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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?

Chapter Text

David would never admit that he was jealous of a cat. But he was. Or at least he was jealous of the attention Matteo showered Nana with. He wasn’t ignoring him exactly, but David certainly felt a little left out. He wasn’t used to it, Matteo usually gave him all of his attention. He would listen to everything that David said with rapt attention. Now he was too busy playing with Nana, or talking to her, or chasing her all over the apartment.

Laura said he was being ridiculous, that Matteo still gave David almost all his attention, couldn’t he learn to share a bit? But it wasn’t that simple. Getting Matteo’s attention was always a bit tricky and now he was distracted it was worse. Even worse than that was that despite David’s many many protests, Nana now slept in their room. All because Matteo didn’t want her being lonely. He’d pouted and pulled that face until David had let her in. It was ridiculous; she was a cat for goodness sakes, weren’t they supposed to be solitary creatures? Nana didn’t seem to be. She’d been meowing at the door the whole time Matteo had been pleading with him.

David was just relieved she didn’t want to sleep on the bed. She seemed happy enough curled up on the little pillow Matteo had put by the window. Still, it was all leaving David a bit grumpy.

They were currently in the grocery store, and Matteo had already stalked off in a huff when David wouldn’t let him buy her fancy treats. David felt mean and added the treats to the trolley, anyway. Matteo always got his way. Stupid Nana. Now he couldn’t find his boyfriend, and he was even more grumpy. He hated shopping. All the crowds, people getting in his way. Matteo being silly and childish usually made it more bearable. But David had gone and upset him hadn’t he?

He just wandered the aisles, frustrated for a bit, until he found Matteo looking through the baskets of random stuff.

“Hey babe,” he said gently, “sorry for being grumpy,” he added.

He knew Matteo would forgive him, always did when he got a bit moody like this. He hoped he’d get a kiss to cheer him up. That would help.

“It’s fine,” Matteo said, turning around and grinning at him. He was holding up a bright pink, fluffy cat tree. “Look what I found!” he exclaimed, waving it in David’s face.

David sighed and tried not to get annoyed.

“Matteo, no,” he said

“But she’ll love it!”

“Seriously Matteo we are not buying that,” David warned.

“It’s reduced, only ten euros,” Matteo insisted.

“No, Matteo. It’s hideous, and she’ll hate it, it’s bright pink,” David tried to reason. He took the tree and tried to put it back, but Matteo pulled it out of his hands.

“She doesn’t know that, she’s colour blind,” he said, smiling and running his hands over the fabric.

“Don’t they have one in a normal colour?” David asked.

“But this one is fun, David, please,” Matteo said, pouting at him.

David wasn’t going to give in. He closed his eyes for a moment. “No, Matteo,” he said.

He sighed when he felt Matteo drape himself over him. “Please, David,” he said sweetly.

“I don’t want this in my room, Matteo,” David said, shrugging him off.

“In the living room then,” Matteo tried.

“Laura won’t like it,” David said.

“I’ll ask her,” Matteo said, grabbing his phone.

“No, Matteo! For God’s sakes, you don’t even live there,” David snapped.

Matteo’s eyes went wide as he stared at David for a moment, then down to his feet. “Oh yeah, sorry,” he said sadly, putting the tree back on the shelf. “Sorry,” he mumbled again.

David immediately regretted snapping, immediately felt guilty. A heavy weight settled in his stomach as he tried to figure out how to fix this.

“No, I’m sorry we’ll get it,” he said.

“No, it’s fine,” Matteo said, refusing to look at him. David ducked down, tried to get him to face him, but it was no good. Matteo just continued to stare resolutely at his feet.

“Matteo,” David whispered, reaching out for him. Matteo shrugged him off and took a step back.

“I think… I think I’m just gonna go home,” he said.

David wanted to cry. What had he done? Why had he said that? What the hell was his problem?

“Matteo, please no, I’m so sorry,” he said.

“It’s fine. I didn’t realise, I haven’t been back to the WG in a while. I’m sorry, I didn’t realise,” he said, so quietly it was barely audible in the loud supermarket.

David heard it though and heard exactly what he was saying. Matteo thought he’d overstayed his welcome. That wasn’t it at all, he wanted Matteo at his all the time. He never wanted him to leave, would whine and complain whenever he had to go back to the WG. David felt like such an asshole, he’d made Matteo feel like he was imposing, somewhere he was supposed to feel like he was at home.

“No, Matteo! No, that’s not what I meant, Matteo,” he said.

Matteo just shook his head. “I’m tired now David, I’ll see you later,” he said.

David didn’t deserve to keep him there with him, so he let him go. Let him have some space away from him and his attitude. He just stood there with the trolley full of groceries, their groceries, as Matteo walked away.

He felt like absolute shit. Why had he done that? How could he have snapped at Matteo like that? Yeah, he was being a little annoying, but he hadn’t deserved to be treated like that. David was supposed to always be patient with him. And what the hell was he so annoyed about, anyway? Why was he acting like this, like a child? Ok so he didn’t want the apartment cluttered up with ugly cat trees, but did he have to say that? He didn’t have to make Matteo feel like he was unwelcome, that he was taking up too much space.

He’d fucked up, and he didn’t quite know how to fix it.

He just sighed and rubbed his eyes. He paid for the groceries then headed home feeling miserable. As soon as he got to the door of the apartment, he was greeted by Nana. She seemed incredibly disappointed that Matteo wasn’t with him. David knew exactly how she felt. Nana just glared at him and stalked off.

He rolled his eyes and went to unpack the groceries. He would just tidy up and then go sort things out with Matteo. Surely that was enough time. He hadn’t asked for space or anything, but David would text him before showing up. Just in case Matteo didn’t want to see him.

A few minutes later he heard Nana meowing loudly. He found her at his bedroom door, waiting to be let in. But when he opened the door, she stepped in and looked around, quickly realising Matteo wasn’t in there. She looked up at him and meowed again. She was right; he was the one who should know where Matteo was. They were always together. That’s why she put up with him.

“He’s not here. I fucked up nana. I’m such an asshole,” he said.

She gave him a look that David swore meant she agreed with him.

“You don’t want a bright pink fluffy cat tree do you? You don’t care where you sleep,” David said.

To prove his point, she wandered over to the shoes by the door and curled up.

David supposed that wasn’t the point. Matteo just wanted to spoil her.

Having Nana here meant that Matteo had practically moved in, which they’d been close to already. But David was pretty sure more of Matteo’s stuff was here than his own apartment now. And David loved it. He didn’t even care that it was getting a bit cluttered, that Matteo’s stuff didn’t really go with his own. It didn’t matter to him. So why did he care so much about the tree?

“What’s my problem, Nana?” he asked.

She just snuffled in her sleep.

But David was worried. Why had he acted like that? Why had he snapped? Was he really that pathetic that he was jealous of a cat?

He got out his phone and typed out a message for Matteo.

Please come home, I miss you, I want you here

A minute later Matteo had read it.

Ten minutes later he still hadn’t replied and David just stayed there in the darkening hallway absentmindedly stroking Nana. She didn’t seem to mind, even when David picked her up and placed her in his lap. It was comforting, less lonely with her there.

Another ten minutes passed and David stirred from his worries when Laura let herself into the apartment. Nana immediately jumped from his lap and started circling her, meowing.

“Ok David?” Laura asked, carefully picking Nana up.

David buried his face in his hands and groaned. “I fucked up. I fucked up with Matteo because I’m jealous of a stupid cat. Laura, I was mean, I was awful,” he said.

“Ok?” she said, looking pretty confused.

David just got up and followed her into the kitchen.

“You want to elaborate? And maybe put the groceries away,” she said, tutting and gesturing to the mess he’d left.

David did as she said, but stayed quiet.

“David,” she said gently, when he was done. She gestured to the cup of tea she’d made him, and he sat down at the counter.

“I just… he wanted to buy Nana some stupid, ugly cat tree, and I said no, but he kept going on and on. And I didn’t want to give in because I always give in, he always gets his own way, we’ve got a damn cat now because he gets his way. And when I said no, he said he was gonna ask you and I just snapped. I said he didn’t live here,” he said.

“Ok,” she said.

“Fuck,” David muttered. It sounded even worse now. He sounded awful and mean.

“I mean you let him get his way because you want him to, David, that’s what you told me. That he deserved it after going for so long being shut down and dismissed,” she reminded him.

David hung his head, he had no problem giving Matteo whatever he wanted. He was never unreasonable, barely asked for anything except David’s love and attention. Even this he only wanted for Nana, not himself.

“And he does kind of live here, David,” she continued.

“I know and we haven’t really talked about it yet, but…”

“Are you scared?” she asked.

“Of what?” David asked, taking a sip of his tea and sighing. It helped a little, warmed him and calmed his nerves.

“Of him living here? With you?” she asked.

“Terrified,” he admitted.

“Ok, well maybe that’s why you’re acting out. Why are you scared?” she asked him, reaching out and taking his hand, squeezing it and encouraging him to keep talking.

“Because… if he lives here he’ll see everything, the bad stuff too,” David said.

“David, he’s here all the time, the past month he hasn’t gone home once. He was here last week when you couldn’t leave your room because mum called. And weeks ago when you were having a bad few days, your mood was low and nothing was working for you. You wouldn’t even let him look at you. So he just stayed on the sofa. Ready for you in case it passed, and you needed him again. He didn’t even blink, it’s just part of your lives now. He’s seen all the ugly stuff, David. I think he’s ready, I also think he probably has very similar fears to you,” she said.

“Yeah probably,” he agreed. “I do… want him here, I’ve really fucked up.”

“You want him here? Or you want to find your own place?” Laura checked, getting up and putting some fresh food out for Nana.

“I… I don’t think I’m ready to leave yet,” David said.

He didn’t know if he was ready to leave Laura and move out on his own. But then he wouldn’t be alone, it would be him and Matteo. That sounded nice, scary, but nice.

“That’s fine, I don’t want you to leave David,” she said, squeezing his shoulder and sitting back down opposite him.

“But I also want him here,” he clarified.

“I really don’t mind, he’s tidier than you,” she said.

“Fuck off Laura,” he muttered.

“No, but seriously, I like Matteo, he makes you happy, and he’s sweet. He’s here all the time already and I really don’t mind,” she said.

“Ok but… I think I got scared that he’s only here for Nana. That he’s going to get fed up of me, that he’s not here for me,” David said.

“Not possible,” Laura said.

“But…”

“Ok… I’m telling you this because he didn’t say it was a secret or anything. But I still don’t feel good about sharing it,” she said.

“Sorry, you don’t have to tell me Laura,” David said.

He didn’t want her sharing what Matteo had told her in confidence just to pacify him.

“No, it’s fine, I think you should know. So maybe a week after Nana got here… I think Matteo had just gone back to the WG to get a load of stuff, planning to stay here and help Nana get settled. Anyway, I asked him why he didn’t just take Nana to the WG, as a joke, you know, because he stole her? And I don’t know if he didn’t realise I was joking, but he said no. He said he wanted her here, that she felt safe here. But he also said that this way he had an excuse to stay over all the time, without you getting fed up. He could just say Nana needed him,” she said.

“Oh fuck Laura,” David whispered.

“So honestly? Him buying her all this stuff is really him just trying to tie himself here and to you. And you reacting this way is just… I guess you’re right, you’re scared he’s moving in for the wrong reasons and he’s scared to move in for the right reasons,” she said patiently.

She was so kind and patient, especially when they were both being idiots.

“Laura… shit, if I… I want him here. I’m going to ask him, to move in properly,” David said.

“Ok,” she said.

“That’s ok?”

“It’s ok, but I’d advise you to talk about all this first… and don’t get angry if he says no, or doesn’t seem keen and… David, I want you here all the time. I’m happy for both of you to move in with me, but check that’s what he really wants. He might want his own space with you and if the reason you’re not ready for that is just because you think he’d get fed up of you then that’s dumb and maybe it’s time you explored your options properly,” she said.

She was right; they didn’t need to jump into anything, they could think it through and come to an agreement together. If Matteo forgave him. He still hadn’t replied, and David was getting worried.

“Thanks Laura ok, I’m gonna go over there and-”

There was a knock at the door. David frowned and went to answer it. Matteo was standing on the other side, looking defeated and sad.

“You wanted me,” he said quietly, staring down at his feet.

David wanted to reach out and lift his face, but he wasn’t sure that would be welcome. “Matteo, you have a key, you don’t have to knock,” he said gently, ushering him into the apartment.

Matteo just shrugged. Nana came padding towards him and tried to climb his leg, but Matteo just put her back down on the floor. He’d never done that before. She looked at David with wide eyes and then went into the living room, hiding under the sofa. Oh, all of this was such a mess.

“We need to talk,” David said, figuring out whether they should do it out here, or go to his room.

Matteo closed his eyes. He was trembling, and David wanted to wrap him up in his arms.

“But first I need to apologise for how I was at the supermarket,” David said.

“It’s ok, I was being annoying, I’ll stop. David, please don’t break up with me,” he said, finally looking up at him, eyes shining.

David took his hand. “Hey no, no that’s not what’s happening, come on let’s go talk,” he said.

“Ok,” Matteo said, letting David lead him to the bedroom, but he paused and looked over his shoulder fidgeting.

“Nana,” David called out gently. After a moment, she padded back over to them and stood at Matteo’s feet. This time he picked her up, and she began to purr.

“Sorry, Nana,” he whispered.

David led them over to the bed and they sat down.

“Ok firstly, I’m sorry for snapping, I got wound up, but that wasn’t ok,” David began.

“I’m-”

“You weren’t doing anything wrong, you were just asking for something,” David said.

“No, I… I was forgetting myself. I don’t live here and I was encroaching on your space,” Matteo mumbled.

“I want you to live here,” David blurted out. “I want you to live here with all your ridiculous stuff. I want to be all squashed up in here with you, but it fucking terrifies me because I… if you lived here you’d see me all the time. I couldn’t hide the bad stuff from you,” he said.

Matteo looked at him then. He put Nana down on the floor and turned to him, taking his hands.

“What bad stuff?” he asked gently.

“Like how fucking grumpy and miserable I get sometimes. How easily frustrated I am, and how I snap. And the bad days, like where Laura has to hide all the fucking mirrors because I can’t bear to see myself. Nights where I’m up all night just willing my body to change. Times when I just can’t take it anymore and it builds as anger and I yell and I break things and I get scary, I don’t want you to see that, those times when I ask you to leave,” David said.

Matteo stared for a moment. “But…”

“It’s because I don’t want you seeing me differently, I don’t want to disappoint you,” David said.

“You could never, David, never and… if we did live together, I could I could still give you space. Like if you needed it, but I could also just be there for you. So that you weren’t alone with this, I don’t think you should go through this alone. And… I don’t want you to be sad or angry, but I still want to be with you through that. I don’t just want to be with you for the good stuff, I want to be with you for everything,” Matteo said.

“I’m so fucking sorry I snapped at you,” David said.

“It’s ok,” Matteo said, squeezing his hands.

“No, it’s not, it’s so fucking stupid. I got so damn jealous because it felt like you were moving in for Nana but… you’re just using Nana as an excuse aren’t you?” David asked, reaching out to stroke the top of her head, smiling as she purred.

“Yeah… don’t get me wrong I do love her but… she ties me to you you know?”

“God Matteo,” David said.

He didn’t need a cat to tie himself to David; he was already tied. The two of them were tied, linked, bound, nothing could come between them. Except their stupidity.

“We’re idiots?” Matteo asked.

“The most idiots. Matteo, will you move in with me? And we can be a little family, the three of us,” David said, shuffling closer to Matteo.

“Where though? Here?”

“I… yeah here. Or we could find a flat but Matteo I can’t wait, I want you to move in right now. I checked with Laura, she said it’s ok,” David said.

He’d wanted Matteo in with them, but now Laura had told him to think about it, all he could think about was how nice it would be to have their own space just them. Yes, it terrified him, but he wanted it.

“Let’s… I’ll move in here and then maybe next term we can get our own place?” Matteo suggested.

David grinned, that way he could have Matteo immediately, and it gave them time to find somewhere. And Laura a little time to get used to the idea. That was his other worry, leaving her behind. Although he was pretty sure she would be fine.

“So smart,” David said.

“With a cat tree?” Matteo asked tentatively, a small smile on his face.

“Matteo you can have whatever you want, it was never about the dumb tree, it was just me being stupid, I’m sorry for being mean but hey at least we talked it through,” he said.

Matteo kissed him gently and wrapped his arms around him. “It was good that we figured it out and talked. I’m glad we talked. Sorry I walked off David, I couldn’t deal,” he said.

“No, you did the right thing, you took yourself out of the situation, you’re allowed to do that, always,” David said. “I’m glad we talked too. And now we’re moving in.”

The words sent a thrill through him.

He was excited, all nerves gone. He knew they’d probably come back, but he also knew this was the right thing to do. They were moving in together. First here and then soon it would be him, Matteo and Nana, all of them cosy together in a little apartment. How wonderful that would be.

“We are,” Matteo whispered.

“Hans is going to be devastated,” David mused, patting the bed and watching Nana jump up beside him. She crawled over him to get to Matteo and he smiled. He got it. He would bypass anyone to get to Matteo.

“Ah well, he’ll get over it. You can tell him,” Matteo said, snuggling closer.

“Er no! You tell him, I’m not getting involved,” David said.

“No! He’ll be mad at me,” Matteo said.

“Nah, he’ll pretend to be, but he’ll be happy for you, he’ll be excited,” David said.

“Yeah he will be, er… we talk about it sometimes, when I do go back there. He’s always asking,” Matteo said.

“I bet he is,” David said.

“Because it’s probably just obvious, I want to live with you David. I want to be where you are. I want to wake up to you, without having to stay over or wonder if I’m encroaching on yours and Laura’s space. I want it to be our space. I want to build a home with you,” Matteo said.

David sighed, Matteo’s words making his heart ache, but in a good way.

“I want to build a home with you. Fuck it, let’s start looking right away. I want a home, you’re my home, Matteo,” he said.

Nana meowed and stretched out. She stayed on Matteo’s lap but dug her tiny claws into David’s thighs. David petted her head and smiled. He held Matteo tight and buried his head against his shoulder.

A home.

For a long time David had thought of home as just a building, one he’d be kicked out of. This apartment became his home, but not by choice. He’d had nowhere else to go. Thank God he had Laura. And he had been happy there, just the two of them. He hadn’t thought he needed anything else, anyone else.

Then he’d met Matteo. And he learnt what it meant to belong, what it meant to be home. Meeting Matteo felt like finally coming home.

Chapter Text

David had been looking forward to this weekend for ages. He’d been so busy with classes he felt like he’d been living in the library. Thank god Matteo had moved in and was always there when he got home. All he wanted to do in the evenings was crash on the couch, but now that Matteo was there too, it was so much better. They could cuddle up together and watch a movie or just do nothing. Although Matteo was a bit of a pain about studying first before they could relax. His boyfriend was such a nerd now that he was doing so much better with school.

But this weekend was special. He’d gotten all his assignments handed in. He knew Matteo was on top of his work because his boyfriend was a total nerd. Laura was away at an arts festival with her friends. So it was just the two of them this weekend. They had the whole place to themselves. Despite living together, he’d missed Matteo lately, missed just being able to hang out, muck around, be silly. Sure they saw each other plenty, but David felt like he was always busy, always studying, not able to give Matteo the full attention he deserved.

However, when he got home, he had a feeling that the weekend wasn’t going to be the fun and romantic one he’d planned. He found Nana outside the apartment, meowing bloody murder. The moment she saw him, she got even louder. David frowned down at her, she was a pretty quiet cat usually, so this was strange.

“Nana, what’s wrong?” he asked, crouching down.

She was very distressed, seemingly desperate to get back inside. David wondered how long she’d been out here.

She wasn’t locked out, exactly. She came and went as she pleased, usually using the kitchen window. He was surprised Matteo hadn’t let her in though, he should’ve been able to hear her from inside.

David scooped her up and unlocked the door. If Nana was locked out, then something was wrong and David had a feeling he knew what was up.

“Is Matteo sad?” he whispered, letting them both into the apartment.

She just meowed unhappily.

David dumped his rucksack on the floor, kicked off his shoes and went straight to his room. He found Matteo curled up in the bed. Exactly where he’d left him this morning.

When David had left for school that morning, Matteo had stayed in bed. He’d said he was feeling a bit tired, that he was just going to blow off his first lecture. He’d insisted he would go in late. That in itself was pretty unusual and David had taken it for what it was, an indicator of what was to come. It could’ve gone either way at that point, sometimes it really was just a tiredness that passed with a little extra sleep. Other times Matteo got low, crashed, struggled for a while. Seeing as Matteo hadn’t answered any of his texts throughout the day, David was pretty sure it was the latter. It didn’t stop David’s excitement, even if he just curled up in bed with Matteo all weekend. He couldn’t think of a better way to spend his weekend.

David was always there to offer a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on until it passed. It wasn’t nearly that simple, but it would pass. Matteo always came out the other side.

Nana didn’t seem to understand that though, she didn’t know why she wasn’t getting the attention she demanded. David watched her jump on the bed and meow, it almost sounded like she was crying. David approached the bed and crouched in front of Matteo.

Matteo stared, looking right through David, ignoring both of them. Then he just rolled over, facing away from both of them. Nana looked up at David. If he didn’t know better, he would say she looked unsure. There was no doubt that Matteo was her favourite of the two of them, but it looked like she was stuck with David for now.

“Shall I go make us something to eat, Nana?” David asked her.

“Not hungry,” Matteo mumbled.

David just crept round the bed and crouched down again, stroking Matteo’s hair from his face. He didn’t smile, but he didn’t push him away either. David sighed and wiped his tears away gently.

“No? I am though. I’ll make enough for both of us, in case you get hungry later. Plus, I think Nana’s hungry too,” he said.

“We should let her go David, I ignored her all day, I can’t look after her when I’m like this,” Matteo said.

“She’s an adult cat, not a baby, she can take care of herself. She’s just worried about you,” David assured him.

“Go away please David, I don’t want you here,” Matteo said, trying to pull away from him.

David didn’t let it upset him, he held on for a moment longer, then stepped back. He accepted when Matteo needed space. David just took his hand and squeezed it, then stood up.

“Come on Nana, let’s eat,” David said, scooping her up again.

She struggled this time, wanting to stay with Matteo, but she allowed David to carry her through to the kitchen. He put a bowl of cat food out for her and set about making some sandwiches for him and Matteo. Nothing fancy, but they could order pizza later. It was pretty clear he hadn’t moved much today. Laura wasn’t here, and with no one to prompt him Matteo wouldn’t eat when he got like this. David was sure he was hungry. He would gently try to persuade him to eat.

Just as he was plating up, Nana started meowing again. She jumped down and ran back to the bedroom door, meowing loudly and scratching to get in. David followed her.

“Matteo needs a little space, Nana,” he told her.

She just meowed again and continued her scrabbling.

“Nana-”

“David, David please,” Matteo called out.

David opened the door a little, but waited. “Am I ok to come in?”

“Please come back, David, I’m so sorry please come back,” Matteo said, his voice so quiet and tired.

David nudged Nana into the room and followed her in. She ran in and jumped onto the bed, climbing onto Matteo’s chest, he winced at her claws but smiled weakly. There were tears on his cheeks, but he’d stopped crying for now.

“Ok Teo?” David said gently.

Matteo shook his head.

“I made us some sandwiches, so let’s just laze about in here,” David suggested.

He quickly kissed Matteo’s nose, then dashed back to the kitchen, grabbing the sandwiches, some crisps and some soda. They could hide out in his room all night, they wouldn’t have to leave again.

David tossed it all on the end of the bed, then climbed up beside Matteo. “Come here,” he said gently, opening his arms. Matteo shifted and curled up against him. David cuddled him close, settling him against his chest.

“I’m sorry for snapping at you,” Matteo said after a while.

“When?” David asked, amused.

So often when Matteo got like this he’d get all apologetic. David always assured him there was nothing he needed to apologise for. But as well as apologising for his depression, he also seemed to exaggerate his behaviour. He always said sorry for snapping or yelling or getting aggressive when he never did anything of the sort, not with David at least.

He had witnessed Matteo go off on Jonas a couple of times, when his friend tried to drag him out of his mood. David never tried that, that wasn’t how it worked for Matteo. Sure he didn’t want to see him like this, but there was no pulling him out of it. He just had to be there for him, stay by his side while Matteo got through it.

“When I told you to go away,” Matteo said.

David settled down and pulled him closer. “That was hardly snapping babe,” he said gently, kissing his temple. He reached out and flicked Nana’s ears. She opened one eye to glare at him, back to normal already. She was still curled up on Matteo’s chest, her weight seemingly a comfort for him. She seemed to know that too, she wouldn’t usually put up with this much cuddling. David was just glad for the comfort she could bring Matteo.

“Laura’s going to be so angry when we do move out,” David mused.

“What why?” Matteo asked.

“When we take Nana with us,” David clarified, patting her head.

“Do you… are you sure you still want to move in?”

David tutted and kissed Matteo again.

“We are moved in, remember?”

“No, but…”

David just waited, he was pretty sure he knew where Matteo was going with this, knew he was going to have to argue with him on this. But first he would hear him out, let him vent his fears and worries.

“But?”

“But… even now?”

“Even now what Matteo?” David prompted.

“Are you… it’s probably not a good idea, now that this has happened, you know?”

“Why would that change anything?” David asked.

“Because I’m ruining everything. You don’t want to be with me when I’m like this, you’ll see. This weekend it’s just us, and you’ll see how exhausting it is to be around me like this. I know I should just go back to stay with Hans, but I can’t you’re the only one that can help and I’m so sorry but I need you-”

Matteo broke off and started to cry properly, struggling for breath. David stroked his hair and held him tight. “Hey no no, hush hush.”

“David- David- I-”

“It’s ok, just breathe, I’m not going anywhere,” David said.

Matteo did, he kept breathing while David held on to him. Eventually his breathing evened out a little, and he looked up at David nervously.

“Ok?”

Matteo shook his head.

“Can I tell you why everything you just said is bullshit?” David asked.

Matteo didn’t say anything, he just sighed heavily, but he wasn’t objecting so David gave him another squeeze.

“You’re not ruining anything Teo,” David began. “This is not some big revelation, we’ve been through this before. Several times now, the only difference is now you’re here, ok? I’m so glad you’re here with me, that I can take care of you here. I want to. It’s not exhausting to me, there’s nothing I want more than to take care of you. I know I can’t fix anything. I know you’re hurting and I can’t take away your pain, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with you. In fact, the idea of not being with you is painful. The idea of you what? Doing this by yourself, going through this alone? That’s the most painful thing I can think of. Right now this is the only place I want to be.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. I know how you feel though. This is exactly what I was so worried about before you moved in. You seeing the bad stuff. I know it’s not as simple as me saying that I want to see all of you, go through everything with you. I know that doesn’t negate any of the fears or worries, and it sure as shit doesn’t take away your depression. But I swear I’m not leaving, I’m not going anywhere, I want to be here with you. And I will tell you a million times that I want to be with you, that I love you, until this passes,” David said.

Matteo just started to cry again, or perhaps he hadn’t really stopped.

“Nothing is ruined,” David assured him.

“Our weekend?”

“Do you know what was special about this weekend?”

“It was going to be romantic,” Matteo said sadly.

David smiled fondly. “It was, and it still will be. Anything with you is romantic. Like… look we’re having sandwiches, that’s our food,” he said, gesturing to the plates.

That coaxed a small grin out of Matteo.

“But ok, yes this weekend was supposed to be a romantic weekend. But more than that it was supposed to be just us. No Laura, no schoolwork or anything else. Just us. I don’t care if you need to sleep all weekend or you just want to zone out in front of dumb videos on YouTube, as long as you’re here with me I’ll be happy. I don’t need anything else,” David said.

“I… I want that too,” Matteo whispered.

“I know,” David said.

“David, I can’t stop crying,” Matteo said, rubbing his face harshly.

David took his hands in his. “Sorry Teo,” he said, kissing Matteo’s tear-stained cheeks. “It will pass,” he promised.

“Yeah it will,” he said, finally accepting this and relaxing.

“Think maybe you need to take some time off school?” David suggested, knowing that this weekend wasn’t going to be enough to get past this. It would take a little while and Matteo needed some time off to recover.

“Will you help me call?”

“Yeah, we’ll call student services on Monday,” David said.

Matteo was perfectly capable of making the call, but what he was also likely to do was talk himself out of doing it, and force himself back into school before he was ready.

“Thanks, David,” he said.

“Ok?”

“I…” Matteo stared down at Nana still sitting on his chest. “I put her outside,” he said.

David raised an eyebrow. “You did?”

“I put her outside and left her there for hours,” Matteo confessed, looking so ashamed of himself.

“Why?”

“She kept climbing on me, she wouldn’t leave me alone,” Matteo said.

“Ok?”

“It helped, it was a comfort, it made me feel a tiny bit better,” Matteo said.

“But that’s a good thing,” David said, confused.

“I didn’t deserve it,” Matteo said.

“Oh Matteo why?”

“I don’t know,” Matteo whispered, tearing up again. David felt his own eyes burning, it wasn’t easy seeing Matteo like this.

“Hush hush. You do deserve it, and she wants to help you. I think she gets it, like I know she’s always all over you, but she’s very protective of you, not the other way around. Isn’t that right, Nana? And Matteo you must know that animals help with this sort of thing, if having her around helps you then that’s a good thing,” David said.

David was pretty sure the reason she trusted Matteo so easily was that she sensed how vulnerable he was. She let Matteo hold her because it comforted him, and despite her fussiness she enjoyed it.

“But…”

“You can’t make her depressed, you know that, right? Being around you doesn’t bring either of us down, ok?”

“Are you sure? She was crying, David,” Matteo said.

“When did she cry?”

“Oh… when I put her outside.”

“Exactly, let her help,” David said gently.

“It does help, you holding me helps, but… having her on my chest helps too. I don’t know why, but it does,” Matteo said.

“I don’t know how it works, but I know it’s a real thing,” David agreed.

“Ok.”

“We can use that excuse when we take her, say she’s your therapy cat, when Laura starts arguing,” David joked.

“Yeah,” Matteo said, stroking Nana and relaxing against David. He wasn’t crying anymore, but he was still trembling slightly.

“Love you Teo,” David said

“Love you too, thank you for taking care of me,” Matteo said.

“Always, you hungry?”

“Not really,” Matteo mumbled.

David wasn’t sure he believed him. He didn’t think Matteo was lying; it was more like sometimes he forgot he was hungry. He kind of lost track of his body.

“Do you want to eat anyway? Just a little,” David said, grabbing the plate of sandwiches from the foot of the bed. He wasn’t going to force him or anything, but if he was right, then Matteo would remember he was hungry when he started eating.

“Ok,” Matteo said, taking a sandwich from the plate.

David watched him pick at it slowly, smiling when he gave most of the ham to Nana.

“Did you call Lydia?” David asked.

Lydia was Matteo’s therapist, and David was pretty sure he knew the answer.

“No.”

“No? Don’t you think you should?” David pressed gently.

“I… this is the third time this has happened since I’ve been seeing her, she’ll put me on meds, I know she will,” Matteo said.

David took his hand and squeezed it, trying to stop him panicking.

“That’s… not necessarily a bad thing,” he said.

“David…”

“No I know, I know you don’t want to, you know I think it would help. But I really don’t think she’ll make you do anything you don’t want to. She might advise you, she may even recommend you see a doctor. I’m not an expert, but I don’t think anyone is going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. You’re not a danger to yourself or anyone else. But Matteo could you tell me why you won’t get that kind of help?”

“I don’t… I don’t want to take pills for the rest of my life, I don’t want to become a zombie,” Matteo said.

David frowned, he knew Matteo was thinking about his mum now. “There’s nothing wrong with taking medication, long or short term, I do don’t I?” David reminded him.

“That’s different,” Matteo said.

“Ok. But… did I ever tell you Laura used to be on antidepressants?”

That caught Matteo’s full attention, as David knew it would. Just like he did, Matteo saw Laura as one of the strongest, kindest people he’d ever met. To anyone who didn’t know, it would seem impossible that she’d gone through something like that. But she had, David wouldn’t ever forget that. He was surprised that Laura hadn’t told him; they talked about therapy all the time.

“What? No? When? She told me she does therapy, but that’s it. Maybe she did. I don’t know, she might have, I might not have been listening properly I dunno…”

Matteo was a very good listener, but David knew he tended to tune certain things out, when he wasn’t ready to hear it.

“Maybe,” David said. “But yeah it was after I had to leave my parents’ house, it hit her really hard. Taking me in and taking care of me when she was only eighteen herself. Knowing that by sticking by me, she was essentially cutting out my parents. She said it wasn’t a hard choice, but I know it was. That was really tough for her, she wasn’t angry like me. She was really really sad. And it just got worse until she needed help,” David explained.

He still remembered it clearly. How she’d been before she’d gotten help. She’d been so quiet, so despondent. He could see just how hard she was trying not to let him see. But one night she’d just broken, crept into his bed and told him she couldn’t keep going. He’d just held her tight and sat with her the next morning when she’d reached out for help. They’d gotten through it together, he’d been there for her just like she always was for him.

“That’s different,” Matteo said.

“Why?”

“That’s a real reason,” he said.

“Ok, firstly you don’t need a reason to be depressed, people get depressed for all number of reasons. But Matteo-”

“I should be happy, David!” Matteo snapped. “I should be happy, I live here with you. I’m safe- I’m safe- I’m safe-”

“You are. But for a long time you weren’t and maybe you didn’t deal with it in the moment. But Teo you had to deal with a cruel, borderline abusive father and try to take care of your mum, ok? You don’t need a reason to justify your depression, but that has to have something to do with it,” David said.

“But it’s over now,” Matteo argued.

“And now that it is, now that you finally have time to process it, it’s hitting you hard,” David said.

“It hurts so bad,” Matteo whispered.

“I know Teo, I know,” David said gently.

“It’s like I was so scared all the time and I can’t let go, I’m still so scared,” Matteo said.

“It’s ok to be scared,” David said.

Matteo started sniffling again. David gently pushed Nana from Matteo’s chest and crushed Matteo against him. He started to cry properly, David just held him through it, squeezing him close and trying to soothe him as best he could.

“Let it out,” David said.

After a few minutes, David felt Matteo take several deep breaths and pull back a little.

“Ok?”

“Yeah,” he said tiredly.

“Love you,” David said, kissing his nose.

“I’ll call Lydia tomorrow,” Matteo said.

“No pressure,” David assured him.

“I think… I think I need to talk about things, why I’m so scared…”

“Yeah?”

“It’s… since moving in I’ve been so scared,” Matteo admitted.

“Of it all going wrong?” David guessed.

“Yeah, that you’ll get fed up of me,” Matteo said.

“No.”

“And I know it’s me. You know what? Even if somehow we broke up, you’d never hurt me, you’d never cut me out-”

“Never,” David insisted.

“So I know that, but my stupid brain doesn’t get it,” Matteo said.

“I know, I’ll just keep reminding you,” David promised.

“Thank you,” Matteo said.

“You are so loved, Matteo, so loved. I am grateful every day that I met you,” David said.

“God, David I love you so much,” Matteo said, closing his eyes and relaxing against David’s chest.

David kissed the top of his head, smiling into his hair. He finally relaxed too, knowing Matteo felt safe in his arms. They’d been through this several times now and it was always hard, but David felt a little better having Matteo here with him. Knowing Matteo couldn’t take himself off to the WG and try to hide this from him. He understood why Matteo did it, but it was always scary when he was out of touch.

This time he’d seen it from the start, sensed it when Matteo was quiet last night, barely saying a word. When David had woken up that morning and found Matteo curled up, hiding from the world, he’d known what was happening. He hadn’t stayed, hadn’t hovered over Matteo. His boyfriend had said he just needed to rest, and David had to accept that. But he was here now, and Matteo was letting him in. Letting him take care of him.

“This will pass?” Matteo asked tentatively.

“Oh it will,” David assured him. “So this weekend let’s just stay in bed and eat junk food, yeah? Except you Nana, we can’t waste all that fancy cat food Matteo insists on getting you, you’ll still eat like the princess you are,” he teased.

Matteo giggled and reached out to flick her ears.

“Junk food sounds good, maybe by Sunday I’ll feel less tired,” Matteo said, sighing and settling down.

David let go of Matteo to move the food to the floor, then pulled the blankets over them. Nana hopped down and went over to her little bed, clearly satisfied that David would take care of Matteo now.

“If you don’t, that’s ok,” David reminded him.

“Thank you, David, for taking care of me,” Matteo said sleepily.

“I will always take care of you, Matteo,” David said, stroking his hand through Matteo’s hair and holding him close.

He always would, just like Matteo cared for him, without question or hesitation. They were there for each other whenever they needed it. Sometimes it was to talk it through, give advice, help in some more substantial way. Other times it was like this, just simply being present with each other. Whatever the other needed, they would give.

David glanced over at Nana, then back at Matteo. This little family he’d made. That thought made him feel almost dizzy with joy. Turned his thoughts to the future, beyond when the little apartment they would find soon. In these dreams of the future Matteo was always there, his home. His own little family. Yeah it was a little battered, a little bruised, it had been through a lot, and things weren’t always easy, but to him it was perfect.