I swallow, pushing him aside to try the door myself. Of course I get the same result. It locks from the outside. "We're…we're stuck in here?" I whisper, half to myself. I turn, facing Matt and the inside of the freezer. It can't be more than ten by ten feet, metal bakers racks lining the three walls. I see mostly wrapped meat on the shelves, but also other things like yogurt, fruit and frozen meals.
Matt seems to radiate warmth and life in this cold, tiny space. His vitality next to pulverized meat and boxed meals is unnerving. His hand moves to rest against my shoulder. "Mel," His voice is gentle. "We're not stuck. We'll get out. It'll be okay."
I know he's just saying that to keep me from freaking out. The weird thing is that it actually works. I swallow again convulsively, leaning back against the door. "So what do we do?"
Matt steps forward and I move to the side, letting him inspect the door. It has a thick seal to keep in the cold, and a lever-type knob that you press down on. He picks at the rubber seal for a moment, then shoves his weight against the lever. Meanwhile I'm checking the walls to see if there are any vents or things that could lead outside. I don't find anything; Matt is equally unsuccessful.
"It has to be opened from the outside," He says.
"Well no shit." Now I'm running low on calm. How many hours until the test? "We have to open the fucking door!" I don't care if someone hears us now—I hope someone does hear us. Then we can get out of here.
"Don't you think I know that?" He snaps back at me. "It's not like we can muscle it open! There's nothing we can do but wait."
"We can't just sit around until someone realizes we're gone!" I'm in a full panic now. With each exhaled breath a small puff of steam leaves my lips. I'm shivering faintly. "We have the-the test, and the bed check—oh God, I bet Roger's going to do a bed check! Then he'll know we're missing! Fuck Matt, fuck! We could get in so much trouble for this! We're going to miss the test!"
"Calm down Mel," His warm hand clasps down on my shoulder again.
I look down at the two of us. I never really thought much of our nightly attire, but now I realize it's entirely impractical for spending time in a freezer. My pajama pants are loose, and my thin t-shirt leaves my arms bare. I'm wearing socks, thankfully, but I notice that Matt isn't.
"I'm not going to fucking freeze to death, it's a shitty way to die," I say, gritting my teeth.
"No one's going to freeze to death," Matt murmurs; his hand has started rubbing my arm, smoothing the goose bumps that are trying to form there.
"Maybe we could break down the door," I say, shifting my weight back and forth to try and keep warm.
"I doubt it," Matt sighs. "But you're welcome to try. Maybe someone will hear you breaking your shoulder in the process and come to let us out."
"Fuck you," I grumble. I only hesitate a moment before stepping forward, hooking my arms up under his, hands pressing against his back. Our chests are touching, although our feet are apart. I rest my head against his shoulder, letting my forehead touch his warm neck. A small sigh escapes me. "We're idiots."
Matt laughs faintly, a sound that I've heard a million times but never felt vibrate up from his chest. "A little bit, yeah." His arms enclose me in warmth, and we stand there for a moment just using each other for body heat.
Weirdly, it reminds me of when we were younger. I've known Matt almost as long as I've been at Wammy's. When we were kids, we used to build forts on our beds and stay under there for hours. We used pillows, blankets, clothes pins, string, anything we could find to make ourselves a fortress. It usually wasn't very big, since the base was a mattress, so we ended up lying close. Most days he'd be playing a game, and I'd use the light from the game to read by. It worked out pretty well. But I always remember that he was warm and comfortable. Sometimes I'd lie across his back to get better light. We were young back then, and while this seems like a similar idea, it feels a lot different now. We aren't young anymore.
"Mels?" He asks, his voice a whisper against my hair. I blame my shivering on the cold of the freezer. I've started rubbing his back with my hands, trying to warm us both up. "Why did you agree to meet me tonight of all nights?"
I can't help but scowl at that question. "I don't know. I shouldn't have."
"But you did," He points out, only adding to my irritation with both him and myself.
"Yeah, I did, and look where we are now," I gripe.
"But why did you agree to come?" He presses.
I don't know what he's getting at. "Because we've been doing this for a week as it is, it just…made sense to keep doing it."
"Oh," I have to pull back to look into his face as he breaths that single sound; he looks dejected.
I frown. "What?" Did I say something wrong?
"You just…" His voice trails off, and I wait for him to continue. It takes a moment for him to say, "I make you feel better, right? When you're stressed and stuff?"
I almost don't want to tell him the truth, so I end up hesitating before the genuine answer slips out, "Yeah."
"Have you missed me this last week?"
I exhale, my breath a puff of steam in the air. "Yeah, I missed you a lot. But I get to see you every night here—well, in the kitchen, I mean," I laugh nervously, but I'm not sure why.
He smiles back at me, and I feel a little warmer inside. Maybe it's because his hands are rubbing my arms again. "So what are you going to do if we get caught?" He asks, his expression serious again. I don't like how a little crease forms between his eyes when he's upset. With his goggles around his neck I can clearly see the concern reflected in his eyes—today they look green, but sometimes I think they're blue.
I honestly don't know what I'll do if we're caught—although I guess it's more of a question of when we're caught. There's no way out unless someone finds us. My shoulders sag, and I look down at his chest so I won't have to meet his eyes. I'm feeling a little defeated. I won't beat Near, and we'll be in so much trouble that we'll never see each other again. "We should just…run away or something," I mumble under my breath.
"Hey, it hasn't come to that, has it?" He pulls me in close again, and I relish the warm embrace. I never thought Matt would be the voice of reason, but now that I think about it he's always what I need him to be. "There's still hours until the test…Roger might not know we're out of our beds. Let's just…wait and see what happens. We're going to get out of here."
I nod a little against his chest, the fabric of his shirt scratching my cheek. "I can't lose you," I whisper, voice so low that I wonder if I even said it out loud.
But I must have, because after a beat he says softly, "That will never happen…we won't let it."
I don't know how it happened, or who moved first, but suddenly our lips are pressed together. My fingers are in his hair, gripping, wishing that it could just stay like this. I finally get to taste his mouth, and he can taste mine. It's not perfect—in fact, we move a little awkwardly and bump noses a few times. But when we do he just breaths a laugh, which makes me blush, and then we're kissing again. There's a sort of desperate innocence behind it all. Neither of us knows what we want from the other, but that's okay, because he's here and I have time to figure it out.
Matt's fingers are twisted into the shirt at my lower back, our feet clumsily shifting as we lean closer. I can't really say that it's romantic, or even sexual. It is, sort of, but it feels different than that. I will still call him my best friend, but I feel closer to him because of this.
When we finally part our foreheads touch, noses bumping and rubbing as we breathe together. My eyes find his gaze, and I can see him smile by the faint crinkling at the corners of his eyes. "I'm glad you came tonight," He says softly, breaking the rhythm of our breathing.
"Me too," I whisper.
The world feels very far away, trapped in our little freezer. Eventually we sit down, because my legs are starting to ache from the cold and standing too long. We lean against the door, the most solid surface in the place. We stay close; Matt has his arms around my shoulders and chest, while mine are wrapped around his waist. It's hard to keep from shivering—both of us are so cold.
We don't talk a lot after that. It's too cold to sleep but I'm so tired. We take turns wearing my socks, while I keep my face buried in Matt's shirt in a lame attempt to warm up my nose. Neither of us is wearing a watch since we're in our night clothes, so I have no idea how much time has passed.
I'm not sure if I was dosing or not when we are both suddenly thrown backwards. Before I've realized what happened, I'm looking up at the bright ceiling lights. A moment later a face obscures the lamp; it's none other than Near. I splutter, scrambling up to my feet. Matt is a moment slower, still shocked and disoriented about being throwing out of the freezer.
I point an accusing finger at Near. "You!" I say, although I'm not quite sure how to insult him. My mouth opens and closes a few times. Did he really just let us out of the freezer?
He looks up at me with cold, dead eyes, twirling a lock of hair around his finger. "Roger is looking for you," He intones.
Before I can start ranting Matt cuts in front of me, "How did you know we were in here?"
"Matt walks past my door every evening between 11:50 and 11:57. I recognize his gait. The kitchen is the only logical destination in the direction he's walking."
I bristle. "Listen you little creep—"
"Thank you, Near," Matt cuts me off again. I send him a deadly glare, which he ignores. Damn it, I think he's built up some kind of immunity.
"I didn't want you to miss the test," Near adds. His apathetic tone gives me no clue as to whether or not he's sincere. Shit, he's colder than that freezer.
"Listen fucktard, I don't know what your angle is but I'm gonna—"
"Mello," Matt hisses, and I feel his fingers skim across the back of my hand. Reluctantly I fall silent for a moment, but that doesn't keep me from scowling at Near.
Near continues that obnoxious hair curling thing he does, unperturbed. "Roger suspects you're both still in the house. Do you have a plan—"
"Of course we have a plan!" I snap.
Matt sends me an inquisitive look. What the hell, isn't he supposed to be on my side?
Before anyone can call me out I grab Matt by the wrist, all but bodily dragging him from the kitchen. Much to my chagrin, Matt yells out, "Thanks again Near!"
I grit my teeth, heading down the hallway. I spot my destination, twisting the doorknob and darting inside the room, pulling Matt in with me. It's a supply closet—not the same one, mind you, but it seems like the best place to regroup. Also this is kind of what got us into trouble in the first place. It seems fitting to solve all our issues in here—or that was my logic, anyways.
Matt flips on the light, turning to give me an amused look that I'm tempted to just kiss right off of his face. He doesn't say anything for a good minute, just crossing his arms and waiting.
"We should just blame the whole fucking thing on Near!" I almost explode, but manage to have the common sense to keep my voice below shouting levels. "All of our problems are because of him!"
"Now you're exaggerating." Matt thinks this is funny! I can see it on his face; he's trying not to laugh at me! Fucker.
"Let's just run away," I don't like the desperate note in my voice, but I can't help it. A part of me is scared, but mostly I'm just fed up and suffocating. "Please, I want to."
He kisses me on the lips, firmly enough to make me stop. I forget why I was angry to begin with, which in turn makes me angry all over again.
I push him back after a moment, and I try not to be distracted by his arms wrapping around my waist. "I'm serious," I murmur.
"And I'm seriously saying that it's not a good idea," He says softly, his tone nonjudgmental. If it was anyone but him I might get defensive, but Matt is different. "Calm down. We'll just take what's coming to us—what's the worst they could do?"
"Expel us," I mumble. "Send us to separate orphanages. Kill us in our sleep. Sell us into child prostitution rings."
Matt rolls his eyes. "They're not going to do any of that, and you know it. We're valuable assets to the school. Wammy wouldn't let Roger kick us out—it would be detrimental to the program. All of us are a little eccentric…he'll just have to deal with us being a thing."
"A thing?" I wrinkle my nose, giving him a look like he's stupid.
"Yes a thing."
He grunts when I punch him in the shoulder. "What are we, fifth graders? I'm not going to have a thing with you!"
"Well what the fuck am I supposed to call it?"
"You're my boyfriend you idiot!"
There's silence for a beat after that, and my cheeks flush faintly. Matt finally asks, stupidly, "Really?"
"Yes, now shut up about it. And don't call it a thing. How idiotic and nonspecific. We're geniuses. Act like a fucking genius Matt."
He's grinning now. "You're such a softy!"
I gape at him. "I am anything but soft!" I try to sound threatening but it comes out as more of an indignant squeak.
"Oh, you can't fool me Mels. You're like a teddy bear wrapped in barb wire—underneath all those 'No Trespassing' signs you're just fluffy."
"What the fuck is wrong with you? No, scratch that, what the fuck is wrong with me? I'm dating a lunatic! A raving—"
He cuts me off with his lips. I probably should have minded more, but I end up leaning into the contact, deepening it a little. The buzzing my brain—that insistent ringing of thoughts and worries and plans—starts to quiet. The kiss isn't urgent, but I find myself wondering what it would be like to touch him. I've seen him naked, but never had the chance to run my fingers over his arms and back, down to his hips and maybe lower…
That's about where my thought process is heading when the door to the supply closet opens. I realize, belatedly, that there is little to no privacy in this place and that I'm getting rather tired of people interrupting us.
Matt and I break apart, and I hastily wipe my mouth with the back of my hand, hoping I'm not blushing. I clear my throat as quietly as possible, about to speak before I stop myself, my mouth all but dropping open. Matt is similarly speechless beside me.
Standing there with his hand still on the doorknob, hunched over, free hand occupied with a lollypop, is none other than L. I wish I could say I didn't gape like a fish, but I did. What is he doing here? At Wammy's—at our closet!
He gives us an inquisitive look; I've tensed to a point where I'm sure my spine with snap if I move even an inch. "There is a strong probability that neither of you were be ready for the test if you stay in this closet. Sleep is a valuable and necessary rejuvenating function. Your remaining four hours should be used productively."
"You're absolutely right," I say, my voice a little higher than usual. "Come on Matt, let's go to bed—separate! Our separate beds. In different rooms." I'm blushing furiously as I grab Matt's hand, pulling him out of the supply closet with me. L is sucking innocently on his lollypop, and I wonder if I see a hint of a smile around his eyes as we pass by.
We part ways a shortly after, going to our respective rooms. We don't have much of a plan, other than telling Roger to suck it and making rude hand gestures. That'll be effective, right?
Looking back on it now, I still don't know what happened. We both got up after three hours of sleep—from our respective rooms, remember—and met in front of the testing room with fifteen minutes to spare. I expected Roger to pull us out of the test or at least yell at us. But there was nothing. He sent us dirty looks, but no words were said. None of the other students knew L was at Wammy's, and we didn't see him after that.
We didn't get in trouble—not really. We didn't get to move back into our joint room, but there was literally zero fussing about our trip to the freezer, our night AWOL from our beds, or the kissing in the closet. Whatever happened between Roger, L and Wammy, we'll never know.
Matt and I were more careful after that incident, but we didn't really try to hide things. We weren't openly affectionate, but that was just our personalities. When we kissed, it was usually in private—or as private as that place could be.
That night was a turning point for a lot of things, and I think it affected me and Matt a lot. The first time he said he loved me, it we were out in the snow. You might say it's a coincidence, that it has nothing to do with the freezer, but I think it means something.
We've never been perfect, and a lot of times we haven't been happy, but at least I have Matt to keep me warm. That's enough for me.
AN: Thank you for reading, it's very much appreciated! This is for April, who keeps me on track, reminds me why I love to write, and isn't afraid to pester me! Reviews are very much appreciated. =) If I get a positive enough response, I might post another chapter here on the same timeline. This was a joy to write! To check out April's awesome work, I have her linked on my author page. =)
For information on updates, particularly For Hire, check my homepage. The wait is coming to an end! Thank you all for your support!