Redundancy

They always had two beds, two cots crammed into a dingy back room, two double beds in a run-down motel, two sleeping bags rolled out in a cold, drafty tent. In the early days, it was a necessity, not because Otacon kicked in his sleep, not because the drop of a pin could send Snake shooting bolt upright, though these things were true, too. It was because of the first night, Alaska, one narrow bed in the only empty room in the only hotel in the only town for miles. It was a necessity, in those early days, to stave off what would later make it redundant. It was a necessity because of the warmth where their backs pressed together.

It’s the first time. Otacon lies in his motel bed and suddenly he hears the springs creak, feels the sink of the mattress. Snake is sitting there at his side, not saying anything, not doing anything, his fingers splayed out on the sheets. Otacon sits up, the covers falling to his waist. Slowly, carefully, like approaching a wild animal, he lays a hand on Snake’s shoulder. There is a scar there.

It was almost always Otacon who did it after that first time. He’d slip in under the covers, press up against Snake and breathe softly on the back of his neck. Sometimes they’d just sleep like that. Sometimes, most times, Otacon would find Snake’s hands rough on the small of his back. Neither of them was sure why they still insisted on two beds when they spent nearly every night together, maybe it was habit, maybe it was stubbornness, perhaps it was uncertainty. Outside of the dark of makeshift bedrooms, away from the heat where their bodies came together, over and over again, they almost never touched.

Snake didn’t know when they started needing two beds again. Sometime after Big Shell, after Emma, he could remember Otacon lying there beside him, crying. He was pretty sure that was the last, but there wasn’t time to keep track of a thing like that. It’s night on the Nomad. Sunny dragged one of the cots in with her chickens, “Solidus is lonely,” she’d said. Snake is lying in his bunk, alone. The bunk above him is empty. He had recognized that look in Otacon’s eyes when he was speaking to Naomi, young and beautiful Naomi, who isn’t afraid to take what she wants, not when it comes to this. Perhaps he’s gotten too old to worry about things like this. He can’t sleep.

It would have been sensible for them to share a bed, even before it became their custom, even after it stopped, but then it wouldn’t mean anything when Snake sat on the edge of Otacon’s bed, his fingers splayed across the sheets, watching the rise and fall of his chest, not saying anything.

Otacon sits up and rubs his eyes, nearly cracks his head on the top bunk. His eyes go wide for a moment, and then he smiles sleepily. “You missed the wedding,” he says, resting a hand on Snake’s shoulder, the one with the faded old scar.

“I didn’t think I was coming back this time,” Snake says.

There is a long silence. Snake can tell from the way Otacon’s fingers dig into his skin that he’s crying. “You always do,” he says, and there is a tremor there he tries to hide. Snake smiles. He always has been a crybaby.

It’s the last time, at the end of it all. It should take him by surprise when he feels Otacon pressed against his back, breathing softly on his neck. He hadn’t realized how cold it had been, all these years. “It’s been a long time,” he says.

“I was scared to, for a long time,” Otacon tells him. Snake recognizes the way Otacon’s hand grips his shoulder, the way the fingers curl and uncurl there. Snake grabs Otacon by the wrist, presses his lips to the back of his fingers, and then Otacon has rolled on top of him, is kissing him hard on the mouth like they’d never stopped, and suddenly Snake can’t remember how he did without this. He takes Otacon in his hand and watches his chest rise as he gasps sharply. It’s the first time, and afterwards they lie naked on top of cheap motel sheets while Otacon complains about his stubble. It’s after Emma, and Otacon is crying as Snake thrusts into him, there will be bruises on Snake’s back from where he gripped at him. Otacon is biting his knuckle now, to keep from crying out and waking Sunny, sleeping with her chickens again.

Otacon slumps on top of Snake, spent, breathing hard. “What about you?” he asks.

“I’m fine,” Snake says, folding an arm around him. Otacon is breathing softly on his neck. Tomorrow they will strip the sheets off the top bunk. This has always been enough.

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