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Tell me softly

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-Was I worth it?- Tom whispers one night after a particular rough day, the type when every muscle in  his leg tightens and stiffens, when he wakes screaming in pain, when every step ends with him falling into a crumpled heap in Stu’s arms.

-Was I worth it?-

And the unspoken words hang between them like the cigarette smoke that curled from their fingertips that day, hiding from Felix in a shed, their first illicit moment. Germany meets Poland. Stu remembers it so well, the slightest hint of a smirk dancing across Tom’s thin lips, the dusty light flickering gleaming sun rays across his lightly freckled face and how he’d loved him even then. And soft words lingered unspoken between them like they did now.

-Was I worth it?-

The crash you heard from metres down the road, the squeal of brakes rounding a corner. The pavement blurring underneath your feet as you ran until it was slippery with blood, my blood, pooling underneath me as you dropped to your knees. Tangled limbs twisted under me, gravel buried deep in my face, flesh torn brutally from my legs, my face stained red with road rash. Every siren wailing above your head as we screamed to the hospital, my eyes wider than you’d ever seen and your name bubbling in the blood on my lips. The arguments with the paramedics and nurses and doctors, trying to let you see me. Harsh disapproving looks and the shared glances of fear and care between us.

Was I worth the look on your mother’s face when she realised who I was, what I had been to you? Every look, every glance, every hissed rumour and disgusted exclamation we got on the street. The hidden disapproval, the awkwardness between your friends when you told them. Having to watch the look in Posner’s eyes as you broke his heart. When Scripps comes over and he can’t look me in the eye, avoids your gaze when I’m in the room, do you feel ashamed of me? Can you, because you’re Stuart fucking Dakin, built without shame and God, do I love you every day for it.

Every broken gasp you have wrenched from my lips, every dance of fingers across your skin? The first time you whispered you loved me, did you really mean it? I’m not the first you’ve told, will I be the last? How do you put up with all my little insecurities, my wrecked self-esteem, how can you look at my scarred and broken body and feel love? You used to love girls, bring them home every night, is it different now it’s me lying next to you instead of a stranger with bouncing blonde curls and a wide, drunken smile? Do you truly love me, will you stay forever, will you be by my side? Are my questions too incessant, if I ask you just one more will you answer it? Please?

-Was I worth it?-

Stu listens to it all, every worry that pours off Tom’s lips and gazes into his widened eyes. He squeezes his hand tightly because they’ve never been good at telling each other that they love them, and whispers one little word that means the whole world.

“Yes,”