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Meet Me In The Hallway

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1.

“You fuckers!” Matteo yelled at Jonas and Carlos. They laughed and ran out of his flat before he had a chance to stop them.

“Catch us if you can!” Carlos yelled.

Matteo grabbed his coat from the rack in the hall by the door and slipped on his shoes.

He slammed the door behind him. They were on their way to meet up with Abdi, an increasingly rare occasion since Abi over a year before that all four of the ok.cool. crew could hang out together. Matteo was busy with his job as a runner at the bar and worked nights, and Jonas focused on his internship during the day and putting in any extra hours offered. Carlos did his apprenticeship whenever there was work to do, and Abdi’s uni classes took up most of his time.

Matteo was in a good mood and he looked forward to it.

Of course his fucking friends each giving him a wet willy and then running out of the flat was annoying but he planned on getting them back. He rushed down the first flight of stairs.

Below, he heard Carlos yell, “Oh, shit! Look out!”

When Matteo rounded down the second flight, he ran right into somebody who was trying to make their way up. Luckily they were on the landing, not that actual stairs, so no one tumbled down. But whoever Matteo had run into fell back onto their ass, a cardboard box falling from their hands, some of the contents spilling.

“Shit! Shit, I’m sorry,” Matteo said. He knelt down and started picking up the coloured pencils that had flown out of the box.

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to run in the halls?” the dude asked.

“Yes, but I’m an asshole,” Matteo said. He looked up and held out the pencils in his hand. His eyes met the guy’s gaze.

Matteo’s heart skipped a beat, and his voice suddenly disappeared.

The guy had dark curls that stuck out under a navy beanie, a septum ring piercing his nose, and dark brown eyes. He was, quite frankly, gorgeous.

“Hi,” Matteo managed at say.

The guy’s eyebrows quirked up.

“Um,” Matteo said. “Sorry?”

The guy reached over and took the pencils, shoving them into the top of the box labeled ‘keep - art supplies’.

“Are you moving in?” Matteo asked. He didn’t recognize him. He stood up, and reached a hand out. The guy assessed it for a moment, as if considering it suspicious, but then took it and let Matteo help him up.

“Yeah,” the guy said. “Had no idea there were so many assholes running around.” He nodded back at the building door. Outside Jonas and Carlos were laughing at each other as they lit a cigarette, waiting for Matteo to join them.

“They’re alright guys. No one meant any harm,” Matteo said, trying not to get too defensive over his friends.

The guy sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. He looked tired. “Yeah, sorry. Hi, I’m David. And yes, I’m moving in.”

“Matteo,” Matteo said, and held out his hand. David’s was warm and his handshake firm.

David squinted at Matteo. “Have we met before?”

Matteo shook his head. “No, I don’t think so.” He’d remember, he swore he’d remember. When David didn’t look convinced, Matteo asked, “So, which flat is yours?”

“On the second floor. Flat B.”

“You’re moving in with Laura?” Matteo asked. He tried not to let his heart sink at that one. Laura was cool; this guy was obviously cool too, and Matteo stood no chance.

David’s face lit up. “Yes. Do you know her?”

“Talked to her a few times. I’m across the hall in a flatshare. She’s cool. She came to our last party instead of calling the police to tell us to shut up,” Matteo said.

“Ah, yes. She’s told me about that,” David said.

“So you guys are…” Matteo let it trail off. Laura had moved in a few months ago, but he had never been in her flat so he had no idea if it was a one bedroom or two or what, but he’d swear he’d seen some other guy come in and out of the place on occasion. He doesn’t recall seeing David before though. He’d remember. David just stared at him. “Flatmates?”

“Yes,” David said. “And siblings. She’s my sister.”

“Ah. Cool,” Matteo said, a bit brighter than before.

David’s lips pursed together as if keeping in a laugh. “I think so.”

They were startled when there was banging on the door. They glanced over and saw Carlos’ face pressed up against the glass, and Jonas was leering in. They both gave Matteo the thumbs up in unison.

Matteo was going to kill them.

“Um,” David said, and then looked at Matteo with his eyebrows raised.

Matteo’s cheeks flushed warm. God, his friends were so embarrassing. Now they were hooting and hollering.

“They think I’m hitting on you,” Matteo said, just telling it as it was, straight up. “But, I’m shit at that, so.”

“I think you’re doing pretty alright,” David said.

Matteo looked at him sharply. “Eh?” He wasn’t even trying.

“You did knock me off my feet,” David said, mouth tugging into a grin.

Matteo barked out a surprised laugh.

He didn’t get a chance to say anything before the door opened and Laura pushed her way past the guys. She waved a finger at them.

“Don’t just stand there,” she said, gesturing to the sidewalk. “Grab a box and take it up.” She looked over and saw Matteo. “These hooligans belong to you, don’t they?”

“Us strapping young men,” Carlos said as he walked in with a box.

“Just put it in the hall,” Laura said.

“Flat across from mine,” Matteo said.

Carlos walked between David and Matteo, but faced Matteo, and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. Yes, Matteo was going to kill him.

“Sure you don’t want it in the flat?” Jonas asked as he brought in a box too.

“No, we just need to get all these boxes in, I’m double parked.”

“There aren’t many,” David said quietly. He picked up the art supply box and shoved it into Matteo’s arms. “Least you could do, after you knocked me off my feet.”

Matteo smiled at him.

It only took two trips up the stairs with the three of them helping out, and a small pile of boxes and suitcases were stacked in the hallway.

“You sure you don’t need help taking them in?” Matteo asked when David had brought up the last one and Laura was moving the car.

“No, no, you’ve helped plenty. Thank you,” David said.

“Cool,” Carlos said. He patted Matteo’s shoulder. “We should get going, Abdi is going to be waiting.” He and Jonas made their way down the stairs again, this time at a normal pace instead of running off like assholes.

“I’ll see you around,” Matteo said.

David smiled. “I’m sure you will.”

 


2.

All Matteo wanted was his bed. It’d been a long night at work, it was near two a.m., and he was tired as shit.

And he was locked out of the flat because his keys were, hopefully, in the bottom of his locker in the staff room at work. Or very possibly in the flat right now. Just on the other side of the door and unreachable.

Fuck.

He’d been able to sneak into the building with the guy up in 3B who recognized him. But he couldn’t get into the actual flat.

Hans was still out for the night and if he’d picked someone up—or rather, someone picked him up and took him home—he wasn’t going to be back until he came back on his ‘walk of fame.’ (“There is nothing to be shamed of when it comes to a night of loving, Matteo,” Hans had said more than once.)

Vicky had a new girlfriend she spent half her time with, and Linn—well, who knew about Linn. She was either sleeping soundly in bed and didn’t hear Matteo’s knocks or texts, or she was out too. Whatever it was, there was no one answering the door, answering their messages, nor letting Matteo into the flat.

He leaned against the wall outside the flat and slid down to the floor. He thought about calling one of his friends, and any one of them would be fine with letting him in, but it was already late and he might luck out that Hans would come home. He just wanted his own bed.

He folded up his hoodie, curled up into a ball and used it like a pillow, and hoped to hell that no one called the police on him for squatting in the building.

About to drift asleep, he became more alert when he heard footsteps come up the stairs. They paused on the landing his was on, and then walked over to him. White running shoes stopped right in front of his face. Matteo looked up.

“Oh,” Matteo said. “Hi.”

David had a bemused look on his face. “Hello.”

Matteo pushed himself up. He hadn’t seen David since he moved in, but he’d kept a look out whenever he came in and out of the building. No luck as of yet… so of course it happened when he looked like an idiot.

David leaned against the wall and slid down to sit next to Matteo. He had a little bit of a wobble to him.

“Good night?” Matteo asked with a smirk.

David leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes with a little smile. “Met up with some uni friends. It was good.”

“Got plastered then?”

“Not too plastered,” David said. He rolled his head and opened his eyes so he looked at Matteo. He smiled. “But I’m feeling good.”

“Cool,” Matteo managed to say. His voice was stuck in his throat again, though, as David beamed a relaxed smiled at him. God, he was just so hot, but there was something more. Matteo had hooked up with guys before, sure, but none of them had held his interest the way just a smile from David did.

“Yeah,” David said. “It’s nice that I don’t have to worry about commuting so far anymore, so I can see them.”

“Is that why you moved here?” Matteo asked.

David nodded. “Yes. I didn’t move right in with her right away because I had a surgery and my mom wanted me close by to make sure everything was okay.”

“Oh,” Matteo said, blinking. He couldn’t help but ask, “Is everything okay?”

David flapped a hand dismissively. “Awesome. So awesome. All good.”

“Good,” Matteo said. He didn’t even really know David, but he was happy to hear. Surgery wasn’t exactly something he’d ever think of as ‘so awesome’ but clearly David was happy with it.

“I had taken a gap year, but with uni starting, I realized that it was just too much. Took a few weeks to work it out, but it’ll be easier to live here with Laura. Also, you know,” David said with a sigh, “parents.”

Matteo hadn’t lived with his parents for quite some time, but he understood that statement thoroughly. “I get that feeling.”

“Who doesn’t?” David turned his head to look directly at Matteo. His eyes were so brown and amazing. He smiled, one corner of his mouth tilting up. “And here I am, talking all about myself.”

“It’s okay,” Matteo said. He wanted nothing more than to know all about David.

“It’s not. How was your night?” David asked.

Matteo shrugged. “It was fine. I worked. Now I’m here.”

“Don’t go to school?” David asked.

“Nah, I took a gap year too. And now I’m on my second gap year because I still don’t know what I want to do.”

“Smart, to figure it out first,” David said.

“I guess. What do you study?”

“Film,” David said. “I want to be a director someday.”

“That’s cool,” Matteo said, impressed.

“It’s hard,” David said. “Harder than I thought it would be.”

“Sometimes the hard things are worth it,” Matteo said. He thought about how hard it was to move away from his mother while he was still in high school, and about how hard it had been to come out to friends and family, and about how hard it was to walk into the psychologist’s office the first time, and every time after. And he thought about how it had all been worth it for his own well being.

David was watching him carefully, but he smiled softly. “And I get that feeling.” He coughed and sat up straighter. “Where do you work?”

Rudy’s,” Matteo said. It was a pretty well known LGBT+ bar that wasn’t too far from where they lived.

“Bartender? DJ?” David asked.

“Runner,” Matteo said. “I’m the guy that runs around and picks up everyone’s empty glasses and cleans up their spills.”

“Ah,” David said. “Do you like it?”

Matteo shrugged. “It’s a job. The bartenders are teaching me a little,” he said. His favourite was Celene, with her bright red hair and her insistence on pinching Matteo’s cheek even when he tried to duck away. “So maybe I’ll get a promotion some day.”

“Nothing wrong with earning a living,” David said. “As long as you like it.”

“I do much better there than in, like, an office,” Matteo said, making a face. A job like his father’s would be a nightmare. It wasn’t a long-term goal, being a runner, but it was something he didn’t hate that worked with hours he liked to keep and would hold him over until he figured out what the hell he wanted to do with his life.

Hans had known the owner and had put in a good word for Matteo, against his better judgement, he’d said. But Matteo had needed a job when his father cut back on the financial contributions if Matteo wasn’t going to school. Matteo didn’t want to be a disappointment to Hans. Even after one fuck up of going to work high when he shouldn’t have, and a second of just being unable to get out of bed that day, and being given forgiveness from Rudy, Celene, and Hans, he tried hard to to impress them all. And that was okay.

David interrupted his thoughts by asking, “And you’re sitting in the hallway because...”

Matteo laughed. He’d almost forgotten this wasn’t where he was supposed to be, so caught up in talking to David.

“Because I left my keys… somewhere.”

“Somewhere?”

Matteo pointed at the flat door. “In there,” he said. Then he gestured it in front of himself. “Or at work.”

“Sucks,” David said.

“Yeah,” Matteo said. Although right in this moment, it didn’t seem like a big deal.

“Does Laura have an emergency set, just in case?” David asked.

“I don’t know but I doubt it,” Matteo said. “There are four of us that share the flat. You would think one of us would be home, or be able to come home to help out, but nope. Not tonight.”

David paused for a moment, but then seemed to come to a decision. “You could crash on our couch,” he said. “If you want. Laura wouldn’t mind at all. Her boyfriend might be over, but whatever.”

Something stuck in Matteo’s chest. Going into David’s place, spending more time with him, potentially, did not seem like a bad thing at all.

“That would work, if it’s not too much trouble—”

He was cut off by the sound of the click of the deadbolt, and then suddenly the flat’s door swung open. Linn stood there, glaring from Matteo to David and back at Matteo.

“Could you keep your flirting down? I’m trying to sleep.”

And with that, she shut the door and the lock clicked again.

He blinked at the door. Ugh, why would she say that in front of David?

David said, “Don’t you need in?”

Matteo jumped to his feet and started banging on the door. A couple seconds later, Linn unlocked it again and opened the door, still glaring at him.

“I forgot my keys,” Matteo said. “That’s why I’m out here. I tried to message.”

“I don’t check my messages this late,” Linn said.

“I also knocked loudly on the door only twenty minutes ago, but our quiet talking you hear?”

Linn didn’t say anything. She just reached out, patted Matteo’s head, and then turned back into the flat. At least she didn’t close or lock the door this time.

“Well,” David said as he stood up, “looks like you’ll be okay for the night.”

“Thanks for the offer,” Matteo said, now slightly disappointed that he didn’t have an excuse to stay with David.

“Anytime. Really,” he said, and reached his hand out. “Here, give me your mobile.”

Matteo pulled it from his pocket. He had to have it off at work, unless he was on break, so thankfully it wasn’t dead yet. David punched in his number, and sent a message to himself. His own mobile pinged in his pocket.

“There,” David said, smiling. “In case it happens again, let me know if you need a place to crash.”

“Sure,” Matteo said, and already wondered if it would be a bad thing to purposefully lock himself out just so he had a reason to message David. “Thanks, though.”

“Later,” David said, and he pulled his keys out of his pocket, smirking at Matteo. Matteo rolled his eyes but couldn’t help but smile.

When Matteo went to bed, he checked his mobile one more time. There was a message from David with a simple, Good night, and maybe Matteo didn’t need excuses to message David after all.

 

3.

The smoke dangled from Matteo’s lips, unlit, and the two garbage bags full of clothes he carried in his hands began to feel too heavy. He glanced up at the building, squinting his eyes at a sign posted on the outside. He had no idea if he was in the right place or not—Sam’s message in the group chat had been rather vague.

“You can’t smoke that here,” a rude voice from beside him said. He glanced over and saw a uni student, likely, with books held to her chest. She peered over her thick black glasses frames judgmentally.

“It’s not lit,” he said around the smoke, rolling his eyes.

She made a dismissive noise and walked away. He could have asked her where he needed to go but thought about it too late. He sighed and put one of the garbage bags down, and reached up to take the smoke from his mouth and tuck it behind his ear. Then he picked the bag up again and made his way into the building.

He followed a sign and hoped he was going the right way. There was a sudden rise in noise, as if some classes had been let out. He turned a corner of a hallway, and ran right into someone. Matteo’s foot caught on the bottom of one of the bags and he toppled back, cracking his elbow on the floor.

“Fuck,” he swore. God, that had hurt.

“Shit, Matteo, I’m sorry!”

Matteo glanced up, and there was David smirking down at him.

“Did you do this on purpose?” Matteo asked, eyes narrowed.

“No,” David said, and reached out one of his hands. “But we really have to stop meeting like this.”

Matteo took it and David pulled him up.

“What are you doing here?” he asked David.

David raised his eyebrows. “I could ask the same of you. I got to school here.”

“Oh, cool,” Matteo said. He gestured down at the garbage bags. One of them had fallen open, and there were a couple of bright shirts that’d spilled onto the floor. “I’m a delivery boy today, apparently.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, a friend of mine needed someone to pick this up from her brother’s place and drop it off for her.” Matteo shrugged. “I’m the one whose always free during the day. I have no idea where I’m going.”

“Are you meeting her somewhere?”

“Yeah.” Matteo bent down to shove the shirts back into the bag, and told David the room he was supposed to go to.

“Oh, I know where that is,” David said. He grabbed the other bag. “I’ll walk you.”

“You sure? Don’t you have class?”

“No, I’m done for the day,” David said.

“Out of here in a rush, then?” Matteo asked with a smirk. “So much you don’t care who you knock over on your way out?”

“You need to watch where you’re going,” David countered.

They walked along and Matteo asked David about some of his classes. There was film studies but also other classes that, frankly, kind of sounded boring to Matteo.

“But it’s cool that you like them,” Matteo said. “At least you know what you want to do.”

“I’ve known for a long time,” David said. He shrugged. “Telling stories, visually, always appealed to me.”

“What kind of stories do you want to tell?” Matteo asked.

David was quiet for a moment, but then he answered. “Important ones. Ones that don’t get told a lot. Ones with varying representation.”

Matteo took a second to ponder that over, and was about to ask what kind of stories, specifically, that meant. But his question was cut short when his name was called out.

“Matteo! I was beginning to think you got lost on the bus.”

Sam M’Pele was outside of a classroom with a couple other people, and she waved to Matteo. Then her face lit up when she saw who Matteo was with.

“David! Hi!”

Sam hustled over and gave Matteo a quick hug, and then also gave David a hug.

“You know each other?” Matteo asked, amused.

“I was just about to ask the same,” David said, smiling.

“Oh, yes, yes. Matteo is a friend of mine from high school. And David is a friend of mine from uni,” Sam said, beaming at both of them. Her hair was streaked with bright pink and her nails were a sparkling green.

“I thought you were in school for… design?” Matteo asked. He was pretty sure that was it. She had an internship the year before but it didn’t lead to anything without formal education, so she’d started school recently to add to her credentials. Yeah, that was it.

“This is a school of the arts, Matteo,” Sam said. She slipped her arm around David’s shoulder. “Lots of different kinds of arts, and there’s some crossover.”

“Sam and I are actually working on a project together,” David said. “She’s doing the costume design.”

She pointed to the bags. “And there is the beginning. I don’t need your help quite yet—”

“Your sketches are awesome,” David said.

“—Thank you! But I will absolutely give you an update when things progress a little.”

Matteo’s gaze bounced between the two of them, a small smile on his face. He felt completely and totally out of the loop, but it was cool to see their excitement about their work.

“So how do you know each other?” Sam asked. “Wait, wait!” She slapped the back of her hand against David’s bicep. “This is the friend I told you about! The one I wanted to set you up with. But I hadn’t had the chance to talk to him. Did you slide into his DMs after I showed you his pics?”

David slapped his hands together in an ‘a-ha!‘ sort of way, and laughed. His head was thrown back, the length of his neck showing, and all Matteo wanted to do was lean forward and push his face there, take a deep breath. He shook his head to himself to rid himself of such thoughts.

But.

“You wanted to set us up?” Matteo asked.

“Oh, Matteo, we all know you’re terrible at picking up,” Sam said fondly. Which wasn’t exactly a lie, but, well. “Is this not what that is?”

“No,” David said, shaking his head. “But I knew I recognized him and couldn’t remember where.” He looked at Matteo, amused, and pointed at Sam. “This is it. Sam showed me on Insta.”

“Were you creeping on me?” Matteo asked.

“I was,” Sam said. Matteo made a face and she rolled her eyes. “For him, though!”

“That was a while ago,” David said.

“I know, I forgot to follow through,” Sam said, shrugging. When David and Matteo both looked at her. “What? Life is busy, this school thing is taking up a lot of time. And clearly you guys worked it out on your own.”

“We’ve met,” David said.

“He lives in my building now,” Matteo said. In case she was getting the wrong idea. Not that Matteo would have been opposed to meeting David, now or any earlier, but it wasn’t what she thought.

“Oh!” Sam said. “You moved in with your sister.”

David pointed at Matteo. “Who lives across the hall from him.”

“No way! See, I knew this would work.”

Matteo was about to protest that there was nothing to work, not yet, and also why did everyone seem to assume that there was? But then the alarm on his mobile went off.

“Shit,” Matteo said. He took his mobile out of his pocket and turned it off. “I have to go to work.” He always had his alarm set for work days so he didn’t either sleep right through it or just forget.

It might have been Matteo’s imagination, but David maybe looked disappointed.

“Too bad,” David said.

“Yes! We could have all grabbed some dinner,” Sam said with a pout.

“Some other time?” Matteo asked.

“Of course,” Sam said.

“Cool,” Matteo said, even though she wasn’t really the one he’d been talking to. “You have this okay, though?” He gestured to the bags he and David had set down.

She waved her hand. “Oh, yes! You’ve done plenty.”

“I’ll help her with them,” David said.

“Thank you for bringing them!” Sam said.

He nodded goodbye to both of them, and then turned and followed the way out. He was slightly disappointed he couldn’t stay to hang out with them, but also felt… good, really, about how that had gone. He’d seen David when he hadn’t thought he would, and apparently he had a friend who’d wanted to set him up with David, so that was a good sign, right?

He was on the bus when a notification game through on his Insta.

da_vid.gif: sliding into your DMs.

Matteo laughed brightly, right on the bus, not caring who heard or saw.

matteohno: did Sam put you up to this?

da_vid.gif: No. No, she really didn’t.

Matteo followed David’s account immediately.

 

4.

It was a busy night at Rudy’s. There was a fundraiser occurring for a local LGBT+ group, one that was specifically focusing on trans teens. The turn out was fantastic, but that also meant Matteo was extremely busy all night.

Coming from the back room with a case of beer on his shoulder, he had to go down the narrow hallway where the four universal toilets were located. He couldn’t see one whose door had opened and the patron had stepped into the hall. His shoulder bumped into the person, and Matteo let himself take the brunt of it, bumping into the opposite wall.

“Sorry, sorry,” Matteo said. “My fault.”

He turned to look at the person, and stopped in spot when he saw David.

“Hi,” David said. His eyes were wide and he bit on his lower lip.

“Hey,” Matteo said warmly. “I didn’t know you were coming here tonight.”

David shrugged. “Last minute thing. I wondered if you’d be working.”

“Yup,” Matteo said, nodding his head. “Not usually my night but I’m in for a couple hours to help out because of the event. You’re here for that?”

David nodded. He opened his mouth for a moment, and then it snapped shut. His hand came up to his chest, and his fingers tapped lightly on the black t-shirt he was wearing. “Yes,” he said. “I think it’s important.”

“Definitely,” Matteo said, nodding. He thought about how little he’d known about the LGBT+ community when he was still in the closet in high school, and while he wasn’t an expert, both living with Hans and then working at Rudy’s had broadened his view on a lot of things.

“Yeah,” David said. He opened his mouth, closed it, and then his face became very determined. “Especially something like this,” he said. “I remember what it was like being young and not understanding and not having support. So I try to do anything I can to help my community.”

The words sink in and then—and then Matteo saw the small trans flag pin on the front of David’s t-shirt and he understood. He looked up and caught David’s gaze—which may have been a little nervous, but somehow simultaneously confident and proud. And Matteo got that, even if it was entirely different for himself.

“Cool,” Matteo said, with a smile. “I’m glad you’re here, then.”

David’s shoulders relaxed. The corner of his mouth curled up. “Yeah. Me too.”

“Matteo!” Matteo glanced over to where he saw Celene, his favourite bartender. Her long fire-engine red haired was curled perfectly and she snapped her fingers with their long red nails. She glanced at him impatiently, as this was one of her favourite events of the year, and it was important to her. Like he imagined for David, it was close to her heart too.

“You bringing the beer or not?” she asked. “You’re my favourite but if you don’t move your ass, boy!”

He laughed. “Yes, yes, on my way.” He shot an apologetic glance at David. “Sorry, have to go. But I’ll see you later?”

David nodded. “I hope so.”

“Definitely,” Matteo said, and he went back to work.

There were speeches, and ceremonial donations of large shaped cheques, and fundraiser games, including different auctions for signed copies of books, or pieces of art, or other items donated by local activists. There was even an auction for dates out on the town with some well-known local LGBT+ figures. One of the drag queens asked if the cute little twink runner was up for auction too, which had all the regulars yelling out Matteo’s name. He ducked behind the bar and made Celene fend them off, but he had caught sight of David, who’d been laughing and clapping along. It was all kind of embarrassing, but that… that had made a warm feeling glow in his chest.

Matteo stuck to his job, run off his feet, especially when the music started up again and the drinks began to flow. He kept his eye out, noticing that David spoke with different people, and joined some friends on the dance floor. When the crowd began to thin out a little, Celene told him he could leave in half an hour as the regular runner for that night was still there for the rest of his shift.

“You did good,” Celene said, trying to pinch his cheek. He ducked out of the way. “Go home and get some rest.” She looked pointedly at the crowd, directly at David. “Or not. Whatever you want, you deserve.”

He rolled his eyes and did not answer her, but she winked knowingly.

Matteo was still clearing glasses off the large window ledge when he turned around to find David there.

“Hey,” David said. “I don’t mean to interrupt, but—”

“I’m off in twenty minutes,” Matteo said. He had no idea at all if that had anything to do with what David was about to say, but Matteo wanted him to know.

David looked like he was suppressing a smile, but his eyes were warm and crinkled at the corners. “Good to know.”

“I usually just walk home, but…” Matteo trailed off and shrugged. He had doubts for a second… maybe he was reading this wrong.

“I was about ready to go home. I just came to say good night, but maybe we can walk home together?” David said.

Matteo smiled. “I’d like that. I’ll come find you soon?”

David nodded. “Absolutely.”

Matteo worked extra hard for the next few minutes so he didn’t get asked to stay longer. When his shift was up, he went to the staff room and clocked out, grabbed his jacket and wallet and keys from his locker. Instead of using the back exit like usual, he went out front and found David so they could go. Celene winked at him again.

The walk home wasn’t long at all, and sometimes Matteo caught the bus but he didn’t even think twice about it tonight. They seemed to be skating around a rather important topic—but Matteo didn’t want to push David, waiting for him to bring it up again. It was still comfortable, though, catching up on their weeks. Matteo asked about David’s project he was working on with Sam, and David asked him where in the world he found his memes for his ongoing Monday and Friday instagram posts.

They had just broached the subject of that night at the bar as they approached their building.

“It was a really good turn out tonight,” David said quietly. He unlocked the building door and held it open for Matteo, gesturing him through.

“I think so, yeah,” Matteo said, going in and leading them up the stairs. “It was busy, that’s for sure.”

“Do you like working events like that?” David asked, following him up.

“I like working there whenever,” Matteo said, with a shrug. “But, yeah, I like being a part of it in some way. It’s important.”

When they got to the landing on their floor, Matteo turned to look at David. He didn’t go into his flat yet, and he wasn’t ready to say good night.

David stood there and looked at him, quietly, as if assessing him. Then he started to speak.

“So,” David said. “I don’t date much.”

Matteo raised his eyebrows. “I find that hard to believe.”

“Do you?” David asked ruefully.

“Yes,” Matteo said. “I don’t date much because I’m awful at talking to people—”

“No, you’re not,” David said, shaking his head.

“I am,” Matteo countered. “When I don’t know them, I’m bad at trying to start conversations.” He wouldn’t exactly call himself shy, but he wasn’t very outgoing either. At least he knew this about himself.

“You don’t have any problem with me,” David said.

“I guess it’s different, then,” Matteo said, “when I really like someone.”

“And you really like me?”

“Of course. You’re hot, yeah,” he said with a bit of bravery, “but you’re also really cool and interesting.”

David tilted his head and he looked at Matteo quite intently. “And it doesn’t bother you?”

Matteo blinked. “What?”

“I don’t date much,” David repeated, “because it’s—it’s not easy telling people I’m transgender. But I want to say something before it goes too far, because otherwise it can go bad. So I either don’t date someone if I don’t think they’ll take it well, or else I do end up telling them and it still doesn’t work out.”

“Then that’s their fucking loss,” Matteo said. “I mean, I’ll warn you, I might say something stupid or act like an asshole, but I’m like that about pretty much everything. I’ll never mean to, not about that, so you’ll just have to tell me if I am.”

David’s face was still neutral. “Sure, I can do that.”

“That aside,” Matteo said, “want to go on a date with me next week?”

David blinked, and then a smile started to creep in on his face. “You want to?”

“Wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want to,” Matteo said. “Did you miss the part where you’re awesome?”

David’s smile grew wider. “You’re not so bad yourself.”

“Not so bad?” Matteo asked. “Then you gotta go on a date with me so I can prove I’m the best.”

David laughed then. “Okay,” he said. “It’s a date.”

“Good,” Matteo said. They smiled at each other for a moment. “Okay, this is the part where I leave before you think I’m a loser,” Matteo said. “But let me know when would work for you.”

“Okay,” David said happily. “I will.”

“Good,” Matteo repeated. And although it was difficult, he stepped away from David, turning to unlock his door.

“Matteo,” David said, and grabbed Matteo’s arm. Matteo turned to him, and David darted in, pressing a quick kiss to Matteo’s cheek.

That would not do, that would not do at all. Before David could pull away, Matteo pressed an equally quick and light kiss to David’s lips. David kissed him back, closed mouthed and chaste but full of promise.

“Night,” David said, and stepped away. “Talk to you soon.”

“Yeah,” Matteo said. He leaned against his flat door and watched as David let himself into his flat. “Soon.”

After David shot him a quick grin and closed the door, Matteo sighed contently and closed his eyes, letting his head fall back against the flat door.

Suddenly, the door opened, and Matteo nearly lost his balance and fell inside.

“Linn’s right,” Hans said. “You are the loudest flirter ever. You’re taking that boy out on a date?”

Matteo could not keep the smile from his face even if he tried. “Yeah, I am.” He threw his keys into the little bowl in the hallway and closed the door behind himself.

“Good,” Hans said. “It’s about time.”

 

5.

“How am I supposed to make pancakes?” Jonas asked. He stood in the WG kitchen, looking at recipes on his mobile. He had flour and sugar in front of him on the counter, and that was it.

Matteo leaned against the kitchen door frame, arms crossed loosely in front of him. He shrugged. “However it says to make pancakes?”

“I need eggs,” Jonas said. “And milk.”

“Really?”

“For the good ones, yes,” Jonas said. “I’m doing this from scratch and we’re missing key ingredients.”

From the couch in the living room, Abdi said, “Go and get whatever we need!”

Carlos, from the second couch, said, “We need hangover pancakes!” And then more muted, “Are we getting too old for this shit?”

“Don’t even say,” Abdi replied.

Matteo rolled his eyes. The guys had come over the night before to play video games and drink, since Matteo hadn’t had to work and they were all free, and there had been many shots mixed with a joint at the end of the night. Carlos and Abdi had crashed on the couches. Jonas had crashed in Hans’ room, since Hans had been out with the new guy he’d been seeing. Jonas insisted that since Matteo was newly seeing someone himself, they couldn’t just crash together like they used to. It would be rude.

Matteo pulled his mobile out of his pocket. “Fine. I’ll check to see if David has any before I go out.”

Jonas perked up. “And invite him for breakfast? Or,” he said, looking at his mobile, “brunch? Lunch?”

“I’ll ask,” Matteo said, nodding. David had been invited the night before, but he had declined because he had a huge test he really had to study for, but he did promise to spend some time with Matteo that day before Matteo went to work in the evening.

They’d been seeing each other for a few weeks; going on dates, chilling at home, texting when they couldn’t see each other for a few days, and generally figuring out how to make it work.

God, Matteo liked him. It worked. It worked so fucking well.

He messaged David, asking if he had any eggs or milk he could borrow. He got a message a few minutes later saying to come over and check himself.

“I’ll be right back,” Matteo said, smiling at his mobile and pushing off the door frame.

“We won’t be mad if you aren’t,” Jonas said, smirking. Matteo just rolled his eyes but grinned, and left to go across the hall.

He knocked on the door and then put his hands in his pockets, rolling back on his heels as he waited. After a few seconds, Laura opened the door.

“Oh, hi,” Matteo said, a little surprised.

“David!” Laura called out, not even waiting for Matteo to say anything further. “It’s for you!” But she smiled at Matteo and patted his arm before retreating from the door.

Only a second later, David was standing in his doorway. His hair was sticking out in tufts and he was obviously in sleepwear, just a loose t-shirt and sweats, but he looked so good.

“Hey,” Matteo said with a smile. “Morning.”

David didn’t say anything but leaned forward and put his head on Matteo’s shoulder, and they nearly tumbled over. Matteo stepped a few feet into the hallway to keep them from doing so. He laughed and circled his arms around David, one hand resting on his lower back and one between his shoulder blades.

“And how are you?” Matteo asked.

“I hate school,” David said into Matteo’s shoulder. “Maybe I should drop out.”

“Nah, you don’t want that.”

“No?”

“No. You like it too much,” Matteo said.

David snorted. “Doesn’t feel like it right now.”

“You know what would do you good?” Matteo asked.

“What?”

Carlos exclaimed, “Pancakes!”

Matteo and David both startled, and David lifted his head from Matteo’s shoulder. They looked at the door to Matteo’s apartment—where Carlos, Abdi, and Jonas held it open and were all watching with big grins.

“Awww!” Abdi said. “You two are adorable.”

“I hate you,” Matteo said.

“No you don’t,” Abdi said, waving a hand.

“Now, are you going to introduce us to your new boyfriend or what?” Carlos asked. “Like, officially introduce. He’s not just the guy across the hall whose boxes we carried.”

“I wasn’t even there for that,” Abdi said. “I don’t know him at all. I want to meet the new boyfriend!”

Matteo’s arms went stiff around David. Of course Carlos and Abdi had to say that, when Matteo hadn’t had the chance to ask David about it himself.

Jonas saw the look on Matteo’s face and sighed. “You idiots.”

“What?” Carlos said, and gestured at Matteo and David. “He finally has a boyfriend! He should be excited to introduce him.”

David straightened up and looked at Matteo with that now familiar purse of his lips when he was holding back a laugh.

“Should I tell them or should you?” David asked.

“Eh?” Matteo asked.

“That you and I haven’t actually talked about that yet,” David said.

“Oh,” Carlos said. He made an abashed face. “Oops, sorry.”

Abdi looked concerned. “Well that’s awkward.”

Jonas slapped his palm to his forehead.

“Should we maybe talk about it?” Matteo asked David.

“Probably a good idea,” David agreed.

“So... boyfriends?” Matteo asked.

David nodded. “Yeah. Boyfriends.”

“Cool,” Matteo said, giving David a huge smile. He leaned in and kissed his cheek.

“This,” Carlos said, “is the cutest fucking thing.”

“It really is easier between two dudes,” Abdi said in awe.

David turned to the guys and clapped his hands together once. “So,” he said, grinning widely. “Hello. I’m David, Matteo’s boyfriend.”

Both Carlos and Abdi smiled widely, so pleased that Matteo could only sigh and shake his head. As Carlos and Abdi rushed over to shake David’s hand, Jonas only came over to Matteo and clapped him on the shoulder, giving him a knowing look. Then he took a moment to introduce himself to David as well.

“Please tell me you have eggs and milk,” Jonas said. “But if not, it’s okay. I’ll send these two idiots out for groceries.”

David laughed as Abdi and Carlos protested… being called idiots, being sent out on a run, Matteo wasn’t too sure, but there were protests.

“I think I can cover you,” David said, and there was a round of cheers. “Just give me a moment.”

“For sure,” Jonas said. He retreated back into Matteo’s WG, dragging Abdi and Carlos with him.

The door closed.

And the lock clicked shut.

“Wait,” Matteo said, turning to the door. Louder, “You better not have locked me out of my own place!”

There was laughter on the other side of the door.

David came up behind Matteo, slipping his arms around his waist. Matteo leaned back his head, and David kissed his neck. “Lucky for you,” David said, “you have somewhere close to crash.”

“Very true,” Matteo said. He tilted his head so he could kiss the line of David’s jaw.

Louder, David said, “And Laura can use the eggs to make shakshuka. It’s awesome.”

From the other side of the door there was a war cry, “Pancakes!” The lock clicked open.

“I hope Linn kills them,” Matteo said cheerfully.

David laughed and pulled away, tugging on the back of Matteo’s hoodie. “Come on. Let’s get the stuff. I was promised pancakes.”

Matteo slipped his hand into David’s. “You’re gonna be promised so much more than that.”

He sighed when there was an audible awwww from the otherside of the door. His friends were never going to let him live any of this down.

He found he didn’t mind much.

 

+1.

There was some noise out in the common area of the flat but Matteo did his best to ignore it. He usually could—he kept much different hours than his flatmates, so he tended to be in a deep sleep in the morning when they got ready for their day.

It was a little later in the day, close to noon he’d bet, with the bright sun peeking around his curtains, so the noise out there didn’t make much sense. He rubbed his face against his pillow and pulled his covers tighter around himself.

The door to his room opened.

“Go away, Hans,” Matteo muttered into his pillow. He was not in the mood for Hans right now.

“Not Hans,” David said. “And I’ll leave if you want.”

“No!” Matteo didn’t roll over or even open his eyes, but he raised one hand into the air. “Don’t you leave me.” His arm flopped back down and David laughed. Matteo loved the sound. He asked, “How’d you get in here?”

“You weren’t answering your messages but I figured you might just be sleeping. Victoria’s home,” David said. He crawled onto Matteo’s bed from the bottom, making his way up. Matteo omphed when David’s body draped over his, on top of the covers.

David nosed at Matteo’s cheek. Matteo didn’t open his eyes, but he smiled. “Morning,” Matteo said. He shifted a little, so he could put his arm around David’s shoulders. It was a weird, uncomfortable position that wouldn’t last long, but he wanted to hold David close.

David chuckled. “It’s nearly three in the afternoon.”

Matteo cracked open an eye. “Is it really?” That was late, even for Matteo nowadays.

“Long night?” David asked. He rubbed his nose against Matteo’s.

“Busy,” Matteo said. “And I went out for a drink with Celene and her girlfriend after our shift.”

“Sorry I missed it,” David said. He’d been home and in bed long before Matteo even considered sleep, having to get up for an early class. The time apart only seemed to make David more determined to press light kisses against Matteo’s neck.

“We’ll have to make up that missed time,” Matteo said. He shifted around, and David lifted his body just enough so that he could, but then he rested against Matteo’s chest again. They kissed, slow and lazy. Matteo’s hand ran over the back of David’s head, his fingers settling into his soft hair.

The moment was broken when their kiss was interrupted by David’s jaw-cracking yawn. Matteo laughed.

“Tired?” he asked.

David nodded, and rested his head against Matteo’s shoulder. “Early morning. Long day.”

“It’s only three,” Matteo said, but he started shifting again. He pushed David off of him, who rolled to the side with an exaggerated wounded noise. Matteo held his covers up. “Get in, get in. We’re napping.”

“You just woke up,” David said, but he got out of bed so he could strip off.

Matteo eyed him interestedly. “I’m always up for sleep,” he said distractedly. His eyes took in the expanse of David’s skin, from the waist of his boxers over his bare belly, up to his chest marked with dark hair and fading scars. Matteo licked his lips. “Although, maybe you’ll have to tire me out a bit.”

One of David’s eyebrows raised. “Is that so?” he asked as he climbed under the covers.

Matteo was in a t-shirt and boxers too, and he pulled off his t-shirt as David climbed into bed. David had confessed to him one night that his favourite thing was being able to be bare skinned, chest-to-chest, because there was a point in his life when he thought he’d never be comfortable with it, like it was something he couldn’t ever really have, but now he could and it was amazing. Matteo liked it too, and he was more than willing to give David anything he liked, anything he asked.

They held each other close, kissing, hands running over any and all skin they could reach. And then David broke the moment by yawning again.

“Okay, okay, I get the point,” Matteo said, pulling back with a pretend scowl.

David only chuckled. “Sorry,” he said, though he didn’t sound apologetic at all. Instead, he put his arms around Matteo as Matteo snuggled in close, head resting against David’s chest. “Sleep first. Fun later.”

“I’m going to hold you to that,” Matteo said, linking his fingers with David’s.

David was quiet for a moment, though Matteo could tell he hadn’t drifted to sleep yet. He sensed David was thinking something over.

“What is it?” Matteo asked, squeezing David’s hand.

“Do you think we still would have ended up together if we’d met at a different time? Earlier, maybe? Or later even.”

“What, like we were fated to meet, one way or another?” Matteo asked.

“No, not fate,” David said. “Just...differently.”

Matteo thought about it. They’d had several conversations before, telling each other about when they were younger, what their lives had been like. The absolute horror of a high school David had somehow made it through—even if he had taken a gap year after Abi to regroup and become more comfortable with himself, find a support group and friends and also go through his surgery. And Matteo, dealing with his parents, especially his mother, while going through a depressive episode and then getting help, and also his experience with coming out to friends and family.

They’d both been through a lot, but had emerged on the other side, more experienced and understanding and themselves. And they’d finally met each other, their other halves, it felt like. They didn’t have to worry about it happening in the future, because it’d happened now. But Matteo mulled it over.

“Yes,” Matteo said decisively. “We would have. Fate or not—it was meant to be. Don’t you think?”

David squeezed his shoulder. “Yeah, I do.” He kissed the top of Matteo’s head. “It’s a good thing you’re an asshole who doesn’t know how to walk in hallways.”

Matteo laughed. “Good thing,” he said. He tilted his head up and David kissed him deeply. Matteo believed, he knew, David would be there to kiss him for a long time. Maybe, even, for always and an eternity.