The Price of Insecurity

BY : Shortsnout
Category: Final Fantasy Games > Final Fantasy XV
Dragon prints: 693
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy XV and I am not making any Money from this Fanfiction

They trudged along, prickly bushes scraping across calves and on occasion hands as they struggled through. Rain pelted them in a mockery, its pitter-patter not hurting the weary team, but it's iciness unwanted nevertheless.

Gladio was in his customary position upfront, eyes sharp even as the rain washed down his face. He was looking for shelter, anywhere warm and dry. Prompto staggered behind him, arms littered with bruises and small scrapes. A direct result of a Magitek soldier attack, one which had cost their supplies and equipment.

Just another fight, another bump on the road ahead. Although this time had been different. This time Gladio had not been in the thick of it, fighting alongside his pack as he was used to. No, he had come in at the tail end of it, helping them out of a sticky situation.

Ignis had glared at him, as one Alpha would in challenging another, full of hostility and contempt. Prompto, the easy-going Beta had smiled in gratitude before faltering, looking uneasily between the two Alphas. Then there was Noctis, his prince, his charge.

His Omega.

There had been relief and Gladio even hoped to dare that there was joy on that face before he had moved to Ignis's side. Gladio motioned them forward without a word, indicating the dense forest with an incline of his head.

No one had moved and Gladio growled, not used to being disobeyed. He watched Ignis have a rapid conversation with the other two before nodding his agreement. The shield was confused. When he had left them at Cape Caem things had been clear between them. Gladio needed to leave to become stronger, to guard Noctis better. Ignis had supported him, stepping in to console their upset Omega. Ignis had reassured him that he would look after them.

He'd done a pretty shoddy job.

Gladio shook his head to clear it of reminiscing, stopping in his march to look back at his weary pack. Ignis was at the back, as was customary, yet it was Noctis that Gladio's eyes drifted too. The prince was struggling, face waxen beneath the mud and leaves stuck to it. He wasn't complaining, which Gladio took to be a bad sign. You could always count on Noctis for a good gripe and moan. Waves of exhaustion flowed from Noctis's side of their pair bond making Gladio twitch with agitation.

They had to get somewhere safe.

When Noctis stumbled to one knee, Ignis was beside him in an instant, drawing the man's arm over his shoulder. Glasses speckled with rain looked up at Gladio, eyes narrowed, conveying a clear command.

'He can keep going,' Gladio muttered to himself, holding an arm out to steady Prompto who slipped on the sodden floor.

'I dunno dude, he took a beating back there.' Prompto rubbed a hand through his hair, making it stick up in all directions.

'He's got Ignis to mother him, let's keep going.' Gladio scowled, knowing full well he was taking his bad mood out on the other Alpha. They needed to have a talk, the pack deserved an explanation about why he had left, but they'd been thrown into a fight and now they needed a place of safety.

'Whatever man, you're soft on him too.' Prompto smirked at Gladio's pursed lips, sending him a cheeky wink as he sauntered past.

As they moved further and further into the woods the distance between Gladio and the others increased. Gritting his teeth in frustration, he waited, amber eyes scanning the sky. Anxiety grew to unbearable levels as he heard every crack of twigs, every noise in the underbrush. It was dangerous here, the threat of the unknown was pressing all around them.

By the Six, why was Noctis dragging his heels? Why was Ignis letting him? It was only a matter of time before more Magitek soldiers descended on them.

'We need to stop.' Ignis came to stand beside him, their shoulders brushing as the advisor shared the job of surveying the land. 'Noctis...I fear something is wrong with him and Prompto is asleep on his feet.'

'You were supposed to look after them Ignis, what the hell were you doing!' Gladio's head whipped around, glaring at the Alpha.

'You abandoned them, not me. Things have changed since you left.' Ignis snarled, trying to keep a hold on his own temper. Gladio saw the dark circles under his eyes, the fatigue lines etched on his face.

What had happened since he'd been gone? He'd left them in a place of safety at Cape Caem, with Cid, another strong Alpha, they should have been safe.

Gladio's hands curled into fists, letting out a sharp breath from between his teeth. 'I'm trying to find us somewhere safe to go. Stop babying the others and get them to move their asses!'

'We don't require your assistance any longer,' Ignis spat, leaving Gladio to stand in the mud as he went to the others.

You're not wanted anymore.

That's what Ignis was implying, and judging by the way Noctis wouldn't even look at him, he wasn't the only one.

A rumble vibrated through his broad chest as he watched Noctis slip again in the mud, this time not getting up from it. The Omega's small body was racked with laboured breaths, his pained whimpers heard by all.

'Stop being weak!' Gladio shouted, ignoring the venom directed towards him by Ignis, the way his fingers flexed as he grew close to drawing his daggers. 'I don't want a mate who can't keep up.' He was being cruel he knew, the situation twisting his intentions. He needed to get them somewhere secure, to keep his pack protected.

Noctis struggled into a kneeling position, shrugging off Prompto's help. There was fire burning in those eyes as looked at Gladio, a hint of challenge giving him strength.

'Atta boy,' Gladio murmured to himself, surging ahead once more.

 

***

 

The cabin was abandoned, no sign of any disturbance be it man, monster or daemon.

Gladio's shoulders sagged with relief as he opened the door, ushering them inside. Prompto stumbled in first, followed by Noctis, supported once again by Ignis. His charge looked up at him as they passed in the doorway, his usual luminous eyes dull and unfocused.

There was a scent on the air as Noctis walked past him, a smell that caused a pained tug in Gladio's chest, but he couldn't identify it from all the mud and forest clinging to Noctis.

Pushing down feelings of guilt for making them walk too far, Gladio slammed the door behind him, pulling a rickety chair from the dining table and wedging it under the door handle. Until Noctis could erect a magical barrier like that of the havens around them he wouldn't take any chances.

The cabin was small and musty smelling. A living area and bedroom with separate bathroom was all it offered, and Gladio could easily see most of the bedroom from his spot at the window. There was an old, charred fireplace and he wasted no time building a fire, warming the chill away.

'Ah man! Sweet!' There was a sound from the bathroom. 'There's a shower in here, it's cold but clean!' Prompto shouted.

Gladio watched from his spot beside the fire as Ignis shifted the arm around his shoulders, helping Noctis limp over to the bed. Carefully putting their charge on it, Ignis removed Noctis's boots, leaning up to press a kiss against Noctis's temple.

'He needs to erect a barrier around us,' Gladio snapped, getting to his feet to resume his post of looking out the window.

'Give him a chance, Gladio, he's exhausted.'

'Stop being soft on him Ignis!'

'Stop fighting,' Noctis's voice was thin. Gladio felt a small jolt in his chest at just how frail it sounded. 'I'll do it.' Noctis pushed himself up on the bed. Gladio was alarmed to see sweat beading the Omega's brow.

'Let me, Noctis.' Ignis offered a hand. Noctis looked at it for a few seconds, confused. Groggily, his hand rose, clasping hold of Ignis's. Blue light sparked between their joined fingers for a few seconds, and Gladio could feel the energy transfer from one to another, lurking at the back of his mental bond to Noctis.

'I'll go do it. There might be something I can find for supper. Can I trust you with my pack while I am gone.' Ignis's voice was steel. The shield ignored it. Let him be angry, nothing mattered until the area was secure and they were safe.

Gladio didn't move from the window, his body tense until he felt the barrier surround them. Then he let his shoulders relax, his fingers uncurling from where they were clasped into fists.

Taking a few deep breaths, Gladio moved from the window into the bedroom. Noctis appeared to be sleeping, his mouth slack and his breathing heavy. Leaning against the doorframe, he shook his head at the sounds of Prompto singing in the shower.

Quiet as a coeurl, Gladio padded to the side of the bed, eyes never leaving the slumbering Noctis. He squatted against the side of the bed, fingers threading through Noctis's fringe.

He was an ass, Gladio knew that. He pushed them all hard, to their limits on occasion, but it was for their safety. His fingers lingered on Noctis's cheekbones. He wasn't bubbly or prone to affection as the blonde, or mothering and nurturing like Ignis. He was gruff and demanding, propelling Noctis to his breaking point and beyond.

Sitting back against the wall, Gladio rested his elbows on his knees, feeling the last of the rainwater drip down his face and chest, content to watch Noctis sleep. Even before Gladio had left, Noctis's need for sleep had increased, as the demands upon him grew. His Omega looked a little on the thin side with matching grey circles under the eyes as Ignis had.

'He hasn't been sleeping well since you left,' Prompto came in, a towel wrapped low around his hips.

'Have the Astral's been trying to communicate with him?' Gladio inhaled, testing the air. 'He didn't go into a heat while I was gone?' That would explain the exhaustion he saw earlier.

'No, he's not due a heat for a while yet. It's got to be running into Ardyn again, it's been causing him a lot of stress, Ignis too.' Prompto's lips pursed together in anger.

'Ardyn!' Gladio leapt to his feet, chest rumbling.

'I think he attempted to fight Ignis for him. Who wouldn't want a royal Omega? Well, except you of course...' Prompto trailed off.

'Why are you saying that? I haven't given up my claim on Noctis, on you, on any of you.' Gladio rounded on the Beta, bewilderment mixing with frustration.

A low cry made him stop. Noctis's eyes screwed in his sleep, his mouth mumbling, head tossing. With a sinking heart, Gladio knew what it was.

He was the worst out of the three of them for comfort.

'Noctis?' Gladio placed his palm on the side of Noctis's head.

His charge flinched away, limbs trembling.

'Is he having a nightmare?' Prompto whispered.

'Yeah, think so. Wake up, Noct.' Gladio sat beside him on the bed, shaking Noctis's shoulder.

'Where's Iggy when you need him? He's the best at helping Noct with these.' Prompto sat on Noctis's other side, murmuring in his ear. 'You're alright Noct, Ardyn isn't here.'

'What the fuck did Ardyn do!' Gladio's hand wrapped around Prompto's wrist.

'I don't know, Ignis wouldn't tell me.'

Gladio's heart cleaved in two as Noctis cried out.

'Go find Ignis,' he snapped at Prompto.

Without pausing to get dressed, Prompto did as asked, leaving the two of them alone. Gingerly, Gladio scooped Noctis into his arms, positioning Noctis's head on his shoulder. 'Hush, I've got you, you're alright.' He rocked the prince back and forth, mouthing words into Noctis's messy hair.

There was a glimmer of blue as eyes cracked open. Relieved he'd woken up, Gladio held him closer, watching the pulse leaping under the skin at Noctis's throat. There was that same nauseating scent, making Gladio's stomach turn and Noctis began fighting to get away from him.

'Baby, it's me...' Gladio pleaded.

'Get away from him.' The words were low, dangerous in their intent. Gladio swallowed thickly at the sight of Ignis in the doorway, lips drawn back from his teeth in a menacing snarl.

Noctis was frantic, pushing at Gladio, his eyes wild. With a heavy heart, Gladio released him, closing his eyes as Noctis fell into Ignis's arms. The Omega calmed, face burrowed against Ignis's neck. Ignis rubbed his jaw over Noctis's head, scenting him, comforting him further.

He doesn't need me anymore. The thought struck him like a blade in the gut.

Gladio felt the small hand against his shoulder blade. 'He doesn't know what he's doing, don't take it personally. Ignis has always been there for his nightmares.' Prompto laid his head against Gladio's back. He could smell the calming pheromones Prompto was wrapping around them, attempting to diffuse the tense situation.

All three of them jumped at Noctis's pained shout, watching as he began thrashing in Ignis's arms.

'What did you do to him? Did you try and force him to mate? Did you berate him for having a nightmare?' Ignis's tone was stern.

'What did I do to him? What the fuck happened with Arydn?'

'Nothing that concerns you. I handled it!' Ignis shouted back.

Noctis cried out, a garbled, wounded gasp.

'You wouldn't have had to handle anything if you had just stayed put! I left you somewhere safe! What in Titan's name where you doing out there, Ignis?'

'Leave it, Gladio.'

'No. Explain to me how you let our pack get anywhere near that bastard, how you let Noct anywhere near him!'

Noctis's panting was loud and laboured. Prompto was trying to sooth Noctis, pitiful murmurs in his chest that sounded like soft purrs.

'I do not have to explain myself-'

'Noct, what's wrong-'

'Especially to the likes of you-'

'Talk to me buddy-'

The incessant noise was a pressure inside Gladio's head. Ignis's snapping at him, Prompto's fretting and Noctis's keening. He squeezed his eyes shut, crossing his arms, nails digging into his elbows.

Noctis gave a high pitched scream which put all of them on edge, and when Prompto bumped into him, a flail of limbs, Gladio lost it.

Controlling the only thing he could.

The Omega.

'Shut up!' he snarled, injecting as much Alpha authority he could into his voice.

Noctis went limp in Ignis's arms, the Alpha's command overriding any agony he was in.

Oh, Six.

What had he done?

Ignis began to growl. A sound rarely heard from the advisor. Prompto backed away, hands up, throat bared.

Gladio had promised. They had both promised Noctis when they mated with him they would never use their Alpha influence on him unless the situation was dire.

'Your mate is scared and in need of comfort. What the hell do you think you are doing exerting your influence like that!' Ignis passed Noctis over to Prompto, challenging Gladio.

Gladio felt his shame melt away, aggravation and rage seeping in to fill its place.

'He's not weak, you don't need to baby him like that!' Gladio refused to back off. He bumped chests with the other Alpha, staring him down. He was ready for a fight if Ignis wanted to make it one.

'Guys...' Prompto began, the Beta trying to handle the situation as he usually did when Ignis and Gladio got locked into a battle of the wills.

'Don't tell me how to tend to my Omega.'

'Our Omega,' Gladio thundered, shoving Ignis's shoulder with a strong hand.

'Guys stop-'

'You left the pack, you left him. You no longer have any claim.' Ignis pushed him straight back, daggers appearing in his hands in a flurry of sparks.

'Noct is hurt!'

Both Alphas stopped their standoff, turning to their Beta.

Prompto lifted up Noctis's shirt, revealing an ugly gash from hipbone to rib. The Omega's head was lolling from side to side, drenched in sweat. Blood flowed from his lip, the result of embedded teeth in an attempt to obey his Alpha and stop making noise.

Shame squeezed the air from Gladio's lungs. Noctis had been seriously hurt, possibly poisoned by the looks of the purple tinge to the wound. He reached a hand out, but Ignis was there first, barrelling into Gladio's chest, throwing him from the room

'You don't deserve Noctis as your Omega. You're barely fit to be an Alpha.' Ignis left him there, on his ass as he attended to the needs of their mate.

No, Ignis's mate.

 

***

 

He stumbled around the bushes, fingers caked in mud, rain cascading into his eyes. His fingernails were ripped and bleeding as he looked for something, anything he could use. He had no idea of where the nearest store was, no antidotes on him. Gladio howled and slammed his fist into a nearby tree, filling his knuckles with splinters.

It was a mess.

A damn mess.

Noctis was injured, the pack had rejected him. He sunk to his knees, head tilted back to the sky, his eyes burning with unshed tears. Ignis was right, he wasn't fit to be an Alpha. He'd been so caught up in his own inadequacies, determined to go off and train, to become stronger, that he'd left them vulnerable.

Ignis was a good Alpha, a great provider, logical thinker and passionate when it came to Noctis. Despite all that, Ignis was not military trained to the same standard Gladio was, did not have the raw strength the shield did. When it came down to it, Gladio trusted none other than himself to guard the Omega. He had known that.

He had left anyway.

Ardyn. That damn sleazy Alpha. Traitorous as a snake, filling Noctis's head with self-doubts, playing on his inadequacies. Their Omega wasn't fearful of much, he was a cocky little thing with a bratty mouth and attitude to match, but upon seeing Ardyn, Noctis had gone mute, shying away from the older man.

Resisting the urge to pummel the tree, or returning to shake some answers out of Ignis and Prompto, Gladio ran further, back to where they had fought, to the Magitek soldiers littering the ground. He turned them over, looking through pockets, packs, weapons.

It took agonising minutes but Gladio found what he was looking for.

When he returned to the cabin, antidote in hand, Gladio waited on the periphery. Noctis was in a bad way, skin pallid, lips cracked and dry. The poison was spreading, black angry lines sweeping out from the wound.

'This should help,' Gladio handed it to Prompto, not willing to risk getting into a fight with Ignis. Tensions aside, they needed to focus on the prince. Prompto handed it to Ignis who lifted his eyes to Gladio and nodded once.

Noctis squirmed, trying to get away from Ignis's probing fingers.

'No! Don't touch me.' Noctis moaned, the protests weak.

'Gladio, hold him down,' Ignis instructed.

Gladio did as was asked, recoiling a little at the stench of illness flowing from Noctis. He ignored the shame, the feelings of failure, concentrating only on keeping the Omega still.

'Stop it!' Noctis's body went into spasms, nails tearing at the bed sheets. 'Ignis! Don't let him!'

Gladio moved off Noctis, horrified at what he was seeing, the Omega's potent fear scent sour in his mouth.

'Hold him, Gladio! If I don't get this in him he will perish!' Ignis barked, words inflected with Alpha authority.

'Gladio!' Noctis gasped hoarsely, 'where are you?' Gladio restrained Noctis again, ignoring the silent tears running down Prompto's face.

'I'm here, Noct. You're safe.'

Noctis's eyes opened at the pressure on his body, his gaze finding Gladio's.

His teeth clamped into his bottom lip, trying to swallow his agony.

'No, Noctis, you don't need to be quiet.' Gladio's voice cracked. He lifted his hand to touch the Omega's face, startled when Noctis flinched from him.

'There, that's healed the poison from his system,' Ignis spoke, watching the exchange between the two of them. 'He needs a potion for the wound, I can make do with padding and makeshift bandages, but he'll scar without a potion.'

'Is he...is he gonna be alright?' Prompto sobbed, kneeling next to Noctis's head.

'The spread of poison has stopped. I believe he is out of the proverbial woods as it were. His body still needs time to recover.' Ignis pulled off his shirt, ripping it into strips.

'Why didn't he tell us he was injured?' Prompto wiped sweat from Noctis's brow.

'Because I made him keep going,' Gladio spat, sitting back on his heels, looking down his mate he had nearly killed.

This wasn't what being in a pack was. Controlling them, leaving them for personal gain. He had sworn to be his prince's shield, to protect, serve and guide. When he had claimed Noctis as his Omega he had promised his loyalty, his devotion...his love.

There was more to being mated then just heats and ruts, more than just having a willing bed partner, more than just having an Omega to dominate.

'You're right, I don't deserve to be an Alpha.'

An Alpha's first duty was to their mate, and then their pack. It was everything he had sworn and more. Noctis had been attacked by another Alpha, Gladio had not been there. Noctis had needed comfort, Gladio had subjugated him. Noctis had been injured, possibly near death, Gladio had forced him to keep going rather than attending to his needs.

'Take control of the pack, Ignis, I give up my claim on Noctis.'

Prompto gasped at him. 'Gladio...no, you can't-'

Severing the bond would cause them both severe mental anguish, but Noctis could withstand it with the support of Ignis and Prompto. They wouldn't share a bond, Gladio wouldn't be able to tell what he was feeling, nor would he be able to summon his weapon any longer.

'Are you sure?' Ignis was calm, collected.

No wound Gladio had ever sustained stung like it was hurting him now. The idea of being separate from Noctis, from all of them was as though someone had plunged their hands into Gladio's stomach, ripping at his intestines.

'I'll still be his shield, I'll help you all win back the kingdom, but I don't deserve to be his mate.' Gladio got up from the bed, turning away when Noctis whimpered in pain. 'I couldn't look after him, Six, Ignis...I couldn't even care for him properly.'

No one stopped him as he walked away.

 

***

 

It was a long afternoon. Noctis drifting in and out of his fever dreams, Ignis trying to look after him, Prompto getting in the way with his fretting and Gladio keeping watch outside. The urge to find food, to provide for all of them was overwhelming, but the need to stay close was stronger.

The rain dried up, daylight fading into an early night. Prompto came out once, attempting to speak with him, his hand rubbing across the Alpha's shoulders in an attempt at comfort.

Gladio didn't move.

With a suffering sigh, Prompto left him watching the stars. Gladio's heart leapt as he heard Noctis speaking, voice clear and steady. His body sagged with relief against the wooden wall. Noctis was alright, he was safe. Only when Gladio heard all movement inside the cabin cease did he dare venture in.

The living room was warm, the fire banked down to embers. There were rags of Ignis's and Prompto's shirt, both clean and bloodstained next to a water basin left on the floor. Gladio gritted his teeth, the smell of pain, of suffering heavy in the air. He shook his head clear of the scent, creeping towards the bedroom.

Leaning against the doorframe, Gladio kept watch. Prompto was curled on his side facing away, Ignis was on his back, grip tight on Noctis, who had his hand curled under Ignis's chin. Gladio was separate from all of it, set apart from them all.

He pushed off from the frame with his shoulder, leaving the door ajar to keep an ear out for any problems.

Slumping into a chair near the fire, Gladio stretched his legs out, crossing them at the ankles, rubbing his hand over his face. He'd never imagined he'd lose everything by leaving. There might have been anger, even sulking on Noctis's part, and Gladio had been fully prepared to work for the Omega's forgiveness.

He'd seriously underestimated the severity of his actions. He'd thought he would be welcome back with open arms, anticipated the chase of the Omega playing hard to get, the anticipation of making Noctis concede and surrender.

Astrals, what had he done?

Gladio jerked upright at the noise, mouth drying as Noctis stood there, his beautiful face cleaned from the mud adorning it earlier, now marred by bruises and scratches. The Alpha attempted to speak, the words lodging in his throat. What could he say?

Noctis's feet shifted across the floor, hands locked together in front of his stomach, fingers wringing in anxiety. Gladio's gaze trailed over the cream skin, his attention caught by the Omega's Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed. His gaze carried on, halting when he saw the purple dress shirt bandage.

'You should be resting.' Gladio turned his head away, crossing his arms over his chest. As he heard the slow shuffling approach, Gladio tilted his head back, powerless to the Omega as always.

Noctis's head was down, messy black hair concealing his face, hesitation in every muscle of his body. Gladio held his breath as Noctis stood in front of his knees. Instinctively, his legs fell open allowing Noctis to move between them.

Where was Ignis? They were all exhausted sure, but Ignis was trained as he was, no amount of exhaustion would prevent him from caring for Noctis.

'Did you mean what you said?' Noctis whispered, the first time he'd addressed Gladio directly since he'd returned. 'Do you give up your claim?'

Gladio let out a choking, strangled sound. 'Noct-'

'I'm sorry that I'm not strong enough. That I let the Magitek soldiers get close enough to me. I'm sorry I slowed us all down.'

'Stop,' Gladio pleaded, the Omega's heartbroken voice only pouring salt on Gladio's wounds. 'I can't be the mate you need me to be.' Gladio hung his head, his fingers digging into the leather of his trousers.

'Don't I get to decide that?' Noctis asked.

Gladio cared for them all, their pack, their family. He loved Prompto's light, enthusiasm and spirit, Ignis's calm, rational head and his ability to become flustered and emotional if around the right people. Neither was his mate though. He would die for either of them, but he would rip the world apart for Noctis.

'You left us all because you had something you needed to do. I understood that, trusted that it was important enough to leave us all, leave me behind.' Noctis finally lifted his head, his eyes magnified by the tears filling them.

'Go back to Ignis, you need to rest. I'll keep watch here, keep you all safe, I won't leave you alone again.' Gladio swore, leaning forward so he could stare straight into Noctis's eyes, willing the Omega to believe him, to trust him again.

'I'm sorry I let Adryn touch me-'

Gladio's hands shot forward, wrapping around the Omega's waist.

'I don't care about that!' He cried into Noctis's stomach. 'I care about you and I nearly lost you!'

He looked up, into sparkling blue eyes, at the blush mottling Noctis's cheeks. Cautious, the prince's hands came up, hovering just above Gladio's cheekbones.

Gladio leant his head into one of them, hating himself, hating how tentative Noctis was. He encouraged Noctis to sit down on his lap.

'It was frustration that made me command you. Guilt that made me give up my claim on you.'

'Is that what you want?' Noctis's hands rested on Gladio's stomach. The prince was trying to give him a way out, to be understanding. It was so unlike Noctis's normal behaviour, making Gladio's disgrace sink to unbearable levels.

'Never.'

'Are sure?'

Gladio cradled the back of Noctis's head.

'I want to be pack with all of you, to be worthy of you all. I want to protect you.'

Noctis leant forward, his movement slow, allowing Gladio to stop him if he wished. Warm lips pressed against his, the captivating scent of his Omega coiling around him. He let Noctis lead, running his tongue over Gladio's lips, let Noctis's fingers tangle into his hair. The prince pulled back, and Gladio opened his eyes. His mate was lit by the soft glow of the embers of the fire, his eyes luminous with the magic his lineage gifted him.

Instead of being filled with carnal lust as Gladio often was when dealing with Noctis, Gladio felt at odds with a new desire. The desire pamper, to indulge. His fingers trickled down Noctis's chest, chasing away any residual feelings of pain. When he reached the bandage covering the wound, Noctis flinched away.

'I don't want to hurt you.' Gladio's words were raw, pained, following them with a gentle brush of his fingers underneath Noctis's jaw. The Omega sighed and tilted his head back, baring his neck, offering Gladio access to his claim mark.

'I want you as my Alpha.' Noctis's tone was soft when he had every right to scream and rage at Gladio. 'I don't want anyone else.' The words branded themselves in Gladio's soul.

Noctis shifted, his eyes darkening with uncertainty and the obvious dread of rejection.

Gladio's grip prevented the Omega from leaving. He couldn't bear to see the hurt on Noctis's features, the possibility that Gladio was rejecting him. He ran the pad of his thumb over the silvery circle scar of his bond mark, stretching up to press his lips against it.

That's when he noticed the fading scratch marks. His nose assaulted by the rancid smell of a challenging Alpha.

'Turn around.'

'Gladio-'

'Please Noct, I don't want to command you, not again.'

Narrowing his eyes, Noct did as asked, turning on Gladio's lap so his back was visible.

The snarl ripped through Gladio without warning, fingers digging into the soft flesh of Noctis's side. There was a healing bite mark on the nape of Noctis's neck, not deep enough to claim.

'He tried to force you,' Gladio hissed.

'Ignis fought him off after I'd hit him a few times first,' Noctis added smugly.

The tension in Noctis's shoulders belied the easy-going attitude the Omega was striving for. Without thinking, Gladio reached up, running his tongue over the mark, sucking at it, covering it with a promise of his own.

Noctis shifted, hips rocking back. A low moan made Gladio halt.

Gladio was consumed by conflicting desires, unsure of himself. The right thing to do was make Noct rest.

'Noct,' he warned. Gladio stifled a groan as Noctis rubbed against his crotch.

'Please,' Noctis pleaded, looking over his shoulder at Gladio.

Gladio knew he should deny him, even consider sending Noctis over to where he knew Ignis was still awake. Ignis could tend to him as Noctis deserved to be handled.

'Noct, I can't-'

'Don't...don't you want me now?' His hand came up to cover Adryn's pitiful bite.

Gladio surged forward, hand clasping the front of Noctis's throat, the Omega's lower lip caught in his teeth.

'Always.' Gladio savagely pledged against Noctis's lips. Noctis opened his mouth for Gladio, pleasure rippling through his body at the simple act of Gladio kissing him.

Water dripping onto his hand made Gladio lurch back.

'Did I hurt you? What's wrong?'

Noctis turned in his lap and fell forward, forehead on Gladio's shoulder. Arms tightened in a vice around Gladio's neck as Noctis clung on for dear life.

'I missed you.'

Gladio held Noctis, petting his back, ignoring the sting in the corners of his own eyes.

'I didn't leave because I wanted to. The fight we had at the Imperial base, Ravus just flinging me aside like that, it showed me just how weak I was, that I needed to be stronger to protect you. It's a long road ahead of us Noct, I needed to be prepared, to support you all the way to the end.'

Noctis nodded against his throat, body still shaking with sobs. Gladio swayed them side to side as best he could, gentle crooning noises vibrating from his chest that at any other time would mortify him.

'Gladio?' Noctis fidgeted.

Gladio encouraged Noctis's head up with a finger under the chin.

'Will you...make me yours again?'

'You're already mine, baby.'

'Gladio-' Whatever Noctis was going to say was muffled by Gladio's mouth. After they had broken for air, Gladio rested their foreheads together.

'I love you,' he mumbled against Noctis's mouth.

Noctis stretched his neck again, offering.

Mesmerised by the long column of taunt flesh, Gladio reached up, skimming his lips over it. Noctis's eyes closed, his fingers resting in Gladio's hair, letting the Alpha set the pace, taking it slow, gentle.

Gladio crooked Noctis's head down, tongue lapping at the tender spot just below Noctis's ear. The Omega gasped, eyelids snapping open, mouth parted on a moan.

Hands trailed down his neck, gripping onto Gladio's shoulders as the shield manipulated the sensitive skin. Gladio was used to their sessions being frantic, full of teeth and eager grasping hands, the smack of flesh upon flesh. There was none of that insistence now, just reconnecting, sharing emotions. He had always scoffed at the way Ignis had treated Noctis as though he was made of spun glass, a frail and tender thing.

It had never stopped him watching in appreciation though.

Gladio trailed his fingers down over Noctis's collarbones, circling dusky pink nipples. It sent a jolt through Noctis, his body arched back, pushing himself into Gladio's hands even more. His touches still feather light, Gladio teased him, his mouth leaving a mark.

He wasn't always good with words, so he would show Noctis. Show him that he could care for him and love him, the way he deserved. Noctis squirmed in his lap, his short breathless pants turning into moans, music to Gladio's ears.

Six, how he had missed Noctis.

He crushed the man to his chest, careful of Noctis's wound and sealed their mouths together, pouring his affection into the kiss, his longing, his love. Noctis's hips bucked against his shield, a desperate plea and Gladio brought his hand down, never breaking his kiss with Noctis, thumb sweeping over the damp material covering Noctis's erection.

Gladio couldn't smell Noctis's slick in the air, the lack of the Omega's self-lubricant revealing he was nervous. The Alpha was upset by it, but more than happy to tend to his mate, to reassure. Placing his hands under the delectable swell of Noct's ass, he lifted the prince closer to him, running the flat of his tongue over Noctis's nipple.

His chest swelled with pride at Noctis's shocked cry. Holding Noctis in place with one hand, he removed the Omega's boxers down with the other, trapping them across upper thighs.

'Gladio...' Noctis whispered. The Omega was lost in a mixture of lust and apprehension, both scents spiking in the air.

Ignis's claim mark came into Gladio's view, smooth and unblemished. Gladio ran his nose over it, inhaling the smell of the other Alpha. The scent was stale, the skin too soft.

'You haven't?' Gladio let the question float between them.

'No, I wanted to wait till you came back.'

Gladio had a revelation. If Ignis hadn't been with Noctis, then Noctis's last sexual encounter was tainted with-

Ardyn.

Gladio managed to suppress the growl. He would not allow this to continue, allow that Alpha's taint anywhere near his Omega. He caught a hand, pressing Noctis's knuckles against his mouth in a kiss, before clasping it above his thundering heart.

'You can trust me, Noct.' His hands cupped the Omega's face, coaxing him into a long, tongue filled kiss. 'I'll never let him anywhere near you again. You're my Omega.' He rumbled softly.

Gladio's nostrils flared at the smell of arousal taking over the fear, the dampness now seeping at the back of Noctis's boxers.

'Noct?' His voice cracked in wonder.

Encouraging Noctis to kneel, instead of straddling him, Gladio let his hand run over the soft curve of Noctis's ass, fingers dipping to stroke across his cleft.

'Baby, don't force yourself. This isn't about me.'

Gladio grunted as a hand darted down to knead Gladio through his trousers, greedy in his demands.

'Please,' the Omega pleaded, watching Gladio with beseeching eyes.

Gladio's finger sunk into Noctis, his teeth gritting at the heat squeezing his finger, Noctis's sweet slick running between them.

It had only been a few weeks, but how he'd missed his Omega's body.

'Easy,' he whispered, fighting his own urges. Stretching Noctis slowly, drawing out the pleasure, he continued to run his tongue over Noctis's collarbone, the Omega's cries making his own erection painful. As a second finger was added, Gladio noticed the fine film of sweat coating Noctis's skin, his fringe sticking to his head in clumps.

Noctis gasped, grinding his body down.

'I said easy, Noct. You're injured.'

'Don't care. Gladio, please.' The sight of the sweat flushed body writhing on his lap, muscled legs digging into his hips made Gladio's resolve slip.

'Please, Alpha,' Noctis pleaded in earnest, rutting against Gladio's fingers, whipping him into a frenzy.

He moved Noctis's hips flush to his own, unzipping his trousers, freeing his cock from its stifling restrictions. He pressed himself inside Noctis's warmth, moaning against Noctis's neck as he went. Nails on his shoulders were drawing blood from his shoulders, but Gladio ignored it, concentrating only on taking it slow, on not hurting Noctis.

Once fully inside Gladio halted, head pressed against Noct's neck. The Omega let slip a heart-rending cry of disappointment.

'Gladio, please.' Noctis panted, squeezing his legs around Gladio's sides. Still cautious, Gladio lifted his charge up, and then down with tender slowness. They kept this pace for a while, readjusting to each other's body, reaffirming their devotion with loving words, chasing each other's mouths for adoration filled kisses.

Gladio was waiting for Ignis to come investigate, to take over, to join in or something, but they remained alone. His teeth scraped over his mark on Noctis's neck, still supporting Noctis as the Omega rode him.

Grabbing hold of the prince, he stood, eliciting a choked gasp from the sexual being on his lap. He lay his mate down on the wooden floor, taking care not to unlock them, or cause Noctis any discomfort. He covered the prince's body with his own, resting his weight on his forearms, cradling Noctis's head between his hands.

The prince went limp, pliant under his hold, as he was used to when thrown down by Gladio in a rutting. It made him want to weep, the expectations Noctis had of him, that he couldn't do the caring tender intimacy Noctis could expect from Ignis. His hips kept a slow rolling pace, his mouth whispering endearments in Noctis's ear.

Fingers fluttered against Gladio's chest, desperate to find a hold on something, to ground himself in the onslaught of feelings. Gladio was relentless, pouring his feelings into his side of the bond. The vulnerabilities he had, his desire for Noctis, the urge to both possess and be possessed.

Noctis writhed under his body, his hips trying to coax Gladio into moving faster. His mouth sought out Gladio's, tongue flicking against the Alpha's lips. Gladio halted, returning the kiss, gasping into the Omega's mouth.

'Gladio...' Noctis reached out and Gladio was there, pressing open-mouthed kisses into his palm, on the delicate underside of his wrist.

'I've got you, Noct, I'm here.'

He lifted his head from Noctis's ear to nip at his nipples, his hips increasing in tempo but not pressure as Noctis called his name. His name, not anyone else's. Lifting his weight up onto one forearm, hand still under Noctis's head, he curled his free hand around Noctis's weeping cock, stroking him in time.

'Not gonna last....I need to...' Noctis stuttered out, gasping as Gladio hit the spot just inside him. If Noctis hadn't woken the others up, then he definitely had now. He was a few decibels below screaming, Gladio's name a mantra on his lips. Gladio pounded into his prostate every time, his thrusts turning ruthless. He maintained a tight grip on Noct, not wanting to jolt his body, or rub it against the wooden floor.

Noctis curled himself up around Gladio as he came, spreading it all over Gladio's chest and stomach. Gladio reached up to murmur praises into Noctis's ear, licking his tongue around the shell of it. With Noctis sated, he slowed, content to pull out. A heel pressing into his ass halted him.

'Don't stop, please, Gladio.' Noctis looked feverish, vulnerable. He pulled Gladio in for a kiss, tongue twining lazily with the shield's.

Words failed him, he didn't know how to explain it to Noct, how he felt about him.

'I already know.' Tender fingers raked into his shaggy hair, lips pressing against Gladio's now screwed eyes.

'I fucking love you,' Gladio choked out, his hips snapping into the welcoming body.

Noctis now had his turn at whispering endearments in Gladio's ear and the gruff shield almost wept at the adoration in his charge's voice. The pressure mounted, catching him off guard and he exploded inside Noctis, knot bursting from his cock painfully, his teeth clamped down over his bonding mark, reaffirming their bond.

He fell onto Noctis, barely holding his weight up so as not to crush the young Omega. Gladio's chest was heaving, his surprise for just how intense it was making him tremble. It seemed Ignis was on to something after all. Noctis moved beneath him and Gladio lifted himself higher, arms shaking, loath to cause Noctis any harm.

After a few seconds, it became apparent Noctis wasn't shifting due to discomfort, but grinding himself on Gladio's knot. Summoning whatever strength he had left, he canted Noctis's hips, helping him in his movements, rubbing his knot further and further into Noctis's body.

'Damn, baby. You're going to be the death of me,' Gladio gasped as Noctis tried to claim his lips once more, biting at the corner of Gladio's mouth. Gladio sat them both up so Noctis was once again across his lap, a better position for Noctis's rubbing. The effort was instant, Noctis's mewls and pants turning into moans and gasps as he rode on Gladio's cock.

Spent, but enthralled, Gladio let the Omega take whatever he wished, deriving no pleasure physically himself from the act, but in seeing his Omega wild for him. He left bite marks on Noctis's throat, one hand wrapped around Noct's cock and the other tugging at his nipple.

'Fuck, Noct,' Gladio groaned as Noctis sped up, chasing his second orgasm. Brilliant blue eyes opened, seeking out Gladio, hazy with his pupils blown wide. Gladio wrapped a hand around Noctis's neck, dragging his nails over that offensive mark on the back of his Omega's neck.

'I've got you, you're safe,' Gladio promised as those eyes fixed on his own.

Noctis came with a shout, back curved, head flung back. Gladio held him as he rode out the residual effects of his orgasm, catching him as he fell forward. Noctis was shuddering, panting in huge gasps. The Alpha's fingers trailed up and down Noctis's back, his own breathing deep, encouraging Noct to regulate his own. He felt a nose bumping beneath his jaw, and he lifted his head up, letting Noctis's head settle in beneath.

With a small groan, Noctis lifted himself from Gladio once the Alpha's knot had softened, before slumping, boneless against him. Gladio let him stay, petting his mate, brushing his lips over the top of his head. He pulled the Omega away just long enough to snatch up a clean piece of cloth from the bowl he noticed earlier, rubbing them both clean.

Gladio chuckled as he felt Noctis twitch, his mate succumbing to the enticing pull of slumber.

'You're mine, baby.'

He rubbed his jaw over Noctis's head, feeling relived his mate once again bore his scent

Gladio became lost in a sea of thought about the future, both for their kingdom and pack. Gladio found himself wishing they could live out their days here, just the four of them. Perhaps a child or two in the future.

He was getting hard again thinking about Noctis heavy with child when he noticed Ignis in the doorway.

'He still needs to rest.' The other Alpha said without hint of a reprimand, just a simple statement. Reluctant to release him, but knowing it was for the best, Gladio placed his hands under Noctis's shoulders, ready to pass him to Ignis. As Ignis held out his arms for their mate, Noctis cried out, clinging to Gladio.

'It seems he wants to remain with you,' Ignis told him with a small smile. 'If you can manage, will you wait a moment?'

Gladio shifted Noctis in his lap, sitting him sideways, the Omega's head resting on his chest.

Ignis sat beside them, his hand reaching forward to ruffle Noctis's dark hair, unable to stop his nostrils flaring as the smells of their rutting reached him. Noct murmured in his sleep, nuzzling back against Ignis's fingers, his hand still curled firmly around Gladio's bicep.

'Is Prompto alright?'

'Sleeping, I believed it for the best that he remained that way.' Ignis watched Noctis with fond eyes before his unwavering gaze pierced Gladio. 'Noctis suffered a lot with you gone.'

'He seems to have suffered more by coming back.' They looked down at the bandage. 'What happened, Ig?'

Ignis closed his eyes, reluctant to talk. Gladio clasped his hand around the Alpha's forearm.

'We needed mythril for the boat. Talcott told us we could find some at the Vesperpool. Deciding it would be wise to have everything ready for your return we set off.'

Gladio felt the muscles flex under his fingers, heard the near silent rumble in Ignis's chest.

'Adyrn was waiting for us. At first, it seemed innocent enough, he handed us to Aranea who told us she would accompany us into the ruins to find the mythril.'

He could see where this was going.

'Let me guess, the ruins wouldn't let you in until nightfall?'

'As with most of the secret places in the area, their treasures are only revealed by moon and starlight. Fitting really.' Ignis scoffed.

'His fate is tied with the darkness, perhaps it has something to do with that.'

Ignis carried on, unwilling to be drawn into a conversation about the mysteries of the world. 'As we had time to wait, I believed it for the best that we take time to prepare ourselves, replenishing curatives and the such.'

Leather gloves protested at the pressure Ignis was now curling his fists into.

'Before I realised, Noctis had been separated from us. I thought nothing of it, he's a resourceful young Omega and he's been trained for all types of battle. Then I felt it.'

Now that Ignis mentioned it, Gladio could vaguely recall a sense of horror felt from Noctis while he had been gone. He had shrugged it off, in a dire place himself and needing to concentrate or be killed by Gilgamesh.

'I'm surprised I didn't smell him before I felt it. It was absolute terror, Gladio. I abandoned Prompto to find him.' Ignis whispered the last bit, his own failure making his eyes lower.

'Instinct's a bitch.'

'Being torn between them like that is not a pleasant experience Gladio.'

The harsh reality hung between them. They were equal, all valued. The cold hard truth was Noctis was an Omega, their mate, and Gladio and Ignis would always place him above anything else, even each other.

'By the time I got there, he had Noctis pinned against the wall, teeth sinking into the back of his neck.'

Noctis fidgeted at the echoing growls from both Alphas. As one, they reached out, calming their mate.

'He can't claim him unless he bites during mating, that wasn't his intention. He's toying with Noctis. Is he challenging us or not?'

'He left as soon as I pulled him off, he seemed more interested in a reaction from Noctis than fighting me over an Omega mate. There is something worse underfoot here.'

'You should have let me kill him when I had the chance.' Gladio's head fell back, his eyes boring holes into the ceiling.

'If you had killed the chancellor when you wanted to, you would have brought war to our doorstep sooner. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, I should have let you, that day in the citadel.'

They found themselves lost in memories. Their first meeting with Ardyn and the Niflheim diplomats, their talks of peace, Noctis's first heat.

Reminiscing about the past wouldn't serve them now.

'Did you get the mythril? Are we ready to go?'

'Indeed, and found ourselves in a nasty fight with a Quetzalcoatl. We were on our way back to Lestallum when you came across us.'

'Shit, Ig.' Gladio cracked his head up, the blood rush making him feel faint for a moment. 'What happened to all your gear? The Regalia?'

'The Magitek troops fell upon us, driving us away from it. Our supplies are in the trunk. I would have gone back for it but-'

No one had been thinking straight when Gladio arrived.

'It might be an idea to have Noct store things in his Armiger. Curatives, camping equipment.'

'A wise idea.'

Noctis mumbled and Gladio swayed him gently, trying to keep him sleeping.

'So, changed your mind about giving up your claim then?' Ignis's voice turned amused, gesturing towards the red mark on Noctis's neck.

'I don't think I could get out even if I wanted. You haven't mated with him.' Gladio stated, shifting Noctis in his one-armed grip.

'Partly because it didn't feel right without you here. That and Noctis has been having nightmares about Adryn forcing him into a bond away from us.'

Gladio snorted, 'Like that's gonna happen.'

'You left him, Gladio. On some level, despite his understanding, he felt you had abandoned him.'

'I needed to Ignis.' Gladio squeezed his eyes shut, 'That last fight-'

'It showed you that you weren't as physically strong as you originally thought.'

'Something like that, yeah.' Gladio scratched the back of his neck.

'There is more to an Alpha then brute strength and the perks of having an Omega to relieve your itch.' Ignis's eyebrow rose.

'It's never been like that with Noctis, you know that. I needed to get away from it all Ignis. I needed to know I could protect Noctis, all of you.'

'I understand.'

'You sure as hell didn't when I came back!'

'It had been a trying day, Gladio. We'd just finished battling a monster, we were going on little sleep curtsey of Ardyn and I knew something was wrong with Noctis. I let my emotions, my instincts get the better of me.'

'You were on the mark though. He was injured.'

They sat in silence.

'We cannot let petty jealousies, fights for dominance risk the safety of our pack.' Ignis spoke softly, as though ashamed.

'Agreed.'

'I apologise for losing sight of that.'

'Yeah, well, I'm sorry for taking off on you like that. We good?'

'You willingness to undergo mental anguish to sever your bond with Noctis because you believed you weren't good enough proves your loyalty to him.' Ignis turned and ran his mouth over his own claim mark on Noctis's neck.

'You thought you were doing what was best, despite your misguided actions, I do believe your thoughts are foremost for the pack. He needs all of us. He needs your rash impulsiveness. Your passion, your determination.'

Gladio exhaled heavily, stretching his head to rest it on the crown of Ignis's.

'We should retire for the night. Exhaustion will not serve us well in the morning.'

He helped Gladio to his feet, still allowing him to keep hold of Noctis. They moved into the bedroom, Gladio laying Noctis down beside Prompto. Noctis whined as the heat left him, making Prompto roll in his sleep, arms seeking out to console the Omega even in sleep. Gladio stretched out beside him, drawing Noctis close, spooning beside him.

Ignis took up the other side, behind Prompto, arm stretched out over the Beta, hand resting on Noctis's chest.

'Where do we go from here, Ignis?'

'We push on as we did before, Gladio. We keep our pack safe and worry about tomorrow when it comes.'

The Alpha smiled, pulling his glasses off, settling down for sleep behind Prompto, hand still on Noctis.

Feeling content for the first time in weeks Gladio closed his eyes and slept.



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