Luke hadn’t expected to get along with his roommate as well as he does.
He didn’t even know he would get a new one after the other guy decided to leave for another facility, since it was closer to where his family lived. Just the next day, a newcomer was admitted, sitting down in the only empty chair across from Luke during a group session. The only way Luke could describe him was- shockingly normal. He had well-trimmed stubble and a strangely placid look on his face. He really looked peaceful, despite the shadows under his eyes and the layer of bandages on his left arm. He was slumped in his chair, but didn’t seem high or going through withdrawals, just tired. Of course, Luke knew better than to think he could always tell from just appearances. Plenty of people aren’t obvious about being in either state.
His sponsor stood to greet the new man, and he took her hand to shake easily. He didn’t smile. Only a blank, open gaze. Indifferent, almost. Those were typically the ones who dropped out of the program first: people who didn’t care about their future. Luke tried not to judge him too harshly, but after a while, he’d started to understand the different people coming and going. “Hi, I’m Paige, the sponsor here. Care to introduce yourself to the group?”
“Sure,” he said, finally with a brief smile. That was a surprise. Most people refused on their first day. He looked around and met Luke’s eyes, prompting him to avert his gaze just slightly. It would have been weird to stare back at him. “Well, my name is Matt, and I’m here to get clean. Is that alright?”
Everyone greeted him in return, and Paige nodded. “That’s just fine. Can you tell us more about your addiction?”
He paused to look at her earnestly. “Will that upset anyone? I don’t want to, uh, trigger somebody who’s farther along, if that makes any sense.” Luke stared down at his hands in his lap. Maybe he was wrong. With more light on his face, the man looked quite kind.
Paige smiled, and a few of the other group members murmured amongst themselves. “We’re all recovering, Matt. But that’s considerate of you.”
He nodded and cleared his throat, sitting up in his chair with better posture. “Okay. I haven’t been high in a week, but I don’t think it counts as clean, you know? I only haven’t done it because I was detoxing. I started using heroin in college, but relapsed about three years ago. I need a high dose to get anything, and I know it’s dangerous to use so much. I just don’t want to die over something like that, you know.”
Luke nodded gently in acknowledgment, and also because he shared the sentiment. The others nodded as well, and Matt seemed reassured by their approval.
Later, Paige approached him and told him that Matt would be bunking in his room. Luke said that was fine, knowing he wouldn’t have any say in the matter. There were two other guys in the room with him, but they seemed uninterested in talking to him. He was curious about the man who’d come in earlier that morning anyway.
When he walked back to his room to read a book he’d borrowed, it was still light outside. Matt was there at the desk already, spinning the chair with his foot. He stopped abruptly upon noticing Luke.
“Hey, is this your journal? I wouldn’t want to read anything private of yours by accident.”
Luke felt himself smile, and the man across from him smiled back. “It is, but you can ask Paige for a journal if you want something to write in. There’s also a library.”
Matt glanced at the book in his hand for a moment before returning to look him in the eye again. “Really? Thanks for letting me know.” God, Luke was terrible at keeping eye contact. He brought the book up to his chest and chewed on his pen to keep himself occupied. “What’s your name?” Matt asked, voice more gentle as if he’d noticed Luke’s sudden trepidation.
He nodded as Luke sat down on the bottom bunk. “Luke, can I ask how long you’ve been here?”
“A month,” he said quietly. It’s technically true; he’d been in and out of there for longer, but one month was his current stay. “Can I ask you a question too?”
Matt stood up and moved to sit next to him. “Go for it.”
“Do you know much about the program?” Almost as soon as the question left his mouth, he felt like maybe it would be interpreted as snooty, but Matt didn’t seem upset with him.
“No, this is pretty much the first place I checked. I just had to get somewhere quick.”
“Oh,” Luke said stupidly. “I get that. Sorry.”
Matt touched his shoulder, and he swallowed. “It’s alright. I’m here now.”
Less than a month later, he and Matt are closer than Luke has been with almost anybody else in the facility. He actually tells Nell about him, and she’s happy that he’s found a friend. He feels that he has something to be proud of.
In the time he’s been at the rehab center, he’s never said much publicly about his story or childhood, besides that his mom had committed suicide. To his therapist, he said more, but not the whole story. He was tempted for a while to make something up, but he didn’t want to lie. Luke just didn’t want to face that monster again either.
One night, he has a nightmare bad enough to wake him up. He has dreams like this all the time, but it’s rare that they wake him. As soon as his eyes shoot open, he forgets what it was about. Only images of hiding under his bed, a box of buttons dropping to the floor, and a window. He tries to get his breathing back to normal, but the sheer panic upon waking up stays with him for a long while as something in his chest tightens. Luke startles again when he hears blankets rustling in the bed below his, still not fully aware of his surroundings. Matt appears from the edge of his bed and slides off of it to stand, pressing his nose against the bars of the top bunk.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, concerned and very much awake.
Luke can’t find a voice to respond, throat dry. When he doesn’t get an answer, Matt climbs the ladder to sit beside him. Luke scoots closer under the blanket. “Did you have a bad dream?” He nods, and Matt wraps an arm around his shoulders for comfort. The weight on his chest lifts. He doesn’t know how long they stay like that. His eyes eventually trail to the harsh white of bandages under Matt’s sleeve, and speculating on it keeps him occupied. Luke almost protests when Matt moves away from him, then he realizes that he was the one to wake his roommate in the first place.
“Sorry for waking you up.”
Matt shakes his head as he descends the ladder, pushing strands of hair out of his face. “No need to be sorry. You were just scared.”
He was just scared, Luke repeats to himself. He was scared. That’s all. “Okay,” he says, taking a shaky breath. “Good night.”
“Good night, Luke.” He gives Luke’s foot a little pat from the lower level and moves out of view to go back to sleep.
Luke tries too, with debatable success. At breakfast, he’s certainly groggy, but the fear is gone. Usually the paranoia from his nightmares lasts for a good part of his day, but he’s somewhat reassured this time. He was just scared. It was just a scary dream. Maybe it’s a childish thing to think, but it makes him feel better- makes it seem less important.
Matt sits next to him as usual and makes conversation, since Luke has never initiated an everyday chat in his life, and he doesn’t think he ever will. He talks about his family often, sometimes prompting Luke to do the same, but he only occasionally responds. While this is the closest relationship he’s had in a while, that isn’t saying a whole lot. He’s always kept to himself, and Matt doesn’t push it. When Luke does tell him something, he treats it like a precious secret and returns with an equally important fact about himself. That makes it a little easier.
“You know I don’t have siblings, but living with my uncle as a teen, he had four daughters. It was basically like having four sisters. The younger ones are twins, and sometimes they call me here at the same time without knowing it. I really have no clue which one will be on the other line when I answer,” Matt laughs over his oatmeal in the dimmed light from a nearby window, and Luke smiles as he listens.
“Nell and I are twins,” he says. “We call each other at the same time too, believe it or not. We’ve always sort of been in each other’s heads like that.”
Matt’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “No shit?” Luke nods, amused. He’s clearly delighted by this information. “That could be really cool or really inconvenient, depending on what’s happening.” He doesn’t know how right he is about that. It feels good for Luke to be the one sharing for once, especially since it makes Matt so happy. He should open up more often, maybe.
When people start heading to the reading room or the fitness center, Matt lowers his voice and turns to him with a grave look. “If it’s not too personal, what was that nightmare about? Last night, I mean. Maybe you don’t remember.” Luke’s face probably goes white. “I only ask because- well, you were crying a bit. I don’t know if you knew or not, but it just had me thinking that maybe it was serious.” Matt’s eyes are stormy, concerned, almost. Like he cares that Luke was upset. He usually struggles with what to tell people when they ask, but he makes his mind up quickly now. “It’s really none of my business, you know, so-”
“No, it’s okay. I didn’t know. That I was crying, I mean. I’ll tell you when we get back to the room.” Matt nods and squeezes his arm. Luke tries to smile at him, but he’s anxious for the rest of the morning.
During their designated reflection time, Luke very purposefully puts his journal aside and watches Matt do the same. They both know what he’s pausing for. Their other roommates are using their weekend passes, so he and Matt will be alone all day.
It takes a few tries to even open his mouth, but eventually, Luke tells him everything. He might not be able to remember the dream, but he knows where it started. From the house, to what little he can recall of Abigail and the red room, to being uninvited from Nell’s wedding. As expected, he cries again, not because he has a vivid image of what happened, but because he doesn’t, and he never will. He’ll never really know. Luke didn’t want to dump all of this shit onto his rehab roommate of all people, but it just comes out. After not telling anyone for this many years, he couldn’t stop himself if he tried. Matt listens intently, hugging him when he obviously needs it. Luke hasn’t been hugged since Nell dropped him off here. He hasn’t let anyone hug him, really. It feels good though, to just let himself be held.
When he’s done, there’s a moment of silence where everything falls back into place and his sniffling quiets. Matt pets the hair on the back of his neck and pulls away to look at him. “I’m sorry. That’s fucking awful.” Luke nods, wipes his eyes on the back of his sleeve. He probably looks pathetic. “Has the sponsor tried to help?”
“She doesn’t know,” he exhales, and Matt does a double take. “Nobody knows. I only tell the therapist here about some of those things.” He’s also told Joey some of it, but that should sort of be a given. He’s never been in the position to explain the whole thing to anyone, and he’s never wanted to until now.
Matt pulls Luke in for another hug. “You’ve kept this shit to yourself?” Luke dips his head again to confirm. “I think you should at least tell someone else here. To get it off your chest.” Matt pauses and gives him a look that he’s too scared to interpret. “And thank you. For telling me. I appreciate it more than you know. I just want you to feel better.”
“You won’t tell anyone?” Luke chews on his lip and feels Matt’s hands tighten at his waist. He’s embarrassed, not just by their proximity, but also because he’s forgotten how nice it is to be close to someone.
Matt shakes his head and steps closer. “No, no. I wouldn’t say anything. It’s your story to tell. But if you wanted to tell Paige or your therapist- I would go with you. If… if you wanted me to be there.”
Luke nods fervently, empowered with support he feels that he hasn’t had in a while. “If you come with me, I’ll- I would tell them.”
“Only if you’re doing it for your sake. Don’t tell them if you think it’ll hurt you,” he responds, firm, even though his expression is still gentle- his eyes still soft.
He doesn’t have to think for long. I want to get better. For me, since no one else cares. “It’s for me.” His voice is so steady, it surprises even him. “I want help.”
Matt smiles at him, and he doesn’t know what to do with himself. “I know you do.”
Luke demands that his one-on-one counsellor let Matt in the room during a session, much to her bewilderment, since from what she knows, Luke prefers privacy and discretion over anything. But soon enough, she gets it. Paige gets it too, and she says that it seems like the friendship is helping both of them, and that maybe companions in recovery wouldn’t hurt Luke. She’s not wrong.
This one night- when Luke and Matt offer to stay behind and clean up during a group trip along with a few others- a social worker opens doors for them to make all of the beds. Luke is happy to do something that gives him a sense of neatness, and he’s also pleasantly surprised that they would trust him with this. Luke tucks the blankets’ edges in like Aunt Janet always did for him, while Matt replaces the sheets on another bed.
There’s a comfortable quiet between them that’s just asking to be broken, and Luke needs a distraction. “What do you dream about?” he asks out of sheer curiosity, helped by the lack of brain-to-mouth filter that comes with being as tired as he is. Matt sits down on one of the finished beds and gestures for Luke to come over, at eye-level with his waistband when he does.
“Honestly? Heroin. Not as interesting as yours.” Luke laughs, surprised, and then claps a hand to his mouth with a short apology. He’s so stupid. Matt just grins. “Don’t be sorry, it is funny, actually. You know, compared to your dreams. I don’t have a whole lot of horror stories to draw from. When you told me… I just thought that it must have been hard for you to do this.”
Luke gives a shy smile back, glad to know that he didn’t upset Matt. He is a little perplexed though. “Do what?”
He stands. “Make it this far on your own. You’re stronger than you think.”
The smile drops from his face at Matt’s words, lips parting slightly. His voice is solemn all the sudden, and his stare is so earnest. It’s not that Luke is upset, it’s just- he couldn’t believe something like that. “I’m not,” he mutters, and Matt lifts one hand to drop it on Luke’s shoulder, thumbing at his shirt collar.
“You are. You have these shitty memories in your head all the time, but you’re still here.”
Luke is too tired for this discussion, but it’s one he needs to have. “I was getting high to forget about them up until a few weeks ago.” Matt strokes his cheek, then his hair, and he leans into it unthinkingly. They’re inches apart from each other.
“You’re not trying to forget now. Even knowing that you’ll have to live with that- you’re still getting better. That’s something to be proud of.” Luke nods, because it’s true, and he thinks maybe, maybe he could accept a compliment this one time from s friend. A friend who always says he admires Luke, who he never believes. He squeezes Matt’s bicep and lets a small smile cross his features, too content to argue.
“You think so?” He still has to get reassurance, of course.
“I know so.” They both laugh, a little shaky. Matt swallows as he holds Luke loosely in his arms. “I like you a lot. You know that?”
Luke nods without thinking. Of course Matt likes him. He let Luke talk to his mom and introduced him as a friend. But he’s clearly talking about a different kind of liking. It only became really obvious to him in the last two weeks or so; after that, he wondered how he didn’t realize it sooner. Matt’s affectionate, but Luke can’t imagine that he holds or touches his other friends like this. He thinks that they’ve both been aware of it, but neither of them found a way to address it until now. Whatever ‘it’ is. “I like you too,” he mumbles. Matt gives him a once-over, maybe thinking that he’s not serious, but Luke doesn’t budge.
“Can I kiss you?”
“Yeah.” He agrees out of pure selfishness. Matt delicately presses their lips together after a pause and walks Luke back until they’re against the wall so he has something to lean on. It’s so… nice. Just to be kissed so considerately. Luke almost pulls away from him out of shame, but he can’t find enough motivation to deny himself this. He thinks he deserves it. Matt’s hands don’t roam, staying close to his waist and the side of his throat where he’s sure his pulse is racing. He pulls back for a moment and returns, kissing Luke again and again, on his forehead and cheek. It feels good. To be kissed, and liked, and believed in.
But it’s not just that. He doesn’t know what it is yet, but there’s something else that makes his whole body go warm and heavy while they’re kissing.
Matt is smiling wide when he finally opens his eyes. “I think this is it for the beds,” he says gently, the suggestion to go back to their room clear. Luke agrees with a short nod, too stunned to even make a sound.
They end up sitting together in the bottom bunk, even knowing that it’ll be lights out soon. Luke is relaxed, actually, relieved that they’ve gotten past whatever was keeping them from this. He figures another question couldn’t ruin the mood. “Matt?” The man in question hums, glancing at Luke expectantly. He curses himself for clamming up whenever Matt’s eyes are on him. “Do you really believe me?”
Matt’s brows furrow. “What do you mean?”
“What I said about the house and everything. Because- I mean, it sounds crazy. Even to me,” he laughs bitterly. He understands why anybody wouldn’t, but it’s a curse, to tell someone what happened to him only to have them later think it was a pipe dream.
“I believe you.” His voice is stern, but his eyes go soft when he kisses Luke’s temple. “Of course I believe you.” Matt cards his fingers through Luke’s hair and watches as he closes his eyes. “That reminds me, actually, there’s something I want to tell you,” he says, sudden and low. Luke squints at him in confusion for a moment before turning fully to face him.
Matt nods. “I trust you, and I think it’s only fair that I tell you this, since you’ve trusted me with so much. I want you to know.” He glues himself to Matt’s side. Luke can only hope to be as supportive as Matt has been for him this past month. “I have a bit of a story, beyond my parents being divorced.” Luke hums in recognition; that was something Matt had told him weeks ago. He figured there was something more to it, but he didn’t want to ask. “My dad hurt my mom for years without me knowing about it. He was nice to me, you know, and I just thought… I don’t know. Anyway, I found out and didn’t say anything. She asked me not to. But I thought he was going to kill her one night, so I called the police.” He swallows heavily. “I didn’t realize it was even something traumatic until he found me at work one day. That’s when I relapsed.” Luke can’t find any words to give him, but Matt doesn’t need a response. He continues with slight shrug, looking over Luke’s shoulder at the bed frame. “I’ve been thinking about telling you, because I know it’s nothing compared to what you told me, but it’s something else that won’t ever go away. I don’t want you to feel alone in that.”
Luke is touched- that Matt trusts him, that he wants to make Luke feel better- but he can’t help commenting on something else. “Look at me,” he says, but it comes out less firm than he intended. Matt still listens closely. “It’s not nothing. You don’t have to compare your story to mine, okay? All of it’s fucked up. And… thanks. For telling me.”
Matt has an incredulous look on his face, soon replaced by a slow smile. “Yeah, alright. Of course.” He kisses Luke once more like a promise.
When Paige comes in to check up on them, Luke is able to sit up just enough so that it doesn’t look suspicious, and the room goes dark. He lies back down next to Matt in the bottom bunk and lets the blankets drape over him, balling himself up smaller than usual so he can fit closer to Matt. He doesn’t even remember falling asleep.
Luckily, Luke wakes up before their alarms and is able to get out of bed in case anyone else came in. His ears go hot when the grogginess wears off and he belatedly remembers what Matt said, how he kissed Luke. It’s embarrassing that he agreed so quickly, but he’s not surprised by himself. Luke doing something impulsive and reckless isn’t exactly a new concept to anyone.
Matt wakes up a few minutes later, thankfully seeming unbothered by Luke’s departure from his side. They stare at each other for a moment, Luke gnawing on his pen with widened eyes as he waits for one of them to say something. Soon, the silence gets to be too much for him. “I don’t know if you meant all that,” he blurts out, panicked. “I’m sorry if-”
Matt stops him. “I meant it. But if you want me to forget it, I will.” Luke is horrified by that prospect, but Matt’s face betrays no hurt. “If you want me to move to another room, I can.”
He can’t mess this up. “No, I don’t want-” Luke stands up from his chair fast enough that it hits the desk. He somehow gets the courage to crawl over the bed to where Matt lays, taking his hands. “I meant…” He trails off, but the message gets across. Matt scoots up closer to him and Luke meets him for another kiss. He can feel the tension in his shoulders melt away as he flops back down onto the pillows where his head lay before. Matt rubs his knuckles.
“You’re sweet,” he whispers. “We should probably get out of bed.” Unfortunately, he’s right. Someone will come in sooner or later and walk in on them. Luke is still reluctant.
A week later, Joey disappears in the night, and the center makes it clear that they won’t make an effort to search for her. Matt is almost angrier than he is, if only because Luke has seen what happens when people run away, and he hasn’t.
She’d been acting weird the last couple of days, but Luke couldn’t get any answer from her as to what it was about. Now he knows. It doesn’t make it sting less. He thought they would both recover and get out of there the way she wanted them to. She left a note in his jacket that told him not to follow, and it’s difficult to listen, but the last thing Luke wants to do is leave treatment. He’s doing so well, and Nell is proud of him. He wouldn’t want to leave Matt either, even knowing that he would go on without Luke if he had to. Getting better is the priority, and it has to be.
Paige, when they discuss it the next morning, isn’t very subtle in implying that Luke especially may have influenced her decision. It’s hard to pick up on at first, but Luke can tell that Matt is pissed; it’s the first time he’s seen Matt angry, glaring quite openly at anyone who looks at Luke for too long with too suspicious of an expression. Otherwise he stays quiet. Neither of them want to start a conflict within the group. Luke can’t help feeling that he’s being made an example of just because he and Joey were close. He walks out of the circle after he’s had enough, and Matt doesn’t follow him. He just needs to have a small meltdown, alone, and then he’ll be okay.
He skips lunch. Matt comes in later with a book and a protein shake to make him feel less like shit, and it takes a little while to actually work. Their other roommates ignore them laying together and reading, since it looks innocent enough, and at dinner, Matt admits that he set a very firm “don’t talk to or look at Luke today” rule with them. They didn’t argue, he says with a bit of pride.
Then he’s freezing, and Steve calls, and Nell is dead, and he has to leave for her funeral. Matt comes with him, and when they make it back, Luke is surprised that nobody scolds him for turning a day pass into something closer to a week pass. He guesses someone let the center know he was dying of strychnine poisoning, and that probably serves as a good enough excuse for the both of them.
A few weeks go by in a blur, and while Luke has felt a strange sense of relief ever since leaving the hospital, he’s also had too many nightmares to count. About his mother, about Nell, about the red room. About Joey. He’s jolted awake by one in the middle of the night, pillow cold with sweat, and before he even opens his eyes, Luke has the horrible realization that he’ll never see her again. He knows it, and he wishes he didn’t.
He doesn’t tell anyone in the morning. Breakfast with Matt is almost like it usually is, with what happened at the house only a faint static in their conversations, but it might even be more intimate after everything. Matt doesn’t seem to realize that he keeps Luke closer to him now, but he doesn’t mind.
Paige starts a circle on Monday again by looking at him, with more subtlety this time, and with a heavy sigh. She tells them all that Joey was found by the LAPD last night, and Luke stupidly thinks she’s been arrested (which he knows has happened before) and that she could be brought back in for treatment if she can swing it with a judge. Then he comes to understand that she means Joey’s body. That her body was found. He feels eyes on him, like they’re waiting for a reaction. Again. He doesn’t give them one, too shocked to do anything but stare at the floor.
“Fuck you,” he hears Matt hiss at someone over his head. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Don’t look at him. We all cared about her.”
There are a few mumbled apologies, and Matt goes quiet, his chair scraping the floor as he sits up straight. Luke knows that he wants to be sad, he wants to mourn, but he’s too angry to even think about it. Paige doesn’t acknowledge the outburst. She says a few more words about Joey and her presence at the center, reminds them to seek help when they need it, and asks if anyone has anything else to say. Nobody does. She glances over at Luke, still catatonic, and purses her lips in what could be regret.
As everyone disperses to go back to their rooms, he stays behind with Matt as he folds the chairs. Paige touches his shoulder. “Luke, I… I’m sorry. It wasn’t your fault. I know that.” He shrugs her hand off and covers his face, tears running hot and silent down his cheeks. Matt turns around, taking Luke by the arm. Every ounce of self-control in his body is dedicated to not screaming at her, and Luke knows because he can feel Matt shaking as he faces Paige.
“It’s a little late for that,” he tells her flatly. She lets them go back to their room without another word, knowing just as well as Luke does that Matt’s anger will fade fast. Snapping at anyone has never been his character.
Luke can’t believe it- except that he can, and he does. That’s the worst part. He knows it’s true and that she isn’t coming back. Matt is silent next to him on the mattress at first, and Luke doesn’t have to look at him to know that he’s crying too.
He wasn’t necessarily close with Joey, but they did talk pretty often just from the mutual proximity to Luke. Many of their conversations were just shooting the shit with added playful ribbing. Joey made fun of him for refusing cigarettes, and he threw pencils at her. It was the adult version of sticking their tongues out at each other every chance they got, but Luke always knew that Matt liked her. He never doubted it. Joey liked him too, although when Matt wasn’t paying attention- deep into a story about a childhood scar or something- Luke noticed that her eyes would narrow as she watched him, almost critical, envious. He didn’t understand; they got along well, even without him, but Joey was clearly preoccupied with something about Matt. She always was.
Even if they hadn’t been friendly, he’d probably cry for Luke’s sake. Hearing Nell’s voice over the phone was enough for him to mourn her too, and this is so much worse. Luke scoots closer to him and loosely wraps his arms around his shoulders, feeling one of Matt’s hands come up to squeeze his wrist. Matt wipes his eyes and hugs him back, letting out a resigned exhale.
They both know there’s nothing to say, nothing they could say that would make it better.
The next few days, Matt starts picking at the gauze wrapping on his arm, a habit that has been on and off since they’ve known each other. It’s something Luke has never asked about, since it’s obviously personal, but now the action looks purposeful and like it might be causing him pain. Luke watches him do it, even though it only adds to the anxiety he’s been dealing with since Paige told them about Joey. He can hear the sound of Matt picking even at night when he can’t sleep, and it worries him.
At some point, when they’re eating lunch, Matt gets through the bandage and draws blood. Luke notices at once and instinctually grabs his arm in a panic, and Matt looks over like he’s been pulled out of a trance. It takes him a second, then he sees the fear in Luke’s face and immediately straightens in concern. “What’s wrong?”
“Stop.” Luke gestures to his other arm, and he looks at the red patch forming on the fabric. “You’re hurting yourself.”
Matt seems to only now realize what he was doing. “Shit, sorry,” he winces. Luke loosens his grip on Matt’s wrist and lets him squeeze his arm reassuringly. They’re too close, even if most people have left the cafeteria by now.
“It’s okay, I just… I want you to be alright.” He thinks it must be some kind of self-harm, that Matt is depressed. Luke has done things like that in the past, and he hates to think Matt might be feeling the same way he did.
He’s quiet for a moment, then takes Luke’s hands in his. “Thank you for stopping me. It’s not that I want to hurt myself, you know, it’s just a distraction. I’m not trying to- well, it doesn’t matter. I’m sorry.”
Luke wants badly to comfort him, but he settles for just bumping their shoulders together. “You don’t have to be sorry.” Matt raises a brow, skeptical, but Luke insists. “You don’t.”
Later, they stand in the bathroom together, and at Luke’s request, Matt lets him undo the bandages and put on new ones. He’s almost horrified, seeing the scabs and scars that are usually hidden from sight, but they at least seem to be healing. Matt tells him that the gauze is less for hiding the scars and more to give him something to pick at besides skin.
Luke carefully dabs at his arm with a warm washcloth, drying it before he grabs the fresh bandaging given to Matt by the nurses. He’s so focused on re-wrapping his arm, he doesn’t notice Matt watching him with a smile. He kisses the top of Luke’s head when he’s done, silently thanking him for the work. “I love you,” he says quietly. It’s the first time he’s said that since Luke was crying in his arms in Shirley’s storage closet. It makes him pause in thought. He shakes his head with a self-conscious grimace, almost laughing.
Matt’s eyes flash with hurt before he schools his features to a more neutral look. Luke regrets saying anything. “I’m sorry you feel like that. It doesn’t change anything for me though.”
He doesn’t know how to respond, frustrated and grateful all at once. He feels like he’s revealed too much, but he has to say something to make it better. “But I love you too. Just so you know,” he mumbles. Matt has to know that the feeling is mutual.
That makes him smile again, and he wraps his arms around Luke, kissing behind his ear before answering. “I do know.” Luke closes his eyes and lets Matt gently sweep his hair out of his face. He can at least let himself have this. He has this, if nothing else, and he can’t imagine letting it go now.