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Dust from the windowsill is dancing in the fractals of light shining through the paper thin blinds. The hotel room is stifling, an oppressive layer of warm air and silence crushing the pair sprawled on the bed. Sheets pool around them as they both gaze at the spiralling plaster on the ceiling, fingertips brushing together in a cautious embrace.

David feels Don’s gaze before he dares to shift onto his side. The mattress dips suddenly and Don huffs out a soft laugh as David’s eyes widen in surprise. He reaches out and takes his hand, intertwining their fingers and staring at the movement of his thumb gently brushing against his wrist. It’s an old familiar routine, dancing swiftly around each other’s words before they say them, trying to ignore what will happen next. It happens anyway.

“Please don’t go,”

Don sighs.

“David…”

“Please,” he whispers, his voice trembling.

It’s no use. He knows the answer. Don sighs again and David turns away, squeezing his eyes shut.

“Hey,” Don murmurs, leaning over him on his elbow. His fingers trail through David’s messy hair before he leans down to press a kiss to his temple. “I’ll be here, alright?”

His boyfriend shakes his head beneath him, lips pressed tightly shut.

“But you won’t be,” he finally replies. “You won’t be here,”

“If you came to London…”

“I can’t,” he snaps, his voice brittle as his eyes open and his face twists in pain. “I can’t and you know it,”

Don gazes down at him. The fingers in his hair still. He lies there, staring back up at his stupidly gorgeous eyes, his whole body shaking slightly.

Eventually, Don shakes his head and flops back onto the creaking mattress, pulling David with him. He curls himself into his body as the silence returns, clinging to him as if he’s a life raft and David is drowning at sea.

It feels like he is.

***

He leaves. Like he always does.

Sits on the edge of bed as David watches him pull his scruffy shirt back on and ruffle his hair. Walks to the train station with their shoulders brushing together, not letting the other get too close. David tries not to look at him for too long so he can pretend he isn’t memorising every inch of his face until the next time he sees him.

It’s not till Don pulls him into an empty ginnel and kisses him for the final time that it really hits him. Then suddenly he doesn’t want to let go, wrapping his arms around him and burying his face into his shoulders. Strong arms hold him there, rocking him softly. They hold each other like heavyweights in a final round, barely able to support each other with their grief.

Eventually, Don pulls away, his eyes glistening.

“I have to go,” he smiles bitterly.

I have to go.

David watches him get onto the train and wishes there was a wind to hide his tears.

***

He’s halfway up the stairs, his fingers slick with dust from the banister that he hasn’t cleaned in weeks when his mother shuffles into the hallway.

“Did you have a nice time with…”

“Don,” he fills in gently as she falters, her eyes going slightly glassy. “Yeah, I did,”

Her smile brightens and he puts on his best fake response, lips tight and teeth barely clenched.

“That’s good, darling,” she hums, her gaze drifting to the banister. “This needs polishing,”

“I’ll do it later, Mum,”

“Alright. Do you want a cup of tea?”

“It’s ok, I’ll make one,” he sighs, descending the stairs and brushing past her to the kitchen. His mum touches his arm as he does and he turns instinctively, just catching the soft, warm smile she flashes at him.

In an instant, all the emotions he’s been holding back rush into him and he nearly chokes with want. He wants to hug her. To have her press his head into her shoulder like he isn’t a foot taller than her, like he’s still a little boy, like he’s just fallen off his bike and skinned his knees – not watched his boyfriend leave to go hundreds of miles away. Again. He wants to whisper everything that’s gone wrong, let her console him as he cries, tell her that everything is leaving it and he wants it all back.

He wants his mum back.

Instead he walks to the kitchen, fills the kettle and sets it on the stand. Lets his eyes drift to the small patterned calendar and the absence of anything other than appointments. Maybe he’ll call Don tomorrow. Maybe he won’t.

It’s only self-defence.