Break

Feb. 7th, 2017 01:08 am
[personal profile] chlorhexidine
chlorhexidine: (Iggy)
The message read, simply, “Meet me outside.” Ignis's phone had chimed the alert and he'd put his notepad down, taken another mouthful of coffee, and then read it. Gladio had put measures in place to stop Ignis working himself to exhaustion and those measures had included two hourly alerts to take ten minutes, and four hourly alerts to take half an hour. Ignis had ignored a four hour alert only once, and the result had been Gladio breezing in, reminding him of his promise, and sweeping him out for lunch at a cafe.

There were worse ways to be made to take a break from work, but it had been more than an hour of his time instead of the scheduled half hour, and so Ignis had been careful not to allow it to happen again. Not, he'd be careful to point out if pressed, because he disliked the time in Gladio's company, but merely because his work was important and he didn't have the time to spare. Should his work be less important one day, unlikely, or finished earlier than anticipated, which was much more likely, he intended to remember it as an effective way to summon Gladio. Such information was potentially useful.

“My next break isn't for an hour,” he replied. He added, “You're ahead of schedule.”

Gladio's reply came back quickly, and Ignis took another mouthful of coffee. “Got something to show you x”.

Ignis raised an eyebrow at his phone. Gladio put kisses on the end of messages only when he was in a certain kind of mood, and in Ignis's experience, that mood was not conducive to his finishing a working day in good time, let alone facilitating only ten minutes for a break.

Even half an hour was setting some unrealistic expectations.

“Have you now.” Ignis's reply included the full stop, and then he stood and pocketed his phone to head to his front door. He carefully prepared a look of sceptical indifference, because he was determined to finish this report before tonight if he had to tie Gladio up in order to do it.

The look fell off his face at what he saw.

It was, in short, a monstrosity, lovingly crafted in black and gold. It sat on two wheels, and the engine roared like a tethered coeurl. Sitting astride it, slipping a phone into a pocket and revving the engine once more for good measure – the beast snarled - was a tall, helmeted figure, clad all in black leather.

Ignis stared. His eyes swept slowly from the bike to the man and back again. The engine shut off, and sudden silence descended on the world. Gladio removed his helmet, and grinned at him.

“What do you think?”

Ignis didn't reply, his brain too busy trying to process the information from his eyes to set about issuing commands to his mouth. He followed the sweeping line of the bike again to where Gladio's thigh fit in against it perfectly, and led his gaze up the leather clad torso of a man who had absolutely no business finding ways to look even more attractive.

“It's an import,” Gladio said, filling the silence happily, like a proud parent, “a Fenrir, made in Midgar.”

Ignis made one last, and he swore to himself final, sweep of the view before he realised his jaw was hanging open and he shut his mouth. He swallowed, giving his brain a nudge so he could at last respond. “Do you even have the right licence for that deathtrap?”

Gladio shrugged, and the stiff, clearly new, leather jacket accentuated the movement. “Found myself with a lot of free time when my favourite sparring partner got eaten by paperwork,” he answered. “Passed my tests a couple of weeks ago.”

An unexpected wave of disappointment crashed into Ignis. “You didn't say anything.”
Gladio's grin remained in place, but around it his expression softened. “I wanted it to be a surprise,” he answered.

Ignis got halfway to looking the entire thing, and Gladio over once more before he remembered it was past time he stopped staring, and he admitted, “It's certainly that.” He approached the bike, and Gladio, slowly. It was, he had to admit, a stunning bike, and Gladio was every bit its equal in leather. “Have you shown Noct?”

“Not yet,” Gladio replied, watching Ignis approach before he turned away. He pressed something, and a panel opened at the front of the bike, folding outward. Gladio reached inside, and withdrew another leather jacket, and a helmet, offering them towards Ignis. “He'd want a ride, but I think you should get first call on that.”



Motorbikes were deathtraps.

Gladio had, by Ignis's estimations, spent a not inconsiderable sum on the bike, the custom paintwork – once he'd climbed on it was hard to miss the skulls picked out in gold against the gloss black body – the leather outfit he wore, and the leather jacket he'd bought for Ignis. When Ignis had enquired how he'd ensured such a good fit, Gladio admitted to having taken one of Ignis's jackets to obtain the measurements. Ignis had not even noticed it had been missing.

But no amount of money could change the fact that it was a deathtrap being ridden by someone that had freely admitted to only having possessed their licence for the last two weeks. Ignis had sat astride the contraption, arms wrapped around Gladio's waist, and tried very hard not to think about that fact. Or that he was sat on top of an engine powerful enough to launch them both off the continent at one wrong move from its rider. Ignis was a bad passenger at the best of times, but at least a car kept you safely enclosed in a metal cage designed to protect you should anything go wrong. Motorbikes offered no such protection.

He was glad, then, when Gladio pulled up outside a cafe on the edge of Insomnia. The sign in the window said it offered specialist coffees and homemade cakes, and Ignis relaxed as Gladio shut off the engine.

He removed his helmet and ran his fingers through his hair. He hadn't missed the appreciative look Gladio had given him when he'd slipped the leather jacket on, but he expected having worn the helmet was rather going to ruin the effect. Normally his hair was carefully styled, but he didn't need to see it to know it was now mussed and beyond his ability to repair it by running his fingers through it. “Where did you find this?” He asked, looking at the cafe before he dismounted the bike. He allowed himself the pleasure of watching Gladio dismount too, one long, muscular leg lifting neatly in a way the made quadriceps and glutes flex nicely under their leather covering.

Gladio pulled his helmet off and gave Ignis a look over, eyes flickering to his hair, and then shoulders and chest in a way that made Ignis's mouth go dry. “Friend of a friend,” he answered, flashing Ignis a grin that didn't help with his current difficulty with dry mouth, “said it's great for coffee lovers.”

How had Ignis been this lucky? He looked Gladio over, mouth settling in a soft smile, the terrors of the bike ride temporarily forgotten as Gladio swept an arm around his back and gestured towards the door, helmet hanging from his hand as if he did this all the time. “Shall we?”

Inside, the shop smelled divine. The scent of cakes hung sweetly in the air, mingling with the rich, bitter aroma of coffee. There was no acrid burnt smell, either, a smell so common to coffee shops across Lucis as they habitually over-roasted their beans. Coffee was bitter, yes, but it was meant to be enjoyably so, not a bitterness that required the liberal addition of sugar to cover up and make palatable.

Ignis closed his eyes and inhaled the scent again, taking pleasure in the way his nose was able to inform him that this was, indeed, a very good coffee shop.

Gladio led him to a table. There were a handful of patrons, who looked up as they passed, and then looked away again, deciding to pay them no further attention. Either two men in black leather were of no particular interest, or they were of so much interest that no one dared to show it in case they were noticed. Ignis had to admire the resolve; it meant people were succeeding at refraining from staring at Gladio right now, which was enough of a battle for Ignis and his vast reserves of self discipline.

The menu was small, and utterly delightful. Ignis spent several minutes just reading the various descriptions of the coffees. One was described as 'Sweetly tart, and spicy, with balanced acidity and plush mouthfeel. The resonant cocoa-toned finish begins with herb-toned red currant and ends with pink peppercorn.' Another was 'Elegantly floral and strikingly complex with notes of roasted cacao nib, jasmine, caramel, dried raspberry and cinnamon. Vibrantly rich with a delicate, velvety mouthfeel. Ignis was, of course, an Ebony man through and through, but that didn't mean he couldn't appreciate an exquisite dalliance with another cup of coffee on the side.

The waitress came over, and Ignis ordered, and ordered a slice of cake to go with it. Gladio, not being a coffee aficionado himself, and having little interest in becoming one, ordered the same coffee as Ignis, and eschewed the cake. Once the waitress had disappeared, Gladio settled back, arms spread across the back of the seat. He would have looked lordly, if the leather jacket hadn't instead made him look like a proud and beautiful thug. Ignis couldn't say he minded the leather jacket's effect.

“So,” he said, utterly at his leisure in a way that made it hard for Ignis to keep his eyes off him. He'd unzipped the jacket, and Ignis was only glad he was wearing a sleeveless shirt underneath it or he'd have been forced to amend his order to an iced coffee. “What's been eating you?”

“Excuse me?”

“Aside from work,” Gladio pressed, shifting his arms so that he could lean forward across the table, closer to Ignis, and clasp his hands together. “That always eats you, but there's been something else. Don't think I haven't noticed.”

Ignis tried to reply, and found he couldn't. He glanced away, briefly, aware of what Gladio was likely to be getting at. “Oh,” he said, and rested back in his chair. It wasn't something he'd wanted to bring up with Gladio, aware of how he'd likely take the news, but he was reasonably confident he'd dealt with the situation for now. “If you must know,” he said, a small frown crossing his face, “I've been having an ongoing disagreement with my family.”

Gladio grunted. Gladio's own father was Clarus Amicitia, a man every inch as dedicated to his duty and his King as Gladio was to Noct, and every inch as hardheaded about things being done in a way of which he approved as Gladio could be. Gladio took after his father, rather strongly, which meant that sometimes they butted heads, and their arguments made Gladio and Ignis's own disagreements, brief and painful affairs that they were, seem like little worse than schoolground spats. Ignis had learned that Gladio was the type to require time to think things over, and cool down after an argument. He wasn't immune to the pleas of the other side, but when he was riled he had difficulty hearing them. He'd never witnessed Gladio arguing with his father, but he could imagine two similar people, of two similar mindsets, holding differing opinions was not the easiest of arguments to have, especially not when one party respected the other even half as much as Gladio respected his father.

“Anything serious?” Gladio asked. Ignis had dealt with the fallout of Gladio arguing with his father twice in the years he'd known him. The trick, he'd found, was not to allow Gladio to rehash his own side of the argument until he'd worked himself up into a frenzy, but to distract him until that first flush of anger was gone and then patiently and carefully act as his sounding board, allowing him to test his views for flaws before he presented them again.

“No,” Ignis answered, a little more lightly than he intended. “They're merely persistent.” He flashed Gladio a smile as reassurance that it really was nothing he needed to concern himself about, as much as Ignis appreciated the implied support.

“What about?” Gladio asked, relaxing once more. The waitress returned with two coffees and a slice of cake, and Ignis took it from her graciously.

He took the time to let her leave, taking a careful sip of his coffee as she did. It was too hot for him to take a real drink, but a sip was enough for him to savour the flavour. It really was very good coffee. Gladio, his attention still on Ignis did much the same.

Ignis stalled a little longer, pulling his cake nearer and opening his napkin. There wasn't really a good, or delicate way to explain, so, without looking at Gladio, he gave the answer bluntly; “Marriage,” he said. “They're trying to organise my betrothal.”

Gladio froze, his eyes on Ignis, and then carefully set his coffee down again and swallowed. “Ignis,” he said, the use of his proper name a sure sign that shock and horror were bubbling somewhere under a glassy surface, “that's--”

“Not going to happen,” Ignis assured him. “Between being Noct's steward, advisor, tutor, and guard, I have four full time jobs.” He cut a small piece off his cake with his fork, adding, “And that's before we get into my being his chef and maid. My schedule is full,” he said, taking a delicate bite of the cake and enjoying that for a moment before he chewed, swallowed, and finished, “I do not have the time for marriage, let alone the intended results of a marriage.”

Gladio still seemed to be struggling to process the news, and was unsure of how to react. “You find the time for me,” he pointed out, indicating what he considered to be an important flaw in Ignis's argument.

“And a crippling caffeine dependency to show for it,” Ignis replied, flashing Gladio a smirk. He didn't like the way Gladio was reacting; it was too quiet, and too stunned, he needed to bring him back down to earth somehow. Worry was beginning to etch itself into the lines of Gladio's face. Ignis gave him a soft smile, instead. “Honestly, Gladio, it's nothing you need to be concerned about.”

“You didn't tell them about us?” Gladio asked. Ignis looked at his face, and realised he couldn't tell what Gladio wanted the answer to that to be. He wondered if Gladio himself knew.

“Our relationship isn't currently relevant,” he said, gently, his eyes finding Gladio's. “A herd of angry Mesmenir wouldn't separate me from you, let alone some idiotic notion of finding me a bride, Gladio.” He held Gladio's gaze, but Gladio remained too unsettlingly still for Ignis's liking. “But that is not currently relevant. Even if you weren't a factor, I do not have the time to build a politically advantageous marriage with a stranger.”

Gladio seemed thoughtful, taking another careful sip of his coffee, putting his thoughts into order. Ignis took another bite of his cake while he waited, giving Gladio the time he needed to ask what was on his mind.

“What about in future?” Gladio asked, his voice unusually dull. “That kind of conversation doesn't just go away. You might get away with the excuse you don't have time right now, but one day Noct will be married, and on the throne, and you won't be doing all this.”

Ignis made to reply, and then stopped himself. It was tempting to brush away Gladio's concerns, but that would do him a disservice. He looked at his coffee, a frown on his face, and brushed his finger over the edge of the handle. “That is a bridge I intend to burn when I come to it.” He sighed, wondering how much of the Citadel gossip was blown by Gladio's ears. “Telling them about us now wouldn't put them off,” he added, quietly. “I expect the subject came up because we've been the subject of rumour, lately.” Gladio looked him in the eyes, his reaction encouraging Ignis to continue without giving away how much Gladio himself knew. “I doubt it's reached Noct's ears, or his Majesty's, but how much longer it will be before it reaches those of your father I cannot say.”

“People know about us,” Gladio said, a thoughtful frown on his face.

“People think they do,” Ignis corrected. “We haven't exactly been discreet; you've all but moved into my apartment. For now, however, it remains rumour, and easily dismissed.”

“Yeah, but that won't last forever,” Gladio said.

“No,” Ignis agreed, softly. “All I can do for now is promise that whatever may come to pass, I will stand by your side until such a time as you no longer wish me there.”

Gladio seemed to chew this over for a while, and Ignis took another sip of his coffee to alleviate the tightening in his throat.

“Iggy?” Gladio's voice called for his attention, and Ignis looked up at him. “That time's not gonna come.”

Ignis held Gladio's gaze for a moment before he looked back down at his cake, hiding the small smile that settled on his mouth in response.
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