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Warmth gliding up against his front. Digging into his thigh. Imprints of what will probably be the last time Johnny Gargano touches him. Tommaso Ciampa blinks slowly and tries not to think about the look on Johnny's face as he'd continued to reach out for him, no matter how much pain he dished out to him, or what he did. There was video online of Johnny being transported to the hospital, his eyes open but blank. A report of Johnny refusing to talk to anybody so outside of some speculation about back and neck injuries, nothing concrete because doctors won't break his confidence. It frustrates as much as it relieves Tommaso to know that Johnny has good people working with him, for him.

He would like to know that his par-... his former partner is going to be ok, at least physically, but, he decides as he breathes in through the mask covering his face, his eyes growing heavy, that's neither really here nor there.

-x

Johnny keeps to himself. He pulls himself out of the pain and shock of it all to rehab when he has to, determined to get better, get stronger, return to NXT. Find whatever rock Ciampa's hidden himself under and either beat some answers out of him or... He doesn't know, really, what he'd do upon seeing Tommaso again. People from both indys and NXT alike try to contact him, but he's not in the mood to be sociable. Tommaso had been his partner, his best friend, had lived in the lifeless, empty bedroom just down the hall only a few weeks ago.

Coming home from the hospital to find all of Tommaso's things gone, and his key on the kitchen counter, had felt like the ultimate kick to the gut. Somehow had hurt worse than the attack in Chicago. He now sits in the bedroom, Tommaso's old room, and stares blankly at the last remaining things left behind. Well-worn DIY shirts hanging patiently in the closet, some of the blue more faded than others. As abandoned as he is.

He tries to watch NXT sometimes, but thinking about wrestling fully, completely alone for the first time in over a year is like a dull ache in his chest, making it even harder to breathe. So he avoids twitter, and he barely reads texts he receives. It's all muddled noise in his head anyway. Fail to sleep, struggle to eat, go through the motions at rehab, repeat. That becomes his life now.

Despite it all, he's somehow cleared to wrestle a month and a half later. Goes through the paces with the NXT staff and nods when they tell him he's good to resume normal activity in the ring. His first match is simple, against Wesley Blake and, although it wakes him up a little, makes him think and use muscles that he hasn't bothered with in ages, knocking some of the ring rust off of him, it's weird not having anyone in his corner to turn to when his energy dips, or when he just needs a nod of encouragement. Despite it all, he wins and rolls out of the ring, determined to get answers.

Regal doesn't seem surprised when Gargano barges into his office, simply putting his phone down and giving Johnny his full attention. "What can I do for you, Johnny?"

"Tell me where Ciampa's hiding. Right now. I've been back for days and haven't seen or heard anything about him. Did you suspend him?"

Regal blinks. Rubs a hand along his jaw line, looking uncomfortable. "No. A suspension... wasn't necessary." He glances away, then pulls his phone closer and accesses something before handing the device to Johnny. "See for yourself."

It's a video of HHH. Answering questions after Takeover in Chicago. "I just walked by Tommaso Ciampa, who is furious about everything, but in the trainer's room with what looks like a significant injury as well." His voice is tinny through the phone's speakers, but Johnny hears that part clearly.

Stares at Regal. "Where is he?" he asks, his voice tense. None of this makes sense to him. Tommaso had been healthy enough to jack his neck and back up for almost two months, had sent him down a spiral of loneliness and depression, questioning everything about himself and... what? Tommaso had been injured too? Yeah, the match was brutal, but still... he'd seemed fine, even his ankle wasn't giving him any noticeable issue. "I'm not going to hurt him, I just need answers," Johnny insists.

Regal must see something in his face because, after some hemming and hawing, he gives in. Hands Johnny an address and the warning, "Don't make me regret this. I am still your general manager."

Johnny nods, curls his fingers around the slip of paper, and quickly leaves. He's still sweaty from his match but he doesn't care. He grabs his clothes, throws them on over his gear, and races to his car, putting the address in his GPS. It's in Florida, thankfully, so Ciampa hadn't returned to the midwest, which somewhat surprises Johnny. Takes some driving to find the place, which ends up being a small building on the corner of the street hidden behind bushes and other shrubbery and Gargano's heart skips a beat as he gets out of the car and walks up to it, tracing his fingers over the letters traced into the side of the building. "Sports Speciality and Rehab Center," he mouths aloud, a chill of unease brushing down his spine as he stares at it. It's dark and quiet inside and Johnny reads and rereads the hours of operation until he has them memorized, determined to return here the next day and wait as long as it takes for the answers he needs to make sense of this, to move on with his life.

Whatever that means.

-x

He doesn't sleep much if at all that night, and, as soon as he thinks someone will be there to answer, calls in to the performance center to let them know he won't be in that day. A strike against him, maybe, but he figures they can let him have just this one... and if not, well, whatever. He has more important things on his mind right now. Like finally getting answers. Which he knows Tommaso would recognize his car immediately so he takes the bus to the stop nearest to the rehab center and walks the rest of the way, once more finding the small building with the letters that he'd traced just a few hours ago, still feeling the indents of the words against his fingertips as he stares at them. It's early and chilly out, but he ignores all of it as he finds a nearby cafe and orders some coffee, settling down on a bench facing the building but at enough of an angle that he thinks he's somewhat hidden.

He's not sure how much time passes when he finally notices it- a car he's never seen before pulls up and there's Tommaso. He looks tired, thinner than when Johnny had last seen him, but there's a quiet appreciation on his face as he leans into the driver's side of the car to talk to the woman sitting there, nodding at her before tapping a hand against the side of the car and pulling away, walking towards the building.

Now or never, Johnny thinks, hands shaking and sloshing his mostly untouched coffee all over inside the cup. He abandons it, jogs over the parking lots and somehow reaches Tommaso before he makes it to the doors, his steps slower and more measured than Johnny remembers them being. "Stop!" he calls out, unable to think of anything else to say.

Immediately Tommaso tenses. "What the hell are you doing here, Gargano?" he says, and the bitterness in his voice would totally rankle at Johnny if they weren't underlined, re-enforced by pure exhaustion, Tommaso sounding worse than he ever had even after their most devastating losses.

"What the hell are you doing here, Ciampa?" he snaps back and is rewarded when Tommaso turns to face him, neither of them the kind not to deal with things head on. He looks awful, probably as bad as Johnny does, if not worse. His clothes are hanging loosely on his thin form, his facial features are more exaggerated, cheekbones jutting out and eyes sharper and more blue than usual. For a brief moment, Johnny wonders if he's been eating at all, but then gives himself a shake. You've barely been eating yourself, who cares. "Well? No answer?" he snaps and all worries about where they're at and why leaves him and he surges forward and pushes Ciampa. "Say some-"

His words fail him as the pure vulnerabililty of Ciampa is revealed to him as he touches him, very little in the way of muscle or actual fat greeting him, that simple action enough to send Tommaso off-balance entirely and Johnny has to move quickly to keep him from hitting the pavement, instinctively wrapping his arms around his waist and tugging him upright, holding him in a kind of awkward hug that he never thought he'd feel again.

They breathe sharply for awhile, Tommaso startling Johnny further by not fighting him off and finally Johnny chokes out, feeling like he's about to break into a milion pieces at just how frail Tommaso feels (It'd only been a few weeks, right? What the hell happened to him in that time?) "What's wrong? Why are you here, Tommaso? HHH said... HHH said you were injured. It was significant? And you needed time off?" He feels awful for compounding it by almost knocking the man off of his feet in a parking lot, but remembers the dull pain in his neck, down his spine the last few weeks and grits his teeth, waiting for some sort of explanation.

Tommaso grunts and gingerly pulls away from Johnny, unable to catch his eye. He exhales so deeply that Johnny is sure there's no oxygen left in his body, seemingly accepting that it's time to stop hiding from the truth behind his actions all of those weeks ago. "I had shoulder surgery a month ago," he says so quietly that the words are almost lost in the wind. "So we're slowly starting rehab. But the surgery was, uh, intensive, and I might not... be cleared to wrestle again." He looks uncomfortable, as if the words are foreign to him, and Johnny is hit with the sudden realization that this might be the first time Tommaso had ever said the words aloud to anyone.

"What?" Johnny asks, suddenly feeling impossibly young and lost at the thought that the man he'd teamed with only a couple of months ago might never be able to enter a ring again. "You... but... how was it so bad? You seemed..." He's overwhelmed by bitter memories, forcing himself to remember that if he wants honest answers, he can't just lose himself in what he suffered. Tommaso is clearly going through something too, and if Johnny wants to understand Chicago, he has to understand this first. "You seemed fine in Chicago."

Tommaso flinches at the broken anger in Johnny's voice before straightening up and staring him in the eye. "I worked through shoulder problems for months," he admits. "The trainers told me I'd need surgery eventually, and there was a chance it'd be a career ender. But I couldn't... I didn't want to... leave you hanging like that. So I did what I could to hold on, but when I twisted my ankle... and trainers were warning me left right and center that I couldn't expect to make it out of the ladder match without causing myself more damage... I knew I couldn't continue doing it to us, to you. Not without risking something worse happening, for me, or for you, something... So I prepared an exit strategy." He shifts like he wants to scrub a hand over his face, like he always does when aggravated or anxious, but a cringe of pain shivers through his body and he stops the motion before he even manages to lift his arm up a few inches. "If we had won, I wouldn't have done it. I would've... found you a partner to replace me, or I would've... I don't know. But we lost."

He presses the toe of his shoe into the cracked pavement and Johnny grits his teeth against what happened next. "So why? What was the motivation of this exit strategy? You couldn't think of anything else?" He wants to push Tommaso again, scream in his face, but after listening this long, he knows neither will get him anywhere- he's too tired, too emotionally wraught to even think about it. Tommaso had been injured for months and I had no idea?

"I had to get you out of AoP's orbit. I knew if you thought that... they were the main cause of my needing surgery, you would continue chasing them, and get yourself in as bad a shape as I was in. So my plan, faulty as it was, was to take that moment and warp it into something you... you would never forgive." Ciampa licks his lips anxiously, too worn out and pained to continue hiding all of this from Johnny. "I preferred the thoughts of you hating me to you destroying yourself in an attempt to avenge me when I would never, ever ask that of you."

"It should've been my choice," Johnny snaps out, his eyes wet and vision blurry as he approaches Tommaso once more, his hands hovering over his shoulders, scared to touch. "It should've been... it should've been something we talked about, not just something you ran into head long. I would've wanted to be there for you during all... all of this..."

"You deserve your moment," Ciampa insists. "To focus on your own career, not get bogged down with a partner who probably can't wrestle for months, if ever again. Win all of the titles possible in NXT, move on to the main roster, kick ass there too. Not this." He waves between the two of them, and Johnny shakes his head, biting down a cry of frustration before resting his hands on Ciampa's shoulders, watching his face carefully to make sure he's not causing him any significant pain.

"You idiot," he chokes out. "You brought out the psycho killer to protect me, do you know how ridiculous that is?" Ciampa's eyes are looking a little wet now, nodding slightly as his lips twist uncomfortably, and Johnny leans forward, resting his head on Ciampa's chest for a weak, trembling moment.

"I didn't know HHH said anything," Ciampa says after a moment of letting Johnny digest this. "I figured you would eventually sort it out, I just thought I'd have more time to... rehab... figure out for sure if I'm... done or not." With his head pressed into Tommaso's shirt, Johnny's not sure how much pain it causes him to lift his arm up to stroke through Johnny's hair but he manages it somehow, his breathing steady and his body relaxing as soon as he touches Johnny again.

"More time to make me think you hated me for us losing so much," Johnny sniffs, finally pulling away and letting Ciampa's hand drop limply back to his side, watching as a cascade of emotion crosses Tommaso's face before he settles on sad, the lines of his face even more pronounced like this. I guess I have the answers I wanted, he thinks, feeling some of the pain leave him. He still has some thinking to do, but for now... "Come on, you're going to be late, aren't you?" He takes Ciampa's bag and ignores his feeble protests as he guides him into the rehab building. "Is it ok if I sit with you while you...?" He's not sure where Tommaso is in his rehab, so he lets the words fade away, relieved when Ciampa nods without too much consternation.

Once they're in the rehabiliation room, it's a sad sight, really. Ciampa's lost so much muscle mass that Johnny barely recognizes his body but he forces himself not to flinch as the rehab specialist helps him take his jacket off, revealing the bandages under his tank top crisscrossing his surgically repaired shoulders. Johnny chokes down tears and just watches, fingers curling against his shorts, as Ciampa bites down pained groans through such simple movements, trying to get the strength in his arms back up at a pace that won't overwhelm his body this soon after surgery. Despite how sad it makes Johnny to watch, the specialist seems pleased. "You can lift your arms higher than last time. It's all good signs, Tommaso. Just keep doing what you're doing and I'll see you again on Monday, alright?"

"Yep, thanks, doc," Tommaso says quietly, sitting still as he's helped back into his jacket and the man nods at Johnny before taking his leave. "Ready to go?"

"Ye- yeah," Johnny says, wiping fruitlessly at his eyes. "God dammit, Tommaso." The thought that his partner had been going through this alone for the last few weeks... Johnny shakes his head miserably, following Tommaso out. "I want to take you home." Before Ciampa can try to talk him out of it, Johnny speaks over him. "Just for awhile. We still have a lot to talk about."

"Fine," he exhales, handing over a paper to the women at the front desk before following Johnny out.

Johnny shakes his head, remembering abruptly that he'd taken the bus. "Taxi it is, I guess," he mumbles, dialing the number and ignoring Tommaso's curious gaze. "Where have you been staying anyway?" he wonders, remembering the woman in the car dropping him off... she'd looked kind of familiar, but he'd been so emotionally overwhelmed that she hadn't been in the forefront of his focus.

"Kevin Owens'," he admits after clearing his throat awkwardly.

That makes so much sense that Gargano's lips quirk up into a smirk for the first time in weeks. Which means the woman was Kevin's wife, who is naturally sweet to everyone, and beautiful, and... Johnny closes his eyes, shaking his head at the sweeping sensation of jealousy he'd felt when he had first seen her with Tommaso. "That makes sense," he mumbles aloud.

They sit quietly until the taxi arrives to take them back to the house they'd shared, Johnny staring at his hands as Ciampa looks out of the window, the driver seemingly uncomfortable with the silence too but giving up on breaking it after trying to start conversation a couple of times goes nowhere. It's a relief for all of them when they arrive and Johnny pays the fare, guiding Tommaso up and out, unlocking the door for him. He stands uncomfortably in the hall until Johnny motions him towards the kitchen, where he pours him a glass of water and, remembering belatedly, tosses a straw into it so he doesn't have to lift his arm up so far just to take a sip.

Tommaso smiles ruefully at him before getting the straw to his lips and downing half of the water in slow increments. They stand quietly for awhile, Johnny's hands rubbing anxiously against the wooden island dividing them, before Tommaso puts his glass down and faces Johnny with a quiet kind of focus on his face. "So you said we had things to talk about. Like what?"

Johnny swallows. Walks around to join Tommaso and presses a hand on his back, urging him quietly to turn around. Once he does so, lips twisting in confusion, Johnny guides him down the hallway to his room, where Tommaso stares at his abandoned furniture, the closet with the DIY shirts. "I just needed an excuse to get you to come home." Tommaso tenses under his fingers and Johnny quickly continues on, "You need to eat and sleep and do more than just rehab to take care of yourself, and clearly that isn't happening at the Owens'." Tommaso's brows are furrowed as he glares over at Johnny, clearly not thrilled with any of this, and he groans out an exasperated laugh. "I know I don't have much room to talk, I look like shit too because I haven't been eating or sleeping right either since everything... but I know, as much as it must hurt you, that you wouldn't go to these extremes just because your wrestling career might be over."

Tommaso looks like he wants to argue this but eventually he just falls quiet, staring down at his hands and Johnny reaches out, cupping the back of his neck gently. "I know because, as much as part of me wanted to get back into the grind myself, as soon as I was doing it, rehab, working to get cleared again, I realized it felt empty. Because you weren't there. After everything, you just disappearing made no sense, and I didn't care about my return match against Blake. It just... didn't matter. What mattered was finding you, getting answers. And yeah, part of me wanted to kick your ass at first... but now that I know... I'm just sad that you felt like you had to take this all on by yourself. I know we were DIY but doing it yourself was never supposed to exclude each other, right?"

Tommaso laughs brokenly, sniffing a little bit. "That name never did make sense."

"No, but I liked it." Johnny taps at his jaw and he looks up, eyes deep blue and wet as they meet Johnny's warm brown gaze. "A lot of people would've said we wouldn't make sense either, but we really did. Right?"

"For awhile, yeah," Tommaso whispers.

"We still do. Just in different ways." Johnny rubs at his scalp and smiles a little when Tommaso closes his eyes, leaning into his touch. He exhales and looks away for a moment. "There were things I probably should've said a long time ago too." He faces Tommaso, clearly weighing how to say the words lingering on his tongue since the CWC, when he had watched their match back, saw the look on Tommaso's face when he'd refused to strike Johnny with his knee, had lost the match because of that one decision. Tommaso is always such a measured person, each move propelled by a lot of thought and pre-planning, that it's impossible for Johnny to be anything like him, but that was why their team worked so well.

So he holds his breath as he goes with his gut and slowly sinks to his knees before Tommaso, staring up at him. Tommaso bites back a hiss as he realizes. "Johnny, get up right now," he says through gritted teeth, closing his eyes against the reminder of Chicago, of Johnny before him on the table. "Johnny-"

"Shhh," Johnny mumbles, resting a hand on his lower stomach and easing it up, watching his face as he glides his hand up his abs. Instead of moving away, though, he keeps his hand there, feeling Tommaso's shaky breathing through his more pronounced ribs, and his heart hurts as he watches him struggle once more to control himself. "Tommaso, look at me." When the man shakes his head, Johnny rubs soft circles against the fabric of his tank top. "Look at me, please."

Tommaso finally groans and stares down at him, a tired kind of pain in his deep eyes, and Johnny inches closer. "When I was eliminated from the CWC, I watched our round one match back. And although I was watching it for closure, it helped me to see something that I couldn't before. We changed, we grew, in that moment. You refusing to strike me with your knee, and how it felt when you left me, and then when you came back. I remembered it all so vividly when I rewatched it and... it wasn't just tag partners, or best friends sitting there on that mat." Tommaso's breath stutters under Johnny's fingers and he swallows, that about all of the confirmation he needs. "Even you attacking me so I wouldn't go against the AoP alone... As overthought as it was, that's more consideration than most tag partners have showed each other in this business, ever."

"What's your point, Johnny?" he asks, voice raspy and faint.

"Somewhere along the way I fell in love with you," Johnny says, eyes fixed on Tommaso's face. "And I'm pretty sure you fell in love with me too."

Tommaso's eyes close against the words, his throat working hard as he swallows, and Johnny waits patiently until he shudders and peeks down at him, breathing a little rough as he reaches out and cups Johnny's face, just at the right height to not send sharp pains along his still healing shoulders. Strokes along his jaw, up his cheeks, brushing against his lips and nose, remembering all of the parts of Johnny that he'd tried to push away, forget about, the last few weeks. "Who doesn't love you, Johnny?" he mumbles, eyes fixed on Johnny's.

"Not like this," Johnny says softly, finally moving his hand away just to replace it with his face, leaning into Tommaso's ribs and pressing light kisses there, muffled by the tank top.

Tommaso's hands shift to run through his hair, words failing him as Johnny continues to nuzzle against him. "Johnny," he mumbles. "Johnny." His words are sounding a little thick and he wavers. "I need to sit down."

The speed that Johnny moves at this, getting to his feet and grabbing Tommaso around the waist, easing him over to the bed and helping him to sit down, would be impressive if it didn't make Tommaso feel even more dizzy. "Are you ok?" Tommaso shakes his head and Johnny flutters for awhile, beyond anxious. "What do you need? Should I call an ambulance, or-"

Tommaso grips his wrist, stops his rambling. "Just give me a minute," he whispers. "I... We've discussed my lack of sleep and proper nourishment, right? Mixed with antibiotics and painkillers... then you throw this kind of thing at me... I just... need a minute."

Johnny nods, sits next to him on the bed, waits. Tommaso is staring at the wall opposite of where they're sitting, breathing in deeply. Finally, when he looks over at him, Johnny meets his gaze and they release the breaths they'd been holding at the same time. He chuckles and rubs at his forehead, still dazed over everything. Tommaso reaches out for him, a thoughtful look on his face, but because of his shoulders can only grip Johnny's shirt and pull, a weak tug but still enough of one that Johnny goes with it, leans into Tommaso's space and lets out a soft groan when Ciampa kisses him. It's tentative, slow, as if Tommaso is expecting Johnny to pull away, maybe push him again, but Johnny is right there with him, softly pressing his lips against Tommaso's, feeling him slowly relax into it.

When Johnny parts his lips, breath teasing against Tommaso's mouth, he moans faintly and deepens the kiss, nails biting into Johnny's shirt more and more the longer this goes on. It's difficult to remember, after all of this, that Tommaso is sleep deprived and needs proper nourishment, and his shoulders are still healing from intensive surgery, and all Johnny wants to do is keep kissing him, but eventually reality intercedes when Tommaso winces against him and Johnny gently pulls away, brushing a thumb against Tommaso's lips, pressing their foreheads together as he stares into his eyes. "Ok?"

"Yeah." Ciampa nods a couple of times. "You uh. You were right. I am in love with you," he admits quietly and Johnny smiles, not really needing the words, actions had spoke loudly enough, but so thankful for them right now as he rubs up and down Tommaso's back gently.

"C'mon. You lay down, get comfortable, and I'll... figure out something for us to eat, alright?" So glad that he hadn't dismantled Tommaso's bedroom as soon as he could walk without spasms of pain shooting up his back and neck again, Johnny moves, grips Tommaso around the middle and helps him shift backwards to lay against the pillows. "Get some sleep," he urges, leaning in and lightly kissing Tommaso once more. "You need it."

Tommaso squints up at him. "So do you, Johnny," he mumbles, eyes already impossibly heavy.

Johnny smiles a little, traces a finger over Tommaso's brow and shakes his head. "I'm taking care of you for now. I'll be fine a little longer. Promise, after we eat, I'll get some sleep too." He lightly tugs Tommaso's shoes off and gets him under the sheets, not surprised to find him completely dead to the world as soon as he looks back up.

There's never been an overabundance of food in the apartment, and even less once Tommaso left. So Johnny heads outside quietly, taking a quick trip to the supermarket just down the street, and buys milk, bread, eggs, other essentials, and a few favorites of Tommaso's, mostly things that will be easy to eat. Once home again, he puts together grilled cheeses and spoons out some fruit slices from a container he'd grabbed as a last minute thought from the produce section. Figures it a success when the sandwiches aren't burnt and peeks into the bedroom to find Tommaso still fast asleep, looking more peaceful than Johnny's seen him in a long time. I should've known something was wrong, he thinks, frowning. He's always been quiet but before Chicago... even before his ankle injury... it was clear he was working through something, but I just thought... I thught he'd come to me when he was ready...

Shaking his head, unable to dwell on the what ifs, the shoulda dones, any longer, Johnny pushes the door open the rest of the way and kneels by the bed, leaning in to kiss Ciampa, smirking against the scrape of his out of control beard. "Wake up," he urges softly, gently rubbing at his arm. "Food's ready." Tommaso makes a noise deep in his throat before blinking around dazedly, confused. It clears, somewhat, when Johnny kisses him again and he struggles to sit up without putting weight on his arms, finally finding his balance with some help from Johnny. "Maybe you should eat in here," Johnny starts to suggest but Tommaso is already on his feet so Johnny chuckles a little and follows him out to the island, relieved that it's low enough that Tommaso can rest his hands on it without pain. "Do you need help eating?"

Tommaso shakes his head, fumbles with the fork. "Doc cleared me to feed myself a couple weeks ago." He smiles sardonically. "Just so you know what you're getting yourself into, I'm only a few steps above an invalid right now."

Johnny reaches out and takes his hand, shaking his head. "You're not an invalid, just recovering. I wish I'd been here for you from day one. Tommaso, I understand why you did what you did... I don't agree with it, and you can't ever make decisions for the both of us like that again, but... I want you to move back in with me. Alright? I... need you in my life. The last couple of months have been... sad, and quiet, and I can't do anything without feeling like it's all meaningless." He rubs Tommaso's knuckles with his thumb and smiles sadly. "Please say you'll move back in with me. I'll go to Kevin's right now and get all of your things, I swear. You wouldn't have to do a thing."

Tommaso stares at Johnny, eyes wide and fingers twitching under his. "You really want me to...?" He barely gets the words out before Johnny's nodding emphatically, Tommaso's eyes swimming in unshed tears. "Shit, Johnny. I don't know why you're so good to me, I don't deserve it," he chokes out.

Johnny's by his side in a moment, holding him close. "Yes you do," he murmurs. "Yes you definitely do deserve this and more."

"I'm worthless and I do all the wrong things, I could've hurt you seriously, and you're just- you..." He sobs into Johnny's shoulder, shuddering as Johnny kisses the top of his head. "I'm sorry, I'm so damn sorry..."

"Sssshhhh," Johnny whispers. "You're not worthless. You make questionable decisions when you think your back's up against the wall and you're desperate, but that's human. And I'm pretty sure you were as careful as you could be that night, every doctor I saw told me it should've been a lot worse than it was. Which made no sense at the time but I guess now it does." They sit tangled up in each other for a minute before Johnny pleads, "Say you'll stay with me, Tommaso. I can't... I can't stand watching you leave again, after everything. I love you and I need you. Please."

Tommaso remains very quiet for awhile longer before breathing out, "I have my pain killers in my bag. You don't need to rush over to Kevin's right now. We, uh, we can figure out the rest tomorrow."

Johnny lets out a shuddering breath. Holds Tommaso tight for a moment longer before cupping his face and kissing him slowly. They're both over-wrought emotionally, exhausted, physically beat down, and all around in terrible shape. It's going to take time for them to get to something close to stable, and they still have a lot to talk about, work out between the two of them. But for now, they know everything that's been lurking between them, threatening their partnership, their relationship, and Johnny carefully pushes the plate of food towards Tommaso. "Finish eating, then let's go get some sleep, alright?"

Tommaso nods, picks at a grape. "Sounds good," he says, voice worn out and still a little shaky.

It seems to take forever, with an exasperating amount of effort, for both of them to eat anything even close to a healthy amount, but they force themselves to because they really have been pushing it with the not eating and sleeping thing, and once their plates are cleared, Johnny takes both and stacks them in the sink with the pan and silverware, returning to Tommaso's side and helping him off of the stool before following him into the bedroom. "Is it ok if I... stay with you tonight?" he asks.

Part of him doesn't want to let Tommaso out of his sight, part of him just needs to feel human warmth next to him after being alone for so long. It's obvious Tommaso is feeling the same way because his lips quirk up slightly before he nods and pulls both sides of the sheets down. "Yeah, that's fine, trust me," he says softly, settling in and propping himself up with pillows because sometimes it's easier on his shoulders to be sitting up than laying flat. Johnny waits until he's settled to crawl in next to him, wrapping an arm loosely around his waist and listening to him breathe. "You comfortable?"

"Mm hmm. Are you?"

"Yes." Tommaso's fingers are lightly ghosting over Johnny's arm, tingling little points of contact that Johnny finds so soothing he'd never ask him to stop, even though it's keeping him on this side of conscious. "Johnny?"

"Mm hmm?"

"I love you."

Johnny smiles into his side. "I love you too," he murmurs. He forces himself to stay awake, listening to Tommaso's breathing ease into steady, deep inhales and exhales, the man falling asleep ridiculously quickly, thankfully not feeling any pain right now. It's going to take time, and patience, and they have so much working against them, but he's sure they'll stare it down and defeat it, just like they've done in the past. He presses a kiss to Tommaso's collarbone and then closes his eyes.

For the first time in weeks, Johnny, not tormented by nightmares or physical agony, sleeps, lips twitched up in a content smile.