In hindsight, Gladio probably could have waited until he was less distracted to make a call, instead of flicking through to Iris’ contact entry and wedging his phone between his ear and his shoulder. But he needed to talk to someone now, even with his gym bag in one hand and the other rooting around for his house keys.
Not waiting for Iris to say anything once the call connected, Gladio launched straight into his tale, knowing that his sister was more than used to it by now. “Iris, I swear to the Astrals, I don’t know how much longer I can keep training Iggy. It’s gonna kill me one of these days.”
Letting out a frustrated sigh, Gladio opened the door to his apartment and walked inside, dumping his bag on the floor and taking hold of his phone. “Seriously, I’m considering swapping out with someone else before I lose my shit. Every time I have to put my hands on him to correct something, I just…”
Gladio let out a little growling noise, and he assumed that the little intake of breath he heard was Iris trying not to giggle at him. She got a call like this at least once a week, and she’d long since learned that it was best to just let Gladio rant until he got all of his feelings out. He was like a teenage girl with her first crush, and that’s why he figured that the best person to talk to was an actual teenage girl.
Not to mention that Noctis and Prompto would just laugh at him for his hopeless infatuation with Ignis.
“I just dropped him at his place and it took me everything I had to even let him into the car. I honestly thought I was gonna pull over and beg to su-...uh, sorry. Too much, hey?”
When there was no response, Gladio frowned and looked at his phone. The screen was dark, and when he woke it up there was no sign of the call screen.
Oh well, it wasn’t as if it were the first time that Iris had hung up on him for getting a little too explicit, or even just because she didn’t feel like listening to her older brother whine about his love life.
Still, it wasn’t like it was Gladio’s fault that Ignis was perfect and sexy and far too distracting to train with. If anything, Iris should be frustrated with Ignis for driving Gladio to such extremes.
Shrugging, Gladio tossed his phone onto the counter and made his way to the fridge, peering inside and groaning loudly. It was mostly empty, but he’d have to take a shower before he could go shopping. He’d only briefly rinsed off back in the locker room, not trusting himself to not stare at Ignis the whole time; it was bad enough when Ignis was sweaty and dishevelled, much less naked and wet.
At least he could jerk off in the shower, he figured as he slammed the fridge door and made his way to the bathroom, images of Ignis sweeping his sweaty fringe out of his eyes at the front of his mind. If he couldn’t talk about his feelings, then he’d get them out another way.
The next day, Gladio was impatiently waiting for Ignis to arrive for another sweetly torturous hour of training. Maybe this was the day that he’d ask if Ignis wanted to grab some dinner afterwards, at one of the places that Iris had suggested during one of the hundred or so times that Gladio had tried practicing that exact scenario with her.
...Astrals, he really was pathetic.
Smiling a little at his own ridiculousness, Gladio’s head shot up when the door opened, but his expression dimmed when he saw a Crownsguard recruit walking in instead of Ignis.
“Sir,” she said, the Amicitia name commanding respect even before Gladio’s skills and build did, “Mr Scientia asked me to inform you that he’s gone home sick and won’t be coming to training today. He said he’ll call you tomorrow to discuss the, um, ongoing nature of your training.”
The words seemed unnatural coming out of her mouth, obviously a direct quote from Ignis himself.
“Understood,” Gladio said slowly, wondering why Ignis couldn’t just call or text him directly. “Thank you.”
Saluting, the recruit left the gym. It was unusual for Ignis to take a sick day; it must have been serious for him to not be able to speak to Gladio in person. And if Ignis was sick, then there was only one thing that Gladio could do: provide food, books and someone to get in Ignis’ way if he tried to work.
Standing up, Gladio decided that his first port of call would be Ignis’ office, in case he’d left anything there that he might need. The walk to the administrative area of the Citadel was quick, but Gladio’s brain managed to produce gradually more terminal explanations for Ignis’ illness the whole time, and it was relief to see Ignis’ closed office door in front of him.
Assuming that it was empty, Gladio didn’t knock before he opened the door that was never locked, only to find Ignis staring at him with wide eyes from the other side of his desk.
“Whoa, what the fuck, Iggy? You shouldn’t be working when you’re sick.” Taking a step inside, Gladio froze when Ignis nearly imperceptibly cringed back. “...You don’t look sick.”
“Yes, well, I…” Ignis trailed off, adjusting his glasses in the way Gladio knew he did when he was uncomfortable. As Gladio watched, Ignis visibly steeled himself, his expression going from caught out to stony in a second. “Gladiolus, I think it would be best if someone else took charge of my training from now on.”
“...Oh,” Gladio managed to say, an immense, confused disappointment filling him. Sure, he didn’t always focus so well with Ignis there to distract him, but his training techniques had been impeccable. Ignis had never expressed any disappointment in him before, and for a transfer request to come so suddenly after Ignis had gotten a recruit to lie for him...something was off.
“Mind telling me what I did wrong?” Gladio said, trying to keep the hurt out of his expression and voice as he sauntered into the room and casually threw himself into the empty chair opposite Ignis. “And why you felt like you had to lie about being sick?”
The words came out harsher than he’d intended, Ignis flinching a little before his eyes narrowed with concealed anger. “There is no need to maintain the illusion, Gladiolus. It would be easier for everyone if I were to be trained by someone who isn’t pained by my presence.”
“...What?” Gladio said, dumbfounded. He opened his mouth a few times to say something else, but nothing came.
“I don’t mind if you don’t like me. We live very different lives, with only His Highness in common; it’s understandable that you might not find me to be particularly good company. There’s no need to put yourself out on my account, though, so I’m willing to train with someone else.” Ignis’ voice was hard, but Gladio could see the slightest tremble in his hands as he refolded them on top of his desk.
He wanted to reach out and hold Ignis’ hands until the shaking stopped, but he didn’t think that would be entirely appropriate considering the circumstances.
“Uh,” Gladio said intelligently, eyes still fixed on Ignis’ hands. “I don’t hate you. Fuck, Iggy, of course I don’t hate you.”
“That seems at odds with what you said yesterday,” Ignis said, his fingers tightening until his knuckles went white. “We are mature adults, we can have a professional relationship without needing a personal one.”
“Yesterday? What happened yesterday?” Gladio said, feeling a little frantic as he replayed every moment of the day before. He couldn’t think of anything that could possibly have been taken like that, and Ignis had laughed and smiled through their training.
“I suppose it’s my own fault for not immediately correcting you,” Ignis murmured quietly, seemingly more to himself than to Gladio. “It’s unbelievably rude to eavesdrop on a private conversation.”
“Iggy, c’mon. You’re gonna have to explain, I really don’t get it.” Finally looking up to meet Ignis’ eyes, Gladio’s breath caught at the hurt he saw beyond Ignis’ stern expression.
“I…” Ignis hesitated, taking a breath and starting again. “I believe you intended to call your sister last night. Presumably my contact information is the entry before hers.”
Gladio didn’t even hear the last of Ignis’ words, white noise rushing through his ears as he remembered every single moment of his phone call to ‘Iris’. Of course his sister knew to interpret his exaggerated grumbling as fondness, but to an outsider…
Gladio felt like he was going to throw up. Even beyond making an embarrassing mistake, he was the one who had put so much hurt in Ignis’ eyes. To think that someone who you considered a friend actually despised you…
Balling his fists at his own stupidity, Gladio struggled to find something to say to convince Ignis that it wasn’t true.
“If you’ll excuse me,” Ignis said abruptly, standing up and walking around the desk, “I must really be going. I will organise a replacement trainer.”
“Wait!” Gladio said, his voice loud with panic as a hand shot out and grabbed Ignis’ wrist before he could leave. “Iggy, wait.”
Ignis’ shoulders were tense and stiff, his face turned away from Gladio. “You don’t need to say anything, Gladiolus. I understand.”
“No,” Gladio started slowly, “you really, really don’t.”
“This is ridiculous,” Ignis said, but he didn’t try to shake his hand free.
“I’m sorry that you heard that,” Gladio continued as if Ignis hadn’t spoken. In all the scenarios he and Iris had run through, this hadn’t been one of them, but he knew that if Ignis left in anger than they would never truly repair what they had. “I don’t hate you, and I don’t hate training you.”
“But you said-”
“I know what I said,” Gladio grumbled, feeling mighty uncomfortable. It was one thing to do this with his younger sister, and an entirely different thing to do it for real. “Iris always says I’m too dramatic about my stupid crush on you.”
There. It was out, and there was no taking it back.
His wrist still trapped in Gladio’s grip, Ignis swallowed hard and then slowly turned to meet Gladio’s eyes. His expression was heartbreakingly wary, but even if Gladio was imagining the little hint of hope he thought he saw, he was willing to do whatever it took to soothe Ignis’ hurt.
“...Again,” Ignis said in a soft, halting voice. Gladio didn’t bother asking for clarification, instead just letting his hand slip down from Ignis’ wrist so that he could tangle their fingers together.
“Iris thinks I’m too dramatic about my crush on you.”
“Gladio,” Ignis whispered, his hand relaxing into Gladio’s. “You...you’re serious.”
“Training with you is going to kill me if I can’t do anything with how gorgeous you are,” Gladio said, his voice regaining its usual confidence. “Every time I put my hands on you, I never want to let go.”
Something beautiful was blooming across Ignis’ expression, something that was like hope and joy and affection, and that made Gladio’s chest feel warm and tight. Squeezing Ignis’ hand a little, Gladio smiled.
“Fuck training,” he announced, perhaps for the first time in his life. “You wanna go out for dinner with me?”
Ignis nodded, his own smile small but infinitely gorgeous. “I would love to.”
His grin somehow getting wider, Gladio made a mental note to change Ignis’ name in his phone, but before he could come up with a replacement he was suddenly tugged down by the front of his shirt.
Ignis’ lips on his own were soft, and the kiss was short but sweet; the kind of thing that Gladio hoped they would get to repeat again, and again, and again.
From the look on Ignis’ face as they pulled apart, it seemed like he was thinking the same thing.