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a candle to light you to bed

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Months from now, Neil will be grateful for this lifeline. It’s the offering of comfort and stability he needs long before he knows he’s allowed to want it, and Matt is holding it out to him without a second of hesitation. Months from now, Neil will appreciate it for what it is. But for now it feels bigger than he deserves.

“I don’t need a babysitter,” he says, placing a neatly folded shirt on top of the growing pile beside his suitcase and turning to look at Matt. “I can look after myself.”

Matt, to his credit, doesn’t roll his eyes but Neil watches the corners twitch and he knows it’s a near thing.

“I know you can. I’m not asking to be your babysitter. I’m asking to be your roommate.”


Neil can’t help it. The question is itching under his skin, making him shifty and uncomfortable. He doesn’t understand Matt’s motives: he spent three years living in close quarters with Neil and half of the last two practically glued to Neil’s couch at any given opportunity. Why he is willingly signing up for another year of it, Neil cannot fathom.

“We’re playing for the same team. It just makes sense,” Matt says and he makes it sound like it really does. Neil frowns and purses his lips and can’t think of any good reason to dispute it.

“You don’t share an apartment with any of your other teammates.”

Matt does roll his eyes this time, but it’s a gesture filled with fondness and, for reasons Neil can’t explain, the rest of his complaints stick in his throat.

“None of my other teammates are my best friend.”

It’s surprisingly easy, Neil thinks, to fall into the routine of living with Matt. The apartment is already full of Matt’s belongings, from his two year head start, but bits and pieces of Neil slip into the cracks—his running shoes by the door, two mugs by the coffee pot each morning, Andrew’s hoodie on the back of the couch. It becomes theirs intrinsically until the discomfiture ebbs away and the word home seeps through.

When Neil wakes up in his new apartment for the first time, the morning feels stretched and torpid. The absence of weight in the bed beside him is a hollow ache in his chest, and he gets up just to avoid the immensity of it. The world is drowsy outside his window, dark and slow as it blinks itself back to life, but their apartment is already alight with the smell of coffee and the muffled sound of socked footsteps.

Neil finds Matt in the kitchen, one hand pouring milk into a mug of coffee, the other stirring porridge on the stove. Matt looks up at his arrival and grins, all teeth and dimples. He sets down the milk carton and hooks his fingers around the handle of the other mug, holding it out to Neil.

“Morning, princess,” he says. Neil wraps his stiff fingers around the mug, letting the warmth seep through to his bones and wake him properly.

“Your porridge is done,” he observes, because he can see it thickening around Matt’s spoon as he steps past. Matt yelps and flicks off the gas, transferring the pot to a cool hob and reaching for a bowl in the same movement.

“There’s enough for two,” he says as he scrapes the gloopy mixture into his bowl. Neil stands on his toes to open one of the cupboards and grab a granola bar from the second shelf.

“I’m good, thanks.”

Neil holds the half-opened granola bar up in defence when Matt shoots him the look he reserves for disapproval at Neil’s tendency to skip meals. He doesn’t comment but the tilt of his mouth is displeased. Neil shrugs it off and sips his coffee.

“Excited to meet the team later?” Matt asks as he runs hot water into the empty pot to soak. Neil waits until the gurgle of the tap shuts off to reply.

“Not really. I don’t care what they’re like. It’s how they play that matters.”

Matt turns to lean against the kitchen bench, bowl in hand, and rolls his eyes fondly—something of a recurring action around Neil.

“Now you sound like Kevin.”

“Kevin sounds like me,” Neil corrects, just to be contrary.

Matt grins around a mouthful of porridge. “You’re both as bad as each other. Come on, you can have first shower. I want to show you the best route to the supermarket before we’re due at the stadium.”

The team, as it turns out, are far more excited to meet Neil than he is to meet them. There are three new team members, including him; one other first year pro and a transfer from Denver, but Neil inadvertently steals most of the attention. It’s some mixture of his memorable face gracing television far more than any college student has a right to, and Matt singing his praises over the past two years, that gives him a degree of interest the Cannons gravitate towards. All Neil really wants to do is talk to the Denver recruit about a certain goalkeeper on his old team, but Matt squeezes his shoulder lightly and it is as much a warning as it is a comfort. Play nice.

Neil smiles and lets Kati Laskey—starting striker—hook her elbow around his neck and rub her other hand lightly through his hair. If he closed his eyes, her weight against his body would almost feel like Dan. The thought is both reassuring and saddening, like a weight constricting his chest not quite enough to leave him breathless, but spiking discomfort through his ribcage all the same. He finds he cannot make eye contact with any of his new teammates.


“They’re not Foxes,” he says, when Matt prompts him for an opinion as they ease into traffic on their way home. Matt hums assent because it’s true, they are not and never will be the shape of puzzle pieces cut from the same jigsaw. They are Cannons, equal parts chaos and content, and they have dug a Neil-sized hole in their line-up, but it is a manufactured kind of welcoming, a family born of necessity rather than desire.

“They’re good people,” Matt says and Neil cannot find fault to disagree.

“They’re good as teammates,” he says instead. Matt flicks him a look under the guise of checking his blind spot before signalling the turn-off. They turn down the side street connected to their apartment complex and Neil traces the vaguely familiar shapes outside the window with his finger.

It is still warm yet, the air humid and muggy with the weight of summer. He can see heat hanging heavy over the pavement and pooling in pockets between the clouds. He hates days like these, but this one feels less like a burden and more like a blanket, swathing him in the absence of body heat. Not ideal, but somehow enough all the same.

“They’re good as teammates, but I already have all the family I need.”

When Matt looks at him this time, it is with blatant intent and his smile is blinding.

mattyb: someone come collect neil he’s making me sad

gaynolds: what did he tell you this time??

mattyb: a story about his mom

gaynolds: fuck those are the worst

wildz: u all g josten?

jos10: I’m fine.

gaynolds: :/

mattyb: he let me pat his head

wildz: 4 his comfort or urs ???

mattyb: honestly mine but i like to think it’s helping him too

jos10: It’s nice. Thank you.

nickyminaj: omg neil :( u cant be sad when im too far away to hug u

jos10: I’m not sad.

jos10: Matt is.

mattyb: I AM

nickyminaj: mattie no :(

nickyminaj: coming to hug u both rn

wildz: me 2

gaynolds: me three

wildz: group hug @ the b/j apt.

nickyminaj: the WHAT

wildz: boyd/josten but im just rlzing how bad tht sounds

mattyb: H


nickyminaj: uh

wildz: r u dyin ???

mattyb: might have to take a raincheck on the group hug

mattyb: OH HOLY FUCK

wildz: ?????

gaynolds: omg

mattyb: NEIL JUST

mattyb: CHRIST

nickyminaj: what did he do now lmfao

gaynolds: b/j apartment is my favourite soap

nickyminaj: ^^^

wildz: r they actually ded ????

gaynolds: matt??

nickyminaj: 50 bucks says neil started a fire trying to make dinner

gaynolds: you’re on

gaynolds: josten knows how to cook

nickyminaj: lmaooo

nickyminaj: u didn’t see him try to use the sandwich press at the columbia house

nickyminaj: andrew banished him from the kitchen

gaynolds: fuck

wildz: can confirm, neil knos how 2 cook but nt how 2 use tech

kevinday: What’s happening?

mattyb: [image attached]

kevinday: What the fuck.

gaynolds: what the fuck

nickyminaj: WHAT THE FUCK

wildz: wht hppnd???

nickyminaj: UR COUCH IM CRYING

kevinday: How did that happen?

gaynolds: is neil BLEEDING

nickyminaj: holy fuck yeah his face

wildz: shit

kevinday: Is that a bird?

gaynolds: IS THAT A BIRD

nickyminaj: oh my god

wildz: matt wtf is goin on?

jos10: We’re fine. Matt had to sit down because he was laughing too much.

wildz: neil ????

nickyminaj: EXPLAIN

jos10: I have to go. It’s fine.

gaynolds: josten you’re bleeding out of your face and there is a pigeon on your head

kevinday: Neil

nickyminaj: oh my god

nickyminaj: we’re pretending this is normal oh my god

aaminyard: what is going on?

aaminyard: oh that couch is in shreds lol

nickyminaj: AARON PLS

wildz: called matt but it went str8 2 vmail

gaynolds: the bird probably fucking murdered them

aaminyard: finally

nickyminaj: aaron pls

wildz: aaron pls

gaynolds: aaron pls

aminyard: aaron no

(The bird is collected by an ABC volunteer.

They buy a new couch.)

Integrating himself into an already functioning team is both easier and harder than knitting together the torn edges of the Foxes. The Cannons are professionals—polite because they are paid to be and serious where exy is concerned—but they are friends off the court as well. Three months into their season, Neil has grown used to one or another of their teammates crashing on the couch in his and Matt’s apartment, or showing up unannounced with takeout on their days off. Kati takes him out for coffee twice a week at a sugar-free café two blocks from his apartment (which Neil delights in telling Andrew about) and fills him in on the details of her personal life. (Her long distance girlfriend just moved over from Missouri. They’re adopting cats.) In return, Neil shows her the latest picture Andrew has texted him (the curl of smoke against a city skyline, or the glint of a blade under sunlight, or the open freeway above the Maserati dashboard). Neil is never very sure, but he thinks this makes them friends.

Somewhere along the way, the team become less like colleagues and more like something personal, something that spreads like warm butter inside Neil’s chest. He knows parts of their lives that go deeper than necessity for survival, while they learn where he likes to go to eat and what his college major was. He lets them scavenge through his life for the titbits that should not matter yet somehow do, but saves the intimate details to share between Matt and Kati. It’s not that he and Andrew are a secret, but Neil is private by nature and the Cannons, for all their friendship, are still not family.

They seem content to take what they’re given and pry no further, so Neil isn’t concerned when their captain, Breanna Ramírez, asks him to spare a minute after practice. He detours past Matt on his way off the court to let him know he’ll make his own way home. Matt swings an arm around Neil’s shoulders and leans down to knock their heads together.

“Nice work today, honey,” he says and lets go, waving as Neil heads to the locker room.

Breanna takes him to a patisserie ten minutes from the stadium where, she tells him, they sell petits fours that her husband thinks are to-die-for. Neil texts a picture of the display cabinet followed by a question mark to Andrew while he waits for Breanna to order. They get their coffees to-go and Breanna’s husband’s petits fours in a small paper bag, and walk the short distance to a nearby park.

They talk about the season, about the flaws in the starting line-up, and about the kids Breanna and her husband are currently fostering. Neil wants to tell her he and Matt almost adopted an injured bird that they let fly into their apartment, but decides she might not take it in her stride as easily as the Foxes.

Instead he says, “Maybe I’ll stop by the patisserie again on the way home. Matt loves pain au chocolat.”

Breanna looks at him, looks away, sighs, looks at him again.

“Josten.” She fiddles with the lid of her coffee cup. “Neil. I didn’t want to say anything, but I feel, I don’t know, morally obligated.”

Neil’s pulse jumps in his wrist and he blinks at Breanna, confused and apprehensive.

“Morally obligated to what?”

“Look, you and Boyd are both lovely and I know it isn’t really my business, but the team has been talking and— Well, I’m not trying to preach to you, but sometimes his fiancée comes to visit and I just want to be clear that none of us are comfortable covering for you. If it comes to that.”

She’s doing everything to avoid his gaze now and Neil has never seen her so unsure of herself. He frowns, turning her words over in his head but no matter which way he pushes and pulls he can’t make sense of them.

“What does Dan have to do with this?”

“You know, because of your… thing with Boyd.”

“My—” Neil stares at her as the pieces click into place, forming a complete picture, albeit one that makes Neil’s head ache. “You think I’m having an affair with Matt?”

“You’re not?” Breanna finally makes eye contact, head tilted and eyebrows knit. Neil almost laughs but something about the set of her jaw stops him.

“What makes you think we’re having an affair?”

“You’re very affectionate,” she says, shrugging. “We’ve noticed things.”

“He’s my best friend.” Neil’s tongue feels numb in his mouth. His words come slowly, as though his brain is still catching up to the conversation. “We’re just like that.”

“You’re close.”

“Yeah. He’s my best friend,” Neil says again, like she might have missed it the first time. Breanna bites her lip and glances down at where her fingers have twisted in the paper bag.

“There’s really nothing going on there, is there?” she asks in a small voice, and Neil’s patience slips a little.

“He wouldn’t do that to Dan. I wouldn’t do that to Dan.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—”

“Didn’t mean to what? Imply that we’re both cheating assholes? Yes, you did, otherwise you wouldn’t have said anything.”

He knows his temper is sparking, knows he should put a lid on it, but his mouth is running faster than he can catch it. He doesn’t understand how she can’t see that they’re the two least likely people to be unfaithful to their partners, or why she thinks it’s any of her concern anyway.

“But you can see how it seemed like that, right? I mean, he calls you pet names all the time. You buy him pastries for no reason. Last week, he kissed you at practice.”

“On the forehead,” Neil feels the need to remind her. “Because we’re friends. Do you need a rundown of every interaction we’ve ever had to prove that? How about a timeline of the development of our friendship?”

“This really isn’t any of my business,” Breanna says and Neil’s mouth twists in scorn.

“You’re right, it isn’t. I should go. I still want to get to the patisserie before it closes.” He stands up, forcibly releasing the tension in his fists, and tells himself to walk away. “See you at practice tomorrow.”

“Neil, I’m sorry,” she starts to say but he waves her off. He only makes it three steps before he decides he’s not finished. He pivots on the spot, clenches his fists, and inhales sharply.

“For the record, I have a boyfriend and we’re very happy,” he says and watches Breanna’s face go slack, her mouth opening on words that don’t come out. It takes her three tries to find them.

“You never said.”

“It was never any of your business.”

She bows her head little, then looks up to meet his eyes, her cheek dimpled where it’s caught between her teeth. Neil shrugs.

“Just so you know. He’s the only one I’m interested in.”

Breanna nods and looks like she wants to say something else, but she doesn’t protest when Neil turns again to walk away. He has a funny feeling the patisserie doesn’t open late and he really doesn’t want to miss them.

“The team think we’re having an affair,” he tells Matt later, perched on the kitchen workbench to the left of the stove. Matt is cooking pasta sauce in a large pot, which means he’s making enough to freeze the leftovers because he knows Neil will happily go hungry if it means he doesn’t have to cook on days when he can’t find the energy.

Our team?” Matt asks incredulously. Neil nods, absentmindedly popping the seal on a half-empty jar of olives.

“Ramírez told me it’s been team gossip for weeks.”

Matt laughs, reaching around Neil to lift another pot down from the shelf above his head. He puts it on one of the empty hobs and returns to stirring his sauce, so Neil leans over to flick the switch on the kettle. He settles back into his earlier position and searches Matt’s face, but all he finds are traces of amusement. It calms him a little, his temper over Breanna’s accusations dissipating.

“Fifty bucks says Pav started it,” Matt says, grinning. Aleksei Pavlov is one of their starting backliners and notorious for his outlandish but widely believed rumours. He and Matt have a friendly rivalry that involves playful nicknames and good-natured trash talking at every turn.

“I don’t bet,” Neil reminds Matt unnecessarily. The kettle pings as the water reaches boiling point and he lifts it over to pour into the empty pot on the stovetop. “Allison would have a field day with this though.”

“Oh God, let’s not tell her. If she finds out, Dan finds out, and I’ll be trying to live it down until I’m old and grey,” Matt laughs. Neil hands him a pair of scissors to cut open the bag of pasta in his hand, and replaces the now empty kettle on its outlet.

“She wouldn’t be mad?”

“Hardly. She’d think it was hilarious.” Matt pours pasta into the pot and flicks the gas on, before giving Neil a curious look. “Would Andrew be mad?”

Neil hums, returning to pressing the lid of the olive jar and letting it pop back into place. He doesn’t know what Andrew would think—they’ve never had cause to discuss it before—but he can count on one hand the amount of times Andrew has shown interest in things that don’t directly concern him.

“I don’t think he’d care.”

“What, he hears his boyfriend is off gallivanting with his hot roommate halfway across the country and he doesn’t even want to check up?”

“He knows we’re not. Andrew doesn’t care for rumours,” Neil says, shrugging. Thinking of Andrew’s signature apathy dispels the remainder of his anger and he finds that he doesn’t care for the rumour either. Andrew’s voice in his head asks why he cares what other people think and Neil can’t find a reason.

“That’s true enough,” Matt agrees. He twists off the heat under the sauce and gestures at Neil. “Pass me those olives, would you, my love?”

Neil snorts, releases the seal on the jar, and hands it over. “This is why people think we’re having an affair.”

“Maybe we are.”

Matt’s tongue dips out to lick the corner of his smile and Neil rolls his eyes.

“If I was going to cheat, I think I could at least do better than you.”

Neil earns himself an olive pitted straight at his forehead for that one. He catches its rebound in his hand and pops it into his mouth, rubbing the stain off his skin and kicking half-heartedly in Matt’s direction. Matt takes an exaggerated step out of the way and returns to slicing olives and sprinkling them into the sauce.

“Do you really want to be insulting me when the fate of your dinner rests in my hands?” Matt asks. Neil leans over to steal another olive.

“I’ll tell Kevin you’re intentionally depriving me of a balanced diet.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“I have him on speed dial,” Neil says, slipping his phone out of his pocket and holding it up for emphasis. He pushes off the counter with his hands, landing softly on the linoleum floor and using the momentum to slide on socked feet to the other side of the kitchen. He bends to take two bowls from the cupboard and leans over to the cutlery drawer as he hears Matt checking on the pasta behind him.

“Hey, sweetheart?”

Neil turns to find Matt beckoning to him, a strand of spaghetti dangling from his fingers. He steps over and holds out his hand when prompted by Matt’s grabby motions. Matt loops the spaghetti around his ring finger, twisting and squeezing the ends until they mush together, effectively tying the pasta to Neil’s finger.

“Give the team something to talk about, hey,” he says, exaggerating the wink that accompanies it. Neil turns his hand around and holds up his middle finger in response. Matt laughs and the sound is white horses breaking over Neil’s head. He lets himself be pulled under.

mattyb: [image attached]

mattyb: he said yes!

wildz: what

gaynolds: what

renesbian: what

nickyminaj: what

aminyard: what.

nickyminaj: omg

Andrew calls him two hours later while Matt is making hot chocolate and Neil is flicking through sports channels with the TV on mute.

“I let you do one thing on your own and you get engaged to Boyd,” he says by way of hello. Neil smiles, tipping his head against the back of the couch and tapping the remote against his thigh.

“Jealous, are we?”

Andrew huffs, just barely but Neil catches it. He bites down on a laugh and lets his eyes slip closed.

“I thought you at least had better taste than that.”

“I chose you, didn’t I?” Neil says. Warm honey oozes down his spine and he melts into the cracks between the couch cushions, the whole world slipping away and zeroing in on the static crackling down the phone line. Andrew’s voice is sturdy and smooth, garbled by the distance but still unmistakeably his. Neil relaxes into it.

“Is that an affirmation of your good taste or further proof of your idiocy?”

Neil hums around a grin but doesn’t reply. He knows Andrew knows what he means, even though neither of them will acknowledge it. They lapse into steady silence, soft breaths and fleeting movements between them. Neil can hear the buzz of traffic from Andrew’s end and assumes he’s on the balcony of his high-rise apartment, overlooking the bustling street. Neil remembers the city lights and cool breeze from his last visit, the smell of smoke and petrol mixing in the air, the way the railing felt digging into his back when Andrew kissed him up against it. He lets out a half-sigh, aborted before Andrew can make anything of it, and swallows the whiskey-flavoured memory.

“My team knows about you,” he says, just to have something to say. It’s a lot like that with Andrew now—they no longer deal in weighted truths and bleeding secrets. Neil finds that he doesn’t mind half as much as he thought he would, back when he used to worry they would run out of things to say one day. Sometimes they have conversations without substance; after all, Andrew has always been good at making something out of nothing.

“I would hope so. They’ve played me twice,” Andrew says on an exhale. With his eyes pressed shut and his lips parted on a breath, Neil can almost taste the smoke leaking from Andrew’s mouth.

“Funny,” he deadpans. Neither of them laugh. “I mean about us.”

He half expects Andrew to be difficult for the sake of it, but Andrew has long since stopped denying they are two parts of the same whole. He fiddles with his cigarette instead; Neil can hear his fingers tap away the ash.

“Is that a problem?” he asks and Neil hears the part he doesn’t say, the I don’t mind if you don’t, the this was never secret to anyone who was looking.



Neil breathes. Andrew smokes. The silence fills spaces between them.

Neil cracks an eye open when Matt taps him on the shoulder, holding out a steaming mug. From the smell, it’s a fruity blend from the pack of herbal teas Kati had given him as thanks for helping out with her girlfriend’s move. The mug is hot beneath his fingers so he balances it on his knee while he resituates his grip to the handle, and raises it to his lips.

Andrew? Matt mouths as he settles onto the other side of the couch, his own mug of hot chocolate warming his palms. Neil nods, nestling the phone between his ear and his shoulder so he can tap the ring finger of his opposite hand, an explanation of Andrew’s call. Matt grins around the lip of his mug before taking a sip.

“Tell him if he likes it then he should have put a ring on it.”

Neil frowns, glances down at his hand, and then back up at Matt. He mouths what in return but Matt just flaps his hand at the phone.

“Matt says,” Neil looks at him again and Matt gives him a thumbs up, “if you like it then you should have put a ring on it?”

There’s a shuffling sound as Andrew shifts around, the squeak of a screen door sliding open and closed, before the city noises cut off and the silence takes on a new shape.

“Tell Boyd if he likes his tongue he should keep it in his mouth.”

Neil relays the threat and Matt laughs aloud, his hot chocolate sloshing dangerously close to the rim of his mug. Neil watches him in shock—it’s the first time he can remember seeing Matt find genuine humour in anything one of Andrew’s lot have said.

“Did you just make a joke?” he asks Andrew. He’s not sure which he’s more caught off guard by: that Andrew made a joke or that Matt found it funny.

“It wasn’t a joke. It was a warning.”

A cupboard door clips shut from Andrew’s end and Neil hears the chink of crockery. He makes eye contact with Matt, who raises his eyebrows and sips his hot chocolate, before shrugging off his surprise.

“I have to make dinner,” Andrew says. It isn’t a dismissal but Neil can tell by his voice Andrew doesn’t feel like talking.

“Okay,” he agrees, “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Andrew grunts, which is an affirmation in its own way, and hangs up without saying goodbye. Neil drops his phone between his thighs for safekeeping and takes another drink of his tea. Matt nudges Neil’s shin with his toe, nodding at the TV.

“You watching that?”

There’s a replay of an Exy match from the previous week, but Neil’s already seen it and it isn’t Andrew or Kevin’s team. He hands Matt the remote in lieu of a response and lets his eyes drift shut on the snippets of soaps flashing by as Matt switches channels.

gaynolds: it’s been 8 days since our last b/j nonsense

nickyminaj: is that a record?

gaynolds: i think so

wildz: wild

wildz: get it haha

jos10: What’s b/j nonsense?

gaynolds: it’s you honey

aaminyard: aka every time you message this chat everyone has a stroke

nickyminaj: lmfao tru

jos10: Why?

wildz: u n matt r disasters

wildz: always gttin up 2 crzy shit

nickyminaj: u send the most concerning messages and never elaborate

jos10: No, we don’t?

gaynolds: NO WE DON’T HE SAYS

nickyminaj: remember when matt and neil’s couch got ripped to shreds by a bird

nickyminaj: and they never explained how

gaynolds: remember when matt and neil got married

renesbian: remember when Neil texted the group chat ‘cowabunga’ followed by three hashtags

renesbian: then ten seconds later said he remembered Matt was visiting Dan and not to worry

wildz: rmbr wen m drank 3L of mntn dew at once

wildz: & n sent a pic of him passed out w a c.board cutout of dolly parton

wildz: y do they hav a c.board cutout of dolly parton

jos10: We can’t recycle her without concerning the neighbours.

renesbian: I think the question is why do you have her in the first place

jos10: Oh.

jos10: We got her from Dollar Tree.

gaynolds: dollar tree sells cardboard cutouts of dolly parton ???

jos10: I don’t think she was for sale.

nickyminaj: u STOLE dolly parton from dollar tree

aaminyard: you sound surprised

nickyminaj: i mean yeah

nickyminaj: aren’t u ??

aaminyard: no

gaynolds: no

wildz: no

renesbian: no

nickyminaj: good point

jos10: [image attached]

jos10: She lives in the shower.

gaynolds: that is quite literally the most terrifying combination of information+image i’ve ever seen

wildz: 1 time i stayed @ b/j apt & she slept in th bed w me n matt

aaminyard: what the fuck

gaynolds: why did we ever let those two live together

nickyminaj: yeah this has gone too far

wildz: m can move in w me if andrew will take n ??

aminyard: deal.

jos10: Who gets Dolly?

aminyard: never mind I don’t want him.

When Neil wakes up in his and Matt’s apartment on what Matt dubs their ‘roommate-iversary’, the morning feels like a wave, hugging the bay it crashes into and guiding Neil’s breaths through the ebb and flow. A year stretches across the floorboards, worn smooth under their tread, and laps at the walls, where they’ve taken to sticking photographs and reminders and smiley-face messages from one to the other. The world is quiet around him, but for the buzz of the radio and the familiar pattern of footfalls against linoleum floor.

Neil finds Matt in the kitchen, two mugs on the worktop and a pancake flipping through the air towards the pan in his outstretched hand.

“Morning, princess,” Matt says, holding up one of the mugs without turning. Neil loops his fingers through the handle and around the ceramic curve, bringing it to his lips to blow the billow of steam away from the rim.

“Morning, sunshine,” he says, leaning against the corner of the fridge. The way Matt freezes is almost comedic, like each muscle isolating and tensing one by one. When he looks up, his gigawatt smile is already plastered over his face, bright enough to dissolve the dreary heaviness of the morning, and Neil’s returning grin bites into his cheeks before he can hold it back. Matt returns to his breakfast with crinkles by his eyes. Neil blows lightly on his coffee and takes a sip.

mattyb has changed their name to sunshine.

jos10 has changed their name to princess.