"I guess I just don't get him," Matt sighed. He lit a cigarette and leaned heavily against the brick wall outside the bar. Jamie stood in front of him, barely illuminated by flickering street lamps.
"Yeah, I mean, your idea of a good time is coming out to the bar, his is sitting at home with his guitar. You're a regular Harry and Sally."
"Except in the end Harry gets Sally," Matt exhaled a puff of smoke bitterly.
"Well, you have Al now, do you not?" Jamie asked. "That's one thing you two have in common: you're both too wrapped up in what's in your heads to actually talk to each other about this."
"It's hard," Matt bit his lip. "You know we started seeing a therapist?"
"Like a couple's counsel-"
"Don't," Matt hissed. "Just don't. I hate that phrase. It's like we're damaged." He flicked the ashes off the end of his cigarette, quickly getting down to the filter. He breathed in the toxins like a tranquil summer breeze.
"I don't want to say this, mate," Jamie frowned. "You know I don't, and you know I love Al, but you bit off more than you can chew. He's sweet, but he's a project." Matt shook his head.
"If anything I'm the damaged one," Matt said. "He's so strong and brave and kind, and I'm just...I don't have anything to offer him. I don't know why he hasn't left yet."
"Because he loves you."
"I wish I could believe that."
"He only says it all the time," Jamie snorted. "C'mon, let's get a cab. You're pissed."
"I don't want to go back to that flat," Matt sobbed.
"You can come back to mine," Jamie offered. "I don't mind, really. I'll text Al and let him know you're safe. You know he worries about you." Matt wiped his eyes and staggered into the cab Jamie held for him. He laid down across the backseat, and his head spun. All he could do was weep. Jamie took pity on the forlorn lover and combed his fingers through Matt's hair.
"Stop it," Matt chuckled. "I'm all sweaty." He batted Jamie's hand away lightly.
"I don't mind it. You still look lovely."
"Who's pissed now, James?" Matt titled his head up, and the red light from the cab cast across Jamie's face like a deep blush.
"Still you," Jamie laughed. "We'll be at mine soon, and you can rest." His phone vibrated in his pocket, and he pulled it out to check the message.
"Who is it?"
"It's Al," Jamie replied. He purposefully didn't mention that Alex had said he missed Matt and wanted him to come home, which may have been selfish. But he didn't think Matt could bare to hear that.
The cab pulled up in front of Jamie's flat, and Jamie paid the fare.
"You think you can make it upstairs?" Jamie chuckled when Matt staggered out of the cab.
"I'm fine," Matt huffed. He straightened his jacket indignantly.
"Whatever you say..." Jamie opened the door to the complex, and Matt stepped inside.
"Thanks, Cookie," Matt grinned. "You're a real friend. I'm lucky to have you." Jamie smiled as he wrapped his arm around Matt's shoulders. They took the elevator up to Jamie's flat, Jamie not trusting Matt to actually climb three flights of stairs.
"I've been with Al through everything, y'know? I'm just not ready to see it end," Matt bit his lip to stop it from quivering.
"I don't wanna go home tonight," Alex confessed. He tucked his feet under him in the passenger seat of Matt's Camaro.
"Where do you wanna go?" Matt asked.
"Don't care." Alex turned up the music, and the light turned green. Matt drove until he reached the highway.
"I wanna get away," Alex sighed. He rolled down the window and lit a cigarette. "I need a break." Matt turned down the music.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't want to be here anymore."
"That doesn't help me understand what you mean," Matt laughed. "C'mon, you're just having a bad night." He put his hand on Alex's shoulder. "We should probably go home."
"No!" Alex snapped. He recoiled from Matt's hand, and he placed it back on the steering wheel. "I'm not going home."
"We'll just go to mine," Matt offered. "It's alright."
"I don't want to be stuck at yours all night either. Just keep driving, would you?" Unease wrapped its hand around Matt's throat and prevented him from speaking further on the issue.
He drove until the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, casting a purple haze across the city skyline, punctuated only by the full moon. Matt got off the highway and drove circles around the city.
"It's so pretty here," Alex mused. He tossed his cigarette bud out the window and lit another just as quickly.
"You shouldn't do that," Matt said. "The city's not as pretty if you're littering all over it."
"You're probably right," Alex nodded. He pulled his arm back into the car and threw his cigarette in Matt's half-drunken and abandoned Coca-Cola.
"Why don't you wanna go home tonight?"
"Would you?" Alex scoffed. "That place is a nightmare. I'd rather put a bullet through my head than go back there."
"Please," Alex looked over at Matt, his eyes brimming with tears. Matt pulled the car into a dilapidated parking garage and shut off the engine.
"You know I'm always here for you if you need me." Alex leaned across the seat and cupped Matt's cheek, pulling him in for a kiss.
"Stop talkin', Matthew," Alex whispered against his lips. He swung his leg over Matt's hips, straddling his lap. Matt ran his hand up Alex's thigh, and Alex moaned softly. Matt kissed a line up Alex's neck to his jaw. "Please, just...distract me." Matt placed a hand on his chest and pushed him away.
"Alex, this is a bad idea," Matt said, though all he wanted was to lean his seat back and watch Alex ride him against the soft blue sky. Alex bit his lip and began unbuttoning his shirt.
"How about now?"
"Stop it," Matt pushed Alex back to his side of the car. He cranked the music up and sped back to Alex's house. Alex shivered from the frost of the air conditioning and Matt's shoulder.
"You can have my jacket, if you're cold," Matt offered. "It's just in the back." Alex reached into the back seat and pulled Matt's jean jacket into his lap. He sniffled as he curled into the side of the car and stared out the window at the roving landscape.
"'m sorry," Alex muttered.
"Don't be," Matt grabbed Alex's hand and threaded their fingers together. "I love you no matter what."
"I love you too," Alex pressed a kiss to Matt's cheek.
"Mornin', sleepy head," Jamie chuckled as he set a cup of coffee on the low green table in front of the couch. "Al's worried sick about you. C'mon, you should go home."
"Let him worry," Matt bit out. He turned over and adjusted the blanket that Jamie had thrown over him in the night. Jamie was sweet like that. "God knows I've done enough worrying about him."
"You can't hide out from him forever. You two need to talk things over."
"How can I do that when all he does is hurt me?" Matt sat up, ignoring the ache throughout his entire body from the hangover and Jamie's ancient couch. "I've loved him since we were sixteen, for fuck's sake, and what do I have to show for it?"
"I wish you wouldn't talk like that."
"You were right about Al. He's a goddamn piece of work, and he always has been." Matt checked his phone and saw several missed calls from Alex. Tears rolled down his cheeks, but he hardly took notice of them.
"You'll feel better when you talk to him," Jamie said. He grabbed his keys off the kitchen counter. "C'mon, I'm taking you home." Matt wiped his eyes, and he stared up at Jamie miserably.
"Thank you." Matt stood from the couch and followed Jamie out to his car. He slunk down in his seat, putting his feet up on the dash.
"Were you raised in a barn?" Jamie laughed. He thwacked Matt's knee playfully. Matt mustered a smile as he put his feet down.
Jamie pulled up to Matt and Alex's apartment.
"Go get 'em, tiger," he joked, trying to lighten the intense silence he and Matt had fallen into on the drive.
"Thanks, mate, for everything," Matt leaned into Jamie and hugged him as best he could in the confines of the vehicle.
"Anytime, really." Matt climbed out of the car, his limbs heavy with anxiety. He barely breathed the entire elevator ride up to his flat, and his hands shook as he attempted to unlock the door.
"It's open," Alex called from inside, his voice ending Matt's simultaneous mental and physical struggle. Matt pushed the door open, and he caught a glimpse of Alex's dark hair between the kitchen cabinets. He swung the door shut, and Alex startled slightly. "'m making soup," he announced. "I thought you'd need it. Jamie told me you got pretty sauced last night."
"Yeah," Matt nodded. He rubbed his hand over the back of his neck, feeling like a stranger in his own home. He stepped further inside and shed his jacket, despite the coldness which clung to every limb.
"Are you alright?" Alex turned to glance at Matt. He could be pretty socially inept, but even he noticed the distance between them, Matt's standoffish behavior.
"You know I love you no matter what, right?"
"Matt, don't talk like that. It makes me think you've got bad news."
"Maybe I do," Matt let out a shaky breath. "I don't want to go to couple's counseling anymore."
"Sit down," Alex willfully ignored his statement. "The soup'll be ready soon. Don't you want a bowl?"
"Alex!" Matt snapped. "I don't..." The words died in the back of his throat as his eyes caught Alex's watery ones. "What's the matter?"
"You," Alex mumbled. "I asked you not to go out and get pissed last night, and you did it anyways."
"I did it to forget you," Matt blurted out before he could stop himself, and then his feelings were spilling past his lips. And he didn't have any say over them; he never truly had. "I worry about you, Al, constantly, and it seems pretty fucking ironic that Jamie told me more about how you're feeling last night than you ever care to."
"I just figure you've heard it all before," Alex shrugged. "Why continue to burden you, since you worry so much?"
"Because that's the problem," Matt sighed. "You don't talk to me. I didn't think we needed a goddamn shrink just to tell each other how we feel."
"Every time I tell you how I'm feeling, we just fight. You think I wanna fight with you all the time?"
"At least when we're fighting we say more than we ever bring up to that therapist."
"I don't like the way you're talking to me right now," Alex said. "You're just turning the entire conversation around so that you look like the victim, and I end up feeling sorry for you."
"I'm not trying to," Matt huffed. "It's just that I feel like you're never willing to hear my side of things. I mean, fuck, we live together, we've slept together, I've been in love with you for so long I forget the day it started. Why won't you just commit to being with me?"
"I told you I need more time."
"You've had fifteen fucking years. Just tell me whether or not you want to be with me. I deserve to know whether or not I'm just wasting my time."
"If you want an answer right this second, you're not going to like it."
"Good, then get out," Matt said. "I pay the rent on this place anyways. I don't fucking need you." /I've just wanted you for so long I forgot how to do anything else/ Matt thought miserably to himself.
"I don't want to lose you from my life," Alex admitted. "I care about you so much, and I really do love you. It's just a different kind of love."
"That's not good enough anymore. You wanna whore around the entire city, be my goddamn guest. Just stop keeping me around as your backup plan."
"You're not my backup plan. I thought you were my best mate." That felt like a cold slap to the face, but it only made Matt want to dig deeper, throw more gasoline on the fire until all he could feel was rage. His vision began to blur at the edges.
"Why can't you love me? Why am I not enough for you?"
"I- I don't know," Alex stammered.
"Why won't you give me anything? Every time I think I'm getting through to you, you just push me away all over again. I must be really fucking pathetic to sit in the other room and cry myself to sleep while you drag your cheap fucks through the flat I pay for."
"Please stop shouting at me," Alex chewed his nails, feeling small in a way that only Matt could introduce. "You can't force me to fall in love with you."
"I sure do wish I'd known that when I was sixteen. Would've saved me a lifetime of trouble."
"Matthew, please," Alex hiccuped, trying and failing to hold back his tears. "I still love you. Please, don't do this."
"Why can't you just leave me be?"
"You might wanna pretend you don't need me, but I need you."
"That's not my problem anymore," Matt replied coldly. He wanted to believe that he was doing the right thing, finally cutting himself free, but he was numb. A wounded soldier in an emerging war who had to sever an infected limb to save his life.