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A Night Like Any Other

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The first time they sleep together is in DeMilo's dingy wagon, while Cain is half frozen and Glitch is trying to keep him alive. 

It doesn't really count, in Cain's opinion. Neither of them have a choice in the matter. 

Even if Glitch clinging to him chest to chest for warmth hadn't been essential in saving his life, they still would have had to sleep less than two feet apart in what passed for a bed. They do that too in the couple of days that follow, before they leave for the tower. 

When they stop for the night, Cain sits up against a tree and tips down his hat. It's easier to reach his gun quickly that way. That way, he sleeps light and is able to get up at a moment's notice. He slept this way during all the stops on their way to Central City. Back then, when DG and Raw were with them, Glitch would stay close to the kid and find a spot to curl up in between her and the viewer. Or between her and Cain by his tree. Or between her and a bush. 

Tonight, Glitch sits next to Cain at the base of the broad tree trunk. He doesn't shut up for what feels like hours but is probably only minutes. He talks about how much his feet hurt, how he misses DG, hopes Raw isn't dead. Asks Cain what the plan is, how his shoulder is, if he's warm enough. 

Eventually, slowly, he does stop talking and falls asleep. It's a small mercy that Cain can't fully enjoy, however. Because Glitch falls asleep pressed close to him from shoulder to hip, head resting against his shoulder. 

The odd thing about it, the thing that keeps him up that night, is that Cain doesn't mind. 

After that he makes sure to pick narrower trees, but Glitch just lies down next to him anyway. Curls up on his side and falls asleep with his face inches away from Cain's thigh. 

He figures Glitch just needs the comfort of having a friendly, or at least not hostile, person nearby. It's no wonder that after annuals of wandering the land alone, headcased and vulnerable and with nothing but the ragged clothes on his back, he'd seek out the security of sleeping next to someone. It's understandable that he'd want to sleep close to the person that makes him feel the most safe and cared about. And it makes sense that in DG's absence, in the absence of any other person, he'd choose to sleep beside Cain. 

It's true that Glitch had never slept this close to DG, but Cain considers that an inconsequential fact that's best ignored. After all, this doesn't really count as sleeping together either. They didn't truly choose this. Not when all Glitch wants is to be close to someone, and when Cain minds that he doesn't mind. 

A lot of things happen quickly once they reunite with DG and Raw and meet the shifter that helped them escape. There's no time to pay much attention to sleeping arrangements anymore, but Cain can't help making a few observations along the way. 

The night they stay at the Resistance allies' house, they all sleep huddled together on the floor of the small spare room. There's a bed, but DG refused to be the one to take it and the rest of them are too unused to sleeping in one to start now. Cain sits up with his back against the foot of the bed, facing the door. On his right, Raw lies in a tight, trembling ball of fur and looks like he wants to bury himself in the wall. DG is stretched out on the other side of the room, with one arm around the pooch and the other linked through Glitch's elbow. 

Glitch is as nestled as he can be, sitting in the middle and hogging all the blankets. His head lays lightly on Cain's shoulder, like that first night it was just the two of them in the woods. But Cain can tell by the soft breaths against his neck that he's awake. 

Rest doesn't come easily to any of them, not after what they saw in the mirror. 

Though Glitch does start out sitting up beside Cain, he doesn't stay that way the whole night. Once the others seem to finally drift off he awkwardly wriggles down little by little, making sure not to disturb DG's grasp on his arm. Before he's fully horizontal, his head hovers over Cain's lap for a long, silent moment. Then he asks, very quietly, if this is alright. 

Cain has no words, but he reminds himself that he doesn't mind this strange closeness between them. And at least just for tonight, he also won't mind that he doesn't mind. He makes a noise in his throat or a gesture or some other thing that could be interpreted as an affirmative, and then Glitch's head is on his lap. 

This time he doesn't know why they've ended up in this position, but tonight he doesn't care. He doesn't sleep. At some point he hears soft sniffling, feels cold tears on his thigh. All he can do is stroke the matted curls under his hand and shamefully hope Glitch doesn't remember in the morning. 

A few days later, after Cain's heart has been broken all over again in an instant by the sight of a plain grave, he keeps his distance from the group. He makes a clear display of choosing a spot just outside their general camp. No one says a thing about it, and they all respect his need for space, but he catches Glitch looking back at him once or twice before finally settling down. 

Cain doesn't sleep that night either, so he also notices how Glitch isn't as close to the others as he used to get in the early days of their journey. How he twists and turns the whole night. 

He always slept peacefully with Cain. 

Not that any of those times counted as sleeping together of course. What they've done is just part of the actions and reactions of two broken men trying to survive. It would be one thing if they reached for each other out of choice, out of desire, but all it has been is two casualties of war aiding a fellow discarded soldier.

At the rebels' camp, the five of them are given a big tent to themselves. All of them are important or valuable enough that they could have probably stayed somewhere with more space and privacy, but none of them wanted to be separated even for a night. They sleep in a somewhat similar configuration as they've done in times when it was cold or things were bleak, and they huddled together for warmth or comfort. The only difference is that now Cain allows himself to actually lie down. 

One night, as he's trying to fall asleep, the events of the day catch up to him. The reality of all that has happened in the last few days, the last week, the last ten annuals, becomes an overwhelming black cloud that engulfs him. 

He failed the Resistance. He failed to keep his family safe. He watched them be tortured for what felt like an eternity. His wife was alive, but he found her too late. His son is alive, but he's a complete stranger. 

He failed everyone and lost everything. It's not a new realization by any means. 

While he was in the iron suit, he did a lot of screaming and thrashing and crying at that thought. All of the more outward signs of anger and despair died down by around the third annual, but tonight he can't stop the tears from streaming freely down his face.

It's dark and he's lying on his side by one end of the tent, with his back to the others. No one can see him, and he doesn't make a sound. But there's not much he can do about the intermittent shaking of his shoulders. 

At some point he hears a small noise behind him, like a pitiful whimper. Suddenly alert, he senses the rustle of tattered clothes and the slight shift of a lithe body. 

When he feels a light touch on his back, Cain isn't surprised. 

When Glitch's hand moves over his shoulder in gentle strokes, he lets out a ragged sigh. He leans back into the touch, and doesn't care if Glitch remembers in the morning. 

After one more frantic battle, the collective nightmare that has been their lives for the last decade is over. The pain and scarring from it are still there and many of them will carry that forever, but they're free to get up and start again now. The eclipse has come and gone. They're all safe and in as many pieces as they were when they began their journey. 

Later that night, Cain finds Glitch alone in the brain room. 

He misses the other man's bright smile and wide-eyed optimism, so he drags him away with the promise of apples and a dance. It's a very short dance, under a shadow where no one can see them, but it does make him smile.

During the celebrations Cain sees DG with her family, still holding Azkadellia's hand. He sees Raw with the young viewer as they bask in the happiness of the people around them. He sees Jeb with his fellow fighters, enjoying their victory, and he knows they have all gained a part of themselves back. Or maybe they've just gained the chance to make something new. 

When everyone is too tired to do anything but collapse, they take up the rooms in the tower. Cain would have been happy to stay outside with the rebels keeping watch and guarding the captured longcoats, but the Queen insisted that DG's friends get a comfortable night's sleep. 

He and Glitch are given neighboring rooms at the end of a hallway. Before either of them makes a move for their respective doors, Glitch looks back at him with that same expression he had the night Cain chose to sleep apart. 

This time Cain chooses to reach out instead. He closes his hand around Glitch's thin wrist and leads him into one of the rooms. 

Neither of them says anything about it. They settle down together like they did in the rebels' camp, but just like then, and like other times before it, it doesn't really count. It's still just like the first time they fell asleep to each other's touch. 

All they want is to not be alone, but that doesn't mean they want to be together.

In time, they move to the palace in Finaqua, then to the one in the Northern Island once it's repaired. Cain doesn't belong there, but he stays because his friends want him there and because he doesn't belong anywhere else anymore either. His designated quarters are always next to Glitch's for whatever reason. 

Sometimes Glitch comes to his room in the middle of the night because it's too cold, or too dark and quiet, or because he had a nightmare; or Cain follows Glitch into his room because it's been a long day and he doesn't feel like taking the extra steps to his own place. They don't share a room every night, but they do it often enough that Glitch forgets which room is whose and Cain stops trying to remind him. 

An annual passes quickly like this. It doesn't take long for them to fall into a routine. 

They work with the royal family and the former rebels to restore the O.Z. They each have their own job and space, but sometimes Glitch will come by to help Cain train new recruits, and sometimes Cain will help Glitch with one of his machines. At formal events they arrive together and are announced as a pair. When there's a ball, they always save a dance for each other. They often leave together. And every now and then they just happen to sleep in the same bed. 

The first month of Glitch's recovery, after his rebrainment surgery, Cain sleeps in an old chair by his bedside. 

It's not a particularly uncomfortable chair, and Cain is used to spending the night in much worse positions, but one day Glitch tugs at his sleeve until he gets up and climbs into bed behind him. He has accepted this oddly persistent tendency of theirs for a long time. He wasn't about to start complaining now, but part of him still appreciates Glitch's quiet babbling about how he's cold and how the bed is more than big enough for both of them and how the chair must be killing his back. 

Cain ignores the fact that Glitch is already wrapped up in the warmest blankets in the realm, that the bed just barely fits two grown men, and that his back feels fine. He presses his face against Glitch's shoulder and smiles there where no one can see. 

By the time Glitch is finally allowed to leave the hospital wing for good, it's been so long since either of them spent more than a few hours in their living quarters that they can't see the point of keeping both. They pick one and move the few possessions they have into a single shared place. At this point Cain isn't sure either which rooms originally belonged to whom. They both already had half their things spread across the two sets of rooms more or less equally, so the full move to just one isn't hard at all. 

They're not a couple. Despite what the entire palace staff likes to gossip about in their free time, that's not how things are between them. 

It's true that Cain calls Glitch sweetheart, and that Glitch hugs Cain tighter and longer than anyone else, and that they technically live together. But just like their sleeping arrangements, those actions are nothing more than circumstantial quirks of their friendship. It all comes down to a need for companionship in the end, just like it always has. 

Another two or three annuals go by. Somewhere along the line they move again and settle down in a small cottage near the palace grounds. 

These days Glitch is more commonly known as Ambrose. He's a little calmer and a lot less glitchy, but to Cain he's still the same man who saved him from freezing to death. 

In many ways they still follow the same patterns they first established all that time ago. They still do their part to help the O.Z. and its people recover. They still save each other a dance or ten when there's a ball, and always leave together. Now they share a home of their own instead of just a set of chambers, or a bedroom, a bed, a spot to rest, but their reasons for staying close remain the same. 

Warmth and safety and the comfort of someone else who's just as broken. Someone who understands the pain of old wounds and how to soothe them without words.

What they have and do together is nothing more than that. 

One summer it gets so hot that they throw off most of their clothes for bed. There's nothing strange or awkward about it. It's nowhere near the first time they've seen each other's bare bodies. But maybe it's the first time they let their hands wander and trace each other's faded scars. 

It's certainly the first time Glitch leaves a trail of kisses on Cain's chest, on every mark made by a knife or bullet that could have killed him. He ends with the softest brush of lips to a spot on his shoulder. A patch of skin without a scar, and yet of no less significance. 

The heatwave passes but they don't bother going back to sleeping fully clothed all the time. Before they know it winter is just around the corner, and everyone knows the most effective way of sharing body heat. 

Maybe it happens that same annual, or a couple more after that, but in the quiet hours of one such winter morning they do something else for the first time. 

Cain decides to leave his own trail of kisses on the map of scars across Glitch's pale skin. On his arms, his stomach, his chest, the top of his head. He means to kiss the mysterious tiny scar on his chin last. When he does, gentle hands come up to frame his face. Lips that taste like apples lock with his, and Cain loses whatever sliver of concern he had left over why they do the things they do or what any of it means. 

They're not together in the way everyone thinks. Or at least they've never talked about it. There's no telling if they ever will, but maybe they don't need to now. 

It's still dark outside. Early enough that they drift back to sleep in each other's arms. Later, when Glitch wakes him up again with a kiss, Cain makes one more observation for the road. 

This isn't the first time they sleep together, but it's the first time that really counts in his heart.