Zilch knows that they are dreaming because when they look down at their hands, they match. They flex them in awe with a smile blooming at the corners of their lips. The fingers are identical to the ones on the opposite hand. The stitches running across the insides of both palms are perfect mirrors of each other. Zilch laughs, holding them out, turning them front and backside. They think they might be crying.
The rest of them is all the same, too - their perfect hands touch their perfect face and feel nothing but smooth, connected skin throughout. Their wonderfully normal fingers rake through their own hair, all of the same scalp, and they sob and fall to two matched knees to the ground.
Don’t wake up, they think. This is my body. I want this body.
Zilch can feel parts of them begin to unravel, invisible thread loosening at their joints, the dents of their elbows and knees, around their neck. Zilch’s arms clench tightly around their torso as if that will contain them, keep all the right pieces together. They cry out in anger, reaching desperately for the bits of them that are drifting away, like they are suspended in water. And suddenly Zilch can’t breathe, but they don’t even have lungs so what sense does that make, and they try to scramble to the surface but their fucking arms are gone and their legs are sinking down below them and they just want to be more than spare parts, for Christ’s sake, wake -
“ - up, Zilch.”
Zilch does. They don’t rip the blankets apart or leap out of bed or scream or anything, as much as they want to. They just open their eyes, stare at the ceiling, take in a deep, irrelevant breath into their nonexistent lungs, and then let it out.
A warm hand flattens across their sternum. “Better?”
Zilch turns their head just enough to the side so their eyes, one blue and one brown, can slide over to the boy beside them. Finn’s head is bowed against Zilch’s arm, hiding his face, but just the sight of Finn’s mop of unruly orange curls is enough to soothe Zilch.
“Was I yelling this time?”
“No.” Finn lifts his head so he can balance his chin on the curve of Zilch’s shoulder. Freckles flex over his yawning mouth before he relaxes again. “Just kind of ... whimpering.” One eye peels open, followed closely by the other. They’re brown and careful and full of worry. “Same dream?”
Zilch nods, rolling over so they can wrap their arms around Finn’s middle and pull him close, tucking fiery hair under their chin. They close their eyes and breathe in Finn’s scent - car fresheners and faint smoke.
“I wish I could dream it for you,” Finn says, his voice tilted low enough to make Zilch tense, waiting for a boom in the distance. When there is nothing but silence, they shake their head against Finn’s and nudge their chin against the smaller boy’s forehead.
“You’re carrying my heart, kid. That’s already too much of a burden to carry.”
“I don’t think so.” Finn smiles, kisses the cap of Zilch’s shoulder before propping himself up on one hand. His grin is lazy with sleep. “It makes me feel important.”
Zilch makes a face. “You were important before.”
The hand still pressed against Zilch’s chest slides across it, searching for the other arm. Finn’s fingers travel down to the manicured, red painted nails of Zilch’s left hand before coming up again to circle the wrist, guiding it forward to brace above Finn’s left side. He lets Zilch feel a few beats of Finn’s heart before shifting to the right, so they can feel their own.
“How cool is that?”
Zilch’s hand - not their hand, really, but what they have to use - flattens against the steady beat of their heart in Finn’s chest. “Not the word I would use,” they mumble, leaning forward to plant a soft kiss on Finn’s bare, warm skin. “But at least I know it’s safe.”
“Yep!” Finn snatches Zilch’s hand again, kisses the palm, the fingers, then dives forward to kiss his partner right on the mouth. Two hearts begin to accelerate at the contact. “It’s always safe with me. I promise to take good care of it. I’ll start eating Cheerios for breakfast - I hear that it’s great for heart health.” Finn’s expression turns thoughtful. “I wonder if this means I have to eat twice as much Cheerios as a normal person. I can totally do that. I love Cheerios.”
Like always, Zilch cannot help but smile at Finn, but it loses its charge as the residual waves from the nightmare touch at their mind again and they fall silent. When their eyes close they see what should be a reflection of themself, but is only a taunting false mirror, and Zilch flinches so hard it startles Finn beside them. The boy raises his head again and runs his fingers along Zilch’s crumpled brow, right along one of the stitches that separate the patches of skin that make up their face. Zilch shifts away, blinking slowly at the ceiling to avoid the worried look on Finn’s face.
“Z,” Finn says, his fingers threading through his partner’s hair. “I’ll tell you again, you know. I’ll tell you a thousand times.” Before Zilch has a chance to interject, Finn leans forward and kisses them on the cheek. “You’re lovely. Every inch of you. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Zilch wants to close their eyes again but knows they will only see a ghost projected on their eyelids and it’s enough to see it in their dreams. They can’t help but think that it’s stupid - it’s stupid to sit on this like they are, when so many more important things are going on, when the world around them has literally fallen into fire - to be in the midst of all that and to stress out over something so trivial … they feel foolish, like a child. There is not time to be a child, and Parole is no place for one, either.
Looking to Finn, Zilch sets their jaw tightly and gives a sharp shake of their head. “It’s fine. I’m okay.”
“You’re an awful liar.” Finn wrinkles his nose and frowns, studying Zilch’s face with a focused intensity that is unlike him. He suddenly perks and sits up, kicking away the sheets so he can cross his arms and legs and stare down at Zilch with a stern expression. “I want to try something.”
Zilch sighs. “Really, Boom, I’m fine -”
“Don’t Boom me.” Finn’s struggling to hide a smile - Zilch knows just how much he loves that silly nickname. “Really. Remember when I blew that tire on my taxi a few months ago, and I was stranded by the wall and freaking out so much that I almost blew up a whole block?”
Zilch frowns and ducks their head in a nod.
“And you ran all the way out there with a spare tire and changed it for me, remember? That was you, right?”
“I don’t see how -”
“It was you, and it was your legs that got you there, it was your hands that changed the tire, and it was your lap I put my head on later when you took me home and calmed me down. Do you remember when I choked on that pizza roll at Dub’s Diner?”
Zilch blanches at the memory. Other than the night Zilch and their friends rescued Finn from the SkEye facility, they cannot think of another moment that they had felt so terrified. They had watched Finn’s eyes bug out of his skull, hands around his throat, making the worst strangled noise as he fought for air. Zilch had been nearly paralyzed with fear, watching Finn slowly suffocate across the table. If they had a heart, it would have stopped.
“It was you that did the heimlich on me. You saved my life. You’ve saved my life, like -” Finn holds up his fingers, eyes to the ceiling, and begins to count silently. “I don’t even know. Like, a hundred times, probably. You did. In this body.” He leans over again, kisses Zilch’s chest, kisses their neck, laughs with them as the tickling sensation draws out laughter. “And it’s okay if you don’t love this body all the time,” Finn continues, peppering Zilch’s jaw and cheek with more hot kisses. “I’ll love it enough for the both of us.”
Zilch’s throat feels tight. Their fingers flex across Finn’s back, pulling him impossibly close, whispering a thank you into the boy’s ear. They can feel Finn’s lips curl into a smile against their skin.
Their skin. Their fingers. Their throat, their arms. All of this, mismatched as it is, is theirs.
“Not spare parts?” Zilch’s voice is more strained than they had hoped, but they don’t look away when Finn raises his head and meets their eyes.
Zilch can feel two hearts - one theirs, one Finn’s, keeping time within the safe of Finn’s ribcage.
“Not spare parts,” Finn confirms, with a smile that pales the sun in comparison. He cups his hand around the side of Zilch’s face and kisses them on the mouth tenderly. When he pulls away, it’s to stare down at Zilch with nothing but awe and sincerity and, most of all, love. “All the right ones.”