Turn My Head

** A/N: Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Really, I've just been utterly swamped with work. This came to me after a long dry spell... Hopefully, it's over for a while. "Turn My Head" belongs to Live (droolicious babes that they are) and Digimon belongs to someone other than me.

Warning: Yaoi abounds, so if you're squicked out by this sort of thing, don't read, please. Don't bother to flame either. It'll just make me laugh. In fact, I shall do a pre-emptive laugh directed to any and all who desire to flame: HAH-HAH!

Oh yeah, and this fic is a bit ... limey. Not in the British sense, either. And it's set in the U.S., with the DD American, rather than Japanese. Because 's my world and I said so! Enjoy! o.o


"Turn My Head"

I'm heading for a crash. I just know it. But at the pace of life I lead, there's nothing I can do about it. Not now, anyway. Every day just brings the same routine -- wake up too early for my own good to catch the first train to the University, sit through eight to ten hours of classes, and then head home to study for another four hours. Most days I can manage to scrounge up at least one meal a day, although it isn't always guaranteed.

As a result, I've grown thin, nearly emaciated. When I take off my glasses and look at myself in the mirror, I see the hollows beneath my cheekbones. Dark rings surrounding my eyes cast a stark shadow against my pale skin, and I've started to pick out individual strands of silver in the part of my hair.

Who is that stranger in the mirror? This zombie can't be you, Joe.

Sighing quietly, I turn on the tap at the sink and splash a bit of frigid water in my face to wake me up. It's almost the end of winter, but still the pipes in the apartment complex are nearly frozen. Boston winters are like that, I've discovered -- bitter, harsh, and practically neverending. I hold my glasses up to the light and ignore the light film of grime on the lenses as I place them back onto my face. At least the smudges on them hide my weary eyes a little.

I should go to bed, but I still have so much studying to do before tomorrow's cellular biology quiz. My body nearly cries out with exhaustion, but I really need to stay awake, at least for a little while. There's a coffeeshop on the corner -- even though caffeine makes me shaky, it might be the only thing that will get me through tonight.

I run a hand through my hair to straighten it a little before I walk to the coatrack by the front door. Before slipping into a large pair of black boots, I wrap myself in the heaviest coat I own and wind a grey scarf around my neck. Even if it is the beginning of March, the temperature outside is still below freezing.

After pulling on a pair of leather gloves, I open the door to the apartment and trek down the four flights of stairs to the street below. The coffeeshop is only a block away, but the chill of the wind makes the walk seem like an eternity. Light needles of another seasonal snowfall begin to bite at my skin. And it's only just starting. Wonderful.

The cold air leaves me breathless as I rush into the welcoming warmth of the coffeeshop. Rubbing my hands together, I weave through the throng of teens and University students. The shop is unusually crowded, and I manage to find a lone seat at a counter along the side wall. As I fold my winter coat carefully in my lap, a harried waitress taps my shoulder, already poised to scribble out an order. I request a cup of coffee, black. She rolls her eyes at the small order, and, feeling somewhat guilty, I quickly add on a pastry to go with the coffee.

Moments after my coffee arrives, the lights dim, and I realize why so many people have packed the small coffeeshop this evening. On a small stage at the front of the shop, a young, blond haired main pulls up a metal folding chair and rests a guitar in his lap. Without a word to the audience -- those who are even listening, anyway -- he proceeds to pluck at the strings with his fingertips, filling the room with a slow, almost haunting dirge. After a few measures of a musical introduction, the man on stage raises his voice to sing.

"Anyone caught in your mystery,
Keep it angry, keep it wispy.
I've fallen down,
Drunk on your juices..."

I close my eyes for a moment as I let the music flow over me like water. The blond man's voice is a little raspy but perfectly on-key, unlike a lot of amateur musicians. I pull a pen from my coat pocket and doodle on the napkin idly, sipping at my mug of coffee. With a few quick strokes, the outline of the musician on stage takes shape -- the rumpled clothes that look like they've been worn all week, the tousled hair, the sharp facial features.

"Funky temple,
Your dress is torn to shreds.
Your eyes are crazy,
And I bowed to save my head, and
I can't forget you,
But I can't remember..."

My brow furrows as I ink in the man's eyes -- those are eyes I've seen before. Eyes that had once narrowed at me in accusation... in frustration... But those slitted orbs had also looked upon me with friendship, maybe even admiration. But that was long ago, so long ago... I lift my head to regard the stage, and the blond man playing the guitar.

"Turn my head.
Turn my head.
It's aimed at you."

"Matt? Is that you?" I mumble, almost stupidly, and the girl sitting within a gaggle of friends beside me stares at me like I've grown an extra head. Though I do my best to ignore the looks, they still cause my stomach to knot and something inside me to ache.

What is Matt doing in Boston? Why here, of all places?

Perhaps against my better judgment, I decide to watch the remainder of Matt's set, though I know I should be returning home to study. Luckily for me, he's only allowed two more songs before he's swiftly ushered offstage by management, so the next amateur talent of the evening can perform. I finish off the remains of my coffee, lift my coat into my arms, and weave through the crowded coffeehouse, aiming myself in Matt's direction.

He's surrounded by a small army of teenaged girls, swarming him like bees. Some want autographs, apparently, and I stand to the side with my hands in my pants pockets until the spectacle dies down. I hate crowds. They always make me feel like I'm going to suffocate. Matt doesn't look any of the girls in the eye as he scribbles his name into books or onto random napkins for his admiring fans.

As he rids himself of the last of the squeaking females, I push myself away from the wall and approach. His shoulders stiffen visibly, though he still hasn't looked up. "You want an autograph too, I suppose," he murmurs, resigned, his voice a raspy murmur. "Who do I make it out to?"

"Um," I stammer, taken slightly off guard. I want to say something witty, but nothing comes to mind. Not at that second. "Joe. Joe Kido." Way to go, brainiac.

Matt pauses, clicks his pen closed, and snaps a piercing gaze to meet my own. A split second later, his lips break open in a warm smile. "Joe!" he exclaims, throwing his arms around me in a brief hug. My heart skips lightly, and I clap him on the back once in return. "This is an unexpected surprise. How have you been?"

I pull away and shove my hands in my pockets again. "Oh, same old, same old," I reply. "How are you? What are you doing in Boston?"

He shrugs once, a vague smile lighting on his face. "I just got in tonight, and it seems like a nice city. Much nicer than New York. I figured I'd try my hand at a few clubs or coffeeshops out here, maybe see where it takes me. What about you?"

I shake my head and break away from that steady gaze of his. It's almost unnerving. "Med school," I mumble.

"You're still on that doctor kick, huh?" he asks, and I can hear the dubiousness in his voice.

"I guess," I murmur, and then quickly change the subject. "So what have you been doing these past few years? Kept in touch with any of the others?" I hadn't thought of the old gang for so long. After high school, we'd all gone our separate ways. Sure, we'd kept in touch for a little while, but nowadays everyone just seems too busy to write or to call.

"Nah, I haven't really talked extensively with anyone in, wow, a few years now," he says, raking a hand through his blond hair. "Guess I've been on the road too long. I've been traveling the country, living out of the old blue van. Playing gigs where I can to get some gas money. In all, not a bad life."

"That doesn't sound like much of a good life either," I reply. "You're not still living in your van now, are you?"

"Yeah. Why?"

I give a faintly bitter smile. "This is Boston. It's already started snowing. If you think it's cold now, just wait until this stuff starts to pile up. You'll freeze."

Matt lifts a shoulder and gathers up his guitar case and a coat from a rack near the stage. As he walks, I follow along, feeling a little like a puppy at his heels. "Not like I have much of a choice, anyway," he murmurs.

We stop near the door, and he sets the guitar case on the floor just long enough to slide his coat over his shoulders. It's thin, denim, and fraying at the seams. And with the snow just starting to fall, it's very likely that he will freeze. Hell with it. Biting on my lower lip, I blurt out impetuously, "Why not stay at my place tonight?"

He looks at me, languid blue eyes meeting my own. His gaze is so direct, and my stomach flops nervously. "Aw, I couldn't impose on you like that, Joe."

"Just until the snowstorm is over. You're not imposing, not at all." Of course, inwardly, I wonder when I'm going to have time to study, when I'm going to be able to clean the apartment for him. "Besides, when am I ever going to see you again?"

He pushes open the door to the street, the icy breeze causing his eyes to water as it hits his face. He steps outside, shoving one hand deep within the pocket of his thin coat, the other tightening around the handle to his guitar case. "Only going to get worse, huh?" he asks, squinting as he turns to me.

"Yeah," I say, wrapping my scarf around my neck to block the flurry of snowflakes attacking us without mercy. "Winters here are pretty nasty."

"How far to your place?"

"Just a block."

--

By the time we make it up the massive stairwell to my apartment, my fingers -- even with the gloves -- are almost too stiff to turn the knob. Matt pulls off his shoes, leaving them beside the door, and falls into the couch, huddling within his damp coat.

"Let me make you some tea," I say. I could go for a cup myself, if only to stick my fingers in to warm them.

"There's no need, Joe. Although..." He trails off, a hint of hesitancy in his voice.

"What's up?"

"Would you mind if I took a shower?"

He turns his brilliant blue eyes up to me, and I can't help but stammer as I reply. "S-sure," I murmur. Mr. Eloquent, that's me. "No problem. Second door on the right. I'll get you a towel, change of clothes."

Matt shivers once more and climbs to his feet. "You know, I really do appreciate this. I won't be in your hair for very long. Just until the storm's over, right?"

"As long as you need," I say. I hope my landlord doesn't find out. My rent would skyrocket if he discovers that I've taken in a 'roommate,' even a temporary one. My father would scream.

As Matt slides past me, he places a warm hand on my shoulder, and he smiles at me. My breath catches in my throat, but I force as calm a smile as I can manage in return. "Good old reliable Joe. I'll make it up to you, I promise."

He heads into the bathroom and closes the door, and I slump wearily against the wall. But I only stay there a second before I hurry to my room to root through my dressers for a spare pair of flannel pants and a towel. As I dig through my things, I tell myself that now is not the time to be developing a crush. I can barely take care of myself, much less someone else.

Besides, I don't even know if he's gay. My last crush ended badly, rebuffed years ago by Izzy, after I admitted an attraction to him. And it wasn't his rebuke that hurt me the most -- instead, it was that look of disgust within those normally unreadable black eyes. I can face heartbreak. I just don't think I can stand losing another friend like that...

I shake myself from my reverie, and I knock lightly on the bathroom door. The shower is running, and as I crack open the door, I see Matt's clothes lying in a pile on the ground. His bare form is silhouetted against the backdrop of the thin shower curtain and the haze of steam, and he's running both hands through his hair. I think my heart has stopped.

I stumble on the edge of the bathroom rug, dropping the spare clothes and the towel on the ground and letting out a faint yelp of surprise. Matt pokes his head out from behind the shower curtain as I'm on my knees, gathering the mess up in my arms again. "It's just me," I mutter, feeling my cheeks burn.

But Matt just grins, his hair stained a sandy blond hue and plastered to his cheeks. My hands tremble just a bit more. "Thanks, Joe," he says.

"No problem," I reply, sweeping up the now-unfolded pile and tossing it on top of the sink haphazardly. I refuse to lift my eyes to his, and I hurry out the door.

Way to go. He probably thinks you're some sort of pervert now.

I sigh and take off my glasses to rub at my eyes. It's late, and I still have to make up the sofa bed for Matt. As I strip away the cushions and unfold the rickety contraption, I tell myself that there must be a draft that's making me shiver so. I could easily convince myself of the lie, if I wanted -- I discover the thermostat is set way too low, and I head to the closet for sheets and a blanket. I tick the dial up a few clicks.

My eyes start to itch as I make the bed -- it hasn't been used in ages, and it's dusty as anything. Just my luck. I've always been particularly sensitive to dust, the one irritant that's nearly impossible to be rid of. I try not to scratch at my eyes, because I know if I start, I'll only want to claw them out within a matter of seconds.

I smooth out the top of the blanket just as Matt steps out of the shower. He's nearly swallowed by my clothes, and not just because they're a few sizes too big. Now, stripped bare of the bulky flannel and the denim jacket, his frame seems emaciated. Perhaps even more so than mine. I wonder if he's been eating.

Despite the rail-thin appearance, he's still beautiful. He's combed and shaken out his hair so it falls rakishly across his face, and the blue of the pajamas I lent him make his eyes seem like twin oceans. I clasp my hands together tightly behind my back to keep them from shaking.

"I needed that, man," he says, his eyes falling upon the neatly made sofa bed. "Hey, you didn't have to go and make up a bed for me."

I chuckle wryly. "You're a guest. Of course I did."

"After sleeping curled up in the back of a van, this is going to be luxury," he grins. "I don't think I know how to sleep in a real bed anymore."

I stand awkwardly beside the couch as he flops down atop the covers. Against the light from the overhead lamp, I see the dust fly up a split-second before I begin to sneeze. Of course, I can't ever sneeze like a normal human being. Instead, I'm overcome by an uncontrollable flurry of annoying half-sneezes that always leave me gasping and at the end of it all. Damn.

"Ah, how I've missed the Joe-sneeze," he says, grinning faintly.

I stalk to the kitchen to grab a tissue, and I grumble, "I haven't."

I hear the couch-springs creak as he sits up straighter. "You okay?" There's concern in his voice, and it makes me feel almost ill. But flattered, at the same time.

"Yeah, I'll just have to take an antihistamine before I go to bed if I have any hope of sleeping." I blow my nose and grab a few more tissues just in case.

"Allergies still bad?" he asks. He taps a spot on the bed beside him, though carefully this time.

As I head back and pause before the couch, I shrug, hoping to dismiss the topic. "Not as bad as they used to be." I draw a faint breath, taking that moment to gather a bit of courage, before lowering myself slowly to the bed. I sit near the edge, keeping my distance.

Thankfully, Matt takes the hint. Stretching out, he folds his hands behind his head and gazes up at the ceiling. "Nice place. Looks like you've been doing well for yourself here."

I shake my head. "No, not really. My dad still pays the rent. It's a nice apartment, but I could do without the city."

"Not fond of 'Bean Town?'" he asks. "It seems like a cool place to me. Very historic."

"It's got some nice architecture," I reply. "But it wasn't my choice to move out here. I could deal with visiting, but living here is another story. For one, as you've probably noticed, it's too cold."

"If you didn't want to move, why go to school here?" he asks, directing those piercing blue eyes on my face.

I shake my head. "My dad wanted me to. Good medical program, he said." I'm pathetic. Twenty-two, and my father still has me under his thumb. I hope my dismay doesn't come through in my voice.

Matt snorts. "The old man still doesn't care about what you think."

"No, not really. I should be studying now, but --" I break off quickly in realization. I should be studying! I glance at the clock -- nearly midnight. And I need to be up in six hours...

"Don't panic, Joe. I won't keep you," Matt says. I notice that his eyes are downcast, and there's the faintest hint of remorse in his voice.

I let out a breath, and shook my head, settling back against the couch. "Forget it," I murmur. "At this point, I don't think it will make a difference. I probably won't remember three quarters of it in the first place. I never was all that great at cellular bio."

Matt is quiet for a few moments, before he reaches across and lays his fingers lightly upon my arm. My pulse nearly triples. "You're not happy, are you, Joe?"

I turn towards him and let out a sarcastic laugh. "Why should I be? I'm alone in a big city, living a life I never wanted. I miss everyone, Matt. Whatever happened to friends forever, like we'd promised?"

"We're still friends, Joe. We're just not in the same place. We have to live our own lives. Like you should."

"When was the last time you talked to any of the other Chosen?" I challenge.

Matt's eyes turn slightly hard, defensive. The look scares me -- it's the same glare he used to give Tai before they came to blows. But he doesn't strike me, and his words remain calm, if calculated. "I spoke to my brother a few weeks ago, Joe. He's doing just fine. What about you? When was the last time you spoke to any of the others?"

My face pales slightly, my fingers wrapping tightly around a tissue I've wadded up in my palm. "I spoke to Izzy a couple years ago."

"And?"

"We haven't spoken since."

"You can't just pin this on the others, Joe. You're just as guilty as them for not keeping in touch. Why haven't you and Izzy spoken? I thought you two were best friends."

"I'd rather not talk about it," I murmur.

But Matt presses on. "Did you two have a fight?"

My knuckles are white as I clutch the tissue in my hand. Closing my eyes tightly, I shake my head and utter, "I told him how I felt about him, okay? Is that enough for you?"

I refuse to open my eyes, but I feel Matt's fingers on my chin, turning my face towards his. His fingers are warm, and I chew on my lower lip as I lift my eyelids. Matt's face is dizzyingly close to mine. This isn't happening.

"You loved him," he says, his raspy voice a gentle whisper.

"That was years ago, Matt," I reply softly.

"Let me guess. He pushed you away like you were the most disgusting thing on earth."

That hurts. I snap my head away from him and struggle against the lumpy couch to climb to my feet. But as I try to stalk off, I feel Matt's hand clamp hard around my wrist, grinding the bones together.

"I didn't mean it like that, Joe!" he hisses. His face is stormy, his ice blue eyes blazing just like they used to around Tai. I wonder if he's about to deck me.

"Well?" I demand.

Maybe it's just my imagination, but I think I see hurt on his own face as well. His voice softens, his features relaxing slightly. "I was just going to say... That's what Tai did to me when I told him how I felt about him. I understand what you must have gone through." He shrugs, perhaps hoping to appear nonchalant, and he lets go of my wrist.

I think my lips have gone numb. "You ... loved Tai?" I manage to blurt out, sinking back down upon the sofa-bed.

He doesn't reply, only nods.

Could it be Matt used to look at Tai as if he wanted to kill him ... because he loved him?

"Then that means you're..."

"Flaming."

"Wow."

At that, he laughs, his white teeth shining as he grins. "Don't seem so shocked, Joe. It's not like you have any room to talk."

"No, I guess I don't," I admit. Matt's smile is contagious, and I return the grin.

His gaze flickers down to the covers on the bed, and his voice almost seems shy as he continues, "I wasn't quite sure whether or not you were gay. I never did believe the old myth of 'gay-dar.' Contrary to popular belief, you can't always tell. But I'm glad you are."

I shrug a little. "It's no big deal. I'm still the same old Joe."

"Yeah, but now I won't have to feel guilty for this." Before I know it, his lips are on mine, and at first I'm in shock. It takes me a second to relax, a brief moment in time before I'm able to return the kiss, opening my lips to his inviting tongue. My fingers lace through his hair, and his fingers slip around my waist.

All too soon, the kiss is broken. Matt shifts away, his lips shimmering red in the light. I smile as I catch my breath, murmuring, "That was nice."

"Stay with me tonight, Joe?" he whispers. I realize that he's probably been alone as much as I have, if not more. I feel sorry for him, as I imagine the many nights he must have spent alone and shivering in the confines of his van.

Of course, the thought of spending the night in this dusty old sofa-bed makes my skin crawl. I can only imagine the field day my allergies would have if I slept here. My sinuses are already starting to throb a little. "I have a better idea," I whisper, climbing to my feet. I hold out my hands to him and add, "Stay with me."

Matt wraps his fingers around mine, and he shifts his weight off the bed as he stands. Is that a blush I see in his cheeks? I know mine must be nearly fluorescent in color. As a general rule, I'm never this bold, but for Matt ... I can make an exception.

"Lead the way," he remarks with a roguish smirk. That look makes me just want to melt.

Maybe I am developing something of a crush. But in this case, I think it's a good thing. It's ~Matt.~

--

There's just the two of us in the apartment, so I'm really not sure why I close the bedroom door. It's not like we'll need privacy from an outside world. But it does make the room a little darker, and slightly more secure. Matt doesn't seem to mind, either.

His hands rest on his hips as he casually looks over my bedroom -- the carefully organized desk, the dutiful pictures of my father and brother atop the bedstand, two matching dressers. The only thing that isn't painfully neat is my bed, which I rarely bother to make anymore. If I leave it unmade, it gives me five extra minutes of study time, and I never get guests to impress. Well, until now... As Matt's looking over my room, I quickly smooth the covers into a vague semblance of neatness.

"Joe?" Matt's curious voice drifts towards me, and I straighten myself. He's standing beside my desk, staring down at some loose papers.

"Yes?"

"Did you draw these?"

My stomach twists in embarrassment as I realize I've left a couple sketches of Gomamon lying out in the open. I've never shown my drawings to anyone. It would be like giving away another piece of my soul, which is already stretched too thin. "I, um... Yeah."

He picks up the top sketch, a rendering of my old Digimon partner lying in a pile of clothing within a laundry basket, one sock dangling precariously from an ear. Ten years ago, I caught him in that very position, and his laughing eyes never left my memory. To this day, I never did understand why Gomamon had such a fetish for my dirty laundry...

Matt gazes at the drawing critically, his expressive eyebrows furrowing in thought. I sink down on the bed, unable to take my gaze off him. Finally, without a change to his facial expression, he murmurs, "These are good, Joe. Very good."

"Oh... I -- I guess... Thanks." I don't know what to say. It's not often I receive compliments, so I have difficulty reacting when the rare one comes my way.

"Do you draw a lot?"

I shrug, and I feel my cheeks begin to flush. "Sometimes."

Matt smiles, setting aside the loose sketch of Gomamon. "Show me more?"

Now I know I'm blushing. I can feel the throb of blood in the sides of my temples. "I don't know, Matt," I mumble. "I'm not that great."

"Please?" he asks softly, a twinge of pleading in his tone.

I wonder if this is how it feels to jump off a cliff with a bungee cord tied to my waist -- terrifying, yet strangely safe. But if that cord were to snap... Just one slip, and it would be over.

Without a word, I push myself to my feet and kneel beside my desk. I open the bottom drawer and root all the way in the back for my sketchbook -- hidden deep within, just in case. My father would never approve. Matt stands beside me, so close I feel the fabric of his pajama pants tickling my arm.

As I produce the small, black-covered book, he meets my gaze and nods over towards the bed. I return to my former seat, and he slides down beside me, his shoulder touching mine. My throat pounds with the rhythm of my heart, and I open the book.

Clearing my throat, I explain each sketch as I flip through the pages. "This is my brother after he graduated college. Sora and Tai, arguing over which path to take in the Digital Forest. Gabumon keeping T.K. warm on a rainy night when we couldn't get a fire started. My father." I offer a curt explanation as I flip quickly to the next page.

"Wait. Go back."

Reluctantly, I turn back to the sketch. It's an angry drawing, filled with thick, harsh lines in black india ink. Matt stares at it for only a few moments, but the silence, to me, is eternal.

"Those aren't your father's eyes, Joe."

"I know."

"Those eyes... They belong to--"

"Myotismon."

Matt stretches an arm around my shoulders and gives me a reassuring squeeze. I close my eyes for a second, slumping lightly against his warm figure, and then quickly turn the page. In this particular sketchbook, the drawing of my father is the only picture I've drawn in anger. But there are more in other books, also hidden deep within the confines of my desk.

"You should draw for comic books, Joe," Matt says finally, after I've shown him the remaining sketches and closed the book. "You've got the talent."

I shake my head. "I can't. I've got too much studying to do, most of the time."

"Oh, come on," Matt says, his eyes narrowing in annoyance. "That's your father talking, not you. You've got to live your own life."

I've heard those very words from my brother before. But he could never understand -- he was always our father's favorite. He was never pushed quite as hard to continue the Kido family tradition in the field of medicine. When Jim instead decided to study paranormal photography, my father wasn't terribly disappointed -- after all, I was still around to follow in his footsteps.

"It's not that easy, Matt. He's paying my tuition, my rent. If I changed majors, he'd cut me off," I reply pathetically.

"So? Get a job," he snaps. "Take off a year to save up a bit of money if you need to. There's no shame in that. Plenty of people work their way through college."

I nod, barely finding the strength to lift my head. "Where would I go, in the meantime? I don't think I could just stay here. The rent's high enough as it is."

"Get a roommate? Find a place that's smaller, cheaper to rent? You're not completely out of options, Joe." His voice, although not totally unkind, is sharp, almost scolding in tone.

Before I know it, I see twin drops of water patter to the cover of the sketchbook in my lap. Am I crying? Matt's fingers lift my chin, and I'm forced to meet his gaze. His face shimmers through my tears.

"No," is all he says, gentle now. He takes off my glasses, and sets them on the bedstand, folding them carefully.

"I'm afraid," I whisper.

"Ssh." Matt uses his thumb to brush away the tears upon my cheeks. His touch is so light, so sensitive. I lift a hand and place it atop his own, clasping it warmly, and he gives me a satisfied smile before his face once again nears mine. It's the breathless moment just before our lips meet that thrills me the most.

He doesn't pull away from me this time, his lips parting, our tongues slipping deliciously together. My heart rate trebles, but it's a feeling I savor as Matt's breath strengthens against my cheek. In an unexpectedly bold move, I wrap my arms around his waist to pull him closer. His fingers wrap through my hair, stroking it in a way that's both sensual and comforting at the same time.

The kiss deepens, Matt's tongue thrusting forcefully against my own, and I breathlessly keep pace. My arms move of their own accord, sliding beneath Matt's pajama top so I can feel his soft skin, the muscle structure beneath. In a single, gasping moment, he breaks the kiss just long enough to strip away the top and to lower me to the bed.

As his legs twine around my own, I begin to tremble all over, unable to control it. Matt leans down to draw my lips to his once again, but he stops half an inch short.

"What is it?" he whispers, his nimble fingers stroking my hair once again. "You're shaking."

"It's just -- I never..." I trail off, embarrassed that I've broken the moment.

Matt's eyes glimmer with surprise, but the look softens. "I'll be gentle," he speaks, and instead of returning his lips to mine, he buries his face against my shoulder. His teeth nip gently at my throat, sending shivers down my spine. I can't help but moan with pleasure, and I hold him close, like a drowning man clutching a life vest.

Although Matt is as gentle as possible for my first time, it still hurts, unexpectedly so. He moves slowly at first, waiting until I'm used to the sensation, but as he nears climax, he can't help but pick up speed. I bite down upon the pillow, and he collapses against my back, groaning.

"Joe," he whispers, his chest a harsh rise and fall against my bare skin. "Joe, Joe..."

Carefully, I turn over and wrap my arms around him. I'm sore, but it will fade in time. Matt's hair clings to his cheeks with sweat, and his cheeks are flushed with twin blazes of red.

"You're still..." he whispers, trailing off. Biting on my lower lip, I nod sheepishly. His body presses uncomfortably against my arousal.

His laugh is impish, his brilliantly colored eyes sparkling with mischief. Before I can protest, he trails his lips down my neck... down my chest, his tongue pausing to teasingly circle a nipple... tickling my stomach. As his mouth encircles my manhood, my body jumps with the electric shock.

I never thought I'd be a noisy lover. No, I'm not a screamer, but I can only imagine what my neighbors must have been thinking. If only I had a cat to blame it on...

By the end of the night, my body curls around his, like two matching pieces of a puzzle, and dawn begins to break by the time we manage to fall asleep.

--

For the first time in months, I wake up naturally, without the aid of a blaring alarm. Yawning, I grope for my glasses on top of the bedstand and slide them onto my face.

What time is it, anyway?

I sit up suddenly, glancing down at the bed -- Matt's gone, and the sheets are cold. Groaning, I then turn to look at the clock and discover that it's almost noon. I've just lost half my day of classes, including the cellular biology quiz. I've never missed a class in my entire college career. But I think I'm more depressed to find that, at some point in the night, Matt left while I was asleep.

Why would he want to spend the night with you? You're just a spineless Papa's boy who can't stand up for what he wants.

Running my hands through my hair, I realize grimly I'll have to wash my sheets. Now that I have a day off, I might as well go to the laundromat and make the day at least slightly productive. I grab my robe from the closet and wrap it around my bare form before I open the bedroom door.

As I make my way into the apartment, I'm assailed by the smells of something wonderful cooking, and the rapid rhythm of a Spanish guitar floats through my stereo speakers. I round the corner to the kitchen to discover Matt, clad in the clothes he'd worn at the coffeeshop last night, at the stove, cooking an omelette in one pan and bacon in the other.

He didn't leave. Oh, thank you...

He pouts when I pad behind him and wrap my arms around his shoulders. "Aw. I was going to make you breakfast in bed."

"Do you want me to go back?"

"No," he says, mock-sighing. "You're up now."

"You can surprise me another time?" I offer.

He chuckles, nodding. "Yeah."

"I guess I missed class today."

"You looked so peaceful just lying there. I didn't want to wake you," Matt says, flipping the eggs onto a plate. "Besides, you could use a day off."

"I could. How does it look outside?"

He shrugs once, avoiding my gaze. "The snow's stopped. The plows were out early to clean the streets. Looks pretty clear now."

"Oh." My heart sinks a little. Maybe this means Matt will leave for real...

"Hey, cheer up," he says suddenly, turning towards me with a light grin. "I made you breakfast."

I take the plate he offers me and we sit at a small table just outside the kitchen. Matt's even set the table neatly. As I start to eat, I murmur, "So what sort of plans do you have now?"

"What, for today?"

I nod. "Today, tomorrow, a week from now. Either way."

"I'm not sure. I try not to think to far down the road. But today I think I'm going to go talk to someone at the coffeehouse in Cambridge. I have the phone number of a guy who might need a guitarist, at least temporarily."

"That sounds great. I hope it works out."

"I do too. This seems like a nice city to stay, even if just for a little while." He smiles awkwardly and takes a sip of juice.

"Well... Will you at least get a hotel room, in the meantime? It's still pretty cold out there."

"My van will be okay," he murmurs.

I chew lightly on my lower lip, deliberating a moment before I offer, "If you wanted, and you were discreet... You could stay here. Until you found a permanent place."

"I don't know if I want a permanent place, Joe. Not now," Matt says, a twinge of annoyance creasing his brow. "I told you already, I don't mind my way of life. Maybe you have a problem with it, but I don't."

"I didn't mean it that way," I murmur, setting my fork down, my appetite slipping away from me. "Maybe I'm just a little worried, that's all."

"Don't be," he mutters, grumpy that I bring up the notion. "I know what I'm doing. Unlike some people."

I sigh lightly. I know he's right. "There's not much I can do about it, Matt."

"Didn't we go over this last night, man? You've got plenty of options. You have to do what's going to make you happy."

"I wish I could be as free as you. It's not that easy for me. Your father probably didn't care what you did."

He hisses in a sharp breath. Shit. I know I've said the wrong thing, but it's too late to take it back.

"You're damned right he didn't care, Joe," he snaps, his eyes blazing. "But it's not how you think. Like your own dad, he didn't care what I wanted. He wanted me to become an accountant. A damn accountant. When I didn't conform to his wishes, he hit me, like he did so many times before. By then, I'd had enough. That's when I left, and I haven't looked back since."

I lower my eyes to the table. "Sorry, Matt. I didn't know."

Matt's teeth clench and he lets out a frustrated groan. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself, already! Get some balls and do something about it. Don't just hang your head and cry!"

I should say something, but I can't find the words. I can't just change my life at the drop of a hat... can I? Instead of talking, I slip my fingers under my glasses and lean my face against my hands tiredly.

Matt tosses his napkin to the table. "I think I should leave."

"Don't go."

"I need to be alone for a bit."

All I can do is nod. From behind my hands, I murmur, "Will I see you again while you're here?"

"Maybe," he says softly. "Thanks for the hospitality, Joe."

I want to call out to him, to beg him to stay, but I just can't. I wouldn't know what to say to him, or where to begin. So I just sit with my face in my hands as my heart begins to fracture, and Matt gathers his things on his way out the door.

--

I'm running. Running for my life. Running ~to~ my life. I only pray that I haven't missed it already.

The coffeeshop where Matt said he would be playing is a good five blocks from the T-train. I jet through the turnstiles, bumping my way through the crowd on the slick, wet streets with a frantic mantra of, "Excuse me! Pardon me! I'm sorry!" Most people glare, some even curse... but a few spot the bouquet of flowers clutched in my hand and the longing in my eyes, and they smile sympathetically.

By the time I skid through the front door of the coffeeshop, they're starting to close up. It's near midnight, and most shops have shut down for the evening. From behind the counter, an annoyed clerk glares at me. "Takeout only, please."

Nearly crushing the flowers in my hand, I rush to the counter and nearly vault over it as I lean right into the girl's face. "There... There was a guitar player," I gasp, still trying to catch my breath from the run. "Blond hair, denim jacket. Have you seen him? Is he still here?"

"He left an hour ago once he was done playing," she says, blinking as she snaps her gum. "Can I get you anything? Maybe a glass of water?"

... no ...

I open my mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. Nothing but a strangled squeak. The clerk looks like she's either going to cry or run away in fear. Finally, I manage to shake my head, my shoulders slumping, the flowers falling limply at my side. Maybe at a different time, I would have apologized for scaring her, but now I can only slide away from the counter and slink towards the door. Like a dog with his tail between his legs.

Tossing the flowers into a waste bin, I slowly start back towards the underground station. I hope I won't miss the last run. It's the longest five blocks I've ever walked in my life.

I've missed him.

As I trek down the stairs, I hear the sounds of light guitar playing. Street buskers are a common occurrence in the Boston Underground, and I dig through my pockets for a bit of change. The music is lovely, and it reminds me of Matt. At least whoever's playing should get some happiness out of the night, even if I can't.

The music suddenly stops as I round the corner. He spots me before I notice him.

"Joe?"

I stop dead in my tracks. His back against the wall, Matt sits with his guitar in his lap and the case open before him. His face is mostly expressionless, his ice blue eyes hard.

"Matt ... I -- I just wanted -- wanted to tell you --"

"Say it, Joe. Just say it."

I take a breath, hoping it will keep me from stumbling over my words further. "I did it."

He just stares at me until I continue, that stony expression never leaving his eyes.

The words flow out of me in a torrent: "I went to the administrative office. I talked to the advisors about changing my major. I -- I even got together a portfolio. They approved me as an art major. They're even going to let me take a night job at the graphic design lab. I'll have to take classes part-time for a while, but ... I'm doing it."

Matt's eyes only narrow further. "You did this because I told you to."

I've always prided myself on my calmness, on my cool temper. But Matt's words, after I've poured out my heart to him, only make me see red. Maybe his temper has started to rub off on me. "Don't say that! I didn't do this for you!" I shout, causing a few people passing by to stare. My voice reverberates across the underground tunnels. "I did this for me! I don't give a damn what you think. And ... even if I never see you again, my mind is made up... So just take your holier-than-thou attitude, Matt Ishida, and shove it!"

At that, I turn my back to him and storm off to my train. I don't hear him follow. Fine. I try to keep from shaking as I stand at the platform to wait.

The train pulls in with a hiss and a stench of exhaust, and I fall wearily into a seat. There's only one other person in the car with me, someone dressed in too many layers of clothing, fast asleep from the train's motion. I pull off my glasses and pinch the bridge of my nose with my fingers. I'm starting to get the mother of all migraines.

"Wait! No, wait!"

I turn to the sound of the voice, slipping my glasses back over my eyes. Matt runs, his guitar case bouncing awkwardly at his side, and he leaps into the car just seconds before the door closes on him.

I stand, clasping onto a rail for support as the train lurches forward, and I look down into Matt's eyes. He drops his guitar case heavily, and it clatters against the hard, grimy floor.

"Joe... Joe, it wasn't supposed to be like this."

"What were you expecting, then?"

"To get into the city, to play a few gigs, and then get out. Move on. I wasn't expecting you to be here. I -- I wasn't expecting to fall in love."

His eyes fill with tears, and again I'm shocked into speechlessness. In love...? As I catch my breath, staring down at him, he continues.

"You're right. I have been acting holier-than-thou. I lost my temper... But dammit, Joe, you needed to be pushed. You weren't happy in med school studies. That's all I wanted... For you to be happy. That's all I've ever wanted for all of us."

The train lurches to a stop, and Matt staggers as he fights to maintain his balance. Swiftly, I grab his arm, and the backwards momentum of the train tumbles him into my arms. Finally, I find myself able to speak.

"I want to be with you, Matt, more than anything in the world. But you've also got to accept that I'm not like you. I'm not always confident. I don't always know what I'm doing. And, yes, sometimes I do need that push."

His eyes are swimming, and he nods swiftly, spilling a single tear down his cheek. My heart fractures a little more as I watch him cry. "They want to take me on as a permanent guitarist at the coffeeshop. I told them I'd think about it." His lips tremble, and the second tear streaks down his cheek. "Joe, is that offer still good? The one where you said I could stay with you until I found another place?"

"It's still good," I whisper, nodding. I wipe his cheeks with a bare, trembling hand. "Don't cry. Stay with me. As long as you'd like."

Matt buries his head against my shoulder, clinging tightly to me, his shoulders shaking as he fihts to bring himself back under control. My breath comes in a faint sob, but my eyes remain dry. I wrap my arms around him, never wanting to let go. I hold him comfortingly for another three stops, and then I shake his shoulders lightly.

"This is where we get off," I whisper into his ear.

He raises his head, smirking shyly at me. "I can think of better places to get off."

My cheeks flush deeply, and Matt laughs as he gathers his guitar case in his hands. I shove my hands deep into my coat pockets and clear my throat as we exit the train. "Why -- why don't we start back at my apartment?" I might not be as versed as he is, but I can't let him one-up me.

Matt loops his arm around my shoulders, and we walk up the stairs to the street. "Do you know how utterly sexy you are when you're angry, Joe? I don't think I've ever been so turned on in my life as I was back at the train station."

My shoulders stiffen, and the blush pales as I feel the blood drain from my cheeks. I look around quickly, but it doesn't look as if any of the nightcrawlers in the Boston Underground hear ... or care. I kiss him swiftly on the cheek, and he lets out a light gale of laughter.

I think I'll let him one-up me, just this once.