"So this is pretty weird," Apollo said again as soon as the door closed. Midnighter couldn't disagree, though he was getting tired of hearing it. He'd seen some weird shit in the years since he'd stopped being human, but his boyfriend being a woman was new.
It was more complicated than that, of course. Apollo wasn't really a woman, just using the body of one, except really it was his body, just from another dimension where he'd always been a woman. Presumably that was where his own, male body was. Angie had tried to explain it to Midnighter a few times, not getting that he understood it. He just didn't care. He couldn't help with this one; the physics were beyond him, and Angie had the knowledge and Swift had the instincts that were actually useful to figuring out what had happened, and why, and where. And he couldn't hit the problem. That covered everything the Midnighter was built to handle.
"Think you can fight like that?" Midnighter asked, frowning at Apollo's posture. He was holding himself differently. Had to; center of gravity had changed. Even Apollo had to balance, even if he only touched the ground when he felt like it.
Apollo shrugged, the gesture lifting his breasts with it under the tight cotton tank-top. "Hope I don't have to. I wouldn't feel right splitting somebody else's knuckles, and no telling what the media'd come up with if they saw me. We've got enough weird rumors circulating. I'm not changing uniforms." The uniform, at least, was elastic enough to fit.
He was lighter, though that wasn't saying much, and a couple of inches shorter, which put him and Midnighter eye-to-eye. He had curves where yesterday his chest and hips had been all hard angles, but there was solid muscle beneath. When he spoke, it was with a light contralto, smoother than his normal baritone, smoother than Jenny's voice, which was just as deep but rough from the pack-a-day habit she'd had longer than Midnighter had been alive, however long he'd been alive.
His hair hadn't changed at all.
"Anyhow, I feel fine. Not normal, but close enough. Angie didn't spot any difference in the implants, and everything -- feels the same, as far as that goes. I don't have any reason to think I'm any weaker or stronger, or slower or faster, and I can hear and see the same. Taste -- huh. You know, I haven't eaten since this started." He looked around the open, spare apartment, a speculative look on his face. "I need to test a theory," he said, and started rustling through shelves.
End of discussion, then. Midnighter went to fish a book out from under the couch.
"We need a bigger couch," Apollo said, glancing over his shoulder. "Longer, and less of the grandma upholstery."
They'd bought it off somebody's dead grandma at an estate sale their first week of retirement, unspoken agreement that they were done with dumpster-diving for their luxuries but weren't ready to face an actual store that day. They'd had all their meals delivered that first month for the same reason, which had also reminded them to eat at least once a day until they were in the habit. Eating was something normal people did, like sitting on the couch with his legs across Apollo's lap, watching t.v.. When they'd given up, given in to Jenny's pitch for themselves and what they were built for, they'd packed up the couch and what little else they'd managed to acquire in six months of pretending and moved everything onto the Carrier.
If they had a couch big enough for them both to stretch out on, they'd just wind up sleeping on it or fucking on it. Midnighter preferred doing both in bed, anyhow.
"Oh my god." When Apollo yelped, Midnighter had his arm under the couch to grab the book. The couch lost that fight, sprawled hard on its back with its cushions scattered and dazed, and Midnighter halfway across the room before even his brain could assess what was happening.
Apollo, looking incredulously at the crinkled gold wrapper in his hand. Half a chocolate bar, already going soft in the heat of his palm. "It really is better."
He looked at Midnighter, radiating happiness -- literally, if light and happiness were similar -- and licked a smear of chocolate off his bottom lip, which was just a little fuller than it had been the day before. An alarm went off in Midnighter's spinal column. "C'mon. I want to see what else is different."
Midnighter had found out, months ago the first time he'd really lived with Apollo instead of hiding with him, that Apollo cleaned up once the place got messy enough to bother him, not before. Somehow he'd got himself thinking that Apollo couldn't irritate him with something so petty, when they'd spent years already in filth and despair and fought together for every fleeting triumph, when they already knew the absolute worst of each other. Apollo had convinced himself of more or less the same thing, and they'd been at each other's throats within a week of sharing a bed and a kitchen and an honest-to-god bathroom that had hot running water whenever they asked for it.
It turned out they really had forgotten how to do most things that weren't fighting and killing. And loving each other, which saved them. You could learn a lot if you had that. He'd run the numbers a lot back then, because he was the kind of person who liked having facts for the arguments that started with If I didn't love you so fucking much -- Go back to the old, stored data models, the ones he'd built up early in their partnership when they were running just on anger and fatalism. Take the five percent that didn't have the two of them sleeping together -- that hadn't been any more probable even before he'd known for certain that Apollo liked cock, because their world had gone crazy and they were terrified and even some bizarre, straight Apollo would have made do, sooner or later.
Midnighter had jerked off to that thought often enough to wonder if he'd had a bad habit of straight guys, way back when. He had to have been some kind of stupid shit in the life he couldn't remember, if he'd bought Bendix's lies long enough to sign up.
So, take only the models that assumed they never fucked, because Midnighter knew now that there wasn't any chance he could've slept with Apollo and not fallen for him. So take that small set where they weren't lovers, and find the pathetic little subset where they made it out alive. Now plug in an argument about laundry on the floor, and whose turn it was to do the dishes, and whether or not they should just throw out the dishes and go back to not eating at all because who the fuck were they performing for.
If I didn't love you so fucking much -- meant he'd never learned to keep his mouth shut when Apollo dropped the half-eaten candy bar on the floor, never learned to just go with it when Apollo stepped over the wrapper and took both his hands. Never stepped forward, not even half a stride to meet him, and pushed his hands free to go around Apollo's waist while Apollo settled his arms around Midnighter's shoulders and leaned into him like he meant to stay a while.
Fuck those numbers.
There was still the taste of chocolate in Apollo's mouth, too-sweet and milky. Candy was something he could do without, and the only chocolate he'd ever liked had been strong and bitter like he liked coffee, and the same color, too. He'd tried it because Apollo had brought home a bunch and said he should, and his unspoken rule was he didn't stop Apollo putting things in his mouth. When he'd singled that one out, Apollo'd called him a cliche and melted the bar, bite by bite on his finger tips, and painted it across Midnighter's lips. That part had been good, but he could get sex without chocolate, and so had never bothered to buy another bar. All the sweet things in their place belonged to Apollo. Midnighter only ever tasted them like this.
A lot of times, love just meant going along.
Apollo pulled him to the bed and flopped onto it in an unbalanced tangle that ended, somehow, with Apollo sitting cross-legged just back from the edge and Midnighter straddling him, dizzy with the fall or the kiss or from the oxygen burning up where it touched Apollo’s skin. The bed didn’t complain beneath them. They’d reinforced it back at their apartment, and the same with the couch, and redone it all when they got to the Carrier. Not for sex, primarily, but because Apollo had been raised by wolves and never learned to sit down on furniture without throwing all his weight at it and hoping that it’d stop him.
She -- he, do not start that shit, do not
spoke into his lower lip, like it wasn't worth the effort to move his mouth away from Midnighter's when it was going to be right back there as soon as he was done. "If you get off this bed without fucking me, I will break both your fucking arms."
Familiar thrill of adrenaline shooting through both hearts, reflexive action of the computer verifying yes, he can; six years gone and he hasn't been able to convince the damned thing that he's not taking its advice about Apollo, ever. "I love it when you're all sweet and soft," he purred back, as smart-assed as he could make it, and Apollo bit him.
Sharp copper flared across his tongue, sweeter than it should be from the chemicals that dumped themselves into his system as soon as something kicked his nerves into flight fight fuck and made it easier to burn through them and whatever was in front of him than to deal with the shakes and sickness of trying to come down calm and rational. His hands convulsed on Apollo's shoulders, hard enough to grind bones together and even Apollo had to feel it, and Apollo got his knees under him and just bore down with whatever he did to gravity, and Midnighter was on his back with too much weight on his chest to breathe and a hard knee shoved against his crotch. Apollo's tongue roughed over the cut on his lip and painted another drop of blood across his tongue before the cells got their shit together and knit up, closing up the bite with only the taste left to prove it had been there.
Midnighter's hands let up, and the pressure on his chest eased just as much, but the breath he sucked in was wet and heavy and smelled like Apollo, and it left him dizzy and gasping still. He moaned and shifted his grip when Apollo shifted his knee, schooled his hands to almost-gentle while he brushed shock-white hair back, then twisted his fingers to tangle in it and pull Apollo closer for a kiss that bruised if it didn't bleed. That was it, somehow: as if he'd signaled for it, Apollo relaxed against him while Midnighter hid another moan in their kiss. All at once the tension and pressure holding him was gone, with just Apollo's solid weight pressing him down, summer-warm and familiar.
Apollo looked smug and happy. His lips were swollen and red, which meant Midnighter's were worse.
Midnighter touched his lips to feel the heat and asked him softly, “We going to do this?”
“Yeah,” Apollo said. He bit at Midnighter’s finger, and Midnighter let him catch it. Dodging would have taken shoving Apollo off him, and Apollo’s knee was still right against his dick, right where Midnighter could move his hips in a slow rhythm even with Apollo holding him down, and there was no point in even pretending he wasn’t responding.
Getting their clothes off was a formality. Never made sense to do a strip tease when you saw each other naked and bleeding and shaking as part of the job. Apollo couldn’t keep his shirt on through a fight anyway. And there was no part of Midnighter that Apollo hadn’t seen and touched a hundred times over with fucking the furthest thing from his mind, pulling out shrapnel or sewing skin up to cover bone, or just touching to make sure he was alive. So Apollo pulled Midnighter’s t-shirt over his head and took the weight off his legs; Midnighter gritted his teeth and kicked his jeans off as fast as he could, which was pretty fucking fast, and grabbed Apollo by the wrist and pulled his hand back to his cock.
Hands were better than knees. Apollo settled back happily, straddling his thighs and jacking him idly while looking him over, heavy-lidded and smirking. And then Midnighter didn’t know what to do with his hands. Apollo was still dressed, and turned on enough that he was breathing a little fast, and his lush breasts and hard nipples strained against his shirt. He blinked stupidly, and if it hadn’t been for Apollo’s hand on him he would’ve gone soft then and there. There was gay, and then there was staring at tits like they scared you.
“Hey,” Apollo said. He guided Midnighter’s hand to his face and that was the closest thing to relief Midnighter had right now. “Touch. Okay? Just touch.”
Midnighter ran his fingers over the subtly altered lines. Apollo’s face hadn't been softened so much as streamlined, his jaw still strong but sharper, cheekbones higher and finer beneath his flushed skin. His hair fell around his face in a familiar mess, pliant and fine enough to be finger-combed back into place but liable to come loose again at any moment. Midnighter wasn't sure why Apollo grew his hair so long in the first place. He never seemed to care how it looked, but Midnighter liked to run his fingers through it.
Apollo nodded and hummed and bent in for another kiss, soft and gentle without the earlier edge of teeth. His chest brushed over Midnighter’s, heavy and soft but for the hard points of nipples, and Midnighter’s cock bumped against his belly. Midnighter's hands went to the hem of his tank and pulled it off as he sat up. Apollo grinned and looked at Midnighter looking at him.
They were nice tits, which wasn't a surprise. Large but in proportion; Apollo was a big man and a big woman, and they weren't vulgar at all, though they spilled over Midnighter's hands when he cupped them in his palms. All the softness that wasn't in Apollo's face was there instead, and his sharpened face lit up with pleasure. "Oh, shit," Apollo breathed. His thighs squeezed Midnighter's and his breath came heavier. "Problem. I could get used to this, and I don't think I get to keep them."
He let go of Midnighter's cock to wrap his hands around Midnighter's wrists and hold them where they were, biting his lips and closing his eyes and working through the sensation. "Little harder? Ow okay no, turns out that’s a bad idea, good to know.” Midnighter kissed his mouth shut because a play-by-play was not helping either of them right now.
Apollo sighed and relaxed while Midnighter’s hands soothed down his sides. When Midnighter eased him down and lay beside him, it was all right. They could kiss like that, Midnighter with his eyes half-closed and Apollo touching him in just the right places with hands that felt nearly right. Midnighter’s hands barely stuttered each time he touched something that was just on the edge of familiar, but not at all when the body felt entirely wrong.
Midnighter wasn’t sure he could be with someone else. There were guys, sure. Good looking men, interesting men. He could look at them and want them, smirk and whisper back when Apollo pointed one out and made a joke about an anniversary present. But the thought of being with someone else, being vulnerable with someone else, made something red and raw snarl in the back of his mind.
The truth is, Midnighter can kill a pretty guy as easily as any other. The truth is, he’s pretty sure he would. He’s not like Apollo, with his easy sexuality and outgoing affection, who was faithful because he chose to be, not because the other choice was murder.
“You told me to fuck you,” he said to Apollo’s mouth. He let his teeth scrape over red bitten lips while he said it, and Apollo curled up toward it.
“Still on the table?” Apollo asked. His hands were laced behind Midnighter’s neck, comfortable but not at all gentle.
“Yeah. Yeah, I can do that.”
Apollo grinned like, swear to fucking god, the sun coming out. The room even lit up a little. He squirmed out from under Midnighter and flopped head-down over the edge of the bed to fish around beneath. Midnighter took a couple of deep breaths and appreciated the view.
Half a bottle of KY landed on the bed and Apollo sat back up. “Seems polite,” he said by way of explanation, “since I’m not really sure what she’s used to.“ It wasn’t like Midnighter was going to argue.
Again he held on against that half-familiar wrong feeling when Apollo climbed into his lap and slicked his cock up with both hands that were just a little too slender, a little too long, not enough weight bearing down on him. Took a while. He wasn’t nearly as hard as he could be, but he didn’t have to be able to pound nails to do the job. It occurred to him that his hands hadn’t once gone below Apollo’s waist and he felt a twinge of guilt about that. He would make up for it, except that Apollo rose up on his knees and balanced with one slick hand on Midnighter’s shoulder, and smiled a dazzling smile as he sank down.
“Fucking Christ,” Midnighter swore and grabbed Apollo’s too-narrow waist. Apollo’s smile had broken and warped into a round ‘o’ of surprise and pleasure. Whatever she was used to, the woman Apollo wore hadn’t had any problem taking him to the root.
Midnighter was a guy. Touching his dick was always gonna make him happy on some level, no matter what else was going on. Apollo was pretty much the same, and not having a dick at the moment didn’t seem like it was hurting him at all.
“Just let me, need you to, just,” Apollo said, but he was pushing Midnighter down and that was clear enough. Midnighter laid back but didn’t let go, and Apollo got his knees under him and ground down, hot and wet and with strength in his hips that was in a whole other league from what Midnighter was used to. His tits bounced in a way that looked like it had to hurt.
Midnighter closed his eyes, but took a couple of deep breaths and opened them again. Couldn’t complain about the view when the rest was so fucking good, right? “It’s okay,” he said, “it’s okay,” which wasn’t what he meant to say. It didn’t sound quite right, but nothing else wanted to come out, and his fingers dug into Apollo’s hips while Apollo rode him and hiccuped breaths around moans.
Apollo did what Midnighter hadn’t and slipped a hand down between them. His blunt-nailed fingertips brushed against Midnighter just where they were joined, and Midnighter got closer to an orgasm than he’d been since they started. “Oh fuck, got it.” Apollo looked like he wanted to gloat but didn’t want to stop what else he was doing. His fingers were higher, away from Midnighter’s cock just at the apex of his labia, fluttering over, evidently, his clit. “Fuck, forget the tits, I want one of these,” and his voice broke high on the last word and his hips jerked and his body spasmed around Midnighter.
He was in Midnighter’s arms and breathing like he’d just won a marathon, as if a little run would wind Apollo. Midnighter was still hard, more or less, ‘til Apollo canted his hips and worked his hand down between them again, and brought Midnighter off with a few sure strokes.
Midnighter was past cataloging all the ways it was different.
The heat and closeness of their bodies didn’t let the sweat and come slicked between them cool off before Apollo murmured “Thank you,” and rolled off Midnighter. He kept rolling all the way to rest on his other side with his back to Midnighter, his knees drawn up and one hand flung out off the bed. He muttered again, something less coherent, and his body went loose as he fell asleep.
Huh. So that wasn’t a guy thing, necessarily. Maybe just an Apollo thing.
Midnighter stayed a while, watching him, then got up and went to take a shower. It took longer than he’d planned; he wound up soaping himself down and washing his hair, not just the quick sluice off he needed to keep from getting sticky. Felt nice, anyhow. Apollo’d had a twenty minute nap by the time Midnighter pulled on a pair of soft grey sweats and climbed back into bed to nuzzle up against him.
Smiling sleepily, Apollo rolled over to face Midnighter. Their faces brushed close enough his lips touched Midnighter’s nose and cheeks without its really being a kiss.
"Did you like it?"
Midnighter shrugged. "I like you."
Apollo smelled like sweat and sex, and Midnighter smelled like plain soap. Wasn’t a bad combination. He could’ve laid there for a while.
Apollo said, “She’s with you, you know.”
There weren’t a whole lot of conversations Midnighter wanted to have right now, so this was as good as any. He argued, because someone had to, “We don’t know anything else about them, other than that you’re a woman there. I could be --”
Apollo didn’t let him finish. He propped himself up on an elbow. He looked awake now. “She’s alive, therefore you’re there. Therefore, she’s with you.” His fingers tapped Midnighter’s bicep in time with the point he was making. Midnighter just adjusted the pillow under his head so he didn’t have to crane his neck.
“I might be a man there, too.” If he were himself, in every way, what would that mean for that other Apollo? It hadn’t been bad, precisely, what they’d just done. He’d been desperate-- they’d both been desperate, and tired, and so afraid -- the first time he’d slept with Apollo, whom he’d hardly known and hadn’t even liked. How long could desperation carry you?
Apollo shrugged. “So?”
“So? If I were straight -- me, right now, this me, you’d be, what, celibate?”
“Hell no,” Apollo said. “Wouldn’t matter. I’d still be with you. Fucking other people is, eh. Something to do.“ He flopped back down and kicked at the comforter they were laying on, moving the lingering damp spots down to the foot of the bed. “And if you want your ego stroked more than that, it’s gonna wait til I take a nap. Being a girl takes a lot of energy.” He rolled on his back and stretched like a smug fucking cat in a sunbeam, eyes closing to make his point.
“Not that I can actually imagine you straight,” he said a little while later.
Midnighter thought briefly about the book he’d left beside the upturned couch, and about the fact that he really needed to go set the couch back upright and check for damage. He was a little fuzzy in the head, though, and Apollo had a knack of keeping the bed at pretty much the exact temperature Midnighter liked, even when he was asleep.
A nap meant he wouldn’t go stalk around Angie’s office, waiting for news she’d found a fix. Picking a fight with her was only fun when she didn’t have anything important to do. When she had time to kill, she’d take a swing at him; when she was busy, she’d just kick him out.
He turned over so that his back could bask a little while in Apollo’s corona and let the shit in his head send standby commands down his nervous system, easing him to sleep.