chlorhexidine: (Iggy)
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Ignis awoke in the dark, warmer and more comfortable than he'd ever been. The mattress was cosy, the pillow soft, and there was a heat pressed against his back, and a weight draped over him that didn't come from the covers. The deep, even breaths of Gladio riffled his hair, and Gladio's arm was coiled around his chest.

It took Ignis a moment to realise exactly what position he was in. Gladio's chest was resting against his back, and Ignis was effectively pinned. It was tempting to stay. He'd never been this comfortable on waking before, and being held was sending a pleasant warmth through his limbs that he didn't want to bring to an end.

But Ignis had never stayed in bed after waking, and there was a joy to the thought that his day now would revolve around nothing but Gladio. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, cleaning, unpacking, and the only person Ignis had to be concerned with through any of it was Gladio. It was delightful. It was freeing and yet nerve-wracking at the same time.

He didn't wish to wake Gladio yet. There was no need for him to rise, but Ignis needed to organise the kitchen and see what he had available to make for Gladio's breakfast. Gladio had put in everything he'd asked for, or someone had, and Ignis wanted to familiarise himself with his new domain.

Carefully he lifted Gladio's arm so he could ease himself out from under it and get up. He couldn't be entirely sure of what time it was, but his body clock was an impressive timekeeper on its own. A lifetime of rising early had left its mark, and it was, at worst, an hour before breakfast time. He'd have time to shower, and dress, and poke around his new kitchen.

Or he would, if Gladio's arm hadn't clamped down around him and tugged him close into Gladio's chest again. Ignis gave a small noise of surprise, and squirmed in the hold.

“Ignis?” Gladio's voice was thick with sleep.

Ignis murmured unhappily. “My apologies, sir,” he said, keeping his voice soft so Gladio could at least get to sleep again soon. “I tried not to wake you.”

Gladio grumbled quietly, loosening his hold on Ignis a little. “My alarm clock got cute,” he murmured, tucking his nose in to Ignis's hair in what could only be described as a nuzzle.

Ignis felt his cheeks flame, and was glad of the dark room. “I'm sorry sir,” he said, softly, “it's time I got up.”

Gladio murmured wordlessly and brought his hand up to tap gently on Ignis's nose. Ignis squirmed again, and shifted. “Sir?” he asked. He was rewarded with another gentle tap, this time to his forehead.

“Looking for the snooze button,” Gladio said, lifting himself up so he could look at Ignis. The shift of weight rolled Ignis onto his back, so that Gladio was leaning up over him, and Ignis felt like his face was on fire with their position. Gladio murmured thoughtfully, and then leaned down and pressed his lips against Ignis's.

Ignis chirped with wordless surprise, his eyes wide as he looked up at Gladio, and in the darkness he could make out the shine of Gladio's eyes and the curve of his mouth as he smirked. “There it is.” Ignis swallowed as Gladio's weight shifted again, settling back onto the bed, and two arms snaked around him and held him firmly. “What do you have to get up for?” Gladio asked, sounding rather more awake.

“I have to make breakfast,” Ignis replied.

Gladio made a noise that signalled disagreement. “I'll have toast,” he said, “when I wake up.”

“Sir,” Ignis protested, making no attempt to get up again. Gladio had never had just toast unless he'd been sick, and that hadn't been for some years now.

“Are you making your breakfast?” Gladio asked, a touch of firmness in his tone.

Ignis bit his lip, and settled into the bed and by extension into Gladio's arms again. “No, sir,” he admitted.

“Then I'll have toast,” Gladio repeated, “later.” He tugged Ignis into himself and nuzzled his nose into his hair again. “Go back to sleep,” Gladio said, his voice going softer again as he got comfortable.

Ignis nearly protested. He'd never stayed in bed once he was awake; it was time wasted. Yet, with Gladio tugging him in again like a child's favoured toy, tucking his nose into his hair and huffing, it didn't feel like wasted time right now. Ignis bit his lip, and slowly let himself relax back into the bed. Gladio's hand found his and Gladio insistently worked his fingers between Ignis's so he could hold it. After a moment, Ignis settled himself back and pressed in against Gladio's chest, to an approving, sleepy murmur, and decided that if he didn't sleep, he could at least enjoy the sensation.

He opened his eyes to the sensation of stubble against his skin and lips against his cheek. There was light beyond the closed curtains, and Ignis realised sharply that he must have drifted off. He went to move as panic gripped his chest, the words, “I'm sorry,” already erupting from his mouth. He'd never overslept in his life. To do it on his first day with Gladio as his master was inexcusable, and an unsettling precedent.

“Hey,” Gladio said, like he was trying to calm a startled chocobo. Ignis found himself pushed back into the bed before he'd even begun to move. “I just woke up,” Gladio said, in those same tones, “it's fine.” Gladio hovered over him, a frown on his face, and Ignis looked up at him with wide eyes as he relaxed by degrees.

“I'm sorry, sir,” he said, his heart still racing in his chest, “I've never slept this late before.”

He could see the slight tightening of Gladio's jaw, and then the shake of his head. “Never?” he asked. “It's not even late, Ignis, it's only nine.”

Nine?” Ignis repeated, and his tone suggested Gladio might as well have told him it was nine at night.

“What's the latest you've ever got up?” Gladio asked, his head tilted to one side.

Ignis made to reply, and then hesitated. He bit his lip before he quietly admitted, “Seven, sir, but I was ill.”

Gladio looked at him for the longest moment, and Ignis couldn't read the expression on his face. It seemed to have shut down while thoughts happened in the depths of Gladio's brain. Then he sighed, and settled himself on top of Ignis, sliding his arms around him to hold him tight. “New rules start today,” he said, his voice muffled between Ignis's hair and the pillow beneath him, “one morning a week, you have a lie in, and if you're sick, you tell me, and you don't move out of bed except for the bathroom.”

“Sir, I couldn't--” Ignis began, and Gladio's arms tightened around him.

“I'm your master now. Also you're not allowed to get up before dawn, ever.” Ignis fell silent, and felt Gladio nudging his nose into his hair again. “Do you understand?”

Ignis sighed, letting himself be cuddled tightly in Gladio's arms. There were, on reflection, many worse sensations. “Yes sir,” he confirmed.

“Good,” Gladio said, and lifted himself up so he could press a kiss to Ignis's mouth, and then pull away again, sitting up on the bed. “You're really cute when you sleep, I don't want to miss it all the time.”

Ignis felt a blush creeping up his neck and into his cheeks, and bit his lip.

Gladio took the shower in the small bathroom attached to the bedroom, leaving Ignis to make use of the over the bath in the bathroom. One of the short courses he'd taken had been on relaxation techniques, and baths, and how to properly draw one for your master had been included in the curriculum, along with some more practical demonstrations. Ignis had never had access to a bath before, and he did wonder what it would be like to have one. Showers were for getting clean, but baths were for relaxing, and for Gladio in particular, who worked hard to keep his body fit, they could also help with recovery from exercise. It was something Ignis would have to put into use.

He showered, shaved, and cleaned his teeth, and then cleaned the bathroom after himself before he dressed and made his way to the kitchen. Gladio was already in there, looking perplexed at the coffee machine. “My apologies for my lateness, sir,” Ignis said, his footsteps hurried.

“Don't worry about it,” Gladio replied, absently. “How do you work this thing?”

“If you will allow me, sir?” Ignis replied, taking the pot carefully from Gladio's hand. It was the practised work of a couple of minutes to set the machine up, filters, water, coffee and all. Then he marched away to begin making breakfast.

“Just toast, remember,” Gladio reminded him, taking a seat at the counter and watching him.

“Sir,” Ignis protested, “you can't subsist on toast for breakfast with your lifestyle.” Gladio worked out, Ignis knew, a lot, and the benefits of it showed, but it also meant he needed more calories, and a diet high in protein as well as carbohydrates.

Gladio simply shrugged. “We'll get lunch while we're out, no biggie.”

“Out?” Ignis asked, turning to look directly at Gladio while the coffee machine began to drip through, at last. He'd said we.

“Yeah,” Gladio confirmed, flashing Ignis a bright grin. “We need a few things.”

“You wish me to attend with you?” Ignis asked, to be sure he wasn't jumping to an entirely wrong conclusion. He turned to check on the toast, not wishing to that allow that to scorch while he was distracted by the prospect. Out. He'd been off the estate a handful of times since Gladio's birthday, but it was always from one estate to another so he could attend classes. He had a talent, they'd said, for finances, though his interpersonal skills would need some work, and he'd done well enough at the more practical lessons.

He hadn't, however, been out. He'd been away, which was different. Away was still inside, the leash to his collar and a freeman escort being merely formalities from the car to the door.

Gladio's smile turned a little more soft, and Ignis caught it out of the corner of his eye. “I wanna get you some new clothes,” Gladio said, “and a different leash.” His nose wrinkled at the last word.

“Is something wrong with the one I have?” Ignis asked, rotating the toast so it would be done evenly. The heating element must be hotter at one end than the other, he decided. He would have to keep an eye on that.

“I don't like it,” Gladio said, simply, and shrugged. “I don't see why you need to have one, it's not like you're dangerous,” he added, in a grumble.

“They're a legal requirement, sir,” Ignis said, softly, as he prepared a mug for Gladio. The coffee machine was nearly done, and the toast only needed another few seconds to even out.

“The law only says I have to show I can control you,” Gladio pointed out, unhappily. “I could let a dog run around free so long as it comes when I call it, but I can't let you walk beside me on the street unless you're damn well tied to me, it's stupid.”

Ignis bit his lip, and removed the toast from the grill. “When I was being trained to walk to a leash,” he said, softly, as he worked to butter the toast, and then pour the coffee, “one thing was always stressed to me: The collar marks us as property, and the leash marks to whom we belong.” He turned, and placed Gladio's simple breakfast in front of him, his eyes turned down to the counter as he continued, “I have no agency, and no rights, sir. I am safe so long as I am in your domain, and when I leave it, the more tangible your ownership of me appears, the safer I will be.”

Gladio made an unhappy noise, and huffed. “Still doesn't mean I have to lead you around by the throat,” he said, eventually. “I looked it up. I want to get a wrist leash for you. At least leading you around by hand the hand feels more human.”

Ignis felt his face grow hot, and he looked up at to stare at Gladio. How was he supposed to explain how that would be inappropriate? He made a noise, a halting, failed attempt to speak, and then fell silent. “What?” Gladio asked.

“You wish to lead me around by the hand,” Ignis murmured, his toes curling at the thought, “in public.” Gladio took a bite from his toast, and made a noise of agreement. “Sir, you can't,” Ignis protested.

“Why not?” The question was plain, to the point, and said with half a mouthful of toast. “They make them.”

Ignis tried to find a way to explain. Gladio seemed oblivious to the implied intimacy of taking a working collar's hand out of use. True, it may not be a gesture done for the simple joy of touching another you care for, but there were still implications. Any other collar who saw it would come to conclusions about Ignis, and his role to his master. “Only spoilt companions have such things,” he said, his cheeks flaming hot.

Gladio shrugged, flashing Ignis a grin. “Then you're going to have to get used to being spoilt,” he replied. “Now get some breakfast.”

Their first stop was a collarmaker. The early June weather was balmy and pleasant, and Ignis's coat was a little too thick for comfort, but he bore it. Gladio insisted a new collar, followed by new clothes were their first task of the day, even before unpacking. Insomnia was a huge and rich city, and Ignis walked by Gladio's side, at Gladio's insistence despite Ignis protesting he should remain one step behind, through streets thronged with people.

He'd never seen so many people before. There were companions with brightly coloured hair, and strange coloured eyes that walked just behind their masters, and bodyguards that were quickly distinguished by the way they looked at Ignis and immediately dismissed him from existence. Ignis walked with his head down, aware that he was an oddity in this company, surrounded by freemen and collars that had been raised to walk among them like this.

They passed the auctionhouse on their way, and Gladio paused to look, chatting easily about how many sales happened there each day, how old the building was, and how he would start work there in a week. It was a grand, old building, with wide steps that led up to its wide front doors, and lots of room for parking. It looked like somewhere someone could spend a lot of money. He quietly voiced this to Gladio, which earned him a laugh, and the total prices of sales that had happened there the previous year, all information Gladio had been made to study and learn.

The collarmaker wasn't that far from the auctionhouse. They caught a lot of their trade from masters that wanted personalised collars, or wanted to fix their lovely new companion up with a fancy collar quickly, and they had a contract with the auctionhouse itself providing them with the plain black collars they used. They sold leashes as well, because sometimes a master made an impulse purchase.

Inside, the shop smelled of fresh leather, and Gladio immediately cast his eye over the wares on display. There were some collars on shelves, and on mannequin necks, and others that were stretched out along the wall.

“Can I help you?” came a voice, and Ignis turned to see a woman old enough to be Gladio's mother approach them. He kept his eyes down, so as not to offend.

“Yeah, I want a new collar,” Gladio answered, “and leash.”

“For this one?” she asked, and Ignis saw the hand gesturing towards him. He gave her a polite bow of greeting in response to the acknowledgement. Gladio murmured his agreement, and the next question was, “Any particular kind of collar?”

Gladio shrugged one shoulder. “What've you got?”

They were taken on a small tour, then. Dress collars, she explained, were made to order, but he could pick his style and material here, and how he wanted it decorated. House collars were made for comfort, and lacked the fastening for a leash, typically they were slender, and made of leather but may be wrapped in something softer. Gladio, without any further explanation, decided one of those was a must. With a clip fastening, he stipulated, not a buckle, and was led to a far corner of the shop. “Any you like?” he asked, when the assistant left him for a few minutes with advice that he could try some on Ignis to see which he preferred.

Ignis looked them over nervously. A few were wide, and a few were thinner than his little finger, but all of them looked delicate. They were symbolic collars rather than practical ones. “None of these look like they will stay,” he murmured. Some had buckles, he noted, but some clipped together, and some had simple chains and hooks to keep them in place.

“Here,” Gladio said, reaching forward and starting to unfasten the buckle on Ignis's collar. Ignis immediately reached his hands to it, cheeks flaring red, and Gladio went still. “It's okay,” he said, softly, “it's just to try one of these on.”

Ignis kept his hand to his collar and looked up, meeting Gladio's eyes. “I haven't been without it in front of someone since I was a child,” he whispered. It was like being naked in front of someone, and Ignis hadn't done that since he was a child either.

Gladio frowned, and began to withdraw his hands. “You don't have to try it on,” he said, reassuringly.

Ignis swallowed, and closed his eyes, his cheeks still burning. “It's all right,” he said, slowly pulling his hands down to the level of his chest. He opened his eyes again and met Gladio's, “It's all right if it's you, sir.”

Gladio regarded him for a long time, his expression completely unreadable to Ignis, and then he reached forward again and finished unbuckling Ignis's collar much more slowly than he had. Ignis looked away, biting his bottom lip as the leather came away from his skin, aware that he was blushing furiously. He jumped a little as fingers brushed against the bare skin of his neck, and locked eyes with Gladio again to see him smiling.

“Try this one,” he said, looking away to pluck one of the plain leather collars from the tray. It was simple black, soft leather with a brushed silver clasp. Gladio placed it against Ignis's throat, and slotted the clasp together. It fastened with a gentle click, and then Gladio pulled his hands away. “How does that feel?”

Ignis put his fingers up to the collar, stroking the thin leather band. “Like I'm not wearing anything,” he murmured, feeling his blush rising again.

Gladio smiled at him and brushed his reddened cheek with a thumb. “You want one heavier?”

Ignis murmured wordlessly, feeling along the length of the collar. After the weight of the brown leather one he'd worn since he was twelve, this felt very much like being naked. He no longer noticed the collar he was used to. In time, he'd get used to this, too. “A dress collar will feel uncomfortable after this,” he admitted.

Gladio murmured thoughtfully, and looked over the other collars on display. He picked up another, that was equally soft leather folded and stitched so it was thicker and heavier without being wider, with a sturdier clasp. “How about this?” he asked, removing the first collar and clipping the second around Ignis's throat in its place.

Ignis stroked this one with his fingers and gave a small nod. “Better,” he agreed. He could tell that there was something there, although it was so light and soft compared to what he was used to that it still seemed barely there.

Gladio smiled at him. “That one then,” he said, happily, and replaced the rejected collar on the shelf. He pocketed Ignis's old collar, and the leash attached to it, and walked towards the counter. The assistant had taken her place there, just out of sight, but able to see if they tried to leave, and she looked up at them with a smile as Gladio asked, “Have you got any wrist leashes?”

Ignis's face hadn't stopped burning from Gladio removing his collar yet, but they gave a renewed effort at Gladio asking for that. The assistant gave an indulgent smile, and Ignis wished they were somewhere he could argue with Gladio about the matter. “We do,” she said, coming back out from behind the counter and giving Ignis a look over that made him want to hide behind Gladio, “how long do you want the leash?”

Gladio glanced at Ignis, and then turned to the assistant. “I just don't want to be strangling him every time I move my arm.”

“He's your first collar, isn't he?” the assistant asked, turning her appraising gaze onto Gladio. Gladio scratched the back of his neck and gave a grin in response, and she nodded. “You can't be too soft on them, you know,” she advised, beckoning him to a different corner of the shop. “Collars need rules and boundaries, it's good for them.”

Gladio wrinkled his nose behind her back. “I just hate the leashes.”

“If you really hate leashes, we have a client that uses shock collars,” she offered. “It's got a remote, so if he misbehaves, you press a button and it gives a warning shock. Press it twice and it downs them.”

“That won't be necessary,” Gladio said, and threw Ignis a glance. Ignis looked back at him with a soft smile. Gladio wasn't the type of person to be comfortable putting something designed to hurt around Ignis's throat, he knew, and for that Ignis was more grateful than Gladio might ever know.

“All right,” she said, coming to a stop and pulling a drawer out. “We usually make a cuff to match a dress collar since they don't all come with clips for a leash, but we do have some more basic ones if you want one for general use.”

“He's going to need a dress collar as well,” Gladio said, looking at the drawer of cuffs. Leather and lace seemed to be a popular theme, but some of them were plain shaped leather, without ruffly adornments and obvious settings for stones.

“We can make him one of those, what've you got in mind?”

Gladio glanced at Ignis again and said, “Nothing too fancy. No lace, but some gems would be okay.” Ignis smiled awkwardly and bowed his head. The need for a dress collar at all had certain implications that he was only just coming to terms with.

A finger hooked under his chin and lifted his head up and Ignis found himself being made to look at the assistant as she looked from one eye to the other. He didn't dare move, and she released him and said, “Peridot, for those eyes. Silver stitching. We'll draw up some designs and send them to you.”

“Sounds great,” Gladio said, flashing Ignis a look of concern and reassurance at his having been manhandled. Ignis gave a nod, and a blink to show he was fine, and Gladio gave him a small smile afterwards.

Gladio picked out a black leather cuff that had silver stitching at the edges. It was plain enough for every day wear, but the assistant was quick to point out that Gladio could always have it embellished at a later date.

He led Ignis out of the shop with a leash in his hand that attached to the cuff hidden up Ignis's sleeve, and Ignis couldn't stop himself from repeatedly touching his new collar, and looking at the new leash. It felt different, not just to be wearing such a light collar, but to have that sensation of gentle tugging at his arm when the swing of his own fell out of sync with Gladio's.

The next stop turned out to be an optometrist. Gladio hovered nearby while Ignis had his eyes tested, and then helped him pick out some new glasses. There were frames identical to the ones he had already, but Gladio steered him away from them and made him try on several pairs. He also refused to let Ignis look at the prices of them.

In the end, Ignis chose a pair of sleek half frames whose shape matched the curve of his eyebrow. The decision was based less on his own preference, although the sharpness of the look did appeal to him, and more on the way Gladio's eyes had flicked over his face when he'd tried them on. Gladio himself had looked to rather like them, even though he'd refused to make the decision on Ignis's behalf, so Ignis had chosen them on the basis that Gladio most seemed to be distracted by his appearance in those ones.

After that, Gladio took him to lunch. He unclipped the leash from the cuff, and made Ignis sit down when they got inside. A girl wearing a uniform and a collar came up to their table and gave a polite little curtsey before handing a menu first to Gladio, and then to Ignis.

“Getting used to it, yet?” Gladio asked.

Ignis put his fingers to his new collar and bowed his head. “I will in time,” he answered.

“I didn't realise you'd never taken the other one off,” Gladio said, apologetically. “I didn't think.”

Ignis smiled, faintly, keeping his head low. “It's one of the rules we grow up with,” he said, softly. “The collar may only be removed to bathe, or if a master changes it. I've had that collar since the day I was bought by your father. I've never even seen myself without it.”

“Never?” Gladio asked. Ignis shook his head. He'd never looked in the mirror when he wasn't wearing the collar; it felt indecent somehow, like examining one's nudity. It would have been indulgent of him, and wrong. “Well,” Gladio said, breaking into his thoughts, “you're just as cute without it.”

Ignis smiled down at the table. He could feel the warmth in his face, and knew his cheeks were turning pink, but at least they weren't turning the bright, obvious red that he'd worn in the collarmakers.

Gladio reached across the table, and took hold of his hand, and Ignis startled. He pulled his hands back out of reach and tucked them under the table, giving a worried look around. “What's wrong?” Gladio asked.

“You can't do that here,” Ignis hissed, looking directly at him, and then dropping his head again. The pink in his cheeks threatened to darken.

Gladio only looked confused. “Why not?”

Ignis looked around again, to be sure no one was looking at them, that there was no one to have noticed Gladio's disregard for social conventions. Ignis wasn't a companion, but he still knew he couldn't allow Gladio to be seen holding his hand like that. He looked back at Gladio and explained, quietly, “People will see.”

Gladio didn't seem convinced by that argument. “Let 'em look.”

Ignis sighed. “Sir,” he protested, keeping his voice low, “holding hands is private. We can't be seen to do that.”

“All right,” Gladio said, eventually, although he still looked baffled by the shift in Ignis's attitude. “You've held my hand plenty of times before though,” he pointed out.

Ignis flushed, and clasped his hands in his lap. “Only when we were alone,” he replied, “and I will again, when we are alone.”

Gladio seemed to mull this over before he leaned forward, resting his chin on his hand and giving Ignis a fond smile. “I suppose I should be glad you're saying no to me.”

Ignis smiled into his chest, and looked up at Gladio almost shyly. “Will I really have need of a dress collar, sir?” he asked.

Gladio made a thoughtful noise. “Yeah,” he said, after a moment's thought. “I'll have things to attend, and I don't want to leave you stuck in the apartment all night on your own.”

Ignis smiled softly, his eyes on Gladio's. “I could always get to the unpacking?” he offered.

Gladio grinned at him. “It won't be tomorrow.”

“At our current rate the unpacking will still need to be done three months from now,” Ignis pointed out.

Gladio laughed, grinning at Ignis in a way that sent a happy shiver down his spine. “We'll do some tonight,” he conceded. “I just wanted to get you the things you need before I start work.”

“I'm already well provided for,” Ignis said, softly.

“So we're gonna eat, and then get you all new clothes, and some new pyjamas,” Gladio said, ignoring Ignis's assertion.

“You're spoiling me, sir,” Ignis said.

“Good,” Gladio replied. “You're mine, and I want you to be happy.”

Ignis look at him for a moment, a helpless smile on his face, and then said, “I already am.”
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