"You have to realise," Matt tells the coffee table, "that I was young and stupid. I mean, it seems that everyone always forgets that, because I was older than you, but I was still very young myself. When I left, I was just twenty-six. People will always do stupid things, but even more so when they're young. Like, I don't know what you were doing last year - "
"I wonder why," I mutter, also at the coffee table, and carefully keep myself from thinking about the couple of months I spent ignoring how there always was less money in my wallet than expected whenever Leon had slept over.
"Because I wasn't fucking here, Lucas. We've established that. Now can I finish?" Prickly little shit, acting like I wronged him somehow. I glare at the stupid fucking table and take a swig from my glass. Maybe getting drunk isn't the best course of action here. Whatever is going to happen here tonight, I will have to keep my wits about me. After setting the glass down, I turn on the couch to face Matt.
"Fine, but don't forget that you've been the one who wanted to talk all this time. I'm hurt, and I'm uncomfortable, and I'm fucking tired to feel this way. And you may not remember this, but I'm a bitch and a half when I'm unhappy. You brought this upon yourself, really, so don't whine about it when I react exactly like you should've expected me to."
I gesture benevolently at him, like a king giving his permission to a lowly servant to speak in his presence.
"Now, enlighten me."
He stares at me for a few seconds before he shakes his head.
"You know, maybe this was a mistake after all. I shouldn't have come up here." He gets up, takes his coat. Wait, what? "I'll leave you alone from now. I'm really sorry for hurting you. Take care of yourself, okay?" Oh, no. He's not supposed to leave. He's supposed to stay here and feel miserable and contrite. He's supposed to stay here and make it all better.
He's supposed to stay.
He's already opened the front door when I take a deep shuddering breath.
My voice sounds so small, I have to wonder if he's heard me. The door doesn't close, so maybe he has.
"I should," he says, still from the hallway. I hurry towards it.
"No, wait," I say, looking at him across the darkened hallway. Separated by three meters and six years. "I'm sorry. Don't go." It's not going to be enough; I've pushed him away too many times. Finally, finally I realise that I don't want to lose him again and it's too late. I close my eyes when he looks out the door, undecided. The words slip out before I can stop them.
"Don't leave me."
When I hear the front door close, I grow cold for the half-second before I hear his footsteps coming towards me. I open my eyes to see him standing right in front of me, face inscrutable. Three meters bridged. Now for the six years.
He walks past me, back into the living room, drops his coat onto a chair and sits down on the couch again. I stand in the doorway, nervously staring at him, and he sighs. Sighs and opens his arms for me.
I'm not sure how I've suddenly crossed the room, but I'm falling against his side and (manfully) sniffling into his shoulder. I'm just so tired. And after all those days of trying to get him out of my life, I can't stand the thought of seeing him walk away again.
"Fuck," he murmurs after a while, pressing a kiss into my hair, "I broke you."
"Hey, what?" I look up from his extremely comfy shoulder. (Note to self: find out where he got that t-shirt. Surely that's what makes him so comfortable.) "I'm not broken. Fuck you." Unfortunately, I'm a little congested, so my denial lacks the bite I was going for.
He smiles a little at me. "Why don't you try and nap a little? I'll go find us something to eat."
There's absolutely no way I'll be able to sleep I think, and then I wake up when the delivery guy rings the doorbell.
When Matt walks into the room with a pizza box, he seems pleasantly surprised to find me sitting up.
"I ordered out," he says, unnecessarily, "you have absolutely nothing to eat here."
"I was going to get groceries after work today," I defend myself. Really, I'm not some sort of helpless bachelor. It's just that today's entertainment didn't give me a chance to restock the pantry.
We eat our pizza in comfortable silence, but once everything is cleared away, Matt seems determined. He leans towards me, focused, intent. Dangerous.
"Okay Lucas, from here on out, no games. No pretensions. No hiding. No running away. All cards on the table and whatever happens after this will have happened in complete honesty. Agreed?"
I'm not so sure, but do I really have a choice? I need to get past this and I'm guessing, so does he. I nod.
"Well," he says, and falls silent.
"Yeah," I agree.
"Okay," he concludes.
Well, I'm glad we had this heart-to-heart. Really cleared the air.
I'm pretty sure we can do better than this, so to get the conversation moving I say, "So, uh, young and stupid?"
"Yes," he latches onto my conversation starter while he moves a little closer. "I was."
I find myself leaning into his warmth and desperately try to focus on the topic at hand.
Matt's breathed "Yes" tickles my lips a split second before his mouth burns them. Not good. Not good at all. But so good. So very good.
My fingers desperately claw into his shoulders for purchase as he pulls me under him. His hand under my shirt once more, but not calming me down this time. Not by a long shot.
"Tell me to stop," he pleads, and I press my hips upwards and into his.
"We shouldn't," he argues, and grinds back.
"We need to talk," he reminds me as he unbuttons my trousers.
"We need to fuck," I growl around a mouthful of his skin.
He sits back, leaving me suddenly cold and aching. The unexpected disconnection makes me gasp.
"No," he repeats, looking away. "That is the last thing we need to do right now."
I'm still too overwhelmed to think right, so I ask, "Later, though?" Young and stupid, indeed.
The fire in his gaze belies the caution in his tone.
"If you still want to."
"Maybe," I say, standing up and buttoning my trousers with a little effort, "maybe I should sit in that chair over there." See, I can make responsible decisions. I'm a bonafide grownup, yes I am.
After we've taken a minute to regain our bearings, Matt breaks the silence once more.
"Right, so about young and stupid. I never meant to leave you, you know. I just thought, stupidly, selfishly so, that you would come with me. No, wait," he says, holding up a hand to still the protest that was already making its way out of my throat, "I know that was a stupid assumption of me. Believe me, I know. It's just, you'd always said you wanted to live abroad, and you'd specifically mentioned France, and here was this amazing opportunity, and I thought, 'hey, this is great, it's exactly what we both want' and I kept it to myself because I was too afraid that speaking about it would ruin things and that it would be a wonderful surprise for you. Like I said, stupid. And then the job offer came and I was so excited that I didn't stop to think about it and I rushed home and found out that you assumed it would be the end of us when it was always something I wanted to share with you. And somehow that made me think that you weren't considering our relationship as a 'forever' thing, like I was, which hurt. And then, well, I guess you're not the only one who's to stubborn for his own good."
Those are a lot of words and I need a moment to digest them. The crux of the matter, however, is this:
"You say you wanted to share it with me, but you didn't. You gave me an ultimatum. Leave my life or lose you." He nods earnestly, like he's already realised that, so I continue, "Would you do things differently now?" He considers the question for a minute.
"I would still very much like to take the job," he says finally, "but I wouldn't go about it the same way. I'd discuss it with you, beforehand. I mean, I would do my very best to convince you, but in the end, it was about our life together and I shouldn't have made that decision alone. We would've come to some solution that would have made both of us happy, I'm sure of it."
Well then. All cards on the table. I take a deep breath.
"I wish you hadn't left," I say, "but you did. And you hurt me so very deeply that I'm not sure I can ever completely get over it. But you're back."
I meet his gaze. Lay the last card down.
"Don't leave me like that again."
And I believe him when he says, "I won't."
I crawl out of my chair, into his lap, into his mouth. No desperation, no hurry, no 'shouldn't'. This time, our kiss is healing, or at least soothing, old hurts.
This time, it is me who holds out a hand and asks "Come with me?"
For the second time this evening, we stand in front of my bedroom door. This time, however, I open it.
Behind me, Matt asks "Are you sure?" And there's really only one answer to that.
"No. But I am sure I don't want not to."
"No," I stated as soon as I saw what lay behind the door. "No, absolutely not. No way in hell. Nuh-uh. Not going to happen. I'm not having our first time," I gestured around the Cottage of Doom, "here. So grab that bag, mister, we're going back home."
He looked around the room in amazement.
"It has," he tried, "a certain charm."
I understood his willingness to find some redeeming feature in this thing. Boy, did I understand it. Matt had remained steadfast in his refusal to engage in any below-the-belt action whatsoever until my eighteenth birthday. I'd turned eighteen two days ago, and he'd booked us a weekend away. To make it special. So yes, I understood wanting to ignore the hideousness around us, because I was so frustrated that if I wasn't going to get some soon, I'd murder someone. But this cottage was an irredeemable monstrosity and I would not stand for it. There's only so much 'special' a guy needs for his first time.
"No," I repeated, "no, it does not have a certain charm. I'm not staying here, dude. Seriously, what if there is a terrorist attack, or an alien invasion or something, and someone has to tell my mother that I died in a cottage that looks like it was decorated by Liberace's redneck cousin. Fuck you, I'm going home. Hey!" I shouted after him, as he happily ignored me and started to explore the cottage, "didn't you hear me? I'm not staying here and if you force me to, I'm not putting out. I'm so serious. I'm not fucking in this eyesore."
"Hey," he called out from another room, "the bedroom's not so bad."
"Oh fuck, someone shoot me." I trailed after him and peeked into the bedroom. It was so bad. In the centre of the room, however, stood a giant, four-poster bed. I whirled around to face Matt.
"Oh god, can you imagine the things we can do on that thing?"
When we left the cottage, I was well divested of any shreds of virginity I had arrived with. The day after we got back, Matt went out and bought a four-poster.
"What happened to our bed?" he asks, eyeing my decidedly non-four-poster bed.
"Sold it," I tell him. He nods slowly.
"Those sheets I got us?" he continues. Really, this is the conversation he wants to have right now?
"Look," I say, a little more harshly than I intended, "let me nip this delightful little conversation in the bud. Everything in that apartment that I didn't bring with me when I moved in, I either sold or threw away. Some things that were particularly offensive to me, I burned."
"That's a little over-dramatic, don't you think?" That fucker has the gall to be indignant about this. I shrug.
"I was twenty-one and the love of my life had just left me. I felt it was an appropriate time for dramatics."
Things are tense and uncomfortable for a few seconds. He looks at the bed. I look at his shoes.
And then there are lips on lips, skin touching skin and, eventually, his body in mine. There are things remembered, things rediscovered and things entirely new. Our bodies instantly recognise each other, even though they are not the same as they were before. We explore all the differences six years make: the normal changes time inflicts on a man's body, the subtle shifts caused by changes in diet, climate and workout regimes, the reminders of traumatic or important events. I let my fingers wander over the appendectomy scar that wasn't there when he left and I wonder who took care of him after the surgery. He licks my tattoos and laughs at himself for half-believing the inked skin would taste different.
("What, you never fucked a guy with tattoos before?" I ask, incredulously. "No, I have," he tells me, "but it's kind of intimate, isn't it? You don't just go licking some random dude's ink.")
It's not perfect. We're not perfect. I'm pushy. He's a bit of an asshole.
("I swear, baby," he murmurs into the small of my back, "I'm clean." "I don't give a fuck," I tell him, and fish the condoms from the night stand.)
There are faltering rhythms, cramping muscles, bites that are too hard, touches that are not hard enough.
But in the end, all that matters is that there's him, and there's me, and there we are.
"So I guess I'm no longer your first and only," he says later, his fingers drowsily tracing abstract patterns on my skin and his voice thick with sleep. Good sex always knocked him out faster than a blow to the head, hence the stained suit incident. I'm surprised he's still awake. By my count, he should have been out about four minutes ago.
"You were never my first and only, you moron. I had sex before I met you, you know."
"Yeah, but," he argues, "there were so many thing you hadn't done yet. I was your first for all of those."
"So you were," I acknowledge.
"I liked that," he admits, sounding wistful. I can't help it, I have to laugh at this.
"Hey, dork, you still are my first for all of those things. I could hardly go and have my first fuck with some other guy after I'd done it with you."
"Oh. Yeah." He sounds happier now. And even sleepier. "I like that."
"I gathered," I state drily.
"I," he starts.
"If you're going to tell me you'd like being my last, I'm kicking you out," I threaten, "That kind of sappy shit is inexcusable."
"Oh," he says, and falls silent for a while. I politely pretend not to hear his mumbled "I would, though."
I lie awake for what seems like hours but a glance at my alarmclock tells me it's only been twenty minutes. I never possessed Matt's post-coital sleeping skills and today's rollercoaster of emotions doesn't help either. I have shit to work through before I can go to sleep. I quietly get out of bed and wander into my living room. It's a bit chilly, so I grab a random sweater that I find before I go and start up my laptop. May as well get some work done while I'm thinking.
Of all my new emails, I only open Lois's.
What the hell?
1 attached file: MatthewshouldDIAF .mm
Oh crap, she mindmapped her hate. That's how you know she's serious. I download the file and chuckle at her well-organised rage. Strangely enough, this diagram of Matt's horrible points has made me wistful and nostalgic. I want all of that. I want to make fun of his irrational hate of pizza. I want to argue about his horrible taste in music. I want to fight over his leaving his filthy fucking socks wherever. And it's more that a little daunting to realise that I can have all of that back. It will take a lot of effort on both of our parts, and we'll have to learn how to communicate, but we can have a second chance at that 'forever' thing. I refuse to call it 'happily ever after', because that is bullshit. Let's face it, the whole concept completely disregards the ugly little realities of day-to-day life. 'Happily ever after' doesn't exist, but if you work damned hard at it, you can have something even better. You can have something solid, something that works, something real. And I want that. With Matt. So, I decide, we're going to work at that. And keep working at it. We're going to talk, and fight, and fuck, and support each other and grow old together. And we'll make it work. Because this time, we're older and maybe even a little wiser, and we know what life looks like without the other in it.
With that decided, I realise that I actually feel tired now. I type a quick response to Lois before I head back to bed.
"Hey," I hear behind me as I hit 'send'. I turn my chair around to see a sleep-rumpled Matt leaning against the doorpost. He smiles at me.
"You're wearing my sweater."
I look down at the grey-and-blue horror. Well, I'll be damned.
"I guess it's not so bad, after all."
A/N: You guys? You guys, it's done. Thank you everyone who read this entire story. Special thanks to everyone who followed, favourited or reviewed this story: you're completely awesome. Very special thanks to plumblossom and anterapalet, who were kind enough to include Of Sweaters And Heartache in their wonderful communities.
Also: if anyone is curious about Lois's mindmap, I couldn't resist making it and you'll find a link in my profile.
And now for the boring and unnecessary story post-mortem: This is the first longer story I've finished and I feel ridiculously proud of it. More importantly: I had fun writing it! I mean, I'm not sure I like Lucas, but he was so much fun to write. The story was originally supposed to be about four snarky chapters but then I realised that Lucas and Matt would have to resolve their problems before any non-destructive nookie could take place. And then my snarky, light-hearted story turned emotional on me. So if you found yourself wondering 'Jesus lady, why the mood swings?' well, that's why.
Anyway, like I said: Thank you so much for reading and maybe until next time!