Noctis barely remembers the previous night, only the rancid breath of his attacker and the rough hands that wrenched his arm back when he’d tried to get away. When he’d tried to run into Gladio’s arms. It had all happened so fast and he hasn’t really processed it, maybe, just felt the danger. Shock, Cor had said when he’d looked them over, when he’d had Gladio rushed to the hospital for the cut dripping blood over his eye and down his cheek, it wasn’t surprising given the circumstances. A drunk guy who didn’t know how to take no for an answer, a Shield who was determined to make him, a knife that appeared out of nowhere. They’ve said it wasn’t a big deal, but Noctis knows better. He’s no stranger to weapons, he’s seen what blades can do – if the guy had been sober, Gladio could be a lot worse off than he is now.
“You’re dumb,” Noctis says when he walks in because he doesn’t know where else to start. “He had a knife.” Gladio laughs, glancing up from the book he’s reading and oh. It looks bad. Practically the whole left side of his face is swathed in gauze, but he’s still smiling. It makes Noctis’s heart flutter.
Slowly, Gladio sets the book on the tray table and points to his face. There are bright spots of blood visible through the thinnest edges of the bandage where the cut is deepest - just over his brow bone. Pristine, clinical white with shocks of red - poppies bursting through snow. Danger, but also resilience – just like Gladio himself.
“Yeah, I know,” Gladio says. “I think I noticed.”
Noctis doesn’t know how to respond to that. What a stupid thing to say, he thinks, Gladio already knows the guy had a knife. He’s never been good with words, really – too many thoughts, too little capacity to express them properly. It’s only gotten worse recently, especially with Gladiolus. More often than not he’s left not knowing what to say, not knowing what to do in his Shield’s presence because things have changed.
The room feels cramped. There are so many things unsaid, too much hanging in the air. It’s heavy and oppressive, making Noctis’s chest feel tight, making his stomach twist up in knots like it always does when Gladio’s around. When he slings an arm around his shoulder and pulls him in for a congratulatory hug, when he rests his big hand on his shoulder and rubs, his fingers finding all the aches and pains the stress buries in his muscles and rubbing them out. Basically, when he just exists. The hospital room doesn’t have space to contain all Noctis’s feelings - his emotions are like the tide, an ever-encroaching wave. It’s going to drown them both.
Gladiolus doesn’t belong here. He looks too big for the bed, too bulky. It would be funny, almost, if Noctis wasn’t the reason he was there; if guilt wasn’t weighing him down like the world on his shoulders. Funny, maybe, if Gladio wasn’t lucky just to still have use of his left eye, if he wasn’t going to have a scar for the rest of his life because Noctis had been too stupid to protect his own damn self.
It’s worrisome, the way his stomach flip-flops: torn between two extremes. On one hand the guilt is gnawing at his insides – corrosive, poisonous, nauseating – and on the other, the idea of Gladio marked forever because of him makes his skin flush, heats it all over in a bad way, one that prickles, resonates in every nerve. He can smell Gladiolus – he hasn’t showered since the incident and Noctis gets a lingering smell of the cologne he’d put on before they’d left the Citadel, the sweat of exertion, the metallic scent of blood just barely beneath it all.
It’s too much. He doesn’t understand how it’s possible to feel so much all at once – to have guilt and anger and desire welling up all at once, how he can want to smack the guy just as bad as he wants to kiss him and never stop. Gladio is so big and Noctis feels so very small after it all; vulnerable in a way that would normally make him mad. Instead he just feels hungry. Gladio is looking at him and his gaze is fire, burning bright and hot and unfamiliar. Something new is there, something they’ve been dancing around for months, something Noctis wants to dive headfirst into because there’s no time like the present. Somehow, maybe, Noctis thinks, his Shield is seeing things more clearly with one eye closed. Somehow, he’s never felt more like claiming Gladio as his than when he almost lost him.
“This isn’t funny, Gladio,” he pouts. “You got hurt.”
“I mean, it’s kind of in the job descrip –“
“I could have lost you!” Noctis shouts. The bed moves, covers rustling as he jerks towards him. He hasn’t lashed out like this in a while and he can see the surprise evident on Gladio’s face, the eye he can see out of at the moment wide and shocked. “Do you have any idea what that would do to me?”
Gladio shakes his head and sighs.
“You’re mine,” Noctis says slowly, testing the waters. He brings his hands up to cup Gladio’s face, one falling useless to his shoulder. “How safe is a prince with no Shield?”
The gauze is soft under his fingers. Gladio closes his eyes when Noctis runs his fingers over the bandage, inclining his head into the touch. He thinks it might be pain, but the soft, contented rumble in his throat tells him otherwise. He wants to hear more.
He doesn't think as he leans forward, pressing his lips to the gauze, kissing the dip where Gladio’s closed eye is hidden. He can feel him move beneath his touch, can feel the way he responds to it – reacting the way he does in Noctis’s daydreams.
“I don't want to see you hurt because of me,” he says softly, quietly. The words are muffled into the bandage covering Gladio’s face, into his hair as Noctis nuzzles against him. “I lo – I just don’t. So don’t get hurt, you got it?”
He pulls back, blushing. He’s said too much, gone too far – told Gladio enough to give him more than enough ammunition to make fun of him for oh, the rest of eternity, but when he steals a glance through his bangs Gladio’s expression isn’t mocking and it sure as hell isn’t anywhere close to displeased. He’s smiling, tiny lines at the corners of his warm amber eyes, and he has only a second before Gladio moves, surprisingly fast for his size.
He surges up and kisses him and gods, it's dangerous. The floodgates are open, the dam broken: all the emotions they've held back coalesce between them. It's honor and duty and the partnership they were both born for but also, it's something more. Different than the way it's always been, or maybe not - has this always been between them? This devotion that's transcended royal and guard, morphed into something more visceral, physical and exquisitely understood. Noctis melts into the kiss, body crumpling against Gladio’s - it's awkward with his legs off the bed. He has to angle his body to turn in towards him, like how he'd had to ride the chocobo sidesaddle when his back was still healing but he doesn’t mind – he’d twist into one thousand uncomfortable positions if it got him more of Gladio’s mouth on his.
“C’mere,” Gladio grunts, pulling back to sit up straighter in bed. “On me.”
Noctis should probably be embarrassed by how fast he moves to comply, but it doesn’t phase him. Straddling Gladio is difficult, his thighs stretched wide to settle over the muscular legs of his guard, but he likes it - likes the way Gladio feels between them. Warm, sturdy, and thank the astrals - alive. So very alive.
Noctis is seeing him like he's never seen him before. Every inch of skin under his hands is new and he wants it all, can't figure where to touch first. It’s transcended want and moved straight on to need, become an insatiable hunger – his lungs need Gladio’s breath sucked into them, his heart needs Gladio’s beating fast and hard against it to keep him alive. He needs more of the look in his Shield’s eyes – his eyes are so dark they’re almost black, gaze so intense Noctis feels like he could be crushed under the intensity of it. He wants it, wants to be taken over by the feeling, the knowledge that tonight it’s going to happen, tonight is going to be more than just kissing and the few awkward fumblings they’ve had. This is more, it’s all out there in the open: I love you is unspoken even if they both feel it, I want you to be mine new and overpowering. A mutual desperation that’s eating them both alive, turning their hands and mouths clumsy and hungry.
Gladio’s cock is hard in what feels like seconds, impossible to ignore beneath the thin hospital gown they’ve insisted he wear. It’s damn near too big for Noctis’s hand, so thick he can barely curl his fingers around it. Gladio shudders when he touches him, cock jerking in Noctis’s hand, an eagerness that Noctis’s body answers in kind. He’s hard in his jeans, sensitive beneath the weight of Gladio’s hand when he brushes over it. Noctis doesn’t know how he manages to find the hard line of his cock so perfectly, how just his finger can make his hips buck, how Gladio chuckling “so hard for me, baby,” can make his hole clench in need.
Noctis can’t tell where he ends and Gladio begins. They seem like one continuous person, one bundle of greedy hunger – he can’t tell if it’s Gladio’s hands or his inelegantly rucking up the hospital gown, doesn’t know whose fingers are tugging down his pants and underwear. Is he touching himself, or is that Gladio? The lube from the packet Gladio fishes out of the supply cabinet isn’t ideal, Noctis is sure (that “surgical grade” label would be a little off-putting if he wasn’t so fucking horny) but it gets the job done, eases the slide of Gladio’s thick fingers inside of him one after the other. Noctis rocks against it, rolling his hips, fucking himself down onto Gladio’s fingers – they’ve gotten this far before, but never more. He’s in familiar territory, but something about it feels like more. The fingers working him open are setting him up for something else, something more, and he can feel Gladio’s dick jump against his own when he shudders and tightens around him.
“We don't exactly have condoms here, you know,” Gladio says as he crooks his fingers, rubbing against Noctis from the inside. He’s so welcoming; his smooth inner walls slicking up so easily, drawing him in to open him up. Gods, he wants it, they both want it. Punishingly, Noctis bites down on a bruise that’s already formed on Gladio’s neck, teeth sinking into tender flesh to make him hiss. In a way he’s mad at him for even suggesting it, for thinking Noctis would want it any way but raw, would want it any way but all the way, well and truly owned by Gladio the way he wants to own him in turn.
Noctis squirms on Gladio’s fingers and looks up at him from beneath the messy fringe of his bangs. “Good,” he says. “Wanna feel you come in me.”
He's imagined sex with Gladio so many times it had started to feel more like a memory than a fantasy. His mind has offered up numerous scenarios; heated kisses after they're done kicking each other around in the training room, a camping trip past Insomnia’s city limits and the watchful eyes of anyone who might judge them. He’s imagined it a dozen different ways, and this is nothing like any of them. They've never gone this far, never been this unable to hold back. He's sure there are nurses in the hall outside, the best care that his father can buy for his son’s most important person but neither of them give half a shit – not when Gladio’s got three fingers buried to the last knuckle in the prince’s tight, willing ass, not when Noctis is raising himself up on shaking legs until he can feel the blunt, fat head of Gladio’s cock nudge against his stretched hole.
“Come on,” Gladio urges as Noctis presses his face into his neck, open-mouthed kisses leaving a fresh trail of bruises as he lets Gladio sink his fingertips into his tender thighs, guiding the roll of his hips as he sinks down onto it. Noctis is lazily sucking on the skin, making it tender and flushed, marking him up and that’s what he wants, what Gladio wants to. “Fuck, you feel good.”
“You too,” Noctis stutters, voice breaking as he rocks down against him. It works his cock deeper, makes him fuller – spread wide open on the impossible girth of it, his moans coming out more like whimpers. “Gladio, gods.”
“You're fucking tight,” Gladio grunts, husky as his fingers are leaving bruises on Noctis’s hips. “Noct, fuck, you’re tight and you’re mine, you’re all fucking mine-”
It’s everything Noctis wanted. It’s everything and nothing, the most important thing in the world and also the easiest.
They're new to this, and maybe that's why it's so intoxicating. Maybe that’s why it feels like no time at all and forever all at once, why it feels like the world stopped moving for them at the same time it seems like nothing has changed. Why Noctis has to muffle his sharp cry into Gladio’s muscular neck when he comes, body crumpling against the bulk of his Shield’s, why Gladio’s hips are an unsteady rhythm as he fucks out the last of his high into Noctis’s willing body, unpracticed but not unsure.
“Guess I’ll have to step between you and drunk guys more often,” Gladio teases, breath coming in shallow pants like it does when he’s gotten a good workout. “If this is what I get…”
Slowly, Noctis moves so his head is resting against Gladio’s, damp with sweat as his hair gets trapped between their forehead. “No way. Don’t wanna lose my favorite person, so don’t ever leave me,” Noctis says. “Don’t want you to ever be anything but mine.”