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Sweet Dreams

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Oddly enough, between the two of them, Somas has more nightmares. 

It’s not that Io thinks that his own experience was more traumatic or anything, but considering Somas’s penchant for horror movie scenarios, the events with Rictor and the others seemed more like a dream come true than a nightmare. Yet it’s Somas who wakes up screaming in the days after their ordeal, which in turn wakes up Io, who chose to share a room with him.

Needless to say, they haven’t been getting much sleep lately. 

“You both look like hell,” Yamarson comments helpfully. 

They both send him a baleful look as they pick at their food; after they couldn’t get back to sleep this time, they’d decided to get breakfast in the cafeteria, where they’d found Yamarson, apparently a natural early riser, and the three I.DOL men that had rescued them all, who are all getting ready for work. 

“Do you guys need us to get you an appointment with someone?” Mick asks. “We’re sheltering you guys here at the base for the sake of confidentiality and your own protection, but we also want you guys to be comfortable, both physically and mentally.”

“You’ll have to ask Somas,” Io mutters. “I think he’s had nightmares every day for the past week.”

“It’s actually been closer to two,” Somas corrects quietly, his voice somewhere between a whimper and a whine. He sniffs, and Io isn’t sure if his red eyes are from lack of sleep or because he’s about to cry. 

“Perhaps you should watch something soothing before going to bed, like anime,” Nagistopher suggests, a certain glint in his eye like he wants the two boys to ask him for recommendations. Neither of them take the bait.

“I sleep with a stuffed animal,” Tamathony says casually, his chair tilted precariously back on two legs. “A lot of people here do, actually. We see a lot of shit, so all of us do whatever we gotta to deal. We can probably find something for you if you need it.”

“I like to bake to relax,” Mick says. “It’s how I got my codename, actually.”

“I’ve been making use of your archery range, so perhaps I’ve been less stressed as a result,” Io muses.

“I don’t know if any of those will really help, but I’ll try anything,” Somas says. “For Io’s sake more than anything.”

Io blinks. “For me?”

“Well I’ve been keeping you up, haven’t I? You shouldn’t be losing sleep because of me…”

“I don’t mind.” He doesn’t. In some ways it’s actually reassuring that Somas is waking him up every night, because Io knows he’d only have a real problem on his hands if his loud, always excitable friend was suffering in silence. 

“Still…”

“Well, I can give you one of my teddy bears if you want,” Tamathony offers, looking at his watch. “It won’t hurt, to try, right?”

Somas nods, though he looks skeptical. And, despite picking out the fluffiest purple bear from Tamathony’s collection and squeezing it to his chest as he falls asleep, he still wakes with a shout in the middle of the night, this time falling out of bed with a thump loud enough to startle Io awake as well, as exhausted as he is. 

“Somas?” Io calls out, but the other boy can’t seem to hear him, the remnants of the dream still wrapped around him, choking him as he gasps for breath. 

Io turns on the light to find his friend huddled on his knees, his face practically on the floor as if begging the higher powers to free him from the nightmares he’d been cursed with. 

“Somas can you hear me?” Io approaches him cautiously, not wanting to scare him any more than he already is. He ignores how his voice wavers, pushing through his own fear. “It’s me, Io.”

At the sound of Io’s voice, Somas seems to come back to himself, looking around frantically until he sees his friend. Then he throws himself at him, wrapping his arms around Io’s neck tight enough to make breathing difficult. 

“Io…!” Somas wails, sobbing into his shoulder. He leans into him like his life depends on it, desperately trying to have as much contact with Io as he can. 

Though he almost falls over supporting Somas’s weight, Io lets him curl up in his lap and cry. Neither of them have really let themselves grieve for the world they both knew before the Gathered had taken over their city. Io probably should have known that Somas would be struggling; ever since they were kids, Somas had always felt so strongly. Whenever they watch anything besides horror, Somas would always get swept up in the mood of the film, laughing and crying loud enough to drown out the actors, and that’s just with movies. Io can’t imagine what he must be feeling in the wake of the apocalypse.

After a while, Somas’s sobs have devolved into sniffles. Io’s reluctant to untangle their limbs—it’s as comforting to be this close to his friend as it probably is for Somas, though he never would’ve sought this out on his own. Well, he supposes they don’t need to look at each other to have a real discussion.

“What do you see that has you so scared?” he asks, rubbing circles on Somas’s back as the other tenses.

Somas tightens his hold on Io’s neck ever so slightly. “...I keep seeing you die,” he says. 

“Me?”

A nod. “At first, it was simple things, like when you stayed behind to fight that giant Gathered with Mick and Nagistopher, it killed you all, and I found your bodies afterwards. Then the next night I had to watch it stab you with your own arrows, and then tear you apart, limb from limb like a ragdoll—”

“Somas, you’re going to make me have nightmares.”

“Sorry...They’ve been getting more and more graphic, and it’s pretty normal for horror movies, but I don’t want to watch because it’s you.” Somas finally lifts his head from Io’s shoulder so his friend can see his tear-stained face. “I don’t want you to get hurt, ever. The only time I was really scared during that whole adventure was when I didn’t know if you were okay. And now I have to watch you die over and over again because my brain clearly knows that losing you is the worst thing that could ever happen to me.”

“I’m here now, though.” Io wipes Somas’s tears away with his sleeve. “I got back safely. We both did.”

“Tell that to my nightmares,” Somas says miserably. 

Io hums thoughtfully. “Maybe instead of a teddy bear, I can sleep in your bed?” he suggests. “You seemed to calm down when you held onto me, and it made me feel better too.”

Somas agrees immediately. “I’m willing to try anything.”

Io turns off his lamp and climbs into bed with Somas, who instinctively burrows into his chest. Io puts an arm around Somas in response, as if he could shield him from the nightmares that way. 

The darkness fills in the space between them, but having Somas in his arms is enough to keep the worst thoughts away. Io hopes that Somas is the same. 

After a few minutes, as they start to relax into this new arrangement, Somas breaks the silence. “Today’s nightmare was the worst,” he says. “You got infected and I had to kill you.”

“That wasn’t real,” Io assures him. “Besides, there’s no way that you could kill me even if I turned into a mindless zombie. You’re too clumsy.”

Somas laughs, a sound that seems to lighten the atmosphere a bit. “You’re probably right.”

“I won’t turn into a zombie though,” Io continues, pulling Somas closer to his chest. “Not if it means leaving you alone.”

Somas yawns, the tension finally leaving his body completely. “Thanks, Io. For everything.” 

“Always,” Io replies. He brushes his lips along the top of Somas’s head. “Good night, Somas. Sweet dreams.”

This time, neither of them wake until the sun is high in the sky.