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"I-I didn't mean to," is the first thing they both find rushing past Matty's cold, chapped lips and out into the bitter December air. Just moments before he'd been burning up with sheer anger and now he was wishing he'd pestered George more about getting the damn heat fixed.

He looks over at George. His best mate. His maybe sometimes something more. (His whole fucking world.)

His head is tipped back against the tattered headrest, large hands gripping his thighs so tightly his knuckles are white. Matty wonders if he's realized the car has long since stopped spinning.

Matty is expecting something. Anything. Probably a huffed 'course you didn't' or 'you absolute fucking wanker'. Not silence. Anything but fucking silence.

George is expecting more too. Although, deep down, he knows better than to expect more from Matty. He wasn't going to get an apology. Not for the reckless and fucking irresponsible accident he'd just caused and certainly not for the argument they'd been having seconds before the car spun out of Matty's intoxicated control.

"George."

He's desperate. Although he's not sure what for. Approval probably. His brain is still swimming, partly from the argument and partly from the combination of drugs and alcohol in his system. (Partly from the way the moonlight is pouring into the passenger window and illuminating George's profile.)

His head turns the slightest and all of a sudden his eyes are half lidded and Matty can feel that familiar little jump in his stomach he gets whenever George studies him like he is right now. That's when he notices it.

It's dripping off his bottom lip, rolling down his chin. Matty's hand is shaking but he swipes a drop away with his thumb anyway.

"You're bleeding."

*

Most of Matty's memories of his childhood come in bright, overwhelming, vivid flashes. The good ones at least. The first time he saw George was one of those. (As much as he doesn't want to admit it, he thinks it's the most vibrant memory he's got.)

It was like something cosmic. That's the best way Matty can describe it looking back on it. They were so alike, right from the beginning that Matty was certain they must've once been a part of the same being. Like two pieces of the universe that had been formed together and then separated for so long, finally colliding again. He'd tried to explain it to George once when he was completely shitfaced, because he wanted him to understand. George had just shook his head and chuckled.

George was the new kid. Which meant Matty was no longer the new kid and he couldn't have been more relieved when the tall, nervous boy stumbled into his classroom twenty minutes late, a few weeks into year seven.

There were three seats left and George could've chosen any of them the teacher said, but he chose the only one in the very last row. Right next to Matty.

He thought he felt something shift inside of him then, when the younger but bigger boy sheepishly slid into his seat. Something good.

"Hi," the boy mumbled almost self consciously and Matty remembered not having any idea why he was speaking to him, until he realized he'd been staring. And then his face turned almost as red as the boy who'd just had the entire class' attention focused on him.

"Hi," Matty muttered back under his breath, kicking himself for the way his stomach twisted at the sound of his much deeper voice. That wasn't how twelve year old boys were supposed to react.

"I'm George," Matty could feel his gaze, like he was studying him despite the fact that their teacher was going on animatedly about something at the front of the class.

"Matty," his cheeks were burning up and he didn't understand what the fuck was wrong with him. He kept his eyes focused on the textbook in front of him, hoping the new boy, George, would just fucking give up. He didn't want to explore the feeling making a nest at the pit of his stomach any more.

George was quiet for a second and Matty heard him loudly digging around in his bag and he wanted to roll his eyes but instead he found them darting over to catch a glimpse of him. His stomach did that stupid twist again. In the split second before his eyes darted away again, he took in the birthmarks dotting his pale skin and his unkempt hair and the way the dark color of his uniform looked different than he'd ever seen it on anyone else. And that pissed him off a bit. No one was supposed to be able to pull off itchy school uniforms.

It felt like centuries before George spoke again, in his best attempt at a hushed whisper, "H-hey, um, Matty?"

Matty swallowed harshly and cautiously peered over at him, he was rubbing his neck sheepishly, cheeks still tinged the prettiest of pinks, "Y-yeah?"

"W-would you, ehm, mind showing me around later?"

And Matty absolutely couldn't have that. Not with the way his stomach was feeling every time he caught one of his nervous, jerky motions out of the corner of his eyes. This George kid was someone Matty needed to steer fucking clear of.

"I-I'm new too," it wasn't the biggest lie he'd ever told, he was still technically a new kid according to most of his peers, "I haven't got any idea where I'm going either."

He hated that he couldn't flat out tell this boy no like he could with anyone else. Not with his big, scared eyes and nervous movements. He reminded Matty of a puppy. Skittish and unsure of himself with eyes you couldn't fucking refuse. He thought he must always get what he wanted looking like that.

"We could get lost together?" George offered, eyes brightening a bit and pink lips tugging into a hesitant smile.

It sounded like the best idea Matty'd ever heard.

*

It didn't take long for the two of them to become inseparable. Everyone was aware of it. Their mums and their friends and even their teachers. Neither Matty nor George minded though. Their budding friendship was the best thing both of them had ever had.

They became MattyandGeorge. Never one without the other. They formed a sort of codependency that Matty knew probably wasn't healthy (Hell, it couldn't be healthy. Sometimes he felt fucking dizzy when they were apart for too long.) but there was no way he'd rather have it.

Matty wasn't sure how the rest of it happened, if it was a gradual change or a flick of a switch.

It was a little over two years into their friendship when things started to change. When they were all fucking around with the idea of becoming a proper band and they skipped school more often than not. When touches and looks felt different. They felt different.

All Matty remembered was that it was summer, abnormally hot and bright, and everything was a blur. A vibrant whirlwind of sticky days filled with stolen kisses and careful touches and constant glances over their shoulders, although they didn't really care if anyone caught them. Bliss. That was the word that seemed to fit those few weeks best.

But it didn't last forever.

Because it seemed the closer and more comfortable they became, the worse they could treat each other.

They'd always bickered, that was their thing. The joke in their friend group, before anyone even knew they'd crossed a line of more than friends, was that Matty and George were the inseparable, old married couple. But soon it was different.

Stupid bickering turned into proper arguments. They learned not just how to push each other's buttons but how to nearly tip each other over the edge. They learned the things that no one else knew, that would hurt each other the most, and used them as swords and shields against each other.

Their worst fights seemed to stick out in Matty's memory the most clearly.

They were blindingly bright and sickeningly loud. Burned into his mind forever, playing in his head like a horror movie on his lowest days.

One of the worst was just days after Matty and George had moved into their first flat together. The band was finally taking off, they were booking bigger venues and being played on the fucking radio and it should've been one of Matty's highest points but it wasn't.

He was using again. That was what the most recent fights had been about.

(Those kind of fights weren't anything new though, he still remembered the first time George's mum kicked Matty out when the two of them had gotten into a screaming match in his room over Matty's drug habits.)

But now he was using again because he knew he should've felt on top of the fucking world and that was the only way he could achieve that. That was the only way he felt he wasn't being an ungrateful little brat. And George just didn't understand. (Mostly because Matty refused to explain, convinced George, the person who knew him best, couldn't understand.)

It was half two in the morning when Matty stumbled through their new front door, managing to finally get the lock with his brand new set of keys. It was one of those rare nights where George had stayed in and Matty had gone out by himself, somehow convincing George that he was just fine. Just needed to get out of the house. Needed some stimulation. Some fresh air. Some excitement.

And that was just what he'd found.

Too out of his mind to realize, or care, what time it was, he stumbled into their bedroom loudly, the thick scent of alcohol on him mixing with the faint smell of the new paint on their walls. The right shade of cream George had insisted on.

"George!" he wasn't sure if it was the wine or the drug that made his voice break into a laugh as he swung the door shut behind him.

George was curled up on his side of the bed, blankets pulled up to his ears and eyes shut, but even as dizzy as Matty felt, he knew he wasn't asleep.

"Geoooorge!" Matty half laughed, half whined, dramatically flapping the newspaper in his hand around despite the fact that George was facing the wall with his back to the door. To Matty.

He already knew Matty had fucked up.

They hadn't had a night like this in a while. A night when George was so done with Matty that he pretended he wasn't even there and slept on his side, his back like a wall dividing countries during a war.

"Do you have any fucking idea what time it is?" his voice was low and filled with tension but Matty couldn't register it in his state.

"No," he answered honestly, clumsily plopping himself on the edge of the bed and struggling to pull the covers away from George's face, "But babe, you've gotta see this. We're in the fucking papers!"

"You're gone," George stated plainly, managing to sound completely disgusted and entirely done with Matty at the same time. And it got under his skin a bit that he didn't even seem to care. He didn't care that Matty was optimistic about what had happened for them recently, because he wasn't sober. That invalidated it for George, but it didn't for Matty.

"A bit," he thought it was the alcohol making him honest, "Please look at this and I'll leave you alone the rest of the night."

Matty'd pushed his face into George's personal space, his wine smelling breath hitting George's clenched jaw, when he hadn't so much as opened his eyes yet. He hated being ignored, especially by George and most especially when he felt so fucking good.

"I don't want anything to do with you right now," his voice had gone cold and Matty was suddenly aware of how tense he felt as he was leaned over him, studying his expression.

And if Matty was anything but as high as he was, it would've hurt. But instead it set him off.

He yanked himself away like George was a steaming kettle, "Are you fucking serious?!"

"Keep your voice down," he answered emotionlessly, like he couldn't find the energy to be bothered, "We've got neighbors now."

"Tha's what you're concerned about?!" Matty knew he was shouting, he just didn't care.

"You want a fight and I'm not giving you one tonight," George suddenly threw the covers off of himself, making Matty stumble backwards a bit as he abruptly sat up and pushed himself out of bed.

"Where the hell are you going?!" Matty stumbled in front of him, the tips of his boots knocking against George's toes. It was times like these when he hated being so much smaller. He felt like a child.

"The sofa," George answered coldly and stepped around him like he was just that. A child throwing a fit.

"Fuck you!" Matty spat because he knew how to get to him, "You don't even give a shit!"

And then he plopped himself back on the bed because the room was still a bit too spinny and hoped it looked more like an act of defiance rather than submission.

George froze in the doorway, hand dropping from the doorknob. Even with the only light coming from the city outside their window, Matty could see every muscle in his bare back and arms tense. He was going to give Matty the fight he was maybe looking for.

"Fuck me?" he spun around, eyes dark and cold, "I don't give a shit?"

Part of Matty knew better than to respond but a bigger part just didn't care, "Well you're fucking leaving, aren't you?"

"To the fucking sofa, Matthew!" his voice echoed off their still bare bedroom walls, Matty's stomach did something he wasn't proud of.

Adrenaline was something Matty seemed to constantly crave. Especially when he wasn't sober. And nothing got Matty's blood pumping like an argument with George. The way his voice boomed and his jaw tensed. How his eyes seemed to switch from dark to black in a split second, when Matty'd pushed just the wrong (right) button.

They were too alike. George was the only person who couldn't win against Matty but still never backed down from him.

"'S all the same innit?" Matty spat back, "'M fucking happy for once and you want nothing to do with me. How fucked is that?!"

"You're not happy!" George let out a cold laugh, slowly making his way across the room until he was bent over, right in Matty's face, "You're fucking high."

Matty could feel the anger radiating off of him. It didn't scare him though. He craved it. The way George was staring him down like he wanted him dead when they both knew that was far from the truth. The way neither of them were going to back down, neither of them ever did. It was fucked.

And then Matty was wrapping a hand around the back of George's neck and slamming their lips together because sometimes that was the only way they knew how to communicate. Through kisses and touches and bruises. Especially when Matty wasn't sober.

One of George's hands found Matty's jaw and the other found his hip, pushing him back roughly until his back hit the mattress and their teeth collided. Matty felt more on top of the world than he had all night.

It wasn't until Matty tasted something metallic that he turned his head away against the bed, gasping for air. He caught George by the chin, he hadn't noticed it yet.

"You're bleeding," Matty swiped his thumb against his bottom lip, smiling proudly.

George shook his head, and leaned back down to growl against his lips, "Shut the fuck up."

*

Their teetering-between-friendship-and-something-more wasn't always so negative. When they were happy, oh god were they happy. High on nothing but each other and what they had between them. Even if they still weren't sure what that was, even after all those years.

Matty nearly always felt like he was fucking flying when he was with George. That feeling was only amplified after a good show. After feeding off each other silently for over an hour, communicating only through glances and gestures and the rare occasion Matty would let George have a swig or two of wine between songs.

Coming off stage was always a rush of adrenaline and sweat and spilled wine and George. George was always the first thing Matty went for.

The best post show nights, were hotel nights. When Matty and George got the best privacy they'd had in weeks. Their own hotel room with clean sheets and a fucking shower.

Hotel nights had a routine. After the show, when Matty could barely keep his hands off of George as he came down from all the excitement (even then he always needed moremoremore) the two of them let the rest of the band and crew drag them to some all night American diner. George would order the greasiest thing on the menu and Matty always needed what was topped with the most sugar.

Matty would be unable to control how stuck he was to George's side the whole times and everyone would roll their eyes fondly and make a comment or two, but George would just kiss his head and whisper something about how he couldn't wait to get him to their room. Which really wasn't helpful at all.

And the rest of the night would be a blur of rushed kisses and needy touches and breathy gasps until they found themselves curled around each other, happier than they had been in ages.

"Love you," George would always whisper into Matty's still damp skin, when he thought he'd already drifted off but he was keeping himself coherent just enough for that, "Love you," a kiss to his tangled, wet hair, "Fucking love you."

And Matty would hold back a face splitting grin and the urge to mumble it back into every inch of George's bare skin, until he finally drifted off.

*

And that was how it went on for ages. An intoxicating sort of maybe relationship that neither of them ever brought up. They were just them. What they had was just them. Natural and easy and intoxicating and dependent and burning and real.

The end of a tour was always bittersweet. For Matty at least. And George knew that. That was why he insisted they show up together, he didn't want him to be left alone.

But Matty was up to his neck in the lyrics of a new song, incessantly scribbling and crossing out words in his beat up journal that he wouldn't let George read. He thought maybe that should've been the first warning sign.

George had been sat towards the end of a long table in the middle of some posh restaurant for nearly half an hour, surrounded by the whole band and crew, everyone silently waiting for Matty's arrival. It was sort of an unspoken thing. The empty seat next to George practically had Matty's name engraved on it and no one was even ordering anything more than a drink until he appeared.

It felt like fucking forever before Matty seemed to appear out of nowhere, half stumbling behind a hostess with a sympathetic smile on her face, still clutching that damn journal to his chest.

It was going to be a long night.

He slid in to his rightful throne, eyes seeming to look past all of them as he spewed apologies, a sheepish smile on his face and journal in his lap. George couldn't smell anything but the red wine on his breath.

"Well?" he nodded at the worn journal in Matty's lap, as he stared at the drink menu.

"Hm?" Matty's eyes flitted from the menu to George to the journal and back to the menu. He shrugged, "Oh. Wanted to see what Ross and Hann thought."

George knew his skin shouldn't have prickled at that. But it did. Something was up.

"Mm," he hummed like he wasn't the least bit bothered. Inside he felt like someone had poured fuel on a tiny flame that had been delicately burning since he left their flat.

George had lost count of the number of glasses of wine Matty had downed before their food finally came. The flame had turned into a fire and was consuming him from the inside out. Now he was just waiting for Matty to set off the explosion.

As they'd grown older, closer, their fights escalated and became more frequent. Louder and more complicated, although they'd both become experts at pretending the fights weren't the latter. That there was no underlying issue. That there wasn't a dull knife twisting into both of them a little further each day. And George was just waiting because fuck knew there was nothing he could do to prevent it.

Throughout the whole meal, George desperately tried to read into everything Matty said or did. For the first time in ages, he couldn't put his finger on what was wrong. He was scared.

He was always fucking scared when it came to Matty. Scared of crossing boundaries. Scared of not being enough. Scared of being too much. Scared of scaring Matty. Everything. And he thought, secretly hoped, that it'd all be so much fucking easier if they knew what the fuck they were.

Things were winding down after dessert and George stupidly assumed he wasn't going to find anything out until they got home, so he went to find the toilet. By the time he found his way back, he felt like he'd been punched in the gut.

Matty was leaned over towards Adam and Ross, practically in Ross' lap, pointing at lyrics in his open journal excitedly. He looked the happiest and most lucid he had all night.

Half of their crew had gone out for a smoke break and the other half had congregated at the other end of the table, wrapped up in their own discussion, so George took his opportunity to plop down in the seat across from Matty and tried to look unbothered. No one even acknowledged him.

He knew it was something stupid to get worked up about as he crossed his arms over his chest. They were all just wrapped up in whatever Matty's newest masterpiece was and he'd be included eventually. But it felt like the straw that broke the camels back.

Except it wasn't, because when he caught bits of lyrics in hushed tones and something about how Matty wanted it to sound like them a few years ago but better, he realized the straw wasn't a straw. It was a ton of fucking bricks.

This song was about him.

It took every ounce of inner strength he had, not to explode right there in front of the whole damn restaurant. Instead, he shoved his chair out with shaky hands and spat a quiet, "I'll meet you at the car."

He made his way out of the restaurant as quickly as possible, coat forgotten inside and the cold wind biting at his skin. But he didn't feel it.

He ripped the passenger's side door open because he thought if he sat in the driver's seat, he'd leave. He'd drive forever and put as much space between him and Matty and that fucking song as possible. He'd drive until the burning ache in his chest was gone, until his head was clear, until he felt whole again like he had glued all the pieces back and freed all the space up Matty had been takingtakingtaking for years. (That was what he told himself anyway.)

It wasn't a nasty song, Matty had never been known to write those, and it wasn't even about specifically him. it was about their relationship, or lack thereof. That was why it cut his chest wide fucking open. Matty wasn't as oblivious as he pretended. Matty felt the exact same fucking things George felt. And now he'd put them into a song and they were real and tangible and out in the open. All instead of fucking speaking to George.

That was the thought that shut him down. Made him pull his knees up to his chest, despite how cramped it was with his long legs, and shut his eyes and pray for fucking death because that would surely be easier than what was about to come next. What would come of that fucking song.

It wasn't long enough before there was a timid tap on the glass. George didn't want to open his eyes yet. So he didn't.

He kept them shut even as he heard Matty get in the driver's seat and start the car, carefully laying George's coat across his lap like he was a ticking bomb. And George didn't put up a fight like he normally did when Matty tried to drive when he was in a state like this, because he wanted to fucking die. He wanted darkness to swallow him up and never spit him back out.

It was silent for a long time, just the hum of the engine and the whoosh of city blocks and lights rushing past them. He'd uncurled his legs when they'd begun to cramp and opened his eyes just to steal glances.

"'This car moves faster than I'm ever gonna find you'," he recited one of the lines of the chorus that stuck out so painfully to him in a quiet, emotionless tone. He thought the irony might suffocate him just as well as the whole situation.

George saw Matty shake his head from where he was watching out of the corner of his eye, refusing to give him his full attention. Matty nervously picked at his bottom lip. It was the most aware and in the moment that George had seen him all night.

"Seemed like something you'd say," he mumbled, staring straight ahead.

"Me?" George scoffed in disbelief. It was stupid. The entire situation was stupid he was realizing. He shouldn't fucking care. He didn't want to fucking care.

Matty nodded, "Suppose tha's how the song goes. Back and forth. 'S not just you, never was. Was always me too."

George hated it. The way he seemed to be filtering himself and not properly finishing his sentences. He wasn't supposed to do that with George.

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?!" George was tired of it and for once he could feel himself becoming the explosion. He was tired of not knowing the rules to Matty's never ending games. He was tired of being afraid to break them without ever knowing what they consisted of.

"You know exactly what the fuck that means," Matty snapped and George could tell he was coming down. He didn't have sympathy for him.

"Contrary to popular belief, I can't read your fucking mind, Matthew!" his voice boomed in the tiny space of the car, he didn't care though, "I-I'm so fucking tired of this! I can't do this! I walk on eggshells a-and play your fucking games and you don't even tell me the rules!"

"What then?! You gonna fucking leave me?!" Matty tried to scoff coldly but George saw right through it. Saw the way his knuckles were white against the steering wheel and he was chewing at his bottom lip. It was a genuine question to Matty, he'd never been good at hiding his uncertainty.

"Isn't that my whole fucking problem?!" George laughed bitterly, his voice quieting but not softening as he admitted, "Couldn't leave you if I tried. You're my fucking drug. My fucking fatal flaw. I need you. I need whatever you'll give me!"

"But what do you want?!"

And it was such a simple question that it made George sick to admit to himself that he hadn't ever considered the answer to that.

But just because he hadn't, didn't mean he hadn't known since he was fucking twelve, "You. Just you, Matty."

"Why the fuck would you want me?! You-"

But George never heard the end of that sentence because it was cut off with a loud, "Shit!" and the sensation of spinning out of control that George was all too familiar with.

*

"You're bleeding."

Matty doesn't even register himself instinctively sliding closer, other hand finding George's jaw and tilting it up. It's not much, he'd probably just bit down on his tongue or lip when his head bumped the window as the car spun, but it's enough to send Matty's stomach in knots.

George lets out a bitter half laugh, one that sends a shiver down Matty's spine, "Isn't that how this always seems to end up?"

And before either of them know it, Matty's lips are carefully, delicately, cautiously pressing against George's.

He craves George just as much as he's just admitted and he hopes to fucking god he knows how much he needs him. It's instinctive and almost innocent and the way they fit together, even in a spun out car on the side of a deserted city street after their most important blowout yet, Matty knows they'll be alright.

"I love you," Matty whispers between kisses, properly, just like George does, "Love you," another one, "Fucking love you," just before he pulls away to look him in the eyes.

This is their wakeup call. This is their saving grace. Here in the middle of the city in December with no heat.

"I want you. I need you. Be mine, be mine. Let me be yours."

And it's so rushed and desperate and raw and honest, that all George can do is kiss him again, blood still tinging his tongue and head still spinning.

This is it. This is all he will ever need.