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you dig deep with your nails and flash your teeth

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David didn’t understand it. How he was the one who couldn’t focus. How Matteo was able to sit there on his bed, surrounded by various textbooks, typing away at his laptop faster than David could even think, not looking up from the screen once. Matteo was completely focused while David sat there watching the cursor blink on the blank page in front of him. He was supposed to be writing a script for a short film about conflict. He had plenty of ideas but every time he tried to focus his attention drifted back to Matteo.

Studious Matteo was a good look though. It had taken a little time but Matteo had found his passion. He’d tried his hand at a few things on his year off, was happy enough helping out at the library for work. But he wanted to understand himself better, his mum too. So applied to uni and got a place on the psychology course, specialising in child psychology to better understand his own childhood. It was a good fit for him and he was good at it. The fact that he loved it and the fact that he’d taken up the help offered to him by the university made him a model student somehow. Well not quite, he wasn’t suddenly a complete nerd but he met all his deadlines, did all his essays, did extra reading, watched extra lectures because he enjoyed it. Apparently, he’d been a bit like that before, in high school. According to Hanna, he was always showing off his grades.

David loved it, loved that he’d found something he could do and something he was confident in, it was doing wonders for his self-esteem. But a confident, studious Matteo was something so distracting that David was in danger of failing his own degree.

Not really but if he didn’t stop staring soon he was definitely going to fail this particular assignment.

He sighed heavily, all he wanted to do right now was go over to the bed and snuggle up beside his boyfriend. When did he become that guy? He loved it though, loved that he could be like that with Matteo.

“Usually you have to hit the keys if you want the words to appear on the screen,” Matteo said, not looking up from his own laptop.

“Fuck off,” David said.

“Ok,” Matteo said, not moving, continuing to type.

“What are you writing?” David asked.

“Essay. Social and Emotional development in early adolescence,” Matteo told him.

Damn his boyfriend was so smart. David loved him so much, was so proud of him. He knew he was going to do so well in this and everything to come. He continued to stare at him instead of the screen. Matteo knew he was being watched, his cheeks got pinker and pinker as he continued to type.

“David?”

“Yeah?”

“When’s your assignment due?” he asked sweetly.

“Fine, you’re such a spoilsport,” David whined, but he turned back to the laptop. Couldn’t believe Matteo was tricking him into working by being sweet. He knew exactly what he was doing too, always got his way, knew exactly what voice to do, how to pout so that David couldn’t help himself. He always, always gave in. At least Matteo mostly used his power for good.

“And you’re an asshole when you’ve got a deadline due and nothing finished. Which is every time,” Matteo said calmly.

David grinned. He got up from the desk and took Matteo’s laptop from him and climbed into his lap.

“David,” Matteo warned.

“You did this to me all last year,” David reminded him.

How often had Matteo climbed all over him when he was reading? Stolen his sketchbook and demanded kisses for its safe return? David couldn’t even count the number of times he’d been late to class because Matteo had needed just one more hug. Which David had of course given him, how could he not?

“David it’s not as easy for me, please it’s taking all my focus, it takes me such a long time to get into it,” Matteo said quietly.

David kissed his nose and got up, handing him back his laptop. He may have enjoyed Matteo distracting him all the time but he understood it didn’t work that way for him. Today aside, David could focus easily when he put the effort in. Matteo wasn’t wired that way and it took him time to build up focus and it was often tenuous at first but once he had it he would use it well and work hard. David wouldn’t distract him like that.

“Sorry,” Matteo mumbled.

“Don’t be, I’m just being annoying, I love how well you’re doing, I’m so proud of you ok? You’re doing amazing, I’m just being silly,” David said.

“You just want to get out there and make movies, I get it, writing assignments is frustrating when you just want to do your own thing,” Matteo said.

He was right of course, he just wanted to make movies. He knew exactly why he was studying but it was easy to lose sight of that sometimes, he had so many ideas and he wanted to work on them.

“You get it because you’re the best,” David said.

“It’s a script for a short film, yes?”

“Yeah,” David said.

It wasn’t even a big deal, he wrote scripts all the time, he was just struggling to get into it this time.

“Just write one scene, stop thinking about the whole film, think about one scene just to get started,” Matteo suggested.

Matteo had all these techniques that worked for him but David was willing to give them a try.

“Damn I love you,” he said.

Matteo blew him a kiss then went back to his own essay. David settled down to write, he really was about to get started when there was a scream, then a yell of frustration from the kitchen. He was up and at the door in seconds.

Matteo frowned, worried.

“She’s probably burnt something, I’ll yell if I need your culinary expertise,” David said.

He tentatively walked toward the kitchen, ready to be confronted with a flood or a fire. Instead, he found Laura in there staring down a very wet and bedraggled scruffy grey cat who immediately hissed at him when he entered the room. Laura was holding a towel and it looked like she was trying to dry the cat. It seemed the cat was very unhappy about this.

“Laura, what the hell is this?”

Laura jumped, David wasn’t sure how long she’d been hoping to get away with this.

“Look, I found her outside, it’s freezing David,” she insisted.

“We are not keeping her,” David warned. He wasn’t a big cat person and he knew Laura was, they’d had this argument before. One time it got so heated she threatened to send him back to his parents. She didn’t mean it, of course, it was just their usual bickering, and she was right it was technically her apartment. But still, they didn’t have a cat, he hoped that wasn’t about to change but he also wasn’t throwing a cat out onto the streets, no matter how grumpy it was.

Laura pouted but nodded. And now he felt bad. Only a little.

“No I know, you hate cats blah blah blah, it’s for a few days,” Laura said, although it was clear she was torn, she clearly wanted to keep the cat. “I’ll call a shelter in the morning.”

“I don’t hate cats, they hate me,” David said, to confirm his point the cat in question started growling at him.

David looked at Laura properly, she was just as bedraggled as the cat, dripping wet and her arms were covered in scratches. He assumed she’d been chasing the cat, she probably didn’t even want to be in here with them, although she really was in a sorry state. Skinny as a rake, the fur she did have was a little on the matted side, and it was patchy at best. She was missing a chunk from one ear and had a scar across her nose. She’d been living pretty rough, David got why Laura wanted to bring her in but she was probably doing fine outside. Well perhaps not fine, it was the middle of winter and Laura was right it was freezing out. He looked at the sad picture the cat painted, knowing there was a good chance she wouldn’t survive the winter. He didn’t want her here, but he wasn’t kicking her out either.

“Jesus,” David muttered, taking in the state of both of them.

“I know, she hates me,” Laura said, rubbing at the scratches absentmindedly.

David approached her to help but he backed off again when the cat hissed at him again. Laura laughed when he moved all the way back to the doorway. He wasn’t scared, it was just that cats really didn’t like him and he didn’t much like them. Why should he if they hated him? The cat continued to glare at him, then launched itself off the counter, causing David to squeak and move out of her way. He wasn’t scared though, just cautious. He was sensible that was all.

“David no! Why didn’t you catch her?” Laura demanded, chasing after the demon cat.

“What and have my arms ripped to shreds too?” he asked, following her into the living room.

The cat was nowhere to be seen but all the windows were closed so she couldn’t have gotten far. Laura started making clicking sounds with her tongue and David laughed at her.

“David we have to find her, she’ll be scared, it’s a new place everything must be unsettling her right now, you scared her off,” Laura said.

“Fine, but she is not scared of me, she’s evil,” David said.

He got down on the floor and spotted the cat under the sofa. He sighed, she did look very afraid of him, trembling and cowering. What a sorry picture she painted. He reached out to try and pull her out, but she swatted him away, with her claws, and hissed again.

David rolled his eyes and pulled back.

“She’s under there but she’s not coming out without both of us losing our arms,” he said, rubbing at the not insignificant scratch on his arm.

“Shit, you ok?”

“Peachy,” David muttered.

“What’s going on?” Matteo said, walking in and yawning widely. He rubbed his eyes, they were red from where he’d been looking at the screen for too long.

“Sorry about the noise Laura brought a cat home,” David told him.

Matteo’s eyes lit up, essay forgotten. “There’s a cat? Here? Where?” he asked, bouncing with excitement. That was not good, not the reaction he was expecting although he wasn’t surprised, Matteo was practically a cat himself the way he behaved sometimes.

“Under the sofa,” David told him.

Matteo threw himself to the floor so hard David winced at the thud he made. Laura tutted and he grinned at her. David half expected the cat to come running out at the noise Matteo made but there was still no sign of her.

But Matteo gasped in delight when he spotted her. He didn’t move, didn’t stretch out or try to grab her, just lay there watching her. He didn’t make the sounds Laura had been making, didn’t do anything but wait.

“Matteo-”

“Sh!”

David did not like being hushed by his boyfriend one bit. He scowled when Laura grinned at him. But then a few moments later the cat poked her head out from under the sofa to inspect Matteo. David just stared as she tentatively made her way over to Matteo. When she rubbed her face against his, David looked to Laura who shook her head slowly, just as amazed as him. It was like a completely different cat.

“What the fuck?” he mouthed.

She just shrugged.

Was this the same evil cat that ran under the sofa? The same one that scratched him and Laura? David approached them and the cat turned and hissed at him. Great. Now he couldn’t even go near his boyfriend. Matteo giggled and reached out to stroke her, she purred contentedly and settled against him. Apparently, his boyfriend was a cat whisperer. To a cat that wouldn’t share.

“Does she have a name yet? Can I choose? Please?”

“Matteo she isn’t staying,” Laura said gently.

Matteo finally looked up at them, hurt clear on his face. He looked like he was about to cover her ears to protect her from the news. Which was sweet but David had to be strong. It was very hard to hold his ground when Matteo wanted something.

“Matteo we can’t have a cat,” David said patiently.

“David please,” Matteo whined.

David closed his eyes so Matteo couldn’t pull that face and have him agreeing just to make him smile. He was not giving in, they weren’t getting a cat. Laura had already tried it a dozen times, he had plenty of arguments ready against the idea.

“Matteo no,” David said firmly, but then he made the mistake of opening his eyes.

“Please David, look,” Matteo insisted.

The cat was now snuggled against Matteo’s chest, claws digging into his shirt. Matteo continued to stroke her and she purred completely content. She looked so much smaller now in Matteo’s arms. David frowned and remembered how scared she’d been curled up under the sofa.

He supposed she lashed out because she didn’t trust them. She’d obviously been mistreated. But she trusted Matteo. And she was cute, as scruffy as she was, she was cute. And the way she trusted Matteo was adorable. David got it, he couldn’t imagine anyone or any creature not trusting Matteo. His boyfriend was often grumpy, often clumsy but he was also so gentle, so patient. The cat might not find someone like that at the shelter. David knew there was little chance of her being picked. He sighed. He supposed they had a cat now.

“Seriously David?” Laura demanded. “She’s my cat, I found her!”

“She’s very much not,” David said, gesturing to Matteo who was now talking to her, doing a cute voice and everything. The cat was loving it, rubbing her face against his chest, purring contentedly.

“I cannot believe I bring a cat home, and you give her away to your boyfriend,” Laura muttered.

David was barely listening, he got why she was annoyed but he was too focused on watching his boyfriend curled up with this cat. It was the sweetest thing he’d ever seen. How could David deny him this? The cat let out a tiny meow of delight and Matteo looked up at him so hopefully. There was no chance he could say no really, there was very little he could deny Matteo. He could try his best to discourage him but if there was something Matteo wanted David would do everything in his power to give it to him.

“Fine,” David said wearily, he may give Matteo everything but he couldn’t let him know how easy it was.

Matteo beamed at him, he was so happy that David felt his heart clench in his chest. He’d never get over that smile.

“Come say hi,” Matteo said softly.

“No.”

David crossed his arms and stood firm, he was not being attacked in his own home.

“David come say hi,” Matteo insisted.

David rolled his eyes but went over anyway because he wanted to be near Matteo. He would risk death by cat for that.

“Say hi to David,” Matteo said softly.

She hissed.

Matteo giggled and sat up properly, lifting her with him and moving closer, David tried not to flinch, tried to stay composed. He was not scared of a cat. He wasn’t.

“Say hi,” Matteo said.

“Me?” David demanded. Why should he talk to her?

“Yes David,” Matteo said.

“Hi?”

She meowed, it sounded far warier this time and she was still glaring but at least she didn’t try to scratch his eyes out.

Laura huffed and stalked off, clearly put out by the whole affair. They heard her clattering about in the kitchen, slamming pots and pans making it clear she was displeased.

“Is she really Laura’s? I’m sorry, I don’t mean that she’s mine anyway, I mean it’s Laura’s apartment really, I just wanted her to stay,” Matteo said guiltily.

David carefully leant over to kiss Matteo’s temple. “Laura will get over it, she’s yours, Laura’s just jealous, she scratched both of us. Really she’s nobody’s is she?” he said.

If anything she was the one in charge, she was going to have Matteo caring for her every whim and they both knew it.

“Thank you David, I love her already,” Matteo said, rubbing the cat’s head until she purred.

“What are you going to call her then?” David asked. He shifted closer and when the cat didn’t attack he leant his head on Matteo’s shoulder.

“Nana,” Matteo said.

“Nana?”

“Because she’s grey and she’s quite old,” Matteo told him, bopping her nose and laughing when she tried to bite him. He wasn’t scared at all.

“She is?”

“Yeah see here? Her eyes are a little cloudy, she’s probably about ten or eleven,” Matteo told him.

“Oh, I didn’t realise,” David said, Nana had clearly had a hard life. He would never tell anyone but it was nice that they were taking her in. “Did you have a cat before?”

David vaguely remembered seeing photos of Matteo with a little ginger cat, both of them equally adorable.

“Yeah at mama’s house, Teacup but she died when I was thirteen. Mama had her for a few years before I was born, so she was really old. She knew me since I was born though and she was so lovely to me, very cuddly, not like Nana,” Matteo said.

David kissed him again. “You miss her?”

“Oh yes, she would follow me everywhere, even followed me to school a few times, mama had to bring her home. I cried for weeks when she died because when I was sad it was Teacup who cuddled me, and when mama and papa would fight, me and Teacup would just hide under the bed,” Matteo said.

David reached out and squeezed him tight, Nana gave him a baleful look but didn’t protest.

“But Nana’s far more independent, aren’t you Nana? You do as you like, don’t you?” he said, scratching her behind the ears.

She meowed in agreement and purred contentedly.

“Can’t believe we have a cat now,” David said.

He quite liked it though, the idea of them having a cat together. If he was honest with himself, he really liked it, taking care of her together. She clearly loved Matteo already and hopefully, in time, she would at least tolerate him. He carefully, slowly, reached out and stroked her head. She squinted at him but didn’t hiss, he counted that as a win. He smiled and kissed Matteo’s cheek, then pulled out his phone to snap a picture of the three of them.

He continued to watch Matteo stroking her, rubbing her with the sleeve of his sweater to dry off the last of the rain. He watched the once hostile Nana purring contentedly as he did so. Of course, she loved Matteo. How could she not?