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Adam has good nights and bad nights.

When he was very little boy, the bad nights vastly outweighed the good. There was something so disorientating about the night for Adam, the sudden dark and silence and solitude when he'd spent the whole day adjusting to the light and noise and people. His parents had tried it all; stuffed toys, lullabies, night-lights, lavender scented spray on his pillow. Doctors had said that Adam might be comforted if he was allowed to cocoon himself in his bed, create a nest of safety for himself, but Adam did the opposite. He kicked off the covers, threw the stuffed toys across the room, and covered his ears and screamed when he was sung to. His parents were exhausted.

On the night that Adam cried so hard and for so long that he threw up, his mother made a decision to do something that doctors, friends and her husband alike had all warned her against. After she had cleaned Adam up and changed him into a new pair of pajamas, she picked him up and carried him back to his bed. It was a "big boy's" bed, the transition from his crib to this having been one of his many problems with nights. She placed him down and his frowned and sniffed, preparing to start crying again. But she didn't lower the covers over him, and instead climbed into the bed with him, and cuddled up close to him, stroking his hair. He froze in surprise, rethinking his tears, and then his little hands found his mother's waist, and he snuggled in close, pressing his face against the slight softness of her stomach. And then, he fell asleep.

Soothing Adam to sleep with contact lasted for nearly a year, him having to be with either his mother or his father nearly every night that year. His parents argued over it when Adam was not there, when he was playing in a sensory room at the children's hospital they would argue in the waiting room, if it was the right thing to do, how they should wean him off it, what they would do if Adam should need the contact to sleep for his entire childhood, and beyond. They could never reach an answer but, in the end, the answer provided itself.

For Adam's fifth birthday, his parents gave him a small projector lamp, which shone a rotating solar system onto the ceiling of his bedroom. His mother left the room to change into her nightgown, Adam lying on his back and staring, fascinated, at the stars. His father was out, so when the phone rang she had to answer it and engage in a tedious conversation about gas and electricity rates, and it was half an hour before she returned to Adam, amazed that he hadn't started shrieking. She found him fast asleep, the stars revolving slowly above him. After that night, Adam always slept perfectly well alone.

Adam still has bad nights sometimes, but he has been handling them. He gets up, goes to sit in the lounge and reads by the little desk light, or listens to music on his headphones, or looks at his planetarium. Lucas knows that Adam sometimes has these nighttime habits, and if he is stirred by the gentle pad of Adam’s feet on the floorboards, he simply turns over and goes back to sleep, knowing that it’s better not to disturb him, that he can sit these wakeful couple of hours alone. At least, he always has.

The night that Lucas awakes to an odd snuffling sound, he knows that something is out of the ordinary. He sits up in bed, and reaches to turn the bedside light on and to pick up his glasses. The space beside him is empty, still indented where Adam lay but without body heat, indicating that Adam has been up for a while. Lucas puts his glasses on and gets out of bed, stretching his back and scratching an itch on the back of his head. The stretch makes his t-shirt ruck up a little, and he pulls it back down again before heading into the next room.

Adam is not in the lounge, nor in his planetarium. Lucas finds him in the kitchen, sitting in the dark at the kitchen table and making odd sniffing sounds. It takes a second for Lucas to register that Adam is crying: it often takes a lot to make Adam cry, as over stimulating situations normally just make him silent or angrily loud, and he’s usually completely fine at home.

“Adam?” Lucas says softly into the quiet of the room. Adam looks up, wiping his eyes on the back of his hand.

“Lucas,” he says, “I—I didn’t hear you. Did I wake you up?”

“I thought I heard something,” Lucas replies, compromising by replying with a half-truth, so that Adam won’t feel neither to blame nor lied to, “Do you mind if I switch the light on?”

“Okay,” Adam says, looking down at the table, clenching and unclenching his hands on his knees. Lucas flicks on the light and crosses over the table, putting a hand on Adam’s shoulder.

“Everything okay?” Lucas asks. Adam moistens his lips but doesn’t answer, and Lucas looks down at the mug in front of Adam to see that it’s empty, but dry, clearly having not had anything in it. “Why do you have a clean mug?”

“I wanted to make that tea. But I couldn’t remember how you did it, and I didn’t want to do it wrong.”

Lucas can sense the embarrassment, and kisses Adam on the top of the head before picking the mug up himself.

“Let me. And I can show you how to do it tomorrow, yes?”

“Yes,” Adam says. Lucas squeezes Adam’s shoulder with his free hand, and then crosses to the kitchen counter to put a tea bag in the mug and start the kettle boiling. Adam moves his hands anxiously.

“So what’s wrong?” Lucas asks, gently but with an almost-casual air, as he’s found that Adam finds it easier to talk when a big fuss isn’t made of his problems.

“I—I had a bad dream,” Adam says uncomfortably, shutting his eyes tight as he thinks on it, “It was horrible. I didn’t know where I was for a second when I woke up. And I couldn’t get back to sleep or stop thinking about it.” He looks up at Lucas as the older man sets the mug of tea down on the table in front of Adam, “It made me feel like I was cold, even though I’m not cold.”

Lucas pulls out the chair next to Adam and seats himself, reaching out to take one of Adam’s hands.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Hah,” Adam says nervously, “I don’t know if that will work.”

Lucas shrugs.

“Is it worth trying?”

Adam swallows, and squeezes on Lucas’s hand. Lucas squeezes back as a comfort.

“Okay. I, er. I dreamt about my Mom. I dreamt about being with her and then it changed… the dream changed to when she was dead.”

Lucas offers another squeeze. Adam is quiet for a minute, and Lucas tries to pull him back.

“Did you… in the dream, did you see her die?”

“No,” Adam says, shaking his head, “She was there and then she wasn’t. But I could feel it. Um, y’know, the place she was meant to be? I could feel the gap. It felt like there was a part of me just gone. And I felt the cold, in my head.”

He takes his hand away and wraps both arms around himself, like he is feeling the cold now. Lucas feels his heart quicken in sympathy.

“Have your tea,” he offers gently. Adam acquiesces, and lets Lucas take one hand in his again. They don’t speak for a few minutes as Adam drinks his tea, and when he pushes the mug away, Lucas leans over to kiss his forehead.

“Maybe we should go back to bed, and you should try to get back to sleep.”

Adam shakes his head.

“I don’t think I can. I don’t think I’ll sleep again tonight. And that’s fine; I can just wait it out. I’ll just drink more coffee tomorrow,” he smiles awkwardly, and Lucas isn’t convinced.

“You need some more sleep, Adam, or you’ll be exhausted. What will help you sleep?”

“Nothing,” Adam replies, “Well, except—” he stops himself, and colours pink. Lucas cocks his head.

“Except what?”

“Nothing, it’s silly,” Adam mumbles. Lucas grins.

“D’you wanna have sex? Tire you out?”

“No!” Adam says, blushing deeper, “Not that I don’t like—but no, that isn’t it.”

“Warm milk? Hot water bottle? Cuddles?” Lucas notices something change in Adam’s expression as he reels these things off, and smiles, “Is that it? Cuddles? I don’t mind cuddling you to sleep, silly. It isn’t like we’ve never snuggled before.”

“Not... no, not exactly.” His cheeks are flush with embarrassment.

“I’m intrigued,” Lucas tells him, playfully but tenderly, “Whatever it is, Adam, I don’t mind, honestly.”

“You will,” Adam practically whispers.

“Unless you want to do something outrageously kinky,” Lucas says, making the blush come back full force, “—Which I would totally be up for, by the way, just not when I have work in the morning— then I will do whatever will help you sleep, because I—”

“Your tummy,” Adam babbles. Lucas pauses, and raises an eyebrow.

“I’m sorry?”

“I’d like…um,” Adam stammers, “If it’s okay… I’d like to touch your tummy. Like, rub it and stuff. And maybe rest my head on it.”

Lucas is bemused, but smiles at such an oddly cute request, and at Adam’s roaring embarrassment.

“My tummy?” he repeats, moving one hand down instinctively to rest on his own stomach. He’s softened around the edges in the last few years, he’s aware, and his belly curves out slightly, especially when he’s sitting down like this. He doesn’t have washboard abs, nor the flat scrawniness he used to have, nothing to write home about.

“Yeah,” Adam says shyly, “One of my earliest memories is of being cuddled by someone, my Mom or my Dad. And because I was so small, everything else seemed so big. And I just remember someone’s… someone’s tummy, being nestled up against it and it just being the most comforting thing.”

“Well, you’ve seen me naked, as long as you know what you’re signing up for,” Lucas snorts. Adam blinks, not understanding. “Come on, Adam, I’m hardly in very good shape, am I?”

“Yes, you are! You’re very strong, and you can run, and swim—”

“Yes, but I mean I don’t have a very fit body,” he pats his tummy, “I’m too old for all that. And too fond of good food.”

Adam’s cheeks burn.

“I kinda like that,” he says quietly, “I like you… soft. I like your stomach.”

“You are full of surprises tonight, Adam,” Lucas says, unable to keep himself from smiling, “C’mon.”

He gets to his feet and holds out a hand. Adam takes it and is lead out of the kitchen, flicking off the light switch behind him. Back in the bedroom, Lucas takes off his glasses and clambers up onto the bed opposite Adam. He takes hold of the hem of his t-shirt, and is about to tug it up, before stopping.

“What?” Adam breathes.

“I feel like I’m doing an awkward sort of striptease,” Lucas says, “Can we lie down?”

“Yeah, yeah,”

When they are lying down and facing one another, Lucas pulls his shirt off, not slowly enough to be too tantalizing, but not too quickly. Adam gingerly touches Lucas’s tummy. It’s warm and soft and gently rounded, dark hair spreading across his lower belly. Adam begins to rub slowly and evenly, feeling the heat and plumpness soothing against his palms.

“Ohh,” Lucas sighs suddenly, unexpectedly.

“What?” Adam says, stopping rubbing, looking wary, “I can stop, I—”

“No, no, it’s—it’s really good,” Lucas breathes, “Please, carry on doing that.”

Adam nestles a little closer and continues to massage Lucas’s tummy, occasionally gently squeezing the pudge that sits stubbornly at his hips before returning to soothing circles on the front of Lucas’s belly. Lucas murmurs in enjoyment, and presses his mouth to Adam’s, kissing him slowly but passionately, intensifying the pleasure of the contact for both of them. When they break the kiss, Adam wriggles down a little to kiss and suck on Lucas’s stomach, making him shudder with delight, before returning to petting.

“Adam?” Lucas mumbles eventually.

“Uh huh?”

“M’falling asleep… s’good but I’m gonna doze off…”

“Me too,” Adam replies quietly, “But can I just..?”

“Mmhuh?”

Adam slides down so that his face is level to Lucas’s tummy, and then gently rests his head upon it, listening to the noises it makes as his insides settle, reacting to the rubs. The weight of Adam’s head feels good on his stomach. The softness of Lucas’s tummy feels good under Adam’s lolling head. It is like this that they fall asleep, and nightmares daren’t come near Adam, with Lucas as his protector.