Like You Did Before

34: That’s All I Can Ask

Nervously smoothing out the shirt he wore, Iker settled back onto the couch, his eyes watching Matilda’s bedroom door for the moment that she swung it open and stepped out into the living room. She had given him a lot of warning. For the last couple of weeks, with her birthday approaching, she had mentioned that there was a chance that her friends would want to do something to celebrate it, but what he hadn’t anticipated was the invitation that she had offered to him that had him preparing to be reintroduced to people he’d not seen face to face since they’d broken up. He knew that it was something that they would do eventually. As much as they both liked their little bubble, they knew that they couldn’t keep their relationship between just them forever, but it didn’t make him any less nervous. Matilda’s friends were people she had known almost all of her life, people who adored her, and whilst they’d already met, he wanted to make a better impression on them than the one he’d left them with.

Shifting his weight nervously, he hunched over slightly, his hand rubbing his jaw until he heard Matilda clear her throat, causing him to glance upwards, blinking a couple of times as he took in her appearance.

Matilda’s cheeks flushed a light shade of pink as she smiled bashfully down her feet. “I am taking that look to mean that I don’t need to change” she quipped.

Iker’s lips quirked upwards into a tender smile. “You know I think you look great in everything” he mused.

Matilda offered him a slightly shy look, allowing a moment of quiet to linger between them, before she shook her head. “You’re still sure about this, aren’t you?” she asked quietly.

“Are you not?” Iker countered, his forehead creased slightly in confusion.

“I didn’t say that” Matilda replied “I want you to come with me” she added.

Iker’s expression was dubious as he looked up at her, something which caused Matilda to crouch down ahead of him, her palm gently cupping his cheek. “I want you there” she repeated gently “I am just...I’m nervous. I mean, I think things will be fine with a lot of my friends. They know that we’re together and that you’re coming tonight, I just...this will be the first time you’ve seen Art since...” she trailed off, knowing that she didn’t need to finish for Iker to know that she was referencing the kiss that she and Arthur had shared.

Iker turned his head slightly, kissing her palm. “Mattie” he murmured softly against her skin.

“I am just trying to say that if you don’t want to come, I’ll understand” Matilda continued like he hadn’t spoken “I want you there, you know I do, but if it’s still to weird or awkward...”

“I want to be there, Mattie” Iker interjected gently.

Matilda’s expression softened, shifting from anxious to timidly optimistic. “Yeah?” she asked.

Iker’s smile was timid, but it was warm and genuine. “Yeah” he confirmed.

Matilda beamed at him for a second, leaning in to steal a quick kiss, but before she could pull away, Iker’s fingers weaved into her hair, keeping her close to him for a few moments longer before he pulled away, his nose still lightly brushing against hers. “I can’t make any promises about it being flawless” he murmured gently “Art...that’s still a sore spot for me, but I know how much he means to you, how much tonight means to you, and I will promise that I will do my best to make sure that tonight is the best it can be for you” he insisted.

He didn’t want to make big promises. He didn’t want to tell her that everything that had bothered him about Arthur had simply faded away when it wasn’t true, but he did want her to know that he was going to try his best to handle it better than he had done in the past. Arthur was important to her. Whilst things between them had changed, they were slowly working back to being friends again, and whilst Iker doubted that he would find himself entirely comfortable around the other man, he knew that part of trying things with Matilda again meant trying harder with the man she called her best friend.

Matilda’s eyes were still closed when she replied. “I know you will” she whispered “That’s all I can ask of you” she added.

Iker touched his lips to hers again before he stood up, tugging her up alongside him.

“It’s quite the turnout, no?”

Iker, who’d been staring at the last of his drink in his glass, startled, whipping his head up to look at the man who’d fallen into the seat opposite him, a nervous smile etched onto his features. They’d been skirting around one another all night. Aside from a polite smile shared between them when Iker had walked in with Matilda, Iker doubted that he and Arthur had even made eye contact in the couple of hours that had passed, but part of him had been expecting that they would talk at some point. Part of him hoped that they would.

Placing his glass down on the table, Iker spared a glance over Arthur's shoulder, meeting Matilda’s eyes, before he nodded, offering the other man the best smile he could muster. “I didn’t think it would be a full blown party” he admitted “The way Mattie talked about it, I was picturing dinner with a few friends” he added.

“She probably didn’t want to scare you” Arthur replied “All of us, in one place, we’re pretty overwhelming” he added, looking around the room which was filled with Matilda’s friends fondly.

Iker nodded his head, wordlessly agreeing.

Arthur watched him quietly before he ducked his head, letting out a soft sigh. “You make her happy, you know that, don’t you?” he asked.

“I like to think so” Iker replied “I hope so” he added.

“You do” Arthur confirmed “When you guys first started seeing one another, she wouldn’t stop talking about you. I know it didn’t exactly work out like either of you would have liked, but she still gets that look on her face when you’re around. She’s never looked at me like that” he added, his voice softening.

Iker’s grip tightened slightly on his glass, something Arthur noticed with another little sigh. “I’m trying to to tell you that I am not a threat to you” he said “I don’t think I ever really was, not in Mattie’s mind anyway. I know that I caused a lot of problems between you before and I am trying help prevent that this time around. I know where we all stand now” he added, his eyes glancing back over his shoulder wistfully.

Iker watched him, feeling a slight pang of sympathy for him, before he cleared his throat. “You mean a lot to her” he said “Maybe not in the way you want to, but I know how much she wants things to be OK between you, and between us” he added, gesturing between the two of them.

Arthur's lips quirked upwards into a slightly teasing grin. “Is she going to set us up on friend dates?” he prodded.

Iker tried, and failed, to keep his grin hidden. “I honestly think she would love that” he mused.

Arthur’s smile sobered a little, becoming curious. “Do...Do you want to?” he asked “The three of us. Maybe I could come and see the little one? If we got to know one another...” he trailed off, shrugging his shoulders sheepishly.

Iker was quiet for a moment before he slowly nodded. He wanted to make the effort, show Matilda that things could change, and getting to know Arthur, who he had never taken the time with before, seemed like a good place to start. “Alright” he agreed.

Arthur's eyes widened. “Seriously?” he prodded.

“You mean a lot to Mattie” Iker replied “She means a lot to me. I want her to see that I am making an effort to show her how much our relationship means to me” he added.

Arthur nodded, his smile genuinely warm. “Then, I would like that” he replied.

Iker smiled at him gently before he noticed Matilda gesturing to him, causing him to shove his chair back and make his way over towards her, greeting her with a soft kiss on the cheek that made Arthur smile at the two of them, half in pain, half in happiness that Matilda was happy.