chestnut brow.

Ignis sent silent thanks to the Six that he’d cultivated a positive reputation. Perhaps this conflict could be resolved without him having to break his silence.

“All I did was ask him to play,” the man muttered. “He didn’t have to hurt me.”

“Is that true?” Crowe turned inquisitive eyes to Ignis.

He froze, not sure how to handle this.

“Here,” the bartender handed Ignis a pad of paper and a pen.

Ignis smiled at the volunteer gratefully and quickly scrawled out a summary of the events, handing it over to Crowe.

She read it aloud and glared at the nameless man. “Is this true? You touched someone without express permission? Didn’t you attend the pre-event briefing?”

“I saw how he behaved,” the man insinuated. “You can’t tell me he didn’t like it when I grabbed him.”

Ignis fancied he might be sick. Shiva spare him from wannabe dominants who felt all submissives would surely bow to their prowess if they yielded to another.

“Yeah, I don’t think so,” Crowe said, her voice surprisingly calm despite the thunder in her eyes. “You just earned yourself a ticket outta here. C’mon.”

Relief filled emerald eyes as Ignis watched her lead the man away. With a heavy exhalation, Ignis sat back on his seat, and cradled his head in his hands carefully so he wouldn’t dislodge his mask.

The Coeurl had a thorough screening process, but it couldn’t predict when someone might let their hormones get the best of them, Ignis supposed. He considered leaving, not really in the mood for anything more, still feeling sick. Ignis stood and scanned the room for Nyx, figuring he should say goodbye.

He didn’t see Nyx. But he did find Gladio.

Catching his lower lip between his teeth, Ignis gnawed on the delicate flesh in consideration. He should leave. His headspace was shot.

But, Gladio was here, and Ignis was only human.

He started to cross the room towards the behemoth of a man before he consciously made a decision to do so. So focused was he on that scarred silhouette, the bass rumble of that voice, that Ignis didn’t even notice when compatriots offered him greetings or commiserations over the incident at the bar.

When he reached Gladio’s side, Ignis reached out and tentatively tapped the other man’s shoulder, only to be utterly lost in that warm honey gaze.

His lingering nausea fell away, replaced by a peace Ignis typically could only find beneath the lash.

How wonderful it was to find the same tranquility in his beloved’s eyes.

A gasp escaped his tenuous control at that unbidden thought.

His beloved.

He was in love with Gladiolus Amicitia.

Ignis sat on the couch before he fell down.

“Hey, Hawk,” Gladio greeted him when he sat. “Having a good night?”

Ignis shot him a silent look and shrugged. A nearby partygoer came to his assistance, telling Gladio everything that had just happened at the bar.

Gladio looked him over appraisingly and nodded. “You don’t take people’s shit. I respect that.”

The praise went straight to Ignis’s already befuddled head, and he smiled without a thought.

The sensuous purr of Gladio’s chuckle grounded Ignis in the here and now.

“I know you don’t talk, but I’m glad we’re getting a chance to hang out.” Gladio offered him a friendly smile. “Despite that dipshit who bothered you, are you okay?”

Ignis nodded.

“Stag take good care of you after we finished?”

Another nod, fingertips curling to dig into the meat of his thighs.

“I would’ve helped, but I wasn’t sure what you needed… I didn’t want to intrude,” Gladio explained.

Never before had Ignis been so tempted to break his self-imposed vow of silence. But this was absolutely not they way for Gladio to learn his secret. Nor was Ignis in any state to have such a conversation. He really should go home.

But he couldn’t bring himself to walk away from Gladio.

Even if Gladio didn’t know it was his boyfriend sitting beside him, Ignis just couldn’t make himself go.

As Ignis continued drinking in the beauty of the other man, Gladio appeared to have an internal debate. When Gladio nodded in that familiar way Ignis recognized meant he’d come to a decision, he fought to stay still and not give away his knowledge of Gladio’s body language.

“I don’t suppose you’d like to play with me one-on-one?” Gladio asked, and Ignis swore he saw starbursts explode behind the eyelids he had to close lest Gladio see the truth shining in those mossy depths.

Gladio misinterpreted, bless him. “Sorry. I understand if its too soon, we only just met tonight.”

Ignis forced himself to meet those molten amber eyes, and he shook his head.

Gladio furrowed his brow. “No, it’s not too soon, or no, you don’t want to scene?”

Canting his head to one side, Ignis considered. He was used to people like Nyx who knew his nonverbal signals, but he’d have to try and hope Gladio figured it out. Gracefully stretching one hand towards Gladio - moving so slowly that the other man could back away if he didn’t welcome the touch - Ignis clasped those nimble, gloved fingers around Gladio’s thick wrist and twisted, simultaneously licking his bottom lip in a pleading gesture.

The rich laughter sounding low in Gladio’s throat nearly made Ignis whimper, it was so sinful. “All right then.”

When Gladio stood and offered Ignis a hand, he took it without hesitation, ready to follow him anywhere.

Gladio led Ignis to a comparatively quiet corner. “I’ll be honest with ya,” he began. “I’m not sure how to negotiate this without you speaking. But, I know your safe-signal, and I got an idea of some things you like from the scene we did with Stag.”

Ignis nodded in understanding.

“Do you trust me to wing it? Just use your signal if I cross a line and we’ll go from there?”

Ignis nodded, lips curving unbidden in a lazy smile.

As much as he’d enjoyed the co-topping Nyx and Gladio had provided in tandem, he couldn’t deny how excited he was to finally get Gladio alone in this place, in this headspace.

His only regret was that Gladio didn’t know he was him. But, nothing to be done for that now.

“Alright,” Gladio said. “Why don’t you make yourself comfortable on that spanking bench,” he pointed, “and I’ll get my stuff set up.”

With one final nod, Ignis slid off his suit coat and undid his tie. When he moved to unstrap one of his gloves, Gladio shook his head.

“I like those. Leave ‘em.”

That was a simple enough request, and one Ignis was happy to obey, filing away the knowledge for later use. He stepped out of his shoes and stripped down to his boxer-briefs as before, folding his clothing and setting it in a neat pile out of the way. Then all that was left was to bow himself over the spanking bench, kneeling on the step and laying his chest over the bench. He grasped the legs on the opposite side for balance, and waited patiently, already feeling that familiar quiet start to settle over him.

Gladio could hardly believe his good luck. He hadn’t imagined in a million years that Hawk would be the one to approach him. Apparently he’d given a good enough showing in their scene with Nyx that he’d impressed the masked stranger.

Seeing that lithe body laid out before him, stripped nearly bare and positioned for his attentions, was a heady sight. Gladio was determined not to abuse the privilege, especially with Hawk having just come off of an unfortunate and rude encounter not too long ago.

What to do? Hrm. Hawk seemed to respond to pain well, particularly the heavier kinds, which suited Gladio just fine. He didn’t feel familiar enough with Hawk to delve into the mindfuckery Nyx pulled with that knife and those claws, thinking it was safer to stick to simpler things.

He laid out his impact toys in the order he planned to use them, and started with his soft warm-up flogger exactly as he had earlier, running it over Hawk’s back to warn the other man that shit was about to start.

The tremor coursing through that tight, nearly nude body was almost enough to rend Gladio immobile. Gods, this man was a work of fucking art, so responsive, so… well… communicative, despite his nonverbal nature.

When Gladio began striking the soft flogger across Hawk’s back and ass, he thought the imperious way Hawk leaned back into the blows was almost impatient. Maybe he didn’t need another warm up?

Gladio shrugged and selected something he hadn’t used earlier, a solid rubber paddle. He knew it packed a fucking wallop - he’d struck himself with it at various intensities to get a feel for it - and suspected the mysterious man laid out before him might enjoy it, based off both his conduct in their earlier scene, and the things Nyx had told him.

The first solid thwack of the paddle against the curve of Hawk’s rear caused the man to half lift off the bench.


Gladio followed it up with measured, even blows, spaced out to cover every inch of that pert ass. He imagined how red the skin would be growing now beneath those boxer-briefs, wondered if any bruises would bloom from the combination of this and his earlier ministrations?

He noticed Hawk’s head gently loll to one side, and saw a slackness replace the earlier tension in his frame. Gladio experimentally trailed one fingertip over the area he’d last struck, and was rewarded by Hawk’s full body shiver.

Circling Hawk, Gladio hunkered down in front of him, lifting his chin so their eyes met. “You okay?”

Those verdant eyes were already blurred, the pupils eclipsing the green until only a scant ring remained. Hawk’s mouth had fallen half open, and the bit of his lower face visible below the mask was bathed in a lovely shade of pink that extended down the graceful column of his neck.

Gladio couldn’t help it. He stayed there a moment, the warm honey of his gaze melded firmly to that of crisp mint.

His thoughts went to Ignis. How could they not? His boyfriend’s eyes were almost this exact shade. Gladio indulged in a brief fantasy where it was Ignis splayed out before him, naked and needy and half into subspace before they’d really begun.

One thick fingertip stroked along Hawk’s chin as Gladio continued to look into those blissed-out eyes, and he was startled when Hawk brushed his lips softly against Gladio’s palm.

When their eyes met again, Gladio felt a pang in his chest. Gods, this man was looking at him with such trust, with such affection. How could he grant Gladio such a gaze, having met him mere hours ago?


The breath caught in Gladio’s throat, and he swore his heart stopped for a moment. When it resumed, its cadence sped up, even as his breath crescendoed in sync with his heart rate.

Those eyes were the exact same shade as Ignis’s. The same almond shape, the same porcelain flesh, albeit flushed, highlighting the forest green hue.

No. Fucking no. Amicitia, you’re Gods-damned daydreaming and seeing what you want to see.

“Ignis?” he whispered, not sure if he was hoping for confirmation or denial.

When he saw those fathomless eyes refocus sharply, saw the prone man tremble as he was forced back into himself before truly taking flight, Gladio didn’t know what to do.

Ignis Scientia was half naked and bent over a spanking bench at a kink party.

Gladio had been beating him so hard it would leave bruises.

Hawk was Ignis. Ignis was Hawk.

And Nyx… did he know?

Fuck, was this what had caused that animosity between the two men?

So many things were starting to come together; it was overwhelming. Gladio sat down hard on the floor, not able to make it to a chair.

He leaned forward, his head hanging between upraised knees, feet planted firmly on the floor. Gladio’s breath came in rapid pants as he tried to process this sucker punch of a shock. Ignis was Hawk. He’d been topping Ignis. Nyx had been topping Ignis. Ignis had been coming to these parties for at least a year.

Ignis hadn’t told Gladio he was even interested in such things.

Thinking back, Gladio recalled Ignis’s melancholy behavior when Gladio had left Noct’s last month to go to the Coeurl. He recalled that Hawk hadn’t shown up that night.

So many things were becoming clear, and his initial burst of overwhelming surprise was giving way to anger, and underlying it all - hurt.

They’d been dating for almost two months and Ignis didn’t tell him? Even though he had seen Gladio at the party two months ago?

Sure, Gladio hadn’t exactly opened up about his proclivities to Ignis, but since Ignis already had the fucking information it would have been nice if he’d said something.

Come to think of it, hadn’t Ignis asked him out the week after that party?

He remembered vaguely asking Ignis what brought it on, and Ignis demurring.

Titan’s fucking monster-cock, Ignis had specifically asked him out because he’d seen Gladio here, hadn’t he?

But why say nothing? Why hide it? What the fucking shit was Ignis’s problem, continuing this charade when he already knew Gladio’s truth?

“Gladio…” he heard Hawk - fucking Ignis - breathe his name almost inaudibly.

Right. Hawk didn’t talk. Of course Hawk didn’t talk, that impeccable outlander accent would give Ignis away in a heartbeat to anyone that had met him.

“We’re leaving,” Gladio said. “We’re going to go fucking talk about this. Now.”

He knew he was snarling at the other man, but he was too damn pissed off to care.

“Hey, guys, what’s going on?” Of course Nyx fucking Ulric would pick this moment to come over.

“We have some things to discuss,” Gladio growled. “Do me a solid and clean this shit up? I’ll see you Monday.”

Nyx’s cobalt visage slid from Gladio to Ignis, and widened as he put two and two together. “Sure thing, friend.” He gave Gladio a level look. “Be careful.”

Gladio started to head for the door, counting on Ignis to follow. He faintly heard Nyx mutter something to Ignis, but couldn’t make out the words.

When he pushed out the front door he inhaled deeply, the crisp night air helping to take the edge off the riotous emotions churning through him. A few minutes later and Ignis appeared, fully dressed and silent.

“C’mon,” Gladio mumbled, walking towards his truck. He didn’t see Ignis’s car here - no fucking shit, it was Crown issue, and naturally the tactician would be too clever to give himself away by driving it here.

Gladio climbed into his vehicle and unlocked the passenger door, popping it open so Ignis could climb inside. He waited impatiently for Ignis to buckle his seatbelt and took off hastily.

Ignis waited until they merged onto the highway before removing his mask, and Gladio nearly swerved off the road at this final, unequivocal confirmation. Yeah, he’d already found out, but it made it more real to see his boyfriend’s pale face, mossy eyes wide as saucers and all color drained from his delicate skin.

Gladio couldn’t remember ever seeing Ignis without his glasses, and he thought it made the other man look more vulnerable, younger. Perhaps the reason Ignis looked more approachable was the fact he was nearly vibrating with anxiety at being outed.

“Gladio, I—”

“No,” Gladio interjected harshly. “Not while I’m driving.”

"May I ask where we’re going?”

“Your place.”

“Very well.”

A heavy silence settled over them, far from the comfortable quiet they’d shared in other times and places. The air was so thick with tension, Gladio thought it would dull the edge of his greatsword had he tried to slice it apart.

Saturday night traffic added its own stress to the ride, but eventually they made it to Ignis’s building, and Gladio was pleased at least one thing was going right - there was a parking spot right out front.

He shut off the truck and climbed out, hot on Ignis’s heels as the other man unlocked the communal front door of the building, a half step behind him on the stairs leading up to his apartment.

Once they got inside, Gladio spared a brief moment to kick off his shoes before marching over to Ignis’s couch and sitting down heavily.

“Start talking,” he growled, amber eyes narrowed.

Ignis quietly toed of his loafers and set the damning mask on his kitchen table before he walked into the living room. He seemed hesitant, but perched on the edge of the couch as far away from Gladio as it was possible for him to get while still sitting on the sofa.

“I don’t… I mean… I didn’t think…” Ignis slid gloved fingers through his disheveled hair as he tried to organize his thoughts.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Gladio demanded. “You saw me two months ago. You knew I was fucking into the lifestyle, but you didn’t tell me. Why?”

“I was scared,” Ignis admitted.

“What the hell were you afraid of!” Gladio yelled, and he saw Ignis wince at the starkness of his tone.

“People’s views can shift so much when a label is applied,” Ignis said quietly. “I was afraid that once you learned I was not only into such things, but that I also identified as submissive, you’d see me differently.” He took a deep breath. “As less.”

Gladio’s eyes were filled with clear disbelief. “Do you even know me at all?”

Ignis’s face crumbled, lips trembling with the force of tears he managed to rein in. “You don’t know what I’ve been through in the past. As I’ve told you before, when you pushed for me to open up - my reticence had nothing to do with you, who you are, and everything to do with me, with my past experiences.”

“I wish you’d told me,” Gladio said simply.

“So do I,” Ignis whispered brokenly.

Chapter Text

A loud thudding noise woke Nyx up just as the sun was beginning to crest the horizon, filtering in around the edges of his closed blinds to lend just enough illumination to his room that he could see to tug on a pair of sweats and stagger to his front door. He opened it to make the Astrals-blasted pounding stop, and blinked sleep from his eyes as he stared up at the haggard, exhausted face of Gladiolus Amicitia.

Nyx felt bad for his friend. He really did. But it was why-the-fuck-am-I-awake o’clock and he really didn’t want to be upright yet, dammit.

“What?” His greeting was terse, but he stood aside to let Gladio come in and sit down.

“You know.” Okay, so Gladio was apparently just gonna dive on in. Nyx really hadn’t gotten enough sleep for this.

But to be fair, the hours he had spent not sleeping were pretty fantastic, so he really couldn’t complain.

Holding up a hand in a placatory gesture, Nyx shook his head, sitting on the other end of the couch. “I only found out a few weeks ago. He kept me in the dark for the entire year that ‘Stag’ played with ‘Hawk’.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Gladio’s eyes were puffy and bloodshot. Nyx’s heart went out to his friend who had obviously had a spectacularly shitty night, but he’d be damned if he’d get pulled into the middle of this lovers’ quarrel.

“It wasn’t my place,” he said firmly, but his voice was not unkind. “You really think the way to solve Ignis’s trust issue would be for me - the first real friend he’s made at the Citadel outside the Prince’s entourage - to violate his privacy? To betray his secrets?”

Gladio sighed. “You’re right. Sorry.”

Nyx nodded and sat quietly a moment, figuring if Gladio had any more to say, he’d say it.

“I don’t know what to do,” the Shield admitted after a lengthy pause. “I’m in love with him, Nyx, but… what else is he hiding?” Amber eyes darkened with emotion. “It’s a little freaky how well he hid it.”

Nyx shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you, man. You gotta work this out for yourself.”

“Some help you are.” Nyx was relieved to hear a bit of Gladio’s usual humor interjected in the growled words.

“I know, right?” The Glaive offered his friend a beaming smile. “Now, I hate to be rude, so you gotta go.”

“How is that not being rude?”

A catlike smirk quirked Nyx’s lips and he angled his head towards the bedroom. “I’m not alone, Amicitia, and it’s rude to keep a lady waiting.”

It was adorable the way Gladio blushed at Nyx’s admission, and to be honest, Nyx hadn’t thought the large man could move as quickly as he did, up and out the door in a flash. “See ya.”

With a laugh, Nyx stood and shut the door behind his friend, clicking the lock in place in case Amicitia had any ideas about barging back in for more talk. He walked back into his bedroom and slid under the covers, twining his arms around his companion.

“We both know I’m no lady.” Crowe’s voice was rife with amusement as she slid a hand under the elastic band of Nyx’s sweatpants, trailing nails over his inner thigh teasingly.

It didn’t happen every month, but sometimes after things wrapped up at the Coeurl, the two Glaives left together: to catch a movie, to talk, to hit up the late night food stands in the Galahdian quarter.

To fuck.

“How much did you overhear?” Nyx was proud of how steady his voice was, despite Crowe’s nimble fingers closing around his cock and bringing him to hardness.

“Enough,” she replied, rolling to straddle his thighs.

“Wish I could do something to help those crazy kids,” Nyx muttered, sitting up and wrapping an arm around Crowe’s back.  He leaned down to take one nipple into his mouth, nipping lightly at the tender bud before sucking it to a firm point.

“You really want to talk about them right now?” The look she leveled in his direction held equal parts disbelief and arousal as she ground herself against his leg wantonly.

Nyx pulled back from her breast and grinned up at her sheepishly as he lay back down, shimmying out of his sweats. “Maybe?”

“Fine,” Crowe purred, removing her hand from his dick and rubbing the wet heat of her core over his length slowly before adjusting her angle and taking his tip inside her. “You talk. I’m busy.”

“Fuck,” Nyx swore when she began to move, achingly slow, teasing her opening over the head of his cock until both of them were practically vibrating with a need for more. His hands rested on her hips, fingers tightening reflexively when she clenched her inner walls around him once they were fully joined.

“Never thought Scientia would have it in him,” Crowe mused as she leisurely swayed against him, reaching up to cup her own breasts, squeezing when she felt Nyx bottom out inside her again.

“Thought you didn’t want to talk?” Nyx managed to force out the words between panting breaths, rutting up to match each languid rock of her hips and deepen the penetration.

“Eh, we can multitask.”  Crowe’s look was wicked, tongue caught in her teeth as she gradually increased her pace, palms sliding down her body from chest to hip-bones.

“Scientia would surprise you,” Nyx purred, bringing a hand to brush over her pussy, relishing the way he could feel his length moving within her, the way she trembled when his fingertip unerringly found her clit. “I have stories.”

She leaned forward, planting her palms against the mattress to either side of Nyx’s head, gaze honed to his. Those rich bistre eyes were blown out with lust, and Nyx thought she had never looked more beautiful. “Do tell.”

He wrapped an arm around her and thrust up sharply, craving more. She’d trapped his hand in place, but he used it to good effect, keeping it steady so she could rub herself against his fingers as she chose. “Well, there was the time I used unconventional methods to teach him fire magic.”

“Why do you delight in abusing the Lucian Royal magic?” Her lilting soprano was a bit strained, but steady. She arched her back at just the right angle so that her achingly hard nipples scraped along the planes of Nyx’s chest with every thrust. He could feel the way her inner walls twitched each time she stroked her clit against his hand, and had to admit it was getting harder to form coherent words.

Nyx laughed, applying firmer pressure with the hand jammed down between their bodies. “Hey, don’t judge my kinks.”

Crowe rolled her eyes as she sank down to rest against him, grinding until she found the best friction, a flush darkening her cheeks and spreading down her neck and chest. “Did it work?”

“Yeah.” Nyx ran the nails of his free hand up and down her back, just this side of too hard, knowing she wasn’t averse to a little pain with her pleasure. “He’s a good student.”

“I’ll bet.” Her voice broke as her body tensed and bowed back. She braced her hands on his upper thighs as she shuddered above him, hips moving at a frantic pace as she chased her peak.

Nyx groaned when he felt her clench rhythmically around his cock. That hadn’t taken long, but then, she was probably still primed from what they’d finished doing before the all too brief nap Amicitia had interrupted.   He pulled his hand away when she flinched back, knowing from their prior encounters certain things were a bit too much right after she came.

“Did you see us playing tonight?” he asked as he rolled them over to reverse their positions. Kneeling up, he balanced Crowe’s left leg over his shoulder and began to pound into her at the angle he knew she liked best. The way her eyes rolled back in her head confirmed he found the sweet spot. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he mentally began reviewing training schedules, not wanting to come just yet since sadly, the gift of multiple orgasms was denied him.

“A bit,” she moaned. “You and the Shield made a good team.”

“I need to get that man to beat me some time,” he said before lowering his head to nip at her collarbone. “I bet he could leave some good marks.”

“Mmm,” Crowe made a sound of agreement, twining her fingers in Nyx’s hair firmly. “I’d like to watch that.”

“Yeah?” he breathed against her neck before catching her throat in his teeth.

“Yeah,” Crowe growled, pistoning her hips faster, no longer content with the steady tempo Nyx had set.

With a lascivious smirk, Nyx pulled out, ignoring her sound of protest as he slid down her body.  He spread her legs wider apart and settled on the bed between them, darting his trademarked grin her way after taking a slow visual tour of the fantastic body laid out before him.   As he watched, she bit her lip, lay her head back against the pillows, and coiled her hands in the bedding as if anchoring herself for an oncoming storm.

Nyx lowered his head and slid his tongue along her slit with deliberate slowness, enjoying the mingled tastes of her juices and a hint of his own flavor.   When the tip of his tongue nudged her clit, he felt her thighs twitch. Resting a hand on each, he pushed them farther apart, knowing the position would be a challenge for her, but that would only add to her pleasure.  Keeping his hands firmly in place, he began to eat her out in earnest, using his lips and tongue to bring her to the edge. A careful nip of his teeth startled her away from the nascent beginnings of orgasm, and her invective was music to his ears.

“Fuck, Nyx!” she swore, voice a half-octave higher than usual, timbre taut with need.  

He chuckled against her in response, and heard her moan in response to the vibrations his voice sent through her intimate flesh.   Releasing one of her legs, he slid a hand beneath his chin, teasing at her opening with two fingertips, pushing just barely within before withdrawing.  He kept that up until she bucked against him, straining for more, small keening cries escaping past what he assumed were gritted teeth.

Let it never be said that Nyx Ulric was not a gentleman.   He sheathed both fingers in her completely, crooking them in a beckoning motion to caress her sweet spot rhythmically.  Nyx was rewarded by a small, shrill scream - the kind of noise it had astounded him to learn the mighty Crowe Altius could make, the kind of noise he tried to get from her each time they tumbled into bed - and then she was coming hard against his hand and mouth, soaking his skin and facial hair with her juices.   He lapped up as much as he could, knowing she’d push him away before too long when it became too intense.

When her hand reached down to shove at his head, he pulled back and had to grin at her.   Six take him, she was gorgeous. He considered that if she wouldn’t murder him for suggesting it, the common oath should really be revised from ‘Shiva’s tits’ to ‘Crowe’s tits’, because damn.

“Nyx,” Crowe breathed his name, looking at him beseechingly.  “Please.”

“Please what, beautiful?” he teased, knowing full well what she was after.   He knelt up and palmed his cock as he watched her, cerulean eyes bright with desire.

“Fucking shit, Ulric, you know what,” she snapped, causing him to laugh again.

“That’s my Crowe,” he said fondly, moving forward and pushing his dick into her in one smooth motion.  He paused a beat once they were connected, leaning forward to capture her lips in a heated kiss.

And then they began to move.

Where earlier she had led, and then he’d taken control, now they shared the power in a sensual duet.   Had they an audience - now there was an idea for Nyx to mull over later - he couldn’t blame them for calling this more of a dance than a quick fuck, despite the frantic speed of their thrusts.

Nyx peppered kisses and bites across Crowe’s shoulders and upper chest, growling against her sweat-slicked skin when she entwined her fingers in his hair, tugging hard.   She wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the commingling of pleasure and pain.

He tried to keep a steady cadence, but shit, it was hard. She was so hot and wet around his shaft, it felt like a Gods-damned dream come true.  When she relinquished her hold on his hair in favor of wrapping her arms around his neck, her legs around his waist, Nyx moaned her name and buried his head in the crook of her neck, no longer able to even pretend to use the knowledge he’d gleaned from his past encounters with her and with his other lovers - he was lost to the moment, to the feeling, and damn it was good.

“Don’t get lazy on me now, Ulric,” Crowe goaded him, rocking her hips more rapidly, fingertips digging into his back so deliciously rough that Nyx thought she might actually draw blood.  Yes, please.

He matched her thrust for thrust, and when he felt her clench around him almost painfully tight before spasming in release once more, Nyx stopped even attempting to hold back, allowing his orgasm to build. His thoughts were a whirlwind of Crowe, but also featured Gladio and Ignis - fuck, now there was a fantasy that would never happen but was fun to think about, all four of them in one place with no clothes. And since it was a fantasy, Nyx didn’t feel at all selfish for imagining all three of them focusing their attentions on him.

Maybe he could suck off Gladio while riding Crowe, with Ignis taking him from behind. So many hands, so many mouths, he’d probably lose track of who was touching him, kissing him, biting him, coming in him, coming on him…

“Fuck!” he shouted as he came hard, clinging to Crowe as the climax tore through him. He collapsed atop her, trying to catch his breath, heart thundering in his chest as the aftershocks coursed through his body. When she poked his shoulder, he considerately rolled to the side, reaching to hold her hand, wanting some sort of contact despite them both needing space to cool off and breathe.

“That seemed intense,” Crowe murmured after a few quiet minutes had passed, opening her arms.

Nyx nestled against her side, resting a hand lightly on her toned stomach, pressing closer when she wrapped a well-muscled arm around his shoulders. “Yeah. Heh.”

“I do hope things work out for your friends,” she abruptly shifted gears. Nyx didn’t mind the tangent; for all her gruff exterior, Crowe had a tender heart.

“Me too,” Nyx agreed, pressing a kiss to her shoulder before resting his head on her chest, ear pressed to her heart. The steady, slowing beat was lulling, and Nyx yawned widely. Maybe they could catch a little more sleep before facing the day. He sent a silent prayer of thanks to the Six that he wasn’t scheduled to work, and that was his last thought before sleep claimed him.

Chapter Text

Gladio left Ignis’s apartment, citing a need for time and fresh air. And it was the Gods’ honest truth. While he didn’t have much of a temper, he was afraid if he continued to sit there he’d say things he’d regret. It was taking more willpower than he could maintain to project a stoic facade in the wake of Ignis’s tears. Gladio wanted nothing more than to pull the other man into the shelter of his strong arms and assure him that everything would be alright.

The problem was, he didn’t know that it would.

Shoving his hands in his pockets, Gladio began to walk. It was around 2am, and the sidewalks were largely empty, which suited him just fine. His training imparted an unconscious awareness of his surroundings, and Gladio used it to sidestep a couple drunks and one very adventurous couple who thought a park bench was a good place to get frisky.

How had one evening gone from being so great to so draining?

Gladio’s heart was a snarl of mixed feelings: anger at the subterfuge, hurt at the deception.

Arousal at the image of Ignis’s nearly nude body in bondage, seared irrevocably into his mind, wistfulness at what the two of them could grow together.

He needed more answers, though. Had Ignis been out to Nyx? What all had gone on between those two?

What had happened to Ignis to cause him to shut Gladio out? Gladio wasn’t stupid. While he didn’t agree with Ignis’s decision to keep him in the dark, he could see it was motivated by some past trauma; that knowledge was the only thing keeping him from throwing in the towel on this whole ‘dating the Prince’s advisor’ experiment.

Well, that and the fact that he was so fucking deep in love with Ignis, Gladio didn’t know how to come back from it.

Didn’t want to try.

But one thing was for certain: they needed to talk. A lot.

A small voice in the back of Gladio’s mind pointed out that he could have been more upfront, too. Sure, they hadn’t talked about exclusivity, but he had gone ahead with attending the party even though they had begun to date. Thinking with his dick instead of his brain, maybe, but Gladio had been so certain that Ignis wouldn’t be into such things that he wanted to keep the outlet he had found at the Coeurl.

Eventually he would have spoken up.

Did he really have the right to be so mad at Ignis for basically doing the exact same thing Gladio had done?

No. It wasn’t the same. The snarl curling his lip upward to expose clenched teeth caused some oncoming foot traffic to cross to the other side of the road, but he was too enmeshed in his own thoughts to notice or care.

Gladio attended the party as himself. He didn’t wear a mask or hide who he was.

Ignis did, which was fine - he was far from the only one who maintained anonymity at the gatherings. But, Ignis had obviously seen Gladio and recognized him, and still hadn’t chosen to speak up.

Gladio knew Ignis hoarded information like a mythical dragon hoarded its gold, but, still… he could’ve fucking said something.

And the fact he’d clearly conspired with Nyx to orchestrate their three-way scene? What was that about?

Ignis was willing - and eager - to play with him, but not confide in him?

Shit, this was all just too damn much.

Gladio pulled headphones out of his jacket pocket and began to blast one of his workout playlists, since that was the last file opened on his MP3 player. He needed to stop thinking for a while.

Another hour of aimless wandering brought Gladio to the Galahdian district. His brows pulled down in a fearsome frown. Nyx was his friend, and had been beating his boyfriend for months - he owed Gladio an explanation, too.

Winding his way through the underground, Gladio found Nyx’s apartment without too much difficulty and knocked on the door. He felt a momentary pang of guilt over the late hour, but figured this one time it was okay to be selfish.

When Nyx opened the door, Gladio winced inwardly. The disheveled hair and state of undress spoke to the fact he’d woken up the Glaive.

“What?” Nyx greeted him tersely.

When his friend stepped aside, Gladio walked in and dropped down onto the couch with a sigh, latching his tired amber gaze on that of sleep-blurred cobalt. “You knew.”

He saw Nyx lift a hand defensively, and made an effort to relax his body language. Nyx wasn’t the one he was upset with, not really.

Well, that was a lie. Gladio was upset at Nyx’s role in the charade, but figured the Glaive was just going along with the tactician’s plan.

“I only found out a few weeks ago. He kept me in the dark for the entire year that ‘Stag’ played with ‘Hawk’,” Nyx explained.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Gladio demanded, leaning forward.

“It wasn’t my place,” Nyx replied evenly. “You really think the way to solve Ignis’s trust issue would be for me - the first real friend he’s made at the Citadel outside the Prince’s entourage - to violate his privacy? To betray his secrets?”

Gladio stared down his friend, but saw the truth shining in azure eyes, heard it ringing in his open and honest words. “You’re right. Sorry.”

They sat awkwardly in silence for a couple minutes, before Gladio spoke up again. Six knew, he needed someone to talk to, and there was literally no one else who was privy to his and Ignis’s relationship.

“I don’t know what to do,” Gladio said quietly. “I’m in love with him, Nyx, but… what else is he hiding?” He took a deep breath. “It’s a little freaky how well he hid it.”

Nyx shrugged, but the sympathy in his eyes belied the casualness of his gesture. “I don’t know what to tell you, man. You gotta work this out for yourself.”

“Some help you are.” Gladio attempted to joke, needing something, anything, to feel normal tonight.

“I know, right?” Nyx shot Gladio his trademarked grin. “Now, I hate to be rude, so you gotta go.”

Gladio blinked. That was sudden. “How is that not being rude?”

Nyx’s smirk was eloquent, and the way he tipped his head towards the bedroom made Gladio’s cheeks heat. Oh, shit, had he interrupted…Fuck.

“I’m not alone, Amicitia, and it’s rude to keep a lady waiting.”

Bounding up from the couch, Gladio made for the door. He muttered a quick goodbye before darting out, shaking his head at the sound of Nyx’s laughter from behind him. Gladio was glad someone was having a good night, at least, and while the conversation had been brief, it had actually helped a little. At the very least, Gladio wasn’t mad at Nyx anymore, so that was something.

He strode back into the muted pre-dawn light and began to walk in a different direction. He was off today, so Gladio was in no hurry to be anywhere in particular. He’d promised Iris an outing in the afternoon, but that was still hours away.

When he found he’d gone unwittingly to his favorite park, he had to smile. So early in the morning, it was deserted. Gladio found his favorite spot and sat on the dewy grass, resting his back against the huge, ancient oak and pulling a book from his pocket. Birds were beginning to trill out their songs, and a crisp breeze fluttered the pages of his novel. It was a lovely morning, and Gladio decided he deserved to enjoy it for a few hours before going back to reality and figuring out his next move.

Ignis heard his customary alarm go off Sunday morning, and reached to swipe a finger over his phone, silencing it. It wasn’t as if the alarm had been truly necessary - he hadn’t slept a wink.
His brief conversation with Gladio had left him tied up knots that had begun to coil in his gut as soon as those molten amber eyes had bored into his, laden with knowledge.

How had Ignis been so foolhardy as to think he could maintain the charade?

Why had he bothered to try?

Those questions and their logical offshoots had kept his brain spiraling through what had been left of the night, and he hadn’t reached any logical conclusions aside from the bone-deep certainty that he had made a mistake of mythical proportions.

Gladio had asked him for time, and Ignis took hope from that request - at least Gladio was going to think about it rather than simply breaking up with him on the spot.

Sighing, Ignis rose from his bed and padded into the kitchen, the sounds of his bare soles slapping against the linoleum loud in the silence of the morning. He set his coffee to brew and turned to head to the shower.

Emerald eyes alighted on the mask still sitting on his table, and Ignis bit his lip.

No. No tears. He didn’t deserve the luxury.

Taking the mask with him, he stowed it away deep within his closet before heading into the bathroom and showering efficiently. The momentary thought that this was his first shower in weeks that didn’t include him jerking off to thoughts of strong arms and warm honey eyes quirked his lips in a smile, before reality crashed down around him again and the expression melted away like snow in the rain.

Ignis completed his morning ablutions and snagged a cup of coffee on his way to get dressed. He didn’t have any meetings today - most people took Sundays off. Ignis intended to spend the morning tidying up his apartment and taking care of some correspondence. Afterwards, he would head over to Noctis’s apartment to take care of the housekeeping the Prince had certainly overlooked, prepare him dinner, and try to get him to go over the schedule for the week.

The nascent beginnings of a headache pounded behind his eyes, but Ignis opted not to take any painkillers. Surely he deserved a little discomfort after his actions the night before.

Lips flattened in a grim line, he attacked the dust that had accumulated the preceding week, scrubbing and vacuuming and polishing until every inch of his apartment was so pristine you could eat off it. He opted to blast news reports while he worked, needing something to distract him from his thoughts.

It didn’t work.

He made a simple sandwich for lunch and worked his way through some emails while he ate it. The messenger app on his phone silently taunted him - no new messages had come through in the hours he’d been awake.

Ignis supposed that was for the best. Gladio was taking the time he requested. The only other person likely to message him was Noctis, and the Prince was almost certainly still asleep at this hour on a weekend.

Putting his phone into his pocket where he could stop staring at the icon, willing a message to come through, Ignis made two grocery lists - one for himself, and one for Noct. This would be a good time of day to tend to the shopping before the late afternoon crowds set in.

He decided to walk to the store. While winter’s chill had begun to eat away at the remnants of autumn, Ignis wanted to make the most of the comparatively temperate weather before it truly became too cold to do so. The snap in the air helped rouse him to clearer wakefulness, though he suspected he’d need more coffee to make it through the evening.

The market was as empty as he’d suspected, so the shopping was completed in short order. Retracing his steps, Ignis dropped his own groceries off at home, taking the time to carefully put each item in its place. An organized kitchen made for more efficient cooking. Then it was off to Nocits’s place. Ignis opted to drive, since it would certainly be dark - and much colder - before he went home for the night.

It wasn’t a long drive, and Ignis was grateful. His thoughts were so snarled, it made attentive driving a true challenge. He nodded politely to the doorman and made his way to Noct’s door, letting himself in and feeling completely unsurprised by the sounds of video games and laughter.

“Hey, Igs!” Prompto called out cheerfully, and for a moment, the corners of Ignis’s lips turned up in the hint of a smile. It was hard to stay immune to the young man’s effervescent demeanor.

“Specs,” Noct drawled lazily, raising a hand in salute.

“Good evening, Your Highness. Prompto.” Ignis inclined his head in their direction before retreating to the sanctity of Noct’s kitchen. Truth be told, he was almost more comfortable here than in his own - he certainly had more opportunity to cook in this place. His own kitchen was primarily used to brew his morning Ebony, aside from the rare occasions he dallied beyond breakfast.

After putting the groceries away, Ignis considered his options. When inspiration struck, he snapped his fingers in pleasure before rooting around in the cabinets and refrigerator for the ingredients he needed.

The first step would be to prepare the vegetables. Noct probably wouldn’t take more than a taste, but they definitely would take the longest to cook. Ignis rinsed the tubers thoroughly, then dried his hand before setting out the cutting board and selecting a knife. He lost himself for a time in the steady cadence of chopping, though his usual pride in creating such even slices wasn’t to be found today.

A frown marred his fine-boned face as he watched crimson spread over the cutting board. He was cutting potatoes - they weren’t red. What on Eos?

“Dude!” Prompto yelped behind him. “Noooooct!”

Ignis felt Prompto pluck the knife from his grasp and scowled. He had work to do. He idly noticed that his hand was bathed in red. Oh, had he cut himself? Was that his fingerbone he saw?

“Shit, shit, shit!” Noct swore as he ran to other room.

“Language,” Ignis remonstrated, but he was surprised to hear his voice quaver. When Prompto directed him to a chair, he fell into it rather than gracefully sitting.

“I know I have a potion somewhere,” he heard Noctis mutter. Prompto seemed to be babbling nonsense sounds, trying to soothe Ignis as if he was a dog or a chocobo.

Ignis lifted his hand and stared in fascination as blood dripped down his finger, over his palm, and soaked the fabric of the shirt cuff where it was buttoned neatly at his wrist.

When Noctis returned, Ignis tried to stand, but the Prince shoved him back into his chair with another oath.

“Here,” Noct said, holding out a small glass bottle.

“I’m terribly sorry, Highness,” Ignis apologized, bowing his head.

“Fuck, Specs, just use the damn potion!”

Accepting the royal command for what it was, Ignis pushed aside his natural inclination to apologize further and cracked the potion, watching as the flesh of his finger knit together smoothly. It didn’t seem like it would scar.

He also noticed the latent ache in his back and ass from his time at the Coeurl faded, and his mood plummeted.

No, that was only right. Why should he enjoy the aftereffects of his subterfuge?

“Are you okay?” Noct’s voice was full of concern, and Ignis felt a stab of failure at causing his liege to feel that way.

“Yes, Highness,” he replied a bit stiffly. “I must have slipped.” He shrugged off Prompto’s hand and rose, walking over to survey the damage. The vegetables were all splattered with his blood - dinner was ruined. Biting his tongue to restrain the vexed words that threatened to bubble forth, Ignis turned back to the younger men and sighed. “I suppose we’ll need to order out dinner tonight. My apologies.”

“Stop apologizing,” Noct muttered, cerulean eyes flashing with anger. “I’m more worried about you than food. Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”

“Yeah, you just don’t seem like yourself,” Prompto put in. “Maybe you’re coming down with something?”

“You should go home,” Noctis decided. “Get some rest. I know tomorrow’s gonna be a busy day.” He smiled smugly. “I reviewed the schedule before you got here.”

“Will wonders never cease,” Ignis replied by rote, knowing he’d be expected to offer some dry witticism at Noctis’s initiative. “Perhaps you’re right. I’ll head home as soon as I’ve cleaned up this mess.”

“We’ve got it,” Prompto said, nudging Ignis out of the way.

“Yeah,” Noctis agreed. “Do you need me to call a driver?”

“I can get myself home,” Ignis said, wrapping the words in as much dignity as he could muster after bleeding all over the Prince’s dinner preparation.

“Text me when you get there,” Noct ordered, and Ignis nodded acceptance. Truthfully, his charge’s concern was touching, if misplaced.

Ignis made it home without incident and kicked off his shoes in the foyer, leaving them in a tumble rather than taking the time to set them out neatly. He dropped his jacket on top of them, and went to go sit at his table. Pulling out his phone, he felt a pang in his chest when he saw he had a new message. When he opened it, however, he felt momentarily disappointed when he realized it was Noctis following up on him. He obediently typed back a brief response confirming he was home safely before setting his phone aside.

He felt like such a failure. Now that he was alone, Ignis allowed the sobs he’d been holding back to break free, the tears cold against the heat of his face, flushed with shame. First he mismanaged things with Gladio, probably alienating the man forever. Then he made such a mess of things for Noctis, ruining his and Prompto’s night. Couldn’t Ignis do anything right? Why was he so inept? Such a burden on everyone around him?

With a strangled groan, he crossed his arms on the table and rest his forehead against them as the realization struck. Of course he would have to drop now, with no sleep and nothing but self-recriminating thoughts in his head.

Ignis’s fingers twitched towards his phone. He could call Nyx. He was certain his friend would come over and offer him the solace he needed to pull through his sub-drop. Sometimes it helped just to have someone nearby. Typically, Ignis was able to take comfort in the presence of his Prince, or his co-workers - not that he ever allowed his carefully composed facade to slip around any of them. It was the solitude that was so painful, and even the presence of strangers at the grocery store could be an unwitting balm to his soul.

He’d rather call Gladio, but there wasn’t a force in the universe that would get Ignis to bother the man since he’d requested some space.

Truthfully, he didn’t deserve Nyx’s company. He was probably not terribly happy with Ignis either, for involving him in his foolish plan the night before.

Ignis made himself stand and walk into his bedroom, setting his glasses and phone on the nightstand before laying in bed fully clothed.

Perhaps sleep would come. Perhaps it would not.

Ignis wasn’t sure which option he preferred. Insomnia would cause his mind to continue churning along, creating endless possibilities for what tomorrow could hold.

But sleep brought dreams, and Ignis wasn’t certain he could bear to see what dreams may come, and then wake up to rediscover the reality of his situation.

So he lay there, staring at the ceiling, praying to all the Astrals that tomorrow would be a better day.

When Ignis got to his desk Monday morning, he was unsurprised to find it devoid of the customary take out cup of coffee from Gladio. He made a mental note to give the lunch he’d packed to Prompto, since the boy ate most of Noctis’s anyway. Sitting at his desk, he reviewed his schedule for the day, finding it to be most typical. Go to Noct’s, fix him breakfast, take him to school. Return to the Citadel, attend a Council meeting. Then he had a few hours to work on his own schoolwork - if he was able to keep at it, he could finish his degree in the spring. Pick up Noctis, take him home, fix him dinner, try and coax him into doing his homework. Return to the Citadel for his evening training session with Gladio.

Ignis wondered if training would happen as scheduled. He’d gotten no message to the contrary, so he’d proceed with his schedule until told otherwise. Unable to fully suppress the flare of optimistic joy that he’d see Gladio that evening, Ignis headed out to tend to his duties with a lightness in his step that had been absent since Gladio left his home Saturday night.

The day passed without incident. Noctis continued to be solicitous, though Ignis thought he managed to behave far more appropriately today, encouraging his charge to review the council meeting notes while he prepared dinner. This time, his meal preparation went smoothly, and soon Noctis was settled in with his video game and Ignis was on his way back to the Citadel to meet with Gladio.

He checked his phone compulsively at every red light, certain he’d receive a message cancelling the appointment. But when he parked his car at the Citadel and still his phone remained silent, Ignis squared his shoulders and headed to the training center.

Finding it empty wasn’t unexpected - he was a tad early, as was his wont. Ignis changed, stowing his street clothes in an empty locker but keeping his phone at hand. There was still time for Gladio to cancel, after all, and Ignis could hardly fault him if he chose to do so.

When he walked out of the locker room, Ignis found Gladio sitting on a stack of mats waiting for him. The Shield’s face was serious, those amber eyes devoid of their usual sparkle.



Hopping down from his perch, Gladio grabbed his practice sword off the weapons rack. “Ready?”

“I-indeed,” Ignis stammered, not entirely certain how to behave. He’d take his cues from Gladio; that seemed most appropriate. Choosing a polearm off the weapons rack, Ignis thought the challenge of a less familiar weapon would be a welcome mental distraction. He followed Gladio into the ring, testing the balance of the spear.

“I won’t go easy on you just because you’re tryin’ something new,” Gladio rumbled.

When Ignis looked up, he saw the larger man had raised an eyebrow in challenge, sword resting comfortably across his broad shoulders.

Gods, Gladio was gorgeous.

“I’d expect nothing less,” Ignis replied after a short pause, grasping the shaft of his weapon in both hands and watching Gladio cautiously.

When Gladio slashed his sword in a broad arc, Ignis blocked it easily with the polearm. His lips stretched in his customary smirk despite himself, the taunting words spilling forth without conscious decision. “I thought you said you weren’t going to go easy on me.”

Gladio’s chuckle made Ignis’s heart soar. But there was no time to dwell on the melodious sound of his laughter; Gladio began pressing his attack in earnest. Ignis was left with little choice but to continually defend. Each time he thought he saw an opening, Gladio was there with that blasted sword, charging headlong and cutting off Ignis’s attacks before they even began.

Perhaps he was going about this all wrong. Bracing the butt of the spear against the ground, Ignis vaulted over Gladio’s charge, bending his knees as he landed to absorb the force of the impact. Spinning around with alacrity, he lifted his weapon to rest its blunted point at the base of Gladio’s neck.

“Nice once,” Gladio complimented.

As Ignis opened his mouth to thank him, Gladio’s sword came against the polearm with enough strength to knock the weapon from Ignis’s grasp, causing it to scatter far outside the confines of the sparring ring.

“Don’t drop your guard,” Gladio growled.

Ignis stepped backwards, not sure what to do now that he was disarmed, but not wanting to concede. Gladio followed him slowly, the knowing light burning in those rich golden eyes clearly stating that he felt the bout was won.

Thinking fast, Ignis drew upon the ice magic he’d been practicing, spreading a layer on the floor between himself and Gladio. When Gladio’s feet shot out from under him, and he fell - hard - Ignis winced, but he knew the Shield would take no lasting damage. The landing caused Gladio to drop his weapon, and Ignis darted in to kick it outside the circle.

“We seem to be at an impasse,” he murmured as Gladio rose to his feet.

“Still got our hands, don’t we?” Gladio argued, falling into a crouch and slowly circumnavigating the ring.

Ignis’s heart skipped a beat at the thought of engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Even though it was merely a training session, he’d welcome the feel of Gladio’s body against his.

Who knew when he’d get to feel it again, in a more personal setting? He’d take what he could get.

As Gladio closed in, Ignis backflipped out of reach. No matter how badly he wanted to feel those calloused hands on his lithe frame, he couldn’t make it too easy.

“Stop dancing around and fight me!” Gladio roared, side-stepping and charging again.

This time, Ignis deliberately faltered, letting Gladio catch him head-on, tackling him to the ground. He couldn’t help the way he responded; his breathing became rapid and shallow, eyes widening as he stared up at the larger man. Sharp cheekbones were dusted with an embarrassed flush when he felt his cock stir where it was trapped beneath Gladio’s thigh.

The other man obviously felt it, too. Ignis saw a brief flash of hunger in those amber eyes before Gladio stood up and offered him a hand. After getting to his feet, Ignis collected his polearm, returning to the ring.

“I think we’ve done enough for today,” Gladio said, putting away his greatsword.

“All right,” Ignis replied agreeably, re-racking his weapon. “Thank you for your assistance. I’ll see you on Wednesday.” He turned to go, but was halted with a word.


Ignis stopped, turning to look at Gladio with an inquisitive mien.

“I want to talk.”

A nervous fluttering filled Ignis’s belly, but he made himself nod. “When? Where?”

“Now,” Gladio said. “Your place. If that’s alright.”

“Quite,” Ignis said faintly, desperately clinging to whatever composure he could amidst the frantic beating of his heart.

Gladio nodded. “I’ll be there in twenty.”

“Very well,” Ignis said to Gladio’s back as the Shield walked out of the gymnasium.

He collected his gear from the locker room, taking a quick shower and changing back into his street clothes. Looking at his watch, Ignis realized he’d have just enough time to get home and take a brief moment to collect himself before Gladio arrived.

He’d best get a move on.

Gladio wasn’t sure this was his smartest decision. It’d only been two damn days, but two days of radio silence were more than he wished to spend without Ignis. Scowling into oncoming traffic, his hands tightened on the steering wheel. The only thing Gladio was sure of was that he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel; he wanted to keep going as they’d been as see what they could build together. But Ignis would have to give a little. Okay, a lot.

He’d need to open up, completely, or despite the blossoming love Gladio desperately wished to nourish like a flower in his mother’s gardens, he’d be done.

It didn’t take him long to get to Ignis’s apartment complex, though as usual there was no parking. Gladio ended up parking his truck a few blocks away, but he didn’t mind. While winter’s bite had begun to encroach on autumn’s end, it wasn’t too chilly for a short walk. Besides, the crisp air would help clear his head.

He let himself in the common front door and headed up the stairs, figuring his heavy footfalls would warn Ignis that he was approaching. He wasn’t wrong; Ignis was there opening his front door just as Gladio cresting the top of the staircase.

“Hey,” he said shortly, feeling a bit awkward and formal due to this crap laying between them.

“Hello, Gladio,” Ignis murmured softly, looking about as ill-at-ease as Gladio felt. “Can I get you anything to drink? Eat?”

Gladio toed off his shoes and hung his coat on the back of one of the chairs around Ignis’s small table. “Honestly? I’d love a beer, but I know you don’t drink the stuff, so anything’s fine. Not hungry, though. Thanks.”

Ignis’s smile was no less triumphant for how subtly it quirked his lips. “I’ve begun keeping stock of a few of your favorites.” He walked into the kitchen and pulled open the fridge. “Take a look.”

Wandering over to stand next to Ignis, Gladio’s eyebrows raised in approval at the selection. Gods, the man gave off heat like his namesake. Gladio had to fight the simultaneous urges to take a step back, or to take a step forward and crush the smaller man against him. Reaching into the fridge, he grabbed a Hammerhead Hard Cider and walked over to the couch, partially to remove himself from temptation’s grasp, and partially because this was gonna be a long fucking talk, he might as well be comfortable.

Ignis followed him after a moment, and Gladio was pleased to see the other man had poured himself a whiskey rather than taking one of the rows upon rows of canned Ebony Gladio’d seen in the fridge. He seated himself at the other end of the couch, angling his body so he could easily see Gladio, crossing one lithe leg atop the other and resting the hand not holding his drink on his knee.

“So…” Gladio began as he twisted the top off his drink. “I’ll be honest, I don’t even know where to start.”

“I do,” Ignis interrupted, darting him an apologetic glance for the rudeness.

“Okay,” Gladio said, leaning back against the cushions and taking a swig of cider.

“I want to apologize,” Ignis spoke haltingly, his usual confidence a thing of the past. “I should have told you sooner. I know that. I acted from a place of irrationality rather than logic, and it was wrong of me.” Setting his drink on the coffee table, Ignis leaned forward. “I’m sorry, Gladio. It shan’t happen again.”

“While I appreciate your apology, and I’m glad to hear you don’t plan on a repeat performance,” Gladio started, choosing his words carefully, “I need you to explain, Ignis. I need to know why you lied to me. I need to know why you trusted Nyx Ulric and not me. And I need to know if there are any other secrets.” Gladio leaned forward in a mirroring motion, resting his forearms on this thighs after setting his drink aside. “We can’t make this work if we aren’t honest with each other.” His voice softened as he continued, and he allowed a tendril of love to curl around his words. “I want to know all of you, Iggy - not just what you show the rest of the world.”

Ignis nodded slowly. “I concur. Where shall I start?” He smiled a bit sheepishly, a light blush brightening ivory cheeks. “This is not an effort to misdirect or sidestep,” Ignis explained. “But you asked several things.”

“Why don’t you start with tellin’ me why you came clean to Nyx before me?” Gladio suggested. “I suspect that’s a shorter story than the rest.”

“Indeed.” Ignis inclined his head. “I’ll endeavor to be brief.” He paused to take a sip of his whiskey before beginning. “Shortly after I asked you out to coffee, I had my first magic training session. As you may recall, I skipped out on it and then neglected to reschedule.”

“Yeah. That was weird.”

Ignis’s chuckle was rueful. “I generally strive to conduct myself more professionally. But, you must understand - when I walked into that training room and heard Nyx’s voice, I knew at once that he was Stag, he was the man I’d been engaging in…” Ignis coughed. “Well, acts I’d never wished anyone at the Citadel to know I partake in.”

Gladio blinked. “You didn’t know he was him until that day?”

Ignis shook his head. “He’s masked as well as I am. And I’d never met Nyx Ulric before, so it wasn’t until he greeted me at training that I was able to put two and two together.” His lips twisted in a grimace. “I couldn’t bear the thought of coming clean, but I couldn’t make myself ignore the information, so I ran out. Quite cowardly. It’s not something I’m proud of.”

“I can understand why you did it,” Gladio said. “You did come clean to him eventually, though.”

“Yes,” Ignis sighed. The following month’s party… I didn’t allow myself to attend. I wasn’t ready to deal with my confusion regarding the Nyx situation.” His brow creased as his lips drew down in a frown. “I was… overwrought after the night of the party had passed.” Ignis clasped his hands together, locking his fingers so tightly, Gladio could see his knuckles were white. “I knew you’d gone. At least, I’d assumed as such, with the timing of your departure from Noct’s. I feared you’d find someone more interesting than I could possibly hope to be. And also…” he trailed off as his blush darkened, spreading down his neck. After taking a fortifying sip of his drink, Ignis continued. “I was… frustrated, to put it mildly. I’d grown used to enjoying certain activities once a month, and I wasn’t happy to have missed it.”

Gladio grinned, unable to tease just a little, figuring a little humor could keep the air from getting too fucking heavy. “You don’t have to dance around it with me, Iggy. You missed your beating.” The playful edge faded away with his next words. “And it would be impossible for me to find someone more interesting than you.”

“I did,” Ignis agreed simply, apparently choosing to side-step the compliment. “Does that adequately answer your question?”

“No, you still didn’t tell me why you told Nyx.”

The self-conscious way Ignis ducked his head was adorable, but Gladio was having none of it. He reached out to gently cup a hand beneath the other man’s chin, lifting his face until those emerald eyes again melded to those of topaz.

“You’re certain you want honesty?”


Ignis’s hands curled around the edges of his shirt, toying with the hem. “I, well…” After clearing his throat, Ignis continued, “I ran into Nyx by accident one evening when I headed to the gymnasium, thinking a little exercise might help clear my head. And I just… told him.” Ignis smiled self-deprecatingly. “After he got over his considerable surprise, we rescheduled magic training, which as you know I’m now attending on the nights I do not have sparring practice with you.”

Gladio waited a long moment to see if Ignis would continue without prompting. “Okay, I may not be as smart as you, but even I can tell that story ain’t over.”

“I, ah…” Ignis’s fingers twisted so tightly in his shirttails, Gladio was concerned he’d actually hurt himself. “I didn’t want to wait three more weeks, so I asked Nyx to… help me out.”

Sharply inhaling at the image that sprang to mind unbidden of Ignis and Nyx together the way he’d seen Hawk and Stag at that first party, Gladio took a deep drink from his bottled cider, feeling incredibly thirsty. “I take it that went… well.”

“I’m sorry,” Ignis replied, causing Gladio to rein in the impulse to facepalm.

“You don’t owe me an apology,” Gladio said. “We aren’t exclusive, and fuck,” he scrubbed a hand over the back of his head. “At that party you missed? I played with Nyx. So, uh, pot, meet kettle,” he gestured between the two of them with a disarming grin, hoping Ignis could hear the truth in his words.

“You… and Nyx?” Ignis blinked slowly, owlishly, and then Gladio was treated to the sight of the pink tip of his tongue darting out to wet his lower lip. “Interesting. To stay more on point, however, that covers my history with Nyx fairly well. I came up with my plan for the party two days ago, and he agreed to go along with it, but he was dubious and tried to convince me to just come clean with you.”

“Why didn’t you?” Gladio interjected. “I mean, if you’d wanted to play with me, all you’d ever had to do was ask.”

Ignis turned his head, presenting Gladio with a clear view of his profile, all sharp angles and pale skin except where the remains of his earlier blush still highlighted his cheeks. “I wanted to experience first hand what sort of top you were, so I could get an inkling of what manner of dominant you might be, before coming clean.” When Gladio opened his mouth to interrupt again, Ignis held up a hand. “I am fully cognizant of the fact that I should have just asked. But you wished me to explain, and that was my reasoning.”

“This might be the time for you to tell me why.” Gladio desperately wanted to cross his arms, but realized it was best to keep his body language open, so he settled for sitting up and resting his hands on his thighs.

“I didn’t date much through school, since I was so much younger than my peers,” Ignis began, voice quiet but matter-of-fact. As he continued, he fell into what Gladio recognized as his lecturing tone, generally directed towards their charge - crisp, and even tempoed.

“I wasn’t a monk, however. I simply didn’t have the time for romantic, so I sought out companions who were content with one night, not asking more from me than I was willing to give."

“Makes sense,” Gladio prompted when Ignis’s silence extended.

“Shortly after my eighteenth birthday, I was approached by… a man who knew me from university.”

“That’s not what you were gonna say,” Gladio noticed. “We’re bein’ honest here, remember? Tell me the truth. Please.”

Ignis’s sigh was somehow ashamed. How could an exhalation carry so much weight? “You’re right. I’m sorry.” After pushing his glasses fractionally higher on the bridge of his nose with one nimble finger, he continued to speak. “He was my advisor. I’d worked with him for two years.” The timbre of Ignis’s voice grew dark and heavy with the knowledge granted him by time and maturity. “I wonder how long he’d been planning, waiting for me to gain my majority.”

Gladio was starting to feel sick, and Ignis hadn’t even gotten into the meat of his story. But he’d asked to hear it. If Ignis could say it, Gladio could listen. “Go on.”

“It started out innocently enough. He asked me to dinner.” Ignis’s smile was cold, but Gladio recognized the chill was directed at his memories. “I was flattered. I didn’t realize it was meant as a date, not at first. Not until he took me home.”

Gladio clenched his hands into fists. “What did he do to you?”

“Nothing.” Two heartbeats. “That night.”

Deliberately, Gladio pushed his half-full cider away. Drinking during this talk was a bad idea.

“He… wooed me,” Ignis said, falling back into that pedantic tone. “Evenings at the theater, dinners at the best restaurants, flowers delivered to my home. During this time, I stopped being intimate with others, and focused all my attentions on my professor.” His eyes were as bitter as unfiltered Ebony. “My first boyfriend... my first love.”

“Ignis…” Gladio said gently, but had no fucking clue what else to say, so he fell silent again.

“I should have taken heed when he was angry that he wasn’t my first,” Ignis mused. “When he took me to bed that night, he clearly expected I’d be less proficient in such things, and he could extend our teacher/student relationship into that venue as well.” He shook his head. “Looking back, I believe that’s why he began insisting we try more and more outlandish things. He wished to be the one with the knowledge, the one with the power.” Ignis drained his whiskey, and Gladio didn’t have the heart to turn his ghost-white face back when it was clear Ignis needed to look away, to compose himself.

“I gave it to him willingly.” Laughter broke through Ignis’s words, as sharp and brittle as shattered glass. “I begged him to take it.” He turned to look at Gladio again, and those verdant eyes were haunted. “You understand, I didn’t know any better. I’d learned enough from my own explorations to know I enjoyed… rough play… in bed, but I’d never heard of power-exchange relationships. When he asked me to be his - to be his submissive - I had no real inkling of what it meant, and he didn’t explain terribly much. I was young, I was in love, and I was convinced this would be a wonderful new step we could take together.”

Ignis sat up tall, his perfect posture in stark contrast to the jagged words cascading from parted lips. “I was wrong.”

“You don’t have to keep talkin’, Iggy,” Gladio interrupted.

“I think I do,” Ignis argued. “If we are to continue on this course, such things would need to come up. Because, Gladio, I very much would like to explore a similar dynamic with you - now that I’ve done the research to know what it proper, now that I’m old enough to take such things with prudent slowness.”

Gladio couldn’t deny the thrill that coursed through him at Ignis’s admission, but this wasn’t the time.

“I don’t wish to get too graphic,” Ignis continued. “But I’ll answer any questions you have. I’d caution you not to ask anything you don’t truly wish the answer too, however. More applicable to my present-day caution: he thought that submissives were lesser partners - not that they simply gave over power, but that they needed a dominant to guide them, to make their decisions; that they were less intelligent and less… capable.”

“He’d get angry if I was late or missed… appointments… due to my duty,” Ignis said almost conversationally. “He forbade me the use of potions, and would send me back into the Citadel in so much pain I could hardly walk.”

“Why did you put up with it?” Gladio asked, sincerely hoping he wasn’t sounding as if he blamed the victim.

“This sounds exceedingly foolish, but, I didn’t know any better,” Ignis explained. “By the time I did know better, I wasn’t certain how to best extricate myself from the situation without adversely affecting my studies, or my livelihood.” His mouth twisted. “He had made it abundantly clear that he’d make our private lives public if I didn’t obey.”

“That sonova—”

“Gladio, please. Let me finish.”


“You may recall that even on the cusp of adulthood, I’d already been training as a tactician for quite some time.” Gladio was relieved to hear Ignis’s voice regaining some of its typical bite and strength. “I came up with a plan. If I may say so without sounding unnecessarily arrogant, it worked quite well.”

Gladio grinned. “I’ll bet it did. What’d you do?”

“The details are sealed to the Crown, I’m afraid,” Ignis said. “What I can say is that my research proved I wasn’t the only undergrad he’d… taken up with. He lost his position, lost his tenure, and was exiled from Lucis and its territories.”

Gladio’s jaw dropped as realization hit. “Wait. Fucking wait. That was you?” Of course it was. Of course this wonderful man would be the one to get that predatory piece of shit sent off to Ifrit-knows-where. “I remember hearing about that, Professor M—-”

“Names have power,” Ignis rasped, “and I’d thank you not to use his.”

“Sure, Iggy,” Gladio backed off.

“That’s all of it, unless you have specific questions.” Ignis folded his hands more calmly in his lap, no longer rending at the hem of his severely-wrinkled shirt.

Gladio couldn’t think of a single detail he honestly wanted to know about that time. Truth be told, he felt sick enough with the few details Ignis had imparted. Maybe it was time to divert conversation to a safer topic? “Why did you start going to the Coeurl? After going through all of that?”

Ignis’s quiet laughter was a balm on Gladio’s aching heart. “I still wanted what I wanted. But at the Coeurl, I take it on my terms.” Mirth faded to seriousness. “As Hawk, I have rules. I do not speak - obviously, as my accent could give me away. I do not allow any top to place me in bondage, nor do I permit any sexual play. And I do not allow any of those I play with to actually dominate me.” A pause, and that blush was back. “Well, Nyx and I have skirted that territory,” Ignis admitted. “But to be fair, I’ve scened with him steadily for a year now. He earned my trust long before I learned his true identity.”

Another chuckle, this one familiarly self-depreciating. “I suppose my largest caution in light of what happened was in keeping things separate. I get the beatings I crave at the club, under the watchful eyes of the appointed Dungeon Monitors. I get the sex I want by picking up men at the bars for one night stands. The only thing I have been monumentally unsuccessful with has been romance - which I’ve been enjoying immensely with you, Gladiolus.”

Gladio wasn’t sure why the sound of his full name caressed by that crisp accent made the blood shoot down to his cock, but it just flat did it for him. He had to ask, though one could argue which brain was doing the decision making. “You never mix sex and BDSM?”

“I haven’t had the trust,” Ignis elaborated. His eyelids fell half shut, lashes coyly veiling that verdant gaze. “But I’m not opposed to the idea. In fact, quite the opposite.”

“Yeah?” Gladio breathed, leaning forward again. It took all his willpower not to reach out to Ignis, but he knew they weren’t done talking yet, and once he put his lips on Iggy, conversation would be over.

“Indeed,” Ignis drawled. “Why do you think I asked you for coffee days after seeing you at the club?”

Gladio’s mind flashed back to that night, recalling with vivid detail the heaviness of the flogging Ignis took like a motherfucking champ before coming apart untouched. “I’m glad you did. Ask me out, I mean.” He hoped his grin was more friendly than lascivious, but well, he was only human. “To be honest, I would’ve never guessed you’d be into me, let alone into the kink scene.”

“You’ll learn I’m full of surprises,” Ignis flirted blatantly with a grin that was equal parts humor and charm.

“Oh, I bet you are,” Gladio’s words rumbled low in his throat, and he stopped fighting the raging desire to pull Ignis into his arms and kiss him senseless.

Ignis’s lips parted beneath the sweep of Gladio’s tongue, and Gladio moaned into the other man’s mouth when he felt their tongues slide together within that fusion of lips. The kiss lasted a long moment, but not long enough. When they pulled apart, both their faces were flushed and their breathing was rapid.

“Any more secrets I should know about?” Gladio remembered to ask.

“I loathe Cup Noodles.”

“I already knew that,” Gladio grinned his appreciation for the jibe. “Works for me; just means I don’t have to share.” He loosened his hold but kept one tattooed arm slung around Ignis’s broad shoulders.

“If there’s nothing more you wish to know, may I ask you something?” The slight tremor in Ignis’s voice made Gladio determined to show him there was no need for any such hesitance with him.

“Course, Iggy. What is it?”

“I was just wondering what path lead you to the Coeurl?” Ignis smiled. “I found it through careful research, but I suspect you may have had a more direct route.”

“Heh, you could say that,” Gladio’s tone was rueful. “Nyx got me on the invite list, actually.”

The way Ignis’s jaw dropped was just adorable.

“Don’t act so surprised,” Gladio said. “Nyx and I are friends. Hell, I hang with the Glaive most Friday nights; at least some of them.”

“I didn’t realize friends spoke of such things,” Ignis murmured.

Gladio shrugged. “I’m not real big on hiding who I am around the people I trust.”

“I envy you that.”

“Well, you don’t have to hide with me,” Gladio assured Ignis.

Ignis smiled, as slowly and brilliantly as the sunrise. “How did you know you’d enjoy what the Coeurl’s parties had to offer?”

“Ah… Crowe,” Gladio admitted, feeling his cheeks heat with remembered embarrassment.

“I’m tempted to pour another drink,” Ignis said wryly. “This sounds like it has the makings of an interesting story.”

Gladio snorted. “Not interesting so much as educational, yeah?”

Ignis’s quirked eyebrow spoke volumes, so Gladio continued to speak. “When I was but a young sprout of a Shield, and had just begun training with the Glaive - three years ago, it was a sort of birthday gift from my Dad.” He grinned. “You’re an adult now, son,” Gladio mimicked Clarus’s serious timbre, badly. “You may train with the Glaive, provided it doesn’t get in the way of your duties.”

Reaching out to grab the cider he’d discarded earlier, Gladio took a large swig then made a face. Shit, this was bad when it got warm. “Being your typical eighteen-year-old man with eyes in his head and blood in his - heh,” Gladio snickered. “I had a huge crush on Crowe.”

“You and half the Guard and Glaive,” Ignis deadpanned.

“Yeah, well, I at least had the balls to act on it,” Gladio retorted.

“Or the stupidity,” Ignis suggested silkily, uncrossing and recrossing his legs elegantly.

Gladio flipped him off, grinning again when Ignis merely rolled his eyes in an eloquent nonverbal response. “She told me in no uncertain terms that she didn’t play with little boys,” he winced when he remembered the scorn in her tone. “She only spent her time with men who were interesting enough to deserve it.”

“That seems… reasonable. But how did that teach you that you were into sharper things?” Ignis’s tone had dropped it’s teasing sarcasm and was pure curiosity now.

“I told her I was plenty interesting, and she told me I’d probably be traumatized for life by the things she enjoyed in her free time.” Gladio smirked, touching the line that bisected his eye. “Yeah, she went for the cheap shot, scar humor for the dude rockin’ a massive one. But when I told her I didn’t scare easy, she got… quite descriptive.”

Gladio couldn’t remember ever seeing Ignis laugh this freely or this loudly. It was a moment he’d treasure forever.

“So, I left the practice field with my tail between my legs, and I hit the books. And the ‘net,” Gladio grinned. “Learned all sorts of things. When I got to know Nyx better, I mentioned something, and he told me about the parties.” Gladio quickly clarified, “Nothing that violated the rules, just that they happened and how I could get on the approved list.”

“It seems I owe Nyx another thank-you,” Ignis mused.

“For what?”

“Had he not directed you towards the Coeurl, I’d’ve never gotten the push I required to act on my crush,” Ignis purred, pressing closer to Gladio and looking up at him intently. “I fear I was not as brazen as you in my approach - I admire your bravery in expressing your feelings.”

“You did just fine,” Gladio insisted, carding his fingers through Ignis’s hair. He noticed the way Ignis’s breath hitched at the touch, and continued to draw his fingertips over the other man’s scalp idly as they spoke.

“You don’t understand,” Ignis’s words were wrapped in vexation. “I’ve wanted you for years.”

“Years?” Gladio’s surprise overwhelmed any impulse he may’ve had to make an egocentric joke about his own attractiveness. His hand faltered a moment, but he resumed the caress as he pinned Ignis with that molten amber gaze.

“Years,” Ignis confirmed.

“Why didn’t you ever speak up?” Gladio wondered.

“For one, I was convinced you were straight,” Ignis’s voice was droll. “That was the biggest thing I took away from that night at the Club - I saw the way you looked at Hawk - at me - and I knew no straight man would look at another man that way.”

“Definitely not straight,” Gladio agreed. “I like who I like, not too worried about what they’re packin’.”

“Fair enough,” Ignis granted. “Furthermore, I was worried it would get in the way of my duties, until I realized that, truly… you were the only person would could ever understand my duty, since you share it.”

“We both keep shitty hours,” Gladio agreed. “I ain’t gonna pitch a fit if you have to cancel a date to work late.”

“Others have,” Ignis muttered. “Which is why I haven’t dated much.”

“I don’t wanna talk about other people anymore,” Gladio said. “Unless there’s anything else you think I need to know?”

“No,” Ignis demurred. “I think we’ve talked quite enough for one night.”

Damn if Gladio was gonna complain about the way Ignis climbed over his lap, those lithe thighs straddling Gladio’s thicker legs as Ignis leaned in to steal a heated kiss, nipping at the larger man’s lips sharply.

Gladio’s fingers tightened reflexively in Ignis’s hair at the feel of his teeth, and Gladio nearly lost his tenuous hold on self-control when he felt the full body shudder course through Ignis in response to the firm touch.

Ignis murmured something into the kiss, but Gladio couldn’t understand him, so he broke the contact and leaned back just enough to gasp, “Huh?”

Those seafoam eyes locked on his, and Ignis repeated himself so softly it was more of an exhalation than speech, “More.”

Gladio’s free arm wrapped around Ignis’s waist, drawing him closer as their mouths crashed together once more. He curled his hand tighter in Ignis’s hair, rewarded by a mewling cry that was delightfully muffled by their kiss. When Ignis deliberately ground what felt like a very hard, very nicely sized cock against the bulge in Gladio’s pants, Gladio’s eyes rolled back in his head.

Gods, how he wanted nothing more than to toss Ignis to the floor and ravish him until he could do little else but try and breathe, try and withstand Gladio’s onslaught. Thoughts of ruthlessly continuing to push Ignis farther and father until he had thoroughly sated himself in Ignis’s body consumed Gladio’s mind. He desperately wanted to leave him completely wrecked and debauched, spread out on the living room floor.

Not yet, though. Not tonight.

After one final, lingering kiss, Gladio drew back and loosened his hold, sliding his hand from Ignis’s hand down to rest at the small of his back beside the other. He had to smile at the adorable pout shaped by Ignis’s full lips.

“Soon,” Gladio said, placing a gentle kiss on the center of Ignis’s forehead. “Why rush things, yeah?”

“I suppose there is a certain merit to taking one’s time,” Ignis admitted. “My apologies.”

“Don’t need to apologize,” Gladio insisted, lowering his head to brush his lips along Ignis’s jawline, down his neck, pleasing them both when he bit at Ignis’s throat lightly before continuing to pepper tender kisses up the other side, ending at his ear. “I just wanna take my time with you,” Gladio whispered, deliberately letting his lips brush against the delicate shell of Ignis’s ear as he spoke.

“All right,” Ignis managed, voice strained.

A thought occurred to Gladio and he sat up straighter, pulling back from the delightful proximity so that he could think more clearly. “How would you feel about bein’ exclusive with me?”

“I’m not dating anyone else,” Ignis said, appearing perplexed.

“No, I know,” Gladio mumbled, realizing he needed to find better words. “I mean, we don’t date other people, we don’t fuck other people, we don’t play with other people at the Coeurl.”

Ignis pursed his lips, and while Gladio was a bit disappointed the other man needed a moment to think, at least he was considering it.

“I have no difficulty committing to neither dating nor being sexually intimate with others,” Ignis said carefully. “But I’m not certain I like the idea of ceasing attendance at the parties.”

“I’m not saying we stop going,” Gladio elaborated. “I’m saying we go together, and we play together.” He rubbed a hand against his forehead for a moment, considering that perhaps he should’ve saved this conversation for a time when they hadn’t already spoken in such depth. “I’m not sayin’ we never play with anyone else ever again, but I think we should take some time to just focus on each other.”

“That seems reasonable,” Ignis said. “I agree.”

“So… we’re exclusive,” Gladio wanted to make damn sure they were on the same page.

“It does seem that way,” Ignis teased, eyes dancing with mirth.

Gladio grinned, and shit if he didn’t feel like a teenager again. “So, you’re my boyfriend? Officially?”

Ignis’s smile could outshine the stars. He raised a slender hand to cup Gladio’s cheek tenderly as he spoke. “Indeed.”

Chapter Text

The following two weeks passed rather uneventfully, Ignis was a touch sad to note. Both he and Gladio were so busy, they had no time to spend together outside of their thrice weekly sparring sessions. Those went as well as could be expected. Between the combat training with Gladio and his biweekly magic training with Nyx, Ignis was feeling quite confident that he’d pass the Crownsguard exam with flying colors.

But Six, he longed for an hour with Gladio outside of their duties.

A minute. A moment. Anything would do.

As the Solstice approached, Ignis was caught up in the minutiae of the annual holiday gala. To be sure, it wasn’t strictly in his purview to arrange it, but someone had to step in who knew the proper procedures or the event would end up being a disaster.

Truth be told, Ignis would prefer to spend the Solstice curled up on the couch with Gladio and a mug of hot cocoa, but he was well aware of his duties; no amount of romantic infatuation would cause him to shirk them.

Gods, he loved Gladio.

He hadn’t told him yet. Hadn’t found the right moment, the right words. Gracious knew the right setting was paramount for such a momentous statement.

That was a matter for another day. Today was Saturday, so Ignis was free from the usual plethora of meetings. All he had to do with check in with Noctis, make sure he was ready for the coming week and that he ate something other than fried chicken strips. The rest of the day would likely be spent catching up on correspondence and writing reports.

Ignis was just finishing up the first of those aforementioned reports when his phone pinged. Perhaps it was Gladio. Perhaps they could find a moment to meet today. He practically dove for the phone, sparing a brief thought to be thankful he was alone - such behavior was lacking his customary dignity.

Well, it wasn’t Gladio, but it was nothing bad. It was Noctis, inviting Ignis to his place for a gaming night. A sardonic smile edged with a hint of the resentment he’d never dare to verbally express canted Ignis’s lips as he typed out a response. You’ll want me to prepare dinner, yes?

A moment later his phone chimed again. Nah, Gladio said he’s got food covered. Just bring yourself. See ya later, Specs!

Ignis blinked slowly. Then he blinked again, and re-read the message.

Noctis didn’t need him to cook. He... simply wanted Ignis’s company?

Now he needed to sit down, because this was simply unprecedented; while Ignis had recently been included in the gaming, he’d still been expected to prepare dinner for the group. Though to be fair, the King had requested Ignis keep his son as happy as possible, help him try and live a normal childhood, and have the experiences typical for a teenager. This must be an offshoot of that. Pride swelled in Ignis’s chest as he realized he must be doing a better job of complying with the unconventional royal edict than he imagined.

His charge truly considered him a friend. How unexpected and delightful.

He tapped off a quick response confirming he’d be there, and determined to finish his housework as quickly as possible. He’d want time to prepare himself for an evening spent in Gladio’s company, yet maintaining their facade of mere friendship.

And maybe… just maybe, they could find a moment…

Gladio parked his truck in the underground lot without difficulty, nodding at the attendant as he walked from the parking structure into the building proper. That was one advantage to the gatherings at Noct’s place - there was always plenty of parking to be found onsite. Not that Gladio minded the struggle to park by Iggy’s apartment, but hey, he wasn’t gonna complain at having it simplified for tonight.

Noctis wanted a gaming night, and the Six only knew Gladio was down for a little R&R after another long, boring week. But truth be told, he was far more excited to see Ignis than to blow up pixelated monsters. He liked Noct, he liked Prom, but he loved Ignis, and they hadn’t had any time to themselves since that intense conversation a couple weeks back.

Gladio was hoping the chucklefucks got so caught up in the gaming that they wouldn’t mind if he and Iggy took off early. They could go back to Ignis’s place, and… and

Fuck. Gladio didn’t want to rush things, but his body was a Gods-damned traitor and was telling him rushing would be just swell.

None of that now, he reminded himself as he thundered up the stairs to Noct’s penthouse apartment. When he reached the pinnacle, he kicked at the door - his hands were too full of takeout bags to knock.

When the door opened to reveal Ignis’s serene beauty, those brilliant green eyes alight with happiness, Gladio didn’t bother to stop the dopey grin that stretched his lips wide. “Hey, Iggy.”

“Gladiolus.” Fucking shit, how did Ignis make his name sound so… decadent? So full of promise? So full of…fuck.

Ignis stepped back and Gladio walked in, kicking off his shoes as he glanced around. He was entirely unsurprised to see Noctis and Prompto already glued to the gaming console. “Hey, dorks.”

“Sup, big guy!” Prompto chirped cheerfully.

Noct merely raised a hand in silent salute before resuming his frantic button-mashing.

“What have you brought, then?” Ignis asked, and when Gladio looked back to the immaculate advisor, he saw one ash-blonde eyebrow quirked in query.

“Dinner,” Gladio said, holding up the bags so that Ignis could clearly see the Kenny Crow’s logo on the bags.

Ignis frowned slightly, and then sighed. “Well… once in a while is alright, I suppose.”

Gladio smirked. “Watching your waistline?”

“Yes,” Ignis said gravely.

“Shit, Iggy,” Gladio blinked. “With all the training you do, you could eat like this three times a week.”

“Yes, well…” Ignis trailed off as he adjusted his glasses. “Proper nutrition is important.”

“Hey,” Gladio said, waiting until Ignis was done futzing with his glasses and looking at him again. “It’s Saturday night. We’ve all worked hard. It’s okay to relax a bit, yeah?”

Ignis nodded, and Gladio decided not to push the issue further. He walked into the kitchen and dumped the bags on the table, calling over his shoulder, “Food’s ready. Come and get it.”

The younger men fell on the fast food like a plague of motherfucking locusts. Gladio was grateful for his quick reflexes. If he hadn’t smacked Noct’s hands away, there’d’ve been nothing left for Iggy or himself.

Noctis and Prompto made their usual effort to simultaneously eat and play their game, but Gladio opted to hang back and eat at the table with Iggy. While they’d need to be careful, he figured the television was loud enough that they could actually have a conversation.

“How you been?” Gladio asked before taking a bite of his burger.

“Busy,” Ignis’s word ended on a sigh that more eloquently described his fatigue than any words could. “There’s always so much going on this time of year. At least Noct’s exams will be done next week and he’ll be on winter break. That will give me a brief respite, especially once the Solstice Gala is over.”

“What about your own studies?” Gladio asked.

“I also sit my exams next week,” Ignis said. “If they go well, I should be on track to graduate in the spring.”


“Indeed.” Ignis smiled. “And what of you, Gladio?”

“Me?” Gladio grinned. “Nothin’ much to report. Been helping Iris study for her exams. She wants to decorate the manor for the Solstice tomorrow, so I’ll be spending the day up to my eyebrows in tinsel and lights.”

“That sounds lovely.” Honestly, Gladio found it to be a bit of a pain, but he loved how excited Iris got. And did Ignis sound… wistful? Oh. Right. Gladio recalled Ignis didn’t have a terribly warm family environment. His Solstice prep most likely consisted only of what he did for the official Citadel event.

“Hey,” Gladio began a bit haltingly, “why don’t you join us? Me and Iris? You can help decorate. Maybe make some of those gingersnaps you made last year.”

Ignis’s expression, almost comically shocked and completely devoid of artifice, was pretty fucking sweet. “You’re certain that would be acceptable?”

“Why wouldn’t it be? Iris would love the company. You can stay for dinner.”

“I… well… it…” Ignis’s broken attempt at a sentence trailed off, and he adjusted his glasses on the bridge of his nose. A resolved expression transformed his features from charmingly bewildered to serenely dignified, though the hint of blush dusting those sharp cheekbones told Gladio the truth of just how happy his invitation made Ignis. “I would be delighted. Should I bring anything?”

“Ingredients for cookies?”

Gladio watched as Ignis made a note in his phone. “Consider it done.”

“Are you guys almost finished?” Noctis’s voice cut in on the moment. “Prom brought a new game, but we need more than two people to play it properly.”

“Calm down, Princess,” Gladio called back. “We’ll be there in a minute.”

When they walked into the living room, Gladio was a bit startled to see four computers set up and networked together. When the fuck had the twerps gotten that done? He must’ve been more distracted by Iggy than he thought.

Prompto was bopping around like a chocobo on a sugar high, moving from machine to machine and making adjustments. “Okay, so, this game? It’s great. It’s called the Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator.” His voice was so infectiously enthusiastic that Gladio found himself getting interested despite it not being what he’d expected to play. “We each perform a different role and work together to complete missions! Like Star Trek!”

“You dork,” Noct said with an expressive roll of azure eyes.

“I seem to recall I wasn’t the only one who marathoned Voyager last weekend,” Prompto quipped with a smirk.

“What are the roles, then?” Ignis asked.

“We need a captain, a science office, a tactical officer, and an engineer. Which, dibs - Chief Engineer Prompto, at your service!” he fired off with a definitively non-regulation salute.

“I suppose since I’m the Prince, I’m the captain,” Noctis drawled as he sat down at the computer Prompto indicated.

“I presume I should be at tactical?” Ignis asked.

“Actually, I think you’d make a better science officer,” Prompto said. “Gladio can handle tactical. It’s mostly firing the weapons, not really devising strategies.”

“Gee, thanks,” Gladio said wryly. “I can think of strategies, you know.”

“I’m Gladio,” Noct deepened his voice in an effort to mimic his Shield. “I thought of a new strategy: hit the other guy with my big-ass sword.”

“Brat,” Gladio muttered, smacking the back of Noct’s head lightly.

“Guys!” Prompto whined. “Less chatting, more playing!”

The game wasn’t that bad, though Gladio wasn’t sure he’d want to make it a frequent occurrence. He got to sit next to Iggy, and it was entirely not his fault that their legs were pressed together the whole time. Prompto was the one who set everything up so close together.

It was, however, entirely Gladio’s fault that he kept sliding his foot against Ignis’s calf, earning himself sidelong looks that promised later retribution.

Noctis made a horrible starship captain. The other three loyally followed his directions and found themselves engaged in yet another heated space battle, sorely outnumbered and outgunned.

Gladio figured if he just shot a torpedo at the lead ship, and then used the phasers on the backup…

When one exploding ship set off a chain reaction, obliterating the fleet, they all cheered in triumph.

“Dude, that was amazing!” Prompto said. “Noct, good call on this guy as your Shield."

“Not like I had a choice,” Noct muttered with a smirk.

“Still, I mean, he’s got skills! He’s like… he’s like your patronus!” Prompto chattered on hyperactively. “All you gotta do is shout ‘EXPECTO GLADIOLUS!’ and he’ll appear to save you from sudden death!”

“You’re such a nerd,” Noctis teased with a laugh.

“However you’re the one who understood his literary reference, so perhaps he’s not the only nerd,” Ignis pointed out with a sardonic smile.

“I don’t know what the fuck you all are talking about,” Gladio put in, “but you’re damn right I’ll be there.” He looked around the room, meeting each man’s eyes. “And not just for Noct. You know that, right?” If his amber gaze lingered longer on that of verdant green than the others, well… he didn’t think anyone other than Iggy would notice.

It wasn’t long after that Prompto begged off, citing a need to get home and sleep before his study session the next day. That of course spiraled into Ignis nagging Noctis about his own studying, which turned into Noctis ribbing Ignis right back about his. As the only one not sitting exams next week, Gladio made a mental note to try and ease up what he could for the other three. He couldn’t do much for Prom, but he could back off Noct and Iggy’s training sessions for a few days. It wouldn’t hurt in the long run, and it would give them more time to focus on their schoolwork.

Gladio and Ignis left when Prompto did. After waiting for the energetic blonde to scurry off towards his home, Gladio turned to Ignis. “Your car here?”

“Yes. Why?”

“If it wasn’t, I was gonna offer you a ride. I was thinking we could go to your place and talk some more,” Gladio said. “Nothing bad,” he hastened to add, seeing Ignis’s concerned countenance. “We just haven’t gotten to talk much lately. I miss you.”

He saw Ignis’s expression soften. “That sounds nice.”

“Meetcha there?”


Ignis had only just parked when he saw Gladio walking towards him, presumably from wherever he’d found parking. He did his best to outwardly give no indication of how his pulse was racing, the way electricity seemed to shoot along his spine just from meeting those sunset eyes. Drat. He’d thought he might have a couple moments to ready himself before they were together - before they were alone.

Not that he could truly complain about the precious extra minutes, even if they were mundanely spent on walking into the building and climbing the stairs to Ignis’s floor.

He unlocked the door and stepped aside to let Gladio precede him. Ignis had never found reason to feel unsafe in his own home, but he knew Gladio preferred to be the first one inside on the off chance that this was the exception to the rule and trouble was afoot. As expected, Gladio motioned to Ignis a moment later, and Ignis shut the door behind him, locking it before toeing off his shoes to line up beside Gladio’s sneakers.

It was strange, Ignis thought, how he could simultaneously feel so desperate and so hesitant. Part of Ignis yearned to tackle the Shield to the floor, but rational thought won out. “Can I get you anything?” Ignis asked as he strode into this small kitchen.

“One of those ciders would be nice,” Gladio said.

Ignis pulled one from the fridge and passed it over to Gladio with a smile before he poured himself a whiskey. He headed into the living room and sat down, though he chose the opposite end of the couch than the one he’d perched upon during their last late night chat. Gracious knew he’d take any distinction from that uncomfortable - but unnecessary - conversation.

Tonight should be much less… dramatic, he mused as he tracked Gladio’s graceful progress through the small apartment. Ignis smiled when Gladio chose to sit right next to him rather than at the opposite end, facing off as they’d done two weeks ago.

Close was good. Feeling the warmth radiating from the larger man was…comforting. Addictive.


But, Gladio wanted to talk, and truly they hadn’t had much chance to do so. Ignis took a sip of his drink, closing his eyes to savor the flavor. When he reopened them, he met Gladio’s with another smile. “Did you have anything in particular you wished to talk about?”

“Not really,” Gladio said. “I mean…well, fuck,” he swore before taking a swig of his cider.

“Gladio?” Ignis asked curiously, wondering what on earth could be causing Gladio to… yes, he was blushing. How interesting.

“Sorry,” Gladio grinned. “Didn’t think I’d be so nervous.”

“What on Eos are you nervous about? It’s just me.”

“I just don’t wanna screw this up,” Gladio said.

“I doubt very much whatever it is you wish to say will do that,” Ignis replied. “If our last conversation didn’t tear us apart, I’ll admit that now you have me a bit anxious wondering what it is you wish to discuss.”

Gladio’s laugh was warm and welcome, doing much to dispel Ignis’s growing concern. “I’m not usually this dramatic. Shit. Okay, so, I thought we should talk about… well, what we do at the Coeurl.”

“Didn’t we talk about that last time?” Ignis asked for clarification.

“No, I mean, I don’t wanna talk about what we’ve been doing. Or the club really. I want to talk about… well, you mentioned wanting to do some of those things with me.” Gladio’s eyes were equal parts nervous and earnest, and Ignis found the combination endearing. “You said that you’d hoped we could maybe add a new dimension to our relationship. What I took away from it was that at the very least, you’d want to finish that scene we had started.”

Ignis let the silence stretch just long enough to confirm that Gladio was finished speaking before responding. “I would indeed,” he drawled with a hint of his customary smirk. “And I suspect I’m not the only one.”

“No shit,” Gladio said with an expressive roll of his eyes.

“Why don’t you tell me what you’d like to see us explore?” Ignis suggested, tracing a fingertip idly along the rim of his glass. “Then I can speak on my desires, and we can determine where they might mesh.”

“Fair enough,” Gladio said. “I get the impression you have more… diverse experience with all this than I do.” He raised his hands, letting them fall to his sides in a gesture that Ignis wasn’t entirely sure how to interpret, but he’d seen Gladio make it often enough - as well as Iris, and even Lord Clarus - that he figured it was just something he did for emphasis. “Most of my BDSM play has been these last few months at the Coeurl, 99% of which has been topping in scenes with a very limited scope.”

“The 1% otherwise would be when you bottomed for Nyx?” Ignis asked.

“Yep. Aside from that, I’ve basically been a flogging dispenser,” Gladio quipped, but the way his brows lowered belied the humor in the words.

“Please be assured, I have no desire to treat you that way,” Ignis interrupted. “I think that’s easy to fall into at events like the Coeurl puts on. Unless you attend with someone you’ve already forged the trust with, it’s hard to delve into anything deeper than a simple beating.”

“Fair point. Still gets old.”

“I’m certain. Apologies for interrupting. Please continue.”

“Okay, so Coeurl aside, I’ve dabbled a little in a couple relationships,” Gladio continued. “But again, nothing deeper than mixing a little play with vanilla sex. Some hair pulling, spanking, dirty talk… nothing like what I imagine you’ve done.” His smile was a touch self-deprecating, an expression Ignis was far more accustomed to seeing in his mirror than on his boyfriend. “To actually answer your question though… obviously I’d love to play with you. The taste I got during the co-topping scene has me wanting to see what I can do with you alone.”

The edge of growl shaping those words caused Ignis to shift on his seat as his imagination took flight, but he did his best to remain attentive when Gladio resumed speaking.

“I want to put you in bondage. Nyx said you don’t let anyone do that. That precaution makes sense at a kink party, but, fuck,” Gladio ran both hands through his hair and over his face before coiling them around the cider bottle. “You have no idea how badly I want to tie you down and make you forget everything but your name.”

“Your name,” Ignis corrected before he was consciously aware he’d opened his mouth to speak.

“Huh?” The way Gladio was staring at Ignis was starting to make him squirm, and Ignis could feel the way the heat was creeping up his neck.

“I’d sooner forget my own name than yours,” Ignis elaborated, knowing he sounded completely inane.

Gladio’s beaming smile banished any self-consciousness Ignis felt about the sentiment. “That’s sweet,” Gladio said. “So, to keep this talk from turning into something I don’t think we’re quite ready for yet,” he winked, “yeah, I want to play with you in all sorts of ways, but I’m also interested in exploring the D/s side a bit. That I have zero experience with, though I’ve read a few books.”

“Reading is more than many would-be dominants take the time to do before diving in with a submissive partner,” Ignis praised. “If you send me a list of what you’ve already read, I can make some suggestions that might help round it out.”

“I’ll do that. Thanks.” Gladio settled back, lazily balancing the cider on his thigh. “Your turn.”

Ignis knew fair was fair, but the idea of putting these thoughts and dreams into words was… daunting. He’d start with the easier portion, then. “As I’m certain you’ve surmised, I’d like you to beat me. Frequently.” He could feel that flush creeping from his neck to his cheeks, but not even Ignis could control himself well enough to fight off a blush. “I’d be open to bondage after we’ve… gotten used to each other more in that manner.”

“Can you be more direct? This ain’t the time for pretty words.”

“After we’ve played more often and built up that type of trust.” Ignis saw Gladio begin to frown and raised a hand in a placatory gesture. “I do trust you, Gladio, but I’d feel more comfortable playing unbound until we truly take each other’s measure.”

“That makes sense,” Gladio agreed.

Now, the challenging part. “I am interested in exploring a… deeper dynamic with you.” No. Gladio wanted directness, Ifrit take him. “I’ve no idea if we’d mesh on that level, but…” Ignis took a drink to wet his suddenly achingly dry mouth. “I’d like to try.”

“Tell me exactly what you want to try.”

“I want to be yours,” Ignis said, the words pitched scant decibels above a whisper.

“But what does that mean?” Gladio asked. “I’m not trying to be a dick here, Iggy, but remember that I’ve never done this.”

Ignis paused to consider. He’d never truly tried to put this concept into words. With his ex, he wasn’t given a voice, and if Ignis was honest with himself, there was a part of him that was ashamed of wanting some of the same things he’d endured with that man. His logical mind recognized the very key difference: consent. But he couldn’t help but feel trepidation over asking for some of the things he’d once had to escape.

“I promise you, Gladio, I’m not trying to avoid answering,” he finally began. “I’ve just realized that I’d never had to put this to words. I honestly never thought I’d have the occasion to try and take these yearnings from fantasy into reality.”

“That’s fair,” Gladio said. “And I imagine that some of this just grows organically, the same as any relationship.”

“I would assume so,” Ignis agreed.

“Why don’t we talk limits?” Gladio suggested. “That’s pretty cut and dry.”

“Well, yes and no,” Ignis disagreed with a small smile. “Some limits are meant to be pushed.”

“Okay, well, anything you say is a limit I’m not going near without your express request,” Gladio said firmly.

“I appreciate that.” Ignis leaned closer until their sides were pressed flush against each other. He felt he’d shown remarkable restraint to this point, and wanted the comfort of touch. Judging by the way Gladio slung one tattooed arm around Ignis’s shoulders, he didn’t object.

“Unless you’ve been trained: no knives, no fire, no electricity,” Ignis started. “You mentioned ‘dirty talk’ before. I’m okay with that to a point, but not with being… derided.”

“Can you give me examples?”

Deliberately lowering his eyes to focus on his half full glass, Ignis said, “Unacceptable would be most things counted as humiliation. I don’t want to hear that I’m worthless, or bad, or good for nothing without your guidance.”

A finger crooked under Ignis’s chin lifted his face until he met that warm amber stare. “Fuck, Iggy, I’d never say shit like that to anyone, least of all you.”

“I didn’t imagine you would,” Ignis said, “but you wished me to go over my limits. This is one of them.” He smiled, trying to dial back the heaviness the had descended over them with that exchange. “I didn’t feel it necessary to list illegal things such as inclusion of minors or animals, but those are obvious limits. I also avoid playing with… bodily wastes,” he phrased delicately. “And the inclusion of any additional person or persons during a scene must be pre-negotiated. Some surprises I enjoy. That is not one of them.”

“Those all make sense,” Gladio said.

“I have one more thing I’d like to add, though it isn’t a limit. I like to service top,” Ignis added, watching Gladio closely for his reaction. “Some dominants find that… unseemly behavior in a submissive.”

“Service topping… you’ll top others without dominating them much, mostly just for the sensation?”

“Basically,” Ignis agreed. “My topping has been limited to casual scenes at the Coeurl, but within the confines of a committed relationship, I see it as another way I could serve my dominant.”

“Works for me. The beating Nyx gave me was amazing, and I’d love to see what you can do.”

A weight lifted from Ignis’s heart with those words. This was turning out better than he could have ever dreamed.

“What of your limits, Gladio?” Ignis asked.

“Same as yours, mostly. The only other thing I can think of might sound really silly.”

“Gladio, I assure you, if it's important enough that you’re bringing it up right now, it’s not silly.”

“It seems like common protocol is for the submissive to address the dominant with titles and shit,” Gladio said. “I don’t like that idea. At all.”

“Then I won’t do it,” Ignis said smoothly. “See? Not silly at all.”

“Well…” Gladio was blushing again - intriguing. “I had an idea of somethin’ else you could call me when we’re in those roles.”

Ignis quirked a well-manicured brow and waited patiently.

“I like it when you use my full name,” Gladio muttered into his cider before taking a drink.

“Gladiolus,” Ignis murmured in a velvety tone.

“Yeah… can we use that, instead of Sir or Master or anything?”

“Of course,” Ignis said.

“I mean, you did say before that it’s the one thing you’d never forget,” Gladio teased, lips stretching in a wicked grin as he brushed his fingertips along Ignis’s forearm.

“I did,” Ignis breathed, leaning closer, delighting in the feel of that powerful body pressed against his.

“Wanna hear you scream it,” Gladio growled into Ignis’s ear, causing the lithe man to tremble against him.

“Gladio…” Ignis said pleadingly.

Gladio heeded the need in Ignis’s voice and closed the scant distance remaining between them, joining their lips together in an ardent, lingering kiss. When his boyfriend’s fingers coiled tightly against Ignis’s scalp, he moaned into Gladio’s mouth, raising his hands to lay against Gladio’s chest. Ignis could feel Gladio’s heartbeat pounding beneath his palm, the cadence not dissimilar to the chaotic frenzy of his own.

They truly were astonishingly well-matched.

Chapter Text

Ignis rang the doorbell of the Amicitia manor and adjusted his tie nervously while he waited for the door to be answered. He carried with him a bag full of cookie ingredients, his recipe notebook, and a bundle of anxiety so large it weighed him down as if he was lifting a metric ton of rock.

When the door opened to reveal a kindly middle-aged man’s smiling face, Ignis began to relax fractionally. The man looked at him expectantly and Ignis cleared his throat, feeling an embarrassed flush color his cheeks. He had better manners than this.

“Ignis Scientia. Gladiolus is expecting me.”

“Yes, Master Gladio mentioned you’d be along.” The man stepped aside to allow Ignis entry. “May I take your coat?”

“Yes, thank you, ah…” Ignis tried to recall if Gladio’d ever told him their butler’s name and came up blank. He took off his coat and passed it to the man, removing his shoes and leaving them by the door.

“I’m Jared, sir,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes. A loud crash covered up whatever it was he tried to say next, and Ignis barely contained an amused grin at the long-suffering look filling Jared’s face.

“If you follow the noise, you’ll find the festivities,” Jared said.

“Right,” Ignis said dryly, eliciting a chuckle from Jared in response.

They parted ways in the foyer, Ignis using the mixed sounds of raised voices and things being… thrown, or perhaps kicked, as his guide. In short order he found himself in a sprawling parlor. He paid scant attention to the fine furnishings, having become a touch inured to such things from life at the Citadel. But the Solstice tree was a sight to behold. Ignis didn’t think he’d ever seen a larger tree this close before. It had strands of multicolored lights wrapped around it but nothing else. Ah, that was the source of the din - Gladio and Iris were wrestling over boxes of decorations, clearly at odds over which to use first. There was also a small boy who seemed content to watch the Amicitia siblings quarrel with wide, serious eyes.

“Gladiolus,” Ignis said, smirking when his boyfriend looked up with an anak-in-headlights look about him. “Hello.”

“Hey, Iggy,” Gladio said, recovering quickly. “Glad you could make it.” He ruffled Iris’s hair as he continued to speak. “This little squirt is Iris.” Gladio reached out to give the boy’s hair similar treatment. “And this is Talcott, Jared’s grandson.”

Ignis walked towards the children and offered them each a solemn handshake in turn. “A pleasure to meet you both.” His lips twitched in the beginnings of a smile when he saw how both children puffed up at the adult treatment.

“It looks like you’re off to a fine start on the tree,” Ignis said. “Do you need my help here, or shall I start the cookies?” he asked, looking to Gladio.

“Cookies!” Iris cheered, bouncing slightly on her heels. “Can I help him, Gladdy? Can I?”

Gladio gave Ignis an uncertain look before turning his attention to his sister. “Uh, I suppose if Ignis doesn’t mind…”

Ignis smiled. “I don’t.” He looked at Talcott. “Will you also be assisting?”

Talcott shifted his feet a bit before he offered the adults a shy smile. “I could help Gladio with the tree?”

“Sounds good, munchkin,” Gladio said, giving him a gentle fistbump.

“I’ll show you the kitchen!” Iris chirped in excitement, grabbing Ignis’s empty hand and dragging him from the parlor.

Ignis wondered for a moment what he’d gotten himself into, but he rationalized that if he could handle Noctis’s tempestuous emotions as a child, surely one who seemed as bubbly and cheerful as Iris shouldn’t be difficult to spend an hour with baking cookies.

Oh, how wrong he was.

An hour later, the kitchen was in shambles. More ingredients splattered the floor and walls than had ever made it onto the cookie sheet, thanks to Iris’s enthusiastic stirring. To be fair, the mess was probably more from her using the dough-covered mixing spoon to imitate Gladio’s swordplay than the stirring itself.

Ignis couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed so hard or had so much fun. Of course he’d clean up the entire mess when the sheet of cookies they’d managed to cobble together were done baking. But Astrals, it was pleasant to spend time with such a carefree child. His heart panged as he contrasted Iris’s joy to Noct’s moodiness, wishing his charge could have known a similarly joyful upbringing. But the past was the past, and all Ignis could do was try and help His Highness find what happiness he could in the present.

“Hey, Iggy?” Iris asked, having picked up Gladio’s nickname for him.

“Yes?” Ignis started to wash the counter tops.

“How’d you learn to cook?”

Ignis finished rinsing the mixing bowl and set it on the drying rack. “Primarily from cookbooks, though I’m certain I made a right nuisance of myself with the Citadel chefs for a time.”

Iris’s face scrunched up in thought. “But why’d you learn at all when you can eat what they make?”

After setting the last of the utensils out to dry, Ignis opened the drain to let the dishwater drain. He turned to Iris and regarded her gravely, though the sparkle in his eyes belied the stark expression. “Can you keep a secret?”

She nodded solemnly.

“When Prince Noctis was a boy, he sampled a Tenebraean delicacy and thought it was the best dessert he’d ever tasted. With Tenebrae falling under the Empire’s control, he wasn’t able to visit with the Lady Lunafreya any longer, and so I decided to learn how to bake so that I could recreate the treat for him.” Ignis smiled whimsically. “To remind him of happier times, I suppose. Give him a little taste of his childhood.”

“That’s amazing,” Iris said, her eyes wide in amazement.

“All part of my duties,” Ignis said briskly, not truly feeling it was that special. The King had commanded him to see to Noctis’s happiness; Ignis did what small things he could come up with to try and lighten the Prince’s burden.

“How long have you worked with Prince Noctis?” Iris asked, a bit starry-eyed.

Ignis smiled. “Since I was six years old.”

“Wow…” Iris said, eyes wide in awe.

The chirp of the timer was a welcome respite; Ignis felt he had blathered on about himself quite enough for one afternoon. Ignis pulled the cookies out and shut off the oven after testing one to make sure they were baked all the way through. He interspersed himself between Iris and the tray when she reached for one. “They need to cool. Help me clean up?”

The grin she flashed his way was nearly identical to the one Gladio wore when he thought himself clever. “I’m gonna go see how they’re doing on the tree!” With that she took off at a run, leaving Ignis to look around the kitchen with a sigh.

Ah, well. At least this was familiar territory. Rolling up his shirtsleeves, Ignis began setting things to rights. If he worked efficiently, he should be done just as the cookies were cool enough to transfer to a platter. He’d take them out to the others so they could all enjoy as they continued to decorate.

So far this was the best Solstice Ignis could remember. It was with a smile on his face that he began to work.

Gladio had to admit that the house looked amazing. He didn’t really get into it the way Iris and Talcott did, but there was little he wouldn’t do to make the kids happy, and the end result of the day’s decorating was fucking fantastic.

And it certainly hadn’t hurt to have Ignis there. It was nice to see that he and Iris got along. In fact, aside from a couple moments when Ignis seemed to be uncertain of his role, he melded pretty seamlessly into the day’s festivities.

Gladio wished so badly that he could introduce Ignis to his family as his boyfriend, but he understood why Ignis had insisted they keep things private. While it wasn’t expressly forbidden, fraternization within your unit certainly wasn’t encouraged. If only Ignis was a Glaive and not a prospective Guard, if only they didn’t both serve in the Prince’s retinue…. fuck, he could run hypotheticals all day, it wouldn’t change jack shit. It was what it was, and that meant keeping things quiet, though Gladio fully intended to start getting a feel for how his father might react. Clarus would be a good barometer for how the rest of the Court would take the news, and he had the King’s ear, so…

Heaving a large sigh, Gladio finished packing away the empty decoration boxes. He’d be damned if he’d spend any more of what had been a fantastic day caught up in such deep thoughts. He forced a smile to his lips, knowing that it’d reach his eyes as soon as he rejoined the others and saw how happy they were.

Sure enough, the dinner table was full of light and laughter. His father hadn’t made it home yet, but they still had a sizeable group - Iris had managed to convince Jared to join them along with Talcott. Ignis seemed fully invested in trading recipes with the butler, so Gladio was pleasantly surprised when Ignis spared a moment to shoot him a happy smile.

Gladio’s heart fluttered in his chest. Gods, he loved Ignis so much. How had he gotten so lucky?

He walked around and dropped into his usual seat beside Iris. He noticed a place had been set for Clarus and wondered if Father would be able to join them before too much longer.

“Well, let’s not let the food get cold,” Gladio said with a grin as he began ladling garula stew into bowls and passing them around. “Eat it all up and I think there’s leftover cookies for dessert,” he added with a conspiratorial wink at the children.

“This is wonderful,” Ignis praised after taking a lingering taste. He turned back to Jared and began questioning him about his seasonings, and Gladio thought the older man hadn’t looked so pleased in, shit… years? No one else in the house was really interested in learning to cook, so Gladio added to this tidbit to the growing list in his mental pro/con list for Reasons To Come Clean with his loved ones about his relationship.

“I see you all started without me,” Clarus’s voice rang out, cutting through the banter with its severity. But when Gladio looked up, he saw the way his dad’s eyes twinkled and knew he was just poking fun.

“Dad!” Iris exclaimed, leaping up and dashing to give him a hug. Clarus caught her in mid air and cradled her coltish body easily in one arm, squeezing her affectionately before setting her down.

“Back to your place,” he chided gently. As he walked to his place at the head of the table, he nodded to Gladio and Jared and gave Talcott a small smile. Seating himself, he spoke again, “I see we have a guest tonight.”

Ignis stood and bowed. “Ignis Scientia, Lord Amicitia. Thank you for your hospitality.”

Clarus’s chuckle was dry. “I know who you are, lad, and you need not stand on such formality at my dinner table.”

“Apologies,” Ignis stammered as he sat back down.

Gladio shook his head. Well, that could’ve gone worse.

“I see you got a lot done today,” Clarus said.

“Yeah!” Iris beamed at their father. “Gladdy and Talcott decorated the tree and Ignis helped me make cookies!”

“I can’t wait to try them.” Clarus eyes twinkled with unfeigned enthusiasm, and Gladio was reminded yet again how lucky they were to have such a loving father. While it had hurt to lose his mother at such a tender age, Clarus had ensured there was no shortage of affection in the Amicitia manor.

Gladio served up a portion of the stew for his father and then tucked back into his. Conversation dwindled as everyone else did the same, but it wasn’t too long before spoons were set aside and cheerful talk filled the air.

“Ignis,” Clarus’s voice cut through the lighthearted din with ease despite him not raising his voice in the slightest. “You finish your degree in the spring?”

“Yes, sir,” Ignis said.

“And you’re training for the Crownsguard?”

“Yes, sir; I hope to take the spring entrance exam.”

“Isn’t it hard to balance all those personal pursuits around your duty to His Highness?” Clarus folded his hands on the table.

“Dad!” Gladio interjected. “Let him be, yeah? We’re all having a night off.”

“Gladiolus, we’re never ‘off’,” Clarus replied firmly. “And from the look on Ignis’s face, I’d daresay he agrees with me.”

“My phone’s on vibrate in my pocket,” Ignis said, “in case I’m needed.” He leveled a flat look at Gladio. “And I don’t mind your father’s questions. I’m honored he’s taking an interest.”

Clarus snorted. “Save those manners for the council, lad.” His face softened into a smile, and Gladio felt himself relax fractionally. “You haven’t answered my question, though.”

“I mean no disrespect,” Ignis began, “but I have to disagree with you.”

“‘Have to’, eh?” Clarus chuckled. “You have my attention. Continue.”

“I see neither my studies at University nor my Crownsguard training as ‘personal pursuits’.” Ignis sat up taller, and Gladio did his best to inform his cock that now was not the time to be aroused by the way those emerald eyes gleamed as Ignis began to explain himself.

“My studies will aid in my work on the Council and as an advisor to His Highness. My combat training ensures that I won’t be a liability to Prince Noctis’s safety, and in fact, an asset in his defense.” He tipped his head towards Gladio. “Yes, he has a Shield, and the rest of the Guard, the Glaive… but I am to be at his side, his right hand. It is only logical that I, too, be able to protect him from any threats he might encounter.”

Clarus’s smile broadened into the same grin both his children often sported and he actually clapped. “Well said, lad.”

Gladio let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.

“You’d do well to follow his example, Gladiolus,” Clarus said.

“Huh?” Gladio looked at his father. “Uh, I’m already a member of the Crownsguard.”

“You could further your education outside of your battle skills,” Clarus elaborated.

Gladio blinked. He’d never really considered it. Becoming faster, tougher, better at fighting had been his top priority for years. He knew someday his life would be spent to save that of the future king, and as much as he loved books and had enjoyed learning new things in school, he’d never really thought he needed any higher education.

“I’ll have to think about that,” Gladio settled on, darting a glance around the table. He saw poor Talcott half asleep over his empty plate, and Iris looked bored out of her mind.

Ignis, though. Those keen eyes were boring into Gladio’s head as if examining the contents of his brain with some sort of x-ray vision. It was a bit disconcerting, and Gladio turned his attention back to his dad.

“Maybe the kids should go to bed?” Gladio suggested.

“I’m not,” a yawn broke into Iris’s words, “a kid.”

“The cookies will keep until tomorrow,” Clarus smiled. He and Jared both rose to lead their respective children from the room. For all of Iris’s protests that she wasn’t a child, she still enjoyed the rare occasions Clarus was home to put her to bed.

As Gladio sat there still processing the unexpected turn in conversation, Ignis rose and began to clear the table.

“You don’t have to do that,” Gladio protested. “You can relax.”

Ignis tsked. “Jared does quite enough already, and I hardly mind.”

Gladio stood. “I’ll help.”

They worked largely in silence, and it didn’t take terribly long. It was familiar and yet different; Gladio’d grown used to helping Iggy in Noct’s kitchen, but having him here at his family house was… well, it was weird. Not bad-weird. Just weird. Unusual. Out of the ordinary.

“You wanna go get a drink?” Gladio asked. “Or we could go back to your place and talk?”

“I’d love to, Gladio, but I already agreed to meet with Nyx for drinks,” Ignis said apologetically. “We haven’t gotten to catch up in a long time.”

“No problem,” Gladio said. “Have fun.”

“Maybe…” Ignis trailed off, worrying his lower lip between his teeth, “you could join us later?”

“I don’t wanna intrude,” Gladio deflected quickly. He certainly wasn’t one of those people to curtail their partner from seeing their friends without him tagging along.

“You wouldn’t be,” Ignis assured him. “Crowe will be joining us around 10, once she’s off her shift. You could stop by.”

“Okay,” Gladio agreed. “Sounds good.”

The drive from Gladio’s house to the Coeurl was a welcome opportunity for Ignis to take a breath and reflect on the day he’d spent at his boyfriend’s house. It had gone far smoother than he had expected, and he’d genuinely enjoyed himself.

A night out with friends sounded like just the thing to resolve the lingering stress from the day. Astrals only knew tomorrow would bring its own share of challenges - both he and Noctis would be starting their exams, and Ignis at least still had his typical workload to complete at both the Citadel and Noctis’s home.

Ignis found parking easily and headed into the club, shaking off his sense of discomfort at going inside without his typical mask and disguise. But outside of the one night a month that the Coeurl’s Meow hosted its elite BDSM gathering, it was a typical club - they had drinks, food, and live music. Ignis figured it was worth checking out in its more mundane capacity. Plus, it was one of the few locations aside from the Citadel that both he and Nyx were familiar with, and Ignis frankly hadn’t wanted the stress of navigating to an unknown venue on top of everything else he was jugging at the moment. Perhaps it was selfish of him, but Nyx hadn’t seemed to mind.

He entered and took a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dimmed lighting and his ears to the cacophony of rock music pounding at his senses from the bandstand in the corner. Ignis stopped by the bar to order a beverage, very nearly asking for his typical soft drink before recalling that as this wasn’t party night, he could order something stronger. With a whiskey in hand he ventured forth to see if he could find either Nyx or an empty table.


He turned and saw his friend wearing his familiar broad grin, waving to him from an otherwise empty table. Ignis joined him, sitting down and taking a large sip of his drink. It burned wonderfully down his throat and he felt the warmth suffuse him almost immediately. It was just what he needed.

“How goes, gorgeous?” Nyx had chosen shots of something clear and flecked with gold that Ignis was unfamiliar with, and as Ignis watched he downed two of them in rapid succession.

“Busy,” Ignis replied succinctly. “But today was… nice.” Both his eyes and voice softened with the admission.

“Yeah, I know you’ve got your university exams next week, and you’re helping the Prince prep for his. What did you to today that has you all dreamy-eyed?” Nyx asked with a smirk before tossing back another shot.

Ignis was tempted to go get the Glaive a glass of water; at the rate his friend was drinking, he might need Crowe to carry him home. “I went by Gladio’s and helped them prepare for the Solstice.”

“Ooooohhhh,” Nyx cooed teasingly. “Holidays with the fam, eh?”

“Nothing like that,” Ignis muttered darkly, cursing the blush he felt burning over his fair cheeks. “Gladio just thought I’d enjoy helping decorate.”

“So they don’t know?” There was no need for Nyx to clarify.

“Of course not.” Ignis’s timbre was scandalized, verdant eyes going wide with shock at the suggestion. “No one can know, Nyx. If I could turn back time, you and Crowe wouldn’t even know.”

Ignis realized immediately how drastically he’d misspoken by the hurt darkening Nyx’s azure gaze. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” Nyx said coolly before taking another shot.

“No, I just…” Ignis ran fingers through his hair heedless of how it disordered the neatness of the style. “Fuck.”

“I guess it’s true,” Nyx quipped, “that you take on your partner’s mannerisms.” He smirked, the insult of the moment before seemingly forgotten. “I didn’t think you knew how to swear.”

“Oh, I know all sorts of things,” Ignis retorted, belatedly realizing how those words could be taken. He shook his head with another muttered oath and downed his drink, finding atypical pleasure in the way it fuzzed the edges of his awareness.

“I have no doubt, beautiful,” Nyx laughed. “I know what you meant, Ignis. I honestly don’t think the fallout would be as bad as you think, but I respect your decision. You know Crowe and I have your back on this.”

“And I’m grateful.”

Nyx pushed one of those sparkling shots across the table and lifted one in his hand. “For Hearth and Home.”

Ignis lifted the small glass carefully and clinked it against his friend’s. “For Lucis.”

They downed the shots in unison, and Ignis immediately started coughing.

“Astrals… that burns.”

“I know, right?” Nyx seemed inordinately pleased with himself. “I figure a drink that tastes like burning is appropriate for a man named after fire.”

“Fair enough,” Ignis wheezed, wishing more than ever he’d obtained that glass of water.

Nyx’s laugh was immediate. “I thought you could handle your liquor, Scientia.”

Ignis considered how best to answer the taunt, and offered Nyx an upraised middle finger in response.

The Glaive’s laughter increased, tears beading at the corners of his eyes. “I… I didn’t think you knew how to do that,” he managed between guffaws, in mirror of his earlier statement regarding Ignis’s invective.

“You’ll find I’m quite talented with my fingers,” Ignis smirked as he also mirrored his earlier words, realizing a heartbeat later exactly how that sentence had to have sounded.

Nyx’s laughter stopped as abruptly as if it had an off button, and his answering grin was unabashedly lecherous. “I’d love to find out first hand, gorgeous.”

“You hitting on your students again?” Crowe asked as she dropped into the chair next to Nyx’s.

“I do have a reputation to uphold,” Nyx retorted, leaning in to give her a kiss.

Ignis was grateful for Crowe’s timely arrival. He took a sip of his drink to give the two time to finish their more private hello uninterrupted. Once they drew apart, Ignis smiled at her. “Good evening, Crowe.”

“Hey, Ignis,” she smiled. “This one behaving himself?”

“Rarely,” he said with a smirk.

“Typical Nyx, then,” she sighed and rolled her eyes dramatically. “Good thing I’m here to keep you in line.”

“But who’ll keep you in line?” The low rumble of Gladio’s voice sent tingles down Ignis’s spine.

He twisted in his chair to smile at Gladio, his smile widening when his boyfriend sat next to him. They pressed their legs together underneath the table, the closest they could come to being physically affectionate in public.

“Unlike some of us,” Crowe bumped her shoulder against Nyx’s playfully, “I actually have a sense of decorum.”

“Overrated in my book,” Nyx quipped. “Hey, Gladio, glad you could join us.”

“Still keeping the newbs from stabbing themselves?” Crowe asked.

“Most of the time,” Gladio grinned.

Ignis felt the familiar weight of Gladio’s large hand land on his thigh and his eyes widened. He shot Gladio a side-long look and couldn’t help the sigh that escaped when he saw the wicked glint gleaming in those amber eyes. In direct opposition to his outward disapproving mien, Ignis’s heart hammered traitorously in his chest. It had been a busy week, and it had been too long since he’d felt Gladio’s touch. He’d take what he could get.

Turning back to the group, Ignis jumped in to the ongoing conversation about magical theory and Crownsguard training, hoping he could give intelligent discourse despite the maddening effect of Gladio’s fingers brushing in slow stripes back and forth on his leg.

It was interesting how easy it was to unsettle Ignis given that he always carried himself with such controlled perfection, Gladio mused. Not that he was complaining. It was beyond entertaining watching Ignis’s posture grow straighter and stiffer, watching him so carefully school his facial features into polite interest despite the blush riding his high cheekbones.

Gladio was vaguely aware that Iggy and the Glaives were talking magic, but as that wasn’t his area of expertise, he probably wouldn’t be expected to do much more beyond nod at the regular intervals. So Gladio decided it was time to have a little fun, see just what Ignis would let him get away with, maybe try out some of the things he’d read about in that booklist he’d found in his personal email the morning after their last late night chat.

He cupped his hand over Ignis’s knee, then let his fingers slowly creep towards Ignis’s inseam. Gladio just barely held in the pleased chuckle that threatened to escape his control when he heard Ignis stammer in mid-sentence. He traced his fingertips up along the trail laid out for him by the stitching until he was a hairsbreadth from Ignis’s center, and then he slid his hand back along Ignis’s leg until again settling on his knee. Gladio started to repeat the pattern, but faltered when his name was called.

“Gladio? Glaaaaadio? Eos to Amicitia?” Nyx leaned forward to wave his hand in front of Gladio’s face.

“What?” Gladio asked gruffly, and fuck it, now he was the one who was blushing. Nyx and Crowe both looked all too knowing.

“Get us another round?” Crowe asked. “Since you aren’t exactly paying attention to the conversation anyway.”

“Sure,” Gladio said agreeably. “Be right back.”

As he headed over to the bar, it occurred to him that maybe instead of distracting both himself and Iggy, he should focus on enjoying the time with his friends. He could probably steal a few moments with Ignis later.

Gladio settled onto one of the barstools after he placed the group’s order, figuring it might take a while so he might as well be comfortable. He zoned out, tapping his foot in tune with the song the band was playing. They weren’t half bad.

Someone knocked into his shoulder hard enough to get his attention, and Gladio turned with an annoyed glare at the ready. But he didn’t see a drunken stranger; he saw Ignis flashing as smirk over his shoulder as he vanished down the hall leading to the restrooms.

Fucking shit, did Ignis want Gladio to follow him? Did he want to… here? Now?

To hell with the drinks. Gladio wanted to see what was brewing in his boyfriend’s devious mind. He hopped off the stool and followed.

When Gladio walked into the men’s room he was confused. It was empty. The fuck was Iggy playing at? He walked in further and peeked into the open stalls in case Ignis decided to hide in one of them.

With no warning, Gladio was shoved forward into a stall, and he would know the long, lithe lines of the body pressed against him blindfolded.

Ignis locked the stall door and slid his hands up Gladio’s back, curling them around his broad shoulders. “Hi.”

“Hi yourself,” Gladio said bemusedly, wrapping his arms around Ignis’s waist and pulling him close.

“I thought we could use a moment apart,” Ignis explained with a raspy edge to his baritone that should fucking be illegal.

“I ain’t complaining,” Gladio growled before leaning down to capture Ignis’s lips in a heated kiss.

The way that Ignis’s fingers dug in to the meat of Gladio’s shoulders, demanding and possessive, ratcheted the tension of the kiss higher. Gladio slid one leather-clad leg between Ignis’s knees, rubbing his thigh against the growing bulge beneath those perfectly tailored slacks.

When Ignis’s response was to rut against Gladio’s leg, Gladio nearly lost it then and there. He reached down to palm his own cock through his pants even as he slid his other hand under Ignis’s shirt, sliding over the definition of his abs and along his chest. He rested his palm sentimentally over the furious pounding of Ignis’s heart before sliding it to the left and teasing at one nipple with the calloused pad of his thumb.

Ignis bit his lower lip and sucked it into his mouth, and Gladio let out a strangled moan, both hands rising to bracket Ignis’s face. Once Ignis released his lip, Gladio kissed him again; deeper, hotter, fiercer. He pushed his tongue into Ignis’s mouth and felt his dick twitch where it rubbed against Gladio’s thigh.

Gladio grabbed Ignis around the waist and spun him around, slamming his back against the stall door. He reached out to undo the top two buttons of Ignis’s shirt after loosening his tie, then lowered his mouth to attack the exposed hint of collarbone and chest, punctuating sensuous licks with sharp little nips. He flexed his leg, pushing it closer to Ignis who still wantonly rubbed against it. The tiny gasps and ragged sighs only served to fuel Gladio’s ardor as he sucked a large mark at the juncture of Ignis’s shoulder and neck.

“We should… stop…” Ignis panted, but his body seemed to disagree from the way he kept moving against the larger man.

“Now why would you do that?” a familiar voice interjected, causing Gladio to swear and turn away from his boyfriend towards the interloper.

Apparently, at some point, they’d unlocked the stall and neither had noticed, so caught up in each other they were.

Gladio supposed he should be grateful it was Nyx Ulric who’d discovered them and not some random Lucian who’d send it through the gossip mill, but fuck, he didn’t want to be interrupted, dammit.

“You guys have been gone twenty minutes,” Nyx said mildly. “We wondered if something happened. The bartender pointed me in this direction.”

“Sorry,” Ignis muttered. A sidelong glance in his direction had Gladio wondering how in the name of the Six Ignis had managed to button his shirt, fix his hair, and attain such a serene facial expression in the last sixty seconds.

“We’ll be right there,” Gladio promised.

Nyx smirked. “Don’t forget the drinks.” Then he was gone, and it was just Gladio, Ignis, and the monumental embarrassment of having gotten caught.

“Perhaps when we continue where we left off… it should be somewhere with a properly locking door,” Ignis suggested dryly.

Gladio couldn’t do anything but throw back his head and laugh.

Chapter Text

The week had passed quickly - how could it not, with exams on top of Ignis’s normal duties? He was relieved that both Gladio and Nyx released him from Crownsguard training for the week, although he didn’t like that he hadn’t Gladio at all the entire week. Additionally, Noctis was so busy with his own rigorous exam schedule that his demands on Ignis’s time were decreased in many ways. Ignis hardly minded the study sessions, quite pleased to see the Prince actually worried about his grades.

Noct was growing up.

But today Ignis had sat his last exam; now there was nothing for it but to wait for his grades to be posted. With the Solstice only days away, he was hoping that his Professors would have time to complete the grading before the holiday break, but he wasn’t holding his breath. Nor was he terribly worried about his standing. Perhaps his confidence in this area was unseemly, but Ignis was fairly certain that he’d done exceedingly well.

He’d stopped by Noct’s apartment, giving it a cursory cleaning before the Prince and his friend arrived from their last exam. Ignis didn’t have it in him to insist on proper nutrition tonight - he called in the pizza order himself, and when he left, the younger men had already fired up their video game.

Ignis thought they’d all earned a break, and he was looking forward to spending his with Gladio.

Gladio hadn’t told him much other than that Ignis wasn’t to prepare anything, just go about his day as usual, then return home and relax until Gladio arrived. There were few things Gladio could have asked of him that would be more difficult, truth be told, but Ignis was just exhausted enough from the week that he found himself atypically pleased with the idea of kicking his feet up and letting someone else do the work.

He let himself into his apartment and put away his coat, shoes, and briefcase. Ignis decided to take a bath, an indulgence he didn’t allow himself often. Why go to such trouble when a shower was considerably more efficient?

After collecting his pajamas, some candles, and a glass of wine, Ignis made his way down the short hallway to the bathroom. He lit the candles while the tub was filling and smiled at the soft light and gentle scent of apples. Ignis wasn’t really one for bubbles, but he made an exception, digging out an ancient bottle Noct had given him as a gag gift on Mother’s Day years ago. While Ignis didn’t appreciate being made fun of in such a manner - mothers, and women in general, didn’t hold the monopoly on caring for children, after all - he wasn’t one to waste a perfectly good item. He poured some into the tub and stripped off his clothing, feeling lazy enough that he just piled it on the sink instead of folding it.

Once the tub was filled, he climbed in and settled back with a sigh. He took one deep sip of the wine, lay his head back against the tiled wall, and reveled in the feeling of tension draining from his muscular body. Astrals, this was wonderful. He allowed his mind to wander, not really thinking about anything of import, feeling remarkably relaxed from the combination of the warm water, the flickering candlelight, and the superb red wine.

“Iggy?” A gentle hand shook his shoulder, rousing Ignis to consciousness. “Iggy, hey, you dozed off?”

Ignis blinked sleep from his eyes and looked up with a smile. Normally, he’d be embarrassed to be caught lazing about, but Gladio had told him to relax. A subtle undercurrent of arousal began to coil deep inside of him when he saw how happy Gladio looked - saw the way Gladio couldn’t help but try and see through the bubbles and catch a glimpse of Ignis’s naked body.

“Hi,” Ignis said with another smile. “I hope you haven’t been waiting long while I napped.” From the temperature of the water, he’d been out a while.

“Nah,” Gladio demurred. “I just got here. Came down here when I couldn’t find you out there.” He reached out and slid his fingers through Ignis’s damp hair, scratching his scalp lightly.

Ignis sighed and leaned into the touch, turning his head to press a kiss to Gladio’s wrist.

“I’m impressed,” Gladio said, a hint of humor in his voice. “I didn’t expect you to take my instruction quite to this level. I just didn’t want you to have to cook for change.”

“Well, you said relax,” Ignis murmured, dropping his eyes. “So I did.”

Gladio leaned forward and nuzzled his cheek against Ignis’s, whispering in his ear, “Good boy.”

Ignis’s face flushed with joy at the praise, and the knowledge Gladio was pleased with him. Beneath the bubbles on the bathwater’s surface, his cock twitched in response to the praise, and Ignis was glad for the camoflauge.

Not that Gladio hadn’t felt his erection many an evening now, grinding down against him while they were making out. But feeling and seeing where different things, and Ignis, already out of his element being caught in the tub, was feeling a touch shy.

After sharing a sweet, soft kiss, Gladio stood up. “I’m gonna go get dinner ready. Take your time,” he said before leaving the bathroom, closing the door behind him with a quiet click.

Ignis exhaled raggedly, listening to the sound of Gladio’s footsteps fading away as his boyfriend walked farther down the hall. Sitting up in the tub, he grabbed his loofah and soap, figuring he may as well get clean while he was here. That he attended to with his typical economy of motion, though when he reached a soapy hand between his legs, his resolve faltered.

He stroked his cock to hardness - not a challenge, given how Gladio’s presence was enough to put him in the mood. He wondered what would happen if he took too long - if Gladio came back to check on him and found him jerking off in the tub. The thought was enough to make him moan, reaching down with his other hand to work a pair of soapy fingers in his ass.

Who knew where the night would take them? He may as well be prepared.

Ignis declined to bring himself to release, wanting to save that for Gladio. They’d done an admirable job at not rushing the physical side of their relationship, but as far as Ignis was concerned, they’d waited long enough.

He wanted Gladio - all of him - tonight.

Stepping out of the tub, Ignis wrapped a fluffy towel around himself before turning and unstopping the drain. He dried off quickly and slipped into his pajamas, tidying up the bathroom while the water drained. Gathering his dirty clothing, Ignis left the bathroom, stopping to toss them in his bedroom hamper before joining Gladio in the kitchen.

He was surprised all over again when he saw Gladio actually cooking - not the bags of takeout or array of Cup Noodles Ignis had expected from past experiences.

Walking to stand next to Gladio, Ignis planted a soft kiss on his boyfriend’s bare shoulder before turning his attention to the pots on the stovetop. “What are you making?”

“Nothin’ special,” Gladio said. “Rice bowls; nothin’ fancy.. I’ve got the chickatrice in the oven to roast.”

“Sounds wonderful,” Ignis said sincerely. “Thank you.”

“You’re always feeding everyone,” Gladio waved off the praise with a fond smile. “Figured after this week you could use a night off. Why don’t you go sit down? I’ll bring everything out when it’s done. Put on a movie or something.”

While Ignis itched to help with the chores, his need to obey was stronger. “All right.” He chose a movie at random and set it up, watching the trailers idly while he waited for Gladio.

Gladio joined him with two steaming bowls of food, which he set on the coffee table before returning to the kitchen for drinks and flatware. Once everything was arranged to his satisfaction he sat next to Ignis, and Ignis took that as his cue to start the movie proper.

The ate in silence, a testament to how tasty dinner had turned out. Ignis snuck little sidelong glances at his boyfriend and realized Gladio had been sucked into the movie. That suited Ignis just fine as it enabled him to stare a little more openly than he might if Gladio’s attention wasn’t being held elsewhere.

Even bathed in the fluorescent glow of the television, Gladio was a handsome man. Those stunning eyes, like molten gold. The puckered scar that only served to highly the rest of his facial perfection. Full lips that Ignis knew with devastating clarity were sinfully kissable.

Ignis still did not truly understand why a man like Gladiolus Amicitia was so taken with him: plain, boring, dependable Ignis.

But damned if he was going to question his good fortune.

“Somethin’ on my face?” Gladio asked playfully.

Ignis blushed scarlet, clearly caught in the act. “Ah… no,” he stammered. Where was his lauded aplomb now? “Just… admiring the view.” He cringed at the cheesiness of the words as soon as they tripped free of his lips, but from the broad smile that wreathed Gladio’s face in unabashed happiness, he clearly didn’t mind.

“Wanna turn off the movie?” Gladio’s voice was low and enticing.

Ignis hesitated. “You seem to be enjoying it.”

“Iggy.” Gladio shook his head in bemusement. “It’s on DVD; I can watch it anytime.” He reached out and plucked the remote from the coffee table, shutting down the show. “I’d rather look at you than a screen,” he purred, reaching out to stroke one calloused fingertip along Ignis’s cheekbone.

The gentle caress made him shiver, electricity sparking in its wake.

“Gladio,” Ignis whispered, reaching out to cup Gladio’s face tenderly in his hands.

“Ignis,” Gladio breathed his name like a prayer as they began to draw together inexorably, eyes locked irrevocably.

“I love you…”

Ignis thought it was a mistake when those gorgeous eyes shot wide in surprise. But then he realized tears were shining in those burnished depths, and a heartbeat later Gladio’s mouth was crashing against his desperately.

When they came up for air, Gladio reached out and bracketed Ignis’s face with his large hands, mirroring Ignis’s position.

“I love you, too.”

Ignis surged against him like the moon being pulled along with the tide, kissing him so deeply he wasn’t sure where he ended and Gladio began. They were as one in that moment, entwined on the couch in a passionate embrace, moving against each other to the roaring cadence of their hearts.

He hadn’t realized it was possible to feel so happy.

Ignis wished this moment could last forever.

Ignis loved him. Ignis Scientia loved Gladiolus Amicitia. The Royal Chamberlain loved the Prince’s Shield.

Ignis loved him.

Ignis loved him.

No matter how Gladio’s brain tried to parse it, it felt too fucking unreal to actually be happening. He must be dreaming. That was the only thing that made any damn sense. But as they continued to make out, Ignis sank his teeth into Gladio’s lower lip, and the jolt of pain - not unlike a pinch - didn’t make him wake up.

This was real. This was really happening.

Six, he was blessed.

When Ignis tugged insistently at the hem of Gladio’s shirt, he lifted his arms, allowing the other man to pull it free. He was startled when Ignis threw it on the floor rather than folding it neatly and laying it aside, but fuck if he cared. Especially when Ignis began trailing those heated kisses down, lavishing attention over the column of Gladio’s throat before painting trails of devotion over his clavicle.

“Ignis,” Gladio moaned, his hands coiling in his boyfriend’s hair, still a touch damp from the bath.

“Gladio,” Ignis drawled, the word muffled by the way his mouth pressed to Gladio’s breastbone. “Gods, you taste so good…”

Fucking shit, where had this come from? Sure, Ignis hadn’t always been shy, but this rapid transition from dreamy and romantic to hot and heavy was startling.

Ignis flicked his tongue against Gladio’s left nipple, little kittenish licks that only left Gladio wanting more. He realized he must have said as much out loud because the licks transitions into a firm suckle, eliciting a reverent oath under his breath.

Wanting to even the score, Gladio pulled away far enough to dislodge Ignis’s mouth. He reached out and undid the buttons of Ignis’s pajama top, pushing it off his shoulders so it hung around his elbows. Wish a flash of inspiration, Gladio reached out and grasped Ignis’s chin firmly in his hand.

“What’s your safeword?”


“Hold still.” Gladio reached behind Ignis and wrapped the pajama shirt around his forearms twice, securing the fabric with a twist. He knew if Ignis truly wanted to, he could break free with no issue. They had discussed holding off on bondage for the time, but to Gladio’s mind, this was more a hint of things to come since Ignis had the ability to untangle himself at any time. Still, best to be sure.

“This okay?” he asked quietly, studying Ignis’s face for any sign of discomfort.

Ignis’s eyes were unfocused as he nodded at Gladio. “Yes.”

“Thank you,” Gladio murmured, knowing Ignis would understand the subtext - he was grateful for the trust being shown, happy that they were able to have the mini-negotiation without breaking the mood. In fact, for Gladio? It only enhanced it.

He leaned forward and licked a long line from Ignis’s bellybutton up to the flutter of the pulse in his throat, a satisfied chuckle rumbling deep in his chest at the way Ignis trembled beneath his mouth.

“Want you,” Gladio muttered, latching his teeth around that pulse point, applying just enough pressure that Ignis would need to hold still lest he hurt himself. This only made the lithe man shiver harder, Gladio assumed from equal parts effort and arousal.

“Need you!” Ignis’s voice was a taut rasp, his careful control coming uncoiled and giving way to his desire.

Gladio growled and released his hold on Ignis’s throat, moving to explore his chest and abdomen with teeth and tongue, taking especial delight in licking along the hip bones that jutted out above the low-slung pajama bottoms. He could tell from the way Ignis’s erection tented the soft cotton fabric that he wasn’t wearing anything underneath.

So fucking hot.

He dipped his tongue beneath the waistband of Ignis’s pants and swiped it over the tip of that hard cock, lapping up the pre-come that had beaded on the head.

Ignis screamed, his hips jerking gracelessly.

Gladio made a pleased sound where he buried his lips against Ignis’s stomach before kissing his way back up Ignis’s body, reveling in the needy, whining sounds Ignis made with increased intensity the farther Gladio went from his dick. Gladio muffled those cries with his lips, sharing another passionate kiss. He stayed there for a while, enjoying the way Ignis tasted, like coffee, and dinner, and the salt of the sweat beading on his fine-boned features.

When Ignis thrust his tongue into Gladio’s mouth, Gladio opened his mouth wider, enjoying the intrusion and moving his tongue against Ignis’s sensually. Easing back, he nipped sharply at Ignis’s lips, noting the way color rose in his cheeks and his pupils dilated, leaving only a slim ring of brilliant green around the blackness. Gladio eased back into a deep kiss, and just when he felt Ignis relax into the sweetness of the gesture, he lifted his hand to palm Ignis’s cock through his pajama pants.

Gladio!” Ignis cried out against his mouth, bucking his hips wantonly as Gladio drew his hand away. “Let me touch you,” Ignis pleaded. “Touch me more.”

“Not now,” Gladio said with a sly wink before peppering delicate butterfly kisses over the soft skin of Ignis’s face. This time, the gentleness didn’t soothe Ignis’s posture or slow his breathing; rather, Gladio could see his posture grow more rigid, hear his breath come in gasping little pants.

“Gladio, please!”

“I like the sound of you begging,” Gladio purred, curling a finger under Ignis’s chin and lifting his face until their eyes met in a searing battle of wills. “Tell me exactly what you want and maybe I’ll give it to you.”

Ignis’s eyes widened, and when he spoke his voice shook with tension and nerves. “I’m not terribly comfortable speaking of such matters so openly.”

“That’s not your safeword.” Gladio’s grin was wicked, amber eyes dancing with mingled delight and desire. He knew that look on Iggy’s face - his boyfriend was far more aroused than uncomfortable - maybe aroused in part because he was uncomfortable.

“Fuck me,” Ignis whispered.

Gladio chuckled, the sound a low rumble deep in his throat. “For such a smart, wordy guy, that’s the best you can do?”

Gladiolus!” Ignis moaned, throwing his head back.

“Guess we’ll just keep doin’ what I want, then,” Gladio said. He stood up and swept Ignis into his arms easily, though the haphazardly ‘tied’ shirt fell away from Ignis’s arms. He carried Ignis into the bedroom, dropping him on the mattress before climbing over him until their eyes locked again.

“Take off your pants.”

“Y-yes, Gladiolus,” Ignis whispered before stripping off the garment and tossing it aside.

Gladio left his shorts on, knowing his self control was already hanging by a thread. Sure, they had confessed their love, what better time to finally make love? But, no… he had another night in mind.

That didn’t mean they couldn’t have some fun in this moment.

He grasped Ignis’s wrists and crossed them above his head. “Don’t break position.”

“Yes, Gladiolus.” Wide emerald eyes shone with trust, with lust.

Gladio rubbed his clothed erection against Ignis’s thigh, perilously close to the other man’s weeping cock but staying just far enough away not to give him the desired friction.

He wanted to hear Iggy beg again.

Bowing his head, Gladio laved his tongue roughly over the hardened peaks of Ignis’s nipples, nipping at them gently as he skimmed a hand up Ignis’s side. He let his nails dig in just enough to leave scratch marks behind and was rewarded when Ignis arched off the bed as if hit by a lightning spell.

Gladio kissed his way down that scratched side, following the trail of the nail marks, until he reached Ignis’s hip bone. He licked along it - Gladio just fucking loved learning the planes and angles of Ignis’s body - and nipped at his upper thigh. Turning his head, he allowed his breath to puff against his boyfriend’s erection hotly, grinning in deep satisfaction at the strangled sound Ignis let out.

“You want more, babe?” Gladio asked teasingly, looking up along his boyfriend’s body to try and catch his eyes. It wasn’t the best angle but he caught a hint of green, saw the was Ignis chewed his lower lip. Tremors coursed along his lithe form and it took all of Gladio’s considerable willpower not to just take him then and there.

But Gladio had a plan. His deeply romantic heart wanted their first time to be perfect.

“Yes,” Ignis hissed between clenched teeth. “Please!”

Deciding to let his actions speak for him, Gladio scooted closer and ran the tip of his tongue from Ignis’s balls to the crown of his cock, capturing the pre-come leaking from the tip. He kept his eyes trained upward, reveling in the utter and complete loss of control painted over Ignis’s sharp features. Gladio had to admit, he never would have guessed Iggy could let go so completely, never imagined that the other man would let himself be so vulnerable.

He fucking loved it.

Gladio lavished attention on Iggy’s dick with his tongue until he lost his patience with the teasing and sucked the tip into his mouth. He hummed in pleasure at the feeling - Ignis was so hard, and hot; his cock twitched and swelled inside Gladio’s mouth.

Closing his eyes to soak up the sensations of finally tasting his boyfriend in the way he’d fantasized about for so long, he didn’t see when Ignis lowered his arms, but he felt it when Ignis gently twined his fingers in Gladio’s hair.

Gladio popped off Ignis’s erection with an obscene pop, a trail of saliva extending between his lips and Ignis’s dickhead. “Who gave you permission to move?”

Ignis froze. He didn’t even seem to breath. Gladio frowned in confusion, then was struck with a realization that he fervently wished had happened before he opened his mouth.

The very first time he tried mixing power exchange with their sexual play… as exciting as it obviously had been for Ignis, for his reactions seemed honest and unfeigned, Gladio figured part of his brain was comparing it to that fucking piece of shit who used dominance as a smokescreen for abuse.

Gladio suspected he’d just put his foot in his mouth and referenced something from Ignis’s past. He couldn’t think of anything else that would send Ignis into what looked like a panic attack. His cock had deflated entirely, and after another moment of stillness, Ignis rolled off the bed, scuttling back to huddle against the bedroom wall with his knees drawn to his chest, arms protectively wrapped around his head and neck.


“It’s okay, Iggy,” Gladio said gently. He moved slowly off the bed, and knelt a couple paces back from Ignis, giving him space so he wouldn’t spook him further. “Breathe for me, yeah? Nice and steady.” Gladio counted a rhythm, and was relieved when Ignis was able to match his breathing to the pattern. “That’s the way,” he encouraged. “Keep breathing. I’m going to get you a blanket so you don’t get cold.”

Gladio dragged the comforter off the bed. “Is it okay if I wrap this around you?”

Ignis nodded, but didn’t look up.

With exceeding tenderness, Gladio wrapped the fuzzy fabric around Ignis’s shaking shoulders, tucking it in like nothing so much as an oversized bath towel so that it’d stay in place without needing to be held up. “Keep breathing, Iggy. You’re safe. I’ve got you.”

Gradually, Ignis’s breathing grew softer and leveled out from the carefully controlled rhythm to a more typical cadence.


Gods, it hurt his heart to hear Ignis’s voice sound so tentative, edged with the afterimage of instinctive fear.


Ignis raised his head, and Gladio tried to keep his own face smooth when he saw how red and swollen Ignis’s eyes had grown from the tears spilling silently down his cheeks.

“Hold me?”

“You got it.”

Gladio scooted to sit next to Ignis and drew the blanket-wrapped man close to his chest, wrapping his strong arms around him protectively. He gently stroked a hand over Ignis’s hair and continued to murmur soothing words.

When he felt the tremors fade into stillness, Gladio took a peek at Ignis’s face. He wasn’t surprised that his boyfriend had fallen asleep. A fond smile curved his lips and he decided to try and get Ignis into bed. This couldn’t be the most comfortable position to spend the night, and he didn’t want Ignis waking up with a sore neck or anything.

Carefully, oh so carefully, Gladio stood, grateful for all his heavy weight training making it possible for him to heft the unconscious form of his love. He lay Ignis out on the bed and took off his glasses, which unfortunately caused him to rouse.

“Gladio…?” Ignis blinked at him blearily, clearly not fully awake.

“It’s okay, babe. Get some sleep.”

One hand shot out from the blanket and gripped Gladio’s wrist tightly. “Don’t leave. Please.” The plea shaped by that raspy baritone made Gladio’s heart ache all over again. Gladio climbed into the bed and pulled Ignis back into his arms, kissing the top of his head softly.

“I ain’t goin’ anywhere.”

When Ignis awoke the next morning, he was confused.  Confusion bled into panic when he tried to roll over and get his glasses off the nightstand but realized he couldn’t move.  His movement caused Gladio’s arm - the reason for Ignis’s immobility - to pull him closer, and Ignis bit back an embarrassed laugh.

This was the first time Ignis had woken up cuddled with Gladio, and he decided he rather enjoyed it.

Memories of the previous night hung heavy in his mind, limiting his appreciation of the morning.   He managed to extricate himself from Gladio’s embrace, a grin blossoming briefly upon his face at the face Gladio grunted, rolled over, and clung to Ignis’s pillow.

Ignis dressed quickly in the clean pajamas he’d worn so briefly after his bath the night before. After sliding on some slippers to ward his feet from the chill of the morning, he put on his glasses and padded out into the kitchen to brew some coffee. The quiet click of the bedroom door shutting behind him seemed thunderous in the silence of pre-dawn, but thankfully Gladio slept through it.

Watching as the coffee dripped slowly into the carafe, Ignis thought about the previous night. Things had been going so very well until he’d managed to ruin a lovely evening with his massive overreaction. The additional intimacy with Gladio had been amazingly good; everything about it making Ignis feel more and more relaxed from the way Gladio didn’t get mad at Ignis when he bit the other man, to the casual way Gladio took charge partway through.

All Gladio had asked of him was he keep his Astrals-blasted arms crossed over his head, and Ignis let himself get so carried away by the pleasure of the moment that he’d forgotten the instruction entirely. He’d been so overwhelmed by the sensation of Gladio’s mouth on his cock that he just had to touch him.  Ignis was no shrinking virgin who’d never had a mouth on his dick, but this had been different.

It was Gladiolus.

Now, in the muted light of day with the scent of coffee already helping his brain work more quickly, Ignis was able to recognize that Gladio hadn’t truly cared that Ignis had broken position.  His comment had been teasing, not angry; Ignis suspected on some level, Gladio would have been pleased that he rendered Ignis incapable of following such a simple direction.

Ignis filled his largest mug and sat at the small kitchen table.  He took a sip, wincing at way it burned his tongue. Part of him found perverse satisfaction in the pain; he deserved punishment for the way he’d mishandled the previous night.  

No.  That was him talking, that unwelcome ghost of the past.

The same voice that had rang in his memory last night a beat after Gladio’s playful words, harsh and unforgiving.

Ignis watched a tear fall in his coffee, following the tiny ripples as they expanded outward.  What apt imagery. Ignis laughed humorlessly under his breath. The Six only knew the ‘ripples’ that would ensue from his outburst last night.

He saw there quietly and watched as tears sprinkled into his mug like a gentle rain.    When they ceased, Ignis dried his eyes with his sleeve and cleaned the lenses of his glasses.  Taking a deep gulp of his now tepid coffee, Ignis imagined he could taste his regret and sadness, an added bitterness to the already acrid brew.

He finished the cup and poured himself another.  A glance at the clock showed it was almost six. Thankfully, he hadn’t anything to attend to early today.  Noctis would certainly sleep most the day away after his post exam week game night with Prompto. Ignis pulled out some eggs, cheese, and vegetables and started to put together a simple omelette.  The rhythms of chopping and stirring soothed him, and soon the kitchen was filled with the scent of food competing with the aroma of the coffee.

“Hey, Iggy.”

Ignis looked up, startled.   He supposed it was reasonable the smell of breakfast would wake Gladio, but he still felt a momentary pang of guilt over disturbing his boyfriend.   “Good morning,” he said cautiously. A small voice deep inside was screaming at him to run, to take cover, to hide. But this is Gladiolus, Ignis reasoned with himself.  Even if Gladio were upset with him, he wasn’t the type to strike out at others in anger.

“Smells great,” Gladio said. “Can I help?”

“No,” Ignis shook his head. “It’s almost ready.  Would you like some coffee?”

“Nah, but I’d like some Iggy,” Gladio grinned, leaning over and planting a kiss on Ignis’s cheek.

Ignis’s lips twitched in the hint of a smile. “Let me tend to this so it doesn’t burn.”

Gladio sat at the table and watched Ignis work.  Ignis was intensely aware of his scrutiny, and his shoulders tensed.  He knew they needed to talk, but he was incredibly anxious about this conversation.  Why, though? You’ve already told him about your past. He’s not going to judge you for having a rough moment.

Flipping the omelette, Ignis frowned down at the eggs.  What if any time we try to mix dominance and submission with sexual play I react like this?  What if I can’t get past the negative association?

Ignis cut the omelette in half and transferred it to two plates, turning towards the table with a smile fixed on his strained features.  What if Gladio leaves me? He set one plate in front of Gladio and sat in the chair opposite of him, putting the other plate next to the coffee mug already waiting there.

They ate in silence.  Ignis was amazed he was able to eat at all; and even better, the food stayed down despite the roiling in his guts.

When the plates were empty, Ignis started to stand to wash them.

“We need to talk.”

Gladio’s words made Ignis’s knees buckle. Thankfully he hadn’t stepped away from his chair, so he simply landed back on it.

“I need to know if you’re okay,” Gladio continued in an even tone.

“I am,” Ignis said.  “And I’m sorry.”

Gladio’s thick brows shot up over surprised eyes.  “What for?”

“Ruining things.” Ignis was pleased that his voice merely trembled and didn’t break.

“The fuck?”  Gladio scrubbed a hand through his sleep-tousled hair.  “Ignis, you didn’t ruin anything. I obviously mis-stepped, and I need to know what I said or did so that I don’t do it again.”

Ignis’s jaw dropped.  Gladio thought it was his fault?  But that was silly. All Gladio had done was enjoy himself; all Gladio had done was make Ignis feel amazing things, sending him fumbling towards a sort of ecstasy Ignis had assumed could only exist in one’s dreams.

But if he was absolving Gladio of responsibility over the incident - there was no logical way to continue blaming himself, either.

“It reminded me of the… relationship… I told you about,” Ignis managed to string together.  “You did nothing wrong. I told you how since then I’ve never mixed BDSM and physical intimacy?  I think I just… wasn’t ready. I’m sorry.”

“Oh, babe…” Gladio reached across the table to cup Ignis’s cheek in his hand.  “Please stop apologizing. You can’t control how you feel, yeah? I should have been more careful.  And next time, I will be.”

Next time.  Ignis’s heart pounded hopefully.  Gladio still wanted him. Gladio still loved him.  Ignis hadn’t ruined everything by having perfectly human reaction.

“I like the sound of that,” he admitted.  “A ‘next time’, to clarify.”

Gladio grinned, a bright flash of white teeth against tanned skin.  “So do I, Iggy. So do I.”

Chapter Text

Noctis wanted to know just one thing: would this night ever be over? Ugh.

He loathed these formal events with a passion; he hated the fancy suit he had to stuff himself into, hated the small talk with dignitaries who treated him like a commodity instead of a person, hated the undercurrents of politics coating everything from one’s outfit choice to the musical selections.

Usually it was at least tolerable with Specs at his side, but his advisor had been unaccountably absent for the last hour. There was probably a mix-up with the food or something, Noctis mused. Knowing Ignis, he’d find some way to work the entire night - well, beyond the ‘work’ of escorting Noct through the never-ending parade of courtiers.

An eloquent wince contorted his elfin features. The nobles were one thing - it was their daughters of marriageable age he truly wished to avoid.

Truth be told, the only girl he’d ever liked had been Luna, but it had been so long since he’d seen her in person that at times it seemed like their youthful friendship had been more a dream than anything else. But still, Luna - what he remembered of her from those years ago, what he’d learned via their correspondence and news reports - was the standard against which he weighed all other women.

No wonder all other potential suitors had failed to catch his interest. How could a simpering debutante hope to aspire to the same lofty heights in his mind and heart as the Oracle of Tenebrae?

A light flush dusted Noct’s sharp cheekbones as his mind traitorously filled in the image of one such who might challenge Luna’s place in his affections, but he wasn’t ready to examine those feelings more closely. He sighed wistfully, wishing he’d been able to convince his Dad to allow Prompto to attend tonight. All the more reason to encourage Prompto to join the Crownsguard once we graduate, Noct thought. Then he’d be on the guest list for sure, if not assigned to work security. Either way, his presence would vastly improve what was a painfully dull evening.

Spotting Specs across the room, Noctis began to stride his way, shoes clicking loudly against the marble floor in a staccato counterpoint to the Altissian waltz being played by a string quartet. When he realized Ignis was dancing - with Gladio - Noct stopped in his tracks, gaping inelegantly akin to the fish he loved to catch.

“The fuck?” he muttered under his breath, scrubbing a hand through his hair. A moment later, he smirked, barely biting back a gleeful snicker. Of course. Specs always found things to improve at these parties. Apparently tonight the Shield was his pet project. He’d probably seen Gladio dancing off rhythm or something, and stepped in to teach him to do it properly.

One of these days, Noctis was determined to get Ignis to relax and enjoy one of these events. Well, as much as they could be enjoyed, anyway. He made a mental note to keep it in mind at the next gala.

With a shrug, Noctis turned and approached his father where he sat in a very uncomfortable looking chair on a raised dais. Naturally, Clarus stood a step behind and to his left, and it was hard to say which was more menacing: the look in his gimlet eyes, or the hand curled around the hilt of his greatsword.

“Hey Dad,” Noct said as he sat next to the throne on the floor.

“Son,” Regis sighed. “I can have a chair brought for you.”

“Nah,” Noctis demurred, waving a hand indolently. “No need.”

“How are you enjoying the party?” Regis asked, a knowing glint gleaming in his regal visage.

“It’s… okay,” Noctis muttered, looking away from that insightful stare.

“Your retainers certainly seem to be enjoying themselves,” the King stated, gesturing towards the edge of the ballroom where the Shield and the Chamberlain were circling each other to the new song that had started playing, a traditional Galahdian folk ballad.

Noct took a moment to admire Ignis’s intricate footwork - was there anything the man couldn’t do?

“Yeah, I guess,” he replied belatedly, realizing his Dad was looking at him expectantly.

“Why do you suppose they’re dancing? With each other?” Regis’s voice was almost lazy, definitely a more casual tone than he’d adopt with his courtiers. Noct was happy to hear his father chilling out a bit from all the formality.

“Specs is probably correcting Gladio’s mistakes,” Noctis ventured. “He probably saw Gladio screwing up the steps or something.”

Regis’s cough sounded suspiciously like a muffled laugh, but with his dad’s ever decreasing health, Noct leaned forward in concern. “You okay?”

“I’m fine, son,” Regis assured him after he stopped coughing. “Now, as much as I appreciate you spending time with your old man, you should go mingle. Meet some of those young ladies, make some connections.”

“Fine,” Noctis sighed heavily as he stood. “Later.” He inclined his head towards his father in a small show of respect, then turned and walked away.

Regis waited until Noctis was well beyond earshot before he slanted a smirk at his Shield. “Is my son truly so blind?”

Clarus canted his head to one side, taking a moment to choose his words. “I think ‘sheltered’ is more accurate.” The corners of his lips turned up in a rare smile. “Or it’s merely the self-absorption of youth.”

“Ah, well.” Regis’s smile was more natural than most he wore at these events as his eyes again fixed on the two young men who seemed increasingly oblivious to those around them. “Your son looks happy.”

“He does,” Clarus said quietly.

“I have no issue with it,” Regis spoke softly, but clearly. “Provided the lads don’t neglect their duties.”

“I agree completely.”

“Come now, old friend,” Regis’s grin was evocative of their boyhood adventures. “Surely even an old dog like yourself can remember what it felt like to be young and in love.”

Clarus scoffed, crossing his arms across his chest and leveling a flat look at his King. “My son is lucky Noctis is making his way to their position, or I’d go over there myself and break them up. They need to be careful. I won’t have them being the source of any Citadel gossip.”

“You’re right.” Regis’s voice was sad. “I suppose one of us should have a world with them.”

“Scientia’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Clarus said gruffly. “I’m sure he’s cognizant of the risk.”

“Even a boy as smart as Ignis can still be blinded by love,” Regis responded wryly.

Clarus’s chuckle was as dry as the finest Accordan red. “I’ll speak with them.”

“What would I do without you?” Regis smiled at Clarus affectionately before turning his attention back to his subjects.

“You’ll never have to find out.”

With a pained grimace more suited to the aftermath of training drills or eating a salad, Noctis picked his way through the dancing throngs, making small talk with various foreign dignitaries and Lucian Council members. Specs should be happy, Noct thought irritably. He forced himself to smile when a daughter of a Councilman expertly pinned him into small talk only escapable by asking her to dance.

He picked his way through the steps of the Tenebraen waltz expertly. Noctis might have hated dancing, but the years of lessons ensured that he did it well when he couldn’t avoid it. Catching another glimpse of Gladio and Ignis as he spun his partner around the floor, Noct decided after this song he’d make his excuses and go give them a hard time.

The waltz finished, and he was saved from making excuses by the appearance of Iris Amicitia.

“Prince Noctis!” she chirped happily, sketching a graceful curtsy.

“Lady Iris,” Noct said gravely, bowing to her. He noticed the girl he’d been dancing with move off with her friends and barely refrained from heaving a sigh of relief.

Iris giggled, cheeks blushing in girlish pleasure at the courtly display. “Happy Solstice, Your Highness!”

“You too, Iris,” Noctis said with a smile that actually reached his sapphire eyes. “Wanna dance?” Of all the ladies at the ball, Iris was the only one he’d dance with willingly. She was a good kid.

She gasped in delight. “You want to dance with me?” Iris bounced on her feet, and then smoothed her mauve skirts. “I’d love to!”

Hearing a familiar Lucian ballad start up, Noctis held out a hand to Iris and swept her around in the easy pattern of the dance. She kept up a running commentary throughout - about the Solstice, about the dresses the noblewomen wore, about the gift exchange her family had shared earlier. Gladio apparently had gotten her the last stuffed moogle in the limited run set she’d been collecting. Huh. All he’d gotten Noctis was a new pair of gloves to wear while training with his sword.

Noctis was impressed at Iris’s ability to both dance and talk at the same time without needing to breathe. When the song changed to a sprightly number, he thought her loquaciousness would slow down with the added physical exertion, but if anything she talked faster. Noct smiled, reminded of his best friend. To hell with social protocols; the next one of these stupid formals he was forced to attend, he was getting Prom on the guest list.

“I have to go now!” Iris said, and Noctis realized he’d been zoning out on her words. She didn’t seem to notice, though - or if she did, she didn’t mind. “Thanks for the dances, Prince Noctis!”

“Yeah,” he grinned at her. “Thanks, Iris. Take care.”

He watched as she wandered off, her small form lost in the crowd of people before she’d gone half a dozen paces.

Alright. Time to see what his royal retainers were up to. Good thing Gladio was like ten feet tall; it was easy to find his Shield even in a swarm of people like tonight’s. And hey, at least people stepped out of the way when they saw the Prince coming. Usually the deference irritated Noctis, but tonight he was just grateful that it didn’t take him an hour to get across the ballroom.

“Gladio!” Noctis called out, and immediately his Shield’s head swiveled to look around. Amber eyes locked on Noct and widened. As Noct watched, Gladio mouthed incomprehensible words - probably swearing, Noct thought with a smirk - and pushed away from Ignis. His Chamberlain looked flustered, his cheeks nearly as pink as Iris’s had been, green eyes so glassy that if Noctis didn’t know better, he’d have said Specs had been hitting the champagne a little too hard.

“Highness,” Ignis said with a stiff bow.

Noct rolled his eyes. “I have a name.”

“Protocol dictates that—”

“Fuck protocol,” Noctis muttered with a sullen glare. “I’ve had enough protocol tonight. Can we go yet?”

He watched Ignis and Gladio look at each other, communicating in that silent way his staff seemed to have learned over the years. Gladio gave a little shrug, and Ignis sighed.

“You should say goodnight to your father first,” Ignis said chidingly.

“And then we can go?” Noctis asked eagerly. “I’m gonna text Prom, see if he can come over and game.”

“Won’t he be busy with his family?” Gladio wondered.

“They’re out of town. Again.” Noctis frowned. “Hey, maybe you guys can come, too. We could do a multiplayer, cheer him up.”

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it,” Ignis said apologetically. For some reason, his blush intensified.

“I gotta take Iris home,” Gladio said gruffly.

Noctis shrugged. “Well, if you change your minds… for that matter, we’ll probably game all day tomorrow. Stop by if you have time.” He grinned. “That’s not, like, an order - you guys have the day off - but, you know, if you wanted to?” His words grew uncertain as he spoke, realizing with a flare of embarrassment that he was rambling.

“That sounds nice, Noctis,” Ignis smiled at him. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

After Ignis and Gladio had gone off on their respective paths, Noct made his way back towards the dais to say goodnight to his dad. He saw Clarus walking away and frowned. It wasn’t like his father’s Shield to leave his side at these events. But as Noct approached, he saw Nyx Ulric of the Kingsglaive stationed at his father’s side, and he relaxed. Should’ve known Clarus had backups in place for when he needed a break. Even an Amicitia had to use the can sometimes.

“Father,” Noctis said formally, mindful of the watching eyes and listening ears all around them. He bowed, but met his dad’s eyes with a grin when he rose. “I’m going home. Uh, Happy Solstice.”

“Happy Solstice, Noct,” Regis replied with an answering smile. “I assume you’ve made plans with your friends tomorrow, but will you join me for dinner on Friday?”

“Sure, Dad,” Noct said. “See you then.”

Chapter Text

Gladio had to admit, the Citadel looked positively magical tonight.

Garlands of holly strung with white lights delineated a path from the main entry gate all the way through the massive structure to the doors of the ballroom. And the ballroom itself was a fucking work of art. A Solstice tree easily 15 feet tall was still dwarfed by the vaulted ceilings. Its ornaments and tinsel glimmered festively, lit by what had to be several hundred white candles of different sizes which cast the chamber in a merry glow. After all, the Solstice meant a return of the light, and the gala at the Citadel was usually pretty traditional - the big tree, candles instead of electric lights, more food than the entire city could hope to eat in a month.

Gladio usually found the event entirely too long and boring. But tonight, he was looking forward to spending some time with Ignis. Gladio knew he’d have to keep his hands - his lips - to himself, but figured there was no harm in palling around with a fellow member of Noct’s retinue.

“Gladdy!” his sister shrieked as she bounded the last few steps to his side. With an adorable grin up at him she exclaimed, “Happy Solstice!”

“You too, squirt,” Gladio replied, grabbing her in a one-armed hug and squishing her until she giggled.

“I’m gonna go get more cookies,” she said before zooming off.

He had to laugh. She clearly needed more sugar. Ah well - it was a holiday.

As Gladio walked farther into the ballroom, he saw Noctis and Ignis walking around. His heart skipped a gods-damned beat, just like in his cheesy romance books. Ignis looked… well. He always looked good. But tonight adjectives like ‘debonair’ and ‘dapper’ crossed Gladio’s mind.

Noctis, while dressed to the nines as befit his station, had a bored cast to his features that detracted from the regal ensemble. Ignis, by contrast, had on his ‘professional’ polite smile as the two moved through the crowds, greeting various Lucian nobles and visiting dignitaries.

Gladio decided to go pay his respects to the king and say hi to his dad. The crowd parted easily around his massive form, and he did his best to give everyone a smile and a ‘Happy Solstice’ as he crossed their paths. He approached the raised dais holding Regis’s throne and briefly met his father’s eyes where he stood a pace behind the seated king.

Going down on one knee and bowing forward, Gladio said respectfully, “Happy Solstice, Your Majesty. The party looks wonderful.”

“None of that, Gladiolus; get up, get up,” Regis replied cheerfully. After Gladio had risen, Regis continued to speak. “The gala did turn out well, didn’t it? A joint effort between the top event organizers from Insomnia, Altissia, and Lestallum… and young Scientia.”

Gladio grinned. “I knew Ignis wouldn’t be able to resist jumping in, even with you hiring people this year to take it off his plate.”

“He’s always shown great dedication to his duty,” Clarus said approvingly.

“And to duties that aren’t his own,” Regis said dryly. “But I can’t fault the lad’s enthusiasm.” He smiled kindly at Gladio. “Nor your own, Gladiolus. Noctis has shown improvement since you’ve begun working with him one-on-one and for that you have my thanks.”

“My pleasure,” Gladio said, wondering what this ‘improvement’ was that the king was talking about, and deciding to find out at training next week.

“Now go! Dance, eat, have a marvelous evening!” Regis said with a magnanimous sweep of one hand. The Ring of the Lucii glittered on his finger, reminding Gladio of the burden their ruler shouldered on a daily basis to keep them safe, a burden that would one day be Noct’s.

That was so far off in the future, Gladio decided tonight wasn’t the time to worry about it. He took Regis’s advice and got some food, sitting at a random empty table to eat it. He’d barely finished half of it when a soft cough sounded behind him, and entirely too close for comfort.

Gladio turned and bit back a groan of dismay when he saw a young noblewoman - he was guessing from Accordo, judging by her dress - standing there wearing a beaming smile.

“You’re Gladiolus Amicitia,” she said with the air of one imparting great knowledge.

“Yep,” he muttered, a beat later realizing he definitely had to mind his manners. Standing, he offered her a shallow bow. “And you are?”

He didn’t catch her name, because Ignis walked by again - moving with that rapid clip he favored on his day to day ventures. But despite his fast pace, Ignis managed to catch Gladio’s eyes and smirk so fucking knowingly that it was all Gladio could do to not start laughing. Or chase Ignis and kiss him senseless.

“Uh, sorry,” he apologized to the nameless woman. “Say that again?”

“I asked if you’d like to dance?”

Not with you. “It would be my honor,” Gladio parroted the appropriate response, taking her tiny hand in his and leading her on to the dance floor. Fortunately, a simple Lucian waltz was playing. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to know how to find the beat, let alone count to three. Ifrit’s balls, Gladio had mastered a basic waltz when he was four.

He did his best to direct her though the steps, laughing politely when she would misstep. Gladio might have wanted to be anywhere but here, but he could see the embarrassed flush creeping up her neck to spread over her cheeks, and fuck, she didn’t do anything wrong.

She just wasn’t Ignis.

When the song ended, they applauded the ensemble. “Thank you, my lady,” Gladio said with another. “If you’ll excuse me, I have duties to attend.”

“Oh, of course! Please tell His Highness I’m terribly sorry for monopolizing his Shield.” She tittered at her own witticism, such as it was.

Gladio nodded to her and turned to walk in the opposite direction. He had no fucking clue where Noctis was, and he wasn’t officially on the clock tonight anyway - but damned if he was gonna go through another politically necessary polite dance with such an inept and uninteresting partner. Maybe he should find Iris; she always enjoyed dancing, and Gladio loved making his sister smile.

“Gladio,” Ignis’s raspy baritone drawled unexpectedly from Gladio’s right. When he turned and met his boyfriend’s eyes, they were shining with mirth. Clearly he had seen the dance.

“I don’t understand how an Amicitia can dance half as well as a charging garula.” Ignis’s voice was sweet as honeyed-wine; Gladio was coming to learn it could be just as deadly. Drink too much too fast, lulled by the sweetness, and you’d find yourself incapacitated before you knew what was going on.

With a flutter in his chest, Gladio recalled comparing Ignis to a fine wine months ago, before they began this journey together. The same sentiment still stood: he wanted to fuckin’ drink his fill.

“Maybe I just need expert instructions,” he quipped, waggling his thick eyebrows suggestively as he leaned close enough to avoid being overheard. The string quartet afforded excellent sound camouflage.

Ignis smirked, verdant gaze rich with meaning. “Any excuse to put your hands on me, Gladiolus?”

“You know it,” Gladio growled, never wishing so much as in that moment that they didn’t have to hide.

With a shrug, Ignis turned towards the dance floor. “I suppose it wouldn’t be untoward for His Highness’s Chamberlain to instruct his Shield in the proper steps.”

Gladio heard the shift in tones of the murmurs of the crowd and was excruciatingly aware of the microscope they were putting themselves beneath. He curved his lips into his most winning grin and said too loudly for casual conversation, “Thanks for offering to help me with my dance steps, Ignis.”

Ignis’s lips twitched in what should have been allowed to bloom into a smile, but was ruthlessly tamped down. “Of course, Lord Amicitia. Shall we?” He held out one gloved hand, and when Gladio clasped it within his own he thought, this is the hand I am meant to hold.

The string ensemble started an Altissian waltz, and contrary to his years of lessons, Gladio felt himself stumble over the simple steps. He was intensely aware of the heat of Ignis’s hand in his, the sear of his other palm where it lay upon Gladio’s broad shoulder. The feel of Ignis’s narrow waist beneath Gladio’s hand was a torment; when he spread his fingers, he could feel the edge of Ignis’s hipbone press against his little finger.

“Focus, Gladiolus,” Ignis purred softly. His eyes glinted with mirth and reflected candlelight, and Gladio wondered again how he’d gotten so fucking lucky.

He found his rhythm and began to take a more proper lead role in the dance, steering Ignis with precision through the dancing crowds. Gladio was aware of several nobles - particularly some of the outlanders - staring, but he couldn’t bring himself to worry overmuch. Surely he could find the self-control to keep this dance appropriate; all the motivation he needed was his father’s steely gaze from the raised dais.

“You’re rather good at this,” Ignis murmured in a velvety tone, eyelids falling half closed as he lost himself in the moment.

“You ain’t so bad yourself,” Gladio replied, lowering Ignis into a dip. He’d never done that with a male dance partner - shit, he’d never had a male dance partner, outside of actual instructors - and he liked the way Ignis’s muscles tensed for balance. While his boyfriend was slender of build, it was a huge different from the dainty women he typically partnered, who’d lean on Gladio’s arms during such moves as if they were too delicate to stand unassisted.

Ignis could hold his own, and did.

As the waltz came to a close, Gladio and Ignis applauded the musicians. When they struck up a sprightly Galahdian folk ballad, Ignis levelled a challenging smirk at Gladio.

“Think you can keep up, darling?” he said softly enough to keep the endearment for Gladio’s ears alone.

“I’ve learned more from the Glaive than how to drink,” Gladio laughed as he began to move to the upbeat tempo.

The entire crowd of dancers was alive with celebratory energy, moving to the energetic reel with a will. But none outshone Ignis, who Gladio wagered may have out danced their resident Galahdian friends. His feet moved so fast they were a mesmerizing blur, and Gladio found himself forgetting to dance he was so caught up in watching.

And he wasn’t the only one. Gladio noticed others stopping to watch. There were Nyx and Crowe; the former catching Gladio’s eye and waving, the latter watching Ignis with the pleased nod of a teacher admiring her student’s work. For the rest, there seemed with few exceptions to be a generational divide - the younger folk were clapping and cheering on Ignis and the few others who still kept up with the riotous song, the elder wore expressions ranging from polite tolerance to barely-veiled hostility.

Politics might not be Gladio’s job per se, but to be aware of a threat was necessary to protect his charge. He filed away the displeased faces, making a mental note to speak with his father about it.

But not tonight. Damn it, he wanted tonight to be special.

The song came to a close, and Gladio joined in with the loud applause that filled the ballroom. He stepped closer to Ignis after the next song started up and the dance floor filled up with revelers. Ignis’s face gleamed with a sheen of sweat from his exertions, and Gladio decided maybe they’d stayed at the party long enough. He wanted to taste that salt, discover every inch of that porcelain skin with lips and teeth and tongue.

He’d waited long enough.

“Gladio!” The Prince’s voice was unmistakable, and Gladio felt a flare of annoyance which was quickly followed by guilt. This was his duty. This was his priority.

“Soon as he’s done talkin’, we’re leavin’,” Gladio growled under his breath as he stepped away from Ignis and turned to face Noct. He did notice the blush that flared over Ignis’s fine-boned features before he tore his eyes away to regard their Prince.

Ignis bowed. “Highness.”

Gladio saw Noct roll his eyes and shook his head. The kid was destined to be king, but his manners could use some work. “I have a name.”

Clearing his throat and taking on a pedantic tone, Ignis replied, “Protocol dictates that—”

“Fuck protocol,” Noct mumbled petulantly. “I’ve had enough protocol tonight. Can we go yet?”

Gladio was unimpressed by the sulky glare shaping Noct’s features, but couldn’t really argue with the sentiment. He turned to look at Ignis who raised a brow factionally. Gladio shrugged, and Ignis sighed.

“You should say goodnight to your father first,” Ignis suggested.

“And then we can go?” Noctis’s entire demeanor shifted like quicksilver into effervescent cheer. “I’m gonna text Prom, see if he can come play games.”

“Won’t he be busy with his family?” Gladio asked.

“They’re out of town. Again.” Noctis frowned. “Hey, maybe you guys can come, too. We could do a multiplayer, cheer him up.”

Fuck, no, please, not tonight. Gladio resolved himself to putting aside his own plans for the remainder of the evening, since while this strictly wasn’t part of their duty, he figured there was a snowball’s chance in Leide that Ignis would turn Noctis down.

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it,” Ignis apologized. Gladio shot a sidelong glance at him just in time to see him adjust his glasses, which only seemed to draw more attention to the crimson flush coloring his cheeks.

“I gotta take Iris home,” Gladio said calmly. On the inside, he was dancing that ridiculous Galahdian jig.

Noctis shrugged. “Well, if you change your minds… for that matter, we’ll probably game all day tomorrow. Stop by if you have time.” He grinned. “That’s not, like, an order - you guys have the day off - but, you know, if you wanted to?”

Gladio’s smile was genuine. Prince Charmless was almost as adorable as Iris when he got so shy.

“That sounds nice, Noctis,” Ignis said. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

After Ignis and Noctis had both walked away, Gladio went to go find his sister and say goodnight to his own father. Surely taking Iris home was a valid reason to leave the gala; he’d been there for hours, he danced, he ate, and besides, with his charge leaving - even if he was technically off duty - he had no real reason to stay.

After having a brief conversation with the caterers - really, garnish didn’t belong anywhere near a crudite platter - Ignis was on his way towards the doors. The bulk of his reservations about leaving the gala before it had come to an end were countered by the fact Noctis had left. As to those remaining, well… Ignis wasn’t supposed to be working tonight. Perhaps it was acceptable for him to do as the king had implored him hours ago and actually enjoy part of the holiday.

He could think of no better way to end the Solstice than in Gladio’s arms.

“Scientia.” Clarus’s voice was distinctive, and unexpected. A startled glance towards the royal dais revealed Nyx had taken up Clarus’s post, cutting an imposing figure in his dress fatigues, kukris glinting beneath the light of a thousand candles.

“My lord,” Ignis turned and bowed smoothly, wondering what on Eos had happened and envisioning his night off turning into overtime. Again.

“Walk with me, lad.” It was an order, not a suggestion, and Ignis fell into step with Clarus reflexively. They exited the ballroom and continued down the corridor until Clarus turned in to an empty sitting room.

But Clarus didn’t seat himself, so Ignis didn’t either. He stood at attention, mind racing as he tried to think of what he’d done to merit a conversation with the King’s Shield.

Oh. Astrals.

The dance.

Their subterfuge had failed.

Ignis’s mind raced through potential damage control tactics but rejected one after the other. He was vexed again at the fact they had to try and hide in the first place, and sincerely hoped he wasn’t about to lose his post.

“I can see you’ve surmised why I wished to speak with you,” Clarus said dryly. “Sit down before you fall down, Ignis.” His voice was not unkind, and once Clarus had taken a seat, Ignis followed suit. His legs felt akin to jelly and wobbled most unbecomingly as he folded himself onto the chair.

“The Prince might be blind to what’s in front of his face, but King Regis and I are not.” Thin lips quirked in the hint of a smile. “Perhaps it's the experience gained by growing older.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Ignis blurted out. He slammed his jaws shut with an audible click when he realized he was interrupting Lord Clarus Amicitia. Six take me. Please.

“Nothing to be sorry about, boy.” A heartbeat of charged silence. “Yet.”

Ignis nodded mutely, not knowing what to say and sensing Clarus wasn’t finished.

“You should know better than most that Regis values his people’s happiness,” Clarus continued. “He has no problem with your… dalliance… with my son. Nor do I.”

“It’s not a dalliance,” Ignis interjected, lifting his chin.

Clarus’s eyes glinted in approval, and Ignis realized this entire conversation was likely a test, Shiva preserve him. “It is noted and appreciated that you two have had the sense to keep it quiet. Provided that you continue to do so - and it not interfere with your sworn duties - the crown has no official injunction against such a partnership. But…” Clarus leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and steepling his fingers.

Ignis flinched back from that powerful stare, realizing he was getting a taste of how imposing Gladio might become in a couple decades. Yes, the eyes were the wrong color, but they shared so many mannerisms that it was uncanny.

“If you hurt my son, there’s not a place on Eos you can hide that I won’t find you,” Clarus promised.

“I understand,” Ignis said, a bit dumbfounded. He’d been prepared to be hauled off for treason, for dereliction of duty, but instead he was faced with a loving father expressing concern for his child. Ignis had never met any of his paramour’s families before. His ex had none, and his other liaisons were entirely too casual for such thing. This was uncharted territory for him and he felt out of his depth.

“Good!” Clarus said jovially. He rose and clapped Ignis on the shoulder. “Pull yourself together, lad. I suspect my son is waiting for you.” The sound of his rich chuckle - again, so reminiscent of Gladio - faded away as Clarus walked off.

Ignis did, in fact, take a moment to gather himself before standing. He just need fetch his coat and have his car brought around and he’d be off. Hopefully Gladio wasn’t waiting for him too long.

It was a short drive, mercifully devoid of the usual traffic as most Insomnians were at home with their families. Ignis had to park a couple blocks from his building, but that came as no surprise. Perhaps once he passed the Crownsguard exam in the spring, he could afford to move somewhere with better parking. As he walked, snowflakes gently spiraled around, reminding him whimsically of the decorations at the Citadel.

He wondered how Gladio would look with his dark hair speckled by the snow. It was cold enough out that it would immediately melt. Ignis imagined that Gladio’s hair, unlit by the sun, would blend in with the night sky, and the snowflakes would sparkle like the stars.

When he reached his building, he winced seeing Gladio waiting by the door, rubbing his hands together for warmth.

“Hey, Iggy. What kept you?”

“Let’s go inside.” It was best spoken about behind closed doors. Besides, it was quite cold out.

Once they were inside the apartment and stripped of their wet shoes and coats, Ignis locked the door and turned to explain. But Gladio cut him off before he could start, capturing his lips in a crushing kiss.

“I’ve been waitin’ to do that for hours,” Gladio grinned.

“I admire your restraint,” Ignis said wryly. “If you can hold yourself back a moment longer, I’ll explain my delay.” He recounted the conversation with Clarus succinctly, watching as Gladio’s face shifted from shock to frown to smile.

“Well, that’s a load off,” Gladio announced. “If Dad and the king approve, we’re golden.”

“We still have to keep it under wraps,” Ignis reminded him. “By royal decree.”

“I think we can manage,” Gladio said, nuzzling his cheek against Ignis’s in such a way that made forming words a challenge.

“Obviously we haven’t been managing as well as we thought,” Ignis argued, “if they’re onto us.”

“Iggy.” Gladio pulled back so their eyes could meet, and took Ignis’s hands in his. “Who knows us better than they do? Regis practically raised you, and my father has been his shadow since before we were born. Noctis obviously didn’t figure it out and he grew up alongside us both. I think we’re good.”

“Perhaps you’re right,” Ignis admitted. “I worry too much, I fear.”

“Let’s push that aside for tonight, babe,” Gladio said. “I brought you a Solstice gift.”

“I’ll go get yours,” Ignis said, heading into his bedroom.

Gladio followed him, rather than waiting in the living room as Ignis had expected. He sat on the edge of Ignis’s bed, and Ignis had to take a moment to remind himself that they really should exchange their gifts now, no matter how much he wanted to rip away Gladio’s suit and ravage him.

“It’s not much,” Ignis said self-consciously, holding out the parcel.

“Stop it. I’m sure it’s great. Here,” Gladio passed Ignis a box wrapped with Moogle themed paper. “Iris helped with my wrapping.”

Taking the box, Ignis tested the weight in his hands. Fairly light, but that didn’t give anything away. He watched as Gladio tore into his gift, wanting to watch his reaction.

Gladio’s gasp of surprise made it worthwhile. He reverently removed the last of the wrapping paper, turning the book over in his hands. “I don’t believe you found a first edition of Henruit’s Silence of Knowledge. I’ve been tryin’ to get my hands on one for years.”

“I know.” Ignis knew he sounded smug, but he couldn’t help it; he’d spent over a month tracking down this volume, and he was thrilled by his boyfriend’s reaction.

“Thanks.” Gladio smiled, the expression so sweet that Ignis felt his chest tighten. His golden-brown eyes glinted with unshed tears. “Open yours now!”

With a laugh, Ignis began to tear along the seams of the paper. “Please tell Iris she did a great job with the wrapping.” The paper removed to reveal a rectangular box. His brow furrowed as he tried one last time to guess the contents before giving up and lifting the lid. His jaw dropped when he regarded the contents.

It was a shirt, but calling the garment something so mundane as ‘a shirt’ was akin to calling a man as wonderful as Gladio ‘a good boyfriend’. The fabric was a deep violet that Ignis knew would be mistaken for black in certain lighting. It was spotted in a Coeurl print pattern, save for the back which was embossed with the Lucian royal skull insignia. Other small details caught his attention - the gleaming studs lining the collar, the skull motif buttons.

No, this wasn’t merely a shirt. This was a masterpiece of tailoring art.

“Gladio, it’s…” Ignis trailed off, not coming up with a suitable word.

“Technically, you can’t wear it yet,” Gladio said. “I had this commissioned to be part of your Crownsguard fatigues, once you pass your test in the spring.”

“Gladio…” Ignis’s throat was thick with feeling, and he swallowed away the tears that threatened to overtake him.

“I just thought since, well, that club brought us together,” Gladio smiled sheepishly, “a reminder would be nice.”

“It’s the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received,” Ignis said honestly. “‘Thank you’ doesn’t seem like a strong enough phrase, but it’s all I’ve got. Thank you, Gladio.”

“Try it on for me?” Gladio asked.

Ignis rolled his eyes. “You just want to see me take off my shirt.”


With a low chuckle, Ignis unbuttoned his dress shirt and tossed it into his hamper. He slid on the purple, spotted shirt and buttoned it up. It fit perfectly - no surprise there, since the Citadel tailors had his measurements on file. Turning, Ignis regarded his reflection in the mirror over his dresser. He liked what he saw.

When Gladio walked up behind him and slid those muscular, tattooed arms around his waist, he enjoyed the visual even more.

Turning his head, Ignis brushed his lips against the shell of Gladio’s ear. “Hi.”

Gladio turned and pressed his mouth to Ignis’s in a lingering, soft kiss. “Hi yourself.”

One kiss turned into two, two turned into a dozen, and when they parted for breath both men were flushed.

“Perhaps I should take this off, before it gets wrinkled,” Ignis plucked at the hem of his new shirt.

“You should take it all off.” Gladio’s voice was a husky rumble. “I want to see you.”

Ignis’s heart pounded. Oh Gods, finally. “You too, darling.”

Rather than stare directly at Gladio, Ignis found himself watching in the mirror. While he had utter faith that the image of Gladio removing his clothing would be exceedingly hot under any circumstances, somehow catching the visual reflected back instead of looking directly was more impactful.

And each time those molten amber eyes met his verdant gaze in the glass, the tension ratcheted higher.

Perhaps they should have drawn out this unveiling, but Ignis wasn’t certain he’d have the patience for that. He’d wanted Gladio - all of him, naked, here, in Ignis’s bed - for so long, he could scarcely believe it was actually happening.

“Fuck, you’re beautiful, Iggy,” Gladio whispered, closing the distance between them and wrapping his arms around Ignis again.

“You too,” Ignis breathed before kissing Gladio again, pushing his body flush against his boyfriend’s. Feeling the weight of Gladio’s cock - half-hard, but impressive already - against his thigh made him moan into Gladio’s mouth, and he tightened his arms around the large man possessively.

Gladio was his. And he was Gladio’s.

Six, Ignis was a lucky man.

He couldn’t resist taking a peek and his lips bowed in a smile against Gladio’s. His eyes were open too, focused on Ignis with such love in their depths.

When Gladio began to trail wet, open-mouthed kisses down the side of Ignis’s neck, Ignis gave into the impulse and looked in the mirror again.

Great Shiva, Mighty Titan, Illustrious Ramuh save him. He might just die here and now; the visual of that powerful, tanned body pressed against his comparative slimness was intoxicating. Seeing the path Gladio’s mouth was on and then feeling the kisses a heartbeat later was driving him mad with desire.

“Gods, I want you,” he whispered fervently, fingers curling in Gladio’s hair as the other man’s mouth fastened on his nipple. Ignis’s eyes fell shut even as his head tipped back, reveling in the sensations of tongue and teeth playing with the sensitive bud.

“Same, babe,” Gladio purred against Ignis’s breastbone before lavishing attention on his other nipple.

Ignis desperately sought some shred of self-control, knowing he was no ‘pillow princess,’ content to lay back and let his lover do all the work. But it was damnably hard to focus on anything but the wonderful things Gladio was doing to his body.

“Gladio,” Ignis managed. “Let me touch you. Please.”

“You don’t need my permission, Iggy,” Gladio rose so they could lock eyes again.

“I know,” Ignis smirked. “But I couldn’t reach, bowed over as you were.” He closed his nimble fingers around Gladio’s cock and stroked it to hardness.

Fuck,” Gladio gasped. Ignis reveled in the way Gladio’s cock grew beneath his touch, the staccato edge Gladio’s breathing took on.

“That’s the idea,” Ignis drawled lazily. “Perhaps we should move this to the bed…?”

“But you seem to be enjoyin’ the show,” Gladio said with a wicked grin.

Ignis felt the flush creep up his neck. But why be ashamed? So he couldn’t stop watching the image of their bodies coming together in the mirror - who could blame him?

“Ah, my love, as much as I like to watch,” Ignis punctuated the statement with a kiss, “I’d rather not have to worry about trying to stand up when you fuck me.”

Gladio swore so softly Ignis couldn’t make out the words despite their proximity. “Point.”

They fell on the bed in a tangle of limbs and pushed together in an embrace. The feel of Gladio’s cock rutting against his own was making Ignis grow impatient, making him grow bolder.

He couldn’t say he’d planned these next words, this particular decision, but in this moment it just felt right. So Ignis decided to be impulsive, selfish, and perhaps a bit foolhardy.

Pulling his mouth back from Gladio’s, Ignis focused his eyes on those of his lover. He took a moment to marvel at the way Gladio’s pupils were blown out with lust, a scant ring of amber surrounding the blackness. But, before he lost his nerve, he had to speak, had to ask for what he craved so intensely.

“Hurt me,” Ignis pleaded, immediately dropping his eyes and burying his face against Gladio’s chest. He felt a bit foolish for hiding away, but he didn’t want to see the censure he was almost certain he would find on Gladio’s face. After all, the last time they had… mixed such things… it hadn’t exactly gone well.

A large hand cupped Ignis’s chin, lifting his head until he met Gladio’s eyes once more. Gladio smiled at him warmly, and Ignis was relieved that his anxiety-fueled guess about his partner’s reaction had been incorrect.

“I’m proud of you for wanting to try again so soon. But not tonight. I know I’ve already beaten you at the Coeurl, but that was different. You were still just Hawk to me, and where I was fine engaging in casual pick-up pay with Hawk,” Gladio skimmed a finger from Ignis’s eyebrow to his chin tenderly, “I don’t want to rush things with you.”

He grinned. “Call me old fashioned or sentimental or whatever-the-fuck, but I want to make love to you vanilla-style for our first time. We can add the kink later. Okay?”

“All right,” Ignis said faintly, the ghost of a smile canting his lips. Gladio still wanted him in that way. That was a relief, and to be honest, Ignis saw the merit in Gladio’s suggestion.

Tonight was about discovering each other’s bodies, about finding those secret spots that made the other gasp in desire, cry out in need. There would be a thousand other nights for power play and pain.

Tonight was for loving, pure and simple.

“There’s lube and condoms in my bedside table,” Ignis said, grinding himself against Gladio again now that the conversation had been had. “I wasn’t sure if you’d prefer to use them or not. I haven’t had any lovers in months, and I’ve tested clean.”

“Probably a good idea, until we both get re-tested,” Gladio’s lips skimming over Ignis’s jawline made the safety-conscious words unbearably sexy.

Uncoiling his limbs from around Gladio’s strong body reluctantly, Ignis pulled open the drawer and tossed the necessary items on to the pillow.

“How do you want to do this?” Ignis realized his asking might be off-putting, but he couldn’t change who he was, and ‘who he was’ liked to know the plan. “Shall I prep myself, or do you prefer to do it?”

“Actually…” Gladio’s voice was uncertain, and when he didn’t continue the statement, Ignis looked at him.

“What is is, darling?”

“I was hoping… you would fuck me.” His last words came out in such a rushed jumble it was a wonder Ignis could understand them.

Ignis’s eyes widened in surprise. He’d never imagined Gladio - or anyone for that matter - would want Ignis to be the top for this particular activity. “I’ve… I’ve never done that before,” he blurted out artlessly. “But… Gods, Gladio, what an image you’ve given me.”

“Never? Really?” Gladio’s voice was incredulous.

“Look at me. Look how I present myself. Can you truly blame my casual lovers for assuming I’d be uninterested in topping?” The slight sardonic edge to this words was the only indicator Ignis gave to any bitterness regarding his sexual past.

“Uh, so, not to steal your thunder or one-up you or anything,” Gladio’s words were rambly; he was nervous - how interesting. “But I’ve never bottomed.”

Ignis’s arched brow encouraged Gladio to explain.

“I haven’t had that many male lovers,” Gladio said. “And, I mean - like you said? Look at me? Big, tall, muscular dude covered in tats? Clearly I’m a top.”

“Just like at the club,” Ignis said softly.

“Right. Everyone always judges me based on my looks, one way or another.”

Ignis reached out and bracketed Gladio’s face tenderly in his hands, leaning forward to give him a long, sweet kiss. “I don’t.”

“And I love you for it.”

“I love you, too.” Their mouths fused together again, hot and electric. “And I’d be delighted to share these firsts together.”

“I know this is sappy as fuck, but I love the fact that our first time together will involve us each losing a virginity, kind of,” Gladio said. A faint hint of pink dusted his tanned cheeks, and Ignis thought it was adorable.

“Sappy, but apt,” he quipped. “I’ll prepare you, shall I?” Ignis’s eyes crinkled in a fond smile. “You always take such good care of me… allow me to take care of you this time.”

“That sounds perfect,” Gladio murmured.

“Lay back, my love,” Ignis gently rolled Gladio to be laying on his back, head resting on a pillow. “Let me know if I do something you don’t enjoy.” Emerald eyes glinted, and in that moment he fancied he appeared as predatory as his avian mask made him out to be. “And do let me know when I do something you like.”

He straddled Gladio’s waist, allowing his cock to lightly brush against his boyfriend’s as he bowed forward to press a gentle kiss to Gladio’s forehead. “The fact that no one has thought to have you this way is a travesty,” Ignis said conversationally as he nipped his way along Gladio’s collarbone and neck before sucking an earlobe into his mouth. When he spoke again, it was with a soft rasp directly into Gladio’s ear, “I wager you’re made to take my cock.”

“Iggy,” Gladio pleaded, thrusting up to press his cock into Ignis’s abdomen.

Ignis chuckled softly. “So demanding,” he drawled before tracing his lips across Gladio’s pectorals. Propping himself up with one hand, he reached between them with the other to wrap his fingers around Gladio’s dick, stroking it with tantalizing slowness. “Be patient, darling. I’ll take good care of you.”

Fuck, Iggy, so good,” Gladio moaned. He settled one hand on the small of Ignis’s back, the other calloused palm resting firmly on the curve of his ass, pulling him closer.

It was interesting having Gladio writhing beneath him, completely at his mercy. Ignis didn’t get off terribly often on being dominant in the bedroom; but then, this wasn’t a power game, this was just him taking charge to take care of his lover. Gracious knew Gladio had taken such good care of Ignis. He simply wished to return the favor.

Granted, if he were being honest - his motivation was far from entirely altruistic.

He’d wanted Gladio so badly for so long that finally having him here, now, completely was overwhelming his vaunted self control. Just by existing, by sharing the same space, Gladio had the ability to cast aside all of Ignis’s carefully sculpted pretensions. The masks he hid behind discarded with ease, so delightfully unnecessary with this man whom he loved so dearly.

Gladio’s nails dug into his ass, bringing Ignis out of his kaleidoscope of thought.

“Gladio,” Ignis laughed, pressing a kiss to his stomach before licking along the happy trail leading down his firm abs. “Do you truly wish me to rush this?"

“Honestly? Yeah. Kinda.” Gladio grinned down at him, and as their eyes met, sharing that moment of love and laughter, Ignis’s heart soared.

“Far be it for me to deny you, darling,” Ignis teased before kissing his way from Gladio’s cockhead to its base. He lathed his tongue over Gladio’s balls, rewarded with a whimper he wagered most would never imagine could be coaxed from the massive Shield’s throat. As Ignis continued to lick Gladio’s sac, he opened the lube and squirted a generous dollop on his hand, smearing it over his first two fingers. He carefully began to probe one fingertip at Gladio’s entrance, simultaneously sucking Gladio’s dick into his mouth. He coaxed his finger past that tight ring of muscle and wiggling it around, trying to help his lover loosen up.

Ignis bobbed his head up and down, working his mouth over the cock he’d craved for so long. He managed to squeeze a second finger inside of Gladio but felt him tense up. Pulling his mouth from Gladio’s dick with an obscene pop, Ignis deliberately allowed the trail of saliva and pre-come to hang between his chin and the tip of Gladio’s erection. Verdant eyes were dark with desire when they cleaved unto those of molten amber.

“Relax, darling. Just breathe… and enjoy,” he soothed, leaning up to kiss Gladio deeply. When he felt Gladio respond, kissing him back ardently, Ignis began to move his fingers again, scissoring them in between thrusts.

“Hnng, Ig—” Gladio’s attempt at speak amalgamated into a strangled cry when Ignis pressed a third finger inside him.

“That’s right,” Ignis crooned, lowering back down and peppering kisses along Gladio’s inner thigh. “Let me take care of you.” He licked along the thick vein running along the underside of Gladio’s shaft and then sucked his cockhead back into his mouth, cheeks hollowing with the force of his suction.

Fucking shit, babe, if you keep doing that, I’m gon—” Gladio’s voice was pitched a half-octave higher than usual, tautly coiled with lust, and Ignis thought he’d never heard a sweeter sound.

“I think you’re ready for me,” Ignis purred lasciviously. “And gracious knows I can’t bear to wait any longer.” He carefully pulled his fingers out, leaning down to swipe his tongue along Gladio’s hole in a firm lick that made the larger man nearly come entirely undone.

Gods yes,” Gladio hissed. “Now. Please.”

Taking a deep breath and reminding himself that self control was a laudable trait, Ignis knelt between his boyfriend’s legs, staring into his lust-blown eyes as he rolled a condom over his erection. His heart pounded in his chest as he lined his cock up with Gladio’s asshole and slowly pushed inside of his lover. He paid careful attention to Gladio’s body language, noting with pleasure that while he did tense a bit, he also practically vibrated with excitement. The look on his handsome face screamed more, more, more - and Ignis was more than happy to oblige.

Once fully sheathed in the hot embrace of Gladio’s body, Ignis paused a moment, drinking in the moment. This was what it felt like to be on the giving end. Ignis was used to feeling hands or mouths wrapped around his dick, but none of that had prepared him for the overwhelming surge of lust tangled with love mixed with elation that was the feeling of Gladio’s ass clenching around him.

To be fair, he suspected a large part of those feelings were inspired by his partner, and not the mere act itself. But it did feel incredible.

“You good?” Ignis forced the scant syllables between clenched teeth. He braced one hand on the bed just above Gladio’s shoulder, the other snaking between their bodies to find Gladio’s erection again.

He felt Gladio’s hands entwine at the base of his neck, drawing him down into a tender kiss. “I’m great,” Gladio whispered against Ignis’s mouth before bringing their mouths back together.

Ignis began to move.

Astrals above and below, if being buried deep inside Gladio was a wonder, actually moving in and out of his welcoming body was a gods-damned revelation.

He struggled to keep an even pace, to remember to stroke Gladio’s cock, to try and make it so good for his lover that he’d have no regrets over giving Ignis this first time. Ignis’s control was rapidly dwindling, lost to the delicious friction around his dick, the feeling of Gladio’s cock surging in his hand, those talented lips moving against his in a series of sloppy kisses.

“Iggy,” Gladio growled into his mouth. “‘m close.”

“Don’t hold back,” Ignis breathed. “Gladiolus, my Gladiolus, come for me, darling. Let yourself go.”

“Come with me,” Gladio entreated him, one hand slipping into his hair and pulling hard. That was all the warning Ignis received; a heartbeat later, and Gladio’s release was spilling over his hand and painting their bodies.

“I’ve got you, Iggy,” Gladio whispered before taking Ignis’s earlobe between his teeth and tugging gently. “Let go.”

Ignis wasn’t ashamed to admit he screamed as he spilled himself inside Gladio. He managed a few more uncoordinated, arrhythmic thrusts before collapsing atop his lover.

Truly my lover now he thought, a breathy little laugh bubbling between his lips as he pulled out from Gladio’s ass. Ignis pressed a kiss to his lover’s sweaty chest before laying his head on Gladio’s shoulder.

Gladio’s arms came around Ignis and held him close. Ignis couldn’t even muster up the wherewithal to care about the sticky mess drying between them, the dirty condom still wrapped around his dick. None of that mattered; everything was inconsequential save the wonderful feeling of being enfolded in Gladio’s embrace.

He was happy, he was safe… he was loved.

Chapter Text

When Gladio woke up he reached out, seeking the comfort of his boyfriend’s body. Only finding empty blankets caused him to begrudgingly crack open one eye. The bedding felt cold; how long had Ignis been awake for, and why hadn’t he woken up Gladio?

Standing was an interesting experience. Gladio hadn’t realized that the after effects of losing this final virginity would be a good deal of soreness. Worth it. Without question. He grinned to himself as he rummaged around for his tank top and boxers, figuring that was more than sufficient clothing to go look for Iggy.

The mystery was solved as soon as he opened the bedroom door. The scents of coffee and bacon filled the air, causing Gladio’s stomach to rumble. As he walked into the kitchen, however, all thoughts of food fled.

Ignis stood at the stove wearing nothing but Gladio’s old, faded Crownsguard hoodie. Thanks to their disparity in height it fell to just beneath the luscious curve of his ass, but when he stretched to get a platter down from the cabinet over the sink he inadvertently flashed Gladio, causing him to moan in appreciation.

As Gladio stood there appreciating the view, Ignis whirled around, a startled look contorting his handsome face. “Um. Good morning.” He tugged ineffectually at the hoodie, which could only cover so much.

“Mornin’, Iggy.” Gladio’s voice was a low rumble, blurred with sleep and warmed with desire. He closed the short distance between them and rested his hands on Ignis’s hips, leaning down to claim his lips in a soft kiss. Easing back, he smiled. “Can I help?”

“I, ah, have it under control,” Ignis stammered, adorably flushed. “You could set the table, please?”

“Sure thing,” Gladio said agreeably. He knew where to find things now, and it took him little time at all to tend to the chore. While he wasn’t a huge fan of normal coffee, he decided it wasn’t a bad idea after how late they’d stayed up. Gladio poured a cup, grinning broadly at Ignis’s look of revulsion when Gladio added generous amounts of milk and sugar.

“That’s hardly coffee any more.” Ignis’s tone was scathing. He reached out to pull his own mug closer as if to preemptively rescue it from a similar fate.

“We don’t all have tastebuds of steel,” Gladio responded, sitting at the table and blowing on the brew to try and cool it off faster.

“I know my palate is more refined,” Ignis said haughtily, “but you can be assured that I buy quality coffee. It is entirely unnecessary to add all of… that.”

Gladio just laughed, settled back, and watched Ignis finish preparing breakfast. Alright, so he wasn’t paying much attention to the food prep itself, preferring to watch for tantalizing glimpses of long, lean thighs, taut buttocks, and - bless the Six - Ignis’s half-hard cock.

Apparently, Iggy found being watched as titillating as Gladio found doing the watching.

When breakfast was finished, plated, and set on the table, Gladio decided he deserved a fucking medal for actually tucking in and eating it instead of ravishing Ignis right there on the kitchen floor.

“So what’s the plan for today?” Gladio asked.

“We should go by Noctis’s later, as he invited us,” Ignis said. “But aside from that, I had rather hoped to spend the day with you.”

“Sounds good to me. Dad’s not expecting me home until later.”

“Mmm.” Ignis finished his food and took the dishes to the sink, pouring himself a second cup of coffee.

“I’ll get those,” Gladio said, standing. “You cooked; I’ll clean.”

“I really don’t mind,” Ignis demurred as he started to fill the sink.

Gladio reached out and shut off the tap, inserting his body in between Ignis and the counter with a deft hip-check. “I said I got it.”

Ignis raised his hands. “Very well.”

A quick drop of his eyes confirmed what Gladio suspected by this point. Ignis sure liked being told what to do. The hoodie was tented around what was certainly a fully-grown erection, judging by how far the fabric was lifted from Ignis’s body.

He could work with this.

“Who said you could borrow my hoodie?” he asked conversationally, adding soap to the partially filled sink before turning the water back on.

“I… uh…” Ignis stammered. “No one,” he answered in a very soft voice.

“You should really asked before borrowing someone’s things.” Gladio made sure his voice was light and teasing, and he could tell by the way arousal flared in Ignis’s verdant gaze that he understood the game at hand.

“I’m sorry, Gladiolus.

Aaaand now Gladio was hard as a gods-damned rock.

“Take it off,” he ordered, piling the dishes into the sink to soak. Good thing there were no sharp knives; Astrals knew he wasn’t gonna look away from his boyfriend now.

Catching his lower lip in his teeth, Ignis grasped the hem of the sweatshirt in both hands, slowly peeling it upwards. Gladio growled approvingly when he saw Ignis’s cock, already leaking pre-come from the the tip. Then his lover’s abs were revealed, and the perfect planes of his chest. The only complaint Gladio had was that it took several seconds to get the shirt over his head, and for those moments he couldn’t see the look on Ignis’s charmingly flushed face.

Ignis took the time to fold the purloined hoodie before setting it on the table and regarding Gladio self-consciously, clearly not certain what he should do next.

“I’m a bit busy,” Gladio pointed out as he started washing dishes. It was awkward standing sideways, but it was the only way he could both reach into the sink and see Iggy’s naked body, so entirely worth it. “Why don’t you get yourself ready for me?” The way his leer skimmed down Ignis’s body left no illusion as to what he meant.

The pink tip of Ignis’s tongue flicked out to wet his lips. “Yes, Gladiolus.” Another moment of indecision flitted over his face. “How should I… do you wish…” his voice faded out into a frustrated sound.

Gladio decided to be magnanimous and not make Ignis ask for clarification more specifically. This time. “Get on all fours with your ass to me so I can see what you’re doing.” When Ignis immediately began to assume the position Gladio chuckled, but his tone was not unkind. “Might wanna get the lube first, babe.”

“Oh. Right.” Fuck, it was hot when Iggy sounded so flustered.

As Gladio finished the plates and moved on to the skillet, Ignis darted in and out of the bedroom quickly. Watching the way he sinuously lowered to the floor was a treat. But that was nothing compared to the way Iggy looked once he’d rested his head on one folded arm, his ass pushed obscenely high in the air.

“Get your legs further apart,” Gladio commanded, palming his cock through his pants and belatedly realizing that his hand had been covered in soapy water. Oh well.

Ignis pushed his knees apart as directed, and then Gladio heard the sound of lube being squeezed out of the bottle. And then…

Fucking shit.

He’d been able to tell pretty well what Ignis had done to prep him last night, and he’d done his own research on what was needed. But actually seeing it in action, in the bright light of day? Ridiculously hot.

Of the things Gladio never thought he’d see in his life, Ignis Scientia fucking himself with two lube coated fingers on his own kitchen floor hadn’t even made the list. Prior to those months ago when Ignis asked him to coffee, he’d hardly dared consider anything remotely close, outside of some late-night fantasies.

The helpless little whimpers Ignis gave as he worked his hand in his own ass went straight to Gladio’s dick, and he considered leaving the rest of the dishes for later. But no, there weren’t many left, and judging by the breathy pitch of those cries and moans, Ignis didn’t exactly mind putting on a show.

“You’re doing so good for me,” he praised. Gladio thought back quickly to their conversation about limits - specifically regarding dirty talk - and decided to give it his best shot. He might skirt the line, but he didn’t think he’d cross it. “You must need my cock so badly.”

“I do,” Ignis keened, adding a third finger. Gladio watched him scissor them, stretching himself lewdly.

“Yeah, that was selfish of me,” Gladio continued huskily, putting the last dish in the drainer and pulling the plug from the sink. “Only letting you taste my cock last night.”

“Tasted so good,” Ignis panted, a fourth finger joining the other three. His voice was strained, higher-pitched than normal.

“Maybe I’ll let you have more than a taste,” Gladio said as he dried his hands. “Come to the bedroom with me.”

Ignis started to rise, and Gladio reached down and pushed him back to the floor firmly.

“Did I stay you could stand?”

Ignis flashed a brief glance up at him, all wild eyes and gaping mouth, and Gladio nearly came in his pants. He forced himself to turn and walk away, spurred on by the sounds of Ignis crawling behind him.

Once he got into the bedroom, Gladio pulled out the condoms and tossed them on the bedside table. He was pleased when Ignis set the bottle of lube next to them since Gladio had forgotten to tell him to bring it along.

Gladio ripped off his clothing so fast he heard a seam rip. “Get on the bed.” He climbed up and grabbed the lube, ripping a condom off the strip. He rolled it over his dick quickly before squirting a generous amount of lube in his palm and smearing it along his length.

Leaning down, he whispered to Iggy, who had assumed the same position he’d taken on the kitchen floor. “This is okay? You’re ready?”

Ignis rolled his eyes to the side so that he could meet Gladio’s lascivious visage without breaking position. His full lips quirked in his trademarked smirk, and when he responded, his voice had lowered just a shade beyond its usual baritone, rough with need. “Fuck me, Gladiolus. Please.

Okay, so apparently when Iggy got really horny, he stopped being so nervous about dirty talk. Good to know. “Well, since you asked so nicely…”

Gladio lined himself up and pushed past that tight ring of muscle carefully. He knew he wasn’t small, and he’d gotten complaints before. No matter how badly they both wanted it, he wasn’t gonna risk hurting his lover.

But then Ignis, that devious little minx, took the decision out of Gladio’s hands, thrusting his ass back hard to fully engulf Gladio’s cock in one abrupt motion.

Fuck!” Gladio blurted out, hands clenching on Ignis’s hips reflexively.

“That’s the idea, darling,” Ignis’s said, playfully mocking.

“Oh, you asked for it,” Gladio grinned as he began to move. “And you sounded so nice begging for my cock. I’ll have to make you do that again. Often.”

“As you wish,” Ignis ground out between clenched teeth.

Gladio was pleased to hear that immaculate cadence giving way to chaos once more. Reaching around, he began to stroke Ignis’s dick to the rhythm of his thrusts. “Don’t come until I say,” he warned.

“‘Kay,” Ignis gasped, and Gladio was once more gratified to have apparently reduced his boyfriend to monosyllables.

It didn’t take long, which was no surprise. Gladio would have liked to draw it out, to savor this first time fucking his beloved, but he just didn’t have the patience for it. Besides, they’d done slow and romantic last night… kinda. This morning was for hard and fast, but since Iggy was giving as good as he got, Gladio figured he didn’t mind.

They’d have so many other days and nights for slow.

Shit, Gladio looked forward to all the firsts to come. All the exploration, finding all the secret places that made Ignis’s eyes roll back.

He wanted to tie him down, beat him, edge him, and listen to him beg for hours.

He wanted to come on his face, leaving him bound until his come dried all over those fine-boned features, and only then give Ignis the sweet relief of his own orgasm.

He wanted so fucking much he’d never be able to list it all.

“Gonna come,” Gladio muttered. “Come with me, Iggy. Babe. Oh, fuck!”

Gladio came hard, realizing his fingers would probably leave bruises on Ignis’s hips and hoping he didn’t mind. He felt warm wetness hit his fingers an instant before Ignis let out the world’s most sexy, strangled cry.

And then they were falling onto the bed in a tangle of sweat-slicked limbs, gasping for breath, saying entirely unintelligible words as they came down from the high.

Gladio peeled off the condom, tied it, and chucked it in the trash. He rolled on to his back and pulled Ignis close, engulfing him in his massive arms. “That was…”

“Yes, it was.” Ignis grinned up at him, and Gladio thought he’d never looked more beautiful than in that moment, face all blotchy with red, hair snarled as if he’d stood outside in a tornado. His green eyes were bright and unobstructed by glasses; he looked more relaxed than Gladio had ever seen before.



After they’d showered and dressed, Ignis checked his emails while Gladio put away the air-dried dishes. In truth, he was quite distracted. While the morning hadn’t gone as Ignis had intended, he certainly had no complaints.

He’d arisen early, not being one to sleep in despite the late hour they’d gone to bed. Ignis had decided to surprise Gladio with breakfast in bed. When he’d taken his lover’s hoodie instead of putting on his own robe, he’d rationalized that it was something boyfriends did.

Besides, it smelled like Gladio.

He’d heard the instant Gladio cracked open the bedroom door but had done his best to feign ignorance, wondering how Gladio would react to Ignis’s unorthodox attire. And Six… what had followed had exceeded all of Ignis’s expectations.

He was especially pleased that despite Gladio working in a bit of power-play, Ignis hadn’t been at all upset this time. It had only made the scenario more arousing.

Perhaps he was closer to healed than he’d thought. That would be a welcome miracle indeed.

Now, as they finished up the last chores before heading over to join Noctis and Prompto for an afternoon of gaming, Ignis couldn’t stop smiling. The scene was so perfectly domestic, so incredibly mundane.

He savored it.

“Dishes are done,” Gladio called out. “What else?”

“I think that was the last thing,” Ignis said, closing his email application and putting his phone in his pocket. “Who should drive?”

“We probably both should,” Gladio suggested. “Since I have to go home after.”

“Good thinking,” Ignis said, proud when his voice was smooth and not reflective of the pang in his heart that after a few more shared hours, they’d have to go their separate ways. Hopefully they could find time again soon.

Ignis spared a moment to internally bemoan the necessity of the ruse, to rail against the protocol and politics that made making their union public such a faux pas. But only a moment, because he was ever mindful of his duty.

He would do as was needful, as he always did.

Forcing such thoughts from his mind in determination - he wouldn’t spend his time with Gladio moping about - Ignis locked up behind them and headed down the stairs. Sharing a look that had to serve as a substitute for the kiss they both craved, Ignis turned to walk to his car.

It had snowed quite a bit the night before, and he was glad he’d worn his boots. Thankfully, this late in the day, the roads had been plowed, and the ride over to Noctis’s building went quickly and without incident. He saw Gladio’s truck was empty, and was unsurprised that Gladio had beaten him here - Ignis had had to walk several blocks just to get to his own car, after all.

Waving at the doorman as he waited for the elevator, Ignis hoped that this afternoon would be quiet and calm.

Naturally, as soon as he entered Noct’s place, all hopes of that notion coming true vanished.

“Ha! Head shot!” Prompto screamed victoriously, making a rude hand gesture at Noctis. “Nice fail, dude!”

“My controller isn’t working,” Noctis complained. “Trade with me.”

“Sure, buddy; I can kill your ass with any controller you toss my way.”

Gladio’s laughter was the backdrop to the heated trash talk, and Ignis couldn’t find it in him to be annoyed when they were all having so much fun.

“Hello, Noctis. Prompto. Gladio.”

“Hey, Specs,” Noct called out with a lazy wave.

“Igster! You’re just in time to see me kill the Prince. Again,” Prompto taunted, earning himself a head slap from Noctis.

“Hey, Iggy.”

Astrals, such a casual greeting shouldn’t affect him so. They’d only parted a half hour before. But still, Ignis felt a pleased flush rise in his cheeks as he hung up his coat and laid out his wet boots on the mat.

“Is anybody hungry? Thirsty?” he asked, walking into the kitchen. When no one answered him he shrugged, grabbing himself a can of Ebony before walking out to join the others.

Gladio patted the couch beside him, so Ignis joined him. The two younger men were sitting on the floor, their faces so close to the television screen it took all of Ignis’s not inconsiderable willpower not to entreat them to move farther back.

But then Gladio’s thigh pressed against his, and Ignis stopped caring about such trivial minutiae. His lover’s leg - a part of him still thrilled with the secret knowledge of how true that phrase was now - was firm and warm against his own, and made the cacophony of electronic warfare far more tolerable than usual.

The gaming itself was more enjoyable than Ignis had expected, though to be fair most of his enjoyment came out of the growing camaraderie among the group of young men. Ignis still felt he could use improvement, as his skill set was clearly behind the other three, but in fairness they all had more practice. Maybe now that exams were past he could carve out a few hours a week to practice so that he wasn’t holding the team back when they engaged in these co-op maneuvers.

Gladio headed out after a few hours, and Ignis was left with their two younger companions. He left them happily ensconced in front of the television and puttered around the kitchen, reminding himself of what was on hand and considering what to make for dinner. It was a scenario he’d engaged in innumerable times, but this time felt different.

He’d never cooked for Noct while still aching from the aftermath of making love with Gladio.

Granted, the two were definitely mutually exclusive, but Ignis wasn’t able to focus his mind on much else. So much had changed in such a short span of time. He supposed it was only natural to have found the experience so… compelling.

While Ignis had enjoyed such things with lovers before, he’d never been in love with the person. And that made a world of difference.

As he poured rice into the cooker, he thought back to his ‘first love’, more certain than ever that what they’d shared had never been love. Infatuation, certainly - on Ignis’s end at least. To have someone pay such close attention after living life feeling largely like an afterthought was a heady rush. But love wasn’t meant to be so controlling, so stifling.

No, love was meant to be like what he shared with Gladio. It enriched his days rather than taking away from them. It had him striving to take better care of himself, but not for fear of some arbitrary punishment. He simply wanted to be his best self for his boyfriend.

Gladio deserved it.

On Friday, Ignis was back to his customary schedule. School was still out, so he hadn’t needed to worry about ferrying Noctis to classes. He attended his meetings at the Citadel - more sparsely attended than usual, as many had opted to take the entire week off rather than just Thursday. Ignis enjoyed the return to productivity. He found comfort in his routine, and the Six only knew a day of tedious meetings was far less stressful than the last couple weeks had been with the exam prep and last minute tasks for the Solstice Gala.

Since he hadn’t done so yesterday, he’d arranged to have a magic training session with Nyx today. Ignis was on his way to the training center, hoping he wasn’t cutting things too fine. Directly after this he had his customary sparring match with Gladio, and Gladio had informed him it would be a double to make up for missing their time on Wednesday.

Ignis didn’t mind. He got extra time with his boyfriend, and he was certain to sleep well tonight when he was finally able to crawl into his covers. He still had some reports to complete once the magic and weapons training were completed.

When he arrived at the arcane training room, Nyx was already there.

“Ignis!” the Glaive called out cheerfully with a wave. “Good Solstice?”

“Er… yes,” Ignis stammered, a bit flustered. “You?”

“Oooh, I see that blush!” Nyx teased. Ignis noticed he didn’t elaborate on how his own had passed, and chose not to pry. “And don’t think I didn’t see the goo-goo eyes you were making with Amicitia while you danced. Pretty ballsy, doing that at the Citadel gala.”

“I was helping him with the steps,” Ignis said primly, though he could feel the blush in his cheeks grow brighter.

“I’ll just bet you were,” Nyx winked. “Okay! Let’s get to it.” He walked over to stand in front of some training dummies, indicating that Ignis should follow him. “You’re almost as good with fire as I am, and you’re not bad with ice. But lightning still eludes you, so I thought we’d focus on that.”

“A sound plan,” Ignis nodded agreement.

“Remember that lightning is different than fire - very different. It’s much harder to target lightning narrowly, since if you put much power at all behind it, you’re likely to call up several bolts.” Despite the lecturing quality of his words, Nyx’s voice was still buoyant with cheer; engaging and interesting. “You’re pretty damn precise with your flames. Don’t worry about that with lightning, especially not at first?” Nyx laughed. “I see that frown, gorgeous. Just try not to worry about being perfect just this once, alright?”

Ignis sighed. He made it drawn out and audible intentionally, and was rewarded with a merry sparkle lighting up those cerulean eyes. “Very well. Just this once.” He raised his hands and found his center, focusing the way Nyx had taught him. The fire was there, beckoning at the edges of his mind. It nearly always was these days, though Nyx assured him that the longer he practiced, the easier it would be to filter out until he needed to channel it.

He visualized ball lighting striking from a stormcloud while focusing on keeping his breathing at a steady, even cadence. Just one bolt. Right over there. He wouldn’t hurt anyone in this specially shielded room, and Nyx had stepped behind him, out of range.

With the hand motion Ignis had assigned to lightning - he had erroneously assumed such things were uniform, but Nyx had taught him such gestures were quite individual to each mage, outside of group workings - Ignis tried to call lightning down on the center training dummy.

Nothing happened.

“Drat,” Ignis muttered.

“Again,” Nyx said.

He went through the entire process again. Clear your mind, find your center, touch that arcane spark deep within. Visualize your magic, sight your target, and…

Nothing. Again.

“Keep going. You’ll get it.”

Ignis glared sidelong at Nyx, but his tutor and friend simply grinned back.

They continued in that manner for nearly an hour before Nyx finally put a halt to it.

Ignis, more soaked in sweat than he typically got in combat training, slumped to sit on the floor and catch his breath.

“I’m not sure why you haven’t managed it, to be honest,” Nyx said as he sat crossed legged across from Ignis. “But lighting isn’t my strong suit. I’m gonna see if Crowe can come to our next training session. Not only is she excellent with this element, she can start to work with you on group casting and healing spells.”

“If you’re sure she wouldn’t mind,” Ignis said tiredly. “I’d certainly appreciate the help.”

“Nahh. She likes you. Plan on her being here Tuesday, and if she isn’t able to make our usual time, I’ll text you to reschedule. I really think she can help.”

Mustering up a smile despite his frustration, Ignis nodded. “I trust you in these matters. My thanks.”

“Hah, ‘in these matters’, listen to him!” Nyx’s trademarked cocky grin lit up his handsome face, and he reached out to punch Ignis’s shoulder. “You make it sound like there’s things you wouldn’t trust me for. You wound me, my friend!” He grabbed his chest theatrically as if stabbed.

Ignis rolled his eyes and smirked. “I suspect you’ll live.”

Chapter Text

The last several weeks had been uneventful but utterly delightful. The second semester had started up, so Ignis’s schedule was back to the overstuffed level he was accustomed to. He was grateful that this would be his last semester; not having classes of his own to prepare for would free up some much needed time. Additionally, once he took the Crownsguard exam, he might be able to scale back on the plethora of training sessions he currently engaged in, assuming he passed.

Ignis was pleased that he’d been able to spend more time than expected with Gladio, though it was not uncommon for their dates to be cut short by one or both of them receiving a summons to the Citadel or Noct’s apartment. That was all part and parcel of their day to day lives, though, and Ignis found it relieving to be involved with someone who lived under the same circumstances as he did. Gladio was never upset with him when he had to run off to an emergency Council session, nor was Ignis wroth with his boyfriend when Gladio was called upon to bodyguard Noct’s random excursions.

They’d made Fridays into ‘date night’. After their combat training, they’d part ways, prepare themselves, and then spend the next few hours doing something stereotypically mundane like getting dinner or drinks. One particularly memorable time they did karaoke with Nyx and a half dozen of his Glaive friends. Ignis looked back on that evening with an even mixture of horror and hilarity, but secretly hoped to go again sometime.

And after their dates, unless one or the other had an early start the next day, they’d end up in Ignis’s bed, exploring each other’s bodies until the dawn brightened the morning sky. Those times Ignis treasured most of all. They had kept things largely vanilla between them, and Ignis had zero complaints. While he'd never deny his more unconventional desires, there was nothing lacking in the hours spent entwined with Gladio, discovering every little way to drive him wild.

His primary frustration was that Nyx had been unable to coordinate with Crowe on his magic training. The Crownsguard exam was only months away, and Ignis had yet to conjure a single lightning bolt, let alone attempt any healing spells or group castings. Nyx had assured him Crowe could help with all of those things, but the woman had been sent out on a mission that took up the entire last fortnight. She had returned to Insomnia two days past, and Nyx had said he would endeavor to enlist her assistance for tonight’s magic practice.

Ignis was on his way to that session now, his other work finished for the day. As it was Thursday, he had a comparatively light day tomorrow. He’d have his typical duties to fulfill for Noctis, as well as his own classes at university, but no Council meetings meant a lighter afternoon. Then, combat training with Gladio, and their date - dinner at a Galahdian place Nyx had recommended.

And Saturday was the first Coeurl party of the new year. It would be the first Ignis and Gladio attended together, and Ignis was simultaneously nervous and excited. As was his custom, he had the entire day off, and Gladio had managed to secure the time as well. They planned to spend almost the entire weekend together, and Ignis couldn’t wait.

Walking into the training center, Ignis nodded at Nyx familiarly. He offered a shallow bow to Crowe, since she outranked him, and he didn’t know her well enough to dispense with protocol.

“Bowing? Nyx, what’ve you been filling Scientia’s head with?” Crowe laughed. “Ignis, please; no need to stand on ceremony with me. I’m sure you get enough of that with the Council.”

“Indeed,” he replied, lips twitching in the hint of a smile. “Thank you for coming. I admit I’ve been quite discouraged with my failures and I hope you’re able to help me push past them.”

She nodded. “Nyx filled me in on your progress so far. We’ll try a few different things. If none of them work, we’ll just move on to healing magic or group casting and come back to lightning another day.”

“Very well.”

“Don’t mind me,” Nyx called out cheerfully as he walked to sit cross-legged against the far wall. “I’m just gonna watch.” His face twisted in a leer, causing Crowe and Ignis to look at each other and roll their eyes.

“He doesn’t last long without getting attention,” Crowe said teasingly.

“I’ve noticed.” Ignis’s voice was grave, but his eyes sparkled with mirth.

The joking ceased as Ignis gave Crowe his full attention. She was incredibly intelligent. Ignis was ashamed at how surprised he was when she dove into arcane theory with as much acumen as a mage decades her senior. He was all the more grateful to have gained her aide. Surely with such a talented teacher, he could get past this stumbling block.

“Don’t try to aim, don’t try to do anything fancy. Just focus on manifesting a bolt.”

Ignis nodded, and found his center. Breathing evenly, he felt that familiar spark of magic awaken in his core. Lightning. Thunder. Storms. He filled his mind with imagery of the desired element, then raised his hand and cast.

Nothing happened. While Ignis was not surprised, he was irritated.

“Hey, it happens,” Crowe said. “Walk me through your process.”

Ignis explained in greater detail than she probably needed, but she nodded.

“You’re doing everything right. Is there anything you’re maybe nervous about? Get caught in a bad storm once? Have a loved one get struck by lightning?”

With a frown, Ignis considered. He’d never been afraid of bad weather, though he wasn’t enamored of storms the way some persons seemed to be. He’d faced no injury personally, and couldn’t recall a time when any…


There was that awful storm a dozen years ago. He’d been but a boy, and Noctis even younger. Ignis recalled Noctis hiding under the bed, refusing to sleep, convinced the storm would rage right through the Wall and kill them all due to a bad dream he’d had the week before.

Could that childhood memory be stopping Ignis from channeling this element properly?

Despite the roil of embarrassment in his gut, he laid out the scenario for Crowe. She nodded again, no judgement showing on her face.

“That could do it,” she admitted. “You need to replace that memory with a more positive association. I’ve had that method work for other novice mages.”

“Do I just make something up?” Ignis snapped, regretting the tone as soon as his words escaped him. “Apologies. But as I neither have strong feelings on lighting, nor storms, I’m uncertain what thought I could use to supplant the memory.”

Before Crowe could respond, Nyx stood and pushed away from the wall, walking over to join them. A familiar cocky, dangerous smirk curled his lips, and Ignis’s gaze was wary when he met those gleaming cerulean eyes.

“Maybe a demonstration would help.”

Astrals, how did Nyx make such a reasonable suggestion sound so… filthy?

Crowe’s laugh was raucous. “Like we talked about?”

“Well, it worked for fire.”

Ignis blinked. Surely, Nyx wasn’t proposing what he suspected. Ignis remembered with total clarity the rather unconventional way Nyx had… encouraged him… to work on his control over fire magic. It had worked; Ignis couldn’t deny that. But fire was one thing, the idea of deliberately turning lighting magic on one of his friends was, quite frankly, horrifying.

Although, thinking back many months ago, he had witnessed a demonstration at the Coeurl that basically did the same. Only instead of channeling arcane energies, the top had used a device called a violet wand to direct the currents.

But, no. Ignis couldn’t see any way this would end other than a trip to the hospital wing. He had to say something.

“Nyx, if you’re saying what I believe you’re saying… I can’t.”

Nyx laughed, sharp and incredulous. “Gorgeous, I didn’t mean that you would. I said a demonstration, remember?” He grinned and slung an arm around Crowe’s shoulders. “We’ve done this before. You just sit back and prepare to be… inspired.”

“Such a drama queen,” Crowe snarked fondly.

Nyx spread his arms wide and took a theatrical bow. “I can’t help it. I was born with stage presence.”

“I’ll just… go sit over there, shall I?” Ignis said quietly. He felt a shade awkward watching the byplay between the two of them, even as he felt happiness that they clearly enjoyed an intimacy Ignis had been unaware of. Either they endeavored to hide their bond, as he and Gladio did, or Ignis was just that slow on the uptake. Much as it pained him to do so, he had to admit it was probably the latter. They had no real reason to hide their union. The Kingsglaive, like the Crownsguard, wasn’t strictly forbidden fraternization, but it wasn’t encouraged. However, neither Nyx nor Crowe held any singular role. A surge of resentfulness churned in Ignis’s gut.

They weren’t the Advisor to the Prince, or the Shield to the future King. They could love as they wished, without fear of political ramifications.

Ignis spared a selfish moment to wish he and Gladio were Galahdian refugees turned Glaives, like Nyx and Crowe. But then the moment passed and he seated himself along the wall, focusing on the lesson at hand.

Crowe didn’t need to take the amount of time Ignis did to ground and center, but that made sense. She’d been using magic for years, and Ignis assumed that as he became more accomplished, his cast time would be similarly reduced. As he observed, she cast several small, targeted bolts, taking out a row of training dummies.

“If we were outdoors… and not in the middle of a crowded city… I’d show you a real storm,” Crowe said with a laugh as she swirled her hands, manifesting an actual, honest-to-Six miniature storm-cloud over Nyx’s head.

Nyx didn’t look amused when it started to rain on him. Clearly he had expected a very different sort of demonstration. But Ignis laughed so hard tears obscured his vision.

Crowe expanded the circumference of her hand motions and beckoned Ignis closer.

“Feel it,” she murmured. “Open that part of yourself that channels the arcane energy and touch the cloud. Feel the energy there. You don’t have to create the lightning from nothing. Calling it from the cloud is as natural as breathing.”

He listened to her steady, hypnotic lesson, but gradually her words faded to a soprano buzz in his ear. Ignis could feel the potent power contained in the tiny cloud. He knew logically that Crowe had put it there, but Gods, he could feel the lightning waiting… could feel the hair on his arms standing on end as if he’d been in the blast radius of one of the bolts she’d already let fly.

Just one bolt; Ignis could see it hiding there, shrouded by the mist. He need but coax it out, unleash its potential.

Crack! A small thunderclap was the herald of Ignis’s first successful casting.

“Well done!” Nyx called out cheerfully. He’d long since taken shelter from Crowe’s miniature storm, and was watching the lesson with relaxed interest.

“Again,” Crowe encouraged, bumping Ignis’s shoulder with her own.

He shot her a quick grin, lifted his gloved hands, and the cloud grew. Soon the storm covered the entire length of the room, floating a few feet beneath the ceiling. Ignis mimicked Crowe’s motions, finding that moving to the rhythm of the weather pattern helped him to feel in sync with it. He again recalled his first fire magic lesson with Nyx, how that too had seemed a dance. Magic was much more passionate than Ignis had ever expected. He’d always surmised it would be logical, another type of science; enter the correct input, obtain the desired output. But these spells required him to feel, and feel intensely.

He quite liked it. And immediately on the heels of that thought was a caution not to overuse it, to grow to like it too much.

Ignis swayed in place, verdant gaze cast aloft. He watched the steady swirl of the clouds and mimicked it subconsciously. As his movements quickened, so too did those of the clouds, until he saw a cyclone begin to form. How wonderful. And it was all so easy; he could call ball lighting with the flick of an eyebrow, raise a tornado with a swing of his hips…

“Ignis!” Crowe shook his shoulder, and Ignis blinked. He realized she and Nyx both had a hold of him, and looked to have been calling him for some time.

Focusing on his surroundings, he was grateful for the magical shielding put in place around this room. The clouds were black as pitch, and looked ready to unload all manner of nastiness on their heads. Ignis gaped in horror at the small twister winding around the perimeter of the room.

It had been so easy to create… but how to stop it?

“I got this,” Crowe said sharply. “Stand back.”

Nyx yanked Ignis back with him. “Now’s where you’ll see something amazing. Keep watching, beautiful.”

Flirtation, at a time like this? Ah, Nyx.

Ignis stared as Crowe, with one imperious hand gesture, sent the storm into reverse. It spun back in upon itself until no trace remained. The entire process couldn’t have taken more than three minutes.

“That was incredible!” Ignis’s voice was lit with enthusiasm.

“I’ll show you how to do it,” Crowe promised, “next time. We’re done for today. I’m wiped, and I can only imagine you are too.” She smiled and held up a fist for him to bump. “Well done, Scientia.”

He rapped his knuckles gently against hers, still feeling a bit awkward with the gesture despite having been thoroughly exposed to it by Noctis, Prompto, and to a lesser extent, Gladio. “My thanks again… to you both.”

“Anytime!” Nyx said merrily with a wave. “See you Saturday!”

“Indeed,” Ignis said, nodding farewell to both his friends. Saturday truly couldn’t come quickly enough. With a pleased bounce in his step from the evening’s success, Ignis headed off to make his way over to Noct’s apartment and prepare his dinner.

Gladio hadn’t felt this nervous about attending this event since his first time. Fuck, he hadn't even felt this nervous the first time, if he was being honest with himself.

Tonight was different. Tonight, he’d have Ignis at his side.

Well… he’d have Hawk. Kinda.

After a tense discussion, Gladio had given in to Ignis’s request to arrive separately and not act all coupled up. Ignis and his secrets. Gladio understood, but only to a point. Sure, Ignis’s reputation would be trashed if people at the Citadel found out he got off on getting the shit beaten out of him, but there were rules. If anyone had told stories about Gladio’s attendance, it hadn’t made it back to him, and he was positive it would - either his father, Cor, or the King would have said something. Crowe also appeared without a disguise, and Gladio suspected that despite Nyx’s explanation that he valued his privacy, his mask had more to do with getting off on the anonymity than any real concern. Gladio wasn’t judging; he just wished that in this space - this private, vetted, guarded space - he could be with his boyfriend as his boyfriend, as themselves, without worrying about hiding.

Maybe another time.

He made a circuit of the club and didn’t find Iggy. Fortunately, his insanely smart and overthinking partner had a plan for this. Gladio went to wait at the bar, ordering a cola and people watching.

“Amicitia.” Crowe’s voice was warm as she slid onto the stool next to his, asking the bartender for a glass of water.

“Hey, Crowe. How’s it going?”

“Quiet so far,” she said. “The first couple hours always are. That’s okay, though. Gives me time to sit and catch up with my friends.”

Gladio grinned. “We’re friends now? Cool.”

“You thought we weren’t? Ass.” Crowe laughed, and lifted her glass in his direction.

Gladio clinked his glass against hers and they both took a drink. “You did shut me down pretty good a couple years back.”

“You were a boy,” Crowe scoffed. “You weren’t ready.” She smirked wickedly. “And now that you are, your attentions are focused on my star pupil.”

Was she flirting with him? No. This was Crowe, not Nyx. “How’s he doing with the training?”

“Very well. But you should ask him about it. I’m sure he’d enjoy the chance to share.”

Gladio nodded, appreciating that she not only valued Ignis’s privacy, but was diplomatic enough to redirect him rather than just shutting him down without explanation. “So, what’s on your docket tonight?”

“I’m DMing the first three hours,” she said. “I like to take the first shift because it’s generally quiet, and then I have the rest of the night free for whatever I choose. Pretty sure I’m playing with Nyx later, but I don’t have anything else lined up. You?”

“I’m not entirely sure,” Gladio admitted. “I’ll be …with Hawk, but not? I don’t know.” He sighed, staring down into his soda.

“You lost me.”

“He has it in his head that if we attend as a couple it will… fuck if I know,” Gladio allowed his frustration to color the bass rumble of his voice. “No one here knows who Hawk is anyway. What does it matter if we spend the time together?”

“Be patient with him,” Crowe advised. “He’s very private at these events. If I could think of a stronger word than private? I’d use that.” She smiled and patted Gladio’s arm. “Why don’t all four of us hang out later? Maybe in a group setting he won’t be as nervous.”

“Maybe,” Gladio said dubiously.

“He’s head over heels in love with you. You know that.”

“Yeah.” Fuck, Gladio was pouting like a teenager.

“Just give him a little time. Let him see how well tonight goes, and then maybe next month you guys can come together.” She finished her water and set the empty glass on the bar. “Now, I need to walk around and make sure all the fuckery afoot is safe, sane, and consensual. I’ll see you later.”

“Later,” Gladio muttered. He turned on his stool to face the bar, no longer in the mood for people watching. Despite the energy of the crowd he felt intensely alone. This wasn’t right. Iggy and him should’ve come together, should be talking or playing or, fuck, not here if it was that big a deal.

He caught sight of someone siting down on the stool to his left out of his peripheral vision. With a shrug, Gladio ignored whoever it was. He wasn’t in the fucking mood for small talk. A soft tap at his shoulder got his attention however, and when he turned he realized it was Ignis. It was Hawk.

That fucking mask, once so exotic and beautiful, now mocked Gladio by hiding the face of his beloved. He’d give up on these events altogether if it meant he could study those fine lines, those angular planes, see the sexy little bump in the bridge of Ignis’s nose. Ignis wore a plain black suit accented by a tie that was damnably close to the rich amber of Gladio’s eyes. Gladio decided not to be moved by it, even as his heart melted at the sappiness of the color choice.

“Hey,” he said, voice clipped. When he received nothing but silence in response, Gladio laughed. The sound of it was harsh and unamused, but he didn’t have it in him to pretend.

Naw. Iggy was the one so fucking good at pretending.

“Yep. Silence. This’ll be a lovely evening, with me talking and you sitting there,” Gladio muttered. He felt a pang of regret for his bitter words when he saw the flash of pain in verdant eyes, but Gladio just didn’t even… fuck.

Things had been unimaginably good between then Wednesday night, and Thursday morning. When it was just the two of them in private, away from the prying eyes of the world, it felt like they could do anything, be anything.

But eventually they had to leave their bubble, and in the harsh light of day Gladio was just a co-worker. Maybe a friend.

Gladio understood the need to keep their romance under wraps - by order of the King, no less - but it caused a fracture in his heart. Ignis's insistence on maintaining the charade at such a confidential event threatened to tear that fracture asunder.

He glared at Ignis, letting his resentment and sadness flare in his eyes. He watched Ignis shift uncomfortably, saw him open his mouth as if to speak then he snapped it shut and looked away.

Seriously. That’s how he was gonna play it? Ignis was the one asking Gladio to act like they weren’t in love mere days after they took their relationship to a new level, and he was gonna act all pissy that Gladio showed a human emotion?

Nope. Fucking nope.

Gladio stood, his stool clattering against the bar. “I need some air. Have a good time, Hawk.” He sneered the words, his voice rife with anger.

Not waiting to see what Ignis would do or say, Gladio pushed through the teeming crowd until he reached the door. He ignored the concerned queries tossed his way by both Nyx and Crowe, just not in the Gods-damned mood to explain himself, to have another fucking person tell him that he should give Ignis time.

Ever since they started dating, all Gladio had done was give him time. And he didn’t resent the slow pace. He knew building things gradually would give a more solid foundation for a long term relationship than rushing into things. Nor did Gladio mind inching their way into adding BDSM into their love-play. He took Ignis’s past very seriously and wasn’t gonna add to his boyfriend’s trauma.

But this? This was too much. This was unreasonable. Gladio was fucking done with it. If Iggy couldn’t give Gladio this one thing, he would rather not go to the event. And he fucking loved the Coeurl. He loved the atmosphere, watching what people got up to, feeling the energy of so much passion unleashed in one safe space.

He’d trade it all for one shitting hour at a restaurant, or a park, or a movie theater, getting to be real with Ignis. And since that couldn’t fucking happen, he was gonna make this his hill to stand on. If Iggy wanted to attend the parties? They’d do it as a couple, or not at all. Gladio was putting his fucking foot down, and fuck anyone who said it was him inappropriately abusing being the dominant in their relationship. This had nothing to do with their fledgling power exchange and everything to do with not wanting his heart stomped on.

Gladio walked over to his truck and climbed in, crossing his arms on the steering wheel and leaning forward to press his pounding head against his forearms. He was in no state to drive. He needed to calm the fuck down so he didn’t get into an accident. Putting the key in the ignition, he turned it far enough to allow him to fire up the radio while not engaging the engine. He turned the dial to a classical music station, letting himself get swept up by the weeping cello, the shrilling violins.

He cranked his music so loudly that he was genuinely surprised when his passenger door opened and Ignis - Hawk - climbed inside.

“Shoulda locked that,” he muttered darkly, putting his head back down.

“Gladio… talk to me,” Ignis pleaded. “What happened? I thought we had a plan?”

You had a plan,” Gladio growled. He lifted his head off his arms and turned in his seat to face Ignis. “Take off that fucking mask and talk to me as yourself, damn it.”

Ignis pursed his lips but complied, removing it and setting it on his lap. “Will you please tell me what’s bothering you?”

It pained Gladio to hear Ignis sounding so tentative, so scared, but tonight? Gladio wasn’t gonna sugarcoat shit to preserve Iggy’s feelings. He was allowed to have feelings too, and for once Gladio wasn’t gonna hold them back.

“For such a smart guy you sure are dumb sometimes,” he began, trying to find the right words. “I thought I’d be okay with this - with pretending at the club - but, Iggy, why?” He scrubbed a hand through his dark hair. “I get that we have to ‘maintain propriety’ and shit at the Citadel and out in public, but the staff running this event vets everyone and makes sure they understand the importance of privacy. I’ve attended as myself, no mask, and nothing’s happened. Same for Crowe. And Nyx ain’t as careful as he thinks; he wears his fucking Galahdian braids behind that stag mask.”

Reaching out, he took one of Ignis’s gloved hands in his. “If you still want to attend as Hawk instead of Ignis, fine. I think it’s unnecessary, but I know it helps you to feel safer, and I’d never take that away from you. But for fuck’s sake, don’t ask me to pretend I don’t love you in the one safe space we have outside of your apartment.” Gladio’s anger was fading into sadness, the heat in his voice washed away by the tears that trailed freely from amber eyes. “Let me have one place out in the world where I’m allowed to love you.”

They were quiet for long minutes that ticked away uncomfortably. This was not the warm shared silence after lovemaking or the companionable quiet blanketing the room when they read together or watched a movie. This was tense, and brittle, and heavy with uncomfortable truths.

At last, Ignis spoke. “I’m sorry, Gladio. I didn’t… I didn’t realize how important this was to you.” He removed his tear-stained glasses, focusing unveiled green eyes on Gladio’s stricken face. “I should have realized. I get too worried sometimes, but you’re absolutely right. If something was going to happen, it would have the very first time the Prince’s Shield attended the event unmasked and open about his identity.”

He reached to grasp Gladio’s other hand so firmly Gladio knew Ignis’s knuckles would be white beneath the black leather of his gloves. “Infinitely more compelling than the logic of your explanation is the simple fact that you’ve done so much for me.” He took a shaky breath and curved full lips in a small smile. “I can do this for you.”

“Really?” Gladio’s voice was taut with hope, his answering smile tremulous. “Are you sure?”

“I promise to at the very least try. Next month, we attend together.”

A weight lifted from Gladio’s heart, and he slumped back against his seat. “Fuck, that’s a relief. I was prepared to give up the parties altogether rather than go through this again.”

“Do you want to go back inside?” Ignis asked. “It’s entirely up to you.”

“No. Let’s go to your place,” Gladio said. “I’m not in the mood for people. I just want you to hold me.”

“Anything you want.” Ignis daringly pressed a quick kiss to Gladio’s cheek before putting his mask back on. “I’ll meet you there. Which reminds me…” he trailed off, digging in his pocket, before holding his hand out to Gladio shyly.

It was a key. Fucking shit, was Iggy giving him a key to his place?

“In case you get there before me,” Ignis babbled adorably, “I just thought it would be convenient. This way you don’t have to wait, and—”

“Iggy.” Gladio shut him up by laying a thick finger across his lips. “Thank you.”

They shared a smile, and then Ignis left to find his own car.

Gladio began to navigate the busy Insomnian streets, marveling at just how quickly things could change when you simply spoke up for yourself instead of keeping everything inside. He decided he wasn’t gonna do that again. Iggy was gonna get all of him - the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly.

That was the only way they could make this work.

Chapter Text

Ignis awoke that morning with a smile on his face. He didn’t typically care much for his birthday - it was just a day like any other, and he had work to do - but this year, there was a big change.

Ignis may not care about his own birthday, but Gladio did. And Ignis was of a mind to let Gladio spoil him. While it might be Ignis getting the royal treatment, Gladio would greatly enjoy doting on him, and Ignis wouldn’t take that away from him.

Interesting how turning it around made all the difference. Before, Ignis was uncomfortable with others doing anything for him, no matter how small. Now, he realized that sometimes the more selfless approach was to allow it. He’d changed so much these past five months that betimes he didn’t recognize himself. But Ignis was cognizant enough to know the changes were all positive.

In the past two weeks, he’d doubled down his magic training, taking lessons individually with Crowe as well as Nyx. He’d resumed weapons practice with Gladio and continued to attend the Crownsguard prep classes. University was going well, and he was on track to graduate that spring. Ignis hadn’t managed much private time with Gladio beyond their Friday nights, but those he treasured.

Today, Ignis had done something he’d never done for his birthday: he’d taken the day off. This month, he’d have two days off - his typical third Saturday, for the Coeurl, and today.

Best of all, he got to spend the entire day with Gladio, and a good portion of it with his other friends.

Ignis no longer felt the startling incredulity over having friends, but he still felt immense joy over it. Since it was his birthday, Gladio had insisted Ignis choose what they do. Much to Gladio’s chagrin, Ignis opted to stay in rather than go out, but he’d assured Gladio that it was truly what he wanted. Ignis would much prefer to cook for their party rather than go out to a loud, crowded restaurant.

Noctis had graciously offered the use of his home for the gathering, which was good since Ignis’s apartment was quite compact. It also had better security, which meant that they could all let their hair down a little. Truthfully, the Prince would be well protected; every person in attendance save young Prompto was either Guard, Glaive, or like Ignis, training to join up.

Ignis completed his morning ablutions while his morning coffee brewed. He decided to dress down. It wasn’t a formal party after all, and he thought it would be nice to be comfortable. The fact that Gladio would be pleased absolutely crossed Ignis’s mind, but it was a joyful thought.

They’d been taking the power exchange dynamic of their relationship with glacial slowness. Ignis had begun to defer to Gladio on certain small things, and to voluntarily behave in ways he knew would make his boyfriend happy. Gladio had begun to take charge more noticeably, and let Ignis know when he’d done something to please him. They still hadn’t mixed much kink into their love-making, but Ignis thought he might ready to try again.

After all, Gladio said Ignis could have whatever he wanted on his birthday. What on Eos could he want more than Gladio?

He pulled on some old jeans and a soft gray sweater that he couldn’t bear to part with despite the yarn having piled up horribly over the years. It was clothing he wore when deep cleaning, but he decided it was the perfect choice for today. After putting on his shoes - beaten up old sneakers, to complete the casual outfit - Ignis gathered his wallet, keys, and phone and headed out.

First stop was the supermarket. He felt a pang of embarrassment over shopping in such a dressed-down state, but he regularly saw folks wearing their pajamas to the market, so certainly jeans were appropriate. He’d decided to make a simple stir fry. It was an easy meal to put together for a group, and even though Noctis would almost certainly eat around the vegetables, Ignis liked to think that the juices from them would have soaked into the meat in the wok. That had to count for something.

When he made it to Noct’s building, he could hear the din of gathered people before he even opened the door. The sound of an unexpected voice surprised him, and Ignis looked down at his ratty sweater in horror. He considered rushing home and changing, but then the door was yanked open to reveal a brilliantly grinning Iris.

“Happy birthday!” she chirped, reaching out to tug him inside. “Gladdy, come get these bags. He shouldn’t do work on his birthday!” Iris scolded.

“Hey, Iggy.” Gladio’s eyes screamed apology, and Ignis’s gaze promised retribution for the unexpected guests.

“Ignis. Happy birthday,” Clarus said, reaching out to shake his hand. “Don’t be too hard on Gladio; Iris wanted to come, and I had a mind to drive her myself. Fear not, we’ll clear out so you lads can play your video games.”

“My thanks, Lord Amicitia,” Ignis replied smoothly with a graceful bow.

“None of that, son.” Clarus’s grin was blinding and brilliant, the resemblance to his daughter’s cheerful face never so evident as in that moment.

“Open your presents!” Iris insisted, bouncing on her toes.

Ignis tried to breathe. He hadn’t even seen Noctis yet, nor did he know if Prompto, Nyx, or Crowe were hiding out somewhere beyond the foyer. He was surrounded by Amicitias and it was simultaneously nerve-wracking and invigorating.

“I said no gifts,” he protested weakly.

“Like we’d listen to that,” Noctis spoke up from behind Iris with an insouciant wave. “Happy birthday, Specs.”

“Thank you, Highness,” Ignis said a bit feebly. He allowed Iris to guide him to a chair and sank into it gratefully. Truth be told, this was all a little too much. He wasn’t wroth with Gladio, no - he knew that once Clarus had agreed to Iris’s idea, there was no way Gladio would be able to gainsay them. But Ignis had not been prepared for all of this.

Once he was settled, he offered polite smiles. All his friends were there, and it warmed his heart. Prompto looked nearly as poleaxed as Ignis felt, but Nyx and Crowe wore the very straight faces of those intensely amused but determined not to laugh.

“Mine first!” Iris continued to take charge, thrusting a glittery purple gift bag at Ignis.

He accepted it gingerly, but to no avail: his lap was instantly covered in glitter. Opening it, he found a coffee mug charmingly - if a bit inexpertly - painted with a dancing moogle.

“I made it at school,” Iris said.

Verdant eyes widened in surprise. “That’s lovely, Iris. Thank you very much.”

She threw her skinny arms around Ignis’s neck and hugged him before dancing back to grab another parcel for him to unveil. “This one’s from Dad!”

Ignis thought he couldn’t be any more surprised than he already was by the elder Amicitia’s attendance, but that was nothing next to the overwhelming sense of awe he felt when he unwrapped the extravagant gift.

“This is too much,” he mumbled faintly. “I cannot accept.”

“You can and you will, lad. I had those custom made for you. I know your official admissions test isn’t for a couple months, but from how Gladiolus - and Nyx, and Crowe, and even Cor - speaks, you’ll pass without trouble.”

Ignis lifted one of the gleaming daggers from the wrappings and admired the heft of it, its perfect balance. It wasn’t merely functional but a work of art, inscriptions of High Lucian running along the haft. Stylized flames, snowflakes, and lighting bolts were etched into the blade. Its twin was a perfect match, and Ignis thought them almost too beautiful to use in battle. But he would honor the gift by taking them with him when he protected his Prince, knowing Clarus would expect nothing less.

He lifted misty eyes to meet the elder man’s and managed a watery smile. “Thank you.”

Things went more quickly after that. Iris rushed off into the kitchen for something she wouldn’t elaborate upon, and the others gave him their presents in rapid succession. Nyx parted with some Galahdian herbs he’d brought with him from home, insisting he was a lousy cook and someone may as well use them. Crowe gave him a book on high level magical theory, and Prompto gave him a gift card to his favorite coffee shop. Noctis had bought Ignis a gaming console along with a copy of the game they’d played as a group, and Ignis felt moved by his charge’s thoughtfulness.

Gladio looked at him and shrugged, but his eyes were devious. “You said no gifts. I got nothin’.”

Ignis felt momentarily dismayed, but then realized it was kind of Gladio to respect his wishes, if surprising. Judging by the sly look glinting in those warm whiskey eyes, Gladio had something up his proverbial sleeve. “Indeed. My thanks, Gladiolus.” Ignis’s lips curled in the hint of a smirk when he saw Gladio bite his lip, taking great delight in the way such a simple thing could affect his boyfriend so intensely.

Iris strode back out, immediately commanding the entire room’s attention as she held aloft a cake bearing so many candles it looked like the pastry itself was aflame.

“Jared helped me bake it, but I decorated it myself!”

Ignis rose and walked over to look once she’d set it down on the coffee table. In uneven, fanciful letters it read simply: ‘yay Iggy!’

“I couldn’t fit more words and still draw the moogle,” Iris explained.

“You made the proper choice,” Ignis replied gravely. “I love it. Thank you, Iris.” This time he was prepared for the effusive hug; he squeezed her back fondly before cutting the cake and passing slices around.

“In my family we have a tradition,” Prompto spoke up. “The birthday person isn’t allowed to talk until they finish their first slice of cake. Everyone else tries to goad them into talking.”

“And what is the point of this exercise?” Ignis asked warily.


Ignis looked around, and seeing all the expectant faces - particularly Noct’s, whose body language practically screamed the order to comply with Prompto’s wish - nodded acceptance. “Very well.” After taking his first bite, he largely tuned out the conversation. It was something he’d grown accustomed to over years of not being an active participant in conversations, and he figured it was the easiest way to avoid answering.

“Ignis, why don’t you take tomorrow off, too?” Clarus suggested with a knowing twinkle in his eyes. “It was Regis’s idea, so don’t worry on that score.”

Ignis knew this ‘no talking while you eat your cake’ had been a trick, drat them all. But he wasn’t really angry. Taking tomorrow off might set him back on his work, but it meant that perhaps Gladio could stay overnight instead of leaving at a reasonable hour, and that was worth it.

He shook his head and shrugged in silent acceptance of the idea, continuing to eat his cake. Since he was saved the task of small talk, Ignis took the opportunity to study everyone assembled.

Nyx and Crowe sat together, pressed close from shoulder to hip. Ignis smiled at them fondly, rolling his eyes when Nyx blew him a kiss and grinning when Crowe slapped him upside the head for it.

Prompto and Noctis had eaten their cake so quickly it was a wonder they didn’t choke. They’d fired up Noct’s gaming console and had begun to wage heated battle against electronic aliens. Iris was watching and cheering them on. Ignis realized how close she was standing to Noctis and shook his head. She was growing up, and appeared to have a crush.

Clarus and Gladio had their heads huddled together, speaking in such a low rumble that Ignis couldn’t discern a word of it. They looked happy and relaxed however, so Ignis’s mind was at ease.

Once he’d finished his dessert, Ignis cleared his throat. “I just want to say… thank you. Sincerely.”

“What can I say except ‘you’re welcome’?” Iris sang in response, and Ignis realized she must be quoting something, but didn’t know what. He made a mental note to look into it.

“Yes,” Clarus said agreeably. “Iris, it’s time for us to go. You have school tomorrow.”

To her credit, Iris didn’t protest. One last cry of ‘happy birthday!’ and a final handshake from Clarus, and they were gone.

The room was silent for a long moment which Ignis broke by saying, “I don’t know about you lot… but I could use a drink.” He waggled a finger at Noctis and Prompto. “Not you two. You’re underage.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Noctis muttered, too focused on his game to care.

The rest of the evening was exceedingly fun, and Ignis almost felt guilty about how desperately he wanted to leave. Almost.

It was his birthday after all, and he wanted to spend the last few hours of it lost in Gladio’s arms.

After parking his truck a block away, Gladio made the short walk to Iggy’s building. The party had gone really well. He’d been a bit nervous when his family insisted on tagging along, but he didn’t get to see his dad much and it was nice to have the time away from their duties. Gladio was aware that Clarus and Regis knew about his burgeoning romance with Ignis. When he’d spoken with his father at the party, he’d made it clear that he approved wholeheartedly, provided Gladio continued to uphold his oaths to the crown.

Putting it all from his mind, Gladio thought about the gift he’d prepared for Ignis. He hoped his boyfriend didn’t think the idea was too stupid. Gladio had had trouble thinking of what to buy for Iggy, and wanted to give him something he’d remember. Stereotypical ideas like taking him to a show or on a picnic or something were all discarded. Gladio absolutely did not want to spend their private time on Ignis’s birthday pretending that they weren’t a couple. No, he’d opted for something more intimate; something he hoped Ignis was as ready for as he was.

He used the key Iggy had given him and let himself into the apartment to find that he’d beaten Ignis there. Good, that was perfect. Gladio locked the door behind him, took off his coat and shoes, and headed into Ignis’s bedroom with his overnight bag to set things up.

First he arranged a couple dozen unscented candles and lit them all. When he turned off the light, he nodded in pleasure - the little flickering flames provided just enough illumination while lending the room an ephemeral, sensual atmosphere. Next he plugged in his CD player and loaded the disc he’d burned. It was full of instrumental music of a type he knew Ignis and himself both enjoyed - throbbing cellos, trilling violins, insistent drums. He’d chosen the tracks with great intent, as they’d set the tone and pacing for their other activities.

Along the foot of the bed, Gladio assembled the other things he’d brought: the lube and condoms wouldn’t surprise Ignis, but the floggers, paddle, and crop might. Gladio just hoped it was a good surprise.

Fuck, he just wanted to give his a sub a birthday spanking they’d both remember. Was that so wrong?

Gladio heard the rattle of keys and left Ignis’s room, shutting the door behind him to keep the surprise a secret for a few more precious minutes. He met Ignis at the door, and as soon as it was closed, pulled him into a deep, passionate kiss.

“Happy birthday, babe,” Gladio purred into his ear before biting softly at the lobe.

“Thank you,” Ignis gasped, fisting a hand in the soft cotton fabric of Gladio’s shirt.

He tipped his head back, and Gladio heeded the nonverbal signal, playing his lips, tongue, and teeth down the slim column of Ignis’s neck.

“You said,” Ignis tried to speak, but then Gladio’s mouth covered his. Ignis pushed at Gladio’s chest and Gladio backed off with an unrepentant grin. “You said you had a present for me… but what if I already know what I want?” he asked coyly, teasing his clever fingers along the waistband of Gladio’s jeans.

“Why don’t you tell me what you have in mind,” Gladio’s voice was soft, “and we’ll go from there.”

“All right,” Ignis replied. Gladio watched as his pale cheeks flushed - ah-ha. Iggy must’ve realized he’d have to ask for what he wanted, directly and openly, and it must be pretty sexy if Ignis was this flustered.

“I want you to fuck me,” Ignis managed in a barely audible tone, “while I’m tied up.”

Gladio’s eyes went wide in shock. Shit, he’d expected Iggy to sweetly ask for some birthday sex, and he’d hoped to win him over with his birthday beating idea, but Ignis suggesting bondage - with his very reasonable issues surrounding it - was completely unexpected.

And scorching hot.

“Are you sure?” Gladio asked, two fingers going beneath Ignis’s chin and lifting his head. Gladio had to make certain Iggy was really into this or he’d never forgive himself.

Those verdant eyes were already blurred, the irises a scant hint around the blackness of blown pupils. Ignis’s lips were parted, his breath coming more quickly, and they hadn’t even begun. “I’m sure.”

“Alright,” Gladio growled. “My idea was to give you a little birthday spanking. How do you feel about that?”

“That sounds wonderful,” Ignis said, his voice tight with desire. “Can we… please take me to the bedroom, now, Gladiolus. Please.”

“Anything you want, babe.” Gladio decided to hell with propriety. He swept Ignis up in his strong arms and carried him bridal style down the hallway. He fumbled with the doorknob and kicked it open with one bare foot. Gladio stood in the doorway a minute, letting Ignis take it all in - the candles, the impact play toys, everything.

“Oh, Gladio,” Ignis whispered. “This is beautiful. Thank you.”

“I love you, Ignis.” What else was there to say? He put his boyfriend down and grinned. “Now take of your clothes and get on the bed.”

“Yes, Gladiolus.”

Fuck, that velvety baritone, that refined accent caressing his name - it already did things to Gladio. But add in the joyful obedience, the intense need to please…

Gladio adjusted himself the best he could with his pants zipped and went to start up the music.

He considered what to bind Ignis with. Gladio hadn’t packed any restraints; it hadn’t occurred to him that Ignis would be ready and eager to tackle that particular hurdle.

“Mind if I borrow some stuff?” he called out over his shoulder as he fiddled with the CD player.

“Anything I have is at your disposal,” Ignis purred, and Gladio sent a silent prayer to the Six that he not come in his pants like a teenager.

Not looking at Ignis - for once he saw those naked limbs and taut muscles, he’d never be able to walk away - Gladio went to his boyfriend’s closet and rummaged around until he found Ignis’s ties. Pushed to the back of the collection were some truly awful monstrosities that Gladio was, quite frankly, shocked to find hung alongside Ignis’s eminently fashionable clothing.

“What bet did you lose?” he asked, waving the ties as he turned.

Oh. Shit. Fuck.

Ignis had removed his shoes, clothing, and glasses and was kneeling on the center of the bed with his chin high, though his ash-blonde eyelashes veiled that emerald gaze. His knees were pushed apart so far that Gladio could see the tension in his thighs. His cock jutted up proudly between those parted legs, the head already glistening with pre-come. He’d crossed his wrists at the small of his back, leaving the lines of his chest on display.

Gladio was vaguely aware that Ignis was answering him, but it was like he was speaking a foreign language for all the sense his words made. Swallowing, Gladio shook his head, trying to focus. “Uh, sorry. What was that?”

Those lush lips quirked in a wicked smirk that went straight to Gladio’s dick. “I said, Noctis buys me one each year as a joke at Father’s Day. I don’t have the heart to throw them out.”

“Well, they’ll do,” Gladio said briskly. Focus, Amicitia. Don’t tackle your boyfriend. Don’t suck his cock. You have a plan, remember?

He walked over to the bed and cleared his throat. Ignis stared up at him so trustingly that it filled Gladio’s heart near to bursting. “I want you to stand at the right side of the bed, bending over it and stretching your arms as far as you can to the other side.”

Ignis assumed the directed position, and Gladio had to take a moment to stare. Great Astrals above and below, Ignis was gorgeous. Unable to resist, he reached out and groped Ignis’s ass, grinning when a full body shiver coursed along his lover’s splayed form.

It didn’t take long for Gladio to bind him in place. He tied his wrists together, using a second tie to bind them to the bed frame. After sliding a pillow under Ignis’s cheek and making sure he was comfortable and breathing easily, Gladio knelt behind him and pushed his legs farther apart, tying each ankle to the bedframe and ensuring he’d stay open and available for whatever Gladio chose to do to him.

He leaned forward and licked once, long and slow, along Ignis’s asscrack before rising.

“What’s your safeword?”


“Your signal?”

Ignis snapped his fingers twice.

“Good boy.” Gladio patted his back and then turned to the tools he’d arranged. He lifted his softest flogger, a delicate implement with falls cut from the lightest anak-hide, and tossed it forward gently, letting them trail over Ignis’s back. He noted the way Ignis tensed and then shuddered, his bound hands grasping at the bed linens.

“You okay?” he checked.

“Please, Gladiolus,” Ignis begged. “Please hurt me.”

Well, if he was gonna ask so nicely…

Gladio brought one large hand down on Ignis’s ass, watching the firm curve jiggle in the aftermath of the strike. He spanked the other side, then built into an even rhythm, alternating his blows so that no one spot was overwhelmed, no inch of creamy flesh left unmarked. He paid attention to Ignis’s gasps and cries, to the way he squirmed and writhed, upping the intensity at a steady pace. When Ignis’s ass was thoroughly reddened, the track on the CD changed, and Gladio’s grin was quick and fierce.

He picked up the crop in his empty hand and again trailed the delicate tails of the light flogger along Ignis’s spine. As the music crescendoed, Gladio began to strike Ignis with the crop in perfect rhythm with the pound of the drums, short little flicks that left small raised welts behind.

Ignis’s moan was low and liquid, his hands clenching and unclenching around the sheets.

Gladio kept that up for the rest of the song; nips of the crop interspersed with sensual caresses of soft leather. When the song faded out and the next one began, he set aside both crop and flogger and waited until the song grew loud enough to mask his noise. Gladio stripped off his clothing in a rush and then waited for the moment he knew was coming.

The song slowed, transitioning from the allegro to the largo, and Gladio stepped close to press his strong body against his boyfriend’s, leaning forward so that his chest covered Ignis’s back. Rocking his hips, he ground his dick into the cleft of Iggy’s ass, and he leaned forward to rub his stubbly cheek against Ignis’s.

“You doin’ okay?” he whispered in Iggy’s ear.

“Gods, yes,” Ignis hissed, turning to try and find Gladio’s lips.

Gladio was a generous man and not one to leave his partner hanging. He kissed Ignis deeply, lingeringly, ending with a firm bite that drew a couple drops of blood as well as a startled yelp from the other man.

“Ready for more?” he growled, mashing his pelvis against Ignis’s ass, reveling in the feel of the firm muscle against his cock.


Gladio stepped back and selected the wooden paddle. He knew it packed a wallop, but he’d watched what Ignis had taken at the club. He could take this.

And if a little part of Gladio relished the notion of pushing Iggy just a bit too far, pushing his limits and encouraging him to take just a little more than was prudent, just to please him… well, he figured that was his prerogative as the dom in this scene.

His hand brushed over the pinked skin of Iggy’s ass in warning, and then he brought the paddle down. Hard.

Ignis’s scream was fucking music to his ears. But that was nothing compared to hearing that normally reserved voice completely strung-out and undone, as he whined, “Oh, Gladiolus, yes… more, please… yessss.”

Gladio waited until the song transitioned and found his rhythm, striking on counterpoint to the bass line. Ignis’s screams faded to silence, and his tension completely drained until his fingers lay open against the bedding, his body sagging against the mattress as if he’d slump to the floor without its support.

Gauging his lover’s reactions, Gladio knew Ignis was beyond safe-wording. This was where his responsibilities as a dominant really kicked in; he had to know when Ignis’s body had taken enough despite Ignis’s inability to speak up. He continued to ply the paddle but more slowly, and he slid his hand over the crimson skin in between each stroke, checking the heat, making sure the skin hadn’t been cut by the force. When Gladio had deemed it was sufficient, he set the paddle aside and took up the other flogger he’d brought. It was heavier than the first, but still not as forceful as the paddle or as biting as the crop.

After indulging himself with a kiss on one reddened asscheek, Gladio sank his teeth into the battered flesh, humming in pleasure when Ignis shrieked. Never had Gladio ever imagined the sounds Ignis would make while playing; even when he’d observed Hawk, he hadn’t known what to expect, since he was nonverbal. Gladio had to keep himself in check lest he lose himself and come before he even had a chance to fuck his beloved - the noises Ignis made were so fucking hot they should be illegal.

Stepping back so he had the space needed, Gladio swung the flogger and brought it down on the center of Iggy’s back, giving his poor rear end a respite from new pain. As he found the cadence of the current song and worked it into his motion, Gladio danced to the beat of the music, to the beat of his heart, primal and hungry. He rained blows down generously, savoring every twitch and bunch of those lithe muscles, watching Ignis’s back slowly brighten from ivory to pink, edging towards true red. Gladio lost himself in the moment, in the rhythm, in the unorthodox duet woven by them both. It was bordering on a spiritual experience, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Gladio realized he’d never find the same joy in pick up play as he once did - Ignis was ruining him for that life, and Gladio wanted to fall to his knees and praise him for it.

“Ebony,” Ignis hissed between clenched teeth, and Gladio immediately set the flogger aside, going to lean beside his boyfriend and lay his head on the bed so they could meet eyes.

Ignis’s pupils were blown so wide Gladio wondered if he could see at all. His eyes were unfocused, and Gladio was immensely proud of his submissive for having the presence of mind to speak a safe-word while so obviously flying high.

“How are you?” Gladio asked, smoothing sweaty hair back from Ignis’s flushed face.

“I… I can’t take much more. I’m sorry,” Iggy ended on a sob, turning his face to hide his eyes.

Gladio reached and firmly turned Ignis back to face him. When he saw the tears glistening on Ignis’s cheeks his heart stuttered. On the one hand, he was horrified to make him cry.

But something inside him purred approval of those tear-swollen eyes, those little piteous gasps.

Gladio’d be more worried about it if he hadn’t the self control to handle the situation appropriately. “You took so much for me,” he crooned, stroking Ignis’s hair repeatedly. “You were so good for me.”

“Gladio,” Ignis sobbed, and Gladio kept stroking his hair and muttering comforting words into Ignis’s ear.

“Do you think you can take just a little bit more, pet?” Gladio asked gently. “I want to bring you down properly. And then I want to make love to you, if that’s okay.”

“I’ll try,” Ignis’s voice quavered. “I want to try for you.”

“Okay, baby,” Gladio said tenderly, pressing a soft kiss to his forehead. “I’ve got you, Iggy. You’re safe with me.”

“I’m safe with you,” Ignis sighed as Gladio got off the bed.

Gladio picked up the soft flogger again and delicately tossed the falls over Iggy’s back and ass. He’d timed things well, and the song was slower now, susurrations of acoustic guitar that sounded like a summer shower. He watched as Ignis’s breathing slowed and set the flogger aside in favor of his hands. There were no slaps or spanks now; Gladio ran his hands reverently over Ignis’s back, his ass, his thighs, caressing his devotion into the tender, beaten flesh. He could see where bruises would form and dropped loving kisses on each spot, making a mental note to try and convince Iggy to take a potion, even though Gladio knew Ignis savored the marks and would want to keep them.

Walking around the bed, Gladio untied Ignis’s wrists. He rubbed them to help restore any lost circulation, before moving to unbind his ankles.

Ignis started to cry again, completely confusing Gladio, but he knew that everyone came down from a scene in different ways. Climbing back onto the bed he pulled Ignis close, wrapping his tattooed arms firmly around him. “Sssh, Iggy. Sssh. What’s wrong, babe? I’ve got you. You’re okay. You did so well. I’ve got you.” Gladio chanted like a mantra until Ignis’s tears faded out.

“You said you’d fuck me,” Ignis said in such a despondent voice that Gladio could kick himself, “while I was tied up. But you untied me.” Emerald eyes flashed up, desperate and longing. “Don’t you want me?”

Okay, so, Ignis was still not fully himself. Gladio squeezed him tighter and smiled. “Do you have any idea how much I want you, baby?” he murmured, kissing down from his forehead to his cheek so that he could meet his eyes directly. “I want you so much that it hurts. I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anyone, Ignis, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop.” Gladio figured if Ignis was going to be so painfully vulnerable, he could return the favor.

“Then why won’t you fuck me?” Ignis keened.

“Oh, I will,” Gladio rumbled, dropping his voice a half-octave to highlight the depth of his desire. “But I needed to make sure you were okay first. Allow me that, okay? As your dom, it’s my job - and my joy - to take care of you.”

Ignis’s eyes shifted like quicksilver from sorrow to blinding joy, and his full lips curved in a shy smile. “As you wish.” He nuzzled his face against Gladio’s chest, and Gladio was content to just hold him, to hear his breathing even out, to let him come back to himself.

Ignis apparently had different ideas, as evidenced by the way he playfully licked Gladio’s nipple.

“Iggy,” Gladio groaned. “You back with me?”

“I am,” Ignis murmured. “Thank you for taking such good care of me.”

“Of course.” Gladio grinned playfully. “You still want me to tie you up for the sex part?”

“No,” Ignis said decisively. “I’m allowed to change my mind on my birthday, yes?”

“Ignis, you’re always allowed to change your mind.” Gladio’s timbre and eyes were serious.

Ignis nodded. “Then why don’t you lay back, my love,” he purred, pressing a hand to Gladio’s sternum to push him onto the pillows, “and let me enjoy you as I wish.”

Gladio’s heart sped up. “I ain’t gonna argue.” He chuckled. “Happy birth—fuck!”

His words were cut off by the wet heat of Ignis’s mouth surrounding his cock. Ignis didn’t seem in the mood for much foreplay; he took as much of Gladio into his mouth as he could, pushing forth until he gagged. He sucked at Gladio’s cock until he was painfully hard, and then eased off with a teasing lick over the slit in its head.

“I want you,” Ignis said breathily, “inside me.” He reached behind him and found the lube, squirting a generous amount onto his hand.

Gladio couldn’t see what was happening, but could imagine it from other nights spent together. Ignis was efficient when opening himself, not taking the time to tease or enjoy it unless Gladio ordered him to do so.

Another wet squirt, and Ignis was spreading lube over the prodigious length of Gladio’s dick. He tossed the bottle aside and straddled his lover, a predatory grin twisting his lips.

“Is this okay?” he asked, rocking back to push his ass against Gladio’s erection.

Hell yes,” Gladio moaned in response, bucking his hips impatiently. “Fuck yourself on my cock, Iggy. Show me how much you want it.”

Ignis’s eyes went wide and new color rose in his cheeks. “Yes, Gladiolus.”

Gladio may have appreciated the way Ignis drew out his name, but his attention was on the sensation of Ignis’s ass pulsing around his cock, taking him in steadily until he was completely buried in his lover, the curve of Ignis’s ass touching his thighs.

And then Ignis began to move.

His boyfriend knew exactly what he wanted and how. Six. Ignis took him hard and fast, pistoning his hips with such alacrity Gladio knew they’d both have bruises.

Gladio reached between them to wrap his hand around Ignis’s cock, pumping along with their rhythm. His other hand curled in Ignis’s disheveled hair, yanking him down for a kiss.

“I love you,” he tried to say against Ignis’s mouth, but the kiss hid his sweet words.

That was okay. He could express his love other ways.

As Ignis continued to fuck himself hard, Gladio slowed the hand on his boyfriend’s cock, making his touch teasing and tender instead of quick and rough. He was rewarded by breathy, mewling cries. Ignis’s eyes snapped open and honed to Gladio’s amber gaze, silent pleas gleaming in those green depths.

“Don’t come until I say,” Gladio ordered. He felt Ignis clench around his cock in response to the command, causing Gladio’s eyes to roll back in his head.

Ignis didn’t slow at all. In fact, the warning seemed only to spur him on. He railed himself so fucking fast that Gladio wondered how he could breathe. For Gladio’s part, he continued to languidly stroke Ignis’s dick, the hand in Iggy’s hair holding him in place for Gladio to lick and suck at his ear, his neck, his clavicle.

Gladio felt that familiar pressure, that lighting coiling at the base of his spine, and he knew he wouldn’t last long. “Iggy,” he gasped. “I’m close.”

“Good,” Ignis hissed, pulling against the hand in his hair until he was able to mash his mouth sloppily against Gladio’s, more a crash of lips and teeth than a proper kiss.

Gladio pumped Iggy’s cock harder, faster, wanting them to go together. “You have permission,” he muttered. “Come with me, Iggy. Come with me, babe.”

“Oh, Gladiolus,” Ignis screamed, and then his orgasm was exploding, hot ropes of come spraying over Gladio’s abdomen, some going so far as to land on his chest.

That was the last straw. Gladio bellowed a nonsensical cry as he came hard, filling Ignis’s ass with his release. He let go of Iggy’s hair so he didn’t yank it out at the root, instead wrapping both arms around his lover’s waist and holding him close as the aftershocks coursed through him.

As they lay there, hearts pounding, covered in sweat and come and a little blood from the fierce kisses, Gladio’s mind was a kaleidoscope of emotion, his brain replaying snapshots of the last five months. Ignis asking him out in the middle of a spar. The shy flash of verdant green above his coffee cup at their first date. Their first kiss. The realization that Ignis and Hawk were the same person. The handclasps and communication as they pressed onward. Their first true coming together, when Ignis took the last virginity Gladio had left to offer, sharing his own final first as well.

It had all brought them to today, to this moment in time, to this meeting of minds and bodies and spirits.

It hadn’t been easy… but Gladio wouldn’t trade a single moment.

If he did, this may not have happened. He didn’t want to consider the alternatives.

“I love you, Iggy,” he said hoarsely, his throat tight with unshed tears.

“I love you, too,” Ignis murmured sleepily, his breath already evening out into the steady cadence of sleep.

Gladio lay there holding Ignis and stroking his hair for a long time, just listening to his quiet snores and feeling unimaginably content. Part of him was afraid if he fell asleep, he’d wake up and find out this was all a dream.

But no. It was real. Painfully, messily, wonderfully real.

And he was grateful for every honest second of it.

Chapter Text

The rumble of his truck sitting in idle sounded ridiculously loud while Gladio sat inside it. He’d have preferred to go inside, to pick Iggy up at his door like you did for a proper date, but Ignis had accurately pointed out that on Saturday night, parking would be challenging.

Gladio had spent the day with Iris, while Clarus had been stuck in the same meetings that pulled Ignis away from his planned day off. His father had made it home for dinner, which had been a cheerful affair. When Gladio left home, Iris had been popping popcorn and Clarus had resigned himself to watching dancing, singing, anthropomorphic ponies for the next few hours.

Pulled from his review of the day by the appearance of one Ignis Scientia, Gladio grinned. He waited until Ignis had closed the door and fastened his seat belt before claiming a quick kiss. “Hey, Iggy.”

“Gladiolus.” Only Ignis could make his name sound like a fucking song lyric, the syllables drawn out and shaped so tenderly.

“How’d it go today?” Gladio pulled away from the curb and began navigating the busy Insomnian streets.

“Slowly,” Ignis sighed. “I can’t really talk about it. And truthfully, I don’t want to.”

“Well, I’m sorry that it ate up most of your downtime. But at least we still have tonight.”

“Yes. I’ve been quite looking forward to it,” Ignis drawled, wrapping his words in a heat that had Gladio’s heart pounding.

“Yeah?” With the way his pulse hammered in his throat, Gladio gave himself a gold star for managing the monosyllable.

Ignis was quiet a moment as he put his mask in place. Gladio shot a sidelong glance at Ignis and had to admit, the new hairstyle Iggy had adopted for these parties was on point. He wondered if Ignis would consider wearing it outside of these events; while it worked amazingly well with his mask, Gladio liked the look of his hair out of his face, enabling him to more easily see those stunning eyes and chiseled features.

“I wondered if you’d like to play with me tonight,” Ignis asked, caution in his timbre.

“At the party? Or after?” Gladio wondered.

“At the party,” Ignis clarified. “If we’re attending as a couple… I don’t see why we shouldn’t.”

Gladio’s painfully hard erection agreed. “Fine by me, babe. Did you have anything particular in mind?”

“Well, it’s our first time playing in public - and we haven’t done much actual scening in private either - so something simple would probably be best.”

Gladio nodded, keeping his eyes on the road so he didn’t overly distract himself. “Sounds good.”

Ignis’s hand snaked over to rest on Gladio’s thigh. Gloved fingers trailed down his inner thigh perilously close to where his cock strained against his leather pants. “And I thought perhaps you could come to my place after, and…”

“And?” Gladio’s voice was low and rough. He reached down to grab Ignis’s wrist, stopping him from sliding those clever fingers any farther up his leg before Gladio crashed the car.

“And I could fuck you,” Ignis purred, putting staccato sharpness on the ‘ck’ sound.

Gladio made a sound that might have been word. Shit, Iggy was feeling bold tonight, and Gladio certainly wasn’t gonna complain.

Ignis’s laugh was like a drizzling of warm honey, quiet and sweet, but with an edge of predatory lust that had Gladio feeling grateful he found a parking spot right away.

Gladio turned in his seat and brought his lips against Ignis’s. It was a careful kiss thanks to that damnable mask, but a deep one. He relished the little helpless whimpers Ignis made against his mouth, and when Gladio reached out, he found to his immense delight that he wasn’t the only one sporting a massive hard-on from that conversation.

“Let’s go,” he grinned, climbing out of the truck. Gladio grabbed his bag from the backseat and walked around to the passenger side. Taking Ignis’s hand in his, they crossed the street and made their way to the club.

They’d arrived early, so there was no wait. After showing their membership cards, they were waved inside and Gladio blinked as his eyes adjusted to the low lighting. The sound no longer overwhelmed him. While it was a more exotic cacophony, it wasn’t any more loud than the clang of practice arms in the training yard.

“Want anything to drink? Eat?” he asked, and Iggy shook his head in negation. “Just sit a while and get the lay of the land?” Ignis nodded, so Gladio steered them through the crowd, looking for good seating. Rather than picking a place along the edge, Gladio chose a couch in a central seating area which afforded them a good view of half the room. He was starting to form an idea of what to do with Iggy for their scene, and this way he could keep an eye on the equipment. He sat down, settling back against the comfortably overstuffed cushions, putting his bag down between himself and the armrest.

Ignis stood there for a moment, and Gladio wondered if he was waiting for permission or something. One thing Gladio had learned was that Ignis was way more into protocol and formality in his D/s than Gladio was, but Gladio didn’t mind indulging his boyfriend when he was in the right headspace. He opened his mouth to encourage Ignis to sit with him, but before he could, Ignis smiled at him and put a gloved finger over his lips. Gladio’s mouth went dry when Ignis gracefully sank down to his knees, settling on the floor with his legs curled to his left, leaning his right side against Gladio’s calves.

“That works too,” Gladio muttered, noting the playfully shy way Ignis’s lips quirked at his confused approval. He watched as Ignis closed his eyes and leaned his masked cheek against Gladio’s knee. Gladio reached down and laid a hand at the crown of Ignis’s head behind the gelled up crest of hair, toying with the silken strands as he cast his eyes about, observing the goings-on at the Coeurl.

He’d missed this. Between the month off for the Solstice, and last month’s clusterfuck of miscommunication and unexpected emotions, it had been entirely too long. He’d always enjoyed watching people get their kink on, seeing the talent - the artistry - put into people’s play. But more so than that, he was on fucking cloud nine because he was sitting here basically cuddling with his boyfriend in a public place. He could kiss him if he wanted and no one would bat an eye. Hell, in this place? He could fuck him if he wanted. It felt so wonderful, so freeing, and Gladio felt a surge of gratitude that Ignis was willing to do this for him. Now, if they could work towards dispensing with the mask… but one step at a time.


He looked up, grinning to see Nyx and Crowe walking towards them, hand in hand. Nyx was resplendent in the guise of the Stag, wearing all black to further set off the silver gleam of his mask. Crowe looked dressed down by comparison, wearing a simple red sundress and what looked to be mile high heels.

Crossing his arms loosely over his chest, Nyx rolled his eyes expressively downward. “So… you and Hawk, huh?”

Crowe jabbed him with her elbow before sitting on the couch, smoothing her short skirt over her thighs. “It’s nice to see,” she smiled at Gladio.

“Either you guys scoot over, or I’m sitting on someone’s lap.”

Gladio picked up his bag and shifted over. He was extremely aware of the press of Crowe’s very long, very naked leg against his. Glancing at her, he saw a knowing smirk curling her painted lips, and he wondered what game was afoot.

“You off the clock already?” Gladio asked her.

“Yep,” she popped the ‘p’ sound, eyes sparkling. “I didn’t sign up for a shift tonight. I wanted the time.” One slim hand slid along Nyx’s leg from knee to groin, leaving no confusion over how she planned to spend at least a few of those hours. “Just waiting for a cross to free up.”

“Cool,” Gladio said, pulling his eyes away when Nyx began kissing his way along her neck. Looking down at Ignis, he saw his lover hadn’t moved at all. His eyes were still shut, and despite people joining them, his body had relaxed. It occurred to Gladio that for someone like Ignis who not only had to spend his days talking, but making sure he said just the right words in just the right tone, it must be really fucking nice to have a break on party night, when no one expected him to speak.

Crowe stood, drawing Gladio’s attention. “That’s my cue,” she said, tipping her head towards the equipment being cleaned a few paces away. “See you guys later.”

“Bye Hawk!” Nyx called out cheerfully. Gladio could see him reach out as if to pat Iggy’s shoulder, but he rethought it and kept his hands to himself.

Once they’d walked off, Gladio leaned forward. “Hey, babe. Wanna watch their scene?”

Ignis lifted his head and nodded.

“Come up here.” After Ignis sat beside him, Gladio wrapped an arm around Ignis’s waist, sliding his fingers beneath the hem of his shirt to brush over soft skin.

Ignis pressed his lips to Gladio’s cheek before carefully resting his head against the larger man’s shoulder.

Crowe and Nyx were within easy sight. Gladio realized that was probably intentional, since Nyx was unable to keep from glancing their way time to time with that shit eating grin of his.

Gladio felt a brief surge of guilt over continuing to look while Nyx stripped off all his clothing, but a sidelong glance confirmed Ignis was focused on the setting scene just as intently as Gladio. No harm in looking. Once Nyx was settled against the cross, Crowe worked efficiently, cuffing his wrists to the attachment points and setting out her toys.

Ignis’s body had gone tense against his, and Gladio rubbed his hand over Iggy’s side. “You okay?”

Ignis nodded, and Gladio noticed a charming flush suffusing the lower portion of his face, spreading down his neck. He grinned. Well, Iggy had said he liked to watch.

Crowe started with a soft flogger, running it from Nyx’s shoulders to his thighs in long, languid strokes. The crack of the first blow was startling, exciting. Gladio found himself leaning forward to watch, his arm tight around Iggy. As the strikes intensified, he realized he was digging his fingers into Ignis’s side and he hoped he wasn’t hurting him. Tearing his eyes away from the scene and meeting those of his boyfriend confirmed that he definitely was hurting him… but from the way Ignis’s pupils were starting to edge away the green, he didn’t mind.

She had style, Gladio had to admit. Crowe seemed to enjoy alternating between going on-beat with the music or finding a more syncopated rhythm, interspersing the lash with swipes of her nails or swats of her palm. She changed from the warm-up flogger to that heavy beast of an implement Gladio had admired at his very first party, and he was fascinated. He knew Crowe was strong, but she was shorter and smaller than Nyx, and the fact that she could wield it with such skill was fucking impressive.

Ignis’s hand slid over Gladio’s abs, getting his attention. He looked down and saw Ignis staring up at him, licking his lips.

“Enjoyin’ the show?” he rumbled, the hand at Ignis’s side sliding down to cup his ass, squeezing.

Ignis slid his hand lower, brushing the edge of Gladio’s half-hard cock before settling on his inner thigh, nodding.

Gladio spread his legs with a low chuckle. “Don’t let me stop your fun.” He turned his eyes back to the scene. Crowe was brutally swinging that heavy flogger against Nyx’s back. Nyx, for his part, was taking it like a champ, rocking with each blow, his head thrown back. Gladio could see the massive erection Nyx was sporting and realized he still owed the man a beating. Well, that was something to talk to Iggy about, but not tonight.

Crowe set aside the flogger and used her hands, sliding her palms over the reddened flesh from the nape of Nyx’s neck to the swell of his ass. Her return journey was sharper, nails leaving stark white lines against the pink, causing Nyx to surge against the cross.

Ignis’s hand slowly inched upward until he was palming Gladio’s cock through his pants. Gladio knew Iggy wouldn’t be able to do much with how tight fitting his leather pants were, but the fact he was being so bold had Gladio ready to throw down then and there. He’d never had sex in public, but if Ignis was gonna instigate, he was on board. Gladio dug his fingers into the meat of Iggy’s ass and felt the lithe man shudder against him, so he did it again.

Crowe had moved on to a deceptively delicate appearing riding crop, raining little biting blows over Nyx’s back until there was a constellation of darker welts amidst the rosy flush left by the floggers. She unclipped Nyx’s cuffs and turned him around, pushing him roughly back against the wood before rebinding him. Gladio couldn’t quite make out his face from here, but could imagine the mingled look of ‘ouch’ and ‘yum’.

Crowe snapped the crop against Nyx’s chest, precise little swats that just barely avoided his nipples. When Nyx shifted in response to a sharp smack, Gladio could see his eyes, half-lidded and lambent, and knew he’d gone away to the same happy place Gladio hoped to send Iggy later that evening. But when he looked down and saw the unfocused gaze of those mossy green eyes, he realized Iggy was already there.

Leaning against the powerfully muscled chest of his beloved, Ignis was over the moon with joy.

He was so happy. He was safe - he was wanted. This was a particular fantasy of his, sitting cuddled against his dominant but largely overlooked. He wasn’t there for direct attention; Ignis was glad that Gladio was enjoying watching their friends play as much as he was. No, Ignis was content just to soak in the feeling of belonging. He was at peace, uncaring who might see him groping at his lover’s cock through his pants. Why shouldn’t he try to please him? That was his job, his joy.

Gladio was his master now, and Ignis was determined to serve him to the best of his ability. Well… he was his dominant. All right, he was his boyfriend; but that was the direction they were heading. At least Ignis hoped. He knew Gladio didn’t want titles or formal obeisance, so he held himself back, finding meaning in shaping the lovely syllables of Gladio’s given name with the same loving devotion he’d once used to form the titles for another man, in another time. Except it wasn’t the same - not at all.

Gladio took care of him. Gladio encouraged him to ask for what he wanted, what he needed. Gladio never pushed him beyond what he was ready for, and piled on the praise when Ignis used his safeword.

Makimus had been… strict. Demanding. While at first it was arousing, later it had just been draining. Ignis was glad he’d found a way out, but a part of him was still ashamed at how long it had taken him to untangle himself from that web of lies.

Things were so different now. Gladio had gotten angry at him, yes - but had never struck him in anger. Had never used his anger as a tool to subjugate. No, when Gladio was angry, they talked about it. They communicated as peers - for peers they were, equal partners sharing in the power.

But for these games… these stolen moments when Ignis was graciously allowed to put his normal self aside… he relished giving over all control to Gladiolus. He knew Gladio would see him through without incident.

He’d tested the limits of Gladio’s tolerance, acting without express direction as he had in assuming the position at his lover’s feet, indulging himself and hoping for the best. But Ignis should have realized by now, it wasn’t Gladio’s modus operandi to stifle his desires, but to encourage them. The way Gladio touched him confirmed that; the pleased light in those honey-gold eyes encouraged Ignis to keep going. When Gladio pulled him up to sit on the couch beside him, Ignis hadn’t hesitated, but took advantage of the proximity to please them both with his bold caresses.

To be fair, he was feeling very… inspired watching Nyx being beaten by Crowe. He’d never actually watched Nyx receive a beating before, despite having topped him for some knife play what felt like a lifetime ago when he was only Hawk and Nyx merely the Stag. Nyx took the lash beautifully, and Ignis would admit to himself that he found the entire vision intensely arousing. His heart was Gladio’s completely, but he had eyes. Any feelings of guilt he may have entertained were forestalled by Gladio’s enthusiastic reactions to the scene playing out before them. Why feel bad for enjoying it when his boyfriend was right there with him?

Ignis rubbed his masked cheek against Gladio’s chest, dropping his hand from the swell in his boyfriend’s pants to rest on his own leg in repose. Part of him wished they could stay like this forever, entwined in the public eye, watched but unnoticed. But as he continued to watch his friend receive a truly exceptional beating, Ignis began to itch for some pain of his own.

He knew his own desires, and found no shame in them. What reason was there to deny himself when Gladio had said he was more than willing to accede?

Tipping his head back, he stared up at Gladio, drinking in the sight of that strong face. The stubble shadowing his jaw enhanced rather than detracted from his profile; and those compelling molten eyes made Ignis’s heart skip a beat.

This man… this magnificent, honorable, truly good man… loved him.

Ignis would have wept for the joy of it, but this was neither the time nor place.

He reached up and caressed one suntanned cheek, drawing Gladio’s attention.

“Yeah?” Gladio said, grinning down at him. Gods, Ignis loved that Gladio was taller as well as generally larger; rather than making him feel weak, it made him feel protected and safe.

Ignis wasn’t entirely sure how to get his point across, so he used the signals he’d established with Nyx - with Stag - twisting his gloved hand around Gladio’s wrist in a way that couldn’t be termed anything other than suggestive. He recalled using this signal to good effect the last time he and Gladio had played at the Coeurl, and prayed that Gladio would simply read the request into the gesture and not be flooded by the memories of that discordant night.

This time, when Gladio beat him, he’d know it was him. Just like at home. The scene wouldn’t end by Gladio figuring it out, Ignis’s ruse being shattered; it would close out either naturally or when Ignis used his safe signal.

Gladio stood and hefted his bag in one hand, offering the other to Ignis. Ignis took it and pushed smoothly to his feet, following Gladio over to the cross Nyx and Crowe had vacated sometime in the past few minutes when Ignis’s eyes had been glued to Gladio in silent plea. A glance around, and Ignis felt his cheeks heat beneath his mask. His friends hadn’t left the club, but were involved in far more intimate activities than those from their scene. Ignis heard Gladio’s breath catch and looked to him. Perhaps seeing his eyes glued to the sight of Crowe fucking Nyx so hard and fast should have made Ignis jealous, but he had to agree that it was a sight to behold.

Gladio tapped Ignis’s cheek, and Ignis looked at him, startled all over again at the warmth of that decadent amber gaze. Gladio looked sensual without so much as trying; those bright eyes were compelling on their own, but combine them with ruggedly handsome features, lush lips, and a five o’clock shadow, and he was stunning.

But now Gladio looked at him expectantly, and Ignis felt a flare of anxiety. Had his missed hearing a command? He had his routine with Nyx, was Gladio expecting him to follow that by virtue of the disastrous night they’d shared those months ago?

“Iggy. Calm down,” Gladio murmured, stroking a hand over the back of his head. “I can hear your brain workin’ from here.” He smiled. “We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”

Ignis shook his head, but realized that could be misconstrued. He considered simply speaking a response, but that was too much, too fast. Instead, he opted to let his actions speak for him, and began to strip off his clothes. After folding his clothing and laying it aside, Ignis looked to Gladio for direction.

Gladio’s approving nod was a balm to his soul. “Up against the cross. I won’t bind you,” Gladio winked, “this time. You’ll hold position for me, yeah?”

Ignis nodded and moved into place, stretching his arms until his hands could grasp the d-rings that were screwed into the cross as attachment points for cuffs or ropes.

The warmth of Gladio’s palm sliding down his spine was the only warning Ignis received before the sharp smack on his asscheek, the sound loud even in the din of the club. Closing his eyes, Ignis braced himself and prepared for that velvety slide away from active consciousness.

Spanks rained down on his rear end steadily until Ignis’s legs were quivering with the effort of holding still beneath the onslaught. Just when he was prepared to indicate he needed a moment, they stopped. Ignis focused on his breathing while waiting to see what Gladio did next.

The closed fist slamming into his already sensitized ass elicited a shocked gasp. As Gladio proceeded to treat his bottom like nothing so much as a flesh-and-blood punching bag, Ignis moaned, sagging against the solid support of the cross. It was so good. Endorphins were coursing through his system, better than any drug Ignis could imagine. It was a little bit like being drunk, or being in that blissed-out moment right after really good sex, but so much more intense.

When the music shifted, so did Gladio. Ignis sensed his boyfriend standing close, so close to him. As the seconds ticked on, Ignis had to bite back a whine. Why was Gladio so near, but not touching him? He needed Gladio to touch him; to kiss him, to hit him, to caress him. Ignis didn’t care how the contact was made - he craved it in any form.

Soft lips pressed against his shoulder blade and Ignis was unable to fully hold back the relieved sob. As Gladio tenderly kissed his way over his back, Ignis felt the tears trickling from his eyes dampen his cheeks beneath the plaster of his mask, but he couldn’t have stopped them if he tried. Gladio was so good to him. What had Ignis done to deserve this? What right had him to such happiness, to such a caring—

The sharp flick of a crop against his sore ass pulled Ignis from his thought-spiral and back to the here and now. While Ignis was aware Gladio was no mind-reader and this was likely a fortuitous coincidence, he still liked to think that Gladio had somehow sensed his thoughts going darker and was protecting Ignis even in this.

Ignis knew he didn’t need protection. But he reveled in being able to count on someone else to keep him safe.

The crop flicked innumerable times against his skin until Ignis imagined the entire back of his body from shoulders to thighs must be peppered in little red welts. He wondered if once they were back at his apartment, Gladio would take a picture for him so Ignis could see more easily than twisting around to look in his mirror.

“How you doin’?” Gladio murmured next to his ear.

Ignis turned and smiled at him, hoping his eyes conveyed the feelings that he’d have been helpless to put to words even if he allowed himself to speak in this place. His emotions were too overwhelming to be contained by any language he’d ever studied; but he’d do his best to show them with his face, with his body, with his actions and reactions.

“Good.” Gladio kissed him. “A bit more, and I’m gonna wind things down.”

Ignis nodded his understanding and closed his eyes after Gladio moved out of sight. He no longer felt the bite of the crop; Gladio went back to using his hands. Astrals, Ignis loved those hands. He loved the way they felt slapping down so firmly on his ass as much as he loved the way they felt skillfully wrapped around his cock. The spanks were spaced out more and more, and then that large hand was caressing rather than hitting, soothing over the sore flesh tenderly.

“You did so good for me,” Gladio praised. “So good.” Hands pulled Ignis away from the cross and he moved pliantly as directed. “Can you get dressed?”

Ignis nodded and picked up his clothing.

“Okay. Get dressed, go back to our couch from before. I’ll clean up here and join you.”

It took Ignis a few minutes to remember how buttons worked, but once he was dressed he made his way the short distance to where they’d sat before. Sitting down, he watched as Gladio packed up their things and wiped down the cross. Once Gladio joined him, Ignis leaned against him, kissing his shoulder.

“You need water? Food?”

Ignis shook his head. Tipping his head up, he whispered, “Do you? What do you need?” He was mindful of the fact that Gladio was likely reeling just as much as he was, if not more. Even though it was a pedestrian scene by some standards, it had been their first time playing together in public with both of them being fully informed, not to mention in love. That brought with it a plethora of feelings, and Gladio had done so well to bring Ignis through the actual scene that Ignis figured he could at least tend to the aftercare.

“I could use a bite,” Gladio admitted. “But I thought you might need to sit down.”

Ignis stood and tugged Gladio to his feet. He tilted his head towards the bar, and raised an eyebrow at Gladio.

Gladio’s smile was blinding. Squeezing Ignis’s hand affectionately, he picked up their bag in his other and led Ignis through the crowded club.

As good as it felt when Gladio tended to him, that was nothing compared to the joy Ignis felt here and now to be caring for his dominant. With a light heart and a joyful smile, he followed Gladio through the Coeurl to find his boyfriend some food. He’d help Gladio ground and center. Then, who knew what else the night might hold?

Ignis just knew they’d experience it all together. And that was enough.

Chapter Text

Walking into the club an hour after the party started was a unique experience for Crowe. As one of the regular DM’s on the roster, she typically arrived a solid hour before the event began. But this month, she didn’t feel like spending her time policing the party-goers. She already kept the peace all day as a member of the elite unit known as Kingsglaive; Crowe figured it was okay if she took a day off. Fuck, if Ignis Scientia could allow himself a break, she could too.

She was hand in hand with Nyx Ulric, well aware that they made a striking couple. He wore his typical Coeurl attire of solid black to better set off his silver Stag mask. Crowe never saw the point of masks, personally, though she didn’t judge those who used them. She’d opted for a simple sundress in screaming red, her way of protesting the annoying way winter was hanging on when it should be nearing spring. Her footwear was intentionally provocative - she knew Nyx preferred her in boots, but she also knew he was well aware when she wore shoes this impractical, she didn’t plan to be on her feet terribly long.

She had plans for her hero tonight.

Spotting the unmistakable bulk of Gladiolus Amicitia, she bumped her shoulder against Nyx and gestured with her chin. The flash of his grin was agreement enough, so she turned to walk towards their friend. As they drew closer, Crowe arched one chestnut brow in genuine surprise to see Ignis curled quite comfortably at Gladio’s feet. Clearly the two men had worked out the differences that spiked between them at last month’s party.

“So… you and Hawk, huh?” Nyx folded his arms across his chest and smirked at the Shield.

Jabbing him with her elbow, Crowe offered Gladio a sweet but genuine smile. “It’s nice to see,” she said honestly, before sitting down beside him. Maybe she sat a little too close, but she enjoyed the heat of the strong body next to hers; he didn’t speak up in protest, so she didn’t move. Not every touch had to be sexual, after all, and Crowe didn’t often get human touch that wasn’t combat.

“Either you guys scoot over, or I’m sitting on someone’s lap.”

Crowe bit back a laugh when she saw the deliberate way Nyx eyed Gladio. It had the desired effect; the large man pushed closer to the armrest. Crowe followed him with a smirk, leaving a space for Nyx on her other side. Once he sat down, she allowed herself to sigh in pleasure. If you counted Ignis - still on the floor, plastered to Gladio’s legs - she was surrounded by a veritable bevy of handsome men.

The night was off to an excellent start.

“You off the clock already?” Gladio asked.

“Yep,” she popped the ‘p’ definitively, pausing a beat before elaborating. “I didn’t sign up for a shift tonight. I wanted the time.” She trailed one small hand along Nyx’s leg from knee to groin, following the inseam of his trousers in a movement that would clearly broadcast her intentions, in case anyone hadn’t caught on. Crowe was many things, but subtle wasn’t one of them. “Just waiting for a cross to free up.”

“Cool,” Gladio responded, but Crowe could see he was preoccupied by the beauty at his feet. That was as it should be, so she wasn’t offended. She was a bit distracted herself, even more so when Nyx began to kiss his way from her collarbone to her cheek. Crowe forced herself to keep her eye on the prize. No matter how badly she wanted to jump her lover, she had a plan for the night and intended to follow it: first pain, then sex. And then they’d go back to his place and enjoy a more private interlude.

When the cross she’d been watching went vacant, Crowe stood and picked up her bag. “That’s my cue,” she angled her head towards the piece of equipment, “see you guys later.”

“Bye Hawk,” she heard Nyx sing out behind her, eliciting an eyeroll that he couldn’t see from his angle.

Once they got to the cross, Crowe set down her bag and gave Nyx a lingering once-over. “Take of your clothes,” she ordered, “and get in position.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he purred insouciantly. That was okay - she’d punish him for it later and please them both.

Crowe never tired of watching Nyx disrobe; when it was by her command, it added an extra layer of delightful tension that had heat pooling between her thighs. All those tanned, lithe limbs, those tight muscles riddled by scars - some old, some fairly recent. His mask might hide most of his facial tattoos, but she’d recognize his body any place, any time. Six knew she’d seen enough of it.

Touched enough of it.

Once he was naked and arrayed against the equipment, Crowe dug leather cuffs from her bag and fastened his wrists to the attachment points. She watched his token struggle against the binds and growled appreciatively. Leaning forward, she was grateful for the added height of her ridiculous high heels, since they enabled her to whisper in his ear without going on tip-toes. “You’re not going anywhere, hero.”

He jerked against the cuffs one last time, and then his body relaxed against the wood. “I guess not,” he answered cheerfully.

Crowe had to laugh. Nyx was such a delight in so many ways, and his version of submission was no exception. He was just so gods-damned happy. Crowe knew better than most that oftentimes it was a facade. They’d both lost so much in their lives, and at times it was hard to find anything to be happy about. But loss like that had a way of teaching you to appreciate what you could find, and on a rare night like tonight when they were both off work and free to appreciate each other, Crowe knew Nyx’s glee was unfeigned.

Casting a glance back towards the couch, Crowe smirked when she saw how Ignis and Gladio both stared at them. Her lips still next to Nyx’s ear, she continued to whisper. “They’re watching us, you know. They never looked away while you stripped so obediently for me.” She nipped his earlobe and licked his cheek. “Beg me to beat you. Beg me to let them watch.” She paused as a wicked thought occurred that would add greater dimension to the fantasy Nyx had told her weeks ago. “Beg them to watch,” she cooed, stroking her fingertips along his cock softly.

As he spoke, she could feel him harden beneath her touch. “Shit, Crowe, please beat me. Please. Let me take the pain for you, gorgeous.” He turned, seeking, and she leaned to meet his lips with her own. “I want them to watch… if it would please you,” he whined, arching his hips and pushing his dick against her palm.

She pulled back her hand and slapped his cock gently, not hard enough to hurt, but sharply enough to remind him of his place. “And?” she asked languidly, drawing out the word.

Nyx turned his head fractionally towards where their friends sat. “Watch me,” he whispered, the normal confidence faded away to leave his voice bare of artifice, honest in its longing. “Watch us.”

“Good,” Crowe murmured, kissing his cheek before stepping away. She knew Gladio and Ignis were monogamous, but didn’t find any harm in indulging Nyx’s fantasies once in a while. He always got so fucking hot talking about those handsome men; if Crowe were a less secure woman, she’d be insane with jealousy.

But she knew her worth. And she knew Nyx loved her. They weren’t monogamous, but they shared a bond that Crowe knew no one else could threaten. That was the joy of polyamory - your lover may have other lovers, but that didn’t mean he didn’t still love you. Love was an infinite resource, and it gave Crowe joy when Nyx found happiness anywhere he could.

Tonight, that was with her.

She picked up her warm-up flogger, a implement more sensual than painful. Trailing it from Nyx’s shoulders to his thighs in slow, steady strokes, Crowe savored the way his muscles tensed and bunched in the wake of the gentle caress. Despite the softness of the falls, she was able to produce a delicious crack when she brought it down hard against Nyx’s back. Her lover’s moan was music to her ears, and she proceeded to rain blows evenly across the canvas of his back until the skin was pink.

Trading it out for a mid-weight flogger, Crowe kicked off her shoes for better balance. A new song came on and she smiled, timing her strikes with the heavy thump of the bass line. She slowly upped the intensity until sweat glistened on her brow and Nyx’s breath was coming in short, gasping pants. When the song changed again, she picked up the counterpoint, trying to keep him guessing as she lashed him from different sides, different angles, walking back and forth just out of his sight. To further keep him off-kilter, Crowe added in tender caresses and vicious scratches. Crack. Then a spank. Crack. Then a pump of his hard cock. Crack. Crack. Crack.

Rolling her shoulders and stretching, Crowe figured they could both use the momentary respite. But she wouldn’t pause for long - Nyx was ready, his body was riding that edge of endorphin-fueled bliss, and she didn’t want him to fall away from that before she brought out her surprise.

Unbeknownst to her lover, Crowe had packed his favorite toy - a toy that was rarely used on his own person, though she knew he loved it. The flogger was massive; she’d never seen one with so many falls. It was thick, tough leather. This was no warm up. This was more than most bottoms could take. But Nyx had a masochistic streak that paired nicely with her sadistic side. She knew he could take it, and oh, how she wanted to show everyone here that she could dish it.

As she hefted it and gave it an experimental swing, she realized Gladio and Ignis weren’t their sole audience now. A pleased, catlike smirk quirked her painted lips, and she gave the flogger another trial swing. It was almost too heavy for her, but she was a Glaive - she could handle this.

When she brought it down solidly against Nyx’s back, he swore. She did it again, and he let out a strangled cry. It was… fun. She shifted her aim, cracking the massive implement against the curve of Nyx’s ass, and he sobbed.

Something dark and predatory was overtaking her consciousness. Crowe wasn’t often in the mood to really fall into topspace - let alone indulge her inner saidst - but Nyx made such pretty noises when she tormented him, how could she resist?

Fisting a hand in his hair, she yanked his head back sharply so that she could whisper in his ear. “Can you take more for me?”

“I… I think so,” he breathed, eyes fluttering half open to meet hers.

“Take more for me,” she demanded before kissing him briefly and stepping back.

She put away the ridiculous monstrosity of a flogger - it had been fun, but she didn’t have the endurance for much. Very mindful of the massive erection Nyx was sporting, Crowe slid her palms over the hot skin of his back, sliding her hands down to squeeze his ass roughly before scratching her way back up to his shoulders firmly enough that little white lines were left behind by her nails. From the way Nyx rutted against the cross, Crowe knew two things - he was enjoying this just as much as she was, and she’d need to wrap this up soon.

Unclipping the cuffs, she spun Nyx around and shoved his back against the cross, grinning when he winced in pain at the way his welts pushed against the wooden frame. She rebound him and picked up a small, dainty riding crop. The widening of his azure eyes drew a low, sultry chuckle from low in her throat.

Crowe swung the crop against Nyx’s chest, painting an abstract pattern of marks over the chiseled perfection of his pectorals while carefully avoiding the hard points of his nipples. She drew lines from his sternum to his navel, paying attention to each segment of his abs before flicking the leather tip back up along his chest, dangerously close to the hollow of his throat.

“How much,” the leather snapped against his shoulder, “can you,” it bit into his side, “take,” his stomach, “for me?” she ended with a strike square on his left nipple.

He reared back against the cross and gave a strangled howl through clenched teeth. “Whatever you dish,” he ground out, “I can take.”

“Can you?” she asked with genuine curiosity before hitting his other nipple. May as well spread the pain out evenly.

Sliding the crop down his body, she stared transfixed at his face. Nyx’s eyes were half-shut, heavy-lidded. His mouth hung open, and his breath came at a rapid tempo, causing his chest to heave. She nudged the crop against his shaft and he yelped. With a laugh, she did it again, fractionally harder. “Can you take this for me?” she purred, voice edging from the soprano register to a low alto.

“I… can try,” he gasped, blinking those hazy blue eyes.

“Beg me for it,” she ordered. “Make me believe it.” Another nudge of leather, this time against his sac.

Please, Crowe,” Nyx half-said, half-sobbed, struggling to focus his eyes on hers. “If that’s what you want? Do it.” The plea might be evident in his tone, but she was more moved by the loving devotion shining in his eyes.

“So good for me,” she whispered, before letting the crop fall from her fingers. Closing the distance between them, she kissed him deeply. “That’s not what I want, hero.”

“Then what do you want, beautiful?” Nyx asked, a hint of his typical cockiness creeping back into his demeanor.


She was done with games, done with roleplay and fantasy. Crowe unfastened the cuffs and helped Nyx ease away from the equipment.

While Nyx gathered up his clothing, she wiped down the cross and packed away the impact toys. There would be no more pain tonight.

Only pleasure. Only love.

“Here?” he asked, and no further clarification was required.

“Here,” she confirmed, noting he merely tucked his clothing under one arm rather than bothering to get dressed.

They walked far enough away that they’d be out of reach of others’ play, but not so far that they’d feel disconnected from the crowd, from the energy. They were blanketed in shadows this close to the wall, but they’d still be plenty visible to any onlookers that cared to watch.

None of that mattered. This wasn’t about exhibitionism. This was impatience, pure and simple. She needed to touch him, needed to fuck him. Slow and tender could come later, at home - she didn’t wanna wait that long, so fast and hot would do for now.

“Get yourself ready,” she said, aware of the need in her voice and unashamed. While he began prepping himself for her, she found her strap-on. Choosing not to waste the time taking off her clothes, she pushed her skirt up around her waist, glad she’d gone commando. It didn’t take long to buckle her toy in place, lining it up carefully so the built-in vibrator would mash against her clit as she fucked her lover.

Nyx, wonderful man that he was, had already gotten into a very doable position. He had his hands braced against the wall, his body bowed so his ass jutted out in her direction.

Crowe stepped behind him and hugged him tightly. “Okay?”

So okay.”

She pressed her lips to the nape of his neck and smiled, knowing he’d feel it. Reaching down, she stroked his engorged cock, loving the way it pulsed beneath her touch. Sliding her hand farther, she slid a fingertip along his entrance, and nodded to herself when she confirmed he was more than ready for her. Crowe lined up the head of her dildo and slowly pushed inside of him. Once she was fully sheathed within, she paused, kissing his neck again and engaging the vibrator.

“Fuck me, Crowe,” Nyx pleaded hoarsely.

Words were unnecessary. She began to move, starting off slow to give them both a chance to acclimate. But she couldn’t keep up the moderate speed for long. Her steady rhythm grew unintentionally erratic as she gave in to her desire, rocking her hips urgently, wanting to at least get him close before she tumbled over that edge.

“When we get home,” her words were staccato interjections between thrusts, “we trade. I wanna get fucked tonight, too.”

“Hell yes,” Nyx breathed in agreement. “I was hoping you’d say that, gorgeous.”

“You’re too coherent.” She reached a hand around and began jerking him off, grinning at the way his startled exclamation tapered off into a low groan.

“You’re one to talk!” Nyx twisted his head around, and she closed the distance, bringing her mouth to his passionately. He surprised her, returning the kiss for only a moment before turning his head a fraction more and sinking his teeth into her neck.

It was painful. It was unexpected. It was enough.

She didn’t scream when she came - she wouldn’t allow herself to make that kind of display at a crowded kink party, no matter how horny she was - but she did moan. She forced her hips to keep working, continued to pump Nyx’s shaft, until she felt him spill over the edge with her, his release coating her hand wetly.

Crowe had the presence of mind to pull out before she slumped to sit leaning up against the wall she’d just fucked him into. While she was touched that he took the time to clean up their mess, on another level she was disappointed he had the ability to stand up and do so.

Eh. She’d ramp things up in round two, or three. By the time the dawn came, he wouldn’t remember his own name.

That was alright. It was hers he’d be screaming.

He sat beside her, and she leaned her head on his shoulder.

“Hey, gorgeous,” he murmured. “Lift your hips just a little?”

She whined but did so, and he unbuckled the harness holding her toy in place. After cleaning it and putting it away, he zipped their bag shut and settled back beside her.

Crowe reached to smooth her skirt down, but his hand locked like iron around her wrist.

“Nope,” he said cheerfully. “You’ve had your fun. My turn.”

“What?” she asked in confusion, still coming down from the orgasm, from spending an hour in top space, from the many feelings she’d allowed herself to indulge this night.

“You just sit back and enjoy,” Nyx purred, dropping a kiss on her temple.

His hand slipped between her thighs and Crowe parted her legs for him, hissing in warning when he delicately brushed a fingertip over her sensitized clit. “Too soon,” she growled.

Another kiss on her forehead was his reply. His hand slid lower, and she felt one long finger push inside of her.

Yes. Yes. Yesyesyes.

With a moan, she pushed her knees farther apart. Nyx took the gesture for the encouragement it was and added a second finger, slowly thrusting them into her core. His other hand cupped her breast, squeezing it.

“You were somethin’ else tonight,” he whispered.

“Less words, more of this,” she insisted, bucking her hips.

Nyx laughed softly. “So demanding. I can multitask, babe.” He moved his hand faster, adding a third finger and fucking her in earnest. His thumb brushed over the mound of her breast until her nipple hardened in response. He pinched it, hard, and she yelped.

“Nyx,” she gasped his name, reaching out and putting an arm around him, wanting him close, wanting to hold him, wanting him to never, never stop touching her.

“Fly for me, my Crowe,” he murmured before sealing his lips over hers. The hand dropped away from her breast as he focused his attention on her pussy. He lightly brushed his thumb against her clit, and when she didn’t protest, applied more pressure.

Crowe made little helpless noises that were swallowed by the kiss. She had enough presence of mind to realize the kiss was like a gag, making it safe for her to let loose without being louder than she liked in a public play space. Grunting into the kiss, she shamelessly ground herself against his hand, feeling so close it was almost painful. A few more thrusts of those clever fingers, another swipe along her clit, and…

She came hard, biting his lip until she tasted the coppery tang of blood. Her nails dug into his back, and she sobbed against that wonderful mouth, still kissing hers. He kept his hand moving until her body stilled. Then, as she watched, he lewdly licked each finger clean before helping her tug her dress back into place.

“There,” Nyx said ebulliently. “Now I’m ready to leave. Are you?”

“Take me home and fuck me properly,” Crowe growled, pushing to her feet. Her legs were a bit wobbly, but she was Crowe Altius of the Kingsglaive - she could fucking walk. However, the shoes were a no-go. Those she carried. She was stubborn, not stupid.

“As my lady wishes,” Nyx said breezily, picking up their bag in one hand and slinging his other arm around her waist.

When they made it to his car, she popped open the passenger door but didn’t climb in right away. “Hey,” she said, getting his attention with a hand on his chest before he could walk around to the driver’s side.


“I love you.” Her voice was tender, vulnerable, honest. With no one else did she feel safe enough to let her inner sadist out to play. No other partner connected with her solidly enough for her to want to play in public. He was her hero, and she was his Crowe - she wouldn’t trade what they had for a million gil, and sometimes it was important to use the words.

“I love you too,” he replied softly, cupping her cheek in his callused hand and smiling at her widely.

They got into the car, and Nyx began to drive them back to the Galahdian sector. It was still hours away from daybreak, but Crowe thought there was a luminescence about the night, like it was lit up by her joy. It was probably the streetlights’ glow refracting off the Wall, but shit, she was feeling fanciful.

She was Crowe Altius. Warrior-mage of the Kingsglaive. Proud refugee of Galahd.

And so deeply in love she felt like her heart would burst.

It was a good day to be alive.

Chapter Text

Ignis woke up that morning with a smile already on his face. Not only was it his day off, and therefore to be enjoyed with Gladio, it was within days of their six month anniversary. Ignis shushed the internal voice that insisted due to the definition of ‘anniversary’, six months didn’t properly count. Gladio had been so excited to celebrate the milestone; Ignis wasn’t about to deny him. He loved how romantic his boyfriend could be, even as he was aware that he himself wasn’t typically as fanciful as his partner.

Today, Ignis was determined to make a more focused effort on that front. Gladio wasn’t due to arrive until lunch time, which gave Ignis ample time to prepare. They’d eat, they’d make out under the pretense of watching a movie, and then they would go out to dinner. It would be a group setting, to help continue maintaining the illusion of being simply friends and co-workers. After dinner, it was off to the Coeurl. Ignis had no idea what awaited him during those hours - Gladio had been tight-lipped, saying only that he had a few ideas.

And he wasn’t the only one. Ignis completed his morning routine without much thought, downing his Ebony so fast he scarcely tasted the life-giving brew. He needed to get moving or he wouldn’t have the time he required to prepare lunch.

Ignis’s first stop was the farmer’s market, where he obtained everything they’d need for their midday meal - and tomorrow’s breakfast. Then came the more harrowing errand: he went to the mall, in search of a suitable gift to mark the occasion. He was inwardly berating himself for putting off shopping until the last minute, but when else would he have had time? As February gave way to March and the spring equinox grew closer, Ignis’s already cramped schedule became murderous. Today had truly been his first opportunity to run personal errands.

The mall was a three hour exercise in frustration. Nothing was right. How was he to purchase something that was an appropriate token of his love? How could any inanimate object truly encompass his devotion? Ignis scoffed at romantic displays of heart-engraved picture frames and gaudy jewelry.

When he realized his error, Ignis laughed ruefully. Why had he come here, when he knew the perfect place to shop?

A short drive, and he was parking outside Carpe Librum. That first date seemed so long ago, but Ignis still remembered the nervous butterflies fluttering in his stomach, the incredible rush of actually being on a date with Gladiolus. The walk, the lunch. Their first kiss - a transcendent experience.

Ignis hoped he was on the right track with the items he selected. He’d find out soon enough. If he didn’t make it through the infernally long checkout line quickly, Gladio would arrive at his apartment before Ignis could make it back. At least he’d stayed up the night before to clean; if Gladio did make it before him, he’d have no complaints on that score.

On his way home, Ignis confirmed his tardiness with one last minute errand. Feeling a bit foolish as he handed over the item to be scanned, he studied the counter rather than look at the cashier’s face. When Ignis paid, he saw the shopkeeper had a bored look of disinterest, and he bit back a snort at the arrogance of assuming they’d bother wondering about his purchase.

It was still early enough in the day that most people were out and about, enabling Ignis to park close to his building. Once he’d made it upstairs, the door opened before he could fish his key out of his pocket. A brief flare of fear spiked his heart-rate and widened green eyes before Ignis could firmly tamp it down. This was Gladio. Gladio wouldn’t be angry that he was late.

“Nice of you to join me,” his lover quipped with a wink, stepping aside and letting Ignis in.

“I’m sor—” Ignis’s words were cut off by a kiss; Gladio had barely waited until the door was shut behind them before slamming him into the nearest wall and passionately crashing his lips against Ignis’s.

“Yes. Well,” Ignis stammered once they broke apart, blushing at the knowing, penetrating look in those molten amber eyes.

“Need help?” Gladio asked as Ignis made his way into the kitchen, setting his market bags on the counter and starting to unload the provisions.

“No,” Ignis replied, “though I’m afraid it might be a while until lunch is ready. I spent longer on my errands than intended.”

“That’s okay,” Gladio said. “I’m sure we can find a way to pass the time.” His leer was overly dramatic and had Ignis throwing his head back in laughter.

Twenty minutes of single-minded focus later and the meal was in the oven with no further prep required until it was time to plate it and serve it up.

“Gladio?” Ignis called out as he walked into the living room. His boyfriend had spent the time with a careworn book, and it took Gladio a moment to surface from the pages and come back to reality.

“Yeah, babe?”

“We’ve got about an hour until lunch will be ready. May I get you anything else?”

Gladio laughed, but not unkindly. “So formal today.”

Ignis shifted his weight from one foot to the other, as he waited for the other shoe to drop.

“What’s bugging you?”

Yes, Gladio did know him quite well, didn’t he?

“It’s nothing,” he deflected, walking back into the kitchen. Despite being unsurprised when Gladio followed him, Ignis had to force himself to keep his breathing even, his eye contact steady.

“It’s something,” Gladio said, folding tattooed arms across the expanse of his chest.

Ignis’s thoughts were spiraling, increasingly vexed. Why couldn’t he just enjoy the day? Why did he have to ruin everything with his personal issues? Why was he continually haunted by the daemons of his past, when he had such a wonderful present with potential for a bright future?

“I was worried that you’d be angry I was late,” Ignis said with a flat, emotionless tone. “Even though I realized that you would never be upset over such a thing, but he would have been.” Studying the impressions of Gladio’s toes against the cotton of his socks, Ignis continued to explain. “It took me too long to find you a gift, and I’m still not certain you’ll like it.”

“Ignis,” Gladio said gently, reaching out to lift his face until their eyes could meet. “I know it’s hard, and I’m proud of you for remembering that I’m not like that. And the gift? You didn’t have to get me anything, but you could give me a gum wrapper and I’d be happy.”

“Had I known that, I could have saved a good deal of coin,” Ignis said acerbically, quirking one manicured brow sardonically.

Gladio laughed. “I know this six month anniversary deal isn’t really your thing. But thanks for going along with it. The present is just icing on the cake.” His grin broadened, a familiar heat lighting those honey-gold eyes, causing things to tighten deep in Ignis’s core. “I got you somethin’, too.”

“Oh?” Ignis gave nonchalance his best effort, despite the fact that his pulse was pounding so hard, it had to be visible in his neck. “Perhaps we should exchange gifts while we wait for the food to cook?”

“Good idea,” Gladio agreed. “C’mon, let’s go sit down.”

Ignis followed Gladio to the living room and sat beside him on the couch close enough to feel the heat radiating from his lover’s muscular body. He spied a gift box he hadn’t noticed before, and inwardly chastised himself for not taking the time to wrap Gladio’s gift.

“Iggy,” Gladio’s tone held warning.

Ignis snapped his head up and looked at him. Gladio’s smile had faded into a patient expression, but that tender warmth still gleamed in his burnished gaze.

“Stop beating yourself up, yeah? Gimme my present.” He grinned when his words had the desired effect, making Ignis laugh.

Taking a deep breath, Ignis passed over the paper bag embossed with the coffee shop's logo, relieved to see a brilliant smile light up Gladio’s face.

“I love it already. Gods, I thought I was supposed to be the sappy one. You bought me something from where we had our first date. Such a softie,” Gladio teased.

“Not always soft,” Ignis drawled lasciviously, earning a low rumbled chuckle.

“Fair point,” Gladio said, digging into the bag. It was filled with a small assortment of marketable swag, each item bearing the logo and name of the venue - a pen, a bookmark, and a tshirt. Gladio grinned from ear to ear as he examined each item. “This is great! I can use this stuff at work!” he enthused, piling it all back in the bag and leaning forward to pull Ignis into a tight hug. “Thank you so much, Ignis - I love it.”

“I love you,” Ignis murmured, pressing a chaste kiss to Gladio’s cheek. “And I have one more thing.”

“Geez, spoiling me,” Gladio grinned. “I could get used to this.”

“Don’t get too excited,” Ignis warned dryly as he handed over a plastic bag stamped with the logo of the local drug store.

Blinking in bewilderment, Gladio reached into the bag. He snorted out a laugh when he found a bottle of the conditioner Iris had talked him into using once he began growing out his hair.

Over the past few weeks since Ignis had given Gladio a key to his apartment, some of his belongings had begun migrating over - a couple spare sets of clothing, some books, basic toiletries. But Gladio kept forgetting to pack his conditioner, and then he’d bemoan the loss in the shower. Ignis figured if he purchased a bottle, that would result in more shower time being spent… well, not showering, that was for certain. But it would also serve as another reminder of just how welcome Gladio was in his home.

“This is the most romantic hair care product I’ve ever been given,” Gladio said, his voice hitching slightly. “Thank you, Iggy. Seriously.”

“You’re welcome.” Ignis flushed at the praise, glad that he’d chosen well.

“Here.” Gladio held out the gift box. “Open it.”

Ignis studied first his boyfriend and then the box warily. Gladio looked entirely too proud of himself for a simple gift. Lifting the lid, Ignis gasped in shock. With careful hands, he lifted the flogger from the tissue surrounding it.

The toy was a work of art. Each braided fall ended in a leather rose with fanciful leaves framing the blossoms. The material had been dyed a vibrant violet hue, and Ignis smiled - he knew Gladio preferred forest green, and felt a surge of happiness that something obviously meant to be used as a couple was chosen in his own favorite color.

Running his fingers along the thick braided strands, weighing the rosebuds in his palm, Ignis’s brows climbed his forehead appreciatively. This would pack a punch.

He couldn’t wait to try it.

“It’s lovely, Gladio,” Ignis said softly. He set the flogger back in the box and reached out to take Gladio’s hands in his. “Thank you.”

And then they kissed, for nothing of consequence remained unspoken.

Gladio was whistling to himself as he drove his truck. The day had been fan-fucking-tastic. He was still moon-eyed over the sweet gifts Ignis had gotten for him, and was thrilled that Iggy liked the flogger so much. He’d almost bought his boyfriend actual flowers to go with it, but thought that might be a bit much. Another time.

After the gift exchange, they’d made love long enough that lunch had been ruined and it was Cup Noodles to the rescue. Ignis hadn’t even complained, simply commenting that it was worth it, and they’d certainly burned enough calories to warrant a treat.

They had dinner out with Noctis and Prompto, and now they were heading to the Coeurl. For the first time in months, Gladio wasn’t nervous at all. Last month things had gone so well, there was nothing to worry about. He’d packed the new flogger, though he wasn’t sure if he’d actually use it. Time enough to decide after they’d arrived.

The drive was familiar and the silence in the vehicle was comfortable. Gladio had his left hand on the wheel, his right hand resting on Ignis’s knee. Ignis had covered it with his own gloved palm, entwining their fingers sweetly. After parking the car, they strode to the club hand-in-hand, and Gladio sent a thankful thought to the Six for giving him one evening a month he could actually hold his boyfriend’s hand outside of his apartment.

Literally minutes after they’d crossed the foyer, Nyx was bounding over to them with a grin. “Hey, gorgeous. Beautiful.” One cerulean eye winked, that cocky grin quirking his lips. “I’ll let you decide who’s who.” Walking backwards as he spoke, he led Gladio and Ignis further into the club. “Plans for tonight?”

“Yep,” Gladio said firmly, squeezing Iggy’s hand. “You?”

“Crowe’s working,” Nyx said with a melodramatic pout. “Like, her actual job, not DM work. I’m all by myself!”

“Please don’t burst into song,” Gladio muttered, shaking his head even as the amused grin lit up his face.

“I’ll save that for karaoke,” Nyx winked. “Anyway… I don’t suppose either of you would have time for me tonight?”

Gladio glanced sidelong at Ignis. He knew Iggy and Nyx had played for a year, and figured Ignis would like to get back to that eventually. And shit, Gladio still owed Nyx a beating. But, this was their six month anniversary, and Gladio was loathe to share it.

“Rain check?” he said with an apologetic smile. “Tonight’s special for us.”

“Say no more!” Nyx bowed his head. When he glanced up through the fringe of his eyelashes, those sapphire eyes were heated. “Maybe I’ll watch.” With that, he strode off.

Gladio saw there was no shortage of people staring longingly after ‘The Stag’ and knew Nyx could find just about any play he’d hope for. Putting it from his mind, he led Ignis towards a bench, considering what he wanted to do. That was the one downside of being the dom - it meant most the time, he had to make and execute the plans. He’d have to talk to Ignis and see what was on his kinky wishlist; it shouldn’t always be Gladio’s fantasies getting fulfilled.

“Take off your clothes and lay on your back,” Gladio ordered, coming to a decision. Then he stood there and watched, drinking in the sight.

Would he ever tire of watching Ignis’s body revealed to him, bit by bit? Gladio didn’t think so. Those lithe limbs and narrow hips might be a familiar vision to him now, but every fucking time it made Gladio feel weak at the knees, caused his pulse to pound and his heart rate to ratchet into overdrive. All too quickly, Ignis was nude and gracefully laying himself out on the bench. Gladio considerately put a folded blanket under his head - the bench was cushioned, but he knew it wasn’t much.

“Comfy?” he asked. After Ignis nodded in response, Gladio hunkered down to nudge his limbs where he wanted them to go, pausing to brush a gentle kiss across Ignis’s smiling mouth. The happy expression was a stark contrast to the fierceness of his mask, and Gladio liked the dichotomy of it. And the reminder. Iggy was the sub, sure, but he was anything but weak.

Once Ignis was arranged to Gladio’s satisfaction, the large man began to bind him in place. He could hear the gasps of other party-goers as they realized the elusive Hawk was allowing someone to restrain him; it was something they had never seen before, and Gladio was simultaneously irritated and proud by the small crowd of onlookers who gathered.

For his part, Ignis seemed to pay no mind to anyone but Gladio, those gemstone eyes glinting brightly surrounded by the darkness of the intricately carved mask. Gladio could feel the subtle tremors in the lithe man’s limbs as he strapped them to the supports of the bench. He stroked his large hands soothingly over those quavering arms and legs.

When he finished, Gladio stood to admire his handiwork, crossing tattooed arms over his wide chest and nodding in approval. A gleam lit up molten amber eyes as he dragged his gaze slowly from the top of Ignis’s gelled up hair to the bottoms of his bare feet and back again.

The man was beyond compare. How the fuck had Gladio gotten so lucky?

Ignis’s nude body reminded Gladio of marble sculptures in museums, especially now that his boyfriend had been training long enough to build some serious muscle. Sure, he’d never have Gladio’s bulk, but he was just perfect. Those lanky arms had filled out to better balance the breadth of his wide shoulders, and those powerful thighs made Gladio weak with longing.

Gladio was only human, and his visage lingered on the sight of Ignis’s exposed cock, laying half-hard against one of those delectable thighs. Noting the tip was beaded with pre-come, Gladio thought perhaps Ignis had more of an exhibitionist streak than previously disclosed. Interesting.

He squatted down and leaned in close to whisper to his lover, neither wanting nor needing the observers to overhear his private words. “You’re sure this is okay?”

Ignis nodded, a subtle motion no one who wasn’t watching as closely as Gladio would have caught.

Please use your signal if it’s too much, Ig—Hawk,” Gladio’s words ended in a grow of frustration as he tried to remember which names were allowed.

Another nod from the bound beauty before him, and Gladio nodded back. “Okay then.” Pushing to his feet, he considered how he wanted to do this. The position he’d put Ignis into precluded heavier activities - Gladio would never flog someone’s front with the same intensity as their back, no matter how much of a masochist they may claim to be. A rueful grin quirked his full lips as Gladio realized that his desire to stare at Ignis’s displayed body may have unwittingly squashed his ambition to beat the man.

But, there were other ways to dominate. Maybe it was time to branch out a bit.

Gladio fetched a leather riding crop from their bag. He lightly traced the tip along Ignis's arm and down the center of his body. Pale hairs rose in gooseflesh following the line of the crop. When he reached Ignis's abs, he circled it idly around his belly-button, grinning at the way miniscule tremors coursed through the bound man's frame.

He noticed Ignis had caught his lower lip in his teeth, and those verdant eyes were wide as he tried to anticipate Gladio’s next move.

Heh. Kinda fun to keep the strategist guessing.

In a quick movement, Gladio lashed the crop down against Ignis’s right thigh, reveling in the way Ignis’s entire body jerked within the bonds.

“Sorry, babe,” Gladio purred. “You’re not goin’ anywhere.”

Interspersing the teasing caresses with rapid bites of the leather, Gladio continued to warm up his partner, delighting in the crimson trails left behind by each harsh kiss of the crop. The marks stood out so brightly against the paleness of Ignis’s skin; it was truly a sight to behold.

Gladio could see Ignis’s hands were curled into fists and it made him smile. Now they were getting somewhere.

Carefully, oh so carefully, Gladio trailed the tip of the crop from Ignis’s left ankle, along his calf, over his thigh, and paused with it resting against his now fully erect cock.

He heard the sharp breath Ignis drew in. Were anyone else close enough to see Gladio’s face, they may have quailed at the darkness lurking in that sunset gaze.

Unless, of course, they knew him well enough to see how it was steeped in love.

Gladio tapped the crop gently against Ignis’s erection once, twice, nowhere near hard enough to actually hurt, but enough to mess with the bound man’s keen mind, judging by the raggedness of his gasping breaths.

After setting the crop aside, Gladio again knelt beside Ignis’s head, leaning close. “Still okay?”

This time, Ignis’s nod was larger and arrhythmic, as if he was losing the self-control necessary to project his customary reserved demeanor.

Considering his options - and, yeah, okay, staring at Ignis’s dick - Gladio brought his lips even closer to Ignis’s ear, unintentionally brushing them against Ignis’s earlobe as he continued to whisper. “I wanna try something more… intimate. Is that okay?”

He needed words this time, so Gladio moved to place his ear near Ignis’s mouth, hoping his boyfriend understood the nonverbal request for clearer communication than nods and hand gestures.

“I trust you, Gladio,” Ignis’s words rasped softly, and made Gladio’s heart soar. “I’ll signal if it’s too much, but with you…” Gladio felt Ignis’s lips smile when they pressed a kiss to his cheek. “I trust you.”

Gladio brought his mouth to Ignis’s in a brief, tender kiss before removing the folded blanket he had put as a pillow beneath Ignis’s head. Carefully, he turned Ignis’s head to the left, ensuring that his mask stayed in place even though, truth be told, it would make this trickier than it needed to be. Gladio knelt up and unzipped his pants leisurely, giving Ignis every opportunity to safe-signal since he wasn’t exactly being subtle about what he planned to do next. As he watched his lover’s face intently, he saw Ignis’s pupils dilate with arousal, the irises nearly eclipsed entirely.

Pulling his swollen cock free of his pants, Gladio leaned forward and brushed the bulbous head against Ignis’s parted lips, pleased when his lover’s tongue flicked out to lick at the sensitive skin. Encouraged by the enthusiastic reaction, Gladio slowly pushed himself into the warmth of Ignis’s mouth, cautious not to go too far too fast. When Ignis’s lips closed around him so perfectly, the flat of his tongue rubbing against the length of Gladio’s erection, he completely forgot they were in a crowded club and let out a debauched moan.

“Fuck, yeah… just like that.”

He locked eyes with his partner and began to move in short, shallow thrusts, fucking Ignis’s mouth in deliberate, controlled motions.

But damn, the way his lover used his tongue was making it hard to keep control.

Reaching out, Gladio trailed one thick finger along the straining length of Ignis’s shaft, and he chuckled when he felt his boyfriend’s rhythm falter in response to the caress.

“Do you want more?” Gladio taunted. When Ignis nodded, Gladio smirked and pulled his hand away, eliciting a frustrated sound that was muffled by Gladio’s cock in Ignis’s mouth.

Gladio intentionally thrust his cock deeper until he felt the tip hit the back of Ignis’s throat, and then he pushed just a little more. When he heard Ignis gag around his length, Gladio smiled, wicked and predatory. Again latching eyes with his beloved, he saw tears beading at the corners of Ignis’s almond-shaped eyes.

“Sorry,” Gladio rumbled, leaning down to kiss Ignis for punctuation. “Thought you wanted more.” As he drew back, he saw the way Ignis’s hips strained as his body fought against the bonds.

“My, someone’s greedy,” Gladio murmured. He pulled out of Ignis’s mouth and pumped a hand lazily over his own shaft as he looked to his lover. “I thought you were here to serve me.” Holding his cock at the base, he allowed it to smack against the lower edge of Ignis’s cheek, the scant bit of skin left exposed by the mask. “Maybe you need to remember your place.” Another slap, and Gladio didn’t think he’d ever been so turned on as he was right now watching Ignis struggle ineffectually against the bonds, seeing his cock weeping, observing the way different emotions flitted through those fathomless eyes.

“You,” Gladio growled, “belong,” he carefully rubbed the head of his cock along the left side of Ignis’s mask, leaving a thick trail of pre-come to glisten on the plaster, “to me.” He shoved his dick back in Ignis’s mouth and began to fuck his face in earnest, hands bracketing his head and fingertips curling in his hair.

Those tears that had been shining captive within the sanctity of emerald eyes began to flow freely now, mingling with the pre-come smeared on Ignis’s mask but not completely washing it away. Gladio reached out and wrapped one large hand around Ignis’s cock, pumping it in the same rhythm as he moved in the hot wetness of his lover’s mouth.

Part of Gladio couldn’t believe he was actually doing this at all, let alone in a semi-public setting. The rest of him didn’t fucking care. He felt the orgasm coming and turned, bowing forward to replace his hand with his mouth, determined to bring Ignis over the edge right along with him.

Plus, Gladio knew he wasn’t exactly quiet, and figured it was only polite to gag himself.

When he came, he moaned loudly around Ignis’s cock, his hips jerking inelegantly to shove his length even deeper into the other man’s throat. He made no move to withdraw, figuring that as his erection flagged it would become easier for Ignis to manage. And hey, maybe having something in his mouth would help, since ‘Hawk’ surely wouldn’t want to scream the way Gladio wanted to make him scream, not here, not now.

A few more minutes of Gladio’s skilled mouth, and he was rewarded by Ignis coming hard. Gladio kept working his lips and tongue over his boyfriend’s length until he heard Ignis’s fingers snap twice. He withdrew, settling back to kneel by Ignis’s head again, one hand going to cup his chin and tip his head up for a kiss.

When their lips joined, Gladio felt he could have wept from happiness.

He had never fucking imagined that he could find this with anyone. To have found a love like this was a true joy. To have found it with a man like Ignis Scientia was a fucking miracle.

Gladio grabbed a towel from their bag and cleaned them both up quickly, though when he reached to wipe Ignis’s face, his was surprised to see his boyfriend shake his head.

And just when he thought Ignis couldn’t be any more perfect, any more Gods-damned sexy. If he wanted to walk through the club with Gladio’s come painted over his cheek, his mask, fuck if Gladio would stop him.

He efficiently undid the bondage and helped Ignis to climb off the bench, then wiped it down to clean it for the next patron’s use while Ignis got dressed. After gathering up their things, Gladio held out a hand to Ignis and led him to an empty couch. When they sat, Gladio wrapped both arms around his beloved, cradling him close and bowing his head to rest cheek-to-cheek with the other man.

“You did so well for me,” he praised quietly. “You’re such a good sub.” He kissed Ignis’s cheek gently. “I love you so much.”

The blissed-out, tender smile Ignis bestowed upon him made Gladio’s heart soar.

Chapter Text

Iggy had been uncharacteristically fidgety tonight, and Gladio wasn’t sure why. Fidgety…now there was a word he never thought he’d apply to Royal Advisor Ignis Scientia, but Gladio had learned his boyfriend could be far more emotional than he let on. While he was glad Ignis trusted him enough to show these feelings, sometimes Gladio had no clue what he could say or do to help.

If they hadn’t already celebrated Gladio’s birthday earlier that week, he would have guessed that Ignis was nervous about those festivities, but they’d had a nice dinner at the Amicitia family home, and then a rather wild night out with Nyx, Crowe, and a few other Glaives. Gladio couldn’t remember the last time he’d enjoyed a birthday so much. Ignis hadn’t given him any gifts, but had pulled out all the stops with the lunches he packed for Gladio to have at work all week long, finishing the week with an honest to Six Cup Noodles. Ignis had topped it off with flame-seared garula and Tenebraean seasonings he’d had to have been saving for years, since they were hard to come by with the Imperial embargo.

So why couldn’t Ignis sit still?

Sure, they were on their way to a shitting kink party, but that was hardly a new experience for Ignis. And after last month’s amazing time, Gladio couldn’t imagine why Ignis would be nervous this time.

“Iggy. What’s on your mind?”

Gladio cast a careful sidelong glance while they were stopped at a red light, though it changed to green so quickly he only got a brief glimpse of Ignis’s face, tight with anxiety.

“I’m just thinking about tonight,” Ignis said, and Gladio would eat his boots if there wasn’t more to it than that. But he decided to wait and see if Ignis relaxed once they got to the Coeurl - if not, Gladio would ask the question again, and not settle for the vague half-answer.

Now that spring was in full bloom, parking was easier to come by, even in Insomnia’s entertainment district on a Saturday night. Gladio parked his truck directly across the street from the Coeurl, and waited patiently for Ignis to affix his mask in place. Once Iggy was set, Gladio picked up the bag he’d packed - noting with interest that Ignis had a small case, as well - and they made their way to the club.

In no time at all, they were through the check-in process and into the club proper, the heavy thump of the bass line of the current song pounding as steady as Gladio’s heartbeat.

“Hello, boys,” Crowe greeted them with a smile. She had her volunteer lanyard and name badge around her neck. That should have caused Ignis to relax, if it was the party he was nervous about - Gladio knew he preferred to play when Crowe was DMing - but for some inexplicable reason, Ignis grew more tense.

Gladio shot a confused look to Crowe who merely smirked at him.

“Happy birthday, Amicitia,” she said with a grin, spinning on one spiked heel to stalk off in the opposite direction.

“Thanks,” he muttered at her retreating back. “But you already wished me one at the party.”

Okay, everyone was being weird. Well, two people were being weird. Gladio looked around for Nyx. Surely if nothing else, he could count on Nyx Ulric to remain consistent.

A wiry arm dropped along Gladio’s shoulders, and he felt a lithe body press between himself and Ignis. Think of the hero, and look who appeared.

“Hey, happy birthday, Gladio!” Nyx said cheerfully. “And hello, Hawk.”

Ignis nodded at Nyx, but Gladio frowned. “Why is everyone wishing me a happy birthday tonight when you already did at the party earlier in the week?”

Cerulean eyes slid towards those of verdant green. “You didn’t tell him, gorgeous?”

Ignis shook his head in negation.

“Uh… maybe you should have, somewhere that you let yourself speak?” Nyx jibed, but his words were not unkind.

Judging by the way Ignis blinked - and the visible portions of his face colored - he hadn’t entirely thought that through. The charming lack of foresight was a good counter to the confusion that had been blossoming in Gladio’s mind.

“What’s goin’ on, Hawk?” he rumbled, leaning close so Ignis could speak quietly enough that no one would overhear.

“I had thought,” Ignis whispered, “to give you something… unique… for your birthday.”

“I’m listening,” Gladio said, trying to ignore the way his cock pulsed when Ignis said ‘unique.’

“You’ve mentioned you were interested in seeing me work with knives. I’ve done knife play with Nyx before, and he offered to help me… demonstrate.”

Gladio’s jaw dropped, amber gaze sliding between the two masked men in surprise.

“You’re in for a treat, beautiful,” Nyx purred, slinging his other arm around Ignis and pulling both of them into a hug. “Hawk is amazing with his blades.” Canting his head to one side, resembling something far more avian than his guise of the Stag in that moment, Nyx continued to speak in a voice laden with heat - and hope. “And you still owe me a flogging, Amicitia - I’m of a mind to collect, if you’d like me to take your birthday spanking for you.” That classic, confident grin of his flashed brilliantly, and Gladio grinned back without pause.

“That all sounds… fuck, it sounds amazing,” he said. “Hawk, are you on board with all this?”

Ignis cast a slow look between the two other men, and Gladio watched as his full lips curled in a wicked smirk. He nodded his assent, and gestured deeper into the club.

Gladio and Nyx fell back a pace, and Ignis led the way. Finding it oddly thrilling to see Ignis take the lead, Gladio followed curiously to see where they’d end up. Nyx had surprisingly fallen silent, and Gladio appreciated the lack of distraction as he studied a very different Ignis than the one he’d seen here last month - than the one he saw at his apartment most weekends.

This Ignis was more like the one Gladio saw at work. His movements were sharp, controlled, precise - but, outside of subspace, he always moved that way. There was an indefinable difference in the way he carried himself, though, and try as he might, Gladio couldn’t put his finger on exactly what the changes were, just that they were there.

And they were fucking hot.

Ignis stopped by a massage table, and Nyx immediately began stripping down. Gladio averted his eyes when Nyx took off his boxers, but he realized that was silly - not only had he seen it all before in the locker room, he would have to see it to flog it.

As Gladio watched, Ignis opened the small case he’d been carrying and set out several knives and a few other small sensation toys. Ignis gestured for Gladio to stand at the far side of the table, and Gladio found a distinct thrill in obeying. He was already looking forward to the day that Ignis did this to him - for him. A demonstration wasn’t needed to interest him in being on the receiving end.

Nyx climbed on to the table and lay on his stomach, not waiting for directions. Gladio knew they’d done this before, and figured that was why neither of them made any effort to negotiate either by gesture or hushed word.

Ignis turned from his arrayed tools and cast his gaze over Nyx’s prone form lingeringly. Gladio noted the way those gemstone eyes glittered, and was simultaneously amused - and aroused - at the way Ignis fussed with his tie and tugged on his gloves to make sure they were perfectly in place.

And then Ignis lifted a small, gleaming blade, and Gladio’s mouth went dry.

He watched Ignis press the flat of it between Nyx’s shoulders, and saw the way the Glaive shuddered beneath the innocuous touch. Ignis’s lips twitched into a half-smile as he slid the cool steel along Nyx’s spine to his tailbone. Gladio wasn’t sure which touch Nyx was reacting to - the knife, or the sharp way Ignis’s eyes were honed to every move of the metal, every shiver of skin.

Ignis’s eyes flashed up to meet his, and Gladio realized just how much Ignis enjoyed this. There was a sensual light shining in those seafoam depths that Gladio had last seen when his lips were wrapped around Iggy’s cock a few days ago. He smiled at Ignis, nodding fractionally, trying to nonverbally indicate that yeah, he was into it, too. The permissive hand wave Gladio got in response made him realize Ignis was waiting for him to join in on the fun, but while he’d promised Nyx a flogging, Gladio didn’t feel confident in his ability to mix floggers with knife play. But, Nyx had mentioned a birthday spanking. Maybe simple was best. It was certainly safer than something he hadn’t practiced in advance.

Gladio lifted one wide-palmed hand, flicked amber eyes towards Nyx’s shapely ass, and then looked at Ignis with his eyebrows raised in silent query. After Ignis nodded, Gladio shifted his stance, moving to stand by Nyx’s thighs rather than by his abdomen. He lay his hand on Nyx so that he wouldn’t be surprised when this new element was introduced to the scene. Gladio would’ve gone for the surprise if this was something they had all pre-negotiated, but he wasn’t taking any chances when blades were involved - even if they were dull-edged toys and not actual weapons.

The curve of Nyx’s asscheek was hot and smooth beneath Gladio’s hand, and he gave it a little squeeze before releasing it. Looking to Ignis, Gladio saw his boyfriend had tangled his gloved hand in Nyx’s braid-riddled hair, tugging back his head so he could lay the edge of his blade against Nyx’s throat. Apparently Ignis was feeling bold, because while Gladio couldn’t hear the words, he saw Ignis’s lips moving next to Nyx’s ear and knew he was whispering something likely laced with playful menace.

Or just menace. Astrals knew Iggy could be scary when he tried. Going by the way Nyx rutted against the cushioned table, he wasn’t complaining.

Gladio kept watching until he saw Ignis remove the knife and turn to pick up another. It was a mismatched set - the second was much larger and looked considerably heavier than the first. Once Ignis had fallen into a graceful pattern with both - sliding the edge of the smaller in what looked to be the shapes of letters across Nyx’s back while using the other to occasionally push the flat against his sides, his shoulders - Gladio struck.

He brought his hand down hard, and grinned at the startled yelp Ulric gave.

“This okay?” he asked before continuing.

“Oh fuck yes,” Nyx said fervently.

Gladio moved again, going to stand at the foot of the massage table. With his reach, this would work out great. He had a good vantage point to see Ignis work, and he could get both hands into play. After the song shifted, Gladio waited a few measures until he had the beat, and then he began to spank Nyx to the rhythm. He rained down slaps on both cheeks evenly, an approving rumble sounding low in his throat as the skin pinked. Gladio took regular glances at Ignis working his knives over Nyx’s back.

There were a thousand questions he wanted to ask about knife play - to both of them - but since Ignis wouldn’t answer them here, he knew there wasn’t a point in breaking the mood of the scene with chit chat. But he felt that even though there was no verbal explanation to go with the demo, he was getting a good idea of it. Knife play had never been Gladio’s thing, but he’d read about it. He knew there were obvious safety concerns and lots of negotiation that had to happen, so truthfully, his biggest question was how the fuck Ignis and Nyx had figured that out with not talking. But more immediately interesting to Gladio was the way Ignis’s pupils were blown. Iggy was clearly getting off on this, and Gladio was enjoying seeing his boyfriend’s arousal play out in such a different setting.

When they were alone, Ignis didn’t hold back anymore - especially when they worked power exchange or BDSM play into their fun. Gladio had grown used to Ignis’s emotive expressions, his wordless cries, his erratic breaths. Ignis in top mode clearly wasn’t going to let that show. Fuck, if he could keep his eyes from dilating, he probably would. Studying him more closely, Gladio thought his breathing might be coming a bit quicker than normal, but it was still even and steady.

Gladio ran his fingertips over the cherry red skin of Nyx’s ass, pleased when Nyx writhed beneath his touch. But he also knew caution was needed now that Nyx was warmed up. Once those endorphins got flowing, it was sometimes hard for bottoms to know when they should safeword out. Especially since Gladio had never beaten Nyx before, he’d keep a close watch on things.

He continued to spank Nyx’s ass, though he also began to land bows against his upper thighs, focusing on those until they were a lovely shade of pink in contrasting compliment to the crimson so near.

Ignis was controlling Nyx’s head by his hair again, turning his face from side to side and tracing the tip of one knife delicately over the porcelain cheekbones of the Stag, pressing it to where Gladio thought Nyx’s small facial tattoos would be found beneath his mask.

Gladio began to space out his strikes more, and rather than going with the music’s cadence he made them deliberately syncopated. He also began to talk. He knew Iggy wasn’t going to, but shit, it felt unnatural for Gladio to stay so damned quiet during such a charged moment. He had his own anxieties, and verbal check-ins - even when they were disguised as banter and not obvious check-ins - helped him a lot.

“You’re taking this so well for us,” Gladio said approvingly, stroking one hand gently over the curve of Nyx’s ass. “Can you take more for me? For us?”

“Please,” Nyx begged, “don’t stop.”

Gladio allowed a heated chuckle to rumble forth and he smacked Nyx’s ass four times in rapid succession, two on each cheek. “You said you’d take my birthday spanking. I just turned 22. I know I’ve hit you more times than that. You’re being greedy.”

“Damn right,” Nyx gasped. “You blame me?”

Ignis clenched his fist where it was tangled in Nyx’s hair and yanked until his back was bowed, his chest lifted off the table.

“Sorry, Hawk,” Nyx said contritely. “I forgot my manners.”

The way Iggy’s fingers relaxed and stroked through the messy hair was an obvious nonverbal acceptance of Nyx’s apology.

Gladio chose that moment to look up, and he saw Crowe grinning broadly at them from a few feet away. She was still on duty and didn’t linger, but she nodded at him and gave him a thumbs up before continuing her circuit around the club.

He waved at her, turning the motion into another resounding slap. Gladio focused more on what he was doing and less on Ignis’s knife work. He liked the way the firm muscle of Nyx’s rear bounced in the wake of each spank almost as much as he enjoyed the splash of crimson staining from Nyx’s tailbone down nearly to the backs of his knees. The sharp sound given off by each connection of palm to ass was better than any music they could add to tonight’s soundtrack, and Gladio had never imagined Nyx’s voice could come so undone just from a spanking. Okay, a spanking and some knives, but still. One could argue that they hadn’t touched him intimately at all, and he looked wound so tight Gladio wouldn’t have blamed an onlooker for thinking they’d been deliberately edging him.

Now there was an image he never expected to grace his subconscious. Focus, Amicitia.

Gladio scrutinized the skin he’d been working over and looked up to catch Ignis’s eyes. He gestured with his chin and Ignis nodded, in perfect accord. Gladio began to take things down on his end, his blows coming more slowly and less forcefully, interspersed with more caresses until he was simply rubbing the sore flesh instead of beating it.

He saw Ignis pack away his knives and stroke gloved fingers gently over the pale lines left behind by them, again leaning close to whisper to Nyx, though this time Gladio assumed it was words of encouragement to help bring him back into himself.

There wasn’t really anything to pack up beyond Iggy’s knives - which he’d already done - so Gladio helped Nyx to first sit up and then stand, handing him his clothing while Ignis wiped down the table to ready it for its next use.

“You good?” Gladio asked. “What do you need?”

“Can we just sit down a while?”

“Of course.” Gladio turned. “Hey, Hawk? I’m taking him to rest. Can you bring water when you’re done?” After Ignis nodded, Gladio led Nyx to an overstuffed couch, helping him ease down on the center cushion and then sitting to one side of him. He slung an arm around him in nonverbal encouragement to cuddle if he needed or wanted.

“That was so good,” Nyx said, his voice still a shade breathless.

“I’m glad,” Gladio said. “I had fun, too.” He grinned. “Not the way I expected my birthday spanking to go, but I ain’t complaining.”

“Well, I could always return the favor,” Nyx drawled lazily, tipping his head back until sapphire met topaz.

“Maybe another time,” Gladio demurred. A quick glance showed him Ignis had made his way to the bar, but wasn’t on his way to join them yet. And since it was crowded, it might be a few minutes. “Are you grounded enough to talk?”

“Yeah. What’s up?” Nyx’s posture straightened, but he remained pressed against Gladio.

“So, I had actually meant to ask for your help with a birthday surprise for…Hawk… back in February, but things got so…” he trailed off, knowing he didn’t really need to elaborate. “Anyway, given how he arranged this for me, I thought maybe if you’re up for it, you could help me return the favor.”

“What did you have in mind?” Nyx asked.

“Nothing as specific as what Hawk planned for me,” Gladio grinned. “I’d gotten as far as ‘hey, I should ask Nyx to co-top with me, because Hawk really liked that when we did it before’.”

“You’re not wrong,” Nyx said. “And now that you two have had more time together, we could take things in a more intense direction.”

“You have an idea?” Gladio skimmed his fingers over Nyx’s bicep idly.

“Don’t I always?” Nyx replied with a wink.

“We don’t have long before he’s back. Spit it out.”

“Well, what limits do you guys have? I know the three of us just played together, but I don’t want to overstep.”

“Honestly, I’m okay with just about anything in a scene context aside from actual penetration - including oral - though I wouldn’t have an issue if you were doing something else while I was doing those things with him.”

“Do you know what Hawk’s thoughts are on including more intimate play and a third person, though?” Nyx asked seriously.

“I don’t. Shit.” Gladio sighed. “It never occurred to me to ask.”

“Okay, so, I’m thinking that I could beat him - work up to that behemoth flogger of mine he likes so much. We could even beat him in tandem for a while if we string him up the right way. But I’m going to just interact with him how I always have as Stag and not escalate things until the three of us have an actual conversation. I leave it to you if you choose to get intimate during the scene - it certainly won’t bother me.” Again, that cheeky grin, cerulean eyes glimmering. “You can read him better than I can, so do what feels right.”

Gladio nodded, glancing towards the bar again. “He’s almost back.”

“Oh, and, gorgeous?”

Gladio looked at him.

“I have no issues with either one of you touching me any way you like,” Nyx purred. “And neither does Crowe.”

“Fuck you, Ulric.”

“If you like.”

Ignis returned, smiling and passing them each a water bottle. He sat on Nyx’s other side, and Gladio was pleased that he’d guessed correctly when he’d steered Nyx to the center cushion. The three of them sat companionably for a while sipping their water and chatting. Well, two of them chatted, but Ignis grinned at their jokes.

After a sufficient amount of time had passed, Gladio turned to look at Ignis.

“Given the birthday gift you and Stag just gave to me,” he started, “I was hoping to return the favor with a belated present for you.”

Gladio noted the slow blink of Ignis’s eyes, an indicator that he was thinking. Of course since it was Iggy, the thinking would be happening at light speed, but Gladio still waited to say anything else until Ignis indicated if he was interested in the prospect.

Ignis turned and looked at Nyx. Gladio saw Nyx smile at him. Not his typical shit-eating grin, but a genuine, reassuring expression.

Turning back towards Gladio, Ignis nodded, the traces of a shy smile bowing the corners of his mouth.

Gladio knew he had to tread carefully. They hadn’t discussed playing with others - much - having been so focused on each other. But he remembered a small tidbit Ignis had let drop about his asshole ex, who would orchestrate threesomes - or moresomes - not only without consulting Ignis, but berating Ignis afterwards for enjoying them.

Well, if nothing else, Gladio was gonna give Ignis a memory to eclipse those that ended so badly. He stood, and Nyx shifted without being asked. Gladio nudged Ignis until he scooted onto the center cushion before he seated himself again, and now Ignis was the one being book-ended.

His curiosity was already piqued by Gladio’s offer of a similar ‘gift’ to the one Ignis had just bestowed upon him with Nyx’s help. His imagination went into overdrive when Gladio rearranged their positions. The new seating arrangement sent a delicious thrill shivering down Ignis’s spine. He suspected he was about to be co-topped. Ignis hadn’t allowed himself to indulge in that for years aside from the brief scene months ago when Gladio hadn’t known he was Hawk.

The skin between his brows wrinkled as he frowned. He didn’t think Gladio would be the type to suggest something and then react poorly to it later, but then, Ignis hadn’t thought his ex would be that way either.

Not at first.

He leaned into Gladio’s comforting bulk as a memory roiled through him with a wave of nausea.

“I can’t wait to see you come apart for us,” Gladio growled into Ignis’s ear, and it was just the thing to center Ignis in the here and now, in this moment, banishing the ghost of his past as surely as if it’d never been lurking there in his subconscious mind.

“No one else takes my favorite toy the way you do,” Nyx crooned from his other side.

Ignis took a moment to just breathe. He could hear Gladio’s heartbeat, steady and reassuring, where his cheek lay against Gladio’s chest. Nyx’s body was pressed to Ignis’s back, warm and comforting. With one final deep breath, he lifted his head and gave Gladio a wicked grin before turning to look over his shoulder, bathing Nyx in the same expression. He saw Nyx lift his eyes, and when Ignis turned back towards Gladio he realized the two were sharing a grin over the top of his head. Rather than making him feel marginalized, it made him feel… cared for.


“What say we get this party started?” Nyx said. “Since it’s already two months past due.”

“Sure,” Gladio chuckled. “Though to be honest, I’m calling it a gift for him. But really? This is for me.” He leaned down to meet Ignis’s eyes again, and Ignis felt a delicious flutter low in his core. “The first time I saw Stag flog you, you came just from that, without a touch. I want to see you come undone from pain again… but this time, I’m gonna drink it down until you tap out.”

Ignis’s eyes widened, and his breath hitched. He watched as Gladio and Nyx rose as one, each reaching a hand towards him. Already feeling unfocused, dreamlike, he took their hands and pliantly allowed them to lift him to his feet. After they respectively collected their bags, Gladio led the way towards an unoccupied suspension frame. When they got there, his hands were dropped and Gladio turned to face Ignis directly.

“Is it okay if we bind you for this?”

Ignis waited for the expected anxiety spike that question should bring, but it never came. He nodded, happy when he saw how pleased the decision made Gladio, even as he understood he’d have faced no censure had he demurred.

From behind him he heard Nyx, sounding like nothing so much as a child on Solstice morning, if a rather foul-mouthed one. “Fuck yes. You have no idea how badly I’ve wanted you tied up, gorgeous.”

Ignis turned and rolled his eyes expressively, and Nyx laughed.

“C’mere,” Gladio said, and Ignis obeyed with alacrity. He observed with interest as Gladio bound his wrists above his head to either side in such a way that Ignis could grasp the sturdy wooden frame for additional support. He almost felt like he was watching this happen to someone else, if felt so surreal. Mere months ago, he wouldn’t have allowed a paper chain to circle his wrist; now he was allowing Gladio to buckle his limbs into thick leather cuffs that Ignis wouldn’t be able to get free of on his own.

While Gladio finished on his second wrist, Ignis felt Nyx kick his feet apart. Ignis staggered, but didn’t fall, and his breath came more rapidly.

“So sorry, beautiful, did I catch you off guard?” Nyx teased, circling a rope around Ignis’s left ankle. He left enough slack that Ignis could correct his posture as needed, but by the time both legs were secured, Ignis knew he wasn’t going anywhere, not until they chose to let him.

And wasn’t that delightfully terrifying?

“He’s over dressed,” Gladio observed, and Ignis’s jaw dropped. He’d completely forgotten that he was still clothed, having been so focused on just following directions.

“I got this,” Nyx said, walking in front of Ignis and leering up at him, cheerfully debauched. “Hawk isn’t the only one who likes to play with knives.”

Ignis couldn’t control the whimper that slipped out when Nyx lifted one of his kukris and turned it slowly between them, letting the light catch and glint off the blade. Was that one of his actual Glaive issued weapons, or a toy he’d commissioned? Was it sharp? Ignis’s pulse hammered in his throat as the kukri pressed against the cheek of his mask.

“Gladio, look at this,” Nyx said. After Gladio stepped closer, Nyx continued, “Look at his eyes. And we haven’t even started yet.” His voice was soft, reverent. Ignis focused on staying very still as that deadly blade traced up towards the eyehole.

“I can’t wait to see how he reacts when we really get going.” Gladio’s voice was rough, pitched a half octave lower than usual, and tight with desire. Part of Ignis longed to be free of his bonds and lay with Gladio until they were both sated, but a larger part of him was desperate to see this scenario play out.

And besides… he had no choice in the matter.

A full body shiver coursed through him, and he was momentarily blinded as his eyes screwed tightly shut. When he reopened them, he was captivated in their twinned gaze - tawny gold on his left and sky blue on his right. While their hues were diverse, both pairs of eyes were heavy lidded and intent.

“You’re taking so long,” Gladio said, and then his massive hands were fisted at Ignis’s shirt collar. He gave one solid yank and buttons went flying as Ignis’s dress shirt was ripped open. Circling Ignis, Gladio gave the back of the shirt a similar treatment, until it was left hanging in two pieces from his shoulders.

“That’ll do for now,” Nyx agreed, trailing the edge of his kukri down to hover at the pulse point in Ignis’s neck before setting it aside. He took up a light anak-hide flogger, waggling it in front of Ignis with a grin. “You ready, beautiful?”

Ignis nodded, and Nyx also walked behind him. He waited, counting his heartbeats. One. Two. Three. Four.


Rather than the soft leather he expected, he recognized the heavy thud of the rose flogger Gladio had given him when they celebrated six months. His body wasn’t quite as ready for this as his mind, and it hurt.

But he could take it. He’d take it for them. For Gladio.

The soft sweep of Nyx’s flogger over his back as if Gladio hadn’t just struck him - hard - was a delicious counterpoint. It repeated several times, and then another solid slam of leather roses against his back had Ignis stumbling and grateful for the bonds.

It fell into a hypnotic rhythm. As Nyx gradually upped his intensity, their teamwork became very similar to a Florentine flogging, but still so startlingly different. Gladio and Nyx had distinct styles. Nyx’s was more mercurial, not unlike the way he warp-striked around the training yard during a spar. Gladio’s was direct and unrelenting - again exceedingly similar to his combat style.

Thoughts about their fighting styles led to Ignis’s mind drifting back to the kukri pressed against his mask just below his eye, and his mind’s eye helpfully provided an image of Gladio laying his greatsword along Ignis’s naked side, from shoulder to mid-calf. Just holding it there, doing nothing else, not directly threatening in any way.

Ignis moaned quietly, shifting his feet. He wished one of them had ripped or cut away his pants, which had grown uncomfortably tight.

“I think you’re warmed up enough,” Nyx said. “Keep him primed, Gladio.”

“Yep.” The roses kissed the pinked skin of Ignis’s back repeatedly as Nyx rummaged in his bag.

“Ah, here it is.”

Ignis blinked and tried to focus. He honed in on Nyx, and saw he was holding that ridiculously heavy behemoth of a flogger that they both loved. Ignis had never counted but fancifully surmised it must have at least fifty tails. There was no way the two of them could work in tandem with Nyx wielding that, though. At least, not both focusing on his back.

“He’s thinking too hard,” Gladio said.

“I’m on it.” The flogger slammed into Ignis with enough force that he had to grab on to the wooden beams his wrists were cuffed to lest he lose his footing despite the restraints. It crashed into him a second time, and a third, and Ignis had stopped thinking entirely when he felt familiar calloused fingers teasing at the waistband of his trousers.

“Lemme help you with these,” Gladio murmured, his rich amber eyes laden with promise as they latched onto Ignis’s blurred gaze. They stared at each other as Gladio undid the button and zipper with painstaking slowness, pushing both pants and underwear down to just below the curve of Ignis’s ass.

“That’ll have to do,” Gladio said with a grin, reaching to cup and squeeze one exposed cheek. “I can get at what I want.” Thus said, he went down on one knee, leaned forward, and…

Gladio’s mouth was liquid fire, hot and wet and wonderful. He worked over Ignis’s shaft expertly, having learned over the past seven months exactly how to drive Ignis wild.

Ignis’s hips bucked, and he pulled ineffectually against the restraints. He heard Nyx’s laughter at the same time he felt Gladio’s vibrate around his cock, causing his eyes to roll back in his head.

“I think he likes this,” Nyx said, again bringing the flogger down across the length of Ignis’s back, which had the effect of pushing Ignis’s dick deeper into Gladio’s mouth.

For his part, Gladio didn’t seem to mind. He did ease off most the length, opting to focus on the head, tonguing at the slit until Ignis’s knuckles were white he was gripping the frame so tautly.

“What’s that, gorgeous? You want more?” Nyx asked, his husky tenor wrapped in false innocence. “Well, since you asked so nicely…”

The leather falls of the flogger were akin to the crashing waves of the ocean amidst a spring storm - steady, relentless, and brutally efficient. It wasn’t long before tears were streaming from Ignis’s eyes, some drawing glittering paths down his mask, the others leaking out below to drip down his neck and chest.

Gladio’s mouth engulfed him completely after each strike, and backed off before the next. Pleasure, pain. Pain, pleasure. Were they different things? Ignis couldn’t make the distinction any longer. The kiss of the lash felt as amazing as the mouth on his dick; the tongue on his cock hurt as much as each blow of the flogger.

Ignis’s thoughts were as slow as if they were being spun out into molasses, underwater, through the lens of a kaleidoscope. His awareness had narrowed to his back and his cock, to Gladio and the Stag. Were they still at the club? Had everyone else left? He neither knew nor cared.

He just wanted more.

Ah, what a pleasant sounding voice. What language were they speaking?

“Hawk. Hawk!” A massive, calloused hand cupped Ignis’s masked cheek and he nuzzled against it gratefully. A slimmer, but equally hardened hand, lay against his other cheek, and Ignis pressed his lips to it in gratitude.

“He’s really deep,” the lighter voice said. Ignis wasn’t sure what it meant, so he kissed the the larger hand, too.

“No shit,” a deep bass rumble that made Ignis’s cock twitch in the heated air of the room.

When had the mouth moved away? Had he done something displeasing? Ignis frowned, lips pulling downward below the edge of his mask, and he blinked back nascent tears that he was afraid would garner further displeasure.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay.” That rich tenor was wrapped in kindness, and one of the hands holding Ignis’s face lifted to stroke his hair.

“You’re doing so well for us, babe.” The other hand left his face, and Ignis cried out when it wrapped around his engorged length, not caring who could hear him; after all, there was no one present save the three of them.

“That’s right.” The hand slid from his hair to glide over the burning skin of his back. Ignis hissed out a breath sharply, but the touch felt good despite feeling bad. He realized that thought made little sense, but wasn’t able to parse it into something that did. “Can you take just a little more for us?”

“It’s okay if you can’t.” Six that voice was so comforting, so loving, so perfect.

Ignis opened his mouth to speak and a hand covered it before he could. “Nod or shake your head, beautiful. Remember, you don’t like to talk here.”

Oh. That’s right. Hawk didn’t speak, how silly for him to think that he could. He nodded, and formed his lips into a shaky smile. He could be good for them. He could be better. He could take anything they deigned to give.

And gods, he wanted so much more.

“Let’s take it down, Stag.”


The flogger fell again, but this time it wasn’t a crash. The third time it hit Ignis’s back, it was almost a caress. All the while, the hand at his dick continued to pump along its length, and it wasn’t long before Ignis knew he wouldn’t be able to hold back.

He stared desperately into eyes the color of aged honey, praying his pleading gaze conveyed that which it strove to nonverbally ask.

“Come for me, Hawk,” the bass rumble was gentle, and its owner sank to his knees. A mouth replaced the hand, and Ignis cried out again, his voice hoarse.

And then he was coming, and the flogger was replaced by gentle hands stroking his back, his hair.  The lips stayed wrapped around his dick until the last spasm shook through him and then withdrew before the sensation became too overwhelming.

“So very good,” the tenor praised, and Ignis felt a strong body press against his back. The scratch of his clothing against Ignis’s back hurt, but it was a good hurt; it reminded him that he had taken it all and - from their praising words - he’d done well.

“Come back to me, love.” Hands were unbuckling his wrists, and the body pressed to his back slid away a moment before hands were untying his ankles.

Ignis looked up with wide, trusting eyes. When had his dominant stood? “Gladiolus,” he said softly, and he saw him smile.

Gladio led him over to a couch and helped him to sit down, wrapping both massive arms around him and holding him close.

Ignis cuddled into the embrace, a hum of pleasure sounding from his lips when Nyx sat behind him and wrapped his arms around them both.

He was so tired. But he was safe here, so after pressing a kiss to the pulse point in Gladio’s neck, Ignis allowed himself to drift off to sleep.

Chapter Text

The next several months were so intensely busy that they passed at a rapid pace. Ignis graduated university, and secured his place as a member of the Crownsguard. He still looked back with pride at the memory of his swearing in ceremony - and with fondness at that of the after party with his friends.

It was longing that clouded his thoughts when he recalled the private celebration with Gladiolus that continued until dawn.

Noctis had managed to graduate high school and spent the summer dithering over college applications. Ultimately it had been decided that for the time being, Ignis would tutor him, and Noctis would take on more royal responsibilities. That had been… challenging… but Prompto was proving to be a positive influence on the Prince. The effervescent blonde had entered the initial Crownsguard training class, and his having to keep to a regimented schedule seemed to push Noct into doing the same, if only because with his best friend busy, he had little else to occupy his time.

Iris’s birthday had been a delight. Ignis had joined Jared in cooking up a feast at the Amicitia manor, and had specially baked a fancy Altissian pastry to serve as the girl’s birthday cake. While Ignis would never deny that part of his motivation had been knowing how Gladio doted on Iris, he had grown fond of her, and he was happy to be able to spoil her a bit after how kind she had been to him over the past year.

Year. It was hard to believe it had been an entire year since Ignis had asked Gladio to that first coffee. So much had happened that betimes it felt like it had been a decade.

It was Wednesday, and Ignis had spent the day at the Citadel - a day like any other, but so irrevocably different than his days had been at this time the previous year. This day had started off sending text messages back and forth with Gladio as they completed their respective morning routines. Ignis had arrived in his office to find a coffee and a mini quiche waiting for him; he knew that when Gladio had gone to lunch, he’d find the bento box Ignis had prepared him. The afternoon’s meetings hadn’t seemed quite as dull since with Noctis in attendance, his Shield was there too. Ignis hoped they’d been discrete enough with their stolen glances. He knew his notes would be useless, but for once he didn’t care.

After work, Ignis had driven home to prepare dinner. Even though it wasn’t their typical date night, an exception was understandable to mark the occasion.

One whole year. Ignis smiled whimsically as he sautéed the vegetables.

He hoped Gladio liked the gift he’d gotten him even as he knew that was the least important part of tonight. Ignis felt his length twitch beneath his pants as he ruminated over how they’d likely spend the evening, after enjoying a fortifying meal.

Focus, Scientia. Don’t burn the steak.

The sound of an opening door was followed by two thumps as boots were removed and tossed on the mat. “Hey, Iggy.”


Strong arms wrapped around Ignis’s waist, and Gladio kissed his cheek before pressing his against Ignis’s. “What’s cooking?”

“Dinner,” Ignis said wryly. “How was your day?”

“Good question,” Gladio laughed, stepping away from Ignis and grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge. “I was a bit distracted today. One of the newbs actually scored a hit on me in training.”

“Really?” Ignis smirked down into the pan. “Perhaps you’re not feeling well, and we should reschedule.”

“Ha fucking ha. Good one. Can I help with anything?”

“I have it well in hand.”

“Please say that again in about two hours, in a very different context.” Gladio’s grin flashed quick and brilliant, and Ignis was glad he looked over in time to see it.

There was a lull in conversation as dinner finished cooking and was subsequently eaten, but it was a comfortable quiet. Ignis realized he wasn’t nervous about the gift at all. It was a touch cheesy, yes, but Gladio had enjoyed the sentimental gift Ignis had put together when they’d reached six months, so hopefully this would prove similarly acceptable.

Acceptable. No. Anything he’d chosen would be acceptable. Ignis knew that to his bones, so he mentally banished the shreds of his past that nibbled at the corners of his mind.

This was a day to celebrate, not to get caught up in spiraling thoughts.

Ignis watched fondly as Gladio cleaned up the kitchen. They’d fallen into many patterns over the past year, and this was one of them. While Ignis hardly considered cooking a chore - it was one of his favorite hobbies - he wasn’t going to complain at Gladio wanting to ‘do his share’, as he put it. Nor would he have complained at doing it himself, but that was beside the point. He appreciated that Gladio stepped up and assisted, as he did with so many things.

Gladio looked over the shoulder a towel was draped over and grinned, catching Ignis staring. “Take a picture. It’ll last longer.”

Ignis smirked and let his eyes rove slowly from Gladio’s grinning face to his feet and back up again. “But it’s so fun to look.”

Gladio snorted and turned back to the dishes. “Watching me wash dishes seems like an odd kink, but I won’t judge.”

Laughing, Ignis stood. “I was going to go fetch your anniversary gift, but how will I ever tear myself away from that arousing sight?” he said sarcastically, though the loving lilt to his words took away any perceived bite.

“Us making it one year is gift enough, babe.”

“Be that as it may…” Ignis trailed off and walked into his bedroom. It didn’t take him long at all to locate the gift in its forest green paper. He’d opted to forgo a card, knowing he could never find any sort of pre-printed missive that could possibly encompass his emotions.

That was okay. Gladiolus knew.

Still smiling, Ignis walked back out and set the gift on the coffee table before meandering into the kitchen.

“Let me help,” he said. “It’ll go faster.”

They worked in tandem well, in this as in so many other things. The silence was comfortable, and the accidental - and not-so-accidental - brushes of fingers were electric. By the time the chore was finished, Ignis was almost embarrassed to realize he was half hard in his trousers. A flicker downward of verdant eyes revealed he wasn’t the only one in that state, however, and when his eyes lifted they shone with wickedness.

“Or I suppose we can skip the gifts,” Ignis drawled, “and go right to… celebrating.”

“Nope,” Gladio said cheerfully. “We can ‘celebrate’ all night, but we’re doing this first.”

Ignis wasn’t going to argue. They headed into the living room and sat on the couch close enough for their knees to touch. Ignis picked up the parcel and handed it to Gladio with another soft smile. “Happy anniversary, darling.”

Gladio’s eyes sparkled with happiness as he returned the smile for a long moment before turning his attention to the gift. He peeled away the tape so slowly, not ripping the paper at all. Ignis grew impatient as the minutes drew out, and he jiggled his knee in tempo with his racing heart, watching as the gift itself was slowly unveiled.

It was a photo album with a simple black cover, undecorated and unengraved. Inside were snapshots Ignis had managed to squirrel away from Prompto’s collection, as well as some he’d gotten from Iris. There was even a group shot of Gladio, Noctis, and himself that Regis had volunteered with a canny grin and a muttered ‘it is a secret to everybody’ that left Ignis shaking his head in bewilderment.

Nearly two thirds of the album was empty, leaving ample room for them to chronicle what Ignis hoped would be many more years together. He shifted on his seat, staring at Gladio who was staring down at the last photo in the book, one that Prompto had taken on his phone at Crownsguard training. It depicted Gladio and Ignis facing off, weapons aloft, grinning in brash challenge across the ring at one another. Ignis had chosen it for last, ironically, because it encapsulated how things had started so perfectly.

“I love it,” Gladio said quietly. “Thank you, Ignis. I can’t wait to add to it.”

The knot of tension in Ignis’s gut uncoiled, and he leaned against Gladio’s side. “You’re welcome. I’m glad you like it.”

Gladio flipped through the album one more time from back to front, and then set it on the table before standing. “I’m gonna go get your gift. You’re gonna get naked, move the coffee table, and kneel the way I like in front of the center cushion of the couch.

Ignis’s eyes shot wide in surprise, and his heart sped up again, pounding in the cage of his ribs. “Yes, Gladiolus.” He watched as Gladio went to the bedroom and shut the door, keeping his eyes in that direction until he realized he had no idea how long it would be and he’d best follow Gladio’s orders with alacrity. Another smile wreathed his fine-boned features as he stripped, realizing that at last he could honestly say his motivation for obedience was 100% pleasing Gladio; no vestiges remained of his fear that he’d be punished for less than perfection.

He didn’t take the time to fold his clothes, but tossed them on the armchair and pulled the coffee table several feet away from the couch. He had just settled to his knees when he heard the bedroom door open. Ignis quickly arrayed himself the way Gladio had taught him that he liked best, his ass resting back on his heels and his knees pushed apart, revealing every intimate inch of himself. He straightened his back and lifted his chin, but cast his eyes respectfully low, starting at the carpet before his knees and trying to get his breathing under control as Gladio’s footfalls slowly approached.

Ignis daringly lifted his gaze enough to watch Gladio’s calves as he took his time getting comfortable on the couch.

“Come closer. Don’t stand.”

Awkwardly - for there was no way to do this gracefully - Ignis wriggled closer to the couch until his spread knees bumped into the cushions. Gladio’s feet were nearly beneath Ignis’s genitals, and part of him was thrilled with the knowledge that one lift and fall of that foot would have him howling in pain.

Of course, Gladio would never do such a thing unnegotiated. But the threat of it had Ignis’s cock twitching where it hung between his thighs.

“Look at me,” Gladio said, his voice rough with emotion.

Ignis lifted his eyes and tilted his head back until emerald met topaz. He couldn’t help but glance down when Gladio’s arm moved, and his mouth went dry at what he saw.

A collar.

It was a simple piece, black leather with a d-ring at the front, but Ignis thought it was perfect. They didn’t need something fancy or elaborate. It was what it symbolized that mattered, and Ignis thought he’d never seen a more beautiful collar in his years of involvement in the Insomnian kink community.

“You know what this means,” Gladio began. “I’m not much for high protocol, but I wanted to make this special. We’ve been together for a year now, and we’ve gotten through some shit. I don’t expect perfection - from either of us. I do expect us both to try, to communicate, and to keep growing together.” He stroked his empty hand through Ignis’s hair until he cupped his chin.

“But, this isn’t only about me. Do you want this? You don’t have to answer now. And we have more talking to do about what it means for us long term. But to me? This means you're mine. This means we keep walking the path we found this year, and we do it together. This is as serious to me as if I were proposing marriage, so please, Ignis, take a moment to think, I won’t be upset if you say no. Doesn’t mean I won’t ask again in another year - or that you can’t ask me.”


Gladio eyed him speculatively, and Ignis swallowed the lump in his throat. He strained to hold himself still, but couldn’t suppress the tremors wracking his lithe frame.

“That wasn’t taking time.”

“I don’t need time,” Ignis said. “Do you think I’ve never thought of this?” He rasped a sardonic chuckle. “Gladio, I’ve wanted your collar since before you knew I was me. Please. Don’t make me beg.”

Gladio tipped his head to one side and smiled, slow and lazy as Sunday morning. “What if I want you to beg?”

The silence between them was laden with tension, now, and Ignis felt a familiar warmth begin to unfurl deep inside of him. His earlier anxiety was so far gone, it seemed like the vaguest memory of a dream; peaceful serenity began to enshroud him like an invisible cloak. Bowing forward the best he could kneeling so close to the couch, he managed to crane his head enough to kiss the top of Gladio’s socked foot before rolling his eyes upward, locking his gaze on those honey-gold eyes.

“Please.” A simple word, but heartfelt; Ignis’s voice broke in the middle, and he was unashamed.

“Please, what?” Gladio growled. He twined fingers in Ignis’s hair and pulled him up until he was kneeling straight, no longer hunched nor settled back against his heels. Gladio leaned forward until their faces were inches apart, and the heat of his breath puffing against Ignis’s face caused him to mewl longingly.

“I’m already yours, Gladiolus,” Ignis purred in a velvety tone, voice falling a half octave lower. “All that’s left is for you to… claim me. Please.” The way he twisted his hips, causing his now fully hard cock to bounce, left little doubt of one way Gladio could accomplish that feat; the lift of Ignis’s chin to better offer the slim column of his neck suggested the other.

Ignis rather hoped Gladio would chose both options.

“Stop wiggling around and straighten your posture,” Gladio ordered, but his voice was as heated as the blood rushing through Ignis’s veins.

Doing as he was bade, Ignis kept his eyes locked to Gladio’s, hoping he was right in his guess that at this moment - for this pivotal moment in their lives - he’d want to see into Ignis’s soul as much as Ignis craved to find Gladio’s truth in his molten visage.

The leather was butter-soft against Ignis’s neck, and when he felt it tug closed, felt the way it tightened almost too much when Gladio buckled it closed, he truly had difficulty maintaining position. Ignis no longer attempted to mask his shivers - he was done with masks.

Gladio pressed his cheek against Ignis’s and whispered into his ear. “Mine.”

“Yours,” Ignis breathed

And then they celebrated right there on the living room floor, until the dawn broke and they retreated to Ignis’s bed to sleep.

Days blurred together filled with his duties; nights sped by rapidly consumed with dreams of that memorable anniversary night. Gladio had always been a cheerful guy, but now he was rarely seen without a smile on his face. Sure, he hadn’t managed to find much time with Iggy since their anniversary, but that was okay. They both knew the reality when they began dating; they both had myriad tasks and obligations that neither begrudging giving their full attention to.

But they had their small rituals of morning coffees and packed lunches. They crossed blades in the sparring ring and sat in on Council meetings. And it was enough to share those little moments, those places, together.

Still, Gladio wouldn’t deny that he’d been impatiently counting down until this month’s party. Ignis had texted him that he was running late, asking if they could meet at the Coeurl rather than drive down together. Probably held up with work - again. Since Noct’s graduation, that had been happening more and more, but that was life. Gladio had plenty of other things to occupy his time - his own work, for one, but he used the time to good advantage, taking Iris to movies or going out with the Glaive. He was a social creature, and not one to sit at home pining because his boyfriend was busy.

After parking his truck, Gladio climbed out and grabbed his bag from the backseat. He and Iggy hadn’t made any specific plans for the evening, but Gladio figured they’d make it up as they went along. He wondered if Nyx would be there, and Crowe. It was always nice to see them, and Gladio wouldn’t deny that after the last gathering, he was more than interested in playing with Nyx again - and curious to see what Crowe’s style was like.

Entering the club meant entering the now familiar onslaught of sound, sight, and smell, and Gladio fucking loved every second of it. It was like coming home, being in this place full of like minded people - this one place outside of the privacy of Ignis’s home in which they didn’t have to hide their feelings.

He walked farther into the club, looking for the crest of Ignis’s gelled up hair, the bird-of-prey cast of his mask. Spying Nyx cuddled between two - well, Gladio wasn’t sure of their gender, but Nyx looked happy enough - Gladio waved, and received a broad grin in return. He found Crowe shortly thereafter, making the rounds with her DM badge hanging around her neck. It was the badge Gladio was looking at, not the deep vee of cleavage presented by her sapphire blue minidress, honest.

“Amicitia,” she greeted him politely. “You’re late.”

“Traffic was a bitch,” Gladio said. “How’s it goin’ so far?”

“Usual,” she replied. “In all ways but one.”

Gladio looked at her curiously, and her grin was slow and knowing. “Just keep walking, and you’ll see.” She pointed. “That way.”

With a frown, Gladio turned in the direction she’d gestured and resumed crossing the crowded room. It wasn’t like Crowe to be cryptic, and now his curiosity was piqued.

The swarm of revellers parted before him, and he saw Ignis sitting on an overstuffed armchair nonchalantly, in one of his nicest, custom-tailored suits. His legs were loosely crossed at the ankle. Ignis had gone without a tie and left the top two buttons of his starched shirt undone to reveal the band of black leather encircling his throat. While a lovely sight, that wasn’t what had caused Gladio’s feet to falter.

Ignis’s face was bare.

As he’d said after the collaring: no more masks.

As Gladio drew nearer, he could discern the delicate flush riding high cheekbones, the only outward sign that Ignis was anything less than entirely composed. Not that Gladio was gonna judge - he was so overcome with emotion at seeing Ignis - Ignis, as himself, not Hawk - that he had to blink back tears of blinding joy.

“Hey, Iggy,” his voice with rough with feeling, pitched quietly out of habit.

“Gladiolus,” Ignis said clearly, that crisp accent sliding around the syllables of his name and somehow warming it. He made no effort to soften his volume.

Gladio saw people taking notice. The hair was still the same, after all - Ignis had gelled it up into that crest as usual, revealing his face completely to all of the prying eyes. But in all of Gladio’s time attending, he’d never caught wind of rumors circulating that the Royal Shield liked to beat people at kink parties, so, he wasn’t worried.

He was touched.

Ignis reached out for him, and Gladio leaned in, a moth drawn to the flame. Apt, given the meaning of his lover’s name. They kissed sweetly, a simple press of lips, and Gladio felt Ignis smile against his mouth.

When they parted, Ignis lifted scintillating seafoam eyes that were crinkled at the corners. “Happy anniversary.”

Gladio’s heart skipped a beat. He loved the photo album, but this? Damn.

He wasn’t used to people making the big gestures for him; typically, Gladio felt he was the one taking care of his loved ones, not vice-versa. He didn’t really mind, because it was one way he showed his love. But he had to admit - it was nice being on the receiving end once in a while. That was one thing he valued about his relationship with Iggy. Sure, Gladio did a lot of things for him. But Ignis gave back. It was a partnership, not one-sided, no matter what power exchange dynamics they enjoyed slipping into.

“Thank you,” he said, for what else was there to say? Gladio sat next to Ignis and slung an arm behind him on the couch. They cuddled while people watching, neither impatient to jump into playing, both enjoying the novelty of being together in public, both as themselves, in a safe space free of judgement.

The quiet was broken by Nyx’s arrival. The ‘hero’ didn’t even need to say anything, his energy spoke for him. But he did, of course.

“Lookin’ good, Ignis,” Nyx drawled, taking especial delight in lingering over his friend’s real name. “Hello, gorgeous.” He turned his brilliant grin to Gladio, and then sat beside Ignis. “How goes, lovebirds?”

“Well,” Ignis said. “You?”

“No complaints,” Nyx said cheerfully. “I’m on gate duty again next week, but it was worth it.” Cerulean eyes sparkled with mischief in the eyeholes of his mask. “You should’ve seen the way Tredd jumped… classic.”

Gladio decided that was probably a story for another day, but couldn’t resist getting a jibe in. “I’m surprised they don’t just assign you permanently.”

Despite the levity in his tone, Nyx’s eyes darkened, and Gladio felt momentarily concerned that he’d been too harsh. But then Nyx said, “Things are heating up out there. I might not have the best discipline, but I am one of the best they have. Can’t afford to shaft me to gate duty for long.”

None of the three spoke; it was true what Nyx Ulric was saying. That was a large part of the reason both Gladio and Ignis had been so busy. Gladio spent his spare time whipping ‘Guard recruits into shape; Ignis had extended strategy meetings, trying to find a peaceful solution - or at least an answer that cost less lives - to the problem presented by the Empire.

Crowe sauntered over and broke the tension with her arrival. Her badge was gone, so her shift must have ended. She waved at the group casually, and then dropped onto the empty cushion beside Gladio. To his surprise, she slumped wearily against his side. Not that he minded; he lifted his other arm and laid it along the back so she could press to him in a mirror of Ignis’s pose.

And Ignis was the one who broke the silence. “What’s wrong, Crowe?”

“Ehh, had to throw someone out who forgot what consent meant. Always wrecks my mood.”

“That sucks,” Gladio said, giving her a squeeze.

“Yeah,” she agreed. Looking across the others, she met Nyx’s eyes. “I’m not gonna be in the right headspace to top you tonight, babe. Sorry.”

“No need to apologize, beautiful,” Nyx said, leaning across Ignis and falling half into Gladio’s lap in his graceless effort to reach Crowe. He succeeded, and kissed her cheek before sitting back down and snuggling tight to Ignis’s side. “Whatever you need, yeah?”

“I just want to sit here. Amicitia gives good cuddles.” She closed her eyes and lay her head against Gladio’s shoulder.

For his part, Gladio was touched. He knew they were friends, but ever since his immature, ill-advised attempt to hit on her when he was too young to know better, he’d kept a careful distance, not showering her with the same physical affection he casually gave to all his other friends. But she wanted cuddles? She’d get cuddles. He tightened his arm around her, tracing his fingertips over her bare bicep.

Ignis watched with a small smile before lifting his eyes to Gladio’s. “You seem busy. Perhaps I could… busy myself… with Nyx?”

Gladio felt a flare of arousal at the suggestion. “What do you say?” he asked the others.

“Just don’t make me get up,” Crowe said, not opening her eyes.

“Uh, fuck yes,” Nyx laughed. “C’mon, lovely. Let’s dance.”

“Just stay where I can see you,” Gladio purred suggestively. “I want to watch.”

The two men walked off, taking up residence at a cross within easy visual range, and Gladio allowed most of his focus to center on the gorgeous woman pressed up against him. “Open your eyes, you’re gonna miss the show,” Gladio said, his bass tinged warm with laughter.

“Seen it before, Amicitia,” Crowe drawled lazily, sliding one arm to cross his body, her palm resting where his hip bone jutted into leather pants. Gooseflesh prickled in the wake of her soft caress as Gladio enjoyed the sensation of the closeness, her soft curves crushed against his body’s firmness, the way her silky hair tickled against his neck.

As Gladio watched Ignis strip down, drinking in the sight of lithe limbs and pale skin, Crowe pushed closer, nuzzling her cheek against his shoulder before turning to brush her lips tentatively against the side of Gladio’s neck.

“This okay?” she murmured, tipping her head back so that those rich bistre eyes could meet his.

“Definitely.” His lips tugged into a bemused grin. “Now I’m interesting enough, huh?”

“Yep,” she said, popping the ‘p’ sound audibly, before kissing his neck again.

Gladio tipped his chin up to give her more access, curious to see just how far she was going to take this. Provided there was consent, the staff of the Coeurl had few limits on its patrons’ activities. He kept his eyes on the image of Nyx and Ignis. Ignis was bound to the cross by both wrists, and Nyx had begun to warm him up, sliding those talented hands along his back and whispering something into Ignis’s ears.

“Tell me what they’re doing?” Crowe asked in a mischievous tone, the hand at his hip bone sliding back over his abdominals again, her touch light and teasing, delving beneath his shirt.

“Stag’s warming him up,” Gladio said, darting a quick look down in time to watch her run one fingertip along the crease in fabric where his pants ended, inches below his navel. Her eyes were locked on his face, and when they met eyes she smirked wickedly, teasing that fingertip against the button at the apex of the closure on his pants.

“Details, Gladio. Details.” Her voice was husky and heated, that devilish finger tracing the line of the zipper all the way down and back up again, until she could resume toying with the button.

He swallowed. Shiva’s tits, Crowe was bold.

And Gladio liked it.

“Have it your way,” he muttered in playful annoyance. “So—”

“I usually do,” she cooed, interjecting.

Gladio barked a short laugh. “Right. So, Stag’s got his light flogger and he’s getting Iggy ready for more. I can see Iggy’s face in profile - he looks bored, and I bet he’s hoping Stag takes that as a challenge.”

Crowe’s fingers trailed away from the button and zipper to brush over the growing bulge in Gladio’s pants as he spoke. “Oh, he will. Scientia’s pulled that move before. It’s deliberate, they both know it, and neither cares.” Her slim shoulders lifted and fell in an elegant shrug. “Months of nonverbal communication, I suppose.” She pressed the heel of her palm against Gladio’s half-hard cock and ground lightly against it.

A flash of gold downward, and Gladio saw she was still staring unabashed up at him. Well, he hoped she was enjoying the play of arousal over his face; he certainly wasn’t trying to hide how much he enjoyed her attentions, or the show their lovers were putting on. “I think he noticed. He tossed aside the warm-up toy and starting punching him. Fuck, I love the way Ignis’s ass bounces with each hit. Feels great, too.”

“Does it?” Crowe asked innocently as she undid the button, letting it pop free of its restraint.

“Oh, yeah,” Gladio growled. The arm wrapped around her tightened, and the fingers that had been brushing softly against her bare arm now scratched the skin gently, leaving delicate white lines from shoulder to elbow. On his way back up along her arm, he allowed his thumb to brush the side of her breast, and drank in the subtle tremor that coursed through her small frame at the contact.

“Ignis is holding on to that cross for dear life,” Gladio said. The zipper on his pants was slowly tugged downward, and his voice broke on the last word. “Shit”, he rumbled with feeling.

“Too much?” Crowe asked brightly, grinning at him impishly.

“Not enough,” he countered, sliding his hand along her arm again. This time, when his path diverged, he allowed himself to cup her breast properly, squeezing the lush curve. It enabled him to feel she wasn’t wearing a bra beneath her blue satin dress, and his dick swelled, the head poking out between the unzipped front of his pants.

“Keep going. What are they doing now?” She insisted, going back to stroking her hand back and forth across his lower belly, but now, the side of her hand brushed the head of his cock, smearing pre-come across his skin.

“Stag got out that fucking huge flogger,” Gladio said, bringing his other arm around to pay equal attention to her left breast. He kneaded the supple mounds, thumbing at her nipples until they hardened into little points tenting at the fabric of her bodice. “Iggy’s bracing for it.” A resounding crack informed Crowe the beating had begun before Gladio could, and her fingers dug into his abdomen in reaction to the sharp noise. “Oh, Stag managed to get him by surprise. His eyes are huge, but his mouth is set. He’s gonna try to endure.” Gladio chuckled, quiet and dark. “This should be good.”

Crowe delved beneath the gaping waistline of his leather pants and wrapped her small hand around his erection, pumping it slowly. “I agree,” she crooned, and Gladio had no idea if she was talking about their lovers’ scene, or their own. He didn’t fucking care.

Keeping one hand at her breast, Gladio allowed his other to slip down the center of her body. As it moved, she parted her knees, and that was all the invitation he needed. He slipped his hand beneath the hem of her dress rather than pushing it up - he wasn’t sure how modest she preferred to be at this party, and never having seen her strip down, he was gonna err on the side of caution. Tearing his eyes away from the delicious image of Nyx flogging Ignis, Gladio looked at Crowe, amber cleaving unto brown. He saw the way her pupils were blown, noted the pink flush on her delicate features, and knew she was as into this as he was.

He was still unprepared for just how wet he found her when he cupped her pussy in one wide-palmed hand. And shit, if it wasn’t one of the hottest things in recent memory to learn that Crowe Altius went commando.

“Shit,” he breathed reverently, sliding his middle finger along her slit. “You’re drenched.

“And you’re so hard it must hurt,” she countered, squeezing his cock so wonderfully that he saw stars.

“So take care of it,” he challenged, dipping his finger just far enough into her entrance to coat it in her juices before beginning to flick her clit with it.

She rocked her hips, arching towards the touch. “The fuck you think I’m doing?” she growled, moving her hand more quickly, maintaining that heated eye contact. Her other hand lifted to cup his stubbly cheek, ensuring he wasn’t gonna look away.

“Why did you stop?” she demanded. “Keep talking.”

It took Gladio a minute, but he realized she was talking about Ignis and Nyx. “Oh. Right.” She slid her thumb over the head of his cock, coating it with pre-come, before resuming stroking along its length. “Nyx is still beating him. Iggy’s hard,” Gladio rasped, staring at the way Ignis held his hips back, keeping his erection from touching the wood of the cross. “He’s trying not to rub his junk on the cross, so his ass is thrust out nicely for Stag to hit.” The sounds of those strikes were a lascivious counterpoint to Gladio’s narration. “With Stag’s mask, I can’t see much of his face. But I can see his mouth. He’s grinning - shocker.” Gladio laughed, though it was taut with tension - Crowe hadn’t stopped working her hand along his length.

He paused in his storytelling, angling his hand in such a way that he could dip his pinky finger inside of her while still playing with her clit with his index finger. From the way she rolled her hips, she appreciated the penetration, slight as it was, so he added his ring finger. The hand at her breast was busy, too, pinching at her nipples in place of squeezing the lush curve.

For Crowe’s part, she gave as good as she got. She went back to kissing Gladio’s neck, peppering the softness with sharp nips when he hit an especially good spot. Her hand never slowed, never sped up, but maintained its inexorable cadence.

“Stag put down the flogger,” Gladio said, half lifting off the couch in search of that necessary friction. “He’s… goddamn, he’s stroking Iggy’s cock, and Ignis is letting him.”

Crowe’s eyes darkened with interest, but her words were serious. “That okay?”

“I have my hand buried inside you; I have no room to complain if I wanted to,” Gladio said wryly. “And I don’t want to. Shit, this is hot to watch. You sure you don’t wanna look?”

Crowe giggled girlishly, her eyelashes fluttering to veil those dark eyes before she again met Gladio’s gaze. “I’m sure.” Bowing forward, she took him between her cherry-painted lips in one smooth motion that had him swearing.

Fucking shit, Crowe, you do that, I’m not gonna last.” He tried to keep up the rhythm he’d had going, but it was getting challenging. Taking his hand from her breast, he split the effort instead of doing it all one-handed. Two fingers stayed at her clit, moving as quickly as he could manage - and he slid the first two fingers of his other hand into her tight hole, fucking her in the same rhythm her mouth moved over his hardness.

Removing her mouth from his cock with a slick ‘pop’, she said, “Don’t care if you last…but fucking keep talking. Don’t make me tell you again.”

Gladio smirked down at her the best he could with his eyes rolling back in his head as her mouth took him in once more. “Yes, ma’am.” He inhaled raggedly. “Stag is still stroking Ignis, whispering shit in his ear. His other hand is pushing at the welts left behind at the beating. Ignis has his head thrown back, and he looks almost as close as I feel.”

Crowe hummed approvingly around Gladio’s cock, and he lost it then and there. He came hard, and she gripped his thigh with one hand harshly. The burst of pain only added to his pleasure, as did the way she drank his orgasm down without pause. When it edged just this side of too much, he tapped her shoulder. To Gladio’s relief, she heeded the signal and eased off, cuddling against him again much as she had at the beginning of the night.

The difference, of course, was he still had his hands between her legs. From the way her thighs trembled, he knew she was close.

“What do you need?”

“Kiss me,” she demanded.

Gladio did, with enthusiasm. Rather than being dissuaded by the strong taste of his own come on her lips, he found it arousing as fuck. He drank down her mewls as she grew ever closer to her peak. Gladio glanced towards their lovers just in time to see Nyx helping Ignis down after unbinding his wrists, a telltale splash of fluid streaking his stomach. He saw Ignis sink to his knees gracefully, turning his head and engulfing Nyx’s cock the way Crowe had just done for Gladio. Refractory period or not, Gladio felt his spent dick twitch in an effort to harden.

But then Crowe came, and Gladio’s awareness narrowed to her.

Her heat closed around his fingers so fucking tightly, he could only imagine would it would feel like to hilt his cock inside her. Liquid soaked him down to his wrist, but he kept going until she weakly batted at his hands.

“Shit,” she muttered, smoothing down her skirt and laying her head back against the couch.

“Yep,” Gladio agreed, zipping up his pants and adopting a similarly relaxed pose. He didn’t think he could stand up if he tried. He did manage to crack one eye open, to watch the end of Ignis and Nyx’s scene, to track their motions as they cleaned up the equipment and got dressed.

And when their lovers joined them, Gladio found the energy to stand when Nyx suggested, “Why don’t we all go back to my place?”

It seemed the night was just beginning.

Chapter Text

The glory of autumn faded into winter’s austere palette, but Insomnia moved at at its same rapid pace despite the chill in the air. The Wall kept the worst of the weather at bay, though snow blanketed the city in a thick layer by the time the new year rolled around.

Winter or not, the Empire had been steadily tightening its grip on the outer provinces and tension was mounting even within the Crown City. Ignis was never more grateful for a day off when the third Saturday in January arrived. He and Gladio had hardly had a moment’s privacy in weeks, and Ignis was of a mind to take full advantage of the sanctity of The Coeurl’s Meow that night. They had to drive there separately since Gladio had an all-day session ostensibly helping drill the lower ranked Crownsguard soldiers. In reality, Noctis had been pressed into the group training classes - albeit in disguise - so his Shield was on hand to ensure none were able to both see through the subterfuge and make an attempt on the Prince’s life.

Parking a couple blocks away, Ignis winced when he was buffeted by a torrent of snow tossed on the breeze after stepping out of his car. A glance around to confirm his solitude and he was gratefully behind his mask, appreciating the slight protection from the elements as well as the anonymity provided. When he approached the club, his eyebrows drew together behind the avian visage, however. A couple dozen people were milling around in front of the doors, talking.

Picking Gladio out in the crowd was no difficulty with his height. Ignis made his way to his partner’s side, and looked at him interrogatively.

“It’s closed,” Gladio said with a shrug. “Posted a sign about taking refuge out in the country.”

Ignis blinked, and his lips pursed as he mulled over this information. It was true that Insomnia was a tempting target for Imperial forces. But with how the outlying provinces had come beneath the Empire’s control so easily, was that really a better option? Well, it was each citizen’s choice to make, and Ignis sent a prayer to the Six for the club owner’s safety.

“Your place?” Gladio asked.

After nodding, Ignis turned and went back toward his car. There was no reason to linger, it wasn’t as if they could have a conversation right there surrounded by all those people. That was the reason Gladio’s words had been so brief; they would discuss all of this in more detail later.

If Ignis was honest with himself, however, he hoped that conversation happened tomorrow morning over breakfast. Tonight he just wanted Gladio, in whatever way he could get him. It had been far too long.

Apparently Gladio had the same idea, because Ignis had no sooner stepped over the threshold of his apartment when the door was slammed shut, locked, and Ignis pushed back against it. Gladio’s lips were firm and insistent as they moved against his own. With a needy moan, Ignis opened his mouth, sliding his tongue against Gladio’s and fisting his hands on the fabric of Gladio’s black tank top.

“Fuck,” Ignis gasped against Gladio’s mouth. They were pressed so closely together, he could feel the way Gladio’s chest rumbled with his low chuckle.

“That’s the idea, yeah,” Gladio winked. He stepped back so Ignis could move away from the door, and clasped his hand. “C’mon.”

They did manage to kick the bedroom door shut behind them before lunging at each other, but it was a close call.

The year marched on inexorably, though this year there were no parties marking Ignis or Gladio’s birthdays. No one had the time for such frivolous things, and even if they did, no one was in a terribly celebratory mood. Even the lushness of spring filling the parks with flowers and verdant grasses didn’t seem to cheer the dismal mood hanging over the city as a whole.

Rumors from Tenebrae were troubling, and Ignis had caught Noctis looking somber the more days passed without a visit from Umbra, bearing a message in Lunafreya’s notebook. When Ignis tried to engage Noct in conversation about it he grew moody, so Ignis dropped the topic for the time being. He worried about his charge, noticing dark circles like bruises beneath those twilight eyes and concerned by the wan pallor of his pale skin. It even looked as though Noctis was losing weight, and he’d never had any excess to speak of. Ignis worried that the pendulum had swung too far, too fast. The Prince’s facade of a ‘normal’ life, given to him by his father out of love for his son, was being eclipsed by increased expectations. This push to mold him into everything that he suddenly needed to be was unfair. Noctis should have been able to learn these things over his two decades, not cram them into a mere two months. He’d give up his morning Ebony just to see Noctis laughing and playing the latest new video game with Prompto again rather than going to bed early and sequestering himself in his room.

As April wound down, Prompto passed his Crownsguard entry exam. Ignis remained dubious about his competency. He wasn’t so judgemental as to look down on Prompto’s commoner origins, but the fact remained that he’d only trained a year. There must be something about the untried gunslinger Ignis wasn’t seeing for Cor to deem him worthy of guarding the Prince. Ignis realized it was quite arrogant of him to doubt the Marshal’s decision, and put his doubts aside. If Prompto was good enough for Cor, that was more than sufficient recommendation. Ignis knew that Prompto’s proximity had a beneficial effect on Noctis’s overall mien, so he hadn’t wanted to speak against the young man’s inclusion in any case.

However, a position in the Crownsguard was far from ornamental; this was no mere peacekeeping force looking impressive in their uniforms, existing merely to assure the Lucians of their safety. Ignis was aware that recruitment was being pushed heavily as tensions continued to mount with Niflheim, but he felt it was important not to induct just anyone. That wouldn’t be fair to either the unit’s current members, nor the unwitting novitiates. It was a dangerous undertaking to swear your life to the throne. You may just be asked to give it. Ignis sincerely hoped Prompto would not be one such - he genuinely liked the younger man.

Ignis forced himself to return his undivided attention to his work; that would help the day to pass far more quickly than dwelling in his thoughts. At this hour, Gladio would be hard at work with the newest crop of Crownsguard recruits, trying to whip them into shape as fast as possible with the looming war. Shortly Ignis would undoubtedly be called back to the Council, where they strove to find a way to cease the conflict without either bloodshed or ceding further Lucian territory.

A loud slam startled Ignis. He went to his office’s small window and looked down into the courtyard just in time to see Nyx stalk into the lower level, anger radiating from his every motion. Ignis saw Crowe pause outside the ground transport and shake her head before following, along with a couple other Glaives - Libertus and Pelna, Ignis thought, though the distance made it hard to say for certain.

It couldn’t have been more than five minutes and the courtyard was deserted, leaving Ignis frowning pensively at empty paving stones. He returned to his desk and got about one page into a report before he received an email summoning him to another emergency meeting. With a sigh, Ignis gathered his things and locked his office before heading towards the Council chamber.

The bar was loud and packed, no matter that it was a Tuesday. They’d all managed to squeeze in around a table meant for two, but Gladio didn’t mind being squished together with his friends. Crowe had opted to sit on his lap, and the only thing that had kept Nyx from following suit was Gladio’s laughing protest that he wasn’t a couch.

“I’m glad we could do this,” Crowe shouted above the crowd. “I gotta ship out again tomorrow.”

“What?” Ignis asked, clearly hearing this for the first time. Gladio had caught wind of it from his father after training, and wasn’t surprised by the news.

“Captain’s orders,” Crowe shrugged. “Escort mission, combined with a delivery. I’m guessing the item is arcane if he wants me for it.”

Tomorrow?” Nyx affected a playful pout, but Gladio saw the genuine sadness in his eyes.

Crowe rolled her eyes. “It’s a two day mission, hero. I’m sure the boys’ll keep you company while I’m gone.”

“We’ll do our best,” Ignis promised.

“I ain’t volunteering to Nyx-sit,” Gladio rumbled with a smirk.

“Nyx-sit? I resent that!” Nyx reached out and drove a finger into Gladio’s sternum.

“You like it,” Crowe argued. “You like the attention.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Nyx grinned, not really trying to deny it. “Next round’s on me.”

When Nyx made his way to the bar, Crowe slid off Gladio’s lap and followed him, leaving Gladio and Ignis alone. Gladio appreciated the gesture for what it was - their friends knew how little time he and Ignis got together these days. While they had to be careful in public, it didn’t stop Gladio from turning his molten amber gaze on his boyfriend, letting Ignis see in his eyes how much he wanted him.

How much he loved him.

“How was your day?” Gladio asked.

“Long,” Ignis sighed. “Yours?”

“Same,” Gladio said. “Half the new recruits can’t figure out which end of the sword to hang on to. Why we’re starting them on weapons so early is beyond me.”

“Well,” Ignis drawled with the hint of a smirk curving full lips, “I seem to recall my combat tutor introducing weapons rather early in my training… to good effect.”

Gladio grinned, the expression quick and fierce. Yeah, he had done that, and he’d do it again; sparring with Ignis was one of his favorite activities to share with his lover. Beneath the table, Gladio reached out and squeezed Ignis’s knee, releasing it just as their friends returned. This time, Crowe perched on Nyx’s thigh rather than Gladio’s, and Gladio inched his chair closer to Ignis’s. As the four chatted and drank, if Gladio and Ignis’s fingertips occasionally brushed when they reached for their glasses, it was clearly accidental and entirely innocent.

They whiled away a few hours before reluctantly parting ways. Each of them had responsibilities that they wouldn’t dream of shirking, and it was time to get back to it. But as Gladio drove off, his spirits felt lighter for having gotten to enjoy a little downtime with some of the people he cared most for.

When Friday rolled around, Ignis couldn’t deny he was feeling anxious. Crowe was supposed to return the day before. Not only was she not back at the Citadel, she had maintained radio silence. Ignis supposed there was nothing for it but to focus on his work - ever his mantra in times of trouble or high stress. Gracious knew there was plenty of it to keep him occupied. He spared a thought for Nyx, who had to be in a right state waiting on his beloved’s return. Ignis’s forehead furrowed, perfectly manicured brows drawing together in thought. Perhaps he and Gladio could invite Nyx to join them for dinner that night. Cheering up a friend was worth missing their weekly date night.

A knock at his door was followed by it opening before Ignis could call out so much as a syllable. Gladio stepped inside and shut the door behind himself, locking it. Ignis felt a thrill shiver along his spine. While there had been a time in his life Ignis would have been appalled at the idea of being intimate in his workspace, with how hectic life had become, he freely admitted he’d take what he could get.

“Gladiolus,” Ignis said softly in his raspy baritone, rising and pushing back his desk chair. He circled his desk, coming to stand in front of his boyfriend. It wasn’t until he got this close that he realized not only had Gladio not said a word, his face wasn’t cast in the playful leer Ignis would have expected. It was drawn tight in somber lines, and his eyes were red and swollen.

Instantly Ignis recalibrated, shoving aside his lust and racking his brain for any reason his lover would look so forlorn. “What happened?”

“It’s Crowe.” Gladio’s voice broke, and tears began streaming down his cheeks. “She… oh, Six.”

Ignis’s arms came up and around Gladio seemingly of their own volition. He himself could scarcely breathe. Gladio must be mistaken. Crowe was sent on a routine mission, she couldn’t be… couldn’t have…

And then he was crying too, the two of them clinging to each other so tautly it was as if they couldn’t stand unassisted. Ignis had the passing thought to be grateful Gladio had locked the door, even as he hated himself for thinking it. Surely in these circumstance even the Royal Chamberlain and Prince’s Shield were allowed to express emotion and take comfort in a hug.

“What of Nyx?” Ignis forced himself to ask.

“He’s with the rest of the Glaive, I think. I only saw him in passing. Said he wanted to be alone, but I don’t think his unit will let him get away with that.”

“Good,” Ignis said faintly. His voice sounded like it was coming from far away, echoing back at him from across the room. “He shouldn’t be alone.” Digging his fingertips harder into Gladio’s shoulders, Ignis felt a surge of gratitude that Gladio had been the one to break the news. Crowe had truly been a dear friend as well as a valued tutor. Ignis would miss her immensely.

They all would.

“What do you need from me?” Ignis asked gently. “I know this has to be hard on you. You worked together a long time, even before you became friends.”

“I know you can’t just skip out on the rest of your day,” Gladio said, “but could I just hang out here? I don’t want to be alone, but I don’t want to be in a crowd of people who are gonna wanna talk to me. I need a few hours of not having to talk.” He sighed. “Pelna’s organizing a wake tonight in the Galahdian district. We should go.”

Ignis squeezed Gladio’s hands as they stepped apart. “We’ll go.” He released his hold reluctantly, and went back to his desk chair. “I can wrap this up quickly.”

“Don’t rush on my account.” Gladio sat and pulled a careworn paperback from his pocket. “I need to just… not talk a bit. Even with you.”

Ignis nodded, and attempted to focus on the report laid out before him. It was hard when his eyes continually blurred with tears each time the reality of the situation hit him again. He would get absorbed in a chart, begin to analyze the numbers, then catch the sight of Gladio in his peripheral vision, remember why his boyfriend was there, and…

Damn it. Ignis removed his glasses and cleaned the tear-speckled lenses, but lay them on his desk rather than putting them back on. He knew he had responsibilities, he knew his work was important, but Astrals take him if he could focus more than a few minutes at a time.

Giving up on work, Ignis walked over to where Gladio sat on the simple sofa pushed against one wall. Ignis had slept there many a night when work kept him tied up so late, it wasn’t prudent to drive home. Now he was grateful for the indulgent purchase, as it enabled him to sit flush against Gladio and lean his head on his lover’s shoulder. They sat there quietly, Gladio holding his book - though Ignis noticed he never turned the page.

They would take quiet solace in each other’s presence, and then attend the memorial for an amazing woman who certainly deserved better than whatever fate had befallen her on that escort mission.

When Gladio arrived at Nyx’s apartment, he found the door hanging open on its hinges. Letting himself in, he pulled it closed behind him. “Nyx?” Gladio called as he walked further into the cramped apartment. He navigated deftly around a pile comprised of Nyx’s Kingsglaive uniform, nearly stepping into another made up of take-out containers crawling with… something Gladio didn’t want to inspect too closely. It had been a week since they’d gotten the news about Crowe, and save the brief conversation Gladio had with him right when he himself found out the news, Nyx hadn’t been seen or heard from. Gladio had been surprised when Nyx hadn’t attended the wake held for her by her Glaive-mates, and less surprised when Nyx skipped the official memorial at the Citadel. He and Ignis had decided they’d given Nyx enough space and it was time to check on him.

Hearing voices caused him to stop in mid-step. They were coming from the bedroom, and both were intimately familiar.

“I just can’t believe she’s gone,” Nyx was saying, his timbre sounding… empty, devoid of all its usual effervescent cheer. “I keep expecting to wake up, like this is a nightmare. But I wake up into the nightmare.”

“I wish I had any words that could help, my friend,” Ignis’s voice was soft, gentle. “We are here for you, Gladio and I, and while I know that is scant comfort, I just ask that you try and remember… you are not alone.”

Gladio walked to stand in the open doorway, looking at the other two men but not entering. Ignis had gathered Nyx up in a tight embrace, and the Glaive’s shoulders were shaking in silent sobs. Walking louder than necessary to announce his presence, Gladio stopped beside the bed and rest a strong hand in the center of Nyx’s back, hoping it might be grounding.

“I’m going to kill them,” Nyx muttered.

“Who?” Gladio asked.

“Whoever is responsible for this.”

“I thought it was a routine mission?” Ignis’s voice was wary, his words coming slowly.

“Shoulda been. Obviously wasn’t.” Pulling roughly away from the hug, Nyx swiped a forearm over his face to wipe away the tears. “Crowe is… was… too good a soldier to have a mission go this badly wrong.”

Gladio frowned. “You think this has to do with the Empire? They’ve been popping up more and more the last few months, and the treaty signing is only days away.”

“Who else would it be?” Nyx snapped, rising. “I’m gonna find out.”

“Nyx, wait!” Ignis said urgently, reaching out to halt Nyx with a hand on his bicep. “You’re not being rational. Take some time to mourn, and to think about this before yo—”

“You’re fucking right I’m not being rational!” Nyx’s voice was quietly dangerous.

He turned back around to face them and Gladio felt his gut clench at the stark emotions painted on Nyx’s face - anger and sadness, yes, but also loneliness and desperation.

“She was my everything,” Nyx said simply. “And I’m not gonna rest until I find out who did this to her.”

“At least let us help you,” Gladio interjected, crossing his arms.

“No,” Nyx said. “You’ve got your own work to do. You need to focus on your mission - there’s too much at stake. Prince Noctis has to get safely to Altissia to marry Lady Lunafreya. That’s the only chance we have left to avoid an all-out war.”

“Really think it’ll work?” Gladio let his fatigue creep into his voice. The last weeks had been full of worst case scenario drills, and he was having trouble believing that with a signature on a piece of paper, and two young people joined in political marriage, all the tensions that had been building for over a decade would just cease.

He was an Amicitia; he was a Shield. It was his sworn duty to be prepared, to expect that things wouldn’t go well.

If they did? He’d enjoy being wrong.

The three men spoke long into the night. While it was a tight fit, they all sardined into Nyx’s bed - neither he nor Ignis wished to leave their friend alone that night.

Sunlight woke Gladio when it streamed in through the haphazardly half-open blinds, and he sat up, blinking away sleep. He was alone in bed, but that didn’t set off any alarm bells. Ignis and Nyx were known to go in search of coffee, at least if Gladio didn’t have them pinned in place with the weight of his sleeping cuddles.

He walked out into the main room of the apartment and saw Ignis sitting on the ratty couch, staring into his coffee rather than drinking it.

“Nyx in the can?” Gladio asked.

Ignis looked at Gladio, lips pursed in a tight line. “He’s gone.”

What?!” Gladio couldn’t stay still, he strode through the apartment looking around as if he’d somehow find Nyx, as if Ignis would be caught in a lie. “How could you let him go?”

The look Ignis gave him was flat. “You truly think I could have stopped Nyx Ulric when he wished to leave?” Ignis sighed, pushing a hand through his messy ash-blonde hair. “He warp-striked past me,” Ignis admitted. “I did try to stop him, but I didn’t wish to resort to violence.” He took a sip of coffee. “He’s undoubtedly going to the Citadel to ask questions. We can catch up with him there.”

“Let’s go then,” Gladio growled, heading to the door and putting on his shoes. He trusted that Ignis would follow him; after all, it wasn’t like they had any belongings to gather up, and they’d both slept in their clothes.

The drive across Insomnia had never seemed so long. Gladio swore at the traffic, the pedestrians, the fucking sunlight that kept glinting off of cars and blinding him. They needed to get to Nyx before he asked the wrong person the wrong question and got shafted onto gate duty for the next fifty years, or worse.

“He’ll be fine,” Ignis said calmly. “They need him too much to revoke his commission.”

“I hope you’re right.”

When they arrived, Gladio and Ignis headed straight to the Glaive barracks. They didn’t find Nyx, but they did find Pelna.

“He’s gone and got himself assigned to gate duty… again,” Pelna said dryly. “I’ll tell him you were looking for him.”

Ignis’s phone rang, and he stepped aside to answer it. Gladio paid it no mind and peppered Pelna with questions. Did Nyx seem okay? Who’d he piss off? How long was he on punishment detail? Pelna provided sufficient enough answers, but Gladio still felt disquieted. Hopefully he could catch up with Nyx after he got off work. For that matter, Gladio had to hurry up or he’d be late to his own job.

“We’ve been summoned to a meeting with the King,” Ignis said in a clipped voice. “We’d best hurry.”

They made their way across the Citadel to Regis’s office. Well, that was a good sign. If it was disciplinary, it was more likely they’d be called to the massive throne room. Even more calming - at least to Gladio - Clarus was there at Regis’s right hand, and Cor was at his left. Noctis and Prompto were already sitting in chairs arrayed in front of the King’s desk. After bowing and being greeted, Gladio and Ignis took the remaining two seats.

“You leave for Altissia in two days,” King Regis said without preamble. “Noctis will wed the Lady Lunafreya as part of the peace treaty. You three will see him there safely.” His eyes were piercing, and Gladio forced himself not to squirm beneath that penetrating gaze; it was as if Regis was staring into his mind, his heart, his soul. “Will you do this for me?”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” the voices of the three Crownsguard said in crisp unison.

“Two days?” Noct asked, sounding shocked. “I haven’t even seen her in so long…”

“Though it’s been many years since last you met, I have faith you will be happy together,” Regis said. “I remember the way you two laughed together as children. You’re fortunate, Noctis.” He smiled fondly, eyes glazing with memory. “Just as I was. The friendship I had with your mother started our marriage out on the right foot.” Regis sighed, his grin fading as fast as it had blossomed. “Could I postpone this, my son, I would. But Lucis needs you now. I wish I could be there, but perhaps young Argentum can capture the moment.”

Gladio thought the King sounded exhausted. He could only imagine the stress of trying to hold a kingdom together while the Empire slowly bit away chunks, closing in on its heart. Let alone the strain of maintaining the Wall, and allowing trusted members of Glaive and ‘Guard to access his magic.

Regis stood shakily, signaling the audience was at an end. “You leave in two days time,” he repeated. “I suggest you use that time to prepare. Make ample use of the Armiger for supplies; while your trip should be straightforward, it’s best to be prepared.”

Gladio, Ignis, and Prompto rose and bowed. Noctis was a couple beats behind, but managed a passable genuflection before Regis turned and left, tailed by Clarus.

Cor pinned them each with his gimlet stare. “The time for games is over,” he said brusquely. “I’ll see to it the Regalia is serviced. Gladio,” Cor barked, turning towards the Shield.

“Sir,” Gladio said, coming to attention.

“Pack your camping gear. All those weekends at havens with your father may come in handy.” Cor’s lips quirked in a brief, wry smile. “Then get your ass down to the sparring ring. You still count too much on your raw strength. Pair off with Tredd, work on speed.” He turned towards Prompto. “Argentum, I want you at the shooting range as many hours as possible, and I’ve scheduled you for hand-to-hand with Luche. You’ve got two days to go from rookie to… better.” Another pace, another turn. “Scientia, they’ll try to pull you into more meetings. Skip them.” He passed Ignis a thick folder. “Here’s the latest intelligence reports. Study them. Brush up on Altissian customs.” Two more steps and he stood before Noctis; the Prince still wore a dumbfounded expression. “Highness… respectfully, your swordwork is still sloppy. Meet me in the ring at 0700 hours.” Cor’s voice softened uncharacteristically as he continued, “After that, spend some time with the King. Family is important.” With a curt nod, Cor strode back down the line of young men, crossing his arms. “Well? What are you all standing around for? Move out!”

Ignis sat on the edge of his bed, turning Gladio’s collar in his hands idly, stroking his thumbs along the supple leather. It was soothing to hold this tangible reminder of his and Gladio’s relationship; everything else in their lives was changing, but this one thing would stay the same. They’d have to be circumspect - the collar itself, along with the rose flogger, Ignis’s play knives, and all the rest, would have to remain at home under lock and key - but they’d still be together. Besides, Altissia was said to be the most romantic city on Eos. Surely once they’d seen Noctis wed to the Lady Lunafreya, it wouldn’t be amiss to give them some space… and take some time for themselves.

He knew it was self-indulgent to think about his own personal relationships when so much was at stake. Attending Crowe’s funeral earlier in the week had been… rough. Nyx had not been there; when Ignis spoke to him, he’d simply said ‘she’s not there, so I’m not gonna be either.’ Both Ignis and Gladio had attended, and he thought it had given them both a sense of closure, if not peace. They missed her terribly, though they hadn’t spoken about it much. Ignis knew that they would need to do so in order to truly be able to move on. He hadn’t been ready, though, and Gladio wasn’t, either. Ignis hoped they could find time to address it before leaving for Altissia, but so little time remained, he wasn’t certain that was an achievable objective.

For now, Ignis allowed himself to think about lighter topics, let himself daydream about kneeling at Gladio’s feet. Shortly, he’d return to being Royal Advisor Scientia, and his mind would be honed on the task at hand: seeing Noctis safely to Altissia. But for now, he was taking a brief mental vacation from all the pain and stress that had plagued him - plagued them all - these past months. In a way, the trip to Altissia was an unexpected blessing. Time out on the open road with Gladio, Noctis, and Prompto would be a respite from the endless Council meetings and heavy pall hanging over Insomnia.

When Gladio walked in, Ignis offered him a watery smile, grateful to be drawn from his maudlin reverie.

“You okay?” Gladio asked.

“Just… saying goodbye,” Ignis said softly, tucking the collar back into its felt-lined box. It was easier to focus on this than on the fact he’d never see Crowe again. The small parcel fit easily in the lock box holding the rest of their BDSM paraphernalia, everything from books to ropes to impact toys. All would be locked away from prying eyes while they were out of Insomnia, waiting safely for their return.

After locking it, Ignis stood and sighed. “It’s a shame, but I suppose we must put this facet of our relationship on the back burner for the foreseeable future.”

“Why?” Gladio asked with a laugh. “I mean, okay, sure. I can’t whip you in the middle of a haven with the twerps in a tent two yards away. But we can do other things.”

Ignis felt a flare of hope mingled with relief. He also recognized the tightness in Gladio’s timbre; his boyfriend was also choosing to dwell on relationship minutiae instead of the task at hand, and Ignis thought Gladio deserved it. “You think so?”

“I know so.” Gladio reached out and took one of Ignis’s gloved hands in his, squeezing. “The props are fun, but they’re just that. We don’t need toys to remember that you’re mine.”

“And you’re mine.”

A pregnant pause hung between them, the air heavy with everything they weren’t saying. One of their number was gone forever, and they were about to leave another behind out of necessity. When Gladio spoke again, it was with forced cheer.

“Exactly.” Gladio grinned. “We should figure out a signal, though, since you can’t crawl to my feet with your collar in your teeth.”

Ignis laughed - brittle, fragile - with gratitude for the continued distraction. “Fair point. Have you any ideas?”

The pad of Gladio’s thumb caressed Ignis’s wrist, over the line between leather and skin. His touch glanced over the small metal snap on the glove before running down each of the fingers in turn. Gladio did enjoy Ignis’s gloves; after that first pair had gotten so irrevocably destroyed during a particularly memorable play session, he’d purchased Ignis a dozen more pairs.

Try as he might, Ignis couldn’t think of anything to take the place of him on his knees, holding up the collar, begging with his body language for Gladio to take control. Nor the reverse, when Gladio would meet him at the door with the collar in hand, snapping his fingers and pointing to the ground in silent command for Ignis to take his proper place at Gladio’s feet.

“Your gloves,” Gladio said.

“What about them?” Ignis asked when Gladio said nothing else.

“They have straps. A glove strap is a far stretch from a collar, but…”

Ignis smirked. “It could do in a pinch.”

“You come to me with your glove strap undone? I’ll know you need to submit.”

“You come to me and buckle it for me? I’ll know you need to command.”

“That wasn’t so hard,” Gladio grinned.

“Indeed,” Ignis said dryly. “If only the rest of the mission goes this smoothly.” His mirthful expression faded, and his voice was somber when next he spoke. “We must be careful around Noct and Prompto.”

“We will be,” Gladio purred, leaning in and brushing his lips along Ignis’s neck, demarcating the skin that his collar would have covered.

“Of course,” Ignis affected a lighthearted drawl, though his pulse had begun to pound at the gentle touch.

But, they still had that night. And they made the most of it.

They sat side by side in bed, shoulders touching. Moonlight streaked in between the cracks in the blinds, the only illumination save a cluster of candles on the bedside table. It was completely silent save for the sounds of their breathing and the crinkle of the sheets whenever they moved. Ignis reached out and twined his pinky finger with Gladio’s and they shared a small smile.

“My first week of training,” Gladio affected a light tone, “Crowe razed me bad. ‘Don’t think we’ll go easy on you just because of your lineage.’ And they never fucking did. Pushed me harder than the random recruits.”

“And you were grateful for it,” Ignis murmured, not wishing to interrupt the narrative overmuch.

“There were days I wanted to run away and live at a haven,” Gladio laughed. “But, shit. Even before we were friends, Crowe helped shape me into the Shield I am.”

After waiting to ensure Gladio had finished his story, Ignis spoke up. “She found me in the library when I was a boy. Fourteen and certain that if I could only get at the restricted texts, I’d be a master arcanist in no time.” The grin that flashed over Ignis’s face was in stark contrast to the tears beading at the corners of verdant eyes. “I knew who she was, of course, and the threat she’d left me with kept me from approaching that wing of the library until, well…” A blush darkened sharp cheekbones. “I won’t say how many years passed.”

“Iris used to beg her to train,” Gladio picked up the storytelling once more. “She idolized Crowe. And I found them more than once, Crowe patiently explaining the proper defensive stance, Iris’s tiny forehead wrinkled as she shuffled her feet into place.” Ignis’s eyes weren’t the only pair damp now as tears tracked freely from those of amber. “For someone who cultivated a rep as a hard-ass, it wasn’t really deserved. She was only hard on people she cared about. Usually when we needed it.”

“Indeed,” Ignis agreed softly. “I suppose we’ll have to do that for each other now.”

Words faded into silence until both their tears had dried. Rolling on his side, Ignis propped his head up with one hand and smiled at Gladio.

“Do you think Noctis will be happy with Lady Lunafreya?”

Gladio folded one arm beneath his head, turning to meet Ignis’s eyes. “Yeah, I do.” His hand wrapped around Ignis’s, thumb stroking over its back. “I know he’s been worried about her. It’ll be good for them to be together again.”

“But it does mean an end to his comparatively carefree days,” Ignis said, pursing his lips. “Even were he not the heir to Lucis, the husband of the Oracle would be a large political burden to bear.”

“He’s ready, Iggy,” Gladio said with such certainty in his voice that Ignis took heart. “And besides, he’ll have us at his side.”

“And Prompto to capture it all on film,” Ignis’s timbre turned dry.

Barking a sharp laugh, Gladio rolled onto his side in a mirror of Ignis’s position, a broad grin painted over his handsome face. “Ten gil says Prompto fills an entire memory stick with selfies before we make it to Hammerhead.”

Ignis scoffed. “I’m not fool enough to take that wager.” He moved closer and pressed his lips to the center of Gladio’s forehead before laying his against it. As his eyes fell shut, Ignis drank in the feeling of his lover’s proximity. He could feel the heat radiating from Gladio’s body, could feel the gentle movement of his exhalations. Ignis fancied he could almost hear Gladio’s thoughts with their foreheads resting together like this, and his full lips quirked in a small, self-deprecating smirk at the notion.

Gladio drew back and Ignis followed him, cutting off his quiet chuckle with the tender press of his mouth. One kiss led to another, dreamy and soft, and they made love slowly, taking the time to map each other’s bodies with every brush of a hand. Rather than a passionate flare, this was akin to a burning ember. No screams or strangled cries, but in their places sighs and murmured words of love.

When they were finished, Ignis wrapped his arms around Gladio and held him close as they drifted off into sleep. They didn’t have time for much, but Ignis knew a few hours was better than nothing, and he counted the preceding time exceedingly well spent. They’d needed to talk about Crowe, about Noctis, about the mission. They’d needed the laughter and the tears and the loving.

The next day when they were dressing and preparing to leave, Ignis felt a wave of melancholia. There was no time for farewells or second-guessing. He sent a text to Nyx that went unanswered. Ignis prayed to the Six that their beloved friend would start to find peace within himself, and hoped their journey wouldn’t keep them from Insomnia too long. However, duty won out over sentiment, and Ignis tucked away his phone. “Gladiolus?”

“Let’s go.”

They held hands as far as they door; before stepping through, they parted. The necessary charade must be maintained, though perhaps after Noct’s wedding they’d be able to live their truth.

Until then, discretion was the better part of valor.