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A House Just Ain't a Home

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It's weird sleeping over in an apartment you used to live in, and Midnighter both loves and hates it at the same time. Loves it because there's nothing better, after a long, hard day of kicking heads and snapping spines, than superpowered fucking on any and every available surface of a place that's been specifically fitted out to be able to take it. Loves it because, at the end of said day, he loves Apollo, and after everything, after the good times and bad of the last year, the lonely nights and the betrayals big and small (and one gigantic one he'd rather die than talk about), and yes, the many and varied different experiences with different men, dear God he's glad to be back with him.

But it is weird, and he hates it.

Not so much when Apollo's there with him, that's mostly fine, though even that has its moments, like when he's dishing takeout into bowls and asks Midnighter to grab the forks, and they're not in the first drawer he opens, the one he left them in. But mostly, yeah, that's fine. They disagreed from the day they moved in about whether to keep the cutlery nearer the dishwasher or the pantry, and Midnighter would have moved it the second Apollo's back was turned too.

He's half tempted to do it now. But no. That would be sending entirely the wrong message. So anyway. When Apollo's there it's fine. They eat their takeout, and watch dvds from the joint collection he couldn't be bothered sorting through when he left, and have sleepy, affectionate sex in the bed they bought specifically for its steel reinforced wooden frame and extra thick lumbar support mattress.

The problems start when Apollo's out running errands, the sort he walks to do, like a normal human person, rather than flying, even when it's grey and overcast like it is today. Small, mundane things, like a trip to the corner store, where he'll press a quick kiss to Midnighter's temple and say, "I forgot to get milk, don't get up," and duck out the door, leaving him alone in an apartment he helped choose – he liked the way the morning sun flooded one side of the bedroom, charging Apollo up while he hid under the covers on the other side for an extra hour's sleep before his fully energised, more than a little horny, boyfriend rolled over on top of him – and lived in for a year, and then didn't live in for a year, and now it's just weird.

It's not that the apartment's changed a lot; it hasn't. The couch still has a faint bleach mark on one arm from where Apollo tackled him while he was dying his hair and walking round naked except for the towel on his head, the angora throw they got as a housewarming gift is still draped over the back of the wingback chair by the fireplace – neither of them particularly useful when Apollo gives off heat like a furnace – and the pot plants are all still sadly drooping, unable to live, as Apollo can, on sunshine alone.

It's not that it's creepily unchanged either; it pointedly isn't. There's a new panorama shot of Opal City at night on one wall, and new curtains billowing in the breeze from the balcony doors. There's no razors or shaving cream or after shave in the bathroom cabinet because Apollo doesn't need them, and there's no food in the fridge or any of the cupboards, because Apollo loves to cook, but only for other people, not for himself, and he's always hated unnecessary clutter.

Midnighter doesn't technically need to eat either, but he likes to.

It's not some kind of shrine, and Midnighter wouldn't want it to be. He didn't want or expect Apollo to sit at home waiting for him for an entire year. If he'd imagined Apollo sitting at home waiting for him... Well. There's nothing wrong with a healthy fantasy life. Apollo reading on the couch in his pyjamas on a Friday night is not inherently worse than Apollo chained naked to the bedframe.

Anyway. Apollo's back now, milk presumably acquired, and bustling around in the kitchen, hopefully making coffee, but he won't be coming back to bed since what little sun there is today has already moved around the building. Midnighter can't hide forever either, much as he'd like to, so he reluctantly gets up and heads into the bathroom. At least there's shampoo in the shower now; he'd caved and brought over a couple of bottles of his favourite brand after the time he had to scrub blood and bits of brain out of his hair with hand soap. Not everyone can fly straight into the sun for after-battle cleanup.

He wanders out into the bedroom and glares at his clothes, tossed to the four corners in the throes of last night's lust. The jeans are fine, but the shirt is unsalvageable. There's probably still an iron here somewhere, gathering dust, but Mr I Wear Skintight T-Shirts Everywhere I Go won't have touched it in his absence, and the basket their commingled clean laundry used to sit in till he got around to folding and hanging it properly has disappeared. He kicks his worn boxers under the bed in a fit of pettiness – what the hell has Apollo done with the bathroom hamper? – and heads over to the dresser.

There's a couple of empty drawers on what used to be his side, and it's hard to tell if Apollo's cleared them out for him, which is kind of offensive when he bought the damn thing and hauled it up here, or if they've been sitting empty the whole time except for an ugly winter sweater Apollo never wears stuffed into the bottom one. Either way, he may not be moving back in, but he's not a sometime overnight guest either, so he hasn't filled any of them, trapped in an eternal, irritated, quandary. He yanks open Apollo's top drawer instead to find some clean underwear.

The whole thing is full of silk knit boxer briefs, in black, white, and varied shades of grey.

"Where are my yellow boxers?" he shouts, irrationally annoyed, and knowing it, and even more annoyed with himself because of it.

Something clatters on the counter in the kitchen.

"You took all your boxers with you when you left," Apollo calls back, sounding only slightly confused.

"Not my ones," he says, gritting his teeth. "The yellow ones with the sunflowers you always used to steal."

"The old ones?" Apollo says. "I got rid of them."

"Good," Midnighter says, pulling on one of the black pairs to match his mood. They do feel great on his skin. Damn it. "I hated those things."

He'd loved those things. The elastic in the waistband had all but given from too much over eager removal and the fact Apollo's an inch taller and several broader than him, and they used to hang low on his hips, below the jut of his hipbones, revealing the perfect cut of his iliac crest and just a peek of darker hair meeting the blond trail from his navel.

Apollo comes in, coffee canister in his hand and a quizzical look on his face. "You've been telling me to get rid of those forever. I didn't think you still wanted them."

"I didn't." Midnighter concentrates on buttoning up his jeans. "That's why I left them here."

He had been telling Apollo to get rid of them for ages. And the blue and white checked cotton pair that had a rip in the inseam and revealed a flash of groin whenever Apollo sat on the kitchen bench on lazy Sunday mornings. And he never did! Why the hell has he suddenly replaced all his underwear now? Who's he been trying to impress?

Midnighter stomps back into the bathroom, leaving Apollo bemused in his wake, and glares at himself in the mirror. His undercut's growing out and his roots are showing; it's well past time to make a decision about where to next with that. His jaw's beyond artfully rugged, and fast approaching sandpaper, but that's just tough. Apollo is a hyper class metahuman, he can cope with some stubble burn. If he's even remotely in the mood to let Midnighter near him after all this. So much for their plans for a quiet weekend in. He should just go home, and stop being such an utter dick.

Home. What a joke. A bolthole, more like. An apartment grown by hand from undifferentiated urban cells, anchored in the Bleed and acting as a portal to anywhere, seemed like a great idea at the time – I like to exist in different places, so I don't choose – but it turns out there's a difference between somewhere to hang your spare uniforms and somewhere to live.

"Is something wrong?" Apollo asks from over his shoulder.

"I don't want to talk about it," Midnighter says, because he is just that much of an asshole, apparently.

"I'm beginning to think I want to talk about it," Apollo says.

Midnighter shoves past him and out of the bathroom. "We're not having this fight today."

"Why not?" Apollo shoots back, following him, and wow, he really is pissed. His eyes are starting to glow. "Because you've played it out a million times from every angle? Because you already know how it ends? Or because you know you'll lose?"

"I never lose," Midnighter says coldly, shoving his feet into his sneakers without untying the laces.

"You always lose," Apollo says just as coldly. "And you always will as long as you can't admit what you want. I'd say good riddance but you always wind up punishing me too."

"Door!" Midnighter shouts, and a portal instantly opens behind him. He's halfway through it when he hears the distinctive high pitched beeping of an old Stormwatch communicator from the closet.

"Just go," Apollo says disgustedly. "And think about whether you really want to come back."

"Andrew, wait-" he starts to say, but the door slams shut behind him and he's back in his own place.

He only hesitates for a second before he starts rummaging in a drawer full of obsolete electronic junk looking for his own communicator. It's switched off – he's at no one's beck and call these days – but it's easy enough to get it powered up and hack the signal. It's a Titans distress call of all things, getting bounced off a Justice League satellite, and not remotely their business, but it's just the sort of thing that Apollo is incapable of ignoring, the mere idea of kids in peril, even if they are someone else's junior varsity team. Soft hearted idiot.

Apollo's no damsel, but they were out half the night busting that underground fight ring, went for dinner at midnight, engaged in other strenuous physical activities for several hours after that, and it's raining in Opal City. Not enough to stop Apollo from walking to get milk, but enough that he'll still be at low charge. And one of Grayson's multitude of little brothers is in the Titans, and Midnighter technically owes him one for the assist in Moscow, so…

The five minutes it takes him to change into his uniform and summon another door is long enough for Apollo to have the situation mostly in hand. The kids, a riot of tasteless primary colours, are retreating to a safe distance carrying their injured teammate; a couple of sharkheaded, octopus tentacled, goons are already unconscious in the middle of the street; and the rest are forming up to face Apollo en masse. There's nothing particularly impressive about them, just sheer weight of numbers, and they must have gotten in a lucky shot to take out whichever Titan it was. Midnighter bares his teeth in what might generously be called a smile, pulls his billy clubs out of his belt, and steps up to the fray.

"What are you doing here?" Apollo snaps, not taking his eyes off the advancing sharktopi.

"Thought you might need a hand," Midnighter says, swinging wide with both of his and taking out the two at the front of the vanguard.

"I don't," Apollo answers, and the air fills with a smell suspiciously like frying calamari as he uses his eyebeams to take out a couple of guys at what should be the kneecaps.

"Andrew, come on."

"Don't call me that."

One of the fishmen is propelled across the street and through a plate glass window, courtesy of a flat palm to the chest.

"And I can handle myself. I can fly, remember?"

Another one flattens an illegally parked Volkswagen Golf.

"In fact, I think it was me who caught you the last, what, three times you fell out of the sky?"

"You're an asshole," Midnighter snaps, kicking the one coming at him in the face hard enough to knock out three rows of serrated teeth and spray Apollo's white suit with gore.

"Maybe I'm just sick of always being the responsible grownup."

One of the goons clears what passes for a throat in mutated piscines. "Uh. Do you guys need a raincheck?" he asks.

"No," Midnighter says, and breaks his legs. "What the hell does that mean?" he asks, turning back to Apollo. The day he needs to face a bunch of escaped science experiments to fight them is the day he hangs up his coat and mask.

"It means you can't keep storming out every time something's bothering you," Apollo says. "I won't always be waiting when you come back."

"I didn't ask you to wait!"

"No, seriously," the guy writhing on the ground moans, throwing up his hands and most of his tentacles. "We can call it a day. You guys have much more important things to do."

Midnighter kicks him in the ribs, but not as hard as he might have done.

"No, you didn't," Apollo agrees, and he sounds more sad than angry now. "But I did wait. And that's okay; that was my choice. You needed time to find yourself, or whatever? That's great. I'm here for as much or as little as you want to tell me. But if you're back you have to be back. I can't live with you if you always have one foot out the door."

The goons still on their feet start picking up their fallen comrades. Midnighter ignores them as they stumble off towards the bay.

"I can't live in that apartment," he blurts.

Holy shit. He was never going to admit that out loud. He's barely even reconciled admitting it to himself.

Apollo turns to look at him incredulously. "Is that what you've been brooding about? Why didn't you say something?"

Midnighter shrugs. "I can't ask you to move just because I'm an idiot. I know you love that place."

"You are an idiot," Apollo says warmly. "I love you."

"You kind of really are an asshole," Midnighter says wonderingly, but he's grinning for real now.

"Yeah, well, I learned from the best," Apollo says. "Seriously though, I run on sunlight. I'm not actually made of it. You can't keep acting like I'm some kind of angel that deigns to come to earth and spend time with you. I can't live up to that, no one could."

"Sure as hell no one did," Midnighter confesses. "Live up to you, I mean."

"I'm glad," Apollo says, and his radiant smile is kind of undermining his claims to mere mortality. "But you said you wanted to see who you were without me. Well, I got to see who I am without you. The answer is just a normal guy. And I'd like to keep-"

"Excuse me," a voice interrupts. There's only one man, in the game or out, who can sneak up on Midnighter with any kind of success, and sure enough it's his pint sized clone. Or one of them anyway. They all look identical, with the black hair and blue eyes.

"Robin," he says levelly.

"Thank you for your assistance," the kid says. "But perhaps you had best be on your way."

Midnighter laughs. "Yeah, yeah, I get it. The boy scout and his pointy eared friend are proprietary. Say hi to your brother for me."

The kid snorts, then fires a line from some gadget concealed in his wrist guard and disappears onto the roof of a nearby building.

He turns back to Apollo, who is starting to shiver and trying not to show it.

"You okay?"

Apollo shrugs sheepishly. "I'm pretty much out of juice," he admits. "It was probably a good thing you showed up."

"Yeah." Midnighter takes off his coat and wraps it around him. "Hey, Andrew?"


"You want to get pizza and eat it in bed and maybe talk like adults and normal guys? And then maybe not talk for a while, and then maybe talk some more in the morning?"

Apollo leans in closer against his side. "Sounds perfect."

Yeah. It does.