AN: Big thanks to Lachesis for her help with this.
Apollo told Midnighter about a dream he has sometimes, a nightmare. Everybody has dreams about flying, he said. He used to have those dreams all the time, but since the mods, since he actually can fly, the dream has changed. Now he dreams about not being able to fly.
It always starts out the same way, with dreaming of sleep. Deep black, no thought, an endless drift. Then a slow realisation that despite the black, the bleak, the nothing, he is there, he is present, he is falling, in fact. Falling off the edge of the planet, or into hell, or down a black hole, or somewhere so deep and dark that there is no return, no end to it, just falling forever. He tries to fly, but he can't think how to do it. How does he fly? There's no conscious effort to it, he just does, but now he's thinking about it so hard that he can't possibly do it. He just has to keep trying, a little wiggle of the hips, a little kick with his heels, and that glorious god-like energy should flow right through him, the air should take his weight, the sun should bear him up, but there's no sun in the deep, dark nothing. No sun and no flight.
It's so horrible, he said, it's like waking up one morning and finding your legs won't move. Something you've never even thought of before, something you've taken for granted all your life, and then it's gone. He realises he's probably going to keep falling forever, but just as panic starts to tip him over the edge, he notices he's not alone. And he won't have to fall. Someone can save him. Someone else is there.
"You better not say Jesus," Midnighter cut in at this point.
"No, Jesus woulda been more use," Apollo told him. "It was you, you goop."
"Yeah, that's what I thought. I thought, Mid'll save me. But you know what?"
"You didn't. You weren't looking at me. You were looking in the other direction, in fact, wool-gathering. I was furious. I reached out my hand to you, and I knew if you'd just turn round and grab it, I'd be safe. But I had to get your attention… So, I got a big lungful of air, and I opened my mouth to scream your name at the top of my voice."
"And… I don't know your name. So I just had to keep falling, while you were looking the other way."
"Why didn't you just shout 'Hey'?"
"That would've been rude."
"You ever feel like, when you wake up, that you've left part of yourself behind? Like, you've got up and moved on, and carried on with life, but there's a part of you still falling, because you just couldn't manage to resolve this issue for him before you woke up?"
"I don't have a clue what you mean," Said Midnighter, who knew exactly what Apollo meant. He'd left a part of himself on the operating table every morning for the last nine years or so, only to come back to it every night in sleep and find it waiting. He wished he could talk about his bad dreams with the blithe and careless ease of Apollo. He had a feeling they would lose their power if he did. It was like a magic charm that only held sway over him as long as he was too scared to speak its name; like that jinx game kids played, only the other way around. A kid got jinxed, and then he couldn't speak again until someone called him by name. The thought, coupled with Apollo's reminder that they were both essentially nameless, made him shudder.
"No clue." Apollo gave a little snort of disbelief, as he was supposed to. They were lying in bed, bathed in the slow light of the bleed. These were the times it was easiest to love him best, all wrapped up in each other, half an ear between them cocked towards Jenny's bedroom door, and the whole universe rolling outside the window.
Sometimes, when they lay like this, and Apollo was flung out asleep beside him with the cavalier carelessness of a cocker spaniel, Midnighter tried to guess his lover's name. He'd never come up with anything that satisfied him, though, no name in the English language or out of it that could sum up Apollo. He was too beautiful for something mundane, like David or Peter or Steve, but too down to earth for something fancy like Rhett or Brett or Fabio. Nothing was quite right, but Midnighter had the feeling if he ever found out, it would be something as effortlessly perfect as the rest of him, neither boring nor fancy, neither grand nor mundane. Something which shortened with an easy affection, and something with a special kind of grace.
He supposed it was kind of ironic that the relationship that had lasted, the one that was for keeps – The One, indeed – was with a guy whose name he didn't even know. It made a nasty kind of sense, and added to his uneasy suspicion that there was some kind of divine power in the universe, and what's more, to quote Jenny Sparks, that divine power was most definitely taking the piss.
The reason for this sneaking suspicion was that, many years ago, in the days Midnighter now thought of as the Dark Ages – those pre-Apollo times - he remembered having a guy. No, not just a guy, but The Guy. Of course, there'd been a few guys too, it wasn't like he was keeping himself pure in anticipation of the arrival of The Guy, but none of them were anywhere near as special.
The Guy was wonderful and unique in a number of ways, the first and foremost being the unhappy fact that he didn't exist outside Midnighter's head. As such, Midnighter had never settled on a name for him. As with Apollo, he couldn't find one that sat right. Midnighter wasn't very good at names. It was lucky for baby Jenny, he reflected, that she'd come ready-named, or Apollo would have named her after one of the girls from Buffy before he'd even got a thought in.
So, this guy, The Guy, the first guy that Midnighter really thought about dedicating his life to, was mostly just called Fantasy Guy. Midnighter remembered trying to pick a name; he went through the whole alphabet and tried matching them with his own to see if they'd work as a couple. This memory really grated on him, because it took him right up to the edge of recalling his own name, and then left him dangling. He thought he would like to know his own name, but he doubted it was anything as special as Apollo's. It was probably just something short and functional, like so much else of his early life. No frills. He didn't think he'd ever use it again either, but he would just like to tell it to Apollo, to give him something to shout next time he had the falling dream.
He didn't spend a lot of time in the company of Fantasy Guy, being a man who usually stamped on self-indulgence. But every lonely person imagines being with someone sometimes, right? And people don't get much lonelier than Midnighter back in the Dark Ages, so he'd kept his Guy as a nice little thought to occupy himself in rare moments of reflection. When he allowed himself this luxury, it was nice to have something quick to hand, so he could get stuck in before the moment passed. This was quite apart from masturbation; Midnighter, like most men, considered jerking off to be necessity, not luxury, and there was no shortage of flesh-and-blood candidates to star in those little fantasies. No, Fantasy Guy fantasies were about sharing a mundane, everyday life with someone.
Like sometimes, he'd have a joke, or a witty observation about some situation, and no one to tell it to, so in his head, he'd tell it to Fantasy Guy. And Fantasy Guy would totally get it. He may not have a name, or a face, or a particular form, but Fantasy Guy totally got Midnighter. He was just amazing like that. He was always right on the ball, he never missed a beat, he never even looked away like Apollo's dream-Midnighter did. Fantasy Guy understood him. Fantasy Guy cared about him; about him, not about his skills or his service record, or how many people he could dismember with his bare hands in the space of a minute. For many long years, he was the only one who did.
But even if he had been given to orgies of self-pity, Midnighter still wouldn't have taken Fantasy Guy out of the closet too often, because after a minute or so, Fantasy Guy's intangibility kind of made his guts hurt. Then he'd get impatient with him. Fantasy Guy was an asshole. Sometimes, Midnighter worried that he couldn't even make fictional relationships work.
He could remember the exact point at which Apollo had snuck into his head and pushed Fantasy Guy right out. At the time, he'd resented him greatly for it; he'd considered it an imposition. That guy was always getting where he didn't belong. And though this Fantasy Apollo performed a function very similar to his original Fantasy Guy, he had one extremely alarming drawback. He had a dangerously unpredictable flesh-and-blood alter ego who could potentially say and do anything at any point. The joy of Fantasy Guy was that he was safe; Apollo wasn't safe.
The transition would have been smoother had Apollo been the still and stoic type, but Apollo was a talker. Hell, Apollo was a rattler. In the early days of their forced exile together, Midnighter had hardly dared address a word to him, because a word might become a conversation, and with Apollo, you never knew where that might end. It could potentially last for days. Midnighter's insides curled at the very thought; he couldn't possibly exchange words socially for any length of time, especially not with Apollo, who needed very little encouragement to become friendly and confiding. The two concepts were quite alien to Midnighter. He had no relevant experience to help him deal with this kind of situation. Apollo would persist in chatting, like they were just two normal human beings meeting socially, and he wouldn't take a hint or show the slightest sign of abashment, no matter how you snapped at him.
Okay, so that wasn't entirely true. Apollo in his purest form, undiluted, was exactly like that, but there was a younger, less cocksure Apollo in those early days. This was after their panicked flight from Stormwatch, the realisation they'd been betrayed, that they'd lost their team, and everything they'd worked for had gone down the drain, and now they had a psychopath on their tail with plans to deconstruct them, just as he had once had them constructed. Back then, Apollo had been a little bit more quiet and crushable. But then, also, Midnighter had felt so damn sorry for him, and himself, and everybody else in the world, he didn't have the heart to crush him. In retrospect, Midnighter supposed Apollo might not have noticed a significant difference between having Midnighter feel sorry for him, and having him hate his guts. But at least the thought was there.
Time passed, though, and Apollo tried to engage him in conversation, in comradeship. Midnighter knew he should have responded better; they were team mates after all, and the only surviving members of a project they'd both given up their lives for, but keeping Apollo at bay was an act of self-preservation. Apollo was dangerously without agenda, and dangerously inclined to love, and to expect love, from anyone who'd have him. Midnighter's major problem was that he didn't hate him nearly enough to find it easy to hurt him. Whatever his faults, he had charm by the bucket load, and he was so easy on the eye it bordered on ridiculous. It was around this time Midnighter first started to wonder about some cosmic joker, pulling all their strings. At least Fantasy Guy could just be switched on and off, no hard feelings.
They had been moving from place to place with an unfocused randomness that Midnighter hoped would make them hard to track. They would crash for a few nights wherever they found privacy, and stay as long as the privacy lasted, or until Midnighter got itchy feet; whichever came first. They travelled by air, early in the morning or late at night, letting Apollo take them wherever his nose pointed, and seeing where they ended up.
The harshest words couldn't dent Apollo when he flew, and Midnighter, riding with his arms slung around his neck, took full advantage of the opportunity to vent his pent-up turmoil without lasting effect. The god-like gift of flight seemed to strip Apollo of all power to hate, and leave him a benign and shining presence, strong and laughing and all-forgiving. It was kind of understandable. As much as Midnighter could admit such things to himself, he loved flying with Apollo. It was second best only to being able to fly himself, with the whole freedom of the sky and only Apollo's lean, streamlined form between him and a ten thousand foot drop. What wasn't to love?
They'd been flying for a few hours already that day, a smooth swoop across the sunrise, Apollo flying in a series of slow dips that had a soothing effect on his passenger. He was riding hot air currents to minimise energy consumption, Midnighter found out later, and flying much slower than his usual cruising pace. His usual cruising pace involved g-force that would send any passenger spiralling into the stratosphere at the first acceleration. Midnighter rode with one arm under and one arm over Apollo's shoulders, with his legs wrapped round his waist like a cheerful school kid. At first, he'd grunted his disapproval at this forced proximity, and made a point of pinching as hard as he could, but as Apollo seemed not to care, or even notice, he'd started to relax with it. A little too much, in fact.
They hadn't slept for a few nights, moving on as quickly as they settled on one of Midnighter's panicky whims, and despite the biting air at this altitude, it was warm with Apollo in the morning sky. He radiated mounting energy from the rising sun, and Midnighter could imagine that he felt his every skin cell tingling beneath him with renewal. Not for the first time, he reflected that Apollo really was a piece of work – purely from an engineering stand point, of course. The slowness, the warmth, the gentle rhythm of his rise and fall were all starting to work on him, numbing his sense and lulling him into a sense of stupor. Apollo was as comfortable and solid as a sun-warmed rock.
Midnighter settled himself more securely, and started to drift in the shallow doze-end of sleep. Without meaning to – or, only meaning to for a second - he rested his head against the back of Apollo's neck and let the wind trail his fly-away hair into his face. He noted with a mild, sleepy interest that there were no dark roots visible, even this close to. Crow Jane had been wrong. Apollo didn't bleach. Midnighter wasn't quite sure what to make of that revelation. Having hair this colour naturally – the pure, silver colour of white sand – was beautiful and exotic and somehow absurd. At least if he had dyed it, Midnighter could have put his infuriatingly provocative good looks down to vanity, and left it at that.
This train of thought soon petered away in the sunlight. The skin on the back of Apollo's neck was as warm as a log fire under Midnighter's nose. He smelt of sweat, but not unpleasantly. Midnighter closed his eyes, and wondered how he would taste.
All of a sudden, it was like the bed clothes were ripped off him, exposing his skin to an early morning horror. With a horrible jerk, Apollo was gone from underneath him, and he was tipping, falling, and the world was spinning and sweeping towards him with a dizzying finality. All his breath, all his power to scream, was whipped away from him by the sudden impact of the wind, and then, just as suddenly, he snagged on something solid and jerked to a stop. It took some effort to drag his horrified eyes from the ground swinging miles below his feet and look upwards. His wide eyes met Apollo's laughing ones. Apollo was hanging upside down in the air in an absurd denial of the power of gravity, with one hand clamped securely around Midnighter's wrist.
Midnighter wheezed, "What the…!" He could barely squeeze a threat from his startled lungs, and his jaw was dropping in disbelief, because Apollo was actually laughing, beaming blamelessly down at him, just as overwhelming to the eyes as direct sunlight.
"Just checking you were awake," He said cheerfully. "Thought you might be nodding off back there, and I'd hate to lose ya for real. C'mon…" And he sank in the air, turning his body the right way up and reaching for Midnighter's free hand with his own.
But Midnighter, stunned, just hung there. He was almost stupidly surprised that Apollo was aware of him 'back there' at all, but he must have felt Midnighter's nose nudging at his neck.
"You… did that on purpose?!" He spluttered eventually. Two hearts means two heart attacks and he felt he had narrowly escaped a serious episode. "You…!"
Apollo at least looked a little taken aback. Newly born, he was probably so in love with his new powers that it never occurred to him anyone else might find it pants-ruiningly frightening to be ten thousand feet up with nothing between them and the earth except a few horrible minutes of flailing.
"Well, yeah, I did. But I had you the whole time. No danger." His grin, to Midnighter, was not quite so disarming as usual. Midnighter suddenly thought, and the colour rushed to his cheeks as he did so, that it might not have been just his nose that Apollo had felt nudging him.
"You!" He stopped. None of the cuss words he knew seemed to cover the horrible range of emotions pumping through him. "You!"
Apollo frowned at what must have appeared to him to be the beginnings of a catatonic fit. He tried again to catch hold of Midnighter and swing him back onto his back. But Midnighter, thoroughly shaken, embarrassed and flustered, was not co-operating. He was a second away from the perfect profane outburst, and in fury he kicked out at Apollo, and twisted at his iron grip.
Apollo, caught in the act of turning to present his back, was at just the wrong angle to keep hold of him. Horrible near-miss became horrible certainly as Midnighter suddenly found himself earthbound again, flailing and hollering in wide-eyed terror. From his view point, it was motionless Apollo who seemed to fall away upwards with dizzying speed. Midnighter clamped his eyes shut, and tried to clamp his mind shut too, cursing his computer which, even as he fell, was calculating his velocity, giving him nought-point-second accurate readings on exactly how long he had to live, showing him the radius in which the wreckage of him would be splattered. So he did not see, and he was not prepared for, Apollo.
Apollo plunged downwards like a diving bird, with a kick of his heels that sent him hurtling faster than any falling body. The swallow dive, Midnighter thought afterwards, must have been a sight full of grace to behold, but it terminated in a collision with Midnighter's middle with roughly the force of a small juggernaut. With an 'oomph', all Midnighter's breath went flying, and it felt like some internal organs went with it. Hitting the ground could not have been a more tongue-biting jolt, but he was far too winded and relieved to utter a word as Apollo wrapped his arms around him and bore him prudently back to ground level. Apollo set him on his feet on the grass, and he crumpled, arms round his middle, swearing in incomprehensible, breathless moans, that he would never, ever, as long as he lived, ever again, go flying with Apollo. It took him a good five minutes to haul himself to his feet, still bent over like an old man, and a further five of grunting and moaning to be able to straighten up at all. It felt like every car on the freeway had just hit him in the guts. And, oh God, Midnighter hadn't been expecting to have many kids, but it would've been nice to know that he could have.
"Gee, are you okay?" was all Apollo said, when Midnighter had finally, painfully hauled himself upright and fixed him with a baleful glare.
"Fuck!" He exploded. Short, to the point, and employing all the breath he had left. He sat down again hard. Apollo starred unconcerned about them; they'd landed in farm land, and acres of green pasture were stretching away from them. Somewhere in the distance, dark shapes that looked like cows were starting to move towards them. A few minutes passed. Birds sang. Midnighter swore silently to himself.
"Are you okay?" Apollo asked again. Midnighter grunted.
"I'm sorry," Apollo continued, sounding not in the least bit. "I was only, uh, goofing around. It gets kind of boring up there, you know. I had you right up until you kicked me. You know, you shouldn't kick the only guy between you and screaming death. It's generally considered bad practise."
"I didn't mean to get you quite that hard, but that's kinda how it goes, you know. It's not like in the comic books. When you're falling that fast, anything that hits you is going to give you quite a bump."
He was so reasonable, so smooth, and so blatantly not at all sorry that Midnighter found himself nodding along in disbelief. Disbelief, and a grasping relief at finally having his feet back on the ground. In his head, he supposed Apollo had been taking some weird revenge on him for nuzzling him while they flew, and as it would be unthinkably embarrassing to demand; "Is all this because I smelled your hair?", he had to let it go. They both sat in silence for a few minutes, watching the cows approach.
"You're just not going to forgive me for hitting you in the balls, are you?" Apollo said eventually.
"No time soon," Midnighter replied, and found he felt a little better.
Apollo shrugged minutely, and didn't look contrite. He didn't take his eyes off the cows, so Midnighter felt it safe to sneak a look right at him, and wonder at his audacity. I ought to kill him, he realised wildly. I ought to kill him where he stands. What an asshole! And what a fucking liability. And, a mental voice helpfully piped up, what a piece of work! Midnighter killed the thought where it stood instead, and moved himself a little way away.
Later on, having mutually understood that no more flying was on the menu that day, they fended off the cattle and got themselves settled in a bit of old barn. Midnighter sat himself in a corner, made it clear from his pose that he was not at home to callers, and had a conversation in his head with a Fantasy Apollo. It was a sweet, jokey, razor-sharp exchange of words in which he never felt awkwardly crass or silent, and Fantasy Apollo listened to him and laughed in all the right places. After a few minutes, Midnighter caught himself doing this, and made himself stop. He dealt a furtive look at the real Apollo, who was standing by the open window, lowing at the cows. He determined to be especially short-tempered with the real thing, just to make up for it. Apollo, perhaps misreading the reasons for his bad mood, was not troubled. Later, Midnighter learned that obsessing about the past was just not in Apollo's nature; he just met life with a shrug and carried on. What was, simply was, and as time could not be turned back, he'd just ride it out and let Midnighter get over his near-castration in his own good time. Midnighter, meanwhile, wondered at his own perversity. Did it really take being hit in the balls to make him realise he liked a guy? Something was definitely wrong with him.
Some weeks elapsed. They drifted across the country, never stopping, hardly speaking. Even Apollo was uncharacteristically quiet, perhaps deciding Midnighter needed room to recover from his trauma. The silence was not uncomfortable, though, at least not to Midnighter. With time to think, he thought, and he watched Apollo whenever he thought he wasn't looking. This was easier said than done; Apollo was looking as often as not, but Midnighter hoped he would just think he was plotting his bloody death or something, and not actually eyeing him up.
He thought, or at least he hoped, and then panicked, and then berated himself for hoping, that Apollo might actually be watching him too. He couldn't bring himself to say for sure, and of course he would rather have died a slow death on sharp rocks than ask, but he had the feeling, when he was getting changed sometimes, that Apollo was checking him out with more than just professional interest.
It was a necessary condition of their exile that they sometimes be naked together. They only had one set of clothes each, and it wouldn't do to wear them and rip them and ruin them when there was no reason –except each other- to cover up. A life in the military meant Midnighter was not particularly shy about wandering around in the full-flesh, but in his paranoid imaginings sometimes Apollo looked too long and too hard at his scars. From what he could see of himself, he looked kind of patch-worked, as though he'd been taken apart and remade badly from all the little pieces. Well, essentially, that's what had happened. He was someone's Frankenstein monster, only he was made up of little parts of himself.
Predictably, Apollo was never at all embarrassed. He watched Midnighter in a state of undress with an unashamed frankness that wouldn't waver until Midnighter looked him right in the eye and stopped just short of shouting; "Do you mind?!" At which point, Apollo would raise his eyebrows and look away, unconcerned. Midnighter would continue with whatever he was doing, but when he looked back, Apollo's eyes were on him again, and he met Midnighter's with a smile that Midnighter didn't really know how to interpret.
"Apollo, are you actually being a hussy?" He asked him, in his head.
"You're imagining it," Fantasy Apollo answered, and ruined it for all of them for a little while longer.
Apollo had his own scars too, but Midnighter had yet to encounter them. His were tucked away, neatly concealed, and healed to a spider-web fineness so faint it took years of familiarity to learn just where to find them. The most prominent started on the nape of his hairline, and ran right down his spine to the small of his back. He had another unzipping up the front, and two carving out the shape of his lowest ribs. Midnighter sometimes wondered, in the nights and years that followed, if the careful surgeon who created Apollo hadn't loved his shape just as much as he did. He had made all his cuts along the lines that Midnighter liked best to trace.
But before they touched, he'd never seen them. They were too neat, too faint, though he thought afterwards he may have seen their ghost, when he would sit, sleepless, and watch Apollo dream. Apollo would have nightmares sometimes, falling dreams perhaps, and he would kick and twitch and jump from them, and catch Midnighter starring. His look was not hard, but reproachful, and Midnighter would look away with the guilty feeling he was intruding. No words were ever exchanged.
Midnighter would settle himself back down to lie sleepless for hours longer, watching and wondering, and tracing Apollo's perfect lines with his eyes. His Apollo thrived. In his head, they talked, they laughed, they were the best of friends, and often far more, though he would stamp on such thinking when he caught himself at it. Why tempt fate to kick you in the teeth so very hard?
He cursed himself countless times as he lay awake. He wanted to talk to him, he wished he could talk to him; the real him, teasing and infuriating and unpredictable as he was. He found himself remembering and treasuring every little word the real Apollo passed with him throughout the day, and hating himself for only grunting in reply. But he knew any effort that he did make would be fumbled and artificial and contrived. It wasn't worth the pain to try.
But wasn't it? Apollo teased, yes, but he wasn't unkind. Even if he had felt Midnighter's inappropriate erection on his back that time, he hadn't –no pun intended- held it against him. He'd seen Apollo talk to people before, before the whole project went so horribly wrong. He did this weird interaction thing with people. He listened and responded. From observing conversation, Midnighter knew this was a rare talent even for people who did speak. But the longer he waited, the more difficult it got. The more he thought about it, the more any casual words he might have were crippled before they reached his lips. As far as looks exchanged can go, they were both positively verbose (though in need of a translator), but actual small talk was just not forthcoming.
But in the end, it didn't have to be. They slept side by side as the early morning sun started showing through the window, and Midnighter was dreaming about being with Apollo. He was dreaming that, when he opened his eyes, Apollo would be the first thing he saw, and he could reach for him in the slanting sunshine, and wake him up, and Apollo would be pleased to see him there. Rising from the depths of sleep, half-wallowing there still, he reached an arm over and grabbed hold of Apollo's cock in a friendly fashion.
And then woke up all the way in a cold burst of horror. The most extreme real life action he'd ever contemplated was some lame conversational gambit along the lines of 'So, do you know where you're from?' Grabbing his dick was unthinkable. But unthought thought it was, it was now done. If Apollo hadn't woken up –Oh God, can he not have woken up?- as, of course, he did, being only asleep and not clinically dead, Midnighter might have let it go and left it for months, maybe years, maybe forever. But this turn of events demanded that he act and, while Midnighter might procrastinate by himself for months, in a crisis he was trained to act. And with attack being the best form of defence, and matter-of-factness his best combat against embarrassment, he just said;
"Mornin' sleepyhead," and leaned up to kiss Apollo on the quirky smile playing round his mouth.
"Good morning to you," Apollo replied with sunshine in his voice, shifting his legs apart to make himself more comfortable. He looked a little surprised, but to his credit he didn't let it overwhelm him and spoil the moment. He might well be surprised, and not just at the well-placed hand. This was easily the politest Midnighter had ever been to him.
Afterwards, Midnighter thought it was the kiss that did it. It was their first, but in the relaxed first moments of waking, they had kissed like old lovers. Maybe he was romanticising with hindsight, but he could've sworn at that moment, he felt something click in him, like a missing part was finally falling into place. He dropped his lips from Apollo's and traced a gentle line down the centre of his body, noting the fine spider-thread scars, and somewhere on the way down he sighed out about ten years of tension.
Years later, it was a grief to Midnighter that he couldn't pinpoint the first "I love you." They hadn't marked such events with fanfares, they just lived from day to day. He could remember the first time he'd thought about it though, waking up from a nightmare on an abandoned factory floor. He jerked bolt upright, kicking and sweating, and finding, as he always did, nothing holding him down. Nothing but hard floor, and a few years worth of dust up his nose, and sticking unpleasantly to the sweat on his face.
"God, I want a shower," Was the first thing he said, when his heart had stopped trying to beat its way out his chest.
"You could use one," Apollo answered without opening his eyes. He was lying flat on his back a few feet away, curls of fair hair clinging to his forehead. It was a hot and sweaty night all over.
"Look who speaks," Midnighter grouched, and made to settle back down. Apollo shifted, and threw one arm out towards him in a clear challenge. It had to be a challenge, Midnighter wouldn't accept an invite. After a pause, in which Apollo pointedly appeared to have not woken up at all, Midnighter accepted. He lay himself back down with one arm across Apollo's chest, buried his nose in his side, and inhaled deeply as Apollo's challenge arm folded up around him.
"Sorry," He said, breath buzzing at Apollo's skin. "Didn't mean to wake you."
"Shut the fuck up," Apollo answered, eyes still closed. Midnighter snuggled. Sympathy would have been smothering. Shut the fuck up, he could handle.
The next morning, he thought about saying, "I love you". He practised the shape of the words on his lips, turned over their power in his mind. He decided he definitely would say it. Sometime. But not, perhaps, right now.
Instead, he ran a hand over Apollo's dusty bedtime head, and said;
"Your hair is stupid." It amounted to pretty much the same thing.
Nine years later, the bleed bled. His snort of disbelief getting no response, Apollo had turned his back to Midnighter and settled down to sleep, until Midnighter rolled over from his contemplation and kicked him in the shin.
"Do you remember that time you dropped me?" He asked.
"No," Apollo answered, a little too quickly.
"Yes, you do. You tipped me off your back, and then you dropped me like a big jerk."
"I saved your life! After you kicked me like a big jerk. What's a guy to do?"
"I'd do that for you, you know."
"Drop me? Yeah, I bet you would."
"No, catch you. You see, I have some disturbing interpretations of your dream."
"Are you qualified to interpret dreams? I don't think you are."
"Either you don't trust me…"
"Oh, bullshit! I told you. You're not qualified."
"Or, it's all about the repressed guilt you have over hitting me in the balls…"
Apollo, mindful of the sleeping Jenny, rolled over to bury his laughter in Midnighter's shoulder.
"Yeah, the trust thing does seem more likely," He spluttered.
"I don't know why you think I'm not serious," Midnighter mock-grouched. "I don't know how you've lived with the guilt for all these years."
"Oh, I manage, you know me. Every day's a struggle." Apollo smothered his snorts of laughter in Midnighter's pillow. Midnighter contrived to look bemused and disapproving at his shaking back.
"I'll bet it is," he said. And then, "I would, you know."
"Catch you. Tell your dream-self. We'll make up some code name for me. Just nothing from any popular TV series, okay?"
"Oh, I don't know. Midnighter's always worked for me."
"He has." Apollo wriggled against him, warm. Midnighter ran a finger down the centre of his spine, and planted a kiss on the back of his mussed up head. When it comes down to it, he thought, 'I love you' doesn't even begin to cover it.
"See, this bit," he said, "curls that way, and that bit curls this way. I'm telling you, it can't be right."
Apollo's half-yawned answer was lost in the pillow. Midnighter watched him drift into a silent sleep before he closed his own eyes. Bathed in the bleed, and curled in Apollo's warmth, they both slept dreamlessly.