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love, close your eyes, there are stories to tell

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Traveling aboard the Black Wagon was comfortable now, even if the roof leaked when either of them annoyed Cain too much. Storm was currently the target of his ire after he made up one too many teasing ditties about Cain’s terrible sense of humor.

“This just proves me right,” Storm remarked as he slid a bucket under where his hammock used to hang. Rain was pouring steadily outside, so Cain had molded a perfect hole in the roof above Storm’s spot. Tender was holding Storm’s hammock, trying to figure out where it could be hung in the meantime. He had already wrung it out, for it was saturated beyond hope when the two of them finally investigated the dripping sounds from the loft.

“He is a bit of a bastard,” Tender admitted, since Cain was outside and out of earshot. Funnily enough, he didn’t mind actual storms and was fine driving the Nightmares through the rain. They were strong enough to disregard muddy roads, and the wheels were sturdy enough to handle it.

Storm tittered as thunder rumbled outside. “I don’t think he would hate me such if he lightened up every once in a while.”

“He doesn’t hate you,” Tender defended, feeling like he needed to. Storm looked to him and smiled, not needing anything more to call him out on the lie. Tender sighed.

“If it makes you feel better, I bet he would let it rain on my hammock too.”

“I wouldn’t put it past him.” Storm kicked off his boots, setting them by his (thankfully dry) guitar case. Then he sank down onto the furs covering the half of the loft that wasn’t taken up by hammocks. They were dry too, conveniently; ever since Cain changed the Wagon, they had been saving the hides of anything they shot to add to the pile. By now, there was enough cushioning to make it a decent bed. Not the worst place either of them had ever slept. Tender hovered awkwardly between the hammocks and the furs, watching Storm as he laid back and got comfortable.

“Do you think the storm will let up?” Tender tried, making an attempt at conversation.

Storm looked up at Tender, grinning, his curly hair framing his head like a mane. Tender was suddenly reminded of a lion— a self assured, proud king lying comfortably atop his hunting trophies.

“I never will, darling Tender.”

His throat worked, trying to formulate some response to no avail. Storm laughed, the dim light of the lantern making his canines gleam. Tender was astounded at how he suddenly felt pale in comparison to him. Storm was a predator, surely. How had he not realized before?

“The water will drip onto your hammock if the wind blows right,” Storm continued. He shifted closer to the wall, making space. “It would make for a rude awakening.”

“Cain would be furious if he came in to sleep and I was in his hammock,” Tender ventured.

“I know,” Storm replied. He offered no further explanation, letting Tender draw whatever conclusions he wished. “Blow out the lantern.”

That part was easy. Tender circled around the furs where Storm laid, taking the lantern off its hook to extinguish the flame. The loft plunged into darkness, save for the occasional flash of lightning from outside. Tender put the lantern back and waited, taking time to deliberate under the pretense of letting his eyes adjust. There was a steady drip of water plopping into the bucket, distinct against the drumming of the rain outside. Storm didn’t speak. Had he fallen asleep already?

Tender toed off his boots, deciding to sleep in his hammock so Storm could sprawl comfortably. He had tiptoed past the furs and was about to clamber into his hammock when he heard Storm let out a gentle sigh. It was a delicate sound, like a caress on his skin. Tender’s resolve —which had been made of steel before he met Storm— crumbled. Careful not to step on any stray limbs, he settled down on the furs. Storm rolled onto his front, betraying that he wasn’t asleep after all.

“Good night, Tender.” Could he hear a smile in Storm’s voice? It was raining too hard for Tender to be certain.

“Good night,” he echoed, tentatively stretching out to get comfortable. His foot grazed Storm’s. He didn’t flinch, but Tender still drew it back. He was now rethinking the earlier observation that here wasn’t the worst place he had slept: it was a strange sort of agony to be beside Storm now. His guard was down, surrendered with the intent of slumber, and Tender almost felt like he shouldn’t be there. This close, at least, with him so oddly vulnerable.

At the same time, though, Tender wanted to be closer. A protective ache was warring with his current turmoil, keeping him paralyzed where he was. Tender closed his eyes, body rigid, trying his best to focus on the storm outside rather than the one next to him. He already knew sleep would take a long time to come.

 


 

At some point, Tender turned his head to watch Storm’s back rise and fall. His breathing was even, peaceful. Lulling to watch. Surely he was asleep now, dreaming of music, lightning, (him?) whatever Mister Storms dreamed of. Any sort of rest felt distant for Tender now.

The rain started to slow sometime later. About then, Storm shifted. Tender froze, holding his breath. He didn’t seem to be awake, though. Storm rolled onto his side, one of his arms flopping out to land on Tender’s chest. Tender jumped, his skin suddenly alive.

Storm exhaled, settling back down. Tender could feel his pulse through his wrist, beating next to his own heart. The rhythm was steady and reassuring. Tender sighed. Trying to move Storm would wake him. Best to just leave his arm there.

Tender closed his eyes again. Maybe it was because of the slowing rain or he was finally tired enough, but this time it was easier to calm and let sleep take him. His slumber was deep and dreamless.