Actions

Work Header

Pillow Talk

Work Text:

“Hey big spoon,” Nile greeted Joe, sitting down opposite him with a bowl of cereal, “Are you struggling?”

She watched the words slowly register with Joe before his forehead furrowed in confusion. “A spoon?” Joe asked, rubbing a sleepy hand over the back of his head.

“Yeah,” Nile grinned at him, feeling a little mean for teasing him at such an early hour. Nile was still in the habit of routinely rising early because of the Marines. Joe, on the other hand, was sometimes a little slower to get started in the morning if he didn’t have reason to. “You know; in bed you’re the big spoon to Nicky’s knife?”

Joe frowned, eyeing the spoon in Nile’s hand, “Cutlery doesn’t tend to join us in the bedroom unless it’s for breakfast in bed.” He then hummed thoughtfully, cocking his head, “Though there was a phase we got into where we…”

“No! No!” Nile waved her hands around with a laugh as Joe stopped, sending her a tired but triumphant grin; ok, so maybe Joe was still alert enough to match her teasing. “You seriously haven’t heard of the terms ‘big spoon’ and ‘little spoon’ before?”

Joe’s eyebrow ticked up and he leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. “No I haven’t. Care to enlighten an old man whose ‘youthful vocab’ isn’t quite up to date yet?”

Nile rolled her eyes fondly. She had been enjoying her reconnaissance mission with Joe; he was such a vibrant personality, easy to banter with, and she was appreciating getting to spend some quality with him before they re-joined Andy and Nicky in several weeks’ time. She knew Joe was enjoying their mission too. He was delighting in tutoring her and telling her stories, and was also clearly pleased to be learning a few new things about modern culture in return. The only downside to their one-on-one immortal-sibling bonding was that in the absence of Nicky, Joe had been looking increasingly tired in the mornings.

For the ten days Nile and Joe had already been on their job, Joe had been going to bed after Nile and getting up before her, despite his increasingly sleepy eyes each morning, and while Nile had initially wondered whether Joe was just more actively vigilant while on a job, she quickly realised that it was more probably just that Joe was so used to sleeping with Nicky that being alone in a bed was unsettling for him. Though it hadn’t been until the night before that Nile had truly understood the extent of the effect it was having on Joe. She had woken in the middle of the night to see him tossing and turning in the bed across the room like he was untethered in the storm of his unconsciousness without his usual anchor there to cling on to. That was most unlike Joe. He was usually a deep sleeper who could sleep in the same position all night and normally rose slower than Nicky.

Since Nile had discovered that there definitely was something up with Joe, she had decided it was her duty to help her new immortal brother in any way she could. Cheering him up was a start.

“Have you heard the term ‘spooning’ before? It’s basically the name of the sleeping position that you and Nicky sleep in?”

Joe’s eyes immediately cleared a little in dawning understanding. “Ah, yes, I’ve heard it called that.”

“Well, the ‘big spoon’ is the one that sleeps behind and brackets the ‘little spoon’ when they sleep.”

“But you said that Nicky is a ‘knife’?”

“Yeah, that’s a joke that’s come from the fact that the big spoon is usually assumed to be the protector’s position, but some people who prefer to be little spoons argue that they are way more lethal and protective than the ‘little’ makes out so some people jokingly refer to themselves as a ‘knife’ instead of the little spoon. You are a classic big spoon, but the way Nicky always sleeps between you and the door and can get a gun in his hand as soon as he wakes up? He is much more a knife than a little spoon.”

Joe seemed to mull her explanation over, taking another sip of his coffee, before nodding with certainty, looking rather proud as he agreed “Nicky is most definitely a knife.”

“Has it always been that way with you two?” Nile had wondered it for a while, and since Joe loved to tell stories, particularly stories that involved Nicky, Nile reckoned he wouldn't mind her curiosity. 

“Well, once we stopped killing each other and started loving each other,” Joe teased, “You know, I used to be a light sleeper; I had to be for survival. I would be awake like that,” he clicked his fingers, “At any slight noise or movement, scimitar or dagger in hand. But once Nicky and I started sleeping as we do and buildings became so much more secure I didn’t have as much need to be on my guard constantly. I have definitely become more complacent, I think. I’m slower to become alert when I feel safe, whereas Nicky is always ready.” He shrugged, “He is a very perceptive, instinctive man.”

“How did you start sleeping that way?” Nile asked, “Did something happen or?”

Joe shrugged, “I like to cuddle when I sleep, Nicky likes to be held. He feels safe in my arms and I feel safe between Nicky and a wall, with Nicky between me and the door.”

Nile raised her eyebrow, because Joe’s tone suggested there was something else that he wasn’t saying.

Joe’s lips quirked into a smile that was both sheepish and knowing. “I may also have once been ambushed in my sleep and Nicky said never again and stuck to his vow for so many decades it became habit.”

“And there it is,” Nile grinned back. “So, big spoon, my question was: are you struggling with sleep? Without Nicky, I mean?”

Joe waved her concern aside, “Nicky and I have been separated many times before, and sometimes for weeks longer than this. This is nothing.”

“But did you actually sleep properly during those many times before?” Nile pressed, sceptical.

Joe looked thoughtful, but didn’t answer, deciding to finish his coffee instead. That was pretty much all the answer Nile needed.

***

Nile had hoped that getting Joe to open up a bit more about his sleeping less, and less well, and that if he knew he didn’t have to keep up appearances for Nile and hide his sleeplessness without Nicky, that it might help him. But by the end of their second week Joe was undoubtedly not improving, to the point where he was actually getting a little miserable and crabby. His effectiveness at the job was never in question, and Nile was still enjoying their downtime very much, but there had been a handful of occasions where Joe got grumbly, and for someone usually as bright and bold as Joe, grumbly-Joe was not one she fancied spending too much time with if there was genuinely something she could do to help fix the problem.

And she had a potential fix for the problem. But that in itself presented another problem. And that problem was that she had no idea of what Joe would make of it.

There was a high chance it might offend him, and there was a high chance it might amuse him, but there was also a small chance that it might actually help him, and after another night of Nile waking up and finding Joe clutching the second pillow on his bed to his face like he might still be able to smell Nicky on it from the last time they had used the safe house seventy years ago, Nile figured it was worth a shot, and just hoped Joe would be amused and not offended.

When the time actually came, though, it transpired that amusement or offense were the least of the reactions Nile could and should have anticipated. Because she hadn’t quite considered that Joe would, in fact, draw a gun at it.

“Joe! It isn’t…” she started, rounding him quickly to stand between the beds and where Joe stood in the doorway, holding up her hands until he lowered the gun, still suspiciously glaring at the person-sized lump under the sheets of his bed.

“What’s going on?” Joe asked, sounding so genuinely perplexed that Nile instantly forgave him for almost shooting bedding and feathers all over the room.

“It’s a gift,” she said, “From me.”

His eyes moved from the bed to look at her, his face brightening considerably, “Really?” he asked, clearly flattered and thrilled at the thought that Nile would want to give him a present, “You got me something?”

“Don’t thank me just yet,” Nile warned with a slightly awkward smile, “You may hate it. But I cannot have you getting any grumblier on me.”

“I’ve not been grumbly,” Joe grumbled as he cautiously approached the bed (Nile did not miss the fact that Joe still had his gun in his hand) and pulled back the covers to reveal Nile’s gift. “What,” Joe asked, “Is that?”

“It’s a body pillow,” Nile offered, “It’s, you know, something for you to cuddle so maybe you can sleep better and stop being definitely-grumblier than usual.”

Joe looked at the giant body pillow, then at Nile, and then back to the pillow, like he was entirely unsure what to make of it and how to react to it. But eventually he appeared to shake himself, and, as the gentleman he was, walked up to Nile and picked her up for a hug, spinning her around.

“Thank you for my gift,” he said, totally sincere, “Let’s go to the shops so I can buy you something in return.”

“You don’t have to, Joe. You don’t know if it will work for you yet! If you even use it at all…”

Joe pulled a face like he wasn’t sure if he was going to use it either.

“Consider it your replacement Nicky,” Nile teased, unable to help herself, “Your NicolòPillow, or Nicopillo, if you will.”

It was either entirely the right or entirely the wrong thing to say for the sake of Nile’s amusement: Joe turned back to eye the pillow disdainfully like it was no replacement for Nicky and that he was offended that the pillow would even dare think it could ever live up to being anything near as warm and cuddly as Nicky.

“Or not?” Nile added with an impish grin as Joe sent her a fondly scolding look. “So are you going to give it a go?”

“We’ll see,” Joe said, like he didn’t want to offend her by rejecting her gift, but from the way he was once again glaring at the giant pillow Nile could tell he was definitely going to be throwing it on the floor the first chance he got that night. “Let’s go shopping.”

***

Nile had already been in bed for an hour by the time that Joe eventually entered the room; heading to bed later than her as he had done every night since starting their reconnaissance mission. That night, however, Nile had purposefully stayed awake, interested to see just what Joe would do with his new body pillow.

The answer was to edge it off the mattress and onto the floor the way a cat might nudge a cup off a counter. Nile hid her grin into her own normal-sized pillow, but was also a little disappointed that Joe was going to be getting another night of restless sleep.

When Nile woke up the next morning she fully expected to see Joe’s bed empty and abandoned like usual. What she found instead was something entirely different.

She quietly raised herself up on her arms to get a better look, knowing that moving to get any closer might be risky. She would heal from the defensive bullet that could potentially end up flying her way, of course, but she would rather not start the day with a death and resurrection. She would rather continue to start the day with the sight of the utter adorableness that she was currently witnessing.

At some point in the night, Joe had retrieved the body pillow from off the floor, and he was curled around it. His face was buried into the top of it, so only his hair was visible from behind it, and the way he was cuddling it was far cuter than any nine-hundred-and-some year old man had any right to be. She could hear his soft, even breaths from across the room, and it was clear he was in a far deeper sleep than any he had had in the weeks since being parted from Nicky.

Nile slipped out of bed, feeling triumphant, and tiptoed out of the room. She decided she would let Joe sleep as long as he needed; she could start the day on her own for once.

Joe joined her two hours later. “Nile, you should have woken me!” he protested, looking brighter eyed than he had in at least a week, “I’m sorry you had to start on your own.”

Nile shrugged, not even bothering to take her eyes from her laptop screen, “And miss seeing you making full use of your new Nicolòpillow?” 

She was half expecting a spluttered denial, or a grouchy comment about how Nicky should never be compared to something as unworthy as a pillow, so she was surprised that what she got instead was a kiss to her cheek and a thanks for her kind gift, and confirmation that he had had a good night’s sleep.

***

The first time Nicolò and Yusuf had ever ‘spooned’, Nicolò had actually been the ‘big spoon’.

They had been travelling together, tentatively truced, searching for the women that mutually featured in their dreams. The night had grown cold - a different kind of cold to the nights in the desert - and Yusuf had not been prepared for it. They had had to build a fire in a small alcove at the base of a cliff to keep it sheltered from the wind, so it was more a fireplace than an open fire. Nicolò had insisted that Yusuf be the one to lie closest to the fire to keep warm, and Yusuf had been thankful since he had ended up lying as close to the fire as he could get without actually setting himself on fire (not that it would have killed him but it would have been mightily unpleasant, as he had actually found out years later). It had turned out, however, that Nicolò had been putting on a stubborn front and was actually no better suited to the chill in the air than Yusuf. Yusuf had been able to hear Nicolò’s teeth chattering over the crackle of the flames.

Yusuf had turned himself over to find that Nicolò was not asleep either.

“Sorry,” Nicolò had apologised for the noise he was making, in the only dialect at the time that they had both been marginally capable of communicating in. 

Yusuf had rolled his eyes, “You are cold.”

“Yes.”

Yusuf had not missed the fact that Nicolò was lying closer to Yusuf than he had been when they had first laid down to sleep, but there had still been half a metre of distance, as though Nicolò were afraid to close the gap and have Yusuf potentially wake up and instinctively protect himself from whatever was unexpectedly at his back.

Yusuf gestured for him to move closer, “You can lie nearer to me. I won’t kill you. Again.”

Nicolò had smiled back, a rare but treasured thing even then, and shuffled closer. Yusuf nodded and turned back around to sleep.

He had woken up in the cold chill of the morning to find Nicolò had moved right up against him in his sleep, his arm wrapped around Yusuf’s body, and Yusuf had been able to feel the warmth of Nicolò’s breath on his neck. Yusuf had been surprised to find that he did not mind; not when he had been literally surrounded in warmth, a fire in front and Nicolò behind him, to the point where he had slept the entire night through in comfort. And he had been glad that he had clearly been able to keep Nicolò warm in turn, after Nicolò had been so gracious to give up the spot by the fire.

And maybe Yusuf had realised that he had also not been as averse to the feeling of waking up in Nicolò’s arms as he should have been. And maybe rather than face that realisation, he had pretended to be asleep when Nicolò had woken up and had slowly and carefully extracted his arms from around Yusuf.

They had eventually addressed those feelings, of course, a few months on. Rather passionately. 

And a few decades after that the ambush incident had happened, and their switching-spoons position became almost exclusively one way - Yusuf sleeping behind Nicolò - with only the odd exception to the rule.

Joe had had centuries of sleeping pressed up against Nicky’s back, surrounding him so that he could be in turn surrounded by Nicky; Nicky’s ribs moving under Joe’s arm as he breathed, his fingers usually clasped around Joe’s hand or forearm, the smell of Nicky where Joe liked to bury his face in the base of Nicky's neck. Between a wall and Nicky was where Joe felt safest.

And yes, so maybe after centuries worth of a sleeping habit, sleeping without Nicky left Joe feeling a little untethered. And yes, so maybe in recent centuries he had been finding it harder and harder to sleep without Nicky when they were apart for missions, but he made it work. He always got the job done, effectively and efficiently, he just slept less and lighter, lived on coffee more, and fully appreciated the nights’ sleep he would get as soon as he and Nicky were reunited.

It was not until Nile had pointed it out and offered to do something to help him with it that Joe had ever actually admitted it properly to anyone else that it was something he sometimes struggled with. He was sure Nicky had an idea, when Joe tended to sleep deeper and longer for at least a week every time they were reunited after time apart, but Joe did not always admit to it fully; Nicky wasn’t there to see it, so Nicky did not have to worry about it. Joe didn’t want Nicky worrying about him when Nicky was off having to pay attention to a mission of his own.

The body pillow, despite being an eyesore and a target of Joe's initial scepticism and mistrust, had actually turned out to be one of the greatest inventions of more recent times as far as Joe was concerned. Every night since its cumbersome, squishy arrival into his life, he had slept really well. Not as well as if Nicky were there, of course, but it was a marked improvement. It was an improvement for his sleep, for his mood, and for Nile’s pleased smile at knowing she had helped him; that in itself was also a gift.

“It’s too big for easy, convenient travel,” Joe observed aloud to Nile as they packed up their things. He was itching to finally get back into Nicky’s orbit once more, and once there he would not have to make use of the pillow, but he was being practical in anticipation of any future missions like this one, where he and Nicky would be parted, “But it has come in very useful and would be comfy for long train journeys. I know Nicky would appreciate it too.”

He did not miss the smug look on Nile’s face. “You know you could probably afford to buy a number of them and keep them in various safe houses so you don’t have to cart one around all the time.”

Joe nodded thoughtfully, “I should buy in bulk,” he agreed, “You never know when they might go out of manufacture.”

“I imagine not for a while yet.”

“You say that but I have seen thousands of practical, useful inventions go out of production in my time.” He zipped up his bag and hoisted the giant pillow over his shoulder. “I have made my decision. It will take a while for an order of more to reach me, so I will just have to take this one with me for now.”

“Should I forewarn Nicky he’s got competition?”

Joe scoffed, “Nothing could ever compete with Nicolò,” he dismissed. “But we make more use of the safe house we are meeting them in than this one. It makes more sense to store it there. And since we have the car it won’t be an effort to bring along this time.” Joe strode towards the door, swiping up Nile’s bag on the way so that he could put their bags and his pillow in the trunk of the car.

***

Nicky and Andy had already arrived at their rendezvous safe house, so came out to greet them as Joe pulled the car up. Nile bounded out to give Andy and Nicky hugs before Joe could even get his door open. While Nicky was busy hugging Nile, Joe took the opportunity to sweep Andy into a hug.

“Looking good as always, boss,” he told her.

“You look remarkably good too,” Andy sounded slightly surprised as Joe set her down.

“Don’t I always?”

“Not after being apart from Nicky for almost a month, no, not usually,” she actually sounded suspicious.

Joe shrugged with an innocent grin before turning to Nicky, reaching out for him at the same time Nicky stepped right into his space and wrapped Joe up in one of his speciality all-encompassing hugs.

“I missed you my knife,” Joe confessed into Nicky’s neck. He was certain he heard Nile choke down a laugh and grinned to himself.

He could hear the confused frown in Nicky’s voice as he asked “Do you mean ‘life’?”

“No, I meant what I said,” Joe pulled back a little to aim the grin at him instead, “The fact that you are also my life is a given.”

Nicky smiled at him fondly, and Joe closed his eyes, finally feeling fully content once more, as Nicky placed a gentle palm to Joe’s face, fingers sliding slowly into Joe’s beard. Nicky’s lips pressed to his, and Joe sighed a little in relief as he kissed him back after a month of not being able to touch the love of his very long life.

When Joe opened his eyes he found Nicky regarding him curiously.

“You look well my love,” Nicky told him.

“So do you my heart,” Joe responded; in instinct and truth.

“We have been parted on missions and reunited many times,” Nicky said, and cocked his head a little, “But there is something different about you this time.”

“Like what?”

“You are more…” Nicky fell quiet; clearly considering what it was exactly that was different. “Awake?” he settled on, “Tranquil?”

“Alert?” Joe offered with a sheepish grin, “Less needy?”

“Hmm,” Nicky hummed looking pointedly down at where one of Joe’s arms was fixed firmly around Nicky’s waist and his other hand had curled into Nicky’s t-shirt and had not yet let go, “Maybe not so much the last one,” he teased gently.

“Hey!” Joe protested, but not too much, because the hand he still had in Nicky’s t-shirt meant that he could pull him back in for another kiss.

“Hey Nicky?” Nile’s voice interrupted them, and they looked over to where she was standing by the car, “Fancy giving me a hand with the bags?”

Joe knew what she was doing immediately, the little terror, and started to say, “I’ll get them…” until Nicky pressed his palm to Joe’s chest.

“You have been driving for hours,” Nicky argued, “Let me get them for you. Go in and relax, I already have lunch laid out for us all.”

And well, pillow reveal or no pillow reveal, Joe could never argue with Nicky being such a pure gentleman. So Joe opted for Plan B; he pressed a grateful kiss to Nicky’s jaw, and then made a hasty retreat into the house before Nicky could discover and learn what a body pillow was.

***

Nile waited with baited glee as Nicky arrived at her side, and proceeded to stare into the trunk.

“What,” Nicky said, eyeing the pillow, “Is that?”

His response was so identical to Joe’s that Nile didn’t bother to hide her laughter. “Let me fill you in,” she said.

***

Nicky was pretty certain that Joe was intentionally avoiding looking at the door as Nicky walked through it and into the bedroom with this new pillow invention that Nile swore had helped Joe sleep ‘tons better’ in Nicky’s absence. If Joe was embarrassed about it, Nicky did not wish to bring it up in front of Andy and Nile, so decided to not mention it for now, and leave the pillow on their bed for Joe to do with it as he wished. As far as Nicky was concerned, as long as Joe had been able to sleep better for it, it was welcome to stay for as long as Joe needed it.

Nicky had always guessed that Joe found it less comfortable to sleep without Nicky; he always came back from separate missions looking a little more worn than usual, and he would sleep like the true dead afterwards to the point where Nicky had a couple of times in the past actually found himself anxiously checking Joe’s pulse to make sure Joe hadn’t died a final death on him in the night. When Andy had been on missions with Joe she had always tactfully said that Joe ‘missed Nicky’ and ‘didn’t sleep as much’. Booker had previously reported that without Nicky there to keep Joe in one place Joe was a fidgety, more restless sleeper. Nicky had never truly known whether their accounts were mild to let Joe tell Nicky himself, or that Joe’s missing Nicky was just getting slowly worse as the years went by.

Nicky found it hard to sleep without Joe too, of course he did. But Nicky had always been a lighter sleeper, ready to spring into action at even the slightest sound or peripheral movement out of the ordinary. He had good senses and instincts for that kind of thing; they were skills he had continued to hone as a sniper. So he had never left the light-sleeper habit behind, particularly when they were working and needed to be on high alert already. He knew that Joe, however, had slowly evolved into a deeper sleeper, safe in the knowledge that Nicky was ready and happy and more than willing to always protect them from any harm. When Nicky was apart from Joe on missions he would rarely make use of the full mattress, and would instead often wake to find he had shifted enough to press his back right up to the wall in the night, the duvet or sheets wrapped tight around himself. Nicky unconsciously would adapt to Joe’s absence, but as a light sleeper already, Nicky had never found himself missing out on too much sleep; even if he was missing Joe terribly.

So yes, he knew that Joe in several ways found it harder than Nicky to adapt to sleeping alone, but he had not truly known to what extent until Nile had filled him in about this ‘body pillow’. He felt a familiar rush of protective warmth for his love, and a little saddened that Joe had not reached out to him about it before so that they could have found a solution before now.

He told Joe as much a little later when they were in their room on their own.

“It hasn't always been so bad,” Joe confessed, “It's gotten increasingly worse the more years I've spent accustomed to sleeping with you against me. This time was worse than the time before, and that was worse than the time before that. I used to be able to handle it, but when Nile started to notice I…I realised I should maybe start accepting some help.”

Nicky stepped up behind Joe to wrap his arms around him, hooking his chin over Joe’s shoulder, feeling the soft hairs of Joe’s beard brush against his cheek. Joe lifted his arms to bracket them over Nicky’s and keep him there.

“I am just glad you have found something that works for you," Nicky told him.

“Not as well as you do,” Joe hummed back, as Nicky swayed them a little, a soothing motion, “It's a poor substitute. But as good as anything I've found that isn’t you.”

“Then I owe Nile more thanks,” Nicky said, turning his head to kiss Joe’s cheek.

“Don’t thank her too quickly,” Joe warned, tone light and amused, “She was calling it the ‘Nicolòpillow’ and the ‘Nicopillo’ the whole time.”

Nicky was not the slightest bit offended. “You could draw my face on it,” he suggested thoughtfully.

Joe snorted a laugh, “Maybe I will,” he challenged, turning around in the circle of Nicky’s arms, “But not yet. Because for now I can see your real face, and sleep with the real you in my arms.”

“Does that mean the pillow is going to be abandoned?” Nicky pouted a little for the sake of the pillow.

Joe’s eyes widened at the sight, gaze dropping to Nicky's mouth, and he made a noise of longing, “Definitely,” he said, kissing Nicky firmly and pulling him to the bed, and, Nicky noted with some ludicrously childish satisfaction, pushing the pillow that was no longer needed now that Nicky was there onto the floor at the same time.

***

Nicky woke the next morning earlier than expected, and he wasn’t sure why until he properly registered Andy and Nile’s voices from the other room; the pair already awake for some reason.

Nicky had planned to make full opportunity of a lie-in with Joe, but curiosity in what had gotten their sisters out of bed so early was enough to call him out of bed, if only for long enough to find out what was going on.

He closed his eyes for a moment, taking the chance to fully appreciate the feeling of having Joe pressed head to toe against his back once more; fitting against him as always like the snuggest of puzzles. It felt good to once more feel Joe’s soft breaths on his neck and his fingers weaved through Nicky’s own. It felt like coming home after a long month away.

 But then Nicky forced himself to try and pry himself away from a Joe that had not been able to hold him for a month.

“Nicolò…” Joe slurred, still mostly asleep, hands grabbing blindly for him every time Nicky tried to free himself.

“You are an octopus,” Nicky told him.

Joe made a noise that was less denial and more complaint, “Nicolò,” he begged, voice small and sleepy and Nicky’s heart melted and broke just a little when he said “Nicky don’t leave me. Please.”

By that point Nicky was entirely free but for a sleep-warm hand that was circling his wrist. Joe’s eyes weren’t even open, but his saddest face was in full force.

“I won’t be long, my love, I promise,” he told him, leaning down to kiss Joe and then having to dodge being tackled back to the mattress, “I just need to check on Andy and Nile, ok?”

Joe made a long, tired, disgruntled sound, curling into himself a little more. “Stay,” Joe tried again.

Andy and Nile’s voices happened to speed up and rise in volume at that exact moment, and Nicky knew he had to check on them, even if for a moment. “I promise I’ll be right back,” Nicky insisted, but found himself unmoving, unable to leave Joe, until his eyes landed on the end of the body pillow that had been pushed under the bed and he had an idea. Nicky grabbed for it. “Joe,” he said softly, finally physically uncurling Joe’s fingers from his wrist and pushing the pillow into the space in Joe’s arms that he had vacated, “I’ll be back soon, ok?”

Joe didn’t answer, wrapping his limbs around the body pillow, latching on to it the way Nicky hoped he might, and nuzzling his face into it. Nicky took the opportunity to escape before the sight of Joe looking so sweet and sleep soft had his heart winning its battle with his head and had him climbing right back into bed and into Joe’s arms. He decided he would make his check-up on Andy and Nile as quick as possible. 

***

Nile was honestly surprised to see Nicky up and about so early.

“Nicky, hey,” she said, “Everything ok? You sleep well?”

“Yes, thank you,” Nicky said, scratching at the back of his head tiredly, his loose t-shirt riding up with the motion, as he took in where she and Andy were sitting at the dining table. “You are both up early.”

“We thought we would make a start on sharing our findings,” Andy said, “And let you and Joe catch up on some sleep. Everything’s fine. Go back to bed.”

Nicky looked a little surprised, “Really, boss? Because we can…”

“Go, Nicky,” Andy ordered, tone so fond that Nile’s love for her new immortal family grew yet another percentage, “Finish resting up. I’m surprised Joe even let you get this far into the room.”

“Yes, well,” Nicky shuffled a little, and Nile had a smug, sneaking feeling about what he was going to say next, “I made use of the - what do you call it Nile? - the ‘Nicolò pillow’?”

“Oh this I have gotta see,” Nile crowed. She pushed herself up from the table. “Andy you have gotta see this to understand how damn cute it is.”

Andy smirked, rising from her chair too and Nile bounded up to Nicky, ushering him back into his and Joe's bedroom.

Joe was fast asleep and did not hear the three of them enter. He was snuggling into the pillow like a koala bear, nose buried into it. Nile was pretty sure that only her cousin’s puppy could possibly compete on the levels of adorable that Joe and his pillow had reached.

She glanced at Andy, to see her watching Joe just as fondly as her tone had been for Nicky. Nile then looked to Nicky; the most important reaction of all. Maybe it was that he was still tired, so his face was even more open than normal, but the look in Nicky's eyes seemed even more besotted than usual, his expression full of love and adoration, the smile playing around his lips a far more private one than Nile was used to seeing. 

“Is it bad,” Nicky said quietly, clearly sensing Nile’s attention on him, “That I am starting to feel a little jealous of a pillow?”

“Then go and reclaim your man,” Nile told him.

Nicky didn’t ask for any further permission from Andy to take the morning for themselves. He immediately moved to the bed. “Joe,” he murmured.

Joe was obviously still deeply asleep, but instinctively at the sound of Nicky’s voice Joe’s hand lifted from the pillow to reach out for him. Nicky caught it instantly, looking absurdly pleased about Joe choosing him over the pillow and maneuvered himself until he was lying between Joe and the pillow, but settled face-to-face.  Nicky was watching Joe’s face so carefully, so contentedly that Nile found herself in awe of their love all over again. As Nicky started to pepper affectionate, lazy kisses over Joe’s face and bare shoulder, Nile and Andy moved to leave the room once more, Andy leading the way.

“You’re back,” Nile heard Joe’s pleased and relieved mumble.

“Always,” came Nicky’s soft reply.

When Nile reached the door she paused to glance back at the bed one more, and saw Nicky cuddling closer into Joe as he settled down to go back to sleep, one of each of their arms around the other’s waist, Joe’s other arm stretched out under Nicky’s head and Nicky’s other hand curled up close to Joe’s face, knuckles brushing his cheek.

Her last look back also meant that Nile witnessed the moment Nicky kicked out a foot, lightning fast, to send the body pillow flying off the bed. Nile hid a grin, knowing that as long as Nicky was around, Joe would have no need for the body pillow, but she was still glad she had been able to find something that could help Joe if and when he and Nicky were separated.

Nile left Joe sleeping soundly and Nicky quickly joining him having kicked his adversary for Joe’s sleepy embrace to the ground. She closed the door quietly behind her and returned to Andy and the breakfast they hadn’t had a chance to start before Nicky had turned up.

Nile sat back down and Andy passed her a bowl of fruit and Greek yoghurt and offered her a spoon.

Nile took the spoon, remarked that it was a big one, and hid her amused, content smile around a mouthful of yoghurt.