Dom woke with a start. He didn’t know what had woken him, he couldn’t remember a nightmare, and he was still tucked under his blankets, so coldness wasn’t the reason either. He looked around the dark room until his eyes fell on the digital clock on his bedside table, indicating it was just past 3 in the morning. The blonde sighed and closed his eyes again.
However, sleep wouldn’t embrace him anymore. Dom turned on his side and stared at the clock again, watching the minutes tick by. He somehow felt uneasy, as if there was something bothering the back of his mind. Well, there were many things bothering him at the moment, but those hadn’t been a problem so far. No, it was something different. He sighed once again and got out of bed.
He winced when his feet hit the floor. He was only clad in his boxers, so his body craved the warm cocoon of his blankets and the comfort of sleep. But his mind told him he had other things to do. Something important. What, he couldn’t figure out just yet, but something felt wrong, completely off. His instincts told him as much.
He quietly padded down the corridor and stopped at the door to the guestroom. It was slightly ajar, just like it had been ever since Matt had moved in. Thinking of the small brunette, Dom felt the urge to check on him and make sure that everything was alright. He gripped the doorknob and pushed the door open ever so slowly, mindful not to make any noise that could wake Matt, and walked into the room.
The bed was empty. Matt obviously hadn’t slept in it as it was still made and untouched. Dom exited the room and went to the kitchen, fully expecting Matt to sit there and get some wine into his system. But the kitchen was dark and there was no singer sitting at the table, being deep in thought. Dom’s brows furrowed. He didn’t want to panic yet, but he definitely felt worried and a bit scared.
Frantically, he entered the living room and looked around, then checked the terrace. Both places held no Muse frontman. Neither did any other room in his house. Matt was gone.
The blonde drew a shaky breath. “Calm down, Howard…”
He set off to reach the small music room, his last hope. The door was slightly open and dim light spilled from the inside. Dom’s heart skipped a beat. He quickly opened the door.
“Matt, what are-”
But the room was just as empty as the rest of the house. He shut the light and tried to control his rising fear. Where the fuck had Matt gone?
He walked back to his bedroom to retrieve his mobile phone and dialed the singer’s number with shaky fingers. It took forever to connect, and Dom nearly had a heart attack when he heard a familiar ringtone chiming nearby. Immediately he followed the sound back to the guestroom.
He’d hoped Matt had only pulled a bad prank on him, that he’d find the singer sitting on his bed with a manic grin and telling him what an idiot he was. But no, the room was still dark and the phone vibrated from within the bedside table.
With his heart sinking, he picked it up. “Dominic calling.” was written on the screen, with a picture of him grinning into the camera above it. The device only quietened down when Dom ended the call, and the flashing and beeping was replaced with a small LED light indicating there was a missed call and suffocating darkness.
Matt was gone and he didn’t have his phone with him. Matt was gone. Dom threw the phone on the bed and ran through the house again, badly hoping he’d find the singer this time around. A variation between Matt’s name and “This isn’t funny, stop it.” echoed through the halls, but the singer was nowhere to be found.
In record time Dom got dressed in plain black skinnies and a dark blue button-up, tying his shoelaces while he called Chris. The bassist picked up after a couple of rings, clearly pissed off that Dom had woken him.
“I can’t find Matt,” Dom wailed into the phone as an alternative way of greeting.
“What?” Chris was instantly awake and alarmed. “What do you mean, you can’t find him?”
“He’s not at home, I don’t…” Dom shut the door behind himself and ran down the street, not even knowing where he should start. He felt so helpless. “I don’t know where he is. I’m scared.”
“Have you called him?”
“His phone’s at home. I don’t know where he is. Chris, I’m scared.”
They decided to split up and look for Matt separately. Frankly, they had no idea where to look. Had he run? Or did Suzanne have a second companion at last? Dom didn’t know which option he found scarier.
He ran through the streets aimlessly, checking bars and open restaurants, but to no avail. The more places he checked the more desperate he became. It was once again as if the world had swallowed the singer whole. He wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his jacket. Shouldn’t the pain and worrying be over by now?
The clock told Dom that it was already nearing 5 when he made his way back home, crying into his jacket stupidly, when he passed Matt’s house. It stood dark just like the drummer had expected, but it wasn’t as quiet as he’d thought it to be. He could hear single notes being hit on a piano carried by the chilly autumn wind.
New hope flared in his chest at that, and he quickly strode to the door and unlocked it. Unsure steps brought him to the living room where the piano now lay quiet. The man that had tinkered with the keys, however, was still there, his silhouette visible even without any source of light.
Dom had been so scared, but now he felt his anger rising. He’d thought his friend might have been abducted, once again a slave to whoever decided to use him this time. He’d thought Matt might have run, to kill himself, to get away from them… from him. Every dark thought he could have had had sprung to his mind, that’s how fucking scared he had been. But the wanker had been here the whole time, playing the stupid piano. He should have felt relief, but he only felt hurt and anger, and all the frustration and pain that had built up for weeks.
He turned on the light and stared at the back of his friend who jumped and immediately turned to him.
“Good morning, Matt,” the blonde sneered. “Hope you had your fun while I ran through the damn city, trying to find your stupid arse.”
“Don’t fucking ‘Dom’ me. I was shit scared that you were god knows where.“
He approached the piano slowly, continuing with, “But you were here, instead, dicking around on the piano. Did you have your fun? Did you think about anyone else but yourself? Do you even care about me anymore?”
“No, Dom. It’s not like-“
With a swift motion, Matt was pinned against the piano, the keys biting into his back painfully. Dom didn’t care when the singer winced.
“What have I done to you to deserve this? I get it, you don’t return my feelings. You’ve made that perfectly clear. What I don’t understand is, why be such a dick about it? You’re free to leave my house whenever you want.”
Matt tried to get up, but Dom wouldn’t let him. If any, he only pushed him down harder. Matt wouldn’t get away this time.
“Is it the guilt? Do you feel like you owe me? Is that it? Because let me tell you, you can fuck off right then. I don’t need your fucking pity.”
He felt tears prickling in his eyes while he spoke. Voicing it all aloud just made it more painful to him. He was truly pathetic.
“God, Matt, just looking at you right now makes me want to punch you! I’ve tried everything to make you comfortable, to make you feel at home, to make you- But instead you just distance yourself further and refuse any help. You don't want to be around me, okay, but then fuck off to Chris or live your life alone because I can’t take this anymore. I can’t-“
Shaking fingers snaked around his wrist and Dom stopped in his speech. He immediately let go of the singer as if he only realised just now what he had been doing to him.
It wasn’t fair. He thought that once Matt was back home, everything would be alright and they could pick up where they’d left as a band, and start something completely new as a couple. But Dom had to come to terms with the fact that nothing would ever be the same again. Matt didn’t seem to want to play in a band anymore, and he surely didn’t love Dom as much as Dom loved him.
His shoulders visibly sagged and he sighed deeply. The anger was gone already, just by a simple touch from the brunette, and instead Dom was left with the hollow feeling of loneliness and resignation.
It wasn’t fair, but it wasn’t fair to force Matt, either.
“I- I’m sorry, Matt. I didn’t mean to- I’ll be at home if you need me.”
He turned around to leave as quickly as possible, but the grip on his wrist wouldn’t let go. Instead it only became stronger and Dom got the feeling that Matt was wordlessly telling him to stay.
When Dom didn’t move the singer let go of him and turned back to the piano. His fingers were touching the keys so lightly that there was no sound coming from the instrument. Dom watched him putting his fingers on different keys. The result was the same, no sound emanating from the piano.
Matt sounded so broken in that moment that Dom nearly crumbled himself. He took an audible breath and slid down to sit with his back to the piano stool, his shoulders slightly touching Matt’s back. They both stayed quiet and collected their thoughts.
“I don’t…” Matt began and Dom held his breath.
He felt the urge to nudge Matt, to make him continue, but this was maybe his only chance where Matt would explain, where Dom could understand. He didn’t want to jeopardise that with his impatience.
At last, Matt broke the settling silence again. “I just feel like I can’t play anymore. I want to, really, but everything seems so hard, as if I’ve never learned how to play. It feels like I’m starting from scratch. There’s a blockade I can’t break.”
“But you said you’re fine,” Dom whispered.
Matt sighed. “I lied.”
“But why? Matt, we could have arranged something with a therapist.”
“I don’t want to go to a shrink, okay? I don’t want to be… And I didn’t want to worry you.”
But they had worried, constantly. And Matt must have known that, must have seen them prepare for the worst case, must have heard them talking about him. Yet, he’d never uttered a single word. Out of pride? Was he too proud to admit he wasn’t the perfect pianist and guitarist anymore? He had always taken it way too hard when he didn’t get a riff right or couldn’t figure out the melody to a new song, but this was incredibly blown out of proportion. It made Dom indescribably angry.
“Don’t you realise how stupid that is?” he barked. In the back of his mind he felt like an arse for shouting the following words, but he just couldn’t help it. “You’re a selfish git if you think that keeping this to yourself was the way to go. So you need to practice and work on this blockade, tough. I know it’s not as easy for you, with everything that has happened, but we thought you wanted to distance yourself, for fuck’s sake. Instead you’re trying to tell me that you just couldn’t stand the thought of us knowing that you have a problem with playing? Is that it? Did you think we’d think differently of you? We thought you didn’t want to be around us anymore. I thought you didn’t want to be around me. You’ve treated me like shit and made me feel worthless to you.”
“You don’t understand, Dom.”
“Then enlighten me,” he begged. “Please.”
Silence followed and Dom sighed. Of course Matt wouldn’t tell him. Was that how it would be now? Was that their relationship from now on, Dom running after Matt and Matt walking his way alone?
The blonde was just about to get up when Matt took a deep breath. Anxious, he slid back down to the floor and waited.
“I don’t feel like myself anymore. I feel like this… like I’m a shadow, or a ghost. Like I’m not here anymore. Everything that once meant the world to me and made me me, it’s gone. I want to play, but I can’t get my fingers to move. I hate it. I hate myself.”
“It’s like a part of me is still down there, still locked up, bound to play for her and only her for eternity.” His voice cracked.
Dom didn’t know what to say. His throat felt dry and his tongue like lead. He’d tried so long to understand Matt and his weird behaviour, had tried to understand why he was getting better, but became more like a stranger to all of them. He had his answer now, but instead of satisfaction, he felt like breaking down here and now. A shudder ran through him when he realised that Matt had been fighting his battles alone.
Quickly, he sat up and wrapped his arms around the singer. The small body under him shook forcefully after only a few seconds, as if the mere physical contact with Dom broke all the walls he’d carefully built over the past weeks.
The façade crumbled and Dom could see the scared man that he’d found in his cell. The singer sobbed loudly and his hands left the keys to grab at Dom’s arms around him, trying to claw through the fabric of the jacket. Dom only hugged him tighter and pressed his face against the singer’s cheek. He didn’t say a thing, just let Matt cry while he hugged and kissed him and tried to comfort him as good as possible.
“It’s… It’s hard for me. Everything. It was a nightmare down there.”
“I don’t… I just…”
Matt struggled to find the words, awkwardly fumbling with the hem of his shirt, and Dom almost regretted asking him to explain. He’d been a fool to think Matt could handle this on his own, that he was getting better without seeing help. And how stupid had he been to not see that his best friend was struggling? That it wasn’t him drifting apart from them, but rather him being unable to come back? He’d just assumed everything would be okay, simply because he didn’t want to deal with it himself.
They’d never talked about it, and if he was completely honest, he was partly to blame, because he’d never asked. He’d closed his eyes to the horror that Matt had gone through, just because he didn’t want to hear it. He had wanted to put it behind them, keep it in the past, but Matt had lived through this and he couldn’t just ignore it and move on. He had been a colossal knob for thinking that Matt would just have to go to a therapist a couple of times a week and the events would be erased from his mind. Things couldn’t be go back to normal. Matt couldn’t go back to how he’d been, because he wasn’t the same anymore.
“Do you remember this huge mirror? The one that took over the wall?” Matt’s voice suddenly piped up quietly and brought Dom back out of his thoughts. He nodded. “It was a… You know, she could just watch me from the other side and just… Dunno, see what I was doing. I don’t know how often she did it, but the possibility alone… It’s…”
“Yeah. After some time she let the lights on, so she might have checked on me a lot more often.”
“The lights on?”
Matt shrugged. “There were no windows. She turned the lights on and off whenever she pleased. Lost my sense of time quite quickly.”
The blonde had figured that much, with Matt checking the clocks almost constantly.
“She took so many pictures and asked me to play for her a lot,” Matt continued and his voice sounded almost detached from the whole situation, “Really had no choice, so I just, y’know, did what she asked. In the beginning I struggled a lot and her lover beat me up for it. I stopped fighting after some time. I gave up.”
Instinctively, Dom’s hand sought out the brunette’s hand and squeezed reassuringly. The thought of someone beating Matt, hurting him, still set his insides on fire and made him see red. Knowing it had occurred on a daily basis made him want to claw through the bodies of those responsible with his bare hands.
Matt had fallen quiet then, instead brushing his nose against the blonde’s chest. Dom touched his hair, his hand moving to the pale neck to caress the soft skin.
Feeling the need to say something, Dom spoke ever so softly, “I don’t think you gave up, Matt. I know you. You only chose the smart way. They could have hurt you even worse.” >Or killed you.
The singer raised his head to look at him and hummed. Then he fell quiet again, thinking about what else to say. “I was so scared, you know? Suzanne was even scarier, more twisted. She may not have beaten me up but when she killed him…”
“Did you… Did you have to watch that?” The answer scared him. He knew what Napolitano’s head had looked like.
Matt nodded and cracked a sad smile, his eyes moving from Dom’s face to the floor. “Sat next to him. Thought she’d shoot me, but then she killed him. Had to clean my bed and stuff.”
“Fucking hell,” Dom whispered under his breath and rubbed one of Matt’s arms vigorously. It was an unconscious action, as if he needed to get warmth back into Matt’s limbs. It didn’t stop himself from shaking slightly. The images his mind was conjuring probably weren’t even close to what Matt had gone through, and yet, they were enough to make him want to break down and cry.
“It’s okay. It got easier after that.”
“But how did you… What…” Dom was the one not knowing how to word things now. Matt was finally opening up, but he said these things as if they’d happened to someone else. A defense mechanism, no doubt. But still, it made Dom feel uncomfortable, even more so than just imagining what Matt had gone through. He highly doubted Matt would ever tell him the details, and that was maybe for the best.
Still, he couldn’t help but speak up, the thought having plagued his mind for so long. “She seemed to be obsessed with you. Did she… Did they ever touch you? Like... Did they...“
“No,” the answer was almost immediate. Dom could breathe again. “No, they didn’t. Not in that way. I was part of her collection. She didn’t… She…”
His breath hitched then and shaking hands gripped Dom’s shoulders. His eyes were wide and glassy. Dom instinctively tightened the grip on the singer’s knees. They stared at each other.
“Dom. Dom, I was part of her collection. I wasn’t…. She didn’t see me as a person. I wasn’t… She…”
The blonde pulled Matt from the stool and into his lap. A hand went to the back of Matt’s head and pushed him back against Dom’s chest, the singer’s long fingers bunching the fabric of the drummer’s shirt. Dom felt as if he was squeezing his heart together, the realisation of what all of his ordeal implied finally hitting Matt.
“Fuck,” a tiny broken voice whispered against Dom’s chest. “Fuck. I wasn’t… I’m not…”
“You are,” the blonde spoke up as softly as he could. “You have always been and you will always be. Do you hear me?”
There was no reply, so Dom used his left hand to gingerly lift up Matt’s chin so he’d have to look at the drummer. Matt, however, averted his eyes.
“Look at me. Please.”
The gentle command was followed by Matt’s eyes flickering to Dom’s face before they looked away again. Seconds passed in which Dom held his breath, until Matt finally locked eyes with him, the sadness in them almost breaking his heart.
“It doesn’t matter what she thought of you, because she was wrong. Your musical talent doesn’t define who you are. You do. You are a person. An eccentric, hyperactive and sometimes annoying person. But also a brilliant, kind and passionate individual. And you matter. To your family, to your fans, to Chris, Tom and Morgan and everyone else. To me. I love you. And that won’t change, whether you can play or sing or ramble about your silly theories. Okay?”
The blue eyes were once again cast downward, but Dom needed him to see, so he asked again, “Okay?”
“Okay,” the singer whispered in return. A small, unsure whisper, as if he wasn’t quite sure of it himself, but Dom would make sure he’d get there.
They stayed on the floor, Matt now leaning against the legs of the piano stool, watching Dom, who in turn watched his left thumb rubbing the singer’s right wrist. It was an intimate gesture that seemed to calm them both. Still, there was an issue that needed to be addressed, whether Matt liked it or not.
“I know you don’t want a therapist,” Dom began carefully, “but maybe you should see someone. Just to have someone who can help you deal with this. It’s okay to admit you need help, Matt. Please.”
He seemed to truly mull the words over in his mind before he sighed. “Let me think about it, yeah?”
Dom smiled, relieved. “Of course. And you know you can always talk to me too, yes?”
“I don’t want to worry you,” Matt replied almost miserably.
“But I worry anyway. And I want to be here for you. Always.”
Another silence followed, this one feeling different from the others. Dom’s gaze lifted from his hand, looking straight into the singer’s intense blue eyes.
“You’re my best friend, Dom,” Matt stated firmly. It was important that Dom understood that, understood what he meant to Matt. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me. I don’t want to lose you.”
Matt’s gaze lowered to the floor then, and when he looked back up to Dom there was so much vulnerability in his blue eyes that Dom had to physically force himself to stay still.
Matt’s voice was unsure, but clear, when he said, “I want you.”
His hand involuntarily tightened on Matt’s wrist and Dom’s whole body froze in shock. He wanted to reach out, touch his face and kiss him, but Dom knew it wasn’t that easy. There was more behind this, more Matt wanted to say, so he waited for the brunette to continue.
“I want you,” Matt repeated. “I want to be with you. But I… But I can’t. Not right now. Not like this.”
His face crumbled and fresh tears started to fall. His next words were so quiet that Dom had to strain his ears to understand him.
“Please don’t leave me.”
That was all it took for Dom to reach forward and hold the singer’s face between his hands. More and more tears started to fall and Dom wiped every single one away with his thumbs. One of Matt’s hands shot out to hold onto the drummer upper arm, the other shakily touched his neck and Dom felt his own eyes well up.
They both cried together for a while, letting out all the pent up emotions. It felt freeing, like redemption washing over both of them.
Matt wanted him. All these weeks of feeling unwanted and unloved were wiped away with that single sentence. But Matt needed to get better first. He needed to overcome this depression, needed to love himself again.
Dom moved forward and kissed Matt softly before he promised, “I’m not going anywhere.”
Even if it took Matt years to recover, he could wait. As long as Matt wanted him, he could wait an eternity if he had to.
He hugged the smaller man again and Matt immediately pushed his face into the crook of Dom’s neck. Matt had stopped crying at some point, but they both refused to let go of the other, now that they’d finally found each other again.
They remained like that until Dom’s legs started to hurt from the strain put on them by kneeling awkwardly in front of the singer. He stood up to full height and pulled Matt with him, kissing him again.
“Let’s go home, okay?”
Matt hummed and closed the lid of the piano. He stared at it thoughtfully, and Dom let him do. While Matt was lost in his own world, he walked to the door already and quickly thumbed a message to Chris who he’d completely forgotten until now.
Found him, he’s ok. Will explain later. Sry 4 worrying u. D x
The reply was almost immediate.
Thank god. Take care of him. Love you 2. C
He stashed the phone back into his pocket and watched Matt pull on his jacket. A small nod from the singer indicated that he was ready to go and Dom opened the door for them.
When Matt’s hand carefully slid into Dom’s halfway into their walk home, the blonde knew that things would be okay somehow.