chlorhexidine: (Iggy)
[personal profile] chlorhexidine posting in [community profile] fic_ception
Kuja hosted a gala once a year. It was, to most and especially to Kuja, the single most important event in the social calendar. Everyone of any significance received an invite; every estate, and every influential or suitably wealthy household. Attendance wasn't technically mandatory, but it was usually advised. If nothing else, it was a good networking occasion.

Ignis had been before, when Noctis had been too young to attend such a formal occasion. He'd gone with Regis, and Clarus in tow, and had been dressed up in an expensive suit and forced to politely interact with people he'd found he despised. He'd hated every moment of it, and hadn't been made to go again the following year, or the year after that.

There was no getting out of it this year. This year, Noct had to attend in his father's stead, which meant that Ignis had to as well and prevent Noct from getting himself in bother with any of the influential society types that would be there. The Lucis Caelum estate needed to maintain social contacts in order to secure deals and contracts. Ignis just wished those contacts weren't people that bought, and sold, and trained collars for their income. He'd been acutely aware of one or two stares that went on a little too long when he'd last attended, and he wasn't looking forward to the same again.

“I'm sorry about this,” he'd said to Gladio, when breaking the news to him that he had to attend. “Unfortunately, your attendance will be expected too.”

Gladio had looked at him, his expression stoic, and his tone deadpan when he asked, “You think I'd rather leave you unattended for a night?”

Ignis had sighed, and run his hand down Gladio's shoulder, the action intended to be both reassuring and apologetic. “I didn't mean that,” he replied, softly. He and Gladio barely spent more than a couple of hours apart in a day, and that was when Ignis was only in the next room. It was reaching a point where Ignis could no longer imagine rounding a corner and not finding Gladio there, waiting for him. He'd forgotten what it was like to wake up on his own, without the comforting weight of arms coiled around him, and the feel of Gladio's breath on the back of his neck, or his legs tangled with Ignis's own. “It's just that I'll have to dress you up.” Like he was some sort of doll, the way they presented themselves, and their collars, would be expected to represent the estate, and its wealth, and by extension, their own influence and importance.

Gladio shrugged easily and coiled an arm around Ignis's waist, pulling him in against himself. “I look pretty good in a suit,” he said, and then ducked his head to purr against Ignis's ear, “and even better out of one.”

Breaking the news to Noctis and Prompto was slightly more interesting. Noctis groaned as if he was being personally put upon. Prompto, meanwhile, seemed to perk up. He hadn't been taken to a social function before, but he'd no doubt been trained for them. “So it's a party?”

“It's a gala,” Ignis reiterated. “You'll be expected to represent the estate, which means best behaviour and appearance.”

“Why do I have to go?” Noct asked, obvious complaint in his voice.

“You're the heir to the estate,” Ignis told him, his tone a little sharp. “Once it passes to you, you'll be required to attend many like this, you may as well get the experience now.”

Noctis didn't look convinced, and he flopped back in his chair petulantly. “I've got years before that happens.” The eventual passing of the estate into his hands was becoming a sore point, Ignis knew. Noctis resisted discussion of the responsibilities it would require him to take on more and more, these days.

Ignis felt Gladio's fingers brush against the small of his back. Gladio knew full well how Noct's behaviour on this matter got to him, and the touch was a reminder to breathe. Ignis did, inhaling, and then exhaling slowly before he continued, “That's as may be,” he said, softly, “but your father no more enjoys attending these things than I do, and he desires you take up the role of social correspondent in his stead.”

Prompto leaned over to Noctis and clasped his hands under his chin. “Come on, Noct, it might be fun?”

Ignis swallowed a smile. Regis had Clarus, who was more bodyguard than companion, and every inch as devoted as Gladio, but he lacked the social skills of someone like Prompto. With Prompto by his side for support, Noctis would be just fine. He would be fine provided Prompto remembered himself, at least. “You will need to get used to addressing him as 'sir', Prompto.”

Prompto coloured, his cheeks flushing as he sank into his own shoulders, admonished. “Uh, right,” he said, awkwardly.

Ignis sighed, and glanced back at Gladio. “It's fine in front of me,” he said, turning back to Prompto. “I prefer Gladio to call me by name, too, and I've heard you do it many times before.” What was concerning was that Prompto apparently hadn't realised he was doing something considered intimately taboo in front of witnesses before having it brought to his attention now. “Just ensure you remember yourself at the gala. This will not be a party for you, I'm afraid, it will be work.”

Prompto swallowed, looking at Ignis, and then nodded fervently. “Right,” he said, more seriously.

Ignis saw Noct's upper lip curl, and felt a pang of affection for the little idiot. He understood perfectly how Noctis probably felt about the situation, and about Prompto having to be On Duty. He and Noct kept a completely informal air to their relationship. Ignis wished he could find that so easy himself. “I've booked a tailor to come and take your measurements, and a collarmaker will be sending some samples.”

Prompto seemed to perk up again. “I get a new collar?” He asked. Prompto's collar was black leather, with the sigil of the estate embossed in gold at one side of it. Gladio's collar bore the sigil, but it was merely pressed into the leather, the silver fastenings marking him a bodyguard. If Ignis had been an heir, and not merely a ward, Gladio's sigil would be coloured too. None of that would matter, however, at the gala.

“You'll receive a dress collar,” he said. His eyes flashed to Noctis, briefly, as he said, “Please choose something appropriate.”

Gladio had promised to help him stop thinking, and he'd fulfilled that promise and then some as he'd pressed Ignis into the bed and taken him until the only thing Ignis had been able to think had been Gladio's name, and then he hadn't even been able to think that. Gladio had swamped his senses with his hands, and mouth, and hips, and Ignis had lost himself to the taste of Gladio's tongue, and skin, and the feel of the muscles in his back working as he moved, and now Ignis was slowly recovering, his mind blissfully scattered to the far corners of the room and in no hurry to return as he pillowed his head on Gladio's chest and luxuriated in simply being held.

“How pretty do you want me to be tomorrow?” Gladio had asked.

Ignis had given a small, happily exhausted huff of amusement. “I'm going to spend the evening fending off potential buyers for you as it is, don't make it harder.”

Gladio grinned at the edge of his vision, and curled his arms around him tighter so that Ignis relaxed. “You don't want me to be stunning?”

“You already are,” Ignis said, quietly, and sighed. “I want you to look like you, in a nice suit, that's all.”

“I can do that,” Gladio agreed.

Ignis smiled against his chest and reached a hand up to stroke along the stubble at Gladio's cheek. “Don't do anything to this, either, except a trim.” He felt Gladio smile against his palm, and then his head turned, and lips pressed into his hand before it was captured in one of Gladio's own.

“Yes, sir.”

Preparations began the next day. With no other duties to attend to, it afforded them both longer in bed, and when Ignis woke first, he bade Gladio sleep a little longer with a kiss to his cheek. He made coffee for himself, and then breakfast for them both, his nervousness about the evening ahead making his stomach flutter unpleasantly.

“Relax,” Gladio told him, hands at his shoulders before he pulled Ignis down onto the bed and kissed him deeply. The temptation was there, to just lose himself to it and let Gladio help him unwind, like someone carefully releasing the tension on a spring, but running late would only make Ignis more nervous and he knew it. He slipped away, with a final kiss that went deeper than he meant it to go, and took his time in the shower trying to get into the right frame of mind for acting like a real master with Gladio for the rest of the day, instead of like the helplessly enamoured fool he knew he really was.

Once that was done, hair still wet, he made his way into the kitchen and made himself another coffee. That was where Gladio found him, and sank to his knees, peeling the towel aside despite Ignis's rather reluctant protests. The protests died in his throat once Gladio took him into his mouth, and Ignis had to grip the counter for stability, Gladio holding his hips steady as he made Ignis's knees go weak and his mind go blissfully blank once more.

Ignis kissed him again once he was done, tasting himself in Gladio's mouth, and feeling the unmistakeable firmness of Gladio's own arousal at his hip as he pulled Gladio in close. He slipped his own hand inside Gladio's pyjama trousers, looping his other arm around Gladio's neck as he kissed him until they were both breathless, while Gladio's hips rolled with the movement of Ignis's hand, and Ignis whispered his affections into Gladio's ear when Gladio braced his hands on the counter either side of Ignis and came for him.

Curiosity won out as Ignis brought the mess on his fingers up to meet his tongue, and he caught Gladio staring at him and then swallow. It brought a smirk to Ignis's face, and he licked at his hand again, more slowly, his eyes on Gladio's face.

“Ignis,” Gladio said, his voice quiet, and strained.

“You need to go and shower,” Ignis said, with a convincing confidence he didn't really feel and ignoring the tone of Gladio's voice. “And you let my coffee go cold,” he added.

Gladio stared at him with a delighted fire in his eyes for half a moment more before he nodded, and said, “Yes sir,” and then turned to head to the shower. Ignis waited until he was gone before he washed the rest of the mess off his hands, and then went to go and get dressed himself. Gladio's reaction had been interesting, and Ignis couldn't help but take notes.

He dressed while Gladio showered, his own outfit being a smartly tailored black suit. Black was a comfortable, safe colour, and in any case, it was one heavily associated with the estate, so it was a perfectly acceptable colour for him to wear even though everyone else at the gala would be expressing their inner peacock. His shoes were shiny black leather, new but worked to the point where they no longer pinched, the silk stripe down the outside of his trousers matched the silk lapels on his jacket's collar, and his waistcoat was the same soft green as his eyes. That had been on the advice of the tailor, and Ignis would still have preferred a simple flash of purple, but he'd given in and trusted the tailor's opinion.

He was dressed but for the jacket, and making himself a fresh cup of coffee by the time the shower went off. Gladio's clothing, and collar, was hanging ready for him. Part of Ignis wanted to step in, and take the opportunity to see Gladio without the collar. Removing the collar was a private part of undressing, after having a collar initially placed on them by a master, it was only removed when they bathed, or were given a new one. Ignis had never seen Gladio without his, had never asked to see him without his, but he wished he could.

He'd drunk his coffee by the time Gladio emerged, jacket slung across his shoulder. Ignis swallowed. Gladio's shoes shone with polish, and trousers clung just so at the muscle of his thighs, the material cut to show off length and strength. The gold cummerbund only highlighted how slender Gladio's waist was, and how broad his shoulders. He still had his top two buttons undone, and in deference to Ignis's request, he'd trimmed his short cropped beard, and nothing more.

His eyes shone, the warm amber tones highlighted by the tiny amber stones that outlined the edge of the new collar, and picked out the eyes of the bird of prey that flew across Gladio's throat on it. “Looking good enough?” Gladio asked, his own eyes dragging over Ignis in his tailored waistcoat and trousers.

Ignis took a moment to answer, briefly regretting their activities in the kitchen earlier because he'd only be disappointed if he went and stripped Gladio off again now, “Almost,” he said, stepping forward to reach up and twist the collar a quarter of a centimetre to the right. He let his fingers trail over the leather, and then down against Gladio's throat and to the flesh bared by his shirt. He fastened up one of the buttons, but it was acceptable for a male collar to wear their shirts unbuttoned as their collars tended to sit in the right place anyway. “Don't leave me today,” he said, softly.

“Wasn't gonna,” Gladio answered, looking down at Ignis, his eyes heavy lidded.

“Someone might try and steal you,” Ignis added, as explanation.

Gladio grinned at him, teeth flashing white and making Ignis's breath catch. “They'll have a fight.”

Ignis swallowed again, wanting little more than to forego the evening they had planned and enjoy a night in Gladio's company with him dressed like this. Unfortunately, that simply wasn't possible. “Good,” he answered, and then made himself step away. “Do you want a coffee before we go to Noct's?”

“Yeah,” Gladio answered, “Prompto's probably still primping.”

Primping was what they called it when a collar was made up to look the best they possibly could. On a large estate, prospective collars for sale would be subjected to a routine of scrubbing, plucking, brushing, clipping, moisturising, and then making up and dressing that left them looking little short of pristine. It could take several hours to complete on an adult companion that was being sold, or, as Gladio explained, on a collar having their first night sold away.

Companions were taught how to primp themselves. On the way to Noct's annex, Gladio explained he was actually quite handy with a mascara wand, leaving Ignis to ponder why someone with eyelashes like Gladio would need mascara.

Still, it meant it didn't come as a surprise when they got there and found, behind the yet again unlocked door, that Prompto was in the bathroom still. “He's been in there for an hour,” Noct complained, slumped back on the sofa and playing a computer game. Noctis had yet to dress. “He set an alarm to get up and everything this morning.”

“You should show a little more appreciation for the lengths Prompto goes to on your account,” Ignis replied. “And you should be dressed yourself by now,” Ignis added, sharply.

Noctis shrugged. “It'll take five minutes.” He didn't look up from his game.

Gladio glanced at Ignis, and the set of his jaw, and the scowl at his lips, and then reached down and grabbed the game out of Noct's hands. “Now's a good time to start then.”

Noctis reached up for his game, trying to snatch it back and looking irritated. “Hey, I need to get to the save point!”

Gladio looked down at the handheld console, and pressed a button. Then he turned and handed it to Ignis, who took it with a grateful nod. “It's paused,” Gladio said, “now go get changed.”

Noctis huffed, “Why are you both on my back?”

“You can have the game back once you're dressed,” Ignis said. “It's going to be a long journey, you'll need the entertainment.”

Noct slunk off, grumbling under his breath, and Ignis gave Gladio a warm smile. “Be careful,” he said, amusement showing, “keep that up and people will think I let you get away with anything.” Gladio only flashed Ignis a grin in response.

It took Noctis twenty minutes to dress, and a further twenty for Ignis to haul him back to the bedroom to help him do it properly. When Noctis was finally allowed to emerge, his hair had been done and styled, his shirt buttoned up properly, and a brooch of the Lucis Caelum emblem in place of a tie made a flash of gold and sapphire on his black shirt. His suit was black pinstripe, and overall, he looked pretty good.

That lasted until Prompto emerged, and Noctis laughed. “What have you got on your face?”

Prompto scowled at him. “It's make up. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get eyeliner even when you haven't done it in months?” He directed his frown at Ignis, almost pleading with him as he complained, “I had to redo this three times. Does it look okay?”

“It looks fine, Prompto,” Ignis replied. He'd only seen Prompto in make up once before, but seeing the transformation from the usual casual appearance to this one did make Ignis appreciate how much effort went into a companion's appearance. A glance over Prompto's face told Ignis he'd spent time tidying his eyebrows and making sure to get every single stray prick of stubble from his face and neck. His skin looked smooth, and flawless, with a touch of colour at his cheeks that suggested a healthy glow, and at his lips that did the same. He wore faintly pink liner at the edges of his eyes, and his eyelashes were darkened to black.

The tailor had done the best he could with Prompto's skinny frame, too. His suit was a pale grey, form fitted and nipped in at the waist to suggest Prompto had larger shoulders than reality. The cut tried to accentuate the length of his legs too. Like Gladio, his shirt's collar was open, and like Gladio, his new dress collar showed through. Prompto's was thinner, to make his neck look longer and more graceful, ivory coloured leather studded with aquamarines like a necklace.

Prompto still looked uncertain and self conscious, and he looked at Noctis nervously. “Does it look silly?” He asked.

Noctis shook his head as he laughed. “No,” he said, and it didn't sound as if he was simply being charitable, “you look good, it's just,” he waved a hand, still grinning, “you spent so long doing all that?”

“Yeah,” Prompto admitted, and reached up to tug a lock of hair into his preferred position. He'd changed his hair, too, Ignis realised. Not by much, but he'd definitely styled it more than his usual run of gelled hands through the mop.

“You don't need that rubbish to look good, Prompto,” Noctis said, getting up to give Prompto a friendly nudge in the shoulder.

Ignis frowned for a second, but let it slide when he saw Prompto's nervousness dissolve and a happy smile come back to his face, more like the Prompto Ignis was familiar with.

“Well then,” Ignis said, flashing a brief look at Gladio who seemed completely unconcerned with any of the exchanges of the last few minutes, “let's get going.”
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September 2017


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