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Too Long Since Lullabies

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It’s late afternoon, some time after the last intense bits of training for the day, and Joseph and Caesar are sitting on the sun-warmed pavement near the edge of the island, spending their rare bit of free time winding down from training and not doing anything with their aching limbs for a while. They aren’t allowed a lot of time off, the clock is very much ticking, after all, so what they do get, they cherish, whether alone or together.

Joseph is rambling on and on about something, voice loud and animated, his points illustrated with wide sweeps of his arms and exaggerated expressions like usual. The mask on his face does little to muffle his voice or his enthusiasm.

He’s rambling about something, sure, but Caesar has lost track of what exactly what feels like maybe hours ago, though it definitely hasn’t actually been that long. Joseph’s voice dulls to indecipherable background noise in his mind as he stares out in front of himself, eyes too stubborn or too lazy to move from watching how the wind sways the branches of one of the trees standing right on the shore.

Then a gloved hand flails into his vision, way too close to his face, and Caesar startles back.

“Hey!” comes Joseph’s voice, and Caesar turns to look at him belatedly. He looks annoyed, but that too only reaches Caesar’s conscious as something sluggish and unimportant. “You listening?”

Caesar blinks at him slowly. God, he hates how much his brain is refusing to start and catch up right now. “What?”

Joseph doesn’t answer immediately, just stares at him for what could be seconds or whole minutes, Caesar really can’t tell. His annoyance seems to melt away into something else, either curiosity or concern or maybe something else starting with a “c”? Caesar’s not sure, but also he’s almost entirely distracted by the fact that Joseph’s eyelashes are very pretty and he has a truly unfair amount of them. Maybe he uses make-up? Caesar wouldn’t be surprised-

His thought process that’s kind of just drifting around his head aimlessly anyway is interrupted again by a hand against his forehead, specifically Joseph’s hand. It’s only the backs of his fingers, pressing lightly into Caesar’s forehead, way more gentle than what he’s used to from Joseph in most scenarios.

Caesar shakes his head and forces his eyes back into focus, and he’s vaguely aware of Joseph pulling his hand back. “What the fuck are you doing?”

Joseph shrugs. “Just checking.”

“Checking what?” he rubs absently at his forehead, because he weirdly feels like Joseph’s touch is lingering on his skin. He recognises the gesture way after he’s shaken it off as Joseph checking him for a fever, maybe? But why would he do that? “I’m fine,” he adds, just in case.

Joseph doesn’t look convinced. “Are you, though?”

Caesar just makes a confused noise at him. He hopes it will suffice.

It seems to, because Joseph shrugs again and keeps talking. “I don’t know, man, you’ve just been zoning out all day and you let me beat you during training, like, way too easily, and you didn’t even sulk about it!”

Okay, that last one is definitely true. So maybe Caesar has had less focus today than on most days and didn’t feel up to making a fuss about losing. So what?

“And you look like shit!” Joseph continues, and wow, mean. Caesar wonders if his claim has any truth to it, though. He hasn’t looked in a mirror all day, didn’t really have the time. “I mean, not to be that guy, but seriously. A Casanova like yourself!”

Caesar wants to tell him to fuck off with blessed simplicity, because his sluggish mind doesn’t seem to have any sharp comeback in stock and he doesn’t feel up to all of Joseph’s dumb teasing right now. His mind is annoyingly fuzzy and the world around him feels like he’s seeing and hearing it through frosted glass, and when he opens his mouth to speak – what comes out instead is a yawn so big his jaw pops.

Joseph’s brow very visibly furrows at that. “How much did you sleep last night?”

What a dumb, irrelevant question. What’s Joseph on about, anyway? But he doesn’t feel up to arguing with him right now (he wonders why, but his mind comes up blank, just like with everything else today. Annoying).

“I don’t know. Enough?”

“Caesar...” Joseph all but sighs, the exasperated kind, and okay, what’s with that too? Caesar feels like he’s being pinned as the idiot here, which is just completely unreasonable, as always. Joseph is clearly the idiot in this relationship.

(He’s not, they’re both idiots while also, at the same time, they’re very much not. Caesar wonders for a moment if that’s why they work so well together.)

Joseph leans in closer and searches for Caesar’s gaze, eyes flickering lightly from side to side until Caesar finally gives in and looks at him. And even with his mask hiding half his face he looks so sincere and gentle, and it makes Caesar sigh and give in way too easily. Because Joseph has these unexpected little moments when his rough edges and everything that makes him almost overwhelming to be around day and night seem to soften out, when his warmth feels less like Caesar’s going to burn up in him any second and more like a mug of hot tea when you’ve been out in winter all day but forgot your gloves at home. And Caesar is, utterly and regrettably, weak for Joseph letting himself go soft on him.

And so he gives in.

“Okay...not much,” he admits, eyes flickering away before he forces them back to Joseph’s face. “But it’s fine!”

But by now Joseph knows how to see behind Caesar’s words and read behind his lines, in most cases anyway. He knows that Caesar always downplays his own problems, because he’s a damn stubborn idiot obsessed with thinking that he never needs any help. Joseph is constantly swinging between finding it very worrying and just supremely annoying, like some very distressed pendulum.

And so he arrives at a worrying, but fairly obvious interpretation. “Have you slept at all?”

Maybe it’s because he’s so tired and his thoughts are all fuzzy in his head, maybe it’s Joseph being still all soft and warm right in front of him, maybe it’s both, Caesar’s not sure, but once again his stubborn resolve crumbles like it was never there in the first place. “...no.”

Joseph does not, at all, look pleased about that. “So you haven’t slept. At all. In over a day.”

Okay, fuck, fuck this, Caesar looks away for real now because he can’t keep looking at Joseph anymore, not when even with his tone flat and clearly displeased he’s looking at him like that. He hopes his deadpan is a herald of their usual teasing returning, because he knows how to handle that, worst case scenario he can just pretend to be offended and leave and then apologise over dinner. He knows how to handle teasing and shoving and shitty jokes, serious training and well-honed teamwork and interactions that somehow border on flirting. He knows all that.

He doesn’t know how to handle something like this.

In the end he just sighs, defeated, as if Joseph needs any more confirmation (and this damn fire any more fuel). “...maybe.”

Caesar’s not sure if at this point he’s expecting Joseph to call him an idiot and jump back into teasing him relentlessly, or if he just hopes that that’s what’s going to happen, so that he can finally return to his comfort zone of snark and stubbornness and never leave again. As warm and delighted seeing Joseph go all soft on him makes him feel, it’s also not something he can handle for long, or at all, really. He might handle it okay as long as he doesn’t think about it, he’s not sure, because that blessed state of mind never tends to last him long.

But instead of going back to their usual dynamic and leaving Caesar to stew in his confused feelings in peace, Joseph sighs and for a moment he looks downright...worried? Caesar is not sure, and the next moment that expression is gone, replaced by a look of fond exasperation that he’s very familiar with from both ends, and so he decides that it must’ve just been his tired brain misinterpreting things.

“Alright. Okay,” Joseph stars, talking but not saying anything like he tends to when devising some over-the-top battle plan and trying to figure out where to start explaining. “You’re going to bed. Right now.”

First of all, no, because Caesar is not a kid anymore, and thus no one can tell him when his bedtime is. Okay, maybe Coach Lisa could, but Coach Lisa is kind of her own category in everything. Joseph, who’s an absolute menace on his best days, is two whole years younger than Caesar, and is the newbie of the island definitely has no right to order him to bed.

Second of all, why the Hell does he sound so determined?

Caesar wants to tell him all that, especially the first part, as in fuck you very much, Jojo, but of course his brain and whatever part of it is supposed to handle his eloquence is currently not up for the job. “Jojo-”

“Nope! I don’t care, Caesarino, you gotta sleep,” he finally leans back, which Caesar is grateful for, because he doesn’t know how much longer he could’ve taken Joseph staring at him like that without straight up melting, probably. He rocks back as he gathers momentum, and stands up annoyingly quickly when Caesar himself feels comparable to a sack of potatoes that somehow figured out how to grow legs. “Come on. Let’s get you back to your room.”

Caesar stares at the hand extended his way for a moment before he succumbs to his fate and lets himself be pulled up.

He doesn’t know what to do when Joseph is like this, never has, and he especially doesn’t know now. He’s had Joseph go soft on him before, sure, but he’s never had him gently pushing and herding him around like this, the way Suzi does sometimes and maybe something like the rare moments Coach Lisa does too. He’s always managed to shove Joseph away or get out of the situation before things could come to this, rushing back to the security he finds in teasing or flirting or just sulking in his own room for a while. But now he’s in it and too tired to come up with anything and plan ten steps ahead, and so he has no choice but to go with it.

He sways with vertigo once he’s on his feet, the world before his eyes blinking out in splotches of colour and black. He vaguely feels Joseph’s arm around his back, his side pressed against his, solid as the world comes back into focus and the ringing in his ears subsides. He doesn’t let go once they start moving, and Caesar doesn’t have the energy to shove him off. If he’d be honest with himself, he’d say he doesn’t want to, either.

He’s barely paying attention to the walk back to his room, the pavement passing beneath his feet and the corners he turns when Joseph pulls him this way or that. He’s mostly just aware of Joseph’s steps swaying him with every movement, a rhythm that matches his own, and the solid warmth still pressed against his side. His mind is a pleasantly sleepy fuzz despite it still being light out and it not even being dinner time yet, and he trusts Joseph to not lead him astray or let him run into any corners.

The next thing Caesar knows is that he’s being guided down onto his bed with gentle pushes and Joseph’s arm still around him like he’s worried he’s just going to fall over on his own. Honestly, he might.

The moment he can, he curls up on his side, eyes shut, because despite how he’s been holding up okay all day, now he feels positively exhausted all of the sudden, and being back in his bed only seems to make that even more obvious. Joseph was right, he really should go to sleep early.

He feels comfortable and heavy, his mind pleasantly blank and slow and fuzzy with sleepiness. He just about hears Joseph still moving around his room, not bothering to keep his footsteps light, but he’s too tired and comfortable to open his eyes again or move at all, or even to just make a single sound to thank him. Doing anything at all right now feels like it’d take incredible effort to achieve, and Caesar is entirely content with not doing anything then, hanging on the edge of falling asleep.

He’s too out of it to even feel surprised when he feels his blanket settling over him, warm and smelling like sunshine because he’s had it draped out his window all day exactly for that. He feels the bed dip as Joseph sits on it near his knees, arranging the blanket over him better. He folds back the edge of it over Caesar’s shoulder neatly, carefully, in a way Caesar can’t remember Suzi ever doing, but how he thinks his mother maybe used to, once upon a time. He follows the feeling of Joseph smoothing the blanket down over him one last time, a gentle pressure against his shoulder before it slips away.

He expects Joseph to stand and leave now, his self-assigned job already more than done, but he doesn’t feel any movement. Then-

“Would it really be so hard for you to stop worrying me for just, like, two days?” Joseph sighs, his voice gentle and fond and so quiet that Caesar’s fuzzy mind can barely make out the words, and he’s certain that were he actually asleep, he wouldn’t wake up to this at all. He wonders if Joseph thinks he’s already asleep, too. “Because I worry about you, y’know. You wouldn’t believe me if you were awake, but I do.”

Oh.

But Caesar does believe him, as scary as it is sometimes, as much as he doesn’t want to interpret the signs most days because he doesn’t know what to do about them. But Joseph has said it, and Caesar believes him.

And his heart aches, because Joseph sounds so sad and Caesar doesn’t know why, but he knows that he wants to help and fix it. But he can’t bring himself to move, to do anything at all, his body and mind and everything too heavy on the brink of sleep. And so he doesn’t.

“I wish you trusted me enough to ask for my help sometimes.”

Joseph lingers for another moment after that, and Caesar finds himself trying to commit his words into memory. Then the mattress shifts and levels out again, Joseph’s weight gone from it.

“Goodnight,” he says, from further away now, his voice still quiet enough to let Caesar sleep over it, but sounding maybe a little bit more fond than sad this time. And then Caesar hears the door open and close as quietly as it can, just barely over the sleepiness filling his head.



Caesar wakes a few hours later, from blessedly dreamless sleep. He’s not sure what time it is and he doesn’t really care either, but it’s already dark out and he can hear crickets through the open window. He wishes he could’ve slept through the whole night like this and made up for some of the sleep he’s been so sorely missing, but sadly Joseph’s worry did not account for practical things such as the fact that going to sleep in one’s day clothes, shoes and feathered headband included, and without dinner isn’t the best recipe for restful sleep in the long run.

Of course Caesar isn’t angry at Joseph for that, and he still really appreciates all he’d done today, but he’s regrettably awake now and he’d really prefer not to be. Especially not crumpled in his day clothes and his stomach growling for attention.

He must’ve slept through dinner. He wonders if Joseph had told the others to let him sleep instead of coming to look for him, and something in him warms at the thought.

Still lying in his bed, gathering the energy to actually get up, because he can’t go back to sleep like this, he’s making a plan before he realises he is. First, he needs something to eat, because if he doesn’t then this time it’s going to be his stomach keeping him up all night. Second, he needs to get some proper sleepwear on. Third, crawl back into his bed and hope for the best, he supposes.

The reason he had been so tired in the first place (and still is, honestly) comes back to him slowly – the anxious tossing and turning, never finding a comfortable position for long enough, the nightmares that seemed to start up the moment he closed his eyes and scared him back awake. It had made for a pretty shitty night, until he ended up so frustrated he decided to simply give up on sleeping at all, like that was in any way a logical and responsible solution, and turned the lights back on and read until morning came.

He really, really doesn’t want a repeat of that, but here he is anyway, planning a little detour before inevitably going through the same Hell again. Because what can he even hope for at this point? His nights have been getting steadily worse for a while now. He wishes he could do something about it, but he’s got nothing, and so all he can do is resign himself to yet another night of barely any sleep, and then face the rest of the island no doubt looking like shit in the morning.

It’s not really something to look forward to.

I wish you trusted me enough to ask for my help sometimes.

Joseph’s words echo around in his head, and no, no, no, shut up – he can’t go to Joseph with this, he’d never live it down! Joseph would never leave him alone about it, surely.

Not to mention, it’s not like Joseph can just magically make him fall asleep and have sweet dreams until morning breaks. Joseph’s words have really stuck with him, they make his chest feel all warm and tight and weird, and he’ll need to examine them in the morning, hoping he’ll still remember them by then. But this...this is not something Joseph can fix. It’s just not.

Except, he realises, very, very frustrated, none of that is actually true.

Because he remembers Joseph’s gentleness and worry from the day, how readily he tried to take care of Caesar, his complete lack of mocking as he tucked him in, never implying that this was a bother to him at all or that he thought less of Caesar because of it, that this was anything but natural and given. He knows that Joseph can be caring if he just wants to be, how he immediately drops any and all teasing and hostility if someone’s hurt or in need of help, because that’s where his priorities seem to lie despite everything.

(The first time Joseph had landed a strong hit on Caesar during training, right into Caesar’s chest and channelling as much hamon as he could muster amidst a gruelling workout and with the mask on his face, Caesar had stumbled back and crumpled to the ground, winded. The hit had been unexpected and stronger than Joseph’s previous ones, careful enough not to hurt before this.

He was fine, he just needed to catch his breath, but Joseph...he didn’t know that. He ignored Messina’s barked order to stay put, to let Caesar get up on his own and continue the fight, instead landing hard on his knees next to Caesar and frantically tugging him up to sit properly, his touch fleeting like he was scared of hurting him again. He apologised and asked if Caesar was okay, over and over multiple times until Caesar couldn’t help but laugh, catching his arm and squeezing it, telling him that he’d taken much worse hits than that.

It was the first time he’d seen Joseph look at him like that, all soft and warm and like he cared.)

Logically, he knows that Joseph would never tease him for something like this, but he’s not used to it still. He doesn’t know how to handle it. And so every time he assumes, again and again, that there wouldn’t be another instance, another moment of Joseph dropping all roughness just to make sure that Caesar is okay, and so he never expects it when it inevitably happens again.

He thinks, hopes, that maybe, maybe he could ask for Joseph’s help tonight.

Because damn it, he knows, he knows that he feels safer around Joseph, and it goes beyond just knowing his back will be covered in mock-fights during training sessions. He feels strangely calm around him, not all the time but more often than if he were on his own, even if Joseph isn’t doing anything special or particularly interesting, just rambling on about whatever or trying to drive Caesar up the wall or sitting with his shoulder pressed up against his.

(Him and Joseph are both wild, assertive people, there’s no denying that, but somehow they seem to balance each other out anyway to make something calmer, more stable, and Caesar finds himself leaning into it.)

He knows that he’s slept well every time they’ve shared a bed so far, during accidental and planned sleepovers both, because the closeness and contact comforts him. And having Joseph close, when he’s the person Caesar has been having nightmares about getting hurt or even dying, could maybe help with said nightmares too. At the very least, when he wakes choking on tears and gasping for breath, he could look down and see him there, asleep and comfortable and perfectly safe.

But fuck, he hates admitting that he needs help. Hates asking for it even more.

But, sadly, he’s also no use to the world when he’s barely on his feet with sleep deprivation, and he can’t have himself hindering his own or Joseph’s training either. So he pushes himself out of bed finally, putting off admitting that he does, in fact, need help while he deals with the first two items of his to-do list: food and pyjamas.

He changes first, because he just wants to feel comfortable in his skin already, and he decidedly hates the feeling of having slept in his clothes. It’s not like he should be running into anyone this late anyway, and even if he did, they’ve probably seen worse than a sleepy Caesar wandering the halls in mismatched pyjamas.

Next he wanders down to the kitchen, and as he flicks on the lights and they burn in his eyes he decides that he does not have the energy required for making any sort of food right now. Not even a sandwich. Or cereal.

Bless Suzi for her habit of leaving some fruit out in a bowl on the little table in the corner.

Caesar sits on the table, because there’s no one around to stare daggers at him until he gets off and sits on a chair like a respectable person, and fishes out an apple from the bowl. He very pointedly decides not to think about anything relating to today, or Joseph, or the shameful fact that he does, in fact, have problems he needs help with while he eats, but it’s really hard not to think of something when you’re actively trying not to. He ends up trying to methodically recite poems to himself in his head as he eats another apple, and gives up trying to remember the line he keeps getting stuck on when he’s left with nothing but two bitten-clean apple cores in his hand.

He frowns, pretending he’s just frustrated at failing a memory exercise, and bins them.

He doesn’t turn on any more lights on his way back to his room, even if the darkness after the kitchen lights go down feels unpleasantly deep for a while. He knows his way around well enough anyway.

He only goes back to his own room to fetch his blanket, partly because he might actually need it and partly to bring it to Joseph as an offering for the night. Because Joseph is a proper blanket hoarder who somehow sleeps under three blankets even in good weather and seems indifferent to the fact that he thus wakes up gross and sweaty every morning. He says that how heavy the blankets can get on top of him only makes him more comfortable.

Caesar thinks he should just get a single heavy blanket then.



Joseph seems to wake only to Caesar sitting down on the edge of his bed, his eyes blinking open to stare up at him, a dark silhouette with just enough detail for him to recognise.

“Hey,” Caesar says, voice nothing but a small whisper.

Joseph shifts slightly under his horrible pile of three blankets so that he can look up at him more comfortably. “Hey. You okay?”

Caesar tries really hard not to show how touched he is by that question being immediate. The darkness helps. “Yeah,” he says, because Joseph doesn’t need to know the rest. “Can I stay here?”

“Of course,” Joseph doesn’t miss even a beat, like there was never a chance he’d answer any different. He scoots back to make room for Caesar, pulling the edge of his blankets with him so that they don’t get in the way. The bed is barely big enough for one person their size, let alone two.

Caesar ends up keeping his blanket to himself. He lies down on his side, only minimal issues arising from trying to fit the both of them into one bed despite the small space, when he accidentally kicks Joseph in the leg and immediately receives a revenge kick to one of his own. Joseph laughs quietly into his pillow at the offended noise Caesar makes at him.

When he finally settles, facing Joseph, he finds Joseph’s eyes already staring at him intently through the dark, looking worryingly alert for someone who had been fast asleep just a few minutes ago.

“You swear you’re okay, though?” Joseph asks finally, after a few moments of silence, and Caesar can’t see him well enough in the dark, but he thinks he’s wearing that soft, worried expression again that does things to Caesar’s heart and makes him want to both run away and stay forever. “You were practically sleepwalking just a few hours ago, and now you’re up again.”

Caesar can’t hold his gaze for long, even in the dark like this, before he has to look away and find a crease to stare at on the bed between them. Maybe it’s because he’s tired, but with Joseph here, with everything he’s done today and with how he’s looking at him, it makes it feel a lot less tempting to retreat back into his shell and into his safe little zone of snark and smooth lines and well-aimed punches and just remain stubbornly alone. It’s stopped feeling like it’s his only option, anyway.

“I...I’ve been sleeping like shit. Like,” he breathes, screwing his eyes shut so that he doesn’t have to look anywhere. He doesn’t want to talk about this, everything within him is screaming against it, but he can’t stop now. Can’t stop himself now. He feels vulnerable and he hates it, but somehow, despite it, he also feels safe. He doesn’t want to think about why. He’d still rather keep talking. “I can hardly fall asleep because I’m restless, and when I do sleep, it’s just...nightmares. So many God damn nightmares, all the fucking time, so at the end of the day I’m better off just...not sleeping at all.”

He trusts Joseph, he really does, but out of some habit and fear he still braces himself for something rough enough to break him in this moment.

That something, of course, never comes.

“Hey, I get it,” Joseph says, quiet and slow and sounding the same kind of sad that he had when he’d talked to Caesar when he thought he was asleep and said he wished Caesar trusted him. He reaches out to adjust the blanket over Caesar’s shoulder like he isn’t even thinking about it, a silent spark of affection trying to find a way to express itself. “I’ve been sleeping like shit too.”

Oh.

Caesar’s heart twists painfully in his chest when he finally connects that with just how alert Joseph had looked the moment Caesar had sat down on his bed.

Then very, very quietly Joseph speaks again, just over a breath, quiet enough that if Caesar wanted to, he could pretend he didn’t hear any of it, because it’s not like he could see Joseph’s lips move behind his mask. It’s an easy way out, should he choose to take it.

“It helps when you’re here.”

But Caesar hears it, and not for a moment does he want to pretend that he didn’t. He smiles, small and soft and maybe a bit fragile, because he is feeling fragile himself right now. It’s the relief that this doesn’t only comfort him, that he’s not alone, that he’s not just being ridiculous. And it’s knowing that he has a way to help Joseph too, a way they can help each other, even if the fact that Joseph would need this help in the first place hurts to think about.

He doesn’t want to think about Joseph waking like he’s been waking night after night for days now, out of breath and his heart hammering in his chest, trying to fight the urge to cry, failing. But if that does happen, if Caesar can’t stop it from happening, at least he can be around to help him deal with it.

“It helps me, too.”



They talk for some time after that, voices kept quiet, about random little things that have happened in the past few days. Nothing too significant or heavy, nothing worrying, nothing about the future neither of them want to think about for now. Probably nothing to remember by next morning either. It’s comfortable.

They both grow more and more tired by the minute, voices slurring sometimes, blinks getting longer. At some point Joseph takes Caesar’s hand, and Caesar doesn’t even stop to react to it, because this small form of affection, a simple point of contact feels so much like it belongs in that moment. Soon enough Joseph’s other hand is out from under his horrible blanket pile too, as he pulls Caesar’s hand closer to himself and examines his painted nails in the dark. They’re barely chipped yet, only two days old, and so he eventually settles for thumbing over them as the two of them continue to talk, delighting in the smooth texture, and Caesar lets him.

And then Caesar yawns so wide his jaw pops, and he pulls his other hand up to cover his face as he does. When he looks at Joseph again he finds him looking at him all fond and soft and open, and it makes Caesar wonder if Joseph feels as safe here as he does. He imagines that maybe Joseph had worn this same look, a look that he can’t really describe, because loving sounds too big a word for him to dare use, when he’d tucked him into bed earlier that night. It’s a look Caesar finds he cherishes greatly and tucks away into some safe, warm corner of his mind to think about on worse days, and he thinks that maybe it makes him feel loved, but he’s too scared to actually name it as that.

“Sleep,” Joseph says, still watching him like that, his voice gentle and his thumb rubbing back and forth against the back of Caesar’s hand.

Caesar squints at him, because his immediate reaction is that he doesn’t like it when Joseph is right. It’s just a given.

“As long as you don’t kick me out of bed in the middle of the night.”

Joseph laughs, just quiet huffs of breath against the quiet, but somehow none different from his much louder ones from during the day. His thumb is still moving against Caesar’s hand. “I won’t, I promise.”

“Okay,” Caesar nods against his side of the pillow (thank God Joseph has a big pillow, how would they make this work otherwise?) and realises too late that he probably should’ve made him swear on that. Better safe than sorry, especially when it comes to Joseph.

Well, here’s to hoping he won’t find himself waking on the floor at three in the morning.

So he makes himself comfortable, settling in to sleep. He pulls Joseph’s hand he’s still holding closer to himself and Joseph doesn’t protest, until the backs of Joseph’s fingers rest against Caesar’s collarbone. He doesn’t know why he finds that so comforting, the added point of contact and the closeness, but he really does. He hopes that it’ll help him sleep through the night, this time.

He curls up a little more, arranging his legs better. This time when he bumps into Joseph under the blankets, instead of sending a well-aimed kick in revenge, Joseph just moves to accommodate him, until the two of them fit together better.

“Goodnight,” Caesar says, barely audible, finally giving in to his tiredness again. He closes his eyes.

“Goodnight,” Joseph repeats back, and he squeezes Caesar’s hand once. Even if he can’t see it, he couldn’t even with his eyes open thanks to the mask, Caesar can still hear the smile in his voice. “I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”



The next morning Caesar wakes to early sunlight, with Joseph’s fingers clutching at the front of his shirt and his body curled close to his, and as his eyes sweep the mess of blankets on the bed and Joseph’s ridiculous bedhead, through his comfortable, sleepy haze he realises that, for the first time in a while, he’s slept through the night without a single nightmare.

He has no idea what time it is, but he figures, way too comfortable for his conscience to be working yet, that if the two of them are needed for anything, someone can just come get them. For now he closes his eyes again, bumps his head gently against Joseph’s, and goes back to sleep.