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Matt’s first therapy session didn’t go very well. Dr Charles was a first-class psychiatrist but Matt had years of neglect, stress and loss, all tangled up in his head. Add to that all of the recent trauma and it was no wonder that he wasn’t saying anything. Whilst Mat had gotten used to scrawling out requests and answers to simple questions on his little whiteboard, delving into his psyche to cure his muteness would take a lot longer to write. Dr Charles pre-empted that concern by explaining they had a longer session to compensate for writing time. Matt knew his medical leave was generous and Boden had stated firmly that he should not worry about anything, just focus on getting better. He couldn’t help but worry though. Every shift his team was going out without him. Hermann was stepping up in his absence, which Matt was pleased about, even as the guilt of not being there himself gnawed at him. He knew that Kelly felt the same, even though he actually had a good reason to be on sick leave.

Dr Charles started the session bluntly: they could do all the relaxation techniques and breathing exercises in the world, but it was certain that Matt’s muteness was related to his recent trauma. At some point, he was going to have to face it; either by learning how to deal with reminders or by processing the event itself. Deep down, Matt knew that he was right but the fear and pain were too overwhelming. Gritting his teeth and blinking fiercely to dispel the shadows of those memories, he avoided that shrewd gaze, instead staring at the desk. The psychiatrist didn’t say anything else, just observing him.

Frustration building and twisting into something darker, Matt’s fists began to shake.

“Breathe.” Dr Charles’s voice came from far away. He followed the advice instinctively, the black wave lowering to a disquiet bubbling. When he was finally able to look the doctor in the eye, he was met with sympathy. “It won’t be quick and it won’t be easy; but I know that you can get through this. Taking your circumstances into account, I’d recommend you see my colleague, Dr Grant. She’s an expert in Cognitive Process Therapy and she can help you without you needing to speak.” Reluctantly, Matt nodded but gestured to his head and then made a rolling motion with his fingers. Dr Charles gathered his meaning from his expression, added knowingly. “Alright, you let me know when you want to schedule an appointment.” He leaned forward. “You survived a terrible ordeal, there is no shame in needing help to comes to term with it.” Matt knew that, but knowing was different from believing.

In their remaining time, they went through some breathing exercises. By the time he was let out, he felt frustrated, feeling like it had been a waste of time. The exercises were calming, but as he hadn’t been actively panicking, he’d mostly just felt restless and impatient for it to be over so he could get back to Kelly. Clutching the notebook Dr Charles had given him, in case he wanted to write any thoughts or feelings down, he went up to Kelly’s room.

It was empty. He stood at the door for a long moment. One of the nurses saw him and reassured him that he was just at the physio – possibly his last one as in in-patient if all went well. For a second he thought about going along but then reconsidered. Though he’d been discharged two days before, he hadn’t actually been back to his apartment. Shay had grabbed him some clothes and told him that crime scene clean up had taken care of the mess; but he’d stayed at the hospital with the help of some sympathetic nurses who turned a blind eye to his presence.

Now, standing in Kelly’s room, he considered the idea of going back to his apartment and staying there overnight. His heart lurched and he started sweating as anxiety flooded his chest. He couldn’t do it. It wasn’t safe. He wouldn’t be safe. Swallowing, he perched on the bed and Dr Charles’ voice floating into his head. He latched on and made use of those breathing exercises. Okay, he thought once he could breathe easily again, maybe I could use that doctor’s help. Squaring his jaw, he turned around and marched back to Dr Charles’ office. Luckily the man was still there and didn’t make any comment as Matt wrote on his notepad. He just read and nodded.

“Consider it done.”

Tired but happy, Kelly returned to his room. The physio had been pleased with his progress and everyone was hopeful that he’d be cleared to be discharged. When he opened the door, he was even happier to see Matt there, writing on his pad. They exchanged greetings (both aural and silent) and Kelly asked how Matt’s session had gone. His answering expression was complicated and he pointed to his notepad. After helping Kelly into bed, he handed it over, a certain nervous energy buzzing under his skin.

Intrigued, Kelly began to read and soon had to fight to keep his emotions under control. The apologetic and cautiously hopeful tone of Matt’s explanation of his inability to go back to his own apartment and request he ‘crash’ and Kelly’s for ‘a few days’ pulled at his heartstrings even as it frustrated him. He looked up where Matt was fidgeting – something Kelly hadn’t seen him do in years – and said firmly:

“Yes, of course you can stay with us, as long as you need.” Smiling sheepishly, Matt took the pad back and wrote out ‘thank you’. Kelly saw it and this wave of emotion washed over him. Without thinking, he leaned over and kissed him. Matt stiffened in surprise but soon melted into it, bringing a hand up to cup Kelly’s face. Humming a little, Kelly pulled back slowly and looked deep into his friend’s eyes. Matt stared back calmly but with a spark. Well, so far so good.

Then Kelly had to put his foot in it. “Doc says no strenuous activity for another couple of weeks.” Matt frowned as he tried to parse his meaning. When he realised, he pulled back and Kelly stuttered, about to do some damage control until he registered Matt’s expression. It was mild amusement. Raising an eyebrow, Matt slowly mouthed ‘dream on’. Kelly laughed, relieved that he hadn’t spooked his man.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re a classy kind of guy. I’ll wine and dine you first, don’t you worry.” Grinning, Matt retrieved his pad from where it had fallen to the floor. Kelly’s doctor came in to give him the good news and soon he was packing up and being discharged. Shay came to pick them up, not even batting an eye at the news of their new flatmate.

There was a short stand-off over sleeping arrangements: “there’s no reason to sleep on the couch when I have a double bed. I’m not going to steal all the covers because I’m a decent person.” Kelly exclaimed, addressing the last part to an amused Shay, who shrugged at his veiled accusations and left them to it. Refusing to see whatever Matt was scribbling on his little whiteboard, Kelly took his bags and put them in his room. He hesitated when he turned to see Matt staring at the bed; considering for the first time that maybe his new fella wouldn't be comfortable being that intimate so soon. However, he needn't have worried. After a moment, Matt began to blush and he threw up his arms in mock-surrender. He wrote something new and Kelly leaned over his shoulder to read: it's not like I don't know you snore.

Gasping in affected-offence, Kelly pushed his shoulder playfully and they grinned at each other. Even so, Kelly vowed to keep an eye on Matt's reactions; he didn't want to spook him or trigger any flashbacks. After they were mostly unpacked and settled, Kelly dispelled any potential awkwardness by putting on a game. They watched for a while, though it was clear that they were more aware of each other’s presences than what was happening on screen. During the commercial break, Matt took out the whiteboard and after a moment’s hesitation, wrote something and showed it to Kelly.

Stay together?

Drinking in all the micro-expressions flitting across Matt’s face and the tension vibrating through his whole body, Kelly reached over and took the board. He wiped off the question mark and then sat back. Matt leaned into him and they watched the rest of the game.