chlorhexidine: (Iggy)
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The unpacking was still a work in progress.

Ignis had packed Gladio a lunch to take to work. He'd been able to come home the first couple of days, and Ignis had been able to feed him properly, but then he'd stayed, taking his lunch at work, which had entailed cup noodles. Ignis, his pride as a chef on the line, had packed a lunch for him every day since.

Without Gladio's constant presence, and with only Gladio and himself to attend to, Ignis had found himself with far too much time on his hands. The hours until Gladio returned home dragged, the clock ticking ever slower until he heard keys in the door and Gladio swept in to drag him into his arms and held him tight. Then the clock sped up again, too fast, and Ignis's evenings were lost in a happy haze of tending to Gladio. His nights were lost in a stream of kisses, to the flutter of Gladio's breath against his skin and lips against his mouth, the press of his tongue against Ignis's own, or against his throat, and the warm hands that slid under his pyjama shirt and rucked it up to expose his stomach hands passing over his chest and to his back as Gladio muttered endearments against Ignis's skin.

They'd gone no further. Gladio's hand had tracked down to take a handful of Ignis's rear and tugged his hips closer, and Ignis had frozen, resisted. Gladio had stopped immediately, moving his hand and muttering apologies. Ignis, face flushed, had taken Gladio's hand in his own, kissing the back of it and offering reassurance that it was all right before he'd rolled them both over and resumed kissing Gladio's mouth. Whatever disappointment he'd inflicted by stopping Gladio seemed to have melted away with that, and Ignis had kissed him until his mouth was sore and kept his hips away from Gladio's body.

He enjoyed the kissing, and the affection, and a part of him clearly enjoyed it too much because it increasingly left him with a mind that buzzed in contented silence, and a rather pressing stiffness in his groin. It was both thrilling and embarrassing, and trying to keep it from his master was growing more difficult with each night. Ignis had taken to keeping his underwear on below his pyjamas too, because his dreams had taken a turn for the vivid, taunting him with his imagination's desperate desires, and he needed the extra layer to keep the result from soiling the bed they shared.

In lieu of anything else to do with his time when Gladio was at work, Ignis had fallen into a quiet routine of laundry, cleaning, food preparation, and then unpacking. Gladio had told him not to do the unpacking alone, but Ignis had found he responded well to a modicum of disobedience, so he unpacked a few boxes a day and hoped that Gladio would simply not realise, or would realise too late to care overmuch. When he'd unpacked a certain quota of boxes, he took to the kitchen and baked.

It was too quiet compared to the life he was used to. He used to rise early, so the bread could bake fresh, and then spend his morning making breakfast for the household, and important collars, and then help make a more modest breakfast for the rest of them, himself included, and then clean, and make preparations for lunch, and clean some more and make preparations for dinner, and between the constant activity of the kitchen and the parade of people in and out he'd take inventory, decide on menus, and in any free time between that, assist the maids in their duties.

He didn't have to do that here. He was at a loss. He woke late in the morning and prepared Gladio's breakfast for him, then put the house back into order, and made himself some lunch, and then he waited for Gladio to come home. There was no point baking cakes, or biscuits every day because there were only the two of them to consume the results, and so, waiting for Gladio to come home every day, he read.

He wasn't unhappy, he just felt at a loose end, and time without Gladio dragged by, every minute lasting an uncomfortable age. His only reprieve had been Sunday, when Gladio had been home all day and the time had clipped on by as if making up for the rest of the week. Sunday was, by Gladio's instruction, his designated sleeping in day. Ignis hadn't slept, but had instead curled up comfortably in Gladio's arms while he slept, luxuriating in the warmth of Gladio's presence. They'd showered separately, and made a late breakfast together, and Ignis had shown Gladio the results of his stress management class, kneading at knots in Gladio's shoulders with his fingers while the meat roasted for dinner. Gladio had taken him for a stroll in the balmy June evening after they'd eaten, and then tugged him into bed that night, pressing a single chaste kiss to his mouth before settling into the pillows and cuddling Ignis against himself.

That had been a week ago, and Ignis was desperate for tomorrow, when it would be a chance to do the same again. Gladio was, currently, working on the administrative side of the auctionhouse, which meant his hours were regular. He would, he'd told Ignis, and Ignis had taken it as warning, move on to overseeing some auctions in a couple of months, which would mean starting later in the day, but finishing at night.

A knock at the front door pulled Ignis away from his idle rearranging of the bookshelves into alphabetical order now he'd unpacked more of the books. He was expecting the grocery delivery; a helpful thing he'd learned in his household management course being how to order food to arrive without having to inconvenience a master to take him in person.

What he got was Cor, dour faced and filling the space behind Iris, who bounced on the balls of her feet and waved at him enthusiastically. “Hi!” she said, her voice chirpy.

Ignis bowed slightly, and stood aside to allow them entry. “Young miss,” he said, in greeting. “We hadn't expected a visit so soon.”

“It's my fault,” Cor said, before Iris could, as the latter bounded in, and the former merely crossed the threshold. “I wanted to see how you were getting on.”

“Cor wants to make sure Gladdy's treating you right,” Iris said, cheerfully, as she leaned forward, sticking her head through into the kitchen. “And I've come to kick his ass because you two promised me cookies and I haven't had any.”

Ignis felt a small bubble of amusement. “I made cookies for you,” he said, his head slightly bowed and a smile forming, “but the master has been busy and was unable to send them.”

Iris seemed instantly mollified, turning around to Ignis with a bright smile. “That's okay, where are they now?”

“Unfortunately, we expected they would go to waste, so we ate them.”

Iris gave him the flattest look it was possible for her perky, expressive face to achieve, and for a moment she looked like she was copying Cor. “I'm going to kill him,” she declared.

“I must ask that you refrain,” Ignis replied, with a smile on his face.

He took Iris, and Cor, on the short tour of the apartment. Cor had seen it before, accompanying Gladio once, but that had been before furniture had been brought in, and Iris hadn't seen it at all. “The master will not be home until later,” Ignis said, “will you be staying the night?” The journey back to the estate was a long one, and if they stayed until Gladio returned home, they wouldn't get back to the estate until the early hours. They had a spare room suitable for Iris. The other room, suitable for a collar, lacked a bed as Gladio had plans to use it as a small home gym, but the sofa was large and comfortable enough for a night.

Iris almost lit up at the offer, and Cor nodded his confirmation. Ignis's afternoon, then, was spent replacing the cookies made for Iris, much to her delight. With people to entertain, even though it was only Iris, and Cor, Ignis's time moved more quickly, and the sound of keys in the door caught him off guard.

“Ignis?” Gladio's voice came from the doorway.

He was interrupted by a cry of “Gladdy!” and Iris hurling herself around the corner and at her brother for a hug.

Ignis was a few steps behind, and he bowed, with a smile on his face. “We have visitors, sir,” he said, unnecessarily. Cor appeared behind Ignis, giving a brief nod of his own as Ignis offered, “Would you like a drink?”

Gladio requested a beer, and Ignis got him one, leaving it in the bottle as per Gladio's preference and then retreating to the kitchen with Cor while the siblings got reacquainted. “You're running a tight ship,” Cor said, once the door was closed. “You're not pushing yourself too hard?”

“No, sir,” Ignis answered, with a polite nod.

Cor gave a small, amused huff. “You don't have to call me sir any more, Ignis,” he said, “we're on equal footing, now.”

Ignis pursed his lips, and then gave a small nod. It was a strange thing to hear, but Cor had a point. “My apologies,” he said, with a faint smile, “it's a habit.”

Cor shrugged the apology off, pulling out one of the stools at the kitchen bar and taking a seat. “How are you finding it?” he asked.

Ignis, for a moment, almost answered with a simple 'fine', but he respected and trusted Cor, and Cor was his first port of call should he have problems. He owed it to them both to give a better answer. “Quiet,” he admitted. “I find myself struggling to fill the day.” Cor made a noise, and waited patiently. Ignis felt compelled to fill the gap. “I'm accustomed to constantly having work to do. Instead, with only the master and myself, I find I spend a lot of time waiting for another task to come along.”

Cor murmured, thoughtfully. “It is a change of pace,” he agreed. “Perhaps you could fill your time with study. You're a companion now, and a companion is expected to be able to converse on a variety of topics; Politics, culture, foreign affairs. You may find keeping abreast of them fills more time than you have.”

“Such things are permitted?” Ignis asked. A housecollar wasn't expected to know about those things, and it had eaten into Ignis's very sparse free time back then simply to learn what he knew of astronomy and mythology. Perhaps he could afford some time now to learn more about those.

“They're encouraged,” Cor answered. “A master would be expected to set you tasks for the day,” he said, “but I don't expect Gladio is experienced enough to know what tasks need your attention yet. You will have to learn that together. Until then, you can make yourself a better companion.”

Ignis gave a small smile, and a nod. It was a somehow thrilling prospect to be encouraged to learn things outside of the walls of his household. A start would be a newspaper, he thought. One of the large ones. Cor and the master, >his master's father, he mentally corrected, had always received a bundle of them in the morning, going through them as they did their morning schedules over breakfast. “I will try,” he said.

“Good,” Cor answered. Then he asked, his eyes on Ignis, “How is he treating you?”

“Very well,” Ignis said, softly. “He insists on trying to make a spoiled companion of me.” No doubt Cor would notice the newness of his clothes, the cut of them, the material which hadn't come cheaply, and the change to his collar. The thin, light indoor collar Ignis wore was barely there at all; he'd grown used to it quickly, and now couldn't help but wonder if his old collar would feel unbearably heavy around his throat. His glasses too were new, and very different to the styles usually worn by collars in need of them.

Cor murmured, and then said, “You share his bed.”

Ignis felt his cheeks heat up, and he looked away. That would also have been difficult for Cor to miss. The room given over for a collar had no bed, and the other was clearly a guest bedroom. He hadn't shown them Gladio's bedroom, such a thing being private, but it didn't take a genius to come to a conclusion about the sleeping arrangements.

“You're not trained for that role,” Cor said, when Ignis had been silent and blushing for longer than it would take for him to speak. “Are you comfortable with his demands?”

Ignis inhaled through his nose. Despite every instinct in him screaming that what he and Gladio did in their own household was between them, he knew Cor was only trying to look out for him. Cor had wanted him to take companion training, he recalled. He didn't want Cor to come to a wrong conclusion about Gladio's behaviour simply because Ignis found the topic sensitive. “He hasn't made any demands,” he said, his voice soft, but there was adamance in his tone. “He's done no more than I've been comfortable with, so we've done no more than a little heated kissing.” A little being an astonishing underestimate, he knew, but he didn't want to go into the details of a slowly burgeoning sex life with Cor.

Cor looked at him, his expression stony. “He kisses you?”

There was disapproval in his tone, and Ignis wondered if he might have said something wrong. He didn't think either of them had done anything untoward, and he didn't expect that Cor would disapprove of Ignis being able to keep things moving at a pace he was comfortable with. “And I kiss him,” he said. “Is there something wrong with that?”

“Kissing is an act for freemen,” Cor said, his mouth downturned. “Without companion training, you weren't to know.” Gladio must have started it, he knew. The thought wouldn't have occurred to Ignis because kissing wasn't something he was likely to have been exposed to; Collars showed their affections in other ways. Gladio, however, knew perfectly well that masters were not supposed to touch collars with their mouths. A kiss on the forehead was considered a sign of deep and abiding affection from a master, and something to be kept behind closed doors.

Ignis looked away, self consciously. “It's enjoyable,” he defended, quietly.

“It is still not appropriate,” Cor said, though his tone wasn't scolding. Ignis was new to this world, and that kind of thing, and Gladio was a strapping young man with plainly sexual intentions. Cor didn't like that Gladio didn't want Ignis to be trained because it left open the possibility that Gladio fetishised Ignis's naivety, though Cor suspected it was more complicated than that. Gladio adored Ignis, he knew. He'd taken him out in the gardens at night, had even purchased for him a coat so that he could, and Ignis spoke of him like a smitten young collar.

This kind of thing was, really, what he'd been concerned about. Gladio hadn't wanted Ignis to be trained because he didn't want Ignis to view it as a mere part of his role. The way Gladio was treating him, it sounded, he was definitely treating him as something other than a collar. While in itself it was hard to see that as something to scowl about, it did mean that Ignis wasn't learning how to be a companion collar. “Don't be concerned,” he said, “you've done nothing wrong.”

Their talk was interrupted when Iris came into the kitchen, asking Ignis what he was making for dinner. With more people to cater for, Ignis seemed that bit more relaxed, and, Gladio suspected, he may have been showing off just a little bit.

Iris made appreciative noises at the table, resting back in her chair and groaning, “That was so good.”

Ignis bowed his head a little and smiled, saying, “I'm glad to hear my skills haven't waned.”

“How is Gladdy not the size of a house?” Iris asked, giving her brother an accusing look after she spoke, narrowing her eyes at him.

“Who says I'm not?” Gladio replied, flexing his shoulders, pointedly, and then grinning.

“I've kept a close eye on the master's nutritional intake for many years,” Ignis said, looking at Gladio from over the top of his glasses before he turned to smile at Iris. “With his predilection for cup noodles, I have to keep an eye on his salt intake in particular. Everything you've eaten, made by me, has been carefully nutritionally balanced.”

“Even the cakes?” Iris asked, her eyes lighting up.

“Ah,” Ignis responded, regretfully, “not those. Or, alas, the cookies. Those are merely served in moderation.”

Iris huffed, folding her arms. “I knew it.”

Gladio laughed, his eyes fixed on Ignis as Ignis fixed Iris with a bright smile. Cor looked between the two of them, and then said, “Perhaps, young miss, you would like to assist Ignis with cleaning up, to show your gratitude for his cooking for us?”

Iris threw Cor a look as if she was about to argue, and then seemed to think better of it and slipped off her seat. “Yeah,” she agreed, “I'll help.”

Ignis glanced at Cor, and then turned his attention to Gladio, flashing him a briefly unhappy, apologetic look before he rose from his own chair and gathered the used crockery.

Gladio watched him go, and once the door to the kitchen had closed behind Ignis and Iris he asked, without looking at Cor, “All right, so what am I in trouble for?”

“You're learning the art of silent communication,” Cor said, “not bad.”

“Yeah,” Gladio agreed, gruffly, “and he said we're in trouble, so what have we done?”

Cor looked back towards the kitchen door, and then out towards the windows. “It's a pleasant night, perhaps we should take some air?”

Gladio huffed, and stood. He and Ignis hadn't used the balcony much, yet. They would, he planned, as soon as they settled in. They needed a couple of chairs, and a table. Best to get it while it was warm out, so they could enjoy their time out here. It was just a shame you could barely see the stars, couldn't make out any complete constellations at all from within Insomnia's walls, or he'd make plans to take Ignis for the first time on the balcony, under the stars. Ignis on his back, on a bed of cushions and pillows and blankets, looking up at the sky above and the heroes in the stars, with Gladio inside him, making gentle love to him.

It was an idle fantasy, but it was how he wanted Ignis to experience his first time. Sadly, the world wasn't playing ball with him on that front, so the bed would have to do, when Ignis was ready.

Cor closed the sliding door behind them both, and Gladio leaned on the balcony rail and looked out over the city. It was pretty in its own right, all glittering lights, less now than there'd be later. The sky in the distance was red, shading to blue as the eye tracked on, and from this side, there was nothing higher up than themselves.

“He needs companion training,” Cor said, as an opener.

“Not this shit again,” Gladio groaned. He turned to glare at Cor. When his father was present, Cor was an extension of his father, and Gladio loved and respected his father a lot, but showing Cor that same respect got tricky when he was starting a conversation that would leave Gladio arguing with his dad, too.

“I'm serious,” Cor said.

“So am I,” Gladio retorted.

“He says you're spoiling him, and that's your prerogative as his master, but you need to be careful of ruining him,” Cor said. He leaned on the balcony and looked out at the city below. “He is young, and inexperienced. He's bored when you're not home, and he doesn't know how to tell you when you're spoiling him more than he is comfortable with.”

“He's not comfortable with any of it,” Gladio replied. Ignis had balked at taking a damned book from a shelf overnight. Gladio wasn't going to make him continue to live like that.

“Exactly,” Cor said, “and you continue to do it anyway.”

Gladio growled. “You know the latest he'd ever got out of bed before we came here was seven?” he asked. “When he was fucking sick?” Gladio scowled down at the city, as if it had offended him by bringing back that particularly distressing bit of information.

Cor seemed to take that information in for a moment, and then he closed his eyes and gave a very faint bow of his head. “That is the life of a housecollar, Gladio,” he said, as gently and patiently as he could manage. “They live every day to a routine that only changes for something important. He worked in the kitchen; he was in there from six to put bread in to bake every single morning. Talcott rises at half past four every morning to make that dough and set it to prove, which is why Ignis always took it upon himself to stay up later, allowing Talcott to go to bed earlier. Ignis didn't get up at that time every day because we made him, he did it because that was his place, that was his role, and if he failed to fulfil his role on a given day, someone else must do it in his stead.” Cor sighed. “Ignis took over for Jared a long time before Jared officially took a step back. The life he has led is testament to his dedication to others, not any mistreatment he has suffered.” Cor looked at Gladio, a frown still etched on his face. “Has he said he felt mistreated?”

“No,” Gladio admitted, still annoyed about it. “He keeps saying it's a good place for a collar.”

“It is,” Cor replied. “There are many much worse estates. Your family's estate offers security to an ageing collar that has served it well, when many others would sell them off as field fodder, or worse, frees them.”

Gladio cast a sideways look at Cor. “What's so bad about being free?” he asked. It was what he wanted for Ignis, what he'd been thinking of doing ever since Ignis had freaked the hell out at sleeping until nine on that first morning. He'd looked so peaceful in Gladio's arms that Gladio hadn't the heart to wake him, so he'd left him for a few minutes, just watching the slow, steady rise and fall of his chest, and the tiny smile on his lips, and then he'd bent in and kissed him, like a prince waking sleeping beauty.

Except in Gladio's case his sleeping beauty had reacted by panicking, and then sharing that heart wrenching tidbit of information. He'd been similarly freaked about Gladio removing his collar, and that was when Gladio had realised that if he was going to give Ignis his freedom, he'd have to lead him to it one step at a time. He had a sneaking suspicion it wasn't something he wanted, at least not right now.

“With a good master,” Cor answered, “the collar means security. It means being clothed, and fed, and watered, and housed, it means never having to think about those things yourself. Income, expenditure, those things are the concern of masters, and head housecollars,” he added, gesturing to himself. “We live lives of comfortable routine, always knowing what we should be doing, where we should be, for whom we live, and what purpose we serve. Freedom strips that from us, in exchange for a handful of rights, and many more responsibilities than most of us can manage.”

Gladio grumbled and bowed his head, leaning his weight on his arms. “You still deserve better,” he said, his voice low, and sulky.

Cor couldn't help the twitch of a smile, but it was gone as soon as it appeared. “Perhaps,” he conceded, “and that you want to give that is admirable, but you need to remember that knowing our place is an important part of keeping us happy. Spoil Ignis too much, and he'll be unsure of his place.”

Gladio turned his head to look at Cor again. This time his look was steady and calculating. “You think I'm spoiling him too much?”

“New clothes, glasses, and an indoor collar can be excused,” Cor admitted. “He's new to you, and you're fond of him, just be careful not to let him expect that kind of expenditure from you. Your income won't allow it. My main concern,” he said, looking up and meeting Gladio's eyes dead on, “is the other things you've been doing.” Gladio held his gaze, ready for an argument. “You know full well that masters are not supposed to put their mouths on collars.”

“Where I put my mouth is none of your business,” Gladio replied, sharply.

“He doesn't know any better,” Cor pressed, “but if you continue to let him think that kind of thing is acceptable, you'll ruin him.”

“What the fuck is that even supposed to mean?” Gladio asked, leaning on the railing with one elbow, his body turned so the expanse of his chest faced Cor. “How the fuck does kissing someone ruin them?”

“He didn't know it was inappropriate behaviour,” Cor answered, turning slightly himself, but keeping both of his arms draped loosely on the balcony rail. It made for a less aggressive stance than Gladio's own. “Should you come to sell him on--”

“I ain't selling him on,” Gladio growled. “He's mine. A good collar will serve you forever, right?”

“Noble as it is that you plan to keep him for the rest of his life, you may outgrow him, and if you do, at the present rate he will be unsuitable for another master.”

“I'm not gonna outgrow him,” Gladio snarled.

“You are young,” Cor answered, sharply, “and naïve. Both of you. If you wish to kiss him, I cannot stop you, but for his own sake, he needs to learn what is proper with all masters, and what is simply your preference.”

Gladio's upper lip curled. “You better not have told him he can't kiss me back.”

Cor frowned, turning away from Gladio slightly. “He would take your instruction before mine regardless.”

An uncomfortable, unhappy silence blossomed between them for a few moments, and Gladio turned, resting his back against the railing and folding his arms. “That it?” he asked, hoping his lecture was over.

Cor sighed. “I know you're fond of him, Gladio, but if his happiness is truly that important to you, you need to be more careful with him. You're pushing things on him that he's not familiar with, and new situations are difficult for those without companion training to deal with.”

Gladio looked back at Cor again. “What's that supposed to mean?”

Cor turned around, resting his elbows up on the railing as he looked inside to the apartment. “I mean a lot of the things you may have done with a girlfriend are alien to him and he may not view them the way you do. Collars don't kiss; it's not a part of our culture. It's not how we show affection. I can't say what he takes it to be, and nor can you.”

Gladio looked at Cor and thought about that statement, uttering, eventually, “Huh.” He was pretty sure Ignis took it for affection. Gladio didn't know if he took it for sexual interest or not, though, that one he admit. It meant it, or at least the way he did it with Iggy certainly did, but Ignis had flushed so much at Gladio telling him he wanted him that way just not for that that maybe he didn't. Maybe kissing was just affection. “So how do you show affection?” he asked.

“Our lives are servitude,” Cor answered, “we can show affection through that, doing things for one another, making each other's lives easier, or by dedicating our time to one another. We're property; very little of what we have is our own. We can't give gifts; the most precious resource we have is our time. Sacrificing an hour of our day to keep another's company, for example, to help them with their own tasks, or make a lonesome task less lonesome.”

Gladio felt his stomach tightening. He'd done that, he thought. That was how it had all started. He'd come in, and helped Ignis do little things, like clean up, or just sat and talked, and drank, while Ignis chattered from the kitchen counter.

And Ignis, he'd gone out of his way to make time to walk with Gladio. He'd dropped what he was doing to come and spend time with Gladio, at Gladio's behest.

“I guess asking him to come out and join me for a walk was practically a marriage proposal,” he muttered, quietly.

Cor gave a short, amused laugh. You had to call it a laugh, because no other word was appropriate. “No,” Cor said, “that would have been holding his hand.”

Gladio felt his stomach flip and turned to look at Cor. “What?”

“Taking another collar's hand is almost as firm a declaration of love as the words I love you are to you,” Cor explained. “It means that time is for nothing but being with that person. We spend time with other collars helping them work to show affection, but holding hands means the only thing we are concerned with is the person whose hand we hold.”

A memory came back, from many months ago, of Ignis cutting his finger while chopping something. Gladio had bound his hand, but then he'd held it afterwards, while he made sure Ignis was all right, marvelling at the soft, warm skin under his fingers. Ignis had seemed so thunderstruck at the time.

Another memory, of the night on the roof, when Ignis had been half frozen, and Gladio had taken his hands to warm them up, and then the way Ignis had taken his in turn, tucking them close to himself. It was such an intimate gesture, and Ignis had returned it.

There were other times, too, so damn many of them. They'd held hands as Ignis talked about the stars, and when Gladio had kissed him too hard too soon and then made himself stop, and Ignis had slid his hands into Gladio's, both of them, and told him it was all right.

Gladio put both his hands to his face and groaned, rubbing his face tiredly. “Guess I've got a lot to learn.”

“You've held his hand, haven't you?” Cor asked.

Gladio flashed a look at Cor. “So what if I have?”

“At least now you both understand that gesture,” Cor replied.

Date: 2017-04-01 08:46 pm (UTC)
azi: (FFXV: Gladio)
From: [personal profile] azi
Poor Gladio. It must suck being lectured by someone with the expressive range of Jack Dee.

Least he gets it, now. Poor babba. XD

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