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“Joe,” came the whisper in the dark. Soft and testing for alertness.

“Yeah mate,” he confirmed, opened his eyes and stared up at the beams. He couldn’t sleep in the first place.

He turned onto his side, made out Ned in the moonlight, lying on his back, head turned towards him.

“Things been okay yeah?” Ned whispered, voice low, careful not to wake up the others beside them.

“Yeah, we’ve done okay,” he answered, adjusted an elbow under his head to prop him up. “Yer ma’s done good too.” Knew it was what he wanted to hear.

Beside him, Ned adjusted, mirrored Joe’s position on his side, glanced over Joes’s shoulder. “And Dan?”

“Dan’s your shadow,” he said simply.

“Aye,” Ned said, lids lowering in thought.

“He’ll do okay but,” he added. Watched as Ned’s eyes came up, returned to his. It was good to have Ned back again. Things made more sense somehow.

A dog howled somewhere over the valley and another barked madly in response from somewhere else. His eyes were gradually adjusting to the lack of light, letting him see in a detail rare for nighttime. Must be a full moon, he thought.

“Growin’ yer hair back?” he jostled with a wry grin after a silence..

“What are you, a bloody woman?” Ned grinned back, running a hand over his stubble-haired head.

“You wish, ya bugger,” he grinned.

“Effin’ lonely in goal,” Ned commented, grin slipping just a notch and Joe couldn’t help but notice how gaunt his friend was looking.

He stayed quiet though, kept his gaze on Ned’s.

“S’bloody good to be out,” Ned sighed, settled back onto his back, gaze trained upwards on the roof. “Company and all that.”

“Company,” he echoed softly and something made Ned turn his head again, look at him, eyes dark in the shadow.

He reached a hand out, pushed gently on Joe’s uppermost shoulder, a nudge. “We keep each other sane, eh?”

“Such as the sanity we partake of is that, Ned.”

A soft chuckle, “Yeah, yer not wrong.”

“Yer company anyways, sane or no,” he stated as he looked down at Ned. Shadow playing over pale skin.

Ned stared back up, wasn’t going to say anything more, not in words.

He hesitated, reading Ned’s face. Whispered gruffly, “Fuckin’ missed ya, ya bugger,” and leant down suddenly, pressed his lips hard against Ned’s. Felt the rough stubble above Ned’s upper lip. Started as Ned’s mouth moved under his, pushed up against his.

And then he pulled up, balanced there, half hanging over Ned, looking down into his blackened pupils.

“Always knew you were a daft lout, Joe Byrne,” Ned breathed out hoarsely with no hint of discomfort, intensely watching him.

And so he leant back down, pressed his lips back on Ned’s and decided not to fuckin’ care.

Ned’s mouth opened under his and he didn’t hesitate to show him what he’d been feeling, how even though he couldn’t say it, would never say such womanly things, he’d felt lost without Ned at his side. Thrust his tongue into Ned’s mouth and lashed it against the other’s tongue, hot and wet and oh so bloody needed.

He groaned mutedly into Ned’s mouth as he felt himself more and more aroused, the rush of doing what they were doing, what he was doing with Ned, going to his head. And other places.

And then Ned somehow pushed his elbow out from under him and he collapsed onto him with a muffled thud and a groan, both of them holding still, sandwiched, waiting with held breath for the tell tale signs of the others stirring.



And his mouth was intruding on Ned’s in a moment, groin pressed hard against Ned’s hip. And then Ned’s hand was fumbling with his trousers and his with Ned’s. Because, he thought, they needed to, and when it came down to it, they didn’t give a damn.

What followed were mainly muffled groans and the occasional hoarse whispers and it wasn’t the normal night for him or Ned, he’d freely admit, but when it came down to it he didn’t care at all because he’d damn well missed the bloody bugger.