A sliver of moonlight pierces the dark, cutting across the flat surface of the duvet on the empty side of the bed. Miles glares at it, and closes his eyes once more.
Sleep, unfortunately, does not come, no matter how he attempts to lure it. And as Miles knows from experience, getting up to fully close the curtains will only make him frustrated. In any case, he likes to wake to natural light in the morning, likes to wake up to the soft drape of sunlight across Phoenix’s sleeping form.
How the man does not wake up at the sun shining directly on his face Miles does not know, but he appreciates the few moments of stillness regardless. By now it is habit, to wake to birdsong and dawn and sometimes the garbage truck (another thing Phoenix somehow is able to sleep through) in the morning and sit, watching Phoenix sleep for a moment before he gets up to check his phone and make his tea.
It is, as far as habits go, an unreasonably sentimental one. It is also one Miles cannot bring himself to break.
And now it is one he is being denied, by the simple fact that his partner is both stubborn and, oddly, fixated on observing a tradition. A ridiculous one at that: a blend of old-fashioned values and modern realities which makes little sense in the context of their lives.
“Just for one night,” Phoenix had said. “How hard can it be?”
Very hard, apparently. Which, upon further consideration, should be terrifying. And yet Miles can only bring himself to feel annoyed at his own inability to sleep.
That Phoenix is in the guest room only a few doors down is likely a factor in his lack of alacrity. That tomorrow they will be bound in law as well as in all the other aspects of life they already share another.
It is late. Thinking about their upcoming nuptials is doing nothing for Miles’ continued wakefulness. And if he cannot sleep, he can at least do something more productive with his time than stew in his own frustration at that fact. Miles sits up and, throwing the bedding back, resigns himself to continued consciousness.
In the living room he settles on the couch with his laptop and a blanket across his lap. There is, of course, always work that can be done, as evidenced by the never-empty inbox which greets him as soon as the screen brightens.
This despite the fact that Miles has been ferociously busy over the past few weeks in preparation for the week and a half he will be away. So busy that Phoenix’s main expression for the past few days had been one of concern, concern which worsened whenever he caught sight of the dark circles beneath Miles’ eyes or had to force him to sit down and have an actual meal instead of something quick devoured at his desk.
And still there are emails in his inbox. Ones which Miles should probably ignore. Part of leadership is, after all, delegation, and he at least has enough trust in his subordinates to handle any routine problems which may come up during what will be first vacation in years.
Then again, Miles thinks, it is not as if he has anything else to do. He sighs, clicks on the email with the least irritating subject line, and begins to read.
Miles is halfway through a response to a third email when he hears the door to the guest room open, the familiar sounds of Phoenix's slipper-clad feet on the wood floor growing louder as the man himself approaches the couch.
Miles doesn't glance up from the screen. "Phoenix."
"Hi," Phoenix says, sitting down next to him. His hair is rumpled, even more so than it usually is in the mornings. Evidence for his next statement: "I couldn't sleep either."
"You're not supposed to be here," Miles says, rephrasing the last sentence of his response. "You were the one who insisted on observing this ludicrous tradition, after all."
Phoenix shrugs. "It's still night. Tradition still technically observed."
"Mm." Miles squints at his laptop screen, checking for typos before he hits send.
"Are you working?"
"What else would I be doing?"
Phoenix grins. "Yeah. I should know better than to ask."
"And yet you still did."
"Well, I don't know. Maybe you were reading Steel Samurai fan forums."
"I am no longer active on such message boards," Miles points out.
Miles scoffs. "There are the usual administrative duties, of course. But I do not often participate in the actual discussion."
"Right," Phoenix says, grinning. "God you're a dork."
Miles raises his eyebrows. "And your penchant for trashy reality television is, I suppose, the height of mature sophistication?"
"Shut up," Phoenix groans. "Don't talk about my precious comfort media that way."
"Something Athena said," Phoenix says, leaning back into the couch and pulling some of the spare blanket up to cover his bare legs. "I don't actually know what it means."
"Hmph." Silence, well-worn and comfortable, falls between them. Miles sighs, closing his laptop and setting it down on the coffee table.
Without the screen, the dim amber of the streetlights through the curtains is the only illumination in the room. It is just bright enough to make out the planes of Phoenix’s face, of his eyes, open and studying him the way he has a habit of doing sometimes.
In the beginning Miles had thought it functioned as a sort of check-in, an unconscious way for Phoenix to reassure himself of Miles' continued presence. He had carried the small wound of that assumption for longer than he cares to admit, until one day Miles had realized that there was nothing insecure in Phoenix's eyes when they fell on him - that Phoenix was watching him, not as if he was worried that one day Miles would leave, but as if he wanted to warm himself in the fact that Miles had chosen to stay.
Miles looks down. "We should both be asleep."
"Yeah," Phoenix says. "Gotta get our beauty rest for the big day."
Miles huffs. "As if. It is more that I do not want to have to deal with the hysterics of our friends and family on anything less than, at the very least, a few hours rest."
"They're going to be insane, aren't they?" Phoenix says. It sounds very fond, even as his brow furrows. "Oh my God. Pearls alone."
Miles frowns. "Ah - that reminds me. Did Mr. Justice’s flight arrive in time?"
"Yeah, the big softy. You know he tried to say something about, God, I don't know - some sort of excuse for why he was coming that had nothing to do with the invitation. Nothing justifiable. Ten bucks he'll be sobbing along with Pearls."
"I will take that bet," Miles says, removing his glasses and tucking them into the breast pocket of his pajama shirt with a small smile. "I somehow doubt Mr. Justice is likely to be outwardly sentimental."
"It's pretty bad odds, huh," Phoenix says, stretching up. "Something tells me he’s more the type to get too drunk and end up with trying to impress everyone with his dance moves at the end of the night. Shoulda bet on what song he tries to request.” He yawns. “Maybe I'm going loopy from the lack of sleep.”
"If that is the case," Miles says. "You should go back to bed."
"Don't wanna, though," Phoenix mumbles. He turns his head, eyes warm, and smiles. "What about my other bet?"
Miles frowns. "Your other bet?"
"Yeah," Phoenix says, and pushes himself up to lean in, more than close enough for his purposefully dramatic whisper to carry through the space between them. "The big one."
Miles huffs. "I would not refer to our upcoming marriage in those terms, personally."
"Yeah?" Phoenix kisses him, lightly, once, and then again. It's a habit of his, one Miles finds heart-achingly sweet at times like these and usually attempts to find irritating when he is trying to get out the door by a certain time. Miles fails at these attempts more often than he cares to admit. "What would you refer to it as?"
Miles considers this for a moment. "A civil procedure which formalizes our partnership."
Phoenix laughs, flopping back onto the couch and reaching out to tangle their fingers together on top of the blanket. "So romantic."
"It cannot be claimed that you didn't know what you were getting into."
"No," Phoenix says, and looks at him, smile blindingly bright through the darkness. "I definitely knew, didn't I?"
"Mm." Miles reaches up with his free hand to adjust glasses which, he remembers too late, are no longer there.
Phoenix laughs at his resulting scowl. "You're tired too."
"I never claimed I was not."
"Then you should go to bed."
"I attempted to," Miles huffs. "I was obviously not successful."
Phoenix is silent for a moment. "Hey," he says, tugging his hand free to run fingers through his hair. "You're not, um -"
"I don't know." Phoenix glances down. "Nervous?"
"Of course," Miles replies.
"Oh," Phoenix says, sounding a little relieved. "Yeah. Okay."
"I have never enjoyed ceremonies." Miles glances over at him. "And you?"
"Yeah, I don't know." Phoenix laughs, shaking his head. "Stage fright? I guess. Kinda feels like I'm twenty-four and going into court again."
"With more forethought, I assume."
"Hey, I was prepared."
"Uh -" Phoenix grimaces. "Okay. Not as much as I should've been."
Miles smirks. "That makes sense."
"Still won though."
"Of course," Miles demurs. After a moment he turns, shifting slightly closer. "Phoenix?"
Phoenix blinks, looking up at him. "Yeah?"
Miles swallows, pushing the still-messy strands of hair back from Phoenix's forehead. Phoenix's eyes flutter half-closed. He catches Miles' wrist as Miles is pulling his hand away, turning his head towards it to rest his lips against Miles' pulse point.
"I am anticipatory about the public aspect of the ceremony," Miles says quietly.
"It's in the courthouse," Phoenix murmurs, breath puffing warm against his skin. "Hardly public."
"In any case." Miles pauses. "I am not in any way - uncertain."
He can feel Phoenix smile against his wrist before he gently disengages his hand. Phoenix doesn’t let him pull away fully, reaching up, hand curling around the back of Miles’ head as his thumb brushes up and down in steady strokes at the nape of his neck.
"Me neither," Phoenix says, and when he smiles again it is a little watery. Miles pretends not to notice. He will most likely be the same, and often, tomorrow evening. If not sooner. "God I can't wait to marry you. Can we elope?"
"It is after twelve. The courthouse has been closed for six hours."
"Dang," Phoenix says, blinking the brightness from his eyes as Miles leans in to kiss him. "...Guess I'll just have to wait until tomorrow, then."
"Indeed." Miles replies. Something bright is in full bloom in his chest, something happy. Something like the promise of life, shared.
He must truly be tired, to be thinking so sentimentally. "We should go to bed."
Phoenix yawns. "Don't wanna get up."
"Really, Phoenix," Miles says, as if he feels particularly inclined to go back to their empty bedroom alone once more, should Phoenix insist on upholding his earlier request. "Sleeping on the couch is hardly a reasonable option."
"Yeah," Phoenix sighs. "But it's comfy here."
Miles raises his eyebrows. "And a bed is not?"
"Not without you."
Miles huffs. "I feel compelled to once again mention -"
"I know," Phoenix groans. "I just didn't think - okay, actually, yeah, I kind of did. But you know. We're not really following a lot of the other traditions."
"So you felt obliged to follow this one."
"Well," Phoenix says, after a short pause. "I mean, I tried. That counts for something, doesn't it?"
"Mm." Miles sighs. "Let's go to bed. I would not like to look at our wedding pictures and see two men too foolish to follow common sense over whatever outdated tradition you had decided to cling to.”
"Oh my God," Phoenix says, grinning widely. "Our wedding pictures. Miles, we're getting married."
"That is the plan," Miles says dryly. "Though if you persist in resisting, I may be forced to postpone. We cannot have you falling asleep before dinner."
"I would never."
"You once fell asleep in a movie theater. An IMAX theater, I might add."
"That's cause I was bored. Sorry, but Steel Samurai IV: The Magistrate’s Betrayal - just not riveting. For the non-fans," Phoenix adds, when Miles glances sharply at him. "Anyway, I could never fall asleep at our wedding."
Miles stands, offering his hand. "Consider this a security measure, if you wish."
"Okay," Phoenix says, not letting go even once he has pulled himself up to standing. "Why did I try to do this again?"
Miles huffs. "The process of your logic, if it can be called that, is beyond my comprehension."
"Uh-huh." Phoenix yawns again. "You're getting married to this logic-if-it-can-be-called-that, you know."
"That statement made even less sense than your reasoning."
Phoenix brings their entwined hands up to kiss Miles’ knuckles, eyes crinkling at the corners as he grins self-consciously at the cheesiness of the gesture. "Come on. Let's go to bed."
"That," Miles points out, "is what I have been trying to get you to do for the past five minutes."
Phoenix smiles. It feels like the sun, condensed to a point and turned upon him without mercy. It feels like home. After a moment Miles tugs his hand down, and turns, pulling him back through the hall to their bedroom before he can do something truly stupid, like suggest a twenty-four hour drive-through chapel.
As Phoenix pulls the duvet over himself with eyes that are nearly closed before his head even hits the pillow, Miles returns once again to his consideration of the fact that he now finds it difficult to sleep alone. It is a fact which should be, at the very least, concerning. Somehow it is hard to be concerned when he is lying beside Phoenix, whose presence makes the bed considerably warmer and more conducive to sleep than it had been an hour ago.
Perhaps it is the fact, Miles muses, that Phoenix makes even the least probable scenarios, the unknowns, the things which should terrify him - somehow, Phoenix makes them all feel as inevitable as the sun rising in the morning. As the noise of the garbage truck, waking him every Monday and Thursday. As the fact that even when Miles sits up, glaring through eyes half-shut with sleep at the noise, his gaze will fall upon the other side of the bed and on Phoenix, lying next to him, gold catching through his hair and reflecting off the white streak that he frowns at in the mirror when he thinks Miles isn't looking. How for a moment all life is caught in the unconscious part of Phoenix's lips, of his chest, rising and falling as he breathes.
Extraordinary because it is mundane. Extraordinary because it is something Miles never expected for himself. All the more extraordinarily beautiful for its future certainty.
In the darkness Miles rests one hand on Phoenix’s chest, feeling the steady thrum of his heartbeat as he dreams. The smile lingers at the corners of his mouth even after he has closed his eyes and the moon has set into the hills of the city around them, waiting for another sunrise.