Before everyone sees us
For the millionth time that evening Gladio pressed down nonexistent winkles in his Shield’s uniform jacket, making a face at his reflection.
Right now he was preparing to leave his chambers and accompany the king in their first public appearance after Gladio had sworn to be Noctis’ Shield. He was supposed to meet Noctis in ten minutes and Gladio realized, with no little amount of surprise, that he was actually nervous.
Funny, that. He was used to attending official appointments with his dad and later, during his Crownsguard training. Yet this would be the first time when Gladio would have to act like a proper Shield in public. What if anyone tried to hurt Noctis? What if he was too late to react? What if –
A knocking interrupted Gladio’s train of thoughts. He called “Come in!” without even turning around. Cor was supposed to fetch him when it was the time to go to the king. It wasn’t in Cor’s style to be earlier than expected though; maybe he wanted to go through security plans with Gladio again?
Gladio turned around when he heard footsteps but it wasn’t Cor who was standing behind him.
It was Noctis.
Gladio’s throat became dry.
Noctis was dressed in a finely tailored black suit and in a cape which was clasped on his chest by a big, silver buckle with the Lucis Caelum’s crest of arms. He was wearing gloves in the royal black colour with small, silver crest of arms woven on them. He did something with his hair too; it was slicked back, leaving his face open, but it still looked soft to touch. His blue eyes seemed almost black in the soft light of Gladio’s chambers, making them gleam darkly just like the buttons of Noctis’ suit.
“... Your Majesty, I didn’t know it was you,” Gladio finally stuttered once he remembered how to speak. Had Noctis always looked so handsome in his regal outfit or had Gladio never thought about it before? “Is it time already?”
Shit, shit, shit! Gladio wanted to kick himself for sounding as if he didn’t want to go. He was supposed to act like a strong Shield, damnit!
The king didn’t respond immediately. His gaze moved lazily over Gladio’s unzipped jacket to the handle of a small sword at his side and then lower, quickly, over Gladio’s dark pants and polished up boots. Then he looked back at Gladio’s face, his own completely unreadable, and he spoke in a low voice:
“... You pinned up your hair.”
Without thinking Gladio raised his hand to touch the bun at the back of his neck. It was Iris’ idea actually but he went along with it, liking how neat his hair looked for once.
“I thought I’d look more elegant... To go well with clothes,” Gladio explained praying his cheeks weren’t going red.
Noctis nodded, not taking his eyes off Gladio’s hair. He walked closer, his every step graceful as if he was a freaking dancer (but he was a dancer, this king who Gladio had sworn to protect with his life, a dancer who was moving over the battlefield as if without care in the world, raining swords and magic down on his enemies, jumping high in the air and blocking hits with easiness) before he stopped a few steps away from Gladio. Up closer he was completely blocking the light of the lampshade behind him, making him look almost dangerous covered in shadows. His eyes were practically black, boring into Gladio who shivered unknowingly.
“It suits you,” the king muttered, looking at Gladio with curiosity as if it was the first time he saw him.
It felt weird, for some reason, to be so close to the king like this. There was something in the air Gladio couldn’t quite catch and it didn’t help him that he could smell the rich scent of Noctis’ cologne (something sweet and heavy but not suffocating) and all he wanted was to dive into that smell.
Gladio felt too hot all of sudden.
“Your Majesty...” he started but he didn’t know what else was he supposed to say. ‘Why are you looking at me like this’ perhaps? But that sounded wrong, like he was accusing Noctis of something and –
– and it sounded as if Gladio didn’t long for his king to look at him and only at him for the rest of his life.
Yet, his words pushed Noctis away from whatever thoughts he was thinking about. He blinked and shook his head slightly before taking a step back.
“I told you to call me Noctis when we are alone,” Noctis said lightly. It sounded forced in Gladio’s ears. “I just came to see if you’re not nervous.”
A small remnant of Gladio’s dignity puffed with annoyance.
“Of course I’m not nervous, Noct...is.” Gladio folded his arms on his chest in a move that wasn’t defensive at all. “A few paparazzi with cameras don’t scare me.”
“Oh?” Noctis said in that mischievous tone of voice which always made Gladio think that Noctis was three seconds away from pulling a prank. “Your sister told me something completely different.”
That little shit . That was revenge for not letting her go to that shady party club, right?
“Iris has a good imagination. Let’s go now, all right?” Gladio said quickly, pretending he didn’t notice the wide smile spreading over Noctis’ features. “We don’t have much time left.”
“Of course.” Noctis looked at the watch on his wrist and Gladio almost gulped when he saw the sliver of naked skin between the glove and the sleeve of the suit’s jacket. “Cor will have our heads if we are late.”
“I’d rather avoid that.” Gladio stopped himself from casting one last look into the mirror. He looked fine, he and the Crownsguards had a plan for every possible threat, and he was totally going to spend this evening without fretting at the smallest sound. Yes. “After you, Noctis.”
“Of course, my Shield.”
Noctis turned away, the cape swirling behind him like black wings. Without another word, Gladio moved naturally at Noctis’ right, one and half step behind him. Somehow Noctis’ presence was actually calming down Gladio’s nerves. He even managed to laugh at Noctis’ quiet, exaggerated description of other guests which would attend the gala.
And Gladio enjoyed the feel of Noctis’ warmth while they were sitting together in the car... Well, it was only for him to know.