Like You Did Before

45: It’s Not Something You Can Just Turn Off

“You know I’d stay if I could”

Matilda, who was stood in the hall, watching as Iker slipped his feet into his shoes, quirked a small smile before she nodded her head. “I know you would” she confirmed. She knew that he couldn’t. An early meeting, twinned with her new address being further out of the city, meant that it wasn’t practical for him to spend the night, and whilst Matilda had flirted with the idea of convincing him, she had ultimately opted against it, knowing that one night apart wasn’t going to do them any harm.

“Are you busy tomorrow?” Iker asked, moving to pick his coat up off of the hook it hung off.

“No busier than normal” Matilda replied “Why? You planning on coming over?” she added, an impish smile on her lips.

Iker grinned at her boyishly, taking a pace closer to her. “I might have been considering it” he mused.

Matilda took a matching step forwards, her arms gently wrapping around his neck. “I might be amenable to that” she cooed.

“Yeah?” Iker prodded, pecking her lips gently.

Matilda smiled at him as he leant in and stole a couple more kisses, only pulling back when something over her shoulder caught his eye. Blinking a couple of times, Matilda turned, glancing at Arthur who’d stopped halfway up the hall, his eyes averted. “I...I didn’t mean to interrupt” he spluttered “I was just coming to see if you wanted another drink, Mattie. Mimi wants to finish up the bottle before she and Micah get moving” he added

“I’ll be right with you, Art” Matilda replied.

Arthur nodded, disappearing back into the kitchen as Matilda turned back to Iker, offering him a slightly sheepish smile. “I should get back in there” she mused “You’ll text me when you get home?” she asked.

Iker quirked a small smile before he leant over, leaving a lingering kiss on her cheek. “Of course I will” he mused “You keep enjoying your party, Mattie. You deserve it” he added before he pulled back, heading for the front door.

Matilda watched him out of the door, smiling happily to herself, before she turned and walked back into the kitchen.

“You finally succeeded in pulling yourself away from Iker, then” Micah chirped impishly.

Matilda rolled her eyes. “You act like I’ve never had to sit through you and Mimi being all over each other” she retorted “Or have you forgotten the time I caught you two together in my bed during my birthday party?” she added.

Naomi let out an embarrassed squeak, her hand lightly shoving Micah’s shoulder, something which made Matilda laugh gently before her eyes trailed over towards Arthur, a familiar knot growing in the pit of her stomach when she spied the look on his face. Keeping her stare on him for a moment, she shifted her feet before Naomi pulled her back into conversation. Sparing him a couple of looks, she let out a quiet sigh to herself, knowing that they needed to have another conversation. She couldn’t stand the idea that, although it wasn’t her or Iker’s intention, he was getting hurt.

“You didn’t have to wait” Matilda said gently as she wandered into the kitchen, her eyes landing on Arthur who was leant against the island, quietly peeling the label off of an empty wine bottle. He had withdrawn more. Naomi and Micah had stayed for an hour after Iker had departed, and in that time, Arthur, who’d already started to grow quiet, had only withdrawn further, and it meant that Matilda was surprised that he was still there. She had assumed that he would take her having gone to settle Lola back down as a chance to escape without talking to her.

Arthur turned his head slightly, offering her a weary smile. “You’ve had a go at me for not saying goodbye before” he quipped “I didn’t want to risk your wrath” he added, the teasing tone of his voice half-hearted at best.

Matilda, who’d moved to place empty glasses into the sink, let out a soft laugh. “You make me sound mean” she mused.

“You can be mean” Arthur replied, playing along.

Matilda laughed, but when the sound faded away, the silence that was left behind was heavy. Sighing quietly, she watched the warm water fill the sink before she glanced over her shoulder, her eyes meeting Arthur’s which were fixed on her back. Shaking her head, she turned back to the sink before she spoke. “I’m sorry, you know” she murmured.

Arthur’s stare moved back to the wine bottle he’d been fidgeting with. “I’ve already told you that you don’t have to say sorry for being happy, Mattie” he replied.

“I know” Matilda said “I just...I hate that you’re being hurt. I know that you’re trying with Iker, and I am so grateful for that, but I can see it’s still hurting you and I hate that, Art. I hate being part of something that’s causing you pain” she added.

Arthur didn’t say anything, busying his hands with the bottle.

Matilda scrubbed at the glass in her hand.

“You can’t change it” Arthur’s voice, when it finally filled the silence, was quiet and distant “If it could be changed, don’t you think I would have done it ages ago? I’m in love with you, Matilda. I have been since we were kids and it’s not something you can just turn off. I’ve tried so hard to not let it bother me. I mean, Iker is a great guy, and the two of you together, you’re great, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t get jealous when I see the two of you together. I was the same with Marcos, and with Simon” he added.

Matilda just kept trying to clean a spot off of the glass in her hand. She knew what she had to do, she knew that she had to put distance between them, but, as selfish as it was, she couldn’t bring herself to say it. She didn’t want to have to give up one important relationship for the sake of the other.

“Matilda” Arthur stood up and stepped towards her, his hand gently settling on her hip.

Matilda’s hand slipped, crashing the glass into the side of the sink so that it shattered in her grasp. Flinching, she dropped it back into the water, turning around to look up at Arthur who gently took her wrist in his grasp, smiling softly. “Always so clumsy” he teased quietly.

“I don’t want to lose you” Matilda’s voice was a soft whisper.

Arthur, who’d been surveying the small cut on her hand, flicked his eyes up to hers. “It’s always going to me or him, Mattie” he replied “I don’t think you can have both” he added.

Matilda shook her head, her blue eyes tearful.

Arthur’s other hand cupped her cheek, gently brushing away the tears with the pad of his thumb. “I’m sorry, Mattie” he whispered “But I can’t be your back up plan, not any more” he added.

“You’re not a back up plan” Matilda protested “You’re my best friend” she added.

“I need more than that” Arthur replied “I need to be what Iker is or I can’t be around you, Mattie. It’s too hard. If you want me, then I need you to want me like I want you. I need to be your world like you are mine” he insisted, his eyes growing misty.

Matilda squeezed her eyes closed, crying quietly for a moment, before she felt it. The softest of pressures against her lips. Keeping her eyes closed, she felt the pressure grow a little, she felt Arthur’s arms pull her into him a little more, before she finally stepped back, her eyes still squeezed shut. “I’m so sorry” she whispered.

With her eyes closed, she didn’t see the look on Arthur’s face, but she knew the moment she’d lost him. There was a soft smash, the wine bottle Arthur had been playing with against the floor. There was a low curse, Arthur wasn’t really one for it, but she wasn’t surprised to hear it. There were footsteps, quick ones almost like he was running. And then there was the door. A loud sound that echoed through the empty house.

When it stopped echoing, that was when Matilda opened her eyes. Sniffing, she surveyed the damage before she leant back against the counter, sliding down it until she sat on the floor, crying into her hands.
♠ ♠ ♠
Thanks to Jayme112234 for the comment :)