Role Reversal    By Nyarth

    Rating: R
    For disclaimer, see main page
    A/N: Big thanks to Dien for betaing and teaching me how to speak American.


People think we're an odd couple, but I don't think so. I mean, I get that we couldn't be more different, but to me it makes a lot of sense. Can you picture me with a guy like me? If we lasted more than five minutes without killing each other it would only be because we didn't speak to each other. Our relationship would be one long monumental uncomfortable silence, followed closely by beatings into pulp. See, Apollo puts all the work into making our silences comfortable. Sometimes I think we've lasted this long only because he's so damn good at ignoring me when I'm being a son of a bitch. People think he's the sensitive one, but he lets so much of my crap just wash over him - way more than I'd ever put up with. I guess I'm just a lucky guy.

Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I think we make perfect sense. You can't have the dark without the light, and vice versa. And one of us has to do all the talking and hard work of being understanding and patient and good-humoured. And me, what do I bring to the mix? Well, I love him more than my life. Is that enough? I damn well hope so. And when it comes down to it, he's a lazy son of a bitch - if it wasn't for me, he'd never get up off his ass to save the world. Yeah, you're welcome.

So, we're summer and winter, but it's never quite that simple - turns out life never is. Our early relationship was based on the mutual understanding that neither of us would ever talk about ourselves. I know life hasn't exactly been wine and peaches for either of us - we both volunteered for Stormwatch, after all, a project that involved losing your name, losing your identity, losing your whole life to date. All of us must have been either pretty fucked up, or idealistic to a scary nun-type degree - either that, or we just had nothing worth holding onto to any way. He hasn't been rude enough to ask me any more than I've told him, so I've never asked him a thing.

But it pains me to say, my lighter half is way more cunning and covert than I am. You think I'm the brooding, mysterious one? At least I'm honest about it. Apollo will talk your ear off - about you, about the news, the gossip, David Boreanaz and the theory of life. He wrong-foots you because he's so sunny, but you can chat to him for hours and find at the end that you don't know him any better than you did before. It's quite a trick. Time was, I didn't dare speak at all in case I gave something about myself away, but this kind of attitude only makes people pester you and look at you strange. His is a cunning defence mechanism, as cunning as a porcupine or one of those jelly fish that turns into a crab, and I think I'm the only one who's noticed it.

So, I came in late from playing cards with Jack and he was already in bed - or more like on bed, because he hadn't bothered with such trivialities as getting undressed or under the covers. He was curled up near the foot of the bed in the foetal position and looked in grave danger of simply sliding off onto the floor and taking all the covers with him. He had to be drunk, I thought, or operating on absolute zero charge to fall fast asleep in such an awkward position. Since we moved to the Carrier, he's generally much sleepier; the lack of light is not really good for him, and I hate to see him like this. It means he's vulnerable, and something could happen to him. Most of my worst nightmares these days involve something happening to him. But hell, he looks so cute when he's sleeping, all tuckered out and defenceless. I bent down to kiss him and to roll him over into a less precarious position in the middle of the bed. He muttered at me but didn't really wake up. I was right; he smelt slightly of bourbon. I went to the bathroom to shower and change.

When I was done, I went back into the bedroom, knowing I was going to have to be mean and wake him up to move him before I could get into bed myself. For a moment, I considered just leaving him to it and sleeping on the couch, but a savage possessiveness took hold of me - he was gorgeous, he was mine, and it wouldn't damn well hurt him to scoot back over to his side of the bed. So, I crawled up next to him, curled myself around him and woke him up by biting him on the ear. Not hard - well, not too hard, anyway, but there's no point biting if you don't use your teeth. I watched him as he shifted briefly awake and muttered into the covers.

"Hey. Who you looking at?"

"You." I told him.

"Good," he sighed, and dozed immediately off again. So much for getting him to move. I watched him for a while as he skittered on the edge of sleep, a faint forwn tracing his brow and making his lips purse adorably.

"How you feelin', Sunshine?" I asked him, not really expecting an answer. But I got one.

"Fucked over." He muttered back. "I hate this."

I propped myself up on my elbow to look at him hard, but he gave no sign of having woken up any.

"Hey." I poked him hard with my finger and rolled him onto his back so he was looking up at me.

"What?" He said, awake properly now.

"You sleeping?" I asked him with a note of sarcasm he missed.

"Yeah," he said, and blinked himself away a bit more. "You have fun with Jack?"

"Yeah."

"Good." He said again, and closed his eyes.

"Why are you fucked over?" I asked, not sure if he'd been sleep-talking or not. He opened his eyes and met mine for a moment. I think he considered denying he'd spoken at all, then he looked away with a tiny shrug.

"Just dreaming." He told me. "May I? That okay with you?"

"Sure." I smiled at him, choosing to ignore the bite in his words. Apollo at his angriest never bites too hard. I watched him still as he closed his eyes and turned his head away from me, but I knew from the rhythm of his breathing he hadn't fallen asleep again. He just didn't really want to talk to me.

Yeah, that hurts quite a lot. See, that's meant to be me. That's what I bring to the relationship, the irrational moodswings. This guy is tramping on my territory, he's pushing me out. If we're going to survive this at all, I'm going to have to be the grown up. I'm going to have to be him. Jesus, I don't think I have the qualifications. I definitely don't have the experience. This is a very recent thing. It pisses me off a hell of a lot, but I know I can't show that, because it's not his fault. The guy I really want to kill, I did already. I think I did it too quickly. What I wouldn't give to kill him again, really properly kill him.

Apollo hasn't been right since Singapore. Don't get me wrong, he's done a damn good impression of right, but he hasn't been right. I know Apollo right, and this isn't it. I guess these things take a while - the "r" word is not something you just shrug off, no matter how well-adjusted you usually pretend to be. He's been doing things he's never done before, things that I should be doing. Brooding, sulking, shutting me out, imagining himself to be miles away from me. I guess this isn't a major thing. It's not like I have the monopoly on the dark side. Our positions in our relationship have always been open to negotiation, but I don't like this. He's created his own space in our bed which he keeps to himself, and this is it.

I don't know what the hell to do to make it better.

So, I asked him. He said, give him time. I guess that's what it is, just time. But I hate this. It isn't damn well fair. He won't let me sulk, he won't let me brood. He's devoted five years of his life to creeping under my defences and now when he asks me how I'm doing, I find I'm telling him the truth even before I realise I'm doing it. He's a crafty ass to me, but he just won't let me in.

"Now you know how I used to feel," He teased me when I objected. I know I haven't been - well, I'm not - exactly Mr Share, and I don't always tell him what's bugging me. Did I ever make him feel this totally useless in the face of my pain? I hope not, because he never was useless. I just wanted him to be there. So, logic tells me this is what I should do for him. Just shut up and be there. But I don't have the patience. I hate it. I hate that I can be so close to him and have him try to pretend I'm not there. It reminds me of how he was when it happened, and I never, as long as I live, want to see him like that again. I thought they'd killed him - first physically, because he wasn't breathing when we found him, but then he doesn't always need to anyway. Then I thought they'd killed him inside, because I'd never seen him like that. So hurt, and so angry and so ashamed. I already knew that he's a tougher SOB than he pretends to be, but I'd never come up against such a blank wall in him before.

I think I tried to kill that camera man when I saw him filming us, and I think Jack Hawksmoor did some very tactful intervention. We took him back through a door and onto the Carrier as quickly as we could, but I hissed away all their worry and fussing and stretchers. I sent them all away with threats and curses - I think they were relieved to go anyway, they had a goddamn baby to find, and didn't need a ranting, grieving psychopath snarling at them over his boyfriend's body to deal with as well. I didn't want them to look at him, to see him like this. I could barely stand to myself. I knew there was a whole bigger picture factor to deal with too, but, briefly, my Twenty-First century was over anyway - I honestly don't think I could exist as a whole man without him.

So, I sent them all away. Besides, what's the point of trying to patch him back together in the medi-lab on the Carrier? What he needs is sunlight. I gathered armfuls of stuff together, blankets, bandages, sponges and even bandaids, for fuck's sake, and I took him through a door to see the sunrise. I took him to the Greek island Delos. It was the best place I could find; sunswept and deserted, the perfect ingredients. The sun was just showing on the horizon, sticking its bright, cold talons into my sensitive eyes. There was no one around, which was the plan, and it got hot very quickly, and - it occurred to me afterwards - this is Apollo's place. Not my Apollo, of course, but the original Himself, the Lord of light and poetry and music and prophecy. He knew the cause of evil, and the cure. Yeah, look at me. I'm the Midnighter, and I'm such a school girl that I looked up my boyfriend's name in a book, and I learned that. Next thing you know I'll be doodling his name on an exercise book and ringing it with hearts. I spread a blanket on the rough hillside, and I set about cleaning him up.

See, this isn't me. I'm not the maternal one (Should I say, paternal?), but for him, I'll be anything, so I tried to be the nurse, and I stripped off what remained of his uniform with gentle, urgent hands.

He was a hell of a mess. The bruises across his abdomen were the worst, and on his hip bones, and up his ribs. These are sensitive parts of the body at best - hey, I should know, I'm the king of pain, remember?- and they were black and swollen and tender and spoke of a repeated intention to really, really hurt him. I rolled him over. His lower back around the kidneys and the sensitive hollow of the small was black and blue already. Bruises were starting on his shoulders, on the tops of his arms. Bruises that were unmistakably finger marks - even little half-moon cuts where the nails had dug in. My eyes travelled down his motionless body, and I tried to explain the bruises in my head in any way that did not involve that. There was a lot of blood everywhere, but as I feebly, ineffectually tried to sponge him clean, I saw where he was bleeding badly. I froze. I looked again at the bruises, I remembered the crushed wreck of the hood of the car we found him by. I touched my hand lightly to the tender area -he was still out cold- and it came away wet and bloody. I had to get up and walk a little way away from him up the hill to find something to kick. For hours I had my teeth clenched so hard and I didn't even know it - later on, I wondered why my jaw was hurting so damn much. But I had to cool myself down. Now was not the time to be angry. Later on, that was his job. Now I had to look after him, and be careful not to handle him roughly. Because really what I wanted to do was to grab him and shake him and scream "WHY?!" Nice guy, aren't I? See, this I is why I always knew love was a stupid idea. There's enough things in this world that can hurt you on your own without having someone else's pain to unman you like this.

He woke up while I was clenching my teeth and dabbing gently with the sponge - he woke up and hissed through his teeth in pure pain as I trickled cold water on one of his cuts.

"Hey, there you are." I said to him, as soft and gently as I could manage. That's not my tone of voice, see, it's his. Mine comes out as a rasp. It's the kind of voice that scares little kids. He shifted himself slowly and painfully until he was propped up on an elbow and he took a good and careful look around. We were facing the sunrise, and I noticed, not for the first time, that he can stare right into the sun without blinking.

"We're safe." I told him, in case he was worrying. His eyes slid over me without registering much interest or comprehension, but he nodded slowly and swallowed painfully. Gently, he let himself back down and laid his head on the ground. He closed his eyes again. I waited a moment, expecting him to do something else, but he didn't budge again, so I carried on.

A few times I had to move him to reach places with the sponge, and he let me, but he did not open his eyes again, and he didn't say a word. When I touched him, he flinched and closed his eyes tighter. I told myself it was because it hurt. I couldn't find a place to touch him where it didn't hurt. I didn't want to think that he might just not want to be touched. He was so still it was like he was playing dead - I know he was trying to pretend that there was no one there. Not me, not him, not anyone. This is why it chills my blood to lie next to him on the bed and have him feign sleep and pretend at least one of us isn't there.

When I had him as clean as I could with the sponge, I helped him to sit up. He was unresistant when I moved him, and I was able to prop him up kneeling with one fist nestled in the ground. His other arm was wrapped protectively round his belly, still making little hissing noises between his teeth at the tenderness there. The morning sunlight was chilly, but it makes no difference to him. By instinct he turned his face towards it -and away from me, so it happened- and let his bloodcaked hair fall across his face and hide it from my view. I sat behind him a little higher up the slope, and let him pretend he was alone for a little while. He watched the sunrise for an hour or so with his back to me.

"Are you okay?" I asked him eventually. It was a stupid question. He nodded tightly but didn't look round. I edged closer so I was sitting right behind him, and I put an awkward hand on his shoulder. Apollo is usually so tactile, the Apollo that I have come to know. He's like a cat when you caress him, he leans into you, he arches, he practically purrs. Now he did not make a move. All his muscles were closed like doors. Everything about him was screaming "don't touch me!" so loudly that I almost withdrew my hand, but I knew that I shouldn't. Or, I thought that I shouldn't. I wanted him to know that I was there, and that I loved him, no matter what, no matter how he was, be it shining and laughing and beautiful or beaten and raped and ashamed. His jaw was locked and his eyes closed tight against tears. He wouldn't cry. I thought he might, if I went away. I wondered if I should. Hell, I told you I never know what to do - should I leave him and let him cry, or stay, even though he didn't want me here? It was an effort to keep my touch on his shoulder soft, I wanted to beat, to kick, to scream. I wanted to rip him apart. Not him, you know, not him really, not him ever. But I was so angry I wanted to hurt something, and it would be so easy to just hurt him. I clenched my teeth and knew I mustn't. I tried to draw him to me. He didn't pull away from me - he made an effort not to pull away. Even like that, Apollo was still thinking of other people - I guess he knew how much it would hurt me if he tried to pull away. None the less, it was like hugging a cinder block. He was so rigid and carefully motionless, like he didn't trust himself to move at all.

So I leant against his back, and I wrapped my arms around him, and I pressed a hand on his lower back.

"I will kill them." I promised him in a rough whisper in his ear. "I will kill them for you." He winced at the touch on his bruises, but it was the only gesture I had to let him know I knew what had happened without saying it. I didn't think I could say the word without screaming. He nodded slowly. I reached out and caught him by the chin, so he couldn't turn his face away and I kissed him on the cheek. He didn't fight me, but he wanted to. I was being selfish. I couldn't stand to have him turn his face away. I touched him gently on the cheek, tracing the line of his bruises with my finger, and I looked at him closely. I admit, I was trying to make him cry in my arms, so I could feel like I was doing something. But he didn't. He kept his eyes tight shut. When I leaned in to kiss him again, he dodged me by dipping his head and pressing his forehead into my neck. I held him close and didn't know what to do.

After a few minutes, he pushed me away and sat up.

"Let's go back." He said. "I want to take a shower."

"Sure." I said, and I helped him get stiffly and sorely to his feet. I had to half carry him back to the door. Really he should have stayed there in the sunlight - he won't heal like a superhero on the carrier. But he was not in danger of dropping down dead, so I let him go. Under the circumstances, having a shower took priority.

I killed him like I said I would. And Apollo heals fast - to all eyes but my own, he's back to normal, the big fraud. But then, the others don't know exactly what happened to him. I'm so glad now I didn't let them see him, and I think he is too. He wouldn't look me right in the eye for three days, and I'm not sure he could have born the humiliation or the clumsy sympathy of anyone else. My clumsy sympathy, he's kind of stuck with. He made an effort to act normal, which was sweet of him. After all, he's used to doing all the "clear the atmosphere" work in the wake of our infrequent arguments and the bad things that have happened to us both. He teased me, he joked, we cuddled. We do this a lot. But he's still not right. Sometimes when he thinks I'm not looking at him -I'm hardly ever not looking at him these days- I can see he's miles away and his movements go all careful again, and he won't look me right in the eye with the unashamed frankness we used to share. I tried to ask what I should do - hell, this isn't how our relationship has worked before; always I'm the trauma patient, he's the goddamn doctor. So I asked him what I should do. Just give it time, he said. Are you okay? I asked him every two minutes. Yes, he replies. Really okay? I insist. Oh, really okay? He says. Well, no, I'm not. But I will be. Give it time.

Sound advice. Apollo is the wise one too. But who the hell am I? I'm trying to give it time, I really am trying. But God knows I'm not a patient man. If I thought shaking him and saying, "Get better already!" would do it, that'd be my favoured course of action. People are so complicated. I hate dealing with people. Dammit, Apollo, what do you think I keep you for?

So, while he feigned sleep and normality, like getting drunk on his own and falling asleep fully clothed is something totally okay for him to do, I watched him. I never had the heart to really stare him out before; it's way easier when he has his eyes closed. I'm counting on the fact that he's not a stoic like me. He won't last long.

"Goddamn it," He muttered and batted me gently round the face to make me break my gaze. "Do I have something on me?" He didn't open his eyes, so how he knew I was looking at him was beyond me.

"No." I said.

"Then put your eyes away."

"Why should I? I like to look at you." I told him. I tapped my finger on the wrinkles in his forehead. "I like this frown thing you're doing here. What's that about?" Okay, it's not subtle, but I'm hoping he'll think I'm irresistibly cute. Or something.

He opened his eyes, and sighed, resigning himself to having to talk to me, and he gave me a look that plainly said, that was pathetic. Fair point. He wriggled his shoulders against me to make himself more comfortable.

"You win anything tonight?" He asked.

"No."

"You're a fucking loser." He teased gently.

"And you're such a cutie." I told him spontaneously. He was. A wriggling, sleepy, smiling cutie.

"Are you coming onto me?" He scowled with mock ferocity. Smiles. Soft kisses. I rested my forehead on his cheek and looked at him still. After years together, we've learnt to be comfortably silent together, but he's not really comfortable now since it happened. It's a dirty trick, but I know it works - when Apollo's ill at ease, he talks to fill the silences, divert the scrutiny. Interrogation is my speciality, and he's going to talk if it kills me.

I cracked first. Damn him! Interrogation is only my speciality when I can beat the hell out of people. Persuasion is his game. He knows what game I'm playing too, and when I finally had to say to him;

"Talk to me, dammit!" he laughed at his victory. I slammed him gently on the shoulder.

"Fucking talk to me, or I will be forced to kick your ass."

"You could try." He snuckered. He never has been scared of me. I'm forced to conclude that I'm slipping.

"C'mon." I pleaded. Pleading I hadn't tried before. "Don't fuck around. Talk to me."

"What do you want to talk about?"

"You know."

"I don't know what else you want me to say, I really don't. You're getting really obsessed. I should start to worry, yes?"

"Hey, you're the one who never stops thinking about it."

"How do you know what I'm thinking about, hotshot?"

"I just know." I kissed him. "I'm so clever like that."

"Yeah. aren't you cunning?" I jabbed him in the ribs pretty hard under the guise of tickling him.

"Ow! You fucker." He told me.

"I love you." I countered.

"Yeah." He clucked through his teeth. "A likely story." He was silent for a while, and I let him be. As much as I would like to, I guess I can't just wring stuff out of him. Besides, he won't take my threats seriously. I mimed some vague act of violence to his throat, and he laughed at me and kicked me in the shin. I confess, he was quiet for so long, I started to doze off myself with my face cradled in his neck, until out of the blue about half an hour later, he said;

"You volunteered for Bendix, right?"

"Uh-huh," I said. This was not quite the tack I was expecting. I concentrating very hard on coiling a lock of his hair round my finger. My turn not to look right at him.

"Right. Me too." He said, and was silent for a while longer. I thought now he was inviting that question that I had often wondered, but never asked. What I had told him about my past had come unannounced and unheralded in the middle of the night, and he had listened without words, without judgement. I'm the brooding, mysterious one? People know a hell of a lot more about me than him. I guess my life-story is a bit guessable if you know me, but Apollo? Genial, well-loved Apollo? That's not even his real name, and Bendix didn't give him his sunny nature to go with his solar powers. At least, I guess he didn't. If the Stormwatch surgeons can give personality transplants, I wish to hell they'd given me one too.

"Why?" I asked him.

"Why what?"

"Why did you volunteer? Were things so bad?"

He half-shrugged against me.

"They weren't so good." He said. "But who. who wouldn't want this? I can fly, for fuck's sake! People would give up a lot more than I did for this." It's a plausible explanation, but I don't buy it. I know he loves to fly, who wouldn't? But he's not really an ambitious man, or a selfish one. It's not even a conscious effort on his part not to be, it's just not in his nature. A guy whose idea of absolute heaven is dozing off on the couch in front of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not a man who'd sell his soul for power.

So, I tapped him on the forehead and smiled at him thinly. He saw I knew he wasn't telling the whole truth, and when I didn't press the matter, he smiled a thank you, and continued;

"It's just that. Jesus, I don't mind losing my life you know? I'm happier now than I've ever been. I've been trying my whole life just to feel better, and now I finally do. Because I have my guy. I have you. I know we've been betrayed and fucked over. but I don't regret a thing, because I can't imagine living without you now."

"Yeah," I laughed harshly. "We should send Bendix a basket of muffins for introducing us." I knew exactly what he meant though, and I let him know by tugging gently at the lock of hair I had wound round my finger.

"I'd never go back." He continued. "To how things were. I wish I didn't remember. I wish I didn't remember a thing. But I do. There's things I can't forget." I nodded, and nodded. If there really needs to be a reason Apollo does all the talking, it's because he can talk so beautifully for both of us.

"I wish I could forget it all." He finished finally. "Look at you, all black-ops. Made of iron. Me, I'm all soft in the middle."

"You're the strongest person I know." I told him firmly. "And I know me." He shook his head.

"I'm not. I'm not at all. I'm. frightened. I'm always. and I'm so scared of being alone, I'll be anything, for anyone. I can't stand to be alone. I never could."

"You're not alone." I told him. "And you never will be again."

"I know. And I love you. But I feel like you won't love me, if you really knew. stuff about me. That's why I wish I could forget so I wouldn't feel like I was lying to you."

I thought about it for a few minutes, so he'd know my answer was honest, and then I said, "I can't think of a single thing you could tell me that would make me love you less."

"You're a sweetheart." He reached up and kissed me on the lips, acknowledging that I was trying hard to be good and to say all the right things. But he was not reassured.

"I just wish. oh fuck it. I'm okay. I'll live, I'll cope. It's just I thought I was way too old to have to deal with this shit all over again, but I guess being raped isn't the kind of thing you can grow out of." He dipped his eyes away from me at this, thinking he has said too much. I sat up a bit.

You've been. I mean, this has happened to you before?" Idiot. I should have just said the r-word. He's so ashamed as it is, I'm being like a fucking church nun acting like there's words so bad and dirty we can't say them. It's not the great unspeakable. It's just another shitty thing to have done to you in a world full of shitty things.

He wouldn't look at me for a while. Then he said, "Well, no. Not really. I mean, not like that. I have never been." He paused, and then he said it - he's better at saying things than I am. "I have never been beaten, and held down, and fucked like that before. But I've been made to feel that bad before, and I never wanted to feel like that again. Ever. I fucking vowed that I wouldn't ever feel that bad again. And now." He finished with a smile. "I have broken my vow, and it is the custom of my tribe that I should self-flagellate every day for the rest of my life until I die, lest I should forget."

"You should do what? Jesus, I don't like the sound of that!" I contrived to look comically shocked, and made him laugh out loud, his great, booming laugh - to cap it off, I tickled him below the rib cage and then kissed him in the nape of the neck, making him snucker and squirm. He's the ticklish one too, did I mention? When he finally negotiated a cease-fire by biting me softly on the lip, we resettled ourselves back around each other comfortably. This time he was properly relaxed, and he looked back into my eyes frankly.

"Do you want to. talk about what happened before?" I asked, because I felt I should. His mouth quirked in amusement at my efforts to be Sensitive and Understanding Guy.

"Hell, no." He said. "Let's just forget it."

"Mean it?"

"Sure I mean it. I am." He said with a happy sigh. "Possibly among one of the happiest men in the world."

"Only possibly among them?"

"Yeah. I mean, I don't want to exaggerate wildly or anything."

"Or make any sense at all?"

"Best not. Hey, Midnight?"

"What?"

"Ah, nothing. just, I love you. But you knew that, right?"

"Sure I knew that. How could you not?"

"Oh, like this."

"Stop that!"

"Your elbow is on my hair."

"Oh, sorry."

"Damn right you're sorry."

"So."

"What?"

"You're okay, then?"

"Skip the track, Midnight! I am. as well as can be expected."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means, fuck off, Goldilocks!"

"Okay. So."

"So?"

"Would you do me a favour, Sunshine?"

"Wassat?"

"Get back on your side of the fucking bed!"

He laughed long and loud.

"So that's a no, then?"

"That's a no."

Stubborn cuss. I couldn't make him budge an inch all night.

~Fin~


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