London - 03.09.2013
“Are you really okay with this?”
“Matt, come on. You know I am. Especially now.”
Dom pushed open the door to his house and let Matt in. He had invited the singer to stay for as long as he wanted. Truth be told, Dom wouldn’t have let Matt go back to his own house even if he had wanted to. He was too afraid to let him out of his sight. At least for now. It would take both musicians a lot of time to adjust to normal life again. The singer didn’t voice it, but it was obvious how grateful he was for his friend’s hospitality. Of course he was scared to go back to his own house. Things had happened there… Things he didn’t want to think about again. There had not been a lot of talking about the new living arrangements. It was a given, natural really. Matt had his own room at Dom’s house anyway and a few of his things were already there.
“When’s Chris coming over?” the brunette asked tentatively.
Dom checked his watch and replied, “Should be here any minute.”
The bassist was eager to help settle Matt in, but there was not too much to do, so he had offered to at least go over to Matt’s house and fetch some clothes and toiletries. The singer had written him a short list of stuff he might need and Chris had taken on the task without hesitation. Kelly had even suggested for the other 2 to move in with the Wolstenholme family for the time being, but Matt had been hesitant about it and Dom had immediately known that it would’ve been too much for his friend. Too many people at once. So he had gratefully declined for the both of them. The brunette had almost hugged him afterwards. Almost.
“Make yourself at home,” the blonde said with a smile and one hand on the small of his friend’s back as they climbed the stairs to the first floor.
Matt tried to hide his frown and therefore looked anywhere but at his friend. But Dom noticed anyway. He took it in stride, though, because it was anything but unusual that Matt was still uncomfortable. So he didn’t take his hand away.
“You hungry? I could cook us something or order pizza. Whatever you want. My treat. Maybe Chris wants to join, too,” he offered and gave Matt an unwavering smile.
“Yeah… no, thanks. I think I’m just… gonna go to bed,” the singer mumbled and reached out for the door handle of his bedroom.
“Really? But it’s only afternoon,” Dom replied, uncertain.
“Yes… I’m sorry, but… I’m really tired.”
“Okay. We could still eat tonight. You need to get some food into your system. The doctor told me to have an eye on that.”
Matt just nodded and pressed the handle down. The sleeve of his shirt rode up a bit and revealed a dark bruise on his wrist. Dom had already noticed at the hospital but had decided not to mention it then. But now it made his stomach turn to knots. The brunette felt Dom’s staring immediately and pushed the fabric down awkwardly.
“Does that… Does it still hurt?” the drummer asked softly.
“No.” The reply was curt and left no room for questions. Although Dom still had a lot of those.
Apart from the more visible cuts and more or less fresh scars, there had to be a lot more bruises and injuries on Matt’s body. Dom could still remember those pictures quite vividly and it made him angry beyond reason. Yes, Suzanne and her lackey were dead. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t still want to make them suffer. It was obvious that Matt was still in pain sometimes because he moved with special care these days. The drummer wished there was something, anything really, he could do to make it better. But the singer didn’t ask, so what should he do?
“I guess I’m just gonna… gonna sleep now.” Matt had stopped in the doorway and gave Dom an insecure look.
“Yeah.” The blonde scratched his neck and smiled. Then he just took a step closer and hugged him. He still couldn’t quite believe that he had him back. Matt was finally here again. His Matt. He still smelled a bit of antiseptics and the hospital soap. Dom was very mindful not to hurt his friend and so he kept the hug as light as possible. “God, I missed you so much.”
“I missed you, too,” the brunette replied in a dampened voice, but Dom didn’t fail to notice the lack of hug returning.
The blonde loosened his hold on Matt to lean back a bit and look at him properly. “Are you okay?”
“Don’t worry.” That wasn’t an answer at all. Immediately Dom started to worry again.
“Matt, I-” he started, but wasn’t able to finish his sentence.
“Really, don’t worry,” Matt cut him short. “I’m… I’m good.”
But he didn’t look it. Dom knew better than to take his word at face value. But if Matt didn’t want to talk, what was he supposed to do? He couldn’t force him, could he?
“Okay,” he sighed almost defeatedly. “Sleep then. I’m gonna be here whenever you wake up. Just come down when you feel like it. I’ll make us dinner then.”
“Maybe another time?”
Dom nodded. “Of course. Whenever and whatever you want.”
“Pasta?”, Matt asked quietly.
“Your favourite, got it.”
The singer nodded and gave him a little smile before he turned around and stepped into the room. “Thanks, Dom. Really.” He closed the bedroom door carefully.
That only pacified the drummer temporarily. Actually he wanted to open the door again and hug Matt tight and tell him that everything would be okay again. That he could help if Matt only let him. But he didn’t want to rush him or scare him off. Sighing, he walked back down the stairs and shoved his hands in his pockets. Just as he was about to enter the living room to relax for a bit, the doorbell rang and he turned around again. Oh yes, Chris. He’d almost forgotten over his worries.
“Coming,” he shouted and then thought better of it. Matt was upstairs, trying to sleep. Shouting wasn’t very productive in that department.
So he hurried over to the door and opened it. Chris smiled brightly at him and engaged him in a short hug. There were two large suitcases to his left and right. He’d apparently taken his job really seriously.
“Hey, how’re you mate?” the taller man asked as he carried Matt’s stuff inside and Dom closed the door again.
“Good. I’m good,” he replied as he followed Chris to the living room.
“And how’s Matt?”
“Well…” He stopped in the doorway and rubbed at his face.
“Dom?” Chris turned around with a questioning look on his face after he’d placed the suitcases next to the couch.
“I’m not sure, actually. He’s very quiet and went straight to bed after we got home. Like, three minutes ago,” the drummer sighed.
“Oh,” Chris breathed and scratched his head. “I guess… it’s normal, isn’t it? I mean, normal considering the circumstances. Probably just needs some more rest in a proper bed. And coming to terms with what happened is surely going to take him some time.”
“Yeah, I think you’re right. I just… I hope he’ll let me… us help with that. I don’t think he’ll manage on his own. You know how he tends to shut himself off when he’s troubled.” Dom walked over to the couch and sank down on it.
“And troubled he definitely is,” the bassist agreed and sat down in the armchair opposite Dom. “But don’t worry. Just give him some time. He’s complicated, you know that. He’ll reach out when he’s ready.”
“I hope so… After everything he’s been through… I just want to be there for him, y’know?” The blonde pulled his legs up to put his feet on the table and then leant back.
“Of course I know. And you already are, Dom. I know how daft that sounds, but… really, give him time and let him come to you. I promise you, he will. I mean… he’s back, after all!” Chris tried to give him an encouraging smile to cheer him up, but Dom didn’t really feel like it.
Yes, Chris was right. Matt was back. But to which extent? Was his heart back? His mind? Completely exhausted he closed his eyes for a second. Maybe the singer really just needed some time to himself. Although he was very reluctant to give him that time because he’d missed him unbelievably, he knew that it was the best he could do at the moment. No pushing, no rushing, no forcing, he told himself. Just be there when he needs you.
“Thanks Chris,” he said out of the blue, but the bassist understood.
“No problem, mate. Any time,” Chris replied with a smile followed by a quiet sigh.
This didn’t promise to be an exactly easy time. But fuck it, they’d seen worse. Much worse. Matt could’ve been dead, after all. No, they’d managed before and they would manage now. Because they were back together. That was all that counted.
Later that night Dom was getting ready for bed when he heard a quiet yelp coming from Matt’s bedroom. Quickly he dropped his unused toothbrush into the sink and ran over to the slightly opened door opposite of his own bedroom. Well, this was new. The singer never left his door open when he went to bed. Once he’d said that he couldn’t sleep when there was even the possibility of someone understanding an open door as an invitation. While this made perfect sense in hotel rooms (which they usually locked anyway), Dom didn’t quite see the point in doing it when you were at home. Anyone who’d get into your house uninvited would surely not be put off by something as simple as a closed door.
“Matt?” he asked softly as he knocked on the doorframe.
Dim light was falling through the gap onto the wooden floor of the hallway and he could see Matt’s shadow on the light carpet inside.
“Hey, are you alright?” he spoke up again, louder this time, and stepped inside.
“What?” Matt squeaked in surprise. He’d been sitting on the bed with his back to the door and looking out of the window. Now he’d jumped up like a frightened animal and was standing on the other side of the bed, having effectively brought the huge piece of furniture between himself and any potential danger in mere seconds.
“Hey, hey… It’s okay, just me. I heard a sound from your room and wanted to make sure you’re alright,” Dom tried to calm him.
“Yeah, just…” The singer was still breathing heavily and even in the soft light Dom could see the thin sheen of sweat on his friend’s pale forehead. “Nightmare, s’all.”
“Okay,” Dom replied hesitantly. “You sure, though? You’re never leaving your door open. Is there maybe more to this?”
All of a sudden the remaining signs of surprise vanished from Matt’s face and were replaced by a slight frown. His next words sounded more careful and guarded, much less subdued. “Well… I find it more difficult to sleep in a closed room. I guess the reason is more or less obvious…”
Dom sighed deeply and tried to catch the singer’s evasive eyes again. “Yes, I understand. And I’m sorry I’ve startled you. I should have been more considerate.”
“No, Dom. No… it’s okay. I’m just… feeling weird. It’ll pass, I’m sure. I’m sorry.” Now the brunette looked smaller than ever with his shoulders sagging and his eyes locked on the ground. The abrupt changes in his behaviour worried the drummer more than he cared to admit and a heavy weight seemed to settle in his stomach once more. A weight he’d thought gone after Matt had returned to them.
“So we’re both sorry.” He tried to smile in spite of everything. “Let’s move on from here then, shall we?”
“Yeah,” Matt replied with an uncertain smile of his own.
Oh, how Dom wished they would really move on so everything could go back to normal. Because normal had never quite seemed to be so worth striving for.
“Matt, you alright?”
Dom shot him a glance and frowned a little. They’d agreed to have a quiet evening with pizza and a movie. Nothing too exciting. The singer was seated across from him on the couch and instead of having his eyes on the screen, he was eyeing his watch. His nimble fingers fumbled around with the tiny button. Then, without saying anything, he grabbed for the remote and checked the time on the telly.
“Are you alright?”
With a sigh Dom leant back again and kept watching Matt from the corner of his eyes.
“Dom, what time is it?” Surprised, the drummer looked over and caught Matt’s unsure stare.
“Uhm…” Quickly he checked his own watch and replied, “9.34. Why? Didn’t you just check on the TV?”
“Yeah… But it could’ve been wrong.” The brunette tapped his fingertip on the glass of his watch and again turned the small button.
Silence followed and Dom released a little breath. He’d observed his friend checking his watch time and time again since he was back. He had a good idea about the reason and it wasn’t like he couldn’t just speak to him, but something was holding him back. Matt had shut off before when he’d tried to talk to him about such things, so he avoided it as much as possible. Of course not talking about substantial issues didn’t sit right with him. Not at all, mind you. But what was he supposed to do? Matt’s reactions didn’t leave much room for action. And if there was anything Dom didn’t want, then it was Matt shutting himself off even further.
“Does the clock in the kitchen keep the right time?” The singer had finally released his wrist and folded his hands on his knees.
“Well, I don’t know… I guess.” Dom shrugged and helplessly looked after Matt as he got up and made his way to the kitchen. “Matt, are you sure you’re okay?”
No reply. The blonde closed his eyes and rubbed his face with the heels of his hands. This was a nightmare in its own right. Matt was still suffering badly from his lack of time reference during his… his confinement. It was completely understandable. But why he wouldn’t talk about it… he still didn’t know. He’d waited so long for Matt to come to him for help, had given him so much time. And yet…
“Matt, there are some clocks upstairs. If you want we could go check them together.”
Yes, Dom had just decided to endorse his friend. Because, hey, if Matt didn’t want any direct help, he could still at least have his back when it came to his insecurities, right? Maybe if Matt realised that Dom was there for him, always, then he’d finally open up to him again. So the drummer jumped up and followed his friend to the kitchen.
“Good idea,” the brunette mumbled while he compared the kitchen clock’s time with the time of his watch. “Uhm… this one says it’s 9.56… That can’t be right…”
“No, it most definitely can’t,” Dom nodded his agreement.
He went up to the table, took one of the chairs and put it down under the clock so as to climb up and correct it. His own watch was always perfectly on time because on a job like his there was almost nothing as important as that. But the clocks at his house… well, he was a bit negligent with them. At home you were supposed to relax anyway. When he looked down at Matt, the singer actually smiled the tiniest bit. Dom marked it up as a huge success. Because his inner Notebook of Successes in the Matt department was pretty empty these days and anything that could make his friend smile was noteworthy.
“So, you want to go up together and see if those clocks have been fucking around with me all the time, too?” Dom asked with a smile of his own.
“Yeah… let’s do that,” Matt replied with a nod, but the smile had vanished.
Good thing Dom had mentally noted it down before, otherwise he probably wouldn’t believe in its short but precious existence. He savoured it now and thought of more ways to at least provoke a smile. It felt like he was facing the Mount Everest. With the small difference that Matt could be far more obstinate than any mountain.
It was a late Wednesday afternoon, about a month after Matt's return, when Dom entered his house after one exhausting shopping trip. He'd bought Matt some new trousers and shirts because he thought that it was time for something new in the singer's life. It was only a small change but maybe it would help his friend to move on.
Small steps, the drummer reminded himself as he shut the door with his foot.
"Honey, I'm home!" he shouted through the house with a slight chuckle to his words. After everything that had happened, it was a bit surprising, even to himself, how he was actually able to joke around. Especially considering the current Bellamy-got-his-lips-sealed situation.
There was no reply, though, and the ground floor seemed eerily quiet. Before, a house containing Matt could have hardly been mistaken for an empty house. But these days the singer moved without making any noise, almost ghostlike. If he moved at all, that is. Sometimes Dom wouldn't see him for half a day. And then he would only emerge from his hiding places either to go to the loo or to satisfy his stomach. They'd come to the point where there was almost no social interaction anymore and secretly it was driving Dom nuts. Nevertheless, the blonde still stuck to his resolve to leave the singer as much room as was physically possible when you were living together.
He'll reach out when he's ready.
Dom had come to repeat Chris' words like a mantra in order not to forget about it. Because lately he was really getting a bit impatient. But he was dead set not to let it show. That wouldn't be helpful at all, he was sure of it.
"Matt? You there?"
Seriously, though... How hard could it be to at least acknowledge his presence? With a sigh Dom went up to Matt's room, very careful to make himself heard before he entered it. He didn't want to surprise his friend, after all. These days surprises didn't go down too well with the singer. It seemed like he was always cautious, always ready to leg it like some scared animal.
His tries were in vain, though, as the singer wasn't there. With a frown the drummer put down the two shopping bags and left the room without a second glance. Maybe he was in the garden again. Quickly Dom went into his own bedroom to look out of the window there. It had a great view over the garden and if Matt was there, he would definitely be able to see him.
He put his hands down on the window-sill and started scanning the garden for his oldest friend. Surely enough, it only took him a few seconds to find the tiny man. He was sitting in the grass with his back resting against an apple tree. As said tree stood in the far right corner of the garden, he wouldn't have been able to locate Matt from any of the ground floor windows. There were a few bushes blocking the view, but from up here Dom could see him perfectly.
It didn't look like the brunette was actually doing anything. There were no books or papers, no iPod, no nothing. He was just sitting there, appearing immobile. His eyes were wide open, fixed on something that remained invisible to Dom. It was very likely that he was just staring, without really seeing. That was a talent Matt had brought to perfection over the years. But now it was just creepy. The drummer sighed quietly and turned his back to the window.
There had to be something he could do without coming on too strong, without scaring him off. Because he couldn't stand the way they were acting towards each other. He couldn't stand walking on eggshells. They'd known each other for almost all their lives and now it felt like he wasn't even able to talk to his friend anymore. It wasn't just the fact that he craved for their romantic encounters. No, he wanted his friend back. More than anything.
Maybe, he thought, Matt wanted the same thing but didn't know how to act on it? Maybe he just needed a gentle push in the right direction?
With that in mind, the drummer hurried down the stairs again and went to the kitchen. He pulled a bottle of red out of the shelf, picked up two glasses, and quickly made his way to the garden. It only took him a few seconds until he'd reached the small front of bushes, the only remaining physical barrier between them now. Physical wasn't their problem, though...
Taking in a deep, calming breath he walked around the bushes and had his smile in place before Matt noticed him.
"Hi there," he greeted the brunette and sat down beside him without much ado.
"Erm... hi," Matt replied, only slightly dumbfounded, and looked at the blonde.
"Want some?" Dom asked and put the bottle down before waving the two glasses around. "I could definitely use a glass or two."
"I... Dom, I don't..." the singer stuttered and clutched his hands in his lap. He seemed nervous. Why the hell did he seem so nervous?
"You don't drink anymore?" he chuckled light-heartedly and poured them two glasses of the dark-red, rich wine. Without waiting for any reaction, he handed Matt a glass and took a swig from his own, partly to calm his nerves and partly in hope his friend would do the same. But he didn't.
"No, I... I mean, yeah. I do. But not right now." Matt appeared to be shrinking further into the thick trunk of the apple tree, almost as if he wanted to melt into it.
"Why though?" the drummer asked and casually caught a stray drop of wine with his tongue off his lips.
"I don't feel like it, that's why," came the curt reply and suddenly Matt didn't seem too nervous anymore. No, it was more like he was shutting himself off again. His arms were crossed over his chest and there was a small pout threatening to take over his expression.
With a sigh and his heart pumping like mad he reached for the singer's knee and squeezed it comfortingly. "You don't have to. You know I wouldn't force you. I just thought you'd maybe like to... well, have a drink with me, s'all," he said while rubbing small circles through his friend's jeans and into his skin.
"Please Dom..." All of a sudden Matt's voice had become all small and quiet and he actually shrank away from Dom's hand. Now he couldn't even look at the blonde anymore. "Please, just... just leave me alone, yeah? I... I need to think and..."
That stung. It seemed like all he ever wanted nowadays was for Dom to leave him alone. But there was nothing he could do, was there?
"Nah, it's okay," the drummer murmured in defeat. "I guess, I see where you're coming from. You need space, I get it. But you know I'm here whenever you need me, yes?"
"Yeah," Matt nodded slightly and fixed his eyes on the ground beneath his feet.
With fear and resignation gnawing painfully on his insides, the drummer pushed himself to his feet again. Before straightening up, though, he leant forward a bit, put his right hand to the back of Matt's head and kissed his hair. Meanwhile, Matt's body had gone completely rigid and, as Dom eventually got up, he looked at the drummer with wide eyes.
"I mean it. I'm here for you. Whenever you feel like... you know... talking. About anything."
"Okay," Matt whispered, still completely caught off guard.
Dom nodded and turned back to the house. Then he left the singer... his singer alone again. If solitude was what he wanted, solitude he should have. Still, his insides were churning wildly with every step he took away from Matt like he couldn't get back to him, like every yard between them was something final and irreversible. Matt hadn't chastised him after that kiss, though. Maybe... maybe there was still something he could do. More drastic measures. Something to show him that he was still wanted in the here and now and that Dom still needed him.
“You could be my luck. Even if the sky is falling down, I know that we'll be safe and sound.”
The drummer sang along to the single charts that were currently being played on the radio while swirling through the kitchen like a minor hurricane. Sparked with a new idea, his mood had lifted remarkably. Just this morning he’d remembered Matt’s wish for a pasta dinner. That had been the day he’d gotten released from the hospital but with everything that hadn’t happened since then, Dom had completely forgotten about it. Since Matt had always been a devotee of everything culinary, maybe this was the way to go. A special, albeit late, celebration dinner. And just maybe a slightly different approach to his everlasting silence was just what they both needed.
Said silence even extended to music now. Dom hadn’t expected Matt to go back to playing. No, that wasn’t it at all. But the singer wasn’t even willing to listen to music anymore. One time, about two weeks ago, Dom had tried to lure Matt out of his hiding place in the garden by playing his favourite Rachmaninov piano concert. You wouldn’t even believe how badly that one had backfired. The singer had actually been mad at Dom, spitting spiteful words at him and running off like some maniac. Even the sheer sight of instruments seemed to instill a sense of panic and fear in Matt. Once Dom had seen him eyeing one of the guitars Chris had brought over (just in case…) like it was about to attack him any second. His attitude towards music had changed so much that the drummer had caught himself fearing for the band’s future once or twice.
While the spaghetti were already cooking in a large pan of salted water, he tossed some garlic and chilli into the heated olive oil. The smell instantly took over the kitchen and it was only then that Dom realised that he was pretty hungry himself. All the better, he thought and stirred the spaghetti. If the smell was already this good down here, it would only take a few more minutes until it reached Matt’s room. And if there was one thing he knew about Matt, it was that he could never block out a good aroma.
“I could fill your cup. You know my river won't evaporate, this world we still appreciate,” he sang on, a bit out of tune but in high spirits. He’d already set the table and now added prawns, white wine and some of his self-made tomato purée to the garlic. Then he hurried to the living room and put a small, not too obvious candle in the middle of the table. The drummer had come to the conclusion that music wouldn’t be too good an idea for tonight. Not after Matt’s reaction to the last time he’d tried to make him listen to some. Still, Dom didn’t feel quite ready to let it go just yet. There were other ways to create a sort of romantic atmosphere. Good food, wine, and candle light were classics and they’d always worked before. Why not now? Well, of course the situation was eons more difficult now, but they were still Matt and Dom, right? Somewhere deep down they had to be.
Quickly he went back to the kitchen, just in time so the pasta wouldn’t be overcooked. He tossed it with the sauce, squeezed in some lemon juice for extra flavour, and added half of the rocket he’d chopped before.
“Hey brother, there’s an endless road to re-discover. Hey sister, know the water's sweet but blood is thicker. Oh, if the sky comes falling down for you, there’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do.” The song had changed, but Dom was still singing. Usually Matt would be right there to make fun of him and he would shrug it off with an half-earnest smile, happy to have at least entertained his little shit of a friend a bit.
“What’s up with the singing and the smell, I… Oh. You really are cooking.”
Abruptly Dom shot around to find Matt standing awkwardly in the doorway. Yes! There it was! The tiniest hint of a smile seemed to be tugging on the corner of Matt’s lips and if that wasn’t an improvement, then nothing was.
“Why are you so surprised?” he replied in mock offense, but reduced his singing to quiet humming.
“I’m not, it’s just…” Matt leant forward a bit to get a better look at the food Dom had been about to serve. “Are those prawns?”
“They are indeed,” the drummer replied with an inner yell of triumph.
“Looks delicious.” Matt took a careful step into the kitchen and lifted his nose to take in some more of the smell. “But what’s the occasion?”
Wow, Dom couldn’t even remember the last time a conversation between them had gone so smoothly. And wasn’t that a sad observation?
“Well, I thought we could both use some nice food for once. No take away or leftovers. What do you think?”
“It really is nice…” The singer mused, but seemed to hesitate then. To Dom it looked like he had just started yet another inner fight with himself. So it took him a few moments until he was able to finish his sentence. “I think… I think we should eat. My stomach’s on a rampage already.”
“Great!” Dom said a bit overenthusiastically and went back to finishing the dishes. “Why don’t you take the wine to the living room? I’ll be there in a tick.”
“Okay…” And then Matt vanished into said room.
With a spring to his step, Dom followed Matt with the pasta and put it down on the table. Then he focused on the singer again who was now standing behind his chair, eyeing Dom’s handiwork almost suspiciously. Especially the single, white candle seemed to have caught his attention. The drummer tried to ignore how his heart was sinking. Had he overdone it? Was this already too much? But Matt had been so positive back in the kitchen! No, this was good. It was good for the both of them. They needed this.
“Sit,” Dom said gently so as not to make it sound like an order and then sat down himself.
Wordlessly Matt sank down on the chair on the opposite side of the table. For a few seconds he kept twitching and scooted back and forth until he found a comfortable position for his legs. He’s acting like he’s never sat on a chair before, Dom caught himself thinking.
Quickly he pulled himself together so as not to make Matt uncomfortable with his silent staring. Instead he smiled at the brunette and then simply dug in. As if on cue, Matt did the same and soon enough they were enveloped by the pleasant sound of two people eating with relish. Glasses clinking, forks rolling up pasta, passionate chewing… It was all there and for the first time in ages they both seemed to be moderately relaxed in each other’s presence. Until Dom opened his mouth, that is.
“How are you today? It feels like we haven’t talked properly in forever.”
“Uhm… I’m fine…” Immediately Matt tensed up and let his fork sink back to the plate.
“Would you like to watch some telly after dinner? There’s this great new show on world history. Not the boring stuff you can’t follow for more than a few minutes. It’s actually quite fun and I think today’s episode is about Tibet. Should be interesting, don’t you think?” Hell, when exactly had he become the rambler out of the two?
“I don’t know, Dom…” Matt rubbed the back of his neck in discomfort and stole a longing glance towards the hallway. “I don’t feel like… uhm... “
“Ah, no need to panic. S’all good. I just thought it’d be nice to hang out together. You know, since you’re living here and all… And… because… I mean…” He reached out for the singer’s hand that was resting at the edge of the table, thumbing the back of it. “It’s been a while since we’ve spent some time together and I… dunno…”
That was exactly the moment Dom didn’t know what to say anymore. Matt didn’t say anything and didn’t react. He only stared at the blonde with wide eyes. Now or never, he thought and walked around the table, over to Matt. He leant down and gingerly pressed his lips to Matt’s, leaving himself no time to overthink his actions. He could feel him tense up immediately, and when the brunette pushed him away he knew his advances weren’t welcomed.
“What the fuck, Matt?” Dom couldn’t stop himself from saying, shock, embarrassment and the pain of rejection battling for the upper hand in his head.
“Stop it! I… no… I can’t… Dom, I’m… I can’t do this,” the completely shaken singer spat bitterly at him and, without so much as a second glance, literally made a run for it.
Dom didn’t even have enough time to process what was going on when Matt’s door was pulled shut with a loud bang. Now he was just standing there, confused, disappointed and humiliated. His eyes were still on the space his friend’s body had occupied only seconds earlier.
“What the hell just happened?” he whispered to himself and buried his face in his hands.
Matt couldn’t do this? Did he mean their current situation? Them being friends? Or… them being romantically involved? The latter would at least explain the lack of a reply to his love confession and, considering what’d just happened, was probably the most obvious choice. But… he’d always thought that… that Matt felt the same about him. Or so he’d hoped. Could he really have been so wrong about him all the time? Had Matt just tried to humour him? To keep him at it until someone ‘better’ came along? No, that was bullshit… But… really… was it? Maybe Matt felt indebted to him since he’d been there for him ever since his return? Did he feel like he owed Dom? Was that the reason why he’d become so bitter? This was ridiculous! Why wasn’t everything fine like it was supposed to be? Matt had practically returned from the almost dead, they’d suffered apart and now together, so everything could go back to normal afterwards. Better than normal. He’d wished for so much more although he knew the return of a living Matt should have been enough. But now he felt betrayed, if he was completely honest with himself. Here! This! It should be a happy ending! Yes, exactly like Hollywood propagated. After the big trial there was always a happy ending! Why not for them? He didn’t understand.
In sudden exhaustion and overdue resignation Dom let himself fall onto the chair Matt had occupied moments ago and his forehead hit the tabletop forcefully when a dry sob escaped his lips. This was so unfair. They’d fought so hard to be together again and now Matt didn’t want to. He’d offered his innermost feelings on a silver tablet for his best friend to see. And now he’d stomped them into the ground.
“Thanks, Matt. Very much,” he breathed onto the polished wood of the table. “I still love you, though…”
“Good evening, gents!”
Chris entered Dom’s place, carrying a sixpack of beer for his friends and another pack of Red Bull for himself. Dom grinned at him broadly, glad for the distraction from his grey daily routine.
The bassist situated himself on the sofa while Dom knocked at Matt’s door to let him know they had a visitor.
“Sorry, busy at the moment,” was the curt and quiet reply.
“Are you, now?” Dom asked. “Come on. Knock down a couple of drinks with us.”
“Maybe later, okay?”
The blonde sighed. “Whatever.”
Matt was doing it again, and now he was doing it with Chris around as well. Dom didn’t know if it was a consolation to know that it wasn’t only him Matt was treating like this, or if it made the whole matter worse. Either way, he needed that sixpack, and if he had to empty the bottles alone, then he would.
He sat down heavily next to Chris, already opening the first can, when the bassist asked, “Is everything alright?”
“Fine. Just fine.”
Chris didn’t seem convinced, but didn’t push it further, so they turned to their respective drinks and chatted about this and that.
At some point Matt joined them quietly, only raising his hand in a greeting before he slumped down in the armchair opposite of them. He didn’t contribute to the conversation, but watched them with hawkeyes, as if he was expecting them to jump at him any second.
“So, how have you been doing?” Chris finally asked and turned his eyes to Matt.
The singer in question only shrugged in reply and Dom frowned. “You can give a proper answer, you know.”
“Am doing okay, thanks.”
“Glad to hear, mate. Glad to hear.” Chris grinned and raised his Red Bull.
Conversation didn’t change much after that, with Chris and Dom still doing the main part, while Matt added a couple of comments to whatever topics they were on. Dom wasn’t exactly interested in what Matt had to say nowadays, so he focused his attention on Chris who updated them on the latest in his family life. It made Dom incredibly happy to hear about the peace and joy the bassist was experiencing again after all the hardships, but at the same time it made him very bitter and jealous because he couldn’t have that. He wanted his own happy end.
“So what about you guys? Any future plans?”
Chris leaned back and looked between the 2 of them. “I figured we could get back into the studio at some point. Or, you know, just get out for a bit, take a holiday together. Don’t care.”
Dom looked over to Matt who’d busied himself with the label of his bottle. He tried hard to appear as if he hadn’t heard Chris, but the blonde knew it was a ruse. It made him incredibly angry, knowing that Matt just couldn’t be bothered to answer a simple question. Especially one coming from Chris, who’d been nothing but nice and supportive.
The bassist looked between them, unsure if he’d said anything wrong when Matt got up and smiled at them. “Sorry about bolting, but I’m not feeling well at the moment.”
“Are you fucking serious, Matt?” Dom growled.
“If it’s something I said-”
“No, no. I’ll just be going back to my room. Was nice talking to you, mate.”
He left in a hurry then, and Dom downed his beer.
“Is he alright?” Chris asked him and the blonde shook his head.
“Fuck if I know. Fuck if I care. It’s the same bullshit over and over again.”
“Dom, what are you even talking about?” The bassist looked a little lost in the face of Dom’s harsh words.
“Everything! Him!” He gestured towards the door Matt had just vanished through. “In case you haven’t noticed, he isn’t quite himself lately. And that’s nicely put.”
“Yeah well, what did you expect?” Chris frowned at his friend and straightened up a bit.
“I don’t know… Not for him to behave like a fucking dick, at least. He’s not talking, he’s not willing to do anything outside this house, he’s basically doing nothing. At least not anything involving me. Fuck knows what he’s doing in his bedroom all day. Could be building a bomb or whatever. Most likely he’s just eking out his oh so miserable existence. Shit Chris, he’s practically returned from the dead! Why’s he not high on endorphins? Oh and by the way, I told him that I love him. No reaction whatsoever.”
“Dom…” Chris gave him a pained look and inclined his head. “I know… I know how hard this has to be on you. But don’t you see how much he’s still suffering? Getting back to your everyday life after such an unspeakable thing… it has to be the most difficult undertaking ever.”
“Yeah, but how is he supposed to get better? He’s not making the slightest effort! And what about you and me? Of course he suffered the most, but we went through hell as well.”
“Have you 2 maybe considered a therapy? I know he wouldn’t like it very much, but if it’s as bad as you say… Maybe it’d be for the best.” Chris bit his lip in thought and his features showed all his concern for his two friends.
“No, we haven’t. I have. But he’s not crazy!” As much as Dom wanted Matt to get better again, the idea of a therapy sounded very different from Chris’ mouth than it did in his head. “We could do this if he finally stopped being so fucking stubborn. We’ve seen-”
“No, Dom. No. Neither we, nor you or Matt have seen worse. Ever. And I want you to stop thinking like that. You’re completely pissed and on edge. And stop defending him. That won’t help anyone. How is he supposed to realise how bad it actually is when you both refuse to see it? I’m pretty much on the outside and I can see that nothing is alright, least of all you 2.” The bassist tilted his head and, as always, remained as calm as humanly possible. The rational, level headed bastard.
“And when have you become a therapist?” the drummer replied, annoyed by how reasonable Chris sounded.
“First time I met you two. Otherwise at least one of us would’ve ended up with a guitar over his head long ago,” the taller man said, giving his friend a sad smile. Slowly the tension left the room again, and Dom felt exhausted. So he just nodded with a small smile of his own.
“Sounds about right.”
“Please think about it, Dom. If anyone can get him to do it, it’s you.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“I do.” The bassist nodded. “I wish I could help you more, but I don’t think that would be appreciated.”
The blonde shook his head. “No. No, it’s better only one of us loses his mind.”
He sighed and opened another beer, downing it in one go. Chris watched him quietly, until conversation flowed away from the enigma locked up in the guest room.
Boiling. There was no other word for it, Dom’s insides were boiling. Hot, white and painful. Today was one of these days where he couldn’t even be bothered to try and stay level headed. The singer had done it again; thrown him a metaphorical bone and taken it away as soon as it was within Dom’s reach. Sure he knew that Matt had gone through some tough shit, but that was really no reason to behave like one huge dick. Dom had tried everything. Everything! But whenever he risked another try at getting closer to the singer, he simply shut himself off more, ran away, or downright ignored the drummer. The man knew that he loved him and yet he didn’t make the slightest effort to at least acknowledge it.
Seriously, Dom didn’t expect much of his traumatised bandmate. Hell, he understood why Matt was still frightened at night, why he was uncertain about social interaction and sometimes needed some physical and mental space to himself. But… they’d always trusted each other, always had had each other’s backs. Why didn’t Matt trust him now? Why didn’t he just talk to him? Dom was so convinced that talking about it would speed up the healing process that he’d secretly contacted a therapist for his friend, to explain the situation and maybe get some advice on how to help the singer. Yes, that’s how desperate the drummer was. He’d gone behind Matt’s back and done something the singer would very likely loathe him for. But whatever… he was so very much past caring.
By now he felt like the babysitter of an enormously disturbed toddler. Seriously, if Dom didn’t make him eat, the singer would have probably starved already. Running after him, trying to tend to his needs while not knowing what it was that he really needed. Because he refused to just fucking talk! The whole situation made him want to tear his hair. Or smash his head into a wall. Constantly. No measures seemed drastic enough for him. Somewhere deep down he knew that it was an unfair thought but he couldn’t help feeling like Matt was somehow using him. Dom had never had a problem with giving, but it was draining him so much because the singer offered next to nothing in return. He wasn’t doing this to get anything from his friend, no. But couldn’t he at least stop avoiding Dom? Maybe acknowledge his efforts? Was that really too much to ask?
The drummer felt like the changes in Matt were changing him, too. He didn’t know when he’d become such a bitter cynic. Apart from the singer’s former self, he also missed his own attitude towards life now. Where there had been smiles, fun and appreciation for each other before, there was now suspicion, reluctance and resentment. Everything he had usually defined himself and his connection with Matt by had vanished into nothing. It was only understandable that Dom hated it. Right now he hated pretty much everything. And some subconscious part of him blamed Matt for it. Something he hated himself for even more.
He was lounging on the couch in front of the telly, not paying any attention to the programme as he was completely consumed by his thoughts. It was then that Matt decided to grace him with his ever so delightful presence. The singer didn’t even have to say anything to annoy the shit out of Dom. Not that they were talking much anyway…
“What are you up to?” the drummer asked, already on edge again.
“Nothing.” Matt’s voice had taken on this muffled, diminutive sound again that made Dom want to shake him senseless.
“Telly. The programme sucks, though.”
“What’re you watching?”
Wow, this was literally the longest, smoothest conversation they’d had in days. And for some reason Dom didn’t feel like continuing it. Not like this, anyway. He muted the TV and slowly turned his head towards Matt who was sitting in the armchair next to the couch, visibly stiffening at the unwanted scrutiny. The drummer narrowed his eyes at him and sat up a bit straighter.
“Not enough entertainment up there anymore?” he asked sharply and glanced up at the ceiling for a second.
At that Matt’s eyes turned harder and he bit his lip as if to keep his words in.
“I mean, you don’t seem to enjoy being in the same room with me lately,” Dom elaborated and turned his gaze to one of the windows. “Let alone talking to me. What changed your mind?”
“I…” the singer stammered, obviously suppressing his own anger. His hands were tightly clasping his knees, effectively making his knuckles turn white. “I’m just socialising.”
“Socialising?” Dom barked a laugh. “Are you serious?”
“Very much so.”
“I can’t believe it…” the drummer muttered under his breath and again locked eyes with Matt. “You’re the most unsociable person on this planet right now. And you don’t even seem to see that! Seriously Matt, what is wrong with you?”
“Nothing!” the singer spat back bitterly. “I’m fine.” But he obviously wasn’t if his trembling hands or averted eyes were anything to go by.
Dom had been patient. He’d waited so long for Matt to come around. If he didn’t want to, though, there was no other way than to say it straight to his face. Otherwise Dom would probably explode with all the bottled up feelings sooner than later.
“Do you really not see the mess you’re making? Don’t you realise how much you’re hurting me with this?” By now the drummer was too agitated to remain seated so he stood up, looking down at Matt with resentment dominating his every feature. “Look at what this is doing to the people around you, Matt! I mean, look at us for fuck’s sake! Do you even recognise yourself anymore? You’re avoiding me like I’m contagious… Really, you need help.”
Matt’s tension was tangible, adding one more barrier to the many between the two musicians. He opened his mouth then to reply to Dom’s reproaches. But no sound made it past his pale lips. Anger had taken hold of him, too, and he jumped up in one rapid motion, coming dangerously close to the drummer. For a second their eyes were locked again and it almost looked as if the smaller man was about to throw a punch, but then he broke away to quickly make his escape. But Dom didn’t feel quite ready to let him off the hook so easily. So he took two steps and effectively blocked Matt’s way out.
“What do you think you’re doing? You’re not fucking off again now! It’s time to talk straight. I don’t give a flying fuck if you feel like it or not. I feel like it and this has been about you long enough. You know, I have feelings, too.” While he knew this sounded quite pathetic the words were out before he could stop himself.
“Leave me alone,” the singer bit back and tried to evade Dom.
“Yeah, no. I’ve done that and it didn’t work. We’re doing this my way now.” When had he become so aggressive? So not him? He didn’t like himself very much in that moment, to say the least. But they were past the point of return. The drummer grabbed Matt’s wrist and forced him to look him in the eyes again. “This is not you!” Ah yes, there was his desperation again. “I can’t do this anymore, Matt! If you really, honestly don’t want to talk to me, say it. To my face.”
Tears were visibly pricking at the singer’s blazing blue eyes and he stared at Dom in baffled disbelief. Then his features hardened again and he ripped himself free from Dom’s tight grip. “I don’t want to talk to you. Happy now?” he almost shouted and then, without waiting for a reply, ran past Dom, into the hallway and up the stairs. The sound of his bedroom door banging shut echoed through Dom’s head for hours after.
Later that night Dom stepped into his bedroom and shot a glance over his shoulder. Across the hallway there was Matt’s room, the door left open just a tiny bit. Its default setting nowadays. Its openness wasn’t to be mistaken for an invitation. Especially not after their fruitless talk.
“Talk,” Dom laughed sarcastically to himself. In hindsight he knew how big of an arsehole he’d been to Matt. He couldn’t deny that it’d felt a bit liberating to finally vent at least some of his frustration on the singer, though.
A thin beam of light was falling onto the dark wooden floor and Dom didn’t know if he felt reassured by it or not. Despite the growing emotional gap between the 2, he’d noticed that Matt didn’t sleep well. In fact that had always been quite a problem for the singer. But now… To Dom it seemed like Matt didn’t sleep at all. Sometimes exhaustion took reign and he just fell asleep wherever he was sitting at the time, of course. But going to bed with the purpose of resting didn’t work anymore.
With a sigh he half closed his door and went over to the wardrobe to find something to wear for the night. His last outfit was in the laundry as he had spent one sweaty night in it, trying to fall asleep while Matt had obviously been wandering through the house. The thought of losing him again was now so deeply anchored in his personality that he wouldn’t fall asleep until Matt was at least in his bed. Of course this was taking its toll on him, too. Everything was. He wouldn’t be Dom if he’d actually stopped caring, no matter how often he tried to convince himself of the opposite. Because not caring didn’t hurt so much. He wished he could make it stop. Make everything stop.
There, just next door, was the one person he had been prepared to die for. Still was. And he was acting completely out of it. They both were. Well, obviously. But he didn’t seem to reciprocate any of his feelings. They were living in the same house at the moment, but nothing suggested that Matt had any interest in actually conversing with him. Frankly, Dom didn’t know what to do about it, anymore. He’d never been this much out of his depth before.
Slowly he let himself sink onto the mattress and pulled the covers over his tired body. Oh, it felt good… He tried to close his eyes and let himself be taken over by sweet, nightly unconsciousness. But with a deep inner sigh he realised the one problem that stood between him and his deserved rest. He couldn’t. Almost annoyed he opened his eyes again and rolled on his side so he could watch the door.
The blonde didn’t expect Matt to just walk in, no. He had done stuff like that in the past just because he had felt like it, yes. But now the situation was completely different. Matt had shut himself off from him further than ever. There was none of his former effortlessness or impulsiveness left in him. He didn’t laugh, he didn’t relax, he didn’t play, he didn’t joke. Sometimes Dom wasn’t even sure if he smiled anymore. Maybe those were just random motions of his facial muscles, simply born from disuse.
Then it started once again. Dom’s eyes were trained on the gap between door and frame immediately, and he watched as the light in Matt’s room was being switched on and off again and again. Sometimes it took the singer a bit longer to figure out if light was preferable to darkness. He always went back on his decision a moment later anyway.
Dom didn’t know what to do. There were soft footsteps in the room across. Apparently Matt was walking back and forth, but trying not to disturb Dom in the process. Sometimes he could also hear the springs of the bed. Those were the moments Matt sat down, satisfied with his decision, just before he would get up again to walk back to the switch.
In a way Dom felt quite aggravated by Matt’s behaviour. But not in the way it had aggravated him before everything. Matt didn’t bounce around anymore because he didn’t know how to release his energy. He didn’t wake him at night to tell him about some strange ideas or lizard queens. Honestly, he didn’t do much at all lately. He just… he aggravated Dom.
Rather annoyed with everything (and especially himself, for all his inabilities) he squeezed his eyes shut and pulled a pillow over his head. When he could still hear Matt pacing around his room, though, he pressed the soft fabric to his ears, wishing for him to just go away. He felt like a helpless child then. He couldn’t deal with the situation anymore and felt close to his breaking point again. It felt even worse than when he’d worried about Matt’s life. Because then it hadn’t been his fault, not really. But now it kind of was. At least partly. What the hell had he done to deserve all of this?
With yet another sigh the blonde turned over to his other side and willed himself to fall asleep while a tiny switch was flicked over and over and over again.