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morning warmth, evening void

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Phil rose with the sun, newborn morning light reaching out through his bedroom curtains. He greatly enjoyed early mornings like this: the day was new and full of promise. Things still held the quiet of night for the most part, but plenty of noises made up for those still fast asleep. Already he could hear his crows fluttering about, tapping on his window impatiently.

“Alright, alright,” he stretched, popping… a lot more than he’d like to admit. “Keep your feathers on. I gotta tend to mine.” You’d think they’d get used to this little routine by now- he did it every morning- but he could still hear assorted muffled caws of protest. Also a couple saying something along the lines of ‘oldza lol’, but that wasn’t out of the ordinary.

His wings didn’t require a lot of maintenance, especially considering he could still barely use them, but he liked keeping on top of things. Day-to-day preening was quick and simple. Brushing off some dirtier feathers, making sure he was molting properly, boring stuff like that.

Once in a while, he’d have to really get in there and deal with some bad blood feathers. Thankfully such occasions were very rare.

With his first task done, he set to doing the next. Well… the next after getting dressed. His room was generally warm enough, but the cold liked to seep into every corner of the house. One of the downsides of living in the artic, but he still wouldn’t change it for the world.

Their little community wasn’t much, but there was always plenty to do to keep it going. Clear some snow and ice off the wooden walkways, check on the bee farm, fight off any monsters on the land, put away any new loot in its proper place… He could go on and on. He could make a looong list detailing everything, but there was no need. He knew it all by heart by now.

Most of the animals wouldn’t be up yet, or he’d be waking them up, but they still needed breakfast. So did he, but he liked to take his time with it. Might as well get the early chores done first. He put on his boots and tromped outside. Less than an inch of snowfall lay on the bridge between his and Techno’s homes. That could wait.

Crows swarmed him more and more the closer he got to the barrel holding the bird food, letting out cawed chants of either ‘food’ or ‘dadza’. They lined up patiently on his outstretched wings, only mildly moving about as he fiddled with the giant bag and broke off icicles a little too close to his hanging feeders. They even waited until he’d closed the first filled up one to swarm it. He’d taught them well.

“See?” He said, filling the second. “Told you I’d get to it, didn’t I?”

‘but you didn’t tho??’ one of the crows cawed questioningly.

He rolled his eyes. “That was a rhetorical question,” With that, he closed the second feeder’s container. “Now shush and eat.” There wasn’t any complaint from the crow at that.

Feeding the other animals went pretty much like that. This stuff was routine, practically muscle memory at this point. It was so menial, he only really paid attention to the tasks to make certain he was doing it right or mentally note they were running low on dog food. He’d have to go get more later.

He saved his favorite for last, heading up the stairs of the shared walkway. Before even reaching the door, the crows that had finished eating (so most of them) started with their usual calls of ‘techno visit pog’ or just the shortened version: ‘pog’.

Shh,” he turned to face them with a finger to his lips. “Not so loud, guys. You’ll wake ‘em.” They continued as he headed inside Techno’s house, but they were quieter about it. His flock were a rowdy bunch, but they followed his directions… Sometimes. Reminded him all-too-much of Tommy and…

Anyways, he moved through Techno’s house as quietly as possible. Judging by the muffled snoring he could hear from upstairs, the piglin was still deep in hibernation. Just like he had been for the past like… week now. That should probably concern him, but Techno assured him it was just his body acclimating and saving energy or something. It sounded like a load of bull, but he also knew Tech didn’t like to be fussed over.

Besides, he was never in any danger during his weird little comas. Steve was always with him, bringing his unconscious owner both vigilance and warmth. He also brought Phil a little bit of reassurance. Not that anyone would reasonably wanna mess with The Blade, but him plus a bear? Forget about it.

Techno didn’t need protection, but it was still nice to know he had it.

Still, Steve didn’t hibernate the same time as Tech. So he still needed menial things like food and exercise. Things Phil made sure to take of, as a little sign of gratitude.

It took him a moment to remember which of the assortment of chests held the meat. Mainly cause Techno’s organization system was primarily just ‘throw stuff in any available space’. Made things easy to put away, but made looking for a specific thing more than a little annoying.

He found it eventually and deliberately crept up the stairs. By now, he knew which ones creaked and which stays mercifully silent. Tech wasn’t usually in a position to give a damn either way, but still. Felt considerate to do things quietly.

The two of them were more or less in the same position Phil’d left them in. Steve was curled up on the floor, acting as a pillow about the same size as the piglin that laid against him. Techno’s face was half buried in warm white fur, the other open and easy to see. His eyes were still closed.

Steve’s eyes, on the other hand, met Phil’s. He knew the routine by now. There was no danger from the winged man, so the bear didn’t move anything but his eyes as Phil got closer.

“Hey, big guy,” Phil said softly. He held up the mutton in his hands. “You hungry?”

Steve stared at it for a moment, then lifted his head up. He sniffed at it when it was moved closer. Then, finally, he began to eat. Phil gingerly dropped it to the floor, letting him have it completely.

“There we go.” He gave the polar bear a pat, appreciating the soft fur. No wonder Techno liked sleeping against it. “Now, be good, ‘kay? I’ll—”

Phil was interrupted by… well, not a sound. Moreso a constant sound finally stopping.

Techno stopped snoring. The brow he could see furrowed a little bit, adding little ripples to what had been a calm, still sea. His eyes didn’t open. He barely even moved.

But he spoke: “Phiiil,” he extended one hooflike hand out toward Phil in a ‘come closer’ motion. He didn’t elaborate, just repeated Phil’s name once again. His voice was still thick with sleep.

“Yeah, mate?” Phil moved closer. “You need something, or…?”

“’Mere,” Techno told him. “Hand… gimme.”

He couldn’t help but chuckle at the groggy commands, no matter how strange they were. It was just nice to see his partner moving, even if he wasn’t fully functional yet.

“Okay?” Phil moved the less-dirty hand to Techno’s. “Dunno why you- woah!” He was once again cut off.

It’d taken Tech a second to register the warmth in his grasp, but when he did, he pulled it closer without warning. Phil hadn’t been prepared, and stumbled down to the floor against him. When Phil was closer, an arm moved over him. Hugged him closer. The hand didn’t let go, but it loosened.

…Huh. This was definitely new. Tech usually didn’t do anything (or would mumble something) whenever Phil went to feed Steve. He’d never woken up, let alone interact with him, when it happened.

“You know, you could’ve just asked, mate.” He told Techno. “Lil’ bit rude to just cuddle someone without their permission.”

“’M sorry,” Techno cracked an eye open. Barely. Still, it was enough to know he was there. “Want me to let you go?” His arm started to move off Phil sluggishly.

Until his available hand grabbed it, lightly dragging it back to it’s original place. “Now, hold on,” he said with a smile. “I didn’t say that. Just ask next time, okay?”

Techno gave him a little nod. “Gotcha,” he held Phil closer, his chin naturally moving to rest atop his partner’s golden hair. “Got… sumn’ to do later, is all. Might miss ya’.”

“Oh?” He quirked up a brow. “Wanna enlighten me?”

The piglin hummed lowly, deliberating. “Later. Not now.”

Phil covered them with his more-intact wing as a makeshift blanket. They had plenty of warmth thanks to Steve, but it was more about the gesture than the actual usefulness.

Questions flitted about his mind like anxious hummingbirds, but he let them be for now. Over his centuries of life, he’d learned the hard way: take moments like these whenever possible. Savor the time with loved ones, for who knows when or if there’ll be another opportunity like this. Chances were likely with someone resilient like Techno, and yet… Whenever he left, the chances of him never coming back were never zero.

He squeezed Techno’s hand tight. This was a warm and wonderful moment. He shouldn’t ruin it with such fatalistic thinking. Right now, the ever-uncertain future could wait its goddamn turn. He was going to enjoy this as long as he could.

Techno didn’t say anything, but his hand squeezed back reassuringly. Pulled him closer, like he could shield Phil from whatever was on his mind at the moment.

Phil smiled and let his eyes close. Moments like these were exceptionally rare in general, but somehow even more so with Techno. His love was unlike how far too many knew him: softer, gentler. He showed it plenty, but in quieter and more subtle ways. Either in gifts or in actions, but almost never actions like these.

He could get used to actions like these, though. No complaints here.

For a while, all he had was darkness and warmth. The barely-noticeable, but ever-present, steady pulse at his fingertips assured him. The muted symphony of a heartbeat lulled him into a state of security so deep, he hadn’t noticed he was falling asleep until a gentle hoof on his shoulder jostled him awake.

He opened his eyes to meet Techno’s. The piglin was giving him a smug, self-satisfied smile.

“Mornin’, Sleeping Beauty,” he said. “Had a nice nap there?”

…Yeah, actually. He didn’t feel tired, or even groggy. Guess he’d hit the nap sweet spot. Couldn’t let Techno get too cocky there.

“Mine was probably better than yours,” he told him, moving his wing away. “Definitely shorter.”

His brows quirked up. “Oh yeah,” he said, like he was just now realizing. “…Would it be too much to ask for, like, ten more minutes then?”

Phil couldn’t help but laugh a little. “Mate, you’ve been sleeping for a whole week,” he lightly punched his piglin partner in the shoulder. “You’ve had enough. Come on, we still got stuff to do.”

Techno deliberated on that. Didn’t say anything for a minute, but also didn’t make a single effort to move away.

Then again, Phil could’ve easily just untangled himself and left. He didn’t, though. Wanted to take just a little more time to really savor this before returning to business.

“…Five more minutes, then?”

Phil sighed, but they both knew it didn’t have any real malice behind it. “Fine,” he relented. “But after that we really have to get up and do our chores, okay?”

“You’re the boss,” Techno said, moving closer once more.

~+~

This sucked.

The prison was technologically impressive, but it had nothing on home in most other departments. ‘Comfort’ being one of ‘em. ‘Fun roommates/neighbors’ being another one. It’d only been a couple hours, but already Techno was aching for the arctic.

The voices weren’t helping much there. They were constant, ever-present in his life even as he slept. But back home or with the Syndicate, they were muted. Downright tolerable.

But now? For hours they’d been ranting and raving, more angry and rabid than he was. They wanted a sea of blood for his remaining enemies to drown and choke on. And he… mainly just wanted them to give him a moment. He was well-practiced at tuning ‘em out, but still. It was getting pretty annoying.

And then he heard it.

It was small, practically a whisper among a choir of shouts. Yet he still heard the three simple words loud and clear.

‘I miss Phil.’

“…Yeah,” he said with a heavy sigh. “I do too, chat.”

They’d see each other again. He had the utmost confidence of that, and ideally it’d be sooner than later. But still.

He wished he could go back to this morning. Experience it just one more time.