“You’re so beautiful,” Gladio breathed. He trailed his fingers down Ignis’s sculpted stomach, alabaster skin glowing in the moonlight filtering through the window. “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
Ignis laughed, a low and breathy sound in Gladio’s ear. “Thank you,” he said. His own hands were roaming his lover’s body, following the dark lines of the eagle tattoo and the corded muscles of those strong arms. “But you’re infinitely more beautiful than I could ever hope to be.” He threaded his fingers through the rough, dark strands of Gladio’s hair and pulled him down for a searing kiss.
And it was true. He was turned three hundred and thirty two years ago, and in all of those years Ignis Scientia had never laid eyes on anyone more exquisite than Gladiolus Amicitia. Or perhaps he only thought so because no one had ever captured his heart and soul, or whatever was left of them, so inescapably like the man who was now trailing fire all along his body.
“I’ll admit I’m pretty easy on the eyes,” Gladio said teasingly when he pulled back from the kiss. “But beautiful?” He nuzzled the spot beneath Ignis’s ear, gently scratching the skin there with his beard. “Nah, that’s you.”
“Well,” Ignis said as he flipped them over expertly. He ground his hips against Gladio’s, eliciting a long, deep groan. “I have all night to convince you otherwise, hmm?”
“I like the sound of that,” Gladio grinned then arched his neck in offering.
Their lovemaking took on a ritualistic turn once every month, when Ignis’s unique needs brought itself to fore. Gladio wasn’t surprised, not entirely, when Ignis confessed his true nature. There was just something about him -- those unnaturally vibrant eyes, perhaps, or the deceptively strong, svelte body -- that spoke ‘other’. And when Ignis told him, a year into their relationship, well… he was irrevocably in love and he wouldn’t have Ignis Scientia any other way.
Ignis licked the skin above Gladio’s thrumming pulse before taking a careful bite. Beneath him, Gladio moaned. “Gods. That feels…”
“Good?” Ignis inhaled deeply, as if savoring a good wine. And he was, in a way.
In answer, Gladio lifted his hips to let Ignis better feel his steel-hard length. Ignis laughed and took a sip at Gladio’s neck, drawing out another low and delicious sound. “We’ve barely begun, love.”
“This is what you do to me,” Gladio gasped. Ignis started lapping at his neck and he felt himself get impossibly harder.
It has always been this way, since Ignis began drinking from him. He turned incredibly hot and weak and wanton, and it always felt like the first time whenever he presented himself like this. Gladio relished in the way his body responded, as if his blood was begging to be spilled so that it can satisfy that irresistible craving to sustain Ignis.
“You taste divine,” Ignis breathed. He tilted Gladio’s head further back, and drank long and deep from the twin punctures he’d made. Then he pressed his forehead against Gladio’s, pale hands clutching tanned cheeks in a tender yet possessive hold.
“Love you, Iggy,” Gladio said around a breath heavy with lust.
“I love you too,” Ignis replied, eyes and voice a tinge regretful. “You are so, so beautiful. It pains me to ruin you like this but I can never get enough of you.”
Gladio stroked Ignis’s face with his knuckles. “You've ruined me for other men, yes. But you can never ruin me. You… you make me whole.”
Ignis let out a helpless mewl and kissed Gladio, long and deep, unmindful of the blood still on his lips.
There was a tinge of desperation in the way Ignis pushed home into him that night. In the way he kissed and stroked and caressed him to completion. He wanted to ask Ignis what was wrong, but he was basking in the afterglow and blissfully sated beyond words.
And he was loathe to break the silence. So he simply settled himself more comfortably in Ignis’s embrace and slept.
“Stop that, Ignis. You know there’s no need for ceremonial bullshit with me,” Noctis said as he waved a careless hand at his advisor, who was currently bowed at the waist. The young king never was much for the pomp and pageantry of his title, despite being good at it. Perhaps even better than his father.
King Regis had ruled for two millennia, had been living for even longer, and thus required not only more human blood but also more energy from the Crystal to sustain him as the years went by.
It was three hundred years ago that King Regis finally chose to sever his connection to the Crystal and end his life, so that he would no longer draw so much from the Crystal's reserves but instead replenish it. The kingship of the Lucian Coven then passed on to Noctis, who was at first reluctant but eventually fell into the role with more grace and wisdom than anyone ever expected.
“Of course, Your Majesty,” Ignis said as he straightened his posture. “Noct,” he amended.
“Is there anything I’m late for?” Noctis asked wryly. “The Conclave of Elders isn’t until tomorrow night. I do check the schedules you draw up for me, you know.”
Ignis laughed, though it sounded forced and hollow. “Of course you do. And no, you aren’t late for anything. I…” he hesitated for a fleeting moment before continuing. “I need your help.”
Curious, Noctis gestured toward one of the chairs in front of his desk. “This is new,” he said, noting Ignis wringing his hands. “Sit down. You look like you’re about to faint.”
Ignis sat. Noctis raised his eyebrows at that; his advisor would usually put token resistance before doing what he asked.
“I need your help,” Ignis said again. “It’s about… it’s about Gladiolus.”
Noctis steepled his fingers. “What about him? Is he in danger? Is someone else laying a claim on him?”
“No, nothing of that sort.” Ignis hastened to reassure. “But I… I want to be with him.”
“You’ve been with him for almost three years now. As your thrall and your lover,” Noctis pointed out.
“Noct,” Ignis said, eyes pleading. “Noct, I want to be with him. For as long as he’ll have me. But I can’t continue to be with him as I am. I am ruining him and I….”
“Did he tell you that?”
“No. But Noct, I --”
Noctis sighed. “I understand,” he said. And he did. He was actually surprised that Ignis had let his liaison with Gladiolus last this long, when he viewed the relationship as the embodiment of his selfishness. And Ignis Scientia had never, ever been selfish. Not until this man.
“And I won’t ask you to turn him,” Ignis said with a vehement shake of his head. “I won’t condemn him to this --”
“Is that how you see it, Ignis?” Noctis said sadly. “That my father condemned you to live this life when he turned you?”
“No,” Ignis gasped, face stricken with grief. “No, Noct. Your father saved my life. And I would be grateful for the rest of my existence for what he did for me.”
“But it’s different with Gladiolus. It always has been.” Ignis said regretfully. “I won’t take him from his sister and I… I won’t ask him to make a choice.”
“So what do you need from me, if you won’t ask me to turn him?”
Here, Ignis paused, unsure how to properly ask the question. “Is there a way I could… go back? I’ve exhausted all resources available to me and I haven’t found an answer.”
Noctis wiped a hand down his face. He knew it would be something like this. “I’m sure it has occurred to you that maybe there is a reason you haven’t?”
Ignis looked like he just received a death sentence. “So there really is no way?”
“There is,” he said simply, and Ignis gaped at him. “It’s one of the few secrets passed down from king to king, but I don’t know how much credence I could lend to this… myth.”
“What myth? I haven’t read about a… Noct?”
“You’re not true-born. You were turned.”
Ignis just nodded, unsure where Noctis was going with this statement of fact.
“You were turned,” Noctis repeated. “So, in theory, you can be turned back.”
Ignis couldn’t contain his curiosity and anticipation. It was almost painful to watch. “How?”
“We true-borns can’t help what we are. You can’t distill something, well… something pure, for a lack of a better word. But you,” Noctis shrugged. “Let’s just say that what made you one of us is an impurity in your blood.”
“How?” Ignis repeated.
“Again, I’m not sure it would work. No one, and I mean no one, has ever--”
And Ignis’s expression was so heartbreakingly desperate that Noctis, despite his misgivings, revealed one of the oldest, most well-guarded secrets of their kind.
“What price do I have to pay?” Ignis was resolute. If he weren’t already so pale, his clenched fists would have been white.
“I don't know, Ignis. I told you. No one has ever done it before because no one has ever asked what you just asked. So I don't know. No one does.” Now Noctis’s voice held a trace of fear.
Ignis shook his head. “I guess it doesn’t matter.” The advisor stood up and sketched another bow. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”
Noctis didn’t say anything until Ignis was at the door. “You’ve been by my side since I was six years old, Specs. I would have wanted you by my side for at least five hundred years more.”
Ignis smiled fondly at the use of the old nickname. “You’ll always have me, Noct. In all the ways that matter.”
Noctis smiled back, warm and sad. “I know.”
With one final bow, Ignis bid Noctis goodbye.
“Fuck, Iggy. You’re perfect,” Gladio rumbled, as Ignis gave his aching cock one last lick and suck and he came with a violent shudder.
Ignis hummed as he swallowed everything Gladio had to offer, then kissed his way back up the toned body. “You’re one to talk. You have a physique that gods would envy,” he said in return.
“Sweet talker,” Gladio playfully bopped Ignis’s nose with a finger.
“Nothing but the truth, love.”
“Hmmm,” Gladio sighed in pleasure. “I like it when you call me that.” He tilted his head back to offer his neck to Ignis.
Ignis took one deep inhale, savoring Gladio’s heady musk, then kissed the racing pulse at the jugular.
Gladio paused for a breath. “Iggy? What’s the problem?” While a kiss to his throat was always welcome, sweet and thrilling all at once, he had been expecting tongue and teeth.
“Nothing. Nothing at all. I just…. Might I ask for something?”
“Of course, Iggy.” Gladio said earnestly. “What is it?”
“Can we go to the roof deck? I want to sleep under the stars tonight.” Ignis bit his lip and tilted his head slightly, a picture of debauched innocence, and Gladio groaned.
“That’s unfair. I wouldn’t have said no, Iggy. No need to crank up the charm to eleven,” Gladio laughed.
“I’m sorry,” Ignis said ruefully.
“Nah, don’t be,” Gladio rose to kiss Ignis’s cheek then gently pushed his lover off him. “C’mon, grab a coupla pillows. And my phone, where’s my phone? We gotta set the alarm before sunrise.”
Armed with a quilt, two blankets, and an armful of pillows, Gladio and Ignis walked up the short flight of stairs the led to the roof deck of Gladio’s modest home. They created a nest and cuddled on top of it, content for a while to just gaze at the inky dark sky peppered with stars.
Soon, though, Ignis pulled Gladio on top of him. He held the beloved face in both his hands and said, “There’s one more thing I’d like to ask of you.”
“Two requests in a row? Should I be concerned or somethin’?” Gladio’s tone was teasing but his eyes were anxious.
Instead of answering, Ignis just stroked his thumbs on Gladio’s cheeks. “I want you to take me. Please.”
Gladio groaned. “Are you sure? We’ve never --”
“I’ve never been more sure of anything, love,” Ignis said. “Please.”
In response, Gladio plunged and captured Ignis’s glass-smooth lips in a breathtaking kiss. He was so focused on Ignis’s pleasure that he didn’t realize his neck stayed unpunctured.
Gladio woke up to the light of the sun warming his face. “Oh shit!” He cursed under his breath. Had he been so blissed out he didn’t hear the alarm? Did he actually set the --
“Iggy?” he called out in panic. Ignis wasn’t beside him. “Iggy, babe, where are --”
Ignis was standing on the far end of the deck, completely naked. It looked as if he were soaking up the sun. Only he shouldn’t because --
“Iggy, what are you doing?” Gladio surged up and forward, dragging a blanket behind him, completely unmindful of his nudity. “You’re gonna hurt yourself.”
And it looked like he already did. The usually marble-pale arms and shoulders were angry red and almost glowing, and Gladio was sure that Ignis’s entire front would look the same way, too.
“It’s beautiful,” he heard Ignis say. “Sunsets are magnificent but sunrises have a beauty all their own, don’t they? Like molten gold.” He kept his back to Gladio, seeming unable to look away from the rising sun.
“Iggy, what are you doing?” Gladio moaned.
“Come hold me, Gladiolus.”
“Iggy please. You’re hurting yourself.”
Ignis finally turned to face him, arms open in invitation and supplication. “Come hold me.”
Gladio stepped drunkenly forward, blanket all but forgotten. He’d shield Ignis with his body instead; Ignis was strong enough to resist Gladio carrying him away, so he’ll cover as much as he could until…
“Iggy,” he chanted the name like a prayer as he enfolded Ignis in his embrace. Gods, he was already so warm. It was terrifying. “Why?”
“I love you Gladiolus,” Ignis answered. Now that he was close, Gladio could hear labored hisses through gritted teeth. Ignis was in pain.
“I love you, too. Now come on, let’s get inside. Let me take care of you. Please.”
Ignis just shook his head and clutched Gladio tighter to him. “I love you, Gladiolus,” he said again.
Ignis was feverishly hot and yet he was shivering, too, as if he were cold from the inside. Gladio groaned, his heart aching because Ignis was suffering. But when he tried to lift Ignis in a fireman’s carry, he was met with surprising resistance and he didn’t want Ignis to waste his strength fighting him off. So Gladio held on tighter, tears flowing freely as Ignis burned in his arms.
He didn’t know how long they stayed locked in that fiery embrace, but upon the whisper of his name Gladio brought up one hand to cup Ignis’s face.
“Ignis!” He rushed toward the now-rumpled nest of pillows and blankets and placed Ignis gently on top of the pile. He brushed the sweaty hair from Ignis’s face, then placed a hand on his forehead to check if he had somehow cooled down.
Gladio was about to ready himself to perform chest compressions when realized something. Would it even work on Ignis? Fuck, why didn’t he ask Ignis to teach him what to do if this thing ever happened.
“Iggy, wake up. Please, please wake up.” He whispered. A kiss to the forehead, cheeks, and lips. “Please open your eyes.”
He laid his head on Ignis’s chest and wept. “Iggy, I love you. Please don’t leave me. Please wake up.”
His sobs were loud, wracking his entire body, so he didn’t hear it at first. But when the sound repeated itself, steadier and louder this time, Gladio realized what it was.
He rose from his position and studied Ignis. The red glow had faded considerably now, leaving Ignis almost as pale as before, but other than that…
Was he imagining it or did Ignis’s chest rise and fall ever so slightly? Was it a trick of the light?
“Iggy?” He called as he put two fingers just beneath Ignis’s jaw.
Faint as a fluttering of a hummingbird’s wings but present nonetheless.